19 May, 2013 by katelaity
All around them the crowd muttered its excitement—and a little bit of alarm, too, for those close to Eduardo were understandably concerned about the lion’s very large teeth and the incongruity of his wings.
Most, however, had eyes only for the airship. While the sight of them was no longer rare, there was something breathtaking about this particular ship, an elegance that made it stand out even for those who had seen a ship or two of late.
Maggiormente himself stared with excitement. Suddenly it was all real, the work he had been labouring over so many months. This magnificent ship would be the realisation of his efforts. He felt a sudden proprietary glow, as if he had already contributed to the flight.
The ship dropped slowly in height and the crowd could discern figures in the gondola. Many tried to shout and wave to the passengers, but they seemed quite preoccupied with duties at the moment.
“We must go meet them!” Maggiormente shook his friend’s shoulder with decision.
The poet’s head rolled on his neck from the unexpected grip. “Should we not wait here, out of the way?”
“Where’s your sense of adventure, man?” Alain also clapped the poet on the back, eager to get going. “Pay the driver!”
They all hopped down from the carriage and waved a hearty goodbye to the driver, who reined his horses away back toward the city.
“Eduardo!” the alchemist called to his lion, who seemed completely enraptured by the craft.
“Look,” Eduardo pointed with his paw. “There’s a big bird flying around the ship.” Sure enough a huge black bird circled the gondola and then perched on the rail around its edge.
“Don’t get any ideas,” the alchemist muttered to his familiar. “We must be friendly to our collaborators.”
Eduardo looked insulted. “I do not eat everything I see.”
“You would if you could,” Maggiormente chortled.
A long rope ladder unfurled from the gondola. Ropes with anchors at their ends quickly followed suit.
“We should offer to help,” Alain said, nudging the alchemist. They all trotted forward to see if they could lend a hand.
“Eduardo, you keep the crowds at bay,” the alchemist called to his lion. He didn’t so much worry about the people, who seemed quite willing to maintain a safe distance from the landing area, so much as about Eduardo. No good frightening the Englishwoman right from the start.
The lion took him at his word, sat facing the throng with a serious mien, his tail wrapping around him with dignity. Surely none would venture past him.
Alain and the poet grabbed the anchor ropes while the alchemist took hold of the rope ladder. A figure appeared at the top of the ladder. The voluminous skirts gave away the identity of the person:
It was the captain herself!
A thrill of excitement shot through Maggiormente. He hoped she would be as fascinating as her plans had been. He had not thought much about the woman as he worked on the formula, but now to suddenly see the partner he had worked for if not with, the anticipation of meeting a fellow experimenter in new technologies proved most thrilling.
He felt quite giddy.
The engines slowed to a halt and the ship floated gently in the warm breeze. He could see his friends drawing out the guiding ropes as the Englishwoman made her way down the rope ladder with sure steps.
What was her name? All at once Maggiormente panicked. He tried to picture the letter with its sure black letters, but the name was not coming to mind. He cursed his poor memory and the preoccupations that always filled it. Madeleine? Genevieve? No, no. It was no good.
Her skirts were brown and her shoes thick, black walking shoes. All at once it came to the alchemist that it was not decorous of him to watch her descend from below and abashed he looked down at the ground, his cheeks reddening.
“Hello!” a confident voice called down to him. “Or should I say, bonjour!”
Maggiormente said, “Bon giorno” a little shyly and suddenly the woman had jumped down beside him. He looked up at last to see a pair of sparkling brown eyes.
“Are you Signor Maggiormente? I am Helen Rochester!”