Where Mary wonders if Captain Forsyth actually knows what he’s doing…


Catch up with chapter 31…

Start the adventure from the beginning.

“What do you mean we’re headed east?” Mary demanded with a touch of alarm in her voice.

She raised up and looked out over the edge of the basket. “No, no, no, no, no. I demand you turn this contraption around immediately.”

“It’s not exactly that easy.” The captain confessed.

“It’s a ship, you’re a captain. Make it do what you want it to do.” Mary’s stomach plummeted. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing ground and time, not after the progress she literally fought to make across the barren and dangerous terrain.

“Yes, well, sometimes the winds have other plans for me,” Captain Forsyth confessed.

“You just let yourself be bandied about? You’ll never get anywhere that way.” Mary’s voice was laced with panic.

“I thought you were a ships captain?” Marshall asked.

“Steamship my boy, quite a different beast. That one you simply point the prow in the direction you wanted and power forth.”

“You’re telling us you’ve never manned a sailing vessel?” Mary asked. She turned wide eyes to look pleadingly at Marshall. “Have you?”
Marshall shook his head. “If this had legs, and could be ridden, then I’m your man. But boats, no ma’am. I don’t like the ground rolling under my feet like that.”

“And how are you fairing with no ground under us?” she asked.

“I’m not thinking about that, is how.” He cast his gaze around the various items that were in and around the gondola with them.
A bladed fan attached to a rudder seemed to be spinning away. “What’s that? Can’t you steer with that?” Marshall pointed.

“I can only control shifts port and starboard with that. It’s not strong enough to push the airship against prevailing winds. I’ve been into the Colorado territory several times, but the winds coming down the Rockies always push me back to Kansas City. And then I try again.”

“Unless you are planning on taking this up and over the mountains, you should drop down farther south. Into Texas and then across,” Marshall suggested.

“But if the winds are pushing him east?” Mary started.

Marshall started to form large triangles with his arms. His hands swooped back and forth through space as he described his words. “I can only imagine that the wind acts like waves against the mountains. First flowing toward them, then getting caught up and gathering before sweeping back. Now if you go south, below the mountains, the air flow should sweep you down and past the continental divide.”

“By Jove, I think you’re on to something there lad,” Captain Forsyth crowed. “Mary this new young man of yours is infinitely more intelligent than that Peterson twit.”

“Pythagorus studied at the finest colleges this country has. He went to school with my sister’s husband, but I dare say you might be right,” she agreed. She wanted to completely agree that Pythagorus was a twit, but felt that might be slanderous. Charles was a bit of a twit, at least he was charming. Hmmm, were words slander if they were true? “I quite agree, Marshall is exceptionally intelligent.”

“Where did you study, lad?”

Marshall chuckled. He was pushing three and thirty, a fair bit older than Mary, and no where near being considered a lad by anyone else he ever met. “I studied down there. Out in the world. I stopped book learning when Pa though I was getting to high brow in my attitude. Mind you, I didn’t stop learning, I just got lessons a different way.”

“I dare say, you got the lessons you needed. We never would have lasted the last week if you had spent your formative years with your nose in a book,” Mary said.

“I enjoy a good book. And I can do proper enough arithmetic to know when someone’s trying to cheat me. My handwriting is next to illegible, but I can sign my own name.” Marshall’s words sounded defensive.

“That’s all fine. Wonderful really. But you knew how to survive, you taught me how to last the night when danger was out beyond the shadows. Had my grandfather trusted me to the like of Mr. Peterson, who knows what ills would have befallen me. Surely, I would have been a casualty of the train robbery,” Mary declared.

“If you were traveling with that Pythagorus fellow, I think you would have been a victim of something much more heinous before those brigands ever derailed the train.” Marshall’s eyes bore into Mary’s.

Hers went wide with understanding. She went pale and then began to flush furiously.

“I am very glad to have been entrusted to your capable skills then. For I am more than safe with you. I am protected.”

Marshall kept his gaze on hers for a moment longer and then he cleared his throat and looked at anything but her.

“How do you ride out the night in this contraption?” Marshall asked. “You don’t fly through the dark do you?”

Captain Forsyth grumbled for a bit clearing his throat. “No, no. I don’t fly through the night. A little bit later in the afternoon, I’ll drop down and drop anchor for the evening. Usually find a nice brace of trees to lash onto.”

“You don’t climb out and camp on the ground do you?” Marry asked with horror.

“Of course not. There are beasties in the dark that would like to eat us for a midnight snack,” he told her as if it were a great mystery.
Mary patted the burned edges of her diminished skirt. “I am very well aware. They almost had me for lunch.” She looked over the edge of the gondola, and out at the vista. It was lovely, but it was eastward bound. The wrong direction. “We won’t get to Kansas City tonight will we?”

“Not for several days. It feels like we are moving swiftly but we merely drift.”

She sat back down with a harrumph. The one dress she had was in tatters, they were days out from civilization, and they headed the wrong direction. She was still annoyed with Grandfather recalling her to San Francisco, but now for very different reasons. Her mind kept returning to Marshall’s words, something more heinous than her current predicament had she been in Pythagorus’s company… well, at least she was safe for now…

Or was she? Those dark clouds on the horizon did not look friendly.


Will Mary and Marshall get turned around? Tune in next time…

©2024 Lulu M. Sylvian