Wednesday, December 19 , 2018
Welcome back to Hidebound Hump Day! The #SteamPunk train wears festive holiday lights today. It’s headed to the northern Pacific coast of the USA, during the Victorian Era. That’s where we’ll finish chapter 22 of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.
Today we will see what the third of the “three things” provided by John W. Howell at Fiction Favorites created in this spontaneously written story.
This post also has a mention of a cross-over character who is featured in “A Ghost in the Kitchen, Three Ingredients 2.” I hope to book-ize that story early in 2019. If you were following Jazz Age Wednesdays way back then, you will recognize Maestro Martino.
Previously with Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
Cornelis held out his harmonic tuner. A faint current of green streamed from the tuner to the washing machine. It wobbled, gurgled, and creaked. The wringer started to turn again, the magic pulling the tablecloth on through as we watched.
Alchemically inscribed phosphorescent lettering appeared on the tablecloth. The Dutchman shined the light on the cloth as it finished rolling from the mangle. In large glowing green script I read the word aloud,
Chapter 22.1 at Straightlaced Saturday
To my surprise the alchemist produced the long map we had been looking at on the terrace. The area on which he had used the harmonic tuner still gave off a greenish glow. However, the phosphorescent script “Daddy” on the table cloth had begun to dim. Cornelis noticed the diminished glow with a frown. Hurriedly he placed the map atop the cloth.
The map was copied onto the tablecloth. At first the drawings of topography overlaid the word “Daddy,” but then the script blazed through the map. The word shone with eye-searing chartreuse light, before stabilizing and dimming to a flat pistachio green. Did it mark the location of Copper’s father?
Alastair and Victoria Wong would stay with us until we reached the Pacific Ocean, where Copper, the alchemist, and I would continue our journey. We still fled three groups of foes, but now we also were looking for Copper’s father. Let’s find out what is revealed in the rest of chapter 22.
Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
22.2 — Penne Pasta
The sun was directly overhead when Cornelis slowed the road locomotive. We were on high ground overlooking a blue river. Below I could see a collection of log cabins of some sort.
“Look, it’s a fort!” Copper exclaimed.
“Have we really journeyed so far so fast?” Alastair Wong said in a tone of amazement.
“What do you mean?” I queried.
“That is Fort Clatsop,” Alastair explained though I looked at him blankly. “It was built by the explorers, Lewis and Clark and their expedition. They spent a difficult winter there before getting back on their way.”
“And they were hungry, you may be sure,” Victoria interjected, causing Alastair to chuckle as she pulled out the large picnic basket. “That is a fate we shall not share with the explorers,” she said to our oohs and aahs as she opened the basket.
The woman surely could not have a single drop of Italian blood in her veins, but she laid out a feast worthy of any great Italian chef.
“Dear Victoria!” Cornelis exclaimed and bowed. “This is a feast worthy of the 15th-century legend, Maestro Martino de Rubeis!”
“Who?” I couldn’t help asking, even though I knew my question would meet with derision from the alchemist.
Cornelis put on a mournful face and shook his head, muttering about my lacking education. So naturally I had to tweak his nose, so to speak. “Oh, did you know him then?” I made my question a playful taunt.
The Dutchman narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips.
“The 15th century was the fourteen hundreds I remind you — that was quite before my time, as you well know. I wasn’t even born until the year 1572,” he said and continued without missing a beat. “Maestro Martino was a culinary expert unequaled in his field at the time. He was quite the celebrity. He was the chef at the Roman palazzo of the papal chamberlain, the Patriarch of Aquileia. The Maestro Martino was called the prince of cooks,” Cornelis lectured.
Then he wriggled his bushy blonde eyebrows. “So of course I did not know the Maestro in the fourteen hundreds,” he said and paused briefly. “I did, however, meet him during his cursed afterlife.”
Though I knew I should not encourage Cornelis, I took his bait yet again.
“Cursed? How so?” I asked.
“The poor soul pissed off the Pope. Enough said. Please pass the porcinis,” the alchemist said.
That naturally prompted animated questions from everyone. Cornelis loved to have an audience and he told the tale of the cursed chef and his acquaintance with him most vividly while we enjoyed Victoria’s Italian feast.
Needless to say, we were all quite pleasantly stuffed. Alastair lit a beautifully carved pipe. I faintly heard Victoria humming what I suspected was a nursery song from her home, as Copper rested her head in Victoria’s lap. I was feeling rather sleepy in the sunshine myself. Cornelis looked infinitely far away in thought as he toyed with a last spoonful of penne pasta in his plate.
“What’s on your mind, Dutchman?” I intruded on his thoughts.
“The next leg of our journey,” he replied, still examining the pasta. “I need to summon our transportation.”
He picked up a piece of penne and held it up to his eye, looking at Copper through the pasta cylinder. Copper giggled. I told the Dutchman that he was a bad influence.
“Copper, could I see your mystic monkeys bell?” he asked the girl.
“Why not use the harmonic tuner that is more familiar to you?” Alastair asked quietly in a voice edged with concern.
I was in agreement with Alastair Wong in his newfound concern about Cornelis and his tricks.
“You are right,” Cornelis told him. “Ordinarily, in the working of magic it is best to use implements to which one has become attuned. However, in this case the harmonic tuner that Copper has always thought of as her mystic monkeys bell was a gift from Daddy. And that is whom we hope to find. So the more elements relating to him, the better.”
A detailed carving of the fabled three mystic apes — see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil was worked into the surface of the bell. Copper reverently handed Cornelis the second harmonic tuner. Her solemn expression was at odds with her youth. It reminded me of how difficult the entire situation must be for the girl.
The alchemist looked down at the scraps of pasta in his plate and arranged three pieces of penne end-to-end. Then the alchemist held the harmonic tuner over them and flicked the bell with his fingernail. It gave off a sharp ping sound.
The pasta glowed greenly. The aura intensified until I had to shield my eyes. When the supernatural light abated, a jade flute lay where the penne had once been.
The alchemist picked up the flute and played a trilling series of notes. Then he abruptly stood.
“Shall we?” he asked, and we gingerly made our way down the steep hill to the water’s edge.
Once there he piped the same notes again. Cornelis looked at the water unconcernedly. I looked at him impatiently.
“I don’t see anything. What’s supposed to be happening?” I wanted to know, but the infuriating man ignored me. “Should you do it again?” I asked motioning to the jade flute.
The Dutchman’s mouth twitched to one side in a dissatisfied way.
“Perhaps I should…” he speculated.
As Cornelis raised the flute to his lips the water started to bubble and gently swirl. He lowered the flute without playing another note. He wriggled his bushy eyebrows and grinned.
“You’re going to love this,” he told Alastair.
Wong looked somewhat apprehensive. After all, he certainly had reason to be concerned, after the wayward alchemy caused his washing machine to break down the storage building door, and do assorted other damage at his hot spring. However, he quickly caught the contagious gleam of excitement in the Dutchman’s eyes.
The movement of the water became intense. Something was rising to the surface. Involuntarily I took a step backward. Victoria took Copper’s hand and pulled her several feet away from the shore.
For a moment I thought a whale was breaching. Then I realized it was no living thing. Wong beheld the sight with gaping mouth, but I had the impression that he at least thought he knew what was coming to the surface. Expressions of worry and wonder were at war on his face.
When the entire large shape was in full view, I still didn’t know what it could be.
“Cornelis…” I began, but found I was at a loss for words. “Wha—”
Cornelis Drebbel clasped his hands and a gleeful expression lit his face, as if he beheld something he had long missed.
“It’s my submarine!” he crowed.
Real World Notes
Submarines. Yes, the real world Cornelis Drebbel actually did invent the first navigable submarine. He became a famous inventor during his time. King James I of England was eager to gather explorers, theologians, economists, and you guessed it — alchemists around him at court. He invited Drebbel to England in 1604.
Drebbel’s first submarine looked like it was based on a row boat with raised and meeting sides. All that was covered in greased leather, with a watertight hatch in the middle, a rudder, and four oars. Under the rowers’ seats were large pigskin bladders, connected by pipes to the outside. Rope was used to tie off the empty bladders. To make the sub dive, the rope was untied and the bladders filled. In order to surface, the crew mashed the bladders flat and pressed out the water.
He eventually built two more submarines, each one bigger than the last. The final model had six oars and could carry 16 passengers. Drebbel demonstrated that one to the king along with thousands of Londoners on the Thames. The submarine could stay submerged for three hours at a depth of 15 feet. However, we don’t know how Drebbel maintained the air supply.
Will the flute lead them to Copper’s missing father? Can anything be that easy in our trio’s journey? Remember, three different groups of foes pursued them.
The next three random things are “Feather, Yorkshire Pudding, and Absinthe.” If you think this steampunk train has been on a crazy ride, just wait until you see what I did with absinthe!
The next episode will air on Straightlaced Saturday this weekend. So please stay tuned. I’ll be looking for you at the station.
I love your comments, and reblogs. Although today I will be slow to reply. Please don’t let that stop you from saying hello! I will reply as soon as I can.
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