It was the same figure who had faced her previously, clad in dark clothes and wearing a broad-brimmed hat with a kerchief over most of his face. She drew back, unsettled considerably by his sinister appearance. This was her kidnapper.
"Miss Mangrove," he began, his voice raspy and low, his accent perhaps French. "You are my prisoner."
Well, that was obvious enough. In her irritation, Alice forgot a little to be afraid. It was more than a little vexing to always be dependent upon the kindness of strangers. While Alice had once counted on others to direct her daily activities, recently she had begun to find herself increasingly annoyed by the determined attempts by other people to control her days. In fact she had begun to have an irrational desire to not do anything at all until she had had a chance to think about things first.
Perhaps she had developed the taste first when leading Constance around. That eager young friend, whose absence once again caused Alice a stab of longing, had been all too ready to follow Alice even unto the very gates of Perdition, she recalled with a blush of shame.
It may have been her consciousness of that painful memory or some nascently emerging sense of self, but Alice found a reserve of anger forming deep inside her.
"What right have you to imprison me here, of all places! There is no fire, I have had no food and have nothing to change into. If you wish me to perish, congratulations! I am well on my way to illness and death."
Despite her words, Alice found she felt marvelously warm all of the sudden, stirred by her indignation to a warmer state. And as for fading away into weakness -- well, quite the opposite effect seemed to stimulate her very limbs.
For his part, the kidnapper seemed taken aback and sputtered a little behind his masquerade. "I—I—I—I'm sorry. I should have thought—"
All at once his voice seemed higher and less certain, not quite so French and almost familiar, Alice thought, where have I heard that tone before?
However, before she could explore the matter further, he harrumphed and his voice returned to the previous gruffness. "I will remedy the situation. You will be provided with appropriate food and I will have someone lay a fire for you."
"Thank you," Alice simply, unable to think of anything more appropriate.
"You are my prisoner," he repeated, as if uncertain how to proceed next.
"Until when?" Alice prompted. It would be helpful to have some kind of schedule in mind. A young woman needed to have a calendar of events upon which to order her days. That was perhaps the worst thing about all this kidnapping; schedules were so irregular.
Despite the kerchief, Alice could tell that he was somewhat horrified by her failure to properly cow before his manly authority. "Why until you marry me!" he announced with evident pleasure.
Oh dear, Alice thought. How dreadful!