Saturday, September 14, 2019
Hello, my chuckaboos! Welcome back to the #steampunk riverboat, The Delta Pearl.
This week’s random reader things
I could have used this as a “thing” last time, but it seemed more important this time. What? Paddlewheel! Two readers left it as a “random thing.” One was Ginger, of Murphy’s Law. Thanks for your loyal support, my chuckaboo! The other reader to leave “paddlewheel” was Kevin Cooper. Check out his blog and music.
Thanks to Dan Antion and for letting me use some of his photos.
If you need to review, click the link for Chapter 6 — Listen.
Last time, Émeraude slipped on the deck. Aside from the danger to her, wasn’t it odd for such a tidy riverboat to have anything that hazardous on its flooring? Maybe we’ll learn more about that today… then again maybe not.
I went over the rail. Worse, I knew I wouldn’t land in the river. A hard deck two stories below awaited.
The sensation of falling engulfed me.
Let’s skedaddle to the riverboat… All aboard!
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 7 — Catch
That humiliating sound, I didn’t remember making it. Yet I apparently gave a shrill scream as I went over the rail.
I heard the clockwork owl hoot loudly as my feet lost their tenuous contact with the unexpectedly slippery deck.
My arm was briefly caught between the carved balusters, but one of the posts broke. As my body jerked down, I was able to grab onto another slim post.
The next deck down was no broader than the one from which I dangled helplessly. It would be another story below that one where I would land. It was a long way down. I if I fell, I would break a leg or possibly much worse. I looked down despite knowing the sight would make my head spin.
Scarcely a moment after his owl hooted, I heard Cecil Perlog shout my name.
“Émeraude! Hold on!” the Captain shouted, as if he already knew I dangled there.
As my legs swung and my petticoat billowed, I could have sworn I heard giggling.
My eyes squinted shut as I struggled to hold onto the carved post. I tried not to think about falling. The thin piece of railing couldn’t support my weight for long. Nor was I strong enough to keep my grasp.
The sound of laughter was overtaken by the louder noise of footfalls pounding the deck.
I felt an instant of hope. Then the banister groaned.
However, I looked up to find the creak was caused by the Captain’s large form leaning over the rail. Before I knew it, he had a huge hand around my arm. He pulled me up and over the railing using only the one hand. I don’t think I even grazed the banister, he lifted me so high. His strength was astounding.
When my feet touched the wooden deck, I saw the fear in Cecil Perlog’s eyes. However, the twinkle quickly returned to those dark orbs when I said that I was fine.
I passed off the giggling I heard while I dangled so precariously. It must have been my panicked imagination. No one else had been around besides the Captain and the Cook, who caught up with the much taller man a moment later.
My body felt like I had been through a mangle down in the laundry room. A large bruise purpled on the arm that had gotten caught in the carved baluster. I explained that part to the Captain.
“You’re sure I didn’t hurt your arm picking you up like that?” the Captain asked in a worried tone. “It gave me such a fright that I didn’t stop to think about the safest way to get ahold of you.”
“That isn’t the arm you caught,” I assured him, holding my sore arm close to my chest.
By then the Cook was beside us. Also, the First Mate ran pell-mell to the top of the stairs, having seen me dangling over the railing.
The Mate, Blue John, hesitated briefly to confirm all was well. Then he hurried into the pilothouse to make sure the riverboat didn’t run into anything while the Captain’s attention was with me.
Agate bent down to touch the darker wood where I slipped. I could see the shine of oil on her fingertips. The crew kept every inch of the Delta Pearl immaculately clean.
Obsidian, Sid for short, was the Cadet. He had followed the Mate up the stairs. As he came toward us, Agate lit into him. That startled me. I had never seen her lash out in anger.
“What is the meaning of this?” the Cook railed, sticking her oily finger in the Cadet’s face. “It’d be a cauld day in Hell before I let me kitchen get like this. Whoever let this happen better be afeart for their life! Did ya not see that I nearly slid and landed on my arse? And poor Emmie! She went over the rail, poor bairn. She near enough went all the way doon there. Doon there, Obsidian, do you see that?” Agate demanded, thrusting her finger toward the railing.
The Captain finally managed to shush Agate. Although poor Sid was white as a sheet in the face of her wrath.
“Now son, just tell me what caused that noise and lurch in the paddlewheel,” the Captain asked in a calm voice.
“Sir, someone dropped an oar from one of the lifeboats down into the paddlewheel. We found the broken oar. Or rather, I don’t know how it could have gotten there unless someone dropped it,” Sid answered.
A few minutes later I was back on course with my errand from the Captain, to have the Dealer “keep an eye on” a pair of passengers he refused to name.
I went down the narrow stairs. The little clockwork owl made a quiet hooting sound, as if he didn’t want to startle me. A second later he alighted on my shoulder. Onyx really was a polite little thing. I supposed the Captain had second thoughts about the Dealer knowing “who” he meant after all, and sent the owl to let him know.
Captain Cecil Perlog went back to the pilothouse, but he allowed the Mate to deftly guide the Delta Pearl away from the dock and into the expanse of the river. Rainfall had been plentiful that year, allowing the river to be broad, deep, and fast-flowing.
There was no need for me to rush. I still felt shaken, so I paused on a deck with my elbows propped on the railing, enjoying the breeze and the view that rolled past. Green riverbanks seemed to glide away. I watched the shore idly as a boy threw a stick for his big chocolate colored dog.
Mrs. Eliza Needleman also watched the display. She was holding that fuzzy dog of hers. She began to yap excitedly — the dog that is. Poorly arranged words of my thought gave me the image of Mrs. Needleman, with that huge sparkling Pharaoh Diamond, yapping along with the dog.
However, the fancy just didn’t fit. Eliza Needleman with the constellation-like gemstone was definitely more Ursa Major, the Great Bear, than a yapping dog. I had to admire that in her.
I still wasn’t sure what to make of her husband, Randal. Was he truly such a dabbler? How could anyone be so wealthy and yet not seem committed to or passionate about any cause or occupation? I supposed if one simply grew up with that being the norm…
I told myself not to judge. For all I knew he accomplished more charitable work, more advancement to humanity by simply signing his name than a hundred other people could with a lifetime of hard work.
My stomach rumbled. I decided to head downstairs and make my way to the kitchen. I knew we had taken on a shipment of cheese. A couple of slices of Guerue and a bit of bread would tide me over until dinner.
I still felt left out, regarding the Captain’s cryptic message to Jaspe. I looked at the clockwork owl speculatively.
“Who did the Captain mean by those two?” I asked Onyx the owl. “And why would he want the Dealer to keep an eye on them?”
With a series of clicking sounds the owl turned its head at a discomfiting angle to peer at me. It made my neck hurt to think about that impossible position.
Onyx gave a slow blink of his bright eyes and simply said “Who?”
“By those two, he could have meant either of the married couples, or even the governess-student duo. For that matter, he could have meant the two men who boarded singly,” I added to no avail.
The clockwork owl turned away from me, as if he was bored silly. However, Onyx continued to ride on my shoulder. The Captain must have told him not to share information with anyone other than the Dealer.
The lazy little thing, I thought. Onyx might could at least fly on his own, if he wasn’t going to tell me anything.
Instead, he chose to add the indignity of hitching a ride on my shoulder to the insult of not telling me anything.
“Be that way then,” I muttered.
As I descended the stairs, I caught a glimpse of the young governess and her charge walking toward to a lower deck. The boy took a furtive glance over his shoulder, which immediately aroused my suspicious nature.
The Chandelier Deck held one of the lounges and the gaming area. When I reached that deck, the owl flew inside toward the game tables in search of the Dealer. Still feeling suspicious of the two young people, I continued to the boiler deck where I expected they were headed.
I walked quietly toward a little used area. My steps quickened when I heard a low moan. Someone else might have gotten hurt when the riverboat lurched. Listening hard, I tried to catch the sound again.
I was still shaky from my fall. With the sway of the boat, my foot caught in my petticoat. That caused me to stumble against the guardrail.
“Damfino why I had to give up my skirt lifter! It might not go with an elegant gown, but at least I wouldn’t be tripping over my own clothes,” I grumbled.
The moaning sound came again, louder. Something really must be wrong.
Then I saw. If my view had been from any other angle, I would not have seen.
End Chapter 7
Thanks for reading, my chuckaboos. There’s more to come! However the riverboat will detour next weekend. Instead I’ll be working on my book launch for a 1920s culinary, supernatural, whimsical mystery — A Ghost in the Kitchen. Stay tuned!
Now for the obligatory shameless self-promotion…
Universal link to my Amazon Author Page
USA: Atonement in Bloom
USA: Atonement, Tennessee
(E-book still on sale at 99¢ )
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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