4 March, 2007 by katelaity
Alice gasped. Surely there was something more seriously wrong with her than mere, commonplace boredom. “But — but, what about my fever?” Surely that would count for something!
Lizzie sighed. She was beginning to feel as if her life were an endless repetition of what it was like now, to be trapped in this increasingly close carriage with her rich and dim cousin, on an endless journey to who knew where. While Alice assumed herself to be the captive of some delicate condition, Lizzie knew her own tribulations to be far more painful largely because she was so acutely aware of them. She fancied with some horror that she could imagine some overly fastidious Frenchman one day writing at length of the horrors of just such an existence, where the endless prattling of others would become a condition not even Milton’s grand hero could endure forever. It seemed a perfect picture of purgatorial despondency.
But, for now, there was her responsibility to Alice who, if she was not entirely cognizant of the fact or appreciate of the effort, should be forgiven for her fewer years, her lesser learning (oh, the horrible neglect of Miss Travers), and her all too often pampered beauty. How sad, thought Lizzie privately (as so many of her thoughts had to be), that those who are given loveliness of face are seldom given any other qualities to complement it. However, her cousin should surely be able to marry someone on the strength of that beauty, who would not find himself deceived on that account until many years had passed. Other disappointments might come more quickly.
Alice was still pouting which did little to restore the aforementioned looks, as her lips were drawn much to tightly together to give her pout any piquancy. As if by magic (or long habit), the realization of how unappealing she must look finally brought Alice around with a sigh. I suppose I haven’t any interesting disease, she admitted to herself at last, but then, left without a way to amuse herself, turned as always to her cousin. “Did you bring a deck of cards, by chance, Lizzie?”
One can imagine somehow that the ever alert Mrs. Perkins undoubtedly dropped whatever was in her hands at that moment, for even far away she must have been conscious of this dangerous precedent slipping from the lips of one of the Mangrove family women. Unaware of this distance accident, Alice felt hope renew with the thought of entertainment.
Lizzie shook her head, however, dashing Alice’s hopes. “If only I had thought to put something aside for entertainment. A nice game of authors would be pleasant even if we were not on a green river bank,” Lizzie said with unaccustomed wistfulness. “If I had had the good sense to carry a book, I could have read aloud to entertain us both.”
“We should have had to be careful of bumps,” Alice said somewhat distractedly, for their had been a number of good ruts in the road which had lately brought the girls’ attention back to their method of conveyance.
“One can always pause,” Lizzie reminded her kindly but firmly. “That’s the beauty of a book. You can pick it up any time, any where and be entertained. It is sublime simplicity itself!”
“Not in the dark,” pointed out Alice, who felt unusually thoughtful that moment.
“No, not as a rule,” Lizzie agreed, “But one usually has a candle to hand and then reading can recommence.”
“Or one can call for a servant, who would surely have a candle. And matches,” Alice said, still thoughtful, although Lizzie was beginning to see that future Frenchman a little more clearly, as well as feeling a sense of understanding grow as to why most murders happened within the home.
All at once, though, Lizzie became alert. “Listen,” she cried to Alice. “Do you hear that?”