30 June, 2013 by katelaity
With much kerfuffle and chaos the party made their way to the bakery, where Alain and Adèle shooed out their remaining customers as their guests made themselves comfortable around the tables, except for Eduardo who was somewhat distracted by little Brigitte’s squeals of delight as she hugged him with evident excitement.
“Eddie!” she repeated with gushing admiration. The lion tried to maintain his decorum in the midst of her wild embrace, but found it difficult as her little fingers dug into his mane.
Helen Rochester watched the two of them carefully, unable to completely feel at ease with the wee girl so near to such imposing teeth, but it was quickly apparent that the great beast had nothing but indulgence for his eager admirer.
“Would you credit it?” her father ventured to murmur in her ear. “What a risk they’re taking with that creature.”
“Nonsense,” Helen said, feeling every confidence in her assessment. “I think Eduardo would be deeply offended at the suggestion that he would hurt such a tender young thing. I suspect beyond the occasional pigeon, no one need fear much from him despite the teeth and claws. He is far too elegant a creature.” The latter words came out a bit louder than she planned, but that was all the better.
Eduardo looked up and she could swear that he swelled ever so slightly with pride at her recognition.
“So this is the famous airship captain?” Adèle smiled shyly and offered a glass of champagne to Helen and then her father. “We have heard so much about your expected arrival.”
“Yes,” her husband agreed, throwing an arm about her waist. “But I must say we did not expect such a handsome young woman to be she.”
Helen’s father raised a severe eyebrow. “What did you expect?”
Alain and Adèle laughed and exchanged a look. “I’m not entirely certain, monsieur,” she said after flushing a little, “but perhaps someone as—shall we say—unique as our friend Maggiormente.”
Helen laughed. “Is he?”
“What are you saying about me?” The alchemist heard the latter part and had no idea to what it was in reference, but he blushed anyway, feeling more than a little sensitive, which only made him feel more of an awkward giant among the petite French people and the reserved Englishwoman and her somewhat imposing father. “I hope nothing misleading!”
“No, no, nothing misleading,” Alain patted his arm and refilled his glass. “We are only too delighted to meet the famous airship captain and to find her exquisite.”
The alchemist tried to bow with something resembling precision and managed to spill some of the champagne on the floor before him. He almost used his boot to wipe up the wine, then decided that would look boorish and called for Eduardo. “Would you be so kind,” he implored the lion, who gave him a baleful stare.
“Do I not get a bowl?” He looked indignant and the alchemist felt another flush of embarrassment fill his cheeks as his familiar regarded him with a haughty mien.
“Yes, yes, but you could be helpful here,” he smiled at Mademoiselle Rochester and felt keenly how penetrating her gaze was, so like her father’s although much more pleasant to look upon. You silly fool, stop embarrassing yourself!
“Does your lion enjoy wine?” She smiled up at him with a warm expression that made the alchemist feel like a volatile concoction over the flame. “How very extraordinary.”
“I have been drinking wine since I was no more than a cub,” Eduardo boasted, nodding with approval as the baker set a bowl before him and splashed some champagne into its depths.
“I hope this will not give Belial some ideas,” Helen said with her father with a grin. “I don’t think he would maintain the same composure as M. Eduardo here.”
“I shudder to think,” her father said over his glass, but he offered an almost unwilling smile, too, so there was no doubt he was greatly amused.
“But what of the challenge?” Alain broke in. “Will this happen at once?”
“Challenge?” Gustave looked up from his wine with something like alarm. “Is there to be a duel? Not on Saturday I hope.”
“Not a duel, but a race—is that not so?” Maggiormente said looking over at the lovely captain, but looking away just as quickly as he swallowed, then took another mouthful of wine.
“Indeed, we have a challenge and I am determined that we shall win. We will have to give M. Maggiormente’s new fuel a proper try, but even without it, I would be more than confident of our success.”
Tuppence croaked from her perch on a chair near the counter.
“Quite right, my bird,” Helen said, throwing a piece of cake into the air for the bird to catch. “We will sail ahead of them like the raven before the sparrow!”