A charming friend . . .
‘Percy! My maid didn’t announce you!’ My heart crashed. I now knew things about Percy Blakeney and I felt shocked, uncomfortable. Even scared until I recalled the numerous kindnesses from he and Marguarite when I first moved to Veniche.
‘Sink me, Lucia!
And since when do I have to be announced? Your major-domo bows and . . . well, that’s it, I find my own way about your house. It’s the way it’s always been.’
He sat at my mirror and played with his cravat, re-distributing the folds to more of perfection than they already were. It was amethyst silk and sat well with his taupe and amethyst striped damask tailcoat. Aine, but he dressed well! His self-admiration gave me time to pull myself together and I sat and composed my twitchy hands on my lap.
‘Are you angry with me, Lucia, for my appalling behaviour the other day?’
No, Percy. You were within your rights. I understand the book is important to you, although I can’t imagine why? Unless you are a connoisseur of miniature books. Are you?’
‘Well yes. I am. I am particular about a new press I have heard of. It’s called Bo, do you know it?’
‘Why yes, it’s Parthenope’s new business. You like her work then?’
‘It is eminently collectable, half of Eirie beat a path to the studio’s door every time she releases something new. Look at this!’ He reached into the fob pocket of his silk vest and withdrew what I thought was a tiny ball. ‘Take it and look closer.’
I did and my breath gushed out. ‘It’s a pocket terrestrial globe of Eirie. Oh, how clever.’
‘Indeed. And I have just commissioned the celestial globe as well and a box in which to place them.’ He fluffed his tails out and sat on a bench in front of the balcony doors.
‘But Percy, this is all very well.’ I handed him back the petite globe and decided to test the wind. ‘The book from the Museo however, is not from Parthenope’s press. It is Other as you well know, and I want to know why you stole it.’
Percy gave me such a look. Inscrutable and yet I felt myself shrinking beneath his gaze. ‘I wanted it. And what Percy wants he gets.’
There was a knock at the chamber door at that very moment and it served to break the tension as my major-domo entered. ‘The Direttore, Madame.’ And in bustled the man, in his spectacularly well-pressed clothes, with his oiled dark hair and his waxed and perfectly trimmed moustache.
‘My dear Lucia, how charming you look.’ He bent over my hand, the kid of his grey gloves soft and comforting. Bringing my fingers to his lips, he kissed them in the most elegant manner.
I loved him dearly, a perfect and grandfatherly friend – how I wished I could apprise him of my dilemma.
‘And Sir Percy,’ he continued, ‘ how charming to see you here.’ He sat next to me, still holding my hand. ‘I am just visiting, dear heart, to tell you that the programme for the Ball is decided and we are about to place a copy in the entrance to the Museo. And I have just visited the Ca Specchio. The Mirrored Ballroom looks spectacular. It is a shame we could not hold the ball within the Museo, but it is safer at the Ca Specchio. Sir Percy, I think you will find it a . . . charming evening.’
‘Direttore, I know I will. Lady Blakeney and I can barely restrain our charming selves. I was just telling Lucia.’
Was he? All I recall is the look in his eye as he told me what he wants, he gets. I wished he had been more truthful, told me as much as Niccolo, because as he spoke I watched a friendship dissolve into the air about us and I was chilled to the very bone . . .