- - An excerpt, taken from the fourth chapter of "The Girl in the Corner...", the 1st Episode in the "Day of the Dragons" serial, 2nd Edition of the Clockhaven Chronicles, by P.S. Chambers. (Copyright © 2012 by Penny Gaff Publishing, LLC)- -
Alone, Stan settled lower in the cockpit seat, assuming his natural role of observer rather than participant. Few of this select assembly were familiar to him. Some he had met with the briefest of introductions, while most were complete strangers. What he did know came from the gossip Missus Voorhees, his sturdy and earthy landlady, regaled him with during meal times.
The military men in their immaculate blue uniforms, gleaming black boots, and chests festooned with shiny bits of metal and colored ribbons, laid siege to a table garrisoned with ranks of bottled liquors. The servants were hard pressed to replace the casualties inflicted by the soldiers' rapacious assault.
Chief among these good officers was the venerable and ancient Colonel Oberlander. A stocky man in his mid-sixties with a bristling grey beard and mustache, he was an advocate of the cold steel school of thought. He bore the distinction of being the only man present to have actually seen battle. Although that event lay forty years in the past, the Colonel would enthusiastically relate the details of that event to the most unwilling of listeners.
Irresistibly Stan's gaze was drawn to Ling, a petite blue rose amid the swirling gaggle of lace and crinoline. He envied her relaxed poise, the ease with which she joined the others, gaily smiling and chatting.
Stan's thoughts drifted back to their argument. It was still too fresh. Fury swirled there with other more disquieting emotions. Closing his eyes, he relaxed his body. He took the black flailing mass of his emotion and placed it within a heavy iron box. Closing the lid, he locked it tight and then heaved it onto a ready shelf. He would open it later when the beast had quieted. Letting out a heavy breath, he opened his eyes.
Ketty Hartig, wife of the Governor-General, was embracing Ling with motherly warmth, laying a kiss on her forehead. This open display of affection by the pink-frocked matron puzzled Stan. Within his limited exposure to Curacao society, Lady Hartig was meticulously proper and gracious toward those around her, but there was a brittleness that put off close association. According to Missus Voorhees, Ketty rarely laughed or even smiled and though not cruel, she had demanding standards.
As flotsam in a ships wake, Danielle–Ketty's daughter and only child–was separated from the fluid feminine cluster. Her absence, whether by her own design or a callous rejection, remained unnoticed as the women fawned over Ling and Ketty.
Alone, Danielle remained rigidly in place–a porcelain doll of exquisite beauty. Her polonaise dress of scarlet and white was a splash of brilliant color when set against the more muted even drab tones of the female assembly. Accenting this difference the white underskirt rose to above the knee exposing her legs, which were clad in tall black leather boots fastened with large brass buckles. Danielle's fan beat the clammy air with mechanical precision, lashing at her long wavy corn silk hair. The face held the serenity of a death mask, while her forest green eyes languished in resignation.
Half rising from his seat, Stan considered going to the young woman. Was it sympathy he felt, or empathy, or something more primal…protective, perhaps? How would she receive his attention? What would he say? Doubt flooded in, washing away his resolve. It would be like Icarus approaching the sun. He sank back onto his perch.
Stan cursed his temerity, not that she was likely to remember him. They had met only once before, shortly after she and Ketty had come out to Curacao from Brem to join Klass. The Governor-General had brought Danielle out to see the airship works. She had been pleasant, courteously inquisitive, but mostly a silent observer. He had stumbled and bumbled through the tour, trying to entertain her. Ling teased him mercilessly for days afterward.
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