Sunday, May 18, 2008


When Alice awoke once more, she found herself far from the glare of the sunny strand and in a rather close, dark room. For a moment she experienced once more that sense of vertigo that often accompanies those enclosed after long exposure to open air, but it quickly passed. After all, Alice had spent most of her life -- save for supervised excursions to well-cultivated gardens -- within the civilizing presence of carefully tailored walls. The strangeness of the adventurous days that had passed of late slipped away from Alice's well-trained mind -- well-trained as far as the habit of her family to ignore as much as possible anything unusual.

Her mother would certainly have approved. Her father, recent events tell us, might well have disapproved, but one feels he would have been disadvantaged by his position beyond this mortal coil.

Alice yawned and stretched, enjoying the peaceful moment of waking. She took the opportunity to look around the room in which she found herself. It was simply but well appointed, from which even she might draw the conclusion that it was a kind of inn that catered to gentle folk of a pleasingly similar rank. There were signs of a maid's careful attention in the toiletries lined up carefully across the bureau. Alice looked down at herself and was pleased to see that she had been dressed in a fresh linen shift.

There was no immediate sign of her own clothes, nor of the satchel which had been tied to her wrist during the perilous journey. Alice had a momentary pang thinking of her dear Lizzie, but she quelled her discomfort with the thought that somewhere very nearby her cousin was likewise being rescued and they would soon be reunited. It was impossible to imagine otherwise, Alice told herself.

Hopping from the bed, she threw on the pink wrapper she found lying across the chair and pondered what to do next. She could see no way to ring for a servant, which seemed rather odd, but she was saved from further cogitation by the sound of a gentle knock on the door.

"Who is it?" Alice asked with a hopeful tone in her voice.

"Heavens, you're up at last!" came the lively voice of young Constance Forward, soon followed by her animated face peering around the door. Seeing that Alice had dressed herself suitably, Constance sprang into the room. Alice was soon to discover that this was her normal mode of locomotion.

"Such a long time I have been waiting!" Constance continued, hurriedly taking a seat in the chair and motioning Alice into the window seat. "I could hardly contain myself. I simply must hear your adventures! Mama said that I should let you rest and I have been hovering about waiting for any sign of life in here, so I could have a good excuse to come see you. How are you?" she concluded with a frank look up and down Alice, who seemed to meet her expectations of reasonable story-telling health.

Alice, realizing that a break had been left in the torrent of words, finally spoke. "I am feeling much better. I am quite refreshed by the sleep and the care. Where are we, if you don't mind my asking," Alice added with a shy smile.

"Our hotel, the Belle-something or other. I could never get the hang of French too much, you must teach me," Constance charged on, oblivious to Alice's tentative cough indicating that she might not be as advanced in her French studies as the young lady assumed. "Mama thinks my language skills ought to be improving much faster than they are, but there's simply so much to distract one from learning a skill when one is in foreign parts like this. Don't you find it so?"

While a question had been given, Alice found that there was not sufficient pause to make her way into the conversation at this point, and bided her time for the next pause.

"Mama says that I am incorrigible, by which I take her to mean that I am quite extraordinary in a way that seems to often exasperate her -- I used to confuse exaggerate with exasperate, but not any more. My tutor, well, the tutor I had before we came here, the one that was supposed to teach me French, which he didn't at all, he quit after one week and then we only had another two weeks or so before we left so Mama said we didn't have time to hire another tutor and I would have to learn by immersion, which sounds rather like a teapot of some kind, don't you think? Anyway, my tutor explained the difference between the two. So, do tell me all about the pirates!"

Alice lurched forward, feeling as if a carriage had come to an unexpected halt. But Constance looked at her with such glowing admiration that surely she must be expected to speak. She had just opened her mouth to do so when Constance blurted out, "It must be so exciting!"

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