Edmund arrived moments before Wislydale, peering through a waist-high hole in the stonework. Mrs. Kippling was there, scraping away at a pan with a thick brush when Wislydale cleared his throat loudly from the door.
“It’s open,” Mrs. Kippling called, the smile in her voice barely hidden. Edmund breathed a small sigh of relief. It seemed she got Edmund’s letter.
“Yes,” Wislydale said, obviously uncomfortable with the fact. “I say, you’re the cook, what? Do you have a recipe fit to serve three Heads of the Founding Families?”
“I’ll try to not be insulted by the question,” Mrs. Kippling said, her voice echoing slightly in the pan. “I have a recipe for every guest you could imagine. It’s-not-my-place, but I could serve a meal the King of Siam would never forget.”
“Jolly good!” Wislydale smiled. “What do you have in mind?”
“Soup!” Mrs. Kippling said. There was a silence as Edmund saw Wislydale’s mouth droop.
“Ah…” he said, finally. “And can you make this special soup… for tonight?”
“I most surely can not,” Mrs. Kippling looked up in surprise. “Begging-your-pardon, I might be able to make it in time, but I’ve only got potatoes and greens–nowhere near the right ingredients. I’d have to go shopping first, and then prepare the kitchen, which will take quite a bit of time, and my leg’s been acting up, no mistake. I think there’s a cold winter coming.”
“Well, surely the butler…Mr. thingy…Ung, that’s right. He’ll be able to go shopping for you, what?”
“Not at all!” Mrs. Kippling snorted. “He has to clean the foyer and prepare the dining room. There’s no time for just the two of us to do everything. And before you suggest it,” she waved her hand under Wislydale’s opening mouth, “Tricknee’s too old, Master Edmund is too young, and Mister Kolb is already polishing the silver.”
“Ah,” Wislydale paused for a moment, and then downed his drink in one swallow. “I suppose I will have to get you the ingredients while you prepare the kitchen, what?” he said, straightening his jacket with firm purpose. “What do you need?”
Mrs. Kippling shrugged, and reached down below the counter. The counter lifted and sank again with a thud as she pulled a thick dusty book out from under the leg. She flipped through the book, scattering dust over the room and causing the flame in the stove to flare.
Edmund checked his watch–it was almost five thirty. Confident that the two of them had everything under control, he slowly began to creep back up to his room. He still needed to get ready.
His cousins had found the clothes draped over their beds, and where first they saw nothing but doom, now there was hope. Thankfully, the grocer in town had already been well paid with a large silver statue, and orders to be ready to give a large amount of quality goods to anyone from Moulde Hall who stopped by, looking rushed.
His cousin’s humours were shifting in their bodies like a weighted scale, and as their fear of failure sank with every minor relief, so would their passions rise. If Edmund knew the Mouldes at all, he knew that if their backs were to the wall and there was a chance–any chance at all–of success, then they would fight like rabid animals.
And they would all fight together.