Monday, May 24, 2010

Spirited Away

A roguish charmer has lured your narrator away for some faro and lemonade. Let us hope his intentions are not going to lead to scandal.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Stephenson looked at Lizzie with a rather uncomfortably penetrating gaze. "Yes. A young English woman named Alice whom we met under the most remarkable circumstances and then almost as quickly, ah -- " he paused, searching for the right word.

"Then we lost her," the one called Bertie said with a jolly laugh that did not suit Stephenson's sudden look of consternation. "We had barely gotten to know the two delightful young ladies when poor Alice was whisked away most precipitously."

"And we had every reason to suspect foul play," Stephenson added darkly, his eyes flashing anger. "One minute she was there, the next -- poof!"

"Well, we gave that suspicious little man Tricheor a good natter," Hugh said with a decided nod. "A bit of the havey-cavey about him, but he was trembling so, it was not possible he could have been behind such a daring caper."

"And this Alice," Lizzie said as calmly as she could manage. "She was English?"

"Indeed," Hugh said, but Stephenson broke in.

"Yes, a very nice young English woman, a bit over her head, but quite plucky for all that."

"Did you learn her last name?" Lizzie asked, her tone as careless as she could manage.

"You did, did you not?" Hugh said, turning to Stephenson who looked somewhat careless himself.

"Yes, I think so," Reggie continued to look as unconcerned as possible, infuriating Lizzie, who nonetheless sought to not betray that feeling.

"And?" She managed to keep her question succinct. She could not help noticing Tilney's close attention to her, however.

"I believe," Reggie Stephenson drawled, "that her family name was -- Mangrove."

Lizzie could not contain her gasp. "My long lost cousin!" she exclaimed.

Tilney gaped at her in surprise. "Your cousin?"

Stephenson's eyes seemed to want to burn through her words into her very brain. "You know the young lady," he said with a coldness that seemed quite at odds with his previous excitement.

Bless him, Lizzie thought, he is quite smitten. "Indeed, I believe that sounds like my dear cousin Alice, daughter of the late Lord Mangrove. She and -- er, she had been kidnapped from her father's funeral and spirited away."

"She has been spirited away again," Stephenson said with considerable passion. "We were hoping to find her when we ran across word of Tilney's plight."

"Damme, man. We must rescue Bennett's cuz," Tilney broke in. "It's the only thing to do."

Lizzie shot him a grateful look. "Tell us what you know," she begged Stephenson as the others gathered around. "We must find Alice!" Her heart warmed with excitement at the thought they she might be reunited with her dear cousin soon.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


It was bad enough to suddenly be blinking in bright daylight after the darkness of the coach, but Lizzie found it impossible to bear Stephenson's scrutiny with equanimity. Fortunately a distraction occurred while she helped brace up Tilney.

"Reggie, we've brought him around once more," another young man cried from the front of the carriage where the horses stamped their hooves with what seemed to Lizzie's fanciful mind to be Gallic indignation.

Perhaps it was just her amplification of the bewildered scowl on poor Armand's face. As he hove into view supported on either side, she could hear him muttering a string of words that were unfamiliar to the young woman until he got to "fils" and "chienne" and then she turned away quickly to cough.

"Bertie! Brackley!" Tilney cried with delight. "I say, what a wonder."

"Tilney, old boy! 'Pon rep--did we shoot you? Heavens!" Bertie looked ready to drop the staggering Armand in his eagerness to see his friend, while Brackley gaped open-mouthed.

"Poor Armand!" Lizzie said. "How could you frighten him so?"

Stephenson looked at her rather more sharply. "I say, Bennett--"

"What the devil are you all doing here?" Tilney cut in, much to Lizzie's relief. "Aren't you all supposed to be on the sunny strands? Hugh!" he added, as another young man appeared leading their horses.

"Tare 'n hounds! Tilney, you've survived!" Hugh dropped the reins of the horses and made ready to clap his friend on the shoulder, until he noticed how Tilney winced. "Good god, man--did we wing you?"

Tilney laughed. "Anyone else along for the ride? I don't want to have to retell the tale each time."

"Eliot meant to come," Stephenson said with a familiar sort of lazy drawl, "But he caught a cold."

"He caught a Constance, you mean," Bertie said, crowing with laughter.

"As you have guessed, Bennett," Tilney said, the usual lopsided grin on his face, "All my friends are quite mad. You will have expected no less."

Stephenson laughed heartily at this. "That rotter Eliot has betrayed the brotherhood and fallen in love with a most unlikely lass."

"French, you mean?" Tilney said, an eyebrow arched.

"Luckily no," Hugh said. "Sir Eliot managed to come all the way to the land of the frogs and fall in love with an English woman."

"Reggie lost his heart, too!" Bertie said. "But fortunately he lost the girl as well."

Stephenson's looks glowered darkly and, for a moment, Lizzie thought he might truly explode in anger, but the look passed and he laughed genuinely enough, though the sound rang a little hollow in her ears. "Yes, the illness and the cure in one fell swoop."

"Right," Hugh sniffed. "That's why we had to set off in pursuit of her so quickly."

"I thought you were running to my aid," Tilney laughed.

"Well, we heard about you on the way," Stephenson admitted. "But we had set off in search of poor Alice."

"Alice!" Lizzie cried. Could it be--?

Monday, May 03, 2010


Lizzie could not tell what astonished her more: Tilney's peremptory announcement as he kissed her hand or the gang of miscreants who had appeared outside the carriage. It was impossible to see their faces as the sunlight behind them beamed brightly into the dark interior. The brigands' voices were a cacophony assaulting Lizzie's ears and she felt oddly bereft of breath.

Despite her confident words to Tilney, Lizzie feared that this was indeed the end of their extraordinary journey. They had been so fortunate -- dodging bullets and French magistrates, not to mention her daily charade. All good things must come to an end, Lizzie thought as she blinked into the bright light, waiting for her eyes to adjust.

Tilney's grip on her hand had not loosened and Lizzie felt a flush of happiness as she heard his words echo again in her memory. If we die at the hands of these brigands, she thought, at least I will have had one moment of truly exquisite joy. She looked back at Tilney's face and admired once more the familiar lines of it. Though still touched by his injury and loss of blood, there was not a more handsome face in all the world, Lizzie thought with sudden certainty. Every line of it captured her heart, every imperfection only added to her delight that this man should say he loved her. If this were the end, then it was all worth it. She had found the man who had won her heart.

To her surprise, however, Tilney was staring at the brigands crowded outside the door—and he was smiling!

Lizzie turned to regard the fearsome creatures and saw that they were smiling, too. Her jaw fell open. What could this mean?

"Tilney! 'Pon rep, but we had a devil of a time finding you," shouted one young lad who seemed not at all sinister now that Lizzie could see him clearly.

"Lawks, but you're the very last person I expected to see kicking up a lark among the froggers. Damme, Stephenson! We thought you were the worst sort of highway men." Tilney laughed heartily. "Bennett and I thought we were done for."

"I landed a facer on that devilish driver of yours," Stephenson said, his face glowing with pride. "A regular highwayman couldn't have done any better, I warrant. You should have seen us go at it wild."

"Oh, poor Armand," Lizzie said, her sympathy going out to the innocent driver.

"Well, I fear we have had a bit of a scrape and got the wrong handle on the basket, I think," Stephenson said rather confusingly. "Aren't you being kidnapped, old man?"

"Kidnapped?" Tilney said, exchanging a look with Lizzie, evidently as befuddled as she. "You're too ripe and ready by half, lads. We've had a few scraped of late, but never kidnapped."

"Come out here into the light so we can see you, Tilney," Stephenson insisted, grabbing hold of the young man's arm and making him grunt with pain.

"Leave him alone," Lizzie shouted, "He's been shot!"

"By one of us?" Stephenson said with alarm. "Good heavens, old man. Sorry about that."

Tilney laughed, but Lizzie saw the strain on his face. "No, this was another fiasco." But he leaned forward and with Lizzie's help, was able to step out into the sunlight.

"Now who's this friend," Stephenson said with evident curiosity as he scrutinized Lizzie's face. "Say don't I know you?"

Lizzie quailed.