The Flying Cloud, R505 - Season Four

Episode 160: Pursuit of the Leisure Classes

Lord Milbridge goes fishing

Lord Warfield and his lady were both in the Make A Good Fist's salon when their butler returned. It was an elegant room, furnished in brass and polished hardwoods from this very same island, and the couple, in dinner dress and gown, seemed very much at ease. The baron was cleaning one of his hunting rifles -- a Rigby .470 Double Express, with a color case hardened finish and a Purdy-style rose and scroll -- while the baroness was inspecting the edge of a cavalry saber.

"Ah, Bludge, there you are," said the baron, setting down his cleaning brush. As always, his expression was dark. "Was there any word of the Thumper?"

"No, milord," said the butler. "It doesn't appear the gunboat ever reached Port Moresby. But I did learn that an airship called at the Station yesterday and departed that very same evening."

"An airship? I assume this was a naval vessel?"

"The Flying Cloud, R-505, sir, commanded by one Captain Roland P. Everett."

"Everett!" exclaimed the baron.


"I thought I was rid of that man in Palestine! If he's involved, then Milbridge must be aboard!"

The baroness pulled on a pair of fine kid gloves and reached for a polishing cloth. "Do we know what they did in town?"

"I made inquiries, milady," said Bludge. "In addition to the usual activity one might expect -- arrangements for resupply and the like -- it appears the captain and some of his people paid a visit to the Lieutenant-Governor. This was rather discreet. In particular, there was no sign of the viscount. But I understand from the local dentist that they took an issue of National Geographic from the Residence's library.

"The dentist?"

The butler was too well-trained to sigh. "It's a long story, milady."

Lord Warfield pursed his lips and reached for his own well-thumbed copy of the magazine in question. "That would be the October issue, of course. That confirms they know about the Professor. Now that we're aware of their goal, it should be an easy matter to intercept them."

Lady Warfield swished her saber through the air, struck a pose en quarte, then returned the weapon to its sheath. Her smile was avid with anticipation. "Do we know where to look?"

"We know the Professor means to finish his season in the Marshalls," mused the baron. "We'll begin there and work our way upwind."

Michael was at a curio shop, inspecting a gold-filigreed tiara, when Digby arrived. The two twins nodded to the shopkeeper -- an ill-favored fellow with bulging fish-like eyes -- and stepped outside where they wouldn't be overheard.

"Was there any word of the yacht?" asked Michael.

"It called here yesterday," said his twin. "The owner remained aboard, which allowed him to retain a measure of anonymity, but he did send a servant into town. I was able to trace the man's movements. He visited the Residence, where he seems to have made some discreet inquiries among the staff. Unfortunately, I was not in a position to learn their nature. Then he paid a call to the local dentist."

"The dentist?"

Digby spread out his palms and shrugged. "Yes, it's rather a mystery. Perhaps he had a toothache. What did you learn at the Station?"

"It's been rather busy," said Michael "Several commercial vessels called after Milbridge's visit, and a Royal Navy airship passed through here two days ago on some undisclosed business, but there's no reason to believe any of these has anything to do with us. There was also news of the Professor, which I believe will bring you some joy."


Michael grinned. "I found a man who knew a man who deals in iron filings. We now know where he positioned his hydrogen-generating supplies for the 1927 season."

"Oh my!" said Digby. "Vincenzo will be delighted!"

"Yes. Let us make our way back to the Salgari."

The shrimp boat plodded across the Pacific at a leisurely pace. The vessel creaked as she rose to each swell, hesitated for a moment, then settled into the next trough. In the motor-room, her faithful engine hammered away, pushing her along at a steady five knots.

At this speed there was no need for haste, and Lord Milbridge and his wife were taking their tea at the table Jean had set up for them in the shade of the trawling gear. It was a rustic setting, stained with tar and redolent with the odors of a working fishing vessel, but the couple, in their bush garb and summer frock, seemed very much at ease. The viscountess was reading aloud from a book of poetry.

"The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea."

The viscount smiled. "Quite appropriate, Atalanta. I shall endeavor to avoid shooting any albatrosses."

"I was never seriously concerned, Edmund," said his wife, setting aside the volume and reaching for her macrame. "I know how you feel about blood sports."

"A questionable practice, unless one's doing it for the pot," agreed the viscount. "Speaking of which, let's see what we can find for supper." He rose, picked up his rod, and stepped to the rail. With practiced fingers, he knotted the fly, overhauled the line, raised the instrument, and made a cast. The lure arced over the water in an elegant parabola to land on the crest of a wave.

"What are you using today?" asked Lady Milbridge.

"The Hardy, with a six ounce leader and one of the new Hornberg flies."

"Six ounces!" said the viscountess, raising an eyebrow. "Isn't that rather heavy?

"This isn't Scotland, my dear," observed the viscount, quite unnecessarily. "I imagine we might find something more substantial than trout."

"Do you think we'll find the Professor?" asked Spencer. They'd invited the captain to join them, hoping it might lift his spirits. Like most of his men, he'd had some trouble finding his sea-legs, since the motion of a shrimp boat was somewhat more erratic than the motion of an airship.

Lord Milbridge stripped the slack and made another cast. Like the first, this one landed right on the crest of a wave. "I imagine so," he replied offhandedly. "The Pacific Ocean is only so large."

"What about those fellows who pursued us? Do you think they'll make a reappearance?"

The viscount shrugged. "We'll burn that bridge when we come to it. Ah, here we go!"

A massive fin had surfaced nearby. As they watched, it sliced toward the lure, struck, and dived.

"That was a great white shark!" exclaimed Spencer.

"A twenty-footer, I would say," remarked the viscount, as his reel began to spin. "It could weigh as much as two tons. This may require some finesse."

Next week: An Initial Plan of Action...

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