"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.