One of my favorite bloggers, Donna Parker, wrote about choices. Her post got me thinking — as it often does. Eventually my pondering turned to choices about writing. Despite the fact that writers are advised to choose one genre and stick to it, I think most of us like to dabble in various types of storytelling. I continue to dally with different styles, but my stick-to-it choice is fantasy.
I’ve been encouraged to write romances, but I leave that to the experts — like Mary. This time, the three things that fueled the steam locomotive to the Victorian Era were sent by Mary J. McCoy-Dressel.
Mary’s latest book, Of the Cowboy’s Own Accord, took off like a rocket. It reached #1 in Amazon’s ranking of best sellers in Contemporary Western Fiction. She describes herself as an author of sensual Contemporary Western Romance with strong family ties. I’m fond of calling it her dynasty of cowboys, but it would be more correct to say (as Mary puts it) she specializes in “gentlemen cowboys (with a touch of bad) & their feisty heroines.”
Our steam locomotive is rolling ’round the bend. Again, I’ve included some fun informative links in text and images. This time I’m also giving you a menu for a Victorian afternoon tea. All aboard!
As you’ll recall…
Our trio was on the run from three different groups of bad guys, including huge and dangerous trained chimpanzees, one of which gestured in sign language the word daddy. Felicity recognized the leader of one group by her voice — she was a woman from Copper’s town, but the woman in trousers couldn’t recall which townswoman possessed that voice.
Our heroes hid out at the pavilion of Alastair Wong, where alchemy gone awry gave them a map with a clue to where they might find Copper’s missing father. Still on the run, they boarded Cornelis Drebbel’s submarine where they met Absinthe, the Green Fairy. Subsequently the submarine ran aground in an amethyst world.
24. Straitlaced, Queen Anne Style Architecture, Harper’s Bazaar
The suited, bespectacled purple primate was a willing listener for Cornelis Drebbel. I wouldn’t have expected an ape to speak our language, even if he could talk. Nor would I have thought we would understand him. When I was about to ask, a significant look from Cornelis caused me to realize it had to be one of the Dutchman’s tricks at work, allowing us to communicate with one another.
The alchemist gave the primate a full tour of the submarine. The amethyst ape soaked up every detail as Cornelis explained how the many inventions onboard were used in the navigation and other workings of the submarine. The ape seemed to have an astonishing scientific comprehension of what the Dutchman said in describing his inventions.
Cornelis had gone on about doppelgängers and was genuinely concerned about the consequences if one of us met our double in this perplexing purple place. I remembered Copper’s giggling exclamation comparing the straitlaced ape to her father. I thought it simply childish fantasy, but then I recalled how the Dutchman reacted to her words. He curled his lips inward in a rueful grimace and raised his bushy blonde eyebrows. Then he pursed his lips and inclined his head pointedly toward the purple primate. At that moment the ape reminded me very much of the portrait of Calvin Hixon.
I studied the primate’s face and tried to imagine a human version. My eyes grew wide. The amethyst ape was Calvin Hixon’s doppelgänger!
Cornelis was quite adept at reading facial expressions, no matter how fleeting. When he glanced my way he raised one eyebrow and gave half a nod to indicate he knew I had caught on to what he had figured out the first moment he saw the ape. It was no wonder he’d frozen in amazement when Copper and I had gotten out of the submarine. I finally understood why. I tried not to stare at the ape version of Copper’s daddy.
After Cornelis had shown off his favorite inventions, the ape invited us to tea. Cornelis wasn’t quick enough to hide his reluctance to disembark the submarine. The ape tried to encourage him by describing the setting and the Queen Anne style architecture of his charming home. I couldn’t help wondering if this amethyst world had held a purple primate version of Queen Anne, and suspected that it actually had. However, Copper was beside herself with excitement.
In a very discrete way, the alchemist worked the conversation around to inquire about the ape’s family life and whether he lived alone. Abruptly the purple primate puckered his face, looking very contrite. He bumped his palm to his brow and apologized profusely.
“I was so amazed and excited that I forgot to introduce myself. Can you ever forgive my lacking manners? Cal Hicks — at your service,” he said with a bow. “Penny will be devastated not to have met you. That’s my daughter. She’s away for the week, visiting her brother Nate and his wife.”
When the ape — or I should say Cal Hicks, mentioned his daughter-in-law he gave me the strangest, quizzical look. “Something in your manner puts me very much in mind of my delightful daughter-in-law,” he told me with a twinkle in his eye.
I was speechless. Could there be a purple ape version of me? And was she married to an ape version of Ignatius Belle? Surely not, it was incomprehensible! The ideas were a bit too much and I suddenly had a headache.
The ape didn’t know the reason behind the alchemist’s concern, but what he disclosed about his family reassured Cornelis that it was unlikely for any of us to run into our doppelgängers. With a little more please-pretty-please urging from Copper, Cronelis finally agreed. So we set out with Cal Hicks, the primate equivalent of Copper’s daddy, to have tea at his home.
A violet complected chimpanzee housekeeper graciously served tea with all the trimmings. She seemed delighted to have a chance to show off her skills, and served the perfect pot of tea to complement each course.
Sandwiches and Savories
Smoked Salmon with Dill Butter on Dark Bread, garnished with Dill (open face half-moon sandwich)
Ham and Chopped Watercress with Basil Butter on Rye Bread (finger sandwich)
Thinly Sliced Cucumber & Chopped Mint with Mint Butter on White Bread (open face round sandwich)
Chopped Egg and Diced Black Olives on Whole Wheat Bread (pinwheel sandwich)
Scones and Breads
Flavored Butters (Fruit, Herb & Spice)
Raspberry Preserves and Rose Petal Jam
Served in a champagne or martini glass:
English Trifle with Heart-Shaped Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies
My cup rattled against its saucer. I was embarrassed to I spill my tea. Charming and hospitable as Cal Hicks was, the entire situation was unnerving. I almost wished I had stayed behind at the submarine with Absinthe. Cornelis was downright twitchy — probably still worried about doppelgängers. Copper was the only one who took everything in stride.
Several portraits hung in the hallway. It seemed that Cal Hicks enjoyed a much happier, devoted family life than had Calvin Hixon. The son was presumable born out of wedlock, since this place seemed to reflect our own world. But unlike Ignatius Belle, Nate Hicks agreed to become a true part of the family. And since Penny was visiting Nate and his wife for a week, I assumed that she did not share Copper’s dislike and mistrust of her half brother.
A purple primate version of Harper’s Bazaar magazine lay on a beautifully crafted mahogany table. The deep color of the wood had dark purple highlights. On the magazine cover was a woman-ape wearing a fashionable ensemble. A painting hung above the table. It was a portrait of Cal Hicks’ son and daughter-in-law. I had to admit the young ape in the portrait bore a vague resemblance to Ignatius Belle. However the female looked nothing like me whatsoever.
“Look Felicity! She looks like you,” Copper enthused.
Looking away, I tried not to let the ape see how aghast I was at the girl’s comment. With narrowed eyes I watched Corenlis. His mouth twisted in any number of ways as he tried to stifle his laughter. I knew it was our host he didn’t want to offend. He certainly wouldn’t be concerned about my pricked ego.
To hide his mirth, the Dutchman tapped his fist to his breastbone, pretending to stifle a burp. Then he asked our host if we might stroll around the grounds to help the fine repast he’d provided settle. The amethyst ape was happy to oblige.
As we toured the property we came upon a church. “That doesn’t look like it’s been used in quite some time,” I commented about the chapel.
“Ah yes. That was indeed a tragedy,” Cal Hicks replied sadly, and Copper was quick to push for details on a topic we adults may have deemed too delicate.
“It happened during the last confrontation with the one eyed one horned flying purple people eater,” the ape said then turned to Cornelis as if concerned. “Do you not remember it?”
“Err…” Cornelis hesitated, but a spark in his eyes told me he was about to dissemble. “I must confess,” he said looking so sad and sincere that I almost rolled my eyes. “An accident of alchemy brought my submarine back to these shores. Sadly I have no memory of the events that happened here,” he explained. “Oh now, there’s no need for concern, I’m sure the memories will return in due time. Such is the way of alchemy,” he assured our worried looking host.
“Well, perhaps a refresher will help it along then,” Cal Hicks said with a hopeful nod. “I mentioned that we had thought all of your species,” he said turning to me, but hesitating when he looked at Copper’s wide eyes. “Well, um, that the one eyed one horned flying purple people eater had, um gotten them,” Cal said and seeing that Copper didn’t look frightened, he continued. “However, there was one more confrontation with that huge purple fae creature. You, Cornelis Drebbel, cornered the magical beast, and with your alchemy intended to transfigure it to something harmless.”
“Let me guess,” I said with a wry grin. “The alchemy went awry.”
Cornelis glared at me, but the ape remained perfectly serious, continuing his narrative. “The Lord of Alchemy insisted that everyone take refuge in the chapel while he confronted the monster alone. Meanwhile, I ran to retrieve his harmonic tuner. It’s a magical device decorated with a carving of a trio in the classic mystic people pose — hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.”
The ape suddenly looked overwhelmed with regret. He moved his spectacles to wipe a tear. “In my haste, I tripped. The harmonic tuner flew from my grasp. It rang as it flew through the air. However, you, Cornelis Drebbel, caught it before it fell. So I thought all would be well, and that my mishap had done no harm,” Cal Hicks told us in an apologetic voice.
The ape dabbed his nose with a silk handkerchief and took a deep breath before continuing. “The purple people eater vanished, presumably vanquished. You, Lord of Alchemy popped off, as was your habit, to make sure the beast was gone for good. But you never returned,” he said, looking like a repentant child caught in mischief. His expression gladdened as he looked up and added, “Until today that is.”
Cal Hicks turned somber eyes to the chapel. He shook his head slowly. “When the loud harmonic noise of the misused tuner dissipated, I realized there were no sounds whatsoever coming from the church. To my horror, I found it empty. Everyone inside had vanished along with the purple people eater,” he said.
I gasped despite myself. The ape seemed to think I found his telling of the story that shocking, and he seemed gratified to have at least told it well. Although it was obvious that he blamed himself to a degree for what happened. So I tried not to let on that the story wasn’t the reason for my gasp.
“Cornelis!” I whispered to the alchemist. “That army of chimpanzees back at the Hixon estate. What if they weren’t trained,” I said but paused, looking for the right word. “What if instead, they were actually translocated?”
Felicity has figured out at least part of the mystery of the “trained” chimpanzees, but we still don’t know who was using them. Can the ape version of Calvin Hixon somehow help our trio reach Copper’s real daddy? Will seeing the portrait of primate doubles of herself and Ignatius Belle influence Felicity’s capricious feelings about him? I hope to see you at the platform for the train to the Victorian Era again next time.
Hot and humid… day after day, night after night – it’s just that time of year here. So when I saw a beautiful post from Suzanne at A Pug in the Kitchen for “Nicoise Salad,” it seemed like the perfect recipe to share with this episode.
Recipe: Nicoise Salad
Photo and recipe credit: Suzanne Debrango
Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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