Star-crossed Lovers
or, Romeo and Juliet would've been better off if they'd had meddling younger brothers

"But loving you is all I know:
How am I to let you go,
Vanished like a wisp of wayward breeze . . ."

- "Teach Me Not To Love You"


Scene I:  Wherefore Art Thou Andrew?

Peter arrived at the spot, to find James and William waiting. On any other day, he would have been slightly disturbed that he was last to arrive. Today, however, he had more things on his mind.

James looks up suddenly as a twig snaps

<James> Peter?  You're a bit later than usual . . .

Peter shrugs, taking a seat at the gnarled base of a tall tree

<Peter> I had difficulty escaping.  Father's turning his wrath upon one and all.

<William> ::picking apart a dry stick::  Join the club, my friend . . . excuse me, my ENEMY.

Peter rolls his eyes

<Peter> Things are bound to become worse before they become better, you know.

<William> They're being demmed hysterical about the whole thing.  I've never seen Father so angry--you know how he's always so calm and controlled?  Not these days.

<Peter> It's not MY father I worry about.  He's always let it be known he hates YOUR father.  It's Mama who's out of control.  ::grins, despite himself:: She walloped Father a good one this morning.

James and William both grin a little at the thought

<James> ::a little concerned::  How's Sophie?

<Peter> Upset. ::sigh:: I never knew one girl could cry as much as she does!  She locks herself in her room all day, and sneaks out at night with YOUR brother.  ::looks at William::

<William> I know.  I caught Andrew sneaking out of the house three nights ago--he made me swear I wouldn't say a word.  ::shrugs::  I suppose I just broke that oath.

James shrugs in turn

<James> The way I see it, here, it doesn't matter.  Nobody even knows about it, and we aren't going to say anything about it.

<Peter> ::shrugs:: It wasn't as if we didn't know.  I'm convinced Mother knows about the nighttime excursions.  Soph's hardly discreet at times.  Not to our fathers, at least.  ::mutters::

<James> ::thoughtfully::  You know, considering our fathers' experience in matters of secrecy, it's ironic that we can pull the wool over their eyes this way--Sophie and Andrew with their nighttime excursions, and us with these meetings . . . ::sighs::  Are we wrong in thinking that we've kept the secret, or are they so blinded by their anger that they really can't see it?

<Peter> ::thinks for a moment:: They're both so stubborn.  Sometimes I believe they only ever see what they wish to see.  Any fool with a half a brain had to know Soph's always had feelings for Andrew--and Andrew for her.  Our mothers are surprisingly at ease with it--they must have had some knowledge.  But our fathers both act as if they're being hit with a piece of unknown, amazing information!

<William> I think they were denying it to themselves.  I've known it for years . . . but it's so unthinkable to them, that they couldn't believe it.  My mother and yours have been friends for a long time--they could accept it better, I think.

<Peter> ::after a few moments of silence:: You don't believe that our fathers will...actually prevent this wedding from occurring, do you?

<William> ::sighs::  If they do, Andrew will just elope with Sophie.  Inheritance be demmed.  He loves her too much . . . ::sits on the grass::  You may be looking at a future baronet here, who knows.

<Peter> ::snorts:: You?  A baronet?  ::jokingly::

<William> ::grins::  Is that so hard to believe?

<James & Peter, in unison> ::mock-serious::  Yes.

<William> ::sighs:: I don't see why . . . but honestly, I don't want the title; I'd rather things didn't come to that.

<Peter> ::serious again:: I don't know if Sophie would elope, though.  She tries so hard to please--and if there were a chance of raising Father's ire...

<William> ::nods in agreement::

<James> ::nods::  She's always been the closest to him, the apple of his eye . . . she would never do anything that would hurt him, or anger him . . .

<William> And Andrew won't do anything that makes her unhappy . . . ::sighs dejectedly::  So they would both spend the rest of their days in misery, because their fathers are both stubborn as mules and wouldn't accept a change.  It's rotten.

<Peter> ::decisively:: Something must be done to fix this mess Cupid has brought upon us all.  But what?  ::grins wickedly, turning to William:: Blakeney...any ideas?

<William> Why does everybody look at me for ideas?

<James> Ahh, William . . . take a look at your parentage sometime.

<Peter> The son of the infamous Scarrrrlet Pimperrrnel should have an idea... plans for derring-do... and all that rot.

<William> Give me some time . . . I'm not my father, you know--you can't expect me to come up with an idea in the space of a minute.

<Peter> ::shakes his head, feigning disappointment as he jests with his friend:: An embarrassment you are--embarrassment to the Scarlet Pimpernel's legacy.  Tut-tut-tut.

<William> ::with a grin::  And what sort of legacy do you pass on, CITIZEN?  ::looks him up and down jokingly::  Not much of a son for the Pimpernel's cunning enemy, I fear me.  Why, he's even plotting with the "enemy"!

<William> You know, there's not much we can do on our own . . . they are our fathers, after all . . .

<James> But if we had OUTSIDE help . . .

<Peter> ::a slow smile creeping across his face:: There are those who know our fathers better than anyone--who knows their weaknesses, and their strengths...

<William> ::a cunning grin::  Who can influence them, exploit their weaknesses better than we could ever dream . . .

<James> Of course . . . our mothers.  ::grins::

<Peter> I almost feel...pity for our Fathers.  ::chuckles:: They've not a clue what they've begun.

James and William laugh quietly

<James> And if this doesn't resolve the problem, we may have to kidnap Andrew and Sophie and marry them ourselves.

<Peter> ::grins at James:: A very cunning plan, coz.  We may even need it--so keep it in mind.

<William> Indeed--a little drastic, perhaps, but we could always use a backup plan.

<Peter> ::grins:: Oh, I don't know... I like it.  'Twould be a great deal of fun.... dontchathink?

<William> ::grinning too::  A bit of excitement, at least . . . something to relieve boredom on a rainy day . . .

<James> Well, I wouldn't suggest it as a regular occurrence.

<Peter> ::chuckles::

<James> Does anybody know where Richard is this time of year?  We could use all the help we can get on our side.

<Peter> ::thoughtfully:: He's away at school, isn't he?

<William> Supposed to come home for a bit pretty soon, I think . . .

<Peter> As soon as he arrives, we begin further plotting.  ::Muses:: He'd be angry if we did anything without him, of that I am sure.

<James> ::grins wryly::  Of course.  He's a Dewhurst, isn't he--he's got to be in on every action taken.

<Peter> ::chuckles::

<William> Good.  As soon as Richard arrives, we petition the ladies with our plan . . .

<James> An all-out war against the opposing parties . . . until the conflict is officially laid aside and differences are resolved, then?

<William> Well, I don't think the differences will ever be resolved . . . but they've definitely got to give it up.

<Peter> Our sibling's happiness is at stake here! ::pauses:: As, of course, is our own happiness....

<William> And, the right to get through a single meal without listening to a discourse against both the other's family and the proposed marriage . . .

<Peter> ::nods:: And to be able to walk through ones own home without having to duck in fear of being hit by projectile furniture... ::Smirks::

<James> Projectile furniture?  This IS serious.  A war not only against the happy future of our siblings now, but also against the very safety of the Queen Anne chairs!

<Peter> ::gasps and rises, staggering towards his cousin:: And... CHINAWARE!  Oh, the indignities Grandmaman Ffoulkes' china has suffered!!!

<William> ::melodramatically:: The horrors that the coffee table has endured . . . the abominations against the sofas in the parlor!  We can no longer sit around and do nothing!

<Peter> ::nods solemnly:: It isn't just a Blakeney-Chauvelin war anymore!  It's a war against.... star-crossed lovers!!

<James> ::grandly:: Remember Romeo and Juliet!

<Peter> ::throws a hand to his forehead, near-swoon, in a Sophie Impression:: Andrew, Andrew!  Wherefore art thou, Andrew?  Deny thy father and refuse thy name!  ::high-pitched:: Or, if thou wilt not--be but SWORN my love, and I shall no longer be a Chauvelin! ::swoons in William's arms::

<William> ::drops Peter unceremoniously as he gets down on one knee in reverence, looking up at something::  But soft!  What light through yonder window breaks?  It is the east, and Sophie is the sun!  Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon . . .

<Peter> ::preens::

<James> ::helping Peter to his feet::  Ahh, Andrew--your Sophie's this way.

<Peter> That's good.  Because I didn't know the rest of the play.... ::Mutters::

<William> ::shrugs::  Neither do I.  But I know how it ends--both of them dead.  And I certainly don't care to see THAT repeated.

<Peter> As tempted as I have been in the past.... ::shakes head:: No.  That particular ending would do us no good.

<James> ::small grin::  Which one have you been tempted to kill, Peter . . . Sophie, or Andrew?

<Peter> ::grins:: My sister, of course.  Don't tell me you haven't been tempted to do some bodily harm to YOUR sister, James.

<James> What, me?  Never.  ::grins::  Well, maybe the occasional mild torture.

<Peter> How mild is mild?  ::grinning::

<James> ::yawns::  Depends on your point of view, really . . .

James grins wickedly, William laughing to the side

<Peter> I suppose...

Scene II:  Ladies Just Want To Have Fun

<Marguerite> ::stepping down from the carriage, speaking to the driver::  I might be a few hours.  Wait for me.  ::goes up to the room quickly, wondering what Suzanne could have wanted, asking her to meet here . . . opens the door and sees Suzanne::  Suzanne, is something wrong?

<Suzanne> ::presses a kiss to her friend's cheek:: Not a thing, cherie!  Are you unwell?  I hadn't expected to see you again until tomorrow evening!

<Marguerite> ::kisses Suzanne's cheek, but is very confused::  But, you asked me to meet you here . . .

<Suzanne> ::her brow furrowed:: I have the note in my pocket, cherie--'tis your seal--asking me to meet you here...

<Yvonne> ::enters the room cautiously::  Marguerite, cherie . . . I'm a little late, but I couldn't get away . . . why, hello, Suzanne!  I didn't expect to see you as well . . .

<Suzanne> ::smiles, even MORE confused now:: There is something odd going on...

<Marguerite> There is indeed . . . ::to Yvonne::  Did you receive a note as well?

<Yvonne> Yes, from you.  Look--here it is.

<Lucy> ::appears in the doorway:: Yvonne... ::pauses:: Marguerite!  Suzanne!

<Marguerite, Yvonne, Suzanne> ::all look at one another::  A note?

<Lucy> ::holding her note up to view:: I've a feeling we've all been duped...

<Yvonne> It certainly looks like it.

<Suzanne> But who would have sent all the notes...

The door opens quietly and the four boys step into the room

<William> I'm afraid we've deceived all of you . . .

<Peter> ::simply grins::

<Lucy> ::sighs:: I should have KNOWN you had a hand in this charade, Peter Chauvelin.

<Yvonne> Richard Dewhurst!  What are you up to this time?

<Richard> We have a plan, mother . . .

<Lucy> More terrifying words were never spoken...

<Suzanne> ::giggles::

<William> Mother, you know how things have been lately with Andrew and Sophie . . . you all know how it has been.  And we are getting the worst of it.

<Lucy> ::glances knowingly at Marguerite:: That is true...

<Peter> Something must be done--before Sophie and Andrew lay aside their plans to make OUR fathers happy.

<Richard> And that shouldn't have to happen.  Their happiness--and ours as well--is at stake . . . this has to stop.

<Suzanne> I'm sure you all know how stubborn your fathers are.  What do you suggest we do?

<Marguerite> Fine words, and I understand your point . . . but what's your plan?

<William> The only way is by strategically waged war against them.  A war of domesticity.

<James> We had thought... hoped... you could help us.

<Peter> Find our Fathers weaknesses, and exploit them! ::grinning deviously::

<Lucy> ::smiling:: They certainly would deserve it.

<Marguerite> ::laughs::  Find their weaknesses, you say?  Lucy won't have much trouble, then.

<Lucy> ::smiles sweetly:: My job shall be far easier than all others.

<Yvonne> ::laughing quietly::  Marguerite, you won't have to look very long either . . . 'tis common knowledge among us all what Sir Percy's weakness is.

<Suzanne> Really, though.. why must Yvonne and I punish our husbands?  Andrew and Lord Dewhurst simply follow Sir Percy's command... they always have. ::smiling::

<James> There is strength in numbers, Mama.

<Richard> Father and Sir Andrew have the same viewpoint of Sophie's father as Sir Percy does . . . if we discover they're neutral, then we could ask them to help, but until we know for sure . . .

<Peter> Richard's correct.  It must be all or none.

<William> It's a drastic measure, I know . . . but it's the only way to persuade them to drop this foolish feud and let Andrew and Sophie be happy.  They can't be happy without each other, that's obvious.

<Lucy> Armand and Percy will both...come around.  I think this war will be the perfect prod.

<Marguerite> It will take a while, though.  Armand Chauvelin is a stubborn man . . . and Percy isn't far behind him in that aspect, either.

<William> ::smiling:: Then we can count on your aid?

<Lucy> If any one person can be counted upon to wage war upon their husband, it would be me.  I'll help.

<Suzanne> And I... though I hope it won't all go too far.

<Marguerite> So shall I.  Andrew deserves to have his father's blessing.

<Yvonne> It all sounds fun to me . . . Tony should come around quickly. ::smiling::

<Peter> ::grins at William:: Then, it has begun!

<Marguerite> ::looking at her son significantly::  By the way . . . whose idea was this plan, anyway?

<William> ::grins:: Why does everybody look at me when a plan is afoot?

The boys laugh

<Lucy> ::sighs, shaking her head:: A miniature Percival Blakeney.  Lud, save us all.

<Marguerite> ::laughs::  Oh, I don't know . . . he's not half as ingenious as Percy, really.

<William> I feel a bit insulted by that.

<Suzanne> Give him time, Margot.  Give him time.

<Richard> Does that mean we'll all become like our fathers in time?  Zooks, what a prospect!

<Lucy> ::sighs, shaking her head:: Well, then, my little Chauvelin--let US return home.  Tomorrow evening, we'll all meet for Marguerite's dinner party--and the Game shall begin! ::laughs::

<Marguerite> It shall indeed!  Why should the men have all the fun?  ::laughs::

<Suzanne> ::laughs::

<Yvonne> Tomorrow night, then--and luck to all!

<Lucy> Until tomorrow!

Scene III:  A Fist-Fight Before Dinner

<Suzanne> ::standing in the foyer, as the butler announces the Blakeneys:: How wonderful you could all come...

<Margot> ::kisses Suzanne on both cheeks warmly::  Why, we would never dream of staying away!  Would we, Percy?

<Percy> No, of course not, dear . . . ::shakes Andrew by the hand::

<William> ::comes in with Andrew and Katharine in the wake of his parents and immediately begins to look for James::

<James> ::hurrying down the stairs, having been late dressing:: Hello...!

<William> ::lowered voice::  Thank goodness, I thought you weren't going to come down . . . where were you?

<James> Dressing.  Sorry.  ::hushed voice:: Has Peter arrived yet?

<William> ::chuckles softly::  Peter?  I don't think so . . . they'll probably be the last ones to arrive.  You know how long it takes your Aunt Lucy to persuade him to come to these things . . .

<James> Too true.  ::grins:: You're the first to arrive then?

<William> Yes, we're the first.  You knew we would be. ::grins, then lowers voice even MORE to a whisper::  How goes the plan on your end?

<James> ::grins:: Poor Father's terribly confused.  Not only have Mary and I been playing our roles well, but you ought to see how Mother's been behaving.

<William> ::grinning::  Your mother?  Lady Ffoulkes?  I wouldn't believe it if I didn't know better . . .

<James> And on your end? I imagine with your Mother's background in the arts, the show is quite a sight to see...

<William> Katharine and I can hardly keep from laughing at times . . . you should have seen them at breakfast this morning.  They hardly spoke to one another, but Mother was overly pleasant, as if nothing was wrong . . . Father doesn't know what to think.  One moment she's as sweet as bees' honey, the next moment she answers him in curt syllables with a petulant turn of the head.  I bet they slept in separate rooms last night. ::grins wickedly::

<James> I hope this game ends soon!  Else our Mothers will be the death of our fathers... and we want the end to be a wedding, not their funerals...

<William> Exactly.  It shouldn't last too much longer, I should think . . . though Father is stubborn, he has his limits.  ::glances across the room, to where Andrew Blakeney sits in a chair, a mournful expression on his face::  It HAS to end soon.

<James> ::nods:: Poor Andrew.  We have to somehow manage to give him a few minutes alone with Sophie tonight.  They haven't seen each other in almost a week, you know.

<William> ::nods decisively::  We can contrive to distract our fathers long enough to let them slip away, I think . . .

<Yvonne> ::as the Dewhursts are introduced::  Suzanne, cherie . . . how good of you to invite us!

<Suzanne> ::smiling conspiratorially at Yvonne:: It's wonderful of you to come!  ::takes her arm, whispering as she leads her to the rest of the party--Tony and children following behind:: Marguerite's already arrived, as you see.

<Tony> ::separates himself from his wife and goes over to the two men::  How do, Percy?  Andrew?  ::lowers voice considerably::  Are you having as strange a week as I?

<Andrew> Stranger than you could imagine.  ::looks slightly worried:: Suzanne must be ill--she's rather quiet.

<Percy> Margot seems to have gone rather soft in the brain, I think--she's in some sort of mood all the time.  Cheerful and bright, then dark and brooding--I don't know what's going on.

<Andrew> ::still lost in thought:: And when she isn't quiet--why, she snapped at me this week!  My wife has never before snapped at me.  ::shakes head::

<Tony> Nor mine . . . but Yvonne seems to have caught a bee in her bonnet over something.  She's cold to me, as never before . . .

<Richard> ::joins William and James in the corner::  James!  William!  ::whispers, a mischievous grin on his face::  The treatment is working like a charm.

<James> ::trying not to laugh:: Look at the three of them, boys.  Have you ever seen three more confused faces in your lives?

<William> ::smothers a laugh as well::  Not in mine, definitely . . .

<Mary> ::wanders over to the group, the other girls close behind:: Stop smirking, you three.  Do you want them to think we've done something? ::smiling a little::

<Richard> ::grinning::  Mother's playing her part admirably--she's hardly spoken to Father all week.  I think they're going to spring the ultimatum on our fathers tonight, en masse . . .

<Katharine> Indeed, they'll get suspicious. ::sweet smile::

<James> You're right, of course.  We can't chance their suspicion.  ::smiling at the girls:: The fact that you've joined us is suspicious enough--shouldn't you be off in a corner, glaring at us for being silly boys?

<Alice> Oh, James, don't leave us out of it . . . Mary, make your brother be nice.  Besides, there's more of us than there are of YOU.  Four to three, we win.

<Mary> ::smirking at her brother:: Alice is right.  If anyone must leave the group, it must be you three boys.  Hah.

<William> By the way, we're planning on getting Andrew and Sophie alone together for a few minutes tonight . . . you'll fall in with any distraction plan, of course?

<Mary> You needn't have even asked us, William.  Of course we shall.

<Butler> ::announces in a dry tone:: His Lordships sister--and family.

<Richard> ::a triumphant whisper::  What was that you were saying, sister dear, about outnumbering us?

<Peter> ::breaking away from his family to join the other children:: Late, as usual.  I didn't think we would ever get here.

<William> ::grinning::  Neither did we.  Tensions in full swing, I should guess?

<Sophie> ::reluctantly, casting a longing glance at Andrew in the chair, follows her parents to the opposite side of the room::

<Peter> ::chuckling:: I have learned SEVERAL new words in this past week, all of which I will teach you lads as soon as the GIRLS leave us.

<Caroline> ::innocently:: But why should we . . .

<Alice> ::as the eldest of the three, understands the reference best::  Never mind, Caroline--they want to be rid of us.  Come on, ladies, let's find more stimulating company. ::curtsies elaborately to the boys::  Farewell, gentlemen . . .

<Richard> ::bows to his sister as elaborately::

<Peter> ::waits until they've left:: I thought they'd never leave--I can't stand girls. ::coughs:: No offense--they are your sisters, of course.

<Richard> ::grinning::  None taken--I can't stand 'em either, in a most cordial way, of course . . .

<James> ::drily:: Of course.

<William> So, the plan seems to be going well for everyone . . . does Sophie suspect?

<Peter> She doesn't suspect a thing. ::looks over to where Sophie is sitting:: Poor Soph.

<William> I know what you mean . . .

<Peter> Soph didn't even want to COME tonight.  Mother begged her all morning to even attend.  And you all know how my sister has always THRIVED on social occasions..

<Richard> Don't worry, we'll cheer her up . . . we're going to get them alone.  At any cost.

<Peter> ::grinning:: Good.

<James> ::claps a hand on his cousin's shoulder:: If need be, we'll--kidnap them both, and lock them away in the wine cellar.

<William> In fact, we ought to begin that now . . . before they figure out why they're getting the cold shoulder.

<Peter> Indeed.

<William> ::formally::  Well, Peter, shall you and I take on the task of diverting attention elsewhere, while our companions spirit the lovebirds away?

<Peter> ::grinning roguishly:: I'd be much pleased to do so...

<Richard> ::looking to their parents warily::  But how are we going to distract them long enough to get Sophie and Andrew out of the way?

<Peter> What if we start a small fray?  Our fathers would be so busy trying to break it up to punish us that they could slip off safely...

<William> ::grinning roguishly::  Or joining in with us, either way . ..

<James> ::grins:: I admit it would be rather interesting to see the lot of them get into the fighting...

<William> Father used to be quite good with his fists, I hear . . .

<Richard> Well, at any rate, by the time the situation is resolved, they ought to have had a good five or ten minutes together at least . . . ::grins::  A capital plan.

<Peter> ::chuckles:: This will all be great fun.

<William> ::smothering a chuckle::  Indeed . . . I believe, my dear Chauvelin, that since 'tis your sister who is being "disgraced" by my brother, that you should have the honor of throwing the first punch? ::mock bow::

<Peter> ::a mock bow of his own:: It 'twould by my pleasure, Blakeney!

<William> ::to Richard and James::  As soon as the row reaches fever pitch, get them into the next room, if you will.  ::turns to Peter::  Ready whenever you are!

<Peter> ::raises his voice so they can be heard above the chatter of conversation:: WHAT did you call my sister, BLAKENEY?! ::grabs William by the front of his shirt::

<William> ::adopts an angry, LOUD tone::  Simply what she is, CHAUVELIN--a conniving tramp bent on the destruction of my brother and our family ideals!  ::pushes Peter away roughly::

<Peter> Why, YOU.... ::throws a punch::

<William> ::returns a punch::  You'll have to throw them better than that, if you aim to stay on your feet! ::aims one at Peter's left eye::

<Margot> ::out of the corner of her eye, sees Richard and James carefully edging Sophie and Andrew towards the door, and guesses the truth::  WILLIAM!  Stop fighting this instant!

<Peter> ::shoving William backwards:: I'll throttle you, Blakeney!  I swear it!

<Percy, Tony> ::turn at the sound to see the growing row::

<Suzanne> ::exclaiming:: Andrew!  Do something!

<William> I'd like to see you try it!  ::grabs Peter by his collar and throws him to the ground::

<Lucy> ::too, realizing that the boys have spirited Andrew and Sophie away:: You boys stop that!  Peter Chauvelin!

<Peter> ::hissing under his breath to William:: Good show, old chum... ::sending a right-hook under his chin::

<Percy> WILLIAM!  ::pulls him off Peter::  Fighting!  In the presence of guests!

<Chauvelin> ::pulling his own son backwards::

<William> ::as he is pulled away, contrives to mouth::  Nice hook . . .

<Peter> ::struggling to get out of his father's grip:: Get back here, Blakeney!  Coward!

<William> We shall settle this later, Chauvelin!

<Peter> ::sneering:: Go on and hide behind your father!  Cur!

<Tony> Whatever were they fighting about?

<Percy> I don't know, but I aim to find out.  NOW.  ::looks warningly at William::

<William> ::fiercely::  Is it my fault that the blackguard can't handle the truth?

<Peter> ::bitterly:: The truth is that YOUR brother has tried to blemish my sister's honor!

<Lucy> ::whispers to Marguerite:: Who would have guessed that our children would be such marvelous thespians?

<William> ::angrily::  LIAR!  Your sister has no honor!  She has taken advantage of my brother's gentle kindness, has corrupted his ideals!

<Margot> ::whispering back::  Not I.  I'm rather enjoying this play--the talent of the players impresses me.

<Peter> ::snorts:: IDEALS?!  I've never known a Blakeney who had IDEALS!

<Percy> ::holding William back with a stern look::  Save your insults . . . this is not the time or place to exchange empty words.

<Chauvelin> ::muttering under his breath:: What is the time and place for this sort of thing, Blakeney?

<William> ::growling, his voice low::  We have more ideals than your family can think of.

<Peter> HAH!  Don't make me LAUGH!

<Percy> ::glaring at Chauvelin, no longer heeding the boys::  Gentlemen never settle their affairs in the presence of ladies.  Or didn't you know that?

<Suzanne> ::whispers to Lucy and Margot::  This gets better by the moment.

<Chauvelin> Precisely why GENTLEMEN never accomplish anything.

<Lucy> ::trying not to laugh, tears filling her eyes:: I don't know how much of this I'll be able to take...

Is it Percy who holds William back now, or William who holds back Percy?

<Percy> ::jaw tight::  I don't see how you could judge on that fact, Chauvelin.  You haven't experience in the subject of gentlemanly behavior.

<Tony> ::takes up a defensive stand, glaring at the Frenchman::

<Chauvelin> I hardly consider that a detriment of my character.  Better to be a man who stands for something than a gentleman who stands for nothing.

<Margot> ::whispers to the ladies::  I tire of watching from the sidelines, don't you?  Let's make this really interesting. ::raising her voice angrily so the men can hear::  EVERY man stands for something, Chauvelin.  Just because the "cause" isn't butchering his fellow-man doesn't mean it's any less a cause.

<Lucy> ::joining in:: Good Lord, Margot!  I don't believe you're one to be dictating what should be stood for!  You turned against your own COUNTRY!

<William> ::raises eyebrows as he looks to Peter, mouthing again::  This works even better than we thought it would.

The girls have been watching, greatly amused--more than once, Caroline's snickers have had to be covered by coughing from the others--now, they want a part of it too . . .

<Peter> ::trying to hide his smile, mouthing the words "I love our mothers..."::

<Yvonne> The country wasn't worth our loyalty, and you know that!  In fact, turning against the Republic was one of the few RIGHT things that Lady Blakeney did!

<Margot> ::"dirty look" to Yvonne:: Lady Dewhurst, whose side are you on now?

<Katharine> ::to Alice::  Just WHAT is your mother insinuating?

<Alice> ::snootily:: Oh, I think it's obvious, Katharine dear . . .

<Suzanne> ::hesitantly:: Lucy--Marguerite--please...this isn't the time or the place....

<Lucy> Oh, DO try to be original, Suzanne.  We've all endured your hemming-and-hawing for long enough!

<Mary> ::defending her friend:: There's no need to be so nasty to Katie, Alice!

<Tony> Yvonne, dear . . . please, don't bring up old wounds . . .

<Yvonne> ::turns to Tony in exasperation::  So we should FORGET her past sins?  She should be allowed to act as if she is blameless?  Do be reasonable, darling . . .

<Chauvelin> Do Englishmen let their wives tell them how to behave? ::snorting::

<Caroline> ::just catching on, to Mary::  My sister can say what she pleases!  Especially if it's the truth!

<Mary> The truth!  Why, there's a concept you couldn't possibly understand, Caroline Dewhurst!

<Percy> ::sharply::  No, but I daresay Frenchmen do . . . and WHO was it exactly who had you make an appearance tonight, anyway?

<Lucy> ::rounds on Percy, in defense of her husband:: Percival Blakeney, you rotten scoundrel!  How dare you speak that way to my husband?!

<Alice> Mary Ffoulkes, leave my little sister be!  You're beginning to sound like your uncle!

<Mary> You TAKE that back, you horrid girl!

<Alice> I will NOT!

<Katharine> It's true, Mary, it's true!  For a moment I thought I was listening to Monsieur Chauvelin himself!

<Peter> You little hussy!  Don't you dare speak of my father in that tone of voice! ::turning to the girls, a twinkle in his eye::

<Percy> Lucille, don't defend him!  He knows when he's defeated--he knows THAT experience well . . .

<Margot> ::to Lucy::  And don't YOU dare speak to MY husband that way!

<Lucy> ::sputters:: Don't tell ME HOW TO SPEAK to YOUR husband,, ACTRESS! ::reaches out, yanking at one of Marguerite's long auburn curls::

<Katharine> ::to Peter::  Why not?  Just try denying it!  I daresay you would mistake her for your father too!  ::in a hushed whisper:: I haven't had this much fun in months!

<Peter> ::whispering back:: Nor I!

<Margot> Let go of me, hussy!  ::takes hold of Lucy's hair::

Now Percy and Chauvelin, instead of separating their sons, are busy separating their wives?

<Lucy> THAT HURTS! <screeches, tugging harder at Marguerite's>

<Margot> It should!  It's supposed to!

<Lucy> ::steps down on the hem of Marguerite's dress, pushing her backwards gently so the delicate material rips:: Horrible woman!

<William> ::mocking:: Shamefaced by the truth again, Chauvelin?  ::to girls, with a small grin::  Marvelous acting.

<Yvonne> ::catches Marguerite as she stumbles backwards::  You ripped her dress?  How dare you, wretch!  ::now SHE begins to pull at Lucy's hair::

<Peter> ::mockingly, in return:: Far from it...

<Chauvelin> DO restrain YOUR wife... ::coldly to Dewhurst::

<Tony> On the contrary, it seems it's YOUR wife who's out of control.

<Lucy> And I can rip YOURS as well! ::tugs at the lace cuff on Yvonne's dress, ripping it off::

<Yvonne> ::screams in indignation:: You shall pay for that!

<Andrew> ::in a quiet, warning tone:: That IS still my sister, Dewhurst...

<Lucy> Pay for THAT?!  I'm rather embarrassed that YOU paid for that hideous creation in the first place, Yvonne!

<Tony> ::tightly::  Your sister, who is making a wreck and a mockery of MY wife's attire . . . and creating a scene.  She's acting shamefully all the same, Andrew.

<Mary> ::giggles quietly:: This is getting rather dangerous.  They are destroying perfectly good attire...

<Yvonne> Oooh, I shall rip your gown to shreds!

<Alice> I see what you mean . . .

<Andrew> NO more shamefully than YOUR own wife is behaving!

<William> How long have they been out of the room?

<Lucy> I'd like to see you try, ::mocking tone:: "Lady Dewhurst"...

<Peter> A good fifteen minutes... it's already half-past.  ::whispering back::

<Yvonne> ::threateningly::  So you shall, "Madame Chauvelin"!  So you shall!

<William> Time to bring an end to the row, I should think . . .

<Suzanne> ::stepping between the two women:: This has gone too far...!

<Peter> I was only just beginning to enjoy myself, Blakeney... ::chuckles::

<Margot> Yvonne, calm yourself!  She isn't worth the effort.

<Katharine> ::giggles:: I know . . . it seems a shame to spoil the fun . . .

<Lucy> ::shrieking:: That's it, St. Just!  You shall pay for that! ::throws herself at Marguerite::

<Percy> ::furious::  Lucille, shall I tie you to a chair?

<Chauvelin> ::coolly:: You wouldn't DARE.

<Richard> ::who has returned from the next room to watch the fun::  Still, we might want to preserve some semblance of harmony between them . . . they'll come to blows soon.

<Peter> I suppose you're right...

<Percy> Oh, WOULDN'T I?  I have dared more than that.

<Chauvelin> ::tauntingly:: I'm sure you have.  But we aren't discussing your courtship with Lady Blakeney.

<Percy> ::clenching fists::  How DARE you insult my wife?

<Chauvelin> It's not that difficult to contrive, Sir Percy.  Of that, I assure you.

<William> ::whispering::  We'd better do something fast to bring their attention to their absence . . . ::raises his voice::  Peter Chauvelin, get away from my sister this moment!  I shall squeeze the life out of you!

<Peter> And is THAT meant to FRIGHTEN me, Blakeney?

<Percy> ::turns to his son and the girls, alarmed::

<Lucy> ::blowing a lock of hair out of her face:: Peter Chauvelin, you stand back.  You're in a great deal of trouble, young man.

<William> It's not enough for you that your SISTER must ensnare my BROTHER, is it?  But you'll die before you come anywhere NEAR Katharine . . .

<Suzanne> This has gone far enough... ::murmurs:: Margot, do something...

<Margot> William, I'm warning you . . . ::smoothes down her hair::  You lay one finger on that boy and . . . wait . . .

<Yvonne> ::looking around curiously::  I wonder where little Andrew has gone . . .

<William> ::stops abruptly, one hand reaching for Peter's shirt, and looks around as if wondering the same::

<Lucy> Mmm.  I wonder...

<Alice> ::innocently:: Has anybody seen Sophie recently?

<Mary> ::murmurs:: Interesting, isn't it, how the topic of everyone's worries could BOTH disappear without anyone noticing?

<Katherine> ::calmly::  Yes, quite curious . . . I imagine Sophie was too distressed by the argument to stay, but I know Andrew's always enjoyed a good discussion . . .

<Percy> ::sees red, because he knows why they're both gone::  We'll have to put a stop to it right now.

<Peter> ::in a jesting tone of voice, so that only William can hear:: I do hope your brother isn't out ruining my sister's honor.

<Chauvelin> ::growls:: I'll KILL him!  And Sophie won't see the light of day for a MONTH!

<Margot> ::sternly, with the slightest smile on her face::  Neither of you will go anywhere.  Am I right, ladies?

<William, Peter, Richard, James> ::move between their fathers and the door::

<Lucy> ::smiles brightly, fluffing her messy hair:: Mmm.  You are most certainly correct, Margot.

<Percy> ::confused:: How so?

<Tony> ::to Yvonne::  Yvonne, what on earth is going on?

<Lucy> ::to Percy and Chauvelin:: You did enjoy our performance, didn't you?  Personally, I would have never thought I'd have the talent in me--and, do all deserve a bow. Don't they, ladies?

<Yvonne> Indeed they do . . . William, Peter, you seem both destined for a stage career.

<Andrew> Are we to understand that this past week has been some sort of--torture--the three of you cooked up?

<Suzanne> Not at all, my love.  ::smiling at her children:: 'Twas the boys who thought of it...

<William> ::grinning::  Oh, the girls were as marvelous as we, weren't they?

<Tony> I should have known Richard was a part of this.

<Richard> Actually, father, I can't take the credit this time, as much as I'd like to.  William, Peter, and James--they formulated it, but I was only too pleased to join in.

<Mary> ::sweetly:: I thought we were far better, actually...

<William> ::laughs::  Don't flatter yourselves . . .

<Percy> ::frowns::  All right.  What's going on?

<Margot> Dear, I'm ashamed that you can't see it.  We aim to make things much more pleasant around here--by forcing you stubborn men to see reason.

<Chauvelin> You mean see things as you wish us to see them.

<Lucy> ::shrugs delicately:: Yes, of course--to see REASON.

<Margot> ::to Lucy::  Isn't that what I said?  You'd think they were hard of hearing.

<Lucy> Now, be kind, cherie.  The boys have had a long, pain-filled week...

<Margot> Yes, too true.  I apologize.  ::to Percy::  You have done our son a great disservice.

<Lucy> And you, although with the greatest of intent and the most love, have done everything in your power to break our daughter's spirit. ::to Chauvelin::

<Percy> By saving him from his own folly?

<Margot> The folly is in your mind, Percy dear.  Instead of "saving him", as you say, you've only made his life miserable.  He is your own son--will you not trust his judgment?

<Chauvelin> They're children.  Far too young to take on...

<Lucy> ::taking her husband's hand gently:: I think, if we 'adults' have learned anything by now, it is that time is not something to be wasted.  ::turns to Percy:: What if Armand St. Just had decided his sister wasn't ready to wed.  And he convinced her to keep her distance from you.  What would you have done, Percy?

<Percy> ::sighs dejectedly--he knows he's been beat::  Anything in my power to get to her . . .

<Peter> ::clapping his father on the back:: Besides...if Sophie and Andrew were to wed--you wouldn't be losing a daughter, Father.  You'd be gaining a Pimpernel! ::chuckling at his own bad joke::

<Margot> ::gently::  Then why should you expect any less from Andrew?  He's wasting away in despair . . . as you would have . . .

<William> Imagine for a moment, Father, that Sophie was the daughter of some other man.  Would you still stand in Andrew's way, forbid him to marry the girl he loves?  You've let old disagreements blind you and influence you . . .

<Peter> William's right.  The Revolution ended long ago.  If you continue to let the bitterness of those days control your lives, then you've learned nothing.

<Percy> ::still holding on to stubbornness::  You might be right.  But I can't allow my son to link our family with theirs . . .

<Margot> And what's so bad if they do?  It's not in our hands, Percy.  Sophie's a sweet girl, you know that.  What could possibly be wrong with their marriage?

<Lucy> Think of it this way... whatever children Andrew and Sophie may have might NOT be cursed and behave like you or Armand, Percy.  If they are lucky, they'll be more like Andrew or myself or Marguerite...

<Chauvelin> ::murmuring:: Is that to be a comfort?

<William> ::almost humorously::  Peter and I have been friends for years.  Do you see me joining a revolution, Father?  Do you see Peter smuggling aristocrats around, Monsieur?  You can't possibly believe that your conflicting ideals spread like a disease, can you?

<Mary> ::chimes in:: William's correct.  The closest to a revolt I've known William to start is the time the boys didn't want to go to studies!  And, the most Peter has ever smuggled has been rolls from the kitchen!

<James> The truth being--we children are far different from you all.  Sophie and Andrew, too, have grown up to be their own selves--who know their own minds.

<Margot> I choose to believe that our children have inherited, if any of our characteristics, the best ones--your bravery, Percy . . . your idealism, Chauvelin.  Those sort of qualities can produce excellent children between them, don't you agree?

<Percy> ::sighs::  You've become far too rational in your old age, Margot . . .

<Margot> ::swats at him::  No comments anent my years, if you please.

<Chauvelin> Sophie's happiness is paramount, of course.

<Lucy> ::kisses his cheek:: I knew you would see it our way eventually.  We were prepared to torture you all forever, you know...

<Margot> You agree, then, that there is nothing that will prevent their marriage between you?

<Chauvelin> What do you say, Blakeney?

<Percy> I suppose Andrew is intelligent enough to know when he's found a worthy woman to love.  I agree.  And you, Chauvelin?

<Chauvelin> ::calmly:: If he ever hurts her, I'll kill him.  And then you.

<William> ::shakes Peter's hand heartily::  I suppose that's as much of an agreement as we can expect!

<Peter> ::somberly:: Has the world come to an end?  I never expected it!

<Yvonne> ::chuckles::  No need for coldness now, my love . . . ::offers Tony a gentle kiss on the cheek::

<Suzanne> Shouldn't someone bring the lovebirds inside?  And then--to dinner! ::smiling sweetly at her husband::

<Katherine> ::eagerly throws her arms around William, Peter, and James in turn::  Who's going to break the news to the two in the next room, then?

<Mary> ::mischievously:: No one!  Simply bring them in to dinner...

<Alice> ::giggles::  And what fun there shall be when they discover the truth!

<Lucy> ::sighs:: I wouldn't know WHERE on earth you children learned to be so wicked... ::grinning::

<Richard> James?  You have the straightest face of us all . . . ::realizes James is grinning widely::  Well, you usually do . . . straighten yourself out, man, and warn them that "the distraction has almost worn out its welcome . . . they'd better return quickly . . ."

<James> ::sobering:: I'll be right back...with our own Romeo and Juliet in tow.

<Margot> Meanwhile, boys, we need to create the conclusion to our act, so they don't suspect!

<Andrew> It will be a bit more enjoyable now that we know what is going on, I admit... ::grins::

<William> ::looking to Peter with a grin::  If we must, we must . . . ::clears throat::  Coward!

<Percy> ::grinning, enjoying himself despite the situation::  William, restrain yourself immediately!

<Peter> Spineless cur!

<Chauvelin> You do NOT order my son about as if he were one of your men, Blakeney!

<Tony> ::in a low voice::  I've always been one for a bit of sport . . . ::pulling his wife away from Lucy::  Come, dear, have some wine . . . you're overexcited . . .

<Suzanne> I think we all need to calm down before someone is hurt! ::giggles to Andrew:: My sides already hurt enough from laughter..

<Richard> ::laughs quietly::  Hush, here they come . . .

<Lucy> ::her hand on her husband's arm, as if to prevent him from hitting Percy with his clenched fist:: Let's not do something we regret....

<Margot> ::places her arm in the crook of Percy's elbow::  Percy . . . please, dear, don't make things unpleasant for poor Sir Andrew . . . William, come with me immediately.

<William> ::sighs, with a "fierce" glare at Peter::

<Sophie> ::enters the room, avoiding her father's eyes:: I'm--sorry--dinner wasn't held because of me--us, was it?

<Andrew> ::enters, forlornly::  I was bored, and needed . . . a breath of air in the garden . . .

Quickly, all present "strive to make it seem as if nothing is wrong"

<Suzanne> Dinner wasn't held--it's only now being served.  Shall we all adjourn?

<Yvonne> Yes, let's do . . .

Scene IV:  An End to the Crisis

Everyone, of course, takes their seats

<Lucy> ::politely smiling at Andrew:: Was the garden air greatly--refreshing this evening, Andrew?

<Andrew> ::looking nervous::  Ahh . . . yes, it was, Aunt Lucy . . . quite invigorating, in fact . . .

<Percy> ::nonchalantly::  I see.  And did you find it invigorating as well, Sophie?

<Sophie> ::color disappearing from her cheeks, not knowing how to answer:: Y-yes.  Very much so.

<Suzanne> ::smiling:: Such a romantic place to be--in the moonlight, with the flowers... Hmm?

<Percy> ::raises eyebrows::  You were gone for quite some time, I noticed . . . didn't you notice it, Marguerite?

<Margot> Certainly . . . something peaked their interest besides the invigorating air.  Any guesses, Lucy?

<Andrew> ::clenching his teeth, preparing for a violent outburst from one or more parties::

<Lucy> ::innocently:: No doubt the delicious aroma of Suzanne's beautiful gardens.  Wouldn't you say?

<Yvonne> Indeed--you do have lovely gardens, Suzanne cherie.

<Lucy> ::sneaking a smile in her husband's direction:: Romantic places, gardens.

<Chauvelin> Yes--I do seem to recall them being so... ::the barest hint of a smile on his lips::

<William> ::glances at Andrew deviously, not daring to speak for fear he betrays his delight::

<Percy> ::seriously::  Andrew, I'm very disappointed in you . . .

<Andrew> ::prepared, almost defiant::  Are you, Father?

<Percy> Yes . . . when a man courts a woman, it's customary to approach her father for permission first.  Have you forgotten that convention?

<Lucy> There, there, Percy.  Times have changed, you know.  Things are quite different from when we were young... ::grinning::

<Percy> ::smiling::  Yes, we have been reminded already tonight that times have changed . . .

<Andrew> ::doesn't know what to think::

<Sophie> ::hesitantly:: I don't...quite understand what's going on... Father?

<Chauvelin> While you were out--getting air--we have all been sharing a great, long talk.

<Percy> ::looking at Chauvelin significantly, calmer than he's been in a long time::  A very long talk, and important.

<Sophie> ::glancing at the women:: If Mother's hair and Aunt Margot's dress are any indication--the talk was far from calm.

<Margot> ::laughs::  Chauvelin, your daughter is as astute as she is beautiful.  She makes Andrew an excellent match.

<Andrew> ::suddenly sits up VERY straight::  Am I . . . hearing correctly . . .

<Lucy> Goodness, Margot!  The children must have the same hearing difficulties with hearing as their fathers do!

<Peter> Should we write it down?  Perhaps that would help... ::Grinning wickedly::

<Tony> ::laughs::  Well put, Lucy!  Ffoulkes, do you care to explain matters to your namesake . . . or shall we let Percy do it? . . . ::grinning like the rogue he is::

<Richard> ::who definitely takes after his father::  If someone doesn't explain it soon, we're going to lose him . . .

<Mary> ::giggles::

<William> ::grinning:: All I can say, brother, is I expect a dance with my new sister-in-law at the wedding.

<Peter> ::pretending to blow his nose in the linen napkin:: I don't feel like I'm losing a sister, I feel like I'm gaining a partner in crime!

<Sophie> You--are really giving us your blessing? ::staring incredulously at her father::

<Yvonne> ::laughs:: Partner in crime . . . yes, a very good way of putting it.

<Andrew> I . . . I feel like I'm dreaming . . .

<Sophie> ::rises from her chair, happily rushing to embrace her father:: I can't believe it...I simply can't believe it...

<Percy> 'Tis no dream, Andrew.  This is reality.  I was a fool not to recognize it before.  The woman you marry is of your choosing, not mine . . . I welcome the choice you have made.

<Katharine> ::waves her hand in front of Andrew's incredulous face, giggling::  I think we've lost him for good this time . . .

<Chauvelin> ::kisses her cheek gently:: I suppose I never realized how unhappy my stubbornness was making you--and I'm sorry.

<Lucy> ::gently prods her daughter:: Go awaken your betrothed, darling.  I think he's swooned.

<Andrew> ::snaps out of his trance::  Thank you, Father, thank you--I will never be able to thank you enough . . .

<Percy> ::laughs::  Don't thank me--ask for her hand.

<William> ::elbows his brother::  Do it, before they change their minds--or lose them . . .

<Mary> ::murmurs:: Too late for that, William.  They've lost their minds long ago, I think..

<Caroline> ::giggles girlishly, for that is all she can understand::

<Andrew> I . . . I'm not sure what to say . . .

<Richard> Well, say SOMETHING, before the food gets cold.

<Andrew> ::nervously--how would you like asking your father's enemy for his daughter's hand?::  M. Chauvelin . . . will you permit me to marry your daughter?

<Sophie> ::smiles at Andrew, touching his face gently::

<Chauvelin> Well....

<Lucy> ::elbows him sharply::

<Chauvelin> Yes--of course.

<Andrew> ::sighs in relief and happiness, touching Sophie's cheek::  I will be eternally grateful to you . . .

<Percy> Oh, don't go THAT far . . .

<Margot> ::elbows HIM sharply::

<Sophie> ::laughs:: The abuse our poor fathers are enduring for us... ::smiles at Chauvelin and Percy:: We thank you both for it.

<Alice> ::sighs dreamily, as young girls are wont to do in the presence of romance::

<Percy> ::rubbing his side in injury::  Abuse indeed.  ::smiles::  Andrew, treat her well--I have it on good authority that the consequences of not doing so are great.

<Suzanne> ::laughing sweetly:: Young Alice is already dreaming of a suitor of her own... Have you begun to worry yet, Lord Tony?

<Tony> ::thoughtfully::  I shall have to purchase a strong lock for her bedroom door . . . ::grins::

<Chauvelin> ::letting a smile out:: I should have thought of THAT long ago...

<Margot> ::laughs::  You men would have us lock up all our daughters!  Katharine, see what a courtship lies ahead of you some years into the future--tell the young man to bring a thick saw . . .

<Lucy> ::laughing:: You have good, sturdy trees surrounding your home, Marguerite.  A well-educated girl should learn to scale them at a young age...

<Andrew> Lucy did.

She sticks her tongue out at him

<Percy> ::laughs::  Call in the gardener!  We shall have the trees chopped down!  I advise all you men to do the same . . .

<Alice> ::pouts petulantly::  In that case, we shall have to tell our young men to bring a good sturdy ladder.  ::grin::

<Mary> ::grins at Alice:: Or we shall learn to fly.  Am I correct, girls?

<Katharine> Entirely correct!  Flying shouldn't be too difficult a talent to learn . . . our brothers learned to make pigs fly, didn't they?

<Suzanne> ::laughs:: Dinner is getting cold, children.  Eat.

<Margot> ::smiling:: Mary, I think you should change places with Sophie . . . so she can sit next to her betrothed.

<Mary> ::sighs dramatically:: I suppose it IS the least I can do... ::moves to Sophie's vacant seat::

<Percy> ::seriously::  And William, if I hear of you forming any more plots, you'll be the one I lock up instead of your sister.

<Chauvelin> I don't believe we should have worried about the union between my daughter and your eldest son.  We SHOULD have kept those two boys away from each other in their place.

<Percy> I'm inclined to agree with you there.  They are simply too dangerous together.

<Margot> ::stifling a laugh:: Look who's proclaiming his son dangerous . . .

<Lucy> ::laughs:: Indeed.

<Yvonne> I think our boys are more like their fathers than they care to admit . . . when they get together, they get in just as much trouble!

<Sophie> ::smiling, still leaning close to Andrew:: And yet--here's to our wicked, mischievous siblings--and cousins--without whom this would never have happened.  ::raises her glass of wine::

<Andrew> ::grins, unable to take his eyes off Sophie::  I'll drink to that gladly.

<Percy> ::smiling at the bliss in his son's eyes::  So, here's to our troublesome offspring.

And...everyone raises their glasses in toast!