Sunday, March 18, 2007


The squat man in dark clothing with the mask over his face hurried the two young women forward with his pistol and his muttered demands. “Get along, get along, would you, haven’t got all day, hurry along.”

It was most provoking when one was doing one’s best to ‘get along’ and yet still be told to ‘get along,’ Alice thought with some peevishness. She turned to Lizzie to repeat her sentiments aloud, but for her effort only received a very peremptory poke in the small of her back from the brigand’s pistol.

“The nerve of the man!” Alice thought. “We have never even been introduced.” No, she affirmed to no one but herself, this cannot be the work of Kit Barrington. Surely he would have taken the effort to hire experienced and kindly henchmen to carry out his surreptitious deeds. Alice contemplated for some time her knowing (and recalling, it must be added) a word like “surreptitious” with a good deal of unbecoming smugness.

Lizzie meanwhile was trying to gain as much information from her surroundings as their hurried march would allow. They went into the building with out much more detail being visible apart from that sign. “The Pig and Whistle” presumably meant this was a public house (how common, Lizzie thought with a shiver) but it appeared to be empty which was not the usual practice of such locations as she understood it. Lizzie had an abhorrence of alcohol quite out of all reason (something the King of Naples had been trying to get her to overcome in their rather considerable correspondence over the many months, for his land was rich in the grape with many a fruity reserve delectable and sweet with a variety of local dishes) and attached, perhaps not unreasonably, the taint of alcohol to her Platonic ideal of the public house.

Much to her surprise, the interior of the place, while dark, smelled pleasant and seemed to be remarkably clean. While the two captives were hustled along a side corridor toward the back of the house where the lodgings appeared to be, Lizzie had scant seconds win which to glimpse solemn oak paneling and comfortable benches for the public, presumably, to cozy up to one another. It was with a bit of a shock that she realized it all looked very comfortable indeed.

One can almost see a smile crossing the face of the King of Naples in his distant land at that moment.

However, it was far away and of no immediate concern to the events involving the kidnapped young women who were whisked into a chamber by the squat man, who slammed the door behind them, trapping them once again, although in a new location which at least had novelty to recommend it, Lizzie thought with a small brightening of hope in her breast.

Left quite alone for the moment, the two women sighed with relief, hugged briefly, then turned to examine their new confines. It was a dismal room with two wooden chairs, a table, a tiny and very dirty window which showed only the courtyard where their carriage yet awaited (although without its original pair of horses), a small painting of King Henry the Eighth (rendered very poorly it must be added, for they could recognize him only from the general outlines, his face giving little clue to his identity and in fact appearing almost to have melted perhaps in the sun of some zealous anti-Catholic endeavour) and a second door.

“Dare we try the door?” Alice asked with some trepidation.

Lizzie took a breath and, deciding fortune favors the bold, strode across the room to take firm hold of the handle, turning it down, with all her courage she flung it open.

It was a small room with a water closet.

Both young women blushed. Raised with a proper sense of modesty and decorum, they were supremely embarrassed by this needful invention, and quite unable to admit, despite the thunderous need on both their parts, of the desire to use said apparatus.

They might well have stood there for a very long time, silent and bursting, had not the other door sprang open to admit a most curious figure that made the two women shudder and leap to each other’s comfort.

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