On Foreign Shores: The Great 1812 Plot
or, Perhaps the Taste for Adventure IS Hereditary . . .

"Listen to the song that I sing,
And, trust me . . .
We'll be fine . . ."

 - "Hear My Song"


Scene I:  Dinner with the Blakeneys

The entire table is conversing, everyone on a different topic

<Lucy> ::turning to Andrew Blakeney:: Peter's decided he finally wants to learn to fence like a gentleman. You were under Thomas Pomgard's tutelage, were you not?

<Andrew> I was, for three years . . . then Father decided I'd do better to change fencing tutors.

<William> ::overhearing, laughs:: After he very nearly injured Pomgard to the point of . . . uselessness, that is . . .

<Margot> WILLIAM! You're in polite company . . .

<Lucy> ::laughing:: Marguerite, when has this group ever been considered *polite* company?

<Richard> ::chuckles, whispering to William:: Funny, I was wondering that myself . . .

<Suzanne> ::stifles a giggle, sharing a quiet look with her husband::

<Marguerite> ::grins, shaking her head:: I try and try to instill some manners in that boy . . . I suppose it's a lost cause.

<Chauvelin> ::muttering:: We gave up long ago.

<Percy> ::raising eyebrows, quietly:: Perhaps we should have as well.

<Sophie> ::smiling at *her* Andrew:: I do hope our first-born is female, darling. The boys in these families are rotten scoundrels.

<Andrew> ::smiling at Sophie:: It's the bloodlines, dearest. It's predestined . . . should we ever have a son,
I'm afraid we're in for a troublesome parenthood.

<Lucy> ::smiling at her daughter in an all-knowing-motherly fashion:: Believe me, darling, the destiny of a daughter would be no different.

<Katharine> I certainly think the girls here are more well-behaved than the boys . . .

<William> Do you? Obviously, you haven't looked in the mirror lately . . .

<Alice> ::stifles a giggle as Katherine gives her brother a vicious kick under the table::

<Sophie> ::batting her eyelashes:: I was quite the well-behaved daughter. I still am.

<Peter> ::snorts::

<William> ::whispers to Peter:: Girls are awful liars.

<Andrew FFOULKES> ::grinning:: I wouldn't say you were all that well-behaved, niece. I know I remember a certain incident during a picnic with worms and young Andrew's lunchpail.

<Suzanne> ::giggles:: Goodness! I do remember that, as well.

<Andrew BLAKENEY> :Oh, yes, the earthworm incident . . . I never DID figure out how those
worms found their way into the roast beef . . . ::grins::

<Sophie> ::pats his cheek:: It is best you never know, love.

<Lucy> Let that be a lesson to you. Never anger a Ffoulkes woman. <Chauvelin> A Chauvelin. <Lucy>
A Ffoulkes-Chauvelin.

<Percy> Andrew . . . how is the shipping business these days?

<Andrew> Very prosperous . . . in fact, I have some news . . . ::turns to Sophie:: Dear, do you think you could do without me for a couple of months?

<Sophie> ::coyly:: Why, that all depends how *many* months, my love?

<Andrew> ::pauses for a moment, then catches Sophie's meaning . . . he smiles lovingly, whispering::  Four at most, my love . . . I should be back in plenty of time. ::louder:: I have to go on a trip, to secure some very lucrative business . . . in America.

<Sophie> ::her eyes sparkling with their 'secret':: I suppose I could do without you, then, husband.

<Percy> ::surprised:: America?

<Andrew> Boston, Massachusetts, to be precise. There's an import company there very interested in
giving us exclusive business rights.

<Lucy> That's marvelous news, Andrew. America would be fascinating to visit.

<Peter> Can I come? ::wide-eyed::

<Chauvelin> Certainly *not*.

<Andrew> Unfortunately, I won't have much time for pleasure visiting . . . I'll be arriving, transacting
what business is necessary, and coming home again as quickly as I can . . . ::looking lovingly at Sophie::

<Sophie> ::smiling sweetly at him::

<Andrew Ffoulkesy> Well, I agree with Luce. It sounds like it will make for a marvelous trip, Andrew.

<William> Why not take some time to enjoy yourself? Surely there's no reason to rush it . . .

<Sophie> ::looking at her young brother-in-law with mock annoyance:: A new wife at home in England
isn't reason enough, William Blakeney?

<Percy> Well, good luck, Andrew . . . and I'd advise you to be very careful there. I think it's a good idea for you to take care of your business and not waste time . . .

<Chauvelin> ::nods:: America is not on the best of terms with England these days. It will only be so long

<Lucy> ::elbows him sharply:: Armand...

<Andrew> ::sighs, slightly worried, though he's been over all this before in his mind:: No matter what  happens, I won't be getting involved.

<Percy> ::mutters absentmindedly:: There are some things that might end up involving you anyway . . .

<Marguerite> Percy, hush . . .

<Sophie> ::is quiet, her hand slipping to her side to grip Andrew's::

<Lucy> ::scowls, as silence descends upon the table:: Armand Chauvelin, Percival Blakeney--you both *still* know how to ruin a happy evening. Are you proud of yourselves?

<Andrew> ::reaches for Sophie's hand, giving it a comforting squeeze::

<Percy> ::slightly uncomfortable as he sees an anxious look cross Sophie's face:: But we're only predicting worst-case scenarios . . . that's not right, at such a happy occasion. Surely nothing will happen--there's no need for anything to happen . . . ::grins sheepishly::

<Peter> ::stabbing into his food with his silverware:: I think we boys ought to go along. We'll keep Andrew in line. Won't we, fellows?

<Yvonne> ::shaking her head:: You boys would do more to get Andrew OUT of line than to keep him in it, I fear.

<Peter> ::grinning:: James will keep us in line, and we'll keep Andrew in line.

<James> ::rolls his eyes:: I'm always the one chosen to keep you in line, Peter Chauvelin.

<William> ::grins:: Simply because nobody else CAN, James.

<Sophie> ::smiling a little now:: Not even poor Mother and Father...

<Richard> ::whispers to William and Peter:: They're too busy keeping each other in line, I heard.

<Alice> ::overhearing, kicks her brother hard in the shins::

<Lucy> ::notices the conspiratorial look on Richard's face:: Antony, keep you child under control. ::grinning::

<Tony> ::sighs, grinning himself:: That's as easy as keeping the sun from shining, you know.

<Sophie> ::to the other ladies:: Mother and I thought to do a bit of shopping tomorrow. Perhaps you could all join us? We're going to be doing a bit of--decorating--and I know I would appreciate your excellent tastes.

<Marguerite> Decorating . . . re-doing the parlor, then? Or the sitting room?

<Sophie> ::shakes her head:: No--neither of those. Another room entirely.

<Yvonne> The dining room, then . . . ? Or the front hall?

<Tony> ::laughs:: Sophie, you're going to have to tell them, or they'll die of curiosity before we even reach dessert.

<Lucy> ::laughs:: Patience was not a virtue we were blessed with. Any of us.

<Sophie> ::grinning:: Well, we must begin decorating the nursery. I don't want to wait until Andrew returns from London....

<Marguerite> ::breaks the silence:: Sophie, darling, that's wonderful!

<Chauvelin> ::face blank, jaw dropped::

<Percy> ::looks from Sophie to Andrew to Sophie and back to Andrew again::

<Sophie> ::smiling brightly:: It is! We--weren't sure when we should tell you all, but with Andrew leaving so soon, we thought it might be for the best. ::dryly:: And I wasn't sure Mother could last much longer.

<Marguerite> Lucy, you knew? And you didn't tell us . . . how horrid of you!

<Lucy> ::laughing:: I was threatened with violent actions if I disclosed anything!

<Percy> ::finally finds his voice again:: Andrew . . . how long have you . . . ?

<Andrew> ::wicked gleam in his eye:: Not long . . . Grandfather.

<Percy> ::becomes very quiet, eyes wide, staring into space:: Grandfather . . .

<Lucy> ::giggling, as she prods her husband:: Armand, darling, close your mouth. You'll let the flies in.

<Chauvelin> ::scowls at her, his jaw clamping shut::

<Marguerite> ::gently, rather amused:: Percy, dear, you're babbling . . .

<William> ::sudden realization:: I'm going to be an uncle!

<Sophie> ::realizing her father's silence:: Papa...are you happy?

<Chauvelin> ::a smile slowly curling upon his lips, as the news finally sinks in:: I couldn't be happier, little one.

<Peter> I'm going to be an uncle, too!

<Lucy> ::sighs:: Yes, well, there are downfalls to this.

<Peter> ::scowls at her in jest::

<Percy> ::still adjusting:: I'll be a grandfather . . .

<Marguerite> ::chuckling:: Yes, dear. We know.

<Percy> ::grinning:: I wouldn't be so amused, if I were you. You're going to be a grandmother, after all.

<Marguerite> ::elbows him:: Stop it.

<Lucy> Grandmother Margot. ::grinning wickedly::

<Marguerite> ::retorting in jest:: And what of it, Grandmama Lucille?

<Lucy> ::sighs, melodramatically:: I think we both know who shall be the younger, more vivacious grandmother...me!

<Katharine> I wonder if it will be a boy or a girl . . .

<Marguerite> Katharine, that's none of your business . . .

<Katharine> And why not? I want to know if I'm going to have a nephew, or a niece!

<Peter> I hope it's a boy. Girls are so....fluttery. ::looks with derision at the young female contingent of hte table::

<Chauvelin> ::dryly:: A few years and you'll be changing that statement.

<Lucy> Most unfortunately.

<Richard> Oh, I don't know . . . girls have their merits . . .

<Yvonne> Tony Dewhurst, what have you been teaching our son?

<Tony> ::grins:: What? Why must it be me?

<Lucy> ::innocently:: Now, Yvonne. I'm sure that kind of talk comes from Andrew. Lud knows how
roguishly *he* behaves.

<Andrew> Lucy! ::reddens::

<Percy> ::laughs:: If you're looking for Andrew's wild side, I suggest you ask Suzanne, not Lucy . . .

<Marguerite> PERCY!!!

<Suzanne> ::turns bright SCARLET, but manages to reply saucily:: Would that you could all *learn*, Sir Percy. Would that you could.

<William> ::snickers softly:: James, your mother is being naughty again.

<Peter> ::complaining:: We *are* trying to eat, you know. I might be ill...

<Chauvelin> ::chuckles:: And here I thought nothing could keep you from filling your stomach, Peter.

Scene II:  A Letter from America

Lucy, Chauvelin, and Sophie join Marguerite and Percy in the drawing room

<Percy> I'm glad you could come on such short notice . . . ::he is fumbling with a paper in his hands, and paces the room a lot::

<Lucy> What's happened, Percy?

<Percy> We have . . . a letter from America.  From Andrew.

<Sophie> ::exclaims, not even thinking:: A letter! From Andrew! ::stops, thinking about Percy's and Marguerite's expressions when they entered:: What's happened?

<Marguerite> ::gently::  Sophie, dear . . . I'm afraid it's not very good news.  Andrew . . . ::trails off, unable to continue::

<Percy> ::sighs, handing the letter to Chauvelin:: I'm sorry, Sophie.  He's been arrested.

<Chauvelin> ::his eyes quickly scan the letter::

<Lucy> ::wraps her arms around her daughter:: How long ago was the letter sent?

<Percy> ::looking out the window absently::  Five weeks . . . we can't be sure if he's been put to trial yet, or not . . .

<Sophie> What are we going to do?  What...can we do?

<Percy> ::softly::  I don't know . . .

<Marguerite> I don't think there's much to be done from here . . .

<Percy> Now that war has been declared . . .

<Chauvelin> ::rationally:: It wouldn't be any better there.  If someone were to ask for clemency on Andrew's behalf, they would be laughed out of the court.

<Percy> ::shaking his head::  There will be no clemency.

<Sophie> ::her voice raised in near-hysterics:: We just leave him there?  Andrew?  My Andrew?  To be...judged?  Or, even...put to death?

<Lucy> Shsh, Sophie.  It's not even a question. Something will be done..

<Marguerite> ::seizes her hand::  We're just so far away . . . but there has to be something.

<Percy> ::whispers::  I wish I knew what.

<Chauvelin> ::sending a worried glance in his daughter's direction:: Lucy, why don't you and Lady Blakeney take Sophie out into the gardens.  Fresh air will do her some good...

<Lucy> ::nods:: Perhaps that would be wise.  Margot?

<Marguerite> ::nods::  Yes . . . it's so nice in the gardens this time of year, Sophie . . . ::rises, keeping hold of Sophie's hand with her own::  Come out with us to the terrace . . .

<Chauvelin> ::waits until the ladies have gone, before continuing:: Andrew mentioned a compatriot in America.  Do you believe he could be of some help to us?

<Percy> ::nods quickly::  It's one of our few advantages.  Having an ally there could prove invaluable.  But GETTING there is the problem . . . it takes a month for the fastest ships to make it from Liverpool to Boston.

<Chauvelin> ::pacing in his adorable Chauvelin manner, his arms behind his back:: The fastest ship takes a month?  It's a risk, but one we must take.  Unless ::a hint of derisiveness in his tone:: You have a better plan?

<Percy> ::ignoring the derisiveness in a quick burst of despair::  That's the other problem.  I have no plan.

<Chauvelin> One will come to you.  ::voice full of assurance::

<Percy> I've never been to America . . . I know nothing of the land . . . or the customs . . . ::sighing::  There's just so many variables.

<Chauvelin> I spent *years* of my life trying to foil your plotting, Blakeney.  With your... talents .... we can do this.  The American will be the man who puts us on equal footing.

<Percy> ::nodding slowly::  I hope you're right . . . and there is the American.  He will be of great help in what he knows. . . . if he is willing to help us.

<Chauvelin> We can only hope.

<Percy> And since he is the only thing we know of right now, he is all we can plan for . . .

<Chauvelin> We should leave immediately.

<Percy> ::nodding::  Of course.  Any delay might prove . . . ::stops before he reaches the word "fatal" with a catch in his voice--swallowing::  The Day Dream was not built to navigate rough ocean waters.  We'll have to charter a ship from Liverpool.

<Chauvelin> Your--men.  We may need to provide a united front... will they join us? ::not even realizing he's speaking in the plural...::

<Percy> ::smiling faintly::  Andrew will, certainly.  And I can't imagine Tony balking at the prospect of this adventure . . . I have lost contact with many of the others, though Hastings might join us if he's willing . . .

<Chauvelin> ::nodding:: I never thought I would be joining hands with The League of the Scarlet  Pimpernel. ::dryly::

<Percy> ::turning to Chauvelin with a stronger smile::  Neither did we, citizen.

<Chauvelin> ::notices the women returning:: For Sophie's sake, we must act as though our plan is stronger than what it is, Blakeney.

<Percy> Yes, you're right . . . ::holds his head up higher::  If you are passing by Andrew's on your way, would you tell him what has happened?  It will take most of the day to get in touch with Dewhurst in
London . . .

<Chauvelin> Of course.  ::nods in agreement::

<Marguerite> ::helping Sophie into the room::  . . . Are you feeling better?

<Sophie> ::trying to smile, not wanting to worry them anymore than they already are:: Much.  The fresh air does wonders.

 <Percy> ::smiling with the same effort as Sophie:: I've always thought so . . .

<William> ::has been listening behind the door all this time--now, goes to hopefully find Peter . . .::

<Chauvelin> ::gently to Sophie:: We should be going, little one.  There is much to do.  ::struggling to sound as reassuring as possible::

<Lucy> ::sends him a quiet look:: Yes, we should be going.

Scene III:  Plotting in the Woods

<Peter> ::finally arriving:: Sorry I'm late, fellows.  I was hoping I could find Mother or Father to try to glean more information...

<James> ::somberly::  I'm not sure if there's anything more to glean . ..

<Peter> ::sighs, nodding in agreement:: I suppose you're correct.

<William> ::dully::  No plan . . . there's no plan.

<Peter> Have faith, William.  They'll figure something out.  We'll make sure of it.  ::a wicked gleam in his eyes::

<Richard> ::almost amused::  Have anything in mind, oh inspired Chauvelin?

<Peter> Well, er, no.  But when that ship leaves the dock, we will be on it, lads.

<William> ::determined::  We certainly will.  *I'm* not going to sit around here idly while my brother's fate hangs by a thread.

<James> ::drily:: And how do you propose we manage this feat, gentlemen?

<James> Stow-away?

<William> If we have to.  Stow-away, if we can't charter our own ship.  They're certainly not going to take us with them--I know Father.

<Peter> We'll have to stow away.  My funds are rather dry.  I'm sure we all wouldn't have enough to charter a sailboat, let alone a yacht to make that kind of journey.

<Richard> It'll be a long journey, undercover . . . but I don't want to stay behind, eithre.

<Peter> We mustn't let the girls know what we're planning.  Lord knows they would probably all want to come along.

<William> ::grinning slightly::  Katharine would, certainly.

Scene IV:  The First Farewell

Chauvelin and Lucy are in the parlor of their home, saying goodbye just before the long journey begins . . . they keep their voices subdued, because Sophie is resting in the room above . . .

<Chauvelin> ::worried about the whole situation, but trying to act unaffected::  This is sheer madness.

<Lucy> ::fear clouds her eyes:: I'm worried, Armand... the American's own revolution wasn't that long ago--and feelings are still so... volatile towards the British.

<Chauvelin> ::smiles gently::  You forget, cherie . . . I am not British.

<Lucy> ::tries to laugh--but the sound comes out almost bitten:: Ah, but traveling to their fair shores--amongst Englishmen?

<Chauvelin> We will find a way to get through.  You know that he will . . .

<Lucy> I don't know... it's been so long since... ::voice trails off, but they both know what she was about to say:: I'm afraid even he doubts his ability to get through this, my love.  There are so many uncertainties...

<Chauvelin> If I am not mistaken, there are always uncertainties.  ::a small grin::  I did pick up a few things, all those years ago . . . maybe I can refresh his memory.

<Lucy> ::finally smiles:: Must I send someone else along, Armand?  To be sure you *lads* don't find too much trouble?

<Chauvelin> ::sarcasm slipping through::  Trouble?  In the company of Blakeney?  I don't know WHAT you can be thinking, Lucy . . .

<Lucy> Mmmm.  I suppose I just know you *far* too well. ::reaches up to brush a stray lock of his graying hair back::

<Chauvelin> ::with a little difficulty::  You trust him, do you not?  ::takes her upraised hand in his::

<Lucy> ::she nods:: I do...

<Chauvelin> Then trust in me, and your trust will be complete.  ::kisses her hand gently::  I will come back to you . . .

<Lucy> ::brushes her hand across his cheek:: I have always trusted in you, my darling.  And yet, I have always feared for you...

<Chauvelin> ::closes his eyes with the memory of years past::  I know . . . I have done so much to cause you to fear . . .

<Lucy> All of that is in the past now, Armand.... we've come so far since those days, have we not?

<Chauvelin> We have . . . ::chuckles lowly::  Just the idea of sailing across the ocean to . . . ::well, we know what:: . . . fifteen years ago, would be impossible.  Yet, here I am . . . ::brushes a hand over her hair:: . . . leaving you.

<Lucy> ::smiles a little:: Not only leaving me--but leaving me to travel, by boat, with men who were once your greatest enemies....

<Chauvelin> ::groans::  If I can survive this sea voyage, my love, I can survive anything.

<Lucy> I do not doubt that...

<Chauvelin> ::smiles::  At least your brother is one of them.  At least I can sit in the same room with him for upwards of half an hour without waxing violent.

<Lucy> ::intones, raising her eyes heavenward:: Thank heavens for small miracles...

<Chauvelin> Small miracles will be what gets us through . . . ::breaks off abruptly, unsure of what he just said::

<Lucy> ::catches his abruptness and replies quietly:: Whatever you may call it--so long as it brings you home...safely.

<Chauvelin> If you're going to put it that way . . . ::grins wickedly::  I might as well call it a Pimpernel.

<Lucy> ::smiles, with just as much wickedness as she feigns confusion:: A pimpernel, you say?  My darling, you place your faith in a wayside flower? ::sighs::

<Chauvelin> ::his fists clench reflexively, then relax, glancing up to Sophie's room::  Others did, with more than satisfactory results . . . I believe we can safely do the same.

<Lucy> I know we can...

<Chauvelin> ::kisses her swiftly, fervently::  You have great faith . . . I wish you would lend a little of it to me . . . it is one thing I find myself lacking in.

<Lucy> ::shakes her head:: You've never lacked faith, Armand...though you may not believe it.

<Chauvelin> Then I lack faith in myself.  You have always had enough for me, and then some . . . and as for your brother . . . ::shakes head::  I cannot understand how, but it must be hereditary.  Perhaps I can find a way to glean some from him.

Lucy’s heart caught in her throat--thinking not only of her husband, but of her brother--of all the men.  Her friends.  Her husband.  Her brother.  All risking their lives for the life of her daughter's beloved, her friend's child.  The chimes of the clock sounded--a melancholy note reminding them how quickly their remaining moments together were passing and how imminent farewell was...

The clock chimed on, relentless, heedless of Chauvelin’s silent pleas for time to stand still, for that hour when he would have to leave her not to come.  Was this how it had been, for them all . . . and time after time, saying goodbye over and over again, never knowing whether they would come back . . . he sighed, wearily.  He was much too old to worry so much.

Lucy would have almost been able to ignore the ominous chimes if the door hadn't opened at that moment, and their son entered--unusually quiet and hesitant.

<Peter> Your horse...I've prepared her for you, Father.

<Chauvelin> ::turns to glare at his son, briefly--hasn't he taught that boy anything about proper timing?::  Hold her reins.  I'll be there in a minute.  ::turns back to Lucy::  I--I have to go.

Peter reluctantly goes back outside.

<Lucy> ::smiles just as sadly::  Time has been rather good to us of late, my darling.  And when you return from America.... ::trails off::

<Chauvelin> ::smiles wryly::  When I return, we shall be making up for lost time, eh?  ::kisses her hand again::

<Lucy> ::coyly:: We always do....

<Chauvelin> ::a random carriage passes by on the road, the horse neighs in response; Chauvelin glances to the door suddenly::  I have to go . . .

<Lucy> ::as he turns towards the door, she reaches out suddenly and takes his hand:: Be careful, Armand...promise me?

<Chauvelin> I will promise you anything . . . ::kisses her swiftly, strongly::

Chauvelin smiles softly, pressing her hand; then goes out to his horse, Lucy following anxiously.

Lucy stands in the doorway, her feet unwilling to follow though her heart leapt at the chance, watching him mount the horse and take the reigns from Peter.

<Chauvelin> ::mounting horse::  Look after your mother and your sister, Peter, while I'm gone . . .

<Peter> ::nods, his expression serious:: I will.

Chauvelin is too anxious to question his son's truthfulness.

<Peter> ::steps back, out of the path of the horse::

<Chauvelin> ::stalls, his horse dancing in circles::  I won't be able to write, but I'll send word from the coast as soon as we're away.  After that, it's all left to Blakeney's trust in chance . . . ::sighs, almost to himself::  This has to work.

<Lucy> ::tries to smile:: It will work... for... Sophie's sake.  For Andrew's sake....

<Chauvelin> ::half-smiles::  I suppose it will.  ::deep breath::  I'll send word from the ship . . . au revoir . . . ::swallows::  Je t'aime, Lucy . . .

Chauvelin rides down the road, quickly, before he changes his mind

<Lucy> ::clutches the door-frame, as she whispers:: I love you....

Lucy lets a tear or two fall from her eyes before realizing she--and her son--are standing in the open air.

<Lucy> ::absently::  Peter . . . come inside.  We shouldn't be standing in the open.

<Peter> ::anxiously:: You go in, Maman--I'm going to...just see how William fares.

<Lucy> ::raises her eyebrows suspiciously:: Don't be long.

<Peter> ::nods seriously:: I won't...

Lucy bites her lip thoughtfully, nervously--goes inside deep in thought.

Peter hurries off in the direction of their 'meeting place'.

Scene V:  The Plot Set in Motion

At the 'meeting place'; William waits, his horse tethered to the tree he leans against.

<Peter> ::arrives at the 'meeting place'::

<William> ::scrapes his toe against the ground:: Finally. What kept you so long?

<Peter> ::tethers his own horse on another tree:: I couldn't leave until after Father did. I was worried for a few moments that Maman wouldn't let me come at all.

<William> ::nods slowly, looking at the ground:: Mm-hm . . . I forgot, he didn't leave as early as the rest . . .  ::sighs deeply:: Mother and Father left early this morning.

<Peter> ::quietly:: And how do they fare?

<William> I couldn't tell. Mother didn't say much, and Father only told us to behave and gave instructions to the servants. He seemed . . . very strange.

<Peter> ::nods, knowing precisely what he means:: Were the other lads going to meet
us here...or at the shore?

<William> ::swinging up into the saddle:: They'll meet us on the way . . . at Leighton. They wanted to take care of . . . some things. ::absently:: I left Mother a note . . . it's all I could do, without  them knowing.

 <Peter> ::saddles up--yeee haw!:: James and I've both done the same. Mother's going to be fighting mad....::grins a little:: I only hope when we return, she'll be so overcome with joy that she forgets about this....

<William> ::more sobered about the expedition--it IS his brother, after all:: Yes . . . that's what I was counting on.

<Peter> Let's be off, then....

<William> ::turns his horse to the east:: Right. ::rides off::

<Peter> ::rides off, as well::

Scene VI:  Deja Vu All Over Again

The ship is docked nearby, bobbing about on the churning, murky waters. Percy is off to the side, conversing in low tones with Dewhurst. Marguerite walks along the sandy beach, her cloak gathered close about her to combat the chilly winds

<Percy> ::looks over to Margot; speaks to Dewhurst:: Tell the crew we'll want to leave as soon as Chauvelin arrives.

<Dewhurst> ::nods quickly, feeling a thrill--the tone in Percy's voice is so very familiar:: Right . . .

<Percy> ::comes up behind Margot and puts his hands on her shivering arms:: M'dear? . . .

<Marguerite> ::turns to face him, his warm hands burning through the cloak and her chilled skin:: You will be leaving soon, then?

<Percy> ::nods:: As soon as the tide will allow . . . ::concerned:: You will be all right? . . .

<Marguerite> ::finds herself unable to smile bravely, but speaks unwaveringly:: I will be fine... it is you I worry for.

<Percy> ::softly:: I am the worst of husbands, that I make my poor wife worry so much . . . how is it that you  always forgive me?

<Marguerite> ::reaches up to touch his cheek gently with her gloved hand:: I suppose...it is becaue I am as helplessly in love with you now, as I was all of those years ago.... ::whispers::

<Percy> ::murmurs:: All those years ago . . . it doesn't seem to have been all that long.

<Marguerite> It seems...almost unreal to believe that our eldest child has a family of his own... ::her voice cracks, despite her best attempts to reign it in::

<Percy> Then I beg of you . . . do not worry.

<Marguerite> I swear to you...I will not.

<Percy> ::kisses both her hands at once:: That is all I can ask . . . I must go . . .

<Marguerite> ::whispers:: Until then, my love....

<Percy> ::smiles tenderly:: Until then. ::kisses her hand once more in farewell, softly; then turns, walking in the direction of the ship::

<Chauvelin> ::on his way to the ship, passes Marguerite, and pauses:: Lady Blakeney . . .

<Marguerite> ::looks over to him:: Chauvelin...

<Chauvelin> I have . . . a favor to ask of you, if you will allow it.

<Marguerite> ::nods:: Of course.... anything.

<Chauvelin> ::swallows hard, gazing at the ship:: Would you pay my wife a visit on your way back to Richmond? I promised to send word when we left . . .

<Marguerite> I will do that... ::turns to go, but stops:: And...Chauvelin?

<Chauvelin> ::turns to face her:: My lady . . .

<Marguerite> ::her eyes shadowed with the worry she had promised Percy she would not feel:: Take care...?

<Chauvelin> ::nods, taking care to conceal his own worry:: We will take care, all of us.

Scene VII: A Wager on Temperament

Percy strolls onto the ship's deck, looking out across the sea idly.

<Andrew> ::comes up behind Percy, his voice quiet--even:: We're making good time.

<Percy> ::looks over his shoulder, startled::  Ffoulkes . . . you frightened me.  Too quiet.

<Andrew> ::smiles:: I suppose I've become accustomed to being the quiet one.  Someone must...

<Percy> ::grins::  Oh, I don't know . . . it's a dull job.  And it seems your brother-in-law is as proficient in that, anyway.

<Andrew> ::his smile widens:: The "Citizen" is hardly quiet when you're around Percy.  In fact, Tony and the boys have begun a wager....

<Percy> ::raises eyebrows::  A wager on what?  Nothing against me, I do hope . . . 'twould be a shame to throw Tony overboard for insubordination, after I've known him this long, you know.  ::grins widely::

<Andrew> ::chuckles:: Yes...'twould be a shame.  A demmed shame....They believe you've both been far too well-behaved this trip.  Wondering how long it will be until--a Revolution.  Of a kind, you know.

<Percy> ::muses::  Revolution . . . I can't help but wonder who he would lead to revolt . . .

<Andrew> ::warningly:: Percy...do behave.

<Percy> ::looks around, half-grinning::  There aren't that many around here to form an angry, vengeful mob.  ::sobers::  Behave?  I always behave . . .

<Andrew> ::drily:: Mm--indeed.

<Percy> ::looking hurt::  I do!  Don't I?

<Andrew> ::very seriously:: Oh, always!  Always, Percy.

<Tony> ::approaches from behind::  'Lo, fellows.

<Percy> And speaking of misbehaviour . . .

<Andrew> ::grins:: The reprobate--in the flesh.

<Tony> ::sighs::  Reprobate!  I shall take offense at that, Andrew, quite presently.

<Percy>  When you explain to him what it means, of course. ::grinning::

<Andrew> ::chuckles::

<Tony> ::glaring at them both::  I wish you'd tell me what I did this time.

<Percy> What, can't you keep your offenses straight?

<Andrew> There are, after all, far too many for one fellow to count, Percy!  Besides...he's only got two hands.  ::grins wickedly::

<Percy> I believe this time, Tony, it is a little matter of . . . a wager, I've heard? . . .

<Tony> ::grins::  Wager . . . I don't know WHAT you speak of, Percy . . . ::tries to look innocent, fails miserably::

<Chauvelin> ::creeps up behind them with his own cat-like-tread:: Isn't much of the actor, is he? ::snorts derisively::

<Percy> ::glances over at him::  Have you heard about this deplorable wager, citizen?  They've been betting on us, I believe . . .

<Chauvelin> On us?  ::looks amazed:: What could they possibly be wagering with regards to us?

<Tony> ::slightly grinning::  It just seems to me that things have been rather . . . quiet? . . .

<Andrew> ::pipes in:: Suspiciously so.

<Tony> And we were wondering how long it can last. ::under his breath::  Not long, for my money.

<Andrew> I have to disagree with you yet, Tony.  I still believe Lady Blakeney and Lucy have most *certainly* sent their husbands along with the strictest of orders to...behave?

<Percy> ::indignant::  Strict orders!  From our wives?  I am appalled, Andrew . . . to suggest that I needed a directive from my own wife to keep a civil tongue in my head . . .

<Chauvelin> ::drily:: Civil--no.  Intelligent...perhaps.

<Tony> ::grins::  Looks like I'm going to be getting those fifteen guineas after all . . .

<Andrew> ::groans:: And to think...it's my fault this time.

<Percy> ::with great dignity::  I always have an intelligent tongue in my head, citizen.  No need for Marguerite to warn me on that point.  However, I am plagued by an insatiable curiosity . . . what instructions did Lucy send YOU off with, I wonder?

<Chauvelin> ::sneers at him:: Only my word that I would return--and that I would not be dragging *your* lifeless body behind.

<Percy> ::grins::  Easy enough promises to keep, I should think.

<Chauvelin> Let us hope.

<Percy> ::turns back to the ocean, thoughtfully::  You have no faith in us, Chauvelin?

<Chauvelin> ::calmly:: Only what faith I must place in you, Blakeney.

<Tony> Must, citizen?  Who is forcing you?

<Chauvelin> ::doesn't bother sparing Dewhurst a glance:: My own desire to continue breathing, Lord ANTONY.  I must admit that this sort of endeavor is hardly one I am used to...

<Percy> Come now, Chauvelin . . . do you really believe that we can take such a thing as this up after twenty years of inactivity without feeling its affects?  We're all out of practice, and I dare say as unaccustomed to this as you.

<Chauvelin> Perhaps...

<Tony> As I recall, we never had to go quite this far before . . . it's a new experience.

<Chauvelin> ::mutters:: In more ways than one.

<Percy> ::raises his eyebrows again, glancing at Chauvelin::  Quite a few more ways than one.

<Andrew> ::quickly:: Perhaps we should begin--discussing our plans, Percy. ::at least ATTEMPTING to avoid a skirmish of the witless...err..wits::

<Percy> ::nods::  Yes . . . let's adjourn to the cabin below, don't you think?

Scene VIII:  Secrets Revealed

William Blakeney rolls the makeshift dice--cubes of wood carved, with the help of two penknives, from their empty grain barrels--enthusiastically

<William> This for a wager of twenty pence . . .

<Peter> ::grumbles at his own shoddy roll:: Damnation.  I've lost my entire month's allowance to you, William Blakeney... Richard could you possibly...

<Richard> I've loaned you thirty pounds already since last month, Peter.  You've almost drained me dry as well.  You'll have to shoulder this debt on your own.

<Peter> Hmmph.  Perhaps we should examine the dice a bit closer... it is QUITE odd that the same lad who fashioned them is beating us all solidly.

<William> ::shocked::  I am appalled, gentlemen, that you mistrust me so.  And besides, I didn't make them on my own--James did help . . .

<Peter> ::sighs:: My own kinsman.  Working against me.

<James> ::chuckles:: Don't be a sore loser, Peter...

<Katharine> You boys, can't you find anything to do besides gamble all your money away to my brother?

<William> Kath, whose side are you on, anyway?

<Peter> ::grins and scrambles to his feet, pulling Katharine towards him:: There's a good lass.  Tell them...your brother's a cheating scoundrel.

<Katharine> ::grins at her brother-in-law::  My brother is a cheating scoundrel because he keeps company with cheating scoundrels.

<Alice> ::laughs::  Or perhaps it's the other way around, Katharine.  Who was the first scoundrel among them, really?

<Mary> ::sighs:: What a question to pose....

<William> It certainly wasn't me, I think you'll all agree.

<Richard> ::chokes with laughter::  OH, certainly not . . .

<Peter> ::sighs:: Deny it all you will, Blakeney...we know the truth.  Isn't that right, lads?  And...lasses, of course.

<Alice> ::inclines her head to him::  How gracious of you to notice, M'sieur.

<Peter> ::bows:: It 'twas the least I could do, mam'zelle.

<Katharine> Well, there's something he must have picked up outside his social circle--a few manners.  ::hears a noise above them::  Quickly, girls . . .

All move quickly back to their hiding places, as someone (Andrew) descends the stairs

Andrew peers curiously around the darkened storeroom.  Everything is still now, but he could have sworn he heard some scuffling movement below as he approached the stairs....Sparing a second glance, he turns and heads back up the stairs to re-join the others

<Richard> ::whispers cautiously::  Well, that certainly was close . . .

<William> Shhh . . .

Andrew pauses near the top of the stairs, unable--this time--to miss the quiet murmur of voices.  With a small, knowing smile, he quietly shuts the door behind him.

<Alice> ::hears the door shut quietly--rises softly from her hiding place to approach her brother's::  You, sir, are an idiot.

<Richard> ::sighs::  Alice . . .

<Peter> ::optimistically:: Perhaps he didn't hear.  We don't know that he heard.  Right, James?

<James> ::wrily:: My father hears everything, Peter--even when he does not let you KNOW he heard.

<William> Well, lads, looks like we may be found out.  Time to start considering what we're going to tell our fathers about all this.

<Katharine> ::sighs::  I fear we might not have any time to tell them anything.

<Peter> ::sits down heavily:: At least YOU can reason with your fathers.  Mine will be furious.

<Richard> So will mine . . . ::sighs::  This is all my fault.  I apologize to all of you.

<Alice> You just don't think, brother.  If you did, we'd all be worried about you.

<James> ::chuckles::  She has you there, Richard.

Meanwhile, above . . .

<Andrew> ::re-enters the cramped communal room--the room was a good size...before the group of men had taken it over, throwing maps and other necessities over the large table::

<Percy> What was that noise in the store hold, Andrew?  Rats?

<Andrew>  ::drily:: I wouldn't call the--it--rats, Percy.  Although I am sorely tempted...

<Chauvelin> ::mumbles:: Why does no one speak plainly?

<Tony> Then what was it?

<Percy> ::despite himself, grins slightly::  It was, wasn't it?

<Andrew> ::grins:: It was.

<Tony> ::slow to pick up on it::  It was what?  Come, fellows . . .

<Chauvelin> ::catches on:: They all need a solid beating!  ::scowls::

<Percy> I think the mystery of our disappearing stores is solved, gentlemen.  We have a few extra passengers on this ship.  ::grows solemn::  They all need something indeed.  What they need is to be back at home.  But now, we have to decide what to do with them.

<Tony> ::finally realizing it::  That boy is more trouble than a pack of devils . . . I ought to toss him over the side of the ship and make him swim back to England.

<Chauvelin> ::cracks a smile:: For some reason I doubt that the boys were the only ones in on it.  Perhaps one of your wagers is in order, Blakeney... what say you all that your daughters are below, as well?

<Percy> ::blinks::  Katharine?  ::the more he thinks about it, the more likely it seems::  She had BETTER not be . . . ::rises from his seat::

<Andrew> ::sighs:: The women must be out of their minds with worry...

<Tony> And they probably don't even think about it.  That's the worst of it . . . ::gets up as well::  If Alice and Caroline are mixed up in this, neither one of them will leave the house for six months, I vow it . . .

<Andrew> You know full well that if *one* is involved, they all are involved. ::drily::

<Percy> ::pacing::  That's God's truth.  They work together, as a pack . . . ::glances at Andrew, almost smiling::  Like another group of youths I used to know . . .

<Chauvelin> ::shakes head:: I knew I should have had a firmer hand with Peter...it's too late now.

<Percy> ::stops pacing::  Well, they've been living in hiding for almost two weeks now . . . perhaps we ought to bring our wayward offspring into the light?  What think you all?

<Andrew> ::nods:: It sounds like a good plan to me.

<Chauvelin> ::a small, rarely seen, smile creeps across his face:: Perhaps we should give them a little--shock....not just storm down there, you know.

<Tony>  ::looks at Chauvelin mutely for exactly five seconds before slowly grinning:: I think you're right. A scare, to teach them a lesson, might just be in order.

<Andrew> ::trying not to smile:: Normally I would say it would be silly and immature--they are children, after all--but perhaps....they do deserve it this time.

<Percy> Silly and immature? Us? Stop joking, Andrew, this is not a time for levity.

<Andrew> ::bows graciously:: I apologize, of course. ::grins::

<Percy>  I agree with the idea, myself--they all deserve severe punishment for this, and that punishment might as well begin now. Chauvelin, the idea was yours--I take it you have . . . dare I say it . . . a plan? ::grins mischievously::

<Chauvelin> ::holds his hands up, as if to ward Percy off:: Ah, you forget. I am not the one who creates the plans, Sir Percy. I simply stand by and attempt to destroy them.

<Tony> ::idly:: 'S good at it, too. So, Percy, seems the plan-forming is up to you. How shall we frighten these wayward offspring of ours?

<Percy> This doesn't seem fair to me . . .

<Andrew>  ::agrees quickly:: You are the Chief, after all....

<Percy>  I'm out of practice, though. It's going to take me a while, I fear . . . a few minutes, at least.  ::after a couple of minutes, announces abruptly:: The ship is sinking.

<Tony> ::splutters::

<Andrew>  Percy, you wouldn't!

<Percy> ::dramatically:: To save our own lives, my friends, we have to do the unthinkable. We have to throw our foodstuffs overboard. A drastic measure, I know . . .

<Chauvelin> Every man for himself, I suppose. Shall we?

<Tony> ::barely able to keep a straight face:: I suppose it is . . . and I volunteer to throw the first barrel over.  The first sacrifice, of course.

<Andrew> ::claps him on the back:: There's a good fellow. Let us follow Dewhurst...

<Percy> Yes, let's . . . a selfless act of bravery might be just what this trip needs to relieve the boredom of the sea voyage . . . ::coughs:: I mean, to preserve the lives of everyone aboard, of course . . .

<Chauvelin> ::sarcastically:: Oh, of course.

Meanwhile, in the hold below, the "what do we do now" discussion continues . . .

<Richard> We could offer to do the menial work on the ship for the rest of the voyage, as penance . . .

<William> ::wrinkles his nose:: We'll probably end up doing that anyway.

<Mary> ::smiles sweetly:: You *boys* shall, that is.

<Katharine> True, Mary. We *girls* shall probably be sent home in a rowboat.

<Alice> They won't send us all the way back to England in a rowboat, Katharine. Not without an escort, anyway.

<Peter> Oh, I don't know about that, 'coz. You'll have your delicate little ears blistered almost as much as *we* shall. You're just as much to blame--and I'm sure *all* of our fathers will see that.

<Richard> ::glumly:: Some of us will get more than our ears blistered, you know . . .

<James> Not my father. He'll simply give us that look. You know the look I speak of, Mary.

<Mary> ::sighs:: Yes. The Disappointment Look. I despise that look.

<William> And we'll get something even worse, Kath. You know what I mean.

<Katharine> ::swallows hard:: The Silence. Not a word. I fear it more than anything else in the world . . .

<Peter>::snorts, with mock bravery:: You're all worrying over nothing. I'm sure our fathers will see that this is something we *had* to do. Duty. Right?

<James> ::quietly:: And your father...?

<Peter> ::mumbles something under his breath::

<Mary> ::grins wickedly:: We couldn't hear you, dear 'coz.

<Peter> Never you mind.

<William> ::hears a noise above:: I can't face that right now. Back in hiding we go.

They all scurry back into hiding. Some slip into their crates and barrels, others simply creeping into the darker recesses of the room

<Tony> ::comes down first, as he promised:: Which should be the first to go, Percy?

<Percy> Most likely the heaviest. It'll do the most good.

<Chauvelin> ::points:: This one looks as good as any.

<Tony> ::tries the barrel, which happens to contain Richard--fails to lift it:: Oof. It certainly is heavy enough . . . ::tries again::

<Andrew> ::grins:: Need a hand, Tony? Don't be sheepish, now--you're not quite as young as you once were.

<Tony> ::sighs, keeping his composure with some difficulty:: Really, Andrew, must you belittle me in the middle of a crisis? Can't it wait until we're NOT sinking?

<Percy> Now, now, Dewhurst, don't argue with him. If you need help . . .

<Tony> ::to Andrew:: Well, pick up that end, if you're so eager to help.

<Andrew> ::sagely:: You become quite cranky when I remind you of your limitations, Tony. Really, you... ::lets out a loud oomph as he tries to lift the other half:: This is rather heavy, isn't it?

<Katharine> and <Alice> ::look at each other in shock, hidden in the shadows. Sinking? Getting rid of the barrels? And isn't that the one Richard's hiding in?::

<Chauvelin> Stop gawking, Blakeney--you can lend a hand with this barrel. ::taps the lid of the barrel Peter's hiding in::

<Percy> Gawking? I never gawk. But, if you insist . . . ::picks up one end of the barrel:: Whew, this one isn't all that light either . . .

<Chauvelin> ::scowls:: Let's heft it overboard, then...

<Tony> et <Andrew> ::go up the stairs with their barrel, <Percy> and <Chauvelin> following behind::

<Mary> ::when the men are gone:: We have to do something! They're going to throw them overboard!!!!

<William> Let's not panic . . .

<Katharine> ::angrily:: Brother, Peter and Richard are about to be tossed into the sea. Enclosed in barrels. And by the time they get out, our fathers will most likely have left them behind for lost stores. Now is as good a time as any to panic.

<William> Katharine Blakeney, I despise your logic . . .

<James> ::quietly:: We must reveal ourselves...

<William> ::shuts his eyes in apprehension:: Looks like I'm going to be facing that silence after all . . . there's nothing else. We have no choice.

<Mary> Come along, then.... we must hurry--it may already be too late.

<Katharine> ::sighs:: Chins up, girls--hold your heads high, boys. Let's face this like we ought--like English men and women. ::grins wanly:: Peter's gone, I can say that now.

<William> ::laughs softly, drawing himself up to full height:: Let's go.

The group (now missing two members) hurry up the stairs and above deck, ignoring the curious looks of the few crewmates lurking about. At the head of the ship, their fathers all stand, two barrels still on the deck of the ship.

<Percy> Ready, boys? On three . . .

The men cheerfully make the count with Percy, and the barrels are practically out of their hands when a strangled scream is heard:

<Mary> Noooooooooooooo!!!!!

As the men turn around, two splashes are heard in the water.

<Andrew> ::feigning shock:: Mary Celeste Ffoulkes! What in heaven's name are you doing here?

<Katharine>::rushes to the railing:: Peter!! Richard!!

<William> ::joins her side:: Come on, get out of those barrels! They know now!

<Percy> ::sternly:: And what is it that we know, William Blakeney? Katharine Felice?

<William> and <Katharine> ::look to their father in great trepidation::

<Mary> ::grabs her uncle's arm, terror playing across her face:: Peter's in the barrel!!! He'll DROWN!!!! You must do something!

<Chauvelin> You must be mistaken, my dear...my *son* is in London. With his mother.

<Tony> ::playing at ignorance--not too hard for him ;):: Peter, in the barrel? What would he be doing in there?

<Alice> Father, Richard's in there as well!! Heave them up, quickly, you must!

<Tony> What, both of them in the same barrel? That's unlikely, don't you think . . . and what are YOU doing here, Alice Patricia Dewhurst?

<Andrew> But, children, those barrels were full of food--rations. I suppose we could heave them up to prove to you....

<Chauvelin> ::agrees:: Set your mind at ease.

<William> No, they weren't--they were empty. You must believe me--we found the empty barrels on the shore while you were loading the ship . . . Father, PLEASE!! We were wrong to do it, but you can't leave them to die!!

<Andrew> ::a little guilt washing over him at the looks of pure terror on the childrens faces:: Let's bring the barrels up, men....

At that moment Richard breaks out of his barrel, gasping for air . . .

<Richard> Help! Help! Someone help me!

Peter's barrel rocks madly against the swells, as the lid comes off....

<Peter> Father! Someone......

<Tony> ::looks down into the water at the sound of his son's voice:: Richard! What's all this, now?

<Mary> ::quickly:: We came here to help--but we knew if you had all realized it, you would have wasted precious time sending us back home! We had to hide....

<Chauvelin> ::smirks:: Perhaps it's time we fished our children out of the sea?

<Percy> You came here to help with what?

<William> With what? With the rescue!

<Percy> ::"innocently":: Who says we're going to rescue someone?

<William> Honestly, Father, you don't expect me to believe that you, Sir Andrew, Lord Antony, and M. Chauvelin would go on a sea voyage to America for a pleasure trip, do you? And I'm not about to sit around when my brother's in prison . . .

<James> We all wanted to help. ::raises his head proudly:: You would have all done the same.

<Tony> ::to William, grinning a bit despite himself:: Don't call me that. You know not to call me that. ::to Percy:: He's just like you, you know.

<Chauvelin> ::feigns confusion:: What isn't he to call you? Antony? Your name is Antony, isn't it?

<Andrew> ::grins at his brother-in-law:: Lord Antony Dewhurst.

<Percy> What, the boy's exactly like his father, Antony?

<Tony> ::sighs:: Such abuse!

The girls giggle at the ribbing, but from the water, Peter's and Richard's irate voices continue to shout for help...

<Tony> ::leans over the railing:: And as for you, I ought to leave you down there. You can swim just fine, you know that. And you had no right to sneak on board this ship, any of you, and deplete our stores . . . but we can't do anything about that now. Let's throw down some ropes for them . . .

They throw down the ropes, stepping back as the boys slowly make their ways up onto the deck of the ship

<Peter> ::sheepishly straightening out his clothes, avoiding his father's eyes:: I'm in...a great deal of trouble, aren't I?

<Chauvelin> We'll discuss it later.

<Peter> Much later?

<Chauvelin> *Much* later.

<Richard> ::climbs over the rail, panting and coughing::

<Tony> ::completely serious now:: You, young sir, are in bigger trouble than you've ever been.

<Richard> ::swallows hard:: Ever?

<Tony> ::nods:: Even worse than the time you snuck off to London on my best horse instead of studying your Latin.

<Mary> ::nervously toes the wooden planks with her slipper:: What will you...do with us?

<Andrew> ::in a firm voice:: A very good question. Blakeney?

<William> and <Katharine> ::stand on the deck, side by side, both with heads hung low in shame::

<Percy> ::looks down at them grimly:: Go into the cabin.

<William> ::ventures to look up:: Father? . . .

<Percy> ::quietly:: Into the cabin. Until we decide.

<James> ::tugs on his sister's hand:: Come along. All of you...

<Alice> ::grabs her brother's shoulders, brushing extra water off--or maybe out--of his clothes as she leads him away::

<Peter> ::sends one, final, nervous glance in his father's direction before following the group::

<Percy> ::when the door shuts, turns to the others:: What do you think?

<Andrew> ::rubs his aching head:: We can't possibly send them home--it would take far too much time. And time is a precious commodity for us...

<Tony> I think my son needs a belt applied to his backside.

<Percy> Not a bad idea--but Andrew is right; we can't afford the time it would take to send them safely home. So I suppose . . . they'll have to come with us. ::very reluctantly::

<Chauvelin> I don't believe we have a problem--while we're at sea. We have more than enough foodstuffs for everyone. The problem lies with arriving in America--how do we keep them out of trouble? ::wrily::

<Tony> ::groans:: That's an impossibility.

<Andrew> ::wearily:: Well, we have at least *one* thing to give thanks for.

<Percy> ::hesitating:: Maybe we SHOULD let them help. We could use the extra hands, feet, and so on, you know . . . ::to Andrew:: What's that?

<Chauvelin> I hate to say it, but--I agree, Blakeney. They may come of some use to us.

<Tony> ::blinks hard:: Did I hear what I thought I heard? There's three words I never thought I'd hear out of his mouth.

<Andrew> All of those children *combined* are nowhere near as wicked and exhausting as you and my sister as children, Percy. We may have our work cut out for us.

<Chauvelin> ::glares at Tony:: Watch it, Antony Dewhurst. The guillotine may not still be the punishment of the people, but rest assured I will devise something for *you*.

<Percy> We'd have to give them training first, though. Thankfully, we've got some time for that. ::to Andrew, grinning slightly:: You should know, Ffoulkes--you were always the one assigned to keep us in line . . .

<Tony> ::sighs in Chauvelin's direction:: Burial at sea, no doubt. Fine, I won't say another word.

<Chauvelin> ::smirks:: See that you don't. ::to Percy:: Shall we go deliver the news, then?

<Percy> ::grinning almost fully:: And we can engineer their "training" to be ample punishment, I believe. I believe we shall, citizen.

Inside the cabin, the League offspring are sitting apprehensively around the table

<William> It was a good try, fellows. But fooling our fathers turned out to be harder than we thought.

<Peter> We should have known better. Have we *ever* gotten over on them before?

<Richard> ::wrapped in a blanket, grins:: Well, there was that one time . . . but that one doesn't count, I guess.

<Mary> ::straightens on the bed:: Sh! They're coming...I hear footsteps.

<Percy> ::opens the door, a serious look set on his face--he's followed in closely by the others:: Well, are you satisfied with your little prank?

They all exchange a silent look, before Peter speaks up:

<Peter> We didn't...mean it as a prank, Sir Percy. Truly, we didn't.

<Percy> No matter how you meant it, Peter, that's how it's turned out. And it would take too much time to send you back . . . so you're going to have to come with us now.

<Chauvelin> Even though you *all* deserve to be beaten within an inch of your life, I believe we've all agreed to post-pone your punishment until we return to England. Your mothers will be more than happy to help. Wouldn't you gentlemen agree? ::grins at Andrew, Percy and Tony::

<Percy> Most definitely.

<Tony> ::grins:: I'd answer, but I'm forbidden to speak.

<Chauvelin> ::mutters under his breath:: Let us just *see* how long that lasts.

<William> ::looks at the others, puzzled:: We're coming with you, then? Kind of like a house-arrest?

<Richard> Or in this case, a ship-arrest . . .

<James> That was a bad joke, Richard. ::rolls eyes::

<Percy> But as long as you're going to be along on this trip, you're going to make yourselves useful. Do I make myself clear?

<Katharine> ::perks up suddenly:: Like, helping out in the galley, scrubbing the floors and such? ::desperately hoping that he means more than that::

<Mary> ::quickly:: We'll do anything! We'll follow your orders implicitly. Won't we?

The others nod ferverently

<Percy> That's good. You'll have to, without question, without hesitation. No matter what.

<Chauvelin> ::quietly:: And you all must be honest--if you do not mean what you say, speak up now.

<William> ::quietly:: I've never been more willing, more honest, or more serious about something in my life. And I think we all feel the same about this . . . ::looks around at the others, who nod again::

<Richard> ::excitedly:: What do we do first?

<Percy> ::sternly:: First you change into dry clothes. We have some extra you can wear. Then, tomorrow, we'll see whether ability is inherited, or learned.

<Tony> I tend to think it's a little of both, actually.

<Andrew> Perhaps you should all get some rest now? We'll begin in the morning--Blakeney?

<Percy> ::nods:: In the morning. Class begins at daybreak--for everyone.

<Katharine> Daybreak? Rather early . . .

<Percy> That's when the world awakens, Katharine.

Scene IX:  Something Old, Something New

They are gathered in the common room, as dawn begins to break over the waves. Although the older men seem to be unfazed by the early hour, furtive yawns and groggy blinks come in intervals from the younger ones. Their fathers let this pass--after all, at one time, it was difficult for them, too . . .

<Peter> ::shifts uncomfortably in his straight-backed chair, attempting to--somehow--find a way to sit that wouldn't cause his bruised posterior to ache anymore than need be::

<Chauvelin> ::notices his son's not-so-subtle motion and grins:: There was a reason you called us all here so early, Blakeney?

<Percy> You mean rising with the sun isn't itself enough of a reason to get up, Chauvelin? ::grins:: Actually, as it turns out we're going to be a larger group than expected on this excursion . . . ::grows serious:: There are certain things that must be taken care of.

<Richard> ::whispers to William, stifling a yawn:: What's your father talking about?

<William> ::nudges him sharply:: Hush . . .

<Andrew> ::grins at the hushed whispers:: If you boys would prefer to talk amongst yourselves, I'm sure we could arrange some opportunity for that--perhaps you could both scrub out the kitchen before the morning meal?

<William> ::gives Richard a significant "look"--'see, I told you to shut up':: We've got nothing else to say that can't wait until after Father is finished, right, Richard?

<Richard> ::nods quickly:: Not a thing, not a thing . . .

<Andrew> ::crosses his arms and leans against the wall:: You can continue now, Percy..

<Percy> ::amused:: Good--if there will be no more interruptions? ::turns to Andrew and Tony:: Check the doors, boys, if you will. We don't want any interruptions . . . or unwanted spectators.

<Chauvelin> ::smirks:: Allow me. I know, far better than any, the mind of an 'unwanted spectator'.

<Percy> ::chuckles:: Of course, citizen . . .

The children laugh softly, nervously, following Percy's lead--they're still not sure where they stand with their fathers . . .

<Chauvelin> ::strides to the door, glancing down the long hallway that leads to a set of stairs--and belowdecks, the quarters of the ship's small crew--before glancing in the other direction and quietly shutting the door behind him:: We're alone.

<Percy> ::nods, fully serious now, and turns to the children, speaking in a low voice:: You all know of the League that was, years ago, before you were even born. That League served its purpose and ended. Now, we are forming a new League of sorts--perhaps not for as long a period of time as the first one, but nevertheless bound by the same codes that the old was. These codes you must understand, and each of you give your honorable oath to. You think you know of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, but you cannot understand what sacrifices its members endured to remain faithful to its oath of loyalty, obedience, and secrecy--the sacrifices that some were unwilling to make. The sacrifices you must make. That is why I
must ask each of you for your solemn oath of obedience and loyalty now. ::pauses:: Later, there are things that may get in the way.

::turns to William and Katharine:: Children, I know you're willing to do anything to help your brother. And though sneaking on this ship without my knowledge certainly isn't the smartest thing you could have done, it does please me somewhat to know that you are concerned enough to want to do something. But it isn't a party game you've gotten yourselves into. There will be dangers at every turn, with perils flanking them, and you have to be willing to face them without flinching. I ask you to extend filial loyalty to implicit obedience and trust of every order I give, no matter what it may entail. No matter WHAT. Do you understand?

<Katharine> Yes, Father, perfectly. I swear to obey your every order and give my complete loyalty to this--on my word of honor.

<William> ::simply:: I give you my word, Father.

<Tony> ::bites his lip to keep his amused grin at bay--whispers to Andrew, or perhaps just under his breath:: I think the boy's a Blakeney.

<Andrew> ::whispers in reply:: And Katharine's the consummate actress--where does she get *that* from?

<Percy> ::turns to them, grinning--he heard every word, of course, it's not a large room:: Perhaps the kitchen does need to be scrubbed after all, fellows?

<Andrew> ::grins:: Our apologies, Blakeney. Don't make poor Tony scrub--the fella's old legs couldn't take all the bending and kneeling.

<Tony> ::restricts himself to sighing plaintively::

<Percy> ::looks at Andrew significantly:: Ffoulkes, would you prefer . . . ?

<Andrew> ::turns to his own children:: There is very little I can say to either of you that you haven't already heard Percy put plainly before his children. What we are about to embark on is--I will say--the most dangerous mission any of us have ever known. When the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel formed--not as many years ago as it may seem--we were all men. Fully grown and matured... ::glances fondly over at Tony:: More or less. You are all so very young--and you must realize that every action--every order--no matter how small and silly they may seem to you will have a great impact upon this entire group. The smallest hesitation, the most unwitting betrayal could end it all. You must swear to follow each order--without fear, without hesitance. The original League survived each battle because we placed our faith in God--and each other. You must swear to do the same. Do you?

<James> ::in the quiet, serious manner so much like his father's:: I swear.

<Mary> ::nods simply:: As do I, Papa.

<Tony> ::witheringly:: More or less, indeed . . . ::looks to Richard and Alice:: All that Percy and Andrew have said applies to you, as well. I know what both of you think of this--it's what I thought of the League when it first formed. I've learned since--::looks at Percy and Andrew:: believe it or not, as you will--that it isn't the marvelous sport it seems to be. ::pauses:: Okay, it is. But it's more, too. It means putting your whole self into something uncertain, it means trusting in the whims of Chance and the quick wits of your leader. And if you can't trust in that, you don't just put yourself in danger, but the rest of us as well. It's walking into the dark on a narrow plank that's suspended over the pit of Hell, and you must take every step confidently and without hesitation. Are you willing to do that?

<Richard> ::swallows once:: My word on it, I will.

<Alice> I as well--I'll obey every command.

<Chauvelin> ::quietly:: There is very little I can say to you, Peter, that you haven't already heard. The truth be told, this is as unfamiliar for me as it is for you. I spent... ::uncomfortable pause, as he tries to find the words:: ...many years trying to understand how these man succeeded--time after time--in pulling off the most extreme plans, the wildest escapes a mind could devise. I didn't understand how one man could--quite willingly--offer his own life for another. Yet, that was what gave them their strength... ::wry smile:: And kept them constantly slipping from my grasp. That is what you must remember--your life is no longer your own, if you choose to join them--us. Your life is that of your friends. Their fathers. ::gruffly:: As it has always been mine. Can you swear this?

<Peter> ::nods:: I do.

<Percy> ::nods slowly:: I thank you all . . . you've given away more than you know, I think. ::draws in a breath and quickly picks up a pen on the table, beginning to draw on a sheet of paper:: All that remains is to be sure you know one thing. ::shows them what he has drawn:: Accept no communication from me unless it is signed with that symbol. All others are false.

<Chauvelin> ::snorts derisively:: You don't mean to tell us you still *plan* on using that thing, Blakeney?

<Percy> There has to be some form of recognition. You know that--it's as good as anything else. ::grins:: Does it bother you?

<Chauvelin> ::shakes head:: If I give my assent, you'll only be more passionate about it's use. I will say nothing more on the subject.

<Percy> ::still grinning:: Besides, you know as well as I do that it'd take me upwards of six months to learn to draw something new. ::inclines head:: I'll take that as your consensus, then.

<Andrew> ::grins at his brother-in-law:: Next time we plan a mission, we'll be sure to provide sufficient time in teaching Percy to draw something new. A guillotine, perhaps?

<Tony> That's a bit complicated, Ffoulkes. Maybe we ought to stick to something simpler . . .

<Percy> Oh, just because you can't draw it doesn't mean I can't learn how, Tony . . .

<Andrew> ::chuckles:: Another blow to Lord Tony's ego! Perhaps someday it will come down to the size it ought to be...

<Tony> I vow, I am tormented far beyond what mortal man can bear among you . . . for my very life, I can't figure out why I stay.

<Andrew> ::sober, all of the sudden:: Because you're a member of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

<Tony> ::nods, sobering as well:: Yes, I remember now . . . as if I could ever forget. ::glances at Percy:: Should we begin teaching them right away, do you think?

<Percy> ::looking around at the yawning children:: I think we'd all better have breakfast first. Perhaps they'll be more . . . alert . . . afterwards.

<Chauvelin> ::grins as his son catches himself before his head hits the table:: Breakfast...would be a good idea, I believe.

<Tony> ::catches his own son's head, Richard being slower on the reflex than Peter:: Children today . . . when I was their age . . .

<Percy> . . . we had to drag you out of bed every morning for first bell.

<Tony> You didn't have to answer, you know.

<Andrew> Don't feel *too* badly, Dewhurst. Percy neglects to mention that I had to drag *him* out of bed in order to drag you out.

<Percy> ::as they leave, urging their offspring by pulls and nudges and "dragging" of their own:: And I still maintain that I was already awake . . .

<Andrew> Of course you were, Percy. Mary, do help with your brother...

<William> ::grins groggily at Mary, the two of them seeming to be the most awake of them all:: If this is any indication, it's going to be an interesting trip.

<Mary> ::scowls as she wraps an arm around James:: I just *can't* wait.

Scene X:  The Truth of a Tale

Setting: Camden House Prison in Boston. Nicholas shoved his chilled hands deep into the pockets of his great coat, shifting impatiently as he waited for the guard to unlock the main gate to wave him through. The gate slowly opens, but he's stopped by the grizzled old guard.

<Guard> Did you bring something for me?

<Nicholas> ::grins at him:: Of course I did, Grady. Your favorite... ::shoves a bottle in his hands:: Can I go inside now?

<Guard> ::accepts the bottle:: Only a short visit, now. Wouldn't want Johnston to come back and catch you consortin' with the prisoner.

<Nicholas> ::nods:: Of course.

Andrew looks up at the noise. He is somewhat thinner and paler than he used to be, the pallor of his skin showing even through the layers of dirt covering him. Somewhat conscientiously, he has kept good care of his clothes, and though his hair is growing in wild directions from his head, he has tried to keep it in some sort of order. As Nicholas comes into view, he sighs in relief.

<Andrew> Elliot . . . I thought . . . ::shakes head:: I don't know what I thought. I never know who to expect in here.

<Nicholas> ::reaches deep within one pocket and pulls out a small meatpie--cold, but wrapped in a linen napkin:: I would have brought more, but I had no idea who was on guard today. ::after a pause:: Have you had anymore suprise visits from the governor's favorite henchman?

<Andrew> ::clenches his fist slightly, then relaxes and takes the meatpie--hides it in his own coat:: Three. One just last night. The man is CONVINCED I'm a British spy. ::laughs hollowly:: British, yes--spy, no.

<Nicholas> ::crosses the room to the small window looking out on the 'yard' surronded on all sides by the building. It was a small area--full of rich green grass during the spring and summer, but barren the rest of the year. He understood the men who ran the prison less every day--most men suspected of treason would find themselves in the small room for a week, at the most. One week, followed by a very quick trial, and a hanging in that same yard. Why were they holding THIS suspect so long? He wished he knew. Turning away from the window, he glanced wrily at his friend:: Spy or not, you have committed the most *distasteful* crime of simply being British, my friend. 

<Andrew> ::sighs, running his hands over his unshaved chin:: Guilty as charged. ::he watches Nicholas gaze out the window, nodding:: I know. They hold me far too long.

<Nicholas> ::nods, not having WANTED to say it--but now that Andrew has...:: There is some greater reason they hold you. If they truly believed you to be a spy, you would have been...dead...weeks ago.

<Andrew> ::swallows hard. He's noticed from what's been said in interrogation sessions what they believe him to be. And he'd laugh, if he was watching the scene from the outside.:: Not . . . exactly . . . a spy. But something very close. ::sighs:: I just wish I knew who it was that gave them the tip . . . who it was that knew. I thought it was still a closely guarded secret.

<Nicholas> ::curiously:: You thought what to be a closely guarded secret? I don't follow, Andrew...

<Andrew> ::looks around quickly, dropping his voice to a whisper:: There should be some arrivals from England soon. I only hope I can stall long enough for them to get here. My father, a few friends . . . perhaps my father-in-law as well, I can't say . . .

 <Nicholas> ::can not disguise his doubt:: Andrew, you can't be serious.  Your father...the situation is far too delicate for a group of aging relations... no offense, intended, my friend.

<Andrew> ::looks up at him::  You have no idea, Nicholas, how much this situation calls for a group of "aging relations," as you put it.  ::his whisper becomes even softer:: Did you ever hear tales of things that happened some twenty years ago?  During the French Revolution . . . did stories ever drift across the Atlantic of strange disappearances, escapings, of prisoners of the French Republic?

<Nicholas> ::thoughtfully:: When I was young, my mother's sister told us stories.  A man with the name of a flower, I believe?  But they were just stories--fanciful tales....

<Andrew> Are you so certain they were only fanciful tales, Nicholas?

<Nicholas> ::smiles:: Come, my friend!  A group of men, spiriting countless prisoners away from the watchful eyes of their captors?  It is a nice thought, but...

<Andrew> ::completes Nicholas' sentence with a grin of his own::  Impossible?  Unheard-of?  Totally ridiculous?  There are some who would disagree.

<Nicholas> ::Shakes head, a smile still on his lips:: If such a tale were true--would that this savior join us NOW.

<Andrew> There is no 'if' about it, Nicholas.  During the Reign of Terror in France, an Englishman did indeed gather a band of men for the sole purpose of journeying to France and saving condemned men, women, and children from the fate of the guillotine.  That man was known as the Scarlet Pimpernel.  ::pause, fingering something on his right hand, his whisper now no louder than a breath of wind::  That man . . . was my father.  ::glancing at Nicholas severely, grasping his wrist in a firm grip::  Swear, Nicholas, that you won't repeat it to anyone.  Not your mother, not your father, not your closest friend, not your fiercest enemy.  No one.  Do you swear it?

<Nicholas> ::unable to find the words, and, when he finally does, his voice is hoarse with amazement:: Andrew...I...of course, I swear it!  Don't be a complete fool!  ...And these...aging relations you spoke of earlier...they helped your father?  All those years ago?

<Andrew> ::releases Nicholas' wrist almost apologetically--he pauses, uncertain::  Most of them, yes.

<Nicholas> ::notices the uncertainty in his friend's voice:: Andrew....what do you mean by that?  I must know everything if I am to help.

<Andrew> ::almost laughs, glancing sidelong at Nicholas::  You MUST know everything?  Nicholas, *I* don't know everything.  And some helped him then while knowing almost nothing.  However, I don't suppose it will hurt if you know this . . . it won't matter if he doesn't come.  But somehow, I can't imagine him staying behind, sitting at home quietly . . . ::shakes head::  My father-in-law . . . was not a member of the League, or a helper.  He . . . well, he was French, you see.  Ask him now and he'll tell you he still is . . .

<Nicholas> ::nods wisely, understanding the unsaid...:: 

<Andrew> ::nods in return::  A delicate situation, I'm sure you'll agree.  And the trouble we had about the wedding . . . ::grinning in spite of himself::

<Nicholas> ::grins:: Now there's a story that must be told...someday, my friend.

<Andrew> ::nods::  I'll remember that.  ::looks around::  They're not going to give you much more time . . . here:  ::fumbles with whatever it is he's been playing with on his right hand::  Take this.

<Nicholas> ::peering at the image on the heavy golden ring:: What is it?  Your family crest, I presume....

<Andrew> Only part of it, actually.  That's the image of a scarlet pimpernel.  While you're at it, memorize that image; if I know my father right, he'll be using it as an identification symbol on any communication he might get to you, ::grins again:: if only to drive my father-in-law mad.  However, he can't get to you until he knows who you are . . . can you watch the docks for me?  Wait for a ship to come in from England . . . I don't know when he will come, whether it will be day or night . . . but watch . . . ::sighs, thinking::  They may be in disguise . . .

<Nicholas> Of course.  They know, then....to find me somehow.

<Andrew>  Yes, I mentioned you in the letter.  Watch for . . . a tall man.  If he's not disguised his face, he has blond hair--graying, of course--and fair skin, and is over six feet tall.  Either him, or watch for a slightly shorter man, just under six feet, with dark hair and sallow skin . . . should you see either one of them, approach them cautiously and contrive to show them that seal-ring.  Both of them should recognize it immediately.

<Nicholas> ::slides the ring deep within one pocket:: I will do that.  Our time grows short--I will try to return at the end of the week with...whatever news there is.

<Andrew> ::nods quickly, drawing the slightly-dusty meatpie out of his pocket::  My stomach thanks you for the meal.

<Nicholas> ::grins wickedly:: I'd hold off judgment until you've tasted it, friend.  Goodbye for now....

<Andrew> ::grins back, eyeing the pastry warily::  Goodbye, friend . . .

<Nicholas> ::exits the cell, shutting the door with a heavy clang and hurries from the 'prison'::

Scene XI:  The American and the Frenchman Discuss the Englishmen

Almost a week passed since Nicholas' visit to Andrew's cell.  Each day he made his way to the small port, waiting--hoping--the ship from England would arrive.  Each evening, he returned to his small apartments, cold, exhausted, with another nagging fear that they wouldn't arrive....in time....

On the seventh day a small vessel docked at the port, no flags flying from its bow.  The marking on the side read "Sparrow's Flight", but that told nothing more than that the ship came from a place where English was spoken.  It remained in dock for a long time without anyone departing.  Finally, Nicholas spied a figure coming down the gangway . . .

He reached deep within the pocket of his battered greatcoat, his fingers clutching the ring Andrew had given him.  As the figure came closer, Nicholas could make out his features. Compared to himself, or his friend, the man did not seem all that imposing of height.  He wore his dark, graying hair in a tight queue beneath a black hat.  He glanced about discreetly, his eyes--a deep, silver shade, Nicholas noted when he came close enough to do so--finally resting upon Nicholas.  This must be the father-in-law Andrew had spoken of... He stepped in the direction of the man, purposefully bumping into him.  

<Nicholas> Oh!  Excuse me, sir...how clumsy of me.  ::he stepped back, flinging his hands in the air with a nervous "oh, dear!" gesture--with luck the man would notice the flash of the ring and think to look closely upon it...::

<Chauvelin> ::like the astute man he is, sees that there is something shiny in the man's hand that he seems eager to be seen--he looks the man straight in the face::  Don't concern yourself over it--there's no harm done.  You did not drop anything you were carrying, I hope?  ::gesturing to his hand, where something still glints::

<Nicholas> ::nearly sags with relief when he notes that the man is French, and he pulls the ring from his finger, quickly showing the man the seal:: Does this mean something to you?

<Chauvelin> ::glances briefly at the ring and sees the familiar symbol--quickly closes the man's fingers back over it, glancing around without turning his head, murmuring softly so that only he can hear::  More than you know.  Put it away before someone else sees it.  ::sighs::  If my guess is right, your name would be Nicholas Elliot?

<Nicholas> ::nods:: And you are the father-in-law.  But where are the others?  Still aboard? ::quietly::

<Chauvelin> ::bites his lip to hide a derisive sneer--now is not the time to worry over trifles like being labeled "the father-in-law"--and offers his hand for Nicholas to shake::  Armand Chauvelin, Mr. Elliot.  They are aboard--we could not be sure it was safe yet for them to embark.  Your country is less than amiable to Englishmen these days.

<Nicholas> That may have been the wisest of choices.  How many are aboard?

<Chauvelin> Eleven, not counting the sailors.  Let us walk--it's less suspicious.  ::sets off at a moderate pace towards the city::  Know you of some place where we will not be disturbed?

<Nicholas> Follow me.  ::almost as if he's conversing about the weather:: My family owns a small goods store not far from here.  I've had the cellar prepared--the lodgings will not be the most comfortable, but they will do.

<Chauvelin> ::grins slightly:: Believe me, Mr. Elliot--comfort is one thing we are not counting on.

<Nicholas> ::his eyes sparkling with mischief:: Then you won't be disappointed.  Come...it's this way. 

<Chauvelin> ::follows him, speaking in a low voice::  I assume you have seen him.

<Nicholas> Almost a week ago.  There's no--need to worry about his health.  The guards are negligent, but they are not cruel.  I've done what I could to bring him food and other necessities.  

<Chauvelin> ::nods::  Is he closely guarded?

<Nicholas> ::nods:: Yes.  Some of the guards are easier to slip past than others.  The only opportunities I've had to make my visits are while one guard--Michael Grady--was on duty.  He was a family friend, long ago...and a man easily bribed.

<Chauvelin> That could prove useful, if their captain doesn't catch on.

<Nicholas> We've been quite lucky so far.... ::doesn't speak the unspoken 'But for how long?'::  This is the building. ::opens the latch on a gate::

<Chauvelin> ::follows him through the gate::  And I suppose he's been questioned, though I can't begin to guess what they think he knows . . .

<Nicholas> When I asked him, he told me that he had been visited by the captain and another associate quite recently--and quite a few times.

<Chauvelin> ::pauses::  Another associate?  Do you know anything of him? ::murmuring:: It will complicate things, if he's being watched by more than just the guard . . .

<Nicholas> ::shakes head:: Nothing at all. I've found nothing out about the man.  All I know is what Andrew's told me--and that is the fact that he is not American.

<Chauvelin> ::furrows brow, perplexed:: Not American . . .

<Nicholas> ::leads him into the cellar of the building:: I know nothing of his nationality, m'sieur, only that Andrew has heard him called "The Foreigner", which is why I know he is not American.

<Chauvelin> ::follows him in with a nod:: We will know more about him later.  ::looking around::  There's enough space here . . . no possibility of search?

<Nicholas> ::shakes head:: None whatsoever.  My parents--when they were alive--were well respected within this community.  And my sister's husband--is still treated with the same.  They will not look here. 

<Chauvelin> ::catches the phrase "when they were alive" and sighs, but passes over it::  How are food stores?  Will there be enough here, or should we plan on foraging for food?

<Nicholas> There's no need to worry---there are more than enough.

<Chauvelin> ::smiles wryly::  We would not have worried if there hadn't been.  ::sighs, in finality::  This will be fine.  Thank you, Mr. Elliot.  But now, there is the problem of getting the rest off the ship and to this cellar without arousing suspicion--if I'm not mistaken, the port is being watched.

<Nicholas> It will be difficult, but not impossible.  My brother-in-law had been expecting a shipment of dried goods this week--none of which have arrived.  I would assume that your men could pass for sailors, correct?

<Chauvelin> Undoubtedly.  ::thinks for a moment::  In fact, I believe they have before.

<Nicholas> If you have any crates--barrels--sacks even, you could hide the lightest and smallest.  The others can drag them out, and we'll have a wagon waiting.

<Chauvelin> ::grins, mumbling::  They came in in barrels.  They can very well go out in them as well.  ::nods::  I think that will work.  You'll excuse me, though, sir, if I . . . consult with my associates on this? . . .

<Nicholas> ::grins a little:: Your answer was...enigmatic, sir.  But, please, consult with your friends.  We haven't much time--if you agree, you must let me know as quickly as possible.  I will meet you not far from where we met earlier--at dawn.  It is the busiest hour for sailors, and the time when our meeting will go unnoticed.

<Chauvelin> The hour is ideal.  Until dawn tomorrow, then.  I'll send word to you whether we agree or not by sunset.

<Nicholas> I'll be waiting for your missive.

<Chauvelin> ::nods, shaking Nicholas' hand again:: Au revoir . . . ::oddly, he doesn't notice he's speaking in French::

Chauvelin leaves the cellar and, keeping an eye on his surroundings, makes his way back to the ship

<Chauvelin> ::boards the ship, careful to take one last glance at those milling around the docks--wary of prying eyes....::

One of the sailors, busy securing a rope on the deck of the ship, speaks to him in a low voice, though he never breaks stride in his work:  

<Sailor> What did you see?

<Chauvelin> ::quietly:: Come belowdecks.  I wish only to go through this once.

<Percy> ::nods curtly::  Yes.  ::ties off the rope and, casually, goes down to the storehold below::

Belowdecks, Chauvelin strips off his coat, laying it over the back of one chair, his hands unconsciously clasping at the back, while he waits for everyone to join them...

<Percy> ::sits in a chair, lost in thought, rubbing his hands together absently--watches as, slowly, they all enter.  Tony, of course, is the last one ;-)::  Tony lags behind as usual . . . ::his tone makes it clear there will be no ribbing this time:: Chauvelin?  Your news?

<Chauvelin> I met with young Elliot--he was wearing Andrew's signet ring.  ::forces himself to stay in one place and not pace:: He last saw Andrew a week ago--but he has not be harmed. Only questioned.

<William> ::sighs somewhat in relief::

<Percy> Questioned . . . does Elliot know what about?

<Chauvelin> ::shakes his head:: All he knows is that, officially, Andrew is being held as a spy.  He's guarded heavily and--one of the men involved in his arrest is a foreigner.

<Tony> A foreigner?  Certainly . . .

<Percy> We can't be sure.  He could be of any nationality . . .

<Chauvelin> Whoever he may be, from what Elliot has told me, he has been wary of revealing his identity to anyone--including Andrew

<Percy> But, if he IS French, we could be heading into some danger.

<Richard> ::under his breath, to Peter:: SOME danger?

<Tony> ::glares at his son warningly::

<Chauvelin> ::pauses, trying to shake the nagging suspicion from his mind:: Elliot has...arranged a place for us.  He owns a mercantile and can arrange for us to be taken their at dawn, if it is acceptable

<Percy> ::nods::  He has arranged a transport, then?

<Chauvelin> There will be a wagon waiting--we are to costume ourselves in the garb of sailors.  The children can be hidden in their crates and barrels... ::grins a little:: ...again.

<Richard> and <Peter> ::in unison:: Again?

<Tony> If you behave, we won't throw you in the harbor.

<Chauvelin> I told him that I would discuss the plan with you and, if all were agreeable, I would send word.

<Percy> ::grins::  It worked once.  It ought to work again.  ::nods::  It's well thought-of.

<Chauvelin> ::quietly:: The boy seems to have a good head upon his shoulders.  He will be a great help.

<Percy> Send word to him that we'll be waiting at dawn.  Children, I suggest you spend the night in your various barrels and crates--get accustomed to them.  You may have to be in them for a long time.

<Andrew> Come, Dewhurst--we'll find some costumes to slip into.  

<Tony> ::glances at Percy with a grin::  Doesn't look like Percy's going to have to.

<Percy> ::glances at his own garb::  Sink me, I think you're right . . . no clothes-change for me tonight . . .

<Chauvelin> ::wrinkles his nose:: As usual, Blakeney, your costume is perfect.  You even smell like the fish.

<Chauvelin> ::sighs wearily:: I'll send word off immediately.  

<Percy> ::nods, falling once more into thoughtfulness::  Yes, the sun is beginning to set . . .

<William> ::excitedly, to the other young 'uns::  So, it begins tomorrow . . .

<Alice>  ::quietly:: May God be with us all . . .

Scene XII:  An English Mob

When dawn broke, the first rays of the sun fell on a lively scene at the port. Sailors went to and from the several ships, singing snatches of songs and joking amiably with their companions, as they rolled barrels and carried crates to shore. The unidentified ship was no different--if anything, it was even more commonplace. Its crewmen were currently engaged in a spirited rendition of an old French drinking song--surely, a sign of friendly tendencies . . .

In a town which relied on it's trade as much as this small town did, one ship was hardly discernable from the other. One sailor was much like the other. And it was for this reason that the crew of the “Sparrow’s Flight” went unnoticed as they began loading their barrels and crates into the wagon that awaited. When the last crate had found it's  place under the wagon's heavy tarp, the crewmen joined their booty...

<William> ::turns over in his barrel, making a slight noise::

<Percy> ::brings a fist down on the barrel thunderously at the noise:: All ready 'ere, mates?

<William> ::in the barrel, winces and rubs his ears in pain::

<Andrew> ::takes his place on the wagon:: All ready 'ere!

<Percy> Then let's get movin'. Master Jameson's awaitin' them stores . . . ::hops on the back of the wagon, and rather sprightly, too, for a man approaching fifty::

<Nicholas> ::in the front of the wagon, he slaps the reigns to the horses...::

<Tony> ::jumps onto the seat of the wagon as it begins to start:: 'Ere, lad, you sure you know wot yer doing with them beasts?

<Nicholas> ::grins wickedly:: Don't trust me?

<Tony> ::holds onto his hair as the wagon goes over a sharp bump:: No, don't suppose I do . . .

<Nicholas> I wouldn't worry too much...it's a short trip.

<Percy> ::calls out:: And you can thank your gods for that, Malone . . . you know how nervous you get . . .

<Andrew> ::chuckles in the back::

<Tony> ::sulks:: Don't know what you're talking 'bout . . .

<Chauvelin> ::scowls as they hit another rut in the road, but manages to speak in a passable, English 'Frenchie in da hood' accent:: There, there, laddie...not a thing to be ashamed of.

<Tony> ::turns red:: Who's ashamed?

<Percy> Calm yourself, Malone. We're comin' up on the place now.

<Nicholas> ::leads the wagon around the back of the building:: Welcome, gentlemen.

<Percy> ::hops off the back of the wagon quickly, a finger to his lips signaling--needlessly--for silence::

<Nicholas> Come, gentlemen! The sooner we heave these crates inside, the sooner you all will be paid....

Quietly, with only a few rough jests, they unload the wagon and carry the crates and barrels into the cellar

<Nicholas> ::helps set the last crate down:: I'll just go put the wagon away. Please...make yourselves comfortable.

<Percy> ::nods:: Thank you . . . ::he walks over to a barrel and raps on the outside:: You can come out now.

<Peter> ::pulls himself out of his crate:: I thought that ride would never END...

<Tony> ::chuckles:: That was a short ride. You have no idea . . . ::pounds on another barrel:: Get out of there. We don't have time for you to be lounging in barrels all day.

<Richard> ::crawling out, stretching his cramped legs:: Lounging?

<Mary> ::irritated:: You all could look chagrined, at the VERY least. You are supposed to *love* us all *desperately*.

<Percy>  ::grins:: We do love you all *desperately*, as you put it, Mary. However, we also enjoy watching you rue what you so pointedly brought on yourselves. You DID insist on coming, I remind you . . .

<Peter> ::whispers to his cousin:: And they'll be shoving THAT back at us for months to come...

<James> ::grins:: Shhhh.

<Tony> ::whispers to the boys:: And you'll deserve every bit of it.

<Nicholas> ::re-enters the cellar, unable to hide his surprise at the 'stowaways'. They're...children!...::

<Percy> ::glances around at their offspring:: Much to our dismay, yes, they tend to be like that for a few years . . . our children, Mr. Elliot.

<Nicholas> But...how do you expect...I mean....it's far too dangerous!

<Percy> ::with a "look" at William and Katharine:: I don't suppose they took that into consideration when they stowed away on our ship. But if they don't learn the danger of it now, I'm afraid they'll only get themselves into more trouble later on . . . ::grins:: Our family's notorious for that.

<Tony> They're really not all that much younger than you are yourself, Mr. Elliot.

<William> ::steps forward with his hand outstretched and an expression on his face that just DARES Nicholas to make another remark about his being a "child":: How do you do, Mr. Elliot. I'm William--Andrew's younger brother. But not by much.

<Nicholas> ::weakly takes William's hand, shaking it:: I...suppose it would do me no good to argue?

<Katharine> ::grins at him:: None, sir. ::feebly attempts to curtsey to him in the male clothes she's been wearing for the past few weeks:: I'm Katharine, Andrew's sister.

<Peter> ::grins, elbowing her sharply:: Although you couldn't tell from the looks of her! I'm Peter...Chauvelin. Brother in law. And my cousins, James and....

<Mary> ::scowls:: We can speak for ourselves, Peter. Ffoulkes. James and Mary Ffoulkes.

<Nicholas> ::arches an eyebrow at the snobbishly voiced introduction::

<Richard> And I'm Richard Dewhurst. This is my sister . . .

<Alice> ::not to be outdone by Mary, who's a year her junior:: Alice. Alice Dewhurst. A pleasure, sir.

<Nicholas> ::clears his throat....:: There isn't...anyone else in hiding? IS there?

<Tony> No, this is all of us. All one, big . . . well, we're a mob, anyway.

<Nicholas> ::sitting on one of the closed barrels: If all goes well, I was hoping to arrange a meeting with Andrew this evening. He needs to know that you have all arrived...safely...

<Percy> You meet with him often?

<Nicholas> ::shakes head:: Chance has only favored me a few times since his imprisonment. 

<Percy> ::smiles faintly, nodding:: Chance and I are well acquainted, sir. Hopefully, she will favor us a few more times in the future.  ::continuing:: Do you think it would be possible for one of us to get near him? Perhaps to speak with him?

<Nicholas> It could be...arranged.

<Percy> See what you can do about arranging it.

<Nicholas> ::nods:: I'll do what I can....

<Percy> ::quietly:: Thank you for what you are doing. I don't imagine it's easy for you.

<Nicholas> ::turns, and quietly:: Andrew is a good friend. I would do anything to help him.

<Percy> Even betray your country? ::smiles:: Such strong friendships are rare, Mr. Elliot.

<Andrew> ::glancing at Percy with an almost-ashamed grin:: Rare, but not unheard-of.

<Nicholas> ::murmurs:: I know he would do the same for me.

<Percy> In that case, I have good reason to be proud of him. ::looks to the door:: Do what you can about arranging passage for one of us tonight.

<William> Let me go, Father. I can do it.

<Percy> ::shakes his head:: No. We may only have one chance, and the danger of discovery is too great . . . one of us will.

<Chauvelin> ::hesitantly:: I will go.

<Percy> ::slowly, nods:: That might be best, citizen. It is less of a risk. ::sighs:: I wish to God it could be me . . .

<Chauvelin> ::glances over at Blakeney with a look akin to sympathy passing briefly across his features::

<Percy> ::looks back to Nicholas:: If a little-known French official could possibly get in to see the prisoner this evening and speak to him alone for a few moments, it would be extremely helpful. No offense to you intended, but the American accent is hard to maintain without much practice for a very long time--if he poses as American, it might slip unawares.

<Nicholas> Of course. If Monsieur were to speak in his native tongue--the less the guards understand, the better, I should think.

<Percy> ::nods:: Well thought-of. Chauvelin, you do agree?

<Chauvelin> I do. ::grumbles half-heartedly:: It has been so long since I've the opportunity to speak in my 'native tongue' as Elliot called it.

<Peter> ::pipes in quickly:: Except when he's angry with Maman, then he...

<Chauvelin> ::sends an annoyed glance in his son's direction::

<Peter> ::shrugs helplessly::

<William> ::with a grin:: You'd do better to hold your tongue from now on, Peter.

<Peter> ::glares at his friend;: Quiet, you.

<Percy> We'll find an official-looking suit of clothes for you to wear, then. In fact, your own habitual black would work extremely well.  This time, however, the sash will have to remain missing, I fear.

<Chauvelin> ::shortly:: We'll worry about my attire. Elliot, perhaps you should...visit the prison. Be sure we will not be interrupting any business with our visit.

<Nicholas> ::nods his agreement:: I will do that.

<Tony> ::wryly:: Percy, I think you offended him . . .

<Percy>  Did I? I most humbly apologize, citizen . . . the remark should never have been made . . .

<Chauvelin> ::wryly:: Don't apologize, Blakeney. I does not suit you.

<Richard> ::chuckling, to William and Peter:: Fellows, perhaps you should separate your fathers . . .

<William> No, I don't think so.  Father can just get out of this one on his own.

<Percy> You ingrate, I should have thrown you into the sea when I had the chance.

<Chauvelin> There's always the chance. I'd remember that, children.

<Katharine> True, brother. There's always the voyage home.

<William> Did I ever tell you that you make your remarks at the most inopportune times?

<Nicholas> ::chuckles:: With that, I will leave you. I don't want to find myself dragged into any family squabbles...

<Katharine> Mr. Elliot, this family always squabbles. Save yourself while you can.

<Nicholas> ::bows congenially:: And so I shall, Mistress Katherine. As I said before--please make yourselves comfortable. You will not be disturbed. I shall return soon.

Scene XIII:  A Familiar Voice

<Nicholas> Evenin', Grady . . .

<Guard> ::sees the two approaching and he straightens, rising from his battered chair:: Who goes there? ::grins:: Ah...young Master Nicholas.  

<Nicholas> 'S only me . . . ::slips a bottle into the guard's hand::  And there's what you're waiting for, I think.  ::grins::  I've just brought along a guest of the house, from France . . . ::gestures to Chauvelin, beside him::

<Guard> You've come to see the young prisoner, then?  ::whispers in a conspiratorial manner::

<Nicholas> Just for a few minutes.  Levieux here wants to see him.  You know about the French and the English and their mutual disagreements.

<Guard> ::shrugs:: Don't see any harm in it.  Go on inside... 

<Nicholas> I'll tell m'cousin to send extra for you next time, Grady, I promise you. 

<Guard> ::cheerfully calls after them:: You do that, Master Nicholas!

<Chauvelin> ::having kept silent this entire time, he strides quickly through the halls at Nicholas' side::

<Nicholas> ::whispers::  It's not far.  Just down this hall.

<Chauvelin> ::seeming amazed at the silence that surrounds them, he whispers quietly:: Is the prison always this...empty?

<Nicholas> ::uncomfortably:: Not always . . . we haven't had a lot of arrests lately, and they've been stepping up the trials.

<Chauvelin> ::nods, filing this information away....::

<Nicholas> They'll catch up with the arresting sooner or later, though.  The war's just started.  We haven't had enough time for the real hysteria to set in . . . ::stops in front of a door::  Here.

<Chauvelin> ::stops:: Are you coming inside?

<Nicholas> ::shakes his head::  I'll watch here.  I'll knock on the door if I see someone coming . . . you can better do what you need to without me.

<Chauvelin> ::reaches out to open the door:: That would be for the best.

<Nicholas> ::nods::  We usually get twenty or thirty minutes.  After that, the patrols can come through the halls at any moment.  I'll be waiting.

<Chauvelin> ::enters the cell, shutting the door quietly behind him::

<Andrew> ::looks up, unsure::  Nicholas?  It's a bit early for another visit . . .

<Chauvelin> ::quietly:: No....not Nicholas.  Although he is outside.

<Andrew> ::sighs in relief--he recognizes that voice::  You came . . . ::first question on his mind::  How is Sophie, monsieur?

<Chauvelin> She is well.... ::a smile comes to his lips:: It took a great deal of persuasion, but we convinced her it was in the best interest of herself and...the child...to remain in England.

<Andrew> ::smiles himself::  Congratulations . . . she can be quite stubborn when she wants to be, you know.

<Chauvelin> :dryly:: Of course.  ::reaches into his pocket, pulling something out:: I have something to return to you....

<Andrew> ::reaches out and takes the ring::  I guess I should keep this . . . for posterity, a family heirloom, I suppose . . . ::turns serious:: How many came?

<Chauvelin> Your father, of course...and myself.  Sir Andrew and Lord Antony.  And... the children.  ::can't hide the smirk that crosses his lips::

<Andrew> ::blinks::  The children?  William, Peter, James, Richard?  Why on earth did Father allow them . . .

<Chauvelin> Not only the boys--your sister, my niece.... ::shakes head:: We had no choice in the matter.  They stowed aboard.

<Andrew> ::sighs, shaking his head:: The stubborn fools . . . ::looks up at him::  Any orders for me?

<Chauvelin> ::shakes head:: There is...some plan whirling about in your father's mind--of that I know.  The only word he sends is to remain wary--and keep on the watch for us.

<Andrew> ::nods::  Then it is more of the same . . . ::sighs wearily, coughing a little::  I will be wary.

<Chauvelin> ::a worried shadow crossing his eyes:: Are you unwell?

<Andrew> ::grins a bit:: The food here does nothing to improve my condition, I assure you . . . I am as well as I can be, living in a prison cell.

<Chauvelin> ::tries to return the smile, but his reply comes out more serious than he had planned:: That much had best be true....we have been given the strictest of orders not to return to England without you.  These American soldiers have no idea the foes we face at home....

<Nicholas> ::knocks softly, urgently, on the door::

<Chauvelin> ::glances anxiously at the door:: I must go....remember what I said.

<Andrew> ::only nods::

<Chauvelin> ::exits the cell, sparing the young man a backwards glance::

<de Guinterre> ::striding down the hall towards the cell, a determined look on his face::

<Chauvelin> ::quietly, to Nicholas:: Let's leave this place...quickly.

<de Guinterre> ::looks up at the voice::  Who speaks?  Who is there?  ::switches to French, quickening his pace::  Qui va la?

<Nicholas> ::wide-eyed, nods quickly to Chauvelin and starts down the hall, all but running::

<Chauvelin> ::almost halts in his step--that voice piercing through the foggy layers of long-forgotten memories....but who?--forces himself to continue, matching the younger man's quick step::

<de Guinterre> ::just barely sees two figures disappear out of sight as they pass a torch fixed to the side of the corridor--one, a young man in a brown coat, and the other, a slightly taller, considerably older man . . . dressed completely in black . . . winded, he slows down, but his eyes are wide in shock; calls out::  Arrete!  Stop them!  Guards!  ::but, it is too late!::

<Chauvelin> ::head out into the dark, cold night, breathing hard--unable to believe the voice he heard....::

<Nicholas> ::pulls him into the shadow::  I know a back way.

<Chauvelin> ::follows him:: This is the safest route?

<Nicholas>  Maybe, maybe not.  But it's one I'm almost sure they don't know about.

<Chauvelin> Good... let us hurry, then....

<Nicholas> ::nods, leading the way back to the cellar with quick step::

Scene XIV:  Deja Vu

<Nicholas> ::enters the cellar behind Chauvelin, barring the door::

<Percy> ::stands up:: How was he?

<Chauvelin> ::distracted, still thinking of the other Frenchman in the prison:: No...worse for the wear, Blakeney.  Tired.  Hungry.  But he will be fine...

<Percy> ::sighs in relief, mirroring his son's earlier reaction::

<Chauvelin> ::shortly:: We have more to worry over now.... ::turns to Nicholas:: The man in the prison...did you recognize his voice?  

<William> and <Katharine> ::grasp each others' hands reassuringly::

<Nicholas> ::shrugs helplessly:: A stranger to me...

<Percy> ::a little alarmed::  Who was in the prison?

<Chauvelin> I was in the cell...and young Elliot saw him.  As we turned to go, he called out to us--first in English, heavily accented.  And then....in French.  Somehow...I knew his voice.

<Percy> In French?  Why would he call in French? . . . an American? . . .

<Chauvelin> ::quietly:: A Frenchman.

<Tony> A Frenchman overseeing a Boston prison?  Why on earth . . .

<Percy> ::taking a deep breath--this isn't sounding good::  Do you know who he was?

<Nicholas> He must have been....the man who's had Andrew held all this time.  The foreigner....

<Chauvelin> ::slowly, as the thoughts flit in and out:: A Frenchman....forced to leave his country...

<Percy> The one keeping him from being brought to trial . . . holding him, for some reason . . . some kind of plot? . . .

<Chauvelin> ::curses, as he finally remembers the voice:: 

<Percy> ::turns to him::  You know him?

<Chauvelin> We all know him, Blakeney.  ::bitterly:: A vengeful man with nothing left to lose. 

<Percy> ::swallows on his rising dread, trying to deny it::  I've known several in my life . . .

<Chauvelin> ::hissing the name with disgust:: de Guinterre.

<Tony> ::starts up with a curse of his own::  What?  Still alive?

<Percy> ::brings a clenched fist down on the chair beside him::

<Andrew> ::pales, whispering:: And now he has us all where he wants us...

<Percy> ::quietly::  Did he see you?

<Nicholas> ::Shakes his head, watching in confusion:: We...can't be sure.  IT was dark....so perhaps...he didn't.

<Alice> ::to her brother, in a frightened voice::  What . . . does this mean? . . .

<Richard> ::shakes his head at her, not quite sure himself, but certain it's not good::

<Peter> ::raises his own voice, confused:: Who do you speak of?  de Guinterre....was Grandmaman's name, before she married?  Was it not?  Uncle Andrew?

<Percy> ::sighs::  Well, gentlemen, we seem to be right back where we started.

<Andrew> ::Glances from the children back to his friend:: What do we tell them, Percy? ::quietly::

<Percy> ::looks back at Andrew::  As much as you dare, Ffoulkes.  It's up to you, and the citizen . . .

<Andrew> ::exchanges a glance with Chauvelin, who bows his head in acquiescence:: De Guinterre was....the older brother of my mother. He's held a--grudge--against us for many years.  During the Terror, he used all of his power to...have his revenge.  We thought he had died....

<Tony> It would have been better if he had.

<Andrew> ::nods:: I couldn't agree more.

<William> ::softly:: He knows about Father, doesn't he?

<Chauvelin> ::quietly:: He does.

<Katharine> ::bites her lip hard, to hide its quivering--reaches again for William's hand::

<Nicholas> ::sighs, sitting wearily down::

<Percy> ::smiles, reassuringly, at the children::  We're not beaten yet.  Far from it.

<Andrew> ::grins at Tony:: We may not be as young as we once were, but de Guinterre is *much*older.  I'd wager even Tony could out-run him. 

<Tony> I'd wager I could out-run YOU, Ffoulkes, if I hadn't left the bulk of my funds at home.

<Andrew> ::chuckles:: I'll remember that when we return home, Dewhurst.

<Richard> ::a little unsure::  It's not bad, then?

<Tony> ::sighs::  Richard, it is bad.  It almost always is, to some degree.  The point is, it's been much worse before.

<Andrew> This simply means that we must all act with more care... ::looks at his brother-in-law:: And try not to allow the past to interfere with the present.

<Percy> We may have lost a bit of our freedom, but we haven't lost.

<Chauvelin> ::softly:: And we will not.

<William> ::whispers:: Never.

<Peter> ::smiles at his cousins and friends, echoing William's sentiment:: Never.

<Percy> ::grins at them all, reiterating it one more time::  Never.

Scene XV:

The cellar is half-empty today. Some of its occupants--namely, Percy, Andrew, Tony, James, Richard, and Katharine (who was never one to mind gender separations)--have gone out into the city to learn the lay of its streets. When they leave, it will be important that they know how to.

Those who remain in the cellar work diligently. Mary, having been put to work with a needle, adjusts costumes that will be needed in hte near future. Her uncle, the former Citizen, pores over a hastily scribbled map of the prison--setting it to memory. Peter and William talk in quiet, hushed tones, as they do something incredbily-important-but-beyond-Callies-reasoning... 

The door opens quickly, admitting a pale, haggard figure, panting from the run he's just had. He stumbles to the nearest chair and sits heavily.

<Nicholas> ::burying face in hands:: Oh, my God . . .

<Chauvelin> ::rises abruptly:: Elliot....what's happened?

<William> ::looks up from his conversation quickly:: What is it? Something's wrong?

<Nicholas> It's . . . Grady. You remember, m'sieur, the guard I knew? . . . ::sighs with difficulty:: He's been shot. Military . . . execution . . .

<Mary> ::her needle drops:: Execution? He was executed?

<Nicholas> ::shaking badly:: We grew up together . . . I went to grade school with him . . .

<William> ::walks over to place a hand on his shoulder comfortingly:: Why was he executed, Nicholas?

<Nicholas> ::glances up at him sadly:: Why else? Conspiring with the enemy. Namely, your brother.

<Chauvelin> ::sighs, quietly:: I am...sorry, Nicholas.

<Alice> ::enters from the small next room in time to hear the news, and drops the costumes she was carrying:: I . . .

<Nicholas> Someone must have found out that I'd been bribing him to see Andrew. It's my fault. I shouldn't have been so careless . . .

<William> ::alarmed:: They know you were bribing him?

<Nicholas> ::disoriented:: No, I . . . I'm not sure, they could . . . I don't know . . .

<Mary> ::firmly:: Don't be silly--you've taken a great deal of care....this is not your fault.

<Chauvelin> I must agree with Mary--none of this is your fault. We don't know for sure WHY he was executed. They could have been using his execution to lure us out.

<Nicholas> He didn't even know why I wanted to see the prisoner so often. He trusted me . . . we'd known each other since we were old enough to talk . . . ::blinks at Chauvelin:: Is it possible they would kill a man for no other reason than that?

<Chauvelin> ::eyes steely, as he thinks on de Guinterre:: Yes. *He* would.

<Nicholas> I just keep thinking, that . . . there was something I could have done to prevent it . . .

<William> You couldn't. I get the feeling that there's something more behind this than just a charge of accepting bribes.

<Mary> ::softly, her gaze meeting Nicholas':: You must stop thinking that way. Your friend is gone now--and if you allow yourself to wallow in such guilt, you could place yourself in danger.

<Nicholas> ::quietly:: In danger? We're all in danger, Mary . . .

<Peter> ::interrupting:: There's no reason to make things any worse now....the situation is bad enough.

<William> Yes, it is . . . and he may be in greater danger already.

<Peter> We should find Sir Percy and the others. They all need to know of this...development. William and I could....

<Chauvelin> ::scowls:: You will both stay here--all of you will. If they do not return soon enough, I will go.

<Alice> ::picking up the needle that Mary dropped and beginning to sew on the costumes SHE dropped:: I hope this doesn't make things more difficult than they already are . . .

<Mary> ::presses a lukewarm cup of tea into Nicholas' hands, without word::

<Nicholas> ::looks up absently:: Thank you.

<Mary> ::quietly, as she re-joins Alice and the sewing:: You're welcome.

<Nicholas> ::sips at the tea and sets down the cup:: Do you need . . . help? I . . . know how to use a needle a little, and I need to do something . . .

<Mary> ::unable to hide the startled look in her eyes:: You know how to use a needle?

<Nicholas> ::smiles, grateful for the diversion from his thoughts:: Mother died when we were very young . . . I taught myself somewhat. We all did what we had to, my brothers and I.

<Mary> ::smiles:: Well--if you would.... we could use the help. ::lifts the basket from the floor and places it beside Nicholas:: These wretched young men never learned...poor Alice and I would be most grateful.

<William> ::thankful for the lightening mood:: Wretched young men? I'm insulted, Mary Ffoulkes, I really am.

<Nicholas> ::grins and threads a needle with moderate skill::

<Peter> ::grins, as well:: Come, William....she doesn't appreciate us anymore. ::winks at his cousin, who glares::

<Nicholas> ::reaches for a costume in the pile--his hand rests slightly on Mary's, who is also reaching for another to mend::

<Mary> ::glances down at their hands, her cheeks pinkening, but she doesn't rush to move her own away...::

<Nicholas> ::blushes slightly as well, but only moves his hand away slowly::

<William> ::notices the slight contact, and turns away to Peter with a smile:: You were saying before, Peter? . . .

<Peter> ::grins:: Oh...nothing. Let's get to work, friend.

<William> ::grins:: Indeed. To work, young Chauvelin.

<Alice> ::mutters:: Work, indeed.

<Mary> ::giggles uncomfortably::

<Nicholas> ::chuckles--equally uncomfortably::

Scene XVI:  Well, not yet.

When last we left our brave heroes (and transplanted villain), they had just discovered the horrible news that a guard whom they did not know at all and had next to no contact with but who grew up in the same neighborhood as their new-found American contact had been brutally and systematically executed by the (ominous music) scumbag de Guinterre . . .

(Gasps of horror from terrified female-actress)

<Percy> I'll save you, darling Margot!  I'll save you!

<Margot> I'm not in this story, Percy, remember?

<Percy> Oh, right.  Well then, who was screaming?  I'll save you, whoever you are! . . .

<Chauvelin> ::mutters::  Twit.

<Terrified Actress> ::throws herself into Chauvelin's arms:: I want HIM to save me!  ::hits the floor when Chauvelin doesn't try to hold her:: Ouch.

<Percy> ::looks on, blinking in confusion::  Then what am I supposed to do?

<Omnipotent narrator> Ahh, Percy, there's a little matter of your son being in jail and all . . .

<Percy> ::a light of comprehension dawns across his face::  Ah, that would be a bad thing, yes!  To the prison, men!

<Andrew> Percy, are you feeling quite yourself today?  You seem a little . . . disoriented . . .

<Margot> ::melodramatically:: Oh, Percy, Percy, my LOVE!  Why have you changed so?

<Percy> Margot, I thought you weren't in this story?

<Margot> Oh, right.  Sorry.  ::ducks offstage::

<Ducks> Quack, quack . . .

<Omnipotent narrator> NOT that kind of ducks!  Idiot stage managers . . .

<Robespierre> ::pops on:: Did someone say ducks?

<Chauvelin> You're thinking of the geese, not ducks.  ::grumbles:: 

<Robespierre> AH, yes...the geese.  That was lovely, wasn't it?  

<Chauvelin> You're supposed to be dead, you know...

<Stage manager> ::pops in with a history book:: Yes, Maximilien Robespierre . . . beheaded at the guillotine July 25, 1794, or thereabouts . . . they called it the ninth of something called Thermidor . . .

<Robespierre> Technicalities.

<Narrator> You are DEAD, Robespierre.  Literally.  So disappear.

<Chauvelin> ::waits until Robespierre turns around in a huff, before sticking his tongue out at him and waggling his fingers bye-bye::

<Percy> I still don't know what I'm supposed to be doing here.  

<Narrator> You're the HERO, for goodness' sakes.  Just be . . . heroic.  

<Percy> ::pause::  And that would include . . . ?

<Narrator> ::throws up hands in defeat:: I give up.  Where do they get these characters they send me?

<Michele> ::helpfully:: I think we optioned out A&E.... "Heroes for Hire: The Cheaper the Better"

<Tony> ::appears suddenly::  A&E?  Oh, dear . . . does that mean I have to die again?

<Chauvelin> And I have to shoot him again, and sleep with that slut . . . all while looking like . . . ::shudders:: Martin Shaw?

<Narrator> ::swallows:: NO!  Never in my story!  We'll have to . . . improvise, but that is DEFINITELY not an option.

<Lucy> ::shouts:: WHAT did YOU CALL ME?

<Michele> I don't think he meant you.  You should whack him for it, nonetheless.

<Chauvelin> Lucy, darling, I don't think you understand . . . did you even watch those abominations of movies? . . . ::begins to back away::  

<Lucy> Armand, when I catch up with you . . .

<Peter> ::whispers to William:: We really don't want to know.

<Not-Nearly-So-Omni-Potent-Narrator-Deux> Spousal Abuse in the 19th Century on the Next Jerry Springer...

<Jehan> Jerry Springer?  That stupid TV show?  How'd you ever book it?  

<Narrator> ::wearily:: You're in the wrong genre, PoetGirl.  Get out before I knife you.

<Jehan> Hmph.  I try to help . . .

<Narrator> ::brandishes the knife threateningly, and not quite sanely::

<Jehan> ::amazingly and rather quickly, disappears::

<Assistant Director> Narrator, we're running overtime!  Get this party started or you're fired!  ::goes off mumbling about Non-Equity voice-over artists::

<Narrator> ::yells back::  Look, I've got obstacles to overcome here!  I'm working with second-rate--no, third--no, not even that high--heck, they scraped the bottom of the barrel on me!

<Percy> ::idly:: I suggest we get on with this.

<Narrator> ::snaps:: And what do you know, imbecile?  ::takes several deep and hyperventilating breaths:: Okay.  Okay.  Let's start over, people.

<Chauvelin> ::mutters:: Does this mean we actually have to work now?

<Narrator> ::testily:: Yes.

<Chauvelin> ::calls:: Coffee Break's over, boys.... they're making us WORK now. ::snickers::

<Andrew> Demmit all.  This means I have to get back into character... ::hides his whisky bottle, rubs at the stubble on his chin::

<Mary> ::waves a hand in front of her nose:: You might want to think about bathing... I know we're supposed to be in hiding, but really...

<Narrator> AS I was saying . . . the guard of which our heroes (excepting the ever-ready American colleague Nicholas) had no knowledge had just been brutally murdered by the military executioner . . . ANDREW!!!  No drinking on the set!  Quiet!!!

<Percy> Whoa.  Calm down.

<Narrator> ::panting::  Okay.  Scene begins, who cares about set up, let's get on with this insanity!!!!

<All> ::in unison:: SLAVEDRIVER!


NOW, Scene XVI:  Charmed, We're Sure . . .

<Random guard> ::enters, clears his throat::  Governor Harrison, sir . . . there's some men here to see you.

<Harrison> Send them in...

<Chauvelin> ::enters the office, two of his fellow `officials` flanking him::

<Guard> ::nods::  Yes, sir.  ::pokes his head out the door::  Come in, m'sieurs . . . ahh, entrez-vous? . . . err . . .

<Harrison> ::looks up at the trio::  And you, sirs, would be . . . ?

<Chauvelin> ::makes a clipped, polite bow:: You do not know then?  I am Levieux--the emissary....

<Harrison> ::slightly more enlightened by this::  Ahh, yes, Levieux . . . welcome to Boston, m'sieur.  And your companions?

<Chauvelin> ::nods in the direction of a disguised Tony:: My assistant, Delacourte.  And, to my right, is Monsieur Theoly.

<Tony> ::speaks to Harrison in French:: The roads are impassable into this city.  Has it rained much in the past few days here?

<Harrison> ::nodding pleasantly at Tony::  Yes, it is nice to meet you, too, m'sieur.

<Tony> ::again, in French::  You don't understand a word of French, do you?

<Harrison> ::continues to nod pleasantly::

<Tony> ::to Chauvelin:: This could be a useful thing, citizen.

<Chauvelin> ::nods briskly:: We do appreciate your *kind* welcome, Governor.  When we return, it will be with *many* compliments of your fair city--and your own hospitality.  

<Harrison> My thanks, m'sieur.  Was there something you wanted to speak with me about?

<Chauvelin> ::continues:: In such uncertain times, it is good to have friends in high standing... wouldn't you agree?

<Harrison> ::uncertainly::  It is reassuring, yes . . . but one hopes their influence should never have to be sought.

<Chauvelin> I could not agree more... 

<Harrison> May I ask, m'sieur, what friends in high standing you speak of?

<Chauvelin> ::exchanges a `look` with his comrades:: I shouldn't speak of this, Governor...you must excuse me if I go to far....

<Harrison> Go on, please . . .

<Chauvelin> You must understand--this is a very delicate situation.   The purpose which brings me to your fair city--there is a man who has been using what little power he still holds in my own homeland to... what is the word you Americans use?  Spy?

<Harrison> ::starts::  Spy?  Do you by chance mean the foreigner . . . what is his name . . . ::lowers his voice ever so slightly:: De Grinter?

<Chauvelin> ::nods grimly:: The very same...

<Harrison> ::blanches:: My God . . . I trusted him, put him in charge of the whole prison . . . what information has he been looking for, do you think?

<Andrew> ::in heavily accented English:: We belief he sells whatever he finds out.... to the highest bidder....

<Harrison> And all this under my very nose . . . if they should find out about this in Washington . . .

<Chauvelin> They do not *have* to discover this--after all, Monsieur, you can not be blamed.  de Guinterre is a wily fellow--no doubt he convinced you he was trustworthy.

<Harrison> de Guinterre!  That's his name! ::continuing, more subdued:: And how did you find this out, m'sieurs?

<Chauvelin> We have had some knowledge of his--behavior--for a short time now.  Monsieur Theoly, in fact, has followed him all the while he has been in this country.

<Harrison> What should I do now? . . . It would take at least a week to get a warrant on him . . . unless you have better ideas?

<Chauvelin> If I may.... I am sure that we could deal with de Guinterre in such a way as to prevent any blemish from staining your record, Monsieur...

<Harrison> ::eagerly:: Speak on, m'sieur.

<Chauvelin> ::frowns:: I mustn't, Monsieur.  You must place your trust in me--the more you know, the deeper you find yourself in this....situation.

<Harrison> ::nods slowly::  I . . . think I understand your meaning.  Do with him as you will.  I warn you, if you break any of our laws and are caught, I will deny all knowledge of this conversation and you will pay with your lives.

<Chauvelin> ::a smile crosses his lips--an twisted smile:: I understand perfectly.

<Harrison> I don't expect to hear any more from de Guinterre after tonight, then . . . I wish you luck in your methods, m'sieurs, whatever they may be.

<Chauvelin> ::nods:: I thank you.

<Harrison> ::picks up a pen on his desk, still slightly shaken:: Then, unless you have other matters to discuss with me, gentlemen? . . . 

<Tony> ::to Chauvelin and Andrew, en Francais:: I think they've had plenty of time, don't you?

<Andrew> ::in the same language:: More than enough.  Shall we leave, then?

<Chauvelin> I believe so.  ::turns back to Harrison in English:: There is nothing else.  We thank you, Monsieur.

<Harrison> ::confused by their unintelligible chatter, but accepting it::  Yes.  And I thank you.  ::waves them out the door quickly::

Meanwhile, at the prison gate . . .

<Percy> ::approaches the guards casually::  Evenin', sirs.  A bit chilly out here, isn't it? . . .

<Guard who is Not the Dead Grady> Eh--quite!  A northeaster's come through, it seems...

<Percy> Would you be wanting for a warm-up, mayhaps?  I've some strong brew here, straight from m'sister in the back country . . . and I've never known her batch to fail to warm a cold man.

<Other Guard who is Not the Dead Grady> ::greedily:: Sounds good....

<Percy> ::offers a flask around::  Try that, and tell me it isn't the finest you've tasted outside of a public house .  ..

<William> ::waits in the shadows for the signal to move::

<Guard 1> ::takes a drink, smiling appreciatively:: It is good...here, Franklin....

<Guard 2> ::accepts the flask and takes a gulp::

<Percy> ::almost imperceptibly, nods--the figures in the shadows begin to slowly move forward::  I told you it was good stuff, didn't I? Have another drink, friends . . .

<Guard Two> ::chuckles:: Don't mind if I do... ::eyelids starting to feel heavy, his speech slurring:: Goodstuff...

<Percy> ::nods, watching the two guards sink to the ground, unconscious:: I told you it was.  ::by now, the children are right behind him, and he waves them forward::

Silently, they tie and gag the guards

<Percy> ::motions for Nicholas to come in front and lead them::

<Nicholas> ::whispers:: Come...this way.... ::he leads them into the prison, through the quiet corridors...::

<Percy> ::halts behind him at the door to Andrew's cell, asking with a hand gesture "This one?"::

<Nicholas> ::nods without word::

<Percy> ::unlocks it with the keys that happened to jump into his hand from the guard's pocket--my, how did those come to be here--and enters::

<Andrew> ::looks up in startled wonder, whispering:: Father...

<Percy> Indeed it is.  Did I not tell you to be careful when you left England?

<Andrew> ::smiles and nods:: I'm sorry, Father...

<Percy> ::nods, coming forward to help him to his feet:: Sorry, indeed . . . I never saw a sorrier sight than a Blakeney in prison.  Can you walk?

<Andrew>::rises quickly--a little too quickly, for his exhaustion overtakes him for a moment and he stumbles::

<William> ::rushes forward to help him::

<Andrew> ::smiles:: Thank you, little brother... 

<William> ::grins:: Just don't plan any more business trips any time soon, okay?

<Andrew> You can be sure that I won't.... 

<Percy> Come, we can talk all this over on the ship.  Let's be going.

<Andrew> I agree with Father...I'd like to leave this place... ::grins:: Soon.

<William> Immediately, if not sooner.  ::helps Andrew to walk out the door of the cell, where the others wait::

<Peter> ::shifting:: Shall we get out of this place, then?

<Percy> ::to Nicholas::  Take them back to the cellar.  The guards should give us no trouble now.  I will join you once my business here is through.

<Nicholas> I will... ::realizes what the unspoken business is and he quickly leads the others away::

<Percy> ::re-enters the cell, closing the door behind him, and waits::

<de Guinterre> ::stalks down the quiet corridor, some short time later::

<Percy> ::begins to laugh hollowly, lowly . . . inanely . . .::

<de Guinterre>::pauses in step, having heard the laugh.... somewhat...familiar laugh...throws open the door to the prisoner's still, not realizing for a full moment that the door was UNLOCKED to begin with....::

<Percy> Well, bonsoir, citizen . . . or, m'sieur, now . . .

<de Guinterre> ::hisses:: YOU...

<Percy> Yes, I do believe it is me . . . and you would be you, wouldn't you?

<de Guinterre> ::A cruel smile creeps across his lips:: No doubt you believe you have succeeded--the young man is off to safety.  But rest assured, SIR PERCY, you have not.... even now, one shout will bring guards to this very door.  ::he's bluffing--he knows that much, but he doesn't know that Percy doesn't know that much.--okay, that doesn't make sense, but anyways::

<Percy> Guards?  You mean those nice chaps at the gate?  I'm afraid they won't be helpful for quite some time yet . . . a few hours, at least.  In the meantime, we have no one but each other for company.  ::his mocking glance turns cold in the shadows::  Tell me, de Guinterre, how long was it before you realized that your English prisoner was my son?

<de Guinterre> ::sneers:: You lie--and I will prove it... soon enough.  But for now--all questions must be answered. How long, you asked?  I knew it from the very start, Sir Percy.  It was only too easy to convince these--Americans--to find guilt in the blameless.  A spy...a spy. 

<Percy> It's a talent you know very well, I'm sure.  At another time I would ask you how you managed to survive what your comrades could not, and make it all the way across the Atlantic to pollute the soil of America with your presence . . . but I fear I haven't the time tonight.  For you, however, the situation is quite different . . .

<de Guinterre> ::eyes narrow:: Oh?  *Do* elaborate, Sir Percy...

From outside the cell comes the sounds of feet along the stone floors....

<de Guinterre> Ah... we have company, Sir Percy.  My soldiers...

<Percy> Company, yes.  Soldiers, my *dear* de Guinterre, no.  Fellows?

The door swings open as Chauvelin, Tony and Andrew enter....

<Tony> ::grinning slightly:: You called, Percy?

<Percy> Yes . . . I believe we're all acquainted with our friend here?

<Chauvelin> ::smiles at de Guinterre:: How strange...meeting again, in this place.  Ironic...

<Percy> You've done what was necessary, I presume?

<Andrew> Of course, Percy.  A rousing success, I would say.  You agree, Dewhurst?

<Tony> Most emphatically.  All that seems to remain is to take care of the object of our conversation with Harrison himself.

<de Guinterre> You lie.... you all think to trick me... 

<Percy> A trick, de Guinterre, is absolutely useless.  We, unlike you, are not in the habit of lying. ::to Andrew:: The ropes?

<Andrew> ::hands the ropes to Percy:: 

<Percy> Thank you, Ffoulkes.  ::looks at de Guinterre::  Are you going to be making this difficult, Theophile?  I certainly hope not . . .

<Chauvelin> ::mockingly:: You won't be alone *too* long, after all.... some very important visitors will be about to see you soon enough.

<de Guinterre> ::his eyes narrow, his mind frantically flying...trying to devise some trick...any trick:: You can't do this!

<Percy> I certainly don't see why not, do you, fellows?  Citizen?

<Andrew> Haven't the foggiest.

<Tony> Nothing comes to mind . . .

<Chauvelin> ::shakes head::

<Percy> Then I believe it is concurred among us that yes, we can indeed do this.  Now, just have a seat in that chair there, m'sieur . . . Ffoulkes, Dewhurst, perhaps you could help him to be seated? . . .

<Andrew> ::reaches for the `mis-appropriated` rifle, pointing it at his `uncle`, the weapon uncocked:: Perhaps you should sit....

<Tony> I'd do what he says, if I were you.  Andrew's a crack shot, if I remember correctly.  Especially at such short range.

<Andrew> ::smiles:: Thank you, Tony.

<Percy> ::once de Guinterre is seated, advances to wind the ropes around him::  These should just help you keep your seat, m'sieur . . . we wouldn't want you to fall out of it.

<de Guinterre> Damn you, Blakeney!!

<Percy> No, no, that's the citizen's line, isn't it, Chauvelin?  ::winds a cloth around de Guinterre's mouth::  That's for speaking out of turn.

<Chauvelin> ::smirks::  I do believe I could learn to like the fellow....like that, at the very least.

<Percy> Well, like this, he's hardly more than a conversation piece.  A deadly bore, I say.  What say you we leave this place of yawns and boredom, fellows?  I find myself tiring of his company . . .

<Andrew> WE really should give him some time...to his thoughts.

<Percy> ::drawing a small slip of paper out of his pocket::  Indeed we should, Ffoulkes.  He'll have company soon.  ::pauses:: Should I leave it?  I ask your advice all--should I leave this, or let it go?  'Tis habit, you know . . . ::shows the paper around--you can guess what symbol it bears::

<Chauvelin> ::under breath:: Might as well.

<Tony> As long as you have it with you . . .

<Percy> I suppose so, then!  ::tucks the slip of paper into the ropes binding de Guinterre to the chair::  After you, gentlemen.

<Chauvelin> ::leads the way out of the cell::

<Percy> ::turns at the door, bowing to de Guinterre::  Au revoir, citizen.  Pay my very sincere respects to Citizen Robespierre. ::exits the cell in the wake of the others::

<Andrew> ::grins as they hurry along:: Mustn't forget THAT particular sight--it will be one story we will relay many a-time when we return home, fellas..

<Percy> ::laughs quietly:: Many a-time, indeed . . .

Scene XVII:  Homecoming

It is morning, and the "Sparrow's Flight" is nearing the western coast of England, pulling into harbor in the cool light of the sun. The only one on deck besides the sailors is a young man of nineteen, who left from this same harbor more than six months ago, thinking to return much sooner than he has. He breathes in deeply as he sights the shore for the first time, a blissful smile on his lips.

<Nicholas> ::quietly joins his friend:: How does it feel to be home?

<Andrew B.> Wonderful.  ::turns to Nicholas with a grin::  This, my friend, is the loveliest shore I shall ever see.  ::sighs plaintively::  I almost thought I would never see it again . . .

<Nicholas> ::grins, clapping a hand on his back:: But here you stand.

<Andrew B.> ::grins:: Proving that I ought to know better than to doubt my own father, eh?

<Nicholas> I don't think *I* will ever doubt your father... ::chuckles::

<Andrew B.> ::nods::  Wise decision, my friend.  ::chuckles::  How do you like your new home, for a little while at least, at first glance?

<Nicholas> Andrew, my friend--you haven't sailed enough to know--one never judges a new port by it's....port.
<Andrew B.> ::looks again at the shore:: No, there's not much to see there, is there . . .

<Nicholas> ::glancing in the same direction:: I do, however, see a rather ornate carriage in the distance--would that belong to someone you know?  ::grins::

<Andrew B.> ::peers carefully, smiling widely::  That's our carriage.  I wonder how long Mother has been waiting for us.  ::his smile fades into a contemplative gaze::

<Nicholas> And *I* wonder how long your siblings will remain in hiding down below... ::glances behind him, as the other adults slowly join them::

<Andrew B.> ::laughs:: Mother will not be happy, I can tell you that much . . .

<Percy> ::approaches from behind with a wry grin:: To say the least, she won't be happy . . .

<Andrew F.> I do pity them... ::grins:: Though not enough to champion them to their mother's--what think you, fellows?

<Tony> Certainly not I--I don't think I care to get in the middle of that.

<Percy> Oh, come now, Tony, surely Yvonne can't be that harsh with them . . .

<Tony> You've never felt her sharp tongue, Percy.

<Andrew F.> ::shakes head:: I'm with Dewhurst.  Simply because our wives happen to be more--docile--means nothing.  Suzanne can be merciless when she chooses.  

<Chauvelin> ::shakes head:: Terrified of your wives....

<Andrew B.> *I* certainly have no desire to be about when my wayward siblings meet their fate.

<Percy> ::grins at Chauvelin::  You certainly aren't, are you, citizen?

<Chauvelin> ::scowls:: The devil take you, Blakeney.

<Tony> ::laughs:: Well, sirs, England awaits us, Percy and the citizen are exchanging verbal blows--all's back to normal, it seems!

<Andrew F.> ::grins at Nicholas:: And this is what you should expect from now on...

<Andrew B.> ::grins:: Well, not every day.  Just at parties and dinners and other gatherings.  You'll get used to it.

<Nicholas> ::grins sheepshily:: I have a great many things to get used to, it would seem!

<Random sailor> ::passes by, with deference:: Sirs, we should be in harbor within the hour.

<Chauvelin> ::drily:: Perhaps we should begin dragging the children up from belowdecks?

<Percy> ::chuckles:: I believe so . . . their doom awaits them.

<Andrew F.> Come along, Dewhurst....let us go do so.

<Tony> Might want to bring along a rope; I don't think they'll come along without a good bit of pulling . . .

<Andrew B.> ::grins:: I do believe you're correct...

As the sailors go about setting down the ropes and gangway, the two women waiting share a smile.  As the ship made it's way to the dock, another carriage joined hte Blakeney's on teh dock.  Now both women wait...

<Marguerite> ::peering at the busy ship::  Here they come, I believe . . .

<Suzanne> ::laughs delightedly:: And you do, of course, notice a certain group of young ones hanging their heads?

<Marguerite> ::grins:: I certainly do.  They should be hanging their heads--the scoundrels . . .

<Suzanne> ::grins:: Now, Margot....do behave.

<Marguerite> I always behave, Suzanne.  Always have, don't you remember? ::smiles sweetly::

<Suzanne> ::Shakes her head:: How could I possibly have forgotten?

<Percy> ::with his long legs, has outstripped the others--catches hold of Marguerite's hand and kisses it graciously with a grin::  Your servant, Madame, has returned at last . . .

<Marguerite> ::laughs::  Always joking, Percy!  ::embraces him warmly, regardless of any others standing by who might see::

<Percy> Of course, my dear.  Of course.

The approach made by the rest of the party is only a little bit slower--although Andrew's stride is quick.  The children, in particular, seem to be taking their time...

<Andrew F.> ::embraces his wife, who smiles happily, her face hidden against his coat:: 

<Marguerite> ::steps forward to embrace her son:: You take after your father far too much, Andrew.  Next time you go on a business trip, try not to get arrested.

<Andrew B.> ::laughs::  Mother, the next time I go on a business trip will be in the far future, I think.  ::turns to where Nicholas stands::  This is Nicholas Elliot, a friend I met in America.

<Nicholas> ::makes a half-way attempt at a bow:: My pleasure...

<Percy> My dear, Nicholas has been quite a help to us in our enterprises.  So much so, in fact, that we insisted he come back with us.

<Marguerite> Then you are as welcome as any old friend, Mr. Elliot.  My son owes his life to you.

<Nicholas> ::grins, embarrassed:: Not at all, Lady Blakeney.  Not...at all.

<Tony> ::sights another carriage approaching, grins::  I see that yet another was invited to this impromptu party . . .

<Richard> ::notices his father's crest on the carriage, and blanches::

<Peter> ::smirks, elbowing Richard:: Too bad, there.  MY mother must have remained home with Soph.

<Richard> ::his blanch turns to a grin, sighting yet another carriage following his mother's:: I wouldn't bet on that, Chauvelin . . .

<Peter> ::forces a laugh:: It can't be...I mean....oh, no.  It is.

<William> ::grins, clapping Peter on the back::  Congratulations, Peter.  You can join us in our misery.

<Peter> ::scowls, as his mother steps down from the carriage:: Hah-hah-hah.

<Lucy> ::stops, halfway to her husband, shooting her son a cold look:: We will talk LATER.  

<Marguerite> ::speaking louder::  There you are, William Blakeney . . . what did you THINK you were about, stowing away on your father's ship like that, making a nuisance out of yourself?  And Katharine, I can't even begin to describe your shocking, unladylike behavior . . .

<William & Katharine> ::step forward meekly:: Yes, mother . . .

<Suzanne> ::tries to hide a smile, adopting a similarly stern expression:: James--Mary, I'm ashamed of you.  I would have thought we raised you *much* better.

<James> We're sorry, Maman....

<Mary> ::quickly adds:: Truly, we are!

<Andrew F.> ::smiles:: They all are starting to *sound* petitent....

<Yvonne> ::pressing a kiss to Tony's cheek, whispers in his ear:: Have you properly chastised them?

<Tony> ::grinning:: Not properly enough, my dear . . .

<Yvonne> ::smiles briefly before turning to her children with a frown::  Richard.  I don't know what I can do with you--this is the fourth time this year you've gotten yourself into some sort of trouble . . . but Alice, I certainly thought you had better sense than to fall into this hullabaloo with your brother.  Tell me, pray, WHAT were you thinking?

<Richard & Alice> ::hang their heads in shame::

<Alice> I wasn't thinking, Maman . . . I only wanted to help.

<Richard> And it turned out all right in the end . . .

<Yvonne> Thank heaven for that.  But you will not easily forget what you have done, I promise you.

<Peter> ::gulps, feeling more and more worried as the time passes--and his mother does not launch into a similar tirade::

<Chauvelin> ::leans forward, whispering softly:: You're trying to frighten the boy, aren't you?

<Lucy> ::hides a smile:: And it's working well.

<Andrew B.> ::stands by, watching the other offspring receive their scoldings with amusement--suddenly, an idea occurs to him, and he goes white::  Oh, dear Lord . . . Mother!  Madame!  Sophie . . . has it begun yet?  Is she . . .

<Lucy> ::laughs merrily:: Andrew, do stay calm.  You haven't missed a thing.  Sophie's home, resting.  Caroline remained with her...

<Andrew B.> Oh, thank God . . . I wasn't quite sure how long it had been . . .

<Marguerite> ::reassuringly::  You've nothing to worry over.  But it is a good thing you returned now, and not a few weeks hence . . . it's been almost eight months since you left . . .

<Chauvelin> ::clears throat:: Perhaps we should--continue this elsewhere?  

<Yvonne> At home, yes.  ::to Richard and Alice::  We'll speak at greater length in the carriage.  Go on, both of you.  ::takes Tony's arm::

<Lucy> ::smiles over at Young Andrew:: Sophie is still at our home--why don't you join Armand, Peter and myself in our carriage.  ::looks to Marguerite:: Once you show Mr. Elliot his lodgings, you could all join us?

<Andrew B.> Thank you, Madame . . .

<Marguerite> Of course, Lucy.  Mr. Elliot, join us--we've plenty of room.  ::grins::  You can keep my wayward children out of trouble on the way back to Richmond.

<Percy> ::laughs::  My dear, it would take more than one man to do that . . .

<Nicholas> ::grins:: I can do my best.  

<Katharine> ::whispers, to Alice:: He won't succeed, though . . . ::giggles::

<William> I heard that, Katharine . . .

<Mary> ::grins:: Well, come now, William.  It is common knowledge..

<William> ::grins at Mary roguishly::  That's not all that's common knowledge, is it . . .

<Marguerite> William!  Come along!

<William> :: shoots Mary one last grin before following his mother::

<Mary> ::flushes:: William Blakeney, you...you....

<Suzanne> Mary... ::warningly::

<Mary> ::flounces towards the carriage, her face still bright::

<Lucy> ::accepting her husband's `hand` into the carriage:: We missed something there, didn't we?  

<Chauvelin> We all did. ::nods in agreement::

<Katharine> William, you wouldn't know good manners if they bit you on the nose. 

<William> ::handing her sister up into the carriage:: If they did that, they wouldn't be good manners, would they?

<Katharine> ::exasperated:: You . . .

<William> ::grins, stepping into the carriage himself::

Scene XVIII:  Reunion For Three

<Andrew> ::glances impatiently out the window as the carriage nears the Chauvelin residence::

<Peter> ::shifts uncomfortably in the seat beside his father, ready to--at the first opportunity--bolt from the carriage in an attempt to reach the house--and safety--before his parents::

<Chauvelin> ::glaring at his son:: Sit still, Peter.  You're shaking the whole carriage.

<Peter> ::slumps against the back:: Sorry...

<Andrew> ::smiles briefly in amusement at Peter before turning his attention to the--slowly--approaching house again::  Has she been well?

<Lucy> ::smiles:: She's been tired.  But that is hardly out of the normal.... 

<Andrew> She hasn't been too worried, has she?

<Lucy> ::exchanges a knowing glance with her husband:: At first--do not worry so.  We've not given her a free moment to worry over you.  ::pats Andrew's hand gently:: In fact, if I know my daughter, she was probably GRATEFUL we all decided to meet you at the docks.

<Andrew> ::sighs, laughing quietly::  Most likely, yes . . . ::glances out the window again::

<Chauvelin> ::more softly than the words imply:: It won't come any faster for your watching it.

<Lucy> ::changing the subject--sorta:: Nicholas Elliot seems like a nice young man....

<Andrew> ::grins::  He reminds me a bit of James and William mixed together.  A taste for adventure, but enough sense to stay out of trouble if he can.  He keeps his head when it counts--he suits Mary to a tea . . . ::falls silent, realizing what he's let slip::

<Chauvelin> ::grins a bit, continuing::  He does that.  He'll keep the girl level when her ire is roused so often . . .

<Lucy> ::smiles, catching on:: Ah.  I understand now.  Peter, disregard everything you've heard.

<Peter> ::opens one eye:: If...I do, will I survive the night?  No...punishments?

<Lucy> Are you attempting to bribe me, Peter Chauvelin?

<Peter> ::hopefully:: Would it work if I did?

<Chauvelin> Trying to make a deal, are you?  You're out of your depth, boy.

<Andrew> ::grins, remaining silent::

<Peter> ::sighs:: I'll go straight to my room, then.

<Lucy> ANd you'll stay there.  While some form of *torture* is devised for you.  ::smirks:: Armand, you may help with that.

<Chauvelin> ::smiles:: Thank you, cherie.

<Andrew> ::can't help laughing a bit::

<Chauvelin> ::glances at the Blakeney boy, and shakes his head--still grinning::

<Lucy>::reaches up to hold onto the side of hte carriage, as it comes to an abrupt stop:: We're home...

<Andrew> ::opens the door of the carriage and jumps out eagerly::

<Chauvelin> ::steps down and offers a hand to Lucy, whispering::  Home, at last . . . he's been sitting on pins and needles all the way . . .

<Lucy> ::whispers in return:: So has she... we argued for almost an hour until Sophie finally agreed it was best to remain home.

<Chauvelin> ::smiles::  I would have, as well, you know.

<Lucy> ::smiles tenderly in return:: I know you would have.

<Peter> ::pushes past them all, hurrying into the house::

<Chauvelin> ::to Peter:: Not so fast, young man.

<Lucy> ::laughs:: Oh, let him.  At least he'll be out of Sophie's and Andrew's way...

<Chauvelin> ::sighs, as Andrew rushes into the house after Peter:: I suppose it's just as well . . .
::tugs on his hand:: Come on, then.  Perhaps, if you are fortunate, you'll see your daughter *some* time soon.  ::smiles::

<Chauvelin> I wouldn't count on it.

<Andrew> ::practically running through the house::  Sophie!  Sophie . . .

<Caroline> ::whispers:: I believe that's my cue to depart.  ::exits the parlor, just as Andrew enters:: Welcome home, Andrew...

<Andrew> ::distractedly, to Caroline::  Ahh, yes, thank you, Caroline . . . ::rushes to where Sophie's sitting::  Sophie, dear . . . I'm so sorry . . .

<Sophie> ::smiling through happy tears, as she reaches up to gently touch his face:: You have nothing to be sorry for, silly... I'm told this is a family trait--and one I should 'learn of while I'm young'.  ::teasingly::

<Andrew> ::grins:: Is that what our mothers have been telling you? ::catches her hand halfway and kisses it::

<Sophie> Who knows better than they, of course?

<Andrew> Of course.  ::leans forward to kiss her cheek::  And I've come home just in time, they tell me . . .

<Sophie> ::grins:: Only a short while to go...

<Andrew> Do you need anything?  Something to drink, some food, a book from the library? . . .

<Sophie> ::laughs, teasing:: Just SIT, Andrew.  I'm perfectly content here--now.  Caroline's driven me mad all morning with her constant flitting, and I won't have you doing the same.  

<Andrew> ::grins, sitting down beside her:: I suppose I'm trying to make up for not being here the last seven months . . . ::sighs::  Only seven months . . .

<Sophie> Shhsh...there's no reason to think on that.  You're home now...

<Andrew> If this IS a family trait, our child will never be allowed to leave the country, you know.  We can't afford the rescue attempt.

<Sophie> ::smiles:: But then, we can not prevent it either--I believe the trait also includes doing something even when one is *explicitly* warned against it.  There will be many more rescues in the future--of some kind, I am sure.

<Andrew> ::grins:: I'll have to make sure my father "shows me the ropes," if you will, then.

<Sophie> So long as my father knows nothing of it.... ::smiles:: Speaking of Father--where are he and Maman?  I heard footsteps pounding up the stairs--Peter, I would assume?

<Andrew> ::nods:: Peter.  Trying to escape his parents' wrath, I should think.  And as for his parents . . . well, to be frank, I haven't seen them since the carriage got here . . . ::sheepishly:: I suppose I was a little anxious to get inside the house.

<Sophie> ::giggling:: How terrifyingly rude of you, my love.  ::pretends to sober herself:: What more could be expected of a *Blakeney*, though...?

<Andrew> ::grins::  I see your father has taught you well, madame . . . yet I must point out to you that, by virtue of your imprudent marriage with one of that name, you, too, are a *Blakeney* now.  ::lowers his voice to a whisper::  Whatever shall we tell your family . . . ?

<Sophie> ::sighs:: And do not forget...the child, as well will be a.... *Blakeney*.  I am afraid, sir, you are--to put it plainly--forced to keep me.  My family will never take me back in, after committing such a grievous act.

<Andrew> An orphan, cast out of your father's house!  I shall have to take you in . . . why, if I did not, you might freeze in the night, or starve in the gutters . . . ::grins::  And you, my dear, are much too beautiful to meet such a sad end.

<Sophie>  With an offer such as that--how can I not accept?  ::mischieviously:: Although, never forget--my only choice was you....or the gutter, my love.  Alas, poor gutter... 

<Andrew> I trust, ma belle, it was not a difficult choice?

<Sophie> ::patting his cheek:: There, there.  I can not answer that, my darling!  A lady must always retain *some* sense of mystery about her...

<Andrew> ::grins mischievously::  A mystery that I must solve . . . you cannot hide it from me, your own husband, forever . . .

<Sophie> ::laughs:: Quite sure of yourself, are you now?

<Andrew> Of course, my dear--I am a Blakeney.  We are always sure of ourselves.

<Sophie> Yet another trait to be passed on, it would seem...

<Andrew> We're just full of them . . .

<Sophie> ::laughs:: This child of ours will be exhausting... I know that already.

<Andrew> Maybe, if we both work very hard at it, it won't become a thorough scoundrel in it's maturity . . .

<Sophie> ::arches an eyebrow, looking bemused at the idea:: Tell me truthfully--did your parents try to work at a similar thing during youth, Andrew?

<Andrew>  I can't say, but from the result, it seems they were sadly unsuccessful.

<Sophie> ::laughs:: Yes...indeed.