Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 382

Barbara,” Charles said softly as he deposited her limp body on the bed in Gamilla’s small, but cheerful room. “You can rest here. Gamilla will let you sleep in here.”

“Gamilla?” Barbara mumbled. “Is she new? Mrs. Surrey is always bringing in new girls. I hope she isn’t going to be my new lady’s maid. I don’t think I can bear training a new girl and I’m perfectly content with Mary.”

“No.” Charles began, but Barbara interrupted him.

“Gamilla is such a queer name. I do wish Mrs. Surrey wouldn’t continue to engage foreign girls. You know, if mother is to be a lady-in-waiting to Her Majesty, we can’t chance anything that might offend her.” Barbara sat up. “You know, Arthur, one day I may be lady-in-waiting to Her Majesty. If not her, then some Queen Consort. Who knows how long Victoria will last on the throne? Surely not forever. I can just picture myself in the boudoir of a young Queen. She’ll rely on me for everything and I’ll find favor with the King. Still, I suppose that’s years off. Her Majesty is still young enough. If only she’d look more favorably on Mother. I know father is welcome in the court. And, Julian—God knows why—is always there or at Balmoral with the Prince Consort. Of all of us, who would think that Julian would be the one closest to the Sovereign? I suppose he and Prince Albert have much to discuss. They are alike in many ways, or so I’m told.”

“Barbara, listen.” Charles began.

“Don’t be cheeky, Arthur.” Barbara smiled. “But, I suppose that I am to blame. I shouldn’t share such things with you. And, if Mother knew you were alone with me in my room at night, well…”

“I’m not Arthur.”

“Silly boy,” Barbara continued. “I’d know your face anywhere. You are a handsome one, I’ll give you that. And, if I were a tart, I’d tell you that I didn’t mind you being here. But, sometimes, the things you say…”

Charles grabbed Barbara by the shoulders and shook her fiercely. “Listen to me! I am not Arthur. I am Charles! Arthur is dead! You saw—this night—his body burned in front of an audience of savages! And, you, my dear, are no longer a candidate for the Queen’s lady-in-waiting! You’re a prostitute! And, a thief! And, a maid! Your mother is dead! Your father is dead! And, your child is missing! You’re not in England. You’re not at Fallbridge Hall! You’re in America in the servants’ quarters of a mansion that your lunatic brother, the Duke, has borrowed! He loathes you! Both he and the mad puppet that lives inside of him loathe you! Everyone loathes you except me! So, I’ll thank you to stop your barmy rambling and come back to me because I’m the only person in the world who loves you!”

Barbara’s body went limp in Charles’ arms. “What? What are you saying to me?”

“The truth!” Charles spat. “But, none of it matters. I love you. I aim to see that you’re safe and well, but I bloody well can’t do that if you’re insane. So, stop it!”

Filling with rage, Barbara shook herself free of Charles’ grip. She scrambled off of the bed.

“How dare you?” She hissed.

“It’s the truth!” Charles reached for her.

“Let me go!”

“It’s the truth!” He screamed.

Barbara stopped in her tracks.

“Don’t you remember?” Charles asked softly. “Don’t you remember coming here with Arthur? You told me you worked for Ulrika Rittenhouse. You stole the blue diamond from your brother and you sold your infant son to Iolanthe Evangeline who, in turn, sold your body for profit.”

Barbara’s body shook.

“I know you remember.” Charles continued. “Arthur is dead from fever. Your mother was murdered by Iolanthe. You stole your own child back from Edward Cage, and now he’s missing.”

“Stop!” Barbara shrieked.

“No. It’s true!”

“I hate you,” Barbara growled.

“No, you don’t.” Charles shook his head.

“I hate you,” Barbara repeated, reaching for the door handle.

Charles tried to grab her as she skittered into the corridor and up the back stairs. She was out the kitchen door before he could reach her.

“What in hell?” Gamilla bellowed as Charles’ flew by her.

“I’ll fetch her,” Charles panted.

Barbara ran up Royal Street and, there, she spied a group of people—familiar yet strange—on the steps of a nearby mansion. Among the crowd, she knew her brother who seemed to be arguing with three men, supported by a two women—one light and common, and one black and two men who looked very similar to one another. Thought she didn’t immediately know them as Adrienne, Cecil, Robert and Marjani, she—deep down—knew that she was acquainted with them and rushed toward them, lumbering up the steps, screaming obscenities.

“Barbara,” Mr. Punch grunted as he turned to face her.

“Where’s Mother?” Barbara screamed.

“Dead.” Punch answered softly. “In a box. I ‘spose we’ll bring her back to England.”

“You see, Officers.” Edward Cage laughed. “These people are all tetched. Now, if you’ll please let me attend to my dying wife and let’s leave behind this nonsense of stolen children…”

“Stolen children?” Barbara barked.

“Get that woman out of here.” Edward said quickly.

“Where’s my son?” Barbara shouted.

“Miss Allen,” Robert began, trying to restrain Barbara, but she pushed him away and hurried into the house.

“Stop her!” Edward shouted as the two officers pursued her.

Did you miss Chapters 1-381? If so, you can read them here.

1 comment:

Doni said...

Thank you!

I've been waiting for you to finish enough for me to have plenty to read, and then I didn't know where to start!