“Come on Bobbie, eat something!”
“Food! How can you think of food at a time like this?”
“A time like what?”
“Didn’t you listen to a thing that just happened then?”
“Ummm… something about your painting?”
“Yes, but look at it Jo, there can’t be two like it.”
“Maybe your friends had two made and sent the other to the Coopers that Frankie worked for.” Jo suggested.
“It’s a really small family, Jo. I don’t think there’s another household of them in Braklesie.”
“Well, they had two made and kept one for themselves.”
“Then why doesn’t Frankie know their daughter?”
“Oh, who knows. Ask her next time you see her. Now do eat some breakfast!”
I joined Jo and, to my surprise, found I had quite an appetite.
“Well.” Said Jo, after brushing the crumbs out the window. “We might as well make use of our time, I’m going to re-write my botany book.”
“But I want to use the desk.” I said. “I can write to home, just like you said, and they can forward the letters on.” I desperately wanted to speak to Mother and not just because I missed her. I wanted to ask her about the Coopers. I tore my mind back to the Highlands. The letter to the Coopers Mother handed to Nanny. Nanny’s reaction… surprise? Disapproval? Elen’s comment about the letter, another one, she had said, and not in a good way. Had Mother been sending too many letters to the Coopers for some reason? My mind took me back to the day Mother gave my new dresses the seal of approval. There’d been talk of a letter then—”
“Oh curl up in your chair and write!” Jo said. “I need the neatest handwriting for my schoolwork, this was your idea, remember.”
“No, I want neat handwriting too, so my old governess can see how much it’s improved.”
“Oh Bobbie, we’re not having a disagreement are we?”
“I— I hope not.”
“Good, because we mustn’t, you know! Friends like us have to stick together. Besides, if we do there’s nowhere to escape away from each other today.”
“I’m sorry.” I said. “I’m only anxious that it makes this evening’s post.”
“And I’m sorry, I should have thought, you haven’t had a letter from home until today, of course you want to answer it as soon as you can.”
“Do you think I’ll be allowed out to post it?”
“Then you take the desk, no sense me rushing to get it written if I can’t post it.”
“No, you take the desk! Really, I don’t want it! I was just being stubborn, it’s one of my faults. Actually I was really hoping that as soon as I mentioned schoolwork you’d come up with some game instead because I simply can’t! It will be a while longer, though, before boredom drives me to my schoolwork!”
“All right!” I said giggling. “But I can’t have you being bored if I’m writing letters. “I bought some games with me, they’re in the box in the back of the wardrobe, feel free to go through them.”
“Oh goody! May I? Thank you. I love other people’s things. They think they’re old and boring and to you they’re new and interesting.”
“There’s nothing special.” I said. “And do ignore how babyish some of it is, I was only eight when I packed.”
“And now you’re nine and all grown up!” Jo teased.
I made a face at her then sat down at our desk to write.
The arrangement worked quite well and I was pleased. I wrote about it in my letter to Miss Brown so she could see that I’d learned how to share already.
I also wrote a letter to Elen, and had almost finished it when Jo called out from behind me.
“Look! I’m a fairy princess!”
“I only brought that because I thought we might need a costume for a play or something!”
“I love dressups! I hardly ever got to play at home!”
“Me too.” I admitted. “Well, about the loving dressups, not about the never playing part.
“I do declare you’re such a goose, Bobbie Hilton! What’s wrong with loving dressups? Doesn’t every girl?”
“Well, mother told me to leave them at home… but I snuck them in!”
“There’s a wand in there!” I giggled.
Jo pulled it out.
“It’s heavy!” she said.”
“Go on, give it a wave!”
Jo did and to my surprise she let out a gasp of shock and dropped it.
“Careful! I’ve had that as long as I can remember and I don’t want it broken!”
“But, what was that?
“What was what?”
“There were sparkles Bobbie!”
“Well, of course! It’s a wand!”
“But how does it do it?”
“Magic.” I explained.
“There’s no such thing as magic!”
“There is too! How else do you explain the evidence before your eyes?”
“But… where on earth did you get it?” Jo asked, sounding astonished.
“From the fairies at the bottom of my garden.” I managed to keep a straight face until I saw the look on Jo’s whereupon I burst out laughing. “You’re the goose now!” I said. “It was a present from… well, from the Coopers, actually.
“But you don’t really believe in magic, do you?” Jo asked.
“How else do you explain things you can’t explain?” I asked before turning back to continue my letter.
“Henri would know.” Jo said, interrupting my thoughts again. “I’ll ask her! We both can! Deal?”
“It’s magic!” I replied, dipping my pen into the inkwell and trying (not hard enough) to resist the urge to roll my eyes.
“No, there must be a way it works… like a clock. Clocks aren’t magic.”
“I— oh bother!” I reached for the blotting paper— my distraction had caused a blot right when I’d almost finished a blot-free letter. But I wasn’t re-writing now. Besides, Elen wouldn’t mind! “Fine. Lets make a deal.” I said. “I’ll help you investigate magic if you help me investigate Frankie and my painting.”
“That’s a deal!” Jo said and I left her waving my wand while I finished off my letter.
My letters finished, I folded them up into envelope folds, wrote their names on the front and sealed the backs. I then placed both the letters into one factory-envelope and wrote my home address on the front in my best Fratessian script.
“Now what?” Jo asked.
“Well, now I think you better work on your botany book.”
“Just think of Mariah’s face when we put her down!” I encouraged her. “Lets just clean this up first.” It didn’t take long to pack everything back into the box and I helped Jo store it at the back of our wardrobe. We pushed it into the corner with a thump.
We exchanged glances. Did our wardrobe just thump back at us?
Jo hit the back of the wardrobe with her fist.
“Well I never!” Jo said.
“Believe in magic now?” I asked. I was even more astounded when I heard a giggle, but it wasn’t Jo’s laugh!
“Silly!” She said, “that’s Henri’s room!”
“Sure is!” Henri’s voice sounded muffled. “My wardrobe backs onto yours, seems there’s no wall between, just the backing of the wardrobe!”
“Which is made up of boards, a couple of which look a little loose.” Jo said with a squeal. “Hand me that letter opener, Bobbie!”
I did and it was the work of minutes for her to pry the middle bottom board out of the back of our wardrobe.
“Hello!” Henri’s face appeared in the gap. “What timing, I was just putting my coat back when I heard you!”
“Just back from the nature walk?” I asked
“Yes, but you two didn’t miss out on much!” Henri wasn’t entirely convincing. “How are you two doing? Driving each other nuts yet?”
“Not quite!” Jo said.
“N— actually yes.” Jo said. “It must be at least lunchtime by now?”
“You and your stomach!” I shook my head. “We managed to get breakfast!” I explained to Henri.
“Well, we had a picnic lunch and I took a little more than I could eat so decided to save it for later.”
Henri pushed a mostly full bottle of fresh milk, an apple, a pear and some slices of bread slathered in butter through the gap.
“I say!” Jo exclaimed. “I never would have though of you stealing a bit of grub for two starving prisoners!”
“I didn’t steal it! It was left over and we were all encouraged to take seconds!”
“Don’t worry Henri!” I said laughing. “I believe you. I know, could you please do me a favour? I have a letter that I’d like to make the next post—”
“Certainly, pass it through.”
“Now that’s an idea!” Jo said. “We can talk to each other without leaving our rooms or without speaking. This could be useful in silence hours.”
“Oh Jo! You’ll be in trouble before you’re out of it!” Henri said
“It’s Miss Jane proof!” Jo protested. “And I’ll place the board back every time!”
“I’ve heard that before!” Henri said. “Look, I have to go if I’m to make that post!”
“Thank you!” I said as Jo replaced the board.
“Well, what now?” Jo asked me after we’d eaten.
“Re-make our beds, I guess.” I said. “Miss Jane could still do an inspection.” But my mind wasn’t on beds or Miss Jane. It was on Frankie and magic and paintings and Francesca Cooper and all the coopers and on the secret in our wardrobe.
School was about to get a lot more interesting, I was sure of it.
“Lets have an adventure.” I said.