Saturday, July 18, 2020
Welcome, my chuckaboos. I know everyone is sick of me talking about my pathetic excuse for Internet from TDS Telecom. So, I’m only bringing it up to apologize for my absence from other blogs. It’s hard to stay online long enough to read or even comment. Despite the lack of service, I’m back with another all new episode of my steampunk serial, The Delta Pearl. I’ll drop the subject now. I just hope you understand that I can’t visit if I can’t get online properly.
Random Reader Things. I’ve brought back the papyrus, from episode 39. Olga Núñez Miret gave us that. Great minds think alike and GP Cox, and Deborah Zajac both left a Gramophone. This episode brings back the Agate, the Cook. Since she’s Scottish, it was the perfect time to add the Clootie Dumpling from Barb Taub.
This episode ties up the triple cliffhanger from last time. While it is not as long as I used to make serial chapters, it is longer than I’ve been writing them this year. So, don’t complain ― you’ve been warned.
Where did Randall Needleman and Émeraude land? What happened to Eliza when she turned that dagger on herself? What about the two young women lovers running away from persecution? “Alex” may have exposed herself as Alison. Let’s not forget the newest gemstone name character, Jet Fischer, the librarian who has always been infatuated with the Delta Pearl. Will he be left standing on the dock when the riverboat leaves? Plus we weren’t even certain that Sid, the Cadet got safely back into the launch from his precarious place on the roof. Read on to learn the answers to these questions.
Now, let’s tie up that bunch of hanging threads.
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 41 — Swim
Soft music from the Captain’s gramophone surrounded me when I woke. I murmured something unintelligible.
“Nen mate, whatever you just mumbled, it’s a mite better than the last thing what came out of yourn mouth. That scream near deafened me. But I knew thez summat up wee ye the minute I looked at ye,” Blue John Boulton, the Mate, commented wryly.
Sitting up in my bed, I moved my shoulder carefully. My mind was hazy, but I vaguely remembered Jazpe “adjusting” it, as he called the way he could deftly manipulate a joint back into place. Then I had fainted.
“Mr. Needleman!” I exclaimed, remembering my rescuer.
“He’s on the mend. That milquetoast inventor boy got that contraption he used on the Captain after that cloud attacked us during your birthday party. Anyhow they got the thing around his afternoonified head and pumped some good air into his lungs. Lucky for him that he didn’t suck up as much of the poison as the Captain did,” Blue John went on distractedly.
“Eliza is with her husband?” I made it more of a statement than a question, but to my surprise, Blue shook his head.
“No, she’s why the Captain ain’t at yourn side,” Blue complained. “And Agate’s tending to the rich bloke.”
“Eliza? I don’t understand. Blue, my chuckaboo, are you well? It seemed like you were feeling better. Although now I’m not so sure. It’s not like you to speak ill of the passengers,” I commented.
“Aw, it’s this confluence of the rivers we’re in. The Delta Pearl, you know how she takes poorly to any sort of boundary or border. The meeting of two rivers… well that’s a hundred times worse. We’ve been sitting in this convergence way too long, Émeraude. She can’t take much more of it before she starts to have ern own kind of problems,” the Mate explained.
“And neither can you…” I began, as understanding dawned. “If the Delta Pearl feels distress, then so do you. That’s what’s been going on with you all these weeks, isn’t it?”
A light tap came to my door. Blue John jerked his head in that direction. He was jumpier than ever. Jet Fischer came into my cabin, followed hesitantly by Victor T. Elam. If it was possible to see hackles rise, then the Mate’s surely did.
Blue gave a respectful nod to the librarian. However, he glared at my young inventor. I was shocked. Blue John Boulton was the most congenial person I’d ever known. I thought he must really be suffering, whether it was of the body or the mind.
“I’ll let the Cook know you’re awake,” he said, losing most of his dialect in formality since he didn’t know the two men well. “And I expect you’ll be wanting to give this one a piece of your mind,” he added with another sharp look at Victor before closing the door.
“Please forgive Blue, he’s not well,” I told them. “He’s never like that.”
“No,” Victor murmured and plopped down in the wingback chair that Blue vacated. “I deserve his contempt. I apologize, Émeraude. I don’t know how you could ever forgive me, but I beg your forgiveness nonetheless,” he pleaded. “While everyone else jumped to your rescue, I did nothing.”
“Nonsense, man. You can’t swim any more than I can! What were you going to do but drown?” Jet told him.
At my insistence Victor and Jet told me what transpired on the ground while Randall and I were suspended high above it. Their narrative went something like this…
Victor, Eliza, and Jet all saw the moment when Randall let go of the net that captured me. Eliza knew by her husband’s posture that he was either unwell or unconscious, or both.
With a sob, she grabbed Jet’s coat to take his dagger. In the process, Eliza pushed the librarian so hard that he stumbled back several feet. Eliza turned the knife toward her own chest. The men thought she was about to plunge the blade into her heart. Before either of them could reach her, she slashed with the knife.
Her back was to them as the dagger clattered to the planks of the dock. Jet stopped, transfixed when he saw blood on the tip of the blade. To them, it looked like Eliza clutched at her chest, holding the wound she made.
Then she thrust out both arms, pulling away her gown and petticoat. She had sliced the garments down the front for a quick exit. Wearing only her camisole and pantaloons, Eliza dove into the water.
Victor ran pell-mell off the dock and followed her into the water.
“What were you thinking?” I interrupted their narrative to ask, but he only shrugged mutely.
Out on the naptha launch, there was a brief argument between Obsidian Durango, the Cadet, and “Alex Rice.” Sid was about to jump into the river to help Randall and me. Yes, the net caught us, but we were both unconscious, and could easily drown even if we didn’t sink.
Alex demanded to be the one to swim out to us. “He” had been able to pilot the launch as long as it was going in a straight line, but had no idea how to maneuver the craft. Additionally, the huge net attached to the launch made it quite difficult to handle. Sid didn’t have much choice in the matter, when Alex and Azalea both jumped into the river.
Meanwhile, Eliza swam out to the Delta Pearl’s net where Randall and I landed. She reached us moments after Alex, who desperately tried to hold both our heads out of the water. Azalea, hampered by her garments struggled in the river, but eventually reached us.
By that time the police had followed the commotion to the same dock where Jet and Victor were. Jet tossed a wooden lifesaver to the inventor and fished him out of the river with belated help from the policemen.
Then the policemen spotted all the women in the river ― particularly Eliza wearing her camisole and pantaloons. They gasped indignation at such a display.
Worse, Alison’s disguise as Alex was in jeopardy because of her wet clothing… not to mention that she lost the cap that hid her hair. Sid was shocked when he saw that the boy was a woman.
Thankfully, the Cadet isn’t really a bad sort. After helping the women get Randall and me onto the launch, he made sure the supposed governess and her charge got back aboard, and hid Alison/Alex from prying eyes.
Just getting Alison out of sight would not have been enough to dissuade the appalled policemen from such scandalous behavior. Seeing that her husband and I were safe, Eliza swallowed her worry about Randall’s unconscious state and swam back to the dock where Jet, Victor ― and the police waited.
She knew they would arrest a woman wearing just her undergarments in public, no matter what heroism had been involved. However, Eliza made a few snide, saucy comments, just to make sure she made enough trouble to get their minds off the other women they had seen. That was more than the proper policemen could take. They arrested her on the spot.
Victor tried to intervene. He put his morning coat on Eliza to hide her immodesty. Since Jet was a local resident, he went with her to the police station. Victor ran to the riverboat to get help. Hearing what had happened, the Captain went to the police station to secure Eliza’s release.
The Captain sent Jet back to the Delta Pearl with a note to the Dealer and the Mate, reassuring them that he would return quickly.
“He told me to pack my things,” Jet began in awe. “The Captain said my passage on the Delta Pearl was free for as long as I care to stay. We seemed to hit it off, but I never expected…”
“Well, you do have a gemstone name, my chuckaboo. He’ll likely put you to work if you let him,” I told Jet.
I turned to Victor, who had let Jet do most of the talking. I couldn’t possibly be angry with him, but he seemed to think I should hate him.
“And you,” I began with mock severity. “Why didn’t you drown yourself for my sake?”
My question brought a shocked but puzzled look from Victor. He started babbling and adjusting his spectacles.
“Oh, stop. Why would I be angry with you? Unless it was because you jumped into the water in the first place,” I demanded. “You’re lucky Jet was there with a lifesaver. If you had drowned, I’d batty fang you!”
Then I remembered something, and I stopped. My manner softened.
“You can’t swim. And your parents were both lost at sea. That you found the courage to get on a riverboat in the first place is amazing. That you’d jump into the river and even try…” my voice trailed away because I didn’t know how to finish.
Jet cleared his throat uncomfortably. Just as he started to leave, the door opened. It was the Cook and the Chief Porter.
“Émeraude, it’s good to have you safely back aboard,” Garnet Redford told me.
I smiled to the Chief Porter, but didn’t get to speak with Agate being such a church bell. She took over the conversation right away.
“Emmie, you gave us such a fright! But don’t you worry none. I’m making you a nice clootie dumpling. Ah, there you are, Mr. Fischer. Garnet, here found a cabin for you. I hope you don’t mind that it’s with the crew,” she said all in the same breath, and winked.
When Jet and Garnet left, Agate swooped in, clucking like a hen. She was fit to be tied when she saw the bruise on my shoulder. After awhile she settled down. Reaching into her pocket she produced a narrow strip.
“The papyrus,” I murmured. “I thought it was lost.”
“Onyx brought it to me when he saw his Captain wasn’t aboard. I was pretty sure he must have gotten it from you,” the Cook told me.
I told Agate and Victor how clockwork scarab appeared in the net that captured me. It dropped the little strip of papyrus to me. It landed in the ruffles of my neckline, but I didn’t know what happened to it after Randall Needleman freed me.
“All these strange little holes,” I started. “What can it mean?”
“I think I know,” Victor said in a surprised voice.
An odd noise intruded on our discussion. I remembered hearing the sound before. It had a rhythm ― thump-thump-thud. Two lighter bumping noises were followed by a heavier thump, which I termed a thud. The thud was actually hard enough that I felt the vibration of it through the wall. Thump-thump-thud it repeated several times.
Victor’s eyes widened.
“Oh, no. Not now. No,” he muttered.
End Chapter 41
Real World Notes
Clootie Dumpling. I didn’t know what in heaven’s name that could be. Despite the word “dumpling” I was not altogether sure it was food… but it is! A clootie dumpling is a traditional Scottish dessert and a comfort food to many. You can learn more here — including a recipe.
Gramophone vs. Victrola. The Victor company used the word gramophone in England, so gramophone became an English term meaning phonograph. Victrola always referred to a machine with the horn built into the cabinet, as made by the Victor Talking Machine Company. Victor introduced the Victrola in 1906.
Thump-thump-thud? Go back to Chapter 15 — Groan.
I love hearing from you — and hope you will leave a comment. I’m running low on “random reader things.” Everyone is welcome to leave a “steam era” appropriate thing. Be well, be happy, my chuckaboos.
This serial is made possible in spite of (not because of) the deplorable lack of Internet service from TDS Telecom. They are even worse than the government about claiming no problem exists in the face of failure. TDS Telecom meets every complaint and service call by saying they find no problem. Their technicians come to my home and refuse to do any work or replace equipment, even when their offsite managers have instructed them to do so. They brought equipment that they openly state does not work properly. They refuse to let me talk to a manager. They refuse to promise to send someone other than the previous do-nothing tech. They refuse to make sure the technicians have working hardware with them. My letters, emails, and tweets go unanswered. Dear readers, please do not comment here in response to this paragraph. Just be aware of my awful experience with this so called provider.
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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