Authors: Ichabod Temperance
“Hang on, Miss Plumtartt! These seas have gotten pretty rough, but this here is a mighty fine boat we’re sailing on, and that’s a fact. The combination of steam and sail have us traveling at an incredible speed. The large paddle wheels on either side of her black hull propel us at a thrilling pace. At times when we crest a wave, I feel as if we are gonna just keep on going and fly on up into the air. Did you catch this ship’s name when we boarded her, Miss Plumtartt?”
“Indeed I did, Mr. Temperance,” I answer my cheerful companion. “We are borne along on our midnight voyage aboard the good ship
It is an unusual craft in many ways, to be sure. Beyond her exceptionally strong construction, that appears to be able to withstand assault by cannon, and her unbelievable speeds, I am intrigued by her material of construct. She does not appear to be painted black, so much as she is built of black wood. And I am not sure if I have ever known a ship that was blown along her merry way by actual black sails. They have an unnerving hide-like quality. The ‘snap’ and ‘flap’ of their thick shrouds in the lonesome wind make me think we are flying on the black, leathery wings of some monstrous bat.”
“Yes, Ma’am. I was trying to overlook it, but I have to agree that there is a disquieting attribute to the sails and the rest of the ship, too. Even the seamen that man her are not the normal jovial sailor I am accustomed to. These boys are a surly and morose bunch. And I can’t place their nationality nor language, neither. I think it is of an East European dialect, but I ain’t too sure.”
My Alabama beau, as usual, is attempting to see the good in a bad situation; nevertheless, I can easily detect a tone of misgiving in his trusting nature.
“When we set sail from Deazeezipitzo on Devil’s Island, we had plenty of wind to get us going. It was almost like the land was trying to hurry us along, blowing us away like she didn’t want us around. Perhaps even Devil’s Island is no safe port to this gloomy vessel. Mysteriously, though, at sun rise, our wind died off. I noticed the whole crew packed it up and disappeared until dusk. This boat was like a ghost ship during the day. It was kinda creepy it was so quiet. I don’t ever remember being so nervous during the daylight, but that’s how it was, Ma’am. This big ol’ boat was as silent and still as a graveyard statue. I figured we could have at least been motivated by paddle wheel, but these folks went and let their fires in the furnace and the water in the boilers go cold during the daylight hours, and then had to start up all over again once it got dark. Maybe these folks don’t like to work while it’s so hot.”
“We certainly make up for lost time now, Mr. Temperance. The speed at which we travel is of a singularly fast pace. Did Mr. WrenneFeyldde say what our first scheduled stop would be?”
“Yes, Ma’am. We are to stop in at Cape São Roque. That is the tippy point of South America that points upward towards Europe before the continent plunges down toward the South Pole.”
“Do we have an errand to run at this pinnacle point?”
“It is my understanding that we are to pick up more passengers to be a part of a very important get together of the world’s leading scientists, Ma’am.”
“I see the crew sending signals to one another, and hear them barking orders in their guttural tongue.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Looks like we are arriving at Cape São Roque. This is a shallow water port and will necessitate making it to shore in the ship’s longboat.”
“Indeed, Mr. Temperance. Oh, I say, here is our host. Oh, yoo, hoo, Mr. WrenneFeyldde? I see that we have safely arrived at our first destination. Might Mr. Temperance and I accompany you to shore?”
“Heh,heh, henh, you’re not going to make a run for it are you? Oops! I mean, we would not want you to be separated from our party, Fraulein Plumtartt.”
“We left Deazeezipitzo in such a hurry, that I would really like to, eh, yes! I wish to ‘stretch my legs’, so to speak, as it were, if it is not too much trouble.”
“H-e-e-e-e-nnnnnh... very well. You may accompany me to shore, but it will just be a brief stop. We are to collect a valued scientist and a colleague of mein. H-e-e-e-ennnh.”
“How delightful, Mr. WrenneFeyldde. Thank you, ever so much.”
I have tried to put aside my misgivings, but this entire operation strikes me cold. Mr. Temperance’s trusting nature is likely to draw us straight into danger if I am not ever wary. This ship, its crew, and this horrid WrenneFeyldde positively smack of evil. Their auras are suffused in a black menace. I am no ‘gullible goose’, and I mean to exercise every precaution possible.
“Maybe you have changed your mind and wish to stay on the boat, Miss Plumtartt, hennh, yes?”
“No Mr. WrenneFeyldde, I think that we are very happy to accompany you ashore, though the bay has suddenly become quite choppy at our arrival.”
whirr, bzz, clink.
“If you do not mind, I shall remain aboard and continue my maintenance. I have developed a nasty bit of corrosion in a very intimate and delicate locale. I prefer to stay on ship and see to this very personal bit of crevice cleaning.”
“Oh, my, eh hem, yes, of course, Mr. Cogito, by all means, I say.”
“Excuse me, Ma’am, but the crew has got the launch in position alongside the ship, Miss Plumtartt. I’ll scoot down into the dinghy so that I can assist you aboard her in these fast rolling swells.”
“Thank you, Mr. Temperance. Perhaps you would assist Mr. WrenneFeyldde as well since he appears to be having difficulty in making the transition from ship to launch.”
Once we are all aboard, a crew of four silent oarsmen pull us through the dark waters of Cape São Roque Bay. Mr. Temperance and I ride in the bow while Mr. WrenneFeyldde rides astern. As we are making landfall in the middle of the night, the docks are deserted. Mr. WrenneFeyldde steps aside to have a brief, private conversation with a representative of the port authority. I have a strong impression that our host has just bribed a local official. My suspicion is that this WrenneFeyldde person wishes there to be no official record of our ship having stopped and our presence known. Leaving our crew with the launch, our party of three takes the open top carriage our corrupt official has provided into the small, sleeping city, nestled in lush, jungle encroachment.
“Oh, I say, Mr. Temperance, take care for you have a spider crawling along your sleeve.”
“Thanks, Miss Plumtartt. I don’t like to kill spiders as they actually do so much good at insect control. I will just carefully flick him to safety.”
As my friend gives his arachnid companion a gentle thump, our host, Mr. WrenneFeyldde gives an excited squeal and leaps to catch the eight-legged chap in mid-air. Immediately thrusting the creature into his mouth to the accompaniment of excited mastication, the man shows his first signs of happiness.
“I reckon there’s more than one method of insect control, Ma’am.”
We approach a large, wood framed building with a wide veranda. This structure bears an ornate sign above its doors identifying it as the ‘Notella Hotella’. Entering the lobby, the only movement and sign of life is from the listless turning of the overhead fans. These do little to alleviate the stagnant and oppressive atmosphere.
Mr. WrenneFeyldde lurches to the desk to immediately start up an incessant, high speed pounding of the little bell, there. Eventually two sets of trembling fingers appear from the opposite side of the desk along the edge. These are hesitantly followed by the frightened eyes of the manager from his position of concealment upon the other side.
“We are closed for the evening! Please return after dawn!”
“We have no desire to secure rooms here!” screeches our host back to the unaccountably frightened desk clerk. “Send for these gentlemen at once!” orders the twisted form of the wretched man WrenneFeyldde, who gives the hotel receptionist the names of our erstwhile colleagues.
Soon enough, we are rewarded with the arrival of our new companions.
My word! This gentleman is incredible to behold! I find that I catch my breath at the sight of this magnificent specimen of potent manhood. Appearing at the head of the stairs is a tall, elegant, handsome man of untold refinement and assuredness. From beneath his crown of tightly curled locks, he takes a moment to take me in his captivating vision. It is not just the finely crafted and tailored clothing that suggest he is of a greater than average level of attractiveness. His masculine form emanates a barely contained sensuality. I cannot take my eyes from him! With his eyes locked on mine, he slowly descends the stairs. I think he is a trend setter, as opposed to follower, for he daringly has decided to forgo the wearing of a shirt beneath his rich coat, and prefers to go bare-chested. Having yet to blink, he strides straight up to me. With a deep bow, he takes my hand and gives it a very elegant, continental kiss.
“May I introduce myself to this most enchanting of womens? Most beautiful woman of this or any continent, please allow me the honour of introductions. I humbly present myself to your incredible beauty, Senorita, for I am none other than Diego Ignatio Ricardio MontelKahn, your humble servant, my most exquisite one.”
“Howdy there, Mr. MontelKahn,” replies Mr. Temperance, somehow squeezing himself in between myself and this six and a half foot tall alpha male. “You have the pleasure of slobbering all over Miss Persephone Plumtartt. My name is Temperance. Ichabod Temperance.”
The Lothario reluctantly breaks eye contact with me at the name of my forgotten companion.
“Ichsabod Tempseranci, si, I have heard of you. You are the American inventor of funny little contraptions, are you not?”
“Yessir! That’s me, all right. I have heard of you too, sir. Your engineering skills and work with hydro-power are famous throughout the world!”
I take this interruption as an opportunity to regain my sensibilities and composure.
“Oh, eh hem, yes. Senor Diego Ignatio Ricardio MontelKahn, of course. I, that is, we, are so very happy to make your acquaintance.”
“I did not expect such alluring companionship on this expedition,” the studly Spaniard smiles, returning his smoldering gaze to me. “This could turn out to be a most pleasant undertaking after all.”
“Heck yeah, sir,” whatshisname, oh, yes, Mr. Temperance, blurts while still trying to insinuate himself between me and this pheromone factory. “It looks like we are gathering several scientists together to complete a big project.”
“Heh,heh, hehhnnnwhere eez your captor, oops, I mean your guard, oops, I mean, your personal protector, Herr MontelKahn?”
At that moment, a chorus of canine howling vocalizations come to us through the open windows. A strong gust of wind invades the open doors and windows of the hotel’s lobby making the curtains suddenly rear up like startled stallions. The lamps flicker to the point of extinguishing themselves. The heretofore stale atmosphere is now an uproar as reception desk papers disperse through the room at the sudden gale.
“Ha, ha! I am here, r-r-r-r-WrenneFeyldde!”
In a sudden and dramatic appearance, the Spanish scientist’s appointed companion appears at the heavy, blood-red curtains of an adjoining parlour. Holding the scarlet velvet partition aloft with two hands, he drinks in our appearance through the burning lamps of his penetrating peepers. His black hair is thoroughly greased and plastered back against a perfectly round skull. Bright, mischievously cheerful, blue eyes sparkle from a doughy, white face that rises above a caped, black tuxedoed body. A red cravat at the neck secures the dapper fellow’s collar about his neck. A slight overbite reveals two strangely fang like teeth that extend over the lower lip of the suave gentleman.
“Ha, ha! There you are! I see our new arrivals are here! Wundarbar! Let’s see, I count, One,,, Two!,,, THREE! Three new companions! Ha, ha! When added to Senor Diego Ignatio Ricardio MontelKahn, and myself, that brings us to, one, two, three, four, FIVE! Ha, ha! Five! The magic number is five! Ah, hahahahahaha!”
“Eek!” cries the frightened hotel receptionist, ducking back down behind the desk.
“Senor Temperanci and Senorita Plumtartt, please allow me to introduce our associate, Count Sezami!”
“Ha, ha! Thank you, Senor Diego Ignatio Ricardio MontelKahn, I am so pleased to ‘count’ you all among my friends! Ha, ha!”
I am taken with a substantial shudder. Though this ‘Count Sezami’ gives every appearance of being a jovial and engaging fellow, I have a deep revulsion to him that I cannot identify. I think Mr. Temperance has the same intuitive impression of the smiling count.
“Heh,heh, heh-e-ennnlet’s get back to the sheep.”
“No! Not ‘sheep’, sheep! The wessell on which vee travel, you silly little American fool! Er, I mean, yes, the sheep.”
Returning to our carriage outside, the horses have the same impression of Count Sezami as Mr. Temperance and I. They rear up in violent protest at being asked to pull this distinguished gentleman.
“Mein equestrian transportatus, I command you to do mein bidding!” says Count Sezami to the horses.
The horses immediately quiet themselves and are suddenly more compliant as we return to the shore and our ship.
As Mr. Temperance assists me from our conveyance, I am seized by an impulse.
“Mr. Temperance, please run and cut for me a large palm frond, sir.”