Hidebound Hump Day — Cornelis Drebbel 8

Wednesday, September 26, 2018 

Thanks to everyone who visited the virtual art show, Under the SeaI preempted the Straightlaced Saturday edition of this serial for that post, but today the steampunk locomotive is back on track.

Steampunk eye unsplasy CAWT

Ladies and gentlemen, I bid you welcome to Hidebound Hump Day, where we continue our Victorian adventure from Wednesday last.  Horsefeathers… I can’t talk that way unless “Felicity” is firmly in my head — and she’s off trying to keep Cornelis in line. If I had kept going, I think I might have hurt myself.

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

Cornelis Drebbel, the alchemist, and Felicity, the woman in trousers met a curious little girl with hair the color of a new penny — Copper.  At her home, they found an unknown dead man in the study, and Copper’s father was missing.  People from a hateful orphanage showed up with the sheriff, trying to take the girl away.  Although they shouldn’t have had any idea she was on her own.  Then some naughty chimps burst into the house and dragged away the corpse.

Chapter 7.  

Previously our heroes found papers and drawings done by Leonardo da Vinci himself!  Yet time was running out for them to get away from Copper’s home before the sheriff (or someone worse) returned.  Complicating things was the fact that they had no transportation.  Then they found an old road locomotive… but it wasn’t working.  Can Cornelis use a trick of alchemy to get it working?  

“What is it?” I asked once I could see Cornelis Drebbel properly again.

“There are people coming.  More than one group.  From more than one direction,” he said sounding like he was still trying to understand what he saw.  “We have to hurry.”

All aboard!

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

8 — Soup Bone, Destiny

brown and green metal handrails
Sean Mungur, Unsplash

“Copper!” I called.  “We have to hurry.  Where are you?”

I had climbed the narrow stairs up to the tiny room at the top of the turreted tower of the Hixon estate.  I wanted to get the best possible view of the land around me, but I didn’t hold much hope of seeing anything in the dark.

Opening the window, I leaned out precariously.  Although I needn’t have been concerned about falling out — the wretched bustle on my skirt wouldn’t fit through the window.  I exhaled in exasperation at the convention of fashion I had to adopt.

When I looked to my right, I saw a small light.  At first I took it for a firefly, but it wasn’t.  It was too far away, I wouldn’t see a firefly at such a distance.  Then I saw another light near it — and two more.  Torches.  They moved steadily toward the house.

I twisted my torso and looked to my left.  There I spotted more lights, coming from the west.  One lantern held still and several others moved toward it.  I had no doubt that the group of them would also begin moving toward our location soon.

However, Cornelis detected three groups, each approaching from a different direction.  Quickly I walked across the round turreted room to the other window.  I stretched out as far as I could, but I didn’t see anything.

crescent moon
Klemen Vrankar, Unsplash

If only there were more stars, or a bigger moon, I thought.  Well then, if I can’t see, perhaps I can hear. 

I held very still and strained to hear, isolating the sounds of nature, the insects and owls.  Faint and far off I heard growls and barks, but they were only canine.  

Probably two dogs fighting over a soup bone

Abruptly the dogs gave a startled yip.  Then I heard the familiar screeching and chattering of chimpanzees.  I still couldn’t see anything.  I wondered how far away they were.  Of the two groups with torches one seemed to be about as far away as the other.  I could only guess about the chimps.  Their cacophony might carry a long way in the quiet of the night.  Or for all I knew, they might be nearer than the others.

I hurried down the turret stairs and headed for the bedrooms to find Copper.  When I told the girl to only get the most important things, I’d meant clean nickers, stockings, and a change of clothes…  However, she struggled to carry a sizable carpet bag.  It was black with a floral design done in cheery shades of mauve and red.  It also looked too heavy to contain only the “important things” I told her to gather.

Shaking my head I looked at the bag. 

Tiffany Arabesque bell

“Copper, there’s no time for me to sort through your bag and get the things you really need,” I said resignedly.  “I hope you chose well, because it certainly seems you chose enough.”

The girl tried to mollify me by holding out the harmonic tuner — the erstwhile silver dinner bell from the Belle Inn.  In truth I was pleased with her quick thinking.  No one told her to look for it.  I smiled despite myself.  I didn’t know what to do with a harmonic tuner, but Cornelis did.  It might prove very useful.

When Copper shifted the heavy bag I heard a muffled but pretty chime. 

“That doesn’t sound like something ‘important’ now, does it?” I said and with a groan hefted the heavy carpet bag.

“Yes it is!” she insisted.  “Daddy gave it to me.  It’s the most important thing I have.”

Previously the Copper I had come to know was logical, creative, and resilient.  To my surprise the girl’s lower lip began to tremble. 

How could I be so insensitive?  She really was just a child.  Copper had been through enough in the past few days to make any adult a nervous wreck.  On top of that, Cornelis and I were about to tear her away from her home and run headlong into parts unknown.

Copper pensive

Feeling ashamed of myself, I put the bag down and put my arms around Copper for a hug, which she returned with a sob. 

“Go ahead and cry if you need to,” I said softly.

She sniffled, shook her head, and wiped her nose on her sleeve. 

“I’m fine,” she said.

Copper opened the bag.  I saw with relief that she had packed the owl-shaped lamp, the base of which held the priceless letter and drawings of Leonardo da Vinci.  She removed whatever made the chiming sound.  I didn’t get a look at it because she was quick to secret it inside her blue cape.  I felt like such a heel when I thought she must be afraid I’d take her father’s gift away from her.

“May I see it?” I asked, trying to make amends.

It was an ornate bell with detailed carvings of the fabled three mystic apes — see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. 

After dealing with the real life chimpanzees, I could have wished the design was of anything but apes.  However, I wasn’t the girl whose father had made it a cherished gift.  Even so, it was artistically rendered in a style that made me think it was a Japanese antique.  It was likely quite valuable.

The three wise monkeys at the Tōshō-gū shrine in Nikkō, Japan.  Wikimedia Commons

I nodded appreciatively. 

“Of course you should keep it with you.  Put it some place safe, so you don’t drop it,” I said.

“You’re right.  We do have to hurry.  Those stinking naughty monkeys are getting close,” Copper added causing me to smile at her bravery.  “I mean chimpanzees,” she amended, no doubt remembering Cornelis correcting her.

With a chill I realized she was correct.  The chimps moved faster than I expected.  Their eerie screeching filled the night.

My suitcase and hatbox were sitting in the hallway.  Copper picked up my suitcase, which was less than half the weight of the carpet bag she had dragged through the house.  When she moved to get my hatbox too, I hastily said that I would get it.

“I need you to get the doors,” I gave my excuse.  “So you’ll need a free hand.”

The truth of the matter was I never let anyone carry my hatbox.  It contained the skull of Cornelis Drebbel.

Skull Green SIlks
Inside Felicity’s hatbox.  Monkeying around by Teagan

We stepped quickly down the stairs.  I hesitated so I could adjust the heavy carpet bag and make sure I had a tight hold on the hatbox.  I saw Copper turn back to gaze at her house.  She looked up at the beautiful home with large sad blue eyes.

“I’ll bring you back as soon as everything is sorted out,” I assured her.

Copper shook her head.  There was something very grown up about the way she stood and the expression on her face.

“Daddy says that your destiny isn’t always what you expect,” the girl said.  “I didn’t get it when I was real little,” said the suddenly mature moppet at my side.  “But I think I understand now.”

A simian scream split the air.


To be continued…


Real World Notes

The Bustle.  Victorian Era women’s fashions were characterized by crinolines (1850-1869) and bustles.  By the 1870s, the elliptical crinoline had evolved into a bustle.  It was a long narrow cage that rested at the back of the waist.  From 1870-1889, the bustle would continue to evolve into a variety of different shapes and forms.

An American bustle, linen and metal, 1875-78

A book of etiquette for ladies of the era describes appropriate dress for the following activities or events: receiving visitors, visiting others, travel, walking, going to market, shopping, visiting new brides, mourning, and going out in stormy weather.  Each type of dress was distinguished by type of fabric, presence or absence of trim, and suitability for the named activity.  Failure to understand and comply with those rules was the epitome of bad taste (FIDM Museum & Galleries,  Nov. 19, 2010).

Soup.  The Victorians would say “light” soups were for ladies, while darker heaver soups were given to men.  Here’s rhubarb soup the Victorian way. 


Our trio still has not gotten away, and the unknown groups will converge on the Hixon house at any moment.  However, Copper has collected some (hopefully) useful things for their escape.  I wonder if Cornelis has made any progress in getting the road locomotive working.

Thanks for getting on the steampunk locomotive for this rerun.  I’ve been posting episodes twice a week.  The story continues on Straightlaced Saturday.  I’ll be looking for you at the station. 



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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.

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70 thoughts on “Hidebound Hump Day — Cornelis Drebbel 8

    1. Haha! Me too, Lavinia. I would not have been able to cope with a corset. I sneeze way to much and way too hard! 😀
      I’m so happy that you’re on this train! Another episode Wednesday, and then a “break” in the story while I do my own cover reveal on Saturday!
      Hugs to you and Rick and chin rubs to all the beautiful kitties. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Joanne. I’m so glad you could visit today. Thank you. I appreciate the feedback. You’ve brought up the thing that has puzzled me more than any other about reader reaction to this story. Copper. I’ve always felt that I did a lousy job of developing her character. Yet many readers loved her. Applesauce — I wish I knew what I did right. LOL! I’m always afraid it’s the pictures I use, and so, that the character would not come across in a real book. I guess we will see — because I intend to book-ize this story eventually. Thanks for your encouragement. Have a sublime Sunday. Hugs!


      1. While I like the pictures you use with your posts, for me they don’t tell the story … only the source of your inspiration.

        For Copper, you set the stage beautifully with her name. LOVE it.
        … and even this early in the story, I think you’ve captured the essence of this serious and vaguely mysterious little girl. It leaves me, the reader, wanting to know more 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you, Joanne, for coming back with this. It really is helpful.
          The next story (the all new one that I will start when this concludes) has Cornelis in an alternate earth where he meets Copper as a young woman (everything there is just slightly skewed from the current Victorian world), so that will help me, since I need to further develop here character in that story.
          Have a marvelous Monday. I’m off to Mordor. Hugs.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Sorry to be late to this party, but I couldn’t miss it! Great episode and such tension in the air. What the heck are those monkeys up to? Guess I’ll simply have to keep reading to find out. I am loving this little girl, Copper! Great job, Teagan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jan. It’s great to see you. There’s no such thing as late here. I probably owe you a visit. Are you back from Arizona? What a marvelous vacation!
      I’m delighted that you are enjoying all this monkey business! Huge thanks for taking time to visit. Great big hug.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rhubarb soup? I remember a dinner party I attended where a friend served us Blueberry soup as a starter. Everyone thought they’d missed the main course 😂
    A heart-racing episode, considering what is coming towards the house, Teagan. It almost sounds as if the ‘mob’ are on their way. A little like the mob who ascended on the house where Franinstein was created.
    Have a super weekend.
    Hugs to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hugh it’s so good to see you. You startled me with the Frankenstein mob thought. I’m not certain whether all three groups are hostile. (LOL, really I’m not — because I’ve forgotten what red herrings swam into the story. Ha!) However, I agree with our trio’s determination to get the heck out of there as fast as they can!

      I’m intrigued by the rhubarb soup too. Although the past several months, I have no heart for cooking, so I may never know.
      Happy weekend hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I do know the ones, Adele. The flying monkeys are my all time creepiest of all creepy creatures! So I was not best pleased with the direction my imagination took this story. Yet I found myself (and the story) committed to the course the pantser plot took… Flying by the seat of one’s pants can lead to the most unexpected situations. 😀 Thanks for visiting. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this Teagan. I can’t look at videos from my laptop, but I’m quite disturbed by the thought of rhubarb soup. I’ve only cooked rhubarb once.
    I gather you’re into all things Victorian and I thought you might be interested in this doll I came across in the V & A Children’s museum: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2018/09/08/charles-ernest-pierotti-a-fathers-great-love/ I’m still not quite sure what to make of it.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rowena! Thanks for including the link to your post. Goodness… antique dolls can be the height of creepy. The memorial doll isn’t nearly as freak-out-worthy as their postmortem photos, to me. In case you aren’t familiar with it, here’s a wiki link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-mortem_photography
      However their photos are not nearly as freakish as most that I’ve seen. (Posing the deceased and having family members, even children, pose with them. Often the bodies had to wait weeks for the photographer to arrive… And it was just an ordinary thing.
      Thanks for visiting. Hugs.


    1. Ya know! Teri, I can barely survive my clumsiness without tripping over gowns, snagging bustles, and sneezing while strapped inside a corset…
      I wonder if women had bigger eyes back then… their eyes must have popped every time they sneezed. 😉
      Thanks for visiting. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved the rhubarb soup video, Teagan…I learnt something that rhubarb could be used in soups when it is young and it replaces tamarind and also that snippets or aka croutons.were used all those years ago ..That’s 3 things I also lived near Audley End House a blast from the past it is a lovely old house which hosts music festivals amongst other things although they are a tad more refined…Tables and chairs …lol… I am also loving the story 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh — Audley End House sounds divine, Carol. I’m stumbled upon that video. Now I’m so happy I used it, since you enjoyed it. I had never heard of rhubarb soup, but I certainly like it in pie, so I hope to try that soup once the weather cools. (I can’t abide soup in warm weather…) Abide? I think Felicity has gotten into my head this morning! 😀 I’m happy you enjoy this story. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A cliffhanger! And it seems the chimpanzees will get there first. Copper is a bright, young trooper. Clever, too. And will Cornelis ever get the locomotive started? Saturday’s episode can’t come soon enough!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am always wondering about where you find all the images, and this episode i learned new about the mystic apes. Here we say the three apes are silly, but you show their wisdom. Another wonderful episode. Many thanks also for the underwater journey with Rob. Fantastic. Best wishes, Michael.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Michael. It means a lot to me that you’re still thinking about the art show. Thank you. ❤
      We think of the 3 monkeys as silly here too.

      It's easier to get "vintage" images. Sometimes I buy one at DreamsTime (especially for book covers), but mostly I use http://www.unsplash.com and WikiMedia Commons Images. The trick is being persistent in searching different ways — and pure stubbornness about finding them. 😉

      Often I make composites from the images I find. The skull (supposedly inside the hatbox) is a composite of a few images I used to make the cover of the *next* series after this one. I clipped out the part of my book-cover that had the skull and put it against an Unsplash image of scarves. Then I gave it a little additional tweaking to try and blend them a bit. It's not perfect, but good enough for a blog post.
      Thanks for visiting. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Denise. I’m glad you picked out that part about the lights. I wanted to convey the darkness of their surroundings, and I thought the best way to show the dark would be to talk about the lights. 😀 Thanks for being on the train. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m trying to recreate my comment from an earlier attempt. I typed it, and I thought I pressed ‘post’ but was sidetracked playing the Monkees song. Here we go…take II.

    First, thank you for my lunchtime read. I think my employer should also thank you, since my heart rate and blood pressure are now high enough to prevent me from falling asleep this afternoon.

    I love how you blended dialog, thoughts and description to set the scene (and raise those metabolic functions). You seem to have used each to convey just the right amount of stress, fear, worry and “will you guys just wrap it up and get going!!!” to the chapter. I know where this is going and I’m worried!

    hope you have a good afternoon and a good rest of the week, Teagan. I’m not clicking on the song again

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dan… I soooo needed the chuckle you just gave me. Your might might have your blood pressure in the basement, but everyone here has mine headed to pop the top off the thermometer. Bushwa! The inability of people to answer the simplest of questions astounds me… LOL. A sign-language capable chimp would be an improvement.
      And that doesn’t even include the manager (2 pay grades ahead of me) who thought it would be fine to start talking to me about how bras should fit, and did I know how I should measure.
      No, he’s a different one than the guy who always tells me (when asking for editing and readability and formatting help) to “make it pretty.”
      Are the top execs of my agency reading these comments — I wish. Or I wish it would make a difference if they were. But hey-hey they’re the monkees too.
      Thank you for your kind and very valuable encouragement and feedback.
      Earth to Teagan? Oh… she’s in the stratosphere now… Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “…how you should measure?” What was he thinking? Strike that. he wasn’t thinking. “Make it pretty” – sigh. That reminds me of when I was trying to explain rounding errors to my old boss. I showed him how Excel rounded a computation one way and our system rounded it a different way – $0.01 off on a multi-million-dollar transaction. He seemed to follow my explanation and then said “well, just fix it.”

        The monkees are lose. I hope this day ends soon for you.

        I’m glad you liked the comment. It’s the only thing I’ve done today that someone liked.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Another great work and fabulous ending. Copper is stealing my heart.

    I did not know women and men ate different soups. Nor did I ever consider rhubarb as a savory dish. The lessons at the end were illuminating. Thanks for sharing, Teagan.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Why am I suddenly craving soup? 🥣 And bacon? No bustles though (“It’s a trap!”), shudder, amazing how fashion has been abused to keep women down and distracted over the years 👠; nothing against fashion but it shouldn’t be used to confine, just as an expression of yourself, not others.
    Loved this, dear Teagan, I look forward to Wednesdays because I know something as delight-filled as this will be waiting in my email (“you’ve got mail” 📫📫📫 lol). 😉
    Thank you and I hope this day is as wonderful as you, dear friend (not even slightly possible, but we can hope). 🙂 xox
    Mega your character is your destiny (lucky for you) hugs xox

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indubitably, dear Donna — fashion should not be used that way.
      That soup actually did sound tasty, didn’t it. The weather here is finally almost cool enough for me to want soup, or it will be tomorrow at least.
      I’m delighted you enjoyed this chapter. Thank you for being on this train. Mega hugs!


    1. Ha! Hey-hey they’re (not) the Monkees!

      Isn’t that the truth though! The first time I heard of butt implants (and injections or padding) I couldn’t believe my ears. Now if only big round stomachs would come into fashion, I’d be fine.
      Thanks for visiting, Olga. Great big hug!


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