Tuesdays appear to be my writing days. 800 words, woo. :) And I get to introduce Nathaniel and Algernon, which I've been waiting for.
“Good morning,” the man said cheerfully. He looked around. “Ah, it’s a bookshop!”
“Oh dear,” Eliza said. “Has the sign fallen down?”
“Thank you, Miss Carroll,” Nathaniel said. “I believe that will be all.”
But the man was laughing, and he tipped his hat to Eliza. “No, no, don’t send her off, she’s quite right to chide,” he said. “I don’t read signs as a rule. Nor street signs. I simply wander where my fancy takes me.”
“Then we’re pleased your fancy has brought you to Carroll and Company,” Nathaniel said smoothly. “How may I assist you this morning?”
“An excellent question, Mr. And-company,” the man said.
“I beg your pardon?”
“If the lovely young lady is Miss Carroll—” Another tip of the hat, and Eliza actually turned pink and giggled. Nathaniel couldn’t keep from grinning. “—then you must be Mr. And-company. Bit of a peculiar name but I’ve heard stranger.”
Nathaniel had a moment of wondering whether he had somehow become the butt of the joke, but the stranger’s manner was so genial that he couldn’t resist playing along. He made as flamboyant a bow as he could manage from atop the rickety stool. “I have the honor to be Mr. Nathaniel Axton, at your service, sir.”
“Ah! Now that rolls trippingly off the tongue. Good English name, Axton. And I am Mr. Algernon Smythe.” He winced. “Sorry, Sir Algernon Smythe. The ‘sir’ is a bit new and I keep forgetting. As for how you might assist me, I haven’t the foggiest. Mind if I look around to see what you’ve got? I’m just back from several years in the Canadas and have lost all sense of literary fashions.”
Nathaniel does get to banter too, later on. It's just that Eliza and Algernon are both natural wits, and Nathaniel... has other talents.
I'll probably stop posting excerpts at some point but I'm just enjoying this too much not to share it. :)