"Is that who I think it is?" she said to Aunt Zelda.
Aunt Zelda was much shorter than Marcia and had no idea who Marcia was staring at, but she did not want to admit it. "Possibly," she said.
"The trouble with you Witches, Zelda," said Marcia, "is that you never give a straight answer to a straight question."
"And the trouble with you Wizards, Marcia, is that you make such sweeping generalizations," snapped Aunt Zelda. "Now excuse me. I want to get to the front. I want to make sure Wolf Boy really is safe."
Aunt Zelda pushed her way forward through the crowd while Marcia quickly made her way to the back, the crowd respectfully parting for the ExtraOrdinary Wizard. Simon Heap saw her coming, but he stood his ground. There was no way he was going to walk away from seeing his Lucy and asking her if she still wanted to be with him – not even Marcia Overstrand could make him do that.
"Simon Heap," said Marcia, striding up to him. "What are you doing here?"
"I’m waiting for Lucy," said Simon. "I’ve heard she’s on board."
"She is indeed on board," said Marcia.
"She is?" Simon’s face lit up.
"There’s no point hanging around here," said Marcia.
"I’m sorry, Marcia," said Simon, politely but very definitely. "I’m not leaving."
"I should hope not," said Marcia – then, to Simon’s amazement, she smiled. "You get yourself right to the front. You don’t want to miss her."
"Oh! Well, thank you. I…yes, I will."
Marcia watched Simon Heap disappear into the crowd. Suddenly a loud voice came from the ship. "Marcia!" Milo had spotted the distinctive purple robes. The gangplank was lowered and the crowd cleared a path for Milo, who, resplendent in a new set of dark red robes liberally trimmed with gold, cut an impressive figure. He reached Marcia, bowed dramatically and kissed her hand – to the sound of some cheers and some desultory clapping from the crowd.
Jenna watched from the Cerys. "Oh, he is so embarrassing," she said. "Why can’t he just be like a normal person – why can’t he just be…okay?"
"You know, Jen," said Septimus, "just because Milo isn’t how you think he should be, doesn’t mean he isn’t okay. It’s just that he’s okay in a Milo kind of way."
"Hmm," said Jenna, not entirely convinced.
Milo was leading Marcia toward the Cerys. "Do come aboard. I have a most precious cargo to show you."
"Thank you, Milo," Marcia replied. "I have arranged for the precious cargo to be taken straight to the Sealed Room in the Wizard Tower, where it will remain indefinitely. Mr. Knee here will be in charge of it."
Milo looked dumbfounded. "B-but – " he stammered. There was a yellow flash, a faint pop and the distinctive shape of Jim Knee materialized. He bowed to Milo and walked serenely up the gangplank of the Cerys, where he was nearly knocked over by Lucy Gringe as she hurtled down, braids flying. "Simon!" Lucy was yelling. "Oh, Si!"
From the back of the crowd two late arrivals pushed forward.
"Silas, why are we always late?" puffed Sarah. "Oh look – there he is. Nicko, Nicko!"
Nicko stood at the top of the gangplank, looking out for his parents, ready to meet them at last. "Mum! Dad! Hey!"
"Oh, come on, Silas, do," said Sarah.
"Oh, my…oh, Sarah, he looks so grown up."
"He’s older, Silas. An awful lot older, if you believe what they say."
As the hubbub died down, on the quayside a rat stood holding a sign, which read:
SICK OF SEASICKNESS?
BORED WITH BISCUITS?
WEARY OF WEEVILS?
COME TO THE CASTLE AND BE A MESSAGE RAT!
Apply at this notice. Ask for Stanley.
And for once, the rat was doing good business.