Saturday, October 12, 2019
The steampunk riverboat is here. Hello, my chuckaboos! Thanks for coming back to the The Delta Pearl. It’s been a busy week. Are you ready to sink into the soft cushions of imagination and let the river gently take you to extraordinary places?
This week’s random reader things
This steampunk riverboat runs on random “things” from readers. Resa McConaghy provided Tempest Prognosticator. (What’s that and how does it work? Click to find out.) Across the miles in Ireland, Inese sent Mahogany. She doesn’t have a blog, but Ginger still gave us a thing from Murphy’s Law — Whalebone Corset.
In the distance, the Dealer again saw something he wouldn’t discuss. However, that time Émeraude watched a smudgy cloud rise up from the spot.
Meanwhile, the Mate, Blue John, was in a paraniod panic. He told her to make sure any “artifacts” were secured, particularly the clockwork creatures and that old portrait that so fascinates our young heroine.
“Although you know how if something’s going to go wrong, it will happen at the worst time. We’re about to border another state. Thou knows how the Delta Pearl can get finicky about such things. I don’t know why it should matter to her… And that’s nothing compared to how she gets with time zones.”
If you want to review, click the link for Chapter 9 — Secure. Shall we get back on the riverboat now?
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 10 — Cover
The steep steps from the pilot house went by in a blur, as I rushed down them.
Abruptly, I realized that the portrait was much closer to me, while the laundry facility was at the other end of the riverboat. It would take a good deal of time to get there and come all the way back.
A moment of indecision overtook me. I turned in every direction. Should I go to the laundry and fetch a sheet to cover the portrait, exactly as the Mate instructed? Or should I go directly to the painting and figure out how to cover it when I got there?
Blue’s anxiety was contagious. I had teased him about “running around like a chicken with its head cut off.” I was doing the same thing.
My buttoned boot had barely touched the deep red wool of the carpet on the main deck when I almost collided with the Cook.
“Emmie, were you just in the pilot house? Was Cecil there?” she asked.
Agate was the only one who could call me “Emmie” without getting a rise out of me. The Cook was nearly as flustered as Blue John. Well, perhaps not. Blue could take flustered and frazzled to heights unknown to most folks. At any rate, the Cook was not her usual bubbly self.
I shook my head, and told Agate that I had not seen the Captain. Of course, I also asked what had her in such a state.
“Some dobber moved the leech barometer!” the Cook exclaimed. “Put it in a place where it was bound to cowp, so ‘course it fell and broke right into a million pieces. And I think I know who’d be to blame too. And that’d be the same one that put that oil on the deck where you slipped and went over the railing!”
The more Agate spoke the angrier she got and the heavier her Scottish accent became. Her face was red and she barely took a breath during her rant. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
“If I find out I’m right, there’ll be a collie shangle the likes of which this riverboat ain’t never seen ― guests or not!” she continued. “I cannae think it’d be a good thing for the Delta Pearl to be nearin’ a borderline without the leech barometer.”
Agate bustled past me without further comment. From the corner of my eye, I noticed the young inventor come out of a salon and approach her. He must have overheard our exchange.
“That sounds like a tempest prognosticator,” I heard Dr. Elam tell Agate. “If you’ll take me to it, perhaps I can repair it. If not, then I’ll build a new one for you.”
I hesitated in my errand to cover up the portrait. I very much wanted to get acquainted with Victor T. Elam. The idea of inventing things fascinated me.
Looking over my shoulder, I saw him adjust his spectacles. His manner to the Cook was relaxed and respectful. That humble demeanor from someone of means and intelligence was what attracted me most. Agate calmed visibly as he spoke.
“Besides, he’s simply the jamiest bit of jam,” I thought. “And I don’t care if that’s usually said to describe a pretty girl. He’s adorable.”
Even so, Blue John’s overanxious state had made me nervous. Plus, with Agate there, I wouldn’t really get to talk to Victor. The Cook proved me right when she took the young inventor’s proffered arm, and went on like a church bell.
“Elam. That’d be an English name, am I right? My maw, she was from England. That’s a fine looking pale blue stone in your earring. Just one, and in the left ear, that’s a good look for a man. It’s a nice gem. I like to see a young man adorn himself with a bit of jewelry,” Agate said, all in a single breath.
I realized the bombardment of conversation was a sign that Agate was still worried. I walked slower and keep listening. I was only concerned about the Cook, mind you.
“My parents had a topaz mine near our home in Texas. It produced a lot of this light blue gem,” Victor explained. “The single earring was a gift from them when I earned my first doctorate.”
“My maw, she used to say that topaz cured lunacy. So, an ear is a good place to wear it,” Agate teased.
Hearing that remark, I was glad I wasn’t standing with them after all. I blushed for Victor’s sake. Then I hurried on toward the portrait.
I spotted a vacant cabin and ran inside. Hurriedly, I yanked a sheet off the bed.
Moments later I stood before the old portrait, ready to tuck freshly laundered white silk around the frame and cover it as the anxious Mate advised.
At least I had enough presence of mind to remember Blue John’s statement about the clockwork creatures. I kept an eye out for the purple spider, Amethyst. I felt behind the portrait’s frame, because that was one of her hundreds of hiding places. However, all I found was a little dust. I wondered where she might be.
Then I paused, as I always did. I was compelled to look at the painting before covering it. My hand rested on the mahogany frame.
The portrait was richly detailed, from the woman’s clothes to the landscape in the background. The landscape was what caught my attention. There was a cliff with trees and a tiny, faraway figure. For a moment it seemed like the figure moved.
I gave my head a shake. Of course, nothing moved. I blinked and inspected it again. Then I looked at the woman, the subject of the painting, and winked at her as a way of mocking my silliness.
Laughing at myself, I couldn’t help imagining what a dither I’d be in if the painting winked back at me. However, I felt queasy when I realized that the woman’s chest seemed to gently rise and fall as if she breathed.
I tucked the white sheet around the portrait as fast as I could.
Again, I wondered where the clockwork spider might be. What if a guest found her? Worse what if they also stole her?
Chandeliers, I thought, inspired.
Amethyst enjoyed sparkling things and loved to play in the chandeliers. I groaned when I thought about how many of those light fixtures were hung in the Delta Pearl. There was one in each lounge, as well as several other common areas.
As I walked, I glanced in nooks and crannies, hoping for a glimpse of glittering purple, but I was disappointed.
The sound of a small commotion and the yapping of a dog met my ears. Abruptly, Mrs. Eliza Needleman’s fuzzy dog bumped against my leg. The dog was followed by a very excited Hershel Harvey.
The nephew of the honeymooning couple ran right into me and kept chasing after the dog, without so much as a pardon-me. However, the collision threw the boy off balance. As Hershel ran, he staggered against the door to one of the passenger cabins, knocking it open.
Unhurt and unapologetic, Hershel scrambled to his feet and kept chasing Eliza’s little dog.
As part of the Delta Pearl’s crew, I had to try to make amends for the intrusion, though I had no idea whose room the boy opened. Tentatively, I went to the doorway.
A whalebone corset and a bustle lay on the floor. Stockings, trousers, and shirts also made a trail to the bed. There I saw the young governess, Azalea Morton. She gave a shriek.
Then I heard a muffled echo of that shrill scream and saw that the bed had a second occupant. They were both undressed — or mostly so at any rate.
After the passionate kiss I witnessed between the governess and her charge, I was not surprised to see that the second person was Alex Rice.
However, a gasp escaped me when I saw that undressed, the boy was a woman!
End Chapter 10
Thanks for reading, my chuckaboos. I hope you’ll leave a comment — and if you want, include an appropriate random thing to go in a future chapter.
I’ll be waiting for you at the steampunk riverboat 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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