96. Rising Waves

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The helpful young member of the wait staff guided us to our cabins. I didn't know what Mr Ambrose did after disappearing into his. Stand in a corner and calmly calculate how much money he was going to make out of his new canal, maybe? I, for my part, slumped onto the thing that vaguely resembled a bed nailed to the wall. Bunk, dunk, shwunk – I couldn't care less what it was called or what it was for. It was relatively soft. That was all I needed to know.

The knock that woke me from my sleep was tentative but resolute. I blinked and yawned. How long had I been out? I didn't really care. My clothes had dried, so it had to have been some time.

Again, there came a knock from the door. Drowsily, I lifted my head. This didn't look like my room at my uncle's house. What was this? Oh yes, the ship! It all came back to me then: The island, the mine, the race, getting on the ship...

What was its name again? Urania. Yes. Had we really managed to escape, or had it all been just a dream? Was I still dreaming?

A third knock came from the door. I could tell from the sound alone that it wasn't Mr Ambrose on the other side.

'Yes?'

'Monsieur? Diner is ready in the dining hall.'

That decided it. I had managed to have some pretty strange dreams in my lifetime, but never could I dream up a French waiter calling me 'Monsieur'. Crazy things like that were reserved for reality – my reality with Mr Rikkard Ambrose.

Groaning, I pushed myself up from the bunk bed and stumbled towards the door. 'I'm coming,' I called. 'I'm coming.'

'Very well, Monsieur. You are, um, well? You seemed a little pale, earlier.'

Well, what do I say? Getting shot at does that to me.

'No, no. Everything is fine. Thank you.'

'Excellent. I shall return to the dining hall. Your companion is awaiting you there.'

Not long after, I stepped out onto the deck of the ship and closed my eyes for a moment as I breathed in the fresh sea air. It was cool, harsh and salty – not the best combination for a city girl like me, under normal circumstances. But just now, I revelled in it, revelled in the fact that it was no longer the dank, dusty air of the mine I had to breathe in, revelled in the fact that I could still breathe because I was alive.

Opening my eyes again, I looked around. I stood on the upper of two decks aboard the Urania. The wooden structures supporting the deck, as well as the walls of the cabins, were painted in a cheerful golden-yellow and only served to re-emphasize the point: I was out of the dark. I was safe. We both were safe.

Stepping towards the railing, I took another deep breath and looked back the way we had come. Past the roiling clouds of smoke from the engine that propelled us forward, past the churning waters behind it, I could see, in the distance, the faint shape of a mountain on the horizon, rising out of the distant waves. Île Marbeau. It looked like nothing more than a molehill from here. And regardless of how angry the mole that lived there might be right now, regardless of how much he might resemble a lion in his fury, we were out of his reach. I smiled.

Leaving the sea view behind me, I turned and went in search of Mr Ambrose. I hoped for his sake he hadn't eaten without me and already left, or there would be hell to pay!

It didn't take me long to find my way through the luxurious, wood-panelled corridors of the ship. They were not like the corridors of the Nemesis. Light shone in through curtained windows, gold and silver glittered in every corner, and everywhere there were helpful people willing to show you the way, instead of evil people willing to show you the way to your grave. One old lady, Lady Timberlake, even entangled me in a conversation about how small and underfed the young men in military service, like my good self, looked nowadays, when I asked her for the way. She discovered I had the cabin right next to hers, and it took me some time to pry myself away from her. She was sorry to see the young soldier (i.e. me) go; he reminded her so much of her grandson, the brave darling...

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