Raven the Explorer: Episode Three

September 25, 1852

My Dearest Jack,

I have captured a bird. Unfortunately, it is not the Whatever Bird. In fact, it is an ordinary, garden-variety parrot. Two of them, to be precise, and they have taken up residence in the rafters of my tent. My knowledge of parrot-like nomenclature is not what it should be; I should be able to tell you the proper species of these feathered beings. Bernie tells me they are a male and a female, whom I have named Lord and Lady Harthwaite of Harbuckle. Or Hey and Stop, as the porters have been referring to them. Together, they have torn up a rare plant I was planning on saving for mother. They have wrecked my tent on several occasions. They eat my biscuits, and mess on my chair. And they constantly squawk. They are quite annoying, but they do keep the Maltese Poodle occupied. SHE has not made any messes beyond an occasional one.

Of course, our search is not for irritating parrots, but for those two most elusive creatures the Whatever Bird and the Were-Rabbit. I’d hoped to have caught it by now in the trap we’ve set up with a bowl of milk, but my hopes have been dashed time and time again. In the past few days, we have caught an ant-eater, a small monkey, and a pygmy rhinoceros. Alas, no Were-Rabbits have fallen into our trap. Blast. The other night, there was some kind of commotion around the trap, and I thought I saw something white vanish into the gloom. The man I’d set on watch had fallen asleep and was positively NO HELP whatsoever. I summarily dismissed him from our expedition.

A day after the beast escaped from our trap, a touring boat came along the river. I was aghast to see the hordes of pompous Upper Crustians coming to spoil MY expedition. They were all laughing and sipping tea as the boat docked right next to our small encampment. Thank heavens; they did not seem to be disembarking from the craft to explore. Still, their tittering laughs and inane comments served to infuriate my British blood. Bernie beside me, the Maltese Poodle at my heels, and Lord Harthwaite on my shoulder, I marched up to the boat and demanded to speak with the leader of the tour. Imagine my shock, dear Brother, when I found that the tour expedition was led by a woman! Not just any woman, either. She had a drawling voice SO unlike our good British dialect. She wore a brightly colored, frilly silk dress that seemed ready to wilt in the humid air. And she carried a Parasol. My dear Brother, who carries a parasol in the jungles of Africa? Not I, certainly. Disgusting.

I asked the peculiar person into the tent to attempt to persuade her to take her boatload of sightseers elsewhere. Bernie, sensing my thunderous mood, tactfully left to fetch tea. She anxiously looked around my tent for a place to sit, finally settling uneasily on one of my chairs. I giggled a bit to myself as I recalled it was the chair Lady Harthwaite had messed on earlier. She seemed to hate the Maltese Poodle, so naturally I allowed it to roam freely around the tent. When I asked here where she was from, she replied “The South.” I wondered which South she meant, South Africa or South America. Certainly she was not from South Australia or Asia. She flapped a vulgar painted fan in her face as Bernie returned with the tea.

She tasted her tea and made a face. “What is this?”

I took a sip from my own. “It’s only tea.”

“I like my tea sweet!”

As you might imagine, the conversation went somewhat downhill from there. I explained we were on a scientific expedition, and that her boat with its loud engines and even louder passengers was going to disturb every animal in the area. She got rather red-faced about the time I brought up how rude they were, standing up with skirts rustling and declaring, “If you were a real lady, you wouldn’t treat me like this. I’m a lady, and I deserve to be treated like one!”

Bernie showed her the door. She stormed out to her tour boat, and shortly we heard them start their horrendous engines. I laughed and laughed until I had to sit down, the parrots joining in with loud shrieks from the rafters. Bernie joined in a little hesitantly, sitting on the same chair the Lady-Who-Deserved-To-Be-Treated-Like-One had sat on. He laughed so hard he fell off his chair.

Indeed, brother, life is never boring here. Only, I fear that we are farther than ever from attaining our goal. The phantoms of silk gowns, chitchat about men, and boring socialites are looming closer than ever these days. I pray that God will give us success in the next week, or I shall be returning to England and the university by the middle of October.

Oh dear. Lady Harthwaite just screeched from outside, and I hear a puppy growling. Doubtless, she is teasing the Maltese Poodle once again. I must go. All my love, from my strange part of the world to yours.

Your sister,

Raven Hardington

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