Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 13

I admit defeat…

Sassy segues sauntered away. Glib words have gotten up and gone.  So far I’ve drafted three beginnings for this post.  Then I saved them for another episode — they just won’t do for today. I’ve admitted to myself that I simply don’t know how to start.1865 Woman Doctor

That usually means I’m truly impressed with someone… and it is certainly true of the reader, blogger, physician, and and person who provided “three things” for Episode-13.  Yes, I said physician — so in the blogosphere she, understandably, uses the pseudonym Victo Dolore.  Since I find myself speechless, I’m taking the liberty of using a paragraph from her About page at Behind the White Coat… Beats a real human heart.

“I have been practicing for over ten years as a family practice physician. I started working on this blog as an outlet, a place for the honesty that I cannot indulge in elsewhere. Sometimes I have felt that I will explode with words…all of the words that I have had to leave unsaid…”

This time I’m giving you a couple of hints for something that will be revealed in the near future.  So I hope you’ll pay attention.

Thank you Victo, for the marvelous words (the three things), which have fueled the steam locomotive for another adventure.   All aboard!

13.  Crinoline, Lye Soap, Caterpillar

For a moment, I thought the hydrofoil would tip over when the very large chimpanzee bounded onto it.  Any doubts I’d had as to whether or not the commanding voice belonged to a woman dispersed.  The person who seemed to be in charge of the group stood abruptly as the big chimp ran toward the vessel.  When the chimpanzee’s landing threatened to overturn the craft, my mystery person made a series of sudden movements to regain balance.  A white crinoline was exposed.  It was certainly a woman.

Petticoat“Cornelis!” I hissed to get the alchemist’s attention.

Belatedly I realized he was doing something I shouldn’t try to interrupt.  His form shivered, wavered, and became translucent.  He was in two places at once.  I could see Cornelis, his posture, and if he faced me, his facial expressions.  However, I could not see what he beheld.  He gave me a vacant look, but he nodded to let me know he was paying attention.

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t realize.  Do go ahead,” I told him, as I was sure he was checking on Ignatius Belle and our adversaries who followed the innkeeper on that hydrofoil.

While trying to gather my scattered patience I gazed absently into the heights of a tree that sheltered us.  Sunbeams filtered through the branches in a lazy way.  Copper followed my gaze.

“What’s that,” she asked, pointing at something amid the limbs.

It took me a moment to see what her keen eyes spotted.  “Ah.  Those are cocoons.  If the birds don’t eat them, one day they will be butterflies,” I said.


Copper told me she had learned about butterflies and cocoons from her last governess.  I remembered Hixon had let his daughter’s teacher go because he could no longer afford to pay her.  Copper had truly liked the woman.  That seemed sad to me; it was one more loss for the girl.

The alchemist wasn’t looking at us or paying attention to our conversation.  His mouth twitched to a half smile.  His unsteady image made me feel a bit queasy.  After a moment he turned and made eye contact with me.  The expression on his face suggested he’d just had an epiphany.  His countenance shifted from puzzled to doubtfully curious, to astonished.

“I have to check on something else,” he said, looking a bit stunned.

“Now?” I demanded.  “Take care not to sap all your strength,” I cautioned the Dutchman, aware that there was a limit to how long he could manage one of his tricks.

I knew the alchemist had to have some familiarity with a place before he could look in on it in that fashion.  He couldn’t read the minds of our antagonists, or psychically know where they were headed.  So did he see something on the hydrofoil that gave him new information?  Or had he deduced something that had escaped me?

1924 Little Dipper Champagne ad“Where are you going?” I wanted to know, but the Dutchman was intent on his mission and ignored me.

Cornelis winked out of my sight, but a second later I could see him, standing with his arms folded across his chest, looking up at something.  Something about his posture made me think he must be indoors.  He put a knuckle to his chin and tilted his head to one side, considering whatever he beheld.

“Cornelis, where are you?  What are you about?” I insisted, and he turned to face me with a devilish grin.

“Dutchman, if you aren’t completely honest with me, I swear I’ll wash your mouth out with lye soap!” I made the empty threat — I knew if I tried he’d just dissolve his human form and slip through my fingers, quite literally.

“Calm down, woman.  I’m not in the mood for a collie shangle with you just now,” he admonished, knowing full well that it annoyed me when he used slang that wasn’t even from his time.  “I’m at the Hixon estate,” he admitted.

“Surely not,” he murmured to himself with a slow shake of his head, and I knew he was not talking about my threat with the soap.  “I’ve just one more stop,” he spoke quickly before his translucent form wavered in a rough surge.Skull Victorian setting pink

Wherever Cornelis went next, he acted as though he searched for something.  First he leaned over a tabletop or perhaps a desk, riffling through papers.  Then he walked across the unseen room and opened invisible doors to look around in what I guessed was an armoire.

The alchemist put his fists on his hips and tapped a foot.  Suddenly he held up one finger and made an “ah-ha” noise.  He reached upward with both hands as if moving something on a wall, and then he placed the thing on the floor.  He turned back and put one hand on what must be a wall, and leaned his head against it.  I wondered if he was trying to hear a conversation in the next room.

After a moment he smiled broadly, turned his back to me and took some items out of the wall.  He also searched through those things and read some papers.  My patience wore thin and I called his name sharply.  I could tell he was in a mood and would not cooperate with me, especially if I was angry.  I closed my eyes and counted to ten.

A little electric shock stung the back of my neck.  My eyes popped open as I shouted my displeasure at the shock.

Cornelis Drebbel
Cornelis Drebbel

“Don’t have a blooming fit,” he said in a smug tone and acted as if he had done absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.

“Cornelis, modern slang does not suit you.  Now, did you find out who the woman on the hydrofoil is?” I asked.

“What?” he replied, looking as if my question was the last one he expected.  “Oh, that.  No.  I was suddenly curious about something, and had to look into it,” he commented with a wave of his hand to dismiss the subject.

I gave a sputtering sigh of frustration.  There was no talking to the man when he got into one of his moods.

“Anyone would think you’d become the hookah-smoking caterpillar in Carroll’s book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you ask such questions,” the Dutchman grumbled.

“That’s not so,” I countered.  “Why you’re more like the caterpillar, being all vague.”Vintage Alice Wonderland Caterpillar

Copper watched the exchange between us interestedly.  Cornelis stepped over to the girl.  His manner changed immediately and she smiled up at him.  Copper really did bring out the best in the Dutchman.

“She acts like she has caterpillars in her knickers,” he whispered to Copper, but it was easily loud enough for me to hear.

Cornelis winked and sat down on the ground next to Copper.  She asked what he had been doing, eyes still wide with amazement at his previously transparent form.

“I went to your house,” Cornelis said and the girl’s eyes took on a wistful but concerned expression.  “Don’t worry.  Everything is fine there,” he assured her.  “That nice portrait of your father in the entry hall?” he began causing Copper to nod that she knew the one he meant.  “Do you know when it was painted?  How old were you when it was done?”

I could not imagine what Cornelis had in mind with his behavior or those questions.  I began to wonder if after hundreds of years in his altered state, perhaps his mental faculties were breaking down.  Unless he was half deranged in the beginning — from some of the things he said, that was entirely possible.  However, it had always been my belief that the man was simply incredibly annoying.

“I wasn’t any age,” Copper answered, making me believe the child was a match for his odd way of thinking.Copper curious w-green

Good lord, was I going to have to deal with two evasive, obstinate personalities like the Dutchman? I wondered.  What would Copper be like as a teenager?

“Daddy said I wasn’t even a gleam in his eye when the portrait was painted,” she continued and Cornelis laughed heartily.

Somehow I had the feeling I was missing something.  I had a hunch the alchemist had figured out something he wasn’t ready to disclose.  That probably meant he had a shadow of a doubt about his deduction.

But what about Copper?  I got the feeling that Cornelis suspected the girl knew something that perhaps she was not entirely aware of herself.

My impatience got the better of me and I broke into their playful conversation.  “Cornelis, did you see Ignatius?  Is he safe?” I interrupted.

By the twist of the Dutchman’s mouth, I could tell that he still did not trust the tall innkeeper.Sm Steamboat

“I don’t think you need worry about Belle.  He turned his paddle steamer down a small tributary to the river.  There it quickly narrows and becomes marshy.  The last time I saw him he had anchored the steamer and taken to a small punt boat, poling it out of sight.  Those snaking creeks and streams could lead anywhere.  That ape might be able to follow him, but the men cannot.  And that’s if they even spot the right creek.  There are countless waterways in that area,” Cornelis described the escape of Ignatius Belle.

Abruptly my shoulders relaxed and I took a deep breath.  I hadn’t realized I had been so worried about Ignatius.

“Oh my,” Cornelis said drolly.  “Were you truly so concerned?  Anyone would think you were smitten by the man.  Well, I do admit his hair has quite fine coppery highlights when the sun hits it,” he admitted with a sardonic tone and a roll of his eyes.Angel Statue male moss

For the most part, whenever I had seen Ignatius he had worn his bowler hat, or he had been indoors.  Then I thought of an image of him that was so compelling I had kept it shut out, because I didn’t want to feel “that way” about anyone.  I remembered Ignatius standing in the abandoned church, bathed in sunlight.  His white shirt seemed to glow, and the reddish highlights in his hair sparkled enough for me to imagine a halo.

Cornelis looked at me expectantly.  I almost remarked again on the Dutchman’s jealousy of Ignatius, of which I had already accused him, but I contained myself.  If Cornelis was spoiling for another argument, I was not going to participate.  He pressed his lips together and shook his head in a resigned manner.

Instead I asked him about the valuable da Vinci papers Calvin Hixon had hidden in the owl-shaped lamp.  Cornelis looked rather disappointed that I left his bait on the hook by changing the subject.

“Did you find anything to confirm these people are trying to get the da Vinci drawings or even the letter from Alexander Graham Bell?” I tried to ask without seeming to interrogate.  I knew the alchemist could get mulish when asked too many questions.

Drebbel Incubator
Cornelis Drebbel Incubator

“Oh those,” he said.  “I wasn’t looking into that,” he commented offhandedly, exasperating me.  “Don’t look like you just ate a caterpillar.”

He smirked so, that I was sure I was missing something.  “Why do you keep mentioning caterpillars?” I demanded testily.

Cornelis pointed up at the branches of the tree.  I saw the cocoon Copper had spotted earlier.  Abruptly I noticed it was actually one among many.  There were scores of cocoons.  The creature inside started to free itself from one of the silken prisons.  I told the girl she was about to see a butterfly born.

A light came to the Dutchman’s eyes as he watched Copper’s fascination.  A green aura appeared around him.  I felt a slight stir of static electricity as he gathered a small amount of power.  Abruptly all the cocoons began to open at the same time.  A moment later we were surrounded by hundreds of colorful butterflies.  I felt a childlike delight akin to the joy Copper showed.  Cornelis smiled blissfully.


 Believe it or not I really did find a recipe with actual caterpillars as an ingredient…  Don’t worry – I wasn’t going to share it.  I couldn’t even make myself read it.  However, I did find a charming new (to me) cooking blog with a “caterpillars” recipe.  Pay a visit to Katie Loves Cooking.

Recipe:  Cooking with Kids – Cheesy Caterpillars & Snakes

Cheesy Caterpillars

Photo and recipe credit:


Great Big Hint!

And now, to reward you for reading to the very end… Be sure to meet the steam engine at this station again next time.  Episode-14 will reveal the name of the mysterious Woman in Trousers and maybe something about Ignatius Belle!


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.

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68 thoughts on “Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 13

    1. Nice to see you Shelley. …Ants and grasshoppers, and caterpillars oh my! I might just take my chances with lions and tigers and bears! Too bad i don’t have any ruby slippers… There’s no place like home… there’s no place like home.
      I think my morning coffee just kicked in… 😀 Hugs.


    1. Welcome Chris — and thank you so very much! If you want to do catch-up reading, just click the serial’s homepage button at the top of the page.
      By the way, your blog is awesome. Hugs. 🙂


  1. Another great episode Teagan, I like the way you tease us just as Cornelis teases and now I’m wondering which bits are the hints for things to come…Can’t wait to find out who the woman is and to see what you reveal about Ignatius!


    1. Hi Andrea & thanks so very much for commenting. I’m happy that you liked this episode. I’ve been working on the next one,, and for a while there I wondered if I was going to be able to reveal both things in that one episode. Happily it looks like I will manage! Huge hugs. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi Trisha. Nice to see you. I’m about to post the next episode. And then — well, i don’t know if i want a blasting weekend, but i think i’m looking forward to a relaxing one — and maybe working on Atonement book 2! 😀 huge hugs.


  2. Teagan, you’re never defeated — you’re too good! My gosh, so many comments as I scrolled down — I could hardly find the end (now that’s readers loving your work). Wonderful writing and story, characterization, etc. here (as always). Your 2nd sentence (“words have gotten up and gone”) struck me, because I’m feeling that way myself. Your blog posts, though, are always so well-written and imaginative, and fun to read (and fun to look at), and I don’t think words will ever let you down. I so admire your work, I really do. 🙂


    1. Deb, you made my day. I don’t think i would have made it through even to lunchtime if i hadn’t seen this comment this morning (I just didn’t have time to reply right then). You do some truly delightful, great work at your blog, so i’m honored to be admired. 🙂
      Ha — i’m glad that phrase caught someone’s eye. It came from something my father used to say jokingly — “My get up and go just got up and went!”
      Have a lovely rest of the week. Great big hug!


  3. Another smashing episode with more of your brilliantly chosen pictures – and what a stunning video. Loved it.
    I had to google a record number of words, so thanks for the bonus of added education 😉
    (I’ve shockingly had never heard of Crinoline, can you believe that?)
    I’ll miss next week due to my move but that means I get a double treat on my return – Hurrah!
    Happy Sunday!
    Hugs 🙂


    1. Hi Christoph — Oh, so you’re all set for the move! A lot of work, but still exciting. I’m downright envious. 🙂
      >Ladies haven’t worn crinolines for decades, so I’m sure you weren’t the only one to wonder what it was. (And i’ve just realized that i’m still not 100% back “on my game”… i try to make a point of adding informational links, and a really meant to look for something entertaining about the crinoline… I’ll get there. At least i’m sobbing less over Aspen’s death.)
      We’ll miss you next weekend. Be careful with all the moving hazards. Huge hugs. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so very much Suzanne. I’m glad Cornelis has a friend in you. He grew on me in a hurry, before any of the rest. Yes i reveal “the Woman’s” name. But somebody should start a pool about how many times i change her name between now and then! LOL.
    Sending Light, my friend. Hugs.


  5. I didn’t want it to end and then the teaser at the end, oh can’t wait until next week to find out the name of the woman in trousers and more about the dashing and elusive Mr, Belle. I do love Cornelis, like I loved the Maestro, he is a dear man, smart as a whip and intuitive. Great character, well they all are really but Cornelis is a gem.


      1. I love your writing, Teagan. Your style is so far advanced from mine that I’m taken off into other worlds where mysteries await. Learning from you, Teagan! Much love. 🙂


  6. Hi Tess. You totally made my day! Thank you.
    Sometimes i think a story needs a bit of a breather (like the butterflies), to give the reader a moment to process things. I don’t really plan those, but kind of roll — or rather coast– with it when the intuition settles in.
    I know i gave a few hints, but i hope everyone will remember that i said “soon” in case i can’t work everything into the next episode. 😀
    Thanks so very much for commenting Mega-hugs. ❤ 🙂


  7. Cornelis is an intriguing character. I like him more each week. His abilities make for interesting reading. Love the scene with the butterflies. Oh my.
    I am now on the edge of my seat to hear what he has really been up to and who the mystery woman is and something about Belle as well.
    Wonderful storytelling, Teagan. I love this story. ❤ ❤ ❤


  8. I also love Victo Dolore’s blog, although I don’t get to read it as often as I should. The alchemist is getting more and more intriguing and you’ve given us even better reasons than usual to come back next week. Can’t wait! Thanks Teagan!


  9. I am in a line for the ferry to our island so no tea for me. Did enjoy the story and glad I stayed to the end. The name of the woman will be reason to tune in next week. I was glad you found cheese caterpillars. I don’t think I could take the real ones. Will be nice to hear more about Ignatius too.


    1. I frightened myself for a minute when you said ferry… thinking about those high tides. I hope you are enjoying your Saturday. Yeah… the recipe that called for dried caterpillars was more than i could cope with. These ‘cheesy’ treats are much more my thing! However, i’m in a pickle again with the next “things” because there isn’t a food item among them either. However, they are great things! Indian Head Penny, Pen Knife, Silk Brocade of a White Lion. I’ll find something that relates to the episode if not the “things.”
      Many thanks for visiting. I’m happy you enjoyed this episode. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Ha! David, i seem to be having trouble finding the train ticket… I’ve thought they’d be on the move weeks ago… But fear not — next episode has them moving and meeting a new/old friend. (who was mentioned a few episodes back when they found his crate open…)
    But you know me… If i reveal something about Ignatius, it still might not be everything. A girl’s got to keep some secrets. 😉 Mega hugs my friend. ❤


  11. So many things happening at once! Where will all this lead?? The intrigue continues… Thank you for another fabulous installment, Teagan. Keep up the fantastic work! (And I just cannot imagine you at a loss for words!) ❤


    1. Bwahahaha! 😈 You should have seen me when that 2 week sinus infection also gave me 2 weeks of laryngitis! Words in my head, but they couldn’t go anywhere. LOL.
      Thanks for commenting KR. I’m so glad you enjoyed your visit. Your new recipe sounds sooooo good! Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh wow we can find out her real name next week?!! How exciting 😀 I will be back (duh!!) I loved the way you fit in the caterpillar and had wondered in the back of my mind if there would be a butterfly-related recipe. You found a caterpillar recipe, wow! That must have taken a bit of digging 🙂 Oh and Victo’s blog is great, yes, so I could see how the intro to the post would be intimidating to write. Another wonderful installment, Teagan!! Hugs!


  13. For someone who had trouble starting, you sure now how to finish (and all the lovely bits in the middle too). 🙂
    I think most writers have those days where you have false starts or things you start and never finish, but we appreciate that you overcame. 🙂 Thank you! 🙂
    All aboard and I can’t wait for more!
    Hope this day treats you gently, Teagan. 🙂


  14. A nice twist. Butterflies after all that tension and adventure. The video was a nice side trip and I learned a few things about those butterflies Willy Nilly is always chasing in the garden. 🙂


    1. LOL. Thinking of that wee Scottish dragon always makes me smile.
      I think sometimes a story needs a moment of “relief” (like the butterflies). I’m glad to know my intention was understood. I’m happy that you enjoyed this episode, Daniel. Mega-hugs. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve enjoyed my reading a lot. I actually escape into the scenes and have to slowly ease myself back into reality or I’ll be looking for alchemists and apes around the house! LOL 🙂 Wee Dragons hugs!


  15. More fun with women in trouser, alchemy, Copper and cheesy caterpillars. I’ve had more non-beginnings for writings that sit collecting cyber-dust than I’d like to admit. While I get truly defeated by not having good beginnings, you are only slightly shaken and possibly a little stirred up! 🙂


    1. Hi Tim — so glad you had a good time with this episode.
      Well… I saw that I could (probably) use those false starts for the intro for some future post. So i didn’t feel it was a total loss. It’s not nearly as bad as writing half a dozen pages for a novel and then having to scrap it. 😀
      I usually try to pick a point, an item, topic, whatever, and tie the subsequent thoughts to it. I wasn’t able to do that with this intro, but the subject (Victo Dolore) was able to carry the intro without my word-smithing.
      Huge hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dan. (Agreed — wouldn’t that be a nice power to have.) I’ve tried to give Cornelis some interesting abilities, without giving him anything too all-powerful-super-hero-ish. Wishing you a satisfying Saturday. Hugs. 🙂


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