Supper and A One-sided Conversation

Nothing of interest happened for the remainder of the day yesterday, nor has anything much happened today. The captain did not return for me as he said he would, and I do not think he intends to answer my questions at all! I was right, that first day, to say I did not trust his word.

I have found out one interesting thing. Or perhaps it is a frightening thing. I do not know anymore. My definition of "frightening" has changed after being kidnapped by a crew of what I have come to think of as airship mercenaries or pirates. For what else can they be, if they hire themselves out to kidnap poor orphan girls for the benefit of wealthy men, and all of them in such fine clothes as well? Such men (and woman) could not come by the wealth honestly, I am certain.

The interesting and/or frightening thing is this: I have found out who my meal-bringer is, the bald man dressed in plain clothes. He appears to be about thirty years of age, always wears a dirty-looking, cream-coloured cloth tied around his neck, and he squints most of the time, though that might be because I have refused to let anyone open my curtain for light. Of course they think it is because of my fear of heights, but I know it is so anyone else who is flying up here might see my distress message and come rescue me!

He still has not spoken, but now I know it is because he cannot speak. I asked him why he did not say anything, each time he came to bring my meals, yet he never replied in any way until he brought tonight's supper. In answer, he set down my tray and untied the cloth from around his neck, revealing a thick ugly scar stretching across his throat in a jagged line. I cried out at the sight of it and put a hand over my mouth. "Oh! I am so sorry," I said, for even if he was an airship pirate and had kidnapped me, whatever had been done to him to create that awful scar and leave him unable to speak must have been terrible!

In answer, her merely shrugged, then took the cloth off my supper and started to leave.

"Please stay!" I begged, on my feet before I knew what I was doing. "I am so lonely here! I've nothing to do and the hours drag by so awfully!"

He hesitated, tying the cloth around his neck again, then held up a finger to say "Just a moment." He left, but returned a few minutes later. "Did you have to ask permission?" He nodded. "And Captain Belleclaire didn't have anything for you to do?" He nodded again.

Unsure of how to carry on, I invited him to sit in the chair opposite mine at the table, which he did after I was seated. A little shocked that a pirate and a bad man would have such manners, I picked up my knife and fork. "Have you eaten?" I asked him. He nodded again.

All was silent for a time as I ate and drank. (True to Captain Belleclaire's word, coffee flows like water on the ship, and I have now become accustomed to drinking it with every meal. There is a pitcher of water and a glass in my room, but the ritual of pouring the coffee and adding sugar and milk has become a soothing little routine, something I can hang onto in the midst of this chaos.)

I avoided staring at his throat as well as I could, and once I was finished, I smiled at him. "Thank you for sitting with me." He gave another little shrug. "Have you been on the ship long?" He held up three fingers. "Three... years?" He nodded yes. "And how do you like your... work?"

He held out his hand, palm down, and tipped it side to side in a "so-so" gesture, though he nodded his head as if to say, "It's not all bad."

"How did you come to--I'm sorry, that would probably require some explanation." He nodded in agreement. "Some other time, then."

As I was finished, he put the dishes back on the tray, then stood and picked it up.

"Wait!" I cried again. "What... what is your name? So I may call you by it. I am Miss Bernice Sophronia Philomena Greenwater. Miss Greenwater, I mean," I said, and held out my hand.

He set the tray down and shook my hand, then looked about the room. "Pen and paper?" I asked, and he nodded. I got into my case and removed my fountain pen. Having no paper besides what is in my diary, I tore a scrap off the back page of one of the periodicals, and brought it to him.

He took both from me, and bent over the table to write in the margin. When he stood up, he handed back the pen, then the scrap of paper. On it was written in bold, all capital-letters, "ZEBEDIAH MILLER."

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