The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 9 Excerpt

“And what is the child’s name?” asked Miss Dechantagne.

“My name is Senta Bly,” said the girl, realizing a moment later that this was the first time she had spoken to the woman she had watched so many times before.

Two waiters served dinner beginning with steamed shrimps on a bed of fresh lettuce with tart vinaigrette, and a light, crisp white wine. Chilled asparagus soup and a bubbly pink wine followed this. The main course was toad-in-the-hole: savory sausages, potatoes, broccoli, and small sweet onions baked in a savory pudding batter. This was served with a dark red wine from Mirsanna. Senta tucked in and ate quite a lot. Even so, by the time she took the first sip of her Mirsannan wine, she already felt her head wobbling from side to side.

“Do you think the child should be drinking wine?” said Mrs. Marjoram, clicking her tongue.

“Pish posh,” said Zurfina. “Wine is good for the soul.”

“I am sure that Father Ian would not agree with you,” said Mrs. Marjoram

“You would know better than me,” said the sorceress.

“Better than I,” corrected Mrs. Marjoram.

“Better than either of us then.”

“I am sorry to see that Captain Dechantagne is not dining with us this evening,” said Dr. Kelloran.

“He indicated to me that he wasn’t feeling quite himself this evening,” said Miss Dechantagne.

“Yes, poor fellow,” said Augustus Dechantagne, draining his wine glass, and waving for the waiter to refill it. “He’s been under the weather quite a lot. I don’t think the tropical air agrees with him.”

“Well I’m very glad to see you again, Lieutenant Dechantagne,” continued the doctor. “I haven’t had a chance to thank you for your part in my rescue.”

“Just doing my bit. Officer and a gentleman, and all that.” Gesturing with his wineglass, he sloshed some of it out onto the table. “And please, call me Augie. In fact, everyone here should call me Augie. And you should call me often.”

He laughed. Then Senta laughed. No one else did.

“Well I for one would like to see something done,” said Mrs. Marjoram. “Imagine, women being kidnapped off the street. And it’s not even an unusual occurrence!   I mean, what do we have a military for? They should send in a battalion of marines and clear these cultists out.”

“Enclep is a big place,” said Lieutenant Baxter. “Over two hundred thousand square miles of mostly jungle and this is our only base. Our navy is stretched as far as it can be already—patrolling colonies on twelve continents as well as protecting the home front.”

“And I understand,” said Augie, pausing to take another drink, “that this ape cult is spread out over the entire region.”

“Well, I still think it is abhorrent,” said Mrs. Marjoram.

“Quite right. Quite right,” agreed Augie. “Still, we gave them the old what for.”

“Yes,” said Miss Dechantagne. “Thanks to my brothers there have been no attacks for the last three days reported in Nutooka or any of the outlying villages.”

“Oh, I don’t think they’ll be showing their faces in these parts any time soon,” said Augie. “Not that they showed their faces before, what with those hoods and all. Bit cowardly, that.”

Dessert was served and it looked wonderful. It was trifle, and Senta had seen but never tasted it before. Fresh fruit from the local market made it even more extravagant than similar preparations at Café Carlo. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, peaches, and kiwi were layered with sweet custard, whipped cream, and pound cake soaked in fortified wine. Even over the aroma of the wine, the smell of vanilla—which Senta had only learned existed two days before—rose up from the decadent dish. Each mouthful thrilled the girl to her core as she scooped it in and let the foison of flavor delight every taste bud. And when she finished, a waiter brought her another piece! Along with this wonderful dessert, they served tiny little glasses of blackberry liqueur.

“So, we will be able to leave tomorrow?” asked Miss Lusk.

“Tomorrow evening,” said Miss Dechantagne. “Our restocking has generally been a success, but I wanted to acquire some seeds of the local plants and some saplings of the fruit trees. These will be arriving, hopefully, in the morning.”

“To a successful voyage!” said Augie, raising his glass in a toast.

“To a successful voyage,” repeated most everyone at the table.

“I don’t feel good,” said Senta.

“Too much wine?” asked Mrs. Marjoram, pointedly.

“I think I’m going to overflow.”

“Not in here,” said Miss Dechantagne, sternly.

“Why don’t you go up on deck and get some air, Pet,” said Zurfina.

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