"A lobster fork!" Miss Wychwood said with triumph.
"A lobster fork?" Alice repeated with some measure of dubiousness in her tone. "But they're so tiny!"
Miss Wychwood nodded, her insubstantial form curiously assured in the daylight. "It was the smallness of the fork which allowed me to finally work my way under the latch."
"Indeed," Alice said, overcome with the cleverness of her ghostly friend.
"The servants were very careful with the usual cutlery, but completely overlooked the absence of the lobster fork."
"How very clever of you," Alice told her, feeling genuine warmth at the proximity of her to this very astute young woman, someone of whom Lizzie would surely approve. Alice was so excited by the thought of Lizzie's approval that she did not even feel the normal stab of sorrow at recalling Lizzie's absence from her life. "And were you able to open the latch?"
"Not immediately," Miss Wychwood continued. "However, the lobster fork gave me the foothold I needed. I would hide it at the end of every day when the horrible men came to check on me."
"Where did you hide it?" Alice asked, wondering why she had never considered where she might conceal objects about the room. She quickly glanced around her to see if any spot jumped out. "The bookshelf?" It seemed to her an intelligent response.
Miss Wychwood, however, shook her head. "There was too great a risk that they might have wanted to take a volume from the shelf. There were a good many more books at that time."
"I have been enjoying one," Alice began, but then suppressed her own tangential thought. "Do tell on, Miss Wychwood. Wherever did you manage to hide the purloined fork?"
Miss Wychwood smiled shyly but with a kind of satisfaction. "Have you looked closely at the fireplace?"
"Only to see that it has seldom been lit," Alice said with a peevish disregard for the import of the question. "I have spoken most severely to M. de Sauvinage. It is simply barbaric," she added with righteous indignation. "Barbaric." Alice found herself quite proud of the word.
"Indeed, in my time the same neglect applied. Because of that neglect, therefore, it was quite possible to conceal my useful tool where it was unlikely to be seen. I found a little ledge between the bricks where it was possible to rest my fork between uses."
"And did you manage to loosen the latch with just a lobster fork," Alice said, leaping up excitedly.
"It took a great deal of patience and time, but eventually I was able."
"Oh, it is just like the Count of Monte Carlo!" Alice cried.
Miss Wychwood, the soul of kindness, did not correct her friend's misappellation. "I often found solace in Edmond's tale, though I had no wish to seek revenge once I recaptured freedom."
"Of course not," Alice said with lively indignation for her new friend. "You are far too good a person!"
Miss Wychwood's ghostly face blushed prettily. "If you like, Miss Mangrove, I could show you my particular hiding place for the fork."
"Oh, yes please!"