Fool's Assassin / Page 157

Page 157


No one ever asked me anything in those days.

First there was Shun, put for now in a room but two doors away from my own and my father’s, until grander chambers could be prepared for her. My father had ordered that the Yellow Suite be renovated for her. She would have a bedchamber, a small sitting room, a room for her maid, and another room “to do whatever she wanted with” as my father put it. I had always loved the Yellow rooms and had often crept in there to play. No one thought to ask me if I would have liked to have a set of rooms like those. No. A single bedchamber and a tiny adjoining room for a nonexistent nursemaid were considered enough for me. Yet a stranger came to our home, and my father brought in a whole army of carpenters and stonemasons and cleaning staff, and even a maid to wait only on Shun.

Then there was the peculiar stranger he had put into the little room that opened to mine. He did not ask if he might put her there, he had simply done it. I had told him I understood why, and thought that he might thank me for being so understanding of how rude he had been. Instead he had just nodded curtly as if he expected me to simply accept anything he did. As if I were his conspirator in some plot rather than his own daughter. Certainly he expected me to support his lies to Riddle and Shun. And to obey him exactly after he discovered that I had told him the exact truth: The butterfly girl was gone.

And I did. I obeyed him without question that evening. He worked quickly, taking a blanket from my chest and handing me an armful of my mother’s scented candles. He made me walk in front of him where he could see me, and so I led him to his private study. He hurried me there, halting me twice with a grip on my shoulder to pull me aside from where a passing servant might see me.

When we reached his private study, he shut the door immediately, bolted it, and went straight to the false hinges. “What are you doing?” I asked him.

“Hiding you,” he replied. He did not speak sharply but with a finality that brooked no questions. He lit one candle for me at the fading fire in the hearth. “In you go,” he told me. And then he followed me in, as if to make sure no spy had penetrated our secret place. I saw his brows lift in surprise at the changes I had made. “You’ve been busy,” he said with grudging admiration.

“You seemed to have little time for me, so I found something to do.” I wanted to rebuke him for how he had ignored me, but his smile at the changes I had made warmed me too much. He was proud of me. I could not be as stiff as I wished to be.

“You’re clever. All of this is well thought out.” He pushed the lit candle into my holder. Some tension seemed to go out of him. “You’ll be safe here until I am sure that there is no danger to you. I have to leave you here now, but I’ll be back as quickly as I can.”

“Will you have to check every room in Withywoods?”

His eyes darkened as he saw that I understood what he feared. “Riddle will help me.”

“So many strangers have come in and out in the last few days. Why do you fear this one so much?”

“There’s little time to talk, dear. The sooner I’m about this, the faster I can come back for you. But I fear her because I trusted her far too quickly, without thought. She might not be a danger, but danger may have followed her. I was careless. I won’t be again.” He left me, backing from the small chamber into the narrow corridor. “I have to latch the door behind me. But don’t fear. I’ll be back.”

I would have feared, if I had not already prepared my own bolt-hole through the pantry. I watched him go, and then I put my eye to the peephole and watched him close the secret panel. He turned and looked right at me and gave a nod before he left his den.

So. There I was. I was glad I had thought to provision my hiding place. I sat for a time, mulling over everything that had happened. It was too much for such a short time. Shun. I didn’t like her. My dream-trance. I wondered if I should have been frightened by it instead of exhilarated. Why had I felt that way? I tried to make comparisons for myself. I was like a plant that had bloomed for the first time. No. More like a baby when it first discovers it can reach out with a hand and seize something. A part of me had been growing and today it had finally worked exactly as it was meant to. I hoped it would happen again soon. I wondered why I’d had to explain it to my father. Did not all people have dreams, and thus have dream-trances? I tried to remember who had taught me that dreams were important, that they must be recorded, and that the most important dreams would seize me and hold me until they were fulfilled. I laughed aloud when I realized when I had learned that. I’d dreamed it.

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