Someone gave you flowers.
“This is getting ridiculous!” exclaimed Madame Rita as the fourth mountain of tulips walked up the gangway. Only the clomping of the sturdy wooden shoes at the base of the stems betrayed the human agency that allowed the blooms to walk. “Whatever am I to do with all of these?”
She did not expect her question to receive an answer, and in any case, she already knew the time-honored rejoinder her employer would supply were he here to respond to her ire. ‘That, my dear Rita, is why you have my trust. You will figure it out, you always do.’ Shaking off her exasperation at the phantom voice of Connor Graves, she turned her mind to the grand floral displays made necessary by the sheer number of blooms.
Giving in to the inevitable, Rita turned to her assistant, “Sarah, I want you to take Jaques and round up every vase, bowl, and urn we have on-board. Place them in the aft dining hall and gather the chambermaids to help in making bouquets. It seems the silver inventory shall have to wait.”
“What is all the foliage for?” Stella asked Yvette as the two leaned on the ornately carved taffrail, enjoying the afternoon sunshine.
“It must have something to do with the Herr Dansig. I hear he has been appointed Dutch Ambassador to the Holy See. I assume he will be joining us for the trip to Rome.”
“Oh, Yvette! I am so sorry. There is no way you can take sick for the entire journey, is there?”
“I don’t mind Herr Dansig so much. I just make sure that we spend our first night in the baths, after which he is not so bad. As long as I can keep him busy enough to not talk. And never sit with him at dinner. And instruct cook absolutely no garlic!”
Stella laughed appreciatively. Uncouth clients were rare on the Palace, but some of the older patrons still did not quite understand the unique relationship Palace employees generally held with their clients. The Palace was not a typical brothel where women and young boys were sold as wares. The Palace was an enveloping experience, a trip to a world where societal customs and class strictures were relaxed, where the sexes commingled on equal footing, where the working women and men of the ship were as likely to choose their companions for the night as the reverse.
Turning her back to the shore, Stella leaned on her elbows and shook her tumbled blonde curls, still damp from the baths over the rail to dangle down the side of the ship. Her hair was long enough to pool on the ground at her feet and for this reason alone she often played the Goddess Venus to the delight of the ship’s clientele.
“Careful Stella, if you let your hair grow much longer you will be in danger of it dragging in the sea!”
“If I let my hair grow much longer I run the risk of creating a noose that will wind me to an early grave in my sleep!” She laughed a deep, husky sound. “And yet Connor loves it so, and who am I to deny that man?”
“Has anyone ever denied Connor anything?” Yvette asked, joining in the chuckle.
Just then, the man himself appeared on the gangway his arms full of tulips. “Look my loves, I brought you flowers!”