The Delta Pearl 21 — Poison

Saturday, January 26, 2020

Photo by Dan Antion
Photo by Dan Antion

The #steampunk riverboat is back, my chuckaboos!  

My Writing Process

From the beginning, back in the original version of The Delta Pearl, I wanted to give the story two unique characteristics (along with the magical riverboat setting).  One was the gemstone names for the crew.  The other was having the crew be from many different places. 

Agate, the Cook, is from Scotland. I had been wanting to give her more dialogue.  When Carol left bloomers as a “random reader thing” I knew how I wanted to use it. 

When we were discussing gemstone names, Dan Antion, who also lets me use a lot of his photographs, mentioned Malachite.  Since I was already aware of the hazards of working with the gem, I knew it was perfect.  I should have listed it as a thing last time, but the simple truth is, I forgot.  This chapter’s other random thing is crochet hook from Resa.  

Thanks to everyone who responded to my “call for things” last weekend.  I’ve added them to my story matrix.  Everyone is still welcome to leave a random thing — that existed in the Victorian or Steam Era, please do so in a comment. I love to give shout-outs for the things.

Are you ready?

All aboard!

The Delta Pearl

Chapter 21 — Poison

Bloomer-Club-cigars-satire Wikipedia
Bloomer Club Cigar 1890, Wikipedia. Cigar box illustration meant as satire of “athletic bloomers” for women

For a second my eyes were on the brown cloud and whatever it concealed.  However, it rose quickly, and I had more important concerns.

“Quickly, we need to clear his lungs!” Jaspe exclaimed.

The charm of his New Orleans accent did nothing to lessen the impact of the Dealer’s demand.  The words hit my stomach like an icy fist.

Jaspe seemed unhurt, although his face was dirty and his cravat was gone.  His shirt was pulled half open and the sleeve of his coat had a large cut.  Thankfully, I didn’t see any blood.  The Dealer stooped beside the Captain.  His concern was obvious.

“He has breathed malachite dust and it’s poisonous,” Jaspe stated.

I didn’t know what to do, as I stood there shocked and useless.  All I could think was that it was stupid of me to notice that the emerald of the Captain’s all-seeing eye pin still glowed.  It was not as bright as it was when they were inside the brown cloud, but it still glowed.  I wondered that no one else seemed to notice.

“I know what we can use.  I need help though,” Dr. Victor T. Elam said and hurried down the stairs.

Garnet Redford, the Chief Porter, and Obsidian Durango, the Cadet, were quick to follow him.

Composite Wikipedia & Pixabay images by Teagan
Composite Wikipedia & Pixabay images by Teagan

My sigh of relief was audible.  Victor wasn’t much older than me, so I wasn’t entirely confident.  However, he had known exactly what to do to repair the leech barometer.  So, I dared hope.

Cecil Perlog coughed and hacked like a man who had been pulled from a burning building.  Agate sprawled on the deck beside him, wiping soot from his face with her handkerchief.

Agate’s gown hiked above her knees.  Coral reached down to pull Agate’s skirt back into place.   It was only natural for one woman to try and help another preserve her modesty.

The Cook always had trouble containing her temper if she was afraid for a loved one.  Agate’s distress spilled onto the good intentioned chamber maid.

“Did ya think I cared that my bloomers were showin’?” Agate demanded of the surprised chamber maid.  “Right now, I wouldn’t care if my whole bahoochie showed!”

The Cook took a deep breath and looked sheepishly at Coral.

“It’s all right, lass.  I know you were only trying to do what you could to help,” Agate told her.

Moments later, Garnet, Sid, and Victor came back up to the Hurricane deck.  They maneuvered a very large case up the stairs.  I recognized the towering portmanteau that Dr. Elam was so fussy about when he boarded the Delta Pearl.

They were breathing hard from carrying the heavy leather covered case.

“It’s just an invention I’ve been tinkering with,” Victor commented as Garnet helped him lift a large steel tank from the case.

anthropomorphic Atmospheric Diving Suit by Carmagnolle 1883 Wikipedia
Anthropomorphic Atmospheric Diving Suit by Carmagnolle 1883 Wikipedia

Everyone who could see into the case gasped.  A chorus of murmurs arose.  Inside the portmanteau was what looked like a metal man with bulbous joints.

“And how is it you dobbers think a suit of armor will help?” Agate exclaimed in a Scottish accent that was heavy with emotion.  “Besides, it’d never fit Cecil!”

“That’s only the atmospheric diving suit, Miss Agate.  The Carmagnolle brothers in Marseilles, France built the original.  This is my variation,” Victor began while the Cook sputtered.

The young inventor touched, tapped, and pulled at various spots around the neck of the suit.  To manipulate the smallest ones, he used a tool that I thought must actually be a crochet hook.  A few seconds later he detached the thing’s big round head.

The Captain tried to sit up, but another fit of coughing overtook him.  His eyes were even redder than they were when he emerged from the brown cloud.

“I’m blind,” the Captain muttered in a voice that was hoarse but matter-of-fact.  “Why is the Pearl spinning?” he asked.

The riverboat had become still as soon as the cloud and whatever it obscured moved away.  If the Captain was dizzy and sightless, I feared his condition must be very bad.

Agate gave a whimper when the Captain said he was blind.  She turned pleading eyes to the young inventor.

Maritime tools, Connecticut River Museum by Dan Antion
Maritime tools, Connecticut River Museum by Dan Antion

“The important part is the oxygen cylinder,” Victor continued as Garnet and Sid lifted the heavy canister.  “I haven’t been able to get the pressure right for underwater use.  You see, I intend this cylinder to be used instead of the long hoses that attach to diving suits,” Victor added in response to our blank stares.

“Since we are not under water, that doesn’t matter that my invention didn’t work properly.  All we need is the oxygen and the helmet,” he continued.

Victor looked at the Captain as if for approval.

“Go ahead, son,” Cecil Perlog said, gasping for breath.

Jaspe held up the Captain’s shoulders while Victor and Garnet fitted the helmet around his head.

Victor twisted knobs connecting a small hose from the oxygen cylinder to the round metal helmet.  I heard a soft hiss as the air came out of the tank.  Victor nodded in satisfaction.

Agate had managed to keep hold of the Captain’s hand the entire time.

“Just hold on now, Big yin.  He’s a cannie lad.  We’ll get you fixed right up,” she assured the Captain, though a tear ran down her cheek.


Louis Jourdan in Madame Bovary 1949
Louis Jourdan in Madame Bovary 1949

The Delta Pearl had ceased her wild movements as soon as the sooty cloud, and whatever it hid, left the riverboat.  As soon as the Pearl returned to normal, the Mate rushed out of the pilothouse.

When the Captain’s condition had improved enough that he could be moved, Jaspe and Blue John helped him to his quarters.  I followed, as did Victor and Agate.  The Cook and my little inventor stayed with the Captain.  Victor wanted to administer more oxygen.  Agate simply wouldn’t leave his side.

The Captain assured me that his sight had returned.  Jaspe seemed to know a lot about the poison.  The Dealer said the blindness was only a temporary effect of exposure to the poison.  The Captain promised me he would be fine.  I nodded, trying to be mature.

The emerald of his all-seeing eye pin sparkled brightly, but only as a perfect gemstone would.  It no longer glowed.

Blue John, despite his emotionally frazzled state, was calm in the face of the crisis.  I wondered if he would stay that way or fall completely apart, in a delayed reaction, once he felt sure everything was safe again.  At any rate, the Mate returned to the pilothouse.

I followed the Dealer out of the Captain’s quarters.  I studied Jaspe closely.  Unlike the Captain, there was no redness in his eyes, no fit of coughing.  Yet Jaspe had been inside the cloud longer than the Captain.

“Don’t think I’m not relieved,” I began uncertainly.  “But you were in that poison cloud longer than the captain.  You seem unharmed.  How?”

Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan 1958 Gigi Wikipedia
Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan 1958 Gigi Wikipedia

Jaspe took my hand and bent to kiss it.  As usual, his face was not very mobile.  His mouth twisted slightly.  For the Dealer, that was a rueful expression.

“Ah, cher, what a terrible thing for your sweet sixteen, no?” he said to deflect my question.

My lips curled inward to a petulant line.  I tapped the toe of my green velvet boot to make sure he saw my impatience.  Jaspe gave a long-suffering sigh.

“There are a number of reasons why I escaped unscathed,” Jaspe began.  “Firstly, the entire cloud was not toxic.  The cloud of smog was from a coal powered engine.  The poison dust was from a weapon.  Unfortunately, the Captain bore the brunt of Malachite’s use of it.  Secondly, I suspected such a weapon and had covered my nose and mouth with my cravat.”

“Who is Malachite?” I asked when the Dealer started to turn away.

“That is a name I hoped you would never hear, cher.  Malachite is my nemesis.”

Jaspe made the statement as if it was simple.  He walked away, leaving me gaping in astonishment.


End Chapter 21


Research is also a huge part of my writing process. Without taking time to go into detail, here are just a couple of the links I used for this episode, if you’re curious.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll see you at the riverbank next weekend, my chuckaboos!


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.


103 thoughts on “The Delta Pearl 21 — Poison

    1. Ah yes… the underlying question Emeraude pondered, that goes all the way back to the first chapter. The truth is that I’m not sure myself… and maybe it’s more interesting if I just leave it that way… 😉 I appreciate the specific comment, Jill. This kind of comment keeps me reminded of all the many threads I have to keep together. Happy weekend, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thank you for the mention, Teagan…Bloomers I remember them well mine were red with white lace trimmings and the object of my young passion was a beautiful blonde boy who told my mum what wonderful legs I had..This was at Halloween just in case you wondered when we were trick or treating…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for everything, Sally. I did a good deal of research into the timelines of the different old suits and the advent of modern scuba. I finally decided that Victor wouldn’t be too far ahead of his time if he had a “failed” version. Thanks for being on this riverboat, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Tegan Naturally for an Amercan when I read your recent work I think of Mark Twain, river baot pilot on the Mississippi. When I was a boy my family went to Twain’s boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri, which is close to the river. It was noteworthy because our dog peed on the picket fence that figures so prominently in Tom Sawyer,

    I hope your health is improving even more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! That’s hysterical, David. Thank you so much for making me laugh. Heaven knows I needed it. Mark Twain is inspiring. It must have been marvelous to tour that place. After creating my fictional version of Cornelis Drebbel, I’ve been tempted to do the same for Mark Twain. However, that has been done so many times, that I leave it alone.

      Yes, thank you, I’m getting more strength back every day. Little by little I’ll get there. Thank you for taking time to read and comment, my chuckaboo! Have a wonderful rest of the week.


  3. I was gasping for breath along with the captain Teagan… Your stories always hold such good mental imagery my friend, and could even hear the Hiss of air and visualise bubbles.. 🙂 Good to read this chapter Teagan.. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am glad the captain is OK, good chapter.
    The malachite reminded me of an episode in my business. A woman wanted malachite shower walls and I refused to comply. Malachite becomes poisonous when steam and heat are involved. If I didn’t know, where would I be now?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Certainly a reason for caution, Valentina. I was shocked, many years ago, when a man who cuts gems (including malachite) told me about the hazards of cutting and shaping it. The dust from that process is the biggest risk, but better safe than sorry.

      I thought the ” Cul de crin” you left as a “thing” would show up for Emeraude’s sweet sixteen party as a gift from Mrs. Needleman, but I had too many other things happening in those two chapters. However, she is coming back into the story, so maybe soon. Thanks for visiting, my chuckaboo.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Michael. For some of the characters, the gemstones also helped create their backstory. For instance Blue John Bolton. He is from the place where the gem is found — and I gave him blue eyes because of it. Obsidian Durango has Mexican ancestry because so much obsidian is found there. (I didn’t do that for the major characters. However, it was a quick way for me to develop the “second tier” (as I like to term it) characters. Thanks for reading, my chuckaboo!


  5. I knew it! I knew a diving suited could be crocheted!
    Well, I’d give it a go, and believe me, my sweet Chuckaboo, I can crochet anyone under the table!
    Looking forward to the next episode!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is by far my favorite chapter, Teagan! There is SO much happening here and I was swept right along with all of it. Thank goodness the captain recovered! I am becoming quite attached to all of these characters, especially Jaspe, of all people! Who knew? 🙂 Great segment!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m relieved there was oxygen available. I have one of those old helmets. Now I’m even more curious to what’s going on and what was in that cloud.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jacqui. Before I started the first version of The Delta Pearl, I had learned that flower names were popular with the Victorians. It was a fun surprise when my research for naming the riverboat revealed that gemstone names were also popular with them. Since I’m a “rock geek” I had to make use of it. 🙂 Thanks for reading, my chuckaboo!


  8. A super chapter. No dresses should rise above the knees. That made me chuckle. Poor Coral. It seems like the story is shaping up for some exciting action between Jaspe and Malachite.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL. Growing up in the Bible Belt, in the days of mini skirts and strict dress codes, I saw similar scenes many times — although they weren’t as well intentioned as Coral. I’m glad I could give a chuckle. Thanks for being on this riverboat, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. And you’ve left us all ‘gaping in astonishment’! So glad the good captain is okay, thanks to Victor and his diving suit…or at least the helmet. I never suspected the evil force was after the Dealer! But, then again, we’re talking about an author who is the queen of twists and the unexpected!! Lol.
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ah-ha, so the evil one is after Jaspe!!

    In the event I forgot if they were mentioned, about shoes, when you mentioned the green velvet boot, I thought of Mary Janes, T-straps, Oxfords and the men’s 2-Tones and Peaky Blinders!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. On the way home from the gym, I heard on the radio, that ‘bimbo’ was originally a word referring to a tough looking man. It didn’t mean a woman until the 1920’s. No big deal – just thought it was interesting.


        1. Yep. That’s listed under “B” in “Speak Flapper.” Bimbo: A tough guy. It wasn’t used much to describe a woman until 1929, and it didn’t seem to be very common even then — so I didn’t mention that definition. But as I say in the book — it’s not intended as a scholarly work.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Part 2. Sometimes I look up the origin of things, but for these stories I mostly research to make sure something existed, or was well known during the era/setting of my story. I know all those styles of footwear were around in the 1920s. Naturally I had to do some more research, since my research geek woke up. 😉 Without going to great length, I didn’t see them connected to the steam or Victorian Era (this story’s setting).
      I use a lot of sources. I don’t use the Vintage Dancer very often but it does seem quite credible. You might enjoy this link.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Interesting that this evil force is after The Dealer, a twist I wasn’t ready for. I love Agate’s responses. I can see why you wanted to write for her. I love the way you pass along the technical details. You’re able to turn what could be boring into little bits of amazement. Nicely done.

    Thanks for the shout, Teagan. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so glad I managed to surprise everyone with that twist. That’s really useful feedback, Dan. Thank you kindly for this comment. It means a lot to me. I have sometimes struggled with how to add the tech details. I think I took a cue from TV police procedural dramas — they often add it to dialog. Doing that lets me develop a character’s personality at the same time as adding the info. Thanks for being on this riverboat, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I am with Cindy! Love the diving suit, and oh, we have a nemesis! I’ve started crocheting again recently, so… Can’t wait to learn more! Thanks, Teagan!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Crocheting sounds so calming, Olga. I tried it a few times (when I was much younger) and could never do more than the very basics — and that never looked right. I was even worse at knitting. LOL. I’m delighted you enjoyed this chapter, my chuckaboo!


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