Saturday, August 24, 2019
Welcome back to the #steampunk riverboat, my chuckaboos!
As you know, I’m re-writing a nearly finished novel, The Delta Pearl, for this serial. That has resulted in a few changes, such as the heroine, Émeraude, becoming several years younger. Now both she and one of the passengers (Victor Elam — you met him last time) are in their teens. Although Victor is a little older than Émeraude.
A story set on a riverboat will have a lot of characters. Between the passengers and the crew, that’s unavoidable, at least when I’m telling the tale. I’m trying to make it easier for you to keep track of all these people by how I name them. Throughout this week, I’ve done a lot of work, renaming the passengers. Many of you know that I put a lot of thought into names. That’s a huge understatement. My brain is tired from it.
I’m discouraged that four weeks into the story, we’re still meeting the passengers, but all of them have parts in the story that I don’t want to delete. Writing serials is harder than you might think.
This week’s random reader things:
Thanks to Dan Antion for letting me use his photos as much as I am able for this serial.
Last time, in Chapter 3 — Face, the young inventor, Dr. Victor Elam was fussy about his luggage. A container came loose and rolled toward Émeraude. Victor freaked out. Let’s get back to the Delta Pearl and find out why he was so upset.
The #steampunk riverboat awaits… All aboard!
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 4 — Greet
My enthusiasm about Dr. Victor Elam’s charm waned as he fussed over his baggage.
“Please, please,” the young inventor cried. “My cameras… Have a care!”
Well, I reminded myself, No one can be perfect. We all have flaws. I suppose if I owned expensive technical equipment like cameras, then I would have been upset too.
His voice went up a full octave as the metal canister came loose from the luggage cart and rolled toward me.
“Oh no!” Elam yelled.
The young inventor panicked, and that frightened me in return.
A flash of polished brass caught my eye. I felt betrayed when metal wings darted to the canister. The Captain must not have had much faith in me being the first face after all. Onyx, Captain Perlog’s clockwork owl, had been discretely keeping an eye on the deck.
The owl wore a tiny top hat, set at a jaunty angle. His eyes were bright, but dark as the black onyx for which he was named. He hooted once then pecked at the canister.
The clockwork owl unlatched the container in a jiffy. The seal had been so tight that I heard a little whoosh when it opened.
Elam shrieked when Onyx removed a velvet box. The little owl had a tight grip on it.
Annoyed to realize the owl had been supervising me, I moved to grab the box from the mechanical creature. Onyx hooted again, but he let me take the case.
Victor Elam’s spectacles were askew and his previously neat hair was disheveled. He froze with his hands reaching toward the box. I was surprised that he didn’t grab but he managed to stop himself from snatching the velvet box as I opened it.
Something silky fell into my hand. It was a bracelet. However, it was not a precious gem. Rather it was intricately braided and knotted hair jewelry. The bracelet was made with two different shades of brown, light and dark. I noted that one was a match for Victor’s hair.
The inventor made an embarrassed face. Muttering an apology, he tried to explain his over-reaction.
“I know it’s just hair jewelry,” Victor began, “but this is the only personal memento I have of my parents. They died a year ago, when their ship went down in a trans-oceanic crossing.”
I murmured my condolences to Dr. Victor Elam for the loss of his parents. It wasn’t the first time I had found myself in a situation that called for that kind of statement. Although, it wasn’t usually spoken to someone so close to my own age. I couldn’t help feeling sad for him and his attachment to the keepsake.
More passengers came aboard. I took a deep breath, put my even less genuine smile back on my face, and turned to greet them.
A young couple stood with their heads close together. For a moment I thought they were making fun of Victor Elam and his worries for his luggage. However, when they used the opportunity to steal a kiss, I realized that was not the case. They were recently wed.
The new husband wore a neat suit with a bowler hat. The suit was well cut and of good fabric, but it was by no means extravagant.
The wife’s blond hair was pulled up loosely except for a tail of shining ringlets. The “follow me lads” curls dangled from beneath the wide brim of her chapeau and onto one shoulder. The hat’s tall feather bobbed when they kissed. They were Harrison and Hyacinth Harvey.
Shyly peeking out from behind Mr. Harrison Harvey was a ruddy complected boy with chubby cheeks and curly hair.
“And who might you be, young man?” I leaned down and asked in a sociable voice.
He mumbled something in return. I had no idea what the boy said, but I heard a “her” sound in the middle of it, so I turned to and asked her.
“He’s your what?” I asked the young wife, Hyacinth, but her husband answered for her.
“No, no. He’s my nephew. My elder brother’s son,” Harrison Harvey explained, with a glance at me and a glare at the boy. “Hershel, as you’ve been told a hundred times, speak clearly. Now introduce yourself properly to the young lady,” he told his nephew, though his voice became progressively gentler as he spoke.
There was no wonder Harrison Harvey’s instant of anger at the boy evaporated.
Who could look on that cherubic face and feel ire? I thought.
After the lad produced a proper introduction I smiled and couldn’t resist tousling his hair.
“Don’t let him fool you,” Harrison Harvey told me with a wry expression. “He gets into more than his share of mischief. But it’s deuced hard to scold him. Sometimes I think he believes no one would ever batty fang him. Although I could wish that kind of thorough thrashing on my brother for sending him with us on our honeymoon,” he muttered.
Mrs. Hyacinth Harvey seemed to take up a conversation that I must have interrupted. She looked significantly toward the wealthy Mr. Needleman and lightly touched her husband’s arm.
“Dear, you should introduce yourself,” she told her husband, indicating the entrepreneur.
Harrison Harvey nodded to me and walked over to Randal Needleman.
The young bride stared at Eliza Needleman in such an openly envious fashion that it surely would have been embarrassing if the lady had noticed.
“Such butter upon bacon… That would be worth more than the whole of my husband’s inheritance,” Hyacinth Harvey murmured as if to herself, clearly meaning the Pharaoh Diamond that hung around Mrs. Needleman’s swan-like neck.
I pretended not to hear her remark. The statement was so crass that I felt uncomfortable and had to look away.
“We seem to have more young people onboard than usual,” I commented as a way of disengaging.
By that, I meant the youthful pair who stood a few feet away. I turned to a nervous looking young woman. Having done my homework, I already knew that she would be a governess traveling with her young charge, a boy in his early teens.
I prompted her to introduce herself and the boy. The lad was reportedly from a wealthy family. That made me expect a woman who was nearly dizzy age. I was surprised that his parents would entrust him to such a young governess instead.
There must be some family connection. Or there could even have been a last-minute substitution, I thought.
In a voice so quiet I could barely hear her, the governess gave her name, Azalea Morton. She named her charge Alex Rice.
The boy looked as uncomfortable and uncertain as did she. Alex clutched a leather folio to his chest and his cap was pulled down low, all but covering his eyes.
I supposed wearing a cap that way was a new fashion. What I found more interesting was the white-knuckle grip he had on that folio. Alex held it like a drowning man would grab a life-jacket.
Indeed, Azalea seemed too young, inexperienced, and lacking in confidence for the post as governess to such a wealthy family. I would probably have been nervous too.
Other than that, I couldn’t put my finger on anything wrong. Even so, there was something off kilter about those two.
End Chapter 4
We’ve finally met most of the passengers. Although, there is one more waiting on the gangplank to board the Delta Pearl. Frankly, I’m not too sure about any of them. Victor Elam seems like a harmless prodigy, but geniuses can cause all sorts of trouble. And does the Harvey family seem a little greedy and possibly spoiled to you? Then there’s the governess and her charge. Émeraude doesn’t seem to trust them. Of course there are the rich Needlemans and that honking big diamond as well.
I wonder who the remaining passenger could be — and what else we’ll learn about this group… Meet me at the riverboat dock next weekend, my chuckaboos and we’ll find out!
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.
Now for the obligatory shameless self-promotion…
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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
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