[The above links seem to be getting a little better if no closer to the population of readers I suspect come here. Who knows? Perhaps I should try to slant the vocabulary to see what effects it has…]
If Alice had been holding anything breakable, she would surely have dropped it and had it smash into a thousand pieces. Fortunately, she held no such item, but her face fell sufficient to cause comparatively drastic results. She gasped, her cousin gasped. There was no way to disguise their eavesdropping now.
Indeed, Alice’s father’s ghost shot a glance immediately up to the window, pointed toward the two young women, and intoned again, “Alice shall marry Mr. Boylett!”
Lady Mangrove and Arthur both looked up in surprise as well. Alice could not help noticing that her vantage point above the young man did nothing to improve his appeal. Having escaped the undesirable attachment once, she was displeased to find herself thrust once more into the arrangement. Why did young women such as herself have less control over their lives than they did over their clothing? This reminded her once again of her scheme to add more pockets to her day dresses, but the thought once raised had little time to perch on the outstretched limb of her mind and soon flew off for more welcoming vistas.
“Oh mother, must I?” Alice could not help noticing that while Lady Mangrove grimaced, Arthur’s face took on a look she could only describe in her mind as something approximating the appearance of the Mrs. Perkins’ visage when someone disparaged her blueberry scones. While Alice’s kindly heart could not help regretting having made her distaste for a lifetime union with Mr. Boylett plain, she felt a strange sense of defiance, too, for she really could not imagine that union without a particular sense of dismay that magnified the unpleasantly dull conversations of the years past.
For her part, Lady Mangrove regained her aplomb with customary swiftness, and gathered her gardening tools and parasol. Then she straightened, beckoned to Mr. Boylett and announced in her clear bell-like voice to all present, “The viewing of the body will begin precisely at eleven. I suggest we all get ready to meet the mourners.” With that, she tucked her basket under her arm, turned on her heel and headed toward the solarium.
And that was that. Arthur hesitated, then followed her retreating steps, his head hung dejectedly low.
Above them, Alice and Lizzie exchanged glances, then quickly smothered fits of giggles. A disinterested observer might fault the young women for their mirth so near the deceased remains of a loved one, but the peculiar determination of Alice’s mother coupled with the clear displeasure of Arthur combined to produce a giddy effect on the two that they were helpless to resist.
“Oh my,” Lizzie said, recovering herself first as befit her more mature years. “I fear Mr. Boylett is displeased.”
Alice still muffled a lingering giggle. “I don’t care—I’m sure mother will not make me marry him! She was decidedly evasive when father spoke with her just then.”
“Alice, did you not think it odd that your father’s ghost appeared just now in broad daylight?”
Alice considered this thought for a moment. “It was rather overcast.”
“Alice, that’s not the point. Have you ever seen a ghost before?”
“No, I don’t believe I have.” Alice thought for a minute. “What about Aunt Susan?”
Lizzie narrowed her eyes. “Aunt Susan is indeed rather pale. She is not, however, dead, the primary requirement for a ghost.”
“Ah,” Alice responded with some considerable embarrassment. Her cousin had such a nimble mind that she often felt at a disadvantage in moments like this. “I suppose this is my first ghost, then.” The thought immediately cheered her, however – novelty had its own charm. “Do you suppose Father will be returning regularly?”
Lizzie thought for a moment. “I believe that to be possible as long as he has a reason to do so. In most novels the ghost appears for a particular reason. Once it is accomplished, there is no more ghost.”
“That would be a pity,” Alice said. “After all he died so suddenly, I have hardly had time to get accustomed to the idea. Having his ghost around would make the change lest drastic. Particularly if we needn’t listen to anything he says.”
“Alice, you should always listen to your father,” Lizzie scolded, “Alive or dead.”
Alice thought it was all very well for Lizzie to say so, not having parents to listen to at present, but she kept that thought to herself. I need someone to share all these thoughts with which I must keep to myself, Alice thought further, wondering indeed with whom she might share such scandalous thoughts.
Alice was about to voice another daring thought when Mrs. Perkins rapped sharply on the door and stuck her head around the edge to announce, “The guests – I’m so sorry – mourners have begun to arrive! Alice, your mother wishes you to appear downstairs at once. Good heavens, why aren't you in black?”