Apparently Captain Winters is to accompany me all the way to the school! Not only that, but we are both to be in disguise! Of course Captain Winters would be recognized wherever he went, since his face is everywhere. I am not sure why I need to be disguised. Perhaps it is in case Belleclaire and the crew of the Erebos is looking for me, though how they would know to find me in Reliance, I do not know, for I do not think I ever told any of the crew where I was headed.
Oh dear. I suppose if they knew I was going to be in Sun City, they had to know that I was on the Arabella. And if they knew that, they would know where I boarded the train and where I was supposed to get off at the end of my journey. If not that, then they could have followed the Grand Tourbillion discreetly, or asked after it, since it is a government ship and its whereabouts are generally known by the public. Now I am afraid again!
Jacobs has just come by to tell me we will be leaving in two hours' time, though he said--I think he said--we weren't going to land. How then shall we reach the school? Shall we jump? I must have misunderstood him.
There is now a great deal of noise going on out on the deck. I peeped out to see a pile of large wood and metal pieces being hammered and screwed together in the middle of the deck. It seems several of the crew members are building something, though what I cannot fathom. It is more than half the width of the whole deck, in length, though very slender from front to back. Interesting.
I have been to watch the building from the safety of the little raised walkway in front of the cabin, and it seems to be a small contraption with wings covered in canvas, and three little wheels on the bottom, two fore--I mean, in the front, look at how I am using ships' language--and one in the back. It is mostly... what is it called? Framework, I think. No "walls" but only supports connected together, and a "floor" on the bottom. In the middle are two small chairs, one behind the other.
Oh dear. I believe this is how we are supposed to get to the school without landing the dirigible. I am not sure I like this at all.
That was absolutely terrifying, and I do not think I shall be able to stop shaking for hours still! Captain Winters and I have been tucked into a cozy little parlour at the school and given a pot of coffee and some shortbread biscuits. The captain is pacing and looking at the clock every three seconds, but I am very glad to sit and rest and do nothing for a while.
Blast! We have just learnt that Professor Josef Eberhart is away on business, and will not return until tomorrow night! Captain Winters still will not tell me why he wishes to see the professor, but I think it must have something to do with me, for why else would he keep checking on me, and make arrangements for the both of us together? If he wanted to see Professor Eberhart on his own, he could have dismissed me to seek out Professor Greenwater, as was my plan, or go to the Reliance City Library, or any number of things besides "Wait," which is all he has been saying for two days.
I am now in a little guest room, with Captain Winters down the hall, and I suppose I could tell of my experiences this afternoon. My hands have very nearly stopped shaking at least, so my writing should now be legible.
Not long after I put away my diary after watching the flying contraption be built, Captain Winters knocked, then entered when I answered him. "Pardon me, Miss--Miss Greenwater." It seemed as though he stopped himself before saying all together the wrong name. Am I that easily forgettable? "As we are to leave in an hour, I thought it best we get on with our disguises."
"Oh yes, certainly," I replied.
He stood near the open door and stared at me for a minute before I realized what he meant. "Oh! I am sorry, you want me to leave."
"Yes," he answered, sounding a bit strained. "At least while I am changing my clothes."
I turned scarlet, curtseyed hurriedly, then nearly ran out the door, which he shut behind me. Not knowing what else to do, I watched the last of the preparations for the flying contraption. One of the men was sitting in the front seat and moving various levers to make bits of the wing and tail go up and down or back and forth. My nerves grew worse, and I put my hands in my pockets to keep from chewing my nails. Finally I could stand it no longer, and knocked on the captain's door.
"Yes!" he called, and I stepped inside.
"Are we really to fly in that... that thing?" I asked, panic surely evident in my voice.
"I assure you, it is perfectly safe," he said. I noticed that he wore shabbier clothes, all in pale colours and much-patched. He was combing something into his beautiful blond hair to make it darker, almost dusty-looking.
"How does it... how does it go?" I asked. "I saw no motor, no balloon."
"It doesn't 'go.' It glides." He leaned close to the mirror on the wall and picked something up from the top of the bureau, then pressed it over his upper lip; it was a fake mustache!
"What do you mean, glides?" I asked.
"We will launch it off the side of the ship and glide.... sort of float down to the ground. I've done it dozens of times, you've nothing to worry about."
This comforted me a little. At the very least, I figured I could close my eyes for the whole thing, if it was all that bad. "Why must we go in disguise?" I asked.
"So we are not recognized."
I suppressed a sigh. "I know that, but why?"
He did not answer, as he was adjusting the mustache and looking at the roots of his hair for any bits of dye (or perhaps he really did just use dust) that were stuck there. "Your things are on the bed," he said without turning around. "We are to be father and daughter, on our way to visit my elderly aunt in Reliance. We shall have to land somewhat outside the town and walk to the school."
Father and daughter! True, he was forty years of age, and I suppose he could have had a daughter of eighteen, but I do not think I looked young enough, nor he old enough, to be taken for father and daughter! "Mightn't we be... young lovers, in search of work in Reliance?" I asked quietly.
The captain turned around and stared at me. "No," he said bluntly. He donned a beat-up knit cap and started toward the door. "Change and gather your things," he said. "I shall return for you shortly."
I sighed in frustration and put on the rags he had provided. Why they had women's clothes on board, I do not know, but I was not about to ask. I put my few belongings into my case, my clothes into a bag, and put on the fine coat Belleclaire had given me. As soon as I was outside, though, Captain Winters caught sight of me and shook his head. "No no no," he said. "Put that in the bag and wear your old coat."
It was white and practically threadbare at the elbows. The sleeves hadn't been long enough since I was about fourteen, so a not-quite-matching band of fabric had been tacked onto the end of each to make them reach my wrists. The hem, which reached my knees, was frayed, and the bottommost button was different than the rest of them, as it had fallen off and needed to be replaced. I thought I would never have to put it on again, with the nice grey wool coat I now owned, and hated wearing it again and looking like the poor orphan girl I really was.
I didn't have long to mope, though, for Jack Winters was motioning to me to come down onto the deck. Amazingly, a whole section of the side of the ship had been removed. I mean the sort of railing or half-wall all around the deck; I do not know the term. So once Captain Winters and I were loaded into the contraption, he in front and I behind, with our hats and goggles on tight, several of the crew gave a great shove to the back of the thing and off we went over the edge! I was too frightened even to scream, and didn't realize I'd been holding my breath til I gasped in a lungful of air several moments later. I clutched at the back of Jack's seat, my teeth clenched, muscles tense, then made the mistake of looking over the edge.
Thinking about it now, it must have been a beautiful sight. The city itself was densely populated with tall buildings and several squares with little sparkling specks in the centers--fountains, I believe--as well as little green patches of parks. Further out there were smaller buildings, which I took to be houses, and beyond that fields of varying colours of brown, as it is nearly full winter now. But at the time, I was too terrified to take in the lovely view, and could only think how very, very far below us the ground was, how small and light this craft was, and that we had no way of propelling ourselves to safety.
True to Jack's word, we floated gradually down and down, the fields and buildings and squares growing larger and larger. We turned big, slow circles, spiraling down, and landed with a big bump and several smaller bumps at the edge of a field full of prickly, broken-off corn stalks. Once our things were unloaded, Jack untwisted a few bolts and I do not know what else (though it only took him a moment) and removed the wings (wing, really, for it is all one piece) from the top of the contraption. To think of how lightly they were held on nearly made me swoon! He then tucked both pieces into some shrubbery. Not a very good job of hiding it, but no one would be looking for it, all the way out there.
We then walked for what seemed like forever, until we reached the very edge of town and could catch a cabriolet to take us to the school.
There was more, but it is late and I am exhausted from my trying day, so I shall continue tomorrow.