Sunday, October 19, 2008


The voices turned out to presage a gaggle of young English tourists. Alice careered between delight and embarrassment at the thought of their peremptory arrival. Had she known young men better -- at least the holidaying kind -- she would have saved herself the blush of embarrassment, for such young men seldom notice or abide by rules of propriety and so would be little inclined to censure Alice and Caroline for their untoward circumstances, finding themselves alone with peculiar and slightly unscrupulous Frenchman.

"What ho!" cried the floppy-fringed roisterer at the front of the pack as he caught sight of the tableau. His companions bayed in like fashion, a sound apparently expressing surprise and delight as far as Alice could discern.

So relieved was she to see fellow countrymen that Alice did not hesitate to greet them, much to the Count's displeasure. "Hello, how are you," she asked somewhat breathlessly.

"Lawks," cried another one of the lot, squinting in the sun in a most unattractive way. "An English gel!" There was much hubbub as the scrum headed en masse down the dunes toward the sheltered cove.

There was much fussy shaking of hands with the Count who icily responded to the hearty inquiries as to his health, though his frosty responses were ignored by the young men who only had eyes for the two young girls and favoured them with a tidal wave of compliments meant, no doubt, to break the ice and see if it held any water with them.

The noisy gaggle threatened to drown all the thoughts in Alice's head, but fortunately one among them seemed to be a young man of some sense. "Lud, miss," he said gazing intently at Caroline's green form, "Your friend seems to be a little worse for wear. Must be this cursed French sun, far too warm, if you ask me. We should get her to some shelter, tout de suite. Bert, Stephen, Hugh, come now. We've got a lady in distress here."

"Right-o, Reggie," the floppy haired one said cheerfully and the four crowded around Caroline who was looking quite overwhelmed by the attention as well as the wine.

"Mind if we use this case?" Reggie said, taking up the Count's little carry all. "We can use it as a kind of seat to transport the young lady to a more congenial location." The Count was clearly displeased, but said nothing and the men took his silence as assent.

In a trice, Caroline was whisked onto the case which the energetic gents raised as if to carry Cleopatra herself. Alice could not keep from clapping her hands in delight. To have her poor friend rescued so delightfully and unexpectedly from their predicament was a wonder to savour.

Caroline herself was a bit unnerved by the swiftness of the movement and the rocking motion of the well-meaning young centurions. Her pale green shade was approaching the colour of absinthe now and she convulsed suddenly, clutching her stomach.

"I feel…unwell," she murmured with as much dignity as it was possible to maintain, before suddenly and violently vomiting to the west.

"Bingo!" cried Bert.

"Heavens," said Reggie, "Awfully sorry."

The latter words were addressed to the Count who bore the brunt of the explosive ejection, itself a rather rancid ruby tint with small chunks of comestibles.

"Merde!" was all he said.