Sagging shelves bursting with books lined the study’s walls from floor to ceiling. Silvery rays of sunlight streamed from large windows, through which one could normally watch the gentle sway of waves splashing against the hull. Now, however, Verona felt the study as eerily still as a tomb. She could almost imagine the shelves pushing in, trapping her forever…
“I say, Verona!” called Pappa.
Verona looked up. Her father had already lit his tobacco-pipe, poured himself a glass of brandy, and settled into his comfortable reading chair with a large book. “I found something that might pick up your spirits,” he said. “Have a look here!”
Verona went over and peered at the book in his hands: The Compendium of Nautical Disasters, Volume Three. “In sailor’s parlance, the absence of wind for an extended period is termed ‘the doldrums,’” Verona read aloud. “Sailing-ships with no other means of propulsion can be stranded, their crews often struck mad with Cabin Fever, helpless until the winds return. The longest doldrums on record lasted…four hundred years?”
“Hm,” said Pappa, scratching his mustache. “Now I can’t remember why I thought this would make you feel better.”
“Four hundred years,” muttered Verona. She felt dizzy, and put a hand on the mantel to steady herself. The large mantel clock stared at her with its one unblinking eye. The clock went tick, tock, echoing in the silent study.
“Oh, I’m sure the wind will be back,” said Pappa. He settled into his chair and puffed on his pipe. “In the meantime, we ought to enjoy this lovely silence, wouldn’t you say? It’s the perfect time to do some thinking about the universe, or life, or…well, time itself!”
Verona grabbed the mantel clock in both hands and brandished it at Pappa like a blunt weapon. “Time is wasting!” she gasped, and dashed out of the study and down the spiral stairs to the bottom deck.
Tick, tock went the clock.
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