Edmund looked at the small apple in his hand. It didn’t look like it would hatch, soon or otherwise. He was about to take a bite when he remembered Ung’s reaction to Junapa’s sweet, so decided instead to slip it into his pocket just to be safe.
Edmund turned and looked at the last occupant of the coach, a tall handsome man with a pencil thin mustache. He had egressed the couch earlier, but he had been pulled aside by Mr. Shobbinton, and was talking quietly. His hair was short and well groomed, and he was dressed in a long coat that covered his knees. Somehow he’d acquired a glass from somewhere, and it was full of ice and a sickly yellow looking liquid. He was talking in a long and floating tone while Mr. Shobbinton pointed at pieces of paper, until his wandering eyes suddenly connected with Edmund’s. They stared at each other for a moment, and then the man looked back to Mr. Shobbinton.
“By Jove,” he said, his voice thick and languid. “You weren’t joking, were you? The old battleaxe has gone and acquired an heir, what?”
“The word is ‘adopted,’” Ung said, his voice dropping threateningly. The man blinked in surprise as he looked up at the towering butler.
“Oh…Ung,” the man said, with a voice that Edmund thought was far too much vowel and not enough consonant, “You’re here. Do forgive me for not conversing, dear chap, but I’ve just been introduced to the young Master.” The man turned back to Edmund, reaching out with his free hand to pat Edmund on the head. “Topping day, what? The name’s Wislydale. Burnabum Wislydale Bonne Esquire, but everyone calls me Wislydale. Please dear boy, call me Wislydale.”
“Wislydale is Mr. Tricknee’s son,” Mr. Shobbinton said, clearing his throat and adjusting his tie.
“True, but we don’t like to talk about it, what?” Wislydale grimaced slightly before sipping at his drink. “I say, I don’t suppose I could get a top up, could I? Feeling a bit dry at the moment…”
“Of course,” Mrs. Kippling smiled wearily. “You remember where the liquor cabinets are, I’m sure. Will we see you for lunch?”
“Mmm…I doubt it,” Wislydale’s eyelids wobbled uncertainly. “Feeling a bit knackered, what? And I’m sure the rest of us will want to stay as far away from each other as possible. Dashed long ride, you know? There’s only so many stories I can tell before even I begin to get bored — even with my little pick-me-up.”
Wislydale gave a little nod of his head, patted Edmund again, and sipped fitfully at his glass as he wandered off after the vanishing form of Kolb, Mr. Shobbinton trailing after him with briefcase in hand.
Edmund watched them leave and then felt Mrs. Kippling’s hand on his arm.
“That’s your family now, Edmund. Much luck to you. Now let’s go inside for lunch.”
Was he imagining the slight hint of sympathy in her voice? He had so desperately needed it to be there, from anyone. With a small sigh, he walked back into Moulde Hall after Mrs. Kippling with a final glance up at the east tower, just in time to see something white vanish from the window.