Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's
THE LOST WORLD – Paris in the Sand
In my dream I came upon a window; it overlooked my past and held my future in its reflection. To which shall I lend my sight? ...or might I see them both as one.
– Arthur Summerlee, from the Books of Avalon
The Inland Sea – Summer, 1923
"You can lose that silly smirk, Roxton. I only meant to say: I was very flexible."
A rogue smile still lit his eyes as he replied, "And I agreed."
Marguerite raised an accusing finger. "This is hardly the behavior of a gentleman."
The fire's glow had long since faded to embers during the night, replaced now by a low moon mirrored against the flat inland sea. The ghostly light, carried on gentle waves, seemed to wash onto their secluded beach. Roxton relaxed his boyish grin and sat up, brushing idly at the sand that had crept onto their blankets.
"That's better," she said, and she paused to give her words more weight. The steady hum of cicadas filled the gap, connecting them to the dark jungle beyond. The Plateau was never completely silent.
"You realize the irony of accusing me of racy behavior –while you tell a story of squeezing into a dumbwaiter wearing nothing but your knickers."
"It was a leotard. The same kind that ballerinas wear under all of those ruffles and lace," she attempted the futile distinction, but she knew the point was lost.
"Knickers," he repeated.
"Yes, John. I was in my blooming knickers."
His smile returned. "I just want to get the image right in my head."
She gave a dismissive wave of her hand and continued, "I'd been inside that dumbwaiter – folded up, knees pressed against my forehead – for more than an hour. Adrienne was still down in the wine cellar, hoisting the cable that would raise me up to the third floor bed chambers." She paused again and beckoned for John to lay back down beside her; the space between them was growing cool and she wanted his warm body against her own.
He complied and then rolled onto his side to face her. "You'd suffer through all that and risk imprisonment just to steal the jewelry of some innocent marchioness?"
"She was hardly innocent, I can assure you. And the trinkets I intended to borrow –she never would have missed."
Marguerite let out a sigh as she recalled the events, now 15 years gone by. "Those tattletale pulleys!" She shook her head with the words. "Everytime Adrienne pulled on that cable, those rusty old pulleys would squeal. They echoed through the whole estate –at least it seemed so in the dead of night. It took nearly two hours to raise that cramped little box up three floors without waking every person in the house."
She was lost in the memory and Roxton broke her musings. "Serves you right, " he said, "but you got your precious jewels?"
"No," she answered, flatly. "The bottom of the dumbwaiter fell out. I tumbled three stories down that narrow chute and sprained my ankle. After two hours, I was right back in the wine cellar with Adrienne."
"Let me say it again, serves you right... how did you avoid being arrested?"
She laughed at the thought. "I couldn't even move; my legs had cramped up. Adrienne nearly carried me up the hall to a pantry. We spent the rest of the night hidden there while the gendarmerie searched the estate. In the morning, we snuck out."
"You're lucky you weren't caught." His tone carried a judgment he didn't feel. As if it were expected of him.
"It was fun, John –scary at the time, but as I think back on it, it was exciting."
As so often happened, he was taken with the mischief in her eyes.
"Adrienne had slipped an expensive bottle of Bordeaux into her pack. I'm sure she planned on selling it, but we drank it instead – that night – with some cheese and bread we found in the pantry." She rolled into him and lingered under his gaze for a moment. "Do stories like that make you think less of me?"
"Not at all," he answer immediately. "I envy you –your wild youth. Lord John Roxton always did the right thing." There was a hint of regret in his voice. "I never chose to become the Lord of Avebury and I don't think you chose to become a jewel thief. I can't explain it, but somehow this Plateau divided our lives –from what we were, to what we might become."
"I don't think we're ever going home, John." But with the passing years she had begun to wonder what the word home even meant. That John could love her for her past and at the same time be the promise of a future… it was even more than she was capable of doing for herself, and certainly more than she had ever expected of someone else.
"I am home, Marguerite. I have been since the day I got into that canoe with you. It took me a while to figure it out –and you threw me some wild pitches, but I always knew that we'd find this beach." He looked round their small camp and for the first time he noticed that the night sky had grown pale –morning was coming.
The mood had passed. He had fully intended to make use of the 'knicker' and 'flexibility' talk. He considered trying to rally, but they were both so tired.
Marguerite knew what he was thinking, she was thinking the same thing herself, but instead she rolled her back into the curve of his body and murmured quietly, "We have all day tomorrow, John."
He pulled a blanket across her shoulder and held her close. It was hard to tell which one of them fell asleep first.