Helen's father barked with laughter. "A dangerous weather development occurs and your only thought is, 'I must write this in my journal'? You are your mother's daughter indeed."
"I find that a great compliment, Papa."
"As you should." He continued to gaze at the water spout, but Helen thought his face looked much softer now, as if the dark clouds that sat upon his brow had like the son of York's been in the deep bosom of the ocean buried for now.
The water spout, which had growing bigger and darker, suddenly seemed to be growing whiter and more transparent. As it curled down from the clouds the middle part grew whispy and the two halves parted. For some reason, Helen's mind jumped to the image of Michaelangelo's fresco of the creation, the hand of Adam and his creator meeting in the middle, though here the two limbs drew apart.
"And there it goes," Romano said, his comments punctuated by a squawk from Tuppence. The tail of the spout appeared to be absorbed into the grey clouds above it.
Helen sighed, unwilling to admit that she had found the phenomenon worrisome, more for her father's sake than her own. She could swim after all. And while the channel was very wide, it might be possible for a human to swim it. Or at least half of it, which is about how much they would have to do.
"Flotation devices," she muttered under her breath, and went at once to her journal of the journey. Over-water travel, consider having some kind of Kisby Ring or cork device aboard. She had heard of a lifeboat captain who had designed some kind of cork vest that could be worn, but Helen had neither seen one or a drawing of one so found herself imagining a waistcoat covered with bottle stoppers, which was surely wrong.
There were so many new inventions. It was truly an age of discovery! Helen burned to be part of the age, to make her mark and be part of history.
Surely this journey was a step in the right direction. Her face flushed with excitement. If the alchemist came through for her on that new miracle fuel—the art of air travel would be revolutionized!
Helen broke away from her thoughts of the future. "What is it, Romano?"
The pilot pointed toward the dark clouds gathered on the southern horizon. Helen found herself somewhat alarmed to see a sudden explosion of lighting strikes from their increasingly black depths.
"Perhaps we should steer a bit further north," she counseled Romano.
"Are we going to end up in Belgium?" her father asked as Tuppence began to croak somewhat urgently.
"Don't go on about Belgium, Papa," Helen scolded, consulting the map on the stand. "It's a lovely country."
"You've never had their stew," he muttered mysteriously.
"How can a stew be bad?"
"It's made with ale instead of wine," her father said as if the point could not be argued. "And they serve a most wretched dish made of eel with some kind of green sauce."
Helen blanched. "That does sound revolting, but I have had Belgian waffles with chocolate and they are sublime, so I can't imagine that all their food is like the eel dish. After all, there's not much of British cooking you could put in competition with it, is there?"
"Your mother's stew is superb."
"Indeed," Helen said, "but I understood her to use a Belgian recipe."
Her father stared at her in dismay.
"Signorina," Romano broke in again, "the storm, she gets stronger."
"From which direction come the prevailing winds?"
Romano consulted his dials and meters. "South southeast."
"Let's chart a course another 15 degrees northward."
"Can we outrun the storm?" Her father asked, his face beginning to show a little shade of green like the Flemish dish.
"We shall endeavour," Helen said as Tuppence hopped over to land on her shoulder. "The storm looks fierce, but the winds don't seem too bad. The lighting is a little tricky but we ought to be fine." Tuppence, help me keep watch, she telegraphed to the bird.
Her father sat himself down once more, looking a little gloomy. "I bet it's sunny in Yorkshire."
"Doubtless," Helen agreed cheerfully. Across the channel to the south the lighting strikes flashed, their electric dance growing bolder.