25 August, 2013 by katelaity
The alchemist returned in a trice, bearing small cups that seemed absurdly so in his big hands. The rough digits were more accustomed to searing chemicals, hot beakers and oil lamps. But he carried the cups with great care and delicacy that even Eduardo noticed.
The lion looked at the alchemist, then looked over at the airship captain. She was a handsome woman with an intelligent face. Her smile for the alchemist was warm and genuine. Her raven, he noticed was also looking curiously at her face and then regarding the alchemist with a searching look.
The two creatures then looked at one another, blinking for a moment. The raven made a sound that was very near a chuckle. The lion smiled. Many might have mistaken the expression for some kind of indication of hunger—the more timid might indeed have shook with a bit of fear—but a smile it was and a sort of shared moment with the bird as they both realised what was in the air.
Fortunately their human counterparts were completely oblivious to it all.
“What’s this?” Helen said with a big smile.
“Pressed caffé, my own invention.” He handed around the tiny cups with great care not to spill a drop of the dark liquid.
Adèle inhaled the aroma with satisfaction. “What have you created, mon cher alchimiste?”
Maggiormente drew in a deep breath as if he would launch into a lengthy explanation, then held up a hand. “Taste first. If you like, I explain. If not, eh. No matter.” He nodded to see if everyone agreed.
The others shrugged at one another and tasted the concoction, Helen with great zeal, Adèle only after inhaling the aroma deeply with relish and Rochester with a good deal of apparent suspicion, though one could be forgiven for thinking it mostly sham.
“Wow, that has quite a kick,” Helen said, eyes wide.
“This needs cake,” Adèle said, nodding sagely. Eduardo muttered his agreement but Tuppence chided him with a series of clicks. The lion sat back on his haunches with an amused look at the raven. He would have to find something to tease the bird about, that much was clear.
“This is like some kind of liquid coal, surely,” Rochester said with a slight cough. “I think men might be sent off to their deaths quite happily fueled on nothing more than this.”
The alchemist frowned at his words, uncertain how to interpret them. “You fear it would kill people? I assure you it is quite safe. Whenever I remember to make it, I am always quite chipper afterward. It is a stimulant to be sure, but harmless, certainly.”
“You might warn people of weaker constitutions,” Rochester muttered.
“Oh,” Maggiormente reached for the gentleman’s cup. “I did not realise you were in a delicate situation!”
“I didn’t say I was,” Helen’s father said, snatching the cup away from his grasp while his daughter hooted with laughter.
“My father is only teasing,” Helen said. “I think he finds it too difficult to say he is impressed with this delicious alchemy. It is is alchemy, isn’t it?”
“Well,” Maggiormente said, still a little nervous, “an accidental sort of alchemy. I was working on a refining process and distracted, I put in coffee instead of gypsum as I intended. But the results smelled very good, so we tried it and voilá! A new treat.”
“I didn’t much care for it.” Eduardo said. “I prefer milk in the morning.”
“I should think milk would make a good addition,” Helen said, nodding. “A little less…stimulating. Although I must say, it is certainly an eye-opener.”
“We could sell this in the café,” Adèle said. “You should discuss it with Alain. I know he would be very interested. Parisians do like their coffee and this caffé presseau—did you call it?—would appeal to real connosieurs.”
“Well, perhaps when I am finished with my work on the airship fuel,” the alchemist said, for once focused on priorities, although delighted with the reception his little experiment achieved, especially the warm glow it brought to Mademoiselle Rochester’s countenance.
He blushed and tried to disguise the fact by making a sudden lunge for a croissant. It would have worked, too, had not Helen decided that she would also get a croissant to distract herself from thinking about how charming this alchemist was in contrast to his rather dry and rambling letters, which while they got around to the topic of fuels eventually, did not suggest there was much else about the man to prove of any interest.
So it was a pleasant surprise to find him so charming.
Odd, true; unconventional, yes. But also quite distinctly charming. Helen smiled. “I am very much looking forward to trying the fuel. I expect it to be every bit the same success.”