That evening, Edmund was having his dinner of thick chunky soup that was almost a stew, alone in the large dining room, feeling discouraged. Kolb had simply taken the letter and vanished into his room. He felt like something had happened that he had missed out on.
He was almost finished with his meal when the door opened and Wislydale shakily strode into the room with a tall glass of wine at his hand.
“Master Edmund,” he called, jovially, as he moved to a nearby chair. “Sit down, old chap! We have a lot to discuss!”
Edmund remained seated and poked at his soup while Wislydale carefully sat down, grinned, and began to wave his glass about his head like a baton. Edmund could tell he had drunk quite a bit more than he usually had by dinner.
“I’ve been impressed with you, my lad,” he said, his eyes half closed. “You’re made of stern stuff, to stick it out here, what? Swimming with sharks, as they say. Quite capital work my boy.” Edmund nodded politely. He wasn’t entirely sure he agreed. “I wanted to make sure you knew that,” Wislydale continued, “because I’m sure you don’t hear it very often from anyone else. Yes,” Wislydale nodded without waiting for a reply. “The Mouldes aren’t really made for compliments, what? Not enough room in the heart for other folks, really. It’s too bad. I can’t imagine it’s a fun life you lead… full of jumping up and down to Matron’s whip, carrying her letters, dodging barbed tongues and sharp smiles…” He trailed off, staring deeply into his last few swallows of wine. Careful not to disturb him, Edmund took another spoonful of almost a stew.
“I say!” Wislydale’s eyes shot sideways to lock with Edmund’s. “I’ve just had a smashing idea! I bet you’d like to get away from all this, wouldn’t you? Of course you would! Why, what is there for a young boy in Moulde Hall that isn’t out there, and presented with a far more pleasant atmosphere, what? You’re only adopted, after all, you’re not a Moulde by blood…” Wislydale grinned lopsidedly, and let his glass drop as he stood up and leaned over the table towards Edmund. “Why don’t you leave?”
“Leave?” Edmund wasn’t sure he had heard correctly. Wislydale nodded, pulling a small bank-note out from his pocket.
“Think about it,” he whispered, the small slip of paper fluttering in his unsteady hands. “You won’t have to be a Moulde any more! You could go to bed whenever you want, and only eat foods that you want to eat! No one to tell you what you’re doing is wrong, or embarrassing… It’s a great life, what?” he set the check down on the place mat, tapping it with his fingertips. “You just write down on this slip the amount of money you think you’d need to make it on your own, and I’ll sign it. Think about it!”