1 September, 2013 by katelaity
As Maggiormente handed a croissant to Helen with a small bow, raised voices echoed up from the floor below. The alchemist and the airship captain remained oblivious to the sounds, but Tuppence cocked her head with clear attention. She let out a series of coughing sounds.
Helen did notice that. “What did you say, Tuppence?”
The bird repeated the sounds again with patient precision.
Helen gaped at her. “Surely not. You’ve got to be mistaken why he’s supposed to be…” Then she checked herself. They hadn’t actually been sure about his location.
“What the devil is that bird croaking about now?” Her father wouldn’t have wanted to admit to it but the alchemist’s coffee had quite perked up his mood, which he of course took pains to cover with extra helpings of gruffness.
“She’s heard a familiar voice,” Helen said, setting down her drink and walking to the door.
Before she could get to it, however, a loud knocking came and a peremptory voice demanded, “Where are the Rochesters?”
Helen gave a little gasp of surprise and threw the door open to reveal a handsome young man and the very aggrieved face of Mme. Gabor who had clearly done her best to halt the persuasive interloper.
“Neddy!” Helen threw her arms around the young man and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and the two danced around together.
It was hard to say who looked more ready to explode: Helen’s father or Maggiormente, for both looked at the young man with something approaching murderous intent. The alchemist recovered first, realizing that he had little reason to make any claim on the lady’s affections.
Rochester, on the other hand, felt his anger expand ever further the longer the two embraced happily, oblivious to his mood. “The prodigal returns,” he said at last when the two finally stepped apart.
“Oh, Papa!” Helen admonished with a laugh.
“Hello, Papa,” the young man said.
Maggiormente looked from the older man to the younger. The family resemblance was strong, including the haughty eyes and the strong nose. If he had missed it before it was only due to the fog of his unexpected emotional reaction.
“‘Hello, Papa,'” Rochester mimicked his son. “Is that all you’ve got to say to me?”
Helen ignored her father and led the young man over to her friend. “Signor Maggiormente, please let me introduce you to my brother, Edmund.”
The alchemist grabbed the young man’s hand and shook it with great enthusiasm. His grin stretched so broadly that one might be forgiven for worrying that the top of his head might just pop off. “Your brother! How wonderful. Wonderful indeed. So pleased to meet you.”
“And you, sir, as well,” Edmund said, doing his best to extricate his hand from the mighty grip.
“We didn’t know you were in Paris, Neddy.” Helen grinned happily.
“I was waylaid on the way to Köln,” Edmund said laughing with a little nervousness. He had not yet met his father’s eye.
“I hope it was not a band of roving gamblers,” his father said, “Or I’d suspect they would have taken off with the rest of your money.”
“Papa, I haven’t lost all my money. In fact, I think I’ve been rather frugal so far.”
“Debauching doesn’t come cheap even in Paris,” his father growled. He was seething for something of a fight, it was apparent to everyone in the room. Only Helen knew how far back the sparring went, but the other could sense the explosion that was building.
“Papa, I don’t know why you insist on painting me in such an unflattering light,” Edmund said with decided calmness. “I have had far less experience with that kind of life than you think. Far less than you, so I hear.”
If he thought to put off the rising anger of the pater familias that was not the right tack to take. If anything, it made the older man bristle with even more. “You insolent pup!”
“Papa,” Helen soothed. “Let’s not lose our temper.”
“You can do as you like my girl. I shall lose my temper whenever the situation requires it and this situation certainly does.”
“You won’t say that when I tell you my news,” Edmund said with a look of considerable smugness.