Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 17

And so they did. They watched the liner pass, leaning over the railing above the bank of windows and waving, though Cannon doubted the passengers below could see them. Later, they found half of a game of bridge and joined in with enthusiasm, if not skill.

Before they knew it, the clock chimed seven, and over the intercom, the captain called them to the dining room. Cannon looked around for Wailani, and found the Hawaiian just sitting down at the captain’s table. Wailani caught his eye, smiled sheepishly, and shrugged.

Cannon and Iseabail dined instead on the lower level. The food was more plentiful, the service less attentive, and the people different, too. It wasn’t that they were uncouth—the uncouth couldn’t usually afford to travel by zeppelin—but they were Alaskans, or Russians from the Far East, or wealthy frontiersmen from Central America. It was no surprise that they were more rugged than the usual zeppelin traveler. The vodka did not surprise Cannon, and the folk songs surprised him only a little.

This sort of person, the rough and ready entrepreneurs and high-end scoundrels, was more Cannon’s speed, and although he could communicate with most of them only by way of one Russian’s astoundingly poor French, he still found he was enjoying himself. All too soon, the stewards took away the final course and shooed them away to the lounge.

“No’ tae ge’ in the way of yon diplomatic progress,” Iseabail said, as they ambled that way, “bu’ shouldna we ha’ a talk wi’ Mr. Wailani about wha’ we can give the cap’n?”

Cannon held up a hand to the Russian to his right and nodded to Iseabail. “You’re right, of course. We shall drop in on him in the lounge.”

They passed through the lounge door, and to their left, Wailani, at his customary table, waved to them. Cannon made his excuses to the Russians, and he and Iseabail joined Wailani.

“Good evening,” the Hawaiian said, directing them to the seats across from him. “Your French—you have an exceedingly unusual accent. I could swear I have heard it before.”

Cannon laughed nervously. Lachapelle always gave him a hard time about how bad—and how distinctive—his French was. He tried to remember if he’d ever crossed paths with Wailani before. Covering for himself, he said, “Just what’s to be expected, when an Englishman marries a Scot, then learns a new language.”

“Wha’s tha’ supposed tae mean?” Iseabail demanded, turning a glare on him. She held it for a few seconds before the first giggle escaped. “Ach, I cannae keep a straigh’ face for anythin’.”

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