“Have you done all this?” Edmund asked, moving from one colorful artifact to another.
“Why yes,” Kolb beamed, his face glowing with pride. “I have traveled the world doing incredible things, only to return home to tell the tales of my exploits, for a nominal fee, of course. Would you like to hear a tale of adventure from across the globe? How about my exciting escape from the Evil Earl of Edinburgh? Or how about my heart-stopping hunt for the heathen hierophant of Hung-Hung, high in the Himalayas? Or perhaps my miraculous meeting with the marvelous magician of the Malaysian Maharaja?”
“I don’t think so,” Edmund said, finally tearing his gaze away from the colorful pictures.
“Oh?” Kolb looked a little worried. “Not my romantic rendezvous in the Red Rotunda of Russia, I hope? I would think you are a little too young for that one…”
“No,” Edmund shook his head, looking for a place to put the tray down. “I think I’d better just give you the tray and leave you alone.”
“Master Edmund!” Kolb looked shocked. “I hope you don’t take my inclination to ingest my meals independently of my fellow individuals as some sort of indictment of your company! I would love to have you as a guest for lunch! You could share my soup!”
“I already ate,” Edmund lied. He desperately wanted to get back to the kitchen, eat his lunch, and then see if he could find a new place to sit and read before supper.
“I insist!” Kolb’s arms swept about him like a gust of wind, and lifted the tray away from Edmund’s grasp. He shoved a small pile of leaflets off of a nearby side-table, and set the tray down, dipping a slice of toasted bread into the soup and stuffing it into his mouth in a smooth circular motion. “Mmm… You quite simply cannot allow me to fall upon this fine food without a friendly face to facilitate my feast.”
“Why do you talk like that?” Edmund asked, in spite of himself. Kolb reminded Edmund of a street-vendor who had set up shop outside the orphanage one spring. Once he had decided you were his target he wouldn’t let you walk away without a sale, and there was no amount of nay-saying he would accept.
Kolb’s smile widened. “We none of us can help how we are made, Master Edmund,” he gave a stiff bow. “While I am proud to count myself among the Moulde family through my dear late-wife, I am also glad to say I was passed by when the Mouldes were given stiff spines and strained sphincters. No, I was blessed, as a Popomus, with the gift of gab, the prize of perspicacity, the virtue of vocabulary, and the essence of elocution. I am a story-teller, my fine Master Edmund, and I cannot be a good one if I have a fear of my own voice.”
“But Wislydale talks as much as you do,” Edmund countered, crossing his arms. “He still doesn’t sound like you.”
“The most damning of all faint praise,” Kolb winked.