Edmund suppressed a smile as Tricknee glanced around the room in well-hidden simmering frustration. A vein was throbbing on his forehead as his eyes darted from Edmund’s to the Heads of the Families. What before had been a fairly one-sided haggle over price had suddenly grown teeth.
Tricknee’s eyes snapped to Edmund’s, a glitter of realization flickering across the inky depths. A small flame of doubt quivered in Edmund’s chest; had he pushed too far? Would Tricknee cut off his nose to spite his face?
If he accepted Edmund’s offer, he would be welcomed back into the Bonne family as a hero–the Bonne who finally won not only the mining rights away from the Mouldes but all of Haggard Hill; all it took was a marriage, which got Tricknee the rights to the Whilkins fortune as well.
Of course, it was largely a symbolic victory, as the marriage would insure the Mouldes still retained control over the property, but symbolism mattered to the Founding Families. It wouldn’t be lost on them either that it seemed like Edmund had given Tricknee enough money to buy away his prejudice–a substantial amount indeed–and would probably think the Mouldes had money again.
No one would ever hear about the loan, of course; Edmund wouldn’t say anything, and Tricknee wouldn’t want anyone to know how close the Bonne family came to ruin because of the Mouldes.
If he declined, it would be purely because he couldn’t bear to see the Mouldes prosper, even if he prospered with them.
Slowly, Tricknee lowered the writ, and Edmund was shocked to see a shimmer in his eye.
“Will you keep her safe?” he asked, softly, so only Edmund could hear. “Safe from the world?”
An odd question, Edmund thought, but he knew what a proper suitor should say to such a question. He placed his hand over his heart, and gave a firm nod of his head.
After a moment, Tricknee returned it.
Edmund quickly picked up a pen, filled it as quickly from the inkwell, and scrawled his name as fast as he could on the contract. “Here we are. Now all it needs is your signature, and the arrangement will be fully legal. I will be wed to Googoltha in ten years, and the Bonne family will receive the money and land rights to Haggard Hill.”
Edmund turned to the three heads of the families. “And now we come to you, our honored guests, and why I really asked you here; we will need witnesses. We would be honored if you would sign this document after Tricknee.” He carefully lay the pen down on the marriage certificate, and gently took the writ of investment back from Tricknee’s hands. “You can sign anytime you wish this evening.”
After an aching pause, Tricknee opened his mouth into a vain attempt at a smile.
“Perhaps I will sign it after supper.”