17.9

14 February, 2010 by katelaity

“They murdered you!” Alice said wonderingly. It was awful to hear the words out loud. Alice could barely accept the notion. Miss Wychwood, such a charming young woman! How could anyone be so dreadful to her?

But all it took was the sight of her sad face to assure Alice that this terrible fact was true.

“Alas, it is true! And no one could mourn me, dear Miss Mangrove, because no one knew that I had died.” Sorrow suffused her handsome face and Alice suddenly realised how difficult her own situation was. Should she succumb too? Would they ever miss her at home? Tears fell easily and we must not feel too much approbation that many of Alice’s tears were for herself — many were also for Miss Wychwood, for whom she felt a lively sympathy.

“Oh, Miss Wychwood! I mourn your death! And I swear, I swear, that I will acquaint those who love you with your sad fate. I shall cross oceans if necessary!” As indeed it would be necessary to do if she were to return to England.

“Thank you, Miss Mangrove,” came the sad reply, nonetheless suffused with all proper politeness.

“Please, do call me Alice,” the same said to her friend, trying again in vain but in earnest to take her hand. “We must be as close as sisters, or at least as cousins. My dear cousin Lizzie is as close as a sister and I must include you among those dear to me!”

“Oh…Alice! You are too kind.” Miss Wychwood wept anew, this time for joy. “Do please call me Judith. I ought to have asked you before, only I did not wish to be forward.” As best they could, one being entirely insubstantial, the friends embraced.

After a moment, the two smiled between their tears and continued their intimate conversation, no formal layer of politeness between them anymore. “Alice, my dearest, you must try the method I had planned before I was so…”

“Untimely disrupted?” Alice was amazed at her own attempt to smooth over the sadness of her friend’s demise. Oh Lizzie, you would be proud, she thought.

“Indeed! I was able to loosen the latch and would have sought egress, but for the arrival of the horrible miscreants. Surely you can loosen the latch, too.”

“I can but try!” Alice said and leapt up to do so. With Miss Wychwood’s insightful coaching, Alice was quickly able to make good headway with the latch and soon, loosened it enough to be able to open the window.

The two young heads peeked out into the fresh air. The warmth was exquisite and Alice remembered it was not England that she found herself in.

“See, there?” Miss Wychwood asked, pointing her insubstantial arm out the sash. “The ledge is fairly substantial, perhaps enough for one to make her way around to the balcony over there.”

Alice leaned out and swallowed nervously. It seemed a rather significant distance over which to traverse a rather small ledge. “It certainly looks…possible,” she said at last.

“Do try! You do not wish to end up as I did,” Miss Wychwood reminded her.

Alice thought it over and realised she was right. “Will you come with me?” she asked her friend.

“I will,” Miss Wychwood promised, her demeanour as solemn as death.

“All right, then,” Alice said and gingerly stepped out onto the ledge.

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