Mrs. Kippling paused in her chopping and thought a moment.
“Well, there’s the study on the second floor; there’s some shelves of books there but nothing good for a young boy like you. It’s mostly old ledgers and almanacs.
“Are there any books besides the ones in the study?” he asked.
“No, I can’t think of any books fitting for a young master around here at all.” She blushed again. “Begging-your-pardon, of course, it’s-not-my-place to say what’s fit for your fine self, Young Master Edmund. Mind you, it would be proper for a Founding Family like the Mouldes to have a huge library full of books, but there just aren’t many people who read here anymore.”
“Founding Family?” Edmund asked, jumping in while Mrs Kippling took a breath to slice a carrot in half from top to tip. “You said that before, in the hallway. What do you mean by that? Who are the Founding Families?”
“Oh,” Mrs. Kippling shrugged, blushing. “Begging-your-pardon! That’s nothing for a young master to worry about. All you need to know is that the Moulde Family was one of nine different families that helped to found Brackenburg. They’re all very important and powerful, and now you’re the heir to one of them.”
Edmund held back a gasp. Nine? There were eight other houses as large as this one? It was clear to Edmund that he was living a much bigger life now than he had ever dreamed of at Mrs. Mapleberry’s. His head began to spin, and he once more felt a deep tug in his heart to return to the safe and secure wooden fence of the orphanage.
“I thought Matron owned the city,” Edmund said, thinking back to the ride up the path from the gate.
“Aye, I reckon the Mouldes own a ninth share of it. Mind you,” Mrs. Kippling chuckled, “Matron sure doesn’t give me a grocery allowance that compares. She’s a tight-fisted one, our Matron is. Oh-begging-your-pardon.”
“And they all are fighting each other? Doesn’t anyone like anyone else?” Edmund asked, hopefully. He didn’t like the idea that he had found himself dropped into the middle of a barbarian war.
Mrs. Kippling shrugged. “Oh, I doubt it,” she said as strip after strip of white tuber landed in the pot. “It’s-not-my-place, but there’s usually a couple children every year or so, so some of them must like each other enough. I think that Mr. Kolb and Mistress Tunansia don’t mind each other that much, but they’ll still stick a knife in each other just as fast as the next Moulde. I just count myself lucky I’m not one of them… they’re all nice enough to the help.”
“Everyone seemed to hate Ung. They wouldn’t even talk to him.”
“You saw that, did you?” Mrs. Kippling sighed. “Ung fought in the last war, you see, and some may think that he chose the wrong side. The families hold grudges, you see. Every little branch of all of the families has their own little feuds with this cousin or that one, and it carries on for absolutely ages. The Bonnes and the Mouldes have been fighting it out with each other for generations. I think it’s the longest held grudge out of any of the Families, probably since before the city was founded.”