Sunday, February 22, 2009


As she lapsed into consideration of the half-remembered plot of Mrs. Radcliffe's tome, Alice began to notice a curious sound. It was a kind of rushing noise that she gradually recognized as a waterfall. This intrigued her and she returned to trying to catch a glimpse through the shutters of the carriage.

The sound continued to grow louder and Alice became quite certain that it was indeed a waterfall. Was this a good thing, she wondered. Would she be hurled off the waterfall to her death? That would be terrible indeed, Alice decided. Perhaps the waterfall would only mean a halt in their journey. Some kindly people in a mill would take pity on her and free her from this latest kidnapping excursion.

The rushing sound of the water increased and finally began to slowly recede. Alice sighed. Even a horrible death would be a nice change from the monotony of the journey. Once one has braved pirates on the ocean and a close shave with a watery death, it was hard to get too concerned about lesser perils, Alice decided.
I suppose I have become quite brave, Alice congratulated herself. If I were to face armed brigands I imagine I should remain quite calm. After all, I have stood in the midst of cannon-fire and did not tremble.

Readers will, of course, recall that Alice did a good deal more than tremble at the time she found herself in the pitched sea battle, that there was in fact a good deal of screaming and crying out in alarm. Let us not therefore suggest that Alice was deliberately fibbing. It is one of the peculiarities of memory for many of us, that we edit the copybook of time ever so subtly over time as to find ourselves in a rather different location than fact or the memories of others, might situate us.

One need not assume that the memories of others are any less prone to adjustment, nor that facts exist in a vacuum. After all, Alice might find herself on the side of philosophers who have suggested that the mere recording of observations change the things observed. However, Alice would have had to consider this matter at a much more subterranean level of thought than she had given it up to this point.

In fact, Alice's thoughts had already returned to unknotting the tangled memories of Mrs. Radcliffe's novel and had come to the conclusion that she was doubtless mixing together the strands of at least two novels. Her charming brow wrinkled inadvisably as she considered the story of the murdered mother and had the distinct feeling that this was from entirely another novel altogether.

It was quite confusing, but it did pass the time.

Just when Alice had determined that she had hold of the main narrative strand of The Italian, the carriage suddenly slowed. Alice was sufficiently surprised to once more drop the thin skein of memory and sit forward with eager anticipation for the next step in her own adventure.

The carriage came to a stop, the horses snorting and wheezing as they accustomed themselves to a stationary situation. An unseen hand snatched the carriage door open and Alice gasped.

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