The SS Geronimo, on her hundred and tenth voyage between the ports of Boston and Penzance, has in her registers (available at the shipping office, records department) a salesman by the name of Eric Smith, a British national returning home with a crate of sales samples that clanked and clicked mysteriously as it was stowed. He had a small single room next to a large suite that was taken by a newly married American couple, Charity and John Parsons, who listed their occupations as Creationist and Metal Parts Manufacturer respectively. They made their debut, as it were, at the sumptuous formal dinner served to first-class passengers the first evening of the journey.
Jack was uncomfortable in his dinner jacket and pressed white shirt, but he had to admit that showing up in his student clothes would have been inappropriate. Besides, he was supposed to be a wealthy young businessman married to Clare, who did look amazing in a formal dress he'd only seen her wear when they graduated lower school a year and a half ago. It wasn't the latest fashion but, judging from the admiring looks of the other diners, that hardly mattered.
They had just seated themselves in the dining saloon, an enormous room that the tour book in his room said could seat every first-class passenger onboard, when he saw Graveworthy making his way through the crowd, unmistakable with his bandaged hand and throat. Clare scowled slightly.
"Is this seat taken?" Graveworthy asked, pulling out the chair next to Jack and seating himself. "Sorry I'm a little late -- tying a tie..." he held up his bandaged hand and grimaced. "How's everyone's spirits this evening?"
"Clare hoped you'd fallen overboard," Jack answered.
"Not entirely surprising. I hadn't intended for us to depart so hastily. I -- " he paused and looked up, over her shoulder. "Don't turn around. My cover story for the journey is about to be utterly destroyed." His voice raised slightly. "Adella! How nice to see you. Won't you sit down?"
A woman in a bright green dress bore down on them as Graveworthy rose again, tolerating a kiss on the cheek in greeting and pulling out a chair for her.
"Ellis!" she said, in a voice that carried across half the room despite being right next to him. "I had no idea you were traveling on this ship! This is nice. What on earth happened to your hand?"
Graveworthy seated himself, smiling. "Nothing much. A slight accident with a horse-cart in New York. May I present John and Charity Parsons, lately married in Boston."
"A pleasure, I'm sure. Any friend of Ellis," she announced to the room.
"Mr. Parsons, Mrs. Parsons, this is Adella Garde, one of my many and varied acquaintances. She writes scandalous things about me in the newspapers."
"Never you, my dear," she replied, chucking Graveworthy under the chin. Jack looked on, horrified, while Clare hid her giggle in her handkerchief. "I write a society column for the London Times. Ellis woos me so that I don't tell tales out of school."
"Indeed I do. Are you traveling for pleasure? I wasn't aware you were in Boston."
"I wasn't! Not for long, at any rate. I'm doing a series of articles on transatlantic crossings. What about yourself?"
"New novel," he said. "I'm taking a page from your book, actually; I'm traveling in secret. It's going to be set on a steamship and I wanted to really -- oh, what's the phrase -- ah! Dig down," he said. The lies fell from his mouth so easily that Jack began to wonder if Graveworthy ever told anyone the truth. "You know, get people to speak to me as a confidante, not as a writer."
"Oh! Then mum's the word! What's your pen name for the trip?"
"Eric Smith. Nice and pedestrian, don't you think?" he said. A waiter appeared silently at Jack's elbow, startling him. "Will you dine with us?" Graveworthy continued.
"I'm afraid I can't -- there's a duchess who wants me to interview her. So dreary, but it does pay for all life's little comforts. Mr. Parsons, Mrs. Parsons," she said, and Graveworthy rose to pull out her chair. "Such a sweet boy," she said to him, kissing him again as she left. Graveworthy settled back into his seat and sighed, looking up at the waiter.
"Consommé all round, the steak pie for Mr. Parsons and myself, the fish for Mrs. Parsons," he said, and the waiter nodded and vanished. "Well, that wasn't so bad. I was dreading her staying for the meal."
"She knows who you are? I mean, obviously she does," Jack said.
"Yes, and she's a horrifying gossip. The word will be out within the hour that I'm on board. This way, at least people won't bother me; it'll be an open secret that I'm incognito, and everyone will treat me like Eric Smith. What webs we weave," he said, scratching at the bandage on his neck. "I shall have to do a great deal of talking to people, I suppose."
"You seem to like talking to people," Clare said, a slight edge to her voice.
"As much as you may dislike me right now," he replied, his voice calm and even, "you truly know very little about me, Mrs. Parsons. I am not by nature someone who...appreciates the company of others on a constant basis. Thank you," he added to the waiter, who had returned with the soup. "I know both of you must have many questions, but I suggest you take this opportunity to amuse yourselves. You are young and you are traveling in a luxury few will ever experience. There will be time enough to fret when we arrive. If you have no objections, Mr. Parsons, I would like very much for you to examine a machine I've brought with me -- I believe it may have been jostled unnecessarily."
Jack noticed that people at tables nearby were speaking to each other behind their menus and glancing at them; Adella Garde evidently worked quickly.
"My pleasure, Mr. Smith," he answered, stumbling a little over the name. Under the table, Clare kicked him disapprovingly.
"Splendid. Until then, let us enjoy this excellent meal," Graveworthy answered, and steered the direction of conversation towards industry and game-hunting in America until the coffee.
That night, for propriety's sake, Clare slept in Mr. Smith's single-bed room, while Jack slept alone in the suite's giant bed and Graveworthy himself claimed the large, soft chaise nearby. He had deftly blocked every question they wanted to ask until finally Clare gave up for the night and Jack felt as if he were falling asleep in his clothes; when he woke the next morning, Graveworthy was already gone.
The trip from Boston to Penzance on a coal-burning steamship took a little over two weeks, which meant that Jack had fifteen precious days to find out how everything worked. He wasted no time; he washed and shaved and ate a hasty breakfast in the first-class saloon, billing the cost to his stateroom and bolting the bacon and fried bread before setting out to explore. Steamships had massive engines and propellers and all kinds of interesting devices he'd only read about in books; Boston might be a port city but Harvard was a school for land-engineers, since steamship engineering was a relatively new science and better handled by the Maritime Institute of Technology.
He climbed up to the deck and then further up to the top platforms, staring in awe at the smokestacks rising above them. People all around him sat on deck-chairs or strolled in the early-morning sunshine, most of them serenely unconcerned with the engineering dream that they traveled aboard.
"Excuse me," he said, to a man in a uniform who looked like he probably had at least something to do with the crew of the ship. "How do I get to the engine rooms?"
"Would you like a tour, sir?" the man asked.
"Extremely," Jack said hopefully.
"I shall speak to the head engineer. Your name, sir?"
"J...ohn Parsons," Jack said, catching himself quickly. "I'm a machine parts manufacturer -- it's a business interest."
"I see! We'll do what we can to oblige, sir. In the meantime, may I bring you a drink, or perhaps arrange for a deck chair?"
"No, thanks," Jack said, leaning on the railing. "Your head Engineer -- is he a Harvard man, or MIT?"
"I believe Harvard, sir, but I shall check."
Jack felt enormous pride in his school as the vibrations from the engines and propellers came up through the railing. "Thank you."
He had never been so far from dry land, where even seagulls were few and far between and there was nothing around but the ship and the vast expanse of blue-green water. He wondered if they'd pass other ships en route. There must be wind that blew all the way from Boston to Europe, or else sailing ships could never have done it; Creationists could make fire, but only very few could make wind, and their services were prized. Did birds ever cross the Atlantic? Say you had to harness the wind for a long journey over water with no stops; you'd need a very light hull or platform, and some way of flapping occasionally.
He didn't even remember walking from the railing back to his cabin or scrabbling in the desk for paper and a pen to write with. The cheap fountain pen scratched and blotted but it did what he asked of it, sketching out questions and charts, calculations, weight measurements. He didn't look up until there was a gentle knock at his door. When he answered he found the crewman from earlier, carrying a small lunch pail in one hand.
"If you would like, sir, the Head Engineer would be pleased to give you a tour," he said.
"Great! Which way do I go?" Jack asked breathlessly. The crewman handed him the lunch pail. "What's this?"
"Mrs. Parsons asked us to be certain you ate," the crewman said with a small smile. "How would you like to dine with the engineering crew?"
Jack beamed. "I'd like that very much."
Clare spent the day exploring the ship as well, though very different portions of it from Jack. There was a small chapel and a well-stocked library; the reading-room next door had a bar and a fireplace. The decks were kept almost suspiciously clean by the crew, and there was always a crewmember somewhere nearby if she needed anything. She was still furious about being all but kidnapped from Boston, but she found the steamship satisfactory for her needs.
"Will you be dining alone tonight, ma'am?" one of the waiters asked as she walked into the dining saloon. She swept the enormous room quickly but couldn't find either Graveworthy's tall, slightly stooped figure or Jack's sandy, spiky hair. Jack, she supposed, could be anywhere, probably breaking parts of the ship that were formerly thought unbreakable.
"I suppose so," she said, discontentedly. "If Mr. Parsons appears, do tell him his wife is dining and would like to see him for an hour or two at his convenience."
The waiter smiled. "You're Mrs. Parsons! My mate in Engineering -- " he coughed. "That is to say, the Engineers have been making Mr. Parson's acquaintance this afternoon. He's probably down there now. Would you like me to send someone to fetch him?"
"Could you?" she asked. "It's not that I mind dining alone but he already tried to skip lunch, I think, and I want to make sure he eats."
"Of course. This way, Mrs. Parsons," the waiter said, and showed her to a seat near the kitchen door. Clare, who had not grown up dining in restaurants, was not inclined to be offended -- especially when an only slightly filthy Jack walked through the kitchen door a few minutes later.
"Hiya!" he said excitedly, wiping his hands with a damp towel probably supplied by the kitchen. "You won't believe -- "
"Before you start," she said, "I think you should know there's coal dust on the tip of your nose."
He lifted the towel and rubbed his face with it. "Got it?"
"Much better. Did you spend all day crawling in and out of machines?"
"Not all day," he protested. "Just most of it. Is it dinnertime already? Seems like I just had lunch. Thanks for the lunch pail, by the way. Did you know they have triple-expansion steam engines? Two-cylinder, but still, they seem to keep the screw propellers going."
"Take a breath," Clare advised, as the waiter returned.
"Mrs. Parsons! I see your husband has found you. Would you care for a drink?"
"Tea for me," she said. "John will have beer. Bring him something to eat; he won't notice what it is anyway. I'll have the chicken."
The waiter swept their menus away, as well as the towel Jack had been cleaning himself with. He straightened his collar and sighed.
"There's so much to learn, and so little time," he said. "Maybe when this is done and I'm done with Harvard I'll go up to MIT. That's what the Head Engineer did. Most of his Engineers are MIT, but he's a Harvard man, he just went on when he was done. It's a whole new world -- they have to learn all about coal weight to energy calculation. And they talk about Brunel as if he were...as if he were Father LaRoche or something."
"Brunel, the steamship designer?" Clare asked. "I've heard you mention him before."
"Yeah, but I didn't know much about him until today. He's the one who figured out that drag in the water is proportional to the square of the dimensions of the ship creating it, but capacity is based on dimensions cubed."
Clare stared at him blankly.
"The bigger the boat, the bigger the engine. The bigger the engine, the faster the speed," Jack explained. "The faster the speed, the less resistance."
"More speed, more space...less coal," she concluded.
"That's right. It might," he added, lowering his voice, "it might be true in the air, too. If you could launch a ship in the air, the faster it goes, the less drag...I mean, you have to work out horizontal push as well as how to keep the damn thing in the air. Maybe some kind of super-powerful catapult..."
"They're supposed to survive landing," she reminded him.
"I don't suppose there's that much padding in the world," he agreed ruefully. "What did you do today?"
"I looked around," she said, shrugging. "There's a nice library. I think we're the youngest people in first class if you don't count the children."
"Well, only the best for my wife," he said with a grin.
"How can you be sure I'm not the one with the family fortune and you're just some madman I picked up and made presentable?" she asked.
"I'm not very presentable," he said, studying his fingernails. "They showed me the coal storage bins first. I think they thought I was an idiot until I started asking questions about the engines."
"Idiocy is a wonderful cloak, if used properly," said a new voice, and they looked up to see Graveworthy standing over them. "May I? Late to dinner two days in a row -- they'll have to flog and keel-haul me next. Looks like they've already done for you, Parsons."
Jack grinned. "I toured the engines."
"I surmised," Graveworthy said, shaking out his napkin with his good hand. The bandage on the side of his neck was smaller, but his left arm still dangled in its sling. "I've been avoiding people all day, but they will come and talk to me," he complained.
"Can't imagine why," Clare muttered.
"It's Adella. She told everyone I'm writing a book about transatlantic crossings and they all want to be in it. I shall probably have to write the wretched thing, now, just to justify my cover story."
"What about the..." Jack hesitated. "Project?"
"Well, there's writing and there's writing. A shipboard novel I could do in my sleep, I imagine; there are certain conventions that the genre follows, and I'll just go through and do the opposite. Might be an interesting project, at that," Graveworthy mused.
"Do you always try to upset the world as much as possible?" Clare asked.
He gave her a surprised look. "Of course. Otherwise how does anything change?"
"What if I don't want things to change?"
Jack turned to her, tilting his head, a confused look on his face. She blushed.
"It was rhetorical," she muttered.
"Have you actually read any of my books, Mrs. Parsons?" Graveworthy asked. His calm, quiet tone hadn't wavered throughout the exchange.
"One or two. I read Geppetto," she said.
"Did you take it for a retold fairy tale? A grown-up copy of a children's story?" he asked.
"Why do you care?"
"I made it. I care what people think of it. What did you think it was?"
"Hey," Jack interrupted. "If she doesn't want to tell you what she thought of your book, she doesn't have to."
"Jack," Clare hissed. "I can defend myself, thanks." She turned to Graveworthy. "I thought it was written to sell. To give people a thrill at reading something scandalous. I liked it," she added, though it cost her pride to say so.
"I'm glad to hear it," Graveworthy said, though it sounded like he was teasing. "Now, Mr. Parsons, I hear you toured the engines today?"
Jack launched back into his enthusiastic lecture on marine engineering without missing a beat, hardly eating in his desire to share all the information he'd gathered that day. Another woman, Clare reflected ruefully, would have felt ignored sitting at this table. On the other hand, she knew Jack, and she knew that he didn't talk about engines out of selfishness; he wanted to share what he knew with the world, and this was a peculiar sort of generosity for him.
The sort of generosity, she reflected, that allowed him to forgive Graveworthy this half-kidnapping for the opportunity to build a flying machine.
A storm swept up on them from behind that night and rattled rain against the windows of all the rooms above the waterline. By morning it was pouring down steadily. Jack was glad to eat a hot breakfast in the dining saloon with Clare; Graveworthy was gone again before either of them woke.
"I never thought I'd say porridge was good, but this is good porridge," Jack said, hunched over his steaming breakfast. "I miss it, sort of."
"Miss what?" Clare asked, buttering a scone.
"Well, the routine. Getting up at the same hour, eating in the dining hall with the other students -- it starts to become comforting. You expect it, I guess."
"Are you unhappy, Jack?" she asked.
"No! I'm touring the bridge today. They wouldn't let me go up to the topdeck to watch the storm come in but they said I could look at the navigational charts and stuff if I wanted. It's going to be really interesting. It's just, you know. This is the most freedom I've had since I started Harvard. It reminds me how people really live."
"Not many live like this," she replied. "I suppose we should be lucky we're not traveling steerage."
"Mm," Jack replied, glancing out one of the windows. "Rain's coming down hard. What're you doing today?"
"Oh, I thought I'd get one in Graveworthy's eye and try re-reading Geppetto, if they have it."
Jack grinned. "Remember when you got that copy from the shop up on Copp's Hill?"
"How could I forget! I've never been so terrified in my life that I was going to be arrested. And they just had piles of them sitting there."
"Bribed the police, I guess. And then I took a whole two days from my gating allowance and we spent all night reading the horrifying bits aloud with Gracie from the pub near your apartment. I learned a lot from that book."
"Not much of use if you ever want to marry a girl."
"Well, no knowledge is ever wasted," he said.
"So, that's what I'm going to do today. You may find me in the library, far away from some freezing-cold ship's bridge, reading pornography. Scandalous, isn't it?"
"Utterly," he said, and spooned a huge helping of porridge into his mouth with one hand, reaching for the little pot of brown sugar with the other.
After breakfast he walked Clare to the library and left her in the reading room with two old men sleeping in wing chairs and a second-class passenger reading adventure novels near the fire. She curled up on a long sofa and started on Geppetto with the same kind of fierce intensity that Jack generally reserved for steam engines.
Jack went up to the bridge with a light heart, where Mr. Parsons was received as an honored guest; not just a first-class passenger but a man who had earned the respect of the head Engineer for his intelligence and mental agility. He had questions to ask, but the navigators were busy, so he contented himself with watching the storm.
Clouds, enough clouds to hold thick drops of rainstorm water, somehow managed to get up in the air and stay there. How solid was a cloud, anyway? It was really just steam vapor, but the condensation from steam vapor was pretty slight. Could you strap a ship to a cloud, and fly that way?
It nagged at him in the way an improperly-designed machine would. Just how could you build a contraption that could fly, and carry not only its own weight but the weight of one or two full-grown men as well? A Creationist could make one, but they couldn't tell you how it functioned and if you opened it up you'd find some incredibly complicated, fragile, and unworkable thing inside. If you could figure out how it worked at all.
Jack had dim inklings that if he built a flying machine, it was half-likely he would not return to Harvard. It would be so new and special that it might very well become his life's work. If a man could fly the way birds flew, much faster than even the fastest steam engine and with more endurance than a sturdy horse, you could go...anywhere. Over any ocean, to the farthest reaches of the planet. Free from train tracks, free from land, far from anywhere. That would be something, sure enough.
The storm lasted five days, during which some of the passengers began to murmur worriedly about Stormpirates, though pirates wouldn't take on a steamship and Stormpirates were more legend than fact, like sea monsters. Jack explored the ship's machines from bow to stern, a crash course in marine engineering that nearly cost him his life when he hung over the edge of a smokestack and almost tumbled in. The crew circulated the news that Mr. Parsons was more enthusiastic than cautious and should probably not be left alone if he was anywhere near a machine. Not if Mrs. Parsons wanted to keep from being a widow by the time they made land in Penzance, anyway.
Clare hardly saw Jack except for meals, and even when she did he was often distracted, but then so was she. Geppetto wasn't long and she'd raced through it in a day and a half; she was reading it again more thoroughly, now, looking for hints as to its deeper meaning.
"Still enjoying it?" a voice asked, one afternoon, and Clare looked up to see Graveworthy standing over her, a small bundle tucked up into the sling on his left arm.
She opened her mouth to launch into a scathing criticism, but the list of all the things wrong with the book (starting with the very premise of Pinocchio as a real person) disappeared from her head.
"I have to finish it," she said instead. "Then I'll tell you."
"Very wise -- a reader's answer," he replied.
"Are you here to bother me?" she asked.
"Indeed not. I'm taking out a book for a friend of mine in Steerage. They're not allowed access to the library."
"Since when do you have a friend in Steerage?" she asked, closing the book, curiosity overcoming sullen dislike.
"Since he tried to pick my pocket for my first-class badge," Graveworthy replied, showing her the little badge that allowed them access to the library, the first-class saloon, and the other perks of traveling with wealth. "He said he wanted to get a book."
"And you believed him?"
"Trust me, a young man traveling Steerage would stand out like a sore thumb anywhere else this gets you in. You should come down; it'd be an education."
"I don't need an education in poverty," she said. He tilted an eyebrow at her.
"No? Well then, suit yourself. Only I'll take this, thank you," he said, slipping a book out from under the pile at her elbow and tucking it into the sling with the package.
"I'll bring it back. I'll even dust it down first. Thanks," he added, and left before she could grab the book back.
She hastily set down Geppetto and ran after him, cursing his long stride until she caught up at the end of a long hallway, where a door opened into a dingy, ill-lit stairwell. He glanced at her, but at least he didn't say anything else condescending; just offered his elbow, which she turned up her nose at, and began the descent.
They passed silently through second-class, level after level; after a while the carpeted platforms gave way to bare wood, and a certain very human smell grew more pungent. They dropped below the second-class dining hall and then below what must be a mess hall for third class, until he stepped aside on the very bottom platform and gestured for her to go ahead of him. Claire walked inside carefully, studying the large room before her.
The smell was much stronger here, a mixture of unwashed bodies and cooked food, dust and oil lanterns. The lanterns hung on hooks every few feet, and the hooks were bolted into row on row of sleeping bunks, little more than planks with blankets piled on them.
She realized abruptly that they were underwater now, in the very belly of the ship. The vibrations of the engines were much more pronounced, and the sound combined with the noise of people speaking and the occasional dog's bark was a little overwhelming. A few occupants of the room turned to look at her, in her clean and unpatched clothing, then hurriedly went about their business.
Graveworthy touched her arm, and she followed without protest as he led her through the room, past children playing on the floor and piles of luggage. His aim seemed to be a group of people who were singing loudly, clustered around a cookfire kindled on a slab of stone.
Most of them, even in song, had thick Bostonian accents, though she picked out one or two that were either English or Irish, not as polished as Graveworthy's. As they arrived, one of them was saying, "That's no' how we sing it at home. Listen!"
He broke into a song in the same tune they'd just been singing, but the words were slightly different; Graveworthy kept his hand on her arm, keeping her just outside the light of the cookfire. It had to be a Created cookfire; it burned almost smokelessly, and a woman nearby was concentrating fiercely on it.
They stood there until the song was done, at which point the little crowd clapped, and Graveworthy stepped into the light.
"Very well rendered, Rolf," he said, as a young man next to (apparently) Rolf got to his feet. "And here you are, Peter, the book I promised you."
"Thanks!" the young man said, taking it from him with a grateful nod and settling in to read. One of the other young men kicked a crate over, and Graveworthy gestured for her to sit on it, settling himself cross-legged on the floor. The others looked at her curiously.
"This is Charity Parsons, an acquaintance I've made abovedecks," he said. "Mrs. Parsons, may I introduce the company -- that's Mrs. Doud and her five children, lately of East Boston and hoping to found a Creationist enterprise in England; the Scotsman there is known mysteriously as Wandering Rolf; our resident entrepreneur is Mr. Hall, salesman of tonics and snake-oil -- "
" -- medicinal remedies -- " Mr. Hall interrupted.
" -- to the elite of Massachusetts and now about to embark on a British branch; and this is Peter, who I have no doubt will be a wealthy man by the time he's forty."
"Thirty, if I'm lucky," Peter replied with a grin.
"I hope you're better at business than at pickpocketing," Clare said, and Graveworthy sighed.
"It's much the same, in the end," Peter replied, unperturbed. "Bigger scale, that's all. Must look sharp in this world."
"And it helps to have friends in high places," Graveworthy added with a smile.
"We got no porters down here," Peter said, with a glance at her. "They know they wouldn't get tipped."
This must have been some kind of joke; Mrs. Doud went off into a peal of laughter, and the fire flickered for a moment.
"Come to join the sing-song?" one of Mrs. Doud's children asked. They seemed to range in age from five to fifteen or so. "Mr. Graveworthy knows the best songs."
"I keep company with dockmen and others of low character," Graveworthy murmured to her.
"I'm so very surprised," she murmured back.
His face turned was serious, but his eyes gleamed a little. "I picked up one in Liverpool -- Rolf, you might know it. Or at least the tune?"
He opened his mouth and burst into a song with a thudding beat, and Clare almost fell off her crate. It wasn't that he was a good singer, though he was -- she should have expected that -- but the song was strangely familiar.
In south Australia I was born,
Heave away, haul away!
In south Australia, Port Melbourne,
And I'm bound away for Australia!
Heave away you rolling king!
Heave away! Haul a-way!
"All the way you'll hear me sing -- and I'm bound for South Australia," she heard herself sing. Graveworthy paused, blinked at her, and then continued, while the others pounded the beat with their boots on the wooden deck.
As I walked out one morning fair --
She knew what came next, though she didn't know how; she joined in, singing perhaps less confidently, but with better rhythm.
Heave away! Haul away!
It's there I met Miss Nancy Blair
And I'm bound for South Australia!
Clare glanced at the others, who were watching intently; Graveworthy had a curious look on his face, but he gestured for her to continue.
Up -- the coast to --
"Go on," Graveworthy said. "I think you'll find it's 'Adelaide'."
She nodded, swallowing.
Up the coast to Adelaide,
Heave away, haul away!
Through the Bight to Fowler's Bay,
And I'm bound for South Australia.
Nowra Port to Nullabor,
Heave away, haul away!
On South Australia's golden shores
And I'm bound for South Australia!
"Bravo," cried Mr. Hall, and the children applauded. Wandering Rolf tested the bubbling pot on the cookfire and accepted a handful of Created bowls from Mrs. Doud.
"Stew's on," he said, ladling it out and passing it to the children first, then to Clare and Graveworthy. She glanced at him, but she knew better than to refuse the food and insult them.
"Rolf begs potatoes and carrots from the second-class cooks," Graveworthy told her, accepting his bowl as well. "I've brought down some stew meat from the kitchens, and Mr. Hall provides the onions. A little flour, a little water...it's not first-class fare, but it fills the stomach. Which reminds me, I've a chicken for you, Mrs. Doud," he said, passing over the bag he'd been carrying.
"Oh, lovely," she replied, accepting it unashamedly. "I can stretch this the rest of the voyage."
Nobody else had taken a bite, so Clare didn't either; they were looking to Mr. Hall, who broke a bit of hard-looking bread over his stew and said, "Praise be to the Creator."
The others echoed it, and then the bread was broken into pieces and passed around, while the children wolfed down their stew and the adults ate more sedately. Clare hadn't heard the simple mealtime prayer in some time; at the Trade Schools there was a longer prayer spoken by whatever teacher happened to be presiding that day.
They ate mostly in silence, the children arguing and elbowing each other with an occasional remonstrance from their mother. Graveworthy set his bowl down half-finished, passing his bowl to Mrs. Doud's youngest.
"Are you done, Miss?" one of the other children asked, when she noticed Clare hadn't finished hers either.
"Oh! Yes, take it if you want it," she said, handing it over. "That was delicious, Mrs. Doud."
"Richer food up top," Peter murmured.
"Mind yourself," Graveworthy said, a little sharply, and Peter looked ashamed. "It was very good, though. And I'm afraid I need to take Mrs. Parsons abovedecks before her husband comes looking for her. Come along; we'll leave our friends to their supper."
He stood, dusting off his trousers, and offered her his good hand. She glanced at him, then at those eating around the stew-pot, then accepted it and stood without any actual assistance from him.
"Thank you for the stew," she said politely. The others nodded, and she followed Graveworthy away.
"Indulge me -- I'm not as young as you," he said, when they'd climbed two flights up to the lowest level of second-class. "There's an elevator..."
He turned to the Creationist sitting on a stool near the elevator. "Top floor, please."
She nodded and waved a hand; the door opened, and after it was closed Clare felt the familiar lift of a Created elevator raising them up to first-class.
"I'm interested in how you knew that song," he said, as they ascended. "I've never encountered anyone else who did, except the man who taught it to me in England. You aren't Australian yourself, are you?"
"I must have heard it somewhere."
"Perhaps your parents? Were they Australian?"
She shrugged. "I grew up in an orphanage."
"What happened to your parents?"
She turned to look at him, an impulse overriding common sense. "Mr. Graveworthy, I don't want to lie to you."
"I know," he said. "That's why I kept asking questions. You are Australian, by birth, aren't you?"
"I'm an American citizen."
"Papers provided on landing in America? I'm surprised they didn't send you to England."
"My mother wished me to go to America -- have you investigated me?" she asked, furious.
"No, but I've spoken to others who were sent away from Australia as children. You're an expatriate -- sent off by the government because you could Create, hm?" he asked. "Your parents are likely still alive in Australia, somewhere. Perhaps even with other children."
Clare leaned against the wall for support.
"I imagine it was your mother who sang you that song -- was she a sailor? Or your father, perhaps?"
"Don't tell anyone," she said.
"Who would I tell? Jack presumably knows already. As important as it may be to you, I assure you, nobody else cares. Certainly not on board this ship."
The doors opened and he waited for her to go first; she looked at him and the full impact of what she'd done washed over her.
She bolted blindly out the door, turned the first corner she came to, and ran until she reached the security of the single cabin that was booked under his name; she fumbled the key into the lock and slammed it shut behind her, locking herself in.
Flyleaf of the first legal American printing of
by Ellis Graveworthy
(printed in "pulp" in 1960; Popular Publications, publishers)
THE SENSATIONAL NOVEL - NOW IN PRINT IN AMERICA FOR THE FIRST TIME!
THE TRAGIC ROMANCE OF TWO MEN CAUGHT IN THEIR OWN WEB OF LIES AND CRIME!
A HISTORICAL CLASSIC!
Homosexual sculptor Liam Geppetto wants love -- from another man!
His passion for the young "dandies" of UNDERWORLD LONDON leads to his DESTRUCTION when he falls in love with Pino, an Italian dockworker with a shady past and even SHADIER FUTURE! Their exploits take them down a path where he must break free -- or PERISH!
LEARN the lurid details of Victorian love among men!
DISCOVER Pino's secrets!
READ as Geppetto entangles himself in a web of lies for the MAN HE LOVES!
BANNED IN AMERICA FOR DECADES - NOW AVAILABLE TO YOU!
The scandalous story of Geppetto and Pino that dared to take a classic tale -- and TWIST IT!
Written by literary master ELLIS GRAVEWORTHY for the STIMULATION of the populace!
READ IT BEFORE THEY BURN IT!
In a diary entry dated the evening before the first American printing of Geppetto, the owner of Popular Publications wrote:
My business is to pander to the tastes of the general public, but I try where I can to shed a little literary light into their eyes. If pulp was the only way to publish Graveworthy's work, so be it; they might be drawn in by the lurid advertisements and sexy covers, but the story is worth telling and it won't do them any harm to read a tragedy for once.
I'm sure Graveworthy is weeping in some afterlife or other, but I like to think that he's also proud it finally made it across the pond and I'm sure he wouldn't say no to the profitable dividends. Excellent old wretch, he must have been. Wonder what he and Baker got up to when they weren't abetting revolutions.
Jack didn't see Clare or Graveworthy at lunch that day, and he felt somewhat lonely as he ate his meal at the bar and wandered out into the afternoon. The storm clouds had finally blown away; on a day like this in Harvard he might be holed up in the library or working on a machine in his rooms, but here all he could do was walk the deck or try and find somewhere else to explore, and he was fairly sure he'd seen all the really interesting things to see. He plucked at one of the rigging lines on deck, decorative for the most part or intended for flying flags of communication to other vessels they passed.
Leonardo da Vinci had invented a flying machine, but the engine to power it would weigh too much for the lift it would provide. He had sketched little gliders, too, and Jack supposed those would work for a short time, but they weren't secure enough for real travel. He would try to build a Leonardo Engine when they landed, but he was growing more and more certain that he would have to design his own model.
If that was the case, why wait to arrive? Here he was on a ship with the raw materials to hand, and he had nothing better to do. There must be glue somewhere, and there was plenty of paper in the stateroom.
He resolutely walked back into the dining saloon and pushed open the doors to the kitchen, walking through as if he owned the place. Many of the entrances to the engines were through the kitchens or staff rooms, and the chefs paid him very little mind. He found what he needed, returned to his stateroom, and got to work.
By the time Graveworthy came in, a few hours later, Jack had constructed two passable wings out of rolled paper glued to linen napkins, with a rudder controlled by two levers made out of forks.
"Hi! Look!" Jack said, holding it up. Graveworthy eyed it with the kind of look that Jack's professors often employed when he was showing off a machine that wasn't strictly class-related.
"Does it fly?" he asked, examining the knotwork Jack had used on the forks as he undid the sling on his arm, stretching it and grunting a little.
"If you throw it hard enough, anything flies," Jack replied. "What I want is...um...air-buoyancy."
"Lighter-than-airness," Graveworthy suggested.
"That's it. Is there a word for that? You're the writer."
Graveworthy considered matters as he twiddled the forks with his good hand, still stretching his left arm. "Not a single word, I don't think. I should invent one. Levitosity, perhaps." He set the little craft down on the desk and sat on the edge of the bed. "Jack...are you aware of Clare's origins?"
Jack frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Where she comes from."
"Yes, I know. But she -- I mean, no offence, but she doesn't like you much. I don't think she'd want me to talk about it with you."
"It's a trifle late for that now."
Jack raised his eyebrows. "Who told you? I didn't think anyone but me and the head of the orphanage knew."
"She did. I doubt she intended it." Graveworthy tilted his head at the wall that separated her cabin from theirs. "She locked herself in, earlier. I think she's...confused. And homesick."
"Clare's never homesick."
"Perhaps she's never been quite so far from Boston. And as you say...she's angry at me. Which is perhaps good in the grand scheme of things..." he shrugged. "Gives her something to do."
Jack glanced at the wall, biting his lip. One hand strayed to a scrap of paper leftover from wing-building, crumpling it. "She told you about Australia?"
"I asked too many questions. And I know a little about expatriates. There are more in Britain, you know. More than in America, as big as it is."
"Listen, do you do this to her on purpose?" Jack asked. "Because if you're picking on her you're not too big for me to beat you up."
Graveworthy smiled. "I'm not too big for her to beat me up, either, but no -- I didn't intend this particular course of events. I want to understand the pair of you, but it becomes increasingly complex the more I question. I don't want to hurt her, Jack. I'm not a sadist. But I want her to understand that I am not an enemy. Sometimes the only way to do that is to let her come to that conclusion herself, and think what she likes of me in the meantime."
This didn't make much sense to Jack, but he didn't say so; often people didn't make sense until he'd waited for a while and seen more of them, like particularly complex engines. Sometimes you just had to let it run until you got it.
"Maybe she needs me," he said hesitantly.
"Undoubtedly she needs you, as you need her. At this particular moment, I'm sure she would be glad of your presence." Another faint smile. "Perhaps you're too young to comprehend what a rare thing it is to exist in such harmony with someone. Do you and she ever fight?"
"What would we fight about?" Jack asked, standing and tossing the paper in his hand to one side. "All the fighting we had to do we got out of the way when I was still in short-pants."
As he stepped out of the stateroom and ducked over to Clare's door, he heard Graveworthy chuckle.
"Unknowing youth," the writer murmured, before the door shut.
The walls on the ship were not entirely too thick to hear through, and Ellis was not above eavesdropping. It was a handy skill. He stood near the wall, breathing softly, and listened to the conversation taking place between Jack, in the corridor, and Clare on the other side of the door.
"Clare," Jack called, trying to be as quiet as possible. "Clare, it's Jack. Come on, let me in."
No response from the room.
"Clare, it's no use; you know I can pick these stupid locks if I want to. You might as well open the door."
He didn't hear footsteps, but he heard the lock snick back and the door open and close.
"Thanks. Nobody likes to look like an idiot talking to a door that isn't his."
Ellis smiled, but at the same time he wondered if Jack ever really took anything seriously. Other than machines, of course.
"I talked with Graveworthy," he said, and then something muffled that wasn't quite intelligible. Clare replied, but her voice was higher and didn't carry as well as Jack's baritone.
"Well, it's pretty obvious he keeps plenty of other secrets."
"I think he knows a lot of things about us he hasn't said. He watches people," Jack said.
Clare launched into a long and angry monologue, enough words audible for Ellis to determine that she was telling the story of their afternoon encounter in steerage. That had probably been as upsetting as anything. Ellis didn't think the children had spent much time seeing how the working-class lived; Clare might have grown up in an orphanage, but sanctioned homes for Australian refugees were well-kept, and they were provided with a decent settlement on their majority. If Jack had grown up near Clare's orphanage, he was probably a middle-class boy.
The working class was hard to avoid, in Boston or any other large city, but it wasn't hard to ignore. Even as students they were accustomed to a certain level of comfort. Ellis wondered idly how Jack would have reacted. He'd probably cheerfully sit down on someone's bunk and draw out a design in coal on wood for making it more durable and comfortable.
Ellis wished more people saw the world as Jack did, a composition of interlocking parts -- each valuable, and none functional without the others. Jack lived to improve lives and invent things for the sheer pleasure of it, never thinking what his machines might do -- but Ellis didn't think he would intentionally create anything to hurt someone. The idea of Jack employed in making torture devices was at once horrifying and too easy to imagine.
That would be an interesting novel, wouldn't it? A man discovering that his machines were being employed to hurt others. Perhaps even a man who made war machines -- because machines didn't have to follow any kind of ethical Edict, not like Creationists in times of war.
Life is sacred above all else, and no Creation shall harm or do it wrong --
He pulled himself back to listening, realizing that Clare had gone silent.
"It's okay," Jack was saying, and Ellis wondered if Clare was crying. She didn't seem the type. "Sometimes people see things other people don't want them to. And I'm all right. I wanted to go. Maybe not quite so fast, but obviously this is important. And I like the idea of flying."
Clare said something low and vehement.
"Yeah -- I don't know where he wants to go. But I don't think he wants us to get hurt. He wants you to like him. I think, anyway. He's really complicated when he's trying to tell you something."
Ellis laughed silently. The most honest criticism, out of the mouth of a barely-grown engineer. He'd have to remember that the next time he was working on a book.
"Well, I guess you can learn about authors from their books," Jack said, in reply to something Clare had told him. "Every time he learns something about us we learn something about him, too, right? Like he can keep secrets. And you know he's a spy, so you're even, really."
There was a creak, like bedsprings settling.
"Do you want some dinner sent up?"
A laugh, and Clare obviously reminding him she was in the wrong cabin.
"Oh. I can bring you some...okay. Well, if you get hungry, come and find me."
The door opened and closed again, and Ellis returned to his seat on the bed, hastily taking out a notebook and a pen. He expected Jack to return, but he didn't; instead his footsteps disappeared down the hallway, and Ellis realized that Jack probably hadn't eaten dinner -- nor had he himself. He wondered if Jack wanted company, but decided against it. Instead he left the room, locked the door behind him, hesitated outside of Clare's room and then turned resolutely to the crewmen's' quarters.
In a sense he was writing something, in his head, about steamship travel, but nothing like what the men and women in first-class thought. The ship's crew and the Steerage passengers interested him far more than what fashions the first-classers were wearing or how they kept their children busy on the long voyage. Jack's dreams of industry-driven society were already coming alive, and Jack was too young or too fascinated with machines to realize it. To the sailors serving here, it was a reality. Most of them could recall crewing sailing ships.
He ducked into the crew mess and was greeted loudly by Cally, a middle-aged woman of no little beauty who had been a first-lieutenant on a sail-driven cargo ship before taking up with steam.
"Ellis!" she called. "Over here, inkslinger!"
He accepted a tray of food from one of the cooks, careful of his arm, and seated himself next to her, among the operations officers. Nigel, who had been raised and trained on steamships, shoved a pitcher of water across the table.
"We was just talkin' bout you," he said.
"We were just speaking of you," Cally corrected. Nigel glared at her.
"Oh?" Ellis asked.
"Mmh. Captain thinks your book everyone's talking about is going to be on us," she replied. "He's getting nervous."
"Says him'll contact -- " Nigel rolled his eyes at Cally's cough. "He'll contact the company when we go ashore and get constraints so's you can't tell anything naughty."
Ellis gave Cally an inquiring look. She nodded.
"Slander against the company is bad for business," she said.
"What is there to slander?" he asked. "You run an excellent service."
"You been down in steerage," Nigel said darkly.
"Yes, and they're fine people. I'm not writing a book about the poor conditions on a steam line. But I am writing a book about you," he added, and Nigel looked pleased. "If the steamships think it's slander to talk about industrialization of the marine industry and the transition from a Creationist to an Engineered society, they may be bang to rights."
"See, he says it," Nigel said to Cally.
"Says what? Bang to rights? He only says it to get in good with you," she said loftily.
"What's all your talk about industrialization?" Nigel asked, ignoring her.
"Well, people are learning more and more about labor-saving devices like engines, which don't require sails," Ellis said. "Your jobs have changed drastically in the past fifty years."
"No doubt," Cally murmured.
"And they say," he added, baiting the hook carefully, "that in places like Australia they've found ways around Creationism that sooner or later have to catch on in the rest of the world."
"Who says that? Nobody's spoke to anyone but the government in years," Nigel said. "Even the cargo ships don't dock there. Not properly, anyway. Steven did an Australia run a few times."
"Eerie, I call it," Steven piped up from the end of the table, catching his name. The others fell silent; Steven was a gnarled sailor of the old school, who had gone round Cape Horn in a wooden vessel and fought pirates off the coast of India. His stories of his travels were worth the telling.
"Why eerie?" Ellis called.
"Well, the way they does it, those that don't get pirate-boarded, is they runs two routes. First half of the cargo's unloaded at Darwin port, second at Sydney to the south. Tis strange sailing round the western coast; all the city lights go up an' you can see 'em so close, but can't put in to port for love or money."
"Why don't you unload everything at Darwin?" Ellis asked.
"Well, now I hear they run a train, so it all goes off at Darwin, but in my day they was ports for the north and south."
"Of the eastern coast, surely," Ellis said. "What about the western coast?"
"Ain't nobody in the western coast but them tribes of Aboriges," Steven said. "Who's tellin' this, me or you?"
"You are, Steven, I'm sorry."
"Well, there you are. So at Darwin they sends up a flare, and t'next day they pulls into port. Then all us take t'lifeboats and floats away, see, and the Australians come aboard when we drop sail. We don't see them, they don't see us. They takes their cargo, and meanwhile some banker," and he infused the word with all the sailor's hatred of merchantmen, "transfers payment for it. They know if they stole a thing we'd come after the ports with cannon, and you don't need to see a man to blow him to pieces."
"Not anymore," Ellis murmured.
"Then they raise a flare when they leave, and we come aboard and on we'd go to Sydney, where we'd do it in Botany Bay all over again. And I tell you something, there's no silence like the silence of t'men waiting to take their ship back. We hear the Australians singin' away as they unload, but we don't see 'em. I done the trip three times and the only time I ever seen an Australian was some tribal fella in a boat of his own who hailed us as we came in to Botany Bay. Tis a wild country, Australia," Steven continued. "They got no Creation, and they're all convicts or foundling children-of, or crooked gov'ment men. Or the native folk, the tribals."
"Surely if they've run a steam engine all the way across the country they can't be uncivilized," Ellis replied.
"Can't they?" Nigel asked. "I hear them's asking for scrap iron and all. Word is them'll have their own steamships soon, and come and invade Injia."
"You're hopeless, Nigel," Cally replied disgustedly.
"I've heard the rumor too," Ellis said.
"I recall one man," Steven reminisced, ignoring the discussion at the other end of the table, "was left behind on ship on accident, and they made him go ashore and stay in Australia."
"But there are plenty of expatriates -- "
"Children," Steven answered sharply. "Children too young to know better. They send 'em off and we train 'em right, but you ain't met an expat in Britain who ain't a shade shifty."
"I've met good men and women who expatriated," Ellis said.
"They say it's in the dirt," Nigel said. "Once you eat food from Australia you're practically dead. You know, if you're a Creationist. That's why they shipped all those Creationist crooks there. I shouldn't like to see Australia."
"You'll spook the crew," Cally said, capping the discussion neatly. "It's not likely we'll ever go there, anyway. We'll be in Penzance in another six days, and then back to Boston, and after that I'm taking service on a line to Dublin. They've offered me first navigator after one more passage."
Ellis lost interest in the discussion as it turned to the politics of company advancement; he had been waiting for a story like Steven's to surface. All the old sailors had them; some of them had even been on the last convict ships to Botany Bay, carrying the dangerous Creationists and the madmen and the political prisoners.
He knew, because it was his business these days to know, that Darwin Port was a military garrison designed to prevent pirates or other unsavories from stealing the shipments that came in to Australia from Great Britain and India, China, sometimes Japan. It was also designed to prevent illegal immigration, not that many people wanted to; the waters were heavily patrolled. Botany Bay might still be a shipping town, but no foreign ships ever docked there.
If they had no Creation, then everything they had was built by design, and they could be designing warships that the rest of the world only imagined in dreams. If that was why they were requesting iron and steel, as he knew they were, then it was indeed possible that Australia, like America a hundred years before, was about to declare itself a power to be reckoned with.
Unlike America, where gentle Father LaRoche had held an iron stand against violence of any sort and indoctrinated generations of leaders against the very idea of offensive battle tactics, Australia might make their declaration with blood and fire.
Excerpt of "The Voyage" taken from
THE CONSOLATIONS OF FATHER LAROCHE
By Vilhelm (called William) LaRoche, 1672 - 1790
First Professor, Founding Overseer, "The Eternal Fire"
When I took ship from England to the coast of America, I had no conception of what would await me on the other side. I was confident in my people to settle an untamed land, but there was speech of murderous savages, and even those who had gone from Europe to settle before were said to be reverted, uncivilized, given to cannibalism, and hostile towards those who came after. This I disbelieved; we must search cautiously for the truth behind what our eyes and ears show to us. I was right to do so.
My people were afraid, fleeing the English hostility to our cause, some leaving behind sons or sisters or cousins to continue our work abroad -- and now that I am old, I think perhaps they were more the blessed for staying, though I am proud that I did not fight and did not allow myself to be martyred. Another great Creationist, Christ the Jew, could have done much more good on this Earth, I feel, had he fled Gethsemane -- but then he believed it was his destiny to die, and perhaps we none of us escape the Creator's destiny.
It was my destiny to go ashore in America in a likely area for farming, and to encounter on my third day in this new country the native peoples who populated the country, they also having decided it was good farming land as well. Perhaps the Creator set them there or perhaps they came as we did, in fragile boats, far back in ancient history. You may see in the grand design of the universe the fortuitousness of this: my people, on meeting our allies, were no longer afraid and believed America to be a promised land.
On my first encounter with a native I was hunting deer in a wood when three men came out of the trees silently, appearing before me. When they saw me with a knife, looking I quite bedraggled -- it had been a wet night -- one of them stepped forward and Created immediately. It was a weapon, a bladed device for throwing, and it was of inordinate size. More than this, however, it was Created with beauty, adorned with decorative designs, and very good to look on.
We did not know, though we were to learn, that our native brothers practiced Creation even as we did; they had accepted the gifts of the Creator and though they had not our rules, they had their own which bound and settled them.
Faced with these men and this weapon, I had little choice; in my innocent surprise, I Created a shield with the wheel blazon of my Church in bright colors, to protect me as the Church protects all of my children. On seeing this he was first amazed; then he laid down his weapon and laughed, and after I saw that I would not be hurt I laughed too.
Thus you see, my sons and daughters who read this in ages to come, when Creation met Creation, even in fear, the end was laughter. May it be ever so.