"And who is it you are?" Maggiormente inquired, examining the queer pale figure with some curiosity.
"Manet." The man shook his hand absently, his thoughts elsewhere. "What am I going to do? Berthe will be so angry!"
"Can we help in some way?" Maggiormente asked while Eduardo sniffed discreetly at the man's trousers, which seemed to be spattered with a variety of colors. "Is the fire uncontrollable?"
"Oh, everything is quite quite gone," Manet said, a sigh of unutterable sadness escaping him as he looked back down the street. "All that work, wasted!"
"Perhaps we should investigate. You never know. Things may not be as bad as they seemed at first." The alchemist smiled, trying to convey a sense of hopefulness.
"It smells like a big oil fire," Eduardo said, having finished his examination of the other gentleman.
"Linseed oil," Manet muttered. "There was a case of it. We had thought, 'Such a bargain!' but that turned out to be a false economizing, eh?"
"He's a painter," Eduardo said to Maggiormente whose brow had been wrinkling with incomprehension. Outside of his own field, the alchemist seldom had much interest in or knowledge about other people's pursuits.
Eduardo smirked. "I suspect not."
The painter stared at the lion. "Your pet: he talks!"
Eduardo drew himself up proudly. "Pet! I am no pet. I am a familiar." He closed his eyes and looked away.
"Ah, Edo, don't be insulted." Maggiormente sighed. "He can be very touchy about that, monsieur. But how many people have seen a Venetian lion before, eh?"
Manet looked impressed. "I have certainly never seen such a remarkable creature. Perhaps I should paint him sometime."
"Oh, but I like the color he is," Maggiormente said with a frown.
"Non fare lo scemo," Eduardo snapped. "Idiota! He wants to paint my portrait, is it not so?"
"Indeed," the painter agreed, giving a small bow.
"Ah, painter. Yes, the other kind." The alchemist tugged on his beard, lost in thought.
"Well, now that we have that straightened out, perhaps we should go see about the fire," Eduardo said at last since no one seemed inclined to move at present. The two men stopped stroking their beards at once and they hurried back along the road where the painter had come from.
Most of the crowds had disappeared, but as they approached the small house, they could see the neighbours on either side up on ladders, throwing buckets of water on their roofs. Each had a small assembly of assistants: in one case, it looked like the man's family, from a young woman to a tiny little girl, in the other it looked to be a grim-faced group of bakers, clad in white and using mixing bowls to carry the water to and fro.
While smoke continued to hang in the air around the place, there did not appear to be any open flames. A stack of paintings lay on the ground before the house. Gingerly, the three approached the house.
"Do you suppose it will explode?" Eduardo asked.
The alchemist shot him a glance. "Don't say things like that. It's unnerving."
"I'm only asking. I don't want to be exploded."
"I only hope the paintings are all right," Manet said as he approached the haphazard stack.
"They look fine," the alchemist said, peering over the painter's shoulder.
"I meant the ones inside." Manet looked up at the blackened house.
"Let's go see," Eduardo urged.
"Perhaps we should wait until the fire goes out completely," Maggiormente said.
"Surely it must be out now."
"It exploded at first," the painter said. "But now it seems quiet. Shall we?"
"Adventure!" Eduardo said, adjusting his fez. "Excellent."