Dinner was not quite ready, so Edmund went to join Mrs. Kippling in the kitchen.
“About time, Master Edmund!” Mrs. Kippling’s hands landed squarely on her hips, and her normally jovial face became a mask of indignation. “What sort of lunchtime do you call this? I had to take Matron her lunch myself, and she was none too pleased, I can tell you.”
“Sorry, Mrs. Kippling,” Edmund tried to look apologetic, but the smile couldn’t leave his face. Mrs. Kippling raised an eyebrow at his behavior, and turned back to the pot that was heating on the tree-like stove.
“I’m sure you don’t have to apologize to me, young master,” she muttered. “It’s Matron you’ll need to apologize to, for all the good it may do you. What sort of mischief have you been getting yourself in that you miss lunch?”
Edmund desperately wanted to shout out what he had found, but he couldn’t; it was far too precious.
“It’s a secret,” he said, as nonchalantly as he could. The look on Mrs. Kippling’s face was enough to tell him that he hadn’t succeeded in the slightest.
“Oh, it’s a secret, is it?” she said, her voice leaking exaggerated comprehension. “Well aren’t you the clever one, then? With all your secrets? Well don’t you tell me nothing, then. I don’t want to know anything I shouldn’t.” She yanked a knife out of the dangling captain’s wheel and began to dice a large tuber. “There’s some leftover soup heating for your dinner, it won’t be a moment.”
As Edmund watched Mrs. Kippling hack at strange and varied fruits and vegetables, he began to understand what Junapa had been trying to teach him. Several times during the checkers game he had jumped a piece only to set up Junapa to jump three or four of his. She had lured him into giving her what she wanted. His direct questions hadn’t seemed to help him as much as he wanted them too, so perhaps he needed to find some similar way of tricking others into giving him the answers he wanted.
“I found the garden,” he said, nonchalantly. “It doesn’t seem to be doing too well.”
“No,” Mrs. Kippling shook her head sadly. “It used to be the best garden in the city, but nothing grows there now. I don’t think Mr. Ung will ever give up though. He just keeps on working away at the soil like the trustiest farmer you ever saw.”
“There are some nice statues around in the maze too,” he said, smiling disarmingly. Mrs. Kippling smiled almost wistfully.
“Oh, isn’t that just the truth,” she sighed, pausing only for a heartbeat in her chopping. “We had some of the best sculptors work for Moulde Hall, back in the day. Of course, no one has been keeping them up for years, so they’re all a bit crumbly now.”