(Sir James gives his wife a farewell kiss, and you follow him out to the luxurious, orderly gardens.)
In the winter of that same year, January of 1793, I met Isabella on a Sunday afternoon, right after church services. I was immediately taken with her; she seemed to me to be the most beautiful woman in the world. As we spoke together, I learned that she was a refugee from revolutionary France, but that she was also a commoner. I offered, as it was a cold day, to take her back to her home, and as I bid her farewell, we discovered that we would be attending the same ball a few days hence--Lord Hastings' annual ball. For the next few days I couldn't keep my mind off the beautiful Isabella de Roche. When the night of the ball came, I impulsively decided to offer my escort to her--if only she wasn't already being escorted. Luck was with me that night--she was not, and she graciously (and with some measure of surprise) accepted my offer. At the ball, when we were alone on the balcony, I declared to her what I had been feeling; it was silly of me, I know, but I just couldn't help myself. She looked so lovely in her pale violet gown . . . I had only known her for a few days, and I had already fallen in love with her. Friend, do you believe in love at first sight? I do now; I believe that is the only logical explanation.
Had Isabella not returned my affections, I don't think I could have endured it. Happily, she told me that she had been feeling the same about me as I had been about her. Love between a nobleman and a common girl; it was outrageous, but we didn't care.
We decided to keep our affections a secret from society for a time, since they would not be looked on with favor. So, when we returned to the crowded rooms, we stayed separate from one another, even though I wanted nothing better than to remain by her side for always. I needed advice on the situation, though, and for it I sought out an old schoolfriend of mine, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes. Yes, you have heard the name before; it was he who helped so much in Isabella's rescue from Paris. He is the most level-headed, intelligent, sympathetic man I have ever known, and a friend to the death; I knew he would give me good advice. He did. It was he who offered his support for our love, and reassured me that others in society would support it as well. He left me rather abruptly after that; as if he had someplace to go, but didn't want anyone to know about it. In fact, throughout our conversation he had been acting strangely, like he was afraid of being overheard. Worrying that he was in trouble, I followed him at a distance to the staircase. At the bottom of the staircase, I was intercepted by Isabella.
What I did not know at the time was that Andrew belonged to the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel and that they were having an emergency meeting in Lord Hastings' study. The Guild was to make sure that meeting was left undisturbed, and Isabella was the last checkpoint past which anyone would have to pass before reaching the study. How I managed to pass the others without being detected I still do not understand; perhaps I have a certain talent for evading detection that I do not know of. But as I tried to get upstairs and ask Andrew what was going on, Isabella was dutifully following her orders by trying to stop me. I felt it was very important that I get up those stairs; Isabella knew it was even more important that I did not. So, when all her efforts at getting me to stay with her failed, she used her last resort; force. I felt something strike me on the back of the head, and fell unconscious.
When I woke, I was lying on a couch in a small room, and Isabella was sitting beside me, looking worried. She told me that something fell on my head and knocked me unconscious. (It was not until much later when she told me about what really happened.)
"Ooh," I groaned, feeling the bump on the back of my head. "Why are you here, Isabella?"
She smiled at me faintly. "Have you forgotten so quickly that I love you?"
I stared up into her beautiful brown eyes. I felt so happy, I could have been in heaven. "How could I ever forget, my love?"
She bent down to kiss me. It was only the first of many kisses we would secretly engage in before our wedding, two months later.
The wedding was beautiful, and so was Isabella; my sister Anne gave her a gorgeous wedding dress as a gift, which set her figure off to perfection. We were so very happy, the entire day passed by us as a blur. After the ceremonies and festivities were finished, I brought Isabella here to her new home. Here, she revealed to me the information you already know, about the Violet Guild and her involvement in it. She had been given express permission by Lady Hastings to tell me about it and ask me to join as her husband. I began to remember an incident I had completely forgotten . . .
Years before, Andrew had approached me with the proposal that something should be done against the horrors of the Revolution, and asked if I would be a party to such an idea. I thought for a while, then refused, saying that I had nothing to do with the Revolution, and even so, the French people themselves might turn their ways around on their own. I had forgotten about the suggestion since then, so when the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel began its activities, I was as surprised to hear about it as anyone else in London. Since the days when Andrew had asked me about it, I had come to realize that the Revolution was out of control and would not be turning around any time soon. I wanted to help, but I lacked the courage to join this League. Seeing how courageous Isabella was incited me and inspired me to rally myself and find the courage I'd always felt lacking.
I joined the Violet Guild. Isabella and I have served it ever since, working together for the protection of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. We are as happy in this work as we could ever think to be, dangerous though it is. And we are even happier in our marriage to each other.
(You have come back around to the stables, where your carriage is waiting, ready to go.)
Must you leave so soon? We'd be happy to let you stay here for a few days . . . but if you say you must return to your own time, then so be it. You are from the twentieth century, I hear? Quite peculiar . . . ah, well, I do suppose you are anxious to return, then. Godspeed, my friend, and return soon! We will be happy to receive you, if you ever wish to visit again!
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