Sunday, May 15, 2011


This intellectual disagreement evaporated when a shout from Signore Romano interrupted. "Signorina!"

"What is it, signor?" Helen called turning away from her frowning father to face the front of the ship. The dirigible had returned to a safer height now that the storm seemed to have moved out to sea, so she did not expect they were in any kind of danger.

"Goblins," her father muttered, but Helen ignored him.

"Are we getting to Whitby?"

"Si, si, signorina, but look." Romano nodded off the starboard side.

Helen leaned over the railing to look down as Tuppence landed on her shoulder once more. "Heavens!"

Down below there was a crowd gathering, some on foot, some on horseback. They could have been drawn together for any reason, Helen supposed, if it weren't for the fact that many were pointing up at the airship.

"What do you suppose they want?" Romano asked.

Helen thought she heard a tone of worry in his voice. "I'm sure they're just curious to see the airship. There aren't that many around here."

"Everyone's seen your airship," her father said, squinting uselessly down at the crowd below. "Even in Whitby."

"I don't know about that, Papa."

"Well, if they haven't seen it, they've heard about it from other people. How many are there?" he asked, gesturing toward the general direction of the town.

"Not so many, maybe twenty or thirty people."

"Do they look agitated?"

"Agitated?" Romano said, his face taking on a look of agitation itself. "Why should they be agitated?"

"Indeed, Papa. Why do you say that?"

"No reason," but he frowned. "They're not carrying torches, are they? Or pitchforks?"

"Good heavens, Papa. What are you on about?" Helen looked down at the crowd more carefully. They seemed peaceable enough, although they were indeed pointing at their ship.

"Goblins get people riled up."

Helen shot a glance at him but he had that distracted look that meant his thoughts were somewhere else altogether. "There's no such thing as goblins, Papa."

He gave a harsh bark of laughter. "You weren't raised in Thornfield Hall, or you would know better. More things in heaven and earth, my girl."

"Signore," Romano broke in, "I suspect they only want to help the other ship. Perhaps they are gathering to rescue the men singéd by the fire."

Helen spirits brightened. "I'm sure that must be it! They're only trying to assist the Lintons. They saw the smoke and came to offer aid. How kindly people can be."

Tuppence croaked and flapped her wings. Her father snorted. "Kindly! Do they look like a group of rescuers?" The ship drew closer to the knot of people and Helen had to admit that they didn't look all that cheery.

"Perhaps not." Helen bit her lip. "Shall we go up higher?"

Romano turned back the to controls. Without noticing, the ship had begun to sink lower as if anticipating a meeting with the crowd. "If they are not keen to see us—"

"Well, I don't really know." Helen leaned further over the railing. Did they think we had something to do with the fire, she mused. We're known to be competitors, but surely no one would assume that of me? Aloud she said, "Perhaps we'll just sail over them and wave as if everything were all right."

"Everything is all right," her father said, although the rumble in his tone suggested that were not entirely true. "But you can't get the mobs to believe that sort of thing."

Indeed even from this distance, they could hear shouts and murmurs from the crowd. Helen raised her arm and sent Tuppence out on reconnaissance. The mood of the mob appeared to be darkening as she watched. "What on earth could that be about?"

Her father shook his head. "You won't like what I will say."

She looked at him, an eyebrow raised. "Why? What are you going to say?"

He laughed. "Goblins."

Helen looked down. There might be less peculiar reasons, but she couldn't think of one that fit.

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