“Do we need to talk about that?”
“You do things without asking me,” she complained.
I crossed my arms on my chest and looked down on her. “I’m your father,” I reminded her. “I don’t ask your permission to do what I think is right.”
“It’s not about that! It’s about not knowing before it happens. It’s about …” She faltered. Then she looked up at me and fought to keep her gaze on mine as she told me earnestly, “They will try to hurt me.”
“I am sure your tutor will keep order among his students.”
She shook her head wildly and made a noise like a cornered cat. “They don’t have to hit me to hurt me. Girls can …” Her clenched fists suddenly opened wide into claws. She clasped her own little head in taloned hands and squinched her eyes tight. “Forget that I asked you. I will take care of this myself.”
“Bee,” I began warningly, but she interrupted me with, “I told you. Girls don’t have to hit to hurt.”
I did not let it go. “I want you to understand why I invited the other children to be taught as well.”
“I do understand.”
“Then tell me why.”
“To show everyone that you are not a stingy man. Or hardhearted.”
“Perse—the stable boy. He told me that some people say you have a dark look to you, and that after Mother died they feared you would become harsh with the servants. You didn’t. But this will show that you are actually a good man.”
“Bee. It’s not about me showing anybody anything. In Buckkeep Castle any child that wishes to learn is allowed to come to lessons at the Great Hearth. I, a bastard, was allowed to come there and learn. And so I think that, in my turn, I will allow any child who wishes to learn the chance.”
She wasn’t looking at me. I took a deep breath and nearly added more words, but then sighed instead. If she didn’t understand what I had told her, more words would only weary her. She looked aside from me when I sighed.
“It’s the right thing to do.”
When I didn’t respond, she added, “My mother would have wanted to learn. And if she were here, I know she would have insisted that every child receive the chance. You are right.” She began to gather up her trove. It quickly filled her arms. She didn’t ask for help but just tucked her chin over it to hold it to her chest. In a very quiet voice she added, “But I wish you weren’t right, and I did not have to learn alongside them.” I opened the door for her and followed her out.
We had almost reached the door of her room when I heard the tapping of hard-soled slippers and looked back to see Shun bearing down on me like a ship under full sail. “Holder Badgerlock!” she hailed me imperiously. Bee’s pace increased. I halted and turned to face Shun, giving my daughter an opportunity to flee.
“Good afternoon, Lady Shun,” I greeted her, assuming a smile I did not feel.
“I need to speak to you,” she called breathlessly, steps before she had reached a conversational distance. When she halted, she began without greeting or preambles, “So, when are my music lessons to begin? And my dance instructor should come from Buckkeep Castle itself, if not from Jamaillia. I wanted to be sure you realized that. I don’t wish to be hampered by knowing only the old steps.”
I kept my smile with difficulty. “Music lessons. I am not sure that Scribe FitzVigilant is prepared to teach—”
She shook her head impatiently, her auburn curls flying. The motion propelled her scent to me. Molly had always worn perfumes of flowers and herbs: ginger and cinnamon, rose and lily. The fragrance that reached me from Shun had no recollection of a garden. A headache almost immediately assaulted me. I stepped back and she stepped forward as she continued. “I’ve already spoken to him, three days ago. He agrees with you that he is not qualified to teach me to play an instrument or sing, but suggested that if the manor hosted some minstrels for the winter, they were often pleased to instruct young ladies in musical accomplishments for a modest stipend.
“So then I asked him about dancing and—”
“Scribe FitzVigilant is still recovering. When did you speak to him?”
“When I went to his rooms to wish him well, of course. The poor fellow, I thought, sent away from Buckkeep Castle and the pleasures of the court to this backwater! I was sure he must be lonely and bored in his convalescence so I called on him, and engaged him in conversation to cheer him. I fear he is not a skilled conversationalist, but I well know how to pose questions and draw a shy fellow out of his shell. So when I asked him if he could dance and he told me he did, well enough, I asked if he might teach me some of the newer steps and he said he feared that his health would prevent him from dancing gracefully for a time. That was when he suggested I might need an instructor. So of course, I told Riddle, and … he didn’t speak to you, did he? For a serving man, he is most forgetful! To the point of uselessness. It’s a wonder to me that you keep him on at all!”