For a moment, there was no further sound after the knock. Alice quivered behind her protective bedclothes. She blinked a few times and then began to wonder if perhaps her visitor might be corporeal. A second knock at the door and the growling in her midsection convinced her that it was well worth ascertaining whether the apparition had returned or whether her breakfast might be waiting outside the door even now.
With trembling hands, Alice folded back the bedclothes neatly and swung her feet back over the edge of the bed. Gingerly she crossed the floor to the door, listening for any discernable noise on the other side of the door. Hearing nothing, she at last drew a deep breath and pulled on the knob.
Outside stood Gilet de Sauvinage, holding a tray with her breakfast. "Mademoiselle?"
Alice looked quickly down the corridor in either direction. There was no one else to be seen.
"What is it, mademoiselle?" Her kidnapper seemed to speak in tones of concern, though it was hard to tell behind the kerchief that masked his face.
"I thought--," Alice began, then paused. "Perhaps it was nothing." Her nervous tone did not match the nonchalance of her words. "Is that my breakfast?" she asked with more of her usual brisk tone.
"Oui, mademoiselle, le petit déjeuner. Let me bring it in to your room," de Sauvinage said as he attempted to make his way into the room.
Alice blocked his entrance with a subtle movement. "Do you think that is strictly necessary?" Alice asked though her stance clearly indicated it was not. "I can take the tray myself."
The unusualness of this statement in the context of her past did not strike the young lady at that time, unaware as she was of the many changes wrought by her adventures since the funeral of her father. The changes had been of a subtle nature, one by one. It was difficult for our heroine to glimpse that now increasingly distant time when she had been wholly dependent upon a range of servants and considerable parental guidance.
The Alice of not so many weeks ago would not have imagined demanding of her kidnapper, "Have you heard or seen anything in the corridor this morning?"
"I do not know what you mean, Al--er, mademoiselle," de Sauvinage said somewhat haltingly.
"I think you do," Alice said. She wished very much for a lorgnette just then, for her mother had wielded one with such aplomb that no one could countenance her perusal with equanimity. Alice had seen many a stalwart young man cave before her scrutiny.
"I assure you--" he stammered, but Alice was not convinced.
"Tell me the truth! I insist."
He seemed to be somewhat abashed at her insistence, at least as far as one might surmise under the disguise. "The truth?"
"Indeed! You must admit the truth. There is an apparition haunting these halls, is there not?" Alice accused.
De Sauvinage appeared to pause and then nodded hastily. "Yes, indeed there is, miss. It's quite a chilling story in fact."
Alice gasped. "Tell me more!"
"I shall," said de Sauvinage.