The Cliff of Destiny (Book format)
By Theresa Holt
Adapted from the play by Caroline Leach and Theresa Holt with Julie Green
Sir Reynard Foxworthy looked around in satisfaction. He was entertaining many of the area’s elite lords and nobles, and was confident it would be a lucrative evening — after all, most of these twits would not have had the slightest inkling that Sir Reynard was not to be trusted. He was currently gaming against Lord Borealis, and had great plans for this man. Or to more precise, Lord Borealis’ delectable daughter, Aurora.
Some new arrivals caught his attention, causing a scowl to darken his russet features. Sir Reynard rose, and went to meet them.
"What are you doing here? I told you never to interrupt when I’ve got guests," snarled Reynard.
"You sent for us, Sir Reynard," replied Louis. Louis was Reynard’s henchman, and the two women, Destiny and Luisa, were Louis’ associates and underlings.
"Oh yes, Louis, so I did. You three are the most despicable, evil, conniving, low lives I know."
Luisa was breathless at such unexpected words of praise. "Oh, thank you."
"You’ve brought us here, you’ve been throwing your money around, but what’s the catch, whatta we gotta do?" Destiny was not as na´ve as Luisa — she knew that Reynard would not have summoned them unless he had some dirty work for them to do. However, they were interrupted before he could give them their orders. Two of Reynard’s guests were becoming impatient with their host’s diverted attention.
"I say Foxworthy, don’t talk all night. Charles thinks he might be on the verge of winning something," Lord Faversham ordered imperiously.
"Egad, sir, can’t go home and tell the little woman I haven’t won something!" The Honourable Charles Audsley was notoriously hen-pecked, and was truly nervous about such an occurrence. Sir Reynard hastened to assure his guests of his continued desire to engage in the entertainment of the evening. Particularly as he had hopes of taking these two to the cleaners. Once they were appeased, he turned his attention back to his henchmen. He lowered his voice in a conspiratorial manner.
"This is neither the time nor the place for such conversation. I will meet you at midnight at the brothel on the cliff.
Luisa, Louis and Destiny gasped.
"Not the cliff?"
"What cliff?" Destiny was not famous for the power of her brain.
"Dead Man’s Cliff, where no one has ever survived from hanging by their fingertips." Reynard was particularly exasperated when the three stooges gasped again. The brothel on the cliff was, after all, their usual rendezvous.
"Okay, but we cannot wait around forever, we have other jobs to do," warned Louis.
"It’s a real shame," bemoaned Destiny. "Because this is such a real nice place to have a party. Can I take some of them horsie doovies with me?"
Luisa pushed Destiny out of the door. "Oh, mama mia, bella donna, linguini, spaghetti, lambourghini, mazaratti," she exclaimed.
"You must excuse Destiny and Luisa, they are foreigners, you know!" Sir Reynard felt that that statement was a bit rich coming from Louis, with his heavy French accent, and the rope of garlic around his neck. Reynard realised that he would have to try to resolve his situation himself. He returned to his table.
"Now Lord Borealis," he oiled. "Where were we?" Unsurprisingly, Reynard won yet another hand over his opponents. We may perhaps attribute his extraordinary luck to the remarkable number of cards cunningly stashed in a multitude of nooks. Faversham threw down his cards in defeat.
"I say chaps, the stakes are too high for me. I’m orf," he informed the table. Audsley decided that discretion is the better part of valour, and took the opportunity to depart gracefully as well.
"Oh, Frederick best felicitations to your lovely wife Felicity. ... By the way, could you drop me? Sorry Foxworthy, must dash. Regards to your sister, Solange. Sorry to have missed her."
Faversham concurred. "Yes, very sorry," he murmured.
Reynard was delighted at their departure. Now that those fools had gone, he felt he could squeeze every last penny from Borealis, or perhaps raise the stakes even higher!!! "Lady Luck does not seem to be your friend tonight, Lord Borealis," he remarked, sympathetically.
"But I’m sure my luck will change, Sir Reynard. Just a few more hands, just a few more coins," Borealis begged.
"It seems history is repeating itself. It’s always just a few more hands, just a few more coins with you," sneered Reynard.
Lord Borealis was distraught. "I cannot go home and face my daughter Aurora, and tell her I have failed yet again," he said to no one in particular.
"Let us make it more interesting. Perhaps we should raise the stakes," offered Reynard.
"But you can see my pockets are empty. I have no more to wager."
Reynard smiled wolfishly. This was all going exactly as he’d planned. "I’m sure you have more to offer than mere money."
"But I have nothing left. All my lands are mortgaged, the automobiles have been sold, and even the dogs have been rented out. I have nothing left to offer."
"So, how is that sweet daughter of yours?" Reynard’s question was seemingly apropos of nothing, but wait …
"Fine." Borealis was starting to feel a little nervous. The slightest inkling was beginning to form itself in his mind that Reynard’s line of conversation may, just may, be not as affable as it seemed.
"That she is!" Reynard’s grin was beginning to seem lecherous.
"Why do you ask?"
"I find myself strangely attracted to her," said Reynard. "And her magnificent dowry … er … br … er, magnificent smile."
"Ah! Aurora vows she will marry only for love."
Sir Reynard shook his head inwardly at the foolish girl. Did she not understand the power of lust? "She is your only hope to win back all that you have lost to me."
Borealis was aghast. "Surely you can’t mean that I should wager my only daughter, my one love in this world, the only thing that keeps me alive in my darkest hours, when all hope seems lost and I must surely perish in agonies of heartbreak?"
"Very well. One more hand, winner takes all." Borealis felt that surely his luck would change.
"Because we are playing for such high stakes, do you agree we should play the greatest card game of all?"
"I know exactly the game you have in mind, Foxworthy!"
"Then you accept my challenge?" Reynard was elated. He hadn’t expected Borealis to be this easy.
"What choice have I? All or nothing, my dear Aurora!"
Sir Reynard dealt the cards, and the game commenced at a frantic pace. Any onlookers would have been hard-pressed to keep track of the game, let alone who was winning. Then, unseen by Lord Borealis, Sir Reynard pulled a card from his sleeve and slapped it on the table.
"SNAP," he cried triumphantly.
"Oh, Aurora," moaned Borealis. "How your mother would turn over in her grave - if only she were dead. Sir," he begged Reynard. "If you are a gentleman you will allow me time to break the news to her myself." He left, staggering in pain.
"Tell the delicious, scrumptious, voluptuous and luscious Aurora to expect me on the morrow," Sir Reynard called after him, and laughed in Machiavellian delight.
Connor Blackwood was in the garden of Borealis Manor, carrying his spade. He felt, rather than saw the approach of Aurora, the daughter of the manor. His heart, as always, skipped a beat at the sight of her golden locks shining in the sunlight.
"Och, I think the daffodils will require more macnure this year, Lady Aurora."
Lady Aurora Borealis was elated. No matter how her black-haired garden-boy tried to hide his feelings beneath his pedestrian language and dour Scottish brogue, she understood his unspoken declarations of love.
"Oh, Connor," she breathed. "What would I have done without your expertise in the potting shed of late? My father neglects the garden for we have no money to keep it up."
"Aye lassie, it’s true things are not as they were before the war, but you can always count on my services."
"Oh! Connor! If only circumstances were different. If only I weren’t a high-born lady, or better still, you weren’t a common garden boy."
"Then we could afford the macnure for the daffodils. I know my lady … I know."
"Oh Connor! You are so earthy!" Aurora felt she should change the subject or they might do something they both would regret … afterwards. The undercurrents of love and desire that beribboned their every word and gesture were altogether too dangerous for a woman of her position. "You’ve never talked about the mysterious death of your father during The Great War."
"Och, all I know is that he was last seen alive in Paris in 1915. It was a Thursday, it was raining, he’d lost his umbrella and he couldn’t get a cab. . .. Dinna ask me no more, for I do not know the details. All I know is that he died a warrior, he died with his kilt on. I will never rest until my father’s death has been avenged!!!"
"Oh! Oh," moaned Aurora. "I fear my own father is not long for this world!"
"Och! I too have noticed his coughing behind the cucumber bed when he thinks no one is watching."
"If only he would confide in me, we could share this burden together."
"Perhaps another could comfort you," sympathised Connor as he moved closer to his lady.
"I could only rest in the arms of the one I truly love. But, alas it is not to be."
"Aye my lady." Connor was devastated at the perceived rebuff. "The life of the privileged is not all champagne and daffodils."
Aurora took her leave of Connor by the southern gate, just as Solange Foxworthy appeared through the eastern. Solange was Reynard’s sister, and she had long cast her eye on Connor. His face haunted her, reminding of someone from her past. A past of which none of her compatriots had any suspicion.
"Good morning garden boy." Her tone was imperious, but sultry. "Lord Borealis gave me permission to harvest some vegetables."
"Och, Miss Foxworthy, what vegetables would you be after?" She always made him nervous, but if Lord Borealis had given his permission, then Connor had no choice but to attend to her needs.
"I hear cucumbers are your specialty." Solange’s delicate eyebrow rose in a manner most puzzling to the innocent Connor.
"They’ve no’ been so good this year, we’ve no’ had enough macnure to put on them." He was slightly embarrassed at the paucity of his cucumbers, yet relieved at the idea she may have no reason to stay in his garden.
"Oh pooh," she pouted prettily. Unfortunately, the dour Scotsman did not notice just how prettily. "In that case I’ll have to come back later."
"Och, that would be the best plan then." Connor remarked to her departing back. "Anyway, I’ve got three paddocks of potatoes to dig, the horses to shoe, the pigs to feed and the sty to muck oot, the stables to clean, and a haggis to make for tomorrows breakfast, all before lunchtime. A man’s work is never done." He looked up for sympathy, but the garden was empty.
"Considering you are my brother, Reynard, you are extremely foolish! Do you seriously believe Aurora Borealis will marry you merely because you won her in a game of Snap?" Solange was furious at Sir Reynard, and her lack of success at flirting with Connor had done nothing to improve her temper. She paced beside the fireplace, smoking through her long-stemmed cigarette holder. Solange was nothing if not fashionable.
"Of course I do, Solange. I happen to know she will need someone to look after her interests when her father dies of his mysterious coughing ailment."
Solange was diverted from her harangue. "Ah! That explains what he was doing behind the cucumber bed the other day . . . but enough of this small talk. When may I wish you and Aurora joy?
Reynard looked suddenly embarrassed. "There is a problem . . ."
"You mean . . ."
"Yes! . . .She doesn’t know . . .. yet!!"
A worried frown creased Solange’s brow. Reynard was drove her to distraction with his petty plans, but he was, after all, her baby brother. "I fear no good will come of this association, for you are not in love and she is far too innocent."
"What do I care for such details! I want her. She will be mine. That is the end of the matter." He stormed from the room.
"Oh the foolish boy! I hope he will not have to learn, as I did, love’s hard lesson! Why must I always be tormented by these memories of the young foolish girl I used to be? If only I knew then what I know now - the what, the when, the why, the how!!! Why are we always haunted by the spectres of the past and taunted by the promise of a future that may never be. If only I could forget Paris, but . . ." Solange’s soliloquy was interrupted by the entrance of a strange man. She had never met Reynard’s henchmen before, so she didn’t recognize Louis. His striped shirt and rope of garlic did give her a clue as to his origins however, and his greeting served only to confirm her suspicion.
"Why," she stammered. "You’re French!"
"But who are you? What are you doing here?"
"I’m a good friend of your brother. My name is Louis Esteban Etienne Stefan Escargot Fromage."
"It is nice to meet you Louis Stefan ..."
"Non," he interrupted. He wondered why he always felt compelled to volunteer his full name, when he knew full well that nobody ever got it right. "Just call me Louis."
"I declare, the daffodils are lovely this time of year!" Solange felt it was her duty as hostess to cover up the awkward silence with a change of subject. She smiled nervously.
"Yes, but only if they have been covered with ample macnure. But enough of this persiflage . . ."
"Small talk! Enough of this small talk, Madam Blancmange La Bonque."
Solange’s heart skipped a beat. Her mind was in turmoil, though her only outward reaction was to raise a perfect eyebrow. She tried, with fading hope, to brazen it out. "But what do you mean? My name is Solange Foxworthy."
Louis sneered. "You cannot fool me, I would recognise your . . . attributes anywhere."
"I must ask you to leave," she retorted haughtily. "Louis Esteban Etienne Stefan Escargot Fromage."
"Ha ha! So you do remember me, Madam!!" Solange berated herself inwardly for the French accent she had allowed to let slip.
"My past has caught up with me," she groaned to herself.
"Madam, I have a proposal for you," continued Louis.
Solange was taken aback. "But I don’t want to get married," she countered.
"Non, you stupid cabbage head!" Louis was surprised at her apparent obtuseness. "It is a business proposal. Unless you pay me a hideously huge and revoltingly obscene amount of money all of England will know that you were once the most infamous brothel Madam in Paris during the Great War."
"Oh, very well," she relented "Here’s sixpence. Now leave me. I want to be alone."
"Do you think sixpence will buy my silence? I have expensive tastes. My Destiny is very expensive."
"I don’t care what your future holds."
"It is not my future. Destiny is my mistress."
"I don’t care if Fate is your mistress."
"Don’t be stupid," he said, exasperated. "Fate is Destiny’s sister. She’d never forgive me if I had an affair with Fate."
"Oh for Heaven’s sake, froglegs..."
What’s she got to do with it?"
"What are you talking about?" Solange’s head was absolutely spinning by now. She felt she had completely lost control of the conversation, and wasn’t even sure any longer that what they were having could even be called a conversation.
"We were discussing Destiny," Louis explained slowly, as if to a child, "when out of the bleu, you bring up Fate and Heaven. Destiny’s family is none of my concern."
Solange was silent for a moment, as she digested this. Suddenly, it was as though a light had been turned on. "Oh, I see! Destiny is a woman."
Now it was Louis’ turn to be confused. "Of course, do you think I would be in love with a man?"
"How would I know? I’ve never even met you before."
"Yes, you have, Madam." Louis was jubilant, sure that he now had her over a barrel. "Surely you remember that fateful rainy Thursday evening in Paris. I couldn’t get a cab, but luckily I found an umbrella. Fortune smiled upon me that night."
"Oh," she smiled nervously. "Is Fortune another sister?"
"You may laugh now, but you have only twenty-four hours to pay up, before your reputation is destroyed forever."
Suddenly a voice floated up from the front door. A woman’s voice, nasally American. "Honey, come on already."
"I must go," explained Louis as he took his leave. "Destiny calls."
Once he had gone, Solange felt the strength leave her legs. "Oh," she uttered as she sank into an armchair. "Where can I get a hideously huge and revoltingly obscene amount of money in only twenty-four hours? . . . I must think."
"My darling daughter. I have some terrible news to lay before you." Lord Borealis had been pacing nervously in his garden, but now that Aurora had appeared, it was time to break to her the news of her recent engagement.
"But, Papa, wait. I must tell you something before I lose my courage."
"But my dear, I must tell you something before I lose my courage." He knew it was not going to be easy — Aurora was unlikely to be overjoyed at her upcoming nuptials.
"Oh, father," she burst in, unable to contain herself. "I am in love!!"
"It’s not with Sir Reynard by any chance?" A slight hope was better than none, he felt.
"Oh, no reason. It can wait."
Oh, father, it is Connor Blackwood that I love."
Lord Borealis searched his memory, but came up blank. "Who?"
"The garden boy. I love him madly! It is a love beyond words!"
"So." Lord Borealis felt that one more try was called for. "It’s definitely not Sir Reynard then?"
Aurora was surprised at her father’s sudden obsession with Sir Reynard. "No, father. Of course not. Why do you keep going on about that horrible, beastly man?"
"Well, now that we’re on the subject of Sir Reynard..."
"I didn’t realise we were."
"Well, we were," said Lord Borealis shortly. He knew it was now or never to break it to her. He carried on swiftly before his courage failed him. "You see, I just happen to have lost you and your dowry to Sir Reynard in a gambling game of Snap."
"Oh, how could you?" Aurora was devastated, not only that her dreams of happiness with Connor were shattered, but also at her father’s betrayal.
"Quite easily, actually," put in Lord Borealis in a dismal attempt at injecting a little humour into a sorry situation. "I put down my card, he put down his, then he slapped his hand down and shouted SNAP. It’s quite simple really."
"That’s not what I meant, father, and you know it." Really, the girl was quite unappreciative of her father’s desire to lighten the moment.
"Oh, Aurora," he gasped, as a sudden coughing fit seized his body. "I realise I have crushed your girlish dreams, but the Borealis Family Honour is at stake."
"Surely true love is more important than honour."
"Not in the aristocracy, my dear. The life of the privileged is not all champagne and daffodils you know."
"I know," she wept. "Don’t remind me. But, father. There must be some way out of this predicament. Some way to foil that evil man."
At that point, as though summoned by the very mention of him, Sir Reynard appeared in the garden. "Talking of me, my love? Ha ha ha! I’ve come to claim my prize, my dear Papa!"
"Oh no Aurora! Aurora! Please forgive me." Lord Borealis coughed, spluttered and fell to the ground in a paroxysm of, well, coughing and spluttering.
"Oh, father!" Aurora, distraught, tried to run to her father. Reynard, however, had other ideas. He grabbed her.
"Not so fast, my pretty. You know, my dear, you will learn to love me in time. In fact, I’ll give you a quick lesson now." He started having his wicked way with her.
"Oh, my innocence! Oh, my virtue! Oh, my bra-strap! Only my true love can save me now," cried Aurora. Ah, her true love? Who should appear, just in the nick of time, but the very heroic, the truly lovely, Connor Blackwood?
"Get your hands off her macbody unless you want my Quarter Pounder in your macface," he demanded, in a terribly manly fashion. Unfortunately, his thick Scottish brogue left much to be desired as far as understanding went.
"What did he say?" Sir Reynard was utterly bamboozled.
"Let me go," translated Aurora.
"Nothing doing," countered Reynard. "I’ll have your guts for garters. I’ll throw you in the Tower of London if you interfere with my pleasure. I’m a very powerful man, you know."
"Och, what did he say?" Connor had as much difficulty understanding Reynard’s plummy accent as Reynard with the brogue.
"Um - No." Aurora was resigned by now to the fact that she would have to translate everything each man said to the other.
Connor, however, was a man of few words. "Right. Well, it’s time for macaction. He grabbed Sir Reynard by the scruff of neck, dragged him off Aurora, pummelled him in the face, and threw him out of the garden gate. Sir Reynard put his head around the corner.
"You’ve not seen the last of me, you Scottish Haggis," he said, very much on his pride. "I’ll be back to collect my prize."
"Over my dead body," called Lord Borealis weakly, through another coughing spasm.
Aurora ran to kneel at her father’s side. "Oh, father, father! You can’t die now . . .. Oh, Connor, what shall I do?"
"There is nothing for it but that you should marry me," he informed her. He felt emboldened by his success in the tussle with Sir Reynard.
"Over my dead body," called Lord Borealis again. He was still very mindful of the Borealis Family Honour, even at Death’s door.
"Oh, Connor," Aurora wept into his arms. "My darling, my saviour, my one true love."
"Oh, very well then." Lord Borealis realised by now the extent of Aurora’s affection for the garden boy. "Take her and be happy. And my dear..."
"Don’t neglect the daffodils. Remember to put ample macnure on them... oh...oh...oh." Lord Borealis had finally shuffled off his mortal coil, at peace in the knowledge that he had reminded Aurora of her duty to the daffodils.
"Oh Connor," wept Aurora.
"Oh my love," he crooned as they embraced.
"Right you lot," ordered the Buxom Wench. The trio in her tavern looked like they could very well take up room all night without spending a penny if she allowed it. "No sitting at these tables unless you got a drink. House rules, alright?"
"Then bring us some alcoholic type beverages," said Louis. He didn’t mind — it all went onto Reynard’s expense account anyway.
"Right you are then, Guv! By the way," she narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "You aren’t here for nefarious or criminal like activities by any chance?"
"Why do you ask?" Luisa wasn’t sure she could actually lie to anyone.
The Wench shrugged. "It’s coupon day, we could do a group discount..." She went off to get some drinks for the group.
"Now that Sir Reynard’s plan to marry Miss Aurora has been foiled," started Louis quietly. "We must put our plan B into action."
"What plan? I did not know we had a plan," asked Luisa, confused.
"I didn’t know we had a plan," added Destiny. "You guys never tell me anything. If I’d known we had a plan I would have dressed for it."
"Of course we have a plan, stupid." Luisa slapped Destiny, then turned to Louis. "Hey boss, remind me, what’s the plan?" She turned back to Destiny, feeling suddenly abashed at her display of violence. "You OK?"
"Yeah," said Destiny. "I’m used to being slapped around the face. I remember the time I was disguised as a beauty queen, and I…" She was interrupted in her tale by a slap from Louis.
"Don’t you want to hear what the plan is?"
"Yep," said both girls, reprimanded.
"We shall kidnap Miss Aurora, and take her to the brothel on the cliff," intoned, Louis, rather dramatically.
"What cliff?" Destiny’s voice, with it’s nasal intonation, made rather less of Louis’ momentous announcement that he could have wished.
"You know, the cliff," Luisa informed her helpfully. "Hey boss," she said to Louis. "Can you remind me what the cliff was again?"
"You know, Dead Man’s Cliff, where no one has ever survived from hanging by their finger tips." Louis was holding onto his patience with a very thin rein.
"Huh?" How many times, Louis wondered, did he have to explain the details to his sadly deficient (in the brains department, anyway) woman?
"Yeah Destiny. Dead Man’s Cliff, where no one has ever survived from hanging by their finger tips," Luisa piped up.
Alright. Next item of business, we must talk about the blackmail." Louis felt it was time to change the subject. He and Luisa both expected a new barrage of questions from Destiny. None of them noticed Solange enter the tavern.
"Oh," said Destiny surprisingly. "You mean the plan where we blackmail Solange Foxworthy for a hideously huge and revoltingly obscene amount of money or else reveal the dreadful secrets of her past?"
"Oui." Louis found himself without words at this unprecedented display of Destiny’s grasp of the situation.
"Well, what’s there to discuss? I think the plan is fairly straightforward." Now it was Destiny’s turn to be exasperated at the other two.
"We have to discuss the what, the when, the why, the how," said Louis, flabbergasted.
"Oh, forget that," Destiny rolled her eyes. "I just want to know what we are going to do with the money?"
"Shh," ordered Louis. "I have a feeling we are being watched. We must exit and act as if nothing has happened." The three stood up nonchalantly, and tiptoed out of the tavern in an exaggerated fashion, bumping into each other on the way.
The Buxom Wench came in, and saw Solange sitting at a table without a drink. "What would you be wanting then: we don’t allow patrons to sit at the tables without a drink unless they are: a) here for a meal, b) here for nefarious or criminal like activities, or c) prepared to soliloquise for the intellectual stimulation of the reader. So what’s it to be then, love?"
"Uh, I’ll take the soliloquy."
"Correct … er, I mean, right you are then," said the Wench. "I’ll be back later with the bill."
"Curses," muttered Solange when she was alone. "I had hoped to learn more from those three criminals, and find out exactly what they know. Oh, how my past torments me. He was the only man I have ever loved. How could I do such a thing to him? Oh, why did I go to Paris in the first place? Drawn into the nightmare that is the illicit underworld, I became Madam Blancmange LaBonque. I was so innocent, but the corruption, the lust, the debauchery soon weaved its wicked spell. What a depraved creature I became…"
Solange became lost in her memories. The heady days of her reign as Madam of the Bonque Nationale Paris brothel, when her name was never uttered in polite circles, but every man knew of it, and dreamed of her. Images crowded her brain, images of the day that changed her life forever.
"Welcome all to the Bonque Nationale Paris. Enjoy!" It was 1915, and Solange was seven years younger, but a lifetime more na´ve. Solange, with her girls Mimi, Fifi and Doris had sung, danced and subtly kept the adoring audience at arms length. During the performances, Solange would sometimes get the chance to slip a mickey finn into the drink of a customer so that she could "earn a few extra tips" as she was pleased to phrase it. On this particular night, the unlucky stooge was none other than Louis, who was so rudely to come back into her life seven years later. It was yet more unfortunate that she had stolen a gun from him, as well as his wallet.
Fifi’s little daughter had appeared, just as the song was finishing. "Maman! Maman!" she had cried. "I have said my prayers. I am ready to go to bed."
"My little Belle," scolded Fifi, albeit gently. There were few with hard enough a heart to scold Trixie-Belle harshly. "I have told you never to come downstairs."
"But I have been such a good girl today," she pouted prettily. "I swept all the floors, and brought in water from the well. I did not complain when breakfast was only a bowl of gruel and lunch only a hardened crust of bread. I have eaten my potato and my Petit Miam. I didn’t cry once today. May I please stay up and watch you sing your song?"
"Of course, ma petite chou. If you promise me you will go upstairs immediately we are finished. You must get your sleep."
"Oui, Maman, I will be as quiet as a mouse." And so Trixie-Belle had been allowed to stay up and watch her mother sing — as she was allowed most nights. After Fifi’s song, Mimi had come running up to Solange, in a fit of pique.
"Madam," she complained. "Fifi spilt her face powder all over my very best outfit, the one I wear when I do the Apache dance. Well, I’ll show her. It will be Mimi who has the attention of the big spending soldiers this night. Fifi will rue the day she set out to ruin me!"
Doris came over to join in the discussion. Solange had noticed on other occasions that Doris was ready to cause trouble with the other girls whenever she could. "Oh, really, Mimi," she oiled. "Much as I despise Fifi, I really don’t think it was very deliberate. The powder was actually meant to go over your Cavegirl costume. Oops, I wasn’t meant to say that."
"Doris," demanded Fifi, coming over to the trio. "What are you doing? You know perfectly well that you spilt the powder. You are so jealous of Mimi and I; you are just trying to cause trouble. You think you should have the German soldiers because you are German, but everybody knows that French women are much better at the Art of Love than any other woman in the world." She suddenly remembered that Trixie-Belle was still there, listening to every sordid word. "Go to bed now, Trixi-Belle." Luckily for Trixie-Belle, she obeyed her mother without further question.
"Why, how dare you, you little sweinhundt," raged Doris. "I’ll have you know that the only reason the German soldiers choose you is that I don’t have enough time, what with all the other men I must entertain."
"Oh, indeed? So why is it that you cannot pay your rent on time? Why can you not afford enough food to put some flesh on your skinny bones?" Mimi’s words were harsh, and Doris pulled her hair. Mimi retaliated by slapping her face, then Fifi joined in the fray. The fight then escalated into a brawl, which the customers at least enjoyed.
"It was that fateful rainy Thursday evening in Paris, 1915," remembered Solange. "I didn’t need a cab, I didn’t own an umbrella. I had sent him away, because I was ashamed of who I was and what I had become. But I loved him like I had never loved anyone before. And I have loved a lot of men!!! If only I hadn’t stolen that gun from that French scoundrel, things may not have ended for Jock as they did . . ."
Jock had entered the brothel, causing Solange’s heart to both rejoice and grieve. "I know you told me never to return, me dearie," he announced. "But I couldn’t stay away. Hoots mon, I love you, and I want to take you with me to Scotland. I’d like you to help me raise my son, and live with me in a hoose in the Highlands with a white picket fence."
"Oh," breathed Solange. She had never heard such romantic words before.
"You must come with me my love," he demanded.
"No, I told you before, I cannot," she said resolutely. She nearly wavered; she wanted to go with him then and there, but reminded herself "how could his son possibly accept me as a step-mother? He would be shunned by his friends. Society would cast him out. In time Jock would regret our alliance. I could never do that to the man I love."
"You mean more to me than life itself," insisted Jock. "Och aye, I will die if you don’t come with me."
Solange couldn’t resist declaring her feelings for him. "I love you. Je T’adore!"
"Och all right then," he replied as he went to shut the door. Solange was horribly confused.
"But, my love," he explained. "You told me to shut the door."
"Oh, you highland fool, you! I said "Je T’adore". It means I love you."
"I love you as I have never loved anyone before," she confessed to him. "And I have loved a lot of men. Oh, did I say that out loud?"
"Come here my wee bonny lass," he said, pulling her to him. There was the sudden deafening noise of a gun-shot, and Louis was roused out of his drugged sleep. "Hell," groaned Jock. "I think a shot was just fired ... into my chest. I think my MacScotch Finger Biscuit saved my life." He pulled a Scotch Finger biscuit out of his pocket. It had a hole in the middle of it. "No, it didn’t. Oh, crumbs. My God, Solange how could you do this to me?"
"Oh no," cried Solange, disconsolately through a mouthful of biscuit. "My Jock has fallen!!" She had known that her life could never be as carefree again. "So that’s what happened that fateful rainy Thursday evening when I didn’t need a cab, and I certainly didn’t want an umbrella. I accidentally shot the only man I’ve ever truly loved."
"Ah, Solange," had glowered Louis, unremembered in his corner. "I’ll remember that name, and I’ll get my revenge, no matter how long it takes."
"Now I must return to England," she had decided, "to put the corruption, lust and debauchery behind me and resume my true identity. Ah, England, where Madam Blancmange LaBonque will be no more than a vague memory and Solange Foxworthy will be above reproach, as long as the truth is never revealed."
Connor was comforting Aurora after her father’s death. "Dinna fash yersel’ wee lassie," he said.
"Oh Connor," she replied. "I love you, but I wish you’d speak English."
"Sorry, my dear," he said, abashed.
"I feel so melancholy," sighed Aurora. "If only my father were alive, or something."
"Well, you’re mother’s still alive."
"We don’t talk about her," said Aurora shortly.
"I know you miss your wee pappy lassie, who died bankrupt and forlorn at the fact that he lost his only daughter in a gambling game of snap to a lecherous swine like Sir Reynard. But, remember my love, we will be married ... and you still have your dowry!"
"Oh yes, my darling." Aurora cheered up a little. "My dowry which was put away in trust where my father could not get his greedy gambling hands on it, will keep us in macnure and daffodils for many years to come."
"I will love you forever..." began Connor.
"But..." continued the garden boy.
"What do you mean ‘but"? There should be no ‘but’ in this conversation, you and I have true love."
"I cannot marry you just yet."
"Oh, is that all?" Aurora was relieved. She had imagined far worse. "So I can still rely on your expertise in the potting shed then?"
"Aye! But first I must avenge the permanent death of Colonel Jock Blackwood, my father! It’s the highland way!"
"Oh, Connor, you are everything I admire in a man. If only you knew who actually killed your father."
"Well, there is that," he conceded.
"It does kind of slow down the revenge process," Aurora felt constrained to point out.
"Aye," exclaimed our hero valiantly. "But I won’t let it stop me. If only me wee daddy were here to tell me who killed him."
Well, I wouldn’t wait forever for him. But remember, I’ll wait for you forever, because we have true love! I’ll just get out of the way and go and pick some daffodils, while you soliloquise to the reader." True to her word, Aurora left Connor alone while she picked daffodils. Unbeknownst to her though, Connor’s expired father did indeed appear to his son.
"What are you doing here father? I thought you were permanently dead." Connor exclaimed, absolutely flummoxed.
"I am," replied the sepulchral sire. "Can you not tell by my silvery ghost like kilt?"
"Connor my love," called out Aurora. "Who are you talking to? To whom are you speaking?"
"It’s just me wee father," he answered.
"Oh Connor, I can’t see anybody," noted Aurora as she reappeared. "I’ll just go and pick some more daffodils, and let you get on with your soliloquy." She went back, with a slight roll of her eyes, and a tiny seed of worry planted in her heart. Was Connor quite right in the, you know, head?
"I’m here to support you in your quest to avenge me untimely and permanent death," continued Jock, completely oblivious to the interruption.
"I don’t suppose you could tell me who actually killed ye," hinted Connor delicately. "It might speed up proceedings a little."
"Ah son," sighed Jock. "You know I canna tell ye that, not until chapter ten. There’s a lot more torment to come before the truth can be revealed. It’s the highland way!"
Connor nodded sagely. "I can see the sense in that. Come, my Aurora, we must away. Goodbye father," he turned to the ghost. "I imagine I’ll see you somewhere around chapter ten."
"Aye," agreed Jock. "Look after your wee bonny lass, me lad, its not every day you get true love!"
As the trio left the garden, Sir Reynard’s appearance caused not a few daffodils to wilt. "Ah, there she goes, my little Snap Dragon," he slimed. "I will have her, no matter what the cost. My henchmen are currently refining their evil kidnapping plan. There will be no escape for her. I will wrench her from her beloved garden boy, wreaking misery once again upon his life. They may have true love, but I have true lust, and three able bodied henchmen. Well, actually only one henchman — two are henchwomen. But I won’t hold that against them. In fact I wish they’d hold it against me sometime."
At that statement, Destiny suddenly entered the garden. "Come on already. Any more of that and I’ll report you to the Cliche International Association," she announced, then marched as suddenly out again.
Reynard raised his eyebrows. "I’ll report her for being a stereotype. But enough of this persiflage. You know, small talk. I want her. I shall have her. End of story. Actually, end of chapter. Ha, ha, ha!"
On a village road nearby, a man in overalls was lounging by the wayside. He started to speak to himself, because that’s the kind of man he was. "My name be Farmer Bob," he said. "Bet you can’t guess what I do for a living? You’re wrong, I be a farmer.
"I was talking to my daughter Marigold the other day about spanfurgling and spudnurdling, which are an essential part of what the farmer does during the spring time. What’s that I hear you ask? You’re a bit perdunkled about the difference between spanfurgling and spudnurdling? Well, you see, after you’ve merzled the grumelwater, you’re got to nurdle your spuds, and span your furgles. You see the difference there.
"Anyway, after you’ve engirdled your grozet, you’ve got to make sure your chickens are deambulated, otherwise they just won’t lay properly. You see, I’m rather an expert having won a second runner’s up consolation prize in the Dunkley on Rhine village fete. I was given my prize for chopping the curly cail by the vicar’s daughter. That’s a bit of alright, init?
"Oh, is that a bunny I see? That reminds me — I came out here to get some fresh 'ares
"Anyway, where was I? Yes, I was about to tell you how to gugenbobbin your hospodar . . ."
At this point, a ghost in a silvery kilt came up the road, wailing. "Until my permanent death is avenged," moaned Jock, for he was the ghost in question, "my spirit must walk the ghostly mists of limbo. The thing I miss most about life is Mac Scotch Finger Biscuits. Oh, and Solange. Och, I remember that fateful Thursday evening in Paris, in 1915. It was raining, I couldn’t catch a cab, and I’d lost my umbrella. Och, how my soul roils in torment. The last time I saw my true love, she was standing in her underwear."
Farmer Bob interrupted at this point. "That’s a bit of alright, init?" he leered.
"The last words I heard her utter were, ‘Oh no, my Jock has fallen,’" continued Jock.
"Phwoar, that’s a real bit of alright, init?" Farmer Bob had misunderstood the meaning of Solange’s words.
"It tortures me so," went on Jock, apparently unaware of Bob’s presence. "That I am in love with the woman who brazenly spilt my blood and brought about my untimely and permanent death. Hoots mon, that hurt. I didn’t even have time to whip oot me dirk!"
"Now there’s a man who should meet the Vicar’s daughter," put in Farmer Bob.
"I loved her, as I’ve loved no other woman. And there haven’t been that many... My soul longs for rest, but I fear my love for Solange will keep my spirit walking for longer than eternity."
"That’s not another sister is it?" grinned Farmer Bob.
I had true love in my grasp. And she went and shot me. Oh, the never-ending torment. But it is the highland way." At this last brave statement, Jock wafted on his ghostly way.
Farmer Bob was flabbergasted. "Was that a macspectre? Well I’ll be hornswoggled and spunickled all at the same time . . . Bet you reckon I’ve got no idea what’s going on . . . Well, I reckon you’d be right," he declared as he made his dazed way back home.
Aurora was in her boudoir, brushing her hair as she prepared for bed. She gazed into the mirror as her thoughts soared towards her true love. "Oh, how I love Connor. Words cannot describe how madly my heart beats whenever my eyes meet his. It exceeds even my heartfelt love for daffodils.
"Yet, I feel trouble darkens the horizon that is our paradise of true love. That horrible, beastly, lecherous, smelly Sir Reynard Foxworthy has been dogging my every move of late. I cannot turn around without finding him leching after my pure and virtuous body."
Farmer Bob made an unexpected an unnoticed entrance into the boudoir. "That’s a bit of alright, init?" he declared, and he left just as suddenly.
"I fear the irrevocable consequences of his leching will result in something dreadful happening to me - or to Connor for that matter," continued Aurora. "Oh, I love Connor. Now I shall go and sleep the sleep of the chaste and maidenly, awaiting the arrival of a brand new dawn."
True to her word, she climbed into bed, and commenced her sleep of the chaste and maidenly as she awaited the arrival of a brand new dawn. While she was sweetly unconscious, Reynard’s dastardly trio climbed in through her window.
"Right," whispered Louis. "Now, everybody sure about the plan?"
"What plan? I did not know we had a plan," hissed Luisa.
"Dummy," replied Destiny. "You know, the plan! Is this the plan where I sneak into the palace, drug the butler, tie up the princess and stuff her under the bed, take the place of the princess, go down to the bank vault, steal the crown jewels, get out of the castle, go back to you guys and give you the loot?"
"What princess, stupid?" queried Luisa, as she slapped Destiny’s face. She turned to Louis. "Hey boss, remind me, who’s the princess?"
"Forget the princess," growled Louis. "This is where we take the mademoiselle to the brothel on the cliff."
"What cliff?" asked a confused Destiny.
"You know, the cliff," explained Luisa. She turned to Louis again. "Hey boss, can you remind me what the cliff was again?"
"You know, Dead Man’s Cliff," started Louis, before he gave up. "Oh, forget it. Just do what I do, go where I go and don’t touch anything."
"How can we do what you do if we’re not allowed to touch anything?" Luisa wondered.
"She’s got a point there," commented Destiny. "Hey, Luisa, what was the point again?"
Louis was wondering what he’d ever done to be lumbered with such a pair of numbwits. He slapped them both. Unfortunately, they turned around and slapped him back.
"You told us to do what you did," explained Luisa, as she quailed under his glare.
"Just grab the girl and put her into the bag," said Louis behind gritted teeth.
Luisa tried to do as instructed, but instead of Aurora, she accosted Destiny and bagged her.
"Hey, Louis," she cried, as she laughed herself stupid. "Your Destiny is in the bag."
At this feeble attempt at humour, Farmer Bob came back into the room, slapped Luisa, and went back out. Louis freed Destiny from the bag, and the henchmen approached the bed, and Aurora who was miraculously still sleeping her chaste sleep. She woke up, however, when she was grabbed.
"Oh, help!" she cried. "Nefarious, criminal-like activities are unfolding in my boudoir." Luisa shoved her in the bag, but Aurora’s head popped up.
"My true love will save me," she stoutly declared. Louis closed the bag over her head, but her head popped up again.
"Oh! Connor, my love! Save me, save me!" she called. Destiny had a go at closing the bag, but Aurora’s head popped up for one last statement.
"I know the life of the privileged is not all champagne and daffodils, but this is ridiculous!" she snapped. At this, Farmer Bob came back into the room, and shoved her back in.
"Oh, come on," he demanded impatiently. "The reader is waiting for revelations in chapter ten. For Heaven’s sake, stay in the sack," he ordered before leaving again.
"Right," said Louis. "Tie up the bag and we will take her to the brothel on the cliff where Sir Reynard will be waiting." Louis didn’t realize, but a kilted ghost floated through the room and back out again at that point.
"Why are we taking her to the brothel?" wondered Luisa.
"So that she’ll be brought so low, she will no longer sleep the sleep of the chaste and maidenly," explained Louis. "No one else will want to marry her and she will have to accept Sir Reynard!"
"Oh! It’s perfectly obvious," put in Destiny. "We’re taking her to a brothel, she’s going to be tied to a bed and Sir Reynard is going to. . . "
Realization suddenly dawned on both the girls. "OH!!!" they chorused.
Connor’s back was scorching under the hot sun as he toiled in the daffodil patch the next day. His labours were interrupted by a hideous noise as Jock floated into the garden, playing his ghostly bagpipes. Jock ceased the screeching long enough to call to his son. "Och! Son, come away from your daffodils. It’s chapter ten."
"Och! Aye Dad," Connor replied eagerly. "You said you had something important to reveal to me at this point."
"Son, concentrate on Aurora and forget the vendetta. She’s more important because..."
"Dad," interrupted Connor, scandalised. "I must avenge your untimely and permanent death. It’s the Highland way."
"No," insisted the life-impaired one. "For once in your life listen to me you stupid bairn. There are these three henchmen and hoots mon, they’re in cahoots mon with..."
But Jock’s important stuttering was once again interrupted as Solange came into the garden, her spirits much lower than was her custom. "Connor, where are those cucumbers you promised me?"
"I’m sorry," he replied. "But Miss Aurora has had all my cucumbers. I have nothing left to offer you."
"Son, listen to me..." interjected a frantic Jock.
"Connor," hinted Solange, delicately. "I’m sure there must be something for me in the potting shed."
Jock, at this point, noticed Solange. "Gasp!! It is her, my one true love. The one who shot me and caused my untimely and permanent death on that rainy Thursday evening in Paris in 1915 when I couldn’t get a cab and I lost my umbrella." He hovered on the spot, unable to speak, his throat constricted with seven years’ worth of love and accusation.
"Perhaps I could offer you a bunch of daffodils," said Connor, completely oblivious to his father’s paroxysms of emotion.
"Connor, credit me with being a woman of the world. You know what I am here for." Solange felt that if only he didn’t remind her so much of someone from her past, she wouldn’t feel so compelled to try and seduce him.
The penny finally dropped on Connor. He may have been innocent and na´ve, but he wasn’t entirely devoid of intelligence. "Miss Foxworthy, I think you should know, my heart belongs to Miss Aurora. She is my one true love."
Solange raised a wicked eyebrow. "That doesn’t mean your body can’t belong to me - even for just one night." She smiled like a tigress about to pounce.
"Solange," he cast about desperately. "I know what’s on your mind. It won’t happen overnight. In fact, it will never happen."
Solange’s smile disappeared, a dark look of anger appearing in its stead as if by magic. She flounced from the garden. Once she was gone, Jock was able to recover his voice.
"Connor," he croaked. "We haven’t got time to waste on airy persiflage. The chapter is almost over and I haven’t yet told you what I was trying to tell you before we were so rudely interrupted. Your one true love has been kidnapped by three nefarious criminals and taken to the brothel on the cliff..."
This finally had Connor’s attention. "What cliff?" he asked, bewildered. Farmer Bob walked through the garden and out again, giving Connor a good slap in the face on his way.
"Sir Reynard has a vile and depraved plan to ruin her reputation and ravish her to within an inch of her life and have his wicked way with her," explained Jock, ignoring both Connor’s question, and Farmer Bob.
"Hoots, mon. We’d better get to the brothel on the cliff," cried Connor.
"I also have to tell you about my untimely and permanent death that fateful rainy Thursday evening in Paris in 1915..." Jock and Connor set on their mission, while Jock explained the circumstances of his death.
While her hero was contending with Solange’s attentions, Aurora was tied to a bed in the brothel, and feebly crying for help. Sir Reynard was leering over her. "Well, my dear. Now I have you tied to the bed in the brothel on the cliff, what do you think I’m going to do with you?"
"Um, play a game of snap?" she said hopefully.
"You ignorant and foolish girl," he laughed. "I will bring you so low, you will no longer sleep the sleep of the chaste and maidenly. No one else will want to marry you."
"You vile, despicable man. Fear not, I know my Connor will save me," she declared, sounding rather more confident than she felt.
"This is the end of life as you know it," said Reynard, as he advanced on Aurora. Just at that point, a woman burst from a cupboard, brandishing a long, sharp knife.
"Hold, husband!" cried the mysterious woman.
Aurora was aghast. She’d had reason, after all, to believe that Reynard’s treachery was devised with the intent of marriage to her, Aurora, "You’re married?" she screeched.
"Well, sort of," he hemmed, suddenly feeling rather hot under the collar. "Well, not really. Technically, I suppose, yes. The parson did say the words over us, we had the party, the honeymoon, the congratulatory telegrams. But I don’t really consider us to be married."
"What?" Now it was Clarissa’s turn to screech. "You lecherous swine!" She began to mutter to herself, cackling madly every now and again. "He only married me for my money. After he took my dowry and spent it all in one afternoon, he started locking me in cupboards. I realised that my dream of true love was a nightmare. He claimed I was insane. I knew I wasn’t, but after those many months of living in a small, dark, confined space with no companions, not even a daffodil to keep me company, I found my mind had begun to desert me. The only way to keep a grip on sanity was to devise the ultimate revenge and free myself from him forever, any way I could.
"Now," she announced to the room. "If you will excuse me, I have a husband to kill. Right, Foxworthy, it’s either you or me. It ain’t gonna be me, and it ain’t gonna be nice." Aurora cried feebly for help once more.
"My God, woman," said an astonished Reynard. "Aren’t you dead yet? I thought if I locked you in a cupboard with no food or water for six months, you’d die. It worked last time.
Aurora was appalled, and wasted no time in saying so. "I’m appalled! Do you mean to tell me there have been others?"
"Fear not, my little Snap Dragon," he replied soothingly. "I wouldn’t do anything like that to you, because I’m not going to marry you. Just lie back and think of England."
"Help, help! Surely someone will save me soon! Oh!" she cried as she fainted.
"So, Foxworthy," Clarissa grinned maniacally. "It comes down to you and me and this knife, which happened to be lying in the cupboard where I was left for six months with no food or water, not even a daffodil.
"I’ve been hacking away at the lock for six months with this knife. I hope it’s still sharp enough to do serious injury," she added quietly. She leapt into the air, brandishing the knife. Reynard backed away before turning tail and running about the brothel like the trapped rat he was. It wasn’t long before Clarissa had to pause for a breather. "It’s hard to run like this when you’ve been locked in a cupboard for six months," she gasped before resuming the chase.
Louis, Luisa and Destiny suddenly poked their heads from under the bed. "Is this part of the plan?" wondered Luisa.
"What plan?" Destiny piped up.
"You know, the plan," urged Louis.
"Yes," interjected Farmer Bob, whose head also suddenly appeared from under the bed. "The plan. That’s a bit of alright, init."
"Is he part of the plan?" Destiny wanted to know.
"Shut up, Destiny!" snapped Louis, suddenly heartily sick of The Plan,
"Is your name Destiny?" asked Farmer Bob. "That’s a bit of alright, init." Destiny suddenly understood that Farmer Bob had no call to be under the bed at that point, and she screamed and bolted. Louis and Luisa followed, with Farmer Bob close behind. They joined in the chase, which was still running at full steam. When Farmer Bob found himself chasing closely behind Destiny, he couldn’t resist a quip.
"Destiny is within my grasp," he cackled.
Aurora woke up, and noticed that some other woman was getting all of the attention. "Help, help!" she cried.
Clarissa was forced to admit defeat. "Foxworthy," she puffed as she gasped for air. "You’ve beaten me. Those months in the cupboard have ruined my sprinting ability. So, if I can’t kill you, I’ll kill the one who is closest to your heart - for the moment."
"Who’s that?" Reynard was perplexed. Who did Clarissa think was closest to his heart than himself?
"I hope it’s not me," put in Aurora.
"Oh, her," said Reynard, waggling his eyebrows suggestively. "I wouldn’t say it’s my heart she’s close to!"
"Oh, no," squawked Aurora. "Help, help. And this time I really, really mean it!"
"I’m sorry, my dear," crooned Clarissa, as she advanced upon Aurora with her knife. "Don’t take this personally, but I’m trying to prove a point."
"Just don’t point it anywhere near me!" said Aurora, sounding a lot braver than she felt.
"Just close your eyes and think of heaven. It won’t hurt - after a while," soothed her assailant.
Luck was on Aurora’s side though, because an unexpected ally entered the room at that critical moment. Solange required only a few heartbeats to understand the situation, and she reacted speedily. She wrenched Clarissa off Aurora. "Oh, no! This is worse than Paris," she cried. "Can’t you see where your lust and greed are leading you, Reynard?"
"I thought they were leading me to Aurora, but I was obviously wrong," replied her brother.
Solange asked Aurora who had kidnapped her, but Aurora replied "I don’t know, I was in the sack at the time."
"That’s a bit of alright, init," leered Farmer Bob.
"No, really," frowned Solange impatiently. "Who has caused all this mayhem?" Confusion reigned for a few moments, as everybody pointed guiltily at other people. Eventually though, the babble ceased as consensus was reached, and they were all pointing at Sir Reynard.
"It wasn’t me," whined Reynard. "It was Connor Blackwood."
"You lie, you beastly horrible man, you," quivered Aurora in anger.
Sir Reynard swore softly. "Curses," he said, as he took his leave. "Foiled again. I think it’s time to take my leave."
Solange turned to Clarissa. "What are you doing out of the cupboard?" She advanced upon her, and Clarissa backed up until she was standing on the sack. Solange captured her in it, and shoved her into the corner.
"How can you do this to me?" came Clarissa’s muffled voice. "I’m married to your brother!"
"Not if you get a good divorce lawyer," retorted Solange. "Here’s my card. I used to do a little soliciting in the old days."
Louis, who had been quiet all this time, spoke up. "Madame, your twenty four hours are up. So, what’s it to be, the money, or the truth?"
"No, you filthy blackmailing swine. I’ll tell them the truth. I must confess to you all," Solange appealed to the group crowded in the room. "I have not always been as I appear to you today. I have a shameful secret from my past. I thought I would never have to reveal this to anyone, but I see I have no alternative.
"It was a rainy Thursday evening in Paris in 1915. No, I shall have to go back further than that. I was down on my luck; the Germans had occupied Paris. There was no way for a young English girl to get home. The only way to survive was to forge a new identity. I became French. I became Madam Blancmange La Bonque.
"Yes, I can see you all know of my infamous reputation. Let me assure you, the rumours you have heard are . . . all true.
"I thought I had hardened my heart, until the day he walked into my life. He was a spy for the British Embassy, and he was really good at it too. Amidst the chaos and abandon that was war-time Paris, we somehow fell in love. Stolen moments in the street, walking in the rain, singing "I Love Paris in the Springtime". How well I remember our last tango.
"Suddenly the music became ominous, and I knew our idyll was about to end. He proposed . . . marriage. Oh, what future was there for us? He was a noble Scot, and who was I but a mere wanton wench. I sent him away with a heavy heart.
"Oh! How offal!" interrupted Destiny.
"Why, aorta!" threatened Louis.
Solange continued as though no bad joke had been perpetrated. "My days were dreary without him. Then came that fateful rainy Thursday. He came into my establishment. My joy at seeing him was overshadowed by my shame at his discovery that I didn’t work in a bank after all. It was really a brothel. I remember I had just finished drugging Louis over there and stealing his wallet."
"Oh, how I remember that day," supplied Louis.
"Yes, you stingy man," she responded. "You only had five sous in your wallet. It was barely enough to pay for the poison. But enough of this persiflage.
"I wish I had not also stolen Louis’s gun, because, having awkwardly concealed it in my corset, it went off as we embraced. At first I was not sure of what had happened, but as he slumped to the floor, I knew my Jock had fallen, I knew it was the end of my dreams."
"That’s so tragic!" sighed Destiny.
Connor entered the room, unseen by any other, followed by his ghostly dad. Having heard none of the preceding confession, Solange’s next words were like a shot to his heart.
"I could not believe it," Solange continued. "I had killed the only man I have ever loved - Colonel Mac Jock Blackwood!"
"I’ve come for you, Aurora, my love," stated Connor, manfully. "But first I must avenge my father’s untimely and permanent death. It’s the highland way!"
"Oh, Connor!" sighed Aurora
"Look everybody," shouted Destiny in excitement. "It’s O’Connor!"
"Nice and orderly, people," organized Farmer Bob, as everyone lined up to slap her. "Take one slap at Destiny and then move on." But Destiny had had enough.
"Not this time, sweetie," she muttered, as she punched the farmer.
Connor chose that moment to pounce on Solange. "Hoots! Toots! Och aye!" he cried his war-cry. They began to struggle, and fell out of the window.
"Look everybody," cried Luisa. "They’re heading for the cliff!"
"What cliff?" Destiny wanted to know. A policewoman entered the room.
"Evening all," she said, officially. "Did somebody call for me?"
"Who are you?" queried Destiny.
"I’m WPC Cliff. Does anybody need my help?"
"Oh, yes please," Aurora began. "You see, ordinarily my Connor would have untied me, but he was sidetracked by his desire to avenge his father’s untimely and permanent death. He is now engaged in a life and death struggle with Solange Foxworthy on the edge of the cliff. So would you mind? Oh, by the way, these three nefarious criminals abducted me, put me in a sack and brought me here against my will."
"I think that’s against the law," said the worthy keeper of the peace as she untied Aurora. "I think you three are under arrest. I shall handcuff them to the bed."
"Sacre bleu! Merde! Mon Dieu!" sobbed Louis.
"Mama mia! Bella donna! Linguini!" moaned Luisa
"Jeepers! Holy Toledo! Oi vey already! And all those other American cliches!" whined Destiny as WPC Cliff handcuffed them all three to the bed.
"Now," said Aurora, her resolve steely now that her beloved was in danger. "I must head out to the cliff and hope that my Connor is still alive." She looked out of the window. "Oh, no. Solange is hanging onto Connor, and Connor is hanging onto the edge of the cliff by his fingertips."
Farmer Bob raised his eyebrows. "Well that’s a bit of a cliffhanger init!"
Out on the cliff top, Connor and Solange were in such an awkward position as described by Auroroa.
"Why did you kill my father?" Connor wanted to know.
"There are some things a woman can’t explain," equivocated Solange
"You can tell me, he was my father," Connor urged.
"No, really," Solange explained. "I just don’t know what happened. It was an accident"
"Can you just hang onto that thought for a moment whilst I clamber up the cliff? I can’t kill you now. Can you just hang onto that rock over there?"
"You mean this rock?"
"Yes. No, no, get your hand off my knee, woman."
"Sorry," Solange smirked. "I was sidetracked for a moment."
"Well, make sure it doesn’t happen again . . . for as long as you live."
Aurora by now had reached the clifftop, and helped Connor up. Solange however, lost her grip and fell to her doom on the jagged rocks below. Her long, chilling scream was cut off suddenly.
"Oh, my true love," Connor gushed to his lady love. "I never realised how much I needed you until now. It was your inner strength that kept me going whilst I was struggling with Solange, and your outer strength which helped me clamber off the cliff."
"Did someone call me?" WPC Cliff puffed, as she arrived at last at the clifftop.
"No," said Connor shortly. He turned back to Aurora. "I’m sorry that Solange died after all, but at least now I don’t have to avenge my father’s untimely and permanent death. Now, my love. I asked you before, and was unable to follow through with my promise. Now that I am free, I shall ask you again. Will you marry me?"
"Of course I will, you fool," sighed Aurora. Sir Reynard chose that moment to arrive on the scene, followed by Farmer Bob.
"Get your hands off her, she’s mine," cried the sandy-moustached one.
"Good God, man," humphed Connor. "Get it through your thick skull. She’s mine. Arrest that man."
"OK. You’re under arrest," exclaimed WPC Cliff.
"You’ll never take me alive!" declared Reynard, as he made good his escape.
"That can be arranged," said Farmer Bob. He chased after Sir Reynard with his pitchfork, with WPC Cliff in hot pursuit. A bloodcurdling scream was heard, and Farmer Bob returned, wiping his hands in satisfaction.
"Well, he’ll not trouble you again," he said, deprecatingly. "That was my favourite pitchfork and all."
"Where’s WPC Cliff?" wondered Connor.
"Oh, she’s attending to the remains," explained the farmer. "Besides, she’s a one-gag character. She doesn’t need to come back on."
Aurora and Connor shared a much-awaited embrace, while Mac Jock arrived with his newly ghostly love, Solange.
"Oh, Jock," she sighed. "At last, my love, we are together."
"Aye, my wee lassie. We’ll be together forever." They floated off in delight, Connor and Aurora following.
"Well!" exclaimed Farmer Bob, by now alone on the clifftop. "I’ll be hornswoggled and flabbergasted! Never has my flabber been so gasted! But I’m a bit perdunkled, ’cause, well, nobody wants me now."
A muffled voice interrupted his musings, as Clarissa came up to him, still in her sack.
"I’ll have you," she purred. "I’ll wait for you in the sack."
Everybody came back to the clifftop, overhearing Clarissa’s last remark. "Well," they all said as one. "That’s a bit of alright, init!"