Monday, March 26, 2012

The Dark and Forbidding Land: Egeria Lusk



Miss Lusk glided across the snowy square and Senta followed, watching the swaying motion of the woman’s fashionably large bustle.  It was just about large enough that Senta and another ten year old could have hidden themselves under it.  Miss Lusk’s bright red coat was cut wide at the bottom to expand and encompass her very large lower half.

“That’s a great dress,” remarked Senta.  “You must have a huge hip bag under there.”

Miss Lusk glanced over her shoulder and winked.  “All part of the price of fashion.  I’m afraid that without the proper foundation I just don’t have the necessary shape.”

“I don’t think anybody has a bottom that big,” said Senta.

“No.  Nobody does.”  Miss Lusk stopped to pull open the door of the Pfennig Store.  “And nobody walks around on their toes either, but we wear high-heels to look like we do.”

Senta stepped inside the door as the bell hanging above it jingled.  Miss Lusk followed and the bell jingled again as the door closed.  Mr. Parnorsham looked up from behind the counter where he was rearranging costume jewelry in the glass case.  He squinted through his bifocals and wiped his hands on his white apron. 

“Good day ladies.”

“Good day Mr. Parnorsham.”  Miss Lusk politely feigned interest in the costume jewelry.  “I’m in need of some two inch lace today.”

“Let me show you what I have.”

Senta wandered over to look at the toy counter.  It was a small twenty four inch square counter divided into six inch square compartments, each with a different type of toy.  There were rubber bouncing balls, toy guns, tin soldiers, doll sized tea cups with saucers, and wooden ponies with yarn tails.  Senta picked one up and made a horse noise by blowing air between her lips.

“That’s just the one I need,” said Miss Lusk from the other aisle.

“How much is the toy horse, Mr. Parnorsham?” called Senta.

“It’s a toy pony and it’s five pfennigs.  Oh, by the way Miss Lusk, I just got in some more tins of butter biscuits.  I know how much you like them.”

“Yes I’ll take one of those too.”

“Just one?”

“Just one,” she peered around the aisle at Senta and whispered loudly.  “I won’t need that bustle if I keep eating these.  Aren’t you a bit old for a toy pony?”

“It’s for Bessemer.  He’s been playing with my doll lately and I’m afraid he’s going to bite her head off.”

“Do you have five pfennigs?”

“Yeah.  I just don’t know if I want to spend them.  I guess I will though.”  She picked up the wooden pony and brought it to the counter.

“That will be seventy five P, Miss Lusk.”

“We’ll have two of those as well,” said Miss Lusk, pointing at a large framed picture of a brown bottle emblazoned with the words “Billingbow’s Original Sarsaparilla and Wintergreen Soda Water.”  Then she winked again at Senta.

“Well that will bring you total to ninety seven P.”

Miss Lusk reached daintily into her bosom and withdrew a small roll of paper banknotes of which she peeled off a single one mark note and held it out.  Mr. Parnorsham looked at it for a long moment as if not sure whether it was appropriate for him to touch something that had just come from within a young woman’s garments.  Finally he took it by the very corner and carrying it carefully, as though he thought it might spontaneously combust, he placed it in the cash box, and withdrew three copper pfennigs change, which, now overwhelmed by the idea of more intimate physical contact, he placed on the counter instead of in Miss Lusk’s hand.

He turned around and pulled two Billingbow’s from the ice box and set them next to the other purchases and then turned his attention to Senta.

“Five P.”

Egeria Lusk is a character who appears a relatively small amount in each of the books, but is never the less important for the plot.  She was in part inspired by the historic Ada Lovelace and Lovelace was her name in the draft.  She's also sort of a combination of two of my favorite aunts.

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