It was ten days later, on the fifth of Festuary that the construction train, loaded with hundreds of workmen and laying track as it went, reached Port Dechantagne. By the time the train was within eyesight of the station, there were already more than two hundred people standing by to watch history in the making, and when the last track was laid that would bring the train and all future vehicles like it, parallel to the station, there were more than twenty thousand spectators, standing on the station platform, filling the entire clearing, and lining the street in both direction as far as the eye could see. Most of those present were unable to see much of anything because of the crowds, however many of the children and a few of the adults discovered that climbing a large pine tree offered an excellent viewing opportunity. Forty feet off the ground, in the massive pine directly across Forest Avenue from the train station, four twelve-year-old children and a large steel-colored dragon perched on branches and watched the activity below.
“I’ve never seen so many people in one place before,” said Hero.
“It’s a pretty big crowd,” agreed Graham. “I’d rather come back when the first real train pulls in. Trains are ace, but this one hardly moves.”
“How fast do they go?” wondered Bessemer.
“Really fast. On a straight shot with full steam, I’ll bet you couldn’t even catch it.”
“Hey you guys, be quiet,” said Senta. “Mrs. Government is going to speak.”
The governor was indeed standing on the station platform ready to address the crowd. She wore a bright blue dress with a tuft of brilliant white lace over the bustle and cascades of white lace down the skirt. She was flanked on either side by the other movers and shakers of the colony, including Mayor Korlann, Miss Lusk, Dr. Kelloran, Terrence and Yuah Dechantagne, and Hero’s sister Honor, as well as the new High Priest, Mother Linton. Even Zurfina, who usually eschewed crowded gatherings, was present. It was she who had provided the magical megaphone that Governor Dechantagne-Calliere now brought to her mouth. It was much smaller than similar devices Senta had seen used by ship crews and officials at cricket matches, only about eight inches long, but when she spoke into it, everyone in the area could clearly hear the governor’s voice.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” she said. “Welcome to the dedication of the Port Dechantagne train station. I have a few very brief remarks.”
“Oh boy, here we go,” said Graham. “Any time they say they’re going to be brief, they’re not.”
“They who?” wondered Senta.
“Speech-makers, that’s who.”
As far as the children were concerned, Graham’s suspicions were well founded. Mrs. Dechantagne-Calliere spoke for more than twenty minutes, recounting the history of the colony from the arrival of the battleship Minotaur, followed by the refugee ship Acorn, through the great battles with lizardmen and the destruction of the lizardman city-state to the southeast. She went on to the recent expansion of the town, and continued with a list of the businesses that would soon be opening in the colony and the benefits that each would receive from the arrival of the railroad line from St. Ulixes. By the time she was done, all four of the children were completely bored. They were certainly in no mood to listen to additional speeches, but more speeches seemed to be on the agenda, because no sooner had the governor stopped, than she passed the megaphone to Mother Linton.
“This is bloody awful,” said Graham. “Let’s go do something else.”
Hertzel nodded his agreement, though whether he was agreeing that it was awful, or that he wanted to do something else, or both, was unclear.
“What do you want to do?” wondered Senta.
“Let’s go ride the dinosaurs,” suggested Graham.
Hertzel nodded again.
“I don’t think that’s safe,” said Hero.
“Of course it’s not safe,” replied Graham. “It wouldn’t be any fun if it was safe.”
“All right,” said Senta. “But you boys have to help us down.”
The two boys helped Senta and Hero, both of whom were prevented from being truly arboreal by their large dresses, from branch to branch, finally lowering them to the ground, by their hands. A moment later the boys dropped down beside them.
“Are you coming?” Senta called up to the steel dragon.
“No, I’m going to listen to the speeches.”
Shaking their heads at the inscrutability of dragons, the four children tromped through the snow, walking between the trees of the forest lot so that they could come out on the street beyond the massive throng of people. They stepped out onto Bay Street about a mile north of the station and they followed it another mile till they reached the Town Square, which was as empty of human life as they had ever seen it. A single lizardman was crossing from east to west, carrying a little package.
“I wonder if anyone is at Mrs. Finkler’s this afternoon,” said Hero. “I wouldn’t say no to some hot tea before walking all the way to the dinosaur pens.”
Graham stopped to think and Senta laughed aloud at the expression he managed to screw his face into. It was obvious that he wanted to get out and ride the dinosaurs before any responsible adult had a chance to get there and stop him. On the other hand, he was as cold as the rest of them, from sitting in the brisk air high in a tree for a good long time, and then walking miles through the snowy streets.
“If you only had a steam carriage,” said Senta, in a teasing voice.
“Yes!” He grabbed hold of the fantasy with both hands. “Do you know how quick we could get from the train station to the dinosaur pens in a steam carriage like the ones Captain Dechantagne brought for his wife and his sister?”
“How quick?” asked Senta, who despite growing up in the great city of Brech with hundreds, perhaps thousands of steam carriages roaming the streets, had never actually ridden in one.