“Who else lives here?” Edmund asked as he ran after Mrs. Kippling, struggling to keep up with her long and rapid stride.
“Just Matron,” she called back, periodically turning sharply down halls and through doorways. “Me and Ung are her only servants, so I suppose it’s just us three.” Edmund considered asking about Carron, or perhaps why Matron said that there were four other people that lived in Moulde Hall, but he decided being contrary was not the first impression he wanted to make.
“Here we are!” Mrs. Kippling gave Edmund a broad smile, and stopped in front of a thick cherry door. “This is the Study! All the books Matron has are in here!” She twisted the knob with a click and pushed open the door, only to freeze like a statue, her eyes wide with terror. Edmund tried to peek around her and into the room, when her hands gripped his shoulders and spun him about, anxiously shoving him back and muttering several begging-your-pardons between a rambling apology.
“Stop,” Matron’s voice cut through the confusion like a crack of thunder. “Bring it in.”
Slowly, Mrs. Kippling ushered Edmund around her thick form, and he saw what had made Mrs. Kippling so nervous. They were standing in the doorway of a large study. The room was filled with bookshelves, each only half full of dusty and moldy books. Edmund looked around in wonder, hoping against hope that he might be allowed to read some of them.
A creak drew his attention to the thick desk that sat like an alter squarely in the center of the room. It was huge, and five thick chairs to sit side by side along the edge closest to the door. The opposing side held just one large leather chair, with a back that was twice as tall as Edmund. Matron was seated here, holding a piece of paper in her hand.
Sitting opposite her in one of the five smaller chairs was a thin man in a dark suit with a bowler hat. The man turned to stare at Edmund, his gray eyes flickering behind a single golden monocle.
“Begging-your-pardon, Matron,” Mrs. Kippling said quickly, her breath shallow. “I thought you would be finished with your meeting by now, and–”
Matron held up a hand, and Mrs. Kippling hiccuped and fell silent. Matron’s gaze turned back to the man that sat across from her.
“As did I,” Matron sneered, “But I trust that this should be proof enough, even for you, Mr. Shobbinton.”
“So it would seem,” the man said, his voice smooth and crisp. “However, I’m afraid I can’t simply take this assertion of yours on…” the man coughed gently, “mere faith. I’m well aware the extent the members of your family are willing to go in the pursuit of their own interests.”
“Downs Hill,” Matron snapped. “Mrs. Mapleberry’s. I’m positive the fool woman still has the papers with my signature on them. Possibly framed.”
The man nodded slowly, his eye slowly drifting back to Edmund. His mouth smiled slightly. Edmund couldn’t help but feel again like he was being judged. Studied. Something in the man’s face made him feel like he was being measured against some strange rubric.