Charles and Ulrika walked in silence for several minutes before Charles looked at the disheveled, ginger heiress and smiled.
“It’s not my concern, Miss,” Charles began, “but it seems to me that a young lady from a good family shouldn’t be keeping company with someone like ‘The Elegant Ogress.’”
“I am not some insipid little thing. I’m not helpless. I make my own way in this world.” Ulrika grumbled.
“Don’t you think you might make your way toward a better quality of people?” Charles answered with a light friendliness.
“You’re awfully forward for a servant.” Ulrika frowned.
“My apologies, Miss.”
“Really, you’re one to give advice. Look at the company you’re keeping. Barbara Allen isn’t exactly the delicate maiden that she seems to be.”
“I know all about Miss Allen’s life.” Charles nodded. “It’s one thing to have a storied past, it’s another to keep it a secret. She’s been quite upfront with me. Some people, no matter what they’ve done, have a glimmer of hope in them. That makes them worthwhile. Iolanthe Evangeline has no such glimmer, Miss.”
“Did you know that she used to work for me?”
“I did.” Charles nodded.
“You may think you know her,” Ulrika scowled, “but you don’t. I can assure you of that. I could tell you a few things that would curl your beautiful hair.”
“Forget that I said anything, Miss.” Charles shrugged.
“You’d do well to remember your place.” Ulrika nodded.
“I never forget who I am.” Charles sighed. “If only everyone could say the same.”
“That’ll be enough from you.” Ulrika spat.
“As you wish, Miss.” Charles smiled.
Again, they walked toward Royal Street in silence.
“You know she’s married?” Ulrika said finally.
“I know.” Charles answered.
“That didn’t stop her husband from taking up with…” Charles paused.
“Go on,” Ulrika grimaced.
“As you say, Miss, I should remember my place.” Charles smiled.
“He’s missing.” Ulrika whispered.
“That I didn’t know.”
“I was trying to get him back.” Ulrika said.
“So, that he might return to Miss Allen?” Charles asked.
“No, you fool, so that he can return to me!” Ulrika said, shaking.
“Perhaps I can help,” Charles said calmly.
“Perhaps you can,” Ulrika grinned.
Meanwhile, back on the docks, Barbara Allen narrowed her eyes at Iolanthe Evangeline.
“Listen, Traitor, I owe you no explanations.” Iolanthe shook her head. “I owe you nothing.”
“What were you doing with Ulrika Rittenhouse?” Barbara demanded.
“What do you care?” Iolanthe frowned. “She treated you as if you were dirt. She stole your husband. She betrayed you and took your brother’s diamond. She conspired to injure your lunatic brother as well.”
“She’s still a living creature.” Barbara said softly.
“So, you’ve developed a soft streak?” Iolanthe laughed. “How novel. I suggest, however, you not waste your time worrying about that flame-haired sow. You’ve bigger things to occupy your worry.”
“Such as the fact that presently, your wayward husband is chained below decks on a ship headed toward the Orient.” Iolanthe grinned.
At that very moment, at their borrowed house on Royal Street, Robert watched helplessly as Julian continued his silent battle. Little did he know that a horrific drama was beginning to unfold in a hidden, imaginary room inside of his dear friend.
Mr. Punch watched in terror as the stage before him and Julian began to change. It filled with black smoke which made Mr. Punch sputter. From the smoke emerged a hulking, faceless, figure clad in black knit. Without a mouth, the monster spoke in a gravely voice.
“Agnes!” The man howled. “Bring the boy to me. The knife is hot!”
Mr. Punch shrieked as he watched.
Julian rose from his chair and stood next to his other half, putting his arm around Mr. Punch’s shoulders.
“We must watch, dear Punch,” Julian whispered. “We must.”
Did you miss Chapters 1-186? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, March 7, 2011 for Chapter 188 of Punch’s Cousin.