"I think the first thing you must do, my friend, is speak to her," the alchemist said at last while the poet continued to mutter quietly to himself.
Gustave looked up, eyes wide. "But I have!"
Maggiormente gaped. "You did? Then what—?"
"Oh, it was a disaster, mon ami." Gustave buried his head in his hands again.
The alchemist swallowed a smile. "I'm sure you're simply exaggerating, or rather," he added hastily, "considering it to be worse than it was. Surely!"
The poet sighed. "You won't say that when I tell you what happened."
"Go on, then. Tell me—it can't be that bad now, can it?"
Gustave took a deep breath. "Well, I wandered distraught for some hours, lost in my thoughts. Rapturous! She was a vision. At last I realised I must return to the same place and see if I could glimpse her beauty again. I stayed in Nancy that night, sleeping in the park because I knew no one. I had to see if she were real, if her beauty were as compelling on the second sight."
"And was it?"
Gustave struck his heart with his closed fist. "Of course! She was exquisite, an angel, a vision, a goddess." He closed his eyes, a rapturous look on his visage.
"Did you speak to her this time?"
The poet sighed again and shook his head while he waved toward the waiter. "Philippe! More wine!"
"Is that a good idea," the alchemist asked, eyeing his friend's flushed features.
The poet waved his concerns away. "There ain't no cure for love, as the poet says. We must only endure it."
"But how much simpler it would be if you simply spoke to her!"
"Ah, I don't know about that, considering what happened."
Maggiormente raised his eyebrows. "What did happen?"
Gustave covered his face with his hands again. "I awoke at dawn. If the daylight had not roused me the gendarme would have certainly done so. My entire body felt stiff, my fingers and toes cracked in agony. A chill had settled in my bones."
"Not propitious for love."
Gustave snorted. "Nonetheless, I set out for the square, certain that she had to return, my vision, to complete her picture. No artist could abandon a work with so much promise."
"And she did not disappoint?"
"Of course not! She was there by eight o'clock. Her work had delicious life, her hand worked unerringly to capture the shadow and light. One might only wish for a model that more adequately suited her skills."
"Indeed," Maggiormente agreed, pouring more wine from the bottle that Philippe had brought. Both his and Gustave's glasses were full again, though he suspected that the poet's would not long remain so. Indeed, his friend tipped his head back and swallowed half the glass. "What did you say?"
Gustave's expression fell again. "I knew I had to reveal to her who I was, what I was, so she would understand the depths of my love for her."
"That seems reasonable," the alchemist said, although he was beginning to have his doubts about what the poet might mean.
"She was so incredibly beautiful with the morning sun on her red-gold hair, her green dress and the soft sides of the artist's portfolio she carried. Even her brushes seemed to be in perfect form, the hairs abundant and soft."
Gustave shrugged. "I could not be a liar, after all."
"I could not pretend all was well if it was not."
"So I offered a careful critique of her work. Who would not feel impelled to assure her that while in the main her sketch was terrific, there were some points that needed work. What?" Gustave looked at his friend with surprise.