The Delta Pearl, 5 — Read

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Paddlewheel Riverboat by Dan Antion
Paddlewheel Riverboat by Dan Antion

Hello, my chuckaboos!  Welcome back to the #steampunk riverboat, The Delta Pearl.

So far we’ve met passengers who include a young, but somewhat nurotic prodigy of an inventor, Dr. Victor Elam. He’s a little older than Émeraude, and she is quite intrigued, despite his imperfections.  Or maybe because of them.  Can anyone so young truly be so accomplished?

Also, we met a very wealthy couple, Randal and Eliza Needleman.  Oh, and their little dog.  Randal earned the respect and gratitude of Sid (the Cadete) through his personality and a generous tip, when the dog got loose.  Eliza seems companionable in her interaction with Émeraude.  Are they as down-to-earth as they seem?

Then there was a young couple on their honeymoon, Harrison and Hyacinth Harvey. Unfortunately they were stuck with their nephew Hershel.  Don’t tell, but I suspect the cherubic kid is a really brat.

Tintype photo of boy circa 1856, Wikimedia
Tintype of boy circa 1856, Wikimedia

Next were an inexperienced governess and her charge, Azalea Morton and Alex Rice.  Other than being young and nervous, they seem ordinary enough.  Émeraude has a different “read” on them. Why does she feel there is more than meets the eye when it comes to those two? 

This week’s random reader things

Adele Marie Park gave us a Mustache Comb.  A thing from D. L. (Denise) Finn ran across the deck, a Black Cat.

Thanks to Dan Antion and Faith Antion for letting me use their photos.  

If you need to review, click the link for Chapter 4  Greet. 

We have another passenger to meet today.  Although he seems to want to avoid us.  We’d better hurry to the steampunk riverboat before he slips away.  All aboard!

The Delta Pearl

Chapter 5 — Read

Moncton as the Black Cat, by Faith Antion
Moncton as the Black Cat, by Faith Antion

Tall for his age, but thin, the boy kept his head down.  The river’s breeze tugged at his cap.  Young Alex had attractive if rather delicate features.  With a narrow hand he pulled it down, obscuring large eyes I only saw for an instant.

I recognized the Rice name.  They were financially prominent, but avoided the social limelight.  So, I was unsure of how many children they had, let alone their names, ages, or genders.

It was a minor mystery, but my mind latched onto the it.  Suddenly I felt inspired.  I dissembled in hope of prompting more information.

“I was expecting someone else…” I told Azalea in a tone that implied I was distracted.

Miss Morton’s eyes widened.  That was her only tell, as the Dealer might say.

“The usual governess was suddenly taken ill,” she said quite smoothly, if very quietly.  “I am second to her position, and was fortunately free to take her place.”

Throughout this exchange the boy’s head hung down.  His gaze was fixed on the planks of the deck.  He glanced up at my clearly unexpected comment to his governess.

Victorian woman 2 Pixabay
Pixabay

Perhaps I was reading too much into the anxious young passengers.  Mechanical clicking from Onyx, the Captain’s clockwork owl, brought me back to point.  Although they were temporary, I still had duties to perform as the first face our guests saw.

Mr. Needleman said something to his wife that I didn’t hear.  With a few long strides, the entrepreneur caught up with Victor Elam.

“The illustrious Doctor Victor T. Elam?” the rich entrepreneur asked as he walked up behind the younger man.  “I’ve long admired the imagination behind your inventions, sir.  Perhaps you would grace us with your presence at dinner?” Randal Needleman asked.

Based on the way Victor at first drew back, I thought he would decline.  The inventor really was as shy as my first impression suggested.  However, he warmed to the attention.  He adjusted is spectacles then smiled and accepted Needleman’s invitation.

Interesting though they were, most of the men who boarded the Delta Pearl were either quite successful in business, or born to wealthy families, or sometimes both.  They tended to have egos sized to match their financial abundance.

The inventor had a humble way about him.  I found it refreshing.  Although, from what I had read about Dr. Victor T. Elam, he was a well-off man, but there was nothing pretentious or egotistical in the way he acted.

Vernon Lee by John Singer Sargent 1881
Vernon Lee by John Singer Sargent, 1881

“Boys and their toys,” Eliza Needleman commented companionably as she walked up to me.  “My husband has again abandoned me in favor of his scientific interests.  He has no gift for it, but the man truly is infatuated with the new technologies.”

Eliza Needleman was indeed a strong, capable, and confident woman.  I wondered if she ever felt annoyed at the limitations that were placed on women.  I certainly did.

Ladies were expected to always be escorted by a man.  However, I had seen a few who playfully took one another’s arm when no man was available.  So, as ladies sometimes did, Mrs. Needleman and I walked arm-in-arm as we made our way across the deck.

How anyone ever came to the conclusion that a woman was better off on the arm of a man (or failing that another person) than on her own was something I never understood.

Perhaps I was a little flippant about the subject.  I had to admit the Captain had always ensured I would come to no harm.  He had also made sure I was both capable of and willing to defend myself.  The Dealer, whose grace could be deadly, took a hand in my education as well.  Though I had no talent for martial arts and was no dead-eye with a gun, I learned self-defense and how to shoot.

Briefly I pondered the idea that not many women had the benefit of that kind of instruction.  Then as my duties required, I redirected my attention to the idle conversation of my guest.

Abruptly it occurred to me that I had seen another passenger on the list.  Yet, no one else came forward when I asked for introductions.

Onyx, with his tiny top hat, looked at me from where he perched.  I heard the soft sound of gears whirring.  Could the Captain really have sent him to keep an eye on me?

The Captain required the ritual greeting and introductions.  He said he could see much in a person by the way they introduced themselves.  Maybe he would be upset that I missed one of the guests.

The little owl’s head turned a full circle on his shoulders.  He hooted once.

“Shut your little bazoo,” I muttered and he flew away.

Young Johann Strauss II, mid 1800s, Wikimedia Commons
Young Johann Strauss II, mid 1800s, Wikimedia Commons

I reminded myself that attending the greeting was a custom, not a requirement.  Their passage had already been paid and registered.  As proof they had boarded, passengers would again sign in at the reception desk.  (That was my usual station, rather than first face.)  It shouldn’t be of any consequence.  Should it?

Then I spotted him.  Standing in a shadow, apart from the other passengers was a tall, reedy man.  His big mustache grew to meet his bushy sideburns.

A mustache comb could be put to good use, I thought uncharitably.

The clothes he wore suggested he was a workman of some kind.  The day seemed warm for it, but he wore a loosely cut overcoat.  The fabric did, however, seem to be light weight.  I supposed the coat was utilitarian.

Covertly I watched as the tall man’s eyes surreptitiously followed Mrs. Eliza Needleman — or perhaps the huge Pharaoh Diamond at her throat.

I told myself not to react with suspicion.  The diamond was eye catching.  Anyone would notice it and be fascinated.

What really surprised me was the fact that the man’s gaze transferred to Dr. Victor T. Elam.  He studied the inventor even more intently than he gazed at the yellow diamond.

Having reviewed the manifest, I knew the identities of the passengers before they boarded.  The man with the unruly mutton chop sideburns would be Benjamin Dundas.

I was in no way bothered by what his social or economic status might be.  However, despite the fact that I looked directly at him, he never met my gaze.  That more than anything gave me pause.

The clockwork owl flew high up to the pilot house.  Onyx alighted in an open window.  His brass head turned 180 degrees as he looked at the deck.  The owl’s gaze was not directed at me though.

I moved to see what would be in his line of sight.  Onyx may have been looking at Benjamin Dundas.  Then again, he may have simply noticed the black cat that prowled among the crates.

Moncton 2019 Dan Antion
Original photo by Dan Antion, tomcat-foolery by Teagan

***

End Chapter 5

***

Meet me at the riverboat dock next weekend, my chuckaboos.  There’s more to come!

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.

***

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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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92 thoughts on “The Delta Pearl, 5 — Read

  1. A very interesting set of characters Teagan, and I enjoy the way you give your non-human characters the same personality and weight as your human ones – I’m sure Onyx, Amethyst and the Black Cat will have much to say on the intrigue in future episodes!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Teagan, an intriguing episode! An owl, a black cat and a mystery man. I’m moving right on to the next episode to read more. The compelling episodes keep me turning the page so to speak. Great, creative writing, my friend, 📚🎼 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Things are getting more suspicious, now I’m suspecting everyone of not being who they say they are. lol, loving it. I don’t’ know if anyone’s mentioned it yet but how about a brass telescope, I adore these and hope to own one someday. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s a marvelous steampunky thing, Adele. I’ll add it to my story matrix.
      Bwhahahaha! (Rubs hands together evilly.) I’m glad you are suspicious of everyone. My work is not in vain. LOL. Thanks for being on this riverboat, my chuckaboo!

      Like

    1. Robbie, I appreciate that specific feedback. I like to insert things like that into stories — things about environment or personality that a reader might not think about — even though they were aware of the setting. Things that shape a character’s reactions and habits.

      It was before I knew you, but several years ago I started a novel rewrite that I had original begun in the late 1990s. (The Guitar Mancer, which is still unfortunately waiting for finishing touches.) Nearly 20 years later, technology had changed hugely. I looked at some of the original scenes and knew readers would wonder why the characters didn’t simply call each other to warn of danger. But when the original was written, there were still a lot of people who didn’t have cell phones. I finally opted to change the setting from the present to the 1970s. (I thought about keeping it in the 90s or the 50s, but chose the 70s for the music.)
      Thanks for visiting, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are right about technology, Teagan. When I started working in 1997, I didn’t have a cell phone or a GPS. I had to use a map book. The character elements that you add are what makes your writing so good. I am trying to learn how to do this and give my characters more colour.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine and commented:
    Welcome to the Delta Pearl, created by Teagan Geneviene and available to board every Saturday. We are still meeting the new passengers and one or two are causing some inner debate for the ‘face ‘ of the crew, Émeraude. She is not your typical young woman of that age, and has some special skills that sound as if they might come in useful down the line.. Head over to meet the rest of the cast of players and help out by adding something vintage to the plot…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Teagan, I am late boarding the steamboat my friend, but having read this episode it sounds all set to be a intriguing journey with many interesting characters who are eyeing each other up nicely.. Including as you have mentioned in a previous comment, ‘the owl and the pussycat’ lol

    So sorry I have not been as regular a reader of late Teagan, but lots of home decorating we have been doing and of course the allotment plot has needed attention after we neglected it so I have not been in my reader as often as I would wish..

    Sending lots of love and I am sure the Delta Pearl saga will unfold lots of Mystery and intrigue..
    Much love dear Teagan ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so kind, Sue. There is certainly no need to apologize. I’m happy to know you have been doing fulfilling things at home (including the allotment plot). None of us can do everything. It’s been five months since I relocated, and I am not even close to being settled in. There’s so much work to do, and much of it is difficult and heavy for my inadequate, worn out old back.

      I’m happy to see you any time you have a moment to jump on this steampunk riverboat, my chuckaboo! Great big hug.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Valentina. Thanks for visiting. I appreciate this feedback in the form of a question. Where the passengers are concerned, the Delta Pearl is about the journey, rather than the origin or the destination.
      The Harveys are on their honeymoon, but later you will learn they are dropping off (transporting) their nephew as well — so a bit of both for them. In their case, that information is relevant to what happens in the story. That isn’t really the case for the others.
      It’s somewhat relevant for the governess and her young ward, but elaborating on that would be a spoiler.
      Too much detail can bog down a story, particularly if the information does not “move the story forward” or effect the plot. Plus, we’ve met nine passengers (not to mention the crew). Detailed bios, provided up front, for each of them would not only be cumbersome to read, but quickly forgotten as well.
      While an ocean-liner might have infinite ports of call, the riverboat is mostly confined to the river. So passenger origins and destinations have less influence on the story.
      Have a colorful new week, my chuckaboo. Hugs on the wing!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Benjamin Dundas seems mighty interested in Eliza Needleman’s Pharaoh Diamond. Or perhaps he just has a keen eye for beauty. Every passenger, and some of the crew, seem a bit suspicious, but then that’s surely your intention! I love the addition of the cat. Along with the owl and spider I think they’re going to be great fun. Or, in your words, provide a lot of tomfoolery!! 😂😂

    I like that you introduced us to the cast of characters before you get into the nitty-gritty of the story. It’s easier for me to keep them straight in my mind.

    For Pete’s sake Teagan, don’t get “writers block” between now and next Saturday!! Lol.
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ginger, heartfelt thanks for saying that about the introductions. It’s a relief to know it helps.
      A cat and an owl together could end up in some collie shangles, but it would be fun!
      I think next chapter seems to be mostly new material — so I will cross fingers and toes against that writer’s block! Happy holiday weekend, my chuckaboo!

      Like

  7. That is quite a diverse group of passengers and I love the way you’ve laid some groundwork with each of them. I am thinking the Owl is perhaps the way the Captain keeps an eye on everything on his boat? So far, I’m intrigued by each character and can’t wait to see what they bring to the table (so to speak). Great segment, Teagan!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Teagan, catching up on the last two weeks and happy to see you’ve introduced very interesting characters. I’m waiting to find out the twist behind the young governess and her charge, and what the-man-who-needs-a-shave is doing on board. Good stuff, as usual!

    Two possible items for future posts: Ale keg and preserved pickles. Sounds odd, but I was reading about a sunken steamboat recovered from the Mississippi and these are two of the many items recovered over 100 years later.

    Like

  9. I love how you’ve handled the introductions, Teagan. Rather than boring little bits, you’ve given us tiny interesting stories. And, with each bit, we learn a little more about our main character. Diamonds, inventions, curious gazes, strong women, a young woman who can shoot – a black cat – now there are the ingredients for some real “tomfoolery by Teagan.”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks so much, Dan. That really is helpful. You know I worry about the pace.
      Haha. I couldn’t resist making a portrait of Moncton. Thanks to Faith’s photo, Denise’s black cat will show up in the story at least now and then.
      Hopefully Émeraude doesn’t need the self-defense the Captain and the Dealer taught her — or at least that she is better at it than she seems to think. LOL. Personally, I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. I know that because I’ve tried and missed! Hugs on the wing!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Heartfelt thanks, Christoph! I’m so happy to know that you already feel that way about the Eliza character. That’s wonderful feedback. ❤ She was one of my favorite characters to write in the original story.
      Thanks about the portrait choice. I was quite taken with it myself. A wonderful weekend to you and yours as well, my chuckaboo!

      Like

  10. No story is complete without a cat. And I’m also intrigued by Dundas. And great comments about women’s social position. Looking forward to the next episode, Teagan!

    Liked by 1 person

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