In fact, Edmund was astonished to learn there were seventy-three separate rooms in Moulde Hall of varying sizes and shapes. Edmund was told this by Mrs. Kippling, a soft old woman who called herself the Moulde’s housekeeper, among other things.
Edmund had met Mrs. Kippling at the front door of Moulde Hall, along with Ung. Edmund learned later that the thick muscular wall of a man was Matron’s butler, among other things.
The carriage had only just come to a stop when the skeletal Carron opened the carriage door. Matron slipped out of the carriage and began walking briskly towards the mansion, using her umbrella like a cane. Edmund stuck his head through the door and watched her go.
“Mr. Shobbinton has just arrived, and is currently waiting in the west study, Ma’am,” the huge butler rumbled, giving a quick bow as she approached.
“I will see him at once,” Edmund heard her say as the butler opened the door. She stepped through the entryway and with a sudden stop she waved her umbrella aimlessly behind her towards the carriage. “Have it cleaned.”
Edmund barely had a moment to wonder what she meant before a long branch-like arm grabbed Edmund by the collar, hoisting him to the ground like a sack of old rags. As soon as his feet touched the ground, the short woman was upon him quicker than a gust of wind, rubbing his cheeks with her pudgy hands, snatching his clumsy bundle of clothes and books away from him, and alternately pulling and pushing him up the steps as would a large and nervous dog.
The doorway was gigantic, towering over Edmund like… well, like nothing he had ever seen before. The only doors he had ever seen in his life were the thin wooden planks of Mrs. Mapleberry’s Home for Wayward Lads and Ladies. These doors were at least twice as large, and a rich dark brown with a thick pyramid pattern that reminded Edmund of a picture he saw in an old book of the inside of an iron maiden. For a quick and sickening second, Edmund wondered if the doors were actually the same size as the orphanage’s, and it was he who had shrunk down to a fraction of his former height.
The Foyer was no less impressive. It was very large and almost empty. The dark-blue room had several wide pillars flanking the center of the room, two sweeping staircases, flickering gaslights all along the wall, dark red paintings of somber men and women, a small black carpet, and a massive grandfather clock at least three times as tall as Edmund in the center of the wall opposite the main door. The columns had small statues of men and women surrounding the top, all in various poses of command, peace, or submission. Some held swords, others orbs or scepters. One even held a book over her head like an umbrella, with a look on her face that seemed full of concern. The whole room reminded Edmund of a picture he had seen once of a cathedral.
There was a thunderous bang from the closing doors that made Edmund jump, his heart leaping into his throat. He spun around to see Mrs. Kippling brushing her hands and smiling nervously through a thick blush.
“Now,” she said, clasping her hands in front of her stomach, “Come along and I’ll show you to your room.” No sooner had she said this than her thick blush vanished, leaving her face pale and wan. Her hand flew to her mouth as though she had said something foul. Quivering slightly, she gave a quick curtsy. “I mean… Begging your pardon, young Master… It’s not my place to tell you what to do. Matron would like for you to be cleaned and dressed. I’ll be happy to show you the way?”
Edmund barely had time to nod before Mrs. Kippling had grabbed Edmund by the hand and ran off deeper into the Mansion.