When Edmund awoke, he wasn’t entirely positive he had slept at all. Somehow, he didn’t feel any more rested or relaxed then he had the night before, which was to say, not at all.
He glanced at his clock. It was a quarter past seven in the morning.
Last night’s dinner had helped him in one way. He knew now that Matron had adopted him not to have a son or build a family, but as a pawn in some big game of king-of-the-hill with her relatives. This did raise another question about Matron’s motives, however: She had said she just needed him to be alive. It unnerved him to know that was all that was expected of him–and to have his ability in this task be held in question.
When he felt the mansion strike eight, The faint sound of silver clinking outside his door alerted Edmund to the fact that it was breakfast time, and Mrs. Kippling had doubtlessly left a tray of soup for him in the hall.
Edmund shoved himself off the bed, and pulled the tray inside. It tasted somewhat milky with a pinch of musty herb, like sage. He had finished his soup and was working on the stale bread, when there was a rapid series of knocks at his door. Edmund opened it to find Mr. Shobbinton standing in the doorway, his monocle glinting in the dim gaslight.
“Please follow me, Master Edmund,” he said, stiffly, as he turned sharply on his heels and began to stride down the hallway. Edmund barely had time to pull his tray into the hall to be cleaned before scrambling to catch up with him, trying to keep pace without being hit by the heavy briefcase that swung rhythmically at his side.
“I haven’t seen you at dinner,” Edmund said, as Mr. Shobbinton pulled him along. “Do you eat?”
“I do, but not dinner,” Mr. Shobbinton sniffed. “I find the dinner meal… arresting.”
“Is that why Matron wasn’t at dinner either?” Edmund asked. Mr. Shobbinton’s eyebrow raised again, arching smoothly over his eye like a bird in flight.
“I don’t know,” he said, slowly. “As the Moulde Family solicitor, I never ask questions I do not need to know the answer to. You may consider that your first lesson in Law.”
After a minute or two of winding their way through the stairs and hallways, Mr. Shobbinton stopped next to a thin pale wood door on the third floor and pushed Edmund inside. The room was small, and furnished with only a small table, two chairs, and four large paintings, one on each wall. A few books lay scattered on the chairs and floor, while a large stack of ten or twelve sat squarely in the middle of the table. Mr. Shobbinton set down his briefcase, and lay his hands on either side of the stack as if it were some holy relic.
“We shall begin your lessons today,” Mr. Shobbinton said, his voice clear and precise.