I woke the next morning to the scraping and chattering of birds on the roof-ridge above the skylight. The thin curtain muted rather than blocked the sunlight, and it shivered in the draught. My back ached. The bed had proved to be old, damp, and broken; the blankets, starched, rough and dubiously scented. I dressed and crossed the landing to the bathroom, and then made my way downstairs. The house was scattered with furniture in that strange aristocratic manner, where a writing desk is placed in the hallway in case a visitor needs to compose a letter before removing their coat, and where chairs are placed around the rooms for the comfort of those who wish to pause on the journey from one door to the next. As I descended, I passed shabby cupboards, brass instruments of obscure and ill-omened purpose, landscape paintings of brown fields under khaki skies.
The kitchen was empty. Margaret had said that she usually rose early, taking the dogs around the grounds; Charles seldom stirred until 11. I cut an uneven slice of bread from the loaf and jammed it into the toaster. In contrast to the rest of the house, the room was clean and modern, apart from the heavily-muddied floor. The instant coffee proved to be cheap and bland. I didn't linger; it was time to get started.