There was something of an awkward shuffle at the dinner table that evening. The spot at the head of the table rightly belonged to Terrence as head of the Dechantagne family. During his long absence, Iolanthe had assumed the seat, though by Brech tradition, she should have sat at her husband’s right hand. Terrence didn’t seem to care much one way or another, but Yuah insisted that he receive his due. So as several reptilian wait staff brought heaping trays of food to the table, Terrence sat at its head. Yuah sat at his right. Next to her sat Mrs. Godwin, then the professor’s mother the elder Mrs. Calliere, and then little Iolana in her bright red dress. At the far end of the table sat Professor Calliere, with Iolanthe to his right. Next to her sat Saba Colbshallow, then his mother, and finally Radley Staff.
A pork roast with potatoes, onions, and carrots was the major feature of dinner. There were also boiled chestnuts with melted cheese and breadcrumbs seasoned with caraway and parsley, winter squash fried in melted butter, and Mrs. Colbshallow’s own dinner rolls. It seemed as if there was a mountain of food, but it disappeared quickly from the large white porcelain platters.
“This is the best roast I’ve ever eaten,” said Saba Colbshallow.
“Quite right,” agreed Professor Calliere.
“How do you find our Port Dechantagne now, Mr. Staff?” asked Yuah.
“It’s certainly not dull,” he replied from directly across the table. “It’s been quite an eye opening day. I mingled with the locals. I saw a dragon. And I had a lovely conversation at the local dining spot. I seem to recall that you were part of the conversation.”
“Oh, well, I seem to be the subject of quite a bit of the talk around town.”
“Who would want to talk about you?” wondered Iolanthe from the other end of the table.
“Pretty young women are always a topic of conversation,” said Mrs. Godwin, pausing to wipe a stray drop of wine from her chin. “I’ve had quite enough of people always talking about me, I can tell you that.”
“That reminds me of what I heard from Mrs. Eamsham today,” said Mrs. Colbshallow.
“No gossiping at the dinner table,” said Iolanthe. “I want to hear about my brother’s many adventures in the great city.”
The heads of the diners all turned toward Terrence.
“Oh, good,” he said. “Nothing I like better than talking about myself.”
Yuah chuckled. She was the only one who did, but then she was in the best position to know the irony of such a statement. Of all the people at the table, it was probably Terrence who least wanted to talk about himself. Of course, he wasn’t much of a talker, regardless of the subject.
“Well, what did you do in Brech?” demanded Iolanthe.
“Yes,” said Yuah. “What did you do?”
“You were invited to Crown Street, weren’t you?” asked Iolanthe.
“Yes, I met the Prime Minister.” He looked at his sister. “You and I can discuss my meeting with him, later.”
“How exciting!” exclaimed Mrs. Colbshallow. “What was his wife like?”
“She seemed nice.”
“I hear she has a face like a horse,” said the elder Mrs. Calliere.
Saba Colbshallow snorted and Iolanthe pursed her lips.
“Did you go to the theater?” asked Mrs. Godwin.
“You went to the Great Church of the Holy Savior, of course?” asked Mrs. Colbshallow.
“I was obliged to.”
“Well, I hope you at least did some shopping,” said the elder Mrs. Calliere.
“I did pick up a few things.”
“I’m full,” said a tiny voice from the other end of the table, reminding everyone that a child was there.
Yuah thought that this must be the quietest that Iolana had ever been.
“Iolana, come here to Auntie,” she said.
The conversation continued around the table as the little girl in her bright red dress climbed down from her chair and stepping past her grandmother and Mrs. Godwin, slipping up and into her aunt’s lap.
“Do you remember your Uncle Terrence?” she asked the child.
The little girl tucked her face into Yuah’s shoulder shyly and didn’t say anything. A single eye peeked over her auntie’s lace covered bosom at the frightening man. Yuah gently stroked her blond hair.
“Don’t be shy, dear.”
“I can’t believe how big she is,” said Terrence. “Talking real words, too.”
“You can talk right to her, you know,” said Yuah.
Terrence flashed her an annoyed look, but then spoke directly to the child.
“I’ve got a present for you.” Then he looked up into his wife’s eyes. “I have a present for you too.”
“I should bloody well hope there’s more than one,” murmured Yuah.