My father waited and I had to add, “But I do love my old room.” I could not tell him, in front of the servants, that I wanted a room with an entrance to the spy-maze. I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell him about that entrance. I liked being the only one who knew about it. I weighed my secret and quick access to the spyhole against a chance to dispel some of the gossip. And what if he decided that he must improve my old room instead? The spy-door might be found! I cleared my throat. “But it was a baby’s room, wasn’t it? This is much better. Thank you, Father. It’s lovely.”
It was a bit awkward, but I went to him and put my face up to be kissed. I was probably the only one who knew he was surprised, and certainly only he and I knew how seldom we touched in that way. But he stooped to give me a kiss on the cheek, exactly as if it were something we were both comfortable doing. We were allies, I suddenly knew, holding our walls against a hostile world.
Revel was fairly wriggling with excitement. The moment I stepped back from my father, he bowed and said, “Mistress Bee, if you have a moment, I’d enjoy showing you the cunning drawers in the wardrobe, and how the mirror folds down.” The moment I gave a faint nod he stretched his long legs, and in two strides he stood before my new wardrobe cabinet. “See. There are hooks for necklaces, and tiny drawers for other jewelry. Here is the little shelf for scents! And, to be amusing, I’ve already added some for you! This charming little bottle holds rose essence, and this blue one has honeysuckle; both are very appropriate for a young lady of your years!
“I’ve added a clever little stepstool for you, to allow you to reach every shelf and to see yourself in the mirror. See how it folds up or down! And here, this compartment for larger hanging items, ah, such a pleasant scent—lined with cedar, to keep those nasty little moths away!” As he spoke, he was opening empty drawers and tapping hooks with much more enthusiasm than I could ever have mustered for a wardrobe. I smiled as best I could and continued to smile as he assured me that the maid’s chamber attached to my room would soon be ready for an occupant. He commended Careful to my attention as a possible lady’s maid, and I had to turn and keep all dismay from my face as she presented herself. I judged her to be at least fifteen and perhaps older. She blushed as she curtsied, her arms still full of linens, and I had no idea what to say to her. A maid. What would I have her do? Would she always be near me, following me about? Suddenly I was glad I had been gracious about accepting the new room. If I had insisted on my old one, and they had put her in there, I’d have no chance to use my secret entrance. As it was, if she was sleeping adjacent to my room, would I be able to slip out unnoticed?
I turned back to Revel. Carefully, carefully. “The room is so lovely, and the wardrobe is enchanting. You have given a great deal of thought to everything. And how kind of you, to make it easier for me to reach things. So often that has been a challenge for me, and now you have solved it.”
I had never seen Revel flush pink with pleasure, but he did now. His brown eyes suddenly twinkled at me, and to my shock I realized I’d made him my friend. I turned from him to my father. I had come seeking him, intending to ask him for new winter boots and some longer tunics. But I now perceived that I must not ask for those things in front of the servants. I looked round at them, Careful and Revel and the man installing the bed hangings. He was nearly finished now, and Careful was stepping forward and giving a final tug to make them hang straight. I had known Revel all my life, but I had lived like the feral kitten, slipping past the tall house steward without a word. What possible interest could such a dignified and important adult have in me? And yet here he was, taking absolute joy in creating this room for me.
And now Careful would obviously become part of my world. All of the enlarged ranks of folk that would populate Withywoods would now be people I must encounter and speak to every day. And there would be other children, larger than me but equal in years, in the schoolroom with me every day. So many people were becoming part of my world. How would I deal with so many people?
Part of my world, but not part of my family. My father was my family. And he and I must stand back-to-back, always, and defend ourselves against all gossip and speculation. I was not sure why that was so … and then I knew. They might call me Bee Badgerlock, but I knew that in truth I was Bee Farseer. That knowledge was like a brick being set in place to fill up a chink in a wall. I was a Farseer. Like my father. So I smiled and took care to speak clearly as I said, “I came to ask when the tutor might be ready to begin my lessons, Father. I am very eager to start.”