Punch's Cousin, Chapter 238

Friday, May 6, 2011


Barbara Allen handed over the few coins she had in her purse.

“How much is it now?” Barbara asked.

“Enough,” Charles smiled.

“Enough for what?” Barbara sighed

“Enough to make sure that we have food in our stomachs and a roof over our heads for a few nights—providing you’re not after luxury.”

“I’ve long given up luxury.” Barbara chuckled.

“This is only temporary,” Charles said reassuringly. “I’ll soon find employment.”

“No doubt.” Barbara nodded, her smile fading.

“What’s bothering you?” Charles asked.

“I was thinking of Julian.” Barbara said softly.

“I have been as well.” Charles sighed.

“I wish I could have seen him once more,” Barbara began to cry. “My brother. Dead. And, my son…” her tears fell raw and wet as her mind raced with terrible thoughts. Unaware that Julian and her boy were still alive, Barbara’s grief was so substantial that she felt as if she carried another being—draped in black crepe—on her shoulder.

A clap of thunder startled Barbara and she rushed toward Charles who comforted her in his arms.

“I think we’d best find shelter for the night. I believe we’re in for a storm.” Charles said, rubbing Barbara’s back.

“Of course we are,” Barbara wept. “Of course we are.”

As the rain began to pelt down on Royal Street, Cecil and Mr. Punch crept up behind the two men who peered into their windows.

“Course it’s you, you scoundrel.” Mr. Punch growled upon seeing Arthur. “Dressed yourself up in a gentleman’s clothes, but you’re still the same devil.”

“Is that any way to greet your brother-in-law?” Arthur cooed.

“I hate you, I do.” Punch grumbled. “Glad I was when I heard you’d been sent out to sea again. Wish you’d drowned. But, like a bad penny, you keep comin’ back. This time, I see you got another fool to do your bidding. This one’s considerable less attractive than Ulrika Rittenhouse. Gotten desperate, have you?”

“Tsk, tsk,” Arthru clucked his tongue.

“What do you want, Arthur?” Cecil bellowed.

“Just a little cheer from my family. And, maybe some assistance in makin’ a new life for me-self.”

“Gold.” Cecil nodded.

“If you could see fit to give me some, yes.” Arthur grinned.

“Whatever would possess either of us to give you anything?” Cecil snapped.

“Well, Sir, it seems that there’s been news of the death of the Duke of Fallbridge. Can’t help but hear it bein’ talked about on the streets—what with Iolanthe Evangeline bein’ held in custody. It’s quite the scandal.” Arthur winked. “I was so terrible sad to hear it, too. But, imagine how I rejoiced when I spied my old friend and employer alive and well, playin’ with his puppet and his dog like the big infant that he is.”

“So, your game is blackmail now?” Punch shook his head.

“No, Sir. Simply a small fee to keep my mouth closed. It’s not my place to ask you why you want folk to think you’re dead. But, it is my place to make sure that they continue to think it.”

“We’ll give you want you want.” Cecil grunted.

“We will?” Mr. Punch asked, his eyes widening.

“Yes. Of course, Arthur will have to do a little something for us, first.” Cecil nodded. “It’s going to take more than your silence to earn your fee.”

“Now, I don’t know that I feel that it’d be right for me to be workin’ for you anymore.” Arthur frowned.

“This is a task you’ll enjoy.” Cecil responded.

“Can’t imagine what that could be.” Arthur scowled.

“I want you to find your way back into Ulrika Rittenhouse’s bed.” Cecil smiled. “And when you’ve finished, I want you to return to me with a trophy of your conquest.”

“What might that be?”

“The Duke’s blue diamond.” Cecil grinned.

Did you miss Chapters 1-237? If so, you can read them here. ads

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