So warm, so very warm. The sun was blazing down, far brighter than Rose had ever seen it in an English sky, even at the height of summer. She grinned delightedly at the man sitting next to her, driving the horse trap. He grinned back.
"How do you like Australia, then, Rosie?" Gregory asked.
"I love it already," she replied. "When do we reach our house?"
"Just around the next bend, darling." He pointed to a turn in the road ahead as he spoke.
Someone poked Rose in the back. She turned around, and was astonished to see her parents sitting there - though really, she couldn't explain why she was so surprised.
"Isn't this wonderful, Rose?" Her mother gestured broadly at the entire landscape. "Fancy, us in Australia! It's so nice and sunny..."
Rose nodded, smiling, and trying to brush away the strange sense of unease.
The trap turned the bend, and Rose could see her new home at last.
"Hop out, and I'll carry you through the doorway, as should be," Gregory said.
Rose tried to obey, but her legs wouldn't move. They felt as if they were tangled in something, though she could see nothing around them. Frightened, she called Gregory to help her, but he'd vanished, and so had her parents... everything seemed to be fading as she struggled wildly.
She screwed up her eyes, willing it all to return - and opened them to see the servants' dining room at Eaton Place.
It couldn't be. It couldn't be - no, please - it wasn't - but she knew. It had all been a dream. She was sitting in a chair in front of the fire, a blanket tangled in her legs. Australia was far, far away. Her parents had never seen it, had never left England, had long since died at Southwold. And Gregory... she buried her face in her hands and burst into sobs.
A few minutes later, Mr Hudson let himself quietly in, returning from his duties as Special Constable. He had expected the whole household to be long since in bed, and was surprised to hear the sound of someone crying in the servants' hall. Hurrying through, he saw Rose, weeping by the fire.
"Rose, whatever are you doing down here?" he asked, walking over and sitting next to her.
The girl looked up, startled.
"Oh! Mr Hudson!" she gulped back tears. "I couldn't sleep, so I came down for a glass of water. I meant to wait up and give you a cup of tea when you came in... but I fell asleep, and I had the most wonderful dream, but then I woke up..."
She burst out crying again, and the butler reached over to hug her gently.
"What did you dream? Would it help to tell me?" he asked quietly, wishing that Mrs Bridges was here instead. She would deal better with this, he felt. But she wasn't, and he knew he couldn't leave Rose alone in this state.
Between sobs, Rose managed to relate her dream.
"I had them back - all of them - everyone that loved me - and then they were all gone!" she finally concluded, weeping bitterly.
Mr Hudson let her cry, holding her silently, until he judged the worst had passed.
"I'm sorry, Rose, very sorry. But you know, there are other people that care about you. Everyone in this house is very fond of you, surely you know that."
"It's not the same, though, is it?" she said quietly, less a question than a statement of fact.
"No, perhaps not, but it is something. For most of us, after all, we are all each other has. Daisy and Mrs Bridges love you a great deal... I myself have always held a fatherly affection towards you..."
"You didn't like Gregory, though. You tried to separate us," Rose snapped, pulling away from him and folding her arms defensively.
"Oh, Rose, I merely wanted to protect you! I was afraid you might be hurt. Perhaps you have felt me distant and harsh at times, but I have only ever wanted the best for you, truly."
Rose slowly relaxed, and gave him an embarrassed half smile. "I know, and I'm sorry." She paused for a while, then with forced cheeriness added, "shall I get you that cup of tea I meant to give you when you came in?"
He shook his head, standing up and patting her arm gently. " You stay here by the fire, and I'll get one for both of us. I think you could use one."
He was right, she found, sipping the hot sugary tea and feeling its warmth spreading inside her. They sat in quiet companionship until both cups were empty.
"A little better?" Mr Hudson asked.
"Yes, thank you," Rose replied.
"Good. You'd best get to bed then - and so should I! Look at the time!"
"Oh, I'm sorry I kept you up," Rose said contritely. It was terribly late, and Mr Hudson would already have been tired when he came in.
"Never mind, but off to bed now. Sleep well!" he answered, with a smile.
"You too, Mr Hudson. And... thank you."
"It was nothing," he said gently. "And if I can ever help you, Rose, come to me at once."
"I will," she replied, and hurried up the stairs, feeling just a little less lonely, a little less cold.