11.30.2008

Shopping In Town and In Fear For Our Lives

Professor Eberhart has given his permission for me to go into town! I must write quickly, for I must still eat breakfast, then return here to my room and prepare for our trip. Mr. Miller, thankfully, is to accompany me. I was not exactly nervous about going into town alone, but I feel better now that I am to have a friend at my side.

Unfortunately we are to walk the whole way, which the professor says is a good hour there and an hour back, so I must wear my sensible old boots and not the nice dress boots I received on the Erebos. However, I am going to wear my nicer blouse, waistcoat, and skirt, as well as the fancy grey wool coat instead of my old white one, and hope no one notices my shoes. Mr. Miller has but one set of clothes, but I rather think men give less attention to how they appear than do women. However shabby his clothes may be, however, Mr. Miller always keeps them in very good order, very clean and neat with everything properly tucked in and arranged. I really should ask him about his previous employment, before he joined the crew of the Erebos, I mean.

Really must dash!

_____

I WAS A SERVANT.

I WOULD RATHER NOT SAY AT THIS TIME.

I LIKED IT WELL ENOUGH. YES, MY EMPLOYER WAS KIND TO ME, UP UNTIL HIS BETRAYAL.

HE WAS THE ONE WHO GAVE ME THIS SCAR.

I SWEAR I WILL TELL YOU, MISS GREENWATER, BUT LATER. YOU LIKE ME TOO WELL, NOW, AND I AM INTENT ON ENJOYING OUR FRIENDSHIP FOR A WHILE BEFORE I TELL YOU ALL THE UNPLEASANTRIES OF MY LIFE.

I DO SOLEMNLY PROMISE.

THANK YOU.

_____

The above was, of course, written by Mr. Miller. We lunched cheaply in a cafe, the sort of place where men do not remove their hats to eat and where one's boots stick to the floor, but it was all either of us could afford. Indeed, I was a little concerned for Mr. Miller, not knowing if he had any money to his name due to the haste in which he fled the Erebos, but that worry was put to rest when the bill came and he offered to pay for my meal as well as his own. Of course I refused, and paid with my own money, as it was only proper. (I have just remembered my spare cash is still sewn into the petticoat I am wearing! Now that I am settled, I should probably remove it and put it in a safe place in my room once we return to the school.)

Our "conversation" was carried out, as you saw, in my diary, that being the only paper close at hand. I am glad I brought it with me, and I think I must have half-pondered this very thing happening, that is, Mr. Miller needing to write something more than he could spell out with his fingertip on the top of a table. He is currently in a men's shoppe being fitted for another two shirts and a new pair of trousers. As I felt uncomfortable inside, since there were no other women in sight, I am waiting for him on a bench across the road from the shoppe, and will now put down my half of our conversation at lunch.

Obviously, I did ask him about his previous occupation, and was proven right in my conjectures. He would not reveal the identity of his employer, though when I asked (hardly daring to hope for an answer) why he left the man's employ, he told me that his master had given him the wound which disabled his ability to speak! How awful! I asked for details as to how and why, but he declined to answer. I am sure I blushed bright red when he told how he valued our friendship, and I assured him I would love him no less for finding out the truth of his scar and the story that went with it, then made him promise that he would indeed tell me before we parted ways, whenever that might be. I told him that I would not bring it up again until he did, and he thanked me for it. We then finished our meal and went on our way.

What can I say about the city? I think it must be very like any other capital in the nation: big, busy, noisy, dirty. Sun City was a mere speck compared to Reliance, more of a desert "watering hole" than a town. I am very glad, indeed, to have company on this trip, else I would be trying to convince myself every five seconds that I was all right and perfectly able to find my way about in this chaos.

We took an omnibus into the heart of the "shopping district," both of us having decided on buying a few new items of clothing. I have only what I am wearing, and my old clothes from Saint Anne's; the rest are still in my trunk, on the Arabella Genevieve or off it, I know not. And Mr. Miller knew his flight would be much hampered by even a single change of clothes, so he left all but a few small personal items behind on the ship when he left. This morning, I purchased two white blouses, that being all the more I could afford, but I did spend a little more than perhaps I should have on a lovely pale blue skirt, very full, and trimmed with crochet lace at the bottom. I also purchased several new pair of stockings, and some fabric with which to make a new pair of gloves. In my haste this morning, I tugged too hard on my old pair and ripped a hole at the side of the thumb seam. Unfortunately it is too large and ragged a hole to be repaired, but I must make do until I can get the new ones sewn. While I was shopping for all of this, Mr. Miller waited outside, feeling, I am sure, much as I feel now.

I apologised several times for the time I took in the shoppe, though Mr. Miller dismissed all my apologies saying he did not mind, and we made our way to lunch, then afterwards window-shopped a bit before finding a clothier to suit Mr. Miller. It will start to grow dark in another hour, so I suppose we must start back when he is finished. Ah, here he comes.

_____

This is likely the last nice thing I shall write here for a while, Dear Reader. On our way out of town, Mr. Miller purchased a sack of roasted, sugared almonds for us to share as we rode the omnibus back to the road that would lead us to the academy. The bag kept my hand warm, and every time Mr. Miller reached into it, my heart fluttered at his nearness. I was very nervous, but in a pleasant sort of way, if that makes any kind of sense. I feel like a silly schoolgirl even mentioning it, but our fingers brushed thrice when we unwittingly reached into the bag at the same time, and that made my heart positively leap! Oh, Dear Reader, I shall think on this afternoon often in the dark days to come, I am sure.

For I shall have no company but Mr. Miller, and no comforts at all, save the fact that I have managed to produce fire from dry wood without any training (though it was quite difficult.) I write this by the light of said fire, as Mr. Miller keeps watch with a small pistol I did not know he had. We have fled into the woods, for as soon as we reached the edge of the school grounds, we saw the Erebos right in the middle of the cricket field! Captain Belleclaire has evidently found where I have been staying and had come to get me back while I was in town!

Thank goodness I was away, and Mr. Miller, too! Upon seeing the ship, he took my arm and led me quickly across the road, and I didn't say a word of protest. My arms were tired from carrying all my packages, but I kept a tight hold on them as we hurried over a now-empty irrigation ditch, hoping and praying we had not been seen. We then climbed a fence and cut into the field across the road from the school, tall dry grasses swishing around our knees. Every few steps, we would both glance back, the dirigible visible next to the towering structure of the academy. "How long do you think they've been there?" I asked in a whisper, though of course no one was around to hear me. Mr. Miller just shook his head.

When we reached the far end of the field, we followed the fence off to the left, crossing in front of the school, but out of sight of it because of the way the field sloped downhill. We had to climb over another fence at one point, which proved a burden with our packages, but we managed it, and continued on. When Mr. Miller deemed we had gone far enough, we started toward the road again. When we reached it, the school was not in sight, and directly on the other side of the road lay the forest.

That is where we are now, cold and shivering, thankful it has not yet snowed this winter, and terrified of building the fire any higher for fear we should be found out. I do not know what we shall do. We cannot return to the school, for even if the Royal Erebos departs, they will surely leave a crew member behind to watch in case we should come back. Neither Mr. Miller nor I have any connections, at least not nearby. We are afraid to even wire Professor Eberhart or Miss P___ back at Saint Anne's, for doing so would require going into town. Our best bet is to cut through the forest to a small village Mr. Miller knows to be on the far side of it, and see how we fare at that point. But we have no map, no food, no blankets to keep warm. Only our coats and our newly-bought clothes, which I suppose we can use as pillows. (I know it is stupid, but it pains me to think of using the first new clothes I have had in years as pillows on the dirty ground. I shall try to keep mine wrapped up in its paper.)

I am to spend the night out in the open, alone with a man, though one I trust, and have no idea how we shall survive until tomorrow, with the frost and the mist that comes in the early morning. I do not think I shall sleep much at all tonight.

1 comment:

feisty said...

Oh, Bernice, how brave you must be. If it were me, I am not sure I would trust in communication with the Professor or St Anne's - you do not yet know who your friends are - who they are in kahoots with- or where the leeks in information are coming from. You are now cut adrift on a grand adventure until you can try the character of all you meet and have met.

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