“I received three letters today,” Matron said, her sharp voice cutting through Edmund’s thoughts. “They were polite thanks for a lovely dinner, and a promise to return when the wedding occurs.”
“Polite?” Edmund asked.
“Enough,” Matron sighed. “It’s the first time any of the nine families has sent even a marginally polite letter to a Moulde in at least a hundred years. You got three.”
A small gust of icy wind curled itself around Edmund’s legs. The chill was becoming less noticeable to him now. He let his mind wander as the breeze continued to blow.
“I think we should have Ung put Kahmlichimus back above the door,” he said after another pause, half turning to Matron. “I think it would be good to let people know what to expect, coming into our house.”
“Our house?” Matron looked at Edmund out of the corner of her eye. “I’m beginning to wonder if I made a wise choice in adopting you.”
“Are you having second thoughts?” Edmund asked, finally turning completely to look Matron in the eye. Her sharp gaze glittered in the fading light.
“Maybe,” she admitted, her face betraying nothing of her genuine thoughts. “You are definitely not going to be easy to control. Perhaps it would be wiser to cut you loose and carry on by myself.”
“You won’t,” Edmund said, looking back at the wrought-iron gate to Haggard Hill. “Because if you did, Wislydale would have you declared mentally unfit and snatch the estate from you. And the three families have witnessed my marriage. You need to keep me around.”
“So it would seem,” Matron said, and Edmund couldn’t tell if she was disappointed with that fact or not. “I wonder if you would have been able to successfully fight all three of them if they hadn’t agreed to witness for you? Would you have called in the writs?”
“I don’t know,” Edmund admitted. “I think I would have looked for another way, but if I had to, I would have.”
“You would have, wouldn’t you?” Matron nodded slowly. “You would have stood up to three of the Founding Families and all of their lawyers, connections, and ferocity with nothing more than three ancient scraps of paper, and try to take half of their fortunes from them.”
“I’d have won too,” Edmund said.
Matron’s mouth twitched.
“I wonder,” she said, after a pause. “The letters, the heads of the families, the food, the dress… what made you think your plan would succeed?”
Edmund looked over the dark dusky hill that rose above the city. He thought about the human body, and all the pieces working together towards a common goal, and the watch built of gears and springs. He thought how the body needed a brain, and the watch needed a mainspring. He thought about the stories of Knights who served a cause to fight off the chaos of barbarism, and always ended with marriage. He thought about Mrs. Mapleberry, who had never seemed to see him even when she was looking right at him; and Matron, who could somehow always see him even when she wasn’t.
“I’m a Moulde,” is what he said.