"What? Why do you look at me like that?"
The alchemist shook his head, chuckling. "You introduced yourself to the woman you love, this goddess, this angel—"
"I didn't say angel, did I?" Gustave frowned. "I don't want her to be too angelic."
"This woman you fell in love with, eh?" Maggiormente frowned, although he found it hard to hide a smile. "Your first words to her are finding fault with her sketch?"
"The perspective was a bit off." The poet shrugged. "What? Criticism helps improve your art."
The alchemist laughed. "Is that why you were so happy with the critic in Le Figaro?"
"The fool! He knew nothing of rhyme!"
"And what do you know of sketching?"
Gustave stared at him. "What are you saying?"
Maggiormente shrugged. "I'm guessing your goddess did not respond well to your words of criticism."
The poet covered his face again. "She was livid! She called me names a beautiful woman should not know."
The alchemist pondered for a moment what sort of words those might be, but then turned his attention back to his friend. "As a first impression, criticism may not have been the best avenue to pursue. You should establish a friendly interaction before provoking a hostile one."
"Do you think so?" The poet pulled at his moustache and stared morosely off into space, then reached for his glass and downed the rest of his wine.
"Of course, of course."
Gustave buried his head in his hands. "I'm ruined! She hates me! I will die of a broken heart!"
His muffled words made plain his distress, but Maggiormente had to bite his lip not to laugh at his friend. "There, there." He patted the man gingerly on the shoulder. "Perhaps you can ameliorate the situation."
The poet sniffed and raised his head. "How?"
The alchemist spread his hands. "What are your strengths?"
"What?" Gustave blinked at him.
"What are your strengths?" He repeated. "What do you do well?"
"I can recite the alphabet backwards while standing on one leg…"
Maggiormente guffawed. "Poetry, you fool!"
The young man gaped at him, than laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. "Why of course, of course! I shall write an epic poem detailing how my love has gone awry, I will make people weep and beat their chests—"
"Ah, mio amico! That's not what I meant at all." Maggiormente shook his head in disbelief. "You need to change her mind and show her that you are more than just a critic."
"But I was right about the perspective—"
"Would you rather be right or in the arms of your goddess of the red-gold hair?" The alchemist raised his eyebrow at the poet.
Gustave beat his own chest. "My goddess! I must have her!"
"Then write to her! Beg her forgiveness, praise her beauty and her skill."
"Do you want to be in her favours again?"
"Yes, of course, a thousand times, yes!"
"Then pour your heart out in a letter, a poem and get it to her."
The poet's face looked sunny again. "Do you think it will work?"
Maggiormente shrugged and sipped his wine. "Love comforteth like sunshine after rain."
It was the poet's turn to raise an eyebrow. "You have surprises, Maggiormente, that I do not expect."
"That is the nature of surprise." The alchemist grinned.