Saturday, November 30, 2019
Welcome back to the steampunk riverboat, my chuckaboos!
For those of you who are celebrating an extended weekend for Thanksgiving, stay safe and warm! With the holiday (here at least) in mind, I expect a lot of readers will miss this chapter. So, it’s just as well that there is not a lot of action. However, it does develop our characters.
You can review Chapter 15 of The Delta Pearl, here.
This time we learn more about the passengers and crew. Sufferagettes are aboard the riverboat. Read on to learn more.
Thanks to Dan Antion and Faith Antion for the use of their photos.
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 16 — Suffrage
Golden ringlets bounced on Hyacinth Harvey’s shoulder as she approached me. She had changed her hair style. While the front was pulled upward and back in a poof, the rest of her locks hung loosely down. Her blond hair gleamed against the dark brown of her frock.
I looked for a place to hide, but it was already too late. I had been seen. She even waved. I groaned.
The young bride had repeatedly tried to pawn her nephew off on me. I was long since out of patience with the various pretenses she used. She was annoyingly transparent. I already had a job and it had nothing to do with babysitting.
When I first learned of the situation in which Harrison and Hyacinth Harvey found themselves, I could empathize. They cut short their honeymoon because the Harvey matriarch fell ill. They didn’t have enough money to start a grand holiday over again. To make up for their unfortunately short honeymoon, Harrison’s elder brother, who also held the purse strings to the younger man’s inheritance, footed the bill for the newlyweds to take a holiday.
That holiday included a voyage on the Delta Pearl. Unfortunately, a requirement for their holiday was that they deliver the nephew, Hershel, to his maternal grandparents.
Yes, I could feel for the newlyweds. Cherubic little Hershel Harvey was a royal pain! However, that amount of empathy was all I was willing to give them. I was no nursemaid, thank you very much.
I returned her wave with a wan motion of my hand. I tried to smile, but it probably looked more like a grimace.
The distraction of the apparently frantic Mrs. Eliza Needleman hurrying up to my side was a relief. I felt slightly ashamed of myself that one passenger’s distress was preferable to having to deal with another guest.
“Miss Émeraude I desperately need your help!” she cried in an unexpectedly loud voice. “Could you please accompany me to my cabin right away?” she begged, taking my arm and pulling me away before I could answer.
Such excitability seemed completely out of character for Eliza Needleman. She was nothing if not poised. I hurried along at her side.
As soon as she had hustled me around the corner Mrs. Needleman looked at me and winked. Then she chuckled merrily.
“You can thank me later,” she commented wryly when I failed to understand her mirth. “There is no emergency. I’ve noticed Mrs. Harvey spends most of her time trying to find someone to take her nephew off her hands. I can tell you that I’m sick of the boy pleading to play with my dog. I can’t trust him alone with her.”
Mrs. Needleman gave a sardonic smile and shook her head in wonder.
“Do you know when I told him bluntly that he would not at any time be allowed to play with my dog, the little brat asked for my diamond? He wanted to use it in playing marbles!” she exclaimed in disbelief. “At any rate, that governess, and rightfully so I might add, told Hyacinth Harvey in no uncertain terms that she would not take on the minding of the child. After that, I’ve seen that she usually singles out you in particular.”
I was astonished.
“And you came to my rescue just now?” I asked, beginning to laugh quietly myself. “You have my eternal thanks.”
“We women are so often our own worst enemies in the fight for our rights. I might have been more inclined to help the young woman if she had ever tried to get a man to look after the child. But I’ll spare you my speeches. As I said, there is no emergency. She’ll probably have gone in search of other prey by now,” Mrs. Needleman told me and then went on her way.
That is interesting. Hmm… an intriguing surprise, I thought. So, Eliza Needleman is a suffragette.
The term suffragette always caused me to pause for thought. There were so many kinds of suffering, so many different forms of abuse. Some suffering was discounted by the masses. Yet it left scars on the abused that lasted a lifetime.
My thoughts seemed to have been preoccupied with the past since the moment I left my bed that morning. I couldn’t stop the train of my thought as it jumped onto the rails of my own past. No one seemed to know I was abused before my life on the riverboat. In fact, the godliness of my mother was praised. A few could see through her disguise. Yet no one intervened.
I gave myself such a hard mental shake that I actually shook my head and shoulders.
“Are you well Miss?” a kitchen maid asked as she passed, tray in hand.
It took a moment for me to place the girl. She was new to the crew of the Delta Pearl. My foggy brain did not want to cooperate and I was not good with names. Finally, I noticed the orange colored stone in the ring the maid wore.
“Coral, isn’t it? Your name, I mean,” I asked and she confirmed. “Yes, I’m well enough. It’s nothing,” I told her with a forced smile. “At least it is not anything that a cup of coffee won’t cure. I apologize that I haven’t found time to get acquainted with you. How are you settling in with your post on the Delta Pearl? Actually, why don’t I just follow you back to the kitchen, Coral? We can chat on the way.”
The kitchen maid and I fell into step. Thoughts of the coffee grinder and freshly brewed beverage propelled my feet.
The river lapped gently against the sides of the Delta Pearl. Coral chattered happily as we walked. She told me that her position as kitchen maid was her first real job. I forced my thoughts to the present. Making a point of taking on her pleasant mood, I smiled.
Coral was full of energy and her enthusiasm was contagious. Or at least I would have caught her enthusiasm if I had not been so hungover. She was also a very young woman, so she was naturally concerned about fitting in with the rest of the crew. Also “cute boys” were not far from her mind.
Of course, that failing didn’t apply to me at all… Ahhem…
“Oh ma’am, everyone knows how you are. Why, you’re practically a celebrity on the Delta Pearl,” she told me, to my astonishment. “I can imagine that you must know the Chief Porter well. Garnet is so handsome,” she gushed. “He’s not so much older than you. I think you two would make such a fine-looking couple.”
The girl is a matchmaker after Agate’s own heart. It was no wonder the Cook hired her, I thought.
“Where are you from, Coral?” I asked in hope of getting her mind off my romances or the lack there of.
“I’m from Savannah, Georgia, ma’am,” she told me. “Sometimes I think I hear the familiar ring of Georgia in your voice, but you don’t really have much of an accent at all. That’s one of the exciting things about the Delta Pearl. People are from so many different places, and they bring their wonderful accents with them. Other times all the dialects merge into one.”
“Do you really think I have no accent?” I asked and I was not sure why, but the idea troubled me. “I suppose it comes from, as you said, the fact that people here are from so many different places. Perhaps over the years, my voice has lost the sound of the south,” I told her without actually explaining.
I disliked discussing my past even more than conversations about my romantic status. Thankfully we had reached the kitchen by that point in our chat.
Coral was right, I pondered as I poured myself a cup of coffee. Garnet is a handsome man.
However, my thoughts kept straying to the shy little inventor, Dr. Victor T. Elam.
The coffee sloshed out of my cup.
“Emmie my dear, have you come here looking for a hair of the dog that bit you?” the Cook asked, appearing suddenly beside me and causing me to jump. “I’ll put a little nip-kiss of that vodka in your coffee and you’ll see that headache goes away,” she said turning toward the liquor cabinet.
“No thank you Aggie,” I said as I hurried out of the kitchen.
Agate had done such a fine job of “accidentally” throwing me together with Victor Elam that she might as well have put me in handcuffs. She couldn’t be trusted for a minute when she had her mind set on matchmaking.
The well-meaning Cook would have me all boiled owl again trying to cure the hangover for which she was responsible!
End Chapter 16.
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 will definitely go back to using the things soon.
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!
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 © 2016 and 2019 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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.