Saturday, March 21, 2020
Happy spring, my chuckaboos! I hope the vernal equinox brings all of us good health and happiness.
The “random reader thing” for this chapter comes from Jacquie Biggar — corset.
I made links to the previous chapter — and several others, just click here. Without further ado…
As I stared at the tiny landscape, I saw that what I had taken for a tree on the outcropping was a human figure. The tiny painted person moved to the edge and jumped off the cliff.
I gasped. It was impossible for something in a painting to move!
I was vaguely aware of hearing someone behind me, but I was so engrossed that I did not turn.
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 27 — Claim
Perhaps I recognized a familiar energy, as Coral would say. The young woman who served as either maid or wait-person, depending on the need, was interested in all variations of spiritualism.
Whatever the case, I would have known the voice anywhere, particularly with his dialect.
“Here thou art again, gazing at this picture,” the Mate commented, blue eyes twinkling. “Although I suppose it is better that you daydream over an old portrait than what you did the last time ye got upset over summat.”
“Blue, what ever do you mean?” I asked pretending ignorance.
I had been the butt of no small amount of teasing since the night the Cook got me tipsy. The fact that she meant to play matchmaker for Victor Elam and me made it all the worse. So of course, I knew that was what the Mate meant.
“Got y’usen puddle-drunk, you did. And there’s no telling what else thee might have done,” he said suggestively with wriggling eyebrows. “I hear that pretty governess even tried to take ye to her cabin.”
“Why Blue John Boulton! What an outrageous thing to suggest! As if I would dally with a passenger,” I cried, but instantly thought of Dr. Victor T. Elam with whom I would have very much liked to dally. “First, whatever Azalea Morton’s preferences may be, I am not attracted to other women. Secondly, my less than sober condition was all Agate’s fault.”
“Less than sober,” he chortled. “Puddle-drunk I say again! As for the Cook, the fault weren’t ern alone. I know Agate can be a mischievous little minx in getting folk to do as she thinks they ought. But a big part of the blame for that hangover was yourn,” the Mate teasingly chided me with a wagging finger.
“The question is, will thou be spiking some tea again after having to tell the Harvey couple they’re to be put off the Delta Pearl? And if ye are, would ye have the decency to invite me this time?” he added mournfully, but he was obviously trying not to laugh.
The exaggerated solemnity of his expression earned him an eye-roll. However, I sighed, relieved that unfortunate confrontation was actually finished. It had gone much better than I expected. I simply cowered behind the Dealer and let him do all the talking.
“I’m sorry, Mate. You’ve already missed the show,” I told him.
I had thought Hyacinth Harvey would engage in a high level of theatrics, so determined and often dramatic had she been in her attempts to get someone else to look after her nephew. However, one look at Jaspe’s stern countenance quelled any rebellion from her.
The Dealer was as fascinating to me as the portrait, actually more so, since he was a living being, right there in my own time and place. While his manners were perfect, and he was elegant and graceful, that was not what allowed him to handle the Harvey couple so smoothly.
No, Jaspe possessed a positively lethal grace, and I don’t mean that as a figure of speech. When he chose, the Dealer could project that quality quite clearly. If Jaspe got that look, only a fool would trifle with him. Witnessing the transition from mannerly to dangerous was chilling, even if one saw nothing more than the expression in his eyes.
“Whatever the case,” Blue John continued. “I just thought you’d want to know that the Harveys and that little angel, Hershel, are safely gone ashore. They’re in a carriage as we speak, headed for dear old grandma’s house. And never to return to this fair riverboat again.”
“That’s a relief. Blue,” I began, wanting to ask if he really meant to leave the Delta Pearl for an extended time, perhaps forever. “Oh, never mind. It’s nothing,” I finished but he waited.
Blue John lifted his eyebrows and tilted his head, silently nudging me to say what was on my mind. However, it simply was not my nature to pry. Instead, I found myself asking him about something else that weighed upon my mind — something about me.
“They say I’m ‘twice claimed’ by the Delta Pearl. What do you think that means? Rather what does it mean for me?” I asked in earnest.
He seemed surprised that I would ask. I supposed it was obvious to him. I realize I was in a state of denial. His extraordinary blue eyes held mine gravely. When he spoke, the strength of his odd dialect eased. Blue’s accent was heavier when he was being playful.
“Well, you know the Delta Pearl is no ordinary riverboat. The same applies to some of the items that are part of her. Artifacts, as Jaspe calls them. Anyhow, the Pearl tends to like folk with gemstone names. Her chosen feel a close bond with her. In your case, the portrait seems to have also taken a shine to you,” Blue John explained.
He paused, waiting for some acknowledgement from me. I was feeling unaccountably nervous. I took a deep breath ― or as deep of a breath as my corset would allow. I nodded for him to continue.
“Doesn’t the long-ago lady look familiar to you?” the Mate asked, and motioned to the portrait.
“Yes. That’s what fascinates me most about the painting. But I can’t place her, or think of whom she reminds me,” I replied, wondering at the direction his words had taken.
The Mate started to chuckle. He shook his head and plopped his hands on my shoulders to make sure I remained facing him.
“Émeraude Perlezenn, you are the spitting image of the woman in the painting. You are connected to her in some way. Maybe she’s a relative. Maybe you were her in a past life and fate threw the twist of making you look alike. It could be any number of things! I don’t know how or why, but you are connected to the lady.”
The clang of a bell sounded outside. It signaled a shift change on deck. Blue John excused himself and left me pondering that revelation, while he went back to work.
A very quiet clicking sound drew my attention back to the portrait. When I turned back to the painting, Amethyst the clockwork spider sat upon the frame. She bunched her little mechanical legs, launched herself, and landed on my shoulder. I flinched, not expecting her to come to me so fast.
The purple spider emanated a series of clicks. It sounded like she was excited. Her speech capabilities were imperfect. I believed she could observe and understand far more than she was able to describe.
She loved to spy, especially on the passengers. When she overheard a juicy tidbit, machine or not, Amethyst became excited to share the information. Unfortunately, it could require a good deal of interpretation due to her limited speech.
I moved several steps into the corridor where an elaborate mirror hung on the wall. Amethyst had to sit under my ear so she could whisper to me, which prevented any eye contact during the exchanges. The spider had long been captivated by being able to see both our reflections in the mirror while she whispered from her shoulder perch.
She had a row of four cabochon eyes, which were so dark a purple they were almost black. The two center eyes were larger. I looked at the four brightly shining orbs in the reflection. They eagerly sought my gaze via the mirror.
“Diamond,” the clockwork spider stretched to whisper in my ear and then turned back to observe my face in the looking glass.
My brows knitted. Many of the crew had gemstone names, but no one was called Diamond. I could only think of one diamond that would have interested Amethyst.
“Amethyst, you don’t mean Eliza Needleman’s big yellow diamond, do you? The Pharaoh Diamond?” I asked incredulous.
The mechanical spider bobbed her entire body up and down by straightening and then relaxing her legs. That was her equivalent of a nod.
I ran pell-mell for the Needleman suite of rooms. Passengers entrusted their personal safety and that of their valuables to the Delta Pearl and Captain Cecil Perlog. By extension that responsibility was also mine. If something was amiss with anything even half as valuable as the Pharaoh Diamond, I shuddered to think of the consequences.
Amethyst hooked her little feet into the shoulder of my gown and crouched down, hanging on as I ran.
End Chapter 27
Yes, Amethyst is finally back! I wonder if she’s leading Émeraude to another red herring… I suppose we’ll know next time! Thanks for visiting. I hope you’ll leave a comment to say hello, before you leave, 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 2020 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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