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Uploaded 30 March 2014
A story by Simon Barber & David Reese Dorrycott & Fredrik K T Andersson
A story of Angelica Silferlindh, a character by Freddy Andersson,
(including characters from his comic strip "Silver Angel")
& featuring Oharu and characters by David Reese Dorrycott
and characters from Simon Barber's Songmark Academy stories.
by Simon Barber
A story of Angelica Silferlindh, from Freddy Andersson's Silver Angel comic strip;
Kama, Marta Svenson,and other characters by Freddy Andersson;
featuring Oharu and characters by David Reese Dorrycott
and characters from Simon's Songmark Academy stories
Art by Simon Barber & Freddy Andersson
Marta Svenson's black feline ears dipped, as she peered out through the rain-streaked window at the islands just visible through the cloud banks. "That's it? We've got islands bigger than that in Sweden sitting in freshwater lakes!" She wriggled, looking forward to landing anywhere and getting the kinks out of her black-furred tail.
Henry Holdsworthy, she reflected, was proving an annoyance. She had never met a larger-than-life Adventurer before - but now realized that sharing a trip with someone larger than life meant they took up a lot of room. True, she had to admit, he had got them across Siberia and out of the Soviet Union, which was as much wandering in the wilderness as she ever hoped to do again - and the really tricky bits had been coping with the official red tape turned out in accordance with a Five-Year Plan by the Red Government. For a nation that declared itself the home of Worker's Freedom, Ioseph Starling's state certainly put a lot of obstacles in an honest working-fur's path.
“So! It should be jolly. No snow in Spontoon, eh, but not much risk of sunstroke today, either?" The hound rubbed his paws briskly, and flicked through one of the tourist brochures the mostly- empty airliner was equipped with. "Getting seats on a China Clipper was dashed good luck - though this time of year there's hardly a crowd of holiday-makers coming here." He buttoned up his thick tweed traveling coat. "Shouldn't be too hard persuading Miss Angelica to come on home out of the rain. I'm sure the islands are nicely warm in August but this is November. Not so many hula beach parties, eh?"
"Miss Angelica." Marta put a wealth of expression into the words. "Can be very hard to persuade. There's an old folk saying about trying to herd cats being a favorite sport in hell - but only for the spectators." It had taken two weeks to get this far, and Marta's opinions of her employer's wayward daughter had been going down hill with every punishing check on the way - not that they had been much to start with. Actually getting to Spontoon was something she had been looking forward to, but the thought of meeting Angelica had lost its charm.
"Well. Chin up, dear girl! Soon you'll be happily polishing and sweeping for her, I know you've missed that sort of thing. A demon with a duster, I'm sure you are. Olympic quality at towel-folding, and all that." Henry gazed speculatively at the pictures of Native longhouses in the brochure. "Hmm. Thatched huts with coral sand floors. Could be a challenge to get a good polish on those, I dare say."
"With luck we won't be here long enough to unpack the duster," Marta gritted. She had a sinking feeling in her stomach that was not wholly due to the flying boat losing height as it swooped down towards the rain-swept central waters. Sweden this time of year would be starting to get the first scattering of snow on the hills, and she was already homesick. "I'm sure you can use all your skills to persuade her to come home." Her eyes glinted as her spirits perked up, imagining the horrible job Mr. Holdsworthy had in store and how much he deserved it. "Yes - inside a week you'll be flying that silver aircraft of hers back, and Miss Angelica will be safe on a liner home."
"With you to keep her company, like a good girl." Being an English Gentleman did not make the hound wholly immune to the occasional spiteful thought. "Mister Silfverlindh did send you out partly to chaperone her all the way back, you know. And there's no need to spend more of his money than we need to on separate cabins. You'll have so much to talk about, I'm sure. I'll bet she'll be glad to chat with you in Swedish for days and weeks, all the way home."
Marta's face froze. That was the downside. She had not really considered that her mission might be successful from Mr. Silfverlindh's point of view. If Angelica had wanted to come home she could presumably have done so months ago - but she too might be getting homesick by now and changing her mind in the cloud and rain of Spontoon in November, hopefully forgetting what November in Sweden was like. The prospect of sharing a small cabin on some slow steamer chugging across the planet through the Panama Canal and all the way across the Atlantic to Gothenburg made her feel ill. "Perhaps she might be harder to persuade than you think."
The hound winked as he buckled his seatbelt ready for landing. "Oh, I know her of old. She's a fiery one all right - but she's a good girl at heart."
Not a mile away from where the China Clipper touched down, on Eastern Island there were other folk discussing the finer qualities of Miss Amelia Silfverlindh - though these were not the qualities her respectable father presumably had in mind.
"So," Ada Cronstein picked up the spoon as she contemplated a kosher vanilla ice-cream at Song Sodas, the snack restaurant a hundred paces outside Songmark's gate "did everything go well? I think my tail's still half-frozen." The third-years had been on toughening-up exercises on top of Mount Kiribatori until that Tuesday, just when Ada wanted to be elsewhere. As for 'wish you were here' as written on many Spontoon postcards - she would not want any friends to have to share her vigil on the mountaintop.
"It's a shame you had to miss last weekend with Miss Angelica," Kate sympathised with the third-year canine. "And I thought our course was tough enough so far! Just when you've trained in the coldest they can find around here they're sending you out to really freeze in the Aleutians!" The mouse's finely-furred tail swished.
"Everything went well. We had a weekend pass, Friday to Sunday. Miss Angelica missed you a lot, though. It was too windy to go for a swim in the sea, so we went to that big public hot bath in Main Village." Her friend Marjory's eyes crossed, and her black and white bushy tail twitched at the memory. "She ... relaxed quite a bit."
Ada nodded. "She was pleased to see you, Marjory?"
"Oh yes." The skunkette's ears blushed. "Thank you, Ada, thank you!" She dipped her head respectfully. "She's a wonderful girl." Had Ada chosen just one of her dorm to keep Angelica company, she reflected, there might have been some jealousy. Sharing the honours with three was a different matter. A mouse, a skunkette, and an otter had tried their utmost to keep Angelica from being bored.
Ada Cronstein sighed. Any time at all Angelica could be "cured" - any of her times could be the last, and she had missed this one. At least she had known Angelica would not be alone and perhaps pining for her this time round. "Did you meet Kama? How is she?"
"Yes! She's sweet." Kate cocked her head to one side, a big round ear dipping. "Bloody oath though, that pet of hers is a freaky thing! Never heard the like of it. The hot tub was too hot for it, but it just sat by the poolside and watched us, even though it's got no eyes!"
"Kama has many unusual qualities," Ada said dryly. Her tail drooped. The last time they had met, Kama had asked her in about four disjointed words what she would want done about Angelica's curse if she could had a wish granted. She had no illusions about the power the native kitten possessed. Kama could quite possibly change Angelica's tastes permanently, not just the two days a month of her current curse - but Ada had searched her heart and knew she could never ask that. Marrying Angelica that way would be like retiring on the proceeds of heinous crimes, and she would never forgive herself for doing that to the Swedish girl. "I should know - as far as the village is concerned, I'm her joint-mother. Adopted, that is."
"We made sure she was back safe in the village at Mrs. Popoluma's house before we invited Angelica back to our rooms. Angelica. She's lovely." Kate's round ears perked up. Unconsciously she shifted a little uncomfortably, still sore in places. It had been well worth it, she decided - but there were issues with feline girls. Having sandpaper tongues designed by Nature to strip the meat off raw bones was one of them.
Ada nodded. "Well, thank you. I'm glad everyone liked their weekend - but I hope I won't have to call on you to do that again! I'm sure you understand."
All three agreed. "Ah well," Marjory quoted philosophically "only another three more days to the weekend - and the Double Lotus crowd will be wondering if we've abandoned them!"
Over on Main Island, the object of everyone's thoughts was contentedly organising her kitchen. Angelica Silfverlindh had changed since the haughty feline had crashed out of the skies, a fashionably-dressed Euro who had looked at the Spontoon Islands as somewhere she might pick up fuel and a half-edible meal if she was lucky.
Angelica's whiskers twitched as that thought struck her. "I've made a lot of half-edible meals and worse - but that's been only my own fault," she addressed Kama, as the kitten stood happily warming her small paws around the fire-pit. "Now - I've made us a nice fish stew for teatime." After incinerating dozens of once-tasty fish, she had settled down to at least getting one recipe right. Fish stew was harder to burn on a wood fire, and with enough variations in the ingredients it did not get too dull day after day. Besides, Kama could happily wander off into the village and eat the more traditional Native dishes whenever she wanted to.
"Kottsuppe!" Kama nodded happily. She had picked up a surprising amount of Swedish words for a generally Polynesian kitten - or perhaps not so surprising given that the next village over the hill was generally known as Vikingstown and some of her playmates' ancestors came from Norway rather than Niue.
"That's right! A nice Swedish Winter Kottsuppe. Fish version." Angelica filled a big and a little bowl made from paw-polished coconut shells with the steaming soup. She glanced up at a roof beam where some covered crocks stood well out of a kitten's reach. "It's the middle of November already. The Christmas lutefisk should be almost ready - at least to try."
A small kitten stuck her tongue out when Angelica was not looking her way. Fish to Kama was roasted crisp and fresh, or at least tender and stewed - not pickled in wood-ash lye until it metamorphosed into a translucent jelly that resembled wood glue rather than food. There was a Euro shop on Casino Island where all kinds of exotic preserved and semi-preserved meats and fish could be bought, and Angelica had happily sampled most of its wares by now. Kama had tried lutefisk too, and knew it had its place - generally hidden at the bottom of the bucket of kitchen wastes collected every day for the big compost reactor in the next village.
For a few minutes calm reigned in the Silfverlindh household - although, as Angelica reminded herself, as far as the locals are concerned she was Miss Popoluma, having been adopted into the family as Kama had been adopted into hers. Just then there was the sound of a bicycle crunching to a halt on the coral gravel path outside.
"Special Delivery!" A cheerful marten in the postal "uniform" of cap and armband waved a postcard. "Miss Silfverlindh? Card for you." With that he handed over his burden and was off into the falling dusk.
The effect was as shattering on the calm evening as if he had thrown a grenade into the hut. Angelica's fur went completely upright, her tail fluffing out and her eyes wide. The postcard was simply addressed "Miss Angelica Silfverlindh - Spontoon Islands" and it was a tribute to the local post office they had found her so soon. The stamp was local and the postmark the day before.
"Dear Miss Silfverlindh" - she read out, hardly able to hold the card steady in her paw "Arrived Spontoon Islands to get you home! Will arrange flying aircraft back, too. Look forward to Christmas in Sweden! Signed, Henry Holdsworthy."
Had there been a chair in her longhouse Angelica would have collapsed into it. She remembered the aviator Mr. Holdsworthy very well from her late schooldays, when for a few months she had rather a crush on him. He was much too old and not her species, of course, but - he had been amazing places and done impressive things by his own accounts, and that had meant a lot at the time. Life at Saint Winifreds' school in England and the prospect of a life counting bananas for the family business had been drearily restrictive, and the Adventurer's tales had been like a breath of fresh air at the time.
"Oh. That's a problem." Angelica sat down by the fire pit. Kama hugged her, looking up into her eyes. "I should have known Father would try something like this." Angelica could put two and two together as well as the next fur: sending over an experienced aviator neatly side-stepped her argument about not leaving the islands without her Silver Angel. The ironic thing was that a few months earlier she would have jumped at the chance, and would have been out of Spontoon urging her rescuer to use full throttle without a second look back. She looked into Kama's eyes. Some of this could be so easy now. A vision filled her head of sitting in the passenger seat of the Silver Angel while Mr. Holdsworthy skillfully took off, and her looking back at a small figure left standing mute on the beach as it faded forever into the distance.
Angelica hugged her daughter, still looking into her eyes while she felt as if something turned over deep within her. Kama was giving her the free choice to do that, to leave her behind. "Don't worry," she promised "I'm not going anywhere without you."
Kama hugged back. Her small head cocked to one side. "Card?" She asked plaintively.
"Yes. I'm going to have to do something about that." She could throw the card into the fire and see just how far into the jungle she could hide for a month, while Mr. Holdsworthy gave up searching. But she shook her head. "He's not the sort of man who gives up easily. If Father's sent him all this way to find me, one way or another he will."
Although her hut was hardly laid out as an office, in ten minutes she had begged a pen, a plain local postcard and five-cowrie local delivery stamp from Mama Popoluma and was staring at the blank paper. Back at Saint Winifred's she had scored high marks for her paw-writing, certainly - but nothing she had learned there in her literature or deportment classes was going to be of much use working out what to say.
"Jolly good! So she's here after all. Always does to check." That same evening Henry Holdsworthy tapped Angelica's card thoughtfully, fresh from the six p.m. delivery. "Little place on the North shore. Should be a spiffing hike over the ridge from the docks on this side of the island. Could do with giving my legs a stretch, after all that time on aircraft and waiting around for paperwork!" He looked down at his sturdy tweeds and solid sensible boots. "Into the outdoor gear, dear gel! Likely to be muddy this time of year, I dare say. Deuced muddy."
Marta gave a contemptuous sniff. "You do that - you're the Adventurer. I'm an indoor maid, not a gardener or a gamekeeper. I don't have any one-piece suits of patent barbed-wire proof tweed armour with me. You're the one who's getting paid to splash through the mud."
"And you, dear gel, are mostly here to persuade Miss Angelica to come back with us. If she wanted to come running over here to escape these islands, she would have done before now. Spirited gel she is! If we want to talk to her we've got to go and find her, mud or not." Henry Holdsworthy raised an eyebrow looking at the fuming feline. "Or we might be here a considerable time. I don't intend to return empty-pawed."
Marta looked around the sparsely furnished rooms of the little hotel on the Northern side of the island. The Freya Hotel had sounded home-like on the brochure and indeed most of the big tourist hotels were closed for renovation and staff holidays in November. But having got here she realised that apart from persuading Miss Angelica to come home, she had absolutely nothing to do. The rooms were very neatly swept already, and the famous tourist attractions were closed for another six months. Letting down the rescue mission would not endear her to Mr. Silfverlindh, she knew. Even if they could not persuade Angelica to come home, with a sinking sensation Marta knew that first she would first have to try her uttermost to persuade her.
"Oh, very well, I'll go," Her ears and tail drooped. "But not if I have to wade through every quicksand on the island to get there!"
Back on Main Island, Kama skipped happily along the beach while Angelica prepared the evening fish stew. On the small kitten's shoulder her pet sea-cucumber clung like a pirate's parrot, if parrots had tube feet. The front end's ring of tentacles waved cheerfully at passers-by, despite the complete lack of eyes or a brain that might have been thought essential to do that.
"Hunter!" Kama's ears went up as she spotted a familiar figure engaged in pulling a Native canoe up onto the beach. The feline was handsome, with broad shoulders and a gleaming quality to his fur that spoke of long hours paddling hard in the open air in all weathers.
Shark Hunter paused, smiling as he recognized the small kitten. He straightened up, driving the stake into the beach that held the tethering rope for his canoe. "Kama," he said gravely, bowing a little.
Kama giggled, coming to a halt by her friend and "big brother". Her pet waved a single tentacle. "Angelica," her small face was suddenly serious.
Shark Hunter nodded gravely. More than most people, he understood what Kama meant with single words. They were alike; to the village, he too had been "a gift of the Spirits" twenty years before, having been found cast up on the shore after a Winter storm, and the most thorough enquiries throughout the Spontoon Islands Independencies had never revealed a trace of his parents. At Kama's age the Spirits had spoken to him all the time. "Angelica has furs from her family, her home island, come to talk with her, to take her back." Although Sweden was hardly an island, the Silfverlindh summer house on the fjord outside Gothenburg certainly qualified.
"Home." Kama looked down, scuffing her bare paws in the dry sand.
"Yes. Kama, the Spirits wished to bind her here, to punish her. This they have done. It will not be forever." Shark Hunter knelt and looked into the kitten's face. "When first she come, I thought she was the one expected in prophecy. When I come from out of the great waters, old Priestess she tell of one who would follow me, join me on islands. There would be a wahine of great pride and beauty coming from the North waters, and there Angelica and her aircraft were. Missy Angelica ... is better behaved than when first on islands, but she maybe not the one."
Kama nodded dutifully. Then she beamed. Evidently if Angelica was not the one destined for Shark Hunter she might be available to be Kama's mother, along with Ada!
Suddenly her pet jumped down off her shoulder onto the damp sand and gave a few leaps along the beach back towards the village. It stopped and curved round, an expectant look somehow in its shape.
"What's that?" Shark-Hunter took Kama's small paw. "I think it wants us to follow it."
"Land ho! There's the beach and that's a village - Is this the one, fellow?" Henry Holdsworthy addressed the water taxi pilot as they approached the beach. Taking the water taxi all the way round the Western tip of Main Island was a longer and dearer trip than just going to the main village and walking in, but it was not his personal money, and there was the maid Miss Svenson to keep happy. A guide had been arranged to take them back, as a water-taxi was an expensive thing to tie up for hours when trying to persuade Angelica.
"Miss Angelica, there she lives," the pilot, a dark-grey-furred sea-otter, pointed at one corner of the village. "Work she on night fishing, sleep till sun he highest in sky. Maybe yes, she see you."
In the canvas-covered centre of the vessel, Marta was regretting insisting on a boat trip. She was used to boats on the usually the calm summertime waters of the Gothenburg Fjord, but once out of the inner waters of the Spontoon group the boat rolled alarmingly in the open sea. Water taxis were not meant for this route, though the otter crewing this one had been happy to take them. Long tourist fares were presumably hard to come by in November.
"I hope so," she muttered. "If there's one thing worse than coming all this way to see Miss Angelica, it's coming all this way and not seeing her." She sneezed as the salt spray tickled her nose. If everything went perfectly, she thought, Miss Angelica will just pack her bags, hand over the keys to her aircraft and we can all head back to Sweden tomorrow.
"Jolly good." Mr. Holdsworthy scanned the approaching beach. "We've got a reception committee. Don't suppose they see many water taxis coming here, all the other boats are fishing vessels. Hope they speak English. I can get by with pidgin at a pinch, but it's deuced awkward,"
A minute later the keel of the water taxi grounded on the beach and Henry Holdsworthy leaped ashore, a paw held out to his traveling companion. "Mind your step, dear gel. This boat's still rocking."
"I know that," Marta snapped, her ears down. "It's quite all right - I can manage perfectly well. I just want to get on some dry land." With that she jumped out in just the manner the tweed-clad hound had done. Unfortunately, while Henry Holdsworthy had often practiced that easy-looking move, Marta never had.
"Wet!" Kama giggled from the tide line as she saw the haughty Euro catch her foot on the rail of the water taxi, flail helplessly for an instant and fall flat on her face in twenty centimetres of water just the moment a large wave swept up the beach to submerge her completely. The Native Spontoonies tried hard to entertain their guests in Tourist season; it was only fair that in November a visiting Euro could return the compliment. Even better, Euros wore so many more clothes and could get so much wetter.
Shark Hunter raised an eyebrow. He noted a rugged, tweed-clad hound reach down and patiently offer a helping paw to the spluttering feline who angrily refused it. Then his eyes went wide. Marta struggled to her feet in an eruption of seawater, wet sand and fatally wounded dignity, a strand of seaweed tangled round her ears. Something spoke to Shark Hunter, a once familiar voice that Kama heard with interest but nobody else on the beach would have.
He bowed, respectfully. "So. Angelica was not the one they prophesied. She is."
Fifty metres away and two minutes later, Angelica's ears and tail fluffed out as she heard a voice she instantly recognised - it had been two years since she had heard the hearty, booming tones of Henry Holdsworthy, but there was no forgetting it. "He's found me." She winced, and carried on stirring the fish stew as she forced herself back into routine. "Whatever he says - it's suppertime, and Kama has to be fed."
Suddenly she jerked as if she had touched the Silver Angel's battery leads as she heard another voice she recognised - for a second she froze in disbelief, then curiosity conquered her.
"Marta?" She stood at the door wishing she had a camera to record the moment. Her father's maid was always impeccably neat and fussy about every speck of dust or hair of stray fur. The sight of her dripping with water and crusted with beach sand was about as impossible to imagine as Sweden's elegant and stately King putting on clown make-up. Angelica smiled, patting her head-fur. "I like the natural tiara - is it the style back in Sweden now? I know I've been away a long time."
Marta's paw explored that area and found the seaweed. With an inarticulate cry she tore it off and threw it to the ground before standing speechless looking at Angelica.
Henry Holdsworthy looked from one feline to the other, and gave an apologetic cough. "May we come in, dear girl? Miss Svenson's going to catch her death of cold standing around like that - and we've come an awfully long way to talk with you."
"No, I am NOT going to come back with you." It was an hour later and the long November night had fallen outside. Angelica sat cross-legged next to the fire-pit, with one paw holding a polished coconut shell of steaming fish stew and the other around Kama. "You can tell father that from me. I'll come home one day - but I'm not going to spend my days counting bananas, and the Silver Angel is not going to be painted banana-yellow to tow any advertising banners. And that's final."
"Quite." Henry Holdsworthy sampled his own portion of fish stew, and nodded appreciatively. They had eaten a lot worse on the trip over, notably while waiting around in the Soviet Union where the local authorities had apparently declared edible food to be a subversive bourgeoisie affectation and contrary to the spirit of the Revolution. It was a good thing he had a cast-iron stomach, he reflected - Marta had suffered agonies of indigestion which had not improved her temper. "I see you're quite well set up here. A house and a job - but I never took you for a humble fisher-girl. Not the kind of thing your Father had in mind for you when he sent you to Saint Winifred's school, which costs a pretty penny. Bit of a come-down?"
Marta ate her stew in silence, her eyes missing nothing as she steamed in front of the fire. The hut was thatch and timber, like something out of a thousand-year old Viking saga. The floor was white beach sand and there was no running water, just a pair of covered ten-litre buckets by the door. Although she had ignored him at the time she had to admit that the canine Adventurer had been right - there was nothing here that could be cleaned, polished or dusted. A rolled-up sleeping mat was neatly stowed in the shadows, and that was almost the only furniture in the hut.
Angelica hesitated, looking around. "I know you've come a long way to talk to me. It's not your fault I won't be coming back with you, and you can tell Father that from me. I have ... reasons." A hint of a smile touched her face. "I was keeping this for the Christmas and New Year celebrations," she glanced up to where some covered crocks stood on a high roof beam, well out of Kama's reach "it's the best I've got. Please, try some lutefisk."
"Lutefisk! Don't mind if I do. Not had this for years." In his long and slightly chequered career Henry Holdsworthy had eaten live insect grubs in Australia, "thousand year-old" eggs in China, and survived the deprivations of six years at an English boarding school. "You're a fully qualified housewife these days, it seems - make a fine bride, I'm sure, for some lucky fellow."
Angelica's ears blushed, and unconsciously she touched the braided fur ring at her throat before reaching up and retrieving the chemically-digested fish from its high sanctuary. "Thank you. Lutefisk, Marta?"
"No - thank you." Marta looked down into her stew, still unfinished. Her stomach felt sour with bad temper, her fur soaked to the skin with salt water, and with no bathroom in the village, no relief in sight.
"Well, all the more for us then!" boomed Henry Holdsworthy. He cast an eye over the shivering and dripping black and white feline. "Then I'll have to be going - I'll be back in the morning. Leave you two gels to talk over old times, what? I'm sure you've a lot to talk about in Swedish. Don't need me here for that."
"What?" Marta's damp ears went up in shock. "You can't leave me here!" Angelica did not look too happy with the prospect, either.
The hound gave a patient sigh. "Dear gel, it's two miles walk over the hills to the Main Village and then who knows how long we might be waiting around the dock for a water taxi this time of year, this time of night? You're still soaking wet, you'd catch your death of cold. No, no, in front of a fire is where you need to be tonight, if there's no hot bath to be had. And there's no hotel listed around here on the guidebook." He tucked into the lutefisk with every indication of enjoying it.
"You can have my sleeping mat," Angelica offered, looking at the crestfallen maid. "We generally sleep and wake with the sun, here. I can lie by the fire with Kama. We're used to it. Tonight's my night off, or I'd already have to be out fishing by now."
Marta opened her mouth to protest, but thought better of it. There were no comfortable beds with clean white sheets to be had in this village, and there was literally nothing to polish. The ancient Vikings who lived like this had been famous as warriors and shipwrights, skilled with an axe - but History had not recorded any of them being polished professionals with a duster, Feeling useless was a new and very unwelcome sensation to someone used to being constantly busy. "Yes, ma’am. I'll stay the night here and be off in the morning."
The meal over, Henry Holdsworthy stood up and made ready to depart. Just then he hesitated and gestured for Marta to come outside while Angelica busied herself with cleaning the coconut shell "dishes."
"Interesting accessories Miss Angelica wears these days," his voice was low as they stood five paces from the hut door "It was in the travel book. That mixed fur ring at her throat is a "Tailfast" ring. Folk around here didn't used to have a handy jewelers' shop when they wanted to buy their sweetheart an engagement ring."
"Miss Angelica's engaged to be married?" Marta's whiskers stood straight out despite the dampness.
"It looks that way, don't you think? And there's another thing. This hut here," Henry gestured to the thatched hut. "The end by the door is finished, jolly nice carvings of their kind. The far end is plain timbers. There's room to expand here, so it's not quite finished. Now, that hut over there the Guide said is the Priestesses, and they don't generally marry while in the service - so their huts are carved all round. They aren't expecting any little additions. Miss Angelica did say she had reasons she wouldn't be coming back with us immediately. Not in the next few months. Do you see?"
Marta bristled. "Mister Holdsworthy. My Employer's daughter is a good girl, as he'll tell you. She doesn't do that kind of thing." Inwardly she smiled. She had seen that portfolio and knew exactly what Angelica did, though being a respectable girl was no part of it. Neither was anything that could possibly leave her with an unexpected kitten on the way.
The hound raised an eyebrow. "Well, well, we'll see. I'll leave you two to get re-acquainted. A very good evening to you!" Tipping his hat to the Guide who had been waiting with friends and relatives in the warmth of a nearby longhouse, he pointed towards the main track and they vanished into the dark back towards Main Village, a water-taxi and civilization.
Some time in the night Marta woke up with an urgent need, regretting that last coconut-shell bowl of hot tea she had drunk just before bedtime. She blushed, instinctively reaching for a bedside light that an instant later she realized was not there. The only light in the hut was from a few embers in the fire-pit and a dim light showing the direction of the door. Dawn was about an hour away in the long November night.
"How can she live like this? No indoor plumbing!" She muttered under her breath, trying not to disturb any sleepers. Angelica and the native kitten had fallen asleep by the fire in the warmed sand, and had appeared content enough. "So poor they don't even have a chamber-pot!"
As she picked her way towards the door, her ears raised as she spotted the little Native kitten was sleeping alone. The door was unlatched, and Angelica was evidently out of the hut. "Probably the same reason as me," Marta told herself, trying to remember the direction she had been pointed.
A minute away, just outside the village she found what she was looking for. Straining her ears, she noted that the latrine was indeed occupied. From the sounds inside, Angelica was being definitely unwell.
Marta's eyes went wider that before in the darkness. "He's right. A Tailfast engagement ring - a new hut built with room for expansion. Looking after a local child to get used to the idea. And ... morning sickness." Her smile increased. "Oh my. I never thought of that one. Mister Silfverlindh's a respectable gentleman, hates scandal. When he hears the facts ... maybe, just maybe, he'll change his mind about wanting her to come home."
Despite the chill winds of dawn, Marta felt contented for the first time since leaving Sweden. In a few hours she would be back at the hotel, and all modern conveniences. A decent meal and even a bath could wait, she decided. First, she had a letter to write.
Spontoon Island webpages ©2014 Ken Fletcher
All rights revert to the contributors - their collaborative contributions
are ©2011 Simon Barber, ©2011 David Reese Dorrycott,
& ©2011 Fredrik K T Andersson - rights reserved include story characters.
Contact the contributors for permissions.
complete "Stranded Angel" story
is at Reese Dorrycott's [Mature] archive website:
Check his "Stories" page under the new title:
"Tales of Spontoon"