Alice suddenly found herself drowning.
She paddled like mad, gasping for breath, striking out in vain to reach some solid ground, something upon which she might grasp hold, save herself from the swirling endless waters. Another mouthful swallowed and she feared that all too soon she might just give in. The water had a terrible salty taste as if she were drowning in tears of sorrow. Then a giant sucking sound began and Alice shrieked because she knew that the plug had been pulled and there was no way to avoid being sucked down to the bottom of the ocean to drown and never see Mangrove Hall again or her mother, or Lizzie, or Mrs. Perkins, or her father -- well, at least her father’s ghost -- and even Arthur, she might miss Arthur at this point, although when it came right down to it --
“Alice, wake up! You’re dreaming again.” Lizzie looked up from the book with the air of irritation she always demonstrated when Alice was being particularly obtuse. At the sight of the horrid book, Alice recalled what had made her drift off in the first place.
“I shall continue,” Lizzie said, much to Alice’s dread, then commenced to do the same. “Miss Jenny, with her heart overflowing with joy at this happy change, said, ‘Now, my dear companions, that you may be convinced what I have said and done was not occasioned by any desire of proving myself wiser than you, as Miss Sukey hinted while she was yet in her anger, I will, if you please, relate to you the history of my past life; by which you will see in what manner I came by this way of thinking; and as you will perceive it was chiefly owing to the instructions of a kind mamma, you may all likewise reap the same advantage under good Mrs. Teachum, if you will obey her commands, and attend to her precepts. And after I have given you the particulars of my life -- ’”
“How dark it has grown,” Alice interjected with sudden inspiration. “Lizzie, you must not strain your eyes with reading this late. It’s not as if we had a lamp.”
Lizzie looked thoughtful. For a moment, Alice feared that she might implore the driver for a light, but at last she resolutely closed the small volume and leaned back on the seat with a sigh. Alice did what she could to hide her own sigh of relief. Go hang Miss Fielding and her improving book, she thought deliciously to herself. If Lizzie only knew!
Alice had no way of knowing how phenomenally bored Lizzie was at that very moment. Her only solace in the book had been that the useless chatter of its words had kept her worried thoughts at bay. While reading aloud to her cousin Lizzie could keep herself from all her anxieties about what the next day would bring. As they continued to bounce along the road, unchallenged, unpursued as far as she could tell, Lizzie could only wonder endlessly what would become of them. With no new information, however, she knew her worries to be pointless, endlessly circling like water down a drain with no end.
It was ironic how similar their thoughts had tracked, like horses in traces together.
Neither remarked upon the coincidence as neither became aware of it. Instead they sighed separately, yet together, apart and alone.
“Perhaps we should try to sleep,” Lizzie suggested at last, taking in the woebegone countenance of her cousin, so ill-used by circumstance, so unaccustomed to the life of drab drudgery.
“It has been quite a day,” Alice mentioned, her eyes getting heavy in spite of herself.
“Tomorrow is another day,” Lizzie remarked brightly even as she thought to herself, what an odd thing to say, and how unlike me. Well, fiddle-dee-dee, she scolded herself, everyone runs out of pithy sayings at one time or another.
“I only hope I shall not dream of water,” Alice said, quite unable to finish her thought before yawning gapingly and barely bothering to cover her mouth.
We shall quite become barbarians if this keeps up, Lizzie thought, but rather than chastise her sleepy cousin, she, too, leaned back and settled herself as well as possible given the hard seat, the lurching motion of the carriage and the uncertainty of their destination.