I abruptly turned to the footman and, despite his odious visage, I spoke to him as though her were blessed with the most beauteous features in the world.
“Good Sir, pray, you must aid me. These villainous fiends mean to capture me and take me from my new home in order to demand money and who can tell what jewels from your master. You must summon help at once!” Said I in some desperation.
Yet he stood uncouth before me as though I had not spoken two words to him. I repeated my entreaty, this time explaining in full the sheer injustice of the circumstances, much to the disgust of the unworthy Swifts. They seemed highly vexed at having their vices so clearly detected and laid bare. But at the close of this second speech the footman seemed still entirely unmoved and would not respond, until, much to the shock of the lady behind me, I struck the fellow! This he responded to by crying out, and as he did so I understood his failure to answer. The man was not English. He spoke in a foreign tongue that I could not comprehend. As the full consequences of such a fateful twist became apparent I lamented Martha and Robert’s continuous neglect of my education; for how could they not perceive that one day it would be of the utmost importance that I have an eloquent command of modern languages. I lamented also the shocking misfortune that meant there was no visible escape from this parlour, which despite its delightful furnishings and elegant window dressings (a silken weave and lightly embellished with birds of the tropics thus bringing to mind a feel of exoticism) it had now become highly unpleasant to my sensibilities.
My attempts to push past the footmen were entirely to no avail and it was not long before the deuced Swift’s had me within their grasp and ensconced within their chaise, which was taking its leave of Amberdell Hall at an alarming and vulgar speed, that would undoubtedly induce some malady or other as the journey continued. As the wretched coach drove onwards through weather which had turned decidedly inclement, as though the heavens too lamented my fate, I began to ponder the possible explanation for the severe lack of high speed pursuit following my hasty and involuntary removal from Amberdell Hall. One would have thought that the Amberdell’s, upon noting the lack of dignity or ceremony with which I had left them that they would, as such people always do in novels, have sent their servants and carriages to reclaim me. The more I considered it the more I was struck by the unpropitious absence of any person Amberdell since the previous night . Such notions soon led to a terrifying thought, that perhaps the Amberdell’s were not in fact my true relatives, perchance I had been grossly mistaken. For surely I could not be related to people who refused to pursue vagabonds who were so devoid of feeling that they would abduct a young woman only four and twenty hours after she had been reunited with them. Thus I concluded that my quest for my true family was far from done.
The carriage sped on to Lord know where. My sole companions the dreaded Swift’s whose every attempt to converse was a pang to so refined a mind as mine. They truly had no natural style or delicacy. Yet they were entirely convinced that they were my aunt and uncle. I knew myself to be grievously in peril, and found that the only course of action was to throw myself into a succession of magnificent faints.
Upon waking from this graceful stupor I knew not whether to be alarmed or enraged by such an unfortunate conclusion as this, for how could it be that I had been taken by these uncouth and aged people with so evident a lack of refined taste. However afore I could abandon myself to another nervous fever, satisfying though such a diversion would have been, I resolved to myself that I would break free from their undesirable society as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
To my regret such an opportunity did not immediately occur, the carriage continued long into the night and it was not until well after any persons of rank and good breeding would have been safely slumbering in their comfortable beds, save of course if such noble people were perchance attending a ball or some other pleasing diversion, that the Swift’s commanded their carriage to halt. By this unfortunate hour I was myself far too fatigued by my journey and Mrs Swifts incessant talk of money (such vulgarity ought be punishable by death) to be desirous of anything but a bed and some fortifying wine. Thus gaining my room I concluded that I would delay my scheme until I had reposed satisfactorily . The two days that followed proved to be an impossibility for anyone longing to escape from their captors, primarily because I believe that Mr Swift suspected my determination and seemed entirely unwilling to leave me in solitude for two minutes together, secondly, on the day that was Friday Mrs Swift came to me and said,
“Francesca, my dear, you are a girl of the fairest countenance, the most beauteous features, the most superiorly elegant figure! How can such a cherub, such a seraph be permitted to go out of doors in a gown that is decidedly inferior to your wondrous personage? We must therefore depart this moment for the very best milliner in Bath and have a whole new trousseau made up for you this instant!”
Well after such an abundance of compliments had been made and such gowns proposed it really would have been too unkind to escape before the generous offer was accepted. It also occurred to me that such a trousseau would be highly profitable in my quest to find my relations. And so it was that I was taken to Bath, and though I was unfortunate enough to have as my sole companion the unhappily unattractive Mrs Swift, I purchased some of the most exquisite gowns that any young lady of noble birth and excellent beauty could hope to find.
Yet I did not long delay my first attempt at escape, following a respectful period of gratitude for the dresses that I felt to be appropriate, I seized the chance when the ill-proportioned couple were at church. I had accompanied them, for I am a most dedicated Christian and felt an additional prayer might aid my quest. As we left the small and, in my opinion most unworthy chapel I noticed that the swifts had paused in the leaving procession to thank the foolish parson for giving so long and incomprehensible a sermon. Their attention was sufficiently diverted to permit me, with a well practiced (for what excellence can ever be achieved without constant practice) slight of hand I exchanged bonnets with another young lady, while this was something of a pang as my own bonnet was one those purchased at Bath and was a particularly splendid chapeau with a mighty scarlet plume, it allowed me to escape from the churchyard unnoticed by my over zealous guardians. When they finally did deign to find their Niece it was the girl in the plumed bonnet they pursued. Once away from the church I hastened along the lane which with every tree suggested mistaken identity and mystery, and I had nearly returned to the inn ( I was highly eager to collect my trousseau, for what self respecting heroine embarks upon such a journey sans frocks? Not I to be sure.) Whence I heard a cry from behind.
“Mr. Swift! This is not Francesca! You wretched interloper, what have you done to our niece pray? And why are you wearing her bonnet?” Said Mrs Swift in some anguish.
“Madam, Sir, I assure you I have not the faintest idea of what you are about. I have never had the misfortune to meet your niece, and as for this bonnet, I have never before laid eyes upon it. Allow me to assure you that I would never purchase such a hat, never. For I have refined taste and therefore find this bonnet to be of odious vulgarity.”
As the wretched young woman declared in so passionate a fashion her dislike of my bonnet I felt myself fly into a violent rage. Abandoning my plan to abandon my captors I returned to the church and struck the miserable young woman upon her miserable visage.
“How dare you speak ill of my bonnet! I ought to tell you …” Though what I ought to tell her was never revealed, for I was so vexed by her impertinent nose that I struck her about the cheeks which had an irregular hue.
“Francesca, cease and desist this moment! Violence has never accomplished anything. … Francesca unhand her hair! It is cruel of you to tear out her tresses so!” Cried Mrs Swift, endeavouring to remove me from the unhappy creature who so insulted me. Thus my disguise was ruined and with it my hopes of escape, my attempt to flee had been thwarted by my own impetuous nature and Mrs Swifts shrewd attention to detail.
I was returned to the inn in a state of the utmost disgrace and it was not long afore we were to take our leave of it again. I found myself once more in that displeasing hired chaise and four. The prospect of another week of travelling with the swifts was far more than could be bourn even by so brave and amiable a creature as me. Thus I settled upon a course of action that once pursued would be entirely irrevocable in its consequences. And just as Mrs Swift began her ill informed speech about the cost of cloth I seized the coach door, threw it open and launched myself from the moving carriage with decided determination and elegance, in a manner perfectly calculated to communicate my distress and lack of parent!