Past lunch now, and still no word from Professor Eberhart. I keep thinking that our wire was intercepted by a crewman of the Erebos, or even someone else working for Belleclaire or (worse) Bergstrom, and they are on their way here to kill us or kidnap us, but when I catch myself thinking such things, I try and focus on other, better thoughts.
Mr. --Goodness! Why is it so difficult to remember to call him by his given name? Zebediah told me his shoulder is feeling almost entirely well now. Evidently the first mate, Reva, also serves as the ship's surgeon when there is call for it, and is assisted by the cook. They patched him up as best as they could, though his escape and flight shortly after the battle did no favours to the wound. It healed somewhat badly, he said, and has formed yet another scar to add to his collection. ("Add" is made by forming a "plus" symbol with both index fingers, but as we did not have a hand word for "collection," he spelled it out on the table.) My curiosity was peaked, hearing (ha, hearing! seeing) that, but I did not pry and ask what other scars he carries. I can imagine living on a mercenary dirigible for three years, one could find oneself in all sorts of trouble. I do not know if his previous master was always so violent as he was the day he slashed Zebediah's throat, but I do not like to think on that, either, and hope he bears no other scars from that man.
I am still wearing his clothes, as I will be the less easily recognizable of the two of us if I must answer the door for a message, or go out into town for anything we might need. We have been dining here, and taking everything that can be taken--that is to say, everything but the messy roast for lunch, and our cups of coffee at breakfast and lunch both--back to our rooms to eat, so there is less a chance of being spotted and recognized, but I may need to later go into town to send another wire, or buy something the inn does not provide. I do not anticipate going out into the city before we have heard from the professor, but it always does good to be prepared, as Miss P___ would say. I have loosened my stays a little bit, though my breathing is still rather more restricted than usual. Otherwise, I keep my hair pinned up and beneath Zebediah's cap, ready to answer the door at a second's notice. It still feels very odd to walk without the swish of skirts around my ankles, and for the sleeves of the shirt to be so loose and long, but in an interesting sort of way.
I feel I shall go mad if we do not hear back from Professor Eberhart soon, Dear Reader! I must find some way to occupy myself now, as writing in this diary is clearly not enough. Perhaps I can hunt down a book. Oh! Perhaps in order to amuse us both, I might read to Mr. Miller. I shall ask him what he thinks.
A pleasant couple of hours was spent in the company of a book, one full of short stories: adventures of soldiers in the war, wives waiting at home for them while sowing their Victory Gardens, and school children collecting scrap metal for bullets and the like. I do not know if they were true stories, or fictions based in fact, but all together, the tales were heartwarming and seemed to bolster my spirits a bit (though I think it would not have taken much to make me happier than I had been all day, which is to say, not happy at all).
I read aloud so Zebediah could enjoy the tales as well, though I think I must have sounded rather dull, for I noticed that he closed his eyes after the first half hour, and leaned back against the wall. Despite my boyish appearance, my voice is still very feminine-sounding, so I had to keep a low tone, as the walls in this place are embarrassingly thin. (I now know more than I ever wanted to know about our neighbours in 306! But shall not think on it further.) Perhaps the softness of my voice combined with the comfort of where he reclined on the bed and his exhaustion from the past several days caused him to doze off. I did not really mind it, however, and once I noticed he was asleep, I softened my voice even more, thinking that to stop entirely would waken him.
I was right, for moment I finished the fourth tale and paused for a few seconds, he opened his eyes and gave me a quizzical look to ask why I had stopped.
"I wanted to let you sleep," I said.
He shook his head, then gestured to the book
"All right," I agreed, and lifted it to begin reading again. He watched me for a time, where I sat on one of the hard wooden chairs which I had pulled near to the bed, then let his eyes drift closed again, but I did not stop reading until I reached the end of the book. At that point, he woke once more. I finished sewing the bag out of my black skirt, which I had started this morning, then wrote this. It is now time for supper. Still no word from the professor.
We are saved! The innkeeper asked for "George" at supper tonight, his voice booming out over the din of people eating and speaking. He called the name again, yet I didn't understand that I should answer until Zebediah nudged me with his foot under the table. "Yes?" I asked, forgetting to make the pitch of my voice lower.
"Got a wire," he announced.
"I'm George Hanson," said another man across the room.
"Wire from Eber... Eberhart?" asked the innkeeper.
The other man shook his head and sat down, but I was already halfway across the room, holding my hand out eagerly for the message. I wished the innkeeper hadn't made such a fuss about it, announcing Eberhart's name and mine (though it is false) to the entire dining room, but we are gone from there now, and safe!
I am sitting at a very pretty little writing table in a room on the third story of a house in a very nice part of town. There is a feather bed behind me, which I have already tested by (scandalously) bouncing on it! I have had a long, hot bath and was put into a luxurious dressing gown while new clothes were found for me. A maid delivered a box containing a plum-coloured skirt with ruby ruffles, and a blouse of the same deep red. I also now have a nightgown, which I have not had since I slept on the Arabella. (I wore my shift to bed at the academy, and of course have slept in my clothes the past several nights). It is of the loveliest, most delicate pink lawn with satin ribbon trim. I tried on both the day clothes and the nightgown, and am wearing the latter beneath the warm dressing gown now.
Goodness, I am getting ahead of myself! Forgive me, dear reader. The wire simply informed us to go to such and such an address and ask for Mr. Troxill, which we did with all haste. As it was rather late when we arrived, we only met Mr. Troxill briefly, then were sent to our rooms to bathe and dress for bed.
He is between fifty and sixty, I think, and told us he was an old colleague of Professor Eberhart's. He received a wire from the professor about the same time we received ours; his said only that two guests were to come to his house this evening, and Professor Eberhart would be much obliged if Mr. Troxill would take care of them for a while without asking any questions. He agreed at once, trusting his friend implicitly, and prepared two of the spare rooms for our use before we even arrived.
Upon being shown into the library, where he sat with a cigar and a glass of what I think was brandy, Mr. Miller bowed and I curtseyed, forgetting myself! But the shock on Mr. Troxill's face was for another reason. "You are..." He stared at us a moment longer. "The criminals!" he cried, "On the poster!"
"Wh-what are you... are you talking about?" I asked shakily, taking a step back. Oh, I had ruined it all, I thought! "We're not--Of course we're not--"
"It is all right, my dear," he said softly, the shock melting from his face. "Eberhart has wired me, and I have sworn to take care of you both until he sends for you, or sends word of what you are to do next. Worry not."
This relieved me more than I can say, and I let out a great breath. "Thank you, sir," I managed to say. "If there is anything we can do to--"
"Now now, let us not talk of such things. You are tired, I am sure, and could do with a good rest. Let us speak in the morning; until then, do not worry about explanations, or repayment, or anything else."
I thanked him again, and then once more just before we were shown upstairs. The house is very tall and narrow, three floors with the fourth being servants' quarters, but as there are probably hundreds of houses on this street, they all must be packed tightly together. Anyway, for as small as it really is, it seems bigger, and is very comfortable.
Zebediah refused the new clothes brought to him, or so I heard from the maid who delivered my clothes. She was confused by his hand signals, so she left the box in his room and handed me a folded-up bit of parchment on which he had written, "KINDLY SEND OVER THE CLOTHES YOU HAVE BEEN WEARING. THOSE ARE GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME. I DO NOT NEED FINE THINGS, ONLY WHAT IS SERVICEABLE." I suppose he has a harder time accepting charity than I do, having worked hard for what little he has, so I sent over his trousers and shirt and hat with the maid.
And now I am alone, writing this. I cannot wait to see what the morning will bring! I am a little wary of telling Mr. Troxill all of our tale, even if Professor Eberhart trusts him. There is no use informing him of something that has no bearing on our situation now, do you not think, Dear Reader? I hope he will see it that way, too, and not press us for answers.
Off to my lovely, lovely feather bed, now!
I feel rather alone. It is late, and although I am perfectly full and warm and comfortable, I have become accustomed to falling asleep with the sound of Zebediah's breathing nearby, and the feeling of his presence close to me. My little room suddenly seems vast and empty.
But there is nothing for it. We experienced an anomaly, and now things are back to normal. I suppose I shall count sheep until I fall asleep.