Authors: Ichabod Temperance
“Yes, Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt!”
My loyal companion runs off and hurriedly returns from his little chore before we arrive at our water taxi.
We find our awaiting crewmen, but they have abandoned their position at the wooden pier and have pulled the launch up onto the beach. Our ship, the
can be seen at rest, about sixty yards from our position.
Krack-POW! Krack-POW! Krack-POW!
“That sounds like rifle fire coming from the sheep, er, ship, Mr. WrenneFeyldde!”
“Heh,heh, hehnn-y-e-esss. I am sure eet eez nauhthink Herr Teempserauntz. You meen! I vish to leave immediately! Launch the launch!”
One crewman has removed his paddle from its oarlock and positioned himself in the bow. The other three push the dinghy halfway into the black water. The crewman in the bow begins a furious beating of the waves with his oar. The gathered party quickly files into the boat and we are pushed into the bay. The swatting sailor returns to his place and the crew begin a fevered race for the
. More rifle fire erupts from the ship.
“Is the ship being boarded by pirates?” asks a worried Mr. Temperance. “I don’t want to endanger Miss Plumtartt!”
“Heh,heh, heh, n-n-n-n-nooo. This is just an old country custom of eh, fishing! Da! Theese ees how vee fish in the olde country, da!”
One of the crewmen is having trouble pulling his oar. He lifts it from the water to reveal a large octopus clinging to it.
“Don’t stop rowing, you fool! You vill be severely punished, I assure you!”
The hapless Hungarian continues to paddle with his encepholopodal partner in tow.
“I say, Mr. Temperance, there are many geometrically patterned objects of some kind in the water. They are of triangular shape and move with an uncanny speed.”
“Yes, Ma’am, those are fishie fins. Porpoises have them and they can often be seen when the wonderful mammals that we share our atmosphere with crest the ocean’s surface for air, but in this case, I think they denote the presence of a less friendly animal. I think we are entering a shark infested feeding frenzy.”
Another crewman has his oar wrenched from his grip. He quickly regains the wooden instrument but appears to be in a struggle with something beneath the surface for possession of the paddle. He suddenly falls back, holding up a stub of oar. Splinters mark where something has bitten off the other end.
Mr. WrenneFeyldde calls out orders to the crew aboard the
. They throw ropes to us to help pull us to the ship and to safety.
Once on deck, Mr. Temperance turns to our host.
“Y’all sure got some feisty fishies down here. This would make for some really exciting sport fishing!”
Mr. WrenneFeyldde says nothing in return. Instead he directs our crew to get under way while several crew members continue to fire their rifles into the water at a sea that disapproves of our being upon it.
The velvet night holds us tightly, enveloping us in its suffocating embrace. Our dark ship rises and falls again and again, and again, in a violent pounding of the reckless, struggling, seas. Angry winds drive the
through turbulent and furious waters that would deny our voyage. The sharp point of our prow sinks deeply into the waiting swells to cleave the heaving oceans with its potent thrusts. Shuddering pulsations run through this vessel as she succumbs to the might of the men that possess her. In a massive release, great flumes of showering spray leap from the rising bow mast to anoint us in the moist, churning baptism. Mountainous waves surround us in this Ocean gone mad as we mount to the sky and are inexorably carried into a shadowy oblivion.
By day, however, all goes into remission. The ocean’s fury subsides into a listless, and flaccid calm. The black sails of this craft hang in limp, impotent sags. The undeniable turn of the paddles slips into submissive unconsciousness. Where in darkness, the furnaces roar with insistence, the boilers swell and strain with anticipated release, and the entire ship throbs with the engines’ desire, in the light of the sun, they are as passive, and unresponsive as the satiated lovers of my endless, romantic conquests.
Such has been the unalterable rutte into which we have been cast. Taken I was by the invitation of the mysterious ‘Count D’, but since rendezvousing with the strange Count Sezami character, my incomparable heart has been gripped by the proverbial icy hand of fear and filled with the unknowing dread, I am thinking. Unbelievable, to even consider that I, Diego Ignatio Ricardio MontelKahn, should ever let the slightest hint of fear to enter unto my splendid body is, is, is, ... inconceivable!
I am happy with the companionship of the odd couple and their clockwork associate. I believe the Plumtartt woman displayed fortuitous instincts just before leaving Cape São Roque. She obviously recognized that there was a disquieting aura about this number obsessed, sunlight shunning, Count Sezami. She did not hesitate in having her faithful friend, the little American tinker in the funny hat, secure her a palm leaf that she quickly fashioned into three ‘Palm Sunday’ crucifixes, one each for herself, Tempseranci, and me.
The Plumtartt girl is most comely to be sure. All the more reason to be on my guard lest I allow her to become fixated on me as happens so often with the beautiful womens wherever I go. Is it my grace and polished finesse that inflames the passion of all the womens that I meet? Perhaps it is my handsome face, carved as the likeness of a God on Earth, to be sure. Alas, I think my magnetism most likely stems from my unbridled machismo, blazing from my supreme form. Certainly the powerful, naked, smooth and tanned chest that pushes its way through any fashion so that I do not even bother to wear the shirts anymore is a conclusive element that ensures all females in my proximity will fall to my charms. Si. Things are complicated enough with this strange endeavor without the distractions of romantic delights. I shall force myself to rein in my masculine vitality, however impossible as that task may be. How ironic, that I find it that it is my brilliant intellect and prowess at the engineering of the hydraulics that has landed me into the troubles of this times instead of the unstoppable virility of my inflamed, Spanish attractiveness.
On this, the third night of our ordeal, we are scheduled for the next stop on our troubled voyage. It is my hope that this stopover will give us some clue to the true goal of our expedition.
The night is dark but a deeper blackness looms ahead. The mountains of this land run straight out and into the sea. Instead of tapering off slowly, the land decides to end abruptly in steep cliffs that soar to the sky above us. Our ship is guided into an extraordinary harbor entrance. The sheer cliff walls climb to impossible heights over our heads, that imply what tiny mortals we truly are before that which God himself has cast in such magnificent beauty. We sail past an enormous mountain born of a single rock that constitutes its own island to our left. This is opposite a mountainous cliff that is such an overpowering presence, I can barely comprehend it. The waters calm a small amount as we enter the expansive Guanabara Bay of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro. A river travels inland from here but we are not traveling on it. Once again, this is a passenger pick-up stop on this ship-pooling trip.
This is a proper harbor and we are able to bring the
all the way to shore to be moored to a shipping pier.
“Heh,heh, henn-yyou may all stay he-e-eere. I shall go and collect our nnnn-guests.”
“I say, how very gracious of you, Mr. WrenneFeyldde. My word, but aren’t you the considerate fellow? Alas no, I think I may speak for my two male companions that we very much insist on accompanying you on this shore leave.”
“Ya dern tootin’!”
“Hnnnn-very vel-l-l-ll.... Count Sezami, veell you join our shore party as vell?”
“Oh! Yes! You may, ‘count’ me in! Ha, ha!”
“I hope you all do not mind if I stay aboard ship,” says the clockwork man designated as ‘Mr. Cogito’. “I am still having a deucedly difficult time trying to stay ahead of the corrosion from the salty air. Don’t worry about me, I shall be fine, here aboard ship. You humans run along and enjoy yourselves.”
“Thanks, Mr. Cogito! Come on, y’all, this is gonna be fun!”
“Henh, here is a coach that will accommodate us all.”
“I say, this fine, four horse coach should be able to bear all five of us and our incoming party, eh hem?”
“Hang on a second, y’all! Lookey over there at what I see!”
“Oh, my, I see, Mr. Temperance, you have spied a local example of engineering novelty.”
“Henh, vhat is it vith you, Herr Teemperauntz? This coach vill serve our needs!”
“Ah, but Mr. WrenneFeyldde, this here contraption’ll do the trick, too, sir!”
“Eh hem, Mr. WrenneFeyldde, you do not grasp Mr. Temperance’s overriding enthusiasm for all things ‘steam’.”
“Senor Tempseranci, as I am a Spanish nobleman, you will, no doubt, understand my preference for the horse.”
Senor Diego Ignatio Ricardio MontelKahn?”
“Yay! Thanks, y’all!”
“Herr Teemperauntz, no! Flugle! Blast that little idiot, he is already scampered up the street to hire that dangerous looking jalopy.”
“Ha, ha! I count, one, two, three! Three wheels on this silly scooter.”
“I say, the appearance of this device is not one which inspires confidence in passenger safety, eh hem?”
“Nor dignity, for I feel as if we are to be on display for all of Rio to gawk upon.”
“Ain’t she a beaut? The driver calls her his ‘Assembla de Tryke’.” Come on, y’all. I don’t think it’s really as dangerous as it looks.”
“I say, we shall just have to accept your confidence as a reassurance. Tell us, Mr. Temperance, do you have a preference for seating?”
“Yes, Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. How about letting Senor Diego Ignatio Ricardio MontelKahn and Count Sezami ride up on the balcony level right behind you, me, and Mr. WrenneFeyldde as we ride on the platform that sits at ground level at the front. The two forward wheels of our land ship are right underneath our bleachers. As you can see, the driver sits atop the third wheel that both propels our steam trike and steers her. Boy howdy, I betcha’ when he turns that little ol’ third wheel, this sucker’ll spin right on top of a shiny centablo.”
“Heh,heh,heh, h-h-h-n-n-n-n-driver... Please to take us to the ‘Hotel GnuTerry’.”
“This is a most disconcerting manner of travel, si! I feel as if I am a masthead, thrust before her ship, for there is nothing between myself and anything before us except the unlucky trio that sits on the seating level before me as if we are in a theater. What is the meaning of this ridiculous taxi?”
“It’s on account of this here city of Rio de Janeiro enjoying an annual celebration known as ‘Carnivale’. This horrifying carriage was built as a viewing stand for this event and is used as a mobile observation platform at that happy event.”
“You are confident in this vessel’s stability, Mr. Temperance?”
“Um, well, now that we are up to a pretty respectable speed, I ain’t really so sure.”
“Henh, this stupid driver is drunk!”
“Si, he has allowed this vehicle to attain an unwise amount of momentum.”
“Woah! Hang on, y’all, we’re slowing down!”
“I say, what a surprise, here we are at our destination and still alive. How charming, eh hem?”
“Hey! That was lots of fun! Excuse me, mister, I don’t think we are gonna be too long. How’s about sticking around a minute and give us a lift back to the docks?”
“Blast you, Tempseranci! I refuse to travel by that infernal contraption again!”
“Ha, ha! I count our little band lucky for surviving that little jaunt. Now I count six steps leading into the hotel lobby!”
“Henh-hey, you there, the old goat with the bushy gray beard and bemused look on your face. Are you the dysc clerk of the ‘Hotel GnuTerry’?”
“You have two guests here under the reservations of Count D. Send for these men at once!”
“Oh, si Senor. I sendsi my boysi to get the fancy one of your party. Butsah, the other one, he is right around here’s the somewhere’s I am thinking. Oh, yoodally-hoo. Senor Steele? Where are you to be hiding? Comes out, comes out, wherevers you ares.”
We all look around the lobby but the room is empty. There is no one here. The room is absolutely empty and no one is here except a timid little fellow sitting in a corner. He has a beaming smile clamped on his sunny features. Swinging his feet back and forth for they do not quite reach the floor from the edge of the chair on which he sits, he holds a small velise in his lap and looks at us expectantly.
“Heh, h-nnn-theese one eest heem? H-h-h-h-ey you, you are not the Scottish scientist Pol Steele are you?”
“Tee, hee! Oh, aye, it is I, the one and only Pol Steele right enough, me dearies! I very much am the man ye be seekin’, I’ll not den’nae. I am very happy tae’ makes all ye’re acquaintances!”
“Howdy, howdy, there Mr. Steele, my name’s Ichabod Temperance. I have been fascinated by your work with the manipulation of electrical power. You sure do got some brilliant ideas, sir!”
“Tee, hee! Oh, thank ’ye Icksi m’boy. I have heard of your amazing inventions as well, m’lad. Tell me, do you have your ‘Green Beauties’ with ye’?”
“I never leave home without ’em, sir.”
“Tee, hee! Aye, that bae grand, m’bucko! Now then, who might this pretty young lassie be?”
“My name is Persephone Plumtartt, Mr. Steele, and I am so happy to meet you. Welcome to our happy little troupe.”
“Thank you so much, Persephone, bhoughtte ye cannnae bae as charmed tae meette me as I to set eyes on you, m’louovely lass. Aye, you’re trouoly a bed o’ clover for these Scottish peepers.”
“Mr. Steele,” I say with a deep bow as I extend my hand, “My name is Diego Ignatio Ricardio MontelKahn, and I would like to say how very pleasant it is to meet such an esteemed member of the scientific community.”
“And the same to you, m’ overly handsome Spanish Conquistador.”
“And now wae ‘ave this pale git in the mouonkey suit. Dinnae tells me! Ye’re ahnuhther that suffers frae an ounfortounate allergy to the light of the Sun?”
“Ha, ha! Yes, Herr Steele, but staying out of the Sun has kept my skin looking young for more years than I can count, ha, ha!”
“Heh,heh,heh, h-e-w-where eez nnyour retainer, Herr Steele?”
“Wae jus’ looks around behoind ye, here he is nouw!”
The company turns as one to look upon the next member of our group. Unbelievably, I find myself struck with the awe. Now I know how the world feels when they look at me, Diego Ignatio Ricardio MontelKahn, for this man is incredible! A magnificent black man regards us from the balcony. The tightly curled hair of his race is immaculately cut in a dashing form. A well trimmed mustache extends across the top of his lip to then plunge straight down to either side of his mouth, not unlike a Chinese Mandarin. His self-assured and confident movements are that of nobility. As he steps down the stairs, his physique is boldly displayed in the tailored cut of his shiny tuxedo. He too, is like the Count Sezami, with the black silk cape and red lining. A few tasteful pieces of jewelry on his fingers, throat and a tiny sparkle in one ear betray a weakness for the allure of diamonds. Moving as I did, that is, straight for the beautiful woman in the room, he goes to Senorita Plumtartt and starts to take her hand in a kiss. However, he hesitates and then withdraws with a smile and a short bow as he takes notice of the palm leaf crucifix the attractive girl wears pinned to her blue dress.
evening, my friends. I apologize for keeping you waiting. Please allow me the honour of introducing myself. My name is Count Onyx’Ula. I believe that all arrangements have been made and our business concluded here. I suggest we hurry back to the
as we only have a few more hours of the night’s freedom-granting darkness in which to operate this evening.”