13 April, 2014 by katelaity
“That was awkward.” Helen sighed as she threw herself down into a chair. Her cheeks were pink with lingering embarrassment from the stilted conversations over the meal. Lunch had never been such an ordeal at any time in her memory—even including the worst days of the wrangling between Mrs Hitchcock and Fairfax when the latter decided to tell her how she should be cooking the meat for their meals.
Only the most delicate negotiations on behalf of their mother were able to restore equanimity to the family table, though their housekeeper continued to give the eldest son baleful glances until he took himself off for a long visit with a chum.
Helen’s father on the other hand, positively glowed. “Awkward? Nonsense! A fine meal, a fine one.” He also threw himself down into a chair but it was with considerable pleasure—and force. Adèle looked on with some concern.
They had returned to the bakery after their adventures, perhaps unsurprisingly, a magnanimous Alain beckoning them all to the comfortable shop to repair the mood of some and maintain the high spirits of Rochester père and Eduardo, who paid no attention to the human conversation and busied himself with devouring as much of the luncheon as he might.
Now he looked forward to a little wine and then a nap. Surely the alchemist could not need him any further.
The alchemist in question was yet rather agitated, both for reasons he well knew, some he could almost admit and a few he had not yet realised.
Specifically, he was excited about the demonstration of the fuel, he was eager to have success but—from long practice—prepared for failure and more tinkering. Yet he was even more eager to prove himself to Miss Rochester, for far from some British matron with an umbrella and a small dog (why, oh why had he pictured that? Maggiormente could not really say. Perhaps it was a painting he remembered.)
Of course Miss Rochester’s father made that need to succeed even more important and quite possibly even more nerve-wracking. The alchemist was unaffected by the idea of failure in general. One could not succeed without a good deal of defeat first if a thing were to be worth doing, it must be a triumph.
Triumph did not come without error and mistakes. The immortal da Vinci said it best: Life is simple. You try many things, most fail.
And what else did he say? Maggiormente frowned. When you do succeed, others quickly copy it. Maggiormente saw the Lintons in this light. He felt scorn but something more—a kind of pity.
Until he thought on his lady and their attempts to imitate her and then he felt a fury of righteous anger on her behalf even though it was more or less the same process. He could be sanguine about his own developments being appropriated by others, but he could not be about hers.
She was sublime!
“Are we to have some wine, I heard it rumoured.” Helen attempted to hush her father but the baker only laughed and brought forth a couple of bottles of his favourite red and the two men began to pour it out for the gathered group.
Maggiormente frowned as he took his glass. Her father was a puzzle and a bit intimidating, he didn’t mind thinking at all though he would be loathe to admit it to the man. The alchemist had an unaccustomed knot in his chest as he suppressed his natural desire to argue forthrightly with the man when he tutted at his daughter, yet he held back and he was unable to say precisely why.
Certainly part of it was that he had only met the man and it seemed impolite to be so direct with English people. They were notoriously rule-bound and he did not wish to get off on the wrong foot by shouting at them as he would a fellow of his land. Those people seemed so easily offended.
And he was her father after all. He did not wish to distress his, ah—patroness?
Maggiormente felt a flush of something acutely similar to embarrassment rise up the back of his neck. Why did his thoughts about her flutter like some bird in the air? Mme. Gabor certainly made him uncomfortable many times, but it was nothing like this. He was conscious of not offending his landlady but he desired only to have her stop her foolish attentions upon him.
He had no desire to have Miss Rochester stop anything. Her every word conveyed sense and intelligence. None had ever given rise to any sense of annoyance in him, in fact quite the reverse and he longed for the others to retire or go away or anything but to leave him the opportunity to sit with her and talk of—of what?
Maggiormente flushed with annoyance at himself. What was wrong with him anyway? He sounded as foolish as Gustave with his poetry.
“And you wonder why that is?” Eduardo said in a surprisingly soft voice as he looked up from his bowl of wine.
The alchemist looked down at his familiar and saw a strange expression on the lion’s face that made him fidget even more uncomfortably.