“Really, you’re the most ill-mannered and clumsy child possible! Why can’t you be a lady!” I look down at the soup splattered tablecloth and my spoiled Sunday dress, at the spoon I dropped when I saw the apparition. I want to protest, to explain, but the figure at the other end of the dining room is looking at me intently, her finger to her lips. She disappears before my eyes.
There she is again, climbing up the narrow staircase, under the watchful eyes of all the dull and dusty family portraits. I rush after her, the fading hem of her dress trails in front of me, but always out of reach. At the top of the stairs she turns around, her face stricken with something ominous and troubling, before vanishing once more. My hand goes right through her.
There she is, a featureless figure in white, roughly my age, staring at me from over at the window, while Miss Sharp rattles on about satin stitches and French knots, and how my work is too careless.
I wake to see her standing over my bed, her contours distinct in the moonlight. I’m too scared to light a candle, lest she disappears again. She’s crying now. “What’s wrong?” She doesn’t answer, but is running out into the hallway, and I follow, my bare feet cold against the wooden floorboards. I run after her across the lawn, through the garden arches and the roses, until she stops still in front of the pond.
There’s terror on her face. “ What do you want?” I yell into the night, unladylike and helpless. I spent a long month with Aunt Clara while she was ill, reading boring novels to her, pouring never-ending cups of tea, feverishly waiting to go back home. Now I’m back, and there’s no trace of my spectral friend. Countless days have passed. Have I merely dreamt her up? I watch as intently as she used to watch me, but there’s only the relentless ticking of the clock, the dreary blur of clattering dishes, pattering of feet, chatter of voices.
I’m searching every room. I swear I really did see her. I’m searching outside, every inch, every corner of the garden. I hoist myself up onto the old oak which overlooks the estate, its bottom branches touching the surface of the pond. “Be a lady!” I mimic Mother, as I climb higher and higher. I can see all the way to the house now, can see Mother is talking to the gardener, and I wish she 'd see me. A cobweb brushes my cheek, making me jump slightly. Suddenly there’s a cracking sound, and my fingers slip. I hang suspended by my dress , which got caught on a branch. There she is! Below me! I gasp as I hear the white fabric rip, and just before I break through the surface of the water, the girl’s face ripples, and, together, we disappear.