Edmund stepped off the elevator in a haze. His mind was whirling with the possibilities as he ran to the dining room, eager to eat and return to the library as soon as possible. He was so enraptured by his thoughts, that he walked straight into the grasping arms of Pinsnip.
“Master Edmund!” Pinsnip said, as loudly as his whispering voice would let him. “I…I’ve been wanting to speak…well…looking for you. How are you?”
Edmund could only manage a squeak as he coaxed his heart back down from his throat. Pinsnip didn’t seem to notice.
“I say,” he said, his mustache quivering with excitement, “I wonder…you know…I could teach you a thing or two, yes indeed. Would you…uh… like that?”
Edmund swallowed and took a few breaths. Pinsnip’s eyes were wide and staring, eyebrows high on his face. He had the look of a desperate man about him, Edmund thought. He had obviously heard, or at least surmised, that his other cousins were helping Edmund now, rather than ignoring him.
“Why?” Edmund asked, not able to resist asking. Pinsnip’s excitement turned to panic.
“Well… you… I… that is… you’ll owe me a favor,” he stammered as he tried to lean away from Edmund while still gripping his shoulders.
“You could just ask for a favor,” Edmund said. “You don’t have to teach me something in return.”
“No!” Pinsnip’s head shot back towards Edmund. “That’s…that’s just not done! I have to…that is…you know…it’s dangerous out there! There are a lot of cousins…people…who want to…shoot you, or throw daggers at you, or…or slip arsenic in your soup!”
“And, you want me safe?” Edmund prodded. Something flickered in Pinsnip’s eyes, but it was gone in a second.
“Of course I…Matron, the others…we all want to make…that is…to keep you safe.”
Edmund thought for a moment, and then decided he agreed.
“What can you teach me?” he asked. Pinsnip’s excitement returned, and a terrible smile grew from under his mustache.
“To hide!” he said in a harsh whisper. “Hide, and be silent! I can teach you how to vanish into shadows, and stalk your…that is… escape your pursuers and move as silent as a ghost! You’ve got the basics, I saw how you hid in the Great Sitting Room when we had our first family meeting…I can improve you!”
Edmund had to consider again. Did he really want to learn anything from Pinsnip? He didn’t like the idea, but looking into Pinsnip’s face, he wasn’t sure declining the offer was the wisest course of action. Besides, the better he became at hiding in passageways, the more he’d be likely to find out. Finally, he nodded.
“Excellent!” Pinsnip’s eyes flashed. “I…I have some free…time tomorrow? We’ll…we’ll meet up then, and I can teach…I’ll teach you what my nanny…that is…how to hide properly!”
Pinsnip squeezed Edmund’s shoulders, and stumbled his way down the hall, leaving Edmund in the hallway alone.