The staircase to the attic was narrow and made of bare wood boards. Georgiana had taken off her shoes before leaving her room. Her stockings made little noise as she crept up this final staircase into the large attic. She had made her way past her brother's room and up through the much narrower hallway that ran between the servants' rooms. This one last obstacle should be the easiest. As with the other stairs, she kept to one side and tried to keep her weight at the edge of the step to avoid creaks and pops as she put pressure on the dry boards.

The obstacle at the top was more hatch than door, just a crude barrier to keep the dust and any errant mice out of the main part of the house, while allowing ingress when furniture or old clothes needed storage room. She fumbled for the latch that she knew held it shut, but could not find it in the pitch dark up there at the top of the house. She finally sighed impatiently and carefully set down her bandbox. She had remembered to bring a small lantern from her room–it was a dark lantern which was kept on her hearth with just a tiny opening so that she could see the furniture in her room.

That lantern had been lit every night since she was very small and had been afraid of the dark. Several years after her mother's death a comment by someone...was it Wickham or the Colonel?...had terrified her into thinking that her mother's ghost was going to appear in her room at night. It had been the Colonel, she was sure. He did not even realize that she had heard his joking about spectres and visitations, and certainly he had not thought that his light comment would terrify his little cousin into screaming nightmares.

The little dark lantern had been the idea of her old nurse, and it had been kept lit all night until her nightmares subsided, then the opening had been decreased little by little until it just outlined the dark furniture, in case she awoke in the the middle of the night. It had been years since she had been afraid of the dark, but she had to admit to some trepidation over the idea of the dusty attic, with its cobwebs and scampering feet.

With the assistance of a small beam of light from the lantern, Georgiana finally found the latch to the attic door–a small, simple gate latch which was nonetheless tightly fastened. After struggling with it for a couple of minutes she finally felt it give, and managed to open it without dropping the lantern and banging the door, but her movements were still not a quiet as she would have liked.

With the hatch open, she snatched up her bandbox and slipped into the attic. She could smell the dust which had been undisturbed since the last time a major decorating upheaval had relegated some of the furniture to this refuse tip of family life, and it tickled her nose. She managed to avoid the sneeze which this tried to induce, but the sound of a door opening on the floor below made her freeze in place, too frightened to be seduced by the sifting dust particles.

Down below, one of the servants had stepped out into the hallway, but there was complete silence now as both Georgiana and the invisible servant listened to the silence of the dark house. After what seemed like hours, Georgiana heard a small click as the servant's door was closed again. All the servants in this wing were female and, Georgiana thought, less likely to go exploring the dark house for the source of a sound which had awakened them, but she stood rigid as she stretched to hear every noise until she felt that she could hear nothing. Had she returned to bed and was she lying there listening for the sound of movement...or had she closed the door behind herself and crept down the stairs to awaken the housekeeper?

She stood there without moving or setting down her burdens until she heard, far, far away, the deep boom of Big Ben as he tolled the hour of three o'clock. It had been just before two o'clock when she left her room, so surely the mysterious servant was asleep by now! She allowed her arms to slowly relax, then bent down without moving her feet and silently put the bandbox on the floor. The lantern she was a bit unsure about. It was hot and she did not want to put it on the wood floor, but she did not want to blow out the candle in it and leave herself without a source of light, either.

Georgiana opened the doors of the lantern and lifted it high to look around the crowded attic, still keeping her feet planted firmly so that she would not make any noise. The mass over to her right was a pile of furniture that had been discarded there last year. A marble-topped table would provide a safe resting place for the lantern, and she was pleased to see that the old settee had a dust sheet over it. If she could remove it without awakening the household she could curl up on it and, hopefully, sleep a little before daylight. Once the maids were all at work she would not need to worry about discovery as the servants' quarters would be abandoned until bedtime.

She tugged on the dust sheet and found that it was old and soft, and she was able to gently slip it off the settee in virtual silence. With her shoes still in her hand, she sat down, the old springs creaking a little as she did. She listened again to make sure that she had not disturbed anyone, then gathered her courage and lied down, her head on the arm of the settee and her cloak wrapped around her for a blanket. When she relaxed he tense muscles, it did not take long for her to fall asleep.

The sun did not awaken her until it was fully up, since the only ingress for its light was a pair of tiny, shuttered windows up under the gabled roof. She had vaguely heard the disjointed sounds of the maids whispering their way downstairs in the pre-dawn hours, but when she awoke completely it was silent upstairs. She felt thirsty and dirty in the stuffy attic, and she could already tell that it would be hot up there in the summer sun. If only it was cloudy! She stretched carefully and sat up on her settee. How soon would they notice that she was gone?

She crept over to the tiny window and peered out. The angle of the roof did not allow her to see all the way to the street, but she could see that it was still early. Suddenly, she heard the tramp of feet in the hallway, and her brother's voice, taut with strain.

"Before we panic, we must make sure that Miss Darcy is not in the house."

"Surely, sir, she would not be up in the servants' quarters."

"Probably not, but we do not want to assume anything. All the doors were bolted on the inside...which suggests that she is in the house, although she is not in her room or in the drawing or music rooms."

"Yes, sir."

Before Georgiana could digest this conversation, she heard heavy footsteps mounting the bare wood of the attic stairs.

Would you like Georgiana to:
A.) Hide, then come out?
or
B.) Hide until Darcy goes away, then sneak out of the house?