[Apologies are due from your intrepid author for her tardiness in the latest episode; she begs to explain that she had been unexpectedly delayed in the wilderness of Canada.]
"Mama!" young Constance Forward continued with an unbecoming obstinacy, "I do believe this young woman is in distress. In fact, I might hazard a guess that she is very near to drowning." She heaved an exasperated sigh and tread her way into the shallow waters near the shore. "I say, young person," she said with some bursting curiosity and no little regard for tact, "are you in distress?"
Alice looked up at the stork who seemed to be addressing her. "We do not require cauliflower today," she whispered, her voice a harsh wheeze. "Come back again next Tuesday."
"Mama," Constance repeated with some excitement. "Do come look. I believe this young woman is delirious. How very exciting!" Constance wondered briefly whether she ought not look for stick with which she ought to poke the young woman, in the event that what appeared to be a damsel in distress might in fact be some sort of dangerous fish that only masqueraded in that guise. The natural world, Constance knew, was full of creatures with wiles beyond her ken. Or so her father always said, upon those rare occasions when it came upon him to say anything at all. "Mama!"
With a not inconsiderable sigh of disappointment, Mrs. Forward wrenched herself from the account of Montoni's machinations. "Honestly, Constance, you are worse than an urchin. I do not wish to look at yet another dead fish. I have seen quite enough for a lifetime now and shall turn down the next salmon offered me."
Mrs. Forward stopped short when she saw her daughter poking at a young woman tied to a barrel with a cautious finger. "Constance, come away from that at once." Oh my, the tender-hearted mother thought, shall I have to introduce the always painful subject of death while on holiday in the south of France? It would quite take the joie de vivre out of the afternoon.
"Mama, look!" Constance said eagerly. "Hasn't she got lovely hair?"
"Dear heart," her mother said with some severity. "It is not the thing to do to compliment one when one is not conscious to appreciate it," she reprimanded her headstrong issue while nonetheless feeling relief that the steady rise and fall of the young person's form reassured her that death was not in fact before them.
"What's your name, dear?" Mrs. Forward asked, bending over the limp figure of Alice. "Are you on holiday nearby?"
Alice blinked at the sound of a commanding voice, so like her own mother's in timbre, but saw only a giant penguin before her. We must of course blame her delirious state and the choice of a the very dark grey suit and white crinoline petticoats on the part of Mrs. Forward who thought one really ought not go to pieces just because one had gone to the strand. "No fish, today, please," Alice therefore beseeched her interlocutor. "A drink of water is all I ask." The effort proved too much and Alice sank back down upon her barrel as the gentle waves rolled it back and forth. It was almost as if she were on the Bonny Read once more.
"Yet I am not seasick!" Alice thought proudly as her vision greyed into unconsciousness.
"Call some gentlemen down here," Mrs. Forward said decisively. "We must rescue the girl!"
"How exciting!" Constance said before running up the sandy shore toward the cluster of gentlemen resting in the shade of a gaily striped gazebo tent.