Alice could not recall breathing until she began to do it once again. The shimmering white figure by her side seemed to float in the air. She chanced to look down and saw that not only did the woman's feet not touch the ground, but that she did not indeed seem to have feet at all.
"I do beg your pardon," Alice chanced at last to say, "Are you in fact a ghost?" She hoped it was not an impertinent question to ask. As it did not touch upon money, rank or religion, it seemed safe enough to Alice, though she feared the query might fall under the rather considerable umbrella sheltering personal information, but sure the ghost's reaction would be indication enough as to whether she had crossed that line.
"Why, indeed I am!" the ghost answered emphatically, a slight elevation to her fashionably small chin accentuating her apparent pleasure in having this singular quality remarked upon.
What a relief, Alice thought. However, immediately upon the heels this rather agreeable realisation came the troubling thought of address. What did one call a ghost? Was Miss sufficiently polite to recognise the bereaved nature of the circumstances? Was some further honorific required? Alice was perplexed. Her own brief acquaintance with funereal behaviour and requirements had been curtailed all too sharply by her kidnapping.
"O Miss ghost," she began, hesitating slightly to gauge her companion's reaction, "I hardly know how I ought to address you." Just to be on the safe side, Alice added a quick curtsey.
The ghost smiled. "I am Judith Wychwood," she said, making a curtsey of her own. "The late Judith Wychwood, I suppose I should say, but I don't think that we are required to make use of that particular title."
"If you think it is proper enough without.." Alice voiced tentatively.
"I think it is more informational than polite," Miss Wychwood said with a great show of seriousness. Alice was immeasurably impressed to have such a steady friend in evidence, which quite made her twinge with guilt over not missing her cousin Lizzie sufficiently.
At least I know Lizzie will be quite sensible and proper, Alice thought with sigh of longing.
"Please, do tell my your name, miss, so that we may be friends at once," Miss Wychwood said, looking at Alice with a most agreeable expression of anticipation.
Alice was still young enough to marvel at the idea of someone desiring to be her friend, though it was a sign of her unfortunately growing sophistication that she also felt a glow of satisfaction for the novelty of having a friend who was also an apparition. Surely few of her friends could boast of the same.
"I am Alice and I am the only daughter of Lord and Lady Mangrove of Mangrove Hall. The late Lord Mangrove," Alice hastened to add. "My father had haunted our house briefly after his untimely death," she added blushing shyly at her ability to claim some similarity to Miss Wychwood's situation.
Miss Wychwood nodded sagely, looking far wiser than her countenance might have suggested. "Indeed, we specters must frequent the location in which we met our respective demises."
Alice gasped. "You mean--!"
Miss Wychwood smiled sadly. "Indeed, I died in this very room!"