It was their twelfth evening on the ship and Heloise watched intently as Mr. Lyle ceremoniously dealt with his hair, sitting in front of a vanity mirror. She knew that the doctor was next door in his bed, he was ill, mother said. Sometimes the back in forth rocking of the sea made some people sick. The doctor wasn't the type who spoke a lot. He was shy and sometimes, the simplest of things would turn his cheeks pink. But yesterday he had smiled as Heloise had sat with him on his bed and allowed him to read Shakespeare to her. Shakespeare was a rather funny name.
"My dearest Heloise," Mr. Lyle said, turning towards her with a large smile and sparkly eyes. Heloise liked the way he gracefully and dramatically moved his hands in the air. They were pink, plump and soft. "Where were we in the tale of the goddess Isis?"
Heloise smiled and stopped to think for a moment. A half-second later, she shot up her finger and jumped from the bed, running straight to the man's lap. "She was gathering her husband's pieces." Mr. Lyle nodded and proceeded to tell her in vivid and flourished detail, the myth of the deity. With Mr. Lyle, Heloise would travel the turbulent waters of the Nile, under the brightness and scorching warmness of the Egyptian sun—passing the imposing pyramids and ruins of temples and palaces, crocodiles and long-legged birds, papyri growing at the banks of the river. Everything would be bright green and would fill one's eyes.
The dreams of Egypt were far more entertaining than the gray, hopeless and crowded streets of London. Or even mother and Heloise's little home at the Moors. Heloise wished she could one day adventure herself through Egypt and be an explorer such as her mother's friend Sir Malcolm and study that marvelous ancient civilization such as Mr. Lyle did.
Ferdinand Lyle held his utmost curious travel companion as if she were the most precious of discoveries—and indeed, she was. Never had he enjoyed the company of a child so much.
"Now, now dearest child. It's getting to be far too late and we must get headed for dinner. I'm sure your mother is there already with that mysterious lady… what was her name?"
"Ms. Burton. She came into our room last night and laid out the cards for my mum, they talked for hours in whispers, I gave up trying to listen and fell asleep." Heloise's tiny fingers tangled between the soft hairs of his beard. Heloise had a small frown on her face and through her eyes Lyle could sense that she was rather distant-lost in her childlike thoughts. "Ms. Burton is very pretty..."
"Are you afraid of the cards Heloise?" He asked in pure curiosity and a small bit of worry. Perhaps she was too young and innocent to be in presence of such objects of divination. Lyle would hate to see Heloise suffering as did her mother.
Heloise pondered for a moment and shook her head.
"Mother says that some people are born with the gift to read them and that others—women only—can come to acquire it. She said that the cards sometimes help us to see things more clearly and help us get into touch with our deepest feelings and thoughts. The feelings that are so deep that sometimes we don't notice. But it only works for seeing the fortune of others and that's why she asked Mrs. Burton to read the cards for her."
Mr. Lyle nodded in understanding and signaled for her to lead the way towards the fancy dining hall where they would have their meal.
Vanessa looked stunning in a silk dark blue gown, her dark locks curled and held up by silver pins. Her eyes were locked intensely on the lit candle in the middle of the table reserved for them—but Heloise knew very well that her mother's thoughts were elsewhere and that she seemed rather… sad.
"Mama, Mr. Lyle was telling me the story of the goddess Isis! Her husband was cut in lots and lots of pieces and each of the pieces was hidden." Vanessa smiled slightly and kissed her daughter on the temple.
"That sounds—rather strange, but exciting. Are you hungry already?" Heloise shrugged and sat down next to her.
"And Dr. Frankenstein?" Lyle glanced at the woman worriedly.
"Fed and asleep—he's recovering Mr. Lyle, hopefully tomorrow he shall dine here with us. Thank you once again for watching Heloise while I engaged with Ms. Burton."
"If you don't mind me asking—who is she to you?" Vanessa toyed with the silverware and looked at him with a more serious demeanor.
"Corinthia is such as I—a woman with certain abilities."
"Such as Ms. Poole was as well?" Vanessa nodded.
"But without the those connections and intentions. She runs a gentlemen's club in New York—It's where she and her ladies live." Mr. Lyle immediately got the connection. Corinthia Burton was the leader of a brothel.
"And how is that majorly important?"
"Every wealthy man who is passing through London, spends a night or two there. She has connections and knows names… It's how I plan on finding Ethan." Mr. Lyle nodded.
"But wasn't he from the wild west and such?" Vanessa nodded.
"New Mexico—but he's leaving there soon. I was able to commune with him through Corinthia."
"And you trust her?"
"I do." Vanessa cut her eye contact with Mr. Lyle and looked at her daughter who was drawing on a page Vanessa had brought her. Heloise was drawing pyramids and a river that she presumed was the Nile. "Soon she'll want to be an Egyptologist such as you, Mr. Lyle…" She smiled at him genuinely and his cheeks turned pink.
"I would love to have her as my young apprentice."
Corinthia and Vanessa lay together on Vanessa's bed, her golden hair sprawled on the pillow contrasting with the raven curls of her newest friend. Heloise was fast asleep between them and after a long moment of companionable silence, Corinthia spoke:
"I admire you Vanessa. You love so intensely and so faithfully—you're crossing the ocean after an otherwise doomed man, you're risking your life and your daughter's, you left behind your home. You are very strong—if I had half of the strength and drive that you do, my life would be very different—I probably wouldn't be so skeptical of love and feelings in general—I probably would have gone through with my marriage, I wouldn't have left my son. Love is an amazing and powerful thing… Isn't it?"
"It hurts—like you're constantly in flames, but, it hurts less when we are with our loved one."
"Did you make love?" Vanessa shook her head and chuckled. "Chaste love—even better. Those flames you feel are lust and desire, my darling… How long has it been? You could explode you know!"
The two of them laughed whole-heartedly—the only time Vanessa had ever been so carefree was when she was a young girl with Mina and that time on the Moors with Ethan. Corinthia was her friend and it was good to have one that was a woman also—with whom she could share her silliest of thoughts, her desires, her fears… Corinthia was like her new Mina—and it also deeply scared her.
"Is it silly that I'll only feel completely safe and happy when I'm in his arms again?"
"You mean right after you shout at him and give him hell for leaving you and making you go through this entire odyssey." Vanessa threw her head back and laughed so hard her cheeks turned a bright crimson.
"And Heloise in the middle of this?" Vanessa sighed and shrugged.
"He won't be able to resist us Ives women—I'll give you that."