Sophie realised that, yes, things were always found in the last place looked. But what she’d meant was that she’d found Henry in the last place she would’ve expected. She wasn’t down in the village or at the Home Farm or in the pond but inside Milford. Inside and gloomily sitting in the nursery’s window seat, staring out the tightly locked window on last day before she was packed off to boarding school. It definitely wasn’t expected.
“Aunt Charlotte said I couldn’t leave the room until my trunk is packed properly,” Henry complained in response to Sophie’s hello. She scowled horribly at the open, nearly filled trunk, the top layer consisting of balled up jumpers and jackets, all in a horrid sickly green. “I don’t know why proper matters. Aren’t trunks just supposed to hold everything? It’s doing thatproperly.” Never one for subtlety, Henry’s disgust was more obvious than usual
Very firmly keeping any twitch of a smile off her face, Sophie knelt beside the trunk, reaching in to extricate a pinafore and shake out the wrinkles before folding it properly. “You know how Aunt Charlotte is,” she said. “She likes everything just so.” Which was possibly understating it a bit.
“It’s stupid,” she announced, wrapping her arms around her dirty knees. “And horrid and rotten.”
“Keeping up appearances? Or school?” Sophie very consciously focused on folding the clothes neatly. Henry would never talk if she thought Sophie was pressing.
“Everything! Horrid itchy jumpers that aren’t thick enough to be useful and horrid stupid hats and horrid Aunt Charlotte for making me go!” Henry glared fiercely at the window. “Toby’s the King, right? She should do what he says since I was just helping him! Since you wouldn’t let me go, I fought here! Well, not really a battle since none of you would let me tie up Aunt Charlotte and hold my bow on her to keep her from trying to stop you.”
The image of their extremely well-dressed Aunt trussed up in one of her own drawing room chairs was too funny for Sophie not to laugh. “I’m sorry.”
The glare transferred itself to Sophie. “What good is all those Girl Guide badges if I can’t use them? You remember. I’m really good at knots. I could’ve kept Aunt Charlotte there forever and held off all the servants with my bow.”
“You’re right. It’s horridly unfair,” she assured her sister. The problem was she could picture every bit of Henry’s plan working. Working until she got knocked out by a policeman anyway. “And your plan would’ve worked splendidly except that then Aunt Charlotte would be sending you to a ...clinic instead.”
“Like a mental asylum?” Henry perked up. “Like the one Rebecca and that woman who tried to kill Veronica were in? Or a worse one with people who talk in tongues and see things? I bet that would be much more fun than school. Do you think Aunt Charlotte would still send me there?”
Of course Henry would like that idea, and Sophie mentally scolded herself for bringing it up. “I wouldn’t let anyone send you there,” she said firmly. “And neither would Veronica or Toby. At least at school, you’ll be able to go outside and play games and ride your pony.”
“Julia told me about field hockey, and I don’t see what the point is of a game with sticks when you can’t hit anyone! She said the rules forbade it!”
She had a point. One could kick a ball or throw it easily enough. What good could the sticks be unless for hitting your opponents? Questions like this made Sophie happy she’d never had to go to school. “Perhaps they’ll explain when you’re there?” she offered. “And I read you could still do archery.” She reached for another blouse to fold and pulled out Henry’s bow and quiver, well wrapped in an ugly green blazer. “...Which someone already told you?” The guilty look on her sister’s face said that wasn’t the case.
“I thought in case the Germans invaded,” she said. “I have to be prepared. Mr. Wilkin said I could be part of the Home Guard because of my experience with the Eagle Patrol, so I don’t want to disappoint England! Or Mr. Wilkin because he’s looking after Estella while I’m gone. Oh, Sophie! You will visit her, won’t you? She’s going to be so lonely without me. And bring Carlos because she likes him.”
Sophie solemnly promised to visit Henry’s pet pig and diplomatically decided to Not Ask about any other preparations for invasion. “It is awful, I know, Henry. But think of how much nicer it’ll be when you come out. You’ll already know people instead of being like Veronica and me. You’ll have friends.”
“I’m not coming out,” Henry gasped in horror. “I’m going to go to Malaysia and see the rubber trees! I don’t know how rubber comes out of a tree so I’m going to find out.”
“You might learn that at school.” Sophie seized upon the possibility gratefully. “You can learn so much more than a governess could teach you. Perhaps about fossils! Or maybe Indians?”
She considered this argument as she moved from the window seat to lay on her bed. “Do you think they’d teach me how to raise pigs? I’d like to know how to take care of Estella when we go back to Montmaray. And maybe about goat breeding? It would be much nicer to have more than one goat there. We could have more cheese.”
For a small moment, Sophie pitied the teachers at Henry’s new school. “I don’t know,” she said. “It would be nicer to have more than one goat though.” If they ever were able to return to Montmaray. If they ever were able to evict the Germans. If the Germans lost this coming war.
Henry frowned at the response. “You’re thinking we might never go back, aren’t you. Even after the Nations’ League said Montmaray was in the right.”
“League of Nations,” she corrected absentmindedly and instantly felt like Veronica. Sophie looked up at Henry for a long moment, thinking how often she forgot that Henry wasn’t just her dirty little sister anymore. She might just be thirteen, but between being Henry and everything they’d been through, she was so much older at thirteen than Sophie had ever been. “I suppose you’re right. I shan’t become a British subject, but I do often wonder if we’ll ever be at home again.”
“Ew! You couldn’t! If you were British, you’d have to curtsy to that horrible Princess Margaret! Nothing could be worse. Except being German, of course. Or French.” As she spoke, Henry slid off the bed to sit beside Sophie. She leaned her head against Sophie’s shoulder for just an instant - it was nearly a hug from the famously anti-affection Henry. “I shouldn’t like to be French and go around blowing holes in castle walls!” She paused. “Well, it could be interesting once or twice, but never to Montmaray.”
“If you did, Veronica would have something to say about that,” Sophie smiled, squeezing Henry’s hand lightly. “I am sorry you’re being sent off, Hen. It’s not fair.”
Her sister made a face. "I’m not going to promise to try to make the best of it or anything soppy like that.”
“Then I’ll promise to write all the time with news of all the horrible things Aunt Charlotte makes us do while she’s still angry. And to tell you about Estella and Carlos of course,” her sister laughed, giving the clothes in the trunk a final pat. “You’re good now. Shall we go down and find Veronica and Toby? We were going to take you and Carlos on a picnic.”
Henry jumped up, looking eager. “I'd better bring my bow. They say you never can be too careful about German spies by the coast.”
Sophie considered arguing but decided against it. Besides if the bow was out of the trunk, perhaps Henry would forget to bring it to school with her. Unlikely, but perhaps.