“Oh, well, I must have misspoke,” Mrs. Kippling stammered, keeping her back to Edmund as she selected an onion and began to slice it slowly. “Begging-your-pardon, I meant Matron’s daughter. Her name was Victrola too, named after her great-great-”
“Her name was Riiana–I found it in the Moulde Family records,” Edmund pressed on, his eyes beginning to sting from the onion. “I don’t think you’re telling me the truth. I think you’ve been House-Keeper at least since Plinkerton. I think you made him soup–the same soup you make for me. He spilled some, you see, on a book he was writing in, and it’s the same shade of color, even after so many years, as the spill I made in my book.”
“It’s an old recipe, passed down from house-keeper to house-keeper.”
“Which one?” Edmund said. “I didn’t say which soup it was.”
Mrs. Kippling sighed, her shoulders sagging. Edmund’s eyes were watering from the onion so badly he had to wipe his face, and when he opened his eyes again, Mrs. Kippling was directly in front of him her sharp knife glittering in the stove light.
“You are clever,” she said, sadly. “Almost as clever as Patron Plinkerton. He was a great man, he was. He never did anything mean or crazy–he was as kind as could be. I hear all his descendants call him the first of the worst, and it breaks my heart, it does. He cared for his children, and his wife, and… and his servants.” She lifted her left hand to the stove light and looked at it as if she could peer through it and study its bones. “He fixed my hand when the accident burned it almost completely away. He gave Master Rotchild his sight back when he poured liniment in his own eye… and when my heart gave out…”
Mrs. Kippling sighed again, and a dreamy look spread across her face like an advancing cloud front. “He was clever, but not always right, you see. He started my heart up again–gave me some jolt or elixir or some such–and it hasn’t stopped yet. He always did say he wasn’t sure he followed his notes just right… So I’ve been serving the family ever since.” The dim light flickered in the knife, catching Edmund’s eye. “And now you’ve found me out, what are you going to do about it?”
“Nothing,” Edmund said, his voice steady.
The knife dipped in surprise as Mrs. Kippling’s mouth fell open. “Nothing?” she asked. “Begging-your-pardon, But… you aren’t going to bleed me? Matron Isaybel kept threatening to sell my blood at fifty a bottle.”
“Why would I do that?”
“You are a Moulde,” Mrs. Kippling let a smile flicker across her face.
“Now that doesn’t mean anything,” said Edmund, crossing his arms. “Does Matron know?”
“No,” Mrs. Kippling said, after a moment of thought. “I don’t think so. She tries to ignore the staff. She’s a proper lady, she is.”
Edmund nodded. Now he needed to ask the real questions.