Last week, we read about Emmeline and Thing’s first meeting; after this initial encounter, Thing returns to Emmeline’s cabin and convinces her to run all over the ship in search of adventure (and, more importantly, food.) When they return to her cabin they find men – large men – ransacking it and throwing all her things overboard.
So, there’s nothing for it but to make a run for it, this time to Thing’s ‘cabin’ (really, a long-forgotten junk room way below decks), where they are hiding out…
Emmeline and the Ice-God
Emmeline woke up to find the candle reduced to a mere disc of wax on an old cracked saucer. Thing was gone, but he’d tucked the rest of the blanket over her before he left. With a jolt, she remembered her satchel, and flipped herself over so she could check on it – but it was there, all right, and looking exactly the same as it had the day before.
Check it, said a little voice in her head. Check that everything’s in it that should be in it. But she told that voice to shut up, and busied herself getting herself and their corner tidy, ready for Thing to come back.
As it turned out, that didn’t take very long.
Emmeline had just finished folding away the blanket when Thing came barrelling back into the room like Genghis Khan was on his heels. He slammed the door closed behind him, and with fumbling hands he replaced their security mop.
‘Hey! Is everything –‘
‘Sssht! Whoop!’ said Thing, putting a finger to his lips.
‘But – ‘
‘Ssssh!’ He strode over to her and put one hot, sweaty and filthy hand over her mouth. His eyes were huge, the brown pupil surrounded by a sea of white all around, and Emmeline didn’t think she was imagining the trembling she could feel in Thing’s fingers. He turned back toward the door, whooping quietly, trying to catch his breath. After a few minutes of silence, he ushered Emmeline back toward their corner, where they huddled.
‘The whole – whoop – ship is looking for you,’ he said. ‘Everyone.’
‘Me? Why?’ Emmeline couldn’t imagine an entire shipful of people caring one way or the other about where she was.
‘A missing kid? On a Northern Jewel cruise ship? Whoop? It’s big news.’
‘But I’m not missing! I’m here!’
‘Yes, idiot. But nobody else knows that.’
‘I’m not an idiot.’ Emmeline’s lower lip started to wobble a bit, despite her best efforts to control it.
‘Sorry. Whoop.’ Thing’s breaths were calming, but they still sounded thick and gloopy.
‘Do you have asthma, or something?’ Emmeline asked, wondering if it was catching.
‘Somethin’,’ replied Thing, enigmatically. ‘Forget me. What are we goin’ to do about you?’
‘What about me?’ Emmeline reached for her satchel, absent-mindedly, but it was just out of reach. Thing grabbed her hand.
‘Pay attention, Ems,’ he said. ‘This is important.’
So is my satchel! Emmeline thought, the words lashing across her brain like a whip. ‘Should we go to the captain and tell him –‘
‘Are you out o’ your tree?’ whispered Thing, his voice sharpening to a squeak. ‘The captain? He’d announce it to the whole ship, and then, d’you know what’d happen?
‘People – people would stop looking for me?’ Thing rolled his eyes at Emmeline’s words.
‘Yeah, that. An’ those two brutes who were wreckin’ your room last night would know exac’ly where you were. Right? Not a lot of places to run, on a ship.’
‘Oh,’ said Emmeline, in her littlest voice.
‘Yeah. Oh. So, we got to keep you hid, at least until we reach Paree. After that, well…’ Thing rubbed at his face with a grubby hand. ‘After that, not even my brain power knows what t’do.’
‘I have to meet someone in Paris,’ said Emmeline, quickly. ‘I have an address to go to, and a person to ask for, a person who’s going to… who’s going to…’
‘Who’s goin’ to what?’ Thing’s eyes were glittering in the dim light.
‘Who’s going to look after me, now that my parents… now that they’re gone.’ A few seconds passed, and they were silent but they were very, very full.
‘Right,’ said Thing. ‘Well, we gotta get you off the ship in Paree without anyone seein’ ya, and without anyone shoutin’ for a copper. We can do that.’ In the silence that followed this, Emmeline’s stomach rumbled as loudly as a round of applause in a packed theatre.
‘Gosh, excuse me,’ she said, clutching at her middle.
‘Got just the thing for that, right here,’ said Thing, reaching into one of his many pockets. When he withdrew his hand, it held two small croissants and several miniature chocolate rolls, which were covered with a dusting of icing sugar. Emmeline’s mouth watered instantly, and Thing let her have first choice.
‘Where did you get these?’ she asked through a mouthful of sweet dough.
‘Found ‘em, just lyin’ around. Funny, that,’ replied Thing.
‘Hmm,’ said Emmeline, but she didn’t stop eating.
As soon as she’d swallowed the last crumb, Emmeline realised she had a problem that needed her immediate attention, and it wasn’t something she felt she could discuss with Thing.
‘So, ah. I need to go out?’ she said, hoping he’d understand what she meant.
‘Go out?’ he repeated, raising his eyebrows. Without warning, he brought his face right up beside Emmeline’s, causing her to pull her head back, whacking it painfully off the wall. ‘Hold still, will ya,’ he muttered. ‘I’m tryin’ to look down your ear’ole, figure out if somethin’s blockin’ the words I am sayin’ to ya.’ He took her head between his hands and angled it back and forth, peering into her ear like some sort of make-believe doctor, until Emmeline shook herself out of his grip. Thing grabbed her chin and forced her to face him. ‘Looks clear, but there must be somethin’ not gettin’ through. I’ll say it again, then: the whole ship is lookin’ for ya. Right? So, goin’ out is not really somethin’ you should be considerin’, all told.’ He let go of her chin and sat back a little, grumbling to himself.
‘But I have to,’ she said. ‘I have to – you know!’
‘You have to what?’ Thing’s attention was already wandering. He slouched over to where Emmeline had neatly folded the blanket and shook it out again, before settling himself on the floor and tucking it around his legs.
‘I have to attend to something,’ said Emmeline, through her gritted teeth. ‘Something private!’ Thing’s frown gradually smoothed out as he thought about this, and Emmeline watched as his eyes opened wide. A small grin tickled the corners of his mouth.
‘Oh – right!’ said Thing, in an over-loud voice. ‘That. Well – yeah. I hadn’t considered that, right enough.’
‘What do you do when you want to – you know?’
‘When I want to go to the toilet, you mean?’ said Thing, pleasantly. Emmeline felt her cheeks tingle, and was glad of the semi-darkness. ‘Well, I just pick a corner and have at it, me.’
‘Well, that’s not going to work for me,’ said Emmeline, in a voice as crisp as a freshly laundered sheet. ‘So, what do you suggest?’
‘I can go out and liberate you a chamber pot,’ suggested Thing. ‘That any good?’
‘But I need to go now,’ said Emmeline. Her tummy was beginning to ache, and that was a bad sign.
‘All right, all right,’ sighed Thing, flinging the blanket off and hopping to his feet. He paused, and then looked at the blanket again, lying in a heap on the ground.
‘I’ve got an idea,’ he said, carefully. ‘O’course, it might be doomed to failure, but all we can do is give it a try. Right?’
‘Right,’ said Emmeline, getting to her feet. She stumbled as she rose, and Thing reached out a hand to steady her.
‘Woah, there! You all right?’
‘Fine,’ said Emmeline, dusting herself off. ‘You just have better sea legs than me, I suppose.’
‘Somethin’ like that,’ grinned Thing. ‘Now – you ready?’
Four minutes later, the door to their hideaway creaked open, slowly as a spoon through molasses. A curious-looking creature stuck out its head, and looked first up the corridor and then down it, and then up it again, and finally crept out on steady feet, heading for the stairs to the upper decks.
It was a short and bent-over creature, with what looked like a misshapen hunched back, dressed in a strange tartan robe with a fringed edge. It clutched an old walking stick (pilfered from the store room) and it wore a thoroughly odd top hat (also pilfered.)
‘What’s the point of goin’ out there in disguise,’ Thing had said, ‘unless we do it so over-the-top that nobody even dares to question it?’ Emmeline had looked dubious at this, but had said nothing. ‘Plus,’ Thing had continued, ‘if you walk with a cocky step an’ yer head held high, and you give off this air, right, this air that says ‘I know exac’ly what I’m doin’, mate, so what are you doin’ getting’ in my way?’ you can pretty much do anythin’ and go anywhere. Fact.’
‘If you say so,’ Emmeline had sighed, before clambering up on his back, her satchel tightly fastened to her front, and holding fast.
‘Let the adventurin’ begin,’ Thing had whispered, with a grin.
And so it had.