The time between dusk and dawn
The porters were purposefully dragging their feet, Kitten was sure. She had only packed three steamer trunks, and two portmanteaus. They should have the carriage loaded already. She stood in the angled rays of the late summer sun on the front steps of Fettes College and fretted over the hour. If they did not leave for Leith by 8:00 PM, they would miss the sailing of the Carolina. If they missed the canal boat, they would certainly miss connecting with the Palace in Glasgow.
Her father’s letter had been specific. She must arrive at Clyde Docks no later than 4:00 AM, or the Palace would sail without her. He had no choice; he must be in Calais by midnight so that the ship could be prepared for the arrival of a Bourbon Prince. Though the crown of France was long lost, the surviving descendants of the royal family continued to expect royal treatment, and Connor Graves was especially good at providing those considerations, including punctuality.
Connor had engaged a suite in the Grand Central Hotel for Kitten in case she was forced to wait for the Palace’s return. She was determined not to need it. She had a limited holiday term, and did not relish the thought of spending nearly half of it in a hotel no matter how grand and modern! She needed the palliative of the Palace family and atmosphere to restore her. The Palace was vibrant and alive, whereas Fettes was stifling and moribund. The company on the Palace was witty and engaging, and at Fettes it was simply… not.
The last school porter finally appeared with her portmanteau and heaved I to the footman waiting on the carriage roof. They could embark! Kitten hurried down the stairs, and too impatient to wait for the footman, opened the door herself, pulling the accordion step down and climbing into the velvet interior in one smooth move.
“To Leith Docks, driver, and hurry please. The Carolina.”
“The Carolina, Miss? Ye’ll not likely catch the canal boat at this late hour.”
“Well, I simply must! There is a gold sovereign in it for you if we get there in time.”
The driver didn’t answer, but with a crisp cry of ‘Hold yer haun’s boys!’ he whipped the horses into a brisk trot around the fountain in the entry circle. As they gained the tree lined drive, he pushed the horses into a canter. Kitten held onto the edge of the window grimly determined to ride the bumps without complaint. She was on the way and that was what mattered.
As the carriage veered out of the gates of Fettes College onto the cobbled carriageway that led into Stockbridge the dusk light gilded everything with antique gold. The windows of the terraced houses on the hill glinted red and orange and the streets were flooded with palpable light. Kitten would be chasing the sun well into the evening as she sailed westward down the Edinburgh Canal to the Forth and Clyde canals. Then at the dawn, as she rejoined her family, and home, the tables would turn and the sun would chase her into the summer holidays.