"I told you it was goblins," Helen's father said with smug satisfaction as he threw himself into his favourite chair.
Her mother raised her eyebrows. "Goblins? Really?"
Helen rolled her eyes. "Of course not. But the folks in Whitby have complained about the proliferation of airships over their fair town and claim it is impeding the tourist trade."
"A fair assessment?"
Helen warmed her hands in the fire. "Unfortunately, I'd have to agree, especially after the Lintons' extraordinary conflagration."
"What the devil did they expect?" Her father growled from the depths of his chair, waking Cerberus who had been sprawled at his feet. The great black beast whined and tried to nose his master's hand onto his skull for a patting. Rochester looked down and gave the dog a rough tousle. "Do they think people are going to come just for the ruins of the abbey or to walk up all those infernal stairs?"
"Papa," Helen scolded gently. "People have long been drawn the beauties of that fishing town. It's romantic."
Her mother laughed. "You know your father has no sense of romance."
"The devil you say!" Her father said with an aggrieved air. "I'm far more romantic than your mother. She bewitched me. I was helplessly besotted."
The witch in question only smiled at her husband. "Am I to be accused of witchcraft anytime I do something you don’t anticipate?"
"Yes." Cerberus whimpered and he returned to scratching the dog.
Helen felt a spasm of irritated impatience even as she smiled at her parents' wrangling. "So I think I will fly down to Dover and then over to Paris."
This had the desired effect of startling her listeners.
"Is that wise?" her mother said.
"The devil you will!" her father said.
"It's quite safe. If anything, today's flight demonstrated just how much so. Despite the problems Signor Romano and I were well-prepared for the encounters and we succeeded in the face of all opposition," and possible interference, she thought to herself.
"I won't hear of it!" her father protested.
"Papa, you can't forbid me. It's my ship."
"You brother might have something to say about that."
Helen frowned. "I owe him the funds, not the ship. He will never realise his investment until I prove the worth of the vessel."
"Why do you have to go to that infernal land of frogs?"
"Weren't you once partial to that glittering city?" Helen's mother asked her husband who merely muttered something unintelligible.
Helen sighed. "Papa, I've explained. I need to work with Signor Maggiormente. The alchemical steam engine could revolutionise the entire history of flying machines. But we have to work together. We need each other's expertise."
"Well, why can't he come here? We could find room for yet another Italiano."
"He's in Paris for the Exhibition. I can't ask him to leave. Papa, I mean to go. This is the goal all my work has been leading toward. I can't wait any longer."
"We understand, darling," her mother soothed. "We're just concerned for your safety."
"And to have you gallivanting around with Italians! Can't be trusted, that much I know. Worse than Frenchmen." Her father scowled from the depths of his chair.
"Isn't that why we agreed you would accompany me?" Helen could not keep a smug smile from her lips as she delivered that piece de resistance. "I will be properly looked after and you will get out of Yorkshire for a while."
"I must have been drunk. Surely I never agreed to such an infernal plan. You're a witch like your mother."
A light in his eye suggested that he was not quite as averse to the idea as he made it seem. Helen decided to press the issue. "Papa, you know I won't feel entirely safe in a new country without you there to protect me."
Her mother laughed. "Now, you're overdoing it. Pretend to be put out a little while longer and he'll come around." She sat on the arm of her husband's chair and put her own arm around his shoulder. "Isn't that true, dear?"
"Witches," he muttered. "A fine pair of witches. Doubtless there will be all manner of goblinry, too. It's bound to be a fiasco of a journey."