I am able to slip away after tea. Mother and Eleanor decide to go for a walk in the village. I feign illness, and once they’re gone, slip out of my chamber and away to the forest. I’ve brought my diary and a fountain pen so that I can sit in my favorite tree and write poetry. With the book opened and balanced on my lap, I sigh and begin to write.
Besotted by the idea of true love,
Struck by a handsome fellow,
Silk-cloaked and dressed in yellow–
I catch sight of what looks like a person darting through the trees on the forest floor below me, and lose my rhyme for “love”. But when I look down, there’s nothing there. I wait a minute,eyes shifting in suspicion. Nothing happens. With a “hrrrumph”, I focus again on the next line of my poem:
She thinks he comes from above,
Silly maiden, foolish to hope,
Don’t thou know he is the hang man’s rope?
I read that back and cringe–perhaps Mother was right that I was much too inspired by the dead man. He is even creeping into my poetry at this point. I scratch out the the entire stanza except for the first verse. I hear scurrying in the leaves that is much too heavy to belong to a rabbit or another type of woodland creature. I look down and meet the gray eyes of a scantily-clad young woman. She is wearing a red dress, her brown hair hanging loose around her neck. She looks to be at least ten years older than my fifteen years. She flashes me a grin. I cannot think of anything to say. This is all so strange! She is practically naked, and I have never seen the type of cloth she happens to be wearing, in my life. Perhaps she is mad. . .foreign and mad? I stare at her, lips pursed, eyes wide in confusion.
“Uh. . .who are you?” I manage to ask.
She bows to me like a man, “the name’s Alice,” she says, and presents her hand to me–another very manly gesture. I am unsure what to make of such a display, but I kind of like her crassness. I cannot place her accent. It is flat, and she speaks English like me. I continue to stare at her in bewilderment, and she finally drops her hand to her side, letting out a hiss of air.
“Do you not understand the concept of a handshake?” she asks me.
I tilt my head at the term, “Hand. . .shake?”
Then, her facial expression changes, and she appears to be confused as well, “so what year have I stumbled into this time?”
“Pardon me?!” She surely is mad! But how did she get onto my property? The gates are always locked. Not to mention, the nearest madhouse is quite a distance away. The patients of that establishment would not make it to our lands, let alone probably step foot outside of the grounds.
“Oh. You must think I’m mad–” she says.
“Indeed,” I reply, cutting her off.
“Anyway, what year is it and what land am I in?”
I stare at her. This is all too much for me. “Are you joking? You are in Scotland and it is 1872!”
“Ah, that explains the matronly clothing you are wearing,” she says.
“Matronly?! I think not! I try my hardest not to appear like my mother,” I yell, “she is matronly!” I happen to dress in the latest fashions–despite the fact that I would prefer to wear trousers. But no, one must work with what they have. Still, dressing in the latest fashions is preferable to me than appearing “matronly”. It reminds me too much of my mother’s conservative preferences.
Alice laughs. “Such an interesting time I’ve seem to have fallen in. Anyway, if you would like to come with me, then I can explain to you what has happened. I don’t want you to think me mad, and I do need your help.”
“No. I will not be coming with you,” I say, gathering my things and jumping off the tree, “in fact I will be telling my father that there is a mad, nearly naked young woman who is trespassing on our lands!”
I sprint back to the house without looking back, the story on the tip of my tongue. But when I get back, no one is around except for the servants. Father has gone out and Mother and Eleanor are still out on their walk. I sit in the parlor and watch the sun set through stained glass windows, the fabricated colors reflected back adding so much more beauty to the already beautiful natural occurrence. And soon, I am sleeping on the sofa, dreaming of this strange Alice girl. . .