Senta looked up at that perfect face, almost a foot above her own, as the woman in the white, pin-striped dress passed, never looking down at the child engaged in manual labor, nor indeed looking at anyone else on the street. She didn’t even look at Carlo, when he rushed out of the entrance of the café, his starched white shirt, stained with sweat under the armpits and with a dribble of morning coffee just below the collar, and stretched to the limit by his corpulent middle. He ran to greet her with a bow. She didn’t look at him, but she acknowledged him with an ever-so-slight nod of her head.
“Would you like your usual table, Miss?” said Carlo.
His fawning, almost whining tone, as he spoke to her, was nothing like the booming voice he used when calling for one of his waitresses to get back to work, or when he ordered Senta to clean the brass dragon. It was nothing like the grunting noise he made when he paid Senta the fourteen copper pfennigs she received from him each week. It was the tone of a small child who wanted to be noticed by an adult, but who was seldom if ever noticed, and it would have surprised Senta to hear it come from Carlo’s great form, if she had not heard it from him when the woman had previously visited the café.
Cafe Carlo sits in the middle of the Great Plaza in Brech. It is one of the cities finest eating establishements, and so is frequented by Iolanthe Dechantage. It is also where Senta, age eight, works sweeping the walk and polishing the wrought-iron fence. It is here that she sees Iolanthe and becomes fascinated with her.