Saturday, May 23, 2020
Welcome back to the riverbank my chuckaboos. It’s another all new episode of The Delta Pearl. This one was not part of the original novel.
Last time, our potential lovebirds didn’t make it off the riverboat for what might have passed for a date with the Victorians. Do you think they can go ashore with chaperones? More importantly will they have any fun? Let’s see.
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 34 — Scrabble
Wind gusted down the narrow streets. Clouds darkened the eastern sky. Turning uneasily, I gazed back toward the river. I could see a smidgen of water, but I had lost sight of the Delta Pearl. I had been on shore excursions many times. However, that day I was inexplicably nervous about being away from the riverboat.
I shouldn’t be anxious about leaving the Delta Pearl, I thought.
My mood annoyed me. I wanted to be excited about the day. Even though we would be chaperoned, I would finally get to spend time with my young inventor ― away from the rest of the crew!
However, the last time I had been excited about anything was my sweet sixteen birthday party. That ended in disaster.
Abruptly, the wind died and the sun parted the clouds. Victor T. Elam paused beside me as I opened my parasol. I felt a little thrill of excitement, when he tucked my free hand into the bend of his arm. Eliza whispered something to her husband and gave him a little nudge. They both glanced our way. I couldn’t stop myself from blushing.
Victor steered us to a vendor selling ribbon candy. Eliza and I chatted while the men bought treats.
When they returned, I described the portrait to Randall and Eliza Needleman, and my intention to learn more about it. They were surprisingly enthusiastic.
“This is so much more interesting than simply shopping or dining out. Don’t you agree, darling?” Eliza asked her husband as she unfurled her ruffled umbrella.
“Indeed, my dear. Believe it or not, I know just where we should begin,” he told us all, with a wink and a tip of his hat.
Mr. Needleman went on to explain how he came to know about the portrait and the Delta Pearl. I had always expected he heard of the riverboat from a wealthy friend. However, I was startled to hear that he in fact learned of the portrait first.
“Do you remember the painting I gave you as an anniversary gift two years ago?” he asked his wife.
“How could I forget? The lovely Renoir of a girl sewing,” Eliza told him with a smile.
“A business associate referred me to the gallery where I bought the painting. The shop owner was a strange man who kept to the shadows. He said he had some skin condition,” Randall began.
Eliza gave a little shudder at the idea. That seemed unlike her, but everyone has something that bothers them. I remembered a passenger who shrieked and ran away at the sight of the smallest scar.
“Émeraude, you are not the only one who is bewitched by the portrait.” Randall confessed. “The odd fellow described that very portrait to me. He claimed, quite falsely I might add, that it was a Rembrandt. Of course, when I inspected it for myself, I saw that wasn’t the case. Although the styles are similar. At any rate, that portrait is what inspired my interested in your beloved riverboat. I hope there aren’t any hard feelings that I wanted to buy her.”
“Should I be jealous?” Eliza asked playfully, but her eyes held a hint of possessiveness.
Randall stopped short and then turned to stare at me. He remarked on the resemblance between the woman in the portrait and me.
“Dearest, you have plenty of other paintings and pursuits to occupy you. I hope you can give Émeraude your promise that you have moved on to other interests,” she stated.
“She is surely a relative,” he exclaimed. “Or rather an ancestor, because the painting is clearly quite old. Well, of course it must remain with you. It is also a terrific mystery, and I must unravel it! Why, this is a puzzle worthy of my friend Arthur Conan Doyle. Let’s hope we don’t encounter any red herrings along the way. I’ll spare no expense to find the answers.”
His words both excited and frightened me. It was surely a bad idea for Randall Needleman to be determined to solve any mystery at all that was related to the Delta Pearl!
“Ah! There’s the sign for the gallery at the top of the hill,” he enthused.
“The one that looks like a green insect?” Eliza asked.
“Precisely. It’s called The Green Scarab,” Randall answered.
I quickened my pace, moving ahead of the others.
“Have a care young foal,” Randall told Victor with a chuckle. “Yon filly is outdistancing you. Why don’t you two young people go on ahead. Off you go, filly and foal. Away from the crowd.”
“I take it the portrait is as… unique as the spider and owl. Not to mention Delta Pearl herself,” Victor stated quietly, when he caught up with me.
“It might be even more unique than anyone realizes,” I whispered. “Here’s the place ― the Green Scarab, Gallery of Antiquities.”
To my dismay, the gallery was closed. The windows and door were boarded shut. Victor and I tried to see inside through gaps between the boards on the windows. There were a few paintings covered by cloths, and a row of empty glass jewelry cases.
“Look there!” Victor hissed. “It moved.”
Placed near the window was a large green scarab. It was too big to be a brooch. It wriggled little pincers and then scrabbled away.
“It’s clockwork. Like your spider,” Victor said in surprise. “What’s wrong Émeraude? You’ve gone pale.”
“Did you notice the carved gemstone that covered its back?” I asked.
“Dark green with lighter green streaks?” Victor began.
His eyes widened in realization.
The gemstone was malachite.
End Chapter 34
I’m a little concerned that amorous congress between our filly and foal is the least of our worries. Feel free to leave a random Steam Era thing to fuel this riverboat. Or just leave a comment to say hello, before you leave. Be well, be happy, 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
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.