Wednesday, December 12 , 2018
Welcome one and all to another Hidebound Hump Day! Find your seat on the #SteamPunk train. We’re headed for another episode of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.
Did I mangle the mangle?
English is an amazing language. It’s amazing because with words that have the same spelling as another word but have a different sound and a different meaning… and then words that have the same sound as another word but are spelled differently and have a different meaning… Well, it’s a wonder we can communicate with one another at all.
Then we added to the chaos when words came to mean different things depending on the country in which you live… but of course, that confusion can sometimes be entertaining!
Back in 2015, the “three things” for this episode were provided by Hugh Roberts at Hugh’s Views & News. One of his “random things” (Mangle) sent me to do my research — but that’s the fun part. Yes, I know. I’m strange that way about enjoying research.
Hugh writes incredibly imaginative short stories. He also blogs and tells stories about “everyday life,” which of course are often more interesting than any fiction. I hope you’ll click over to visit and get to know Hugh.
Apparently I did mangle the mangle.
Serials really do make for a great “beta read.” I ended up revising this chapter and re-posting because a few people weren’t able to keep up with the magical shenanigans at the end. Or maybe I should have left it alone… Maybe when I changed it I belabored the points too much, when some people really just weren’t paying attention. This will be a chapter for me to carefully consider when I book-ize this story. I’ll show you my revisions in bold and you can decide for yourself.
Previously with Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
Chapter 20. Then I suddenly saw what had been there all along. A resemblance. Copper’s face was full with youth, while Ignatius had masculine angles, but their features were very much alike.
“They’re related,” I said amazed. “And closely I’ll wager…?”
“I went to Belle’s office at the Inn, and to his bedroom. Based on letters Ignatius kept, he is the illegitimate son of Calvin Hixon,” Corenlis revealed.
“So Ignatius is Copper’s half-brother? Why would she distrust him so?” I thought aloud.
Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
21 — Moustache Cup, Apricot Charlotte, Mangle
The tiny woman, who had shown me to my room when we arrived at the beautiful family estate of Alastair Wong, appeared with a coffee and tea tray. She had told me she was named Victoria, after the Queen. She motioned more than asked if I would like more coffee. Victoria seemed rather excited when she turned to the Dutchman. At first I thought it was simply because of Mr. Wong’s admiration for the alchemist. However, it turned out there was a little more to her enthusiasm than that.
“Sir, mayhap you like this cup?” Victoria suggested to Cornelis as she lowered the tray to our table.
Smiling brightly she picked up a teacup with the same pattern as the rest of the dishes, but it was of a slightly different shape. It must have been specially made to match the rest of the china, and she was obviously both proud of the cup and delighted to have the chance to offer it to a guest. Inside the cup was a semicircular ledge. The ledge had a half moon-shaped opening to allow the passage of liquids and to serve as a guard to keep a mustache dry.
“Look Cornelis! Why it’s a mustache cup,” I exclaimed.
Cornelis Drebbel had a mustache and a short pointed beard, and bushy blonde eyebrows. When he was in a playful mood, or a sarcastic mood, he wriggled those eyebrows.
Where Sheriff Bullard, back in Copper’s home town, had a very thick mustache — as was the fashion, Cornelis wore his neatly trimmed. While Bullard would have desperately needed the special cup, it was not as much of an issue for the Dutchman. However, I gave him a little nudge with my elbow when it looked like he might decline the cup. With another look at the tiny woman, he seemed to realize that it was important to her.
So Cornelis, bushy brows wriggling flirtatiously, made over the cup and smiled when Victoria filled it with coffee. The woman was obviously overjoyed to have someone use the cup. I thought she must have put a lot of effort into having it made.
A soft chuckle caused me to turn. Our host, Alastair Wong had come back downstairs. He carried a large roll of paper.
“I thought you were going to turn in early, my friend,” Cornelis told him.
The tiny woman turned at the sound of Alastair’s voice. She was still all smiles.
“I feared that tonight no one would eat dessert — and it turned out so well. It would have been a shame that you did not get to enjoy it,” Victoria said as she hurried away, presumably to get the dessert.
I gasped when I saw what she brought. Sticky sweet glazed apricots peeped out from a golden brown cinnamon sugar crust, dusted with white powdered sugar. When I asked what it was called, she told me proudly that it was an apricot Charlotte. It was irresistible, so everyone had at least a bite before going back to the reason why Alastair had come back downstairs.
“So did you find a second wind, as they call it?” Cornelis asked.
“It was my intention to retire early,” Wong admitted ruefully. “However, sleep eluded me. I couldn’t stop thinking about the raven you told me about — the one that tried to carry a message about your whereabouts. I kept wondering where it might have been going. When I realized you were still up, I thought it might be helpful to look at a good, detailed map,” he added and motioned for us to move to a long table where he unrolled the map.
“This is a beautiful work of cartography,” I admired the map, which covered part of California, Oregon, Washington, and southern British Columbia.
“We are here,” Alastair said pointing to a golden dot on the map. “And I expect you were approximately… here when you were spotted?” he asked, pointing to another location and Cornelis nodded. “So we know the bird was headed north of that area,” Alastair said motioning in a large circle.
“That covers a lot of ground,” I said in a dejected tone.
The alchemist reached into his coat and produced the device that looked like an intricately worked silver bell. Wong’s eyes widened in obvious recognition.
“The harmonic tuner!” Alastair exclaimed interestedly. “My grandfather told tales of its magic! But wait. It is not going to cause the large gong to sound again is it? The hour is late, and I wouldn’t want to disturb the household.”
“Neither would I, my friend. This time the tuner will have a different purpose,” Cornelis said, but I knew how often his tricks didn’t go as planned.
A subtle green aura emanated from the alchemist, alerting me that he was doing one of his tricks. He turned the harmonic tuner onto its side and rolled it around on the map in the area Wong indicated.
“Where were you going, raven?” the alchemist murmured the question, making it part of the magic he worked.
At his words, the topography on that part of the map blurred and became three dimensional. Then a part of that area took on a phosphorescent glow.
Although mesmerized by the magical transformation of the map, I was vaguely aware of faintly padding footsteps. I turned to see Copper, wearing a dressing gown and slippers. She clutched something wrapped in a scarf to her chest.
“Miss Copper,” Alastair Wong addressed her in a playful tone that was likely meant to distract her from what we were doing. “You needn’t have come down here,” he told the girl and then turned to Cornelis and me somewhat awkwardly.
“I suggested Copper go back to bed when she saw me in the hallway. I apologize that I made a bit of noise, and she got up to see what the bother was. Copper I hope I didn’t frighten you, in a strange place, trying to sleep,” Wong told her. “I said that I was bringing boring grownup things to show you,” he said to us.
The girl must have begun to worry that she was about to get into trouble for leaving her room at so late an hour. She hadn’t even noticed the phosphorescent glow that meant Cornelis worked his alchemy on the map, but then again, Alastair may have blocked her view.
Suddenly I realized that Copper held her cherished “mystic monkeys” bell, which her father had given her. It was an ornate bell with detailed carvings of the fabled three mystic apes — see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.
It was also a harmonic tuner. Yes, a magical implement with powers similar to the tuner Cornelis was using at that very moment. The night we ran from the Hixon estate, the two harmonic tuners being in close proximity had a profound effect. The magic the alchemist worked that night went out of control when the other harmonic tuner’s influence became involved.
I glanced at Cornelis for his reaction. The alchemist was so focused on his trick with the map that I wasn’t sure he had even noticed Copper’s entrance. He was completely absorbed in his work.
“What will we find here?” he muttered over the map as he rolled his harmonic tuner across the glowing area, asking the alchemy to show him what or who was in the area of the map that his harmonic tuner touched.
“Here it is,” Copper said proudly, and before I could shout a warning, she unceremoniously plopped the second tuner right onto the map on which the alchemist worked his trick.
Once again, the inadvertent influence of the second harmonic tuner had an unpredictable effect on the magic Cornelis was working. The existing harmonic sound from the Dutchman’s tuner quadrupled. A varicolored aura made a rainbow around the bells and the map. The sound seemed to vibrate through the entire world. Then I felt it inside my throat, and just as before, I couldn’t help wondering if my voice would take on that dual harmonic sound when I spoke.
Alastair must have felt the bizarre sensation as well. He put his hand to his throat. The tiny woman dropped her tray to the paved terrace. Fine china shattered, the sharp noise blending with the harmonic sound.
As I said, the sound seemed to vibrate throughout the entire world. The magic reached far and wide. In the distance I heard noises that I couldn’t quite define. It reminded me of the sound of men scuffling, but it sounded heavier than that. Then I heard a crash from that area, and I knew it had to be the work of the alchemy gone awry. The din was followed by clacking and clanging sounds. The louder noises were enough for me to know the commotion came from the hot spring. The magic had traveled all the way down there.
Everyone turned at once, ready to race toward the sounds and the runaway magic. Thankfully I had the presence of mind to tell Copper to stay there. Even better, with a wise wink the tiny woman took the girl’s hand and led her to the kitchen with the promise of a serving of the apricot Charlotte. I heaved a sigh of relief and followed Cornelis and Alastair toward the disturbance.
When we reached the hot spring I saw that the door to one of the small gold-painted buildings was off its hinges. Under the influence of the magic, the wayward alchemically affected the washing machine washing machine had somehow bumped and thumped its way out of the storage building. It looked as though it had clambered around until it was caught between two maple trees. Every few seconds it gave a futile bump to the trees.
“There’s something in the mangle,” Cornelis muttered, and I was sure that was also the magic at work.
“What’s that you say? Oh yes, the mangle. Here they call that part the wringer,” Alastair said absently as he looked in astonishment at the rogue washing machine and the damage it had done.
When the washing machine made its magical escape from the storage building, the washtub had been dragged along by the machine, halfway to the spring. I remembered the young man putting a tablecloth in the tub to soak. I suspected that was what hung from the mangle, or wringer — the magic having pulled the cloth into the wringer. When I cautiously walked over to the still grumbling machine, I found that I was right.
Cornelis held out his harmonic tuner. A faint magical current of green streamed from the tuner to the washing machine. That had another effect on the washing machine. It wobbled, gurgled, and creaked. The mangle started to supernaturally turn again, pulling the tablecloth on through as we watched.
“All that hubbub and the cloth is not clean,” Alastair said, surprising me with his acerbic wit.
Of course, he had no concern about whether the table cloth was clean. Rather, he jokingly referred to something he saw, something the enchantment had put onto the cloth.
He was correct, there was something on the tablecloth, but it wasn’t simply dirty. It looked like writing — phosphorescent writing.
Cornelis flicked the tuner with his fingernail, causing a faint ting sound and then the tuner cast a bright light like a torch. The Dutchman shined the light on the cloth as it finished rolling from the mangle.
A word had been written by the rogue magic that resulted when Copper accidentally added a second harmonic tuner to the magic worked by the alchemist. It wasn’t something anyone would want to wash away, because it was never part of the laundry. As I said, that was only Alastair’s wit, a joke. It was a magically provided clue, resulting from the alchemist’s spell.
In large glowing green script I read the word aloud.
Real World Notes
Moustache Cups. Harvey Adams invented mustache cups in the 1800s. Adams devised a mustache guard to prevent embarrassing accidents. Now, I mean things more humiliating than a damp ‘stache. In the Victorian Era, many men put a lot of effort into their impressive moustaches. They men waxed or even dyed their moustaches to keep them groomed and curled and looking fashionable. Also, they drank tea. That tended to cause the wax to melt, and dye would run. It was quite embarrassing to the gentlemen.
Another “accident of alchemy,” yet we can’t really blame Cornelis. How could he have expected Copper to interrupt — and with the other harmonic tuner? Maybe this time it’s a happy accident. Could the word “Daddy” magically written on the table cloth provide a clue to the whereabouts of Copper’s missing father?
Please come back to the station this weekend. I’m bringing back Straightlaced Saturdays for the next chapter. That set of three random things were from John W. Howell. Guess what “Pistachio, Penne Pasta, and Porcini” will cause.
I’ll be looking for you at the station this weekend.
Now some shameless self-promotion.
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