“And why do they hate you?” Edmund asked again. “Is it because you won’t give them the money they want?”
“They all want different things,” Matron shrugged as she sipped her tea. “Only some of them really want money. The others want the title, or the land. And none of them is going to get a piece of it!”
“Why not?” Edmund asked. “Do you not have enough?”
“Ha!” Matron stopped, stamping her foot on the ground. “They’re not getting anything because they don’t deserve it! Fighting over bones instead of heading over the hill and bringing down an elephant! Mouldes have built the world for over twenty generations! And now, look at us! A cluster of snobby self-righteous illegitimate vermin!”
Matron’s mouth snapped shut, and her pipe flew to her mouth faster then it had before. She looked, for all the world, like she had said something wrong. She cleared her throat, and spat into the storm, smoke trailing after like a silvery comet.
“We can be better.”
Edmund thought for a moment. They could be better? Bringing down an elephant? At first none of it made sense, but as he looked at Matron staring off into the fading expanses of time, he didn’t see the gnarled vicious old vulture he had seen before. Instead, he suddenly saw a woman who was simply old, tired, and expansively disappointed.
Edmund rephrased the question he had held in his head ever since Matron had signed her name to the large stack of papers at the orphanage: why would anyone adopt a child? Mrs. Mapleberry said it was to find someone to love. Some of the older kids at the orphanage had said it was because it was fashionable. But now Edmund had another idea. Couldn’t it also be a second chance?
Edmund felt something shift inside his head. For years he had been passed over by prospective parents as being ‘just not quite right for us.’ Even the strangest children rarely stayed in orphanages for longer than two years, these days. Edmund had lasted eight.
Then, one day, an old woman came out of nowhere and gave him a name. And with that name came a history, a family, a heritage, and a duty to live up to it. Thinking about that old woman staring into the sheet of black rain, he knew with every fiber of his being that she had not adopted a child to just survive and be heir to her estate. Perhaps she studied the other children carefully before selecting Edmund, or it might have been luck, but in the end it didn’t matter; Matron had adopted him because she hoped her family would be better with him in it.
At that instant Edmund knew deep in his bones that he would not let himself be found wanting. If his cousins didn’t care about him, if they didn’t think he was notable, then he was going see to it they soon did.
It was his family, now, and he was going to make it better.