|From Stalking the Belle Époque|
"Orpha," Lady Constance said cautiously as she was led by both hands into Eudora Stover's fetid house. "We need not complicate our relationship any further..."
"Do we have some relationship of which I am unaware?" Orpha grinned, squeezing Constance's fingertips to the point of pain. "I would not classify our interaction so affectionately. You are, to me, a device, an implement for which I have no feeling other than a moderate sense of convenience. And, even that, has been compromised. Should you have just followed my instructions, Connie, we could have parted ways...you with your daughter and the tattered ribbon of what little dignity you were left by my brother."
"Your lover." Constance hissed.
"You're so dull, Constance. I cannot believe that Victor fancied you at all. Any port in a storm, I suppose,"
"Just let me take Fern and go. I shall never mention it to anyone. I shall never tell a soul what you've revealed to me."
"Did you not tell all to your friend, the puppet Duke?"
"I did, but, I'm here now. I told you of his scheme with Mr. Donnan! I've proven my loyalty!"
"Not enough," Orpha shrugged.
"Then, I yield to you! But, spare my daughter! She is innocent in all of this! Do what you will to me, but set her free."
"Mother had documents drafted naming Fern as a ward of the Duke of Fallbridge."
"I know." Orphan laughed. "It was this vengeful scheme of the countess', this plot to rid herself of her daughter's bastard by giving the girl she loathed to two men for whom she had nothing but contempt which was her undoing. Pity her plan ended in matricide. That is why you killed her, yes?" She smirked. "No one doubts that the girl would well be better off without you, but she'd be better still were she no longer living like her granny."
"I'm pleading with you! Orpha! Please, do no harm to her! Take me! I didn't destroy the documents naming Fallbridge as her guardian. Kill me, not my girl! Let her have a happy life."
"Oh, I won't kill her. Nor will I return her to you. She's too valuable to me."
"She amuses Marduk."
"My son and nephew." Orpha nodded. "He's taken to her. Well, one of him. He takes to so few, but your Fern..."
"One of him?" Constance asked cautiously. "Do you mean he's like the Duke--two men in one body? How could this be? He still just a child! A mere babe!"
"He is not two men in one body. Not exactly. In fact...well...come and meet him. That's why I've allowed you in, after all."
"Let me, please...just take me to Fern! Afterwards...we can return and visit your boy...Mart...Mar.."
"Marduk." Orpha smiled. "Come and see them. He's quite enchanting."
Orpha, who throughout had not released Constance's hands, pulled the woman to a corner of the room hidden by a screen.
Releasing Constance, Orpha pushed the screen back to reveal a crib. "Here they are. Here's Marduk. Here's my boy!"
Constance stood still.
"Go and look at him. They love Fern so; I'm sure he'll love you."
Oprha pushed Constance toward the crib. She hesitantly looked down and as she did, she saw, peering up at her, two faces...one a full-cheeked baby face, the other, deformed and grotesque. Both heads sat awkwardly upon one, hunched, round body with two fully formed arms and one smaller, shriveled arm. The child, wrapped in red linen, hissed at Constance from one of his faces while the other, the deformed one, gurgled with delight."
"Look at Mummy's little monster," Orpha cooed.
Constance dropped to the floor in a dead faint.
Did you miss Chapters 1-254 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 256.