Sunday, October 31, 2010


There was a deep cut in his forehead, doubtless caused by the impact of the helmet with the rock. Its edge had a dent that must have bit into Romano's skin. There was a good deal of blood now that the metal hat had come off.

Fortunately Helen was untroubled by the sight of it, unlike most women or so she was told. Her mother had once bandaged up her father from a nasty wound caused by an eccentric family member, and thus thought it wise to prepare her children for such emergency duties. Attempts to get either of her parents to elaborate on that adventure had proved fruitless, though she often thought it might have been the mysterious cousin Rivers who had died in India.

Helen shook out her good handkerchief and applied it to the wound with some pressure. "Do you feel disoriented or faint?" She examined his eyes to see if his gaze wandered, but while they were slightly bloodshot, they did not seem dazed.

Romano said, "No, signorina, but it is rather painful. Here, let me hold that in place." He moved his hand up to the handkerchief and Helen leaned back to look at him more critically.

"Any other pains? Do you think you might have injured yourself elsewhere?"

Romano laughed gently, wincing a little. "No, my head softened the fall for me."

Helen smiled. While Romano might laugh in the face of danger, she was certain he could not be badly hurt. "Do you think you're ready to stand?"

He took her offered hand and staggered to his feet, the reddening handkerchief still sopping up most of the blood. "Look!" he cried, pointing at the dirigible.

Helen turned to see Tuppence perched on the rudder at the rear of the ship. The raven croaked now that it had an audience. Squinting, Helen looked closer. There was a rupture in the frame. "Looks like my bird found something." She looked at her pilot. "Perhaps that hole has something to do with our losing altitude."

Pietro peered where she was indicating. "How strange! I shall have to investigate, at least now I know where to start looking." He groaned a little, rubbing his head.

"You should sit down," Helen said in a voice that brooked no opposition. "I'll go get help."

The Italian shrugged. "It's not so bad. I can walk."

"Nonsense," Helen barked. "You will have to move too slowly. I can get back to the house and get some of the men together to carry the ship back and a horse for you. We need to have Doctor Ponsonby look at that cut on your head."

"Per favore, it's nothing. A little alcohol to clean it and voilà."

Helen chuckled at his mosaic of languages. "Nonetheless, we should have your head examined, as we say. My pilot must be in tip top shape."

Pietro sighed. "And your airship, too. We must put off the voyage until we are certain it is safe."

Helen blinked. "What? Nonsense! I intend to keep to our timetable."

"But signorina—"

"I intend to keep to our timetable, Signore Romano." Helen's voice was not loud but there was little doubt of her resolve.

Romano sighed then looked startled. "Who's that?" he cried pointing at a rider on an immense black horse who was rapidly approaching.

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