“Surely her nursemaid …”
I shook my head, irritated at the delay. “She has none. Molly and I were raising her, and before her mother died she needed no one else. Now she has only me. Chade, I have to go.”
He looked at me. Then with an exasperated sigh, he flapped his hand at me. “Go, then. But we still need to talk. Privately.”
“We will. Another time. And I will ask you about that tutor you recommended as well.”
He nodded. He would find a way. Tonight he needed to stay in this room and convince his sullen charge that she must do as he suggested. But that was his task, not mine. I had enough tasks of my own.
As I left, Riddle followed me out into the hall. “Bad luck all round,” he said. “The passage was difficult for him to manage, and then the storm delayed us, too. He had hoped to have a quiet hour or two with you before dealing with ‘a problem.’ I was shocked when the problem turned out to be a girl. Shun. Terrible name, eh? I’m sure it’s not what her grandparents called her. I hope she doesn’t decide to keep it.”
I looked at him wearily, reaching for words. “Well. At least it’s good to know that the Farseer talent for dramatics is being passed on.”
He grinned crookedly. “I’d say you and Nettle both carry a fair share of that.” When I did not answer his smile, he asked in a gentler voice, “How are you doing, Tom?”
I shrugged and shook my head. “As you see. I’m getting by. Adjusting.”
He nodded and was quiet for a moment. Then he said, “Nettle is worried for her sister. I’ve told her that you are far more capable than she might imagine, but she has still moved forward with preparing a chamber and a caretaker for little Bee.”
“Bee and I have actually been doing very well together. I think we are well suited to each other.” It was difficult to be courteous. I liked Riddle but really, Bee was not his concern. She was mine and I was feeling more and more anxious, more and more certain that I needed to get home. I was suddenly weary of all of them, longing only to leave.
His mouth tightened, and then I saw him decide to speak. “Except that you’ve left her alone tonight to come here. No nurse, no governess, no tutor? Tom, even an ordinary child takes constant watching. And Bee is not—”
“For you to worry about,” I cut in. I was stung by his words, though I was trying not to show it. Damn. Would he go straight back to Nettle as soon as he could and report to her that I was neglecting her little sister? I stared at him. Riddle met my gaze squarely. We had known each other for years, and endured several very bad things together. Once, I had left him for dead, or worse than dead. He’d never rebuked me for that. I owed him the courtesy of hearing him out. I tucked my chin and waited for him to speak.
“We worry,” he said quietly, “about all sorts of things that don’t necessarily belong to us. Seeing you tonight was a shock. You’re not thin, you’re gaunt. You drink without tasting what you put in your mouth, and you eat without looking at your food. I know you’re still mourning, and that’s only right. But grief can make a man overlook the obvious. Such as his child’s needs.”
He meant well but I was in no mood to hear it. “I don’t overlook her needs. It’s exactly why I’m leaving now. Give me three days to ready things before you bring Shun to my door.” He was nodding and looking at me so sincerely that my anger faded. “You’ll see Bee then, and talk to her. I promise you she’s not neglected, Riddle. She’s an unusual child. Buckkeep Castle would not be a good place for her.”
He looked skeptical but had the grace to keep his doubts to himself. “I’ll see you then,” he replied.
I felt his gaze follow me as I walked down the hall. I descended the stairs wearily and full of regrets. I admitted my disappointment. There had been in my heart the germ of a hope that Chade had arranged this meeting because he wished to see me, to offer me some sort of comfort or sympathy at my loss. It had been years since he had been my mentor or my protector, yet my heart had still yearned to once more feel the shelter of his wisdom. When we are children, we believe that our elders know all and that even when we cannot understand the world, they can make sense of it. Even after we are grown, in moments of fear or sorrow, we still turn instinctively to the older generation, hoping to finally learn some great hidden lesson about death and pain. Only to learn instead that the only lesson is that life goes on. I had known that Chade did not deal well with death. I should not have expected it of him.
I turned my collar up, pulled my damp cloak tighter around me, and went back out into the storm.