29 June, 2014 by katelaity
“I assure you, signore—”
“I cannot listen to this madman.”
“Ned! You’re being ridiculous.” Helen had been ready to laugh off her brother’s nervousness, but she had become increasingly wound up by his peremptory tone. “This is no business of yours any how.”
“I must protest. You should be protected from charlatans and your own foolishness.”
“Signore! I am not inclined to anger, but you insult me.” Maggiormente felt his cheeks grow warm, though he checked Eduardo’s growl with a gentle hand on his familiar’s head.
“I am furious! You have no right to speak, you are insulting my friend, to say nothing of your treatment of me. I am no infant, I need no protector, I am a free human being with an independent will, not a bird in a cage or ensnared in a net.” Helen’s face glowed with her fury. Her voice remained low but her hands clenched tightly.
“Your mother would be proud of you, my dear,” Helen’s father said softly, laying a hand on her shoulder not to control but to soothe her temper. “And she would be most appalled at you, Edmund. You have been too long among the French with their disregard of women.”
“Yorkshire women—and I suspect also those in the rest of the islands—are not inclined to be treated as dressmaker’s models, good only for wearing fripperies.” He squeezed his daughters shoulder and tried to clear his throat which had seemed to thicken as he spoke. “If you had seen your sister pilot this ship through rain and clouds and murmurations of starlings and water spouts and whatnot, you would be more than content to leave the business of air travel in her capable hands.”
“I was only trying to say—”
“If you would be wise, my son, you would be quiet if you wish to stay, or put your hat on and leave at once.”
“Thank you, papa,” Helen said with a crackle of fire in her eyes. Maggiormente felt his heart sing a little louder to catch a glimpse of it. As if she could rise no higher in his esteem! How exquisite she was.
And her father, while often intimidating, showed his true colours. Such a family—apart from her brother. Perhaps he had been too long away from home.
What must her mother be like? The alchemist was prepared to adore her immediately.
“Signor Maggiormente, shall we go try out your fuel?”
“With pleasure, signorina!”
They located a cab in a trice and headed back toward the grounds where the airship awaited them. Though it was early, a crowd had gathered around the craft and watched eagerly to see the approach of the captain and her crew.
“Are you flying?”
“Will you take passengers? I can pay handsomely, mademoiselle!”
“Can you see heaven from the air?”
Helen smiled at the crowd but shook her head gently to discourage the imprecations. Signor Romano had been chatting with M. Piéton’s men, who had been keeping a close watch on the airship during the night, and welcomed the captain’s return. “We voyage on new fuel today, signorina?”
“Indeed we do, signore. Keep your fingers crossed that it is everything we hope.”
Maggiormente grinned and shook the hand of his fellow countryman. “I hope it goes well for us, if not I go right back to the drawing board and improve.”
Helen looked at him with an odd smile. “I’m glad you say ‘us’ now, signore.”
Maggiormente bowed slightly to her. “I am very pleased to be part of your crew, signorina. Eduardo is, too, ne c’est pas, mon ami?”
Eduardo nodded. “I have not worn my fez today, not because I have doubts but because it does not seem especially aerodynamic.”
“It would be a shame to lose such an elegant hat,” said Helen’s father, who seemed to have become rather fond of the lion now that he had gotten over his nervousness about the very large teeth.
“Perhaps we can get you a helmet like mine,” Helen said.
“Or give him yours as you never wear it,” her father scolded.