For merely a minute longer they walked onwards in silence. With each footstep forward came ever closer the whir of exotic machinery not seen in the Southern depths of France. The two men were sneaking their path through the back-streets (one would know of the main streets, for each were bordered by bridges or canals, thus such back-streets emerged from the water unusually well), and Christophe ogled the ruined brick of the buildings that soared up beside him to block a great quantity of the sky. It was not that they were ugly, as such, but they lacked the positive glamour of rich position in society like the homes that fronted the busier streets of the town. He was not averse to living in a plain place, as such had been his childhood home, but Christophe had been hoping to find himself in grander lodgings, like Georges’. When the time came for him to make his way into his own house…
I shall not consider that time yet… Christophe told himself at the ends of his frantic thoughts.
“Christophe, keep your mind in the present,” reminded Georges, when Christophe had been so much lost in thought that he had subsequently tripped an uneven paving.
“Uneven paving, Monsieur.”
By then, Christophe had began to smell coal burning as a supply for the machines, leading him through his senses to finally stumble upon a factory when his feet rounded the last sharp edge of the housing-block.
Where Georges’ abode had been cluttered, this was spacious in its equality. Indeed, the ground felt filthy and the air tasted of acrid smoke, but the objects that protruded did so for their sense of being there; that nothing had been placed for no reason. Two courtyards welcomed the two men, one spilling out beyond the other, under the only awning of its jurisdiction, whilst the first acted as a park for vehicles and perhaps an exterior form of greeting to visitors. In fact, the whole area, though a factory in the most negative of views, possessed that sense of being public-orientated.
Georges’ strides increased in his energy, to the point that Christophe was almost running to catch him on occasions. His guardian led him through both courtyards towards a building that was made neither of rough stone of the nearby terraced houses or of smoothed stone of shop fronts, but of a quality that had been raught from the earth itself. It was woody, but not tree-like; solid, but bearing a material façade.
“The beginning of the complex: the cutting room is this way.”
“The most important site, I presume?”
Christophe went to enter, but his ingress was stopped by a hand from Georges. The tumult of machinery was at its loudest when Georges threw open the door, so much that he had to shout his next words to be heard.
“Please wait here, my boy, whilst I put in a good word for you to the Senior of diamonds. I happen to have known him for a good year. His office is through the one direction of the maintenance room, and it is that way I shall head, though hopefully not for long. It is difficult to know how busy the man will be at this time in the morning.”
“It is early, surely?” remarked Christophe to himself once his guardian had disappeared through the wall of sound. Ever curious, he leant himself up on tiptoes to the pane of steamed glass that served as a window out of the building. The tip of production that Christophe could see involved two great machines that churned stones in and out of their bodies, as regular as the tide. They would rise as one constant, and flip a batch of dark rock over, before sinking as one body again, only to repeat themselves a minute later with the same hill-fragments. The whole process bemused Christophe, for there seemed to be nothing but a lack of process being created in front of his wide eyes. He was no technical adviser, but, looking in, the nature of diamond cutting didn’t have much of a solid foundation.
As Christophe lowered his heels to the ground once more, the increase in volume signalled the opening of the front door, wherefrom Georges and a stately gentleman emerged.
“Good morning,” the latter man announced in a rich, sharp language. It was English, something that Christophe was not too familiar with, his parents not having had the money to hire a tutor for it.
Instead, he dipped his head, humbled by the grandiose dress that rivalled even that of Georges. The Englishman smelt of tradition, from the edge in his cologne to the Oxford French he spoke eloquently. The clothes he wore might not have been out of place at a dinner party, but they stood out all too easily at the doorway of the works. Too, they aged him, or gave a deception to his age, in any case; he was, perhaps, a man of fifty odd years, besides which Georges looked young and fresh, if not any less portly.
The Englishman twitched his bowtie with a longer sleeve and corrected the point that Christophe had missed.
“Christophe Beladore, I presume?” he repeated in French. “It is a good thing to hear that your prospects are concerned with my diamond works.”
“Merci, Monsieur. May I also compliment you on your sleek French.”
“No need to flatter potential employers.”
They laughed in two warm peels.
“Sir, will you show me around the building, so that I can get my bearings?”
“Of course, of course. You want to see where you might be spending day after day. Chocolate?” The last request came as the man removed a box from a sideboard behind him. He gestured for Christophe to step inwards, to where the corridor stretched in three segments, one being the flat entrance to the cutting room. Still brandishing the box, the Englishman strode off along the longer route of whiteness.
Grateful, Christophe took a sweet chocolate cube and followed on.