Hidebound Hump Day — Cornelis Drebbel 23

Wednesday, December 26 , 2018 

Portage Flyer Christmas train Robert Nelson Wiki Media Commons
Portage Flyer, Robert Nelson, WikiMedia Commons

I hope everyone who celebrated any sort of holiday this week had a joyous and relaxing time.  I’m always hearing people say “Christmas is all about families.”  Well, I don’t have a family, but I enjoy the holiday in my own way.  Festivities were perhaps a little restrained this year for 2 million (USAGov figure) of us who work for the federal government, due to the government shutdown (pay withheld).  Fortunately this has not effected my particular agency… yet.  Onward.

The #SteamPunk train has arrived at the platform and we’re ready for another chapter of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers!  You’d better buckle up.  

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

Chapter 22.2

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.  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.

All aboard!

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

23 — Feather, Yorkshire Pudding, Absinthe

Submarine breaching Pixaby altered
Pixabay altered image

Awed silence blanketed us as we looked toward the water.  A highly refined version of the submarine Cornelis Drebbel invented in 1620 breached the surface of the water.   I don’t know what I expected it would do after surfacing, but I thought it would at least do something.  However, the vessel bobbed on the gentle currents and other wise did not move.

Alastair Wong spoke excitedly to Cornelis, marveling about the machine.  Our host clearly hoped for a tour of the submarine.

“This surely was a feather in your cap.  It’s amazing that you invented such a futuristic vehicle so very long ago!” Alastair exclaimed and Victoria nodded her agreement.

Cornelis looked unexpectedly worried.  That puzzled me, because he loved to show off his inventions.

“You must have a look at it.  But I’d best go aboard first to err… to make sure things are in order,” the alchemist said with a distracted smile.  “The hatch should have opened by now,” Cornelis murmured as he turned from Wong back toward the submarine.

As the Dutchman approached the shoreline the vessel’s hatch slowly lifted.  Green vapors emanated from the opening.  The breeze carried an aroma like licorice to me.  Victoria smelled it too.

Green LIghts Drew Collins_1466939721550-ad3ef4b9eeec
Drew Collins, Unsplash

“Is that scent anise?” she asked no one in particular.

“Your king must have been thrilled,” Wong continued, not noticing the tiny woman’s softly spoken question.  “Just to think—” his words abruptly cut off.

Though it was far away, it was easy to hear the distant boom of the huge gong at the Wong estate.  Alastair turned back in the direction from which we came.  His face remained passive at the unexpected sound. 

A second vibrant hollow tone crashed immediately after the first.  Wong and Victoria exchanged a quick concerned glance.  For the space of two heartbeats there was silence.  Victoria took a relieved breath, but Alastair had not moved a muscle.  Then a third beat rang across the countryside.

Victoria gasped.  Alastair sprang to life. 

“I humbly beg your pardon Cornelis.  There is trouble at the pavilion.  I must return with all due haste,” he said.

Cornelis motioned for Wong to wait.  He unrolled the map with the alchemically inscribed word “Daddy.”  The alchemist produced his harmonic tuner out of thin air and rang it three times.  Then he took a crystal salt shaker from the basket that Victoria was hurriedly packing.  He sprinkled a pinch of the salt over the map.

crystal salt shaker

The salt began to swirl into a tiny cloud.  It moved to the golden dot that indicated the Wong family’s estate.  As the salt settled onto the map it made little moving specks.  A dozen of them moved steadily toward the pavilion.

“What does it mean?” Victoria gasped. 

“A group of people are moving toward your estate,” Cornelis explained.

“For the great gong to be sounded, they are strangers.  Not only strangers, but somehow they have aroused the distrust of the guards even at that distance,” Alastair told us.  “Will the road locomotive get me back there before they reach the pavilion?” he asked the alchemist.

“I’ll see that it does,” Cornelis assured him.

“Umm,” Alastair began.  “Will you teach me to pilot it?”

Cornelis grinned at Wong’s sheepish tone. 

“You needn’t worry,” he told Alastair.  “Just rest your hands on the controls.  The locomotive will remember the way home.  I entrust it to your safe keeping.”

As Wong turned to go, Cornelis took his arm to detain him. 

“It is almost certain that those are our foes, not any that you may have, who approach your home.  I should come back with you,” the Dutchman said.

Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto City, Japan

I knew Cornelis was sincere, but he gave a worried look at Copper.  The “foes” that converged on Wong’s estate were most likely from one of the groups that meant to abduct Copper.  We all knew that.  I only hoped Copper didn’t realize and feel responsible. 

Alastair Wong caught our glances at the girl and he looked down at her with a warm smile, as if nothing whatever was wrong.  Victoria put her arm around Copper’s shoulders with a reassuring squeeze.

“My grandfather was once the guardian of your skull, Cornelis Drebbel.  It is my honor and privilege to defend you however I may,” Alastair said with an abrupt soldier’s bow, and he and Victoria were quickly gone.

I watched the steam engine in concern as it disappeared into the trees.  When I glanced down, I realized Copper was at my side.  She turned worried blue eyes up at me.

“Will they be alright?” she asked.

I swallowed, just as worried as Copper.  The Dutchman crouched down next to Copper and there was a small glint of mischief in his eyes.  He shook his head in mock regret.

“It’s really the people sneaking up on the pavilion that we should worry about,” he told her in an exaggeratedly grave voice.

Asian girl kimono red Pixabay free

Copper gave the alchemist a sidelong look that matched my own. 

“What do you mean by that, Cornelis?” I asked.

“Didn’t you know?” he returned a question.  “Why the Wong family business — or at any rate it’s practically their family business.  Has been for hundreds of years.”

“What?” I demanded, losing patience.

“Martial arts of course,” Cornelis said with a wave of his hand.  “That tiny Victoria is downright lethal.  I tell you, she and Alastair alone could take on the dozen people headed toward the pavilion,” he added.

I looked at the Dutchman closely.  Such a claim had to be an embellishment meant to amuse Copper.  My eyes widened when I realized that he was perfectly serious.

Copper still looked worried so I tried to change the subject. 

“After that delicious Italian feast, we might not be able to fit into the submarine,” I commented, joking.  “You enjoyed the food, didn’t you Copper?”

“It was strange food, but it was good,” she answered.  “But there wasn’t a sweet,” she added sadly.

Cornelis began describing a strange but elaborate meal he had been served in the sixteen hundreds. 

The First Christmas Card, Sir Henry Cole, 1843

“I was in service to the King of England then,” he supplied.  “But now a traditional meal one might serve company for dinner would be much different.  Have you ever had a Yorkshire pudding?” he asked Copper and went on to describe such a meal.

I looked at the submarine apprehensively. 

“Are we going to have to swim out to the thing?” I asked then had a worried thought.  “Copper, can you swim?” I asked.

The child wore a doubtful expression but nodded affirmatively.  I didn’t believe her.

“Not to worry,” Cornelis said cheerily.  “I can levitate us that miniscule distance.  I’m thoroughly rested and refreshed.”

We placed Copper between us.  Cornelis and I each held one of her hands.  I was amazed to not feel any sensation at all.  It was as if I suddenly realized that I no longer felt the ground beneath my feet.  We floated on a green nimbus over the water to the submarine. 

As we drew close I could hear an odd sound that was like a combination of chirping and lip-smacking with an occasional snuffle.  Then I detected the licorice-like scent again.

“Cornelis,” I began doubtfully as a green tendril wafted up from the open hatch.  “What powers this submarine?  I could swear that I smell absinthe.”

Absinthe Bohemian Ritual (burning the sugar).jpg
Image from Jeff Nelson via Wikimedia Commons

“Oh no, no.  Of course not,” he sputtered.  “Well, not exactly.”

Cornelis Drebbel!  Need I remind you that we have a child with us?” I threatened.

“No, it’s not like that at all,” Cornelis hastily tried to explain.  “The submarine is powered by the Green Fairy.”

“Absinthe!” I accused.

“No and yes,” he answered exacerbating my exasperation.  “The fairy sometimes goes by the name Absinthe.  But it is not the liquor, I assure you.  The Green Fairy’s magic, along with my alchemy, powers the submarine,” he said.  “But do be careful not to startle it.”

“Why?” I spoke the question with raised eyebrows.

“Well,” the Dutchman hesitated.  “If the Green Fairy is startled, he can emit a strong vapor.”

“Like a fart?” Copper giggled.

“Exactly,” Cornelis said.  “But not at all.  It’s not a vile odor.  However, it will cause…” he paused and looked at me sheepishly.  “Intoxication.  It’s quite strong,” he finished and wouldn’t look at me.

I looked at the green vaporous tendril and inhaled the anise, licorice scent.  I took a steadying breath and tried to gather my quickly escaping temper.

“Cornelis Drebbel, are you trying to tell me that this submarine is powered by a magical creature that farts a highly concentrated vaporous form of absinthe?” I asked and I couldn’t prevent my voice going up a full octave on the last word.

Cornelis twisted his lips over to one side and raised one bushy blonde eyebrow in a cringing expression.

“Well, yes.  That’s pretty much exactly what I meant.  But he only does that if you frighten him,” Cornelis said, nodding encouragingly.


Childe Hassam, Wikimedia Commons

Real World Notes

The First Christmas Card. Sir Henry Cole was a British inventor who facilitated several innovations in commerce and education.  He came up with the idea of of sending greetings cards at Christmas time, and introduced the  first commercial Christmas card in 1843.

Absinthe.  It’s an anise-flavored, alcoholic drink.  Some horrible crimes were associated with the drink back in the day.  However, modern investigation indicated that absinthe got a bad rap.  It is no more dangerous than any other properly prepared liquor.  Although it is quite a potent potable, so be careful that you don’t get arfarfan’arf.

Serving the drink can be a courtly, can be an afternoonified ritual because of all the particular accoutrements.  Fill an absinthe fountain with ice water.  Pour the absinthe into distinctly shaped absinthe glass.  Then place a slotted silver spoon across the top of the glass.  Place a sugar cube on the spoon.  Position the glass, spoon, and sugar cube under a spigot of the fountain.  Let the icy water slowly drip over the sugar cube until the sugar dissolves and the absinthe turns completely opaque.

 Here’s a good informative video and article about it. 

This video demonstrates the beguiling way in which absinthe is properly prepared.


This serial continues on Straightlaced Saturday.  See what I did with Coyote, La Llorona, and Chupacabra

I’ll be looking for you at the station on Saturday.  

Mega hugs! 


Now some shameless self-promotion. 

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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

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72 thoughts on “Hidebound Hump Day — Cornelis Drebbel 23

    1. Hi Lynn! Really? I’ve never tried absinthe myself, but I find the whole process so beguiling that I’d love to give it a try, whether I liked the flavor or not. Thanks for visiting. Wishing you and yours a very happy New Year. Hugs.


  1. I had a feeling that Victoria had a secret, which you revealed in this episode, Teagan. Martial arts – so she may be small, but she sure can protect herself. Love the fact that they levitated to the submarine. That must have been an incredible feeling. And I’m so looking forward to meeting Absinthe again.
    Weekend hugs to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Hugh. Ha. It’s been something of a relief that a couple of people have liked the levitation to the sub. When I wrote it, I couldn’t think of how I could possibly get them from the shore to the sub. I was afraid the levitation was a little too… too.
      Thanks for your feedback. Happy weekend hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved all the magic here today, Teagan. The salt on the map, and the absinthe were fun and I especially liked transporting on the green nimbus. Wonderful imaginative writing, my friend, you bring us right in. Cheers to a great new year and hoping that partial shutdown gets settled soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lavinia. You’re so kind to ask. Bloom has always been out in paperback. Although sometimes it doesn’t show up on searches. I’ve yet to figure out why. Here’s a link. https://www.amazon.com/Atonement-Bloom-Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene/dp/1726882128/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1546016631&sr=8-1&keywords=atonement+in+bloom
      I wasn’t able to get the price down as much as I’d like. Everything keeps going up.
      Wishing you a fabulous Friday. Mega hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. My chuckaboo, I’m always glad to give a giggle. 😀 I really enjoyed writing the interactions between Cornelis and Felicity in this story. I hope you are having a lovely holiday break. Thanks for spending part of it here. Hugs.


    1. Hi Jennie. I’m happy you had a good time here today. Ah, the answer to…some of those questions on Saturday. 😀 It was fun to write the Absinthe character. Heaven knows what put the idea in my head. Wait until you “see” what he looks like. :mrgreen:
      I’m so glad you’re on this train! Mega hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m still laughing about the fairy farts being absinthe. Interesting about the first Christmas card and a tradition that is fading away. Glad you aren’t being effected by the shutdown, but sorry for those who are. Hope your holidays are going well for you. This was a fun chapter. I can’t wait to get inside the submarine:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Denise. LOL, that was my version of the truth about the “Green Fairy.” I go on to have more fun with the Absinthe character. :mrgreen:
      The shutdown will effect me if it continues. Fortunately not immediately. We go day-to-day, not knowing when it will hit us. Last year #45 put a lawyer buddy from Romania (who made almost $7 million in 2016 alone) in charge of my agency. So who knows how this will play out.
      I enjoyed your holiday post and seeing all the pets. Mega hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Another delightful segment, Teagan! One of my favorite places to visit in New Orleans is the Absinthe House. 🙂 This just reminded me of that. I have no doubt Alistair Wong and his household will be able to handle the aggressors. Hopefully, no one will do anything to frighten the Green Fairy. 🙂 I hope you had a fabulous holiday, Teagan and that your moving plans are “moving” forward!! Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed this chapter, Jan. I’m not familiar with the Absinthe House! Oh that will be a fun research project. Just the name throws the story writing corner of my brain into gear. 😀
      Well… not so much progress thanks to my slacker of a realtor. She’s earned herself an eloquent letter to whatever board oversees those licenses… I’ve spent the past 4 days chasing down information and making phone calls to try and keep any of the utilities from being shut off — because she didn’t bother to show up at the closing, and so I had no representative there. I’ve also made repeated demands that she get the KEYS to me… Sigh… Much more than you wanted to know. It will all come together.
      Have a wonderful rest of the year. Mega hugs right back. 🙂


    1. That depends on how long it drags out — I eventually would be. I hate to see people unpaid, but I have to hope no one gives into #45’s idiocy.
      I’m glad I could give you a fun visit, Jacquie! 😀 The real fun is about to begin. Mega hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. More merry mischief from the whimsical wordsmith. 🙂 Kudos Teagan. I think you’ve outdone yourself with a fairy-farting-absinthe powered submarine! I’m glad your job is secure. May 2019 be a year of many more words and adventures. Sending absinthe powered hugs! 🧚

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, I remember the Absinthe in this story! I’ve yet to try it and doubt I ever will. I love the color. It’s quite obvious what’s in the glass. I recently watched a movie where three ladies were drinking it without knowing much about it. I remember saying, “Oh oh!” They soon learned! I believe it was a romcom. I’m glad to hear you had a peaceful Christmas and aren’t affected by the shutdown yet. Enjoy the rest of the week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Mary. 🙂
      Back when I wrote this, I interviewed a bartender about absinthe. At that time (and here) he said it was hard to find. And the real thing (with wormwood) had to be brought in from outside the country. I’ve no idea if that is still the case.
      It sounds that was a fun scene in the movie. Have a great rest of the year. Mega hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. All things “steampunk” have gotten more popularity and familiarity in the 3 years since I wrote this. Absinthe might not be hard to get at all now. Liquor hurts my stomach so very badly that I haven’t checked.
          Keep writing, Mary. Cheers.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Loved the “how to serve,” instructions on the Absinthe. Not sure any of the folks I would serve to have the patience for the procedure. I could see them saying, “Never mind. Just give me a beer.” I remember the trouble caused by the fairy farts. Have a great balance of the week, Teagan.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I fear someone or something is going to frighten that fairy! That video showing how to properly prepare a glass of Absinthe is calming. I love the colors from Emerald green to Peridot to pale yellow. The greens being my favorite shades. I’ve never tried it myself.

    Hope the rest of your week is a good one. I’ll see you on the next train. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Deborah. Yes, it sounds like he is skittish… That could cause problems. 😉
      I agree about all shades of green. It’s my favorite color too, with any tone of turquoise playing a rather close second.
      I haven’t tried absinthe either. I have a hunch that it would taste like Jägermeister, which I tried decades ago, but still remember the vile taste. LOL.
      I’m so glad you’re on this train. Happy after-Christmas hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love how you handled this transition, Teagan. It’s an abrupt change, but you led us across as if you’re using a bit of Mr. Drebbel’s magic. Absinth always makes me think of Oscar Wilde, which seems appropriate,

    I hope you have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dan, thanks for taking time to visit during the holidays. Your post was quite a treat this morning. 🙂
      I wanted the appearance of the submarine to be a surprise. So I guess it needed to be abrupt. However, I painted myself into a corner at this point — I needed to get the trio onto the submarine, but I wanted to show what was happening with the Wongs too. Thank goodness “fantasy” gives the writer some outs for that kind of thing!

      Oscar Wilde… hmmm… he could be a fun real life character to fictionalize. Maybe I need to bring him into book 2. What do you think?
      I started the second book November 2017. It finds Cornelis, after an accident of alchemy of course, in a world that is *similar but different* from this one. There, Copper is a young woman. Her parents are not in the picture, but after the skull of the alchemist lands in her lap, they begin looking for her missing grandfather. (I wanted story elements that, to a degree, paralleled this one.) The location is the desert southwest. I intend to use that story as my next “3 things” serial here, so I can finish the book.
      Do you think Wilde would fit?
      Happy after-Christmas hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think he might. I was fortunate to see Vincent Price portray Oscar Wilde in a one-man show in 1977. He would stop periodically and say, “now for a touch of Absinth.” I think he’d be a fun character to work with, and I’m sure you could make him fit in. His quote on Absinth is said to be:

        “After the first glass of absinthe you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.”

        That sounds like a man you could work with.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Olga. I have a hunch that it will work out for the best in my case. However, I have to feel for hundreds of thousands of other people — if they were already scheduled for “leave” suddenly they won’t be paid for it. It’s worst for those who have to work *without pay*! While I don’t have sympathy for people at an executive level who spent their paychecks on expensive status items, vacations, and big homes — just to fit in (believe me, that’s what it takes to fit in, in DC), the vast majority of workers are in lower pay-grades. In high-cost-of-living areas, it’s impossible for them to save money. To think of them losing even a couple days of pay at Christmas is terrible.
      Thanks for your kind thoughts. Hugs on the wing.


  10. It’s wonderful to see it keeps going, dear Teagan. I have drunk many different drinks but never Absinth! when I was young, I’ve read a book, a roman about a man whom the absinth damaged his life and his family. I can just remember nothing else about this book; the name or the writer, but the story hit me.
    PS: I have also no family any more but my wife has enough 😀 😛 😉 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Magician. I hope you and your wife had a beautiful Christmas. ❤
      I've never tasted absinthe either. However, the modern consensus is that absinthe got the blame (wrongly) for a series of horrible crimes — when other substances were in fact responsible. Either way, I doubt I would like the flavor. 🙂
      Cheers! 🥂

      Liked by 1 person

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