Steampunk Family


December 24, 2010
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

When Ifan and the farm hands returned for lunch, Annabelle and Mirabelle carefully explained to the farmer and his wife that they wanted to be more helpful, that they were not afraid of hard work, and that their honor depended on repaying hospitality with contributions to the household. Although he objected at first, the twins had practiced all morning, developing a respectful and compelling argument and dredging up half-remembered vocabulary, and were able to counter his objections. Gwen stayed quiet throughout, but the triumph in her eyes was far more obvious than the relief in her husband’s.

He took Claire, Adolphus, and Annabelle to work in the fields with him, while Mirabelle and the younger children stayed to help Gwen around the house. Bettina had more peas to shell. Her nimble fingers were good for the task, but it was not absorbing work, and left much time for reflection. Gerhardt was hauling buckets of water from a hot spring near the house, and Mirabelle was darning socks, which she did very poorly indeed.

Gerhardt came in with two more buckets, sweating with exertion. He looked around for a sympathetic ear to complain into, and saw that Bettina’s cheeks were wet with tears. He emptied his buckets into the hot water barrel and sat beside her.

“What’s wrong? Are the peas hard to shell?”

“Mama’s peas shell themselves,” she said with a hiccup. She slid her thumbnail along the seam of the pod, and then pushed the peas out with her thumb. They rained down into the bowl in her lap. “Boom,” she whispered.

Gerhardt smiled. “And Chef won’t have Mother’s self-shelling peas in his galley, because they’re not natural, he says. I think he doesn’t like to be startled. You never know when they’re going to go off.”

He took her hands in his and massaged her thumbs.

“I miss them too,” he said.

“She’s not like Mama.” Bettina looked at Gwen, who was fussing over what appeared to be a box of straw. It was a tall box, coming up to Bettina’s chin. The farm wife had been fussing with it all morning, adjusting whatever was in the straw, and moving it around the floor so that it was always in the sunniest patch.

“No one is like Mother,” Gerhardt agreed. “Or Father, either. They’ll come, you know. We just need to stay alive until they do.” He peeked at Gwen. “I don’t know if I like her.”

“He’s nice though,” Mirabelle said from across the room.

Gwen’s large red head jerked in Mirabelle’s direction, then looked at the younger children. She spoke to Mirabelle.

“She wants that barrel filled, Gerhardt, and the peas finished.” Mirabelle looked at the jumble of thread in her hands. “Say, Gerhardt, how are you at darning socks?”

“Better than that.”

“Excellent. Show me where the hot spring is. I need a walk.” She threw down the sock and fetched the buckets. “Chin up, Bettina. If we can hold out a few days longer, I’m sure Father and Mother will find us.” She ruffled her sister’s ringlets and followed Gerhardt out of the hedge house, Gwen watching them.
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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