Charlotte felt awkward. Without Wendy around, she was the outsider among this group of friends. She believed they’d like some alone time right now but she didn’t have anywhere else to go. Well, anywhere safe. The maid called as little attention to herself as possible by standing next to Ella’s cupboard.
Miss Kelsey looks awfully cold, she thought after seeing London put her jacket around the girl’s shoulders. Charlotte rummaged through the cupboard and pulled out a familiar trench coat. She presented it to Kelsey with a shy smile.
“I believe this is yours,” she spoke very softly. “I washed and mended it for you. I didn’t get a chance to return it, because you were in the Servants’ Quarters. The main household staff aren’t allowed in there.”
Peter never liked putting guests in that building. Kelsey had been the first in a very long time. Despite their repeated warnings, Kelsey tried to escape instead of enjoying Henbard’s hospitality. Her last attempt led her down a newly discovered corridor and that was the last they ever saw of her.
Charlotte knew in her heart of hearts that Peter probably left the door open to tempt Kelsey. He didn’t want her to leave so soon. Joseff was the only exception! Peter felt that the greedy Shiba Inu ate far too much for them to keep up with his voracious appetite. Peter preferred avoiding Bellwoods as much as possible, so he only brought back food when they were expecting guests. This was the reason why they had food in the freezer that dated back to the 1950s. Their fridge was that old!
She started backing away from Kelsey when the group asked her about The Rabbit Hole. She stopped to think. What should she tell them? The place was a strange part of the house that Master Paul refused to let the children visit. He even forbade Michael from entering. It was far too dangerous, he would repeat every now and then. He was so mad when Salem disobeyed him. The young master had gotten lost inside and Master Paul had to go and save him. Master Salem refused to talk about that place after that. He looked absolutely terrified whenever someone mentioned it.
“I’ve entered twice. Each time I went there the place was different. I don’t even know how Master Paul finds his way around. He says that we can find our way around if we are wanted there.”
Charlotte fidgeted uncomfortably. “It’s like a dream world. Nothing makes sense there. It’s like Narnia or Wonderland. You can’t tell the difference between reality and make believe. I don’t like it there.”
She knew her answer was very vague, but she didn’t want to elaborate. Talking about the place brought back horrible memories that she’d rather keep buried deep inside her mind. She didn’t find it very comforting to know that the Garden was even more terrifying than the Rabbit Hole.
“The entrance is on the first floor. Um, I’ll be happy to answer your questions later. I think it’s best if we head to the kitchen and have some food like Miss Marten suggested. I’m sure Miss Kelsey would appreciate a cup of warm cocoa or coffee. There’s a medical kit stored there too. You can use it to treat your injuries.”
Her eyes fell on Ethan briefly as she spoke the last bit. She saw the dried blood caking the bandages binding his injured shoulder. The bleeding might have subsided but it would be better to get the wound cleaned. She didn’t want anyone to get sick after they escape. Well, if they escape. She added the last bit forlornly. The puzzles were going to get harder and that meant they were less likely to succeed.
“Can someone please grab Han’s scarf? Someone will need to carry Master Kindall too,” she instructed. “After that, please follow me. I’ll lead you to the stairs.”
“Caw caw!” Lenore greeted.
“Oh hi, Lenore!” Charlotte greeted.
She stretched out her arm and allowed the bird to perch on it. She stroked the raven’s head gently. “I’m glad to see you’re okay. Would you like to lead us instead? I know you will know where it’s safe.”
Lenore cocked her head to the side then took off again. Charlotte motioned for the guests to follow the bird. She waited until everyone had exited the room before she looked around it one last time. Good! They took everything this time. she thought.
Charlotte flipped the switch near the door and the whole kitchen was flooded with light. “I think we can spread out and use the dining room too,” she suggested. “We could leave Master Kindall propped up near the pumpkin display.”
She cranked up the gas and lit the stove using a match. Warmth began filling up the room, as Charlotte filled up a large brass kettle with water. The antiquated stove looked odd considering the newer kitchen equipment on the counters beside it. Things like a shiny blender, a juicer, a panini press and a toaster oven. It was a detail that no longer bothered Charlotte. She learned to make do with whatever she could find in the kitchen.
“I’m sure we have a waffle iron that looked like it came from frontier era in one of the cupboards. There’s also a wash tub from the same period. We have a Chinese wok too and, strangely, an actual cauldron.”
She chuckled as she felt someone staring at the weird assortment of utensils. “I’m looking for a carving knife at the moment. I believe it appears in the fridge sometimes. He tries to help us keep organised but he doesn’t know where each item should be kept. The strangest thing I ever encountered was finding a mousetrap among the onion and garlic.”
“Can someone help me find some ingredients? We have eggs usually. I think he brought back an ostrich egg the other day. He also brought back a nest of eggs - I think they are robin eggs? We have jelly beans somewhere, cups of instant ramen, condensed milk … spam? Um flour, yes. Probably coconut flour and baking soda. I think there is cabbage, carrots, onions, mushrooms and eggplants.”
She frowned as she tried to remember what other items she had seen around. “There’s pudding in a cup, several bags of potato chips, chocolate sauce, honey dating back to 1985 and several french loaves. He stole a cake and some tarts the other day too. Oh and a plastic bag from Five Loaves Mini Mart. I believe it was filled with chocolate bars, canned coffee, twiggies, canned soup, bottled bolognese sauce and dried spaghetti. I’m not sure what twiggies are but Master Salem had one and enjoyed it.”
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