“Don’t ya see?” Punch moaned in exasperation. “I gotta get back up there. Me chums…”
“Julian, just listen to me.” Barbara snarled at her brother.
“You ain’t sayin’ nothin’ what I want to hear, you ain’t.” Mr. Punch argued. “Maybe you don’t love no one, but I do, Barbara.”
“I’ll never understand you.” Barbara sighed. “And, clearly, you’ll never understand me.”
“What’s to understand?” Punch snorted. “You’re a bad apple, you are.”
“So you’ve said.” Barbara clucked her tongue. “Though how I’m able to comprehend a word you say is beyond me. Ever since you persisted in speaking in this peculiar way, I’ve only been able to translate half of what comes out of your mouth.”
“Seems to me, Barbara, you needn’t be so high and mighty.” Punch sniffed. “Considerin’ that for the past few weeks you been spendin’ your time with all sorts what’s not as educated as you are. The way I talk ain’t nothin’ compared to them folk what you see on the streets and mews and them what you took into your bed when you was workin’ for Iolanthe Evangeline. What I don’t see is how you’re so quick to judge me. Sure, I speak in a way what ain’t befittin’ a Duke. I ‘xplained that to ya, but you don’t want to hear it. You can’t believe that your brother—the man what inherited the title of the Duke of Fallbridge—has got two…or more…men livin’ in him—men what’s as different as you and I are. You call me names. You say I’m barmy. Well, maybe that’s so, but Barbara, you ain’t ‘xactly what one might call a woman what’s completely sane. And, yet, you look down on me like you’re better. Only I ain’t the one sleepin’ in the mud and breakin’ all sorts of laws. A few weeks ago I’d not be able to remember this word, but I remember it now for it’s a word that Julian—and yes, whether you like it or not, he’s a different bloke from the one what you’re talkin’ to—uses all the time. Hypocrite! That’s what he’d call ya and, coo, that’s what I’ll call ya, too. Now, for the love of all that’s good, tell me what it is you gotta say and let me go help them folk what do love and accept me.”
Barbara began to tremble—her eyes glazing over.
“Come on, then.” Punch said urgently.
“I just wanted you to know that it is because of me that Ulrika, Giovanni, Marie and Odo are on this ship.”
“I didn’t doubt that.” Punch coughed.
“But, I’ve not brought them here to cause you any more suffering.”
“No?” Punch scoffed.
“No.” Barbara shook her head. “I brought them here so that I can, once and for all, make sure that they get what they deserve.”
“And, how do ya aim to do that?” Punch said.
“I want you to give me my son.” Barbara replied plainly.
Punch’s eyes widened. “You are—you are barmy! You just got through tellin’ me you was pleased I’m raisin’ the boy with Robert! Now, you say you want him back?”
“Hear me out.” Barbara said quickly.
“Not a chance!” Punch spat.
The little hallway below deck where they were talking groaned with heavy footsteps. Mr. Punch sniffed the air. “Here, what’s that awful smell?”
Barbara’ face blanched. “I know that scent.”
“Sure, it’s the stink of your brain rottin’ in your skull.” Punch muttered.
“Ollie.” Barbara whispered.
Did you miss Chapters 1-462? If so, you can read them here.