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.

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