Monday, April 30, 2012

7.4 Out from the Cliffs

 "Grazie," Sr. Romano said, clasping his hands together with delight. He fell upon the cheese and meats with good appetite while Helen and her father checked the slightly rearranged ballast of the gondola.

Tuppence hopped along the rail of the ship, offering a commentary as they worked.

"What are those?" Her father asked with dismay as she unrolled some canvas.

Helen looked up at him. "These are to keep out the rain."

Rochester looked up. "There's not a cloud in the sky."

"At the moment."

He laughed. "You'd hardly know it was England. What makes you think there'll be rain?"

"When we get out over the channel the odds of some squalls increase significantly."

"This is true," Romano added as he downed the last of the wine. "Over water the wind and the rain can be unpredictable, signore."


Helen gave everything a last look over. Tuppence flew up to her shoulder and made a few clicks in her ear. "All looks well, eh Tuppence?"

"If the bird approves," her father said dryly, "then I suppose we're ready."

"Papa," Helen scolded. "You should be confident of my raven's acumen by now."

"Are we ready?"

Helen looked from Romano to her father, then grinned. "We are!"

The motor whirred into action again and the practiced crew set about their tasks to get the ship aloft once more. The trickiest time was take off, but they were soon lifting up over the green fields toward the channel.

"Bonne chance, mes amis!" Helen called out as she kept her eye on the motor. "Next stop France."

"Or Davy Jones' locker," her father muttered, looking down at the grey waves below them.

"Look, Papa—the white cliffs!" Helen pointed back toward the land they were swiftly leaving behind. The cliffs shone in the midday light with an almost uncanny brightness. There was something stirring about the sight.

She turned back to look over the bow and found a sight even more stirring. The English Channel stretched out before them, the water sparkling in the sunshine.

"Do you suppose we will see some fish?" Her father looked uncharacteristically nervous. He appeared to be staring off into the distance rather than below them.

"I think we could see some large schools of fish," Helen said as she gazed into the depths. The shadow of the ship undulated over the surface.

"Whales?" Her father continued to maintain a view of the uncertain distance.

"I'm not sure about that. I suspect they're further north. Probably Scotland and the Orkneys."

Her father laughed. "The day I see a whale sailing up the Tay, I'll eat my hat."

"I hope you like tweed."

Romano called out. "See over there!"

They followed where he was pointing. Helen's father swayed a little bit as he drew his gaze down to the water below. Though he looked a little green, he seemed to be holding up well.

"I don't quite—what is that?"

"Are those fish?" Her father asked, wrinkling his brow and shading his eyes against the sun.

"They're too large to be fish, I think."

"Sono focene," Romano said, smiling happily.

Helen tried to remember her vocabulary lessons but nothing sprang to mind. She stared at the large shapes as they burst from the waves and then she knew.

"Porpoises! Of course.

"Of course?" Her father asked.

"Wouldn't go anywhere without one." She laughed.

No comments: