Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 341
"Well?" Ulrika Rittenhouse snapped.
"Miss Rittenhouse, I've told you that I need silence while I examine the children." Robert responded coldly.
"Child." Ulrika corrected him.
"Children." Robert repeated.
"Marduk is the child god. He is one!" Ulrika growled.
"Miss Rittenhouse, I don't wish to argue with your beliefs however ridiculous I find them. I simply want you to be silent while I examine...during the examination."
"Very well..." Ulrika muttered. She sighed. "I do you wish you'd hurry, really. His mother is frantic."
"Why didn't Orpha bring them here herself?"
"Since your man severed her hand, she's not so good at carrying Marduk. And, you made the same mistake again...HIM."
"You've also continued to speak."
"Maybe I should be ejected from the room." Ulrika grinned.
"I would do so, but I don't trust you to be left to wander my house."
"Your house?" Ulrika laughed.
"Really, Doctor. We haven't just met. You were some impoverished physician until you took up with the wild Duke. This is no more your house than it is that African governess the Duke keeps."
"To begin with, you will address me as Lord Colinshire...."
"Oh, I forgot. I heard that your Queen, in whose pocket the little mad Duke remains, made you an aristocrat. It doesn't change your birth, Robert. We don't believe in such things in America. You're born noble or you're not. It's all in the bloodline."
"Noble." Robert nodded. "You were born noble."
"You've been to Marionneaux. You've seen the standing of the Rittenhouse family. You've seen the power my father has in New Orleans."
"I've also seen your cousin. Agnes. The woman who worked as a servant for the Duchess of Fallbridge. The very same woman who beat and tortured my companion while he was a young man. How noble is that? Where does that fit into your aristocratic bloodline?"
"Nor, please, let me examine these children."
"Miss Rittenhouse, the only reason you're in this house is because you brought these twins to me. I have no quarrel with them. However, you and Orpha and your lover Giovanni...you are our enemies. I will help these twins, but I will not suffer your indignity and interruptions any further."
"You've gotten too big for your britches." Ulrika laughed. "I'm sure the Duke likes that."
"Does it not concern you, Ulrika, that these children are dying?" Robert snapped. "These children whom you consider some sort of diety."
"Of course I'm concerned. HE is sick, but he won't die. He can't die. He is immortal. He is forever. They are eternal." She giggled. "Oh, I've done it myself. Still, with two heads, it's hard to decide how to address them...him."
"No matter how you address them, Miss Rittenhouse, these children are not immortal. They're gravely ill."
"What are you suggesting?" Ulrika raised her eyebrows.
"They are twins, Miss Rittenhouse. Twins who, through some mistake of nature, were joined together in the womb. Two heads, three arms, two legs..."
"Sixteen fingers." Ulrika smiled.
"One heart. Two lungs." Robert continued. "It's as if they share a body, in some ways. They share many of the vital organs and those organs aren't developed nor are they strong enough to support two brains and two stomachs."
"Perhaps if they'd been better cared for." Robert shook his head.
"He's very well cared for. He's well fed and given anything he wants."
"What do they eat?" Robert narrowed his eyes.
"The usual things children eat."
"Oh?" Robert inhaled.
"Is that how they've developed the number of infections and sores that they exhibit? Many of which come from the consumption of diseased meat and blood."
"He's given what he should be."
"And by doing so, you dug his grave."
"You're serious." Ulrika stepped forward.
"You're telling me that this is a human child?"
"I'm telling you that these are human children, Ulrika." Robert said firmly.
Ulrika stumbled a bit backward.
"You seem shocked."
"I am." Ulrika said.
"And, you're so quick to call the Duke of Fallbridge mad." Robert shook his head.
"I tend to be very passionate in the things I believe." Ulrika answered stiffly.
"That passion has endangered the life of these children."
"Can't you save him?"
"I don't think that I can."
Ulrika pressed her lips together. "Well...even the man they called Jesus was a man. He was a human man as well as the...so, just because Marduk is subject to human weakness, that doesn't mean..."
"Listen to me, Miss Rittenhouse. The combination of ailments have severely weakened these children..."
"Doctor...Your Lordship," Ulrika interrupted. "You're said to be very competent."
"I cannot work miracles."
"Miracles! Don't you see? Marduk is a god! Save him."
"I cannot undo a lifetime of damage, even if the life was very short."
"Cannot or will not?" Ulrika snarled. "I know you hate me. I know you hate Orpha. But, don't punish us this way."
"I'm not punishing you at all." Robert shook his head. "As much as doing so would thrill me."
"I'll do anything you want if you ensure that Marduk survives!"
"I want nothing. There's nothing I can do."
"I'll return the girl to you. Fern. You and the Duke had taken her in. You can do so again. Send her to school as you planned. She need not be tied to Marduk. That's only a minor part of the prophesy."
"You can't bargain this away."
"How will I tell his mother?" Ulrika shook her head. "Really..."
"For the first time since we met, Miss Rittenhouse, I'm seeing you have a reaction to tragedy that isn't one of pure delight." Robert replied.
Ulrika scowled and walked over to the table upon which Marduk lay. She picked up the twins.
"There are other physicians." She barked. "Physicians without a bias against us."
"Why did you come here, then?"
"Proximity!" Ulrika snapped. "I'd thank you for your time, Lord Doctor Mandrake, but I've nothing for which to thank you, really. I shall now leave you to your wild-eyed Duke, his bland sister and your household of sycophants."
"Good evening." Robert replied. "May I suggest that you keep them warm, provide them with clear fluids and pablum and monitor the fever."
"You may suggest that you go straight to blazes!"
"Isn't that the goal of your particular religion anyway?" Robert asked.
"Yes." Ulrika growled. "And, there, I shall reign over you as Queen, and I assure you that you will not find the favor with me that you do with your sainted Victoria!"
With that, Ulrika, with Marduk limply in her arms, flounced out of the room and down the stairs..
Punch and Lennie were descending from the floor above, after having visited the nursery.
"Robert," Lennie asked as she hurried to join him. "What happened? What was all of that?"
Robert shook his head.
"I know what it was." Punch began, placing his arm around Robert's waist.
"What, dear Punch?" Robert asked.
"The sting of the slap of reality's hand." Punch replied.
Did you miss Chapters 1-340? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 342 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.