Sunday, April 20, 2008


Alice awoke to the light of dawn -- or so she hoped, for otherwise it was the last light of the day and she did not think she could bear the thought of darkness descending. It's not that it is so disagreeable to be in the dark, Alice thought to herself, fearing to be thought childishly timid, but that creatures might lurk unseen in the water when the sun went down and as we all know, unknown creatures do grow in the murky depths when the sun goes down.

"I should not fear a small tortoise," Alice mumbled barely audible upon the gentle waves, "But I should not like to meet a giant turtle. Not in the dark anyway."

The light began to grow around her and Alice was comforted by the thought of being able to see dangers that might lurk nearby, although she quailed at the necessity of there being possible intruders near to her in the water.

She had forgotten, too, that the brilliant sun soon made her uncomfortably hot and thirsty. Alice had finally given in and rooted around in her bag to find the cheese secreted away, but she had had a great deal of trouble opening the swollen knots of chord and many tears had been shed (making her even more thirsty, alas). As Alice had suspected, the cheese did refresh her somewhat but left her with an even more burning thirst afterward. It is a considerable tribute to the trust her cousin Lizzie inspired that Alice continued to avoid drinking the tempting liquid in which she was immersed.

By midday, however, Alice had become so delirious from thirst and heat that she was beginning to lose hope and the last shreds of discipline. Surely what was wet could slake her overpowering thirst. "You must not drink the water, it will make you sick," Alice repeated through lips so cracked that any one seeing them would feel a stab of empathetic pain. "You must not drink the slaughter," Alice continued speaking to a particularly attentive young fish, "the peas will make it thick." The fish seemed to wink at her and bow politely. Alice thought she should curtsey in turn, but she was unable to lift her head from the barrel to which she clung still.

"Peas," Alice repeated, "Peas are lovely and green." The fish seemed to nod and encourage further thought, but Alice felt she had perhaps run out of wise words. What was it her father had always said? He had a Latin phrase for every occasion, which he would sternly intone from above the breakfast table, cowering all in the room with his erudite learning.

"Sic semper Saint Dennis," Alice recommended to the fish.

"Seed o' Nelly," the fish replied.

"I am far too tired for Latin now," Alice said politely but firmly. "I shall lie down now on this soft golden pillow." Indeed she could feel the warm feather bed beneath her, softly responding to her fingers. "Wake me for tea," Alice told the fish who nodded quickly and silently withdrew. It would not do to miss tea. I am so very thirsty, Alice reminded herself.

"Quelle surprise, maman! There's a young lady in the water," Constance Forward called to her mother.

"Constance, you're supposed to be practicing your French. En français, s'il vous plaît." Mrs. Forward did not look up from the gothic novel in which she was immersed. It was her considered opinion that Mrs. Radcliffe was far more exciting than life could ever be.

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