“Lizzie!” Alice cried at last, overcoming her annoyance at having the delightful view of Kit Barrington wrung from her gaze only to feel a growing sense of panic as the carriage declined to slow at all. “What’s happening?”
Lizzie, for her part, was wondering much the same thing, but forbore to reply acidly to the obviousness of her cousin’s question and reached instead toward the intent. Why on earth was the carriage moving at such a fast speed? It might be that the horses had startled at something, but surely the driver would be able to rein them in fairly soon. No, there was only one logical answer.
“We are being kidnapped,” Lizzie said with some horror and not a little worry, but she was unable to conceal completely the exciting nature of the proposition. This was the best thing to happen to her in quite some time. While it did not make up for being orphaned from parents she genuinely loved, it was an improvement even on her secret romance which, while quite thrilling to contemplate, remained a secret unshared and thus, less than fully exhilarating.
Alice, for once, was speechless.
She had waited all her life for some grand adventure. From the nursery to the parlour, her life had been an endless string of more or less what had been expected for a young girl of her stature and wealth. Even the death of her father (which was rather swiftly fading into the back of her somewhat over-taxed brain) failed to meet the expectations of excitement (although the possibility of there being something suspicious about the death raised the stakes considerably for a brief time). But here, Alice and her cousin were on the brink of a very big adventure indeed. So many words expressing her supreme joy raced one another to jump to the front of her mind and expel themselves from her lips, that they met in a great jumble, blocking further thoughts and clogging her throat to such an extent that unfamiliar feelings rose to her breast in the agitation of the moment and unexpectedly, rushed into her heart.
Alice burst into tears. She was quite surprised. Lizzie, too, was shocked. Assuming these unaccustomed droplets to indicate fear, she grasped her cousin’s hand consolingly and attempted to reassure her. “I am certain we will come to no harm, my dear cousin. Undoubtedly some evildoer has seized the opportunity of the funeral to realize some terrible plan, probably to procure money, knowing the wealth of your family.’
Alice was too overcome by her unexpected tears to answer immediately. She wanted to say many things, which unfortunately only made it more impossible to get them out. As unaccustomed feelings battled for predominance in Alice’s heart and mind, a muddle of words struggled to pour out her throat, which only brought forth a tremendous moan and yet further tears.
Lizzie was still nonplussed by her cousin’s behaviour, but thought perhaps a new tack would jolly Alice out of her unexpected emotional display. “Come now, Alice. If you keep crying like this, the coach will soon be full of tears and we will both drown.
Rather than the laughter she hoped for, Lizzie’s words only provoked a wail as Alice wiped her teardrops from her cheek. Lizzie was just about to dab at her cousin’s eyes with her handkerchief when Alice’s eyes lit up with elation, and she reached into her sleeve. At last, she thought, I get to use my mourning handkerchief!