26: The Bedroom

Edmund had no idea where Mrs Kippling was taking him. Even trying to focus on the left and right turns that she was making so quickly, he had completely lost track of where he was by the time she stopped at a small door and opened it, shoving Edmund inside.

The room was huge, easily as big as the meeting room in the orphanage. It was a deep blue, almost purple, with a dark cherry-wood trim. The bed was at least three times the size of his old mattress, and he estimated he could roll over twice before being in danger of falling onto the floor.

There was a table, a chair, a desk near the bed, mirrors, gaslights, lamps, candles, a chest at the foot of the bed, two more chairs, a foot stool, a rug, paintings on the wall, a plant in the corner that needed water, another table by the bed, windows, a small couch, and two other doors. At first he wouldn’t have believed it was a bedroom if he hadn’t seen the bed. The idea that it was all his was staggering. What on earth could he do with all this space? All this furniture? He couldn’t use it all — he simply couldn’t. There weren’t enough clothes and notebooks in the world.

“Come on then,” Mrs. Kippling tittered, half shoving him towards one of the doors. “Into the bathroom with you!” Again, her face visibly paled, and she looked as though she had said something dreadfully wrong. “Begging-your-pardon, young Master. If you’re ready, that is…”

The bathroom was almost as big as his bedroom. It was covered in marble tile and brass piping, with reliefs of demons, lizards, birds, and other horrible faces that grinned scornfully at him. Brass valves and wheels stuck out from the wall, and the heads of birds and other gargoyles stuck out from above, their mouths wide open as if screaming horrible secrets into the empty room.

“Matron didn’t know anything about the child she would be adopting,” Mrs. Kippling said as she twisted knobs and valves, sending a strange clanking and gurgling echoing though the walls. “So she didn’t buy any new clothing. We have to make do with all the old Masters’ clothes, I suppose. Mind you, I don’t think she’ll be buying new clothes for you any time soon, anyway. Off with your shirt now, there’s a lad.”

“Why not?” Edmund asked, struggling to pull his ill-fitting shirt off his back.

“Oh, so he can speak!” Mrs. Kippling grinned, tugging hard on his sleeves. “She won’t buy you clothes because she’s a tight-fisted old crone, and won’t be spending money if she doesn’t have to. Oh! Begging-your-pardon. It’s-not-my-place to say such things!”

Edmund winced as the tight shirt popped over his head, pulling painfully on his ears. It made sense; Matron hadn’t even paid full price for him.

“Why did she adopt me?” Edmund asked as he wriggled out of his slacks. “She has people who live here with her, so she can’t be lonely.”

“Can’t she?” Mrs. Kippling shrugged shyly. “I ain’t one to speak of the Matron’s mood, it’s-not-my-place, but I’ve never known her to make a decision without reason. Oftentimes with several, and if you’re lucky some of them make sense. No, keep your unders on — it looks like they could use a good scrubbing. Get into the tub now, Master Edmund. Begging-your-pardon!”

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