11.8 To the Ship

8 September, 2013 by katelaity

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“News? What sort of news?” Helen seemed to be the only one eager to hear what her brother had to say. The alchemist had begun to drift off in preoccupying thoughts, Eduardo and Tuppence carried on a conversation of their own device and her father searched for words to adequately express his disapproval of his youngest spawn.

“Those reprehensible Lintons,” Edmund said with vehemence, “They mean to challenge you to a race.”

“Yes, I know that,” Helen said, waving away his words. “All of Paris knows that.”

Edmund looked crestfallen. “Do they?”

She tried to ameliorate his disappointment, which one could spot as typical middle child behaviour. “How did you hear?”

“I was, er, playing cards with some English fellows and they happened to mention it. You remember Toby Stephens whom I was at school with? He knows them.”

“Ah yes, the very tall one, Scottish mother?”

“Yes, that’s the one. Well, he said they had challenged you and that they were rather more than confident of winning.”

“They haven’t a chance!” Helen brandished the heel of her croissant as if it were torch.

“Ah, but you misunderstand me.” Edmund shook his head sorrowfully. “They intended to make is sure that they would win.”

“How?” Their father cut in with his anger reaching near apoplectic levels. “Do you mean to say they’ll use sabotage?”

Edmund raised his hands as if warding off an attack. “I don’t know for certain. Toby just said that they had planned to win by any means necessary and he didn’t think they’d stop at much.”

“The devils!” Helen practically spat the words.

Her anger got the alchemist’s attention again and he sprang to attention, hoping to be of some use. “Do you think the ship is safe? Shall we not go make certain of it?”

“Yes, let’s.” Helen called to Tuppence and prepared to leave.

“You can’t go unchaperoned,” her father protested.

“Neddy, you can come along, yes?” Helen paused no more than a moment to get his hasty agreement, threw a wrap around her shoulders against the early morning chill, grabbed a parasol for the afternoon sun and headed for the door with the alchemist, the lion, the raven and her brother in tow.

“How are you going to get there?” her father asked from his chair when they were piling out the door.

“We can run,” Eduardo said to the alchemist, who frowned as he considered this.

“It’s not so very far,” Helen said with a toss of her head. “We’ll manage.”

Her father threw himself to his feet. “Don’t be foolish. Find a handsom and we’ll all squeeze in—or around—it.”

“Thank you, papa,” Helen said with a quick kiss on his cheek.

It took some doing but the entire menagerie of folk stuffed themselves in or around a hansom cab. The driver drew a very definite line against the inclusion of winged lions, but Eduardo was happy to run along beside and sometimes ahead of the cab, particularly once he realised that doing so tended to limit the traffic in front of them, a not inconsiderable advantage on the busy streets of Paris.

Upon reaching the field where the ship was anchored, Helen felt a surge of happiness and pride as she saw the fine machine awaiting. “Do you know what we called it, Ned?”

Her brother stared at the machine somewhat nonplussed. “You made this, Hel? What a wonder you are.”

“I had a lot of help, but it’s my design and I’ve been tinkering with it as we’ve gone along. She’s quite amazing. Wait until you fly in her.”

They pulled up as near as the cabbie cared to go. Many people still milled around the area, excitedly talking about the airship and the soon-to-be-opening Exposition. The air was charged with excitement.

M. Piéton waved from the base of the ladder where he waited with his men, which made Helen a lot more confident of the ship’s safety. Tuppence quickly flew to the top in order to overlook the ship from the best angle, calling off her observations. All was well onboard the ship.

“Neddy, I’d like to invite you to take a ride on Jane’s Inspiration.” She grinned with pride.

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