Sunday, November 13, 2011


"Buon giorno, signorina," Romano said cheerfully as Helen and her father climbed aboard.

"How's your arm?" Helen asked, frowning at the sling on her pilot's arm.

"This? This is nothing." Romano waved away her concern. "The physician, he wanted me to take precautions. It is well wrapped. I have little pain."

"And your head?"

The Italian raised his cap to show her the bandage wrapped around his head. "Nearly healed completely, signorina. No real damage." He grinned as he dropped the cap down once more. "My head is quite hard, like most of my country men."

Helen laughed. "I am relieved to hear it."

"Shall I tie myself in?" Helen's father interrupted their exchange as he lounged in the chair Helen had indicated.

Helen raised an eyebrow at him. "It's not strictly necessary. If we hit some turbulent weather, you may be more inclined to make use of it."

"Shall we ascend?" the pilot asked, seating himself at the controls.

Helen Looked around the gondola and nodded. "Yes, we're ready."

With a little bit of a shudder, the engine powered up and the flaps lifted, until the ship began to rise. Helen waved to the young groom, whose face bore a look of fear yet as Belial snorted in his face. Nonetheless the young man dutifully raised his hand in a farewell gesture.

A flurry of black feathers ruffled into the gondola. Helen's father cried out and waved his arms at the interloper.

"It's only Tuppence," Helen soothed.

"I wasn't scared," Rochester said gruffly.

"Of course not, papa."

Helen inclined her head toward the raven. "Any news?"

The black bird croaked and ruffled her wings, then stepped a few paces along the length of the trunk on which she had perched.

"Well, I suppose it's just as well that we're getting an early start," Helen said, nodding.

Her father exhaled noisily. "You can't claim that damn bird has anything intelligent to say." The two adversaries glared at one another.

"Papa, I rely completely on Tuppence's weather reports." Helen looked off to the west. "If she says there are storms coming in from the west, I know well enough to trust her advice."

Her father craned his head around as they rose higher into the grey sky. "I don't see anything."

The raven croaked again, but it sounded suspiciously like laughter. Helen smiled. "Of course not, it's a good way off yet."

Her father stared at the bird, who took his look as a challenge and hopped toward him, flexing her wings. "I don't like the way that bird looks at me."

"Look, Papa! There's mother waving, do see." Helen leaned over the side of the gondola, waving vigorously at her mother and Mrs. Hitchock who both stood in the garden looking up.

Her father gave over glaring at Tuppence to glance down at his home. "They look so very small." His voice sounded somewhat less sure than normal.

Helen looked over at his ravaged face and saw a hint of sadness there. He had not left Thornfield for some time. Despite his constant grousing, she couldn't help wondering if it were a bit difficult for him. "Look, Mother's smiling up at you. She's going to miss you so much."

Her words had the desired effect. His face transformed into its usual grumpiness. "Women, always trying to keep you tied to the hearth. About time I had some adventure." His eyes however betrayed a gentleness that belied his harsh words.

"We shall have wonderful adventures, Papa. And quite possibly make history."

"History?" Her father cocked an eyebrow at her. "History! You didn't say anything about making history. I'm not sure I want to be written down in some dusty old books."

Helen laughed. "Whether you wish it or no, Papa, you may find yourself in its midst, if our alchemist comes through with his discoveries."

"That mountebank?" Her father shook his head. "Damned unlikely I think."

"We shall see, Papa." Helen waved one final farewell and then turned to her pilot. "Let's get on to that horizon, signor!"

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