Twenty-Five

The witch escorted Spot, Brian, and Mimbleshaw beneath the castle.

"Behold, Your Majesty, the coupon sorting floor," said Mimbleshaw, as the air swarmed with busy fairies and mechanical arms. "As you can see, the coupons are collected in absorbent white cloth and sent to their vendors to be redeemed. That rattle is the sound of one U.S. nickel."

"How fascinating," said Spot. "So many of the robotic arms with infant pacifiers."

"Why, pacifiers are the better to pick up and sort coupons with," said Sweaty Pete.

"And baby diapers?" said Spot. "For the coupon bundles?"

"Why, diapers are the better to bundle coupons with," said Blanche.

"And the rattles?" said Brian.

"Why, rattles are the better to bundle coupons with," said Jadis Belle.

"Mister le Brian?" said Sweaty Pete. "Please don't stand so close to them robotic pacifier fingers."

"Don't stand so close?" said Brian. "If you're afraid they'll break, maybe you should have made them sturdy, hey, let go, I, my clothes, what is this?"

"The sorting machines can change and pacify the many babies," said Spot. "It is very suspicious, no?"

"This is some kind of factory or something," said Brian. "To process babies. For witches. Babies ready to eat."

"I wish," said Little Eva. "I ain't had baby in over a hundred years."

"With all due respect, Your Majesty," said Sweaty Pete. "We coupon fairies like babies. They are adorable and helpless against our resentments. We ain't fixing to give back no baby, Bannister nor otherwise. That baby belongs to us now. And of course happy in her place is Sticky David Pennyfarthing, whom you should not confuse with my other nephew Sticky David de Montaigne."

"That is outrageous," said Mimbleshaw. "Coupon fairies have to be given a baby's name to take it. I gave the fairies no such name. Did you give them the baby's name, Your Majesty?"

"The name of Monsieur le Brian, the strange banana baby?" said Spot. "The wild knock knock jokes cannot drag from me the name of Monsieur le Brian. 'Knock, knock.' 'Who is at the door?' 'Not Monsieur le Brian, so ask not.'"

"You see?" said Mimbleshaw. "And Little Eva."

"I told you I ain't had baby in a century," said Little Eva. "And when I did, I never asked them for no names."

"And you, human," said Mimbleshaw.

"Coupon fairies are allowed to steal and keep a baby?" said Brian. "If someone tells them the baby's name?"

"Oh, for Charles' sake," said Mimbleshaw.

"Where did you get a twisted rule like that from?" said Brian.

"I'm sure that's a smart question," said Sweaty Pete. "For a curious young feller like yourself. But we just don't ask all that many questions about the way things are. We like the way things are."