The Price of Magic – Chapter 10 Excerpt

“First class cabin for two to St. Ulixes.”

“Not taking your personal train, Your Lordship?” asked the man behind the glass.

“It’s not my personal train,” said Radley Staff.  “It belongs to M&S Coal, and our engineers have taken it south to survey possible mining areas.”

“As you say, Your Lordship.”

Staff looked at his daughter, standing next to him, and sighed.

“It’s not likely to get any better,” said Lady Iolana Staff.  “It will continue until the day you die.”

Staff took the tickets that the clerk slid though the opening in the window.  He waved the two household lizzies that had arrived with them, to load the luggage onto the train.  Once they had done so, he gave them change to take the trolley back to the house, though he doubted they would actually use it.  Then he and his daughter boarded.

The new first class coaches had come into service early the previous year.  They were quite a step up from the old first class.  Instead of having a bench seat and a bed in the sleeping car, enclosed only by a curtain, the new coaches featured individual cabins, each with a pair of plush chairs, two fold-down cots, and their own personal privies.  Glancing at the tickets, Staff saw that they were in cabin three.  The door was quickly located and he and Iolana stepped inside.  Their luggage was awaiting them, and Staff wondered just how the lizzies knew where to put it.  Shrugging off the thought, he sat down in one of the chairs.  His daughter took the other.

“It appears we have a short wait before we leave,” said Staff, pulling out his pocket watch and checking the time.  “Once we get out of town, we’ll go up to the dining car and have a nice lunch.”

“If you’re hungry now,” said Iolana, “cook gave me a cache of provisions.”

She opened her handbag and pulled out a small paper sack, which she peered into.

“I have a sandwich of some kind, three licorice whips, some hard candy, and an apple.”

“I’m sure I’ll survive until lunchtime.  I was surprised that you decided to accompany me.  You have so much going on with your friends, and of course, tutoring the children.”

“What?  Miss a chance to get away from my life?  I think not.  I only wish that I had been able to go to Brechalon with you.”

“That was your mother’s decision, not mine,” said Mr. Staff.

“Don’t I know it! Heaven forbid that I should have any fun somewhere she wouldn’t be able to squash it.”

“You make you mother sound like an ogre.”

“Do I?” asked Iolana, rhetorically.

“I don’t know how much fun you’ll actually be able to have.  I’ll be in meetings most of the two days we’re there, so you’ll be on your own.”

“I’m looking forward to a bit of sightseeing.  I haven’t been to Mallontah since I was a small child.  I don’t suppose St. Ulixes has changed nearly as much in that time as Port Dechantagne has, but then again, I’m sure there is quite a bit that I’ve forgotten.”

“I’m not too fond of the idea of you wandering around a strange city by yourself.  Be sure you carry your pistol with you.”

“Of course, Father.”

The train whistle sounded and then with a sudden jerk, the cars lurched into motion.  Father and daughter looked out the window as they pulled out of the station.  Their cabin faced south, so they had a view of the switching area.  Then a few moments later, they saw Lizzietown sliding past as the train gathered steam.

“Well, shall we?” asked Mr. Staff.

Iolana nodded and stood. Then she followed her father out into the hallway and up toward the front of the train.  They passed through one other first class carriage before reaching the dining car.  There was a rope barring the way in, but a waiter hurried over to move it aside.

“Are we too early?” asked Mr. Staff.

“We normally don’t start luncheon service until 11:30.”

“We could come back.”

“Nonsense, Sir Radley. It’s no trouble at all.  Please sit where you like and I’ll bring you a menu.”

When the waiter returned, the two Staffs looked at the single sheet menu.

“This looks suspiciously like the menu at Finkler’s Bakery,” said Iolana.

“Mr. Finkler owns the license for all the dining cars on the M&B line,” said the waiter.

“That man is quite a success,” said Mr. Staff.  “Too bad he’s already married, eh Iolana?”

His daughter shot daggers at him with her eyes.  Clearing his throat, he turned back to the menu.

“I will have a Fostbeck sandwich, and I think, a doppelbock.”

“I will have a Fostbeck sandwich as well,” said Iolana, “however I would like white bread instead of rye, and please hold the mustard and sour kraut.”

“That’s not really a Fostbeck sandwich then, Dear.”

“I can get that though, can’t I?” Iolana asked the waiter.

“Of course, My Lady.”

“And a bottle of Billingbow’s, please.”

“You know, every time I have a Fostbeck sandwich, it reminds me of a time at sea, when a man shot at me,” said Mr. Staff.  “He missed me, but sadly, killed my sandwich.”

“Why was he trying to shoot you?”

“It was… um, it was a simple misunderstanding.”

“Was it a misunderstanding over a lady?” asked Iolana.

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