32: Dressing for Dinner

“Five ’o clock!” Mrs. Kippling said as the building finally calmed down. “The clock in the Foyer is a strong one, and no mistake, but don’t worry Master Edmund. You’ll get used to the ringing soon enough. I’m sure I don’t even notice it anymore except for — Oh my goodness!” Mrs. Kippling pulled up short with a small yip of surprise. “Ung, you scared the living daylights out of me!”

Edmund looked to see the massive lumbering form of Ung looming out from the shadows of an archway. The butler gave a stiff bow, placing his hand over his heart.

“Matron desires Master Edmund’s company for supper,” he boomed, his flat voice echoing down the corridors. “She specified that he needed to be… presentable.”

“Oh dear,” Mrs. Kippling muttered, slapping her hands on her apron. “That’s just two hours from now. Begging-your-pardon, Ung, but could you help Master Edmund get dressed while I run off to make supper?” Without waiting for an answer, she whipped herself about and scurried off down the hall, leaving Edmund staring at the giant form of Ung as it towered over him.

For an aching minute, neither of them moved. Edmund looked up at the rough angular face of Ung, and he stared back down at Edmund, his face like granite. Edmund had just begun to wonder how long the butler could go without blinking, when the huge man lifted his arm and with a sweeping gesture, ushered Edmund down the hall.

It turned out they were only a few steps from his door; it took less than a minute for Ung to walk Edmund to his room and push open the plain wooden door. Edmund was surprised at the palpable relief he felt upon stepping inside his room, until he realized it was the first time since he had left the orphanage that morning that he had seen anything familiar.

Ung pushed inside after him, and opened the same closet that Mrs. Kippling had dressed him from. At first Edmund was worried about the prospect of trying to find more clothes that barely fit him, but Dressing for Dinner turned out to be nothing more than exchanging his limp casual tie for a thick black cravat. Edmund stood as tall as he could as Ung bent low and peered at the knot that was gripped in his thick hands.

“What is this dinner going to be like?” Edmund asked after several moments of agonizing and awkward stretching. Ung’s fingers froze for a moment, and his eyes glanced into Edmund’s. Ung sighed slightly, and continued to work at the cravat.

“Don’t talk during the meal,” Ung said, carelessly flipping the end of the cravat into Edmund’s face “Matron likes quiet suppers. Especially questions. She doesn’t like questions.”

Edmund tried to imagine something he would dare ask his new mother, but he couldn’t think of a thing.

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