Edmund’s tongue stuck to his suddenly dry mouth. How could he pick just one thing? After riding to Moulde Hall through Brackenburg, and learning he was now heir to a vast estate and title, there wasn’t anything he didn’t want to know. Edmund licked his lips and took a drink of water. He decided to start simply.
“Why do you want Matron’s money?” Edmund asked.
The cousins looked at one another, exchanging glances that held entire conversations in almost painful silence. Finally, after a solemn pause, Kolb cleared his throat.
“Not all of us want Matron’s money, my lad,” he smiled uncertainly, his sharp eyes peering through his eyebrows at Edmund. “In fact, some of us would be perfectly content if she kept all of it.”
“How ever much of it there may be left,” muttered Tunansia, her spoon aimlessly swirling the cream of green in her bowl.
“True,” Kolb continued, slightly louder than before, “Since it is obvious Matron has spent little money on the upkeep of the estate, some seem to think the fabulous fortune of our forefathers has faded into a feeble figure of late. However, others such as myself, are confident that the countless coins are being coveted and collected in our capable Matron’s coffers. And for myself, I seek her patronage for my explorations and fabulous journeys into the deep and dark hearts of unexplored lands.”
“And your… investments?” Tunansia whispered, not very quietly. “You have quite a few to pay for, don’t you?” Kolb’s face turned redder.
“It’s true, I’ve fallen into a minor spot of trouble, but nothing I shouldn’t be able to handle with a generous loan from any number of my friends.”
“And some help from Matron?” Edmund prompted. Kolb shrugged.
“If my lovely in-law decides to lend her lamented luckless–”
“Lack-wit,” Junapa interjected smoothly. Pinsnip snickered in appreciation as Kolb inhaled sharply.
“Well, if my tragedy seems comic to you, Misses Knittle, perhaps you would care to enlighten the young master as to your reason for hanging over this hall like a hungry hyena?”
“It would be my pleasure,” Junapa tilted her head back slightly as if she were about to recite a poem. “I intend to use the money Matron has saved to help fund new projects for the Brackenburg Mayor. Funding the city is what made this family great in times past, and it is what will make it strong again.”
“Really!” Wislydale snorted, shaking his head. “Is that what you’ve been up to this whole time? Well bad luck, old gel. The Mayor is hardly likely to want to tack the name of some washed up old family to a new train station, what? He’d ask the Cromleys or the Buckleherses long before coming to you Mouldes.”
“I’m quite sure the Mayor will see things my way once I speak with him,” Junapa smiled and sipped at her water.
“You’re going to initiate?” Wislydale sputtered. “Oh, I say! That’s a mite too far, I think, what? Begging the Mayor to take our money like… like a common investor?”
“I assure you, there will be no begging involved,” Junapa’s mouth became firm. “At least, not on my end. I will simply make it clear that it would be for the public good, and he will agree. I’m sure you think you have a better plan for the Moulde Estate?”