Sunday, November 30, 2008


"Non, non," Lizzie said blushingly, but trying to drop her vocal tone to a lower register. "Je suis un homme." Oh god, I do hope they believe me. It seemed easy enough to fool Tilney so far (although at various moments, she had had her doubts even about that), but could she fool the eyes and ears (and noses) of a bunch of Frenchmen?

Particularly a group of Frenchmen who were more than a trifle irritated by having their duel interrupted. "Nous sommes ici par erreur," Lizzie hastened to add, because they had not dropped the aim of their pistols which were still fixed upon the two of them.

"Can't you tell them we mean no harm?" Tilney said with a hint of irritation.

"I'm trying," Lizzie growled with appropriate frustration for her George persona. "Nous ne voulons pas nous mêler," she offered with what she hoped was a placatory tone.

At least now the men were exchanging glances with one another. It was a better sign than their previous grim humorlessness. For the hundredth time, Lizzie wondered why the French had such a peculiar lack of humor.

Undoubtedly, they thought the same of the English, she reflected.

"Pardon, nous vous quitterons, ah, à vos affaires," Lizzie groped her way toward something diplomatic, revealing their knowledge of the illicit nature of their business and a determination not to interfere with it.

Not to mention her hope that she had persuaded them to imagine her a man.

One of the men, a tall one with a bare head, waved them over with his pistol. He seemed to be judging both Tilney and Lizzie with care. "Venir ici, à la fois de vous."

Lizzie checked her tongue, which wanted to launch into a hurried explanation of their presence there, to tell the story of the runaway horse and the matter of too much wine, but her time spent with Tilney had already alerted to the fact that men preferred in general to say as little as possible. It would be best to remain silent.

The tall man, whose eyes were so dark they seemed almost solid black in the pupils, stared intently at the two of them as they walked closer, Lizzie trying her best to copy the exaggeratedly relaxed saunter that Tilney affected. His normal look of harmless laziness had likewise returned. Lizzie marveled once more at how much lay below that superficial mask of gentle lassitude.

"You look 'armless enough," the Frenchman said at last, startling them both with his abrupt change to English. "It is unfortunate, however, that you happened upon our little altercation."

"No business of ours, old boy," Tilney practically yawned. "What you French lot get up to is of very little interest to us. We were just blowing off a little steam after a heavy lunch. You know how it is."

"Tout à fait," the Frenchman replied. "Nonetheless, we cannot let you leave."

Oh dear, Lizzie thought, trying to hold in a wave of breathless fear. The pistols were once more leveled at them both and at this distance, they were bound to be lethal!

Monday, November 24, 2008


Your narrator begs your forgiveness, but she will be unable to complete an episode this week as she has been waylaid by a London highwayman. Surely ransom will be accepted soon to broker her release.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


After fielding the inquiry regarding British flora, Alice was pelleted with further questions on collars, horse racing, quince jelly recipes and fireworks, which she answered with as much knowledge and good will as she could muster, however little that might be (particularly in the case of fireworks of which she could claim no knowledge whatsoever). She at last made an escape from the knot of well-meaning if entirely too boisterous young men by claiming the role of friend to young Constance who suffered yet.

The young men graciously gave way while visibly admiring Alice's gentle and caring spirit. Alice herself was relieved to no longer face the firing line of rapid-fire questions about trivial matters that once enraptured her shallow heart.

Once again she felt a pang of longing for her parted cousin. Where, oh where could dear Lizzie be at this moment? Was she already home and safe back in Mangrove Hall? When would she at last join her there?

Mrs. Forward had written to her mother, so in all likelihood the time would come with appreciable suddenness, but at present Alice felt an entirely understandable longing for safety, comfort and cocoa that all heroines must sooner or later encounter.

Alice was pleased to note that Constance was looking more like her usual self. Under the overly energetic fanning of her companions she had recovered her lively colour and some animation. It was a relief to see her friend looking like herself again.

"Alice," she called out, catching sight of her friend. "There you are."

Alice smiled seraphically as she had once seen Lady Hibbert do when the chrysanthemums had reached their peak of perfection on a warm summer day, although her heart was yearning to be immersed in just such a day instead of here on this harsh foreign strand. She could take comfort in the thought that her unexpected travels were near an end.

"Whatever will Mother say?" Constance whispered fearfully when at last Alice was within close confines with the fluttering younger girl. "Should she know?"

Alice hesitated before answering, which allowed the seemingly always attentive Reggie to offer an opinion.

"If you do not mind my saying so, Miss," he said with an air of confidentiality that in no way presupposed any untoward familiarity, "It may be helpful to point out some persons of interest in this somewhat unruly crowd."

"Indeed," Alice responded, hoping she included precisely the right balance of polite disregard and fervid interest in her tone.

"Yes, over there," Reggie nodded indicating a pallid youth of ungainly proportions, "You will see young Viscount Brackley and over there," he turned to indicate a rather toothy individual hard at work at the buffet table, "you will find Sir Eliot Walter, a baronet, as is our friend Bertie, known in polite circumstances as Sir Bertram Thomas."

"How enlightening, you are, Reggie," Alice said with genuine warmth. "We are much obliged. Thank you."

"A delight, I assure you," Reggie said with ease as he glided away into the throng.

A most useful man, Alice reflected. She decided it would be most advantageous to know the whole of his name and write him gracious words of thanks when she returned home.

Before she could rise to pursue the question further, Alice felt an unpleasant tug at her hem and turned to see the objectionable Tricheor scraping away at a grovel. She tried unsuccessfully to disguise her revulsion at the sight of his abjectness, but at last inquired somewhat sharply, "Yes, what is it?"

Tricheor scraped even lower and said, "My master bids you attend him for a swift moment outside."

"Why does he not come in?" Alice said shortly.

"He wishes to return an item belonging to your friend that ah, how do you say, would be best returned without scrutiny."

Alice was both puzzled and alarmed. What on earth could Constance have dropped on the beach? Better not to contemplate, she thought with a sudden blanch. "All right."

Tricheor led her to an opening in the side of the tent. Out in the bright midday sun, Alice blinked uncertainly and lifted up a hand to shade her eyes.

All at once, every thing went black as a gunny sack was slipped over her head and hasty hands propelled her forward. Alice heard the sound of horses as she was thrust into a carriage roughly, the door slammed shut behind her.

"Kidnapped again," she thought with surprising sanguinity. "Will this ordeal never end?"

Sunday, November 09, 2008


As they approached the gaily colorful tent, Alice could divine that there was already a considerable crowd within from the vigorous conversation that bubbled across the strand to her ears. Again she blanched at the thought of exposing poor Constance to such a throng (and to so much potential irregularities of politeness) but there was little hope for avoiding it.

Besides, anything was preferable to their close encounter with the Count. Alice sneaked a glance in his direction and was pleased to see that he was perspiring freely and looking rather worse for the travel. Suits him, she thought with a measured toss of her head. She was more certain than ever that he had been about nefarious intentions.

"Hey ho!" One of the celebrants within had noticed the approach of their inelegant train. "Reggie, what's this?"

"Rescue mission, lads, with some of our finest flowers here," Reggie nodded to indicate Alice, at which she colored up prettily. It was very pleasant to be receiving compliments again.

"And this one?" another asked appearing to indicate the faltering Constance. "A bit tap-hackled, eh?"

"Sick as a cushion," Reggie affirmed as they looked around for a place to set their burden. "Too much sun, poor little gel."

Alice was very grateful to the steady young man who even at that moment was helping his boisterous colleagues to lower Constance next to a reasonably comfortable looking chair. She smiled at him to show her approval, but he was too busy settling her friend into the chair to see her approval. Alice could not help but think that it was rather irritating to try to do something nice for someone and not have them notice, but she decided that she would not hold it against their rescuer, and thus made another stride into the frightening world of adulthood.

Had she known, Alice would have backed away at once, but it is in the nature of these things that we seldom notice the steps until they have long passed into memory.

Because her friend was still sagging with exhaustion and illness, curious eyes turned upon Alice for answers to burning questions. While they were far too mindful of propriety to ask the direct question, "Who are you?" they had no problem asking embarrassing questions like "Are collars worn looser this year in Bath?" and "Have you a lace edged handkerchief with Belgian lace?"

Alice found herself beset on all sides by eager young men, which in other circumstances (a genteel drawing room or an overly warm solarium) might have proved quite enjoyable, but at that moment was quite suffocating.

"Enough, enough," Reggie at last intervened. Having sorted out Constance with a bevy of enthusiastic admirers fanning her -- indeed they were well in the way of putting her in some danger of being blown off course -- he turned his attentions to Alice and her circle of well-intended interlocutors. "You must proceed one at a time and wait a sufficient time for an answer before advancing to the next question.

Alice smiled gratefully up at him and was gratified to see him notice.

It is hard work being a heroine, she sighed to herself before turning her attention to the young man inquiring as to the state of morning glories back in their native land.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


"What ho, Reggie!" the lad called Hugh hallooed to his friend. "Which way?"

"Right, then ahead," he answered with admirable firmness, although Alice could not have ascertained where this would lead them. Nonetheless she acquiesced as it was sure to take them further and further from the site of her disturbing meeting with the Count and his peculiar servant, whom she saw even now, was slowly approaching them from a distance.

Nonplussed by the image of his commander in a crowd of rowdy young gents, Tricheor's steps became even more irregular, Alice noticed. She turned her head and saw that the Count still lagged somewhat behind the gaggle of Englishmen, his displeasure appearing to grow with every step. Tricheor's hesitation led to a sort of bobbing and weaving motion that threatened to empty the pitcher of water he carried and to make him lose hold of the parasol he had obtained somewhere.

While the young gentlemen recovered from another near accident with Miss Forward, Alice considered what would be best to do. She hated to re-engage in any obligation to the Count, but she saw that poor Constance was fading fast under the bright sun of the strand. They might soon find shelter, but the last stretch of a journey was often the longest, she recalled well from the unpleasantness of her own travels.

Hang the Count and hang propriety, Alice thought with determined brows. She picked up her pace and strode toward the struggling Tricheor. "How kind you are to have arrived so punctually," Alice said with as much pleasantness as she could muster. Close to she found the strange servant a most repellant object, oozing sweat from every pore and exuding a most curious odor. His skin indeed seemed uncannily coarse and hideous, causing Alice to avert her eyes as much as possible.

"Thank you for the parasol. My friend will be most delighted for its shade." She held her hand out expecting the item to be passed along, but when it was not, she chanced to notice that the misshapen manservant was looking to his employer for confirmation, which irritated Alice to no end. Surely politeness needed no command. But the weary Count affirmed the act with a curt nod and Tricheor handed over the prize.

Alice immediately handed it to Reggie, the seemingly competent one among the enthusiastic rabble, who popped the device open and placed it gently into Constance's limp hand. She sighed gently, indicated a somewhat improved state, or so Alice hoped. His primary purpose concluded, Tricheor limped to the side of his master and continued with the same desultory limping pace beside him.

Up ahead, Alice could see a rather impressive tent, decorated with many colourful ribbons and flags. It appeared that the shambolic crew were making their way in that direction. While she blanched at the thought of being exposed to further public display of their misadventures, Alice found herself feeling more than sufficient relief at the thought that she need no longer be the person in charge. It had been an exhausting day of much thinking, evaluating and regretting.

Alice hoped for a return to childish innocence without realizing that such thoughts were an inevitable sign that such innocence had already beat its wings and flown off.

"Perhaps they will have cake," Alice mused, childhood nonetheless raising its head for a brief visit.