For two days, the castle was shrouded in a fog of silence. Servants moved about on tiptoe, jumping at the slightest noise, and conversations were held in whispers. There seemed to be an unspoken agreement to be as quiet as possible, although what benefit anyone was expected to gain was beyond Beatrix’s powers of reasoning.
Her favourite place in the whole castle was its extensive library. A large, roughly circular room in the East Tower, the library smelt of age and secrets, but always managed to be strangely comforting. A windowseat, hidden by two large red curtains that she could draw to lock herself away, looked over the court gardens, and it was here that Beatrix would go when she had nothing else pressing, and would spend an hour or two reading a book of poetry, or writing her diary. Here, she could be sure of being undisturbed.
The only other two people ever to be found there were Carla, her maid, and Quigley, the young librarian.
Quigley’s whole life was books – he even looked slightly like one. He had an unassuming, slightly nervous air about him that pleased Beatrix, as she didn’t like people who treated her as inferior. He was also tall and gangly, with a small, sharp nose, on which perched precariously a pair of spindly glasses, magnifying his eyes to gargantuan proportions. His skin had the slightly sallow tone of a scholar, and his long, curly, almost furrily frizzy hair was the colour of the parchment he so loved. He was one of the few people Beatrix felt she could trust, even be herself around – although, of course, even with him she showed as little emotion as possible.
Sometimes, she wondered if she was right to lock herself away in such a way. She wondered what people would think of her if she allowed herself to be a human being rather than a strong Lady. But she’d had to become like this to be taken seriously. A young woman, acting as part of the government? Surely not! This was the stigma she’d had to overcome. And this was how she’d done it. That was just how it was.