Gustave reached into his satchel and pulled out a much-stained notebook. He took another swallow of wine, then opened the notebook to a blank page. The poet began to rummage through his pockets while the alchemist looked on.
"I have a pencil here somewhere," he said as he continued to pat his clothing. At last he located the object in his breast pocket and looked at it with something akin to surprise.
Maggiormente pushed away his nearly empty glass. "I should leave you to your labours and get back to my own."
Gustave looked stricken. "No, mon ami! I need you here!"
The alchemist frowned. "Whatever for? I don't have a poetic bone in my body." He threw his arms wide as if to demonstrate the fact, nearly striking the passing waiter in so doing.
The poet threw up his hands. "Look how far you have taken me already. I would still be in the depths of despondency if it were not for you."
"But love," Maggiormente shrugged. "I know nothing of that art."
A desperate look lit his face. "But that is what I need! Your clear-eyed wisdom. Love as alchemy, a volatile compound."
The alchemist laughed. "I don't know any thing about love, my friend. If I can help somehow, I suppose I shall." He sat down once more and reached for the wine. If he had to assist the poet, surely more wine was a necessity. For a moment, Maggiormente thought with guilt of the Venetian lion back at the work room. Eduardo would be displeased to be longer neglected.
On the other hand, Eduardo tended to do as he pleased, so there was little to be done.
He would doubtless amuse himself.
"I suspect you will be very helpful as I try to compose. It helps to have someone to bounce the ideas off, as it were." The poet ran his fingers through his hair as if to stir up some thoughts.
"Well, how do you usually start?"
"I have a theme—"
"Well, you do."
"Yes, but," the poet paused. "It's not a visual theme."
"You need to see groveling?"
"I'm not groveling."
"You need to grovel." Maggiormente nodded sagely. "You need to grovel a lot."
"I need to show her why she is so important to me, why I had to ask her to seek perfection in her work."
"I think you ought to steer away from any attempt at corrective observations until you have actually convinced her to listen to you."
"Good plan." Gustave put the pencil to the page, then paused again. "So…what should I write about?"
"How about her…eyes?" The alchemist frowned in thought. "They burn like the sun."
"No, no," the poet also frowned. "Her eyes are nothing like the sun…"
"Well, what colour are they?"
Gustave sighed. "Green like the moss deep in the forest, like a wet glen at the bottom of a wild waterfall."
Maggiormente nodded. "Yes, yes. That's good."
"Do you think so?" Gustave but the pencil, screwing his mouth up into a bow.
"Yes, of course, of course. Write it down!"
The poet stared. "But—"
"You can always change it afterward, but it's important to get the first impressions down."
"Do you think so?" The poet repeated.
Maggiomente made an explosive sound of annoyance. "If you don't get down these raw thoughts at the start, you lose the magic. It's important to capture the rich pearls of inspiration—even if you rub most of them away."
Gustave stared at him open-mouthed. "Is this alchemy?"
The alchemist shrugged. "Doesn't poetry work the same way?"
The poet sighed. "When it does."