The Man In The Mirror

By: Georgia Le Carre

“He’s just had lunch and got too excited about seeing his mother.”

“Why should he get too excited about seeing his mother?”

“It’s been a few days. Or perhaps he was just anxious.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “He’s an incredibly timid child. Wouldn’t say boo to a mouse.”

I was irritated because I knew that even though she dropped her voice, he must have heard her critical opinion, so I pulled him into my arms and held him tightly, hoping my warmth would calm him down. A few seconds later he took one last sniff and wriggled in my arms. I let him go. He leaned back and stared into the eyes of the new stranger in his life.

“Hello, Zackary,” I said brightly. “I’m Charlotte, your new nanny.”

He watched me for a few moments as if trying to make up his mind about something, then to my surprise, he stepped away from me and ran back to the housekeeper and hid his face in her skirt. She made a face at me, but she looked down and gave him a sappy smile.

“Give the little lad some time and he’ll get used to you,” she said.

The dynamics of the house seemed very complicated, but I knew I could make the boy trust me. The sooner the better. I rose to my feet. “Perhaps a bit of exercise will do him some good. I’ll take him out to the garden to play for a little while.”

“Nooooo, you definitely can’t do that,” Mrs. Blackmore protested, her head shaking vigorously. She looked positively horrified.

“Why not?”

“You’ll realize once you’ve read Madam’s set of rules.”

I remembered then I’d left my copy back in the drawing room.

Mrs. Blackmore filled me in. “Rule number sixteen. Zackary is not allowed to play outside.”

I stared at her bewildered. That was the strangest thing I’d ever heard and I’d heard some strange things in my life. “Why ever not?”

“He’s always been quite sickly so Madam worries about his health.”

“But that’s not enough reason for a child not to go outside to play. Sunshine and fresh air is a good thing for a growing boy.”

“Madam sets the rules and they are not to be broken,” Mrs. Blackmore said firmly, even though I could tell she secretly agreed with me.

I glanced down at the timid child as he watched me from beneath his curled elbow. Was this poor boy really a prisoner in this dark castle? No wonder he was pale and timid. The adults around him were scaring him half to death over everything. I wondered how I was going to get around this ridiculous rule. Another thought occurred to me. The ‘rules’ that Mrs. King had handed to me were at least eight pages thick. What other rules were there?

“Come on,” Mrs. Blackmore said briskly. “I’ll show you to his room. He needs to be washed and have his clothes changed.” We left the kitchen and went up the narrow wooden stairs meant for servants. As our party ascended, it creaked at various points.

But once we got to the landing we were back in the grand part of the house as we passed another vividly painted portrait of Mrs. King. This time she was depicted as Cleopatra. The boy’s room was the first one in the corridor of one of the wings. It was a room that had been painted as if the walls and ceiling were blue skies filled with fluffy clouds. Cartoon characters sat in their planes flying around us. Together Mrs. Blackmore and I washed Zackary and dressed him from his collection of formal clothes. Right after we had dressed him, he began to suck his thumb.

“That means he wants a nap,” Mrs. Blackmore whispered. She put him to bed, then we tip-toed out. After that she showed me to my room, which was just next door to Zackary’s. There was a single bed and a cupboard in it.

“I had Heidi air it for you yesterday, but let’s open the windows,” she said. As she was showing me how the shower worked, we heard a car roar away.

“I guess that is Mrs. King going out, huh?” I said.

“No doubt.”

“Okay, so just press that level. That’s easy enough. It seems very modern for such an old building.”

“It’s from the fourteenth century, but apparently, the master spent millions updating it. Plumbing, central heating. He even dug up the whole countryside to run high speed fiber cables to this area. He’s some sort of big wig trader so he needs the internet a lot.”

Top Books