8 June, 2008 by katelaity

Chastened by the glowering presence of Mrs. Forward, Alice and Constance meekly complied with her orders. Alice dressed and Constance more or less silently accompanied her, which is to say the occasional interjection escaped along the lines of “my goodness!” or “oh mumbles!” while Alice felt a festering sense of resentment begin to stir in her breast.

In vain, she tried to quash the feelings that, she was certain, both Lizzie and her mother would have disapproved of most vehemently. Alice thought of the debt owed to the kindly Mrs. Forward, who had not only rescued her from the sea waves and certain chill (well, eventually even the lovely strand might have given her a chill from those wet clothes), but also from the possibility (admittedly slim at that point) of a watery death.

They she remembered how quickly the stern woman had shooed away the very nice circle of admiring young men who had done the requisite work of lifting her sodden form from the water while Mrs. Forward looked disapprovingly through her lorgnette.

Alice could sense her own lips taking on a rather stern expression of displeasure at the thought.

“Constance, my dear,” Alice said, holding out her sleeve to be buttoned by the fawning girl. “Is your mother always so disagreeable?”

Constance nodded, the tip of her tongue sticking out at the corner of her mouth as evidence of her intense concentration upon the task before her. While Constance might never be known as one of the great minds of the century (or of any other century for that matter), she did have a wonderful sense of dedication to any simple task that she found herself capable of completing, generally greeting the accomplishment with a flourishing squeal of delight — as she did just then, having succeeded in buttoning Alice’s cuff after several fruitless attempts. “Mama is quite determined than I shall not be brought up with any vulgar traits or with any undue excitement of any kind.”

Alice’s stern expression deepened. While her own mother might agree with such sentiments, Alice could not help feeling that there was something very middle class about such worries. Unconsciously, she had picked up that term from her dear cousin, but had never had a likely object upon who to pronounce such short-comings.

Alice’s rather livelier than expected life in recent days also contributed to her rather flashy assessment of the failures of the Forward household. She was now inclined toward a dangerous amount of pleasure and confidence. “Lawks!” she therefore pronounced, reveling in the delighted gasp of her new friend. “I live for excitement, my devoted Constance. I shall not let anyone stand in my way!”

Constance could hardly contain her amazement. In fact, she stared open-mouthed at Alice’s cool confidence. “Alice! My…heavens,” she managed to squeak, nearly fainting away with her own daring. “Whatever will you do?”

“What will we do?” Alice corrected her, taking her gloves in hand with a bold gesture. “I do not plan to meekly obey.”

“Do you not?!”

“Well,” Alice said with some uncharacteristic thoughtfulness, “Not once I have had my luncheon.”

It was, Constance thought, the most brilliant thing she had ever heard.


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