Helen rubbed the raven's chest feathers to reassure it, but Tuppence remained agitated. Her clicks and croaks demonstrated her displeasure as she ruffled her feathers repeatedly.
"What the devil is the matter with the bird?" Her father's words sounded more harsh than his voice. The brandy had certainly mellowed his mood.
"Papa, that's medicinal. I think you should save some of the brandy for an emergency."
He gaped at her. "If being consumed by a cloud of starlings isn't an emergency, I'd like to know what does qualify."
"Certainly fire or an explosion," Helen retorted.
"As long as we're clear on the issue." Her father harrumphed. "Here, give some brandy to that damned bird and calm her down."
"She doesn't need or want spirits, Papa. She's distressed about the starlings."
"As am I." He took another swig and stared down Helen's disapproval. "Wait, she's distressed in what way? She's not pitying those little blighters, is she?"
"No, Papa. She was in even more danger than we were."
Helen smoothed the shiny black feathers on Tuppence's head. "Have you never seen a flock of starlings go after a crow? They might well have turned on her, had they not been flummoxed by the unexpected meeting with the ship."
"So she pulled up sticks and legged it—or should I say, took wing—for her own safety. Pity she couldn't have warned us sooner."
"She tried, Papa." The raven croaked more quietly now.
"Well, what disaster shall we face next?" Helen's father at last put the brand away, but he seemed to have retained its cheery effects well enough.
"It depends upon the weather along the coast," Helen admitted. "However, I suspect that the rest of our journey may prove free of disasters and even drama.
"I see nothing but blue skies ahead," Romano added from his seat at the controls.
"I don't know that I would trust such an assessment," Helen's father said, but he lounged idly in his chair, seemingly unconcerned for the moment.
As predicted however, the remainder of the flight proved to be without incident. The day continued fine, clouding over once or twice but there was never so much as a drop of rain discernable. Even the winds were gentle and mostly helping to ease the ship's passage rather than fighting against it.
"I think I'd rather have a disaster," Rochester grumbled after awaking from an unexpected nap.
"Papa, don’t say that." Helen scribbled in her log book, trying to recall the important details of the murmuration, searching vainly for clues to its formation in hopes that they could avoid such an experience next time.
This is what it meant to be a pioneer, Helen reflected, paving the way and recording history as it unfolded. A sense of awe filled her. It was an awesome responsibility.
Her father interrupted her thoughts. "I am finding air travel to be rather tedious."
"Papa, can't you enjoy the landscape?"
He folded his arms. "When I look over the side of the gondola I start to feel dizzy."
"Well, don't look directly down, as that will happen. Look out across the way."
"There ought to be some kind of entertainment to while away the hours."
"We could try fitting a quartet into the gondola next time," Helen said, closing her log with a sigh. "But I suspect we would find things a trifle crowded if we did so."
"I have a better plan."
His smile had a devious turn to it, so Helen assumed the worst. "Dare I ask?"
"I think sheep's or pig's bladders, filled with something noxious—"
"Aren't the original items already noxious enough?"
"You've never had haggis. Then we wait until we're passing over a small village and go low enough that we can bung them at the people passing below."
"Papa, I am doing my best to make air travel respectable."
"You’re no fun anymore," he said, laughing heartily.