Sunday, December 05, 2010


Helen's father stared at her. "Don't be ridiculous. Look what happened today."

"That's exactly my point. Look what this kind of penny-wise pound-foolish economizing has led to." Helen warmed to her topic, pacing in front of the fire. "If I weren't trying to make do with less than optimum equipment, we wouldn't have had this accident today."

"What do you propose to do?" her mother asked.

"I will beg, borrow or steal enough money to patch the tear near rudder and make the renovations to the engine assembly that we have been discussing for some time. I shall see the ironmonger in the morning."

Rochester made as if to wave her words away. "None of this is relevant. You are certainly not going to fly to France in that contraption."

"You needn't worry, papa," Helen said with a smile at her father's frown. "We shall be safe as houses."

"Houses! If an infernal house took a notion to fly, it would end up just as disastrously. I will not countenance such a journey." He threw himself into the large armchair and glowered from its depths.

"Father," Helen said, her voice taking on a tone distinctively similar to his and a look of determined stubbornness, "I will be flying to France next week as soon as I can get the ship repaired. Signore, you will doubtless be able to pilot again by then, too, I expect."

Romano nodded, but groaned a little as he did so.

"Helen, perhaps you should take a little more time to assess the damage," her mother said, her tone as placating as the words. Her eyes were on her husband who still mumbled from the depths of his chair. "Surely a short delay will lend you the opportunity to go over all the mechanicals thoroughly."

Helen shook her head. "We don't know how much longer the good weather will last. We cannot wait more than a week or we risk that being a factor."

"Fine, then you can put off the journey until spring and use the winter to tinker away at that contraption," her father announced with satisfaction. "Or find other interests," he added in a low voice.

Helen folded her arms and regarded him. "This is not a whim, father, this is my passion and I will not retreat one iota from this goal. Air travel is the future! I plan to be one of the trailblazers."

There was a commotion in the hall and Mrs. Hitchcock's voice could be heard distantly.

"I expect that's the doctor at last," Helen's mother said, patting Romano on the shoulder gently.

However, when the housekeeper appeared at the door to the library, she appeared alone. "Miss Helen, I have a letter for you."

Helen walked over to take the letter and tore it open to devour the contents. Her parents exchanged a puzzled glance. When she finished reading, Helen let out a cheer and said to Romano, "He is in Paris and will be glad to work with us!"

"Wonderful news, signorina!" Romano said, wincing a little with the pain of exertion.

"He is attending the Exposition Universelle, he says," Helen continued, rereading the missive. "I wonder if he is exhibiting? He does not say."

"Who are you talking about, my dear?" Helen's mother prompted her gently.

"Alessandro Maggiormente," Helen said grandly, a broad smile across her face.

"Of course," her father grumbled. "Him."

Helen looked at him with amusement. "The premiere alchemist in Europe, papa. Signore Maggiormente has been responsible for some of the most exciting developments in alchemy for this century."

"What the devil do you need an alchemist for?"

"Edward," his wife tutted. "Do be more temperate in your language indoors. You are not addressing your dog."

"Alchemists are little more than hucksters and mountebanks," Rochester insisted. "There's not one whose work holds up under scrutiny."

"You confuse the sensational trials with the quiet accomplishments. Maggiormente has been responsible for some exciting developments in fuel sources."

"And what is it you propose to do with this charlatan?"

"I will be consulting with him in the hopes of securing his assistance with a new undertaking that will revolutionise the flying experience!"

"You don't mean to say—"

"Yes," Helen said with satisfaction as she took in her father's dismay. "I will be flying to France to collaborate with Signore Maggiormente."

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