Hidebound Hump Day — Cornelis Drebbel 5

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

You can also click here for the video.

You’ve arrived at Hidebound Hump Day! As you can see, I had a special treat for this chapter.  Chris Graham (the Story Reading Ape) did the above animation, and I’m tickled pink!

His character, Artie the genius chimp, has been here several times.  Before Artie came along…  No, wait. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who are new to this steampunk train.  So I’ll tell you about that at the end.  Read on.  Back to  Hidebound Hump Day.

Cover Copper Alchemist Woman n Trousers

Thanks for being at the station for this rerun of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.  This steampunk adventure was written spontaneously, in my “three things” way.  Readers at that time in 2015 left random “things” that built everything about this story, including the plot, settings, and characters.  While he didn’t leave it as a “thing,” back then Chris Graham was talking about something that had a large influence on this story. You’ll see the root of that today.

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

Last time  we met the local sheriff, Alvin Bullard. He seemed somewhat less unpleasant than the trio from Merciful Haven Orphanage.  I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll see more of him.  Fortunately, Felicity got rid of them before they could get their grubby little hands on Copper. (Thanks to an assist from a bit of alchemy involving the Wurlitzer.) 

Felicity also found a letter from Alexander Graham Bell to Copper’s father.  It was about a hydrofoil Mr. Hixon invented. Hmmm… Shall we see what our friends are up to now? 

All aboard!

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

5 — Artist’s Palette, Pease Pudding, Owl-Shaped Lamp

The sheriff is part owner of the local grist mill. (Photo: White Mill in Sandwich, Kent, England)

The hand of a heavenly painter colored the evening sky, dipping the brush in an artist’s palette of pink, orange, and gold.  Squinting in the fading light, I wondered if doing so would give me wrinkles as everyone claimed.  I didn’t particularly care.  What was a face without a bit of character?

I lifted the skirt of my dark green and cream striped gown as I picked my way through the barn, wishing I had brought a pair of trousers with me.  As I squeezed between the wall and a work table — a space I should have been able to navigate with ease, the wretched bustle got caught.  Carefully, I extricated myself. 

The barn was empty of life, except perhaps for a few mice.  It was easy to see that the horses had been gone for a while, evidence of the financial problem Cornelis uncovered. 

Surely Hixon kept at least one for his own transportation, I thought. 

Had he left on horseback then?  Was he abducted?  I came full circle to the first question I faced when I came to the estate— Who was the dead man in the study?

Since I had no idea what I was looking for, my intention had been to search the storage building and barn for anything that didn’t belong.  However, Calvin Hixon was a man of extraordinary interests and tastes.  Not belonging was a description that could be applied to nearly everything he owned.  I supposed that made all the strange articles and artifacts actually belong, in that way.

gray wooden house under gray sky

Secretly I thought it would have been better if Cornelis had sorted through all the oddities in the outbuildings.  The alchemist had remarkably broad knowledge of such things.  However, Cornelis would have taken days with the task, getting consumed as he looked at each object.  So it was just as well left to me.

I searched the barn and the larger storage building.  There was another shed on the opposite side of the grounds.  I had not inspected it yet.  So far I had seen many interesting, if unexplainable, gadgets and oddments, but nothing that gave me a clue as to what was going on.  At least I found a stash of canning jars — and some containing food.  In the dim light they looked unspoiled.  The hungry girl had eaten everything I brought earlier, and I hadn’t seen much else in the larder except some dried peas.  I put the jars in a burlap sack and hefted it over my shoulder.

The food was welcome, as it was unlikely that I would spend any time at the Belle Inn when I went back for my things.  Yet no matter what the obstacles, I had to return to the inn to get my hatbox.  I couldn’t leave the area without that hatbox.  It contained the skull of Cornelis Drebbel.

Skull Victorian setting pink

Leaving the barn, I gazed in concern at the beautiful sunset.  How much time did we have?  Sheriff Alvin Bullard was going to send someone to attend to the body of the still unknown man. 

As he left he indicated that might take a bit of time… but how much?  A few hours?  A few days?  To my knowledge, there was no doctor in residence in the little town.  The veterinarian was half a day’s ride away.  Perhaps they used him as the coroner.

With a sigh I headed back to the main house.  I walked through the rolling lawn to the back of the house and its broad covered porch.  I recalled that the child, Copper, had been out at play somewhere.  When she returned home she found her father gone and the stranger at his desk in that most unfortunate condition.  That was all Copper knew.

My heart lurched for an instant when I heard Copper’s shrill cry.  However, the exclamation became a gale of giggles.  While it was the last thing I could imagine happening, Cornelis Drebbel took a liking to the child.  The Dutchman was supposed to be investigating the sprawling manor while I looked through the outbuildings.  I began to wonder if the entire time he and Copper had been playing whatever spontaneous games the girl invented.

When I opened the kitchen door my nose met a shocking smell.  I was stunned because the aroma was delicious. I was at a loss for words.

“Cornelis?” was all I could manage.  

person filtering powder on round stainless steel bowl

The kitchen still looked like a battleground for Armageddon, but the smell was tantalizing.  The Dutchman had a smug look on his face.  He gave the tip of his pointed beard a twist as he smirked. 

“Haven’t I always told you I was a good cook?  Yet you never believed me,” he said and gave a sly glance at Copper who giggled again.

“I didn’t think there was any food to cook,” I said, trying to ignore the alchemist’s self-satisfied behavior.  “Admittedly it smells good.  What did you manage to make?” I asked.

He removed the lid from the pot to display a perfect pease pudding.  Then I remembered seeing the uncooked peas the first time I entered the horrifying mess of the kitchen.

“But we don’t have any bread to spread it on,” Copper said in a disappointed tone, but she quickly cheered when Cornelis waved the pot’s lid to push more of the aroma to her nose.  “All we need is a spoon,” she decided with a grin.

“Oh, but my dear, you are mistaken,” Cornelis told Copper.

Judging by the disorder, Copper had looked through every inch of the kitchen in search of food.  It was no wonder she looked surprised by his words. 

The Dutchman pointed to a wooden breadbox atop one of the cabinets.  It was a little out of my reach, but I spotted a small stool in a corner.  I had the box in hand in no time.

“Always,” Cornelis began and held up one finger to emphasize.  “When searching for something, always remember to look above your normal line of sight,” he told Copper.

“It’s stale,” she said sadly when I opened the breadbox.

bread and bread knife on top of brown wooden chopping board

“It’s not so bad that we can’t make toast from it,” I told Copper and her eyes lit up.

A short time later we were all happily stuffed with pease pudding and toast.  I asked Cornelis if he had found anything interesting while searching the house.  Or if he found anything that gave a clue to what might have happened to Copper’s father. Or that business of the letter from Alexander Graham Bell and the bizarre hydrofoil contraption.

Cornelis gave the back of my hand a sharp tap with one finger.  It gave an unpleasant static shock when he did that.  He refused to tell me how it was done.  However, it might have been one of the extraordinary things he was able to do after that accident of alchemy left him in his current state.  At any rate, he meant to remind me to think before I spoke.  I made a poor choice when asking about Copper’s father in the child’s presence.

“I mean a clue to where he might have gone,” I stammered, trying to backtrack. 

However, the child was more concerned about getting the last bit of her pease pudding onto the remaining toast. 

“What could possibly be more interesting than that wonderful Wurlitzer organ in the back parlor?” Cornelis exclaimed.  “It’s no ordinary musical instrument, you know.  It’s perfectly keyed to the harmonic tuner you found at the Belle Inn.  Why, there’s no telling what the two could do when used together.  If only I had the second harmonic tuner,” he said wistfully.

“The second one?  Do you mean there is another of those odd sounding little bells?” I asked.

I was never sure when Cornelis was onto something that held importance to a situation, or if he was being carried away by passion for his wild ideas and inventions.  Clearly the organ was something exceptional, but was it relevant?

“Naturally my dear.  Harmonic tuners are always made in pairs.  A single one will do remarkable things, but the pair together – and in combination with a harmonic amplifier like that very special Wurlitzer.  Why there’s no telling what could be done!” he said with enthusiasm.

“We found this too!” Copper cried, happy to be able to contribute.

File:Vintage Goldtone Owl-Shaped Cigarette Lighter, Copyright Florenza (8456138179).jpg
Public domain image (Actually a vintage cigarette lighter, pretend it’s a lamp.)

Cornelis had that self-satisfied expression again.  I knew he had been holding back.  Copper got up and ran to a table in the corner.  Amid the clutter I had not noticed the addition of an object.  She picked it up carefully and brought it over to me.

“What have we here?” I said and for the girl’s sake I showed much more interest than I felt.

“It’s a lamp.  It’s supposed to look like an owl,” she said.

“Well, it’s certainly a curiosity,” I commented.  “It looks like it’s carved from some sort of rough mineral,” I added.

“It’s salt — Himalayan salt,” Copper told me.  “Daddy said it is special salt and when it gets warm, it gives off healthful vapors.”

My interest grew as I examined the unusual piece.  The Dutchman murmured something I didn’t quite hear in his usual droll tone.

“It’s even more interesting if you turn it over,” Cornelis repeated pointedly.

When I upended the owl-shaped lamp, I found an opening.  Some very old documents were tightly rolled and inserted into the lamp.

photo of assorted-color petaled flowers floating on body of water

I was about to pull the ancient papers out of the lamp’s cavity when I heard a door bang open.  My immediate thought was that the coroner had already arrived.  However, it had been an interior door.  The sound came from the direction of the study, unless of course it actually was from the study.  The crash of the door was followed by strange sounds that steadily drew closer.  Thump-drag.  Thump-drag.  Thump-drag…

An earsplitting screech preceded a cacophony of similar sounds.  Scrabbling feet and overturning furniture followed.  The front door slammed open so hard the stained glass window rattled. 

I looked at my companions.  Copper seemed curious but not alarmed as she ran her finger around the pot, getting the last bit of pease pudding. 

Cornelis Drebble returned my questioning gaze with wide eyes and a knitted brow.

I dashed to the door and looked into the hallway.  I heard Cornelis depart with a pop.  The first thing I saw was the open door to the study, where the unknown cadaver had been left, sitting at the desk where we’d found him.  However, the chair was empty.  A table in the hallway was overturned, breaking a vase that held flowers.  The front door stood wide open.  I saw movement at the porch stairs, so I hurried to the door.

Three very large chimpanzees were in the process of dragging the corpse away.  I stood in mystified, shocked silence.  With a loud pop, Cornelis appeared at the foot of the stairs.

“What the bloody h—” he began.  “Stop!  You lot — yes you!  Stop that this instant!” Cornelis ranted at the chimpanzees.

They stopped and looked quizzically at the alchemist.  One scratched its head.  They chattered briefly to one another.

Victorian Chimp sailor suit

“Now put that back where you found it!” Cornelis demanded regarding the body.  “This minute!” he added.

It looked as though the chimps might actually do as he said.  The alchemist dashed to the top of the stairs and motioned to the chimpanzees.  He certainly had their attention.  Cornelis switched to an encouraging tone.

“Yes, bring it back up here.  Yes, you understand, I know you do.  Come on.  Back up the stairs,” he said and began cajoling the apes.

One of them took hold of the body’s foot and started pulling it back up the stairs.  It looked like the other two might follow suit.  Then a horrible shrill screech sounded right behind me.  Something bounded into me.  It knocked me down and my head banged against the door-frame.  A fast moving blur of fur hurtled past me and launched into the Dutchman, sending him tumbling down the stairs.

I heard a flat sounding pop, and Cornelis was gone.  I had only heard that particular sound one time before, and that time the alchemist had been seriously harmed.  It seemed that I was about to become insensible as well.  My legs wouldn’t hold me when I tried to stand.  When I touched my temple my fingers encountered blood.

Falling again to my hands and knees I saw the fourth chimp join the other three.  While the porch floor seemed to spin, I watched as the furry quartet danced a jig.  Then the naughty chimps dragged the unknown dead man away.  The whole world swayed and went dark as one chimp gave a parting screech.

Naughty Chimps
Four Naughty Chimps courtesy of Chris the Story Reading Ape


To be continued…


Diary Notes

The naughty chimps in this episode were inspired by Christopher Graham’s “Four Naughty Chimps.” As you saw in the animation at the beginning of this post, Chris (and his sister) collected the poetic works of their mother, Agnes Mae Graham and made a lovely book.  (Previews here.)

My Vibrating Vertabrae cover
Book of poetry by Chris Graham’s mom



I’m delighted to say that I’ve kept contact with the wonderful the reader who gave the “three things” that kept this chapter on the tracks.  That is the amazingly talented Andrea Stephenson at Harvesting Hecate, Thoughts on life, writing, creativity and magicAndrea’s lyrical words are pure magic.  Be sure to visit her blog.


Somewhere there is a second harmonic tuner? And mysterious hidden documents? That’s curious.  More importantly, the mysterious woman in trousers is out cold.  She found the “flat sounding pop” with which Cornelis Drebbel vanished disturbing — and so did I!  So what happened to the alchemist?  

Thanks for getting on the steampunk locomotive for this rerun. I’m posting episodes twice a week, so the train will be at the station this weekend for Straightlaced Saturday, 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

All rights reserved.

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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81 thoughts on “Hidebound Hump Day — Cornelis Drebbel 5

  1. I am sorry I missed your last post. You put so many different twists into this one. Since I am late again I can just jump to the next one and see what happens next.


  2. I am sorry I missed your last post. You put so many different twists into this one. Since I am late again I can just jump to the next one and see what happens next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lavinia. I realize I’m responding to your comments in reverse order. I apologize for that. I guess you’ve seen that we still don’t know what the chimps are up to or who is behind it. LOL… The monkeying around (unexpectedly) became an ongoing thread in the spontaneously written tale.
      I hope you’ve finished with all that neighborly trench digging. (Shakes head…) My back hates to even think of it. Great big hug!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is about 15 feet of hand on the east end near the well,and about 20 to 25 feet left near the neighbor’s house. We found out their well is on our property at the edge of the woods. Their well wire went bad and it was traced back there. An old western water rights easement, and continuing saga. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d never have dreamt that some naughty chimps would enter this story, Teagan. And you’ve left us with a heck of a cliffhanger. And what about Copper? I guess the pease pudding kept her in the kitchen?
    See you at the next station.
    Have a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    For those of you who missed this week’s episode of Copper, The Alchemist and The Woman in Trousers… also knows as Hidebound Hump Day – Cornelis Drebbel 5…. here is a summary.. Dead body (as yet unidentified in the study) Cornelis in the kitchen whipping up pease pudding and toast, an owl that has something up its bottom that could be interesting and some nefarious jigging chimps, up to no good. What could possibly go wrong, and I only ask if a child such as Copper should be party to these shenanigans… It does seem as if The Story Reading Ape has a hand in the whole proceedings with some of his animation and his personal dance troupe… You will need to head over to read Wednesday’s episode to make sense of all that!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The throwback to Depression-era cooking,( or was it from an earlier time), is delightful, in that it shows us how to thrive, in times of extreme deprivation-which few in the West have really experienced. Even homeless people can get a variety of foods, virtually handed to them. Then, there is that glorious Himalayan salt!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gary. I’m happy you enjoyed this episode. I wrote this series back in 2015, and I had just discovered Himalayan salt.
      This is a “steampunk” fantasy, so the era is Victorian — still things were not as plentiful as they are now. Huge thanks for taking time to visit. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jacquie. I got the biggest kick out of his videos!
      At the time of my writing, Chris had just introduced the Naughty Chimps and that GIF. They inspired me immediately. But I had no idea of the impact it would have on my pantser serial… You will see. 😉
      Many thanks for visiting. I’m so glad you’re on this train. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This was a great way to spend my late lunch, Teagan. I love this episode. I really became attached to you characters in this chapter, including the missing father,

    “Not belonging was a description that could be applied to nearly everything he owned.”

    This is one of the lines that cemented my love of this story. That’s a character I can be comfortable with, and this was the other:

    “Cornelis would have taken days with the task, getting consumed as he looked at each object.”

    Cornelis was now a favorite forever!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve made the sun come out on my woeful Wednesday, Dan. This kind of specific feedback is so valuable. It will help me reestablish my connection to Cornelis for when I write his next adventure. I really appreciate you taking time to be on this train for a rerun. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jan. It’s great to see you. LOL, to be perfectly honest, after three years (since writing this) and heaven knows how many stories and characters… there are several things I don’t remember! I know I eventually figured out the identity of the dead man, and yes, I did something somewhere with a second harmonic tuner… Ha! But right now I’m in the seat next to you. o_O
      Huge thanks for being on this train. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Deborah. It’s wonderful to see you. Sorry about the growling tummy. Actually this was originally presented as a culinary mystery. So when I asked the readers to “send 3 random things to drive the story,” I asked them to include food-related items. I found it difficult to continue all that with this rerun, so I streamlined the posts.

      I really need to do a post with links to all the episodes. I’m thrilled if you want to catch up. This is all I’m posting — on both Wednesday and Saturday, so keep hitting the back arrow at the bottom of the page.
      Huge hugs!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Joanne, it’s been such a delight to have you catch up with this story. I really appreciate you taking time and being on this train. Straightlaced Saturday is ready and waiting. See where Corset and Irish Soda Bread take the story next. Huge hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for all your positive energy, Janet. It looks like we won’t get as much as expected/feared from the hurricane, but we have weeks (yes, plural) of rainy days already and more weeks ahead. Crystal doesn’t do well without the sunshine. So thank you for the hugs.
      I’m delighted that you enjoyed this chapter. Great big hug right back.

      Liked by 1 person

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