Straightlaced Saturday — Cornelis Drebbel 4

Saturday, September 8, 2018 

A “Mighty Wurlitzer” circa 1929

Thanks for being at the station for this rerun of my steampunk serial with a Victorian setting.  This adventure was written spontaneously, with “three things” left by readers (back in 2015) driving every element of this story from the setting to the characters.   

Writing Process

I enjoy alteration, as you will see while this story progresses.  Names are never accidental with me. You’ll see that many of the minor characters have names that begin with “B.”  I did that as a subtle way of helping you keep up, since I’m conscious of the fact that it’s hard to keep up with a serial. 

Also, I entertained myself with the names of a group of characters you’ll meet today.  Suddenly I needed to name four lesser characters. That was just too many “B” names to throw at you.  I’ll let you see for yourself the “method” of naming I used.

Previously with Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

Chapter 3.1  Felicity, the woman in trousers, and Cornelis Drebbel, the alchemist, met Copper, the unusual little girl.  We were relieved to learn that the dead man in the study was not Copper’s daddy, but we don’t know who he actually is.  Meanwhile the sheriff and a group of people from the dreaded orphanage were knocking at the door.  Shall we let them in? 

All aboard!

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

4 Wurlitzer Organ, Hydrofoil

Copper with Flowers

After extracting a promise from Cornelis to watch over Copper, and a dire warning of what he’d face if he let her run away, I sent the two to the back parlor. I suspected the people from the orphanage had motives that were less than pure, and I didn’t want the child to be so easily within their reach. 

A moment later I heard the Dutchman exclaim, “Oh look! It’s a Wurlitzer!”

There was no telling what Cornelis was talking about with that comment.  I thought he must have been saying something silly to get the child’s mind off the situation.  I hoped Cornelis would be responsible in looking after Copper.  He wasn’t always reliable.

An official seeming knock sounded at the door.  I took a breath and moved to answer it.  The “visitors” were clearly surprised to see me, particularly the people from the orphanage.  They included two women and a man.  The man, who was standing farthest back, mumbled that there was not supposed to be anyone there except the child.  I got the impression that he had plenty of courage to accost a child, but not so much if he had to confront an adult.

The sheriff was an ordinary looking man, with the exception of the shiny badge and a thick mustache.  He had the air of a man who was simply doing his job.  He glanced at my stylish frock and seemed to notice a horse hair that clung to my cuff.  He bowed over my hand in a formal manner.  However, it was an obvious ploy to get a good look at the signet ring.

I introduced myself as Copper’s aunt, her father’s half-sister, Mina.  Yes, Mina.  That was the first name that came to mind, though I’ve no idea why.  Of course my assertion was met with astonishment.  Yet I knew Calvin Hixon had not been born in the little town.  They couldn’t know much about the extended family.

Sheriff badge

At least the sheriff seemed to think it plausible enough.  He glanced again at the ring on my finger and nodded his head.  Whatever these orphanage people were about, from the sheriff’s point of view, a long lost relative showing up would simplify things for him.

I raised one eyebrow expectantly when none of them introduced themselves in return.  The sheriff understood, but the other three silently — and arrogantly stepped across the threshold.  The sheriff cleared his throat and they hesitated.

“Pardon my lack of manners,” he said awkwardly and began making quick introductions.

The county sheriff was Alvin Bullard, also part owner of the local grist mill.  The other man was Claude Dinkley, a board member of Merciful Haven Orphanage, as well as the county truant officer.  He had a slim build, a weak chin, and his starched collar was too tall for the length of his neck.  He also looked like he’d tremble in fear of one of the women.

That woman was Ethel Farthing, chairlady of the board and owner of the Merciful Haven Orphanage.  She was of average height and build.  Her movements were stiff and choppy, though she did not appear to be arthritic.  Ethel Farthing positively radiated bossiness and was the first to shoulder her way across the threshold uninvited.  She made a sarcastic comment at which the other woman gave a honking laugh.

Which brings me to the last visitor.  She was a tall willowy woman, Gertrude Hobbs, administrator of the orphanage.  Her wire rimmed spectacles sat far down her nose.  She was very quiet, but nodded sharply to everything Ethel Farthing said.  She had a small head with a prominentnose and a long neck.  Those features combined with her honking laugh and the large bustle of her gown reminded me of a goose, a greedy goose waiting for a chance to peck away at something.Goosey Goosey

But why were those people at the Hixon residence at all?  How could they know Copper was on her own?  Did the authorities already know something about Calvin Hixon’s disappearance?  Why did they have such an interest in Copper?  Although I supposed if they established themselves as her guardians, they could take over the Hixon estate.  They looked like a covetous lot.  They were likely unaware of the financial problems Cornelis discovered.

As I motioned toward the front parlor where I planned to lead them, I saw the sheriff’s nose twitch.  I had not anticipated him being an experienced lawman.  He recognized the odor of decomposition beneath the heavy smell of sweet oil.  His hand moved to the holstered gun on his hip as if reflexively.  He gave me a cold look. 

“Is there some problem here, Miss?” he asked levelly.

There was little I could do, except tell the truth — mostly. 

“Actually Sheriff, there is.  I arrived only a short time ago,” I began.

I already saw him take note of horse hairs that stubbornly clung to my gown.  Hopefully my unkempt attire corroborated that much. 

“And I came into a terrible thing.  I’ve spent all my time trying to calm the poor child.  She was in hysterics.  Heaven only knows what she’s been through,” I said with a grain of truth.

“Do continue,” he said flatly when I paused.  He was definitely the no nonsense type.

“I found a stranger in my brother’s study.  The child has been too distraught to tell me what happened or where her father is.  I assumed he went into town to get help,” I said, though it didn’t look like the sheriff believed that. 

Victorian parlor

“What stranger?” Gertrude, the goose-like woman asked.

“No doubt another long lost relative,” Ethel Farthing, the more aggressive woman said with a sneer before I could answer.

I chose to ignore the people from Merciful Haven as much as possible and focus on the sheriff.  I only wished I could ignore the ironic way the facility was misnamed.  Sheriff Alvin Bullard was the one with the real authority.  I led the sheriff to the study.  The others followed.  They gasped and nearly retched when they walked into the room.

“Nothing appears to be amiss,” I told Sheriff Bullard, and hoped against hope he would not venture to the kitchen where it looked like Armageddon had been fought.  “Well except of course for…  I assumed the poor man was struck by a sudden death, a heart attack, or a stroke perhaps,” I said with a distraught wave toward the dead body, trying to give the impression that I was just a helpless woman.

Making my eyes as wide and sad as possible, I looked up at the sheriff.  Oh yes.  That had him.  His shoulders relaxed and he took his hand away from the gun at his side.  He gave the corpse a cursory inspection.

Lovers Eye Brooch

Lover’s Eye Brooch

The orphanage people recovered themselves enough to start complaining about my presence.  Their assertions about concern over the welfare of the child sounded hollow at best.  Based on the expression on the sheriff’s face, he thought so as well.

“No sign of a struggle,” the lawman murmured as he looked at the body.  “No apparent injuries, no blood from an attack,” he observed.  Then he took a close look at the man’s face and at the desk and nodded again.  “No traces of vomit to indicate poison.  Not so much as a hair out of place.  I have to agree that the poor soul must have died from natural causes,” he said with a due amount of reverence and he looked at the others as if silently suggesting they follow his example of decorum.

“You said you attended the child,” he said to me and I nodded.  “I’d like to speak to her,” he added.

I made a reluctant, concerned face. 

“I’ve only just given her a tonic to get her to sleep.  It would be best not to wake her.  Perhaps I could bring her to your office tomorrow?” I suggested and Sheriff Bullard reluctantly agreed.

The others were not so amenable.  A veritable caterwauling ensued.  They demanded to see Copper and determine her welfare for themselves.  Then they demanded some kind of identification from me.  Fortunately, it was in no way unusual for a person to be without such documents.

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

The voice of Cornelis whispered into my ear. 

“Prime these fools for what I’m about to do,” he said but I couldn’t ask what he meant.  Thankfully he continued.  “Get them to face the corpse, and say something about making the dead unhappy,” he said.

I couldn’t imagine what the alchemist had in mind.  However, I moved to stand behind the body so they would have to look at it.

“It was my late brother’s wish that I come here as soon as I could.  As for this poor man, well that is up to the sheriff,” I said, unsure how to fit words to the alchemist’s unknown plan.  “It’s unwise to have such antagonism and animosity in the presence of the so very recently deceased!” I said in wide-eyed fearful seeming warning.  “It is dangerous to anger the spirits before they have had time to move on to the heavenly plane.”

As my words ended, a shrill harmonic sound vibrated.  It seemed to be within my own ears, but I saw everyone else react to it as well.  The sound escalated into loud eerie music that thundered within the room.  The volume was so strong that it vibrated through the floor and up through my boots.  I felt as though I stood in the middle of a gigantic cathedral pipe organ.

I finally understood the exclamation Cornelis made when he entered the back parlor.  He’d found a Wurlitzer organ and was using it to grand effect.  Somehow he had amplified the sound and made it seem to come from within the study.  A glint of silver caught my eye, and I spotted the ornate bell Cornelis took from the inn — the one he said was actually not an ordinary bell, but a harmonic tuner. 

Bass notes emanated from the Wurlitzer in an ominous way.  When he managed to add a sound like a howling cry on the wind, the people from the orphanage nearly trampled the sheriff trying to get out of the study.  They stumbled and fell repeatedly in the hallway as they made for the front door.

The sheriff looked rather confused by the loud music.  I saw him look around the study for the source of it.  He seemed mildly uneasy as I walked him to the front door.  He seemed calm enough when he said he would send someone to take the body.  However, his footsteps became very quick as he went to his horse.  By then the dust stirred by the coach was all that remained of the officiaries from Merciful Haven Orphanage.

I returned to the study.  Something had caught my eye on the desk when the sheriff moved the corpse to check his face.  It was an envelope addressed to Calvin Hixon.  I had only glimpsed the return address, but I thought I’d seen a notable name.  I grimaced as I moved the corpse enough to retrieve the letter.

That was interesting, I thought as I read the envelope.  I had not been mistaken about the sender.  I removed the stationary from the envelope.  It was a businesslike missive, complimenting Hixon’s project.  I had no idea Hixon was an inventor.  Perhaps it was a hobby.  The letter was an offer of collaboration to improve a design belonging to Hixon that the writer called a hydrofoil.  The letter was signed by Alexander Graham Bell.

“Ah yes,” I thought.  “The telephone man.  And another Bell.”  It seemed that bells of one kind and another had surrounded me ever since I arrived. 

Forlanini hydrofoil

Alexander Graham Bell and Hydrofoil

I reread the letter, trying to comprehend the idea of a boat that sat on “foils” that lifted it out of the water, allowing it to reach amazing speeds.  Could it actually be made to work?  Hixon’s invention had attracted the interest of someone like Alexander Graham Bell, so it must be worthwhile.  Was it related to his disappearance?  Did it have anything to do with the corpse beside me?

At that moment Copper ran into the study, followed by Cornelis.  Both laughed merrily at the fright they had given the child’s would-be guardians.

Cornelis picked up the intricate silver bell and gave it one harmonic chime.  The organ in the back parlor responded by making a comical oboe-like sound.

 ***

To be continued…

***

Real World Notes

Wurlitzer Organ.  Cornelis was gleeful to find one.  Wurlitzer, is an American company started in Cincinnati in 1853 by German immigrant (Franz) Rudolph Wurlitzer. The company initially imported stringed, woodwind and brass instruments from Germany to the U.S.A.  Wurlitzer also provided musical instruments to the U.S. military. In 1880, the company began manufacturing pianos and eventually expanded to make pipe or theatre organs popular in the days of silent movies.

Hydrofoil.  Yes that really is Bell on a real hydrofoil.  Concepts for such a craft were developed as early as 1899.

***

Well now…  Felicity, the woman in trousers, found a slue of questions, but no answers when she met the local sheriff and a trio of unsavory people from the orphanage — a place of which Copper was terrified.  Why were they at the Hixon residence?  How could they know Copper was on her own?  Did the authorities already know something about Calvin Hixon’s disappearance?  Why did they have such an interest in Copper? Be at the statioWednesday for Hidebound Hump Day, where this serial continues.  I’ll be looking for you there.  Hugs! 

***

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This is a work of fiction.  Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2015 and 2018 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

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No part of this work 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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77 thoughts on “Straightlaced Saturday — Cornelis Drebbel 4

  1. Such an amusing episode, Teagan. Loved the image of them all making a run for it towards the front door. Your descriptions of the people from the orphanage were fantastic. They may be minor characters, but I could clearly see them from your descriptions.
    Still lots of answered questions, but this makes excellent reading.
    Is that the dinner bell I hear? Yes, so I’ll have to keep reading the next episode until another day.
    Hugs to you.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Hidebound Hump Day — Cornelis Drebbel 5 | Teagan's Books

  3. Hi Teagan. You know I admire your writing, particularly its clarity. Also, I am happy that you are one who is willing to use the right word, and are not afraid of words that may not be commonly used. I have a question: Really, how do you find the time to do all this creative writing as well as answer so many blog comments? I can produce a steady stream of words, but I don’t think I can match your productivity, simply not having the time, though some of which you publish you wrote in the past. Still…

    Liked by 1 person

    • David, it’s such a pleasure to see you. Your positive energy always comes through in your comments. Heartfelt thanks.
      At work I’ve had a passion for “outreach” but have been unable to get accepted into that part of the agency (or let loose from mine). My life is simple. So, that allows me to spend breaks, and whatever time after the work-week, interacting with my virtual family here. *That also lets me enhance my outreach skills.*
      Before you give me unearned credit, this serial is a rerun. It’s a good deal of effort to format the post, but at lest the writing was already done. When it’s finished I’ll begin an all new serial for “Cornelis” with 3 random things from you and everyone to drive the story.
      Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As you mentioned in one of the comments, the good news is that at least the sheriff appears to be a ‘good guy’ unlike the troublesome 3 from the orphanage. Barging into someone’s home uninvited? How rude … and presumptuous! I’m liking Felicity a LOT! The world needs more feisty women 🙂

    Damn – now I have to wait for the next episode! This is the kind of story I could easily sit down and consume in one gluttonous read 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erm… The sheriff doesn’t seem to be one of their group… but everybody in that town seems to have a dual role. I’m wondering if there’s any conflict of interest with that grist mill.
      I’m grinning ear to ear about the “one gluttonous read.” Thank you Joanne. Great big hug!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so late getting around to this, but I really wanted to wait until I had time to enjoy it. I’m not sure I noticed the first time around, but I see the unmistakably Teagan-trait – tying all the loose ends up very neatly. I always stay on guard for the trivial little details to gain meaning. I’m enjoying the presence of Cornelis.

    I hope you have a good (wet) week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s truly validating to know you spot the details, Dan. LOL, this story became a shawl with long fringe trim (bits, clues, and loose ends) all around. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to weave that kind of surgically tied-off ending again.

      Oh yes, I heard there is a hurricane headed this way at the end of the week. Once in a great while they get far enough inland to be an issue. It has been one very saturated summer. Stay dry! Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Despite being partially unplugged for the next week or so… reading a great deal and dog walking.. I have still time to pop in and out to read my regular favourites, which includes Copper, The Alchemist and The Woman in Trousers on Teagan Geneviene’s blog. Something smelled a bit fishy in the study of Calvin Hixon’s home.. well more that fishy.. then there were the sticky beakers from the orphanage and Cornelius being harmonic. Copper is lucky to have some unwordly guardians protecting her.. head over and read the episode and discover more.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Who knew that about Bell and the hydrofoil. That brings back memories of using the hovercraft – a bit different I know – From Calais in France, I think to Pegwell Bay in Kent. Back in the 70s I think. Shame when these inventions don’t really take off and stay though the hovercraft was ridiculously noisy. Nicely done on the story Teagan. Lots of mystery to unpick

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Geoff. That’s interesting. For some reason I would have thought a hovercraft would be quiet… You know, it hovers.
      It’s been 3 years since I researched this, but it seems like the hovercraft and the hydrofoil have a connection. Either the ideas were brought forth at the same time or the principals are similar. Like I said, I’m not sure now.
      I’m delighted you enjoyed this. Many thanks for visiting. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mary. I remember you talking about that with the J names. 😀 I say go for it. That can be a signature thing for you. I have to admit that I like J names.
      I’ve done that in more than one book — having the names of most minor characters start with the same letter (not always B)… Just a subtle thing to try and help the reader when there are so many characters. I hope you are enjoying a wonder-filled weekend. Huge hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t it though! The Victorians had a ton of weird and creepy things. The “lover’s eye” jewelry does look creepy, but in a way the concept is kind of sweet. They were miniature paintings, supposed to be a portrait of just the eye of a person, given to a loved one to watch over them. But other things — particularly their “post-mortem photography,” are hard to fathom. They thought very differently from us, to say the least.
      It’s hard to know who to trust, but at least the sheriff does not seem to be in league with the orphanage people.
      I’m delighted you enjoyed this, Jacquie. Hugs!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Again, I am slack-jawed, Teagan. Wow! I love the way Cornelis sent the orphanage folks scrambling. 🙂 But, so many questions are running around in my head. Who is this dead man? And where is Copper’s father? I do hope he hasn’t met with any harm. Thank goodness, the child can now be properly fed and cared for until the mystery unravels. Can’t wait for what’s next!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jan, it’s great to see you. Thanks so very much.
      When I started this serial (2015) I had no idea who the protagonist would be. I thought Copper would have a more active part than she actually did. However, I was not expecting Cornelis to steal the show — as he so quickly did! 😀 He continues to pop into my head. That’s why I’m re running this serial — before starting an all new one for him.
      Adventure is afoot, so hang onto your seat! Great big hug!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You know Teagan, I think this is one of my favourites of all your serials (I might change my mind again if I was reading another one though 🙂 ) I love the characters and the intrigue of the story and all the little unique touches you bring!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so kind, Andrea. It was wonderful having you on the train the first time around. So it makes me doubly happy that you’re on board again. I’m not sure which serial I *like* best myself (I had a ton of fun with A Ghost in the Kitchen, the Three Ingredients serial that came before this one). However, technically I think this one is my best, for pulling all the little threads together, and giving everything a purpose. I realize I haven’t been able to do that with all of them.
      Thanks so much for taking time to visit. Great big hug!

      Liked by 1 person

    • You are so kind, Christoph. Thanks for being on this train. Rain there too? It’s been a very rainy summer here. Last night we had the *longest* thunderstorm. It was actually amazing that it just kept on thundering for hours. Not a bad storm, just prolonged thunder. Odd.
      A fabulous, hug-filled weekend to you too. ❤ 🙂

      Like

    • Hi Tom. I’m flattered. I’m also embarrassed to say I’ve never read John Irving… ^^’ When I started writing seriously, I chose fantasy as my genre, and focused my reading there. There are so many wonderful authors I want to read…but time is never my friend. I really wish I was a faster reader.
      Huge thanks for visiting. Happy weekend hugs.

      Like

  10. Loved the descriptions you give to your characters, and especially enjoyed Gertrude Hobbs , I found myself pushing my own spec’s further up my nose while reading LOL..
    And love how you always entwine real people and history within your stories.. The line about the Bells of one kind or another surround her.. Made me smile..

    I know I am always AWOL from WordPress, but I found I followed your story which was excellently written Teagan..
    Hope alls well in your world Teagan and great to be in my reader this lovely rainy day.. The gardens are drinking thirstily..
    Love and Giant Hugs.. ❤
    Sue ❤ x

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Sue, any day you can visit is made better by your presence. I’m always delighted to see you when you have a chance. Rain there too? I remember your garden needed it. It’s been a very rainy summer here. Last night we had the *longest* thunderstorm. It was actually amazing that it just kept on thundering for hours. Not a bad storm, just prolonged thunder. It was strange but very cool. Great big hug right back, my friend! ❤ 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Olga, I appreciate your visits. Thanks for getting on the train this second time-around. When I started sharing “real world notes” with Hullaba Lulu, rather than just the links I did with serials in the past, they were well received. So I’m trying to continue that this time. Thanks for that feedback. Great big hug!

      Like

    • Dyanna, it makes me very happy that you are on the train for this re-visiting. It’s been long enough since I wrote this that I’m having a good time sharing it the second time around. I had no idea who the dead man in the study was for quite some time. LOL, so now I’m scratching my head along with everyone else, because I don’t remember!
      Huge thanks for reblogging. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

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