Saturday, May 31, 2008


Your humble narrator was waylaid by roguish highwaymen whilst in London, but has been rescued since and will have a new episode at the usual appointed time this week.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


When Alice awoke once more, she found herself far from the glare of the sunny strand and in a rather close, dark room. For a moment she experienced once more that sense of vertigo that often accompanies those enclosed after long exposure to open air, but it quickly passed. After all, Alice had spent most of her life -- save for supervised excursions to well-cultivated gardens -- within the civilizing presence of carefully tailored walls. The strangeness of the adventurous days that had passed of late slipped away from Alice's well-trained mind -- well-trained as far as the habit of her family to ignore as much as possible anything unusual.

Her mother would certainly have approved. Her father, recent events tell us, might well have disapproved, but one feels he would have been disadvantaged by his position beyond this mortal coil.

Alice yawned and stretched, enjoying the peaceful moment of waking. She took the opportunity to look around the room in which she found herself. It was simply but well appointed, from which even she might draw the conclusion that it was a kind of inn that catered to gentle folk of a pleasingly similar rank. There were signs of a maid's careful attention in the toiletries lined up carefully across the bureau. Alice looked down at herself and was pleased to see that she had been dressed in a fresh linen shift.

There was no immediate sign of her own clothes, nor of the satchel which had been tied to her wrist during the perilous journey. Alice had a momentary pang thinking of her dear Lizzie, but she quelled her discomfort with the thought that somewhere very nearby her cousin was likewise being rescued and they would soon be reunited. It was impossible to imagine otherwise, Alice told herself.

Hopping from the bed, she threw on the pink wrapper she found lying across the chair and pondered what to do next. She could see no way to ring for a servant, which seemed rather odd, but she was saved from further cogitation by the sound of a gentle knock on the door.

"Who is it?" Alice asked with a hopeful tone in her voice.

"Heavens, you're up at last!" came the lively voice of young Constance Forward, soon followed by her animated face peering around the door. Seeing that Alice had dressed herself suitably, Constance sprang into the room. Alice was soon to discover that this was her normal mode of locomotion.

"Such a long time I have been waiting!" Constance continued, hurriedly taking a seat in the chair and motioning Alice into the window seat. "I could hardly contain myself. I simply must hear your adventures! Mama said that I should let you rest and I have been hovering about waiting for any sign of life in here, so I could have a good excuse to come see you. How are you?" she concluded with a frank look up and down Alice, who seemed to meet her expectations of reasonable story-telling health.

Alice, realizing that a break had been left in the torrent of words, finally spoke. "I am feeling much better. I am quite refreshed by the sleep and the care. Where are we, if you don't mind my asking," Alice added with a shy smile.

"Our hotel, the Belle-something or other. I could never get the hang of French too much, you must teach me," Constance charged on, oblivious to Alice's tentative cough indicating that she might not be as advanced in her French studies as the young lady assumed. "Mama thinks my language skills ought to be improving much faster than they are, but there's simply so much to distract one from learning a skill when one is in foreign parts like this. Don't you find it so?"

While a question had been given, Alice found that there was not sufficient pause to make her way into the conversation at this point, and bided her time for the next pause.

"Mama says that I am incorrigible, by which I take her to mean that I am quite extraordinary in a way that seems to often exasperate her -- I used to confuse exaggerate with exasperate, but not any more. My tutor, well, the tutor I had before we came here, the one that was supposed to teach me French, which he didn't at all, he quit after one week and then we only had another two weeks or so before we left so Mama said we didn't have time to hire another tutor and I would have to learn by immersion, which sounds rather like a teapot of some kind, don't you think? Anyway, my tutor explained the difference between the two. So, do tell me all about the pirates!"

Alice lurched forward, feeling as if a carriage had come to an unexpected halt. But Constance looked at her with such glowing admiration that surely she must be expected to speak. She had just opened her mouth to do so when Constance blurted out, "It must be so exciting!"

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Alice quailed before the sudden interrogation and felt a whimper coming on. Yet under the clearly admiring gazes of the young gentlemen, she felt a tad bit more courageous and -- holding the fine example of the pirate queen before her -- Alice worked up the courage to declare, "I have no governess! I have been kidnapped!"

There was a pleasing gasp from all in attendance and Alice could sense a crowd growing about the small gazebo. Why did we not pack any hairbrushes in our little satchels, Alice thought wistfully. Practical Lizzie would never have made it a priority, but she should had thought about it herself. With all the eager eyes upon her, Alice considered how she might make herself somewhat more presentable in her wet clothes, which suddenly struck her as shockingly indecent.

The penguin lady seemed to be coming to the same conclusion, perhaps helped along by this sudden declaration which appeared to suggest her to be a rather more salacious young woman than her genteel demeanour might imply. Alice was quite cheered by the thought.

"Kidnapped?! How very odd," the penguin woman said with some apparent distaste. "Constance, do move away from this alarming child." She took out a very ornate lorngette and peered at Alice through its focusing lens. "Kidnapped, child? By whom? One cannot afford to be purloined by any common folk!"

Alice drew herself up fully as one helpful young gentleman set a mantle about her shoulders, which was extremely kind if a bit stifling. "I was aboard the Bonny Read with the dread pirate Black Ethel."

More gasps met that statement and Alice could feel herself expand with a great deal of satisfaction. The mantle, while well-intentioned made her rather warm with the damp heat of the strand.

"May I have a fan with which to cool myself," Alice asked with admirable meekness, or so it seemed to her. The penguin woman, however, seemed as hard to please as Lizzie with her hard-headed practicality.

"Child, what is your name?"

Alice drew herself up to her full height -- well, full as she could manage in the lounging chair in which she sat. "I am Caroline Alice Mangrove, daughter of Lady Millicent and Lord Grenville Mangrove -- the late Lord Grenville," Alice added with a somber note of remembrance. "My friends call me Alice."

The young gentlemen surrounding her added their immediate hope that they might call her Alice without any unwarranted sense of familiarity. The young woman in question was beginning to feel quite comfortable despite the unaccustomed heat, although a thought was beginning to nag at the back of her mind.

"That sounds reasonably sufficient," the penguin woman admitted, "However, it does not reconcile your singular state upon this deserted strand." She looked rather disapprovingly through the lorngette and Alice contemplated the fact that it was only possible to look quite that disapproving by means of a lorngette.

"My dear cousin," Alice recalled at last, "she too is missing from the storm that threw us from the pirate's ship. Oh, my Lizzie! I am quite lost without her." Alice got herself quite suddenly into a swoon and fainted dead away without another thought. It was a wise move.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Alice was stirred awake by the arrival of a flock of penguins, some of whom seemed to be in nigh on tropical colors. "How very curious," Alice muttered to her self as their nimble hands lifted her from the waves and into the blinding sun. I shall sleep extra late, Alice thought with a firm resolution, and no one shall make me stir until tea time. I simply won't move.

"Bring her into the shade," the chief penguin ordered with admirable sternness. Alice could tell that this was not a bird with whom one would trifle. The thought was a comforting one and she had vague thoughts of Mrs. Perkins' tough but soothing ways, and her extraordinary blueberry scones.

It seemed odd that Lizzie was not here to remark upon something so odd as penguins. There was a reason she was absent Alice thought as gentle hands carried her drenched form to the welcoming shade of a gazebo. Why, Alice realized suddenly, there was that man. The man who wrote letters to her. Who was he? There had been something nearly revealed… but it was so tiring to think. "Thank you," she murmured to the stork at her left who leaned toward her with a tall beaker of water.

A small voice in her head said no, the water should not be drunk, though her lips and tongue cried out with fervor for a taste of the forbidden nectar. "Is it safe?" Alice inquired of the stork who nodded and urged the glass upon her. Alice hesitated a moment longer, but why should the semi-aquatic bird lie to her? Gratefully she drank the tepid water with relish, tipping the glass upward to drain every drop.

Holding the beaker away from her, Alice was startled to find that there was no stork before her but a very pleasant looking young gentleman smiling at her. Behind him peeped a handful of others including the matronly woman whom she had mistaken for a penguin. Alice could see the woman did not much resemble the avian species (indeed she was much larger) but was indeed looking with interest -- the edges of which had been politely concealed -- at Alice where she lay. She looked wonderingly about to find herself in a beach gazebo surrounded by what could only be English tourists on holiday.

"How very odd," Alice said, then recalling her duties as guest, continued, "Thank you so much for rescuing me."

"Our pleasure!" called one young man, who was immediately suppressed by a second, who undoubtedly thought him a bit too keen. Alice smiled to herself. Surely she was looking anything but her best, yet it was quite agreeable to make young gentlemen forget their manners.

"Please, where are we?" Alice asked, determined to find a polite topic with which to begin acquaintance.

"You are not far from La Teste-du-Buch," the penguin-lady explained, then added with what Alice felt sure was unnecessary severity, "Where is your governess?"