21 July, 2013 by katelaity
Despite Mme. Gabor’s misgivings it was soon settled that the Rochesters, père et fille, would lodge in the rooms while they attended the Exposition and Signor Romano would share the alchemist’s rooms with him and Eduardo.
“I hope you are not alarmed by strange smells,” Maggiormente said with great politeness to the pilot, who shrugged.
“There are always compromises to life,” Romano said philosophically. “We shall have to seek out food from our homeland. If we can succeed that will make any inconvenience a trifle.”
Maggiormente was reassured. And hungry. The artichokes of Rome haunted his dreams.
As they unpacked their belongings in the rooms below, Helen and her father argued.
“I forbid it!” Her father harrumphed in a most peremptory way.
It had no effect on his daughter, as usual. “You cannot forbid me, papa. I am going to accept this challenge. I thought you were eager for me to do so.”
He made an irritated sound that ranged somewhere between a sigh and an oath. “I have since checked my enthusiasm with thoughts of what your mother would say if I were to return to England without her daughter.”
Helen laughed. “Mama would never turn you away for any cause. I have known that since childhood.” She marveled again at the depth of feeling between her parents and felt a stab of emotion, wishing her mother could have joined them, then feeling another strange emotion that had pricked her heart for the first time that day.
However, she was in no mood to countenance that thought.
“Nonetheless, I would have to rough out the rest of my declining years in some horrid hotel in Montmartre like a dissolute mountebank.” Warming to the topic, he brushed Tuppence aside from where she perched on the wardrobe to put away his shirts. He was missing the attentions of his valet particularly that night, which put him additionally out of sorts for it was the kind of thing that he considered beneath him while also taking it for granted.
He hardly wanted to think of himself as some kind of cosseted houseplant, fit only for the tender greenhouse, but he had become accustomed to the comforts of his home and the quiet grace of his wife. While he was loath to admit it, he was homesick.
Thus his mood darkened as he did his best to conceal such thoughts from himself.
The following day they were both cranky and out of sorts, but the early knock on their door turned out to be Adèle with some freshly baked rolls and creamy butter and jam. “I thought you would have no breakfast and I knew you would need some.”
“Oh, how very kind!” Helen clapped her hands with glee, hoping that her father’s mood would likewise improve as hers did at the sight of a friendly face and the golden bread.
A strange sound that was not quite a knock echoed from the door. Helen opened it to find Eduardo.
“Is there anything you require, signorina?” he asked while craning his neck toward the table where the rolls lay. His flaring nostrils were a bit of a giveaway. Helen tried not to smile too openly.
“Will you join us for some breakfast, if you have not had any yet?” Helen offered, waving him in.
Eduardo bowed. “I have had only one, er, bite,” he said looking up at Tuppence with a strange expression of what seemed very close to embarrassment.
Helen leaned in close to him. “If you have been snacking on pigeons, do not worry about upsetting my bird. She considers them to hardly be the same species. Is that not right, my girl?”
Tuppence flew down and gave a series of croaks and clicks that expressed her opinion quite eloquently even to those who could not understand her language. The two of them began to chatter together as comfortably as old friends as they shared a roll Helen offered them.
“It is quite remarkable,” Adèle said, shaking her head. “I would never have believed Eddie befriending a bird of any kind.”
“She is a rara avis indeed.” Helen smiled. There was another knock at the door and she turned to open it and found the alchemist and the pilot.
“We have come to ask if you need—” Maggiormente looked nonplussed to see that not only had Eduardo got there first but that his plans to bring breakfast had been superceded. “Ah, I see you have some lovely breakfast already.”
“Adèle has been most kind to anticipate our needs,” Helen said, but noticing the alchemist’s crestfallen look she added, “Although I would not say no to some tea or coffee if we could get it.”
“Ah!” Maggiormente’s face brightened at once. “I have just the thing!” He turned at once and bounded away and up the stairs, leaving them all a bit surprised.