44: The Return to the Study

Edmund took stock. He could find his way back to the Foyer, he knew. From there he could get to the dining room and his room…could he remember the way Mrs. Kippling had taken from his room to the Study? He resolved to try. Casting his mind back, he slowly walked through the hallways, desperately trying to remember exactly which turns Mrs. Kippling had taken.

With the muted daylight slipping through the gray windows, the mansion was slightly less terrifying then it had been the night before. The shadows were not nearly as sharp or deep and the quaking of the hour felt less ferocious than it had. The paintings seemed less foreboding, and the tapestries looked less like they hid ghosts and more like they were simply waving gently in small drafts.

It took almost a whole hour, but Edmund finally reached a familiar looking door. It was thick and dark, carved with a large picture of a boar whose eyes seemed to glint, even in the polished wood. The boar was being struck in the chest by a spear, wielded by a young boy wearing what looked like very feeble armor when compared to the boar’s thick tusks.

Edmund knocked politely, remembering how angry Matron had been when Mrs. Kippling hadn’t. There was no reply. Edmund tried once more, in case Matron had fallen asleep with a book on her chest as Mrs. Mapleberry had been wont to do. Again, no reply.

Edmund carefully twisted the door-knob, stopping when he heard the metallic click echo through the study on the other side of the door. He pushed gently, peeking through the small but widening crack.

The study was almost exactly as it was the day before, though Matron and Mr. Shobbinton were absent. The whole room was lit by a large gas chandelier that hung in the middle of the ceiling. It spat and fizzled, causing the room to flicker gently.

The desk in the middle of the room seemed smaller now that nobody was sitting at it. The large brown leather chair that dominated one side looked much shorter without Matron’s thin frame giving it gravitas. The five smaller chairs all looked pitifully thin and weak.

The bookshelves that lined the walls were only half full, stacked with thin books and bound stacks of paper. Several shelves held nothing except a strange plant, or small device under a glass dome. The books themselves were all similar in size and shape. They were mostly thick and heavy, seasoned with several smaller packets and folders. Most of them appeared to have no titles, while a few of the thicker ones had titles like ‘Juningwire’s Heraldistry’ or ‘Lumbestro’s Abridged, 1703 — 1847.’

Edmund slipped inside, his eyes focused on the nearest stack of books as he approached. Selecting one that looked promising, he opened the cover and began to read.

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