Herbert looked up from his dinner, chewing nervously. He swallowed quickly, saying a little too roughly, "What did you just say?"
Pip did not seem to notice his alarm, his own eyes downcast. "I asked, Herbert, whose child it is that continuously solicits about the place?" He finally glanced up at his two companions, who had just passed a curious look between them.
Clara had been gnawing at her lip in a very unattractive manner. She stopped abruptly, no doubt composing herself before saying, "A child? Around here? Can you please explain whatever it is you mean?"
Now Pip brought a hand to his chin, regarding them carefully. "I would say, for about the past week, there has been a little girl in a white dress roaming about."
Herbert set aside his utensil, grabbing the edge of the table, ruffling the cloth. "Handel, dear, I have frequented the same places as you. I am truly sorry to say that I have not once seen this girl you speak of."
Clara touched his arm, adding gently, "Are you sure you are feeling quite well?" She then placed the back of her hand to his forehead. "You are a little warm."
Pip pulled away from her ministrations, sorry for having to be rude to Clara, but growing irritated with both of them. "I feel perfectly fine. Do not look at me so, Herbert. How can you two honestly say you have never seen the girl?"
His friend shook his head, eyes focused on his hands as he was lost in thought. He replied quietly, "I think I would have remembered a girl in a white dress, especially if she has been around all week, as you claim."
"I am not mad," Pip assured them weakly.
Herbert's eyes smoothed over his friend. "I never said you were," he tried in his most assuring tone. "I just find it quite strange."
"An apparition," Clara suddenly blurt out.
Herbert rolled his eyes, before closing them with a sigh. "Dearest, you know I find all that to be nonsense."
Clara ignored him, continuing optimistically, "If the girl was an apparition, that would explain why we have never seen her. I beg you to bear with me Herbert, for it does make sense."
Pip's head fell into his hands, as if he were being given devastating news. "Then I must be mad," he declared in a low voice.
Clara looked back at him, clearing her throat before snapping lovingly, "Oh come now, Pip. No one said you are mad. Only you have. Have you never heard of ghosts?"
Pip nodded, unable to face her imposing form. "I have. I also have never really believed any of the stories."
Clara sighed angrily, "Both of you? Am I going to be the only one who thinks reasonably here?"
"No. Now go on, make your point," Herbert urged.
Clara had started to twiddle her fingers anxiously in her lap. "Well, I have heard that sometimes ghosts will visit certain people. People they had unfinished business with. They usually do not leave until the issue is amended. I am much surprised that the girl has not tried to communicate with you, because she apparently wants something of you, Pip."
"But what could the unfinished business be?" Herbert asked skeptically.
"I have no clue. I mean, I do not recognize the girl. I have never seen her in my entire life (as mad as that sounds)," Pip murmured excitingly.
"Can you describe her?" Clara pried.
Pip shook his head, messing his dark hair. "I have never paid too much attention to her, because I assumed she was normal. She has also never actually been in front of me. Always off to the side." He motioned his hand outward. "Just a shape."
"Well even I find that particularly odd," Herbert announced hopefully. "What do you make of a shy ghost, hmm?"
Clara narrowed her eyes at him, her mouth set in a thin line. "I think," she said slowly, seriously, "we need to wait and see what this ghost of yours is planning. Nothing to be afraid of; I highly doubt she means you harm, based on what you said."
"This just might convince me," Herbert interrupted. "And although I am sorry, Handel, your case is definitely intriguing."
Pip had slumped over so far that his face was nearly in his dinner. All at once he sat up, eyes dark and unreadable. "Thank you, Clara, for your help. But I think I am going to retire now."
Clara stood before he could, making him pause and consider her. "Let me get you two a drink first," she replied stiffly, leaving no room for protest. "God knows you need it after this past week – this night," she exclaimed, and although she was addressing both of them, she stared on sympathetically at Pip, who had reverted back to slumping. She left the table with a quiet flourish.
"Do not look so down, Handel," Herbert said cheerfully, "At least you have not – to use one of Clara's ridiculous terms – been terribly haunted by this child."