Steampunk Family
This entry is part of a series, Philomena Flies»
Philomena vonHedwig smiles

Philomena vonHedwig smiles

“I must beg your pardon, Fraulein von Hedwig.”  He sounded very serious now, and kept his eyes on the floor.  “I had not considered my actions might be perceived in this way.  I never meant to cause you distress.  I apologize.”

“Thank you.”

“I don’t suppose you’ll be wanting the badge I brought you, then.”

I sighed.  I felt quite ridiculous now, for I was behaving like a spoiled child.  And even worse, I realized I would love to have one of those badges.  There loomed an impassable gulf between my outburst and touchy pride, and his good intentions and impeccably wavy hair.  I couldn’t think of a thing to say.  The vulture was asleep, and no help at all.

“Is this your work here?  What is… oh I say, they’re wings!  My gears and garters!  You never jumped off the roof – you flew!”

Plummeted, actually.  I don’t need your flock of jumpers to make my invention frivolous.  It’s useless.”

He walked about the wreckage studiously.

“I don’t know, the concept seems sound enough.  It’s a bit heavy, perhaps.  Clever, though.”

“It would be if it worked.”

“So you’re not just a dashing adventuress, but an inventor, too.  Or is it inventress?  Inventrix?”

“Invented words should illuminate or amuse.”  That was one of Father’s.

“Well said!  It’s a family trait, then, inventing?  You’re famous for it!  Especially your father – The Fearless Fabricator.  I’ve heard some outlandish stories about his school days!”P. Phinneas vonHedwig

Oh dear.

“Did he really –“

“Yes. No! I don’t really know what happened.  Let’s just say they are unlikely to name a new wing after him.”

“Not after they had to rebuild the old one,” he said thoughtfully.  “Is it true that your mother was once a circus performer?”

I hesitated before answering, to let the ice crystallize in my voice.  “You cannot suppose I would have the impertinence ask her that,” I said.

“Oh dear,” he said glumly, “I must apologize again.  I beg your pardon, both for my impertinence and for making my conversation dull and repetitive through constant apologies.”

“Oh,” I said, “you’re not dull.”

“Thank you.  Perhaps instead of this pin, which I am now afraid to give you in case you stick it in me, I can offer you some of my impertinence – I have it to spare.”

“I see.”

“And if you consent to be seen in public again, I’m reasonably certain I can keep the other Fliers from crowding around you and asking for autographs.”

“That would be nice.”

“If I give you the pin, are you going to stick me with it?”

I pretended to consider, then held out my hand.  “No.”

He dropped the pin in my outstretched hand, with a dazzling smile.

“You are quite a fascinating girl.”

“Oh dear,” I said, “dashing and fascinating!  No one will ever take me seriously.”

“I will,” Nick said, “but only if you don’t expect me to be so.  I’m a ridiculous fellow – quite a slave to merriment.”

“I never would have guessed.”

“You scoff, but it’s true.  I am excessively frivolous.  So much so,” he laid is hand over his heart, looking grave, “that I have learned to play the piano accordion. It is dreadful of me, I know, but there it is.”

I adore the accordion.  Love it.

“Really?” I gasped.  “We… we’re not very musical, in my family.  We sing a bit, I suppose.  And Ulrik plays the violin.  He practices in the envelope scaffolding, and it echoes.  Very haunting, sometimes.”

“How romantic.  Who is this Ulrik, one of your brothers?”

“No, he’s Father’s assistant.”

“I dislike him already.”

“No, why?”

“For playing the violin romantically near young women.  The fellow’s clearly a menace.”

“Aren’t you a menace for playing the accordion?”

“Absolutely!  But I never play around young women.  It drives them off.”

“Do you play badly?”

“No, I play tolerably well, but it is the accordion.  Most people don’t like it.”

“Most people don’t jump off castles into ravines.”

I smiled up at him, and he smiled back, and I have no idea how long that went on, but it was very pleasant.  Then the vulture woke, squawking.   Nick jumped.

“Listen, I’m sure I’ve been enough of a nuisance for the moment, but I was wondering – my mother is a sort of amateur folklorist, and she’s taken an interest in the vampire lore of Eastern Europe.”

“How fascinating.”

“Do you think so?”

“Why yes.  I’ve always enjoyed comparative anthropology.”

“Well, good.  The mater’s haring off to Transylvania when term ends, and wants Pelly and me to go with her.  Father can’t get away from the Foundry, apparently.  I don’t suppose you might want to come too?”

I felt a bit dizzy, and didn’t answer right away.  Of all the improper, impertinent, wonderful invitations to receive under a screaming vulture at three in the morning!

“I shouldn’t ask, I know.  If blood-sucking fiends don’t drain you, you’ll have to put up with my impertinent accordion playing.  After a few days you’ll undoubtedly be breaking open crypts to find a fiend to put you out of your misery.”

I laughed.  He smiled again, and raised his eyebrows in question.

“If your mother asks me to accompany her, and my family can spare me, I believe I might enjoy a trip to Transylvania.”

“Jolly good!”

“And now, I’m off to bed.  If you wouldn’t mind letting the vulture out?”

“What?”

And I sailed out of the Fabrication Hall, no – floated out of the hall, flying at last.

This story began here.

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