“Oh excellent!” Mrs. Mapleberry clapped her hands with glee. “I’m so glad you’re happy with him — I’ll get the papers at once. Edmund! Go get your things! Quickly now!” And with that, she was bounding through the door at an incredible speed. Edmund got off the chair and headed for the doorway.
“Boy,” the woman croaked. Edmund turned to see his notebook gripped in her spindly hands. “You forgot this.”
Edmund nodded, and returned to the table to take his book. When he pulled, however, the woman’s grip was immovable. “Do we not say thank you?” she asked, her voice low and dangerous. Edmund swallowed.
“Thank you,” he said, clearly and crisply, the basics of Mrs. Mapleberry propriety lessons surfacing to rescue him at the last moment. The woman stared at him for half a second longer than she should have, and then released the notebook. Edmund clutched it to his chest and ran out of the room as fast as he could, the old woman’s eyes following him out.
He was stopped almost immediately by the massive form of Mrs. Mapleberry clutching her chest, standing between him and the Lads’ bedroom. He pulled up short as she bent down and gripped Edmund’s shoulders painfully.
“Do you know who that is?” She said, her voice quivering. Edmund shook his head. “That is the Matron of Moulde Hall! She’s the head of one of the nine founding families! And to think, she’s adopting from my orphanage! I thought she would have adopted from somewhere in the city — she must have come here on recommendation from one of her friends… maybe Lady Perfect? I think she once employed Mrs. Gillicoddy as a cook, and she was in two months ago… Oh no matter! You’re going to be a gentleman, Edmund! A gentleman’s gentleman!”
And with that, she let go of Edmund, and ran off towards her office as fast as her chubby legs could carry her rotund body. Edmund straightened his shirt, and continued his own run towards his things. A gentleman’s gentleman? Edmund had no idea what that meant, but he didn’t care. All he knew was that he was finally going to go outside the fence.
He was leaving the old clock, the rotten bookshelf, and the single sad tree in the yard. Goodbye to the rafters that he had stared at for seven years while trying to sleep. Farewell to the weevils, the bare wooden rafters, the plaster in his food, and Mrs. Mapleberry. The Mayor had said Brackenburg was the greatest city in the world, and finally Edmund was about to see exactly what made it so wonderful.