After Victor’s public humiliation Annabel had never heard any of the kids talking about an escape. She herself didn’t want to think about it either. The next day after Victor was punished, he couldn’t walk because his legs hurt. Annabel watched Elijah force him to stand up and go and work as always. She knew she shouldn’t say or do anything while the watcher could hear her or stop her, but when Victor returned to their room, Annabel helped him change dirty and blood-soaked bandages. She saw despair in the boy’s blue eyes. She was used to see them bright and gleaming with joy and confidence… For her, it was amazingly stupid and wrong that a thirteen-year-old’s face was pale, his eyes scared, his hands trembling because of pain. But there was nobody to help Victor. Neither Annabel, nor anyone else in the entire mansion.
In the next few days Annabel had changed her job twice, for there always was a lack of capable hands somewhere. While working in the stables, she used to meet Mr Morr much more often. He belonged to that kind of tyrants who were ruthless with human beings, but kind and loving with their pets. He adored his beautiful horses and used to visit them every day. Once Annabel heard some noise in the livery yard. There were voices of Mr Morr and his best stableman, Gregfield – they both were watching jockeys ride a few horses Mr Morr considered his favorites. Annabel peered outside the stables’ building where she had to clean up and saw the greatest stallion that ever lived. It was entirely black with deep blue glow on its hair, high and strong, so elegant, so massive and noble in its pace.
“My royal boy!” Mr Morr declared with pride. “For all Heaven’s sake, he’s shining like a real diamond!”
Annabel noticed that, too. The horse’s fur was gleaming like cleaned jewel’s surface, carefully and properly polished. She wondered who could do such a good job, though she envied them already – she knew Mr Morr loved when his horses shined, and whoever had done that to the black stallion, they would be rewarded.
“Whose work is it, Gregfield?” asked Mr Morr, turning to the stableman.
“That boy’s name’s Billiam, if I remembered right,” said Gregfield in his rough, lazy voice.
“Find him and bring him here,” Mr Morr ordered.
“No need in searching, sir,” Gregfield nodded to where a little boy was pulling a cart with fresh grass into the yard. “Hey, Billiam! or whoever you are… ” The boy stopped and turned to the sound of his name. Annabel couldn’t help herself and rose her eyebrow skeptically. Billiam was eight or nine, but how did he manage to polish such a big horse? “Come here, boy!”
Billiam left the cart and made a few uncertain steps. “Come, come,” Mr Morr encouraged him by waving his hand and smiling. The boy was scared by the unexpected order, for it could bring him some awful news, as well as something good.
“I like when children do their job properly,” said Mr Morr. “Who told you to take care of Diamond’s hair, boy?”
Billiam shied a bit and looked down at his toes.
“No one,” he answered, but in a second glimpsed at Gregfield and added, “sir.”
“It was your will?”
“Good, very good, Billiam. Elijah!” Mr Morr turned his face to where Elijah was walking among a few children and giving them orders. The watcher ran to his master across the yard. “I want you to give this fellow a double dinner today and a good blanket,” he nodded at Billiam who was shining like sun, his face lightened with happiness and alacrity. Annabel thought he’d do everything Mr Morr would tell him right away.
“I’ll do it, sir, be sure,” said Elijah, as cold and confident as always. It seemed like he never minded the reason why his master was so kind to a random kid.
“Ah, by the way,” said Mr Morr when dismissed Elijah and Billiam, “have you sent that nice fellow to the marketplace as I told you, Gregfield?”
Annabel turned away to go finish her task and threw a glance at Mr Morr over her shoulder. She was still listening.
“Yes, I did, sir,” Gregfield replied, and added hastily, “but I strongly doubt he’s clever enough to choose a good saddle for a horse.”
“And I don’t doubt it. He’s a very good worker, he’s worth a chance to try. We should reward those who work hard, you know that,” Mr Morr started to leave, but stopped for a second and said quietly, so Annabel barely could hear him, and shivered when she recognized his words. “And by the way, Gregfield, shut up and never tell me your super-valuable opinion unless I ask you.”
Gregfield was taken back. He stood there for half a minute, then hurried after his master, and they both disappeared in the house.
Now that was clear for Annabel. The only thing you had to do in this house is to work hard and be silent. If you were a hard worker, you could get a chance to leave the mansion, at least because Mr Morr would want you to do some extra job. To leave! You can run if you catch a moment. Everything spinned around Annabel, she almost fell down, for her mind got overwhelmed all of a sudden. She couldn’t believe what she’d comprehended. Well, get yourself together now. You’ll do it, because you’re smart. Get over that you’ll have to spend a lot of time on it, and begin.
Begin this very second.