He agreed to that awful fast,” Mr. Punch grumbled as he settled into his favorite spot in front of the fire in the parlor.
Cecil stumbled into his preferred arm chair and groaned. “Are you surprised?”
“Not ‘specially—dirty rotter.” Punch mumbled, patting his leg so Toby would join him by the fire. Toby trotted forward, wagging his tail at Mr. Punch who couldn’t help but smile at the terrier. His smile faded a bit. “Arthur will do anything what benefits Arthur.”
“Do you think we can trust him?” Cecil asked.
“No.” Mr. Punch sighed. “But, what have we got to lose? I wonder if he’ll have his way with that wretched Ulrika. She’s not too keen on us, she isn’t.”
“We’re going to have to do something soon.” Cecil barked. “People are going to begin to realize you’re not dead.”
“True,” Punch nodded, rubbing the dog’s stomach. “Not as if I’ve done a very good job of hidin’. ‘Sides, Ulrika and Edward know and I’m sure they ain’t gonna keep their silence—specially Ulrika since we didn’t hear her out.”
“No.” Cecil shrugged. “This didn’t quite go as we planned.”
“I’d say not,” Punch yawned.
Cecil bolted upright and slammed his fists on the arms of the chair. “Damn it!”
“What?” Punch responded, quite startled.
“Where are Adrienne and Robert?” Cecil bellowed. “For once, I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to do.”
“Well, you’ll get no help from me, I’m ‘fraid. Me head is all full of nonsense and chatter. Julian’s got a lot to say ‘bout all this, he does.”
“I have no doubt.” Cecil grumbled. “Perhaps he might have something constructive to add.”
“From what I’m hearin’, there ain’t nothin’ goin’ on inside us what’s worth repeating.” Punch shrugged.
“Pity,” Cecil sighed.
Meridian knocked on the parlor door and poked her head inside. “Gentlemen, there’s a man named Jedidiah at the back door with dresses for Missus Adrienne.”
“Just collect them and bring them upstairs.” Cecil said, waving his hand at Meridian. “Please.”
“He wants to see you, Sir.” Meridian explained.
“Wants payment, does he?” Cecil scowled, standing up.
“I think it will be worth seein’ him.” Meridian smiled. “Mr. Punch, too.”
“What do I care ‘bout dresses?” Mr. Punch shrugged.
“You’ll care about these, Your Grace.” Meridian winked.
“If you say so,” Mr. Punch rose and followed Cecil and Meridian to the back of the house.
Jedidiah Routhe was a lean, dark man with a pinched face and calloused hands. He didn’t smile when he saw Cecil and Punch, but he didn’t grimace either.
“Which one of you two is Mr. Cecil?” he asked as the men approached.
“I am.” Cecil nodded.
“These are for you.” Jedidiah nodded to the bundle of gowns which hung over his arm.
“What is the bill?” Cecil asked.
“Here.” Jedidiah responded, forcing a scrap of paper into Cecil’s hand. He then handed the gowns to Meridian and turned to leave, muttering “See you ‘round” as he walked away.
“But…” Cecil began, unfolding the paper. He read it. Relief passed over his face. “They’re safe, Mr. Punch. They’re safe!”
Meanwhile, Arthur and Gerald were lingering around the back garden of Edward Cage’s house, hoping to catch a glimpse of Ulrika.
“So tell me ‘bout this one,” Gerald whispered. “She ain’t your wife.”
“No, she’s some ginger bitch with too much money and too much time.” Arthur laughed. “But, she fancies me and she’ll be able to give us the help we need.”
“And, she’s got this diamond what that Halifax bloke wants?”
“She does.” Arthur smiled. “Among many other valuable things.”
A flash of red near the house caught Arthur’s attention and he sprung into action, calling, “Ulrika.”
Ulrika gasped as she rushed toward Arthur. “You’ve returned.”
“I have, Miss.” Arthur grinned. “And, I’m all for you.”
Did you miss Chapters 1-238? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, May 9, 2011 for Chapter 240 of Punch’s Cousin.