While we are here doing nothing waiting for Professor Eberhart to return, I have made an appointment to see Professor Greenwater after lunch, and ask him if he knows anything of my family. Until then, I have nothing to do, and as I do not wish to associate with Captain Winters just now, I shall relate the rest of what happened yesterday.
Captain Winters had become rather frustrated with me, I think, by the time we reached the edge of town. I suppose I was complaining a bit, but I am not used to walking very great distances! It must have been miles! Yet he expected me to keep up with his longer stride, and apparently he didn't even want to talk to pass the time! For I asked him many questions about the war and his ship and his crew, but he either ignored them, or dismissed them with very brief answers. I found him not at all like he is in the sequential art books or the novels. He is rather brusque and not very friendly toward anyone, whether they be strangers or familiar to him. I have seen his charming smile only a handful of times since he boarded the Erebos several days ago.
By the time we reached the outskirts of the city, we were not speaking at all. I was sure I had blisters on both my heels, but of course I could not take my boots off in the cabriolet to check. We rode for several blocks in silence, until I could not bear it anymore.
"Why will you not talk to me about the war?" I asked. "There are books about you, articles, images. If all that is out for the public to see, why can you not tell me anything I have asked?"
Captain Winters looked at me coldly, his eyes narrowing. "I will give you this answer, and then I do not want to hear another word about it ever again," he said, his tone harsher than I had yet heard it. I nodded, too shocked to do otherwise. "Those novels, and those little weekly shams they put out with my image on the cover? They're all fake. Not real, do you understand? They pay people lots of money to come up with that tripe, and the public eats it up. But it's all fictitious! I never battled the Forth Duke of Wellington at the bottom of Desolation Gorge. There is no such place as Desolation Gorge, and I've never met the Fourth Duke of Wellington! I never leapt from the deck of the Grand Tourbillion onto the top of the Swift Sparrow to gouge a hole in the balloon and sink it. Human strength can't even pierce the shell of airship balloons!"
This, Dear Reader, was terrible news. I had only read a couple of the short novels featuring "Captain Jack Winters and his Daring Crew of the Grand Tourbillion," and those were well-read copies at the local library, and all out of order. But the sequential art books! Every other Saturday when Miss P___ took us girls into town, we were allowed one half hour to do as we pleased, so long as we took at least one other girl with us, and were back at such-and-such a meeting point by such-and-such a time. I always took Maggie with me to the bookshop, where we hid in the back corner of the store to catch up on the latest issues of "The Grand Adventures of Captain Jack Winters." Before she could read well, I read them to her, quietly, so as not to draw the attention of the shopkeeper. He didn't like that we read his books without ever buying anything, but he allowed it because, I believe, he knew who and what we were and felt sorry for us.
"None of it?" I asked. "Not the rescue of Annie Pratchett?"
"There is no such person."
Dear Reader, I was crushed. That series of four books was my favourite, and had been since it came out three years ago. Annie was so beautiful and headstrong, yet she always swooned at just the right moment and, of course, fell into Jack Winters' arms. Unfortunately, she found out her childhood sweetheart was not, in fact, dead as she had supposed, and ended up marrying him, with many wistful backwards glances at Jack as she was led to her new home by her new husband. It was heartbreaking, and even worse to know the story wasn't true!
"Not the battle for Castle Het--"
"There is no such place! I told you to drop it! Those tales are fictions spun from air in order to make money, that is all! Nothing more! If they published the true tales of the war, no one would buy them."
"What do you mean? Of course they would! You were terribly heroic and noble in the war, bombing parliament and tracking down the secret headquarters of the--"
"How can I make you understand?" he shouted. "I look at my hands every day, and still see blood on them, twenty years later! You say 'bombing parliament' as if it were nothing, but people died because of me, because of what I did!" It was getting noisier outside as we drove further into the city, the sounds of people talking and walking, the sounds of horses, of cabs, of merchants in stalls selling their wares, all growing louder, but Captain Winters took no notice. "That building was leveled in the middle of the day. It was full of men and women just doing their jobs, working at desks and in offices. And all the civilians outside as well, hit by flying rubble, crushed by the falling walls. Do you understand that, little girl? War is a bloody, painful, nightmare-inducing horror, so don't you believe a word of the tripe that's not worth the paper it's printed on!"
I was absolutely struck dumb, not only by the force behind his words and his surprising anger, but by the revelation as well. I had never thought of war heroes as... well, as killing people. Every child learned about the bombing of the Brittanian parliament in classes from the time they were small, but it was really just... a piece of our history. How we defeated the Brittainians and became our own, independent country. I never thought of the buildings being full of people, but saw it rather as the destruction of a great landmark that made the Brittainians lose a little more hope and grow a little closer to surrendering. And of course the generals had to be killed when Captain Winters and his crew found their hideout, but that never registered, either. I sat there wondering if they were ambushed, or lined up against the wall and shot, or if their afternoon tea was poisoned by Jack or one of his crew in disguise as a servant.
Needless to say, the remainder of our journey was silent, and when we arrived at the school, as I said before, we were shown into a little parlour and told to wait. Upon learning that Professor Eberhart was not here, we were taken to guest rooms.
It has just occurred to me that schools, even very nice private schools for rich young men and women, most likely do not give any peasants off the street coffee and biscuits and rooms to stay in for nothing, and am now worrying if Captain Winters paid the housekeeper-type woman who showed us around. Am I expected to pay for my half of everything? I have money, still, but it is all from Saint Anne's. Although I suppose this is helping me on my quest to discover any family members, which is what I intended to do with it in the first place, so perhaps I ought to use it. It is just that I hate spending money, and would much rather sleep in a peddler's shelter than pay money to stay somewhere nice.
Have just been to see Professor Greenwater. I do not wish to go into details, but he said he did not know my family. I did not look familiar to him, nor did the images of my parents in my locket (though he, along with so many others, said how remarkably like my mother I looked). He could offer me no help, but wished me luck.
I am too distraught to write further; all my hopes have been dashed and I do not know what to do now. I suppose I shall say I am not hungry so I can skip supper, and stay here and cry.