"Pressure dropping, signorina Captain!" Romano called out from the front of the ship.
"What the devil does that mean?" Helen's father asked, trying vainly to look nonchalant. "Is the airship deflating?"
"No, the weather, Papa." Helen stepped across the gondola to look over Romano's shoulders at the instruments.
"Not quickly," Romano added, "But steadily."
"Perhaps we are in for some rain."
"Nothing worse, though?" her father asked casually.
"We shall see," Helen said, looking about for Tuppence. She whistled and heard an answering croak from the raven. The bird flew down to the edge of the gondola and flapped her wings briskly as water flew off.
Her father wiped his sleeve with exaggerated motions. "I take it things are looking wet out there."
Helen smiled and reached out to pat the raven's head. "It could just be condensation, but I suspect we may be in for a bit of a wet time."
Her father squinted out across the horizon. The white cliffs were impossible to see in the greyness; indeed it was increasingly difficult to see the division between sea and sky as they merged in the darkening day.
"It looks more cloudy."
"Clouds don't always mean rain."
"But certainly it's more likely."
"I'm really more concerned about the wind, Papa. It could make for a more interesting journey. A little dampness won't have much effect."
"It will on my joints," he father muttered.
"Tuppence, how does it look up there?"
The raven croaked and then emitted a serious of clicks and other sounds that Helen alone could interpret. She looked concerned, her father noted, but did not speak until the bird had delivered her message.
"So," he asked with a note of impatience, doubtless to mask his concern about the perilousness of the weather. "Are we in for some dirty weather or will it be all right."
"Not to worry, signor," Romano reassured him. "Should the weather become more turgid we will still be all right."
Romano paused. "Ah, the word escapes me. Perhaps another."
"According to Tuppence, the rain will definitely pick up, but the wind ought not be too strong," Helen said, "which will be a mercy for our stomachs if nothing else."
The waters below them already exhibited signs of the impending swirl. Helen could see the white caps on the waves. Funny that the wind seems to be coming from the south as well as the west, she thought.
The day darkened as they spoke. The clouds appeared to be thickening, too.
"What's that line from Shakespeare," her father muttered.
"You're going to have to give me more than that," Helen laughed.
"Oh, it's one of the history plays, I think," he continued, staring out into the gloom. "All the clouds that lowered upon our house in the deep bosom of the ocean buried."
Helen smiled. Her father surprised her in so many ways. "Richard III: Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York, and then all the clouds. Well spotted, Papa. Your tutor would be proud."
"Tutor," he grumbled, but she could tell he was pleased. "I might better have studied nautical lore so I would know as much as your bird."
"Tuppence has not only her own knowledge but the inherited wisdom of her entire species."
"Has she?" Her father looked at the bird with something like respect. "Can we tap into such a thing?"
"There are some who say so, in fact—"
"Signorina, I think we need to take a closer look at this."
"What is it, Romano?" Helen said following where he pointed. "Oh my! I've never seen that before!"