My goodness, I had such a strange dream which kept repeating itself all night! Sheep were jumping over the top of Zebediah and I where we lay on the forest floor, rattling the branches of the makeshift shelter over us. I was terrified the whole structure would crash down on us, and then the sheep (who were for some reason vicious, bloodthirsty animals) would get to us. Periodically, I would only just save myself from rolling into the fire which burned between Zebediah and I. I woke feeling hardly rested at all, and was glad to see the late morning sunlight fighting to break through the curtains. I must dress for breakfast now (in my beautiful new clothes!) and go downstairs. I hope I have not slept too embarrassingly late.
Oh, my! I have just checked my pocket watch and it is nearly ten! Must hurry!
I feel lately as though I have done nothing but wait. I waited on the train to get to Reliance; I waited on the Erebos to be rescued; I waited on the Tourbillion to arrive at the academy; I waited at the academy until my Gifts were well-developed enough to be of some use; I waited in the wilderness to be caught; and I am waiting here, now, for I know not what.
Mr. Troxill was very kind and made no mention of how late I slept when I arrived to find him and Mr. Miller in the middle of breakfast. They were more toward the end, really; I think they had been eating slowly so as to still be at table when I got there.
"Good morning, Miss Greenwater," Mr. Troxill said as a servant held my chair for me, which was to the left of Mr. Troxill and opposite Mr. Miller. “I trust you slept well?”
“Very well, sir, thank you,” I lied. The bed was comfortable, at least, even if I did not gain much rest in it. “Your hospitality overwhelms me.”
“Not at all, not at all,” he said. “I am glad to take you in for the sake of my friend the professor.”
I helped myself to coffee and toast, then sausage, then asked for a soft-boiled egg when Mr. Troxill inquired if I would like anything else. I ate heartily, as all the food was of excellent quality. Much better than hard rolls and cheese, for certain, indeed better than anything I had eaten at the academy, and definitely nicer than anything I had on the airships. If I am forced to wait here, at least I shall do so in fine clothes, in a lovely house, with wonderful things to eat!
“Your friend Mr. Miller has asked me to provide him with some useful occupation while he resides here,” Mr. Troxill said, holding up a piece of paper on which I could see Zebediah’s clear, capital letters. “I am afraid I can offer him very little to do. I have servants to bring wood, to clean and cook.”
“He is a very hard worker, sir,” I told our host, glancing at Zebediah with pride in my eyes. “He does not like to sit idle. Um, nor do I,” I added. “If there is anything I might do here, please--”
“Now now, I said last night that you should not mention it,” he interrupted. To tell the truth, I felt a little relieved, having looked forward to a day or two, at least, of leisure after all the hardships I--we--had been through.
“Still, sir,” I felt compelled to say. “If there is anything, only mention it.”
Looking bemused, he nodded. “I shall,” he said, and we resumed our breakfast.
As the plates and glasses were being cleared away, Zebediah “spoke” to me across the table, using a combination of hand speech and spelling on the table with his fingertip, which I had become quite adept at reading.
“What is that?” Mr. Troxill asked, looking perplexed. “What is he doing?”
“It is how we communicate, sir,” I told him. “As he is unable to speak, and as we have been alone together for many days, Mr. Miller and I have invented a way to communicate using hand gestures. What words we do not have hands speech for, he spells out.”
“Very curious,” Mr. Troxill said, studying Mr. Miller. “And what did he say?”
I am sure Zebediah did not appreciate being spoken of as if he was not sitting right there, but I had no choice but to answer, since he could not. “He said he would like to take a walk, but is afraid we would be recognized. Although,” I added to Mr. Miller himself, “I have had rather enough of walking as of late.” I smiled, but he frowned back at me, which I did not understand. Was he not tired of walking, as well? We had become accustomed to taking a stroll morn and eve at the academy, and on the Erebos before that, but for the past week we have done nothing but walk. I was and am looking forward very much to a bit of a respite. Who knows when we shall have to dash off again, and do who knows what for who knows how long?
Zebediah’s bad mood continued all morning. He sat with us in the library while Mr. Troxill and I conversed, though I did not reveal anything about my Illumination, or much at all about the past month of my life with the kidnapping and the rescue and all. Our host did question me, but I demurred as much as I was able without seeming rude. After a while, he got the point, and discontinued any questions but those I could answer freely, such as how Professor Eberhart was faring, and if the academy still had cricket matches every other Saturday. (The former I answered gladly, and told Mr. Troxill of his friend's good health, but the latter I did not know; I assumed the matches had been discontinued until better weather.)
The moment Mr. Troxill left us to attend to some business (I am not sure what he does, but I think it has to do with banking or investments or something similar, given the columns of numbers scattered across stacks of papers on his desk), Zebediah went into a flurry of hand words and spelling, too fast for me to understand.
“Slow down,” I urged him, putting my hand atop his where he was spelling something on my palm; I only caught every other letter, he went so fast. “What is the matter?”
He pointed at himself, made a slashing motion with his hand, then pointed at the door.
“You... don’t want to go?” I asked.
Appearing even more frustrated, he repeated the gestures, then spelled on my hand: “DON’T TRUST TROXILL. LOOK.” He pointed out the Britannian flag displayed behind glass over the fireplace mantle, the talbotype of their late prime minister on the desk, and guided me to a row of books containing a history of the continent from a time before they had even called themselves Britainnians.
“You are making too much of it. I am sure they are... family heirlooms,” I said, trying to calm him down. "The war ended not two decades ago, and he seems to be from an ‘old money’ family. Of course they would have ties to Britannia.”
Zebediah shook his head, a frown etched onto his face seemingly permanently. He pointed at himself again, made the slashing motion which meant "do not," then paused, thinking. His next gesture was made by putting all his fingertips together with his thumb, then using his semi-closed hand to point at his chest. "LIKE" he spelled on my palm, then repeated the gesture to teach me that it meant that word. "I do not like Troxill," he told me.
"He is a friend of Professor Eberhart's," I sighed. "You trust him, do you not?" Zebediah nodded, though begrudgingly. "All will be well, you will see. We shall rest here in comfort a while, then probably go back to the academy when the professor says it is safe. Anyway," I said, sinking back into my comfortable chair with the little cushion I had placed just so, to support my lower back, "where else are we to go? We are wanted criminals, as far as anyone else knows."
Zebediah sighed and returned to his own seat, nodding reluctantly.
We sat in silence for a minute, then I asked, "Shall I read to you again?" When he agreed, I told him to choose a book; after perusing the shelves for a little while, he handed me a volume of poetry from a well-known author who wrote about half a century ago before dying tragically young. "I did not think of you as a man who appreciated poetry," I said, surprise loosening my tongue. "Oh! I mean... I did not mean..."
He cut me off with a wave of his hand, seeming to understand that I did not intend to insult him. "Read," he told me, and sat back down.
I went through poem after poem, sometimes offering commentary on them, or asking Zebediah his opinion. We passed the remainder of the morning that way, lunched with our host, read a little more, then retired to our respective rooms to rest for a while before supper. I am sure it drove him mad, having nothing to do, but I shall see him soon at our evening meal. I lay down and dozed for a while, then wrote this. Now I shall wash my face and hands and descend to the dining room.