“So there’s no one else who lives here?” Edmund asked, trying not to think of all the horrible things a curse might do.
“No, there’s nobody else. Oh!” Mrs. Kippling’s eyes suddenly grew wide. “Maybe Matron’s seen the ghosts of her husband and daughter? My mum read me that story when I was girl. That would be proper for a Founding Family, and no mistake! Then we wouldn’t have to rely on whatever is bumping around in the tower for our ghost. If you ask me, a ghost nobody can see ain’t a proper ghost.”
Edmund was about to ask about what the thing in the tower was, when there was a clatter, another blast of flame, and a loud bang as Mrs. Kippling tossed a tray onto the table next to Edmund. A glass, napkin, plate, and utensils soon followed. With a flourish, she tossed a small bowl full of thick red soup onto the plate with a piece of dry bread.
Two cups and saucers followed, along with a heavy iron kettle that still bubbled and boiled with thick steam coming from the nozzle. With the speed of a practiced hand, Mrs. Kippling flipped open the kettle’s lid, dropped in a metal sphere full of dry red leaves, and shut the kettle again, wiping her hands before she picked up the tray and held it out to Edmund.
“Here you are, Master Edmund,” she said. Edmund took the tray gingerly, struggling under the sudden weight. “Matron always has lunch alone in her room. Begging-your-pardon, but by-your-leave I’ve got a few more things to do. Be careful with the tea, Matron likes it boiling. And don’t bother her, just leave the tray outside the door and give it a little knock.”
“Where is her room?” Edmund asked, staring as a bubble formed in the soup, popping lazily next to the vibrant pings echoing in the iron kettle.
“Her room is on the third floor of the east wing,” Mrs. Kippling said, leaping back to her whirlwind of cooking. “Head up the main staircase and take the left hallway, then follow the suits of armor that lead you northwesterly. Turn right at the bear head, and if you see a painting of a horse and carriage you’ve gone too far. Though begging-your-pardon, it’s-not-my-place.”
Edmund wound his way through the twisting passageways of Moulde Hall, struggling to keep the heavy tray balanced. Was this how rich sons were treated by their parents? He had assumed that servants were the ones who carried lunch to everyone, since they seemed to do everything else.
Come to think of it, he had no idea how any sons were really supposed to behave, never mind rich ones; he had the sneaking suspicion that he wasn’t fitting into his new role very well. He wondered if Matron would ever decide he wasn’t good enough and send him back to the orphanage so she could adopt a different child.
A nagging voice in the back of his head wondered if that wouldn’t be better all around.