His gaze briefly kissed mine, and tears stung my eyes. I had been so jealous, so sure that he was favoring Shun. But that swift look offered me something that went beyond even being my father. He was my ally. When he set down the cup, he nodded to me pleasantly and added, “For a number of years, Lord Chade has especially prepared FitzVigilant to be your tutor, Bee.” He tipped me a wink that no one else saw. “Try him.”
“I shall,” I promised. I owed my father that. I focused and summoned a smile to my face. “It will be so exciting to learn new things.”
“I am very pleased to hear you say that,” he replied, and I almost felt the warmth of the thoughts he sent me.
Shun spoke over my words. “The messenger announcing his coming arrived last night? From Lord Chade? But I heard nothing, and I assure you I was not asleep. I found not the least bit of rest last night. Did the messenger say anything of me? Was there word for me from him?”
“The message came quietly, and was only about the tutor,” my father said. His words said one thing while his tone pointed out that it was not her business. For myself, I understood that Lord Chade had Skilled the information to him. Truly, my father had had a very busy night and had every excuse to look haggard. I kept the smile on my face from becoming smug as I realized that I obviously knew something that Shun did not, and that was that my father and Lord Chade shared the Skill-magic.
That satisfied me, and I resolved that for now I would ask no more questions. I put my attention on my food and listened to Riddle and my father speak, and Shun interrupt with questions that related only to herself. The workmen would return by noon and resume the renovations of Withywoods Manor. Shun hoped they would not begin work too early; she disliked being wakened by noise. My father had informed Revel that he must prepare chambers for Scribe FitzVigilant. Shun wondered which chambers he would be given. The subject of the imaginary bedbugs came up, and Shun expressed horror and demanded that she be given entirely new bedding. My father assured her that new bedding would be part of the renovation of the Yellow Suite. She asked if the Yellow Suite must remain yellow, as she much preferred mauve or lavender.
That made me lift my eyes. I watched my father and Riddle exchange looks of consternation. My father’s brow wrinkled. “But the Yellow Suite has always been the Yellow Suite,” he said, as if that explained everything.
“There is a Purple Suite, at the other end of that wing, if I recall correctly,” Riddle offered.
“You would be quite a distance from the rest of the household, but if you wish it,” my father began.
I tried not to smile. I ate the last of the cooling porridge as Shun objected, “But I do like the view from those windows. Cannot you simply paint the walls of my chambers and change the hangings to a more restful color? Just because it has always been the Yellow Suite does not mean it must remain so.”
“But … it’s the Yellow Suite …”
My father remained baffled by Shun’s failure to understand this while she hammered at him to make him see that yellow might be painted mauve. While they were distracted, I slipped away from the table. My father and Riddle were, I think, peripherally aware that I had vanished. But neither of them stopped me.
My bedchamber was bare enough that I could have painted it any color and not worried about furniture or tapestries or rugs. Something meant to kill bed vermin smoldered on the hearth, giving off a thick smoke. The wooden skeletons of the beds remained. My clothing chests had been removed to the corridor. I retreated there and rummaged again for warmer clothing before I ventured outside.
The rain had paused and a wind, warm for this time of year, was moving over the land. I went first to where my father and I had made our bone fire the night before. It had burned hot: There was only white ash in the center of a ring of partially burned sticks and branches. I took up one of the sticks and stirred the white ash. Beneath it, black coals opened red spark eyes at me as I woke them. I saw no bits of bones, not even the round of a skull I had expected to find. I wondered if my father had been here before me, at the very edge of dawn. I kicked some of the ends of the branches back into the center and waited. A thin tendril of smoke began to rise and eventually the fire woke to flames again. I stood, watching it burn, recalling all that our peculiar visitor had said, and wondering if my father would act on it, or forget it now that she was gone. An unexpected son had been foretold. And someone had once believed that my father fulfilled that foretelling. Clearly, I still did not know his full tale. I wondered if I could safely be bolder about stealing his papers and reading them while he was enslaved to the repairs on Withywoods. I decided I would have to.