Saturday, October 19, 2019
The steampunk riverboat is here. Hello, my chuckaboos! Thanks for coming back to the The Delta Pearl. Based on my own experiences all week, I know it might have been difficult for you to get here.
I hope everyone is still onboard, despite the wide-spread difficulties WordPress is causing many of us. Their denial of accountability has gotten as bad as my horrible Internet “provider” TDS Telecom… (Provider is in quotes because I don’t have Internet more often than I actually do.) Now WordPress is making it hugely difficult for me to interact with any of you with comments or simple likes. At this moment in time, I’m so frustrated with WordPress that I don’t know if I can keep blogging.
Sorry to begin on a negative note. Moving on…
This week’s random reader things
This steampunk riverboat is fueled by random “things” from readers, but this story is also a re-write of a novel I wrote a few years ago. It needed a middle, so to speak, and that’s why it’s here. I’m getting to the point, I promise. Last weekend, Dyanna Wyndesong left “garnet” as a new thing. Well, Garnet was already a character in the original version, so I’m bringing him in sooner than the original. That’s close enough to be serendipity.
Thanks to Dan Antion for letting me use some of his photos. Be sure to visit Dan at No Facilities.
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!
If you want to review, click the link for Chapter 10 — Cover. Let’s get back on the riverboat and see what happened after that.
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 11 — Pretend
Angry screaming interrupted my very unexpected encounter with the governess and her charge. Rather I should say, with the two women. No, the shrieks were not from them.
Little Hershel Harvey had careened down the hallway and collided with the Chief Porter, knocking luggage out of the man’s hands.
“You can’t batty fang me, I’ll tell!” shrilled Hershel about the mess he had caused. “Help! He’s hurting me!”
The Chief Porter, also called Garnet, looked at the child in openmouthed astonishment. He hadn’t touched the deceivingly the cherubic-looking boy.
As I stepped out of the open doorway to Azalea’s cabin, Hershel ran away. Apparently, he wasn’t so brave in his lie if a witness was handy.
Garnet gathered the suitcases he had dropped, making sure all of them were still securely latched. It was unusual for the Chief Porter to deliver the luggage of guests himself.
“That inventor, Dr. Elam has most of my porters scrambling to get all sorts of things so he can rebuild the tempest prognosticator,” Garnet supplied the answer before I asked the question. “That’s what he calls the leech barometer. It was a meanspirited prank that caused that thing to break with us so close to any sort of boundary. When the Captain catches the ratbag that did it… well, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes.”
I glanced over my shoulder to the chaos of clutching blankets and grabbing clothing. The two women were clearly afraid they would be put off the riverboat, or perhaps much worse. In those days, that would have been expected.
The Chief Porter seemed to hear the commotion. He looked askance at me. I lifted one shoulder in a shrug and made a face that I hoped suggested the minor ruckus beyond the cabin door was nothing more than ordinary passenger silliness.
Garnet had more than his share of work at that moment, so he nodded and kept on his way. That fortunately did not take him past Azalea’s cabin.
“Really,” I complained to the two as they clutched clothing to their bodies. “You couldn’t be any more embarrassed than I.”
I didn’t want to get them into any trouble, so I pretended a maturity that I did not feel.
What would the Captain do? What would the Cook do? Or the Dealer? I wondered.
Thinking fast, I merged all the ideas into one. Then I straightened my shoulders and tried to have a severe tone.
“Answer me just one thing,” I added firmly, which seemed to freeze them in place. “Are you both of legal age?”
The two young women nodded frantically. After a couple minutes of head-bobbing they finally found their voices to affirm that they both were of age.
“Old enough to marry. Old enough to drink beer. Even old enough to vote ― or would be if we were men,” Alison stated in a snarky tone.
Azalea elbowed her and gave a cautionary hiss.
“Well, I have no interest whatsoever in what two consenting adults do in their bedroom,” I declared. “But why all the intrigue? Surely it would have been simpler to be two women traveling together.”
“Nothing is simple when your name is Ritchie. I’m Alison Ritchie,” stated the erstwhile Alex Rice. “I’m running away from my scoundrel of a husband. You may have read about it in the society columns. He’s so embarrassed that he tried to keep it quiet, but once the gossip mongers got ahold of the story it was beyond his control. However, that made him even more determined to drag me back.”
As she spoke, I remembered bits of the complicated story. Both Alison and her husband, Clovis Leboeuf were from wealthy high society families. He sneaked and connived until he managed to get all her fortune placed in his name. When it also became clear that he was an unrepentant womanizer, Alison was publicly vocal, saying he had taken over her funds illegally.
The husband sounded so underhanded, that when I read that Alison Ritchie-Leboeuf had disappeared, the thought had crossed my mind that he might have had someone put her lights out. Yet here she was, alive. A runaway wife disguised as a boy, but alive nonetheless.
Yes, it was an already an outrageous story. If the newspapers got wind of Alison’s sexual tastes it would be the scandal of the century.
“What will it take to buy your silence?” Alison wanted to know.
The stupidity of that question annoyed me. Everyone already knew her husband had taken all of Alison Ritchie’s fortune. Plus, it was an insult to my integrity.
“I have much more important matters to attend,” I answered.
Imitating the way Agate would act, I turned to the door, still pretending a grownup manner I scarcely felt.
“Carry on your charade as boy and governess. But I warn you — you must exercise much more discretion than you’ve had up to now! This is the second time I’ve come upon you two in a compromising situation,” I cautioned the young women.
Their eyes widened as they realized I said second time.
“Yes. That’s right. This is the second time I’ve seen you! The two of you were not even aware of the first instance. It doesn’t matter whether you’re seen as teacher and student in an unlawful dalliance or as two women conducting an illicit relationship, either will draw attention that I’m certain you do not want. So, for your own good, please be discrete,” I stated firmly.
I turned on my heel with a suitable assertion of authority. All those past uncomfortable moments of seeing Agate tell off scullery help had come in handy.
Abruptly, a tremor went through the Delta Pearl. I felt it in the floor beneath my feet, but I also felt it all around me. It was as if the entire riverboat vibrated.
The vibration got into my head and made me dizzy. Then the floor briefly sagged, then bounced. It knocked me onto my bottom. I hurriedly got back to my feet.
The freakish concerns I had picked up from Blue John Boulton combined with that tremor worried me. I tried to contain my fear. It wouldn’t do for any passenger to see the staff afraid, not even guests as irresponsible as those two.
As I walked quickly along the corridors, every worried word Blue John Boulton had spoken came back to me. My entire body tensed, anticipating another of the strange tremors to go through the Delta Pearl.
As if Blue John didn’t have me anxious enough, I became apprehensive about whether the passengers might have noticed the odd behavior of the riverboat. How would they react? What excuse should they be given?
I couldn’t very well say something like, “Oh don’t you worry. The Delta Pearl sometimes gets a little supernaturally wibbly wobbly when she crosses a state line.”
Jaspe was gifted when it came to dealing with people. I decided to go to the Dealer. I didn’t admit to myself that I would also be comforted by his calm presence.
As I stepped outside to the main deck, I met Obsidian, the Cadette. My first thought was relief that he hadn’t been there a moment before when I fell on my backside.
Sid carried a bucket that sloshed out something dark as he hurried. Sid stopped to pick up the thing that spilled.
It was a leech. With an expression of distaste, he stooped to get it back into the bucket.
As he tried to get his fingers around the slippery worm, a snuff box fell from his pocket. I made a face. Dipping snuff was as disgusting as leeches.
Sid caught my expression. Doubtless he didn’t appreciate my reaction.
“They’re for that inventor,” Sid explained. “I didn’t think he’d have the spine to handle leeches. Seemed like kind of a sissy if you ask me.”
“I didn’t ask you,” I told him pointedly, not liking the presumed insult to Dr. Victor T. Elam. “Do you know where the Dealer is?”
“Oh,” Sid baited me, his eyes alight with teasing when he found a weakness. “So, you think he’s just too-too, do you?”
I felt as much as heard a vibrating hum from some indeterminate point in the riverboat.
“If those are meant for the leech barometer then you’d better hurry,” I said with an involuntary grimace for the leeches. And the Dealer?” I prompted again.
“Jaspe is in the main gaming lounge. Oh, and I haven’t seen Amethyst either, if you were wondering. That spider has a mischievous streak,” Obsidian called over his shoulder as he rushed away with the bucket of leeches.
It was true. Amethyst could be playful, sometimes in an impish way. She likely knew the clockwork creatures were to be contained. I’d never finder if she didn’t want to be found.
The spider was being coy.
End Chapter 11
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. Feel free to comment or ask about National Novel Writing Month as well.
I’ll be waiting for you at the steampunk riverboat next time!
Now for the obligatory shameless self-promotion…
Universal link to my Amazon Author Page
Universal link Kindle/e-book A Ghost in the Kitchen
Universal link paperback A Ghost in the Kitchen
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
Dan Antion’s images Copyright © 2019
All rights reserved.
No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.
All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.