"What on earth do you mean?" Alice demanded. It was more than a little provoking to find that while she had been kidnapped, the ransoming process had yet to begin. "Very bad form," Alice added with a sternly disapproving look. "Very bad form."
"I don't think you comprehend—" Gilet de Sauvinage began to say, but Alice cut him off with an admirably peremptory gesture.
"I am displeased," was all she said, however. But she began to understand the commanding tone her rather diminutive mother had learned to adopt. It was surprisingly effective with many members of the public.
"I appreciate that," de Sauvinage began, but Alice interjected once again.
"You may appreciate that," she said with what she hoped was a studiously severe look, "but I do not appreciate it. Such a thing is not at all to be tolerated."
"I did not of course mean 'appreciate' in quite that sense, you understand—"
"It is immaterial," Alice continued, allowing herself a very brief time in which she reveled in the thought that the word had sprung so easily to her lips. "Quite immaterial. I have a reputation to maintain and a family who misses me to distraction, I am certain." Though it was likely to be something less than the case, and in fact Alice suspected that the one family member who might well miss her a great deal was also missing and in dubious company—oh, poor Lizzie!—she nonetheless thought it rhetorically important to maintain such a façade, even if she could not quite recall the word "rhetorically," the concept was certainly clear enough in her thoughts.
"If you do not manage to arrange for a proper ransoming, I shall not be responsible for the consequences," Alice warned with an admirable air of high dudgeon, before which her kidnapped quailed with surprising effectiveness.
"I don't see what you could possibly do," he retorted nonetheless, clearly unwilling to allow Alice to seize control of the situation.
Alice drew herself up to her entire height, which was less impressive than desired while she was seated for breakfast, but she did do her best. "If you do not properly dispatch with the necessary ransom note, I shall…" She paused.
After all, what ammunition had she?
A moment later, an imperceptible time for the tense circumstances, Alice smiled coldly. "If you do not properly dispatch with the necessary ransom note," Alice repeated, "I shall summon the ghost of that dead young woman and be absolutely certain that I set her to haunting you day and night so you receive no rest whatsoever. That is what I shall do." Alice folded her arms feeling rather smugly superior.
For his part, Gilet de Sauvinage gave every sign of having been beaten. "I will acquiesce," he said with obvious irritation in his manner. "But I assure you I will ask for a substantial recompense that will make all this folderol worthwhile."
Alice smiled. She might be forgiven for looking a trifle smug at that moment, but she had never quite triumphed in any kind of verbal exchange, so there was a quite an excuse for her gloating.
De Sauvinage bowed stiffly and backed out of the room. Alice felt a flush of excitement rise up to her cheeks, doubtless coloring them pink with delight. She had little time to relish her success, however, because a wispy voice rasped in her ear, " How shall we punish him, Miss Alice?"
There was no doubt about it: a ghost hovered at her side.