“I see. So I’m safe for now.”
“Bee. You are safe for always while I am here. He does not come to kill you, but to help keep you safe. And to teach you. Nettle knows him and speaks well of him. So does Riddle.”
He was quiet then. I sat on his lap, leaning against his warm chest, listening to him breathe. I sensed a deep and thoughtful stillness within him. I thought he would ask me how much more I knew, or how I had discovered it, but he didn’t. I had the strangest feeling that he knew. I had been so careful about borrowing his papers. I always tried to put them back exactly as I had found them. Had he noticed something amiss? I couldn’t ask him without admitting what I’d been doing. And I suddenly felt a bit ashamed of how I had spied on him. Was it lying to spy on him and pretend I didn’t know things? A hard question. I began to feel almost sleepy sitting there. Maybe because I did feel very safe. Protected.
He suddenly gave a small sigh and then set me on my feet. He looked me up and down again. “I’ve neglected you,” he said.
“Look at you. You’re not much better than a little ragamuffin. You’ve outgrown your clothes when I wasn’t looking. And when was the last time you combed out your hair?”
I reached up and touched my hair. It was too short to lie down and too long to be tidy. “Maybe yesterday,” I said, knowing I lied. He didn’t challenge me.
“It’s not just your hair or your clothes, Bee. It’s all of you. I can be so blind. We have to do better, little one,” he told me. “You and I, we have to do better.”
I could not make sense of what he was saying, yet I knew he was mostly talking to himself. “I will brush my hair every day,” I promised him. I put my hands behind my back, knowing they were not especially clean.
“Good,” he told me. “Good.”
He was looking at me but not seeing me. “I’ll go brush my hair now,” I offered.
He nodded, and this time his eyes focused on me. “And I’ll do what I should have been doing, beginning now,” he promised in return.
I went to my mother’s sitting room. I still had not been moved back into my room. A small trunk there held a limited selection of my clothes and possessions. I found my brush and smoothed my hair, and used water from the ewer there to wipe my face and clean my hands. I found clean leggings and a fresh tunic. And when I went down to dinner, it was only my father and me at the table. It was the best evening I’d had in a long time.
Riddle and Shun returned from their expedition with two wagonloads of goods. Some of it was for Revel but a lot of it was just for her. She had ordered new hangings for her bed and windows, and they would be delivered when they were finished. In the meanwhile she “supposed” she would have to get by with what the Purple Suite offered her. She had bought two chairs, a lampstand and a rug for her floor, a new ewer and basin, and a rack for her clothes. None of them looked much different to me from the items that had already been in her rooms. She had also added to her stock of clothing with warm woolen things and cloaks trimmed with fur, and fur slippers. There was a carved cedar chest to keep it all in. I watched my father as he saw it all unloaded and carried into her freshly restored room. When he saw me observing him, he commented quietly, “I think that’s more clothing than your mother required in all of her years married to me.” And I did not think he meant that my mother had had to do with less than what she wanted.
Both Riddle and Shun expressed some curiosity about my tutor when he did not join us for any meals on the second day after their return. In Shun’s hearing my father said only that some people recovered from traveling more slowly than others. Did she notice the look the two men exchanged? I was certain that Riddle would call on Scribe FitzVigilant before the day was over, and longed to accompany him. I was not permitted to do that, of course.
So the intervening days were given over to the activities I had created for myself. Each day I took myself to the stables for time with Perseverance and Priss. I did not call him Per. I don’t know why. I just did not like it as a name for him. I did like that we hadn’t asked anyone’s permission. I felt I had taken it into my own hands and that I had chosen a good teacher for myself. I liked Perseverance because he hadn’t seemed to think he needed to ask anyone’s permission to teach me. I suspected that no one besides us even knew I had begun to learn to ride. I liked that. It seemed to me that lately everyone had been making decisions for me. This was something I had done for myself.
Then Perseverance shocked me at the end of a ride by telling me, “We might not be able to do this at the same time as we have been.”