Monday, September 08, 2008


"Is this the way to adventure?" Constance asked Alice rather meekly as they lingered outside a shop that appeared to be a green grocers. Alice had led the two of them around town with a wayward step, unwilling to admit that she wasn't exactly certain how to go about finding adventure.

In the most recent past, adventure had done the finding of Alice. She had very little idea of how to importune fortune's help and her every natural inclination laboured against seeking out the likeliest locations of adventure. But they had to start somewhere.

"In here," she told her companion with a falsely hearty reassurance. "We must have supplies for our adventure." Alice pushed fearlessly into the shop but was immediately intimidated by the rather grumpy looking middle-aged woman behind the counter tying up bunches of garlic. Alice turned adroitly as if intending all along to reconnoiter the loaves of bread lined up like soldiers along the shelf above the onions.

Alice made a great show of examining the loaves as if she were well-versed in the qualities of fine baked goods. It was a wonder that Alice had never really examined a loaf of bread in its natural state. Toast with tea was already sliced and grilled. Alice selected a loaf and brought it to her nose. As she inhaled, the warm fragrance filled her nose with an image of the kitchen back home in Mangrove Hall. She felt a sudden surge of loss for the kindness of Mrs. Perkins and the peculiar habits of her mother.

"This is very good bread," she told Constance, endeavouring to cover her uncomfortable feelings. Constance took this comment as gospel and welcomed the loaf into her arms as if it were a foundling, grinning broadly.

"Shall we have cheese as well?" Constance inquired, mindful of her mother's undoubted disapproval of such extravagance.

Alice agreed. "Yes, certainly we must. And wine!" It seemed a good idea after all that an adventure might start with the right kind of meal.

"How shall we carry all this?" Constance asked suddenly, which made Alice realize that they were not at all prepared for their adventure. If they had had more time to plan – ah, but then would it be an adventure, she asked herself.

Alice eyed the woman behind the counter. She seemed an unlikely confederate, but there was little else in the way of possibility. People are not always what they seem, Alice reminded herself with a shake.

"Pardon, madame, er, mademoiselle," Alice hastily corrected herself. "Je n'ai pas un panier…" The words seemed to crawl only unwillingly from her throat and once more Alice regretted her poor attention to lessons.

The shopkeeper looked irritated at first but taking in the open face of Constance and the ingratiating tone of Alice's speech, she mumbled something non-committal, then pulled out a linen bag from under the counter and handed it to Alice, saying simply, "et voila!"

Alice grinned broadly and Constance clapped her hands with joy. The woman gave them a crooked grin, charmed by their simple cheerfulness. Alice selected a small bottle of wine and a couple of cheese in close consultation with the shopkeeper. By the time they left, the three were firm friends. Alice waved a farewell as they turned the corner outside.

"Where now?" Constance asked brightly.

"I have a wonderful idea." Alice said with a smile.

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