"It is a pretty piece of work, that lectica," Paulus said. "Made for Flavia Lucilla Augusta, I believe - you can see from the fineness of the carving, and the silk of the upholstery, that it is above the usual set of thing. The poles are removable for ease of storage, although anyone who is able to buy such a thing, and have the slaves to carry it, will likely not have issues with somewhere to keep it when it isn't in use."
Paulus looked at his patron, and silently wondered why Lucius Furious Pontius might want a lectica - although he would not complain in the slightest if the man did buy it; it would turn a nice profit and selling it would free up space to display something else.
"You should be careful or you might find me sending you home with a mismatched set of supposedly Samian dishes or an equestrian statue of the Divine Augustus Caesar riding a three-legged horse or something equally ridiculous," Paulus said with a smile. "Let us look around the sale room, then." He led the way.
There were various items of furniture, of course - lecticae and tables, the latter of which held smaller items such as a set of Syrian glassware or a tabula set with board and pieces made from semi-precious stones. Several statues of various levels of execution - most indifferent, some very good indeed and one or two dire. One of the best was a satyr with pan-pipes, and Paulus patted its stone head as he passed it.
"Do say, if you see something you'd like a closer look at," he told his guest.
"Of course." Paulus set his own empty cup aside and stood. "You have been here before, of course, but I don't know whether that was before or after we expanded our premises. The things being sold outright are on this side, anything on the other is for auction, though I suppose a generous offer won't be refused by the current owners. If it's a large item, it's much easier for you to provide the slaves to move it,of course."
He led the way into the main part of the premises. "I shall let you lead the way in looking around, seeing as you haven't been here recently. I don't know what kind of things you are interested in and would hate for you to miss something just because I think you should be interested in something else."
"Well, let us discuss your needs first - I should hate to rush you in enjoying your wine and refreshments," Paulus said, mollified by Lucius' willingness to cover the cots of entertaining his lictors. He was quite willing to give up his afternoon to his patron, who was a pleasant enough man after all. Especially as it had been a while, though that was understandable enough, what with his father's death. "Is there anything in particular that you're after? A new statue for your atrium - we've got some very nice copies of a good statue of Venus that have just come in, and there are others if Venus isn't to your taste. I shall be very happy to show you around our showroom - you might see something you had not thought of, after all."
He liked his friends and acquaintance to have an idea of what they wanted, but equally, he was more than happy for them to browse. It was his experience that people often came across things when 'just browsing' that they'd had no idea they needed when they woke up that morning.
And of course his patron had brought his lictors with him, though Paulus was of the opinion that there was no need for the display, although it was possible that Lucius was on his way to or from some official engagement.
He caught Crispus' eye again, indicating the men. Crispus nodded; he would get them something to drink (Paulus was hopeful that his patron might spend enough to cover the cost, even if he did not do so today) and would ensure they did not break anything.
"Business is indeed going well, people are always changing things about their homes, whether they're getting rid of something or want that one finishing touch for the atrium," Paulus said, taking a sip of his wine. "May I ask whether this is purely a social call, or whether I can help you in my professional capacity?"
If it was the latter, he could get his people to work while the two of them continued to talk. If the former, they could continue with what they had been tasked to do already.
"Oh, no, no - I didn't mean that at all," Paulus said. "I wouldn't have expected you to come here yourself - but that isn't to say that you aren't welcome."
He caught Crispus' eye, indicated his guest and waited for the slave to nod. He'd had Crispus for so long that there was no need to give orders verbally, especially for something as simple as demanding refreshments.
A jug of wine and two goblets were delivered promptly, along with a plate of fruit - grapes and figs.
Paulus waited until his guest had been poured a cup of wine.
"It is good to see you, though, sir. I trust that you are well?"
Paulus was dealing with trying to fit a couch into an awkward corner at the back of his premises when Crispus informed him of his visitor. He left his staff to it and emerged, clad only in a tunic - he had set his pallium aside much earlier. If anyone expected him to wear that (or worse, his toga) for a whole day unless he was out and about cultivating customers, they had another think coming!
He pulled his tunic straight and emerged. The 'Minor' tacked onto the end of the name informed him that it was not his late patron but that man's son (who could probably drop the 'Minor' part of the name now that 'Maior' was deceased).
"Good morning, sir," he said, brushing a dusty cobweb from his arm. "Welcome to my humble shop - what can I do for you?"
'Humble' might be stretching a point; it was a decent size, for an auction house had to fit in all sorts of things, from furniture and statues (there was a very nice one of Venus bathing that was situated by the door) to Egyptian glassware and high-status pottery, most of which was stashed towards the back of the shop so it wouldn't be broken by clumsy viewers.
@The Young Pope
The Aventine Baths were some of the best in Rome, and right on Paulus' metaphorical doorstep. And, like the other baths, the patrons needed only to pay an as in order to have access to the full glory of the Roman bathing experience, from the tepidarium to the caldarium to the finely decorated frigidarium. And if that wasn't enough, there was a library and palaestra (exercise ground) too.
Paulus, not being a scholar, ignored the library in favour of the baths. It was hot work, overseeing his staff and organising a decent auction (today marked the fifth copy of the Boy With a Thorn in his Foot that Paulus had seen this month, and today's offering had been a particularly bad copy of the original statue - the original was probably shoved in some back room in the Emperor's palace).
Now, if some of the statues here came across his threshold, he might turn a decent profit. The one over there that pretended it was Plato (and was probably some totally unknown Greek instead) was a far better copy than the anaemic thing he'd seen this morning.
"I don't suppose that really is Plato, though," he found himself remarking to the man on the bench next to him as the slave massaged his shoulders - true bliss, to be under the hands of a skilled masseur!
"Thank you. vale!"
Paulus hoped that he did have a good head on his shoulders; he wouldn't be much use if he didn't. But it was kindly meant, of course, so he couldn't take umbrage at it. Besides, Flavius Alexander had left the rest of the jugful of wine, and he wasn't about to waste it - even watered down and a first cousin to vinegar, it was refreshing enough after his morning spent tramping around the Esquiline and back.
He tipped out a libation to Jupiter, grateful for the chance meeting that had brought him into the orbit of one of the Imperial family (a cousin, perhaps, but it had been an unlooked-for connection in the first place). Vipsania could hardly complain it his being out all hours if it meant he might do business for a member of the Imperial family at some point.
Now, if only his staff hadn't completely botched pricing everything for tomorrow's sale, he would be happy.