27 April, 2014 by katelaity
The lion kept his head down in the bowl as he licked the last of the wine with a decadent luxuriousness. Eduardo would sleep very soon whether he wanted to do so or not, though he well knew the risk of falling asleep in the bakery with young Brigitte at hand.
He did not mind a certain amount of plaiting but he would draw the line at ribbons. Well, if he were still awake he would.
The alchemist watched the eyelids droop on his familiar as he gradually lost the battle with sleep. It distracted him from thoughts he found less comfortable, but when the little girl went in for the kill, so to speak, he gave up as there was less entertainment to be had from watching the child weave ribbons of various colours into the plaits on the lion’s mane.
Although he would be amused again later when Eduardo would demand their removal once he saw them.
“Is it not true, signore?”
Maggiormente looked up, startled. “Scusi?” His face blushed pink with embarrassment once more.
“You have every confidence that the compound will offer greater power without the bulk of traditional fuel, is that not the case?” Miss Rochester smiled with encouragement. It was a delightful expression upon her handsome face.
The thought flustered the alchemist further. “Yes, yes, that is the plan, that is rather—the thing is I am trying to say, the fuel is—vogliodire—” He stumbled over his words and found it difficult to recover himself again.
“It is lighter than kerosene, is it not?”
“Oh, most definitely. And oil of the whale? Some people use that, am I not right?” Maggiormente worried that he had got hold of the wrong end of the stick again. Was it whale oil or was he mixing things up again? It wasn’t like good old alchemy with its clear qualities and predictable results.
Well, except when you struck off in a new direction to try new combinations. Then things were a little less predictable but a lot more fun. Until you need results that is, Maggiormente paused to think.
“And much lighter than coal. Imagine,” Helen said turning back to her brother and father. Imagine trying to bring enough coal to fuel an airship for even a short journey. You would have to fill the gondola!”
“Ridiculous,” her father harrumphed. “Besides you’d end up looking like a Welsh miner. Which would be rather more ridiculous.”
Helen beamed. Her father’s good humour seemed to fire her own confidence. Maggiormente could tell the young woman had much of her father’s temper as far as courage and determination went, though she seemed rather more tractable in general than her hot-headed father. He rather reminded Maggiormente of his fiery uncle who had terrified him as a small child and who could yet prove a challenging man in debate over dinner, when they chanced to meet.
He wondered what her mother was like. He gathered that the ship had been named in her honour. The alchemist remembered Eduardo’s implication about visiting England and felt a surge of excitement mixed with abashed embarrassment. I must not let my mind skip ahead. First, the fuel!
“My fuel shall prove economical, dependable, aromatic and precise.” Maggiormente paused. “That is not the word, is it? How should I say—compact? Is that better?”
“Compact is good. Light also, or am I mistaken? It takes up little space but also weighs very little,” Miss Rochester said with a most encouraging smile. “Both considerations are important in an airship.”
“I endeavour to meet your every expectation, signorina. I have worked long and hard to make it so.” Maggiormente could feel the sheen of sweat on his brow for which he blamed the red wine and went to surreptitiously push the glass a bit further from himself to avoid drinking more, but he managed to upset the glass instead, pouring a good portion of it onto the table before he could spring up and right the glass, which managed to spill a good portion back toward him as well—all of which left him more flustered than before.
“I am most delighted, signore. I expect it will all be wonderful.”
“Just don’t let him pour the wine,” Mr Rochester muttered, greatly amused at the Italian’s anxious movements.
“You’re not going to be flying in the ship during the race, are you, monsieur?” Edward asked the alchemist. Clearly he thought the man would make a poor passenger for the trip.
“I shall be delighted to ride along for the trial, but I imagine the race should have no extra passengers,” Maggiormente said with an attempt to restore his dignity.