Sunday, February 18, 2007


Alice carefully tucked her mourning handkerchief into the special pocket in her dress. How had she forgotten to do so before? Old habit, she scolded herself, and old habits must be broken. With a sudden rush of giddiness, Alice realized that henceforth she should demand to have all her dresses made with pockets. Why not? Who was to stop her, she thought wildly. With her father gone and mother unconcerned with such niceties, there was little to impede this new era of profligate pocketing. She very nearly swooned.

“Lizzie,” she finally cried nearly breathlessly (if she had in fact been breathless, doubtless she would not have been able to say anything at all, so she must well have had some breath left, at least enough to make some sound), “Do you know what I have realized?!”

Lizzie stared grimly out the window, oblivious to her cousin’s great joy. “Indeed! The kidnappers will be leaving terrible demands for your mother which she will not see until her return to the house after the funeral itself. It may be an hour or more before anyone begins to wonder where we have been taken.”

This was not at all what Alice had been thinking, but as soon as her cousin began to speak her previous thoughts evaporated like the last spoonful of tea in her cup, leaving not even so much behind as a few leaves, although the word “pockets” continued to echo gently in the back of her mind like a small silver bell. However, because Alice spent so little time there, she was unlikely to hear it any time soon. “Will no one miss us sooner?” she asked Lizzie somewhat peevishly. It was bad enough to suffer the indignity of a kidnapping (although if pressed, Alice would be unable to articulate how she might be suffering at all at present), but not even to be missed -- that was simply intolerable. “I should think everyone will be asking, ‘Where’s Alice?’ as soon as they get to the graveside. I am Lord Mangrove’s daughter after all.” Her cute little snub nose was quite out of temper and trembled most unbecomingly.

Lizzie, however, paid no attention to her cousin’s misfortunate, engaged as she was with employing logic and observation to some useful end. “We are heading south at present, and appear to be nearly out of the village altogether.”

“Perhaps we are heading for Africa,” Alice interjected hopefully. While she did not in general have a very good sense of the positions of various continents and countries around the globe, she had a very strong sense that Africa lay to the south of England and was sufficiently confident to voice her assumption out loud to her often censorious cousin. Surely this time she would win a gratified smile from her close relation, of the sort that dear Miss Travers used to award to her often less than entirely correct answers in the school room at home.

This was not, in fact, one of those times.

Lizzie refrained from looking very pained at her cousin’s wild assertion and merely stated, “We shall likely be heading somewhere in England first, although I suppose we cannot rule out Africa as a final destination, but we will be able to guess that as a more likely location after several months of sea travel have indicated such.” While Alice bowed her head in chastised chagrin, Lizzie mused to herself that there was really no way to know what their final destination might be, and likewise, they had little idea by whom they had been abducted. While her own thoughts were better company than her cousin’s somewhat stunted ones, Lizzie had begun to feel more than a little worry about their situation, and this she voiced at last to her cousin.

“I wonder who has kidnapped us?”

“Perhaps it is Kit Barrington!” Alice suddenly thought. “He has fallen madly in love with me and must have me although my father has forbad the union!” She was near to swooning again with the excitement of the plan.

Lizzie brought her cousin back down to earth in the most unfortunate way as was her habit. “Was it not he you were looking at through the window as we were spirited away?”

Logic is all very well, thought Alice, but it does little for love.

“Yes, I suppose you are right,” Alice responded glumly.

Lizzie finally glanced at her disconsolate cousin and, feeling some modicum of pity, threw her a small bone of hope. “I suppose it is not out of the question that he might have arranged for some bravoes to carry out the task for him…”

“Do you think so?!” Alice said with a quick rushing return of her initial excitement.

“No, not really,” Lizzie answered honestly.

Alice sank back on the seat and, feeling another tear about to fall, reached for her lovely handkerchief once more.

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