Hidebound Hump Day — Cornelis Drebbel 27

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Abandoned Locomotive 2

When I wrote this chapter back in 2015, I was experiencing a lack of energy.  It made me relate to these images of worn-out, abandoned locomotives.

Since my characters sometimes reflect my experiences of a given moment, I went to my manuscript with the intention of exploring what a tiny magical green skunk-like creature would do if he was fatigued.

However, to my surprise I didn’t give my characters my own weariness.  Quite the contrary — they energized me!  Today I hope to tap into that energy once again.  My simple life has made many demands on me lately.

Abandoned Locomotive Santa Fe

The #steampunk submarine is at our port.  It’s rising to the surface now, and we’re ready for another chapter of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers. 

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

Chapter 26.1   Absinthe, the Green Fairy, managed to pilot the submarine and take it underneath the ack ruffians who were hunting for them.  Although, the others didn’t know that was what he was doing.  

Chapter 26.2    Felicity, the Woman in Trousers, was still a bit fishy about the gills from the potent poot of Absinthe, the Green Fairy.  Her nausea was made worse by the maniacal spinning of the submarine when the Alchemist accidentally uttered the incantation Yadadarcyyada! 

Will Cornelis have another accident of alchemy?  Will Felicity be mad as hops?  Will Absinthe be startled into another powerfully potent poot?  Read on to find out.  

All aboard!

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

27 — Corded Stays, Pickled Beets, Cold Cereal

Steampunk woman Noel Nichols Unsplash.png

Through the velvet black of unconsciousness I heard my name called.  I shook my head to clear it, but found I could barely move.  Some unseen force held me fast.  I managed to open my eyelids and vacantly looked straight ahead.

Absinthe, the Green Fairy clung protectively to Copper’s head.  All I could think was what an odd sight it was. 

Then memory surged back, filling my mind.  The pressure that held me still was from the force of the violently spinning submarine.  Even if I could have moved spryly, the Green Fairy had created a protective barrier around Copper, himself, and me.

“Thank God you’re awake.  It took you long enough,” Cornelis called from across the chamber where he moved like a maniac to correct the damage of his inadvertently spoken incantation, yadadarcyyada.

He fiddled with an odd multi-armed contrivance, which whirred and hummed, shooting rainbow light everywhere.  It also shot colorful sparks now and then, which Cornelis adroitly ducked.

I muttered a rude response to the Dutchman’s ill-mannered comment.

“Don’t just sit there!” he complained.  “I only have two hands.  Have you a corset, woman?”

“I beg your pardon!” I said warningly.

Flexibone corset ad
Flexibone corset, Wikimedia Commons

“This is no time to suddenly become delicate,” Cornelis chided.  “The thingamajig is on the verge of coming apart.  I believe I can use the corded stays from a boned corset to keep its arms in place.”

“The thingamajig?” I repeated incredulously.

“Well, that is the name of the device after all.  It is the original thingamajig!” the alchemist said in a tone which suggested that fact should have been obvious.  “Didn’t Copper put a corset in that big carpet bag when you had her collect her belongings before we left the Hixon estate?” he asked.

“I believe she did at that,” I answered in a mystified tone.  “But how did you know?”

“Never you mind,” Cornelis said and abruptly broke eye contact.  “Absinthe, dear boy, could you release that shield enough to let Felicity out?”

The tiny skunk-looking creature snuffled and grunted sounds of uncertainty.  The Dutchman made encouraging sounds at Absinthe.  After a moment the bright green light he had formed around himself, Copper, and me flickered.  When I had touched the aura before, it felt as hard as steel.  I raised a hesitant finger and touched it to find it had become pliable.

“Go ahead,” Cornelis said through gritted teeth, apparently having to put great concentration into what he was doing.  “You should be able to move about now.”

Terrence Mann as Cornelis
Terrence Mann as Cornelis

As I struggled to my feet, the Green Fairy’s magical shield stretched and preceded me while I moved.  It caused everything I saw to take on a greenish cast.  I spotted the black bag with a floral design.  If I had not been looking through the green of Absinthe’s shield, the flowers would have been embroidered in a shade of mauve. 

My movements were sluggish as I made my way to the carpet bag.  It felt like walking in waist deep water.

When I opened the bag I had the passing thought that Copper had an eye for fine things.  She had packed my nicest undies.  Despite the fact that I felt corsets were horrid, barbaric torture devices, I looked from the garment to Cornelis regretfully.  It really was well crafted…

“Don’t look at me like that, Felicity!  You know you’ll never wear the blasted thing,” Cornelis said sounding strained.

I plodded over to him as if in slow motion.  At least two of the gemstone capped arms on the thingamajig waved erratically.  They seemed in danger of flying off.

Boned Corsetry
Wikimedia Commons

“Do I need to cut the stays out of it?” I offered.

I’m sure my tone of voice was compliant and helpful.  It betrayed not a whit of the regret, even though I knew that a beautifully made garment was about to be torn to shreds.  I determined to be helpful. 

I took a breath first, but only because it was difficult to move within the protective field Absinthe created.   Although I couldn’t bear to look, I didn’t hesitate as I passed the corset to the alchemist.  I’ve no idea what the Dutchman could have heard that he mistook for a sigh from me.

“Oh, the drama!  For pity’s sake,” he complained.  “Don’t sound like such a martyr.  No, you don’t have to do anything to it.  Just put the corset in my hand and I’ll take care of it.”

“But both your hands are on the machines,” I began, just as his hand darted away from that cast iron finial and grabbed the corset from me.

As Cornelis grasped the corset it became engulfed in the rainbows of light produced by the multi-armed contrivance.  Then, my under garment disappeared before my very eyes.  The arms still whirred at blinding speed, but the machine’s movements didn’t seem as erratic.

I staggered as the spinning submarine abruptly slowed.  Apparently the corset and its corded stays had been a proper fit to fix the wayward spell that caused the submarine to violently whirl.

“That’s better,” Cornelis murmured as the limbs of the machine slowed somewhat.  “Now I just need something to set it.  Um… Felicity do you notice anything missing?” he asked in his best professorial voice.

Jamie Murray as Felicity
Jamie Murray as Felicity

“Cornelis, I hardly think this is the time for an educational lecture,” I began.

“Just look, Felicity,” he said impatiently.

Watching the wildly gyrating thingamajig made me queasy, but I could see that something wasn’t right.  One of the jewel end-caps was missing.  Looking at the rainbow lights cast by the machine I noticed there was no purple amid the numerous colors.

“The amethyst is gone!” I said feeling downright proud of myself, since Cornelis usually got the better of me when he went into professor mode.

“Ah…  So it is,” he said sounding drolly bemused.

“You don’t have to sound so surprised,” I countered.  “And you needn’t be smug either.”

“Now I need something purple,” he said looking all around.

“I saw a jar of pickled beets inside the desk — or rather the bridge as you called it,” I suggested.

Just as the words left my mouth, Absinthe shrieked.  He left his protective perch on Copper’s head and fluttered upward to be at eye-level with Cornelis and me.  The Green Fairy muttered and grunted in an angry sounding way.

Green fairy skunk
Absinthe, the Green Fairy

Typically the fairy’s striped tail curled over his back, rather like a squirrel’s tail would.  The moment he started making those irate sounds, his tale stood up straight. 

I kept a worried eyeball on Absinthe’s bantam backside and eased backward.  However, the submarine had no place where I could escape if the fairy let loose another spray of super concentrated absinthe fumes.

“What’s wrong with him?” I hissed at Cornelis.

The Dutchman hit his own forehead with the heel of his hand as if something he should have remembered had just come back to him.

“How could I forget?  Beets are his favorite treat,” the alchemist muttered.

Absinthe fluttered threateningly in front of the bridge.

“Come now my chuckaboo,” Corenlis implored, but the fairy hissed.  “It’s ever so important,” he encouraged, but Absinthe grunted an irate sound.  “I only need one or two.  I promise not to take them all,” Cornelis pleaded as the thingamajig swung erratically.

The Green Fairy’s emerald eyes narrowed as he looked skeptically at the gyrating contrivance.  He fluttered down to the drawer where his pickled beets were stored and with a dramatic sigh opened the drawer.  The jar of beets levitated up to my hands.  Hurriedly I went to the alchemist and opened the jar.

Meanwhile Absinthe turned his back.  He refused to look at any of us or what we did with his cherished beets.

Wikimedia Commons

When the spinning submarine slowed, the Green Fairy dropped the protective barrier he had created.  Copper went to the alchemist’s side to watch what he was doing to the thingamajig.  She looked closely at the faceted gemstone caps that adorned the machine’s limbs.

“The beets aren’t the same color of purple as an amethyst,” she pointed out the difference.

“So you know your gems then?” Cornelis commented fondly.

“Daddy has a tie pin with a purple stone.  He said it’s amethyst,” Copper explained.

“You make a valid point,” Cornelis replied, surprising me, as I didn’t expect him to take the girl’s comment seriously.

The beet was momentarily engulfed in a green glow.  When the verdant aura dissipated, the reddish purple hue of the beet became a vibrant royal purple.

“Now if I can just attach the beet to the proper arm without stopping the motion of the thingamajig,” Cornelis murmured.

His hand darted out so fast that I couldn’t say exactly what he had done.  However, the wonky motion of the multi-armed contrivance smoothed.  Gradually the machine slowed to a gentle rhythm.  I spotted the perfect amethyst, which only a moment before had been a pickled beet.

I had not seen the Green Fairy move, but he suddenly fluttered at my shoulder.  He made a few clicking sounds that seemed to be a grudging compliment to the alchemist’s skill.

Absinthe flew to the opened jar of pickled beets making tut tut noises until Cornelis put the lid back on the container.  Then in a rapid blur of motion the fairy grabbed the jar and put it back into the drawer.

Quickly he fluttered from the bridge to the submarine’s brass periscope.  Tiny paws made lightning fast adjustments to the crystal knobs on the apparatus.  Uttering a nonstop stream of grunts and chirps, Absinthe turned it this way and that, taking a 360 degree view of the surroundings. 

Abruptly the fairy fell silent.  He darted backward a pace, staring at the periscope.  Then he shrieked.

Copper - Victorian young girl

“Absinthe! What’s wrong?” Copper cried in concern as she hurried to the tiny creature.

The Green Fairy didn’t appear to be hurt in any way, so I felt puzzled but very anxious.

“Whatever is the matter with him?” I asked Cornelis.

The Dutchman seemed rooted to the spot where he stood.  Like me, he dreaded what might have upset the fairy to such a great extent.

“I don’t know,” Cornelis began.  “But I haven’t seen him this agitated since I tricked him into eating cold cereal.”

I didn’t move any closer to the fairy for fear that he would fart more of his ferociously fragrant fumes.  One false move and I knew from experience that I might startle him.

Cornelis gently moved the tiny fairy aside and looked through the periscope.  He drew back, frowning, eyes narrowed, and brow furrowed.  Then he looked again and shook his head slowly without taking his eyes away from the periscope.

The alchemist started whispering to the fairy.  Absinthe muttered a series of chirps, seeming to insist that his opinion was correct.  Cornelis whispered again and waved one arm emphatically.  Absinthe chirped once then widened his emerald eyes and screeched a warning.  Cornelis took a step backward, and raised his upturned palms, conceding the argument to the Green Fairy.

Finally the alchemist turned to me. 

“When yada— ahem…  That is, when that incantation worked itself into the spell I was crafting with the thingamajig,” Cornelis began.

“You mean when you accidentally spoke the incantation?” I couldn’t resist inserting.

Drebbel stamp

Cornelis pursed his lips. He narrowed his eyes and looked to one side.  The Dutchman refused to take my bait.

“Ahem!” He cleared his throat pointedly.  “As I was saying.  Something went wrong with the thingamajig, and we have been transported.”

“Isn’t that good?  That woman with the hydrofoil and that vicious trained chimpanzee were right on our heels,” I reminded him.

“Well, yes.  Yes, I suppose it is at that!” Cornelis stammered but Absinthe hissed a warning at him.  “All right, all right,” he said to the fairy and then turned back to me.  “I admit that the mechanics of the situation are beyond me.”

“What are you trying to say Cornelis?” I insisted worriedly.  “Where are we?  Oh no-no-no…  You are not telling me that we’ve moved through time are you?  Or  that we’ve not just gone under water, but under-ground, like Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s novel Vril, the Power of the Coming Race or some other science fictional story?” I asked, my eyes widening.

“No Felicity.  We haven’t fallen in with some sort of superior subterranean master race,” Cornelis said drolly.  “And it’s not so much about where we are, or even when we are.  And we haven’t gone to some other planet.  Or at least, not exactly,” he said incomprehensibly and climbed the ladder to the hatch.

“Well, don’t just stand there,” the alchemist said.  “It’s much easier to show you than it is to tell you.”

He turned the brass wheel that opened the submarine’s hatch.  Copper scurried up the ladder behind Cornelis. 

I took a look over my shoulder at Absinthe, hoping for some hint that would help me understand what was happening, for some pearl of wisdom. 

The fairy plopped down on the desktop of the bridge in a dejected seeming way.  His wings settled on his back.  He looked at me and gave a resigned sounding chirp.  Then he started eating the rest of the pickled beets.  They were clearly his comfort food.

“We’ve run aground,” Cornelis said in concern.

Copper’s musical voice came down to me when she beheld to landscape before her.  “It’s an amethyst world!” she exclaimed.

I couldn’t imagine what she meant.  So, I climbed up to the opening.  My first concern was that the people from the hydrofoil would be there to attack us, but there wasn’t another soul in sight.  I looked all around, speechless.


Everything was purple.  It reminded me me of a pair of spectacles with rose-colored lenses that Cornelis once gave me – except I saw a landscape in purple, rather than pink.

I tensed as the vegetation parted about fifty feet away.  A figure wearing an all purple three piece suit with a starched collar and a bowler hat emerged.  The hat and the suit made me think of Ignatius Belle, but I was also reminded of the portrait of Calvin Hixon.  However, the person’s gait was nothing like either man.  He moved awkwardly in a loping walk.

The figure began to make motions with his hands, repeating a pattern of movements that I had seen before.  As he came closer the three of us gaped in astonishment.  It was no man.  Rather it was a very large purple chimp wearing a suit, hat, and spectacles.  He made the motions again.  Sign language.

Copper, the alchemist, and I spoke in chorus, “Daddy?”

Reading Ape purple


If you don’t remember the significance of a chimpanzee signing “Daddy” then think back to Chapter 9.

Real World Notes

Dry cereal.  George H. Hoyt created Wheatena circa 1879.  Back then, the most often purchased cereals were cracked wheat, oatmeal, and cerealine.  Retailers usually bought cereal in barrel lots, and scooped it out to sell by the pound to customers.  Hoyt, who had found a distinctive process of preparing wheat for cereal, sold his cereal in boxes.  This offered consumers a more sanitary and consumer-friendly option.

Victorian Vernacular

Mad as hops:  Excitable.

Mafficking:  Getting rowdy in the streets

Meater:  Coward.

Meathook:  A hand (preferably used while yelling at the police to stop dragging you to the hoosegow — “Get yer meathooks off me!”).

Mutton Shunter:  The police


Betcha didn’t see that coming!  What have our characters gotten themselves into this time?  

Next time, the “See what happens when Broken Knife, Sea Urchin, and Potable Water drive the story.  We’ll find out more about the “amethyst world” and the chimpanzee in a three piece suit. 

I’ll be looking for you at the submarine port next time! 

Mega hugs!


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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.

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90 thoughts on “Hidebound Hump Day — Cornelis Drebbel 27

    1. Ha! I’m not crazy about beets that are pickled, but otherwise I like them. Before Hugh left his comment, I didn’t really realize how much they are eaten elsewhere. In my experience, they’re rarely much more than a salad ingredient…
      I’m glad you like purple, my chuckaboo! Once I painted myself into that violet corner, it took me awhile to find a way out… Hugs on the wing!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Jacquie, my chuckaboo! That’s a good point. 🙂 I used to collect gemstone properties with the intention of creating a book of them. Amethyst is also said to protect against anxiety and stress, and: Healing for the brain. Prevents drunkenness. Strengthens the central nervous system and circulatory system.
      I managed to use them to a degree in my unpublished steampunk novel “The Delta Pearl.” I named the central characters after gemstones and made that part of the story. One of them is Amethyst. 🙂 Hopefully I can get back to that story sooner rather than later, now that I’m making some life changes.
      Thanks for being on this submarine. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love the thought of an Amethyst world, Teagan. I had no idea what corded stays were. I’m glad they came in of some use for Cornelius, though. I blame the beetroot (as we call it in the UK), although it hasn’t put me off from easting beetroot sandwiches. Sure, they can make the bread a bit soggy, but they are so full of goodness.
    A ‘great fun’ episode. I just hope that Chimp is friendly.
    Hugs to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Hugh. Thanks for this fun comment. I’ve never heard of, or considered beet (or beetroot) sandwiches… But why not? Here (or at least in any of the areas I’ve lived) beets aren’t exactly popular, and are not in portions that would even amount to a side dish (in my limited experience). I do like beets, although I’m not fond of them pickled.
      Your beetroot sandwich sent me Googling. Some interesting and tasty sounding recipes! https://cookpad.com/us/search/beetroot%20sandwich
      Mega hugs right back!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My partner grows beetroot in the garden, so we’ve always got a supply of the stuff, Teagan. I don’t particularly like having to clean the beetroot when it comes out of the ground, and the smell of it cooking isn’t exactly nice, but I have to say that it always delicious when cooked. As well as beetroot sandwiches, I also like it served with feta cheese, walnuts, red onion, lettuce and tomatoes.
        Thanks for the recipes. I’m so glad that a beetroot sandwich was on that list.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s very similar to how I use it in salads, Hugh. Great minds think alike. 😉
          Maybe once I get settled into my cottage I can grow some of my own food. I didn’t when I previously lived in New Mexico. But maybe this time. It will take some research and learning though, about what will grow easily enough in a “high desert” climate. More hugs!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. A dizzying episode, Teagan! Like Absinthe, I too love beets, but I’d certainly give them up to stop the runaway thingamajig! Your imagination knows no boundaries! Could it be that they’ve found daddy? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your feedback, John. I was surprised when I found that information too.
      LOL… yes, “meathook” makes me laugh too. Although not as much as “batty-fang” or “arf’arf’an’arf”! 😀 Thanks for taking time to visit, my chuckaboo! Great big hug!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Michael. Writing serials is a great learning experience. This was originally meant to be a “culinary mystery.” So, I asked readers to include food-related items in the random things they sent.
      However, for this story the culinary aspect really didn’t work that well. It was a challenge to figure out what to do with the food-things! 😀
      I appreciate your visits and encouragement very much. Hugs!


  3. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time! An amethyst world sounds like such a nice place to be and can’t wait to find out if it is, but the fairy wasn’t happy about it. I felt the energy from the characters, too. I love when they do that!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s great to see you Denise. Oh Absinthe has a big reason for not wanting to go there… Stay tuned!
      This story is kind of like that old song “Truckin’ like the Doo-dah Man…” it’s a long strange trip!

      Great big hug, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This episode gave me energy as well, Teagan. Just what I need to face Wednesday afternoon after a late lunch. I love pickled beets, but I’m going to be careful the next time I open a jar. I love the interplay between Felicity and Cornelis today, as well as the emotional responses from all the characters. This world seemed particularly real today – maybe that’s why it had energy to spare.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Dan. Thanks for spending part of your break here. If I’ve made this zany world feel real, that is the highest praise! 😀
      I like beets too, but I prefer mine not pickled. They’re one of my favorite salad ingredients. … I just realized that bowl of chicken and rice soup I had for lunch has run out. Ha. Need to do a little more work around here before dinner though.
      I hope the other side of this mid-week hump is smooth going. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m happy to hear your own story gave you energy. 🙂 The next time the low-down sluggish feeling overtakes you, say, “Get your meathooks off me!” and think of this post. I’ve seen a lot of worn-out vehicles sitting in desolate fields, but I’d love to come across one of these locomotives to photograph. Happy Hump Day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. GP, my chuckaboo, I think that is the nicest, best compliment I’ve ever had. Thank you so much! The idea of Absinthe was fun for me right away. When I decided he couldn’t talk, it became a hoot to write him.
      Planning and preparing for a cross country move is a lot for one person. I’m afraid it’s made me scarce at other blogs… My daily routine has become unpacking and repacking the things I’ve already packed — as I repeatedly realize it’s *still* going to be too expensive, and once again look for a more economical way to move… My back is now officially fed up with that! LOL. I know it will be worth it though.
      Hugs on the wing!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What on earth (or an alternate version of it) have they got themselves into this time?!
    … and can the beet loving, little green fairy who farts “ferociously fragrant fumes” help get them out of it?

    How wonderful that your characters can energize you and help pull you out of a lethargic slump! Remind me to never take a road trip with Cornelis. I don’t think I could handle the excitement. I don’t handle ‘lost’ very well 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello, dear Janet. I’m delighted that Absinthe has a friend in you. He’s a dear little guy and a fun character to write.
      Thanks so much. We need all the hummingbirds we can get. My daily routine has become unpacking and repacking the things I’ve already packed — as I repeatedly realize it’s *still* going to be too expensive, and once again look for a more economical way to move… My back is now officially fed up with that! LOL.
      Thanks for visiting. You always brighten my day. Hugs on green fairy wings.


      1. I can imagine how tiresome it must be. Is there any chance you can rent a van and drive it yourself? Maybe someone who wants/needs to go to Arizona who is maybe willing to share the driving? There are such people out there. Meanwhile, I gather all is waiting for you in Az. I will continue to send magical hummers 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Robbie. Well yes… and no… and maybe… and not exactly. :mrgreen: Honestly, I’m not really being cagey. Your simple question has a very complicated answer. 🙂
      All will be revealed eventually. Hugs on green fairy wings!


    1. Welcome Priscilla! Thanks so much. The serial characters (whether this one or the Roaring Twenties stories with Pip) really do energize me.
      I’m happy that Absinthe has a friend in you. He has an important part in the rest of the story.
      In a regular novel, I wouldn’t have added an important character this far into the story. However, these serials truly are driven (in every way) by the random “things” sent by readers. So I give myself a break on that “technical” aspect.
      Thanks for taking time to visit. Hugs on green fairy wings.


    1. I’m delighted to hear that Fraggle. I was having fun with the idea of Absinthe with the first image that came into my mind. It became even more fun to write him when I decided that he couldn’t talk. Thanks for being on this steampunk submarine. Hugs on green fairy wings.

      Liked by 1 person

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