Edmund indignation quickly turned into elation. Whatever had been in that note Matron had written to Kolb, it was enough to get his cousins interested in him, even if only to get rid of him. He licked his lips as he thought. Why now? What did South Dunkin have to do with Edmund?
Nothing, of course. It wasn’t South Dunkin that got them interested in him. He was the one who told Matron. He was the one who handed the letter to Kolb.
Edmund smiled to himself. Perhaps he would pay more attention to his cousins in the near future. He would have to make sure he attended those family meetings now, and tell Matron if he heard anything interesting.
No time like the present, Edmund decided after he had left the dining room. Turning sharply, he ducked into a small alcove and twisted the ear of a small statue that was set into the wall. A secret door popped open and Edmund ducked inside.
He looked over the whole mansion for his cousins, but they were all on their own, writing, reading, or locked in their rooms.
It took almost a week before Edmund overheard another interesting exchange.
“No,” Pinsnip was saying as he tried to get away from Kolb. “I’m…I’m not interested.”
“Come now, my reluctant relative,” Kolb grinned as he kept pace with Pinsnip all along the hallway. “A little regal recalcitrance is all that is required. And if we manage to succeed…well… I do not need to tell you what we will receive.”
“A…dagger in the dark, Kolb,” Pinsnip spat.
“Ah, yes, well…” Kolb shrugged. “I suppose that is your…area of expertise, old chap. We’ll say no more about it.”
“Area of expertise?” Matron’s eyes narrowed. “You’re sure he said expertise?”
“Yes,” Edmund nodded. “He paused too. ‘that is your…area of expertise.’ Like that.”
Matron closed her eyes for a second.
“Do you know what a reluctant relative is?” she asked.
“No,” Edmund shook his head. Matron’s lunch was getting heavy.
“Go and ask Junapa,” Matron said, pointing at her table for Edmund to set down the tray. “And make sure you are honest.”
“Of course,” Junapa smiled blandly. “It means a relative who doesn’t want to do something.”
“Thank you,” said Edmund, as he turned to leave the small sitting room.
“I am so glad you came to me with that question,” Junapa said, her voice pleasant.
“Tell me, did you perhaps hear any other…alliterative words that I could help you understand?”
Edmund knew what alliterative meant from his poetry books.
“Regal…re-calc-a-trance?” Edmund said, trying to remember how Kolb had pronounced it.
“Ah…” Junapa smiled a bit wider. “And who was Kolb talking to?”
“Pinsnip,” Edmund said honestly.
The next day, Edmund saw Ung deliver a letter to Pinsnip. His face screwed up like a prune, and he seemed to avoid Kolb for the rest of the month. That day, Junapa had a small smile on her face that lasted until dinner time.