Tricknee’s mouth almost dropped open. Everyone else seemed stunned as well. The Mine had been sacrosanct for so long, no one had even considered its power as a bargaining tool.
“There isn’t a fleck of coal in Haggard Hill anymore, what?” Wislydale snorted. Edmund nodded.
“Then you agree that it is a silly thing to divide two of the founding families over. I have no hesitation in signing over all mining rights to the Bonne family.”
“Now that wasn’t all that we agreed, was it?” Tricknee sneered, obviously thinking Edmund had overplayed his hand. He had to be desperate to sign over the mine to the Bonnes…and that meant Tricknee had the power. “Don’t try and soften the blow, just because our family is listening in. I believe we decided that all legal land rights to Haggard Hill would be transferred?”
“You’re giving all of Haggard Hill to the Bonnes?” Junapa exclaimed, her voice cracking slightly. “We’ll be…renters?”
“That’s right,” Edmund said, trying to subtly look like he had been outmaneuvered. “Once we are married, the grounds of Haggard Hill will belong to the Bonnes.”
“But when she’s married…” Pinsnip said, his voice betraying his sudden understanding, “all her property falls to her husband.”
Tricknee’s grin faltered.
“She’s a Bonne, whatever else she is,” Edmund used the phrase he had heard Tricknee say to Matron, “and the deed remains signed.”
He had double-checked the law books several times to make sure. As long as the deed bore the name Bonne, it was the Bonne’s, no matter who actually possessed the property. And then, as husband to the owner and minister of the land, Edmund was legal and social guardian of the real estate. Both families had a claim, and neither was completely in control.
“All perfectly legal,” Matron Cromley grinned. “A very clever offer, I must say. But as much as I hate to interject myself, I think dear Samsuel was asking for something more…material? I’m sure you don’t have enough money to fund both families–I think we were all given to understand that both families were quite poor now.”
Tricknee’s grin returned.
“A good point,” Patron Vanndegaar interjected, his good eye focused on Edmund. “Since most of the Plinkerton engines were long ago replaced, I’ve heard that the Moulde family was quite destitute. Exactly how are you planning to fund two Founding Families?”
“I assure you, Matron Cromley,” Edmund smiled with all the charm he could muster. “Reports of our poverty have been greatly exaggerated. The Moulde family will be providing enough capital to pay off a sizable portion of the Bonne Family’s debts.”
All eyes followed Edmund’s hand as it slowly slipped into his jacket pocket and took out the writ of investment signed by Plinkerton Moulde and countersigned by a previous Patron of the Bonne family.
“I think this is the sum we agreed upon, yes?” Edmund said. “Do you still feel it is a fair price?”
He unfolded it, handed it to Tricknee, and watched the barely masked look of gripping horror slowly cross his face as he did the math.