9.2 A Suitable Name

11 November, 2012 by katelaity

Coliseum Owl

Helen laughed, blushing slightly. ‘I must admit that I had not even worried about a name for the ship. I’ve been so busy with the design and refinements.”

“It must have a name,” her father said with immediate decision.

“I suppose so,” Helen agreed, but found herself reluctant to jump into the topic.

“A woman’s name is often the basis,” Mme. Belcoeur added, looking eagerly from one to the other. “Sometimes a goddess. Though there are many that represent a quality as well: endurance or dignity.”

“Liberté, egalité—” Helen’s father harrumphed.

“You’re enjoying your joke,” Helen said, pretending to be unamused. What do we call her? Tuppence muttered a few indistinct clicks in her ear. Helen stared at her. The sound usually meant the raven saw her mother.

“Well, we don’t have to start with the name,” Belcoeur said, pulling out a small book and a pencil. “How long have you been working on this craft?” She looked pointedly at Helen.


“Papa!” Helen scolded. “It’s been about two years from the planning to the first flight. We’ve had a variety of experiences with the craft—”

“She means crashes,” Rochester muttered to Belcoeur who raised her eyebrows high.

“Surely not!” She looked very like Helen’s mother in that moment, sensible concern uppermost.

“We only had one outright crash and that was not too bad,” Helen hastened to add.

“Signor Romano may disagree on that,” her father added, goading her mercilessly. “It was his noggin that bore the brunt of it.”

“He’s perfectly fine. One cannot break new ground—”

“Without breaking a few necks?”

“Papa!” Helen frowned at her father, fists on her hips. “Mme. Belcoeur won’t know that you’re joking. He is exaggerating madly.”

“I don’t know about ‘madly’,” her father continued unruffled. “The doctor seemed to find it a fairly serious injury. He was laid up for a time.”

“But recovered completely, as one does from routine injuries.” Helen huffed with irritation. Her father could always wind her up like a mechanical toy.

“Did you study for a long time mechanics or, how do you say, aeromechanicals?” Mme. Belcoeur tried to change the subject tactfully, which Helen appreciated. She noticed too that much of the small crowd had let off examination of the craft to gather around the interviewing.

“I made a study of ballooning in general and also studied nautical sciences and shipbuilding as well as the naturalists’ writings on birds.” Helen found herself somewhat intimidated by the watchful eyes of the curiosity seekers. She had never spoken to more than a handful of people, usually members of her own family. There was something exhilarating in the power of a crowd, too. No doubt about that.

“Did you go to the university?”

“Alas, no. It was deemed more important for my brothers to attend, so I was left to my own devices, although my mother did a great deal to support my learning with necessary expenditures.”

“I helped, too,” her father cut in. Helen guessed that he had begun to see himself painted into an unflattering light.

“I suppose,” Helen said feeling a little enjoyment sting of revenge for his earlier teasing. “Although mother did far more to assist me in my endeavours.”

“I have always had the greatest confidence in my daughter’s abilities,” her father said to Mme. Belcoeur with a firm tone.

The woman seemed greatly amused at the struggle between father and daughter. “Were you afraid your daughter might sail off into the sky never to return?”

A few people in the crowd chuckled at this, which made her father’s face grow a little bit pink. “I admire my daughter’s pioneering spirit and fine mind. I have always had the utmost faith in her abilities.”

Helen smiled at her father. “I suppose thwarting one’s father is a time-honoured motivation. But I am grateful I always had my mother’s support. She has always inspired me.”

Mme. Belcoeur was about to ask another question, but Helen broke in. “That’s what we’ll call it! Jane’s Inspiration!” She turned to her father. “It works so well, doesn’t it? That’s it, I know it!”


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