Elise Boissonneau • Chapter 38
I will narrate the next portion of the escape.
As we floated into the sky, I noticed Maria looking down. She was the only one in our group who had never flown in a balloon. Fortunately, the Moon was nearly full, providing some light. We could make out the shapes of things, although they were colorless.
“I wish it was daytime so you could see clearly. It is amazing to see everything from high in the air.”
“I would like that, I think. Even this is beyond imagination,” Maria replied.
“It is fortunate that we recently fashioned a basket large enough to accommodate eight passengers. Our last basket would not have held us all,” Joseph Montgolfier said.
“I cannot thank you enough for this, my friends,” I said.
“Consider it payment for breaking your leg last time we flew,” Jacques Montgolfier replied.
Captain Peanut Butter, still frail from his captivity, spoke to Jacques.
“You may not remember, but two years ago, I followed your balloon on horseback until it landed and then helped you pack it up.”
“That was you, Monsieur?”
“Of course, I remember. You seemed far too pleasant to be a pirate.”
“It is a long tale. Too long. But I did manage to liberate one of your balloons from a cargo ship and learned to fly it.”
“No, it is not true!”
“It is. Britpop and Andelbert also learned to fly in that same balloon.”
This is beyond believable,” Joseph added. “We are all balloon flyers?”
“Everyone but me,” Maria said.
“Perhaps Andelbert can teach you,” Joseph said.
“I think not,” Maria said, and everyone laughed.
“So you were playing us for fools when we took you up last time?” Joseph said.
“We could hardly tell you we learned to fly a balloon with a pirate.”
“This is true.”
“Messieurs,” the Captain said. “I understand that you are doing this for Britpop and Andelbert, but I want to thank you for risking your lives to help them. I would have gladly remained behind to see them safely escape. You have my deepest gratitude, and I am forever in your debt.”
“Captain,” Joseph said. “We do not know you, but we know Britpop and Andelbert. And if you are friends of theirs, then you are a friend of ours.”
“You are the finest of men,” the Captain replied.
“Merci, Captain,” Joseph replied.
We had favorable winds, and we drifted toward the coast. But as we approached Le Havre, the winds took a sudden turn, and we began drifting north.
“We have a problem,” Joseph said. “The winds have shifted north. I will take us higher to see if we can find more favorable wind.
The brother tried going higher and lower, but it was no use. We continued to drift north, away from our destination.
“We must set down, or we will only drift farther away from Le Havre.”
We started our descent.
“We need to find a good place to land. Our eyes had adjusted to the darkness so we could see reasonably well. And fortunately, we were in farm country, so there were plenty of open fields. Jacques spotted a good open area, and we landed. We dragged for a few moments, and then the collapsing balloon pulled the basket over onto its side. We all climbed out of the overturned basket.
“How will we get to the harbor?” I asked.
“We will steal some horses,” the Captain said.
“But we do not know the way,” Andelbert said.
An unknown voice filled the air. “What is going on here? You got my animals actin’ up.”
We turned and saw a farmer holding a pitchfork.
“My good man. We are the Montgolfier brothers. This is Joseph-Michel and I am Jacques-Étienne. We are the inventors of the balloon.”
“Is that what that contraption is?”
“Indeed. We flew it all the way from Versaille.”
“I heard about those. Never thought I’d see one.”
The Captain interrupted. “Kind sir, might you have some horses we could borrow? We must get to Le Havre as quickly as possible.”
“I got a wagon. I can take you.”
“You are a gentleman,” the Captain replied.
“But you gotta do somethin’ for me.”
“I want a ride in that balloon.”
“It is a deal,” Jaques said. “Take them to the harbor, and my brother and I will have the balloon ready to fly by the time you return.”
The farmer smiled and started walking quickly toward a barn. “Follow me.”
We piled in an old wagon, and the farmer hitched it to an equally old horse.
“Old Rose here knows the way to harbor in her sleep. We will be there in no time,” the farmer said.
He was a little optimistic. We didn’t arrive until near dawn. But we thanked him and made our way to the docks. By then, the sun was rising, and we saw soldiers patrolling the docks.
“What are we going to do?” Maria asked.
“I have an idea,” I said. I led everyone to Delbert Boissonneau’s office. Fortunately, Boissonneau was there.
“What is this?” Boissonneau asked when he saw the four of us walk in.
“Where is Elise?” I asked.
“She is on the Sea Merchant II. Waiting for you.”
“There are too many soldiers. We will never make it without being seen.”
“I will go tell Goatbeard the situation. Perhaps he will have an idea.”
“Go with him, Maria,” Andelbert said. “They are not looking for a woman. You can get on board.”
“No. I will not leave you,”
“I must do it alone,” Boissonneau said. Then he walked out of the door.
Delbert Boissonneau will tell this portion of the tale.
When I approached the Sea Merchant II, a soldier said, “State your name and your business?”
“I am Delbert Boissonneau. Grand Duke Goatbeard’s business partner. I have urgent news I need to inform him of. I will be but a minute.”
“Hurry,” the soldier replied.
I boarded the ship. The Grand Duke was waiting on deck.
“Grand Duke, Britpop, Andelbert, Maria, and that pirate are in my office.”
“Thank Heaven,” Goatbeard said.
“But how will we get them to the ship?”
Captain Desmet spoke up. “The ship is loaded and ready to go. The dock master will become suspicious if we do not leave. We have favorable winds. We have to sail. We will drop anchor in the river. They will have to row out to us.”
“Can you get them a shuttle boat?” Goatbeard asked.
“I will see it done,” I replied.
With that, I headed back, and The Sea Merchant II got underway. I approached a shuttle captain near my office.
“Sir, I will pay you gold if you can discreetly shuttle my friends out to the Sea Merchant II.”
“How much gold?”
“More than you will make all day.”
“Done? Where are they?”
“They are in my office. They cannot be seen by the soldiers.”
“There is only one patrolling this section of the dock. I will create a distraction.”
“Good. Wait until the Sea Merchant II drops anchor in the river. Distract the soldier, and they will board your boat.”
The shuttle boat captain walked down the dock and talked to a boy of about ten years. He returned a few minutes later.
We watched until we saw the Sea Merchant II drop anchor in the middle of the river.
“Now,” I said.
The shuttle captain whistled, and the boy he talked to ran up to the soldier patrolling the dock, grabbed his hat, and ran down the pier. The soldier turned and shouted, “Hey! Come back here, you urchin.” The boy ran a little way and then dropped the hat. He turned and blew a raspberry at the soldier. The soldier went to retrieve his hat.
I opened my office door, and everyone ran and jumped into the shuttle boat. The boat captain pulled away from the dock and headed for the Sea Merchant II. In a few minutes, they had reached the opposite side of the ship, and the four of them climbed aboard the Sea Merchant II undetected.
The boat captain returned and climbed out of his boat.
“Easy as pie,” he said. “Now, how about that gold?”
“Step into my office,” I replied.