Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Hello, my chuckaboos! It’s Hidebound Hump Day. I’ve mentioned that originally, in 2015, this #steampunk story was also a culinary mystery. I really miss the cooking bloggers who followed it back then. This chapter reminded me of them. Sometimes rerunning episodes of this serial can be rather bittersweet.
Cornelis Drebbel’s magical submarine is at our port. The klaxon sounds as the vessel rises to the surface, 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 27 “It’s an amethyst world!” Copper exclaimed when she saw the strange place where the magically whirling submarine went aground.
A purple ape wearing a three piece suit with a starched collar and a bowler hat came into view. It seems strange to say, but the hat and the suit made me think of Ignatius Belle. However, I was also reminded in an odd way of the portrait of Copper’s father, Calvin Hixon, who turned out to be Belle’s father as well.
The amethyst colored ape moved his hands in sign language.
Copper, the alchemist, and I spoke in chorus, “Daddy?”
Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
28 — Broken Knife, Sea Urchin, Potable Water
The simian’s reaction surprised all of us.
“Oh! You can speak. How wondrous!” was the delighted exclamation of the purple ape who wore a man’s suit, hat, and spectacles. “And what remarkable coloring you have!”
“Of course we can talk. But it’s amazing that you can!” Copper called out in reply as she clambered down from the submarine hatch, too quick for me to stop her.
The alchemist stood in gaping astonishment. I pushed past him and hurried after the girl, although I didn’t know how I could protect her from something as strong as the ape surely was. I had no weapon on me, not so much as a little muff pistol.
Abruptly I remembered my pearl handled pen knife. It wasn’t much use as a weapon, but I reached quickly into my pocket. However, the pen knife seemed to have been damaged during the chaos of the spinning submarine. When I tried to open it, the broken knife fell apart in my hands.
The creature seemed genial enough, but who could say? I had no idea into what sort of place we had been cast by the accident of alchemy that sent Cornelis Drebbel’s submarine off course with rogue magic.
“Have a care, Felicity,” Cornelis hissed, as though he’d finally come back to himself.
“Of course I’ll be careful. Why didn’t you stop her?” I said through my teeth, trying to hide my anger with the Dutchman from the strange primate on the shore.
I turned back toward the quickly moving girl.
“Copper stop right there and wait until I catch up with you,” I demanded and for once she complied.
“But Felicity! I like him. He’s funny,” the girl pleaded. “I’m sure it’s perfectly safe,” Copper added in a rather good imitation of an adult.
“How can you think a purple ape — in a suit no less, is perfectly safe?” I whispered as I caught up to the girl and took her hand.
Cornelis cleared his throat loudly.
“That’s not what I meant. I wasn’t talking about the ape when I told you to be careful,” the alchemist said urgently. “Doppelgängers!” he exclaimed, using his trick of casting his voice directly to my ear.
“What’s a doppelgänger?” Copper wanted to know.
The moppet was close enough to me to hear the projected voice of the alchemist. She looked from Cornelis to me and then back over her shoulder at the very large purple chimpanzee.
“It’s a sort of lookalike,” I told her.
As I gazed into the shallows of the sparkling amethyst water I noticed a violet colored sea urchin.
The water itself took on the hue of lavender from the sky it reflected. That alone was enough to make it a stranger place than anything I had ever imagined.
Cornelis seemed to be permanently adhered to his surely uncomfortable position, halfway out of the submarine’s hatch. I could hear Absinthe inside chirping excitedly, but I couldn’t tell if the Green Fairy was anxious, angry, or simply feeling chatty.
Then a bottle levitated up from within the submarine. Cornelis snatched it out of the air and thanked the Green Fairy in a droll tone.
“Absinthe thinks you should take this potable water with you, as it might not be safe to drink anything here,” the Dutchman commented. “I think it’s a bad idea for you to leave this vessel at all.”
“Whatever are you talking about, Dutchman?” I looked up at Cornelis and asked while Copper stood staring at the chimp in a suit.
At the shore, the chimpanzee shifted his bowler hat and placed his walking stick in front of himself with both hands propped on its crystal top. Naturally the crystal was an amethyst cabochon. He looked curious, but quite patient and relaxed.
“If you meet your doppelgänger it could be dangerous,” the alchemist said.
“Why on earth would I meet my double?” I asked feeling piqued, with Copper pulling me forward and the alchemist holding me back.
“I think it’s the nature of this world, this place,” Cornelis explained with exaggerated patience. “It probably has its own versions of all of us. Purple versions, but still…” he added with a shrug.
“Why is it purple?” Copper interrupted. “Is there a purple fairy, like Absinthe is the Green Fairy?” she asked, eyes widening in anticipation.
The Green Fairy stuck his tiny nose out of the hatch and bit onto the alchemist’s sleeve, pulling it as if he wanted Cornelis to get back inside.
“Alright, alright,” he told Absinthe. “Copper, I suspect there is a good reason for the purple coloring, but the important thing you need to understand is that everything around us could become — well you could say the place may get unstable, just because of our presence. If any of us met our doubles it could be,” he paused, probably looking for words a young girl would understand. “Bad. It could be very bad,” he finished, but looked dissatisfied with his choice of words.
“Cornelis, aren’t you coming with us?” I asked with an uneasy eye on the large, strong chimpanzee, who had moved forward to the very edge of the water.
“No, Felicity. Were I to meet my doppelgänger it wouldn’t be dangerous,” he replied, and closing his eyes he took a deep breath. “It would be catastrophic.”
Seldom had I seen the Dutchman so serious. I don’t pretend that I fully understood his vague explanation, but I knew it had something to do with alchemy. So I didn’t press.
When I looked at Cornelis he curled his lips inward in a rueful grimace and raised his bushy blonde eyebrows. Then he pursed his lips and inclined his head pointedly toward the amethyst ape. The ape shifted his stance. Suddenly he reminded me very much of the portrait of Calvin Hixon.
The purple primate saw us looking at him and raised his voice to make sure it carried to us.
“I’m sure it’s most unsettling, having your vessel run aground. And clearly you aren’t from here,” the ape began. “Or from any place of which I’ve ever heard…” his voice trailed off as he shook his head wonderingly. “But I assure you it really is perfectly safe, just as the young err… the young lady said.”
Had the ape hesitated to call Copper a young lady? Could it be that he perceived us as we saw him — as strange animals? Profound thoughts crowded my mind.
The ape looked remarkably like the portrait of Copper’s father. With of course the exception him of being an ape.
The suit-wearing creature bumped his palm to his forehead as if something obvious had just occurred to him.
“Oh! If you are concerned that you don’t see people like yourselves, please don’t fear. We thought your species was extinct. I can’t tell you how delighted I am to know that is not the case! And that extraordinary coloring you have. This is so exciting! But pardon me. I digress,” he said in a gracious apologetic voice.
“As I was saying, there’s no need to fear. The one eyed one horned flying purple people eater is surely dead. None have been seen for a hundred years!” the ape said, adjusting his spectacles.
At the primate’s comment Absinthe fluttered up and out of the submarine. He chirped and grunted excitedly. The Green Fairy hovered around Copper’s head briefly. Then he darted toward the purple ape. Absinthe made several passes around the primate to inspect him, grunting the while.
“How delightful!” the very large chimpanzee exclaimed, taking off his spectacles since Absinthe was mere inches from his face. “What a colorful little chap. Why you’re like a very tiny, very green version of the purple people eater,” he said and Absinthe gave a disagreeable chirp. “Well no, I suppose that’s not true at all. But you seem to be the same sort of fae being.”
I couldn’t sense any animosity from the ape… and judging by the crash landing of the submarine we were going to need some kind of help. So I allowed Copper to lead me to the shore where he stood. The suited primate bowed politely to us, doffing his bowler hat.
Absinthe settled in his protective position atop Copper’s head. However, the ape’s attention wandered to the submarine. He was so intrigued that he waded out into the shallows for a better look.
“You know,” he said in a self-deprecating tone. “I’m something of an inventor myself. What sort of vessel is that? It looks almost as though it’s meant to sail under the water,” the ape marveled.
Cornelis never could resist showing off one of his inventions and the ape was clearly a willing and eager audience. Abruptly the alchemist appeared at his elbow. The purple primate jumped with a start.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” the Dutchman said. “I’m Cornelis Drebbel and I’d be delighted to show you the submarine.”
The ape gasped. His eyes grew large and his mouth opened silently. The primate’s eyes narrowed and he looked intently at Cronelis.
“With this outlandish coloring, how could I suspect,” he murmured, and then he bowed extravagantly to Cornelis.
“Cornelis Drebbel, Lord of Alchemy, I welcome you to these shores. Please accept my humble apology for not recognizing you. No one has seen you for decades. It was feared that the purple people eater had… well… But how foolish of us to think you would have been bested by any beast, no matter how fearsome.”
Real World Notes
Potable water.Where we say “drinking water,” the Victorians may have used the term potable water. It simply means water that is safe to drink or to use for food preparation. While safe drinking water is something many take for granted, that wasn’t always the case.
The Romans developed aqueducts solely dedicated to this purpose as early as 312 B.C. Yet the rest of the world seems to have been many centuries behind them. By the 1800s some communities were beginning to create water filtering systems. As the 1900s progressed, so did standards and regulations.
Nanty Narking: Great fun.
Neck oil: Beer.
Not up to dick: Not well, feeling wretched.
Will this newfound status go to the alchemist’s head? Will a doppelgänger of one of the characters show up and wreak havoc? How will they get back home so they can find Copper’s daddy? What about that one eyed one horned flying purple people eater? And for that matter, wasn’t Absinthe acting stranger than usual?
Be at the steampunk submarine port next time to find out what happens to learn what happens when Straitlaced, Queen Anne Style Architecture, and Harper’s Bazaar meet Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers!
My chuckaboos, it’s sure to be a naty narking adventure!
Now some shameless self-promotion.
Universal link to my Amazon Author Page
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