The Delta Pearl, 8 — Think

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Note: This post was meant to publish on the above date.  However, between WordPress finikyness and the absurdly shoddy Internet service I get from TDS Telecom… well, it was doomed.

Hello, my chuckaboos!  Thanks for coming back to the #steampunk riverboat, after the detour for my book launch of A Ghost in the Kitchen

Steampunk woman Noel Nichols Unsplash.png
Noel Nichols, Unsplash

This week’s random reader things

The riverboat couldn’t get underway without “things” from readers.  Olga Núñez Miret left an ace of hearts.  Resa McConaghy gave us brooch.

Thanks to Dan Antion  for letting me use some of his photos. Be sure to visit Dan. I’m there today, celebrating A Ghost in the Kitchen!

I realize it’s difficult to keep up with serials. Since I didn’t do a chapter of The Delta Pearl last week, I’m writing an extensive recap today.  It makes for a long post, so feel free to skip the recap.

The Delta Pearl has a full complement of crew.  Senior staff like Captain Cecil Perlog, Agate, and Jaspe are parental figures to Émeraude, whose sixteenth birthday is near.  We’ve also met Blue John, the dashing First Mate.  Plus, there’s Obsidian, the Cadette. Not to mention the clockwork creatures, Amethyst and Onyx.  Oh yes, and Jaspe’s cat, Sir Reginald La Felin, although I’m not sure we know enough about Reggie to cat-egorize him.

Photo by Dan Antion
Original Photo by Dan Antion

The steampunk riverboat has taken on an array of passengers.  If you ask me, any and all of them spell trouble.

The Harveys are a pair of newlyweds, stuck with their nephew on their honeymoon.  Little Hershel is adorable, but possibly a tad too indulged.  Harrison is beholden to his wealthier brother, though we don’t know how far in debt he is.  Hyacinth pushes him to move up the social ladder, and I’d hazard a guess that she’s an envious young woman.

Two men came aboard separately.  A famous young inventor, Victor.  Émeraude is most intrigued!  Although she dislikes the questionable choice of facial hair, although appropriate to the era, of Benjamin Dundas.  We don’t know much about him yet.

Hopefully everyone remembers the wealthy Needleman couple.  Also the nervous young governess, Azalea, along with her charge.  He’s a boy from a large and wealthy family, Alex.

Victorian Woman 1 Pixabay
Pixabay

Now that I’ve reminded you of all the cast here are a few random details.  Mrs. Needleman’s Pharaoh diamond – don’t big valuable gems always attract trouble?  Victor Elam, the inventor seemed excessively fussy over his luggage.  Benjimin Dundas had rather scary facial hair and wore a strangely inappropriate overcoat.

Then there’s the Delta Pearl – the riverboat.  Remember that big gash in the floor that seemed to heal itself?  What about that portrait that has such a strange pull for Émeraude.  It reminds her of someone, but she doesn’t know who.

Last time Émeraude slipped and nearly fell to severe injury or worse, because of some very suspicious oil – right after she heard an unseen person giggle.  Afterward, she heard the giggler again, and then later, the sound of someone moaning.  

 If you still need to review, click the link for Chapter 7 — CatchShall we get back on the riverboat now?

All aboard! 

The Delta Pearl

Chapter 8 — Think

Photo by Dan Antion
Photo by Dan Antion

Let’s blame it on the fact that I was still shaken from my nearly disastrous fall, and not my utter lack of grace.  As I was saying, the sway of the boat caused me to stumble against the guardrail.  If my view had been from any other angle, I would not have seen the source of the worrisome moans.

In the shadows I spotted Azalea Morton, and the teenaged boy from that very large and wealthy family, Alex Rice.  I took a frightened step toward them.

My tumble over the rail was accelerated by the oil on which I slipped.  However, even without a slick floor, one or both of them could also have been injured when the riverboat lurched so forcefully.

Oil where it had no business being… and an oar that fell into the paddlewheel, causing the riverboat to malfunction, together those things were very unsettling.  My world felt out of kilter.

At the sound of a louder groan, I took a step closer.  Then I saw clearly.

Pixabay (altered image)
Pixabay (altered image)

Oh, there was moaning alright, but no one had been hurt.  They weren’t in the middle of amorous congress, but there was certainly some dirty-puzzling.  The governess and her charge were kissing — and quite passionately too.

There was more to that educator and student situation than met the eye.  In fact, it looked like the “student” might be teaching the teacher a thing or two.

I moved back to the stairs without making a sound.  Then I went back to the gaming area and found the Captain was already there, talking to the Dealer.

Whatever was on Cecil Perlog’s mind when he sent me with a cryptic message to Jaspe must have become more important to him.

“Well, now at least I know which two you wanted watched,” I told them with just a touch more of a “so there” attitude than I intended.

Yet I was unrepentant.  That should teach them to leave me out of such things.  They had no business excluding me that way. 

However, when I told the Captain what I had witnessed between the governess and her charge he made a harrumph sound.  Did he think I had been slow to figure it out?

Louis Jourdan in Madame Bovary 1949
Louis Jourdan as Jaspe (from Madame Bovary 1949)

“Do you mean to tell me that they are not the two you meant to keep an eye on?” I exclaimed.

Captain Perlog removed his cap and ran a hand through his thick shock of platinum blonde hair.  For an instant, a rueful smirk twitched his mouth.

“Émeraude,” he began.  “Did you stop to think?  Perhaps all as not as it seems.”

“But I saw with my own eyes!” I declared.

The Captain gave a deep rumbling chuckle.  That was as much of an answer as I was likely to get.

The Dealer had a half smile.  It was maddening.  Those two took delight in knowing things that I did not.

Without looking, Jaspe dealt hand after hand of cards onto the table.  Each one would have been a winner in most circumstances.

I could never understand his ability with the cards.  It had to be some sort of sleight of hand trick, but I never caught so much as a hint of how it was done.  It was as if the cards simply did what he wanted, put themselves into any order he wanted.

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

Sir Reginald La Felin jumped up onto the game table at which Jaspe sat.  The Dealer gave his cat a quick scratch under the chin.

On that first day, when I came to the Delta Pearl as a very young girl, Jaspe called the cat Reggie.  Because of his regal bearing, I playfully dubbed the cat Sir Reginald La Felin.  Soon all the crew began calling him Sir Reggie.

I found the cat as mysterious as Jaspe.  It seemed like an ordinary cat.  Yet as the Dealer scratched under its chin, I thought that the purr had a rather mechanical sound.

Similar to my occasional thought about the Dealer, I couldn’t help wondering if Reggie was, in fact, a cat at all.

Victoria-Transvaal Diamond 1951_Wikimedia
Victoria-Transvaal Diamond 1951_Wikimedia

“There is always a reason why people board the Delta Pearl,” the Captain began.  “She doesn’t accept just anyone, you know.”

The entrance of Randal and Eliza Needleman interrupted whatever else he seemed to be ready to tell me.

Drat those people, I thought.  Cecil wanted the Dealer to keep an eye on two passengers, and now I’ll never know which two.  It’s such a carriwitchett!

It would have made me feel better if I thought the Captain found the Needlemans suspicious.  However, as vague as my knowledge of them may have been, I didn’t think they were dodgy.

The wealthy couple headed toward the Captain, probably meaning to pay their respects.  Cecil turned to meet them.

The Dealer held out some cards, face down.  He looked at me and raised his eyebrows.  We knew each other so well, that minor expression was enough for me to know he meant for me to pick a card.

I looked at him curiously.  Could he be giving me a clue about the identity of “the two” passengers who bore watching?  I knew full well that no matter which I picked, the card I drew would be the one he intended me to get.

The card I drew was the ace of hearts.  That seemed like a strange card to use for a message.

1924 Feb_Theatre woman arrow heart Valentine

I handed it back to Jaspe and looked the question at him.  However, I wasn’t going to get an answer from him either, because the Needleman couple was moving closer to us as the husband spoke to the Captain.

The Dealer glanced at Randal and Eliza Needleman and discretely put away the deck of cards.  It would not do for the passengers to see what a deft hand he was with manipulating them.

It all seemed so cloak and dagger to me that it made me feel just a tad uneasy.  I was not accustomed to that emotion.  It was unlike me.  I didn’t really expect any trouble onboard, but I was suddenly glad for the small pistol that was holstered beneath my gown, just above my knee.

“That indeed is the truth.  The price tag alone makes for an exclusive voyage,” Randal Needleman was saying.

His wife, Eliza, nudged him.  She murmured something unheard, but I could tell she indicated her embarrassment at her husband’s comment.

“I jest.  By everything I have seen thus far, a journey aboard the Delta Pearl is well worth each and every penny of the price,” he added with a surprisingly disarming smile.

It was bold of me to insert myself into their conversation.  However, I didn’t tend to let that sort of convention hinder me.

Allison_Scagliotti as Emeraude, Public domain images
Allison_Scagliotti as Emeraude, public domain image composite

“Mr. Needleman, I’ve seen your name in the newspapers many times,” I began.  “Not that I have time to read each one, but it seems that with every story, I see you associated with a different kind of business.  If it wouldn’t be prying, may I ask what it is you do as a profession?” I asked, sincerely curious.

Anyone could see that the Needlemans were well-to-do.  As a couple they were in the society pages as often as the husband was in the news and business pages.  I could easily have gotten the answer to my question on my own, but I wanted to see how he would answer.

I’m getting too much like the Captain, I thought.

“Such a surprising question to come from a lovely young lady,” Randal Needleman replied jovially.  “Do I detect a keen business acumen?  I suppose you could say that I’m a dabbler.  I dabble in all sorts of things.”

Although playfully said, I still found his response condescending.  Unfortunately, that was the way of most men.

A stinging retort started to form on my lips, but the Captain shot me a warning glance.  I knew he was right — it was too early in the voyage for me to go to that level of honesty with a passenger.

I was somewhat consoled to see Eliza raise an eyebrow at her husband’s manner.  Needleman cleared his throat.  I had a hunch that Eliza Needleman was a force to be reckoned with.

“I believe you are quite good at… dabbling,” the Dealer said, pausing over the word as if it was strange to him.

As the Dealer spoke, the term dabbler suddenly seemed dubious to me.  Jaspe’s tone gave me the impression that he would agree with me.

In my mind I snorted.  Or considering the sharp glance I got from Jaspe, maybe I snorted out loud.  At any rate, from that moment I thought of Randal Needleman as the Dubious Dabbler.

Altered Spider jewelry pin Starbright Pixabay
Original image by Pixabay, tomfoolery by Teagan

A minute tug at the hem of my gown distracted me from Needleman’s irritating comment.  The tug gradually moved up the back of my skirt to my waist, and then onto my shoulder.  Without looking, I knew what caused it. 

It was the purple clockwork spider.  An amethyst cabochon was set into the spider’s back, so I named it Amethyst.  She had a row of four eyes, which were deep purple cabochons, almost black.

The two center eyes were larger than the other two.  Amethyst was a great observer of visual things and of audio events.  The spider tended to follow passengers that caught her interest.  Often, she would retain bits of their conversation, and relay them to me.

Eliza Needleman gasped as she looked at me.

“Oh my!” she exclaimed with an uncomfortable sounding laugh.  “For a moment I thought it moved.  Your brooch, I mean.  It’s a very, um, intriguing piece.”

Clearly a spider brooch would not be to her taste.  Fortunately, when Amethyst was detected, she usually became utterly still.  With the gemstone cabochon set in her back, the spider passed for jewelry.  However, if the clockwork creature was out in the open, or if there was room, she preferred to scurry away.

“That’s also a lovely pin you wear, Captain,” Mrs. Needleman continued.  “All things Egyptomania fascinate me.  That has the look of an heirloom.”

Seed pearls dotted Eliza Needleman’s white mesh gloves.  She delicately placed a finger on the silk of the Captain’s puff tie, but did not touch the all-seeing eye pin that held it in place.

The Captain awkwardly muttered an unintelligible reply.  He cleared his throat and added a thank you.

Robbie Coltrane as Cecil Perlog, aka The Captain
Robbie Coltrane as Cecil Perlog, aka The Captain

I knew the Captain’s all-seeing eye pin was indeed passed down from one of his forefathers.  Although I had no idea how old it really was, or if it originated in Egypt.  That was not something I had thought about.  To me, the strange pin was as much a part of Cecil Perlog as his thick platinum hair.

When Eliza mentioned the spider “brooch,” the Captain cast a meaningful glance at me.  I knew he didn’t want the guests to notice the clockwork creatures.

Damfino how he could blame me for spider being caught in the open!  It wasn’t as if I (or anyone else) could control her.

It seemed Amethyst had taken an interest in the couple.  I wondered if she had been about to relay information about Randal, or even Eliza Needleman.  Unfortunately, since she had been interrupted, I might never know.

***

End Chapter 8

***

Thanks for reading, my chuckaboos.  I hope you’ll leave a comment — and if you want, a “steam era” type of random thing to go in a future chapter. 

I’ll be waiting for you at the steampunk riverboat dock next time!  

***

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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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72 thoughts on “The Delta Pearl, 8 — Think

  1. Like Dan, my spidey sense was piqued by the comment ‘There is always a reason why people board the Delta Pearl,” the Captain began. “She doesn’t accept just anyone, you know.” The boat herself seems to bring together the people who need to be there. MOST intriguing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There is a LOT going on in this segment. A governess and her student! That alone made the scene sizzle! I am finding a connection with each of these characters, especially Emeraude and the Captain along with the clockwork creatures! How on earth will Emeraude ever figure out who she is supposed to watch? Guess we’ll have to find out! 🙂 Well-done, Teagan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! Jan, as far as I’m concerned every 2 in any combination bears keeping an eye on. But then, I’m just the suspicious type. 😉 Although… there can be a number of reasons for watching someone, and not necessarily with anything sinister involved.
      Thank you for your feedback, especially about the sizzle. 😀 I’m happy you are enjoying this, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Andrea. Hopefully not too many threads for a blog serial. But it’s the re-write of an unfinished novel — a way for me to finally finish it. Amazing the things I feel I need to do differently for the two methods. Anyhow, many thanks for taking time to visit. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s great to see you, Adele. As a young girl I would look up at an airplane and think of all the many “stories” onboard, because there must be one for why each passenger was there. So I hope I’ve given the Delta Pearl the right amount of intrigues without over doing it. o_O
      It does make me wonder why both the Captain and the Dealer seemed unconcerned when Emeraude told them what she saw with the governess and her charge. Do they think she misunderstood what she saw? She seemed pretty certain. Was it a “guy thing” that the didn’t care about the impropriety? We will eventually know more. Thanks for visiting, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Diana. Maybe Amethyst had a hand in the weaving, spiders with their webs and all… LOL. The original version does have a couple of sub-plots. That “write” needed a middle, so I’m letting some new details get added along the way now. Thanks for being on this riverboat, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy you enjoyed it, Denise. LOL, there’s no telling what a clockwork spider might find noteworthy — or whether she’ll remember to share what she heard/saw. 😉 But I think she probably will know something important. Thanks for being on this riverboat, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s wonderful to see you, Michael. LOL, oh the heart of a (nearly) 16 year old girl. Will she fall in love? Or how many times? 😀 I doubt the stranger you mean is Mr. Dundas with the too-big sideburns and mustache. 😉 Émeraude seems to have several men to choose from — Victor, the young inventor who intrigues her. There’s also the very dashing First Mate, Blue John (the Kirk Douglas lookalike). Yes, she is too young for him by our standards, but it would not have been so back in that era. She could get a crush on him anyway. Then there’s Obsidian (Sid), the Cadet. Émeraude hasn’t shown any interest in Sid, but he might be interested in her. There’s also a crewman I haven’t had a chance to write about yet — Garnet, the Chief Porter. He is in the original version of the story. Émeraude could even get interested in one of the other passengers, even if it doesn’t seem proper. Who can guess the heart of a 16 year old girl. 😀
      Sir Reginald is a useful character. Unlike the clockwork creatures he wouldn’t have to hide from the passengers. So I think the cat will be back. Have a beautiful weekend. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Teagan, I’m catching up here after having missed the last three segments. I’m thoroughly enjoying this story and you have me hooked on finding out the perpetrator of the oil spill and the two that need “watching.” I know that you’ll give us a surprise or two or three before this story ends. Right? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so happy that you could get back aboard the Delta Pearl, Mary J! I do hope I can surprise everyone — several times. 😀 Although I’m not sure if the Captain will ever let her know who he wanted the Dealer to keep an eye on — or why. He seems a tad mischievous in that regard. Or maybe he just wants her to develop critical thinking skills… As for the oil — yes that will be revealed. 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this episode, Teagan.

    “There is always a reason why people board the Delta Pearl,” the Captain began. “She doesn’t accept just anyone, you know.”

    Everything, even the ship herself is interesting. The clockwork spider is a great addition. I love the reactions it brought out. I am really enjoying hearing about these aspects and elements from Émeraude as she observes and tries to figure it all out. I feel like we’re learning along with her.

    Looking forward to next week (Friday or Saturday, it’s still the weekend).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Holy cow, this story has more mysteries going on than I can count. 🤗🤗 I just love Amethyst! She’s stunning. That’s one spider I wouldn’t mind crawling on me! Can’t wait for her to start divulging secrets. Everyone on the Delta Pearl has secrets.

    I think Sir Reggie is going to prove to be an extremely interesting and entertaining cat.

    You sure know how to weave a tale and keep it fresh and new from week to week.
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s wonderful to see you, my chuckaboo! Ginger your comments always make my day.
      I found two beautiful spider-pin images at Pixabay. I picked that one because the big gem at the center was more like what I had described in the story. Happily I was able to modify it to a purple color. I’m glad you like Amethyst. She’s one of my favorites in this story. Hugs!

      Like

    1. Haha! I wanted to use “Chicanery” (you said it John, and I kept it for a “thing”), but I was too distracted by Internet issues, not to mention too far behind. Pandemonium is a wonderful word — you know I’m adding it as a random thing too. 😀 Thanks for taking time to be part of The Delta Pearl, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Wonderful episode and it was fun hearing that Sir Reggie got mentioned. Dear Sir Reginald La Felin, with both British and French royal blood, is no ordinary cat as you suspected. (Though alive or mechanical has yet to be determined.) He is quite logical and observant when around humans, but rather than give straight answers, he talks in riddles, hedging a definite answer – and only to Jaspe. (Though I dare say I believe Sir Reggie just might be persuaded to open up to Emeraude as certain mysteries develop).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tee-hee! Maybe you and I should collaborate on a “spin off” for Reggie, GP. 😉 I love the idea of a riddling cat… but then, they’re all that way. Maybe it’s inherited from the Sphinx. Thanks for being part of this riverboat, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for including my thing, Teagan, and sorry about the ongoing internet difficulties. I was worried when I saw your post that I’d misplaced a day somehow! Fabulous episode. Oh, I’m intrigued and loved Amethyst. Gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I’m sorry, Olga. I know that feeling. I was so single-mindedly focused the past two weeks on getting the novel ready and the launch post done, that half the time I honestly didn’t know what day of the week it was. Thanks for taking time to read and comment on this odd day! Hugs.

      Like

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