Hidebound Hump Day — Cornelis Drebbel 10

Wednesday, October 3, 2018 

Skull Green SIlks
The Skull of the Alchemist

Welcome back to Hidebound Hump Day, where we continue our Victorian (#SteamPunk) adventure from Straightlaced Saturday.  This episode brings up some health matters for the characters.   That wouldn’t be surprising if you knew that I wrote it in March of 2015, during a huge snowfall.  I hate snow, so I was really missing the home I left behind in in New Mexico where snow melts quickly.  The things were from an old friend there.  

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

Chapter 9

Cornelis got the road locomotive running.  I’m not sure whether it was an accident of alchemy or not, but with the help of two harmonic tuners, he turned the attacking chimpanzees into ceramic statues. Copper said one of them used sign language to say the word “daddy.” Cornelis thought they meant to lure Copper into a trap.

The other two groups of apparent foes were closer, mere minutes away… 

However, Felicity is a bit under the weather at the moment, so this episode begins with a bit of a ramble.

All aboard!

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

10 — Muff Pistol, Sourdough Pancakes

Lily Elsie 1900 muff
Lily Elsie circa 1900, English actress-singer

Do you mind terribly if I digress for a moment?  Just because I find long full skirts and bustles inconvenient and impractical, it doesn’t mean that I don’t relish fine things.  I disdain corsets, but that doesn’t prevent me from enjoying an elegant gown.  I actually do have an appreciation and an eye for quality workmanship and materials.  So why would Cornelis and Copper give me such incredulous looks when I delightedly produced a lovely royal blue velvet, fur lined muff from an open crate filled with finery?  Really, their reaction was rather offensive.  

There was a pocket inside the muff made especially for a gun.  Unfortunately, I had not had a muff pistol for a long time.  A pity that — the inconspicuous firearm could come in handy.  But I ramble.  That’s a story for another day.  Let’s get back to the story at hand, shall we?

Image result for vintage fashion frilly magazine cover
Too Early by Tissot, 1873


Cornelis groaned.  I glanced in his direction apprehensively.  Copper sat enthralled, watching the alchemist.  I ducked behind a crate for cover.

“Huh.  Huh.  Huh,” Cornelis gasped in advance of a sneeze and I cringed.

Cornelis Drebbel couldn’t precisely get sick, due to his unique state of existence.  However, he could get the equivalent of a very bad head cold.  The effects of which ranged from amusing to alarming.

Ah-choo!” I inadvertently finished for him, as my own head cold was the genuine article.

“God bless you — and everybody around you!” Copper exclaimed, her favorite blessing for a large splashy sneeze.

I took out my handkerchief and blew my nose in a most unladylike way.  Then it happened.  Cornelis abruptly finished his sneeze, with no preamble whatsoever.  Before the sound died away, before the rain of spittle settled, the effects of the alchemist’s mighty “AH-CHOO!” were revealed.

Copper - Victorian young girl

Every sneeze had a different result.  Knee-high stacks of sourdough pancakes surrounded us, the manifestation of his first ah-choo.  It would have been nice if the subsequent sneeze rained syrup onto the pancakes, as they looked quite delicious.  But I supposed that was just as well.  It would have been dreadfully messy. 

Instead, the next sudden involuntary expulsion of air from his nose and mouth created a hail of doorknobs.  That was rather dangerous.  Cornelis got a goose-egg on his head from where one landed on him.  For once the wretched bustle of my skirt was useful, as it deflected two knobs that would have assaulted me.

An electric crackle in the air was the only warning of the alchemic sneeze effect.  I put my arms over my head when I heard it.  I held my breath, wondering what this sneeze would bring.  Something smacked against my forearm.  I noted with relief that it was neither hard nor heavy.  Hundreds of delicate thumps sounded as chrysanthemum blossoms rained down all around us.

Ah-choo-choo-choo!” I triple-sneezed.  I was appallingly allergic to chrysanthemums.  As if my head cold was not enough.

Yet, I digressed again… I still haven’t gotten back to the point where we left this story.

How did Cornelis Drebbel and I come to have head colds, you might ask?  It happened something like this…

Chrysanthemums, WikiMedia Commons


Clouds blocked the light of the moon.  Rather than risk blindly heading into the darkness, Corneils and I chose to follow the nearby river.  At least that way we wouldn’t become lost.  However, that route took us closer to one of our three groups of pursuers. 

We still had no idea who any of them were.  Cornelis had made the group of chimpanzees scatter with the magically enhanced road locomotive, and their three leaders became a ceramic statue of “the wise monkeys.”  However, I didn’t think whomever controlled the chimps was out of the picture.

Our unknown adversaries were much too close for comfort.  I could distinguish different voices as they shouted to each other.  One seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place who it was.

“Over there!” a man shouted.

We’d been seen.  Cornelis muttered in the odd sounding language he used to work his tricks.  I felt a peculiar sensation that made the hair on my arms stand up.  Suddenly the road locomotive lurched in an impressive burst of speed.  Copper squealed with delight.  Our pursuers were quickly left far behind — whoever they were. 

White Mill in Sandwich, Kent, England. WikiMedia

Lights shone from every window in a building ahead.  As we got closer I saw that it was the local grist mill.  “I wouldn’t expect anyone at the mill this late,” I commented but Cornelis didn’t understand me because of our noisy conveyance.

“Look,” the Dutchman said.  “Someone is at the grist mill.  Doesn’t the sheriff own half of it?  Maybe we should stop there, get the authorities involved.”

I mouthed the word “No.”  As soon as I heard the word “sheriff” something fell into place in my mind.  I had heard a vaguely familiar voice amid the distant shouting of our pursuers.  Suddenly I realized that voice sounded a lot like Sheriff Alvin Bullard.  Could the sheriff be involved in whatever was going on? 

Leaning close to Cornelis Drebbel my lips were a hair away from his ear so I could make him hear me above the noise of the traction engine.

“I always knew you were sweet on me,” he teased drolly before I could speak.

The temptation to swat the alchemist was strong.  However, I voiced my concern about the sheriff.  Cornelis made an appropriate face and nodded. 

close-up photo of man with mustache
Sheriff Bullard’s big mustache

“Onward then!” he shouted and gave the locomotive another burst of speed.

I pieced things together, and I believed everything that had happened was connected.  We already knew these things…  Mr. Hixon, Copper’s father, disappeared.  People from the orphanage were keen to take Copper before anyone should have even known her father was missing.  An unknown dead man was found in Calvin Hixon’s study and trained chimpanzees spirited the corpse away.  Three groups of adversaries converged on the Hixon estate, presumably to abduct Copper.  I believed all those things were related to the priceless Leonardo da Vinci papers that were hidden inside the owl-shaped lamp.

The road locomotive had been traveling at an astonishing speed for quite a while.  The grist mill was long gone, and I hadn’t seen another building in some time.  Shouting to be heard above the noise of the engine, I suggested that it was safe for us to slow down.  In answer Cornelis gave me an all too familiar sheepish look.

“Don’t tell me…” I warned the Dutchman. 

I was right.  He didn’t know how to slow down the road locomotive!

Road Locomotive, WikiMedia Commons


To be continued…


Real World Notes

Sourdough Pancakes.  Yes they are a thing!  I mean more than a “three things” kind of thing.  Take a look.

Balderdash! Now we have a double dose of cliffhanging. Felicity’s (aka the Woman in Trousers) narration started out a touch unreliably.  She and Cornelis were sick, but she had gotten ahead of the story when she told us that.  So, she’s left us with the very questionable sheriff on their heels — and Cornelis doesn’t know how to stop the rapidly moving road locomotive!

The last “thing” in this set is Airtights.  What the devil are aritights?

I’ll preempt Straightlaced Saturday for a big reveal of my own!  So Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers will be back again next Wednesday for Hidebound Hump Day.  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.

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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69 thoughts on “Hidebound Hump Day — Cornelis Drebbel 10

  1. Your imagination has no bounds, Teagan and those beautiful chrysanthemums bought back memories… my father used to show them and had many gold cups but the bath was out of bounds for a few days before the show as canes were crisscrossed across the bath to hold each chrysanthemum straight so he could tweak out any stray petals with the tweezers…We dare not even breathe near them let alone sneeze…lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine and commented:
    I was a bit distracted yesterday, but certainly bookmarked Cornelis Drebbel 10 – Copper, The Alchemist and the Woman in Trousers for a read today.. I would imagine that Teagan Geneviene is a whizz in the kitchen having read what she can do with a handful of ingredients, including today a muff pistol, sourdough pancakes and chrysanthemums. Sneeze over to her post and find out more about their escape plan and the suspicions about the nefarious bunch chasing them.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. Ha!! Rob, thanks for making me laugh. I nearly spewed my last bite of lunch onto the computer. 😀 Lulu would be beside herself… and since Cornelis is so prone to “accidents of alchemy” she might literally be beside herself!
          He has made his way into one of Pip’s 1920s stories. And a character from that series who was mentioned (but was not alive during their time-frame) shows up in this story pretty soon.
          Cornelis has a way of showing up wherever he pleases! Hugs on butterfly wings!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Fun lunchtime reading, Teagan! I love Copper’s line – “God bless you — and everybody around you!” I need to remember that one. I also enjoy the gradual introduction to the alchemist’s “powers” if that’s the right word. I’m looking forward to the next bit of this adventure.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Dan. Powers is as good a word as any. I’ve tried to keep a limit on his powers. I didn’t want Cornelis to be able to save them from anything that came along. So I give him relatively small abilities, and make him fallible, which to me is both more interesting and more endearing.
      “God bless you — and everybody around you!” came from somebody in my family (my father, a grandparent…) I don’t remember who, but I always got a kick out of it. I’m glad you liked it. Thanks so very much for visiting. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Adele. It’s great to see you. That Cornelis and his alchemy… so often things don’t go as planned.
      I confess that I still don’t remember what I did with that sheriff — whether or not we can trust him. LOL. We’ll find out eventually. I’m so glad you are on this train. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The sourdough pancakes made me hungry and I think I sneezed a time or two along with them. 🙂 I love that Felicity is piecing clues together. I think she’s onto something for sure! Another great segment, but oh dear, now we have a runaway locomotive. What next? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no, Jan… You didn’t really ask “what next?” Gosh, there’s no telling what will happen now! LOL.
      I appreciate the feedback about Felicity. It always helps me to hear specifics. Thanks for taking time to visit. Great big hug!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I just knew that sheriff was up to something. Never trust a man who refuses to trim the hair above his upper lip at least once a fortnight, Teagan.
    I love the idea of magic sneezes. However, when they are out of control, I guess anything can happen. Just imagine if the pollen count had been high that night. 😀
    Hugs to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love the mystic sneezes too, Teagan! 🙂 But this line is crazy “It would have been nice if the subsequent sneeze rained syrup onto the pancakes”. ***lol*** Thank you for the wonderful sequel. Have a good wednesday! Big hugs! Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! Thanks for that specific comment, Michael. When I wrote that I thought of all those lovely pancakes… and it just seemed *wrong* that there was no syrup. 😀 I appreciate you taking time to visit. A wonder-filled hug-filled Wednesday to you as well, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I look forward to hearing about your big reveal on Saturday!

    I’m grateful that Cornelis’ sneezes are not a common occurrence. I can’t begin to imagine the chaos. Flowers aren’t bad – but doorknobs? Ouch!

    Something is going on at the grist mill!

    Liked by 1 person

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