Ghost of a Chance is a part of the 100 Dresses collection.
Fans of the Land of Stories and the Descendants series are sure to find the lighthearted fantasy adventure of 100 Dresses a perfect fit!
Inside an enchanted castle, there’s a closet—a closet with one hundred magical dresses that only Darling Dimple can wear. Each one disguises her as somebody else.
It turns out that Darling needs disguises. A thief is on the loose! Someone is causing an uproar among the servants—moving things around, stealing clothes from the laundry, and even pocketing Princess Mariposa’s jewels. Then Darling and her friend Roger think they spot a ghost roaming the halls. Could the culprit be a spirit? Can Darling and Roger get to the bottom of it all? With the help of the one hundred dresses, there just might be a ghost of a chance.
An Excerpt fromGhost of a Chance
I slipped into Queen Candace’s closet, gripping the canary’s cage in my fist. My friend Roger hovered outside the door. Moonbeams silvered the dresses and poured across the rose-patterned carpet, bleaching it to blues and grays. The stained-glass canary in the great peaked-arch window shone like a lamplit jewel.
It had been three months since I’d exposed that thief--and imposter--Dudley. Three months of jumping and fetching, of pressing mountains of handkerchiefs, towels, and sheets, of doing a portion of the Wardrobe Mistress’s job. But now things had settled down. The Princess had appointed a new Wardrobe Mistress, and I had a little free time.
A little free time and a closet full of unworn dresses. Not to mention the promise I’d made Roger to show him my secret.
“Are you sure this is safe?” Roger asked.
“I’m sure,” I said, motioning him inside the closet.
I set the birdcage on the small table by the window. Lyric chirped drowsily in a puddle of moonlight. A quiver ran through the waking dresses. One hundred of them hung on silver hangers marked with numbered gold badges. They had all belonged to Queen Candace, the grandmother of Princess Mariposa. And although the dresses had been in this closet for years, they looked as bright and as new as they had on the day they were put there. Well, all except for one, Eighteen; faded rags were all that remained of the original dress.
Roger sidled into the closet and eased the door shut.
“The others are all downstairs,” I pointed out.
“Okay.” Roger swept his cap off and ran his fingers through his sandy hair.
The dresses rattled their hangers. Roger jumped.
“Be nice,” I told them. “You have a guest.”
The dresses clattered their hangers more urgently. They’d helped me thwart Dudley and his accomplice, Cherice. Those two had meant to unleash the dragons chained to the castle roof. Instead, Dudley had been carried off by the gryphon, and Cherice had escaped. The dragons were still captive. What more could the dresses want?
“Do you think the dresses are alive?” Roger whispered.
“Yes,” I whispered back. “Sort of. They’re full of magic, so they seem alive.”
“So are they or not?” he asked, tucking his cap into his back pocket.
I chewed on my lower lip. I wasn’t sure I could explain it. The dresses had a mind of their own; that much was sure. They slept when Lyric wasn’t in the closet. And they could be killed. Eighteen was proof of that. I’d left it off its hanger overnight. And though I’d hung it back up as soon as I could, Eighteen no longer woke with the others.
“Can anybody wear the dresses?” Roger asked, distracted by a flapping sleeve.
The sleeve belonged to One, an aqua gown with gold-trimmed sleeves and a full skirt. It waved, straining its seams to catch my attention.
“No,” I said, pulling One off its hanger.
I didn’t know if this was true. Marci, who used to be the Head Scrubber but now was the Wardrobe Mistress, had worn the dresses when she was a child, but that was years ago. As far as I knew, no one else had.
“So there are rules,” I went on. “You can wear a dress outside, but not in the rain.” I thought about that for a moment. “Or in the snow--they’re both wet. You can’t leave a dress off its hanger. You have to wear it until you put it back.”
“Or what happens?”
I inhaled deeply. “The dress dies.”
Roger stared at me as if that were crazy, but I plunged on.
“Let me show you how this works.” I slipped my arms into One’s sleeves. The dress blurred around me as it snuggled up tight, instantly conforming to my size.
“It’s still me,” I told him, turning around to look in the mirror on the back of the closet door.
A smiling reflection greeted me. A lady with an elaborate hairdo stood in the mirror. I didn’t recognize her, but her big diamond brooch told me she was wealthy.
Roger jabbed my shoulder, snatching his finger back as if it had been burned.
“Are you in there?” he whispered.
“It’s me, Roger,” I said. “Really. Here.”
I stuck my hand out. He took it gingerly with two fingers.
“See, it’s like a mask. It looks like the lady in the mirror, but it’s really me.” I squeezed his hand. “Doesn’t it feel like me?”
“It does,” he said, snatching his hand back. “Wow.” He walked around me, studying me from every angle. “You can’t tell. It doesn’t even sound like you.”
“Who are you--I mean, who is the lady?”
“I don’t know.”
“It could be some lady miles and miles away,” he said.
I considered that for a minute. “I don’t think so. It never has been before.”
“Wow,” Roger repeated, and turned to rifle through the dresses. “How long have they been here? Where’d they come from? Who made them? A wizard? Are they enchanted--you know, like with a spell? Or a curse? Or--” Roger took a deep breath. “Maybe they’re not really dresses. Maybe they’re prisoners of a magical war--enchanted prisoners.”
I rolled my eyes; he was starting to sound like one of my stories.
He hauled a dress off its hanger.
Beside me, Lyric whistled.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“If it works for you, it should work for me,” Roger said, stepping into the dress.
I held my breath. I’d learned I couldn’t wear a dress twice, but I hadn’t worn this one yet. My stomach tightened. I’d promised Roger to show him the closet and how the dresses worked, but sharing them was different. Weren’t these my dresses? I’d found them; I’d worn them to save the Princess. Was it fair if Roger was able to wear them too?
Roger yanked the dress up and over his arms.
The dresses shivered with indignation. I fought the urge to giggle. Freckle-faced, sandy-haired Roger stood with a wave of flounces rippling around his shoulders. His striped shirtsleeves stuck out underneath. His work boots poked out under the trailing skirt.
Roger couldn’t wear the dresses. Maybe the magic only worked for girls. Maybe it only worked for me.
I liked that idea. Only I, Darling the Dress Warrior, could wear these dresses.
“It’s just a stupid dress.” He picked at the skirt as if it had lice crawling on it.
“Take it off,” I told him. “Like I said, I’m the only one.”
“I didn’t want to wear it anyway,” he said, and dropped the dress, kicking it aside.
“Nobody told you to.” I picked the dress up off the carpet.
The badge on the empty hanger read Thirty-Seven. Had Roger ruined it? Could it still be worn? Gnawing my lower lip, I slipped out of One. I hung it back on its hanger, and then I slid into Thirty-Seven. It snapped to my size. A new lady greeted me in the mirror. I sighed with relief.
At least he hadn’t accidentally spoiled it for me.
Thirty-Seven simmered with excitement. The flounces fluttered about my shoulders anxiously. The skirt billowed as if caught by the wind, and the dress pulled me toward the closet door. I took an involuntary step forward.
“Let’s go for a walk,” I said. Thirty-Seven tingled in agreement.
“Are you sure?” Roger asked. “Who are you now?”
“Lady What’s-Her-Name,” I said, pointing at the well-dressed lady in the mirror.
Thirty-Seven hauled me forward another step.
“Where would we go?” Roger asked.
“Downstairs. A quick walk just to see what Thirty-Seven wants.”
“What could a dress want?” He pulled his cap out of his pocket and twisted it in his hands. As if he needed to be sure it was still only a cap.
“That’s what we’re going to find out,” I said.
I opened the closet door and walked out.
“Darling,” he called after me, “come back here!”
I ignored him and walked on, dragged along by an insistent Thirty-Seven. I heard the pounding of Roger’s boots as he caught up. I smiled. I knew he couldn’t resist. And neither could I, Darling Dimple, Intrepid Explorer. I navigated the castle’s corridors, drawn forward by Thirty-Seven. The dress was wrought up about something. It would be interesting to see what.
“This is not a good idea,” Roger groused in my ear.
“It’s no worse than going out on the roof,” I said, reminding him of what we’d done last summer.
At that, he fell into step beside me. “Where are you goin’?”
I caught hold of the newel-post on the main staircase to avoid tripping over Thirty-Seven’s lunging skirt. A low rumble of conversation rose up from below.
Roger grabbed me by the shoulder.
“Someone will see you,” he warned.
“No, Roger,” I said. “They won’t. They’ll see Lady What’s-Her-Name.”
He frowned suspiciously. I wormed out of his grip and proceeded down the stairs. The sound of voices receded into the distance. Thirty-Seven hurried me after them; Roger dogged my heels.
The main hall flickered in the glow of candlelight. Hundreds of candles sat in sconces, beaming like little stars. It was so pretty. I caught my reflection in a mirror set in an alcove, and stopped to admire myself.
Lady What’s-Her-Name had copper curls and blue eyes. Her gown shimmered an orange-red like the flames on the candles. Gold slippers peeked out from her hem. She was quite lovely. I turned my head this way and that, watching her curls bounce. My real hair was like the fluff of a dandelion; it defeated most attempts to tame it. Even now, I could feel my hair ribbon threatening to slide free. I reached up and pulled it out.
“Are you finished?” Roger asked, wiping his forehead with his sleeve. It was the first day of winter; I couldn’t imagine how he could be too warm. “Let’s find out what the dress wants and go back upstairs.”
“In a moment,” I said imperiously, waving my hand as I had seen ladies of the court do.
“Is this young man bothering you, Lady Marguerite?” asked a voice as mellow as an oboe.
It was a voice that sent shivers down my spine. Roger froze, freckles on fire. I turned to the slight figure of the Head Housekeeper, Mrs. Pepperwhistle. Roger didn’t answer to her--he worked for the Stable Master--but the castle was her domain. She ruled the Upper-servants with her soft voice and her knee-melting sharp glance.
Thirty-Seven fell flat against me as if the wind carrying it had suddenly died. Evidently, it had decided that whatever it wanted could wait.
I smiled what I hoped was a reassuring smile. “Not at all,” I said.
“What is a Stable Boy doing here at this hour?” Mrs. Pepperwhistle wondered. Her black eyes measured Roger from head to foot as if she meant to order his coffin.
“He . . . ,” I said with a little cough. “He was reporting to me on my horse.”
As far as I knew, Lady Marguerite could have ten horses or none at all. I only hoped Mrs. Pepperwhistle didn’t have any idea either.
“I’d have thought the Stable Master would be happy to answer your questions,” she said, spying the aquamarine hair ribbon in my fist.
Resisting the urge to squirm, I looked her straight in the eye as I slipped the ribbon onto a little table beside me. I stepped away from the table and patted Roger on the shoulder.
“I can’t think of another Stable Boy who is a better hand with horses than little Roger here,” I said.
“Really?” Mrs. Pepperwhistle said. “Indeed.”
Sweat pooled under my arms, no doubt staining my own dress.
“Good servants are priceless, don’t you think?” I smiled broadly. “I’m always delighted to discover one in Her Highness’s service.”
Mrs. Pepperwhistle murmured her agreement and, wishing me a good evening, melted into the shadows. Thirty-Seven danced a jig about my knees.
Roger smacked my arm with his cap.
“Little Roger?” he said.
“I had to say something. I had to sound like Lady Whatever, didn’t I?”
Tugging his cap back on his head, he shrugged. “I suppose, but couldn’t you think of something else?”
“You didn’t say anything to help matters.”
“She might come back. We should go,” Roger urged.
Thirty-Seven twisted toward the main stair, signaling its agreement with Roger.
“Okay,” I said, turning back to retrieve my ribbon, “just a minute.”
The tabletop was empty.
“Roger,” I said, “did you pick up my ribbon?”
“What would I do that for?” he asked, looking around as if he expected Mrs. Pepperwhistle to reappear at any moment.
I dropped to the floor and felt under the table. I searched the alcove. I made Roger move his feet and pull out his pockets. But the ribbon was gone.
The aquamarine ribbon, a gift from Princess Mariposa, was one of only two treasures I owned. The other was the locket, strung on a slender chain, that had been left to me by my long-dead mother. The locket was a family heirloom, a heavy silver oval inscribed with a starburst on one side and the name wray on the other. Inside, it was empty. I liked to stay awake at night imagining the treasure that it had once held. Lately, I favored a magical ruby that granted wishes.
This morning I rubbed my locket between my thumb and forefinger, thinking. I had set the ribbon on the table. There was only Roger and me standing there--Mrs. Pepperwhistle had never come near the table. What had happened to the ribbon?
The castle had magic-filled dresses and dragons chained to the roof--did it have ghosts, too? A tremor shook my right knee.
No, I decided. There were no ghosts or specters, and absolutely no phantoms lurking anywhere in the castle. No, absolutely not.
And I didn’t intend to start imagining that there were.
I arrived at the wardrobe hall just as Marci walked out of a closet with a cloak over her arm. She’d changed since becoming Wardrobe Mistress. Her hair wreathed her head in a tidy braid. Her second chin had melted away, and her once-round figure had shrunk to a pleasing plumpness. She wore a dark gray wool dress with a stiff white collar that had a mauve silk scarf knotted under it. The wardrobe keys dangled from a silver chatelaine at her belt.
“Good morning, Darling,” Marci said.
Lindy, the Head Presser, and Selma, the Head Laundress, stood before the door to the Princess’s dressing room. Selma gripped a paper in her red-knuckled hand. She wore the brown dress and canvas apron that the Under-servants wore in the under-cellar. The hem of her skirt was damp, and the soles of her boots bore a permanent crust of soap. She kept her salt-and-pepper hair twisted up on the back of her head, always ready to dive into the job at hand. Selma simmered with energy, like a boiling kettle.