Saturday, August 17, 2019
Welcome, my chuckaboos! Even though we don’t see one another face-to-face, I do feel you are my dear friends.
Regardless of physical appeal — and I acknowledge the endlessly different standards of beauty, faces are usually important to how we imagine stories. Whether we’re writing tales or reading them, seeing a character’s face helps. No matter whether it is handsome or ugly.
When I found the steampunk image that is the basis for the cover of The Delta Pearl, the woman made me think of Jenna Coleman, pictured above. I saw her as Émeraude.
However, as I began this serial, a re-write of the unfinished novel (and revamped the look of this blog), I ran across the image of the steampunk girl in my banner. (Thank you Pixabay.) The young girl in my banner reminded me of the Claudia Donovan character as she was in the first season of Warehouse 13 (a young Allison Scagliotti).
Émeraude suddenly became younger, a teenager. That will add a few new elements to this re-write. I think having a teenaged heroine might be even more fun than the original.
This week’s random reader things:
Dyanna Wyndesong left Parasol. I already had a parasol for my original Émeraude, and I thought it would be fine to give the teenager one as well. Adele Marie Park left Button Boots. Émeraude is becoming a young lady so I gave her those too. Also Jan Sikes gave us a long but lovely thing which I abbreviated to Jeweled Cane.
Thanks to Dan Antion for letting me use his photos as much as I am able for this serial.
Last time, in Chapter 2 — Fret our young heroine was worried about a couple of things, including why Captain Cecil Perlog gave her a task he usually kept for himself. We also met more of the crew. There was Agate, also called the Cook. Also, Blue John Boulton, who is just as often called the First Mate. We’ll gradually learn more about him.
This time I’ll introduce you to another crewman, and some of the passengers who have just gotten aboard the riverboat. However, we couldn’t get to all the passengers today. You’ll meet more of them next time.
I hear the whistle of the #Steampunk riverboat… All aboard!
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 3 — Face
The river’s gentle breeze parted the lace curtains and tickled my cheek. My excitement mingled with concern as Blue John, the First Mate, spoke the message from our skipper.
Captain Cecil Perlog was firm about the importance of what he called the “first face.” He also insisted that whenever possible, the first face new passengers saw when they were greeted upon boarding the Delta Pearl should be the captain ― him. However, there had been a few times when other matters caused him to pass the duty to a senior crew-member.
The honor wasn’t all beer and skittles. The first face also had to face the passengers. If they came aboard the Delta Pearl with any gripes, most would air them right away. It meant confronting problems head-on.
The task had never been delegated to me. I certainly wasn’t one of the senior crew. Even though I was excited to cover that duty, I had to wonder what the trouble was on the bridge.
“It’s likely something mundane,” I told myself. “Like a breeze scattering the maritime charts and wreaking havoc. It wouldn’t be the first time something like that happened.”
I stared blankly at Blue John’s back as he left to return to his duties.
Jaspe, the Dealer, strolled up to the desk. He moved so gracefully that the coffee in the china cup he held was not disturbed by so much as a ripple.
“Go ahead, cher. I’ll mind the desk for you and make sure everyone signs your register. Although you’d best take that parasol,” he suggested with a glance at my bare arms. “The sun is bright this morning.”
“Oh Jaspe, really!” I started to protest.
Like most of the crew, I echoed the Dealer’s quasi French pronunciation of the name Jaspe, ZASH-pah. It was he who began the practice of me being called Émeraude rather than Emerald. However, it didn’t seem to bother him in the least if someone referred to him by the Americanized articulation Jaspe, or even the English word Jasper.
Dutifully I picked up the lace umbrella without finishing my complaint. The Dealer often reminded me to be careful of my complexion when in the sun. Though I wanted to tease him about being such a mother hen, I bit my tongue. His features were not terribly animated, so I was never sure if a bit of teasing hurt his feelings.
As I walked toward the door, Jaspe motioned to a nearby busboy. The Dealer asked him to relay a message to Agate from him.
“Ask the Cook to please make some iced tea with peppermint and send it up to the bridge. Methinks the Captain and the First Mate could use something refreshing.”
Perhaps the problem on the bridge was not so mundane if Jaspe was even that concerned. I tried to swallow my jitters.
“Well, ain’t you a right popsy wopsy. You look pretty in the gown, Emmie,” Agate said. “I told you it would be a fine fit with a nip or a tuck here and there. You’ll soon be a proper young lady with your Sweet Sixteen. It seems only yesterday you were a wee bairn.”
The Cook gave my cheek an unwanted tweak and hurried on her way.
I looked down at her beautiful handiwork and called out my gratitude to her departing figure. She waved over her shoulder, but kept on her way.
The emerald green taffeta of my gown rustled as I walked across the deck. I twirled the parasol whimsically until I came into view of the boarding patrons. My heels clicked against the wooden deck. The button boots were dyed to match the exact hue of my gown.
I usually wore green of one type or another. However, I made a point of wearing that particular rich shade of green any time we took on a new group of passengers. Seeing emerald green helped them remember my name — Émeraude.
My gown was lightly embellished with jet beads and a touch of black lace. If that seems inappropriate for morning wear, remember that on the Delta Pearl, the first meeting with a new group of passengers was a formal event.
The continuous variety of guests who came aboard was one of my favorite parts of life on the riverboat. Meeting them was always interesting.
Passage on the Delta Pearl was an exclusive purchase. All manner of fancy people walked up her gangway. Through their stories of their own lives, homes, and histories I vicariously traveled far and wide — covering much more of the world than could a riverboat.
I put on a smile that I didn’t quite feel, as I approached the passengers. It wouldn’t do to appear nervous. I was expected to be professional, yet kind and friendly to them. Part of that friendliness was remembering their names. That was not a skill that came naturally to me, but I tried.
A small fuzzy dog barked excitedly and struggled free of the arms of her mistress. The woman cried out in dismay, but she was in luck. Sid, also called the Cadet, scooped up the canine as it bounded past him.
The woman thanked him effusively. Her face was flushed as she murmured something to her husband. Light flashed off the amber that topped the gentleman’s jeweled cane as he moved it. Then he reached inside his morning coat and then palmed an apparently generous tip to the Cadet.
“That was quick action, young man. It’s a quality a self-made man like myself can appreciate. What’s your name, son?” Mr. Needleman asked.
“Obsidian Durango, sir. Mostly I’m called Sid or Cadet,” he doffed his cap and replied.
“A good strong name, young Sid. I believe Durango means strong, doesn’t it?” Needleman confirmed.
Sid bowed and went back to his chores. Appreciation was in his green eyes, which shone as brightly as the obsidian for which he was named.
The couple was Randal and Eliza Needleman. That was indeed a well-to-do pair and they looked every inch of it. They were well-rigged from their hats to their boots. Eliza Needleman was perhaps the most perfectly groomed woman I had ever seen.
Mrs. Needleman subtly but repeatedly redirected her husband’s wandering attention to herself. She did not seem “needy” in doing so. She simply seemed entitled to it. Yet she was not silly or frilly. In fact, she seemed downright fierce.
The largest diamond I had ever seen hung from a simple chain at her solar plexus. The yellow diamond caught the morning sun. It sparkled not like a star, but like an entire constellation of them.
“Did you see that, Sid?” a deckhand whispered excitedly to the Cadet. “If that’s not the Pharaoh Diamond, then I’m a monkey’s uncle! They say it’s cursed, you know.”
The Cadet was congenial, if rough around the edges. Only a few crew members were my age. I probably should have sought out his friendship, but I felt unaccountably awkward around him. He often teased me. Boys could be so immature.
“Don’t talk foolishness,” Sid replied.
For a moment I thought Obsidian might have a little sense. However, he proved me wrong with his next sentence.
“It’s the Hope Diamond that’s cursed. Besides, that there diamond’s whopping big, but it ain’t no forty-five karats, and that’s how big the Hope Diamond is,” the Cadet stated.
“Oh really? As if you’d know the difference between one karat and forty-five if they were set in front of you,” the deckhand argued. “The Pharaoh Diamond is 38 karats, for your information. And it’s a yellow diamond, whereas the Hope Diamond is blue,” the deckhand stated.
I felt it was unusual that those two should know even that much about diamonds. I was tempted to get into the conversation even though Sid would probably tease me.
However, the workday had begun and I had been given an important task. So, I shushed the both of them. The crew wasn’t permitted to discuss the passengers while we were above deck.
When the dog got loose, interrupted my expected routine. I became nervous, but I had to return to my task as first face. I put the smile back on my face.
A slightly built man tipped his hat and listened attentively as I began my little welcome speech. He also seemed to pay careful attention to the basic information I delivered about the Delta Pearl and her amenities. A closer look told me he was much younger than I had first thought.
He may have been a bit retiring, but he was mannerly. He wore spectacles. His clothes were neat and conservative, as was his hair. He introduced himself as Dr. Victor T. Elam and whispered to me that he was an inventor.
After a moment I recognized the name. There had been articles about him and his imaginative inventions in periodicals and newspapers every now and then for the past few years. I expected a much older man. However, the gleam of intelligence shone in his eyes. I had no doubt he was the famous but reclusive inventor.
I found Dr. Elam unaccountably attractive. In fact, I thought he was positively ripper. My smile became brighter.
Not that he was a classically handsome man at all. Rather, it was everything else. He was so respectful in his interactions with everyone from the obviously wealthy Needleman couple to the porters who helped with his over-sized luggage.
Polite and respectful, intelligent and imaginative too — his imperfect features grow more handsome by the minute, I thought.
In addition to his valise, Dr. Elam brought a towering portmanteau. That large item of luggage was covered in stiff leather. It was so big that wheels were affixed to the bottom. He struggled to maneuver it by himself.
I could tell he wasn’t about to let it out of his sight. I called two porters to assist the doctor. I was right. He was exceptionally protective of all his luggage, as his hysterics proved when a tilted piece of baggage gave the sound of metal clanging.
“Please, please, be careful!” Elam cried.
With another noise, a metal canister came free of the luggage. It rolled across the deck to stop at my feet.
“Oh no!” the inventor yelled.
Elam’s expression was one of utter mortification. His face blanched and his eyes bulged. He was obviously panicked, and it frightened me.
I jumped backward from the canister.
End Chapter 3
If you haven’t already done so — or even if you have, I invite you to leave a random non-modern thing, to help drive the story. Please limit your description of the “thing” to two words if possible. Remember any technology-thing you offer needs to be appropriate to the Steam Era.
I love hearing from you, so please leave a comment, whether or not you leave a thing.
Happy weekend, my chuckaboos!
Now for the obligatory shameless self-promotion…
Universal link to my Amazon Author Page
USA: Atonement in Bloom
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This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2019 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
Dan Antion’s images Copyright © 2019
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