“Another infusion of tea, Sir?”
Arthur looked up into the sunken eyes of Devadas, the Brass Helmet’s only waiter. Peter Zephren had picked him up on a long expedition to the inner jungles of Asia, and, as the story went, saved his life from a rampaging elephant with a well placed shot to the eyes. Devadas swore to serve Peter for the rest of his life, and followed him as his hand servant for the rest of the journey. When they returned to Britain and built the Brass Helmet, Devadas became the waiter, serving every customer with alacrity and gentlemanly manners that shocked and pleased the patrons, coming from a foreigner.
Of course, Peter Zephren could never hire another waiter. He had resisted for years out of respect and concern for Devadas’s pride, until the increasing business demanded he make the attempt. He hired a young boy by the age of ten to take over the gathering of dishes and wiping of tables, but he only lasted a few days before refusing to return after Devadas had broken his arm with a well placed kick. And that was that. The Brass Helmet only had one waiter, and so it was a place for patience; a place to escape the churning engine of progress and industry.
Arthur flipped open his pocket-watch, glancing at it over his glasses. “I suppose so,” Arthur sighed. “I don’t think I’ll be moving for a while yet. Something a bit less… exotic perhaps?”
Devadas bowed deeply at the waist, his milky brown skin glittering in the gaslight. He pulled a small box from a nearby cart, and flipped it open with a small silver spoon that appeared out of nowhere. Arthur looked with delight at the patchwork array of multicolored leaves in front of him; reds, greens, and purples from all corners of the Empire caressed his nostrils, as he cast his eyes over the carefully compartmentalized box. After a moment, he pointed, and Devadas dipped the spoon into the box, pulling a small pile of crisp red leaves into the dim light. Deftly, he flipped the leaves into Arthur’s cup as the spoon, the box, and Devadas vanished as quickly as they appeared.
Arthur leaned forward, holding the cup under the small metal tap that stuck out of the middle of the table like a small tree. He flipped the small valve at the base, and was greeted with a rapid clicking as the cup filled with boiling water. The gaslight flickered at the top of the tap, and stabilized as Arthur turned the valve off again. Peter would definitely need to get an engineer to take a look at his piping — there had to be some small crack or leak that was releasing the pressure, keeping a steady flow from the gaslight when the water was being heated.
Arthur sipped the tea. Infinitely better, he mused, feeling the soft curls of aromatic steam filter through his sinuses. Sighing contentedly, he returned to his book, with the ticking and whirring gears of Cliffside humming in the background.