+~Life's Just Begun~+
Chapter 4: On the Staircase
Though Isabella danced with several other men that night, mostly League
and Guild members (who were always kind to her), her mind was always
with Sir James. They had agreed not to yet show their love in public,
of course--not only was such sentiment against convention, London
Society would not likely look on it with approval, since he was an
aristocrat and she was not. So each mingled with the other guests,
longing to be with the other only, but wisely playing a part for the
moment. Isabella was quite used to play-acting, of course, but for Sir
James, the experience was harrowing and exhausting.
He wandered into one of the card rooms, finding Sir Andrew Ffoulkes
loitering about one of the tables.
"Andrew!" he called out. Sir Andrew turned in surprise.
"James! Zounds, how are you, my boy?"
Sir James laughed. Sir Andrew was only a year his senior, but he used
the slight advantage mercilessly. The two friends wandered away from
the card tables and into the hall. Sir James had sought out Sir Andrew
for a reason; he needed to confide in someone. Sir Andrew was as good a
friend as he had ever had. He would sympathize. He could offer advice.
"I'm simply wonderful."
He sighed, picturing Isabella's sweet face in
his mind. "I'm in love, Andrew."
"Love? James, are you sure?"
"I've never been more sure of anything in my life. And the best part of
it is, she loves me too."
"Odd's fish, that's marvelous! Congratulations, my friend. And I had
thought you were a confirmed bachelor! If you don't mind my asking, who
is the lady who has won you over at last?"
"Andrew, that's the trouble. She's not a 'lady'--at least, she's not an
aristocrat; in my eyes she's every bit the lady. I'm in love with a
plebian French mademoiselle, Isabella de Roche. I have no problems with
this, Andrew, but Anne will have my hide about it if I don't find some
way of telling her gently. You know how stiff she is when it comes to
Upon hearing Isabella's name, Sir Andrew smiled in approval. He
remembered the quiet young mademoiselle from her rescue, and recalled
that she was one of his beloved Suzanne's school friends, as well as of
Lady Blakeney's. He thought her an exceptionally prudent young woman,
polite and pleasant. As for her social status, hadn't Lady Blakeney
been a plebian when Sir Percy married her? It was no disgrace in his
eyes for an aristocrat to love a plebian. Love is love. It cannot be
"James, if you love her, and she loves you, it doesn't matter what her
social status is. As for Anne, she is a sweet and kind young woman.
She may disapprove at first, but very soon I think, she and Isabella
will become very good friends. Isabella is a charming young woman. She
could win the friendship of even the most adamant."
Sir James smiled at his friend, shaking his hand gratefully.
you, Andrew. You've put my mind at rest."
Sir Andrew smiled, then saw Sir Percy Blakeney out of the corner of his
eye moving toward the staircase, with a quick glance over in his
direction. Understanding the silent order, Sir Andrew turned again to
"If you will excuse me, James, I think I'll go wander in the dancing
rooms and see if I can find Suzanne. I haven't the faintest idea where
she's disappeared to."
"Of course, Andrew," Sir James replied in some confusion, watching him
walk away in the general direction of the grand staircase. His old
friend had given heartfelt and sound advice, but there was something
different about his manner that he had not noticed before. He seemed to
assume a lighter, more careless air than ever he had seen in him before,
and yet throughout the conversation he had seemed aware of the slightest
movement around them, and cautious of every word he said.
Instinctively, Sir James knew that Sir Andrew was not looking for
Suzanne. Sensing a mystery, he followed where Sir Andrew had gone.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
Isabella saw Sir Percy head for the staircase and drew in her breath,
knowing what would come next. Lady Eliza walked past her nonchalantly
and whispered, "Places."
Isabella immediately began to wander to her spot in the room opposite
the staircase. She watched as, one by one, League members followed
their leader up the staircase, leaving plenty of space in between. Last
of all, Lord Hastings himself ascended his own staircase, pausing a
moment to glance at her as he went. She gave him a slight nod,
understanding his gaze. She was to permit no one else to go up the
stairs until they all came down. Idly she leaned against the wall,
Suddenly Isabella heard footsteps approaching. So soon! She would have
to go to work right away. She turned to see who the intruder was, and
saw the one thing she had been dreading.
Sir James was approaching the staircase.
Once again she asked herself the awful question: Could he be a spy?
Then she remembered the balcony, how he had looked at her, had kissed
her. No. Not him. He was not a spy. But, he was a friend of Sir
Andrew Ffoulkes. Most likely, he had seen Sir Andrew leave, and
followed out of curiosity. She would just have to direct his attention
elsewhere, but she loathed herself for having to decieve the man she
loved. She intercepted him at the base of the staircase.
"James, will you not accompany me into the next room?" she asked
innocently, taking his arm. He looked at her as if he had just realized
she was there, then smiled.
"Of course, Isabella. I just have to go upstairs for a moment first."
Uh-oh. He was more than curious--he was interested. She would have to
"Oh, James, what is upstairs that is so important?"
"I need to go see what is wrong with my friend Sir Andrew Ffoulkes."
Isabella watched, wondering what to do, as he set his foot on
the first step.
He was determined. He was already halfway up the stairs. Isabella made
her awful decision in an instant, but she would have to act fast.
Taking up a walking stick she had earlier hidden in her skirts, she
delivered a well-placed hit to the back of his head, watching him fall
unconscious at her feet with tears in her eyes.
"I'm sorry, my love," she said as she dragged him into a small, deserted
room and laid him on the couch. "Maybe, someday, you will understand."
She returned to her position sorrowfully, sure that he would not wake
for several hours, and once again went on the watch, waiting.
Chapter 5: Never Let Her Go
The meeting was over quickly. Still, it was late, and only a few guests
besides League and Guild members remained when the men came back down
the staircase. As soon as Lord Hastings gave her a reassuring smile,
that the job was done, she went into the small room where Sir James
lay. She sat by his side, watching him as he slept in unconsciousness,
hating herself for attacking him, but knowing she had no other choice.
"Isabella? Are you okay, my dear?"
Lady Hastings had followed Isabella
into the room, worried that the job had been too much for her. But it
was not the job that had distressed Isabella. She turned to Lady
Hastings with tears filling her eyes again. Lady Hastings noticed the
man lying on the couch, and looked again to Isabella, puzzled.
"I love him, Lady Hastings. I love him with all my heart, and I
Lady Hastings was taken aback. "You love him? You're sure of this,
"Does he return your love?"
"Yes," she replied, thinking of the balcony, his profession of love, and
his tender kiss. "Oh, yes."
"Then may I offer my congratulations to you, Isabella," Lady Hastings
said with a smile. "Not many find love so early in life, and even fewer
are allowed to keep it."
"But I attacked him, my lady! How can I allow myself to continue to
love a man I brutally attacked?"
Lady Hastings laughed. "Isabella, dear, that was in the line of duty!
It does not mean you cannot love him! You are sure he was innocent of
"Yes. He was only worried about his friend, Sir Andrew."
"If he is a friend of Sir Andrew, you need have no fear as to his
loyalty to England. Sir Andrew is an excellent judge of character, and
any friend of his is a friend to the League, and though they may not
know it, also to the Guild. So you see, you have nothing to worry
about! Simply tell him that something fell on his head when he wakes
up. It's true enough," she added with a grin. "Nobody but you and I
will know that you attacked the man you loved for the sake of the
Impulsively Isabella embraced Lady Eliza warmly. "Thank you."
"I need no thanks, Isabella," Lady Eliza laughed kindly. "Only an
invitation to the wedding!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
The wedding of Sir James Whitsfield and Mademoiselle Isabella de Roche
was a warm and brilliant affair, well attended by Society. Even the
staunchest of Sir James' friends had been charmed by Isabella's sweet
nature in time. Moreover, her bridal gown was a masterpiece, a gift
from Anne, who had become Isabella's fast friend, as Sir Andrew Ffoulkes
had predicted. Sir Andrew was there, with Suzanne, as were Sir Percy
Blakeney and Marguerite, with many other League members. And Lord and
Lady Hastings led the throng of Guild members in attendance to see the
shy, quiet Isabella enter into her new life as a titled, married woman.
The ceremony was simple and beautiful, and Isabella enjoyed every
moment, but she longed for it to be over, so she could be alone with Sir
James. For it was then that she could tell him her secret. She had
spoken to Lady Hastings about it, and Lord Hastings had discreetly
spoken of him to Sir Andrew; Sir James' sentiments clearly lay with the
Scarlet Pimpernel, and so Lady Hastings had given Isabella her consent
to tell Sir James about the Violet Guild, and to ask him if he wished to
join. If he wished to do so, she would send him the customary sealed
Finally, the festivities were done, and Sir James helped his new wife
into the carriage and drove her back to his estate. He carried her into
the house in his arms, in the beautiful custom, and kissed her
passionately and lovingly.
"Welcome home, Lady Whitsfield," he said tenderly. He set her down, and
Isabella began to wander through the house.
"It's beautiful, James." She turned to him, ready to tell him the
truth. "I have something very important to tell you." She led him into
a room and sat him down. "But you must swear that what I tell you will
never be repeated to another soul."
After she had told him all about the Guild, Sir James was speechless.
Isabella was afraid that he was angry. Finally he spoke.
"You do this for your countrymen, Isabella? You have done this in the
past? You are even more noble and brave than I first thought!" He
kissed her again. "How I love you."
"James, it's dangerous work, I know, and you needn't accept if you don't
want to, but . . . would you join us? I would like nothing more than to
work side by side with my husband."
Without hesitation, Sir James responded, "Of course. How could I permit
myself to refuse to do that which my wife so bravely dares to?"
They kissed once more, and with that kiss Isabella felt the Guild and
the Scarlet Pimpernel grow even more dear to her than before, for they
had led her to her true love.
"We shall work together, my darling." she whispered, "for the safety of
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