I woke to find a young pair of deep, dark eyes staring into mine. Startled, I gasped unable to draw a full breath, due to my corset. Exhausted, I had fallen asleep in the clothes I had traveled in the day before. The boy, who I judged to be nine, did not move or even blink. As I sat up I noticed a connecting door between my room and the next was open.
“I think we should go downstairs and have some breakfast.”
The still silent child led the way through the house which was equally silent. The dining room had not been set so we continued on to the kitchen. The stove was unlit, but a pot of porridge was still warm to the touch. I made two bowls and we sat at the wooden table. The silence had seemed to grow more comfortable between us, so I began a conversation.
“Do you always have your breakfast in here?”
“Are you Dearest Lucy or Affectionate Sister, Ettie?”
“To you, I am Miss Lucy Warne.”
“Then to you, I am Master Jasper.”
I pressed my lips together, certain that Jasper would not appreciate being laughed at. Before we could continue our acquaintance the door opened and the woman who had escorted me the night before appeared. It was clear from her manner that she wished to speak to me.
“Master Jasper, go and get your cap and coat. You may show me around the grounds.”
“If you have any questions or complaints, come to me. The others are not to be disturbed.”
“I have no desire to change the house, only to look after Jasper.”
As she turned to go, a question occurred to me. “If I wished to send a letter to my sister?”
“The table in the front hall. The family does not tolerate gossip.”
I had no reply to that offensive remark and our conversation ended as Jasper reappeared.
“It really is naughty of you to ignore my lessons, and on the first day.”
“If you draw me a map of the grounds and the house, it will be considered geography.”
“You’re a clever one, but you won’t snare Uncle.”
“I know your plan, I saw the book.”
It was then that I realized he had gone through my bag. He had gone through my belongings while I slept. Family hostility was nothing new to me, so I kept silent for now, I knew I could win over this strange child and the odd housekeeper. It would just take time.