Steampunk Family

On Grandmothers

August 16, 2009
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»


It began when Mrs. Huang asked to visit her grandchildren.  She had been on board the Schöneluft a year and a half, she and Mrs. Wang and Mrs. Wei, ever since the terrible flooding in Shandong.  During the summer of the flooding, the vonHedwig family had been visiting Father’s old school friends in the German administrative capital of Qindao, and of course, they volunteered to search for survivors from the sky.

It was Adolphus who spotted the parasol, and under it, three ancient ladies playing mah jong on a rapidly disappearing hillock, formerly the highest point of the village, now a tiny island.  They came on board, communicating primarily by smiling and nodding, and pinching Bettina’s cheeks.  The vonHedwigs, in turn, communicated by speaking loudly and slowly in German, then English, French, Latin, Greek, Welsh, and Saami, and then by nodding and smiling.

Anxious to reunite them with their grieving families, they returned to Qindao only to learn that, considered too slow to evacuate, these venerable grandmothers had been abandoned by their families, left to succumb to the raging Yellow River!

Madame vonHedwig appealed to the translator, a learned man of Peking.  “What shall become of these august old persons, cruelly abandoned by their loved ones?”

Surprisingly, it was Mrs. Huang who answered.  “Stay on boat,” she said.

“I beg your pardon, Madame,”asked Herr vonHedwig, “do you mean our boat? The airship?”

Mrs. Huang and her friends nodded and smiled, and so the Chinese Grandmothers came aboard the Schöneluft to stay.  They eschewed the proffered cabins and made a dwelling place amid the catwalks and maintenance platforms of the envelope.

It has been a beneficial relationship for both parties, as Claire has learned enough Mandarin to ensure that Mrs. Huang and her friends have all they need for their comfort, Philomena learned to play Mah Jong, and Madame planted mulberry trees in the Greenhouse for the benefit of the Grandmothers’ silk worms.

It came as a surprise, therefore, when the Grandmothers requested to return to China.

“But my dear Mrs. Huang,” Madame vonHedwig reasoned, “surely your motherly obligations are somewhat diminished by your children surrendering you to a watery grave?”

“Not babies,” she replied.  “Babies good.”

There was certainly no arguing with that, so Herr vonHedwig was prevailed upon to arrange a return to northern China.  By the time they had concluded their business in Caracas and made the crossing, it was early June.  Claire, negotiating with Mrs. Huang, arranged to return for the Grandmothers in a month’s time.

During that month, the vonHedwig family experienced a most peculiar adventure…

This story is continued With a Bang.
Entries in this series:
  1. On Grandmothers
  2. With A Bang!
  3. In Search of Ancient Angiosperms
  4. Assault on the Galley
  5. The Sorrows of Chef
  6. Faeries, Helpful Siblings, and other Mythological Creatures
  7. Meanwhile, Back in the Lab
  8. A Day of Discovery
  9. The Children’s Hypothesis
  10. A Research Date
  11. Aboard the Schmetterling
  12. The Cave
  13. The Cage
  14. Knee of the Yeti
  15. Kidnapped!
  16. A Clue
  17. The Yeti and the Comb
  18. Fighting the Count
  19. Fighting the Yeti
  20. Falling
  21. Breadcrumbs
  22. The Search is On
  23. Flight to Saigon
  24. On the Streets of Saigon
  25. The Sad Man
  26. At the Grandiere Club Aeronautique
  27. If you Give a Count a Cookie
  28. Out of Cookies
  29. Stuck!
  30. Airships Float?
  31. Where is Claire?
  32. Drowning
  33. Into the Drink!
  34. Boat!
  35. Mushroom Trip
  36. Ambush
  37. The Variegated Strangler
  38. In a Strange Land
  39. Hand over Hand
  40. The Last of the Gouda
  41. An Unusual Breakfast
  42. Downstream
  43. What's for Dinner?
  44. Axe and Fire
  45. Meanwhile, Back at the Airship
  46. Over the Gobi
  47. Return of the Grandmothers
  48. Warning from Huang
  49. Anxious Hours
  50. Ulrik Prepares
  51. Destruction by Dawn
  52. Finding Philomena
  53. No Luck in Pekin
  54. The Children Rescue...Something
  55. Corndog Liberation
  56. The Fate of Corndogs
  57. Have you Tea?
  58. Antafrican Hosptitality
  59. Onion Porridge
  60. Homesick
  61. On the Hunt
  62. Farm Living
  63. Singing for Supper
  64. You Say Potato...
  65. Curiosity is the Foundation of Discovery
  66. An Awkward Position
  67. Trouble Comes Riding
  68. Capsicum Capture
  69. To the Palace
  70. The Death of the Lincoln
  71. War Wings
  72. A Long Way Down
  73. Enter the Lightning
  74. Before the Queen
  75. You are a Tomato!
  76. A Sunken Ship
  77. Eglantine Aubergine
  78. Children of the Soil
  79. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  80. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  81. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  82. The Price of Popcorn
  83. Ulrik and Chef
  84. Fire!
  85. Claire's Bluff
  86. Tomato Queen and Aubergine
  87. It's Going to Blow!
  88. Rhodri in the Gardens
  89. The Servant's Fountain
  90. History Revealed
  91. Fight at the Fountain
  92. Repercussions
  93. Father Discovers the Yeti
  94. Aboard the Lucy Stone
  95. Summoned
  96. The Queen's Accusation
  97. The Queen's Rage
  98. The Khan
  99. The Last War Wing
  100. Eglantine Departs
  101. Thumping Rhodri
  102. Bad News from the Boys
  103. Where's the Count?
  104. In Search of the Count
  105. Spying on the Queen
  106. Confronting the Count
  107. Orphaned?
  108. Orphaned?
  109. Montesanto's Experiments
  110. Montesanto's Experiments
  111. The Queen's Tantrum
  112. Bettina's Tantrum
  113. The Flaming Queen
  114. Uprising!
  115. Uprising!
  116. Escape
  117. On the Run
  118. The Mysterious Coach
  119. Red Racer!
  120. Revolution Reset
  121. By the Acid Sea
  122. Farewell Antafrica
  123. Home Again!
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1 Comment for this entry

  • Capitaine Charette says:

    Dear Madame,

    Having just returned from a visit to an American Cadet Training Camp (where I was elected to oversee a handful of select young men) I received your post of August 16th this morning. You do but tease with the promise to recount your adventures at a later date!

    Our Cadets performed admirably in shooting sports and aquatics, though the finer points of Drill remain elusive. Ah, well, they are still young, and time remains in our favor.

    Capitaine Charette

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