9 August, 2015 by katelaity
Reader, she married him. Oh, not right away—in fact it took a rather long time for the promised event to happen. The immediate effect of the somewhat confused proposal was a slow reverberation through the crowds surrounding them both until they were hoisted aloft while bottles of champagne popped open all around them.
It was impossible for Helen to say anything—even to offer her assent—for the crowds were too boisterous and they were carried to the very center of the Exhibition while the others were lost behind them somewhere. Her father struggled on for a time then waved with a sort of impatient resignation. Her brother Edmund, much to her surprise, had turned away from the excited exodus, arm in arm with the magician Myojo. She did not see him until late that evening when he announced his latest scheme: a visit to the Emperor of Japan to discover new trading companies to bring teas and herbs to the west.
Only Eduardo the Venetian Lion was able to keep pace with them, assisted by the croaking of Tuppence, who seemed to tease and console him in equal measures as they made their way through the press of people. Signor Romano she had last seen in the arms of a great number of his country people and did not return for three days.
There were speeches from dignitaries while her father fought to rejoin her and Signor Maggiormente beamed happily at the whole world. And when they finally returned elated and nearly exhausted to his flat, the whole neighbourhood seemed to have gathered there for a party that went on long into the night. Everyone seemed to delight in the successful flight and the pending nuptials—everyone except the concierge, that Mme. Gabor who continued to glare at Helen until she finally escaped to her room and slept until late the next morning.
Only then did she creep out the door without alerting her father’s notice and knock on the alchemist’s door. He greeted her with a face that was mostly clean save for a smudge of something that looked like verdigris and Helen felt such a overflowing fondness for that dear face and the man who bore it that she found herself unexpectedly speechless and only nodded when he offered her tea.
Then so very gently he took her hand and asked her once again, would she join their fates together as one, to ride the winds of change forever and she said yes, yes, a thousand times yes and they kissed. The first of many kisses, it was tentative and unschooled yet so heartfelt that each felt their hearts skip a beat and then begin anew together, as if they would always be so.
Helen finally understood the words her mother had spoken long ago when she tried to explain the nature of love to a girl who knew nothing outside a family’s affectionate ties. “To be together is for us to be at once free as in solitude, as gay as in company.” In all the years they had been together, they had disagreed many times, negotiated this or that option, but never an unkind word had passed between them, never had her father’s quick temper turned upon her mother.
In this adventurous journey she had seen the side of her father that must have been more prominent in his youth, when he was a young man casting about for excitement. But she could feel his longing to be home, as if a string stretched from his heart to her mother’s tugged ever at him.
The pigeon would return to its roost and be happier for all its adventures. Signor Maggiormente made the journey too, as did Eduardo. The Venetian Lion created a sensation everywhere they stopped. Helen’s father tried to convince the creature that he could start his own circus and travel across Europe but the lion looked at the man as if he were mad—or worse, only teasing him. He would allow people to touch him as long as they bribed him with food especially cakes.
“Cakes are good,” the lion would always announce when strangers gaped at him in surprise. “I like wine, too. And pigeons.”
He was most pleased to hear that pigeon pie was plentiful and quite delightful in England. Eduardo did not understand why people had such attachment to different lands. Borders to him were incomprehensible. After all he had an uncanny ability to understand almost any language spoken to him, so the concept of different nations seemed at best unimportant and mostly an indication of what sort of food he might receive.
Tuppence seemed to think he was her very own pet.
And what did Helen’s mother think of this motley crew when they returned? If she was surprised or disappointed in Helen’s choice of mate, it was certainly not evident for she treated the alchemist with grave dignity upon his arrival, welcoming him to their home and paying no attention to his many eccentricities and her husband’s habit of disparaging his forgetful conversations and inability to complete a chess match.
Within days she had formed a much warmer attachment to him. Though distressed that engaged couple wished to fly off to Italy to announce their intentions to the alchemists parents, she agreed that it was the right thing to do. And though abashed that they next persuaded her to join them and her husband for the flight to Naples and Venice, she could hardly refuse a flight in the airship named for her own good self.
“Are you pleased, mama?” Helen asked as they sat arm and arm before the fire as it died down while her father and the alchemist argued over maps.
“Those we most love are happy, so my Edward and I, then, are happy: and the more so, because you have accomplished so much, my child. May you inspire other women to great heights too. We have so many dreams to make real.”
“Yes, mama, we do.”