Professor Everett carried his youngest to the living room. The front door opened before he could reach it. Prudence stepped in, followed by a familiar young man and an elderly stranger.
"Hey, Dad, guess who I ran into at the gas station!" Prudence called out.
"Max!" The professor smiled at his nephew.
"Hi, Uncle Harold. Hey, Charlie, the last time I saw you, you were just learning how to walk."
"Is it okay if they stay for dinner?" asked Prudence.
"Your mother already told your sister to set two extra places at the table, and she made enough for an army. I guess she was expecting them."
One white eyebrow rose on McAllister's weathered face.
"Uncle Harold, this is my teacher, John Peter McAllister. Professor Harold Everett," Max introduced. "And my cousin, Charlie."
The two men shook hands.
"Max, darling, I thought I heard your voice." Phoebe came into the living room, Amaryllis tagging along behind her. She walked up to Max and presented her cheek for kissing. He obliged her.
"Aunt Phoebe, John McAllister."
McAllister took her hand and kissed it. "Mrs. Everett."
She smiled, but did not appear in the least flustered or overwhelmed by the gesture. She accepted it matter of factly, as if she'd been receiving such courtesies since she left the schoolroom. Perhaps, given the birth date listed on her passport, she had. **
"And my other cousin, Amaryllis," Max continued.
McAllister nodded politely.
"Hullo," the girl said shyly, a very slight British accent coloring her vowels.
"Max, you are not taking Henry to the table," Phoebe informed him. Upon hearing his name, the hamster poked his head up out of Max's shirt pocket. "Amaryllis, see if you can find an old cage or terrarium for him."
"Shouldn't be a problem," the professor muttered under his breath. Over the years, his offspring had collected a veritable menagerie: dogs, cats, gerbils, guinea pigs, goats, snakes, chickens, and finches. Finding a cage whose previous inhabitant had gone to the Great Pet Shop in the Sky should be fairly easy.
"I didn't want to just leave him in the car," Max explained.
"Of course not," she agreed. "Dinner will be ready in just a few minutes. You just have time to wash up. Max, show Mr. McAllister where the lavatory is, will you?"
"Yes, Aunt Phoebe."
The professor poured four glasses of red wine for the adults, while his wife poured milk for Prudence, Amaryllis, and Charlie.
Prudence pointed out, "I am nineteen now, Dad."
"And when you're twenty-one, you may have wine. Until then, milk, water, or soda," her father asserted.
"I must be the only student on campus without a fake ID," Prudence muttered.
"The problem of being a professor's daughter," Professor Everett commiserated. "Everyone knows who you are." He sat down.
"What do you teach?" McAllister inquired politely.
"Mathematics." The professor helped himself to a good-sized chunk of meat, then spooned some vegetables onto his plate.
"And did I hear Max say that you were also a teacher?" Phoebe asked.
"He's my sensei," Max replied.
"Sensei?" Amaryllis repeated.
"A martial arts instructor," her mother clarified.
"My goal is teaching discipline. Martial arts is merely the method by which I attempt to achieve that goal," the old man explained. He took a bite of pot roast. "Delicious."
"He's trying to un-wild me," Max translated.
"Civilizing Max is a job in and of itself," the professor teased.
His blue eyes twinkling, McAllister agreed, "Let's just say he's been one of my more challenging students."
"What is this, pick on Max day? How are the boys doing?" Max changed the subject. He cut his meat. It was so tender he probably could have used just his fork instead of his knife, but he wouldn't have dared using anything other than his best table manners in front of Aunt Phoebe, any more than he would have dared saying 'ain't' in front of her.
"Very well," she said with maternal pride. "Hal is at MIT, doing his post-doctoral research."
"Astrophysics," the professor added.
"And Lieutenant Butch," she pronounced it 'leftenent' in the British style, "is at March Air Force Base in Riverside. Close enough for him to come visit when he has a weekend pass."
"What about you, Pru? Have you picked a major yet or are you still undeclared?" Max asked. Before he had dropped out of college, that had been his major. He knew the largest major on most college campuses was 'undeclared.'
Prudence finished chewing a mouthful of carrot before replying, "I'm a TCF major."
"TCF?" McAllister repeated.
"Telecommunications and film," the young blonde said.
The clarification didn't clear things up for McAllister; he still had no idea what Prudence was talking about. Hiding his confusion, he asked, "And how are you liking that?"
"Oh, it's great," she replied.
"Gonna be the next Spielberg?" Max asked. He speared a chunk of potato with his fork.
Prudence shook her head. "I'm more interested in the TV end of things."
"Think Walter Cronkite rather than Leni Riefenstahl," her father advised his guests.
"Think Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show," Prudence countered. "Behind the scenes, not in front of the camera."
Having lived in Japan for the past forty years, McAllister wasn't familiar with The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
"So what brings you to town?" Professor Everett asked. "Do you have time to stay after dinner and visit a bit? Or do you need to eat and run?"
Max glanced at his sensei. Finding Teri was McAllister's quest; it was up to him to set the conditions and schedule. Max was just the chauffeur.
"You can stay in Hal and Butch's old room," Phoebe offered, "if you don't mind sharing."
McAllister nodded his consent. "We can spare a few hours. You haven't seen your family in a while." And staying in Max's cousins' room would save them the expense of a motel room, or the discomfort of sleeping in the van.
"You haven't seen yours in longer," Max countered uncertainly. His tentative tone made it clear he was perfectly willing to be overruled. He wanted to spend some time with his relatives, but finding Teri was more important.
"A few hours won't make a major difference," McAllister assured his student. He turned back to Max's uncle. "I'm in California on family business. I'm trying to catch up with my daughter."
He didn't bother mentioning that he had never met Teri, nor that he had been unaware of her existence until a few months ago, when she sent a letter to Japan begging for help. He was afraid it would embarrass Max's aunt if he admitted that he and Teri's mother had never been married. Instead, he turned the conversation with a question about Max's childhood.
Prudence gleefully started tattling about some mischief Hal, Butch, Max, and his brother Jimmy had gotten into over a decade ago. Max started offering extenuating circumstances. Reminisces flew like arrows. Amaryllis listened with delight to the high jinks of her half-brothers and cousins from before she was born. McAllister smiled; it was the first time he'd heard Max speak of Jimmy without grief in his voice.
"More, please," Charlie asked.
Phoebe cut some more meat for him. She scooped up some vegetables and cut them into bite size pieces before placing them on Charlie's plate.
"Thank you, Mummy." Charlie glanced out the window. The light was beginning to fade, but the sky was still clear. "Brolly," he declared.
"Quite right," Phoebe told her son. "Cousin Max and his friend will need an umbrella. You will be careful on the wet roads, won't you, dear?"
"There's no rain forecast," McAllister protested.
"Not here, no," she agreed. "But they are expecting rain in Crestridge tomorrow."
"What's in Crestridge?" Amaryllis asked.
"That's where Teri is," Phoebe explained nonchalantly.
McAllister looked up, stunned. He hadn't mentioned his daughter's name.
"More turnips, Mr. McAllister?" Phoebe asked.
Author's Note: As a Master story, the ending is admittedly unsatisfactory. However, it is a typical ending to a Nanny and the Professor story. The fact that it sets things up for Max and the Master to go to Crestridge, CA next, home of Matthew Star and his guardian Walter Shepherd is pure coincidence. Okay, maybe impure coincidence.
** According to her passport, which the children found in the episode How Many Candles?, Phoebe Figalilly was born April 18, 1864 in Macau, China