Having settled upon poaching Mrs Earnswothy’s tropical birds Monsieur De Toulouse and I waited for the sun to set over the ocean and Mrs Earnsworthy to retire. We passed the time amiably by gambling; our wager, which of the churls we had blindfolded would fall into the sea first.
Whence the last of the candles had been extinguished in Mrs Earnsworthy’s house, which dearest Harriet has an elegant gazebo, we advanced. Forcing our way through the aviary door, we seized the birds, who had developed an aptitude for speech and were capable of sentences copied from the seamstress.
“This particular hue would be most beneficial to your complexion.” Said one creature with a scarlet plumage so fine I longed to place him instantly upon my head and wear him as a bandeaux. I feared that the birds incessant comments upon my apparel might have roused the seamstress from her bed, but it would seem that we were fortunate. We secured a good many of the feathered creatures and hastened away into the trees beyond the coast in order to prevent us from being seen by the prying eyes of those people who are overly concerned with the business of others. Whence concealed, Monsieur De Toulouse and I began to secure the messages of distress to the birds feet. I had, for reasons of promptitude, used the letters that had returned in the rum bottles. Although some damage had been caused to my elegant hand by the salt water upon the ink they were not yet rendered illegible. And, as all truly cunning poachers are aware, one must be the very essence of expediency when thieving birds.
As dawn rose all about us we cast the birds upwards into the sky which had turned the colour of my aunts visage when she is enraged. They began their ascent with repeated cries of “What an elegant figure!” and vanished over the horizon. As I watched I felt the growing anticipation of a rescue party with the eagerness of an enamoured girl awaiting a proposal!
“Madame, si vous avez termine, nous devons prendre nos conges et dejeuner. j’ai terriblement faim!” Monsieur De Toulouse spoke and his prudent words brought me back from my reverie.
“Indeed sir, you are the embodiment of practicality we ought take our leave and make an appearance at the pump room, our absence would otherwise draw undesirable attention and culpability would eventually be laid upon us.” Was my reply. we did as the gentleman so wisely advised and returned to the centre of our small but well appointed town.
I dressed in my pale sprigged muslin gown afore entering the pump room, as I did, however, I endeavoured to accomplish a pretence at normality. I conversed with all of my acquaintances Including Admiral Inkpen, though I did not enlighten him upon our recent scheme. I felt that one more pang of disappointment may be enough to destroy the man’s spirit entirely. However my conscience, ever growing hope of our imminent rescue and my constitution rendered me entirely incapable of engaging in the tedium that was the daily exchange of gossip. especially with women of such intolerably ill humour as Mrs Sherridan, who seemed quite determined to inform me that Mr. Smith was intending to elope with a churl’s daughter. which according to her would lead to the complete devastation of our small but genteel society. Thus it was not long before I found myself once more at Monsieur De Toulouse’s side. For being, as were, the perpetrators of such villainous conduct as poaching, a bond now existed betwixt us.
We took a turn about the room, confess my dear Harriet that I did not find myself particularly inclined to take the waters, though they would certainly have been beneficial to my nerves which were in a feverish flurry and might soon become an apoplexy if I did not regain command of my spirits. However I found Monsieur De Toulouse’s society to be far too diverting to attend to my constitution. we conversed for some time. I shared with him a good many of my opinions upon art, music and novels. His deep and pensive silence decidedly reflected his complete harmony with my tastes, we were, in short, perfectly matched.
We had taken our sixth turn around the room, which was the most refreshing turn, when Monsieur De Toulouse spoke,
“Madame, Je ne comprend pas, Je ne parle pas l’Anglais.” Said he.
Harriet, I found I had reached the moment where my command of that noble language failed me. I could not understand him. He must have sensed this in my visage for he repeated his entreaty once more. I felt a desperation settle upon me at this sudden loss of my companion.
“Oh Curse it all!” I lamented to the heavens, “What a cruel fate this is, for ardent affection to be thus prevented by my inability to retain what I was taught!”
I was overheard by Lady Winifred, who had been engaged in taking the waters. The amiable young woman said. “Pray forgive my interruption, I could not help but bear witness to your torment. He cannot understand. Monsieur De Toulouse says he does not speak English.”
“Lady Winifred, I am all admiration of your understanding of the language.” As I concluded this heartfelt praise she smiled in gratification, She turned to Monsieur De Toulouse and began to converse with the gentleman as easily as though French were her native tongue. As I listened to this I felt my spirits lift in a fashion one would more commonly associated with being told of an imminent and significant inheritance. For I suddenly realised that complete understanding between myself and Monsieur De Toulouse was now rendered entirely possible.
“Lady Foot, forgive the presumptive nature of my enquiry, which I am aware might lack civility, however, might I prevail upon you to translate for us whilst we converse?” Said I to the charming and accomplished young woman who now stood at my side. In my next breath I conveyed to her the depth of my affection for Monsieur De Toulouse. I am, as you know Harriet, not usually so very forward in my conduct, however if you were to see Monsieur De Toulouse’s wonderful regal countenance, or stand as I do basking in his enigmatic and reflective silences where his French brow is inexplicably knotted with sentimentality (that if one was unfamiliar with the gentleman in question could easily be mistaken for curmudgeonly ill humour, but is in truth, I am certain, the sign of a punctilious mind at work) I am certain that you too would have resorted to such candour.
Lady Winifred Foot was a truly magnanimous woman who understood that overwhelming female frailty, love. She obliged to acquiesce to my request, and I was soon able to converse at my leisure with the gentleman, whose equal in taste, countenance and elegance I have yet to meet. I found that we were in perfect accord upon all matters of any importance. Despite the new intimacy of our acquaintance, I confess that I fell prey to most acute shock, indeed I nearly succumbed to a fainting fit, when Monsieur De Toulouse went down upon bended knee before me. He knelt, with so little hint of forewarning that it was almost an impertinence, and said, “Madame, j’ai regardé tous vos tentative de nous libérer de cette prison avec une grande admiration. Votre refus fervente au désespoir, votre espoir continue pour notre évasion m’ont laissé dans la crainte de votre esprit. Je trouve que je suis complètement amoureux de vous. Priez, Mlle Charlotte puis-je avoir votre main dans le mariage?”
He spoke with such warm affection that I hardly required Lady Winifred to translate his melodic speech into; “Madam, I have watched your every attempt to free us from this prison with great admiration. Your fervent refusal to despair, your continued hope for our escape have left me in awe of your spirit. I find I am utterly enamoured with you. Pray, Miss Charlotte may I have your hand in marriage?”
I searched through my mind for words that would adequately convey the depth of my ardent love for him until I found one that I felt expressed all of my current sentiments. I looked into his French eyes and said “Oui!”
To be continued …