Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 10

Color My World — Please!color teacups

Maybe you’ve heard me mention my thing about color. I seem to have a physical need for color.  I used to wear black occasionally — it’s a color. However, I’ve seen so very, very much of it in DC, that I avoid it now (except for basic slacks once in a while). If I wear all neutrals, light or dark… well, I just don’t feel very good, and wearing black makes me feel downright funerary.

Years ago, a male coworker asked me, “How many colors do you have in your wardrobe anyway?”

(At the time I’d barely started building said wardrobe, so the question really made me pause.)  Puzzled, I turned the question on him. “How many colors does your wife have in hers?”

“Oh four maybe,” he said with a shrug.

I had never given it thought before, but suddenly that seemed like a sad state to me.  Only four colors? My work-friend was obviously waiting for my answer. “I don’t know, but I plan to have all of them,” I said with a grin.

There are so many variations in colors that my ready-to-explode closet is still lacking a few.  One of those shades would be a true mauve.  So it captured my attention when Christine Robinson elaborated on the “things” she sent for today’s episode. She described mauve as the color of the Victorian Era.

2015 mauve fashionThat led the research geek in me down some marvelously interesting trails. Like they say, everything old is new — I saw that mauve is the fashion color for fall/winter 2015.  So I decided to decorate this episode with everything mauve.

(In case you wondered, mauve is a lovely color, but my favorite is green.)

As I said, Christine (or C.E. Robinson) at “Before Sundown – remember what made you smile” provided the things for today.  Do take a look at her blog. It’s filled with beautiful stories and books. Some are akin to fairy-tales, others are real life fairy-tales. There are plenty of colorful and energetic photos. It’s a feast for the mind and the eye.

I won’t hold you up any longer. The steam locomotive just pulled into the station. Check the images and text for informative links.

 All aboard!


From last time…

“For a moment I had a wild image of you escaping on one of Mr. Hixon’s inventions.  You knew he was an inventor didn’t you?” Ignatius asked.

I nodded, but gave it a dismissive wave of my hand.  I hoped I had implied that I thought my “half-brother’s” tinkering was frivolous, to keep the conversation away from that topic.  I suddenly felt cautious.  Not distrustful of Ignatius, mind you, just cautious.

However, Ignatius wasn’t ready to be diverted.  “I hear he was always designing amazing machines.  Word was that Alexander Graham Bell once contacted him about his design for a hydrofoil,” Ignatius said.

Cornelis made an impressed face.  His mouth formed a silent Ooo.  The alchemist wasn’t a bad actor.  I knew he was rarely impressed.  As soon as Cornelis had appeared at the estate, he had learned about the hydrofoil and the letter from the already famous Alexander Graham Bell.


Sir William Henry Perkin 1838-1907

Sir William Henry Perkin 1838-1907

10.  Bicycle, Mauveine, Shepherd’s Pie

The silly standards of our society baffled me.  Something that was perfectly ordinary for a man was out of the question for a woman.  Whether I wore a cumbersome skirt with a ridiculous bustle, or my preferred trousers shouldn’t make a bit of difference to anyone.  Neither should anything about how I led my life.

mauve Dolly Baird of Bunbarton 1906

Mrs Howard Johnston – Dolly Baird of Bunbarton, (1906) by Boldini

Everything was always so caught up in propriety, and really had nothing to do with me.  Honestly, I thought.  People and their moralities.  The fact that people judged me for traveling with Cornelis Drebbel astounded me.  They always assumed impropriety when there was none.  That’s why I had taken to keeping the Dutchman’s presence a secret for the most part.  That was fine with the alchemist.  He wasn’t exactly a people person.

The alchemist and I were not a pair, not romantically involved.  My, I thought, a romance with Cornelis after the accident of alchemy that put him in that strange state.  That would be tricky to say the least.  I blushed when I caught myself pondering the whats and hows of it.

“It’s unseemly for a woman to go traipsing across the countryside with a man,” Ignatius said heatedly.

The argument seemed to have escalated while I considered the implications of a physical relationship with someone in the uniquely nonphysical condition of the Dutchman.

That last remark offended Cornelis Drebbel if his bulging eyes and the throbbing vein in his forehead were any indication.  I realized I had best step into the fray.

Mauve perfume bottle“Mina, if you’ll not allow me to take you and Copper back into town, then at least come downriver with me.  I have business to attend anyway, so I may as well take care of it straight away,” Ignatius said, using the alias I had provided.

I didn’t feel like a Mina.  Whatever had possessed me to come up with that name?

Ignatius took me by surprise and I blurted out what I was thinking.  Cornelis was right that sometimes I had no manners in that regard.  However, I’d never let him know I agreed.  “Business?  What sort of business?” I asked; all curiosity and no tact.

The tall innkeeper smiled disarmingly, as if I had been perfectly polite.  Maybe he saw my curiosity as acceptance.

“It’s just a small business transaction.  I sometimes buy items and resell them.  I’ve bought some aniline purple.  Are you familiar with it?  The synthetic organic chemical dye?” he asked.Mauve Rose

“Oh, do you mean mauveine?  I simply love the color,” I said with what I hoped was just enough enthusiasm to make up for anything he may have perceived as rudeness.

“Precisely.  The dye will fetch a good price.  The color is quite popular.  Perhaps a hundred years from now, people will think of mauve as the color of our era,” Ignatius said with just a touch of whimsy.

Cornelis rolled his eyes and muttered something about “Marvelous mauve.”

“Assuming you mean to hire a coach at the next town, I can take you there.  It won’t put me out of my way, as I had planned to go there to pick up the dye anyway.  Or I can take you back home.  Really, it’s the only reasonable course of action.  What will people think of you wandering the countryside with your… associate,” Ignatius said, echoing the words I used when I introduced Cornelis Drebbel.

“Why, the same sort of thing they’d say if she paraded down the river on a paddle boat with an innkeeper,” Cornelis said drolly.

mauve bodiceA fire sparked in Ignatius’ eyes at that comment and I feared the two would argue again.  The next time they quarreled, I was sure it would come to blows.

“Mina, you can’t mean to tell me that you would rather walk to the next town!” Ignatius exclaimed, but then he shook his head and grinned.  “Surely you are not afraid of the steamboat.  You don’t seem like a woman who would be intimidated by technology,” he said.  His voice and facial expression became softer.  “Oh Mina, I promise you it is perfectly safe,” he said encouragingly.

I glanced at Cornelis Drebbel.  An aura started to shimmer greenly around him.  It wouldn’t do to let the dashing innkeeper see that.  Quickly I moved so that Ignatius would have his back to the alchemist.  I was astonished that Cornelis would use one of his tricks in front of anyone.  However, that aura meant that he was up to something.

An instant later a pigeon fluttered down, alighting on a bush next to the Dutchman.  A closer look told me that it was not just a pigeon, but a messenger pigeon.  Cornelis hummed a happy sounding tune as he removed a note from the tiny container on the bird’s back.  The alchemist looked inordinately pleased with himself.Lady with pigeon

“Ah good,” Cornelis said jovially, so I knew he was fabricating something.  “They are on their way.”

“Who?” Ignatius quickly demanded.  “Who would be coming to this Godforsaken place?”

It was fortunate that the innkeeper spoke abruptly, because that prevented me asking the same question.  I would have spoiled whatever story Cornelis had in mind.

“If you must know,” Cornelis began acerbically.  “We were not, how did you put it?  Wandering the country side.  With that strange unrest at the Hixon estate, it was a good time for a holiday.  So, we were going to some old friends of my family.  Then, as Mina mentioned, our horses were stolen when we stopped here.”

“And how…” Ignatius started but paused, looking at the pigeon.  “Do you mean to say you used a pigeon post to communicate to these people?”

mauve Vic boots“Why of course.  I’d never go anywhere without some of my birds,” Cornelis said affably and stroked the pigeon’s head.

Cornelis even cooed to the pigeon.  I thought that was laying it on a bit thick.

The tall innkeeper’s eyes narrowed as he looked down at Cornelis and the bird.  I wondered what Ignatius was thinking.  The fact that he seemed to think the name Cornelis Drebbel was familiar gave me pause.  It was possible that he knew of the Dutchman’s acclaim as a long ago inventor, but it was unthinkable that Ignatius could deduce anything about his unique situation.

That paddle steamer proved his interest in technology and tinkering.  However, something Ignatius said when he first arrived nagged at me.  Ignatius Belle had mentioned Calvin Hixon’s inventions.  I told myself that shouldn’t bother me.  The entire town thought of Hixon as an eccentric.  The inventions were surely common knowledge.  Perhaps Ignatius simply admired the brilliance that Copper’s father evidently possessed.

Queen Marie Henriette of Austria

Queen Marie Henriette of Austria

The innkeeper looked charmingly perplexed as he studied Cornelis.  I couldn’t help smiling.  The Dutchman noticed my expression and rolled his eyes heavenward.  “Do try and control yourself,” he murmured using one of his tricks, so that only I could hear.

Ignatius Belle inclined his shoulders to speak to Copper.  She drew back and based on the look on his face, he was genuinely hurt by her negative reactions to him.  I felt a little sorry for him.  He had been very kind.

“Have you ever been on a paddle steamer?” he asked Copper, meaning the boat that unexpectedly brought him to us.  “We could do some fishing from it.  Maybe catch something for our dinner?” he asked her, though Copper’s brows knitted in a skeptical expression.

“I have my bicycle onboard,” the innkeeper continued undaunted.  “There’s enough room to ride it a little on deck.  I could teach you,” he offered.

I was taken aback by the way he suddenly seemed to want to entice the girl onto his boat.  However, Ignatius had been consistently generous.  He thought I was Copper’s aunt.  If he was interested in me, then it was only natural that he would want to win over my “niece.”

mauve Girl BicycleCopper looked intrigued about the prospect of learning to ride a bicycle.  Cornelis noticed the minute change in her expression and took half a step, inserting himself partly in front of the girl.

“Neither fish nor fishing will be necessary,” Cornelis said.  “Unfortunately we’ve little time for bicycle riding on boats.  We were just about to eat.  Won’t you join us?” the Dutchman boldly invited the innkeeper.  “I’m sure there’s more than enough.”

What was Cornelis thinking by inviting Ignatius for a meal?  Thanks to his alchemically affected sneezes we had not gone hungry, but did he really mean to offer leftover pancakes and short ribs?

Cornelis waved toward a shade tree.  Beneath the tree a blanket was spread and at its center was a large picnic basket.

“Umm!  What’s that smell?” Copper asked.

“That, my dear, would be shepherd’s pie,” the alchemist said with a genuine smile for the girl.  “Would you like to unpack the basket so that we can eat?  Perhaps our… our guest will help you.”Mauve teacup Wileman Co 1893

The suggestion was enough for Copper.  It seemed like the child was always hungry.  To my surprise, she grabbed Ignatius’ hand and half dragged him over to the tree.  Cornelis may have accidentally smoothed Copper’s unaccountable distrust of the innkeeper.  The same thought occurred to the Dutchman if the pursed twist of his lips was any indication.

“I didn’t think your tricks included the ability to make real food,” I whispered.  “I thought you only did things like that accidentally.  You know, like when you sneezed and pancakes appeared.”

“That’s quite true.  Conjuring edible food is not a skill I’ve mastered,” he said.  “Despite two centuries of attempts,” he added in a very droll tone.  “I have to—  Think of it as reaching in and take something.  I have to take something that already exists.”

Villa Claire

Vevey, Claire Villa 1910

“So you stole the pie?” I asked.  “Cornelis Drebbel, I’m shocked.  Did you steal some family’s dinner?”

“No, nothing of the kind,” Cornelis defended himself.  “It wasn’t a poor family.  They had a huge feast laid out.  And I didn’t simply take it,” he added with a pout.

“Oh?” I asked, eyebrows raised.

“No. I did not.  In return for the shepherd’s pie I left them a very fine laying goose, and the makings for all the frog’s legs they could possibly eat,” Cornelis said, lifting his chin.


 Has Copper finally taken a liking to Ignatius Belle — and is that good or bad?  Cornelis fabricated an excuse (in the form of “old family friends”) to separate our trio from the handsome but prim innkeeper, but where will they go next?  Will Ignatius stubbornly follow? Only the things can say.  So be sure to be at the train station again next time!

 And now for the Episode-10 culinary delight.  I’m pleased to share Christine’s personal recipe choice.  It’s dated 1912!

Recipe:  Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherds Pie

Take a pound of cold mutton, a pint of cold boiled potatoes, one-half an onion grated, one or two cooked carrots; cut the mutton and potatoes into small pieces and put them with the onion and carrot into a deep baking dish. Add a cupful of stock or water, salt, pepper and a tablespoonful of butter cut in bits.

Pare and boil four medium-sized potatoes, mash and add cup of cream, salt and pepper to taste, beat until light, then add enough flour to make a soft dough. Roll out and cover the dish with the dough, make a cross cut in the center to allow pie steam to escape, and bake in a moderate oven one hour.

A modern shepherd’s pie is made like the above with the addition of a few capers and a stalk or two of celery.

A note from Christine regarding the oven:  I question the one hour in moderate oven. Ovens are hotter today so I’d think maybe 45 minutes based on crust brownness.



Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

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Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Stay Tuned!

Steam Train Schedule Update

Next Train-Clock

Many of you are used to seeing the new episodes of our “interactive” Steampunk serial on Saturdays (when I post them from the USA).  So I wanted to let you know that there will be a slight weather delay — the weather that I’m under.

I won’t be able to finish Episode-10 until tomorrow (Sunday for me).

Here’s a little preview.  See you tomorrow!


I glanced at Cornelis Drebbel.  An aura started to shimmer greenly around him.  It wouldn’t do to let the dashing innkeeper see that.  Quickly I moved so that Ignatius would have his back to the alchemist.  I was astonished that Cornelis would use one of his tricks in front of anyone.  However, that aura meant that he was up to something.

A Shout-out – Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers

I’d like to thank the Academy…

Copper Cover 3-25-2015

By the “Academy” I mean the group of wonderful people, writers, chefs, photographers, readers, and bloggers who come here to Teagan’s Books each week.

You see, when I introduced the previous episode, I got a little off track. Ever since, I have felt that I did not do justice to the amazing chef and blogger who provided that set of “three things” — Suzanne Debrango at “A Pug in the Kitchen.”

I know Suzanne never thought of it that way, but I can’t deal with feeling like I didn’t do my best for someone who has been so very supportive of me and my writing.  Then I thought that it would be nice to do a shout out to everyone who has sent “things” so far!

So I’d like to thank the Academy!

Episode-1:  John W. Howell John W HowellJohn gave us the kickoff episode, the first set of three things, Stilton Cheese, Mare’s Milk, Calamari.  The Cheese and calamari helped put an image of a setting into my mind. Somehow that Stilton cheese keeps coming back around in later episodes. 

Episode-2:  Kathryn aka KR Big Fish

Kathryn KR BIgfish

Along with writing the second chapter of this serial, I had to come up with a name for it. Since the “things” had not had time to develop a story-line, I took the easy way out and titled it with the names of my trio of protagonists, Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers. I know it’s long, but I kind-of like it. For the second episode Kathryn gave us a delicious recipe and Soup Pot, Kitchen Sink, Mail-order Wine Club.

Episode-4:  Andrea Stephenson

Andrea Stephenson

When Andrea offered “things” for the fourth chapter, I knew I was in for a treat, because she writes so beautifully. With Artist’s Palette, Pease Pudding, Owl-Shaped Lamp, the lamp deepened the mystery.

Episode-5:  Sally Cronin

Sally Cronin

Incredibly generous in promoting other bloggers, Sally gave us things and a recipe for the fifth episode. Corset, Irish Soda Bread, Steam Engine led to a favorite inanimate “character,” the road locomotive!

Episode-6:  Mary J McCoy-Dressel

Mary J McCoy-Dressel

I knew “things” from my favorite Romance writer would lead to something interesting. With Soup Bone, Destiny, Ceramic Statue, Copper grew up a bit, and… well, I don’t want to give any spoilers about the statue.

Episode-7:  R.C. of New Mexico

I’m not showing a photo here, because RC is not a blogger, and I didn’t know if it would be okay…  But no one can rival the creative “things” that come to the mind of my friend RC, like Muff Pistol, Sourdough Pancakes, Airtights. Plus they were so perfect for the setting of the story.

Episode-8:  Elini Herrera


Fascinating Elini took time from her Culinary Journey to provide “things” for the eighth episode — Short Ribs, Eggplant, Red Pepper.  Her recipe was a big hit too.

Episode-9:  Suzanne Debrango

Suzanne Debrango

As I mentioned, the multi-talented Suzanne provided the delicious recipe and things for the ninth chapter, Pâté, Profiteroles, Olives. As you might expect, those profiteroles had many a mouth watering — and so did her blog when everyone went to visit her gorgeous dishes!

Episode-10:  Christine Robinson

Christine Robinson

Christine has the most marvelous enthusiasm. It comes through in her writing and in her delightful blog. I couldn’t wait to use her “things.” She went out of her way to make sure her things were appropriate to the Victorian Era. So stay tuned for Bicycle, Mauveine, Shepherd’s Pie. They’ll make the next episode.

Episode-11: Olga Núñez Miret

Olga Núñez Miret

The schedule at the train station has the eleventh set of things in queue, thanks to Olga.  I don’t know how she does it… Olga has so many things on her plate, blogging, writing, translating, reviewing books… She’s phenomenal.  Stay tuned for  Old Family Bible, Carved Whale’s Tooth, Vine Leaves.

After that, there is no fuel for the steam locomotive!  So keep the train on track, and leave a comment with Three Things, which can be random things or food-related things — or both. (Just remember the story is set in the Victorian Era, so try to avoid things like television sets.)  Recipes are also welcome.

Thanks for dropping by for a mid-week post.  Hugs to everyone!  See you this weekend when the steam locomotive is at the station.

Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 9

You’re too old, too fat, and you dress funny…


What?  But wait — it gets even better.  Let me put this into context. While not an exact quote, it is close. It was meant to be a pep talk from a friend at work when I was upset about not being able to get interviews for promotions or jobs at other agencies.  (That’s right — interviews. This wasn’t even said about people who have actually seen me in all my glorious wrinkles, fat, and bizarre blazers.  Oh, and yes, I did say it was a pep talk.)


Me dressed for a big meeting…

“I know I’m old and fat and that I wear colors,” I replied to the words of encouragement, and by colors I meant the fact that every other woman wears what I call DC drab.  “But they have never even seen me.”

“It doesn’t matter whether I think you’re fat.  They want people to look good to represent their organization,” said my helpful friend.

But they have never even seen me!” I repeated, still unheard.

Fortunately for me, my fifth floor office window is made so that it cannot open…nautili_old-woman_pretty girl

Perception.  Everything is about perception. I can’t hold it against this friend, because they just don’t get it. This person has no grasp of how their words come across, or in this case how very harmful they were. This friend sincerely meant to encourage me. This is a kind and intelligent person, and in their eyes they were building me up.  At least they tried. That’s more than I can say for 99.5% of the people there.

Update… about four months later:  Sadly it seems the many of you who said this destructive criticism was intentional — you were right.  The same coworker was just in my office, bragging about all the important things she is doing… all related to the kind of jobs for which I have been applying (the kind of work I had done in the past).  …The kind of jobs she so kindly reminded me that they want people to look a certain way for, and where age is a factor.  Yes dear readers, you were right and I was being far too generous.

What do you see in the drawing above — a pretty young woman or an old hag?  Copper and the woman in trousers each perceive the handsome Ignatius Belle differently, even though neither of them really knows the innkeeper of our serial.

The wildly different perceptions of words and characters are the most marvelous things about novels and stories. I love that while I think David Eddings was wonderfully funny in the characters he created for The Belgariad  the guy next to me was so appalled by their lack of moral fiber that he could barely finish the first book.

It’s terrific that we can see so many different things in a single story. Although I do hope you think mine are entertaining and that you see this blog as a sanctuary where you can safely relax and enjoy a fanciful moment.

Vintage Pug paintingToday’s “things” are from one of my favorite people and bloggers.  I admire Suzanne Debrango’s work with her blog as much as I’m wowed by her skills as a chef.  The recipe for this episode is also from Suzanne’s blog, A Pug in the Kitchen, so be sure to read all the way to the end for another delightful dish!

No more time for my ramble — I think I hear that train to the Victorian Era coming.  All aboard!

9.  Pâté, Profiteroles, Olives

Cornelis Drebbel and I argued.  Again.

“This is a perfectly good place to make a stand and fight,” I said.  “We can’t just keep running away to who knows where.  Especially when we aren’t even sure who we’re running from.  That will lead to us walking right into their clutches!  We have to know who the enemy is.  One of us should circle ‘round and come up behind them and at least find out who they are.”

The alchemist rolled his eyes heavenward.  “They were coming from three different directions – which group do you want to get behind?” he asked in a testy voice.  “And how far back do you want to go to get behind one of the groups, if you can even find them.  You know we out distanced them by a long way,” Cornelis reminded me.

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

“And just how do you propose we make a stand?” the alchemist acerbically retorted.  “We don’t know how many of them there are, but the one thing we do know is that we are sorely outnumbered.  Knowing their identifies is of no use if we are overwhelmed by our foes in the process of learning who they are,” Cornelis said, and I realized he had a point, though I hated to admit it.

A frantic honking noise interrupted our disagreement.  “Where is Copper?” I asked, suddenly worried.

“I’m over here,” a small sad sounding voice said from the other side of a stack of wooden crates.

She same out from her hiding place, doe-eyed and most unhappy looking.  I felt horrible when I realized she had been listening to us fight.

Copper with Flowers“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “I didn’t mean to be such a bother,” Copper said but her perplexed expression told me that she didn’t know what else to do about being a burden.

With a deep sigh I shook my head.  “No, this is for us to worry about, Copper,” I told the girl.  “It’s just part of what we’re supposed to do.  You, on the other hand, are only supposed to be young.  You aren’t supposed to have to worry about such things,” I said and tousled hair the color of a new penny when she looked up at me.

The honking noise escalated.  “Is that a goose I hear?” I asked.

I hadn’t seen any sign of people living anywhere near the abandoned church and its buildings.  We were still in the large one with a missing wall, where the road locomotive was hidden.  How would a goose come to be in such a place?

When I voiced the thought, Cornelis was sure a goose could do perfectly well on its own.  Copper said that it was chasing some of the frogs.

“Did you ever see what the frogs did with that eggplant they carried off?” I asked her, still curious about that strange spectacle, but Copper shook her head negatively.Goosey Goosey

My inquisitive nature took over and I went outside to investigate the commotion.  Apparently the tables had turned from when Copper saw the goose chasing the frogs.  Row upon row of frogs lined up to confront the fowl.  The goose honked furiously at them.

I felt sorry for the poor bird.  Looking at the frogs versus goose tableau, I realized just how right Cornelis was about us being extremely outnumbered by our adversaries.  If we took a stand at that juncture, we would make no more progress than the goose against the hoard of frogs.

I had never been around geese.  The tale about a goose laying a golden egg was about as much as I knew about the species.  Stepping gingerly, because I didn’t want squished frog on my boots, I made my way to the goose.  I picked her up and tucked her under my arm.

“Don’t you fret,” I told the still honking bird.  “We’ll find a spot where the frogs haven’t eaten all the good bits.”

Then the infernal goose bit me!  I screeched and released her.  The goose settled to the ground and looked up at me with a very annoyed squawk.

Jaime Murray as the woman who wears trousers

Jaime Murray as the woman in trousers

“Why you ungrateful wretch!” I exclaimed as I rubbed the bitten spot on my arm.  “I should make pâté of you!”

At that threat, the goose flew off somewhere beyond the abandoned church.  A pop told me that the alchemist had appeared behind me.

“Do you see my point now?” Cornelis Drebbel asked with a nod to the assembled frogs.

“Why you!” I sputtered.  “You arranged that entire thing didn’t you?  How dare you have that dreadful goose bite me!”

“Now, now,” Cornelis chided.  “You had the poor judgement to pick her up in your arms.  I didn’t do anything to make the goose bite you,” he said.  “That was just icing on the cake,” he added with a smirk.

I clinched my fist and took a swing at the Dutchman.  I already knew what he would do, so don’t ask me why I swung at him.  Cornelis immediately became semi-solid and my fist passed through him, throwing me off balance.  I nearly landed on my face in a pile of goose droppings.  It was lucky for him that I didn’t fall into that mess.

He looked distractedly toward the river.  There was my moment!  I leapt, tackling the Dutchman while he was fully solid and preoccupied.  We both landed on the grass with a thud.  I grinned wickedly when I realized that he had landed in the goose poop.Couple boat pug

Cornelis glared at me and with a pop he disappeared.  A moment later I spotted him close to the banks of the river.  He discretely hid behind a tree as he looked at the waterway.  Then I heard the sound of a rhythmic splash coming steadily closer.  That slight noise must have been what distracted the alchemist.

I hurried to where he stood behind the tree.  I was enormously glad to finally be wearing trousers again, rather than full skirts and a bustle.  Looking at the river I couldn’t see what made the faint sound.  Was it a beaver, or perhaps an otter going sleekly in and out of the river?  In a quiet voice I asked I asked what it was.

The Dutchman didn’t seem concerned about being heard.  So whatever it made the sound must have been unlikely to hear us.  He said that someone was coming toward us on the watercourse.  He said the sound was from paddles going into the water.

“Surely that rhythm is too fast to be an oar,” I commented as the sound became more audible.

“Not an oar,” he said, once again looking pleased with himself to have deduced something I had not.  “It is a paddleboat.  A small one, granted, but still steam powered with a paddlewheel,” Cornelis said with certainty.Sm Steamboat

Soon the odd looking boat came into view — a paddle steamer.  It was moving much faster than any rowboat would have moved.  It was a narrow vessel, with a mast for a sail, but no canvas was attached.  On each side was a red paddle wheel that sat nearly as tall as the enclosed bridge.  Behind the bridge stood a tall yellow steam stack.

Who piloted the craft?  I had yet to see how was onboard.  Was it one of our adversaries catching up with us?  It seemed too much of a coincidence for some random person to suddenly appear, heading toward us, from the direction we had come.

Basil Gill (1877-1955) as Ignatius Belle

Basil Gill (1877-1955) as Ignatius Belle

I jumped when something grabbed my long coat.  Looking behind me I saw that it was Copper.  She peeked around me looking at the boat.  I felt her stiffen.  She looked intently at the craft and I could tell that she saw more.  The girl had keen eyesight, I thought.

“What’s wrong Copper?  Who pilots the boat?” I asked.

“I don’t like him,” Copper said flatly.

“Who?” I asked, but by then I could see a familiar figure standing on deck at the boat’s wheel.

It was Ignatius Belle.  I remembered that Copper had reacted strangely to the handsome innkeeper before, though it made no sense to me.  I didn’t perceive anything untoward about the tall dashing man.  Quite the contrary.  He had been kind and considerate to me from the moment I checked into the Belle Inn.  He had an easy relaxed smile that I thought of as a strong indicator of honesty.  His  soft brown eyes were surely the windows of his soul.  My intuition about such things was never wrong.

I stepped out into the open.  Cornelis hissed a caution at me.  I hissed back to the Dutchman that was being ridiculous.  The man looked to be alone on the boat, and he was clearly not under any duress, if my friends feared our adversaries had forced him to pilot the boat to our destination.

Cornelis sputtered and then narrowed his eyes as he stared at Ignatius Belle.  Copper’s expression matched the look on the alchemist’s face.  I shook my head, trying not to be annoyed.  It was easy to put on a bright smile as I walked toward the riverbank.

Really, I thought.  Those two… of all the silliness.Copper curious w-green

By the time I got to the riverbank Ignatius had come ashore.  A wicker basket hung from his arm.  I hoped it contained a peace offering that would win over the suspicious girl.

I led the innkeeper up the sloping green.  Belatedly I remembered that Copper was the only one from the town who had met Cornelis Drebble.  Perhaps I should have kept the alchemist hidden, but I was so piqued about the way he and Copper acted about Ignatius that I really didn’t think about it.

“You remember Copper, of course,” I said and smiled encouragingly at her.  I think I tried by force of will to get her to smile at Ignatius Belle.  Apparently my will was not up to that task.  “And this is my… Allow me to introduce my associate, Cornelis Drebbel,” I added with a motion toward the Dutchman.

The alchemist mumbled a noncommittal sound.  I tried to glare at him without letting Ignatius see the warning look on my face.

“I don’t believe we’ve met sir, but your name seems familiar to me,” Ignatius said politely to Cornelis.

The alchemist cleared his throat, taken off guard by the near-recognition.  I discretely poked my elbow into his ribs as a warning for the fierce frown he wore.

Perpetual Motion Clock Photo

Perpetual Motion Clock: Cornilis Drebbel

“One of my ancestors achieved a slight amount of acclaim,” the Dutchman said.  “Perhaps you heard the name mentioned in passing, or in a very boring lecture when you were a schoolboy,” Cornelis said with a wave to dismiss the issue.

I was relieved that encounter went as well as it had.  I gave a small sigh that I hoped Ignatius didn’t notice.  Before things could get tense again I changed the subject.

“What have you in that very interesting looking basket?” I asked Ignatius, but turned my gaze to Copper.  “Dare I hope for something from Cookie again?” I asked but that time I gave an ever so slight flutter of my eyelashes to the dashing innkeeper.

Good, I thought when I glanced at Copper, she was curious about the basket.  I was sure she remembered Ignatius bringing that basket filled with lovely food and Irish soda bread.  Perhaps whatever he carried now would win Copper over or at least make some headway.

With a flourish, Ignatius lifted the checkered napkin that covered the basket to reveal delicious profiteroles.  Chocolate glistened darkly, covering the cream puffs.  I could see a bit of the luscious creamy filling where it was piped into one of the pastries.

He held the basket out to Copper and she wasted no time taking one of the profiteroles.  Chocolate quickly adorned her mouth and nose, but she still looked suspiciously at Ignatius.  I gave a sigh of resignation.  Then I consoled myself with one of the pastries.Profiteroles

“What brings you here, if I may ask?” Cornelis asked the innkeeper with no preamble.

“I knew Mina and Copper were alone at the Hixon house,” Ignatius began.  “Then I heard there was some strange and noisy commotion there.  I accompanied the sheriff when he went out to investigate.”

Once again I had to think fast to remember that Mina was the alias I took to allow me to stay close to Copper — Mina Hixon, half-sister to Calvin Hixon and Copper’s long lost aunt.  Quickly I gave Ignatius a smile of appreciation for his concern.

However, if Ignatius went out to the estate with Sheriff Alvin Bullard afterward, then the familiar sounding voice I heard could not have belonged to the lawman.

“We found the estate deserted,” Ignatius continued.  “The grounds were so trampled it almost made one wonder if there’d been a riot.  Then I spotted broad tracks from what had to be very heavy wheels.  I followed them to the river, where I saw that they continued a good distance following along the river.  So I got my steamboat ready and well, here I am,” he explained.  “Is everything alright?  You gave me a scare.”Burrell Road Locomotive

Should I tell Ignatius about the confrontation, I wondered.  I didn’t distrust him in the same way as Copper.  And Cornelis was naturally suspicious of everyone and everything.  However, that didn’t mean it was a good idea for him to know everything.  How much information was too much?

To my surprise, Cornelis answered him.  “We avoided an altercation,” the alchemist said in a very grave voice.  “It was evident that there were many, shall we say, unpleasant people nearby.  So we followed the thinking of discretion being the better part of valor and left with all haste,” Cornelis said.

I was relieved with the Dutchman’s explanation to Ignatius.  It was just vague enough.  I don’t know why, but I was glad he didn’t mention the road locomotive.  Although, considering the steam powered paddle boat in which the innkeeper arrived, he might be acquainted with that sort of contraption.  I wondered if he would have been able to deduce our means of transportation by the tracks he saw.  However, I put the thought aside as unlikely.

Besides, our locomotive had the benefit of magically enhanced speed.  No one should be able to figure out how we traveled or how fast we went.  They would have to know exactly when we left the estate, and when we arrived at the old churchyard.  For all Ignatius knew, we had only been there a matter of moments.

Flying man w umbrellaI just didn’t like the idea of letting people know about the road locomotive.  So I manufactured a story about Cornelis arriving at the estate for the purpose of bringing my horses.  He saw a number of unsavory types nearby when he neared the estate.  Reacting in fear, we left the estate.  However, the horses were unfortunately stolen when we stopped for the night at the abandoned church compound.

Ignatius seemed to accept that.  It was really a very logical explanation, not to mention the only one of which I could think.  Ignatius was even charmingly angered about the theft of my supposed property.

“For a moment I had a wild image of you escaping on one of Mr. Hixon’s inventions.  You knew he was an inventor didn’t you?” Ignatius asked.

I nodded, but gave it a dismissive wave of my hand.  I hoped I had implied that I thought my half-brother’s tinkering was frivolous, to keep the conversation from that topic.  I suddenly felt cautious.  Not distrustful if Ignatius, mind you, just cautious.

Forlanini hydrofoil

Bell/Forlanini Hydrofoil

However, Ignatius wasn’t ready to be diverted.  “I hear he was always designing amazing machines.  Word was that Alexander Graham Bell once contacted him about his design for a hydrofoil,” Ignatius said.

Cornelis made an impressed face.  His mouth formed a silent Ooo.  Cornelis wasn’t a bad actor.  As soon as the alchemist had appeared at the estate, he had learned about the hydrofoil and the letter from the already famous Alexander Graham Bell.

Still trying to change the topic of discussion, I asked what else was inside the basket.

“Well, if you’d rather have salty than sweet,” Ignatius began and we exchanged a suggestive look that caused Cornelis to clear his throat in annoyance.  “Cookie packed a jar of olives and some Stilton cheese,” he finished.

Stilton CheeseI made a production of serving the food, in hope that the subject would finally change.  Ignatius might not have won Copper’s heart with the pastries, but he might have made inroads with the Dutchman.  Cornelis was particularly fond of Stilton cheese.

Really, I should have expected what came next.  It was such an obvious thing, but it took me by surprise.  Ignatius insisted on taking us back “home” on his boat.  He said it should be safe, that there was no trace of the people who had caused the ruckus at the estate.

However, I knew that we daren’t go back.  Cornelis and Copper were well aware of that fact too.  We turned a trio of blank expressions toward the innkeeper.

How could I refuse without either seeming utterly ridiculous or giving away more information than I wanted to disclose?


How will the mysterious “woman in trousers” avoid seeming rude to the handsome innkeeper?  It sounds like she is more than a little interested in Ignatius Belle. But should she be more like Copper, and distrust him? Come back to the Victorian Era again next time to see what happens to Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.

 And now for your recipe treat from Suzanne.  Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Small Plates- Tapas

Olives recipe

Photo and Recipe Credit:  Suzanne Debrango at “A Pug in the Kitchen

Be at the train station on time next weekend when the “things” are from Christine Robinson at “Before Sundown – remember what made you smile.” 


Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 8

Do you want some cheese to go with that whine, Teagan?

Whine expertIf you saw yesterday’s post, you know I have even more stress than usual right now.  So thanks for letting me vent.  Usually I have to be in a really “good place” or I can’t write.  The spontaneous nature of the serials help with that, though I’m not sure why or how.  Even so, yesterday… I didn’t think I could even write a serial episode this weekend.

But I kept thinking about how long the amazing Elini has been waiting to see the episode for her “things”… and I did manage to write a short episode.  Elini is a Elinifascinating person and chef.  I relate to how she describes her life as a journey.  I hope you’ll take a look at her blog and get to know her – as well as Elini’s Empanadas.  She’s pretty amazing!  So be sure to read to the end of this episode where you’ll find a link to one of her recipes.  Then devour some more of her scrumptious posts.

By the way — we’re running low on things to keep this train running.  Everyone is welcome to send three random things, including food-related things.  Just leave your “things (ingredients)” in a comment.

Now, let’s get this steam locomotive rolling, even if the journey is brief today.  All aboard!

From before…

The woman thought one of the voices she heard back at the Hixon estate could have belonged to Sheriff Alvin Bullard.  Thanks to the magically juiced road locomotive, Copper, the alchemist, and the woman in trousers outdistanced the three presumably hostile groups that pursued them.  However, when the speeding engine took a turn too fast, the woman and the skull of the alchemist ended up in the frigid waters of the river.  The resultant head colds for those two temporarily stalled their adventure.  Not to mention the strange things that happened when the alchemist sneezed.

8.  Short Ribs, Eggplant, Red Pepper

Frog Handkerchief Soap adCornelis Drebble rolled his watery eyes up toward the frog that sat atop his head.  “Huh.  Huh—” Cornelis began and quickly put his finger under his nose in attempt to forestall yet another sneeze.  The frog wisely jumped down from his head.

“For pity’s sake!  There’s no telling what will rain down on us if you sneeze again!” I said, though I knew the alchemist couldn’t help himself.

Ah-choo!” was the answer to my plea.

Another wet splat soon came.  What smelled like a very savory reddish brown sauce splashed onto the legs of my trousers.  I drew back, annoyed.  I finally had been able to put on clean dry clothes, and they’d already been stained.  Cornelis bent down with a curious expression on his face.  Copper left off playing with the frogs to see what new wonder was produced by the sneeze of the alchemist.

He picked up the sauce covered thing that made the wet splat.  I asked what it was as I tried to clean the warm goo from my pant legs.

“It appears to be the short ribs of a swine,” he said as he pulled the meat into two pieces and licked the sauce from one.  “Umm.  Tasty,” he commented. Victorian girl making face

I made a disgusted face.  “Since that is the product of your sneeze, isn’t it rather like the equivalent of eating your own buggers?” I asked; just to see how he would react.

Copper burst out in a gale of laughter.  Cornelis looked at me.  One side of his mouth turned down in an expression of contempt.  Cornelis raised an eyebrow and cast his eyes downward at the ribs.  Then he shot a glare at me and took a big bite of the meat, licking his fingers for good measure.

Then the second wave came.  Short ribs fell all around us.  They landed on my shoulder and in my hair.  They pelted the alchemist, who suddenly had sauce smeared across his nose.  Even Copper wasn’t spared — nor were the frogs.  Riotous ribbits ensued as the amphibians leapt for cover from the rain of ribs.

After calm returned, Cornelis and I discussed the three groups who converged on the Hixon estate.  We both agreed that their only logical purpose would have been to abduct Copper.  I supposed that was good at least in as far as it should mean her father was still alive.  Of course that was no guarantee, as Cornelis quickly pointed out.  Fortunately the girl had gone back to playing with the frogs and didn’t hear that comment.

Suddenly I beheld the strangest sight, and mind you, I have seen some very bizarre things since the alchemist came into my life.  Hundreds of frogs made a procession toward the huge wrent in the building’s wall.  Several hopped huddled together as they balanced an eggplant on their backs and heads.



Copper skipped along beside the strange spectacle.  I told her not to go outside.  She stopped and nodded regretfully as the frogs carried their eggplant away.  I asked Cornelis what that could possibly be about.

“One sneeze doesn’t always produce a singular effect.  The eggplant could have come from the same accident of alchemy that created the frogs,” he said.

The Dutchman shrugged it off.  Even so, something nagged at me.

The frogs continued to stream out of the building.  I followed in the opposite direction, tracing the line of amphibians to their source.  Cornelis followed my lead.  Ever curious, Copper came along too.  With a ribbit, a last frog hopped out of a crate.  The large wooden box was almost intact.  Only one corner of it was broken.

I started to try and pry the crate further open to get a better look.  Then, eyes bulging, Cornelis tapped his finger on the label he’d found on the container.

It was marked κόκκινο πιπέρι, and I thought the address was Macedonia, but I wasn’t sure.  “What’s wrong?  I don’t recognize the language,” I said.

Cornelis shook his head and pursed his lips.  “Your education was sorely lacking,” he complained.

“It was not,” I countered.vintage red pepper

“This, κόκκινο πιπέρι or kókkino pipéri if you will, is Greek,” he informed me.  “It means red pepper.  So show a bit of mercy and do not open that crate.  I don’t think I can bear another sneeze!”

“Then move away,” I told him with a motion of my arm.  “I have a hunch.”

I had removed the priceless Leonardo da Vinci papers from the owl-shaped lamp.  It was best that I carried them in the thin leather script that was tucked into my long coat.

“Copper, did there happen to be a magnifying glass among that carpet bag full of things you packed?” I asked the girl.

Apparently there had been.  Copper hurried away to the place where our things lay.  She was back in a moment with a lovely ornate magnifying glass.  I imagined it was another of the treasures her father had brought her from his travels.  Although perhaps it was not of the magical variety, as was the “bell” carved with the three wise monkeys which was in fact a harmonic tuner.

I opened the leather script and took out the embossed letter.  Moving this way and that, I tried to get into the best light.  As I held the magnifying glass to the faded seal embossed onto the letter I found the word Macedonia.

Was there finally a clue to the mysterious goings on?  It didn’t feel like a coincidence to me.

The Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman


 Where will our trio go from here?  Jump on-board next time when the “things” are from the incredibly creative Suzanne Debrango at “A Pug in the Kitchen

 Now for our recipe!  In addition to things/ingredients, lovely Elini was kind enough to also provide a truly creative recipe to go with this episode.  Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Chocolate Chili Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Chocolate Chili Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Photo and recipe credit:  Eleni Herrera


Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

Missing Characters Alert and Buyer Beware

Assport NINI Pooper of Alexandria wanted for questioning in case of missing characters: Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.

A Cloudy DayWe don’t consider that “broken” so no matter what’s wrong, we don’t have to fix it. Besides, it isn’t there. And besides, the heater and air conditioner are not supposed to work properly in the first place.

I’m not sure which is more corrupt in this place – the thing that I don’t blog about because I’m always mindful of my online footprint and advancing my career, or car dealers.  Either way, between the two, I can’t find my characters anywhere.  So I’m giving you this buyer beware below. Don’t feel obligated to read it unless:

  1. You plan to buy a “NINI Pooper”
  2. You are in the legal profession and have free resources for me
  3. Also please – don’t anyone use the word “should” else I may never blog again. I will not be held responsible for my reply if anyone says “Well I would” or ”You should…”

So any potential Buyers, consider yourselves warned.  My dear Readers, I apologize that these “people” have me so stressed out that I am unable to do a thing, including write the serial I give you each weekend.  As if I could cope with any more stress on top of the thing that I don’t blog about.

The details only gluttons for punishment will read…

My new car was a year old yesterday. It has a “bonnet to boot” warranty for the three years of my lease.  (I’ve had great success leasing Toyota Camrys for 15 years. It doesn’t work for everybody, but it works out great business-wise and otherwise for me.  I especially like knowing I’m covered by a head to toe warranty the entire time.  However, a warranty is useless if the dealer defines every problem as being the way the car is supposed to work.)

A few weeks ago it needed a repair (that never ever happened with my Camrys). When I got it back, suddenly the heater no longer worked. A strong odor like burning wires accompanied smoke coming from the bowels under the NINI Pooper’s bonnet.  The tool-manager said they couldn’t find a problem, and that I should expect the heat in this new-ultra-low-mileage NINI Pooper to take 15-20 minutes to begin to put out warm air.

Also the tool-manager said if the “ambient temperature” was too low, I couldn’t expect to get enough warm air, and that’s just the way the NINI Pooper is designed to work. As for the burning smell and smoke, they never saw any, so it wasn’t there and didn’t need fixing. Also, that odor they couldn’t smell is something most people don’t notice.  In other words, by their self-definition at Assport NINI Pooper of Alexandria, they weren’t going to fix it because there was no problem.

On the way home from that debacle… The sun was finally beaming down and the temperature was 54 degrees.  Wearing my jacket, I started to get hot inside the NINI Pooper.  With everything going bad after the first repair only repair, even though I told the tool-manager to check everything, I decided to check the air conditioner.  It didn’t cool.  After the 15 minutes recommended for the NEW heater to warm up, the air conditioner still wasn’t working.

If one excuse for the heater not working was the fact that it was “too cold” for the heater to work, then I’d better contact them right away, before it was too hot for the air conditioner to work.

But the tool-manager’s excuse this time is that it was not hot enough for the air conditioner to work.

Oddly, before the repair, my heater worked no matter what temperature.

Oddly, before the repair, my air conditioner worked great no matter what the temperature.

So I you think about getting a NINI Pooper (or even a MINI Cooper) BEWARE.

Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 7

The steam locomotive is still on track. Episode-7 is here, although it seems like only yesterday I sent you a poll asking what kind of serial you wanted to do next.

First I thought I’d give you a glimpse of my world. Since “Atonement in Bloom” will pick up where my novel “Atonement, Tennessee” left off, the setting is wintry. You’d think the view from my window would speed me along in writing it… Sadly I still have a problem with the number of hours in a day.

From My Front Porch

2015 March snow triptic

The view here is much the same as it is in many other parts of the USA — cold, snow, and ice. To the right you’ll see Maximilian (my car) partially behind the post. I had cleared at least six inches of snow from him. This was taken 15 minutes later, and it is covered again.  (My water resistant parka was soaked, but my Clark’s suede boots were completely dry inside.)  I’d say we got at least eight inches of this March snow at my home.

Here’s an extra picture, just because the contrast amuses me. A neighbor cleaned off his little car. It was a lot less work than the driver behind him will have! Also, within an hour of these picture, even the tree trunks became white with blown snow.

2015 March snow single

The things for this weekend’s episode were sent by my dear friend in New Mexico, RC.  Whether it’s things or ingredients, she always comes up with wonderful ideas, but then she’s one of the brightest, most creative people I’ve ever known.

Once again I searched the WordPress countryside, this time for a recipe for sourdough pancakes.  I found a vintage recipe that was done with a nice post.  However, I haven’t heard back from the blogger, so I doubt the blog is still active.  That’s a pity, because she was doing great work.  I’m including her link at the end of this episode anyway.Runny nose contraption

Lastly, I’m getting over an unfortunate head cold that caught me last weekend, and it also became one of our things.  Because of my cold-muddled mind, the story didn’t exactly advance. But then, every tale has to coast now and then.  The train is still on track.

All aboard!

From last time…

“He wasn’t doing it right, but it looked like he was trying to say daddy,” Copper said of one of the chimps.

“He likely wanted you to believe he could lead you to your father,” Cornelis said.  “But you know they were naughty monkeys, and you could not trust them,” he added and Copper nodded her reluctant agreement.

“Chimpanzees,” I said because I couldn’t resist turning the Dutchman’s correction on him.

His eyes narrowed but he didn’t respond to my taunt.  Instead, he looked past me.  “We’ve no time to doddle,” Cornelis reminded us.  “The other two groups are mere minutes away.”

When I turned to look I saw the torches again.  There were two groups, one larger than the other.  They still approached from different directions, but they were indeed much closer.


7.  Muff Pistol, Sourdough Pancakes, Airtights

Just because I find long full skirts and bustles inconvenient and impractical it doesn’t mean that I don’t relish fine things.  I disdain corsets, but that doesn’t prevent me from enjoying an elegant gown.  I actually do have an appreciation and an eye for quality workmanship and materials.  So why would Cornelis and Copper give me such incredulous looks when I delightedly produced a lovely royal blue velvet fur lined muff from an open crate filled with finery.  Really, their reaction was rather offensive.

There was a pocket inside the muff made especially for a gun.  Unfortunately, I had not had a muff pistol for a long time.  A pity that — the inconspicuous firearm could come in handy.  But I ramble.  That ‘s a story for another day.

1860s Woman Handkerchief tintipeCornelis groaned.  I glanced in his direction apprehensively.  Copper sat enthralled, watching the alchemist.  I ducked behind a crate for cover.

“Huh.  Huh.  Huh,” Cornelis gasped in advance of a sneeze and I cringed.

Cornelis Drebbel couldn’t precisely get sick, due to his unique state of existence.  However, he could get the equivalent of a very bad head cold.  The effects of which ranged from alarming to amusing.

Ah-choo!” I inadvertently finished for him, as my own head cold was the genuine article.

“God bless you — and everybody around you!” Copper exclaimed, her favorite blessing for a large splashy sneeze.

I took out my handkerchief and blew my nose in a most unladylike way.  Then it happened.  Cornelis abruptly finished his sneeze, with no preamble whatsoever.  Before the sound died away, before the rain of spittle settled, the effects of the alchemist’s mighty “AH-CHOO!” were revealed.

Pancake Day races

Vintage Pancake Day Races

Every sneeze had a different result.  Knee-high stacks of sourdough pancakes surrounded us, the manifestation of his first ah-choo.  It would have been nice if the subsequent sneeze rained syrup onto the pancakes, as they looked quite delicious.  But I supposed that was just as well.  It would have been dreadfully messy.

Instead, the next sudden involuntary expulsion of air from his nose and mouth created a hail of doorknobs.  That was rather dangerous.  Cornelis got a goose-egg on his head from where one landed on him.  For once the wretched bustle of my skirt was useful, as it deflected two knobs that would have assaulted me.

An electric crackle in the air was the only warning alchemic sneeze effect.  I put my arms over my head when I heard it.  I held my breath, wondering what this sneeze would bring.  Something smacked against my forearm.  I noted with relief that it was neither hard nor heavy.  Hundreds of delicate thumps sounded as chrysanthemum blossoms rained down all around us.

4 Women Handkerchiefs“Ah-choo-choo-choo!” I triple-sneezed.  I was appallingly allergic to chrysanthemums.  As if my head cold was not enough.

How did Cornelis Drebbel and I come to have head colds, you might ask?  It happened something like this…


Clouds blocked the light of the moon.  Rather than risk blindly heading into the darkness, Corneils and I chose to follow the nearby river.  At least that way we wouldn’t become lost.  However, that route took us closer to one of our three groups of pursuers.

We still had no idea who any of them were.  Cornelis had made the group of chimpanzees scatter with the magically enhanced road locomotive, and their three leaders became a ceramic statue of “wise monkeys.”  However, I didn’t think whomever controlled the chimps was out of the picture.

Our unknown adversaries were much too close for comfort.  I could distinguish different voices as they shouted to each other.  One seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place who it was.Lovers Eye Brooch

“Over there!” a man shouted.

We’d been seen.  Cornelis muttered in the odd sounding language he used to work his tricks.  I felt an odd sensation that made the hair on my arms stand up.  Suddenly the road locomotive lurched in an impressive burst of speed.  Copper squealed with delight.  Our pursuers were quickly left far behind — whoever they were.

Lights shone from every window in a building ahead.  As we got closer I saw that it was the local grist mill.  “I wouldn’t expect anyone at the mill this late,” I commented but Cornelis didn’t understand me because of our noisy conveyance.

“Look,” the Dutchman said.  “Someone is at the grist mill.  Doesn’t the sheriff own half of it?  Maybe we should stop there, get the authorities involved.”

Mill Springs, Kentucky

Mill Springs, Kentucky

I mouthed the word “No.”  As soon as I heard the word “sheriff” something fell into place in my mind.  I had heard a vaguely familiar voice amid the distant shouting of our pursuers.  Suddenly I realized that voice sounded a lot like Sheriff Alvin Bullard.  Could the sheriff be involved in whatever was going on?

Leaning close to Cornelis Drebbel my lips were a hair away from his ear so I could make him hear me above the noise of the traction engine.

“I always knew you were sweet on me,” he teased drolly before I could speak.

The temptation to swat the alchemist was strong.  However, I voiced my concern about the sheriff.  Cornelis made an appropriate face and nodded.  “Onward then,” he said and gave the locomotive another burst of speed.

I pieced things together, and I believed everything that had happened was connected.  Mr. Hixon, Copper’s father, disappeared.  People from the orphanage were keen to take Copper before anyone should have known her father was missing.  An unknown dead man was found in Calvin Hixon’s his study and trained chimpanzees spirited the corpse away.  Three groups of adversaries converged on the Hixon estate, presumably to abduct Copper.  I believed all those things were related to the priceless Leonardo da Vinci papers that were hidden inside the owl-shaped lamp.Copper with Flowers

The road locomotive had been traveling at an astonishing speed for quite a while.  The grist mill was long gone, and I hadn’t seen another building in some time.  Shouting to be heard above the noise of the engine, I suggested that it was safe for us to slow down.  In answer Cornelis gave me an all too familiar sheepish look.

“Don’t tell me…” I warned the Dutchman.  I was right.  He didn’t know how to slow down the road locomotive.

We careened across the country side.  The clouds drifted away from the moon.  I saw that there was a bend in the river ahead.  “Lovely,” I commented sarcastically.  “Now we’ll leave the course of the river and get lost in the countryside,” I said assuming the locomotive would continue to travel in a straight line.

“No, but that would be preferable,” Cornelis called back to me.  “The engine is following the river.  It won’t veer from that course.  And we’re going too fast to take that curve!” he cried just as the traction engine teetered onto two wheels.

My hatbox flew out of the engine and into the river.  With an oath that was in no way feminine, I dove into the frigid darkness of the water after my hatbox.  There was no choice.  The hatbox contained the skull of Cornilis Drebble.Perfumed Handkerchief Pkg

The hatbox wasn’t heavy, and apparently a pocket of air had been trapped inside, preventing it from sinking fast.  I was able to get my hands on it without diving to the deepest reaches of the river.  However my heavy skirt and bulky bustle hindered me rising back to the surface.

As my heavy clothes pulled me down, I struggled to remove them and still hold onto the hatbox.  However, I wasn’t having much success.  Something tapped my neck and gave me a tiny electric shock.  When I turned I saw a thin filament of glowing green.  I associated the luminous verdant color with the Dutchman’s tricks.  But the tendril was so slim; I didn’t see how it could possibly help me.

Yet with no other help in sight I tentatively touched the glowing strand.  It wrapped itself gently around my wrist, and pulled me easily to the surface of the river.  Then it continued to lift me upward and onto the road locomotive.  I noted that the engine had stopped.

Copper applauded enthusiastically.  Cornelis took a bow as if the entire catastrophe had been part of a show, while I sat shivering, soaked, and sulky.  My frock was ruined, along with my favorite top hat.  Even the dratted bustle was a loss, as it was the least uncomfortable one I had ever found.

The alchemist’s skull was safe and sound, if cold and wet.

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

With another surge of magical speed, Cornelis drove the engine past the next few towns, staying on the outskirts.  The engine was noisy, and naturally we didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves, particularly since we didn’t know who was chasing us.  However, it zoomed by the towns with such speed, that I doubted anyone could have figured out what caused the sudden noise.

Far out into the countryside we came upon an abandoned church that seemed to watch protectively over a few other buildings that were within the same tumbledown stone fence.  One of the buildings was quite large and part of the back wall had fallen.  It was easily large enough to conceal the road locomotive.

The building held a number of old crates.  Each was tagged with owner’s information.  Apparently at one time the building had been used as private storage space.

Cold and still damp from my dive into the river, I leaned against a tall crate, suddenly feeling extremely weary.  Then I sneezed.  By the time I had wiped my nose, Cornelis was sniffling too.  The minute I looked at the alchemist I knew that he had the nearest thing to a head cold that is possible for him to catch.  I sneezed again, knowing I had the real McCoy

So now you know how we came to be surrounded by old crates and impossible stacks of sour dough pancakes.

1862 Pancake Tossing drawing

1860’s Shrovetide family tossing pancakes


I grabbed my suitcase and hid behind a stack of crates to change into my trousers and a shirt.  It would have been worth a dunk in the river to get back into my preferred clothes, if not for my top hat being ruined.

That’s when I started paying attention to all the crates.  Many of the wooden storage boxes were opened or damaged, probably from whatever caused one of the walls to fall.  They contained all manner of things.  From one opened crate random items of apparel spilled to the floor, including the royal blue muff I mentioned.  There was a label on the side of the crate, Property of Alastair Wong Sr.

A packet of letters was tied together with a red ribbon.  When I picked them up I detected a trace of lavender perfume.  Love letters, I thought as my curiosity pressed me to open one and read it.  I looked at the return address and found they were to the afore mentioned Alastair Wong from a Phanny Idelle Peabody in Savannah, Georgia, USA.  I put the letters down when something more important caught my eye.

Preserve Produce adAnother was packed with airtights, as a cowboy friend of mine called them — canned goods.  Several of the jars contained preserves.  Those magical stacks of sourdough pancakes wouldn’t go to waste after all.  Not all of them at least; there were far too many for three people to eat, even with Copper’s voracious appetite.  I wondered if the pancakes were still warm.

“Do it again!” Copper said enthusiastically to Cornelis.

I couldn’t help laughing at the sad, red-eyed expression on his face when the girl wanted him to sneeze yet again.

“It is no game,” Cornelis told Copper in a stuffy nasal voice.

Suppressing another sneeze of my own, I took pity on the alchemist.  I held up a jar of apricot preserves and asked Copper if she’d seen any cutlery in the opened crates.  Her mouth made a silent “Oooh,” when she saw the jar and the girl hurried away in search of a fork.

Judging by the disarray and debris, most of the crates had been searched for valuables after whatever catastrophe happened to the building.  The damage looked old too.  There was an abandoned feeling about the place that I found mildly disconcerting.1870s Handkerchief

“What sort of place do you suppose this is, Cornelis?” I pondered aloud.  “Have we sheltered in some sort of ghost town?  One would think a religious compound like this would be part of a town.  But I get the feeling that there isn’t another soul for miles around.”

The alchemist nodded affirmatively.  “Indeed.  I get the same sense of things,” he agreed.  “It will be dawn soon and the light of day will tell us much.”

Cornelis plopped down on a pile of clothing as if it were a bed.  Apparently the clothes had been sitting there for quite some time.  A cloud of dust puffed up when he landed on them.  The dust tickled my nose and I put my finger firmly between my nose and upper lip.

“Don’t you dare!” Cornelis warned me.  “You know that — huh — if you do — huh — then I will too!” he said just as we both sneezed loudly.

I looked at Cornelis Drebbel.  He looked at me.  Nothing happened.  Copper ran back so us, carrying several forks and even some plates.  She stopped and stared expectantly at the Dutchman.  He and I looked at each other again.  Still nothing happened.  Copper looked disappointed.  I sighed with relief.

Frog Handkerchief Soap adThen elsewhere in the building I heard a wet splat.  And another.  A funny little guttural sound traveled to my ears.  It was followed by several dozen more wet splat sounds, and the sounds were coming closer.  A splat sounded right beside me.  I turned to see Cornelis wearing a sad-eyed long suffering expression.  His eyes rolled to look upward.  A frog sat squarely on top of his head.

Ribbit,” the frog looked at me and said.  A chorus of ribbits from all around the building answered.

Copper laughed with delight.  I chortled despite myself.  However, my merriment stopped as, splat-splat-splat, frogs rained down upon us.


Is Sheriff Alvin Bullard one of the bad guys?  He seemed harmless enough with his amusingly thick mustache.  Will our trio keep running, no matter how far, to escape the villains who would kidnap Copper?  Or will they turn and fight?  They’re awfully outnumbered.

Come back next weekend when our things are all “ingredients” from Elini’s Culinary Journey.

Don’t leave yet!  Here is this week’s recipe.  Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Sourdough Pancakes


Recipe credit:  Laury at Egad, Sire, Truly — Bits from one woman’s life





Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

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