Perilous Artifacts: In A Hurry
As the steamer approached the Academy, Pieter once again repeated his offer to keep Harry in honeycomb for the next year, but Harry slowed to a stop and jumped out to open the boot. “A honeycomb in the hand is worth more than promises of payment later. And you’ll owe me beside for carrying you as far as Carew House as it is. If you assist me, we can carry this produce in while Miss Olive changes. It won’t take us but a moment.”
“No–wait–” Pieter protested, but Olive disappeared into the dark narrow hall ahead of them with her basket of gear.
Meeting them in the entry, Miss Millrig directed them to the cavernous kitchen ruled over by Missus Brake. The cook left off stirring a large fishy pot of soup to take charge of the vegetables and—with a crow of delight—the enormous honeycomb. She directed the young men to leave it on the battered work table centered under a collection of hanging lamps that smoked and sputtered, and left rings of soot on the whitewashed ceiling above them.
“Minus one-sixteenth of the whole as payment for my services,” Harry sternly informed her.
Her eyebrows lowered and she gave him a sharp look, but didn’t protest. With a deft hand, she measured out his portion, “and not a drip more, young man.”
Harry tipped his hat at her, before taking charge of it. “I wouldn’t expect it. How’s things with the little ‘uns?”
“Good day, Missus Blake. So sorry we can’t stop long,” Pieter chivvied Harry toward the hall, ignoring his garbled protest. “We’re in a terrible hurry. You know it’s a perilous venture to thwart Mother’s wishes. If she is angered sufficiently, I might even have dodge flying artifacts.”
Harry made a rude noise that sounded suspiciously like a raspberry. “Nonsense. She would never!”
“She would!” Pieter insisted, then amended that to: “Well, she’s threatened to. There’s this one particularly hideous mask that she says she’s looking for an excuse to transform into a missile, but–she hasn’t done it. Yet.”
He sounded so unsure that Harry laughed. “Talk about perilous artifacts.”
Pieter gritted his teeth. “We are in a hurry.”
Olive joined them at the front entryway, dressed in a tailored gray visiting suit with a white shirtwaist spilling ruffles and lace down the front. Steel grommets, gray laces, and neat stitching on the toes of her sturdy and practical, yet elegant high-heeled canvas boots peeped from beneath her skirt. A stiff satin hat trimmed with steel cogs and white flowers nodding on springs perched firmly atop her upswept hair. On her hands, white lace gloves covered the damage done by her earlier exertions.
As she turned, she bestowed a somewhat steely look on Pieter, the modish short train of her skirt swishing softly on the dully polished floor.
“Now, at last, I am ready, sir.”
And Pieter couldn’t help pausing to admire her–at least for a moment. Her whole aspect had transformed from tomboyish adventurer to the most proper of young ladies. “I see what you mean.”
He offered her his arm. “Come along quickly now. We need to hurry.”
Behind him, Harry growled under his breath, “Toffs!”
For the next installment (available Tuesdays), read Perilous Artifacts: Priority Lift, where Harry offers Pieter a way to shorten the trip.
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