"Eduardo's help," the alchemist continued, "comes from the ineffable."
"Where is that?" Fabien asked. "Near Napoli?"
"No, no," Maggiormente laughed. "From beyond our ken."
"Ken? I don't know him," the baker said, frowning as his wife chuckled.
"Mon cher, he means that Eduardo connects him to the ether, to the great beyond." She smiled down at Eduardo. "Is that not true, mon petit?"
The lion drew himself up to his full height and flapped his wings lightly. "Precisely. I am a mystic connection."
Both he and the alchemist seemed taken aback when Fabien laughed at this. "Ah, monsieur, you do not believe in these fairy stories, do you? I am a rationalist."
Maggiormente raised his hands in a helpless gesture. "What is irrational about the ineffable?"
Fabien chortled. "My friend, the very concept is irrational. Give me what I can taste, touch and see."
"That's a very limited outlook," the alchemist said, tutting.
"D'accord. The master has shown the way once again. He says this vegetable world is but a mere shadow of the real and eternal one."
"Ah, but monsieur, there is no world beyond this one." The baker held aloft his glass of wine. "This is real." He took a sip. "The taste on my tongue, the kiss of the grape—that is tangible."
Maggiormente warmed to his topic. "That, mon ami, is certainly true, but only part of the story. You taste the sun and the hillsides, too. The rain of spring and the winds of the summer bring their flavours to the grape."
"Indeed, monsieur," Adèle said, elbowing her spouse. "It cannot be denied."
The alchemist held his wine glass up to the light. "All that is here and so much more. The seedling that became the vine. The earth that caressed its roots. The men and women who tended the rows. The air that they all breathed in and out, night and day."
Fabien waved his hand as if to dismiss the words. "But these are every bit as real as the wine in my glass." He swirled the red liquid before him.
Adèle shook her head. "You are so limited in these opinions my dear."
"I was not raised to see fairies at the bottom of the garden like you," the baker said, laying a hand on top of his wife's.
"More's the pity," she said, laughing as this was an old topic between them.
"I believe in fairies," Brigitte said as she bounced up and down in her chair.
Her father laughed. "You are allowed your fancies, my little treasure. For now anyway."
"And when she is older…?"
The baker sighed. "We all have to face reality."
It was Maggiormente's turn to tut. "Reality! Over-rated. Incomplete."
"But our only certainty." Fabien took a sip as if to punctuate his point.
The alchemist pointed at his Venetian lion. "And before we came to Paris, what might you have said about the 'reality' of a Venetian lion?"
Eduardo ruffled his wings. "I am very real."
"That is not my point," Maggiormente soothed.
"And having seen a Venetian lion," Fabien said a little tartly, "I know him to be genuine. Unusual, perhaps, but genuine."
"But would you have imagined such a thing?"
Fabien shrugged. "Does it matter? I believe in what I see."
"You do now, but would you have before?"
"So what you believe now, you might have doubted before." Maggiormente shook his finger at his friend. "This is what it means to trust in the ineffable."
"Ah, monsieur," Fabien said, shaking his head with amusement. "You have twisted me around to your dreamy point of view. But how do such musings result in a fuel source for your motor? I must admit to having my doubts."