Chapter Six:

It seems Edward has improved by the next morning, if the shouting is anything by which to judge.

"Why not?" I hear Jane demand from somewhere down the corridor. "You've taken me in the past!"

"Yes, and that was out of necessity only," Edward replies in a huff, his heavy footsteps swiftly crossing the floor. "Now that Miss Claire is here, I have no qualms leaving you in her care."

"Claire!" Jane exclaims with a scoff. "You hardly know her! I hardly know her! She could be wicked, and cruel, and—and all manner of depraved and fiendish things!"

Edward's voice rises to drown out Jane's protests. "She is none of those things, and you know it!"

"How? So many governesses before her were kind to me while you were near, yet they were cruel and neglectful the moment you left! What proof do I have that she will be any different?"

His footsteps stop. "Janey," he murmurs in a voice I can scarce hear. I quietly, carefully crack my door open, feeling less shame than I ought to for eavesdropping. "My darling girl, you know that I hate to leave you, but the fact remains that you are safer here than you would be on the road. As unkind as Claire could possibly be—and I do not for a moment believe her to be unkind in any way—it would be better suffered than any injury could come to you while traveling. I would never forgive myself."

"And I shall never forgive you," Jane declares, unmoved. "Or her!" she adds, before she storms off, too upset to notice my door as I quietly close it again.

With Edward gone, Jane won't come out of her room for the next few days. She stays locked away, despite Grace and Sarah's best efforts to coax her out. I keep my distance, not out of any sort of fear or spite, but simply because I can sense my presence is unwanted. Even when Jane does finally emerge, she is sullen and despondent, and she won't talk to me.

There's nothing I can do except continue to be patient and kind, and wait.

But then Edward returns. Travelworn and weary, his boots and trousers stained with mud, he returns, bearing gifts. As soon as he appears, descending from his horse, Jane runs to him, all anger forgotten, carried up in joy to see her father home safe again. He sweeps her into his arms, a gentle smile warming his face.

I stand back and watch the reunion with a smile of my own. He loves her, and she him. For a moment, the sun seems to shine between the clouds, settling on the small courtyard with warmth and light. It's probably just my imagination, though, for when I look up, the clouds are just as heavy and dark and ominous as ever.

Jane skips up the steps to the house with what looks to be a brass spyglass clutched to her chest. She beams at me, and it seems all animosity has been forgotten in the delight of her father's return.

Edward wearily climbs up the steps behind her, greeting me with a nod. "I trust she behaved?" he inquires.

"As well as can be expected," I reply with a smile. "How was the journey?"

"Terrible." He offers me an arm and leads me inside, explaining as we walk, "This has been a wet winter. It's taken its toll on the roads, I'm afraid. We nearly lost one of the horses, and a recent landslide in the north convinced my prospective buyer that he should look elsewhere to acquire property." Glancing at me, he adds wryly, "Still, it was not an entirely unprofitable expedition." He stops and pulls something from within the deep pockets of his coat, something which he presses into my hands.

I find myself holding a warm pair of gloves, soft brown leather on the outside, and tawny fur inside. "These are the finest gloves I've ever chanced to hold," I murmur, smiling up at Edward.

He inclines his head, explaining, "To keep your hands warm on those morning excursions of yours."

"Yes, of course. Thank you." I wonder if I dare wear them while practicing my fencing. I'd hate to wear them out, dirty them, or cut them on the sharp edge of my blades. Still, they make for a fine gift, and quite unexpected.

I'm not quite sure what to make of the man, who seems to have noticed that I don't have a pair of my own, and has gone to the trouble of buying me such an exquisite set.

Edward excuses himself to wash up, and I go to my room, turning the gloves over in my hands. Jane scurries past, holding her spyglass up to her eye and shouting something about pirates. I grin and think wistfully of a time when I was so carefree. At least she seems to have forgotten about her grievances against her father. And me.

I couldn't be more wrong.

That night, I arrive at dinner to find that Sarah has prepared an exquisite meal for us—roast beef and potatoes, steamed carrots and onions, drenched in a thick, rich gravy. Fat slices of fresh homemade bread, slathered with butter, accompany the meal.

"More onions, Claire?" Jane inquires politely, offering me the serving dish.

I look at my plate, already so full, and consider graciously declining, but I think those must be the first words she's spoken to me in days, and I find myself accepting instead. "Thank you, Jane."

She nods and hands me the bowl.

I spoon up a few of the steamed onion slices…

…and find an earthworm wriggling among them.

More startled than repulsed, I drop the serving spoon with a clatter and let out a shocked exclamation.

Edward glances over as Jane bursts into a fit of giggles, and catches sight of the earthworm.

"Jane Elizabeth Glass!" he roars. "Straight to your room!"

She stands defiantly. Unrepentant under his stern glare, she reaches for a roll on her way out, but he gets up, and with the speed only a father of a disobedient child can muster, he slaps it straight out of her hand.


She stalks angrily from the room, jaw set stubbornly forward, bravely holding back her tears, at least until she crosses the threshold. I hear her run down the corridor and up the stairs, slamming the door to her room.

Edward slowly sits back down. Flustered, he tries to apologize to me, hardly able to put the words together.

"Claire…forgive her…she—it was…"

I shake my head and put my hand on his. He falls silent, staring at my hand.

"Don't," I tell him gently. "It was a harmless prank, something all children do. My siblings have done this and more. Please, don't be angry with her."

"You are very kind, Miss Claire, but I cannot allow such behavior in this house."

"Let me speak with her first."

He looks at me with a curious expression, one that's difficult to fathom. After a moment, he nods. "Very well."

I excuse myself and ascend to Jane's room. I can hear her crying faintly through the door, but as soon as I knock, the crying stops. "Who is it?" she demands sullenly.

I turn the handle and enter quietly. "It's me."

It seems as if she's merely collapsed by the side of her bed and has been sobbing into her bedsheets, but as soon as she sees me, she stands. "Go away. I hate you."

I resist the urge to laugh. I simply sit in a nearby chair. "I am quite unlikeable," I agree.

Jane regards me with great suspicion.

"That prank was artfully carried through," I note offhandedly. "You certainly caught me unawares. Although I must say, it did lack a certain originality."

Jane scowls. "And what do you know of pranks?"

"I have six younger siblings," I explain, allowing myself a smile. "I know more about pranks than you could ever hope to learn on your own."

"I fail to see why that should matter to me."

"I could teach you," I suggest. "A spider in Sarah's hair, a garden snake in Tom's boot, itching powder in your father's bedsheets."

Jane's interest seems to be piqued, but she hides it well behind a suspicious mask. "Why would you do that?" she inquires carefully. "I haven't been at all kind to you."

"No, you haven't," I agree. "But I hardly blame you. You're used to having your father to yourself, and here I come along, and he leaves you saddled with me, a woman you hardly know, while he goes off on adventures without you. I can only imagine how unpleasant it must be for you."

Jane eyes me shrewdly. She considers something for a long time before she observes, "Your father did the same to you, didn't he? Sent you far away to live with someone you don't even know."

I let out a soft sight. She's brighter than I give her credit for. "Yes," I admit with a nod.

Jane's quiet. Finally, she retreats to her vanity and returns with a locket in hand. "I don't even remember my mother's face," she whispers. Opening the locket, she shows me a portrait of a woman. I can only assume it is of the late Mrs. Glass. "I have to remind myself what she looks like every day."

I look up at her face, pink and flushed, tearstained. Her voice wobbles as she adds, "I think I'm slowly forgetting my daddy's face too."

"Jane," I whisper. "Come here."

I hold her, and she starts to cry, just a little at first, until her entire body trembles in my embrace. I wait until it seems she's settled a bit, and then I push her hair back, lift her chin, and tell her, "I don't want to be your mother, Jane. I don't even care that much for your father, if that's what you're afraid of. I'd just like to be a friend, if you'll have me."

She pulls away, drying her face and trying to muster what's left of her young dignity. Head high, hands clasped primly in front of her, Jane looks down her nose at me and inquires stiffly, "You wouldn't happen to have any itching powder on you, would you?"

This time, I laugh.