So this was the youth whose voice Rosalyn had heard earlier. He was tall, handsome, about seventeen years old, though it was hard to tell, since he was at least eight feet tall. A shock of dark brown hair fell across his forehead and his eager face glowed toward Cookie, pleased even at her reproach, but when he noticed Rosalyn standing beside Nora, he paled and took a step back.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” chided Cookie. “Fixed. Never seen one?”
“No, ma’am,” he said, staring at Rosalyn, who wanted to die of embarassment under the gaze of such a good-looking boy. Why did she have to be wearing these hideous oversized baby clothes?
“Your uncle works for the Marquis of Scalamandre.” It was more of a statement than a question and it snapped Robert’s attention back to the cook.
“Yes, ma’am. My uncle Oleander is his head footman.”
“You like him?”
“Am I like him? I hope not. Oh, do I like him? He’s all right. He’s always been nice enough to me, even though my mother can’t stand him.”
“Need a favour, Robert,” said Cookie.
“Yes ma’am!” Robert practically saluted.
“Need you to take this young lady over there. Her brother’s being held by the Marquis and she needs to bring him back here.”
“Take me?” squeaked Rosalyn. As tired as she was of waiting for the adults to do anything, she was resigned to waiting a little longer if it meant one of them would go retrieve Jason.
Cookie looked at her up and down, as if weighing whether she was sea-worthy.“Much easier for someone small.”
“And your brother will recognize you, my dear,” said Nora, getting on board with the plan. “He might not want to come with one of us.”
“Ever been there?” Cookie asked Robert.
“Yes ma’am. Lots of times. But I’ve never been upstairs so to say.”
“On Condy Circle?”
“Yes, that’s the street.”
“Then they’re all the same. Here.” Cookie took a pencil and paper from the desk and drew several floor plans. “Right. Have a look. Lower level: kitchen, offices, stairs to wine cellar, scullery. Main level, two sitting rooms, dining room, library and smoking. One floor up: four bedchambers and a bath. Two floors up: servants’ quarters. Take the main stairs from once you’re upstairs, not the back stairs. Less chance of being seen with the master out. Robert will keep others distracted. Flirt with the maids, eh?” She winked at him and he blushed. “Or spill something. Get them downstairs and let Rosalyn find her brother.” She turned to Rosalyn, “Open the doors quietly. Just four rooms to check. If he’s not there, we’ll think again.”
“But what will I say to my uncle, showing up so late? He might get suspicious.”
“Why don’t you bring him a bottle of something and tell the junior footman you’ve got a message to deliver.”
“Yes, he’d fall for that.”
They planned to meet Nora, Gaétane and Marcella near the market square afterward, pack the two children into baskets and begin the long walk home under cover of night. It was a simple plan, but Rosalyn did not like the idea of marauding around someone’s house alone, especially the house of someone so universally feared and disliked.
Cookie said abruptly, “Time for my siesta.” She stood up and rolled a trundle bed out from under her own. “You need one, too, for your late night,” she said to Rosalyn.
After offering the armchair in vain to Nora, Marcella settled down in it and Nora and Gaétane made themselves as comfortable as possible in their chairs. Robert turned off the gas fixtures as he left and within five minutes, silence as deep as the darkness descended on the windowless bed-sitting room. Cookie was asleep in an instant, breathing rhythmically. Marcella shifted around trying to find the most comfortable position for sleeping sitting up. Rosalyn lay there, a musty smelling blanket covering her to the waist, wondering how she could sleep with so much excitement or even danger right around the corner.
She wished Cookie were coming with them. She felt secure around someone so decisive and experienced. There was a teacher like that at school. The problem was, people like that wanted to let you take responsibility and figure things out on your own because that was how they preferred to work. Not only that, it was embarassing to have to go by herself with Robert. Not exactly embarassing, that wasn’t the right word. She felt shy because he was so cute. He had the most unusual grey eyes and she liked the way his hair almost fell into his eyes. What would they talk about all the way there? Would he have to carry her in a basket? She hoped not. Anyway, he was twice her height and it seemed he thought of her as some kind of freak. But still, he was so sweet and eager. She had that buzzy feeling in her stomach just thinking about seeing him again. Soon, however, the sound of Cookie’s and Marcella’s measured breathing lulled her to sleep.
She fell into a vivid and disturbing nap dream. She had been wandering down a long hallway with closed doors on either side, calling Jason’s name and knocking on each one. None of them would open, though she turned the handles and pushed and pushed. Every time she knocked she heard Jason’s voice on the other side yelling, “No!” She wondered if he was saying he didn’t want to come with her or whether he was saying no to someone who was trying to get him to do something. Either way, the sound of his voice was upsetting, even in a dream. As she surfaced from sleep, she heard Marcella ask, “Had a good sleep?”
Rosalyn blinked a few times, recallling fully where she was.
“Good, I’m going to look for a dark dress for you this evening and then I’ll help Cookie in the kitchen.”
“How much longer until we go?”
“Another five hours, I’d say. Got to wait until it’s dark and until we’re sure the Marquis is here. It’s four now, supper’s at eight. You’ll probably leave at nine, I’d guess, once Robert can slip away.”
Five hours! What was she going to do for that long? “Can I help in the kitchen, too?”
“You’d just get underfoot, my pet. Cookie runs that kitchen like a battlefield with everyone assigned a role and expected to be as fast and tidy as possible, if not faster!” Marcella chuckled. “But the things she can do with sauces,” she said wistfully. “That’s why she’s cooking for the king. Thank goodness she’s got me out of the way washing lettuces.”
“Does she always take a nap like that?”
“Funny isn’t it? Just falls asleep and wakes up exactly forty minutes later. She did that even at school. We could set our watches by that siesta.”
“Where are Nora and Gaétane?”
“They’ll be back soon. I think they went to the little corner.”
Rosalyn stared at Marcella. “What little corner?”
“You know, to relieve themselves.” She looked embarassed. “Right, then. I’ll be back in a trice with your dress.”
The dress was long, navy blue with pintucks on the front and close set buttons in the shape of flowers down the centre to the waist. It was very pretty, but the sleeves felt tight and it only felt comfortable if she stood or sat bolt upright. The dress came down almost to her ankles. It was not what she had in mind for a stealth mission at night. Stretchy black pants and a turtleneck would have made more sense, but maybe no one wore that kind of thing here. She had only ever seen Gaétane in pants. Still, it was better than that frilly white thing she’d had to wear and for what—Lutetia, Cookie and Robert hadn’t been fooled into thinking she was a baby.
She went over to look at the floor plans on Cookie’s desk again, trying to picture herself moving through the house. She felt antsy, wondering how Nora could sit there crocheting lace so calmly and Gaétane could concentrate on the book she’d pulled off the cook’s shelf. She wondered what Jason was up to and whether he had charmed all the servants into doing his bidding. By now they had probably discovered that if they didn’t, well, it wasn’t good. His sulks were infamous. He could cast a black mood over the entire house when things didn’t go his way. She pictured him sitting on satin cushions, boxes of candy strewn around him, playing with… With what? Normally he’d be glued to the TV, but he would be forced to entertain himself otherwise here. She prayed he’d be glad to see her and be as ready as she was to go home. Her dream was probably only based on worry. Why wouldn’t he want to come?