She beckoned him forward and he willingly obliged. She covered his hand. “So… how much did you hear?”
“Ah,” Ms. Collins said, nodding. It was remarkable, Jonavon thought, how much a mother could understand with so little words. “Listen, Jonavon,” she said. “I don’t want you to pay any attention to what they said. You are under no obligation to find a wife any time soon.”
“Mum,” he said. “I thought that old road behind the house wasn’t in use anymore.”
Ms. Collins looked startled at the change of subject, but she did not question it. “It hasn’t; at least not to my knowledge. Why do you ask?”
“Jonavon,” her voice took on the chiding tone it used to when he was younger. The tone that said there was no use in lying.
“I was wandering in the forest and I noticed some carriage tracks; they appeared to be fairly recent.”
“Well, the road may still be used from time to time, but not regularly. Whoever was driving had probably gotten lost.”
Jonavon nodded. They weren’t lost, he thought. She said so. ‘He likes to travel a lot, to keep a low profile’. “Do you have any idea why anyone would use that road?”
“None,” she responded. “Jonavon, what has gotten into you? What provoked this fascination with this old road?”
“I just… I remembered Father talking about it, once. I was curious.” He gave a half-hearted shrug.
“Oh. Would you… ah, bring Arabella down here for a moment? I’d like to speak with her.”
“Of course,” Jonavon said. Just as he was about to exit the parlor, he turned. “Mum… did you mean it?”
“Everything you said.”
“Of course I did. I refuse to become one of those uppity old hawk women who try to dictate every aspect of their child’s lives.” She shuddered as though the idea truly repulsed her.
Jonavon climbed up the stairs and turned left, heading for Arabella’s room. Her room was attached to one of the balcony’s that overlooked the front of the house. Gently, Jonavon knocked on her door.
“Mum has requested your presence,” Jonavon said as he walked towards her. She sat at a small table, in one of the small chairs. Seated in the other chair, enjoying the tea party was Arabella’s closest non-living friend: Snuggles the Teddy Bear.
“What awful timing she has,” Arabella said. “Snuggles and I were just getting ready to enjoy delicious sandwiches.” Jonavon noted the absence of food at the table. It’s amazing, he thought,the imagination of a six-year-old.
“I’ll keep Snuggles company while you go talk to Mum,” Jonavon said. “I’m sure he won’t mind.”
“You hope he doesn’t mind,” Arabella said. She smiled at her joke and skipped out of the door. Jonavon glanced at Snuggles.
“I’m still her best friend, you know.”
Snuggles did not reply. Smirking, Jonavon stepped out onto the balcony. He could barely see the road because his house was so secluded. However, today he did see a carriage traveling along the road. A rather elegant carriage with black horses…
Before Jonavon was even truly conscious of what he was doing, he was already out the door, shouting over his shoulder, “I’m going to town!” He hopped into the car Joseph had parked earlier and pulled out of the long driveway, with every intention of following the carriage.