33: The Dining Hall

The Large Dining Hall in the east wing of the house was filled with a massive ebony table rimmed with gold and silver. Edmund guessed that if he lay down on it, it would take twenty of him to reach from end to end and seven from edge to edge. The chairs were tall, wooden, and very uncomfortable, especially with his clothing bunching up behind him like an old sack. They creaked whenever he moved so he tried to keep as still as possible.


Image credits: Warner Bros.

When Edmund first saw his place setting and the myriad array of silverware that was sitting on it, he thought he was expected to set the table. He had barely begun to pick up a set of utensils when he saw the other places had already had been set. At first he assumed Matron had taken the same tactic with his dishes as she had his clothing and given him options to find what fit best. When he looked a third time, however, he realized that every setting had the same large number of forks, knives, spoons, and dishes as his. Edmund was amazed at the obvious display of wealth, that Matron could afford to offer different sized dishes and utensils for all her guests.

All around the walls was a massive collection of dark and dreary paintings. Gnarled trees on distant cliffs hunched against storm clouds, somber men and women stared blankly with dead eyes from cracked and faded wooden chairs, and moonlit mansions and farmhouses sat silently at the end of long winding roads.

There were five chandeliers in the ceiling, each composed of a massive glass sphere that glowed with a soft hissing gaslight, covered by small dangling crystals that caught and reflected the illumination all about the room. It gave everything a slightly speckled look that reminded Edmund of an art book he had flipped through once. Apparently, according to the author, this new style of art was creating quite a scandal amongst artists and patrons alike. Edmund had just thought they looked silly and had closed the book without another thought.

The bland meal was a small slab of stale bread and soup; possibly potato.

Matron Moulde sat like a gargoyle at the head of the long black table, eating noisily with slurps and smacking that echoed about the room like a rusty sewage pump. She had stared at Edmund when he arrived until he sat down at the other end of the table, her eyes judging him.

Edmund tried to eat quietly, though he was positive that if he slurped as loud as he could, Matron wouldn’t have been able to hear him over her own eating. He stared at his bowl instead, pushing the strange sticky white lumps around with his spoon as he thought.


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