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Aepyornis Ch6 First draft

by  andinadia

Posted: Saturday, August 3, 2013
Word Count: 841
Summary: Another 'quietish' chapter, shorter this time. I hadn't planned this one but I was thinking about earlier comments that we need to see more of Alice and the governess' relationship. As usual, all comments very welcome, even if you haven't commented on the earlier chapters yet! I think I need something else in there to justify the governess' remark about Alice's mother being proud - but I haven't thought of it yet! Does it still read like a possible 9+?
Related Works: Aepyornis (working title) • Aepyornis Ch3 redraft • Aepyornis Ch4 First draft • Aepyornis Ch5 First draft • 

Chapter 6

Alice stood holding the shop door open, looking out to where Aman-tanay had been standing, and then back towards the shopkeeper as if trying to read in his face whether he might have noticed someone simply disappear up in smoke. She rushed to the kerbside, looking up and down the street, but the throng of pedestrians and vehicles had swallowed Aman-tanay up. She went back inside the shop.

‘Sir, did you see that man?’

The shopkeeper was wrapping a package for a customer, carefully pressing with one finger on the point where the ribbons crossed, in order to tie the bow tightly. He looked up, unhurried. ‘Which man might that be, Miss?’

Alice’s irritation showed in her voice and her face. ‘The one I was talking to, out on the pavement. The black man,’ she added, ‘with the bandage on his head.’

‘Ah, yes.’ The shopkeeper completed the bow and patted it into shape. ‘I did see a black man. He boarded an omnibus. Is that the man you are referring to?’

Alice flew out of the shop, almost knocking over an elderly woman and her dachshund.’

‘Well I …’ the woman shouted, turning to her dog for confirmation that young people had lost all manners.

Alice kept running in the direction of the traffic. By the time she reached the corner, she saw another omnibus arriving. Painted on the side of the vehicle were the words: Trafalgar Square-Marylebone-Regent’s Park Zoo. Was it the same bus line that Aman-tanay had taken? No time to think. She jumped on.

‘All full inside, Miss. The only space is on top.’ Alice took in the conductor’s surprise at a girl of her age riding the omnibus alone. She climbed the stairs to the roof and squeezed onto the end of the bench. The view from the top allowed her to scan the whole street. Why had Aman-tanay fled like that? The conductor came to collect her fare. As she was putting the change from sixpence into her purse, she realised something: Aman-tanay had no money with him. He couldn’t have remained on the bus. The conductor would have forced him off straight away. He could not have travelled more than a stop or two.

By now she was not far from her own street. She got off and walked home, dejected.

When the door closed behind her, Alice was unable to stop the tears any longer. Miss Simpson was ready with a handkerchief which she placed in Alice’s hand. She guided Alice through to the living room. As Alice dabbed at her eyes she breathed in the lavender perfume that always scented Miss Simpson’s clothes, and felt a calmness returning.

‘It’s Aman-tanay. He’s gone. I was with him and then I turned around, it was no more than a second or two, and when I looked round again, he was gone! I tried to find him. I … I’ve lost him.’

‘Who are you talking about?’ Miss Simpson asked, gently.

‘Aman-tanay. The African.’

‘Poor Alice,’ the parrot said.

‘It’s a long while since Sam has said that!’ Alice sniffed. Her mood was suddenly lighter.

‘Start at the beginning,’ Miss Simpson said, taking Alice’s hand in her own.

She told Miss Simpson about the visit to the College, about Asquith and Viljoen.

‘I’m worried,’ Alice said. ‘Jacob’s gone to look for the captain. He thinks the captain might know who stole the other Aepyornis.’

‘Who stole what?’

Alice realised how little Miss Simpson knew. There had not been time to go into detail since Jacob came home. She described what they had found in the hold of the Retriever. ‘But Jacob says it is all very confidential. Especially since one of the birds was stolen. The Zoological Society is preparing an announcement.’

‘Your mother would have been proud of you … of both of you. You’re just like her, you know, Alice.’

Alice looked into Miss Simpson’s eyes, as if she might see there the lingering image of her own mother, at the age of twelve.

‘Miss Simpson, I’m worried. I have a feeling Mr Caine is somehow connected to all of this.’

‘That curious man. I did not take to him at all. Neither did Sam!’ Alice saw Miss Simpson’s eyes sparkle at the recollection.

‘Where is father?’

‘In his study, working on his new commissions. He asked not to be disturbed.’

* * *

‘I found the captain,’ Jacob explained, as he removed his boots. ‘I doubt he has stopped drinking since we reached the Port of London. I did manage to get some sense from him. He has a meeting with the first mate tomorrow morning. It seems the first mate wants to propose something to him. He’ll get a surprise. I shall put my own proposition to him!’

Jacob had just sat down when the clawed knocker rang out again. Miss Simpson opened the door to a police constable.

‘Is this the home of Mr Nathaniel Jones? We have reason to believe you may be hiding an illegal immigrant.’