Chapter 23 - An Airship to Home
Jean G Hontz
@copyright 2009 all rights reserved
The observation deck of the HMAS Princess Beatrice was quite crowded as the airship unberthed from the Bermuda aerodrome and lifted majestically away. The airship as a whole was not nearly as crowded as she normally would be, however, because of an announcement, not long before departure time, that for reasons having to do with safety and maintenance, the airship would not visit its usual stops but instead was heading directly back to the London airship factory site at the London aerodrome.
Needless to say, under the circumstances, rooms for Septimus and Margot Marchant, Cyril and Emiline Hollis-Reynolds, and their escorts, Chief Inspector Rory, Sergeant Lumm and the somewhat glassy eyed Dr Finigal were arranged with little to no difficulty. Even so, quite a few passengers, supremely confident in Her Majesty’s airship company, well, those at least who were bound for London at any rate, were aboard.
The observation deck gave a wonderful view from which to survey the glories of the islands and to wave good-bye to any family or friends below. Not to mention there was a groaning sideboard covered with canapes and a drinks table that overflowed with every beverage known to Victorians. And a few besides.
Our little company of travelers were all cleaned and dressed and looking quite presentable. Even Chief Inspector Rory despite his lost luggage. He’d found clothing awaiting him aboard already laid out in his stateroom. He’d taken a quick bath and shaved and dressed.
Margot, seeing him looking quite the dapper gentleman, was openly admiring of him, as were most ladies on the observation deck. He cut quite the figure with his expensive suit and elegant walking stick. She’d never have thought it when she'd first met him, hollow eyed and fresh off another airship.
“Why Chief Inspector, you’re looking decidedly elegant,” she murmured as he walked over to join her and Emmie near the rail. Cyril, standing nearby, frowned hard at him.
Rory raised an eyebrow at him, then bowed to the ladies. “Amazing what a bath, a razor and clean clothes will do for a man.”
Emmie, who had little patience for pleasantries, commented, “I suppose you’re people arranged for all this?” she said, waving at, well, everything.
Rory frowned and looked around. “Oh. You mean the change in her itinerary. I had no idea they would, you know. All they told me was to have the four of you aboard and the rest would be taken care of.”
“Taken care of indeed,” Emmie muttered. Not that she minded. It got her to London all the quicker so she could find Ned and box his ears properly.
Septimus Marchant returned from the drinks table then and handed what looked like a glass of scotch to Cyril. “Here, my boy, drink up.”
“Where is Ned? Why haven't you located Ned,” Cyril asked, glaring at Rory.
“I don't have him, old chap. We believe he’s in London, as I told you.”
“You’re certain he isn't locked in some Tower room awaiting execution? YOU aren't going to hang him, are you?” Cyril hissed the question.
Rory looked startled. “No. Certainly not.”
“If you harm one hair on his head,” Emmie threatened, taking a step toward Rory, with fists clenched at her side, and a homicidal glare in her eye.
He took a hasty step backward. “I was assured, Lady Emiline, that no harm is intended toward Benedict Black. Assuredly not by us at any rate. We want merely to find him and his Assembler. Before anyone else does.”
“Yes, I dare say you do. And then what will you do if he refuses to do what you want of him” she demanded.
“More to the point, Lady Emiline, what will Nathan Ainsworth or various other conscienceless men do to him when he refuses to do what they tell him to do,” Rory replied.
Emmie fought back tears, took a deep breath, and headed toward her room.
“I should go after her,” Cyril said uncertainly.
“No you should not,” Margot said definitively and took his arm to ensure he didn’t scuttle off. “Walk with me and let’s see the view so long as we can.
Septimus watched her and Cyril walk off then turned back to Rory. “Ned believes he's wanted for treason. Are you saying...”
“I’m saying not everyone ever believed he had anything to do with the Jubilee Plot,” Rory replied. “I won't deny, however, he has enemies inside the government.”
“His father being first amongst them,” Septimus muttered.
“Indeed. Lord Silver being first amongst them. But Lord Silver has less say in things than he believes. Especially if Mr Black has a very highly place patron who will not hesitate to help him.”
Septimus goggled. “Do you mean...?”
Rory shrugged. “He’s shown an interest. So I’m told.”
“It never made any sense them blaming Ned for that assassination attempt against the royal personages. He’s never taken an interest in politics,” Septimus muttered.
“Perhaps not, but he was, at the time, assisting the Admiralty. When he stopped assisting, that’s when the accusations began to actually take hold,” Rory replied.
“And, I expect they needed a scapegoat and who better than a bastard who was suddenly refusing to assist his country when it was attempting to identify the assassins who’d attempted to kill its Queen.”
“Exactly,” Rory agreed. “Your friend refused to play the game. Never a wise move.”
Septimus looked Rory up and down. “Whereas you don’t refuse to play.”
Rory shrugged. “Someone with some sense has to keep an eye on things. Otherwise we’d be overrun by Lord Silvers.”
Cyril bit his lip, rubbed the top of his shoes on the back of his pant legs to make sure they weren’t dusty, then rapped on the stateroom door.
“One moment,” came the reply.
Cyril frowned. It hadn’t sounded like Margot’s voice to him. In fact it sounded suspiciously like Emmie’s. He rapped on the door again, a bit harder.
It opened immediately that time and Cyril was staring at Emmie. “I thought this was...”
“Margot’s room,” Emmie finished for him. “It is. It adjoins mine so we have the inner doors open. Just so I can keep an eye on you,” Emmie finished, frowning hard at her brother.
“I say. I would never!” Cyril protested.
“Yes, I know. More’s the pity. Come in. Margot is putting the finishing touches on her outfit.”
Cyril suspiciously walked into the room. He looked round, wondering if Margot would be wearing goggles or armor or something. Finishing touches sounded ominous to him. He liked her in pants and boots and leather vest but still...
“You look,” Cyril began, eying Emmie up one side and down he other. She was definitely not in pants.
She twirled around fro him. “Lovely. I do. With luck Chief Inspector Rory will think so too.”
Every man on the bloody airship would think so, given how much of Emmie there was to see. “Father would kill you if he saw you in that.”
Emmie giggled. “The latest fashion. I think I look delicious.”
She did. The dress was low cut, and silky and so, oddly enough, Emmie. A deep deep blue that was so different from the cream or brown she normally wore, but looked great on her. But, well, she did not look like a sister ought! “But Emmie. Ned is...”
“Ned is not here. Ned is never here. When Ned is here, he’s busy either ignoring me or telling me all the reasons we can’t possibly be together. I’m tired of Ned. All he ever does is go running off. Well, I’m done chasing him. I’m going to enjoy the men who show attention to me,” she ended with a growl that made Cyril back up hastily.
Then Margot walked out of the adjoining room and Cyril’s attention was all on her. Once he picked his jaw up from the floor. He’d never seen Margot in anything other than trousers and a men’s shirt. Mostly she had some sort of hat or goggles on her head and she never wore whatever it was women put on themselves to sort of sparkle around the eyes. Now she sort of sparkled all over the place. And the dress she wore seemed to be glued to her body showing every curve and every....
“Ahem,” Cyril managed after he'd swallowed the lump that was in his throat. Cyril was in no condition at the moment to realize the grayish blue of the dress matched exactly Margot’s eyes.
And then Cyril was putting his hand on the small of Margot’s back and steering her out the door. He checked twice because he swore his hand was so hot it might be searing a hole in her dress. It wasn’t.
Septimus, Rory, and Dr Finigal were already at their table when Cyril escorted the two women warily, as if they were wildcats (which perhaps they were), into the main dining salon.
Although the place was full of beautifully dressed women, eyes sought out Margot and Emmie regardless.
Emmie smiled widely glancing around at her admirers, apparently basking in the acclaim. Then she made that smile something special and aimed it just at Kevyn Rory, who’d accepted it’s meaning, and had then stood with some alacrity.
Septimus and Dr Finigal were a bit slower about finding their feet. Finigal, truth be told, hadn’t really noticed anything out of the ordinary. He was squinting downward, writing himself notes in his tiny spiral bound book which he carried with him always so he wouldn’t forget a single thing he wished to remember. Pretty girls in stunning dresses apparently did not cross the threshold of actual interest.
Rory held the chair beside him for Emmie whilst Cyril moved with some surprising grace to seat Margot between himself and her father.
Septimus seemed to find something utterly fascinating in his drinks glass, and was giving it his entire attention.
Cyril, feeling as if he were floating, well, without benefit of airship, kept his eyes firmly on Margot, whose outfit drove every thought other than her entirely out of his mind or even current universe.
Rory, having taken in the lay of the land, fell with some enthusiasm into the role assigned himself by Lady Emiline. It was far more pleasant than he'd expected.
There was dancing after dinner, and neither Rory nor Cyril disgraced himself.
Later still, once Finigal, Lumm and Septimus had gone to their rest, and only the two young couples remained upright and conscious, they sauntered out onto the glassed in upper deck. Moonlight lit the ocean below them and danced in the ladies’s hair. The gentlemen shed their jackets and wrapped up the women in them, as it was a bit chilly despite some steam-powered heating that made the deck bearable at all.
Cyril, feeling as if he were in some sort of fevered dream, inhaled Margot’s scent deep into his lungs and then found himself bending down to touch his lips to hers. He had no idea where Emmie and Rory were at that moment or even just where he and Margot were.
And when his lips met hers his last bit of rational thought fled entirely. When Margot began returning his kiss, her arms stretched up to go around his neck. He pulled her softly yielding body against his and savored the moment of discovery. He'd never tasted anything so sweet.
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