Sunday, January 03, 2010


The revelation that the present ghostly Miss Wychwood began her tragedy with being kidnapped, perhaps unsurprisingly, had an immediate and negative effect on Alice. "How awful! And how, er, very like me!" Far too much like Alice's situation, in fact, for her to feel entirely sanguine about it.

"I know," Miss Wychwood responded, vigorously nodding her head for emphasis. "That is why I felt I must warn you despite the often alarming reaction people have to me in my present state," she added with an admirable delicacy.

"Heavens!" Alice exclaimed, quite clearly alarmed. "Do you mean you were also kidnapped by Gilet de Sauvinage?" Alice found it hard to believe that this petulant little man could possibly be a blood-thirsty villain suitable for one of Mrs Radcliffe's gothic narratives. In the future, she might find herself doubting the veracity of writers if this sort of discovery were discovered to be more common than expected.

"No, quite another man altogether."

"But English," Alice added hopefully.

"No, I am afraid he was French." The two shared their mutual sorrow in companionable silence.

"How did it happen, your kidnapping, I mean," Alice asked, seating herself on the bed. There was little use in remaining standing now that they had become friends. "Do sit here and tell me all about it."

This was an interesting situation, not least because she was rather curious to see whether the ghost could actually sit down, but also remarkable for the fact that Alice was not asking about poor Miss Wychwood's adventures merely to have an entrée into telling her own.

The apparition sat gingerly on the bed, almost hovering as if she were not certain where to locate the actual surface of the duvet. It was a near enough approximation that Alice was able to quickly stop watching Miss Wychwood with rather too much attention than was polite.

"I was traveling with my tutor," Miss Wychwood began after a slight pause in which she seemed to focus on something very far away. Alice supposed that her home must seem to be very far away indeed having been forcibly ejected from the living. A shudder went through her. How very terrible the thought was.

"We were on our way to Paris on the coach. My parents thought a little sketching in the City of Light would be an ideal addition to my education," Miss Wychwood said, her wispy voice sounding even more wistful at the memory.

Alice therefore checked herself from remarking on her delight at finding her new friend skilled in such an endeavour, recalling hastily that she would also be unable to carry on with that employment in her present state, and simply offered a sympathetic, "Oh!"

"We were still in Normandy when we heard the alarming sound of hoofbeats as dusk approached. The carriage held but just ourselves and a man with the unlikely name of M. Morte D'Allitee and we looked with one another with alarm for we knew what that dread sound meant."

Alice gasped. "Highwaymen!"

Miss Wychwood nodded sadly and ghostly tears fell from her orbs. "Alas, yes."

"And did they—?" Alice found herself unable to speak the terrible words.

"If only!" Miss Wychwood cried.

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