9.3 In the Garden

25 November, 2012 by katelaity

Her father appeared to mull it over for a moment, then gave a curt nod before breaking into a wide grin. “That will be a lucky name for sure.”

Helen clapped her hands together in delight. “I shall have to get someone to paint it on the hull as they do for sailing ships.”

“Get an Englishman,” her father muttered.

Helen ignored him. “Mme. Belcoeur, I am so grateful to you for sparking that idea.” She wring the woman’s hand with vigor.

“I am glad to have been of some small help. Could I ask a boon in return? That I get an exclusive interview with the voyagers? M. Belcoeur and I would be happy to share dinner with you.”

Helen found the prospect delightful. “If we can send some food to Signor Romano, we can leave him here in charge of the ship.”

“We could leave at once. My carriage is nearby.”

She conferred with Signor Romano, who had already been introduced with enthusiasm to a family of Milanese folk who were visiting Paris and who had already planned a sort of meal al fresco with the pilot. He waved Helen and her father off cheerily, already deep in conversation with his new friends.

Helen suggested to Tuppence that she ride on top of the carriage. The bird looked the driver up and down with care, then hopped up top and sauntered back and forth as if to ascertain its solidity. The three of them got inside, Helen’s father gallantly helping the ladies then climbing up himself. Helen was pleased to see that he managed the steps without discernable stiffness in his leg.

She would write her mother that night and say what a success the trip had been so far.

Arriving at the Belcoeur villa in a short while, Helen’s father raised an eyebrow as he examined the façade of the dainty building. “Can you smell the money?” he whispered to his daughter as he helped her out of the carriage after their hostess.

“Papa!” she hissed.

He paid her no attention, but made an exaggerated bow to Mme. Belcoeur. “I see we are traveling in rare circles, madame.”

Mme. Belcoeur laughed. “I was a shopgirl who married well, monsieur. I do not stand on ceremony. I have learned to play the elegant hostess for my husband, but I have kept my own independent spirit.” She threw her head back with a laugh and it was easy to see the saucy young woman who could draw any eye.

“I’m a Yorkshireman. We’re not impressed with much and we don’t go for a lot of folderol either.” Helen’s father stood a little taller, unable to quite look both proud and humble at the same time, he decided on proud.

“We shall get along famously then,” Mme. Belcoeur said decidedly. “Halo, Maurice,” she said to the servant who opened the door with a bow. “Is Monsiuer expected home anytime soon?”

“No, madame. Henri said he would be in the office all afternoon.”

“Oh, that will not do. Send one of the boys to the office to say we have guests for supper—and I have an exclusive for the paper.” Mme. Belcoeur looked quite like the cat with the cream.

Helen could not imagine much excitement surrounding herself, but as Tuppence landed on her shoulder she thought about the eager crowd around the ship and began to reconsider.

“Would your bird be comfortable inside?” her hostess asked? If not, there is a fine garden behind the house. If it stays this comfortable, we shall take tea there.”

What a thoughtful woman! “Did you hear that Tuppence? Would you like to fly over to the garden behind this house?” The bird took wing at once, ready to explore.

“How marvelous to know the language of birds!” Mme. Belcoeur showed them the way through the foyer and into the corridor past a rather lovely small library, which Helen’s father regarded with interest.

“Well, I wouldn’t say the language of birds so much as the conversations of one bird,” Helen said shrugging. “I have had Tuppence around me since I was young. We understand one another uncommonly well.”

“Uncannily well,” Helen’s father growled as they stepped through the glass doors opened by another pair of servants and into a rather ornate and somewhat fussy garden.

“Papa,” Helen said out of habit, then sat at the little metal table as Tuppence flew down to her shoulder.

“Now I shall have to ask you about this vicious rivalry of which I have heard,” Mme. Belcoeur said with evident interest.

“Rivalry?!”

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