Lethe’s Lodgings, Bath, A little After.
Colonel Charles Lethe.
It would seem that there is nought on this earth more exactly calculated to rob a woman of her senses than kittens. For Miss Heroina, whom I had believed was a woman of sound judgement and shrewd mind was so shockingly altered that I might not have known her. She sat upon the floor, speaking in the voice of infant, entirely engaged in a game of the most animated frolics with the kittens. I tried for above five and twenty minutes to draw her attention away from them in the most notable fashions I could devise, including a hearty reenactment of a scene from Mc Beth; but to no avail.
I was defeated. Thus I took a turn about the room alone. Despite the pleasing quality of everything within these lodgings, there was nought that spoke of the character of the man who resided here. There were no portraits of forebears, no engraved trinkets or miniatures of young ladies who’s locks of hair were enclosed in a ring as a token of the promise of love that existed betwixt Charles Lethe and some unknown beauty. Not even the letters upon the bureau contained much of interest, they were in the most part letters of credit from the butcher, the baker and a candlestick maker. I was upon the verge of discarding them all when, beneath the pile of tedious correspondence I saw a letter a black rimmed letter of mourning. I opened it eagerly.
“Dear Colonel Lethe,
Allow me to offer you my most sincere condolences upon the death of your cousin Mr. Philips. “
Here I stopped, for upon reaching the name Mr Philips I had been overcome by every feeling more usually associated with shock and confusion, which rendered the continued perusal of the note an impossibility.
“Miss Heroina, I have discovered a note which claims that Mr. Philips is deceased. However Mr. Philips is me! Thus how can I be dead if I am so very plainly alive?!” Said I animatedly. As I received no acknowledgment I returned to the letter before me.
“Mr. Philips was a man of …”
But quite what Mr. Philips was I did not discover. I was interrupted by the largest cat in a manner that displayed a severe lack of polite patience. I was about to scold it heartily for such disagreeable conduct when I noted that something in it’s mewling spoke of imminent peril. Indeed the next three meows were so very expressive it was as though it said; “Colonel Lethe you are in the imminent peril of the treacherous kind, Take your leave of this place at once!”
I could see nought but veracity in the cat’s eyes, I knew it was attemting to save my life, and I acted with admirable swiftness. I seized the cane once more as something told me it would prove a useful weapon, moved away from the window and called to Miss Heroina.
“Miss Heroina, Pray release the kit, for, not only, is such affection is bound to harm it, but I believe us to be in grave danger. We must leave.”
Her infatuation knew no bounds, still she would not look at me.
“Miss Heroina, we must evanesce instantaneously!” However afore I could embark upon a more impassioned entreaty the window casing behind me was smashed in it’s entirety and a man flew into the parlour swinging upon a rope, as though he were an inebriated pirate.
I was not merely struck by the manner of his arrival for he had landed before me with all the elegant dexterity of a dancer, but also by the fellow’s garments, he wore a black uniform of the militia, so complete in it’s similarity to the one I had discovered in the armoire that it was identical. I was all perplexed vexation as he faced me with wicked menace in his eyes!
Lethe’s Lodgings, Bath, The Very Same Instant.
Miss Eliza Heroina.
The shattering of the glass in the window casing shook the drawing room. I glanced up in time to see a man appearing through the window as though by some sorcerer’s tick. He landed before Colonel Lethe, drew a sword and addressed the Colonel in challenging tones.
“Monsieur, je vous provoque en duel!” While my French was not what it ought to be, I knew enough to know this man had challenged the colonel to a duel.
“J’accepte, si je dois vous avertir, vous avez peu de chance de gagner!” Lethe replied in french that was the very essence of perfection. I understood it to mean that he acquiesced but forewarned the fiend that he would undoubtedly be beaten. He faced his opponent with remarkable bravery for one so lately confused.
Lethe raised the cane, however as he endeavoured to brandish it above his head the carved ebony fell to the ground revealing a simple but sharp foil, the very weapon for such an impromptu fight. And with such formalities being completed the two men embarked upon a duel of savage elegance.
The battle that ensued lasted for a time that was, in truth, beyond anything reasonable. Until at last Colonel Lethe overpowered the fiendish fellow causing him to fall to the ground as though he were little more than a young girl who has succumbed to a fainting fit at her first ball. Lethe stood victorious over him, his sword aimed betwixt the villains eyes.
“Monsieur, pourquoi êtes-vous en train de me tuer?” Enquired Lethe. “Qui veut ma mort?”
His enquiries as to the identity of those who wished him harm left me entirely enraptured by his abilities to converse so fluently.
“Sir, pray, forgive so very open a speech but I am quite in raptures at your command of the modern languages, Indeed if you were a young woman you would be considered truly accomplished!” Said I with such warmth of feeling that it verged upon the improper.
Lethe’s natural pallor altered a little at my praise, however such admiration proved to be perilous to his instincts, for his attention was diverted long enough for the French speaking churl to free himself from Lethe’s grasp. Without a moments hesitance and with the same agility with which he had arrived, he threw himself from the window to his certain doom with all the zealous haste of one abandoning a sinking and burning ship.
I could scarce believe my eyes, I could not comprehend it.
“Miss Eliza, We must take our leave of this place at once, take the cats and leave here.” The colonel spoke in manner indicative of one possessed by some strange scheme for our continued survival. As he gathered as many papers and weapons as could be found within the apartment and I gathered the kits in my outer skirt, I found was irreversibly overcome with the a nervous seizure the likes of which I had never afore endured.
“Sir, Why, He has thrown himself from the … He has taken leave of his senses, why would anybody abandon life so vey readily?” was my confused utterance.
“It matters not. Come.” Said he, and with little or no pretence at propriety he placed an arm about my waist and aided me toward the stairs.
I was entirely dependent upon Colonel lethe’s strength for my own legs seemed suddenly inadequately robust to support me. He led me into the street and bade me not to look toward the carriage.
“Mr. Leadfoot, we must away from here as quickly as though the very devil were at our heels.” Said the colonel as he opened the carriage door for me. Mr. Leadfoot did not reply. “Mr. Leadfoot, did you here me? we must take our leave this moment for we shall be pursued by and by.” But still Mr. Leadfoot did not answer. “Mr. Leadfoot! Answer me man!” The colonel seized Mr Leadfoot’s arm to shake some sense into the impertinent fool. yet as he did so Mr Leadfoot slumped forth as though he were nought more than a poorly milled sack of flour!
“Dead, the poor fool is dead, he has been killed in order to hinder our escape!” The colonel spoke in tones that were barely audible. “Miss Eliza, pray get into the carriage avert your eyes for this is no sight for a woman.”
I did as he bade, ensuring the cats were comfortably seated. After but a moments delay Colonel Lethe was in the coachman’s seat and driving the horses forth through the streets of Bath as though the devil were, indeed, at our heels.