Steampunk Family

The Sad Man

March 20, 2010
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»


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Madame vonHedwig found the sad man in the back corner of the airmen’s bar. The gas lamps were low throughout, but all the lamps close to his table were out. He sat in the dark, rolling an empty wine bottle with one hand, steadily drinking its twin with the other.

She stood across from him, even cleared her throat, but he would not look up.

“Why so dejected, my friend?” she said.

“Go away.”

Madame pulled over a chair from another table.

“No and no, Mademoiselle! There is only one woman, and you are not she. Go away.”

“Ah,” Madame said, “La Belle Capitaine has broken your heart.”

The man took a shuddering breath, almost a sob, and drank deep.

“She would not stay, not even for me. I thought I was different, I thought she loved me more than the others!”

“My heart is broken too.”

“Find another to heal it, and leave me alone.”

“Look at me, Lieutenant!” She snatched away his wine glass, and he looked at her at last, surprised and dismayed.

“I need your Capitaine. My children have been kidnapped, and she alone can help me get them back. Surely there is enough of your heart left to feel pity.”

He gulped. “She was here two hours ago, toasting the future, and leaving me in the past.” He looked at Madame for the first time, then at his wine glass, held firmly out of reach. “She has a racing ship, in a hangar at the club. Good luck in catching her.”

He gave her the address of an exclusive air yacht club. As she pushed her way though the bar, the barkeep intercepted her with a demitasse of espresso and a bottle of champagne.

“From your admirer at the bar, Madame,” he said. “Shall I open it?”

“No, thank you.” She downed the espresso in two gulps, although it was burning hot, took the champagne, and left.  Outside, she gave it to the waiting teenager whose pedicab had brought her there.

“This bottle is worth a month of your earnings,” she said. “Sell it, and pay someone to teach you to read. Now, how quickly can you take me to the Grandiere Club Aeronautique?”

*

There was a party in full swing at the club, with a dance band playing, waiters circulating with wine and canapés, and elegant couples sweeping about the floor in the waltz.

A discretely dressed gentleman blocked her entrance.

“I beg your pardon, Madame, but this is a private function. May I see your invitation?”

She handed him her visiting card. “I am Hera vonHedwig, of the Schöneluft, Monsieur. There is not a flying club in the world at which I am not welcome.”

He examined her card, and bowed.

“It is indeed an honor, Madame vonHedwig, but, but, your attire!”

She took a deep, steadying breath, and put a hand on the man’s shoulder.

“Monsieur, words alone cannot convey the regret I feel in entering this august company in daywear.” She patted his shoulder, and strode past him into the ballroom, where she found her husband dancing with La Belle Capitaine.

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This story began with On Grandmothers. The previous episode is On the Streets of Saigon and the next is At the Grandiere Club Aeronautique.

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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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