92: The Legal Lessons

His lessons in law were no less disappointing. At first, the size of the legal books excited him, but the text was so small he needed a magnifying glass to read it. When he did, it was written with such bizarre syntax and exotic words that it made Edmund dizzy.

‘The party of the first part will, in due time as befitting that which the party of the first part in due and reputable state of being in society claims their station, bestow or distribute as the party of the first part claims able and in concert with the demands or agreements signed and shaken in any previous claimant by the party of the second part, if and only if the party of the first part were the first part in said claimant…’

It took Edmund almost ten minutes to read one sentence, and when he finally understood what it said, it was usually something so obvious it only became more confusing, like: ‘when two people agree to do something, they should do it.’

Edmund wondered if solicitors were really as smart as everyone seemed to think they were, if they needed so many words to say something that everyone else already knew.

After two hours of this rote busy-work, Edmund picked up his papers, closed the books, and begin to look for Mr. Shobbinton. Eventually he found him in a nearby study, scratching calmly on a long curled piece of paper and tossing beads back and forth on an abacus.

“Given up already, have you?” He asked, without looking up. “Very well. Read the rest of the books today, and I will expect to see you early again tomorrow.”

Sighing to himself, Edmund returned to the large stack of books. The stack was heavy in his arms, and he had to pause several times to rest on the way back to his room.

As he turned the corner to his hallway, the top book slid off the stack. Edmund reflexively dropped his hand to try and catch the thick tome, but it was too heavy for his limb to arrest its descent. His other arm was insufficient to support the other six books, and so the entire stack toppled towards the ground with several loud bangs just as Edmund felt something whistle past his ear.

In the ringing silence that followed the books’ fall, he heard footsteps running away from the other end of the hallway. Edmund turned, but whoever it had been had vanished down another corridor already.

He turned back to notice a small hole that had appeared in the wall almost at his eye level. A faint smell of sulfur was drifting through the air. Curious, Edmund thought as he picked up his books. He didn’t remember seeing a hole there before.

“Master Edmund. Are you alright?” Ung had appeared from nowhere and was looking around, cautiously.

“Yes, sorry,” Edmund said. “I dropped my books.”

Ung stared at the hole in the wall. He appeared to be thinking. Finally he looked back at Edmund, his voice slower than usual.

“Mr. Wislydale has invited Matron’s guests to a family meeting in the great Sitting Room before lunch. Please, forgive me for not telling the young master sooner. The lack of invitation on Mr. Wislydale’s part was…obviously an oversight.”

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