Madeline's alarm woke her up the next morning. Rubbing her bleary eyes, she yawned. She was still getting used to the time difference between North America and Europe.
After brushing her teeth and freshening up in the bathroom, she took Kumarie with her to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. She figured that it'd be okay for Kumarie to be there, since Arthur was not awake yet. He was especially tired after the previous day's ice skating.
As much as she loved pancakes, she thought she'd try to make breakfast without them for once. Madeline found a recipe for a full English breakfast, and got straight to work cooking it.
Thirty minutes later, Madeline was done. She set the table for her and Arthur. Then, she decided to cut a piece of her sausage and feed it to Kumarie.
"How is it?"
She smiled after hearing Kumarie's enthusiastic response. Madeline waited for Kumarie to jump into her arms and turn back into a stuffed polar bear, before heading to Arthur's bedroom. He had instructed her where to find it during the tour of his home. Madeline knocked on the door, and waited. There were some brief shuffling and rustling sounds, before the door opened to reveal Arthur, whose hair was even messier than usual.
"Good…" Arthur yawned. "...morning, Miss Madeline."
Madeline giggled seeing Arthur's bed hair.
"Morning to you too, Arthur. I made breakfast, but I'll give you some time to tidy yourself up, or not...I think the bedhead looks great on you."
"Ah, that's...thank you very much."
Arthur ran a hand through his hair, in an attempt to make it neater.
With their greetings exchanged, Madeline returned to the kitchen to wait for Arthur so they could eat breakfast together. She fed Kumarie more of her sausage while waiting. Soon, Arthur made his appearance, having managed to tidy up his hair after all.
Breakfast was passed with idle chatter, compliments from Arthur on Madeline's cooking, and the rustling of Arthur's newspaper as he enjoyed his tea. Madeline briefly considered making a cup for herself also, but she supposed she was too much of a coffee person. In the meantime, orange juice would do just fine.
Madeline brought her dirty plates and utensils to the sink in order to wash them.
"Here, let me help you with that!"
Arthur hurriedly stood up from his seat, and made his way to Madeline's side.
"I appreciate it, Arthur."
"No need for thanks! In just two days, you've done so much for me: taught me how to ice skate, cooked wonderful meals, and you've been a lovely conversation partner."
If Arthur was not so concentrated on washing the dishes, he would have noticed a tinge of red on Madeline's face.
"So, what's next on your to-do list for the month, Miss Madeline?"
"Well, I don't know if you're aware, Arthur, but your home is surrounded by quite a large forest." Madeline's lips were curled upward in a joking smile.
"Haha, yes, I have indeed noticed that particular fact."
"You'll understand me when I say that I'm curious to see what's in that forest..."
Arthur paused in his scrubbing after he heard Madeline's remark.
"Is something wrong, Arthur...?"
"...No, nothing. I'm...worried, is all. Will you be alright in the forest by yourself?"
"Of course! My father would take me camping and hiking when I was younger. To this day, I still enjoy exploring the outdoors and observing nature."
Her voice had taken on a melancholic tone towards the end of her speech, after mentioning her late father. Madeline could scarcely believe that it had been half a year already since his passing.
Arthur looked confused at this tidbit of information.
"That's right. My father. He was an accomplished outdoorsman himself."
"And...where is your father now? Does he not travel with you?"
"Oh no, the contract I signed mentioned that I'd be traveling alone, right? Even if I could bring someone else, my father would be unable to join me because...he's no longer a part of the living."
"I'm...sorry to hear that. And I apologize also if I've reopened wounds from his death."
"No worries. I've had plenty of time to come to terms with it already."
Their conversation gradually gave way to silence between them, as they dried the last of the dishes. Madeline decided to interject with a question that had come to mind during their talk.
"Arthur, do you mind if I borrow a container to pack a snack for later?"
"Certainly. For something like that, you don't even need to ask for permission from me."
"That might be, but I wouldn't want you thinking something stole your containers."
Madeline grinned at her joke, knowing that magical creatures were very much real. Oddly enough, Arthur also had a mysterious smile on his face.
"If such things exist, I wouldn't be the one they'd steal from."
"Really? Your mansion and I would disagree."
Both of them were laughing now, their earlier silence having been long forgotten.
Arthur decided to get some reading done in his library while Madeline went on a walk in the forest. Madeline packed leftover sponge cake from the arctic roll she had made for dessert yesterday. She also grabbed a bottle of milk to drink while eating cake. She exchanged phone numbers with Arthur, so that she could call him in case she got lost, before exiting the mansion.
The weather outside was as chilly as it had been since Madeline arrived in London. If she were not already used to the much colder temperatures in Canada, she would be shivering.
Instead of her usual red overcoat decorated with maple leaves, today she was wearing a green parka with a fur collar.
"Okay Kumarie, I'm going to put you down, and then you'll lead the way!"
Another reason Madeline was not worried she would get lost is because she had Kumarie with her. Polar bears have a very strong sense of smell, so Kumarie would guide her back to Arthur's if Madeline went off-course. She followed Kumarie through the woods, taking pictures of anything that caught her interest. It was the middle of the day, and the sun high in the sky cast shadows along the ground.
The cold made the trees barren without their leaves, but life could still be found. Madeline could spot birds, squirrels, and other critters. She found mushrooms growing in the forest debris, or the bark of trees. Madeline decided to pick the edible mushrooms to cook for dinner later. They'd be perfect for a dish like mushrooms on toast.
"Hm? Kumarie? Why did you stop?"
Kumarie had been steadily making her way through the forest, with Madeline trailing behind her. Other than waiting for Madeline to finish taking photos, or picking mushrooms, Kumarie did not stop for anything.
"Did you spot something - Ah!"
Madeline finally took notice of what had Kumarie occupied: it was a fairy ring. To be precise, it was a ring of mushrooms that people had taken to calling "fairy rings". She had come across fairy rings in the past, although she had never met an actual fairy. Thinking of fairies made her wonder about her friends again: Inkblot the raven, Sneak the turtle, Susan the sasquatch, Oggy the ogopogo, and Woodstock the owl.
"Where are you guys…"
"We're right here, duh!"
Whirling around, Madeline recognized a familiar corvid perched on a tree branch.
"Oh my gosh! Inkblot?!"
"Don't forget about us!"
Emerging from behind a tree was Susan, with Sneak appearing from another one. Woodstock landed next to Inkblot, and Oggy was being carried by Susan. Madeline lifted Kumarie into her arms, as she was surrounded by her dear friends.
"Where have you guys been…?"
"You mean, in the forest? Why would you be in the forest…?"
"Because we were with them!"
Madeline was once again surprised that day as unicorns, fairies, gnomes, and a flying mint bunny materialized in front of her.