The VS Rosanne 7 (as far as Elsie was aware) was a grand airship that she personally found to be most beautiful. It was a marvel of engineering. She saw that unlike the other airships that were docked in the open space by the water, the Rosanne’s envelope was much thicker, perhaps even armoured. The gondola beneath housed three levels, with a balcony on each, and plenty of windows. Even in her books she doubted if she had ever seen a mightier vessel.
Near the water on the dock beside hers there was a great deal of commotion going on. For the past hour that she had been there – watching the propellers on the Rosanne swirl slowly in the wind – people had been running back and forth carrying all sorts of things and loading them into a submarine that was half-submerged in the bay. She cringed at the thought of being stuck in a submarine, on account of her disliking for small spaces.
It wasn’t long before Professor Goodwin arrived, sporting a black silver-headed cane and a trench coat, and he wore gloves too, as to show no sign that his arm was missing at all. It was true that he didn’t like to talk about it. Elsie greeted the professor with a smile, and he replied by shaking his head and saying, “So you came after all, and here I was feigning the hope that you had changed your mind. This is your last chance, Miss Heartwing, I give you my full confidence that my team and I will return you your brother safely.”
“I am sure you will,” Elsie replied, “but my mind is set. I do, however, feel as though there is something I’m not being told. Whatever the case, I’m not a child, professor, and although I’m still young, I do live in my own apartment, and I pay taxes and provide very well for myself.”
The professor frowned. “Yes, Elsie, I am very aware of that.” He was silent for a moment, and then he stared out over the bay, watching the ocean glisten under the sky. He removed one of his gloves and flexed his mechanical fingers. “Did your parents ever tell you how I came to lose my arm?”
A little confused, Elsie replied. “No, they said it wasn’t their business to tell, and it wasn’t my business to know. They said it was a personal matter; that you didn’t like to talk about it.”
“And quite right they were, but here’s the truth of it: a few years ago, before I obtained my position at the university, I served on a seafaring vessel, the VS Vigilance, while conducting research for one of my projects. I’ll spare you the slow details, but I’ll have you know that one morning, during a rather savage storm, I awoke not knowing that on that particular day my right arm would get caught in the ships anchor chain. I’m afraid the entire limb was torn right off.” He glanced still, almost longingly, at his right hand, and his tone suddenly became brighter. “Of course, the mechanical one serves fortuitously well. I am always quite amazed by the great and wonderful things that modern science can do… But my point is, misfortune comes in all shapes and sizes, Miss Heartwing, and don’t ever forget that, or you’ll end up like me.”
After that their conversation shifted and they both observed the airship awaiting them patiently in the dock. “So this is it, then,” said Elsie, “the Rosanne 7. She’s a beautiful airship.”
In a rather confused manner the professor glanced at Elsie, and then at the airship, and then back at Elsie. A small volley of laughter passed his lips. “Oh, no my dear, it seems you’ve been looking in the wrong direction. That airship right there is the VS Bailey, quite a wonderful model, and the first of her kind.”
Elsie, now looking perplexed and a little afraid, blurted out, “But you said we were departing from 47 Persimmon Street.”
“Indeed, but this dock here belong to 46 Persimmon Street. The Rosanne is right over there,” and he gestured to where all the commotion had been taking place.
The surprise was written in Elsie’s eyes. “The submarine?”
Professor Goodwin nodded. “Yes.”
In return she smiled anxiously. “Professor, I’m afraid you gone mad, if you think I intend on setting foot in that thing.” She watched the crew walking back and forth, and stared at the atrocious metal shell, and began to feel terribly small.
“Oh, of course,” said the professor, “I recall your parents mentioning a certain incident when you were young; all shapes and sizes, I suppose. But you won’t need to worry, it is much more spacious inside, as you will see, and the crew are very friendly.”
Elsie didn’t like it, but she was determined that nothing at all would stop her now.ns 184.108.40.206da2