Color My World — Please!
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.
That 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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?”
“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.
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.”
Copper 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.”
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.”
“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
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
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