Wednesday, October 3, 2018
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
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.
Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
10 — Muff Pistol, Sourdough Pancakes
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?
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.
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…
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.
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.
“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!
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.
Now some shameless self-promotion.
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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