“Charmain must do it,” said Aunt Sempronia. “We can’t leave Great-Uncle William to face this on his own.”
“Your Great-Uncle William?” said Mrs. Baker. “Isn't he—” She coughed and lowered her voice because this, to her mind, was not quite nice. “Isn’t he a wizard?”
“Of course,” said Aunt Sempronia. “But he has—” Here she too lowered her voice. “He has a growth, you know, on his insides, and only the elves can help him. They have to carry him off in order to cure him, you see, and someone has to look after his house. Spells, you know, escape if there’s no one there to watch them. And I am far too busy to do it. My stray dogs’ charity alone—”
“Me too. We’re up to our ears in wedding cake orders this month,” Mrs. Baker said hastily. “Sam was saying only this morning—”
“Then it has to be Charmain,” Aunt Sempronia decreed. “Surely she's old enough now.”
Er—” said Mrs. Baker.
They both looked across the parlor to where Mrs. Baker's daughter sat, deep in a book, as usual, with her long, thin body bent into what sunlight came in past Mrs. Baker’s geraniums, her red hair pinned up in a sort of birds’ nest, and her glasses perched on the end of her nose. She held one of her father’s huge juicy pasties in one hand and munched it as she read. Crumbs kept falling on her book, and she brushed them off with the pasty when they fell on the page she was reading.
“Er...did you hear us, dear?” Mrs. Baker said anxiously.
“No,” Charmain said with her mouth full. “What?”
“That’s settled, then,” Aunt Sempronia said. “I’ll leave it to you to explain to her, Berenice, dear.” She stood up, majestically shaking out the folds of her stiff silk dress and then of her silk parasol. “I’ll be back to fetch her tomorrow morning,” she said. “Now I’d better go and tell poor Great-Uncle William that Charmain will be taking care of things for him.”