“Come on lad, stiff upper lip, and all that,” Wislydale sounded sympathetic as the hand patted his shoulder. Edmund nodded, running his sleeve across his nose.
“But I’m a problem for the family,” he sniffed, aimlessly kicking at the round ball of thread. “What good am I, really?”
“Not much, I’m afraid,” Wislydale sighed. “Not much at all–it’s true.”
Edmund was shocked at the rush of heat that rose from his stomach to his face, and the anger that followed it. Something in him wanted to yell at Wislydale, but instead he clenched his fists as tight as rocks, and bit his lip until the blood sank back down his throat into his chest.
By this time, a gasp of inspiration had leapt from Wislydale’s throat, and his hand gripped Edmund’s shoulder tightly.
“I say!” He said, as the elevator landed on the first floor. “I think I might just have a solution!” Edmund looked up at him, biting back the anger that still bubbled under his skin. Wislydale winked, and knelt down like he was talking to a toddler, pointing and gesturing with his glass. “I’ll bet you’re a sharp lad, what? And I know you don’t want to let the family down…” Edmund nodded eagerly. “…Why don’t I help you? I could teach you all the things that you never learned in that grubby little orphanage about what it takes to live in a world of proper gentlemen and ladies.”
Edmund stared into Wislydale’s blurry eyes. The idea was ludicrous at first–manners seemed to have absolutely no connection to the world of the Mouldes–but the more he thought about it the more it seemed to make sense. If he was going to become Patron some day, he would have to speak with other members of high society. He couldn’t spend his whole life locked away in Moulde Hall muttering to himself like Matron, and if he didn’t look or act the part, how could other important families ever respect him or his family?
Besides, it didn’t seem like proper behavior was something he would be able to easily learn from watching; there were a lot of rules that made no sense to him. Polite society seemed to be full of nothing but strange dances and rituals more arcane than anything he ever read about in the tombs and volumes of biology and chemistry.
“Okay,” he said, letting a smile cross his face. “I’d like that.”
“That’s the spirit!” Wislydale clapped Edmund on the back. “Jolly good show! I’ll meet you in the large sitting room tomorrow, say after lunch? Then we’ll get started teaching you how to act like a real Moulde, what?” He straightened up and pushed open the elevator door, stepping out onto the first floor. He looked back as Edmund stayed behind. “Aren’t you coming?”
“I forgot my kite,” Edmund said quickly, closing the elevator gate and pushing the lever. Wislydale nodded slowly as the elevator rose out of sight.