After a full half-hour of scrubbing, hot water, scraping at his skin with an ivory and silver comb, yanking at his hair, and dumping even more water over his head, Edmund staggered out of the tub and into the thick white robe Mrs. Kippling held out for him. He stood befuddled while she vigorously rubbed his aching head with a towel that smelled faintly of sour mildew, and then shoved him back into his bedroom before he had time to breathe.
She opened the other door, which turned out to be a massive closet. Row after row of thick dark-colored fabric met Edmund’s gaze. Some of the coats were a deep velvet blue like a winter’s evening. Others were a smoky red like dried holly berries. Thin silk pants hung limply next to large white shirts, along with coats of every size, shape, and shade of black imaginable.
Mrs. Kippling pulled out each piece of clothing, one after another, and held it up to Edmund’s body to see how well it might fit.
“Here we are,” she said, finally. “This one’s not too bad. It belonged to dear Master Jomas before he died quite gruesomely. He were a bit taller than you, but I think we can make do for tonight at least. Off with your robe, young Master, and slip this on. Oh! Begging-your-pardon for being so foreword.”
Jomas must have been a lot taller, Edmund thought after he had pulled the shirt on over his head only to find the sleeves covered his hands completely. And a good deal fatter, he amended after struggling to keep his pants on. They managed to stay up after the belt was fastened, but not without bunching uncomfortably in the back and making him feel like he had a tail. The hems had to be rolled up into the legs until it looked like he was wearing large stalks of broccoli for socks. The shirt itself had to be pulled onto his back and hidden under the over-sized jacket, which gave him a very uncomfortable hunchback. It was hard for him to keep from squirming.
“Stay still,” Mrs. Kippling admonished, tugging at the casual tie that hung like a noose around Edmund’s neck. “Now, we still have some time before dressing for supper…I suppose I should show you around a bit more. Introduce you to your new home. Wouldn’t that be nice? What would you like to see first?”
Edmund felt dizzy. The idea that there would be things to see second was incredible enough, much less that he hadn’t yet even seen his first. For a moment Edmund couldn’t even think properly; his mind was crowded with ravens, giant doors, and a hissing gurgling that made his stomach feel uncomfortable.
Then his mind cleared in a sudden and whirling snap. He realized there was one thing he wanted to see more than anything else.
“I’d like to see some books,” he said.