Part the Two Hundred Forty Third: Precious to Touch
“Stop moaning and wake up.”
Hope peeled her eyelids open quickly at Charity’s request, desperate to find herself back in the hammock.
“Thank you,” said Hope. “Thank you for waking me from a terrible dream.”
“Qu’est-il arrivè?” Charity whispered in her ear.
“We had gotten to de Colera’s estate, and managed to make our way to his house, where they were holding Abigail. And there, in the middle of the room, was Abigail, as gold.”
“No, turned into gold,” said Hope as she turned to face her. “She was a solid statue, a complete piece of precious metal. And I turned to Jukes and reminded him that he was an alchemist, and asked him to turn her back.”
“And his response was?”
“He stared blankly at both me and her, as though he were struck dumb, before proclaiming meaningless platitudes. And tried though I might to plead with him, he did nothing, leaving her in that state.”
“I’ve heard of plenty of alchemists who claimed they could produce gold,” said Charity, “who when pressed would give plenty of reasons why they were unable to perform.”
“But it was vital he save her. Every second he blubbered before me, the room got hotter, and Abigail was being smelted into ingots before my eyes as he spouted nonsense.”
“What did he say that was nonsense?”
“I don’t remember,” Hope said, and added quickly, “but I don’t trust anything he says. There’s something about him and what he’s said that make me suspect him; I don’t know enough about alchemists and their ilk to cite specifics, but the whole tone of his tale just, just… I don’t know, it’s more a feeling than anything.”
“And there’s never been a man who inflated himself in your sight when speaking to you, eh? Every man who you show even the slightest interest in, they always puff themselves up to try and get your attention, am I right?”
Hope said nothing.
“You’re not still thinking of Samuel, are you?” Charity asked as she followed Hope’s gaze into the corner where he slept. “Is he even aware that you think of him at all?”
Hope turned around to face the other way.
“Maybe he doesn’t respond to you because he knows you two could never be together. Most people if asked in confidence would say that I would be un partenaire plus appropriate over him.”
“I find that notion hard to fathom.”
“Perhaps I exaggerate, but you know full well what I mean.”
“I’d rather you not discuss that,” said Hope.
“Already I regret saying anything. If you don’t stop having these restless nights, by the time we get to de Colera’s you will have worn yourself to a nub.”
“I’m sorry, you’re right. I do need to rest, get my mind off of this matter.”
“Here,” said Charity, “let me try and help you relax… Now, how’s this?”
“Hmmm, not bad.”
“C’est bien. Now, let’s see…”
“What are you trying to do?” Hope asked.
“Help you relax; now, let’s see if…”
“Please move your hands down from there.”
“Not that far down.”
“So much for being able to sleep,” Hope muttered…
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