175 / 175<<...1530...173174175


But this stranger—not her Grandpapa, not any of the other travelers—believed her to be someone to speak to, not speak down to. She liked this idea, that she was strong after all. It was a very sad, hard thing, her Papa had told her, to be a traveler, for there were so very few people who knew what they could do, and fewer still that they could talk to.

“I’ll listen,” Rose allowed, her voice trembling only a little.

The girl’s face clouded, her pale brows drawing together as she knelt down on one of the cushions, watching Rose come toward her, almost in awe. “I’m sorry about your parents. That must have been beyond terrible for you, and you were so brave. I’ve lost someone I love, too. My heart still hurts, even though I understand why it happened.”

Rose stood with her back straight, clasping her hands in front of her as she met the girl’s blue-eyed gaze with her own. “I’m not afraid.”

“I know you aren’t,” the young lady said, almost in a whisper, “but I heard that you had another visitor recently, and that some of the things he said might have been upsetting. I promise you, though, everything will be…okay in the end.”

Rose swallowed hard. Whenever she closed her eyes, she saw that man, the one who’d visited her before they left London. He had told her about terrible things, horrible things. She dreamt of what he said, the burns, the suffering—the—the blood.

“Will it?” she whispered, even though she knew it was wrong to press about the future.

The young lady nodded. “I promise.” She turned toward the corner of the room, where Grandpapa had set up a small easel. “Do you like to paint?”

Rose hesitated a moment, then nodded. She had not painted since Mama and Papa had…

She closed her eyes, scrubbed at her cheeks. The girl rose up off the ground and touched her hair gently, stroking it down. “Would you paint something for me? Maybe…maybe something from your memory?”

“Something…happy?” Rose asked, looking up at her.

“Yes,” the girl said softly, taking her hand. “Something happy.”

175 / 175<<...1530...173174175