Miles felt his way forward, unfamiliar with the nursery he found himself in. His fingers trailed over the walls as he made for the door, his ears trained on the murmur of voices coming from the parlor below, where his parents resided in the company of several local nobles.
A hand on his shoulder stopped him before he could open the door and the nursery governess asked, “Where are you going, child?”
The nursery fell quiet as the children stopped playing to listen to his answer. Miles looked in the direction of the governess’s voice. “I want my mother.”
He felt strangely alone in this unfamiliar manor like a ship without an anchor drifting at the mercy of the tide.
“No, child. You must stay here and be a good boy, like the other children. Your mother and father are busy.”
“But,” Miles began, his lower lip beginning to tremble. He knew his parents would not mind if he sat quietly in a corner with them but the nursery governess cut him off before he could explain.
“Come away from the door, child, and play with the other children.”
“I do not want to play. I want my mother!” Miles wailed.
The governess’s voice changed. “Behave yourself, child. A big boy like you ought not give vent to such childish tears.”
Miles could almost imagine her shaking her finger at him. He shrank back against the door as a vision of her face sprang into his mind, angry and threatening.
A hand on his arm pulled him away from the door. “Remember what I said, child, and go play like a good boy.”
Miles pulled back. “No! I want my mother. Please let me go.”
“You must never disobey your elders, child.” The governess grabbed him and Miles cried as her hand smacked his bottom. He tried to wriggle free but she held him firm.
“Mother!” Miles screamed. “Father! Help!”
He heard the voices downstairs fall into silence as the governess exclaimed and smacked his bottom harder. Feet pounded on the stairs and Mother threw open the door. Miles knew it was her from her breathing and Father came right behind her.
The governess straightened. “Lady Margaret, forgive me but your son refused to–“
“I do not care to hear it,” Mother snapped, gathering Miles in her arms as he stumbled toward her and curled into her embrace, pressing his arms around the bustle of her skirts.
Miles took Father’s hand as Mother whirled for the door. Miles wiped the tears off his face with his fist and followed Father down the stairs, one careful step at a time. Mother stepped into the drawing room and he heard her address the hosts with her excuses to leave.
In the carriage rolling homeward, Miles whispered with flaming cheeks, “I only wanted to be with you.”
Mother held his hand in her lap. “I know. I am sorry the governess would not listen to your words with as much courtesy as she listens to your father and I.”
“I-I am sorry if I ruined the visit for you.”
Father put an arm around Miles’ shoulders. “You did not ruin it. We expect everyone in our family to be treated with respect. And if the esteemed Lord and Lady Edgware do not care to treat children with respect or hire servants who will, we will not honor them with our presence.”
Miles rested his head on her silk-clad shoulder and let the roll of the carriage lull him to sleep.