Helen stifled her irritation at her brother and his penchant for wasting inordinate amounts of time rehashing the endless bickering that was politics and hurried toward the library, her father stumping along in her wake. She feared to see her pilot looking even more peaky than he had looked upon the moors.
"How are you, signore?" Helen said, her voice gentling as she took in the pale figure on the sofa. "Are you feeling better?" It was worth asking. Romano didn't actually look much worse than he had just after the crash. Besides, the library fireplace was crackling merrily and Mrs. Hitchcock had tucked a nice tartan rug around the Italian, which looked very snug.
"I-I am trying to hold on, signorina," Romano said, his words sounding more persuasive than his voice did. "I am feeling rather faint, I think."
"Well, at least you're already lying down," Helen said, hoping the comment seemed helpful. The bandage around his head had a large red stain on it that appeared to be slowly growing. "The doctor will be here soon. I think you may have a concussion."
"It's serious, signore, but it's not life threatening. We'll know more when the doctor arrives."
"Perhaps I should rest," Romano said, closing his eyes with evident weariness.
In the back of her mind, Helen remembered something about head injuries and keeping the patient from drifting off. "Not just yet, signore. I think we should keep you awake until Doctor Ponsonby gets here. Besides, I want to go over the last part of the flight."
"Signorina, I am not certain that can be fruitful at this juncture," Romano muttered. "And if I close my eyes for just a moment, I know I will feel much more vibrant."
Helen pulled up a chair and took the pilot's hand in hers. Then she began to slap it with her other hand. "Come now, Signore Romano, stay awake!"
"Signorina!" He stared at her with surprise in his eyes. "This cannot be proper."
Helen heard a bark of laughter as her father entered the library. "Proper! The day my daughter recognizes propriety—"
"What?" At the sound of this new voice both Helen and her father started. "What will happen on that momentous day, Rochester?"
"Mother!" Helen leapt up and rushed over to her. "Have you seen Signore Romano? Do you think he will survive," she asked, lowering her voice precipitously for the second question.
"Signore Romano has an extraordinary constitution," Helen's mother announced. Patting her daughter's hand, she added in a more confidential tone, "Although he would benefit from a head as hard as your father's."
"Don't pretend you didn't mean for me to hear that," her father grumbled as he poked the fire. Looking over her shoulder, Helen saw that a small grin lit his face, making his rugged face nearly handsome.
While her mother's face could not be called handsome in any sense, it was so full of lively intelligence that one could not help liking it. Helen had admired her since she could remember, eagerly shadowing her about the house. Her mother's will had such firmness that Helen could not imagine ever getting the better of her in a disagreement, even though she towered several inches over her.
"Mother, do you think Fairfax will get the doctor here soon?"
"Don't worry, he knows this is important. I'm sure he'll be back directly." She took the seat Helen had brought over and took up Romano's hand. "We'll have you up and about in no time, signore, but you need to stay awake. If you cannot keep your eyes open lying down, I'm afraid we're going to have to make you sit up, painful though it may be."
Leaving the pilot in her mother's capable care, Helen turned back to her father. "I'm going to need some more funds for repair, papa. I don't know if Fairfax will give me enough. He was rather meanly inclined the last time around."
"Your ship requires a lot of funds."
"But I desperately needed those upgrades to the motor and vent system. And the payoff will be enormous when I show how beneficial cross continental travel can be."
Rochester turned to regard her with a raised eyebrow. "Beneficial? To crash into the sides of mountains, to drown your passengers in the Channel? I supposed you could round up superfluous relatives and have them disposed of quietly." He laughed at his own wit.
Helen did not allow that to discourage her. "I am going to fly to France."
"Someday my dear, surely." Her father smiled indulgently as he poked the fire.
"I am going to fly to France next week!"