“I honestly don’t know what her problem was,” said Senta over her cup of tea.
“It reinforces what I’ve always said,” said Nellie Swenson. “Magic is too dangerous.”
Graham looked from one to the other, clearly expecting Senta to get up and clock the girl reporter in the noggin, but she just smiled and nodded.
“Another bottle of Billingbow’s!” he called to the passing waitress, who happened to be his sister.
“You know where it is!” she shouted back at him. “Go get it yourself!”
“Does anyone else want anything?” he asked the two girls seated with him. They both shook their heads.
“All right then, um, I’ll just be right back.”
“So how are you finding Birmisia?” asked Senta when he had left.
“Knock off the chit-chat, you lunatic,” replied the redhead. “You’re a menace and I intend to tell all of Brechalon about it.”
“So who’s stopping you,” replied the sorceress. “Do whatever you want.”
“Oh, I will. And before I’m done, I’ll have freed Graham Dokkins from whatever magic you’ve used to cloud over his mind.”
Senta snorted into her cup.
“You’re a daft cow,” she said.
Graham returned with his bottle of soda, but before he could sit down, Nellie jumped to her feet.
“Come on, Graham. I want to feed the dinosaurs.”
The boy looked questioningly at Senta.
“Go ahead,” she answered his unasked question. “Run along and play.”
She sat alone for a few minutes finishing her tea, and had just decided to head home, when the chair opposite hers slid back and Hertzel plopped down into it. He gave her a look, with one brow cocked.
“What?” she asked. “Do you think I’ve ensorcelled him too?”
He shook his head.
Gaylene stopped at the table.
“Having tea then, Hertzel?”
He nodded and made a circle with his hands.
“Soup coming up,” said Gaylene, and then hurried away.
“Aren’t you supposed to be working?” asked Senta.
Hertzel shook his head again.
“So what are you doing?”
“You need a girlfriend, that’s what,” said Senta. “Maybe we can find you a little ginger tramp too.”
* * * * *
It was teatime too at the home of Egeria Lusk. Her large house, tall with great columns along the front, sat just east of Town Square, behind a tall metal fence. Large willows grew along the east and west sides and in back was a large, carefully cultivated garden. Here, tea had been set up on a white wrought iron table and guests sat around it on six matching chairs.
Miss Lusk poured first for her fiancé Zeah Korlann, then his daughter Yuah, Yuah’s lizzy dressing maid, and finally for herself. Young Augustus already had a glass of juice, and his little sister Terra was curled up in the lizzie’s reptilian arms, sleeping. Famous for her fine white dresses, on this occasion Miss Lusk wore a white and lavender striped day dress. Her flaming red hair was pulled back into a bun and topped with a white boater.
“I told Mrs. Beynon that if Mrs. Dechantagne wanted to seat her lizzie at the dinner table then that was her prerogative,” she said.
“Cissy isn’t just a lizzie,” said Yuah. “She’s part of the family.”
“Oh, believe me, I understand. Why I just couldn’t get by without Chunny.”
Miss Lusk’s lizzie, Chunny, stepped out the back door at that moment, and balancing a large silver tray positively overflowing with covered dishes. He was a magnificent fellow, tall and heavily built, with bright green skin the color spring leaves on his back and a yellowish olive underside. Stopping beside the table, he laid out the dishes one by one before the diners.
“Tsaua Khunniitia,” said Cissy.
“Tsaua Ssissiatok,” replied Chunney stiffly.
“Kichketos ets etehos eenu?” Miss Lusk asked him sharply, then turning to Cissy said. “I would prefer we spoke Brech at the table, please.”
“You seem to have quite a command of the local language, my dear,” said Zeah. “Perhaps we could make a little game of it—all of us learning a few words. What do you think, Yuah?”
“What?” asked Yuah, starting as if awakened. “I don’t… I don’t care.”
“I’m hungry,” whined Augie. “Ghahk tonahass already.”
His mother smacked him on the back of the head.
“Mind your manners,” she snapped.
“That is exactly why we don’t play those kind of games at the table,” said Miss Lusk. “Learning the language so that we are better able to interact with our new world is one thing, but if we aren’t careful we shall end up bastardizing Brech culture, Brech language, and Brech civilization.”
“I doubt that our learning a bit of foreign language will have any lasting effect on Brech civilization,” said Zeah.
“You don’t think so?” Miss Lusk tilted her head as she spoke. “Young Augustus will grow up to be an important person—perhaps Prime Minister. How will that happen if we allow his mind to be polluted?”