"We have a long way to go yet," Helen reassured him.
"How far it is?" her father asked, looking a little forlorn.
"Not so far really," Helen said, attempting to make her voice sound as calm as possible.
"How far is 'not so far' then, my dear?"
"About one hundred and fifty miles."
"So, much less than the distance from Yorkshire to London—about half, indeed."
"Is that so?" He looked very casual. "It's not as if I were nervous or anything."
Helen smiled. "Of course not, Papa. I simply figured you would be interested in calculating the distances."
"That's true—and the fuel usage. After all, isn't that what your alchemist fellow is all about after all?"
"Indeed, Papa. I hope to be able to use up less space with a new fuel that will likewise be safer to transport as well."
"So all those," her father pointed to the barrels at the back of the gondola, "could be lessened?"
"Indeed," Helen nodded. Tuppence added a croak or two to punctuate the point, walking back and forth along the rim of the gondola. "With luck, Signor Maggiormente will be able to provide a fuel that takes no more space than a small snuff box."
Her father cocked an eyebrow at her. "As small as that?"
"You doubt it?"
He laughed. "I do."
"Science, father. Science."
"I see, we are to believe miracles of science that have been denied to us in philosophy?"
"Nothing of the kind," Helen said, wrapping her cloak a little more warmly around her. "It is the business of science to improve upon our lives." She was particularly happy with the use of the word 'business' however, as she knew it pleased her father's northern heart.
He rubbed his chin with thoughtfulness. "So you expect to find a commercial use for this scientific discovery eventually?"
"Of course, Papa."
Helen snorted. "Yes, Papa. That's the whole point of these advances. To spread them far and wide and make life so much better for many people. This is the modern world! So many exciting things happening—new advances every day!"
Her father sniffed.
"You doubt me?"
He laughed. "The new world is a frightening place that offers a cold simulacrum of reality."
"Papa, I don't even know what you mean by that."
He walked back and forth across the gondola and then hazarded a look down. He looked up just as suddenly. "What I mean, my dear," he paused and ruminated a bit. "What I mean, ahem." He paused.
"I'm not sure." He turned away quickly.
"Papa, the new world is full of challenges as well as opportunities."
"So, you can take your time sorting out which you, er—"
Her father flushed angrily. "I am not some child that needs to be spared the scary boogeyman, my dear."
"Then I won't. But there is so much to be done, and I need to you to be my partner in this, Papa. There's a whole new world opening out before us and I hope to know that you are going to be an essential part of the enterprise!"