Edmund cleared his throat and set down his spoon. “Her name is Mrs. Kippling, not Mrs. Kopple.”
“Ah,” Kolb said after a long pause, staring at Edmund. “Of course! How remiss of me. Thank you, my… lad… for reminding me. I’m afraid it’s been ages since I’ve been here–much to my dismay of course, much to my dismay–and with the shear number of servants at Ninnenburg, it can sometimes be difficult to remember the… vowels. I assure you, I have never forgotten her cooking!” He dipped his spoon into the bowl, and delicately placed the soup onto his tongue, moaning with delight. “Astonishing! Another culinary victory of unparalleled beauty. Please, Ung my good man, pass on my compliments to Mrs. Kippling.”
“She’s her house-keeper too,” Junapa sniffed, shaking her head. “It’s not proper, someone doing two jobs like that. She’s liable to get them mixed up somehow.”
“A dreadful thought,” Kolb gasped in horror, his gloved hand flying to his mouth. “Making soup from soap? Washing our stockings with stock? One shudders to imagine it. How about you, Pinsnip? You’re the one whose been having the estate surveyed, no?”
“Survey? Oh!” Pinsnip nodded furiously. “Yes… I… that is, Mr. Shobbinton is nearly finished… He just has the grounds outside to cover… The rest is already… surveyed…”
“Jolly good!” Kolb leaned closer. “Then you know more about affordability and necessity than us, I’m sure. Do you think we should speak to Matron about hiring another servant?”
“No!” Pinsnip blurted out, his horror contrasting with the twisted grin that twirled onto Kolb’s face.
“Of course not,” he said, smoothly. “Three servants for a place as large as this? That might cost money, mightn’t it? I’ve never met a man who treated another’s money as his own so…acutely. It’s not your money yet, Pinsnip.”
Pinsnip grimaced and looked about to reply, when the doors opened again and Tunansia stepped into the room, sitting down with no flourish or regal grace. She simply glared at the other cousins as she sat, and began to eat as soon as Ung had served her.
“We were just discussing Matron’s servants, Tunansia,” Wislydale drawled, glancing at his empty spoon, “and I must say I agree with Junapa… It simply isn’t right to have only two servants. Mrs. Kippling shouldn’t be doing the cooking as well as the cleaning, what? And I saw Ung heading outside with the rake after lunch.”
“Ung is always gardening,” Kolb smiled, his piercing eyes scanning the table. “feeding his flowers and pulling up weeds… fighting off the curse, I suspect.”
“Balderdash,” dismissed Wislydale, while the rest of the family snickered softly. “I say that Matron needs a proper gardener, wait-staff, and cook. By Jove, she couldn’t even rustle up a proper greeting party when we arrived. People are starting to talk, you know. It’s reflecting poorly on the family, what?”
“I’m quite certain, my dear Wislydale, that most of what is said about our family is said by you and the rest of the Bonne family.” Junapa smiled brittlely, her delicate hands bringing a spoonful of cream of green to her lips. “As for any any of the other families who wish to whisper about us, I say they can all go rot.”