“Where have you been?” Robert barked as he and Punch raced down the stairs. “All of you.”
Gerard, Charles and Fern looked up at the masters of the house.
“We’ve just had visitors.” Robert frowned. “Would you happen to know anything about that, Charles?”
“Wait, Chum.” Punch whispered. “Look.”
It was then that Robert noticed the splatter of blood on Gerard’s cuff.
“Fern,” Robert said quickly. “Please go upstairs to your bedroom and stay there.”
“Are you angry at me?” Fern asked.
“Very,” Robert said sternly. “What you did to Gamilla is unconscionable.”
“Gamilla?” Gerard gasped. “What’s she done to Gamilla?”
“Ruined her wedding gown.” Robert responded.
“Part of it can be saved,” Punch added. “We sent Lennie with her to Bond Street to order a new one usin’ some of Marjani’s cloth.”
“And, then,” Robert continued. “Fern left the house without permission, it seems. Where did you find her?”
“At Hamish House,” Charles answered. “With Miss Rittenhouse.”
“Fern!” Punch squawked.
“She promised me she’d show me where my mother died.” Fern answered defiantly. “And…and…before you shout at me…I am not the one who cut off the woman’s hand! That was Gerard!”
Robert and Punch stood in shocked silence. After a few seconds, Punch blinked his eyes and rasped. “Fern, you are never to leave the house without one of us, and you are never, ever to speak to Miss Rittenhouse. She is not your friend. Neither she nor Miss Polk. They aim to hurt you, they do. They may seem full of charm, but they will hurt you.”
“I don’t see how she can hurt me now with one hand.” Fern responded.
“You’d be surprised.” Robert narrowed his eyes. “Go to your room, now, please. And wait there for us.”
“Go!” Punch snapped.
With that, Fern ran up the stairs, running past Punch and Robert.
Robert and Punch descended to the hall.
“What have you done, Gerry?” Robert asked gently.
“I didn’t mean to.” Gerard replied, mouthing each word as if it was covered in bristles. “She…”
“Gerard prevented me from killing the woman.” Charles said. “I’d not gone there to kill her. I only wished to frighten them into leaving, but she taunted me. Gerard protected me, but…but she mocked Gamilla and…”
“It wasn’t ‘til after what I saw what I done.”
“You severed her hand?” Robert asked.
“The left one.” Charles answered. “She acted as if it was a mere scratch.”
“The woman’s unhuman.” Robert shook his head.
“We sent the invitation hoping to get Miss Rittenhouse and my brother out of the house,” Charles explained.
“We gathered,” Robert nodded.
“I didn’t even consider the danger to Miss Fern.” Charles shook his head.
“Fern put herself in harm’s way.” Robert sighed.
“I…” Gerard coughed. “I can’t believe I done that…”
“Miss Rittenhouse and my brother returned. They had Fern. We grabbed the girl and ran. We wanted to come straight to you.” Charles explained.
“Will she die, Chum?” Punch asked.
“She could bleed to death.” Robert nodded. “If the wound is not cared for, there’s all manner of…”
“Can you help her, Doctor?” Gerard asked.
“Help her?” Robert grunted. He looked at Punch.
“She doesn’t deserve the doctor’s help, Gerry.” Charles shook his head.
“I don’t want to be the cause of her dyin’…even if she is a…” Gerard coughed again, clutching his stomach.
“Why don’t you take Gerard upstairs?” Robert suggested to Charles. “When Gamilla and Miss Molliner return, we’ll send Gamilla up to him.”
Charles nodded, taking Gerard by the arm and leading him to the service door.
“No, no…” Punch shook his head. “Just use the stairs what’s in front of ya. No use in ya goin’ outta your way for pretense.”
Charles did as instructed.
Alone with Robert in the front hall, Punch leaned in. “Do ya think she’ll die?”
“I don’t know—not without seeing how…” He paused.
“Do you think you ought to go…”
“After all she’s done?” Robert asked.
“I know, Chum. I know she’s pure wickedness, but you got an oath to help folk, to protect ‘em from harm.”
“I’m not her physician. I can’t anticipate illness and danger in every person in London.” Robert shook his head.
“Only you know ‘bout this.” Punch whispered.
“Would that I did not.” Robert sighed.
Did you miss Chapters 1-285 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 287.