The Guards of San Malo
By Sally Madison
Returning to St. Mary’s School for Girls, Elizabeth descended from the carriage. “It was so kind of you to bring me to San Malo, Monsieur Voltaire. When you return to London and if you see Lord Duncan, please tell him that you found me safe. We had made arrangements to meet. He is probably distraught, since I left no word and I left so abruptly. He was very smitten with me when last we spoke in Paris. It’s hard to say, if he ever learned of my capture. I have so much to sort through; I hardly know where to begin.”
“It was my pleasure. If you don’t mind, I’ll leave my carriage here, near the olive tree at the entrance of the walled city, and walk you to the school, since it’s late in the day.” Voltaire replied.
“There was a time, when I would insist on being left to my own devises, but my life has been diverted from what it might have been. I feel vulnerably, in a way that I could never have imagined, just a few months ago. I would be pleased to have you protection this evening.” She explained, as they entered the gates.
As they slowly progressed, they discussed people of mutual acquaintance, when Voltaire interrupted, “The noise! Those dogs barking, why doesn’t someone do something about that barking?”
“The dogs belong to the Bishop.” Elizabeth explained. “He uses them as the guards of the city at night. When the gates close for the day, the Rottweilers are let loose. No one dares venture of their homes after the dogs are out.”
Slowly they walked and talked through the streets that climbed to the school. The church bells rang and Voltaire was pacified.
Elizabeth perked her ears to the silence, grabbing her skirts, she darted around the last turn, “Run, run, your life depends on it, the dogs are loose!”
They raced up the steep incline as fast as they could. Breathlessly, Elizabeth banged with her fists on the massive wooden door, “Tabitha! Tabitha! Let me in, it’s Elizabeth! The dogs are loose!” Banging, and again.
Finally the door creaked open just a few inches, Elizabeth pushed Voltaire through, and turned quickly as Voltaire and an other person in the shadow pushed the door, Elizabeth threw the bolt sealing the door shut, just as the dogs leaped and pounced on the door. Grabbing the material of Elizabeth’s dress that had been caught in the door, the dogs pulled with all their strength. Elizabeth’s body was pulled back to the crack of the door, as her dress’s skirt strangling her. Voltaire quickly grabbed the skirt and ripped it off of her, sacrificing it to the dogs.
Breathless but relieved, they leaned their backs against the thick wooded door. Elizabeth, in her under slip, and Voltaire stood facing Mother Superior. Shocked and angry, Mother Superior stared at them. “Maybe we should have taken our chances with the dogs,” Elizabeth whispered to Voltaire.