Feet are quite amusing things,” Mr. Punch chattered as he walked the misty streets of the French Quarter with Charles. “They got a smell to ‘em what makes ya laugh.”
“I suppose so,” Charles muttered.
“Yet, they’re awful useful, too.” Punch continued. “Look at that.” Punch pointed to his feet—or, more accurately, Julian’s feet. “Holdin’ up all me weight and moving on their own, one and then the other, taking me across the ground.”
“Yes, Sir.” Charles said softly.
“See, I ain’t used to feet. To be sure, I had feet, if you want to think of ‘em as such. I had legs, too, but they weren’t really legs. Just sort of hung there, they did. Didn’t work on their own. Most interesting, these feet.”
“You know, Your Grace,” Charles said sharply. “You weren’t really ever a puppet. You’ve always been a man. You’re just an idea that the Duke is having.”
“What?” Punch stopped short, looking with a shattered expression at Charles.
“I’m sorry, Sir.” Charles sighed.
“I was most certainly a puppet.” Punch spat. “I was a puppet. I was a puppet of wood and cloth what me master played with as a boy. I was--most certainly! You weren’t there! Sure, I may be a thought now—an idea, as you say. Now! But, where do you think that idea came from? A puppet—that’s where! Now, I’ll forgive you sayin’ what you just did because you don’t know what it’s like to be two—or more—people at once and you can’t know what that feels like. But, I’d hope that you’d have ‘nough respect to not say somethin’ so cruel as that to me. If not respect for me, then at least for the Duke of Fallbridge what gives you money to serve him!”
“I didn’t mean any harm, Your Grace.”
“I wonder.” Punch scowled. “No, I don’t ‘spose you did. I understand you’re upset ‘bout Barbara. You love her—for whatever reason I’ll never understand, but you do.”
“Yes, Sir.” Charles nodded.
“Just don’t go sayin’ nothin’ like that ‘gain, or I’ll hit you with me stick.” Punch growled. “Oh!” His attention was drawn away from his hurt feelings as he pointed to the ground. “Look there! The tracks pick up ‘gain. See there? The same crimson heel mark what we saw in the courtyard outside the cathedral!”
Charles knelt down and studied the mark on the banquette. “Yes, it appears to be.”
“Here, where are we, then?” Punch looked around.
Charles told them there location.
“What’s near here?” Punch asked.
“Sir, this, if I’m not mistaken is very near to Iolanthe Evangeline’s—uh…place of business.”
“’Course it is.” Punch frowned. “Well, then, we’d best get there. Hadn’t we?”
Meanwhile, back at their house on Royal Street as Cecil, Adrienne, Toby and the two babies slept, Marjani and Robert watched as Arthur breathed raspily—each breath clattering with the fluid in his lungs.
“He’s gonna go soon, isn’t he, Sir?” Gerry asked from the stack of hay upon which he sat.
“Yes.” Robert answered without looking at Gerard.
Marjani, feeling more sympathetic for Arthur’s friend, walked over to him and asked. “You ever seen a man die?”
“I have,” Gerard nodded.
“So, you know not be ‘fraid of it.” Marjani smiled.
“I ain’t scared of death, Miss.” Gerard answered respectively. “What I’m afraid of is where I’ll go now. Arthur made me many promises, he did. Ain’t none of ‘em gonna come true now.”
“They weren’t going to come true anyway.” Robert grunted, turning around finally.
“Tell me,” Marjani said softly, “what sort of promises did this man make to you?”
“Too many.” Gerry shrugged. “He had many plans, too.”
“What sort of plans?” Robert asked.
“Not very nice ones, Sir.” Gerard responded.
“Don’t you think it’s time that you told us all about them?” Robert asked.
“Well, Sir, I reckon I should. Only, when you hear ‘em, you ain’t gonna want to help me no more.”
“Gerard, Mr. Pun…I mean, His Grace promised we would help you, and help you we shall. So, you should feel free to unburden yourself to us now. It’s the only way we can truly assist you.”
“Very well, Sir.” Gerard began. “You ain’t gonna like it.”
Did you miss Chapters 1-309? If so, you can read them here.