Wednesday, November 7, 2018
Hello, November! It’s National Novel Writing Month again — or #NaNoWriMo as it’s also called. I have more going on than usual, so this year I’m doing the editing version. I’m bookizing the third 1920s novel of Pip and Granny Phanny’s adventures, A Ghost in the Kitchen — Three Ingredients 2. I’ll keep you updated on that.
Now it’s time for another Hidebound Hump Day, and another chapter of the spontaneously written, #SteamPunk serial, Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.
Previously with Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
Chapter 15. Cornelis had thought they had gotten a good distance away from their pursuers. Then the handsome innkeeper, Ignatius Belle showed up on a paddle steamer. Belle, in true Victorian straightlaced form, objected to Felicity and Copper traveling with a man, and apparently being stranded.
Not wanting to reveal the existence of the road locomotive, the alchemist made made up the excuse that some old family friends were on the way to pick them up.
Then they saw another group of presumed foes headed toward them. For reasons only the Woman in Trousers could understand, Felicity let Ignatius know about the road locomotive they had hidden. To everyone’s surprise, Ignatius volunteered to draw the group of villains away so our heroes could escape.
Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
16 — One Lone Dandelion, Free Verse Poem, Candle Wax
My jaw clenched as I worriedly looked toward the river.
“How did they find us?” Copper asked in a whisper when the hydrofoil came into our sight.
One lone dandelion grew in our hiding place. Copper picked it and nervously plucked it apart. I could tell she was silently playing the “loves me, loves me not” game. However, I wondered what she was thinking. Did she ponder whether or not someone loved her, her father perhaps? I reminded myself that she was only a young girl. Even an adult might feel abandoned in her circumstance. Or perhaps she asked the flower if we would find her father, find him; find him not.
“The road locomotive is heavy, so it left a lot of tracks, especially where it nearly fell over into the river. Cornelis used a trick to cover our trail to some extent, but I doubt it would have been difficult for an experienced tracker to trace our path along the river,” I told her.
“Or they might simply have followed Ignatius Belle,” Cornelis said through lips that held a sardonic twist. “However, that also leads to the question — how did Belle know where to find us? Is the man an innkeeper, or an expert tracker? Does a woodsman lie beneath his fine clothes? And why does he seem to know so much about Calvin Hixon? I suppose he’s an innkeeper, woodsman, and inventor!” the Dutchman said in a droll tone, but his face wore a pout.
“Why Cornelis Drebbel. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were jealous,” I needled the alchemist.
“Jealous! Don’t be absurd,” Cornelis objected. “And I hope you realize it wouldn’t hurt you to use a little objectivity,” he added and my eyes widened. “I’m surprised you don’t burst out with a free verse poem when you think of him. You act as though you’re positively smitten with the dandy.”
“Smitten! Now that’s just ridiculous,” I snapped. “I have never been smitten in my life. I’ll have you know that I—”
“Shh!” Copper hissed at us both. “They might hear,” she whispered, pointing at the hydrofoil, which by then had nearly reached the spot where Ignatius Belle had arrived with his paddle steamer.
“Don’t worry dear heart. They’re too far away to hear us, and the little trick I used to keep them from seeing us will also dampen our voices or any other sound we make,” Cornelis told Copper to sooth her fear.
“What other sounds?” she asked, just as Cornelis intended.
“Oh, any sound,” he said with wriggling eyebrows. “The snap of a twig, or a hearty belch,” he assured her.
Of course, Cornelis Drebbel couldn’t resist demonstrating a “hearty belch,” to which Copper collapsed in a gale of giggles. Abruptly she covered her mouth, still concerned that she might be heard. I rolled my eyes heavenward at the Dutchman’s behavior.
However, I secretly admitted that he really did have a good way with the girl. As I recalled, during his human lifetime he had four children, or rather four who reached maturity. Infant mortality rates were even worse in his day. I supposed he had plenty of practice entertaining and distracting young ones.
Suddenly I wondered if he missed his children, but surely he did. I stubbornly stamped out the thought. Every time I thought about Cornelis remembering his life as it was before the accident of alchemy that put him in his current state, it made me sad. This was no time for me to indulge myself in emotions, particularly not in morose thoughts about which I could do nothing.
To my dread, the hydrofoil slowed as it drew near. I still couldn’t tell who manned the craft, except for one erratically moving figure. A chill went down my spine when I could see for certain that it was indeed a very large chimpanzee.
Do not underestimate the size and strength of an adult chimpanzee. I shuddered at the memory of the hoard of chimps bearing down on us at the Hixon estate. The chaos of their mob, their shrill cries, their inhuman strength, it was something I’d rather forget.
The hydrofoil stopped. The vessel lowered toward the water.
“What an amazing machine,” I whispered, awe overcoming my fears about the dangerous chimp.
Cornelis was eager to explain such things, but I was rarely patient enough for his invariably long winded explanations.
“The hydrofoil rises as the speed increases. So the pressure around the foil changes until even the pressure on the top surface can become very low. That lets the aerated water create a bubble and break down the lift on the top surface of the water. At that point one might lose as much as two-thirds of the lift. At that speed the vessel will drop back into the water,” he explained.
The Dutchman snapped his mouth closed when he noticed my level expression. He pursed his lips in annoyance at my lack of scientific enthusiasm.
Ignoring him, I craned my neck to see the people on the craft. I couldn’t tell how many passengers it might hold.
The people on the hydrofoil wore rain gear. I guessed it protected them from the spray the vessel created. A man leaned over the edge, looking at one of the foils that lifted the craft out of the water. His movements made me think he was concerned about it. He jumped to the riverbank and continued to look at the vessel from that angle.
The chimpanzee eagerly bounded to the shore. It cavorted on the riverbank for a moment, and then it sniffed the air and turned directly toward the spot where the three of us hid. The man shouted harshly at the ape. It reluctantly returned to the shore. The man finally shook his head and shrugged as he inspected the hydrofoil. I wondered if they had suspected a problem, but found none.
The man turned his attention to the banks. Ignatius had deliberately scraped his steam boat against the shore, leaving big marks.
“He was here,” I clearly heard the man call to someone on the vessel.
The tone of his voice led me to believe the person to whom he spoke was in charge. A muffled reply came to his words. I couldn’t make out any of it. The man continued to examine the shore.
Meanwhile the chimpanzee had our scent again. The ape looked fiercely intent as it resumed its tracing of our steps. Fortunately, Copper had run all around the site in her adventure of picking flowers and finding the whale’s tooth amulet. That seemed to confuse the chimp, slowing his progress toward our hiding place.
“Do you have candle wax in your ears man? Let’s go!” came an angry sounding command.
Cornelis and I looked at one another in open mouthed shock. That was a woman’s voice!
The voice was vaguely familiar. I knew it was one I had heard since coming to the quaint little town. My mind raced through every woman I had met since I arrived. It didn’t seem to belong to any of them. I reminded myself that a woman wouldn’t have used such an imperious tone in ordinary company.
Images of each woman paraded through my mind. There were the two women at Best’s General Store, Billie Best and I never knew her customer’s name. (Chapter 1) The two gossips had been unnecessarily hateful to Copper. The memory irked me, but I didn’t think that voice belonged to either of them.
Then there were Cookie and Bitsy from the Belle Inn. (Chapter 2) I remembered Bitsy’s bubbling laugh and impish grin. It was difficult to imagine that commanding tone coming from her. But I supposed it could; the pitch might have been about right. No. That just didn’t seem possible.
Cookie was not only a talented cook, she had impeccable organizational skills. She would be capable of directing such goings on, but she had spoken so briefly I wasn’t sure if I would recognize her voice. (Chapter 6)
My mind turned then to the dreadful people from Merciful Haven Orphanage. The cowardly man, Claude Dinkley had a tenor voice. Could I have mistaken I higher pitched male voice for that of a woman just then? After all, I only heard it speak one phrase. (Chapter 4 for the orphanage people)
Then there was tall willowy Gertrude Hobbs, whose honking laugh combined with her long neck and weak chin made me think of a goose. When they tried to take Copper away, she mostly echoed the proclamations of Ethel Farthing. It was difficult to imagine Gertrude issuing imperious commands, but perhaps her subservience was an act.
Now, Ethel Farthing was another matter. I could easily see her commanding men and chimpanzees. Had it been her voice? I felt like pulling out my hair in frustration. I simply did not know.
While I pondered the voice and the women of the town, the chimp had crept frighteningly close to the place where we were concealed. The trick Cornelis used could only work up to a point. The chimpanzee was confused but determined. It screeched loudly in aggravation. The man looked toward us with an quizzical expression on his face. He took a step toward the ape.
A sharp whistle blew loudly from farther along the river. That would be Ignatius at the bend of the waterway, making sure these adversaries did not lose him.
The chimp whirled toward the whistle. It ran with astonishing speed and hopped aboard the hydrofoil. The man followed quickly. In a moment the craft sped away.
To be continued…
Real World Notes
Loves me… Loves me not. I don’t know how old this game is. It originated in France, and the Victorians played it, as you saw in the painting I used in this chapter. In the original French version of the game, the petals do not simply indicate whether the object of the player’s affection loves them, but to what extent: un peu or “a little”, beaucoup or “a lot”, passionnément or “passionately”, à la folie or “to madness”, or pas du tout or “not at all.”
A humorous twist on the game is “She loves me, she loves me lots.” This fortune-telling is shown as a pantomime in the 1st act of Giselle, ballet by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot (Paris, 1841). Wikipedia.
A woman is in command of one of the groups chasing our heroes. That’s certainly unusual for the Victorian Era. Felicity found the voice familiar. Could it really be one of the kind women at the inn who made food for them? Or one of the horrid women from the orphanage. Does this clear Ignatius Belle? Since three separate groups pursue our trio, it’s hard to say. At this point anyone could be involved.
Come back next time to learn where the “things” Crinoline, Lye Soap, and Caterpillar take our trio. Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers will continue next Wednesday on Hidebound Hump Day.
I’ll be looking for you at the station.
Now some shameless self-promotion.
(E-book still on sale at 99¢ )
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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