All things considered, the meal was a stunning success, Edmund thought. Mrs. Kippling had managed to create the most delicious array of exotic and delicate soups that he had ever tasted. Even Tricknee seemed pleasantly surprised at the bowls put in front of him. It apparently had not been easy for Pinsnip to haul all of the quite expensive ingredients inside the Hall on his own, but after he had elicited Ung’s help, they managed. Mrs. Kippling had done the rest with her dusty cookbook.
He managed to pull Junapa aside as they left the dining room.
“How do you like the look of the Estate now, Mrs. Junapa?” Edmund asked her. Junapa cocked an eyebrow at him.
“It is not to my taste,” she said, coldly. She began to walk away before she turned back, a small smile on her lips. “However, it may grow on me. We shall have to see.”
After supper, they all withdrew to the sitting room again for tea, chatting uncomfortably about family politics, but without the usual snide comments and biting remarks.
It seemed Edmund had been right; reeling from the double blow of the Heads of the Families’ sudden arrival and the equally sudden end of the feud between the Bonnes and the Mouldes, his cousins had little energy left to plot or plan. Instead, the Mouldes were falling back on the defensive and making sure the guests saw their best and most proper side.
True, there were still awkward pauses after unpleasant truths were spoken, and Tunansia couldn’t go three feet from Patron Vanndegaar’s side, but compared to what Edmund was afraid could happen…
Even Googoltha showed up a bit later, smiling her chilling smile and not saying a word. If she was surprised or distressed by the news that she was going to marry Edmund one day, she made no sign or protest.
Edmund chose to sit in the corner and watch his handiwork, until Matron Cromley set her tea-cup down and cleared her throat.
“All right then,” she called, startling everyone with her sudden shout. “Everyone out. We need to talk with Master Edmund. Go on now, clear out before I get perturbed.”
There was a flurry of fabric and pearls. Edmund barely had time to think before the sitting room was emptied of his cousins and he found himself staring at the tall Patron Vanndegaar, the thin Matron Scower, and the broad Matron Cromley, all of them standing with cold purpose chiseled in their faces. Edmund shifted in his chair–He hadn’t been expecting anything like this.
“Well now, Master Edmund,” Matron Cromley said, a twinkle in her eye. “You’ve had quite an evening, haven’t you?”
“I suppose I have,” he admitted. Matron Scower sniffed, glancing at the closed doors.
“That Googoltha is an odd duck, isn’t she? Does she do much except smile with those pointy teeth?”
“She’s very nice,” said Edmund, wondering if it was true. “I’m very happy about marrying her.”
“I’m sure you are,” Matron Cromley patted Edmund’s knee.
“Of course, we can’t allow you to marry her,” Patron Vanndegaar said, plainly. The Matrons both shook their heads in agreement. “We will not sign your document.”