Mirari Semsa looked up with a start when the front door of her chocolate shop slammed open so hard that she feared it would come off the hinges.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Springer’s familiar, lanky redheaded form made a beeline across the room, weaving in and out of patrons to get to Mirari’s personal table in the far corner. Two recently hired waitresses dodged out of the way as she passed, barely keeping a hold on the plates they were carrying. A few of the customers looked up, the expressions on several of their faces showed that they recognized the newcomer.

“Hello Betsy,” Mirari said.

The young girl leaned across the table and looked down at the Basque woman.

“If I see him again, I’ll kill him and I will do it slowly, very, very slowly.” She raised one hand, finger pointed skyward for emphasis. “I’ll cut his heart out with a fork. No! I’ll use spoon!”

Mirari took a sip of her chocolate, set the glass down and smiled at her guest. “Why a spoon?”

“It’ll hurt more!”

“Why don’t you sit down and tell me what my dear cousin Denis has done?” Mirari waved to an empty chair in invitation. Betsy dropped into the chair on the opposite side of the table and glanced back toward the front door as if expecting the devil himself to be standing there. Mirari thought she could hear her friend counting backwards, first in English then in Latin, which surprised her, since she hadn’t been aware that the young redhead knew any Latin.

In the few months since they had met, the reporter had become one of her favorite people in Grantville. Betsy was a little quirky, definitely not like the young women that Mirari had grown up around. That was something she liked about these American women; they were not inclined to follow the path expected of a seventeenth-century woman, which suited Mirari quite well.

“It’s not Denis! He’s one of my best friends,” said Betsy finally. “It’s that supreme idiot Albert!”

“Albert?” Mirari blinked in confusion. “I’m not really sure who you are talking about. Personally, I know four Alberts, so you need to be a wee bit more specific.”

Betsy leaned back in her chair and covered her face with one hand. “There can be only one! Albert Haleman! His family lives southeast of here. For some damn reason that I don’t understand he’s decided that he and I are soul mates and that we should get married and have eight or twelve or twenty kids.”

“Big families can be a good thing,” Mirari said cautiously. She had five brothers and three sisters—at least those were the ones that her father would admit to. Things did get a bit crowded at the dinner table, but there was always someone to talk with and to take your side in an argument.

Betsy sat up straight again to throw Mirari an incredulous look. “I don’t mind having kids! I actually like the idea. Someday. A long time from now. After I’m secure in my reporting career. And not with . . . ” Her face twisted like she’d just tried lutefisk. “Albert. ”

Mirari smiled in amusement. “So how did Albert get the idea that you two should marry?”

“I owed Albert’s cousin, Hans, a favor for an interview. He said ‘Let me set you up on a blind date with my cousin Albert.” She puffed out her chest and cheeks while lowering her voice in an imitation of what had to be Hans. “‘Then we’ll be even,’ he said. ‘He’s curious about Americans. It would only be once,’ he said. Unfortunately, he neglected to tell Albert that this was a onetime only event. Now the idiot thinks we’re made for each other, and that I just have to realize it. He won’t take no for an answer!”

Mirari couldn’t help but smile. The Basque woman could think of at least a half dozen ways to get rid of an unwanted suitor. One or two would even leave his ego intact.

“You could always tell him that you were madly in love with that young navy man from Hamburg. The one with NCIS,” she suggested.

“Abelerd Gottschalk? He was kind of cute.” Betsy looked thoughtful. Then she shook her head. “It wouldn’t work. ”

Just then one of the waitresses walked up to the table. “Mirari? He’s here. ” At those words Betsy went pale.

“Thank you,” Mirari said. “Bring him right over. ” She turned to Betsy. “I think I’ve got just the thing to take your mind off of Albert. ”

****

The waitress led over a young man of perhaps thirteen years who was dressed in browns and grays. Like a good reporter, Betsy studied him while he approached. The first thing she noticed was his large, hawk-like nose. She actually thought it gave him a unique look. As he crossed the room, patrons stepped aside to avoid brushing the sword that hung from his belt. As he neared, his startling dark eyes zeroed in on Betsy. She flushed at being caught studying him so openly.

“Madam Semsa,” the young man turned to Mirari. “It’s a pleasure to see you again. ”

“As it is to see you,” Mirari said and then turned to her friend. “Betsy, I would like you to meet Cyrano de Bergerac.”

“Cyrano? Oh! They wrote plays about you!” All thoughts of Albert flew from her mind. Betsy stood to offer de Bergerac her hand. Rather than shake in the American style, he turned it and kissed her knuckles. If he had been a few years older, Betsy would have been flattered. As it was she thought it was cute. She could easily see where the older Cyrano would get his reputation for being a great romantic.

“I’m told they exaggerated the size of my nose, somewhat,” he said ruefully.

“You know what they say about a man’s nose,” Betsy replied. Then her eyes grew wide as she realized what she had said.

Cyrano lifted a single eyebrow in question. He was obviously trying to appear worldly and cool, but a furious red blush darkened the back of his neck and cheeks. “That would be where my other reputation comes from.”

“Mondemoiseau de Bergerac is taking a grand tour of Europe. He and his companion have traveled some way out of their way so that he can speak with you, Betsy.”

“Really? Where is your companion?” By the way that Mirari said the word, Betsy assumed that by “companion,” Mirari actually meant “guardian.”

Cyrano’s eyes twinkled. “Regrettably, my cousin was detained in Badenburg on pressing business. I decided not to wait on him.”

Betsy took an instant liking to Cyrano. Her favorite girlhood adventures were the ones she’d undertaken while the babysitter was “detained on pressing business” elsewhere. “So what can I do for you?” she asked.

“Mondemoiseau de Bergerac is interested in your knowledge of up-time cinema,” Mirari looked from Betsy to Cyrano in bemusement, as if she wasn’t quite certain that introducing the two had been a good idea. “He is a budding playwright and he wants to write a play based on an up-time movie in order to gain some notoriety.”

“Which one?” Betsy asked. She ran through a mental list of movies that could easily be converted into stage production. One that was adapted from a stage production, such as The Odd Couple or The Front Page, would be perfect, she thought.

“Have you ever heard of Our Miss Brooks?”

Betsy tilted her chair back and suppressed a laugh. “As a matter of fact I have, but it wasn’t a movie. It was a radio sitcom when my Grandpa was my age. They made a TV show of it when my dad was a little boy. We used to watch reruns together when I was a girl, Eve Arden played Miss Brooks. Of course, that was years before she was Principal McGee in Grease.”

” Greece ?” de Bergerac tilted his head in confusion. “What does the Balkan Peninsula have to do with it?”

“Don’t ask,” said Mirari with a tone of warning in her voice that he apparently understood.

“You have seen the drama, which is the important thing!” The young playwright said in triumph. “I want to write a play based on this story. While other up-timers I’ve talked to remember the name, none of them admit to having seen it. Which makes it all the more intriguing to me; a story so forbidden that even now people will not speak of it!”

Our Miss Brooks? Forbidden?” Betsy snorted in an effort to hold in her laughter. “I wouldn’t call it scandalous. Just obscure.”

“Mirari said that if anyone in Grantville remembered classic up-time cinema, it would be you,” he continued as if he hadn’t heard her.

“TV isn’t exactly cinema, but it just so happens that I think I can help you anyway!” Betsy said.

Just then the bell over the door rang again. Betsy’s head whipped around. She paled as a young man walked into the room, his eyes scanning the patrons intently. “Oh no, Albert!” She dove under the table and then looked up at Mirari’s bemused face. “I was never here!”

****

“Tell me that it isn’t really true,” Denis Semsa said when Betsy walked into the room at the back of the Grantville Times offices where he and the other staff artists did most of their work. The air in the room was heavy with the scent of freshly cut wood and long thin shavings were scattered all across the floor.

“Okay. It isn’t true. What are we talking about?” Betsy stared down at the woodcut he had been working on. It showed a number of men and women sitting around a large table filled with piles of books and papers.

She picked the carving up and turned it upside down to stare at it. Then she righted it and looked again. “What is this? One of the Committee of Correspondence gatherings?” She asked while obviously trying to make sense of the reverse image cut into a print block.

“No. It’s a parliamentary subcommittee meeting,” said Denis. “And don’t try to change the subject.”

Betsy didn’t look up at her companion. “Then why do these guys look as if they like each other? That doesn’t sound like most politicians that I know.”

“Trust me, the disagreements came quickly. But Mr. Kindrad wanted to show that the two sides can work together. It’s in the spirit of . . . now what did he call it?” Denis broke off to search for the word while snapping his fingers in the air. “Bipartyingship.”

The corners of Betsy’s mouth twitched. Denis knew then that he’d made a mistake with the word. “Bipartisanship,” she said slowly, “is what I think you mean. ”

Denis waved away her comment. “That doesn’t matter, you’re dodging my question. So tell me that you didn’t do it!”

Betsy drew a deep breath and smiled at him serenely. “I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Betsy, I’ve seen you change the subject on someone too many times to just let you get away with it. Tell me about what happened yesterday.”

Betsy picked up the woodcut and studied it again. She spent nearly a full minute ignoring him. Denis knew that she was doing it on purpose to goad him for being nosy.

“What did you hear?” she said finally.

“That you and Albert were seen out together, in fact that you were quite the pair of lovebirds. Is this becoming serious?”

She scoffed. “No! It is not becoming serious! Not in any conceivable way, shape or form. If Albert has been telling tales like that, I will teach him the meaning of the words ‘unending pain!'”

“There are some people who would say that pain was a definition of marriage,” Denis mused. Seeing Betsy’s scowl he held up his hands in a defensive pose. “But I’m not one of those people. I also heard something about a table that you were hiding under.”

Betsy’s eyes grew as big as coins and her face flushed red with embarrassment. “Oh Lord! Please tell me that you heard that story from your cousin and not one of the town gossips!”

Seeing her distraught expression, Denis took pity on her. “You can rest easy. I did hear that from Mirari. Did you meet with that playwright that she wanted to introduce you to?”

“Cyrano de Bergerac, in the flesh!” Betsy grinned and bounced on her toes. In her excitement, she appeared to have instantly forgotten Albert. “And he looks nothing like Steve Martin!”

Denis knew better than to ask who Steve Martin was. Not asking the “who” question too often was one of the first things he had learned after meeting Betsy Springer. “What did he want? Mirari wouldn’t tell me.”

“He wants me to write down everything I know about some obscure sitcom from the fifties. He thinks it’s an up-time classic that would be perfect to adapt it into a play. ” Her eyes got a faraway look in them. “I think he may even give me writing credit!”

“If you’re going to work on this play with him, then that should keep you out of trouble. And out of Albert’s notice as well,” Denis said. “Will you be hanging around the office for a while?”

She glanced around the room warily. Denis couldn’t be sure if she was looking for emergency exits or to see if Albert was lurking in the shadows.

“Why not? Albert knows where I live. I don’t want him hanging around there, getting too friendly with my mother.” Betsy looked a little sad. “Ever since Dad died, she’s been hinting that I should find a good man, settle down and start giving her grandkids. She doesn’t need any encouragement from him.”

****

Betsy slipped from Denis’s mind as he worked on the woodcut. At least until Mirari ran into the workroom.

“Denis, have you seen Betsy?” Mirari looked shaken.

Denis’s wave took in the room. “She was working on her notes for Mondemoiseau de Bergerac’s play and hiding from Albert, until about a half hour ago. But she decided to get some air.”

“Oh dear,” Mirari said. “We need to find her, and soon! Mondemoiseau de Bergerac has challenged Albert to a duel!”

“What? Why?”

“Albert must have seen Betsy with us at dinner last night after all and assumed that I was trying to set her up on a date. So he insulted Mondemoiseau de Bergerac’s nose.”

Denis blanched. “Good Lord! I thought she was exaggerating but I guess Albert is as much an idiot as Betsy said he was!”

Mirari nodded at that. “And Mondemoiseau de Bergerac’s cousin has yet to appear. If he were here, he could probably put a stop to all of this foolishness. But now . . . ” She trailed off and shook her head. “If we don’t get Betsy to intervene, I’m afraid that Mondemoiseau de Bergerac will kill Albert!”

“Not that she would think killing Albert would be that bad an idea,” said Denis. “You know how many times she has threatened to do it herself.”

“I’ve threatened to kill men all my life, but I’ve never done it,” said Mirari.

Denis arched an eyebrow at his cousin. There were family stories about her that said otherwise. Although he was sure that if she had killed someone it was not without justification.

“Besides the paperwork that we would have to fill out, it would be a pain, yes?” He smiled. “You did happen to mention to Mondemoiseau de Bergerac that dueling is illegal in the USE?”

Mirari rolled her eyes. “I did. But he doesn’t care. And I’ve seen Cyrano fight. He’s already good enough to cut Albert to shreds without breaking a sweat.”

“In that case . . . ” He put down his drawing tools. ” . . . I think Betsy couldn’t have gone more than a block or two.”

“I’m glad you see it my way,” she said.

“We would be doing Mondemoiseau de Bergerac a kindness. If Betsy gets a hold of him after he’s killed Albert . . . ” Denis broke off his speculation. “I think she wants to reserve that privilege for herself.”

****

Betsy’s mind was so filled with the play that she almost walked into danger.

“Look out!”

She snapped out of her reverie to see a large horse rear above her. She scrambled out of the way even as the horse’s rider pulled tightly on the reins to keep the animal from bolting.

“What kind of nutcase—” She broke off muttering as she heard a small engine splutter across the street. She looked up at rider as he struggled to control his animal. Obviously the horse—and therefore the rider—was from out of town, since the local mounts were used to engine noise

Betsy eyed the rider with predatory interest. A stranger like him would be a good subject for her series of features profiling newcomers to Grantville.

Once he had his horse back under control, he dropped to the ground and faced Betsy.

“Pray forgive me!” he said. “I am most shamed that I almost caused such a lovely young woman as yourself harm. I am Charles de Largo.”

Betsy swallowed the inclination to hold her hand to her heart and giggle. She would not behave like some kind of swooning damsel. “I’m Betsy Springer with the Grantville Times. You can make it up to me by agreeing to an interview. ”

She felt a little like Lois Lane just meeting Superman for the first time and having the gumption to ask for an interview after being rescued. Largo’s accent was slightly familiar. But she had never been as good as Denis with accents. He could identify where someone came from by their voice right down to a side of town. That was sheer spooky as far as she was concerned.

Charles de Largo started at the name of the paper and then stared at her for a moment. Betsy gave him her impression of her mother’s “you’re going to do this” stare before he could decline. Then she launched into her first question. “What brings you to town?”

“Actually, Mecklenburg was where I had intended to go,” he said with his own nervous laugh.

“Oh? Are you a soldier?”

“I have more than a bit of experience in the army, yes. I thought I might be able to find employment there,” he said. “Unfortunately, I got confused on directions about thirty miles outside of town and here I am.” He spread his hands to indicate Grantville.

“You should have turned left at Albuquerque,” she said with a smile at her small joke. She wasn’t sure if she believed him or not, enlisting in the army was the excuse a lot of men used for coming to town.

A look of confusion ran over de Largo’s face. “Your pardon, Mademoiselle; is this Albuquerque you speak of a town or a local landmark, perhaps?”

Betsy felt her checks run crimson as she sighed. Sometimes she missed having fellow movie geeks to talk to. Her humor was completely lost on everyone in this century. But she had to admit that de Largo was quite good looking, perhaps even someone she might like to get to know better. Despite this, her reporter’s instincts were pinging like broken radar. Something seemed off with him.

“Betsy!”

At the sound of her name the young reporter turned to see Denis rushing toward her.

Denis slid to a stop and doubled over to catch his breath. “Betsy,” he said between gasps for air. “We need to talk!”

Betsy smiled at de Largo. “I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.” She turned to Denis and pulled him aside. “Can it wait? I’m about to interview this fellow for the paper.”

Denis looked over her shoulder at de Largo. He narrowed his eyes suspiciously. Then he shook his head in dismissal before turning his attention back to Betsy. “Only if you want to miss your chance to see Albert being killed.”

“What?” Betsy stiffened.

“Mirari said that Albert must have seen your business meeting last night. This morning he insulted Mondemoiseau de Bergerac over your honor and your playwright benefactor challenged him to a duel.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Betsy noticed de Largo perk up at the name de Bergerac. But she couldn’t spare more than a second to wonder why. She had more pressing matters to attend to.

“Well, at least he didn’t say anything about Mondemoiseau de Bergerac’s nose. That would take things from bad to impossible!”

Denis coughed and looked away.

“He didn’t,” Betsy slapped her hand to her forehead. “Great! Now what am I going to do? De Bergerac is famous for killing men who insult his nose! He’ll obliterate Albert to satisfy his own honor, no matter what I say!”

“Excuse me, Mademoiselle,” de Largo said. “I couldn’t help but overhear. You said Mondemoiseau de Bergerac, yes? Would that be Cyrano de Bergerac?”

“That’s right,” Denis said.

“Then perhaps I can be of some assistance,” de Largo suggested. “Mondemoiseau de Bergerac is a fellow Frenchman. He will naturally want to observe the rules of engagement, so if he has not yet appointed a second for this duel, perhaps I can offer him my assistance.”

“What did Albert do to offend you?” she asked.

“Nothing, but if I were to act as Mondemoiseau de Bergerac’s second, then perhaps I can help you save the life of your lover. We may be able to control the outcome while still satisfying Mondemoiseau de Bergerac’s bruised sense of honor. Would this Albert know enough to name his own second?”

“He’s not my lover! And no he wouldn’t.” Betsy snorted. “He barely has the brain cells to tie his shoes. But your idea might work, if I can convince him to name me as his second. This is like a scheme right out of The Three Musketeers.”

De Largo raised an eyebrow at her words. “Truthfully, I have never heard of a woman standing as second in a duel.”

“You’ve never run into Betsy before, obviously,” said Denis. “I think I should point out the fact that dueling is highly illegal. Everyone involved—or at least the survivors—could wind up in jail! I’ve been there; it’s a place I prefer not to see the inside of again.”

Betsy scoffed. “It’s only illegal if it actually happens; talking about it isn’t illegal! Neither is scaring the hell out of Albert in the process.”

Denis sighed. He had a really bad feeling about this whole thing. He hoped it didn’t come crashing down around them.

Betsy put a finger on her nose and pointed to de Largo. “No time to waste. I’ll find . . . Albert. ” She broke off to make a face. “You and Denis find Mondemoiseau de Bergerac. Once we get them to name us their seconds, let’s all meet back at Mirari’s shop to go over the rules of engagement.”

“Just be careful around Albert,” Denis said. “This is likely to give him the wrong idea about you.”

“I’ll burn that bridge when I get there,” Betsy muttered as she set off in the direction of Albert’s family home.

****

By the time that Betsy led Albert into Mirari’s chocolate shop, Denis, Mirari, de Bergerac and de Largo already had seats around Mirari’s personal table. The four of them had large pots of chocolate and steaming mugs set out before them. Denis thought that Albert looked, to borrow an uptime phrase, “as low as a snake’s belly.” No doubt Betsy had told him exactly what she thought of his behavior. As two of them sat at the table, Mondemoiseau de Bergerac scowled at Albert. Albert ducked his head and pretended to find fascination in the wood grain of the table.

“Since I’m more familiar with the rules of engagement, Albert agreed that I will act as his second in this duel,” Betsy said. When Albert failed to acknowledge her, Betsy turned and slapped his shoulder.

Ja,” Albert mumbled. “My second. ”

“Cyrano has agreed that I will act as his second,” de Largo confirmed, winking at Betsy in the process. “I suggest that we decide on the details at once. It is after all a matter of honor.”

Mirari joined in without waiting for Cyrano to agree. “And Denis and I will observe to make sure that everything goes well.”

“I will give no quarter, sir,” said Cyrano looking directly at Albert. “Understand that I will slowly flay every inch of skin from you, then I will run my sword through first your knees, then your elbows; if I am feeling merciful, I will let you keep your manhood before I finish you. Or I might not.”

“If you’re going to kill him anyway, why would he care about preserving his . . . ” Betsy trailed off speculatively. Then she shook her head in dismissal. “Never mind.”

To say that Albert’s face went from pale to fish-belly white was an apt description. Betsy appeared to relish this reaction in her unwanted suitor. Denis winced in sympathy for Albert.

“Let’s begin,” Betsy said. “There are decisions to be made.”

Cyrano looked at her in consternation. He appeared more than a bit uncertain on how to react to a woman standing as second in a duel, especially one in which he had seemingly had a working relationship only hours before.

“We can, of course, avoid this duel all together if Herr Haleman will simply apologize to Mondemoiseau de Bergerac for insulting his person,” said Mirari.

Albert sank deeper into his chair, refusing to look up at the others seated around the table.

“Stubborn ass,” Betsy mumbled.

“We need to choose a field of honor. The authorities do tend to frown over dueling, so we’ll probably have to take this little dust-up out into the countryside where we stand less of a chance of being caught,” Mirari said after bestowing her own frown of disapproval on Albert. “I know several farmers who would be willing to loan us an empty pasture for the purposes of this duel. No fields, though. It won’t do to trample their crops.”

“Maybe a barn at night,” Betsy suggested. “That would be plenty private.”

“Not roomy enough,” de Largo put in.

“But it would be dramatic!” Betsy leaned over the table. “If someone knocks over an oil lamp, it could burn the barn right down.” The others stared at her. Finally, Betsy crossed her arms. “Poo. You’re no fun.”

“The best time for a duel is morning,” de Largo continued as if Betsy hadn’t spoken. “We can get it over with and the survivor can buy the rest of us breakfast.”

Betsy nodded at that. “What weapons? If I understand the rules correctly the challenged party is allowed the choice of weapons. At least that’s how it always is in the movies.”

“I am most proficient in the sword,” de Bergerac said.

“But Albert is inept at it,” Betsy replied. Albert glared at her with an expression of betrayal on his face. “Well, you are!” she added.

“Pistols,” Denis suggested. “They’re a great equalizer. And both men should have only one shot. If both miss, then everyone must forget this whole mess.” Albert nodded at that, looking slightly more hopeful. De Largo lifted a single eyebrow as he looked at Betsy, a signal that Denis took to mean that they should pay attention to what he said next. “And I should remind each duelist that if either fails to participate in the duel for whatever reason, the seconds must take over.”

“Agreed!” Betsy said quickly.

“Wait! What?” Albert looked up in consternation. “I don’t want Betsy to take my place!”

“You should have thought of that before you insulted Mondemoiseau de Bergerac,” Betsy said in sing-song. “The two of you will stand back to back. Then we’ll count off and at ten paces, you’ll turn and fire!”

“Five paces,” de Bergerac said. “His insult to me was intolerable!”

“I changed my mind!” Albert beat on the table to get their attention. When everyone broke off to look at him, he repeated. “I changed my mind. I don’t want Betsy involved in this barbarism! Will Mondemoiseau de Bergerac’s accept my formal apology?”

Cyrano de Bergerac stood and leaned over the table looking at Albert. “If you will allow me to strike you once across the back with my cane, I will consider my honor satisfied.”

Albert glanced once at Betsy and then nodded. “Let’s step outside to finish this, then.”

The two men stood. Betsy made to follow, but Denis grasped her arm to stop her. “Leave Albert some pride. I’ll go along to make sure everything goes as planned.”

Betsy watched as the three of them exited Mirari’s shop through the back way. Then she nodded. “I think I’ve let Albert’s affections get out of hand. Maybe this will make him understand that I am not in love with him.”

“It would be kinder to let him down hard,” Mirari said. “He doesn’t seem to understand being let down easy. Or perhaps he just chooses not to see that you have no interest in him. And being strung along is proving hazardous to his health.”

Betsy nodded. She looked up when the door opened. It wasn’t Cyrano or de Largo, just Denis. For a panicked moment she was afraid that Cyrano had gone ahead and killed Albert.

“He’s all right,” Denis said. “I sent him off with some friends of mine who happened to be passing. I told them to take him somewhere and let him soothe his hurt pride in some ale.”

“Men,” smiled Mirari. “They think alcohol is a universal cure for everything.”

“If he comes back I suppose that I could tell him that I won’t marry such an impetuous man as he has proven himself to be.”

“That might do it,” Denis said. “One impetuous person in a marriage is enough.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Betsy folded her arms and scowled at her friend.

“You could just tell him that you’re engaged to Denis,” Mirari put in.

“That’s all I need,” Denis said. “Pistols at ten paces with Albert.”

“This sounds like something that Cyrano would put in one of his plays,” Betsy said and then paused. “Speaking of him, where is Cyrano?”

“A good question, Madimoselle,” a new voice chimed in.

The three occupants of the table turned as a new person approached the table. His dress was similar to that of Cyrano’s. Once he had their attention, the man bowed. “I am the boy’s tutor. Abel de Cyrano, lord of Mauvières and Bergerac placed the boy in my care. But he managed to escape my watchful eye in Badenburg. I’ve managed to follow him here.” “You just missed him,” Denis said. He and left with Monsieur de Largo. De Largo said he had something that he needed to talk to Cyrano about and, in fact, had been looking for him for several weeks. I had the impression that they were going to be heading out of town, rather quickly.”

The stranger’s eyes grew wide. “De Largo.” He clapped his hand to his sword. “Please excuse me.” With that, he turned and ran from the room.

“What was that about?” Betsy asked.

Mirari shook her head and smiled. “You do know that Charles de Largo is not his real name?” she asked.

“Well, then, who is he?” asked Denis, glancing back toward the door as if expecting either of the two men to make a dramatic entrance.

“Charles D’Artagnan,” she said.

“D’Artagnan,” said Betsy. “You mean as in D’Artagnan and The Three Musketeers?” Mirari reached across the table and picked up a pitcher of hot chocolate and refilled her glass. “I’ve known a few musketeers. I suppose Charles knows some, but I don’t know.”

Betsy just shook her head; she had images of Michael York and Chris O’Donnell running through her head.

“Oh, by the way,” said Denis, fishing in his pocket. “Cyrano asked me to give you a note.”

“I wonder if it’s a love poem,” Mirari speculated. “He seemed quite taken with you, Betsy.”

Betsy ignored her friend as she scanned the brief note.

My dear Betsy,

Regretfully, I must cut my visit to Grantville, and our association short. A situation in France has developed that I must deal with. Unfortunately, this means that I must put aside my work on Our Miss Brooks. I realize now that I do not yet have the skill to write in the way that the story demands. However, I have heard of another up-time story that I think I that I may adapt. It is about a lunatic red-haired woman who repeatedly falls into trouble. I believe I have enough material to adapt this into a series of comedies. I shall call it I Love Betsy.

Betsy crumpled the note in her hand and growled.

“Bad news?” Mirari asked.

“When I see that boy again,” Betsy said between clenched teeth, “he’s got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.”

****