Wednesday, April 10, 2019
It’s time for Hidebound Hump Day, my chuckaboos! I’m grateful to everyone who started this wild ride on the #steampunk train, and then the submarine. What mode of transportation will we take next?
Hang on tight. This is the penultimate episode of the serial!
Previously with Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
Chapter 36. Absinthe flew in circles around the aerial screw. The Green Fairy jerked his head around, as if he heard something. He screamed again and pointed. The sound came again, loud enough for me to hear. The linen “threads” of the air machine ripped loudly. The aerial screw lurched. Cornelis struggled to keep his grip as the machine darted wildly.
Chapter 37. Ced the very large chimpanzee was the one who tracked our heroes, commanded by the unidentified woman. He turned back with a new expression of worry on his face.
“You should know… When your submarine disappeared from our sight, for a moment we saw the purple haze of this world. That woman and her partners plan to take you the moment you return to your own world. They are certain you either possess something they want, or you will lead them to it,” Ced told us.
Felicity cast a covert look at Copper, hoping she wouldn’t put that together. So, at least some of the villains who chased them thought Copper would lead them to Calvin Hixon.
Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
38 — Toddlers, Queen, Superior
Cornelis Drebbel levitated above a much bigger version of Leonardo da Vinci’s aerial screw. It was attached to a large gondola that contained all manner of fantastical contraptions. Brightly polished brass and crystals glittered in the sunlight that streamed through tall windows from the cloudless lavender sky.
One device looked just like the multi-armed thingamajig from the submarine. I mean that term literally. The device was the original thingamajig and such was its proper name. This one looked newer, it didn’t show any wear and tear. Conversely, the thingamajig on the submarine went through some rough treatment. A malfunction in the contrivance was at least partly responsible for landing us in this purple place. (Episode 22)
Cornelis waved down to a pair of mauveine complected chimpanzee twin toddlers who observed him in amazement. A young female ape watched them from the corner of her eye as she delivered a basket of food to Cal Hicks. She seemed remarkably unaffected by the floating alchemist.
“Why thank you Itsy,” Hicks told the woman as he took the heavy basket. “This is enough for everyone. Thank you so much, my dear.”
She quickly took each toddler by a hand and moved to meet one of the coverall clad chimps. He seemed smitten by her. Although she didn’t seem to return his romantic interest, something in her manner told me the chimp was a masher.
Itsy glanced surreptitiously over her shoulder as the chimpanzee handed her something that disappeared into the folds of her skirts. Some token of his affections, I supposed. It was hard to tell with the purple coloring but I thought both might be blushing.
“Tsk, tsk,” Cal said with a shake of his head. “That boy will never win Itsy’s heart.”
“Itsy?” I had to ask.
“Why yes,” Cal began. “She’s taken on the extra work of looking after the twins during the day. Both parents were injured in a carriage accident, and aren’t able to chase toddlers terrible well. Itsy was maid to my son Nate’s grandparents. When they passed on, she came to work for me,” Cal said and then cast an astute glance at me. “I take it Itsy has a counterpart in your colorful world.”
“I believe so,” I said, nodding. “Bitsy is a maid in the inn that belongs to Ignatius Belle. Their voices are rather similar. And Itsy is just as unimpressed as Bitsy,” I added with a chuckle. (Episode 2)
My own words bothered me in some indefinable way. I suddenly felt uneasy. It seemed like there was something I should remember. However, I was distracted by Cal Hicks. He was looking at me in a most curious way. It made me think something was amiss. I felt all-overish.
“What is it?” I asked worriedly.
His eyes quickly scanned the worktable. The amethyst ape picked up a mirror and handed it to me. There was a smudge of soot on my cheek, and for a moment I thought that was what the straight-laced ape meant. However, with one of his thick fingers he pointed to my hair. A broad ultraviolet streak ran from the crown of my head down the length of my otherwise dark brown locks. The irises of my eyes had taken on a violet hue.
Before I could stop my surprised reaction, I inhaled sharply. I glanced at Copper. I didn’t want the girl to notice my concern. Fortunately she ran over to Cornelis, and tossed some tool up toward him. The alchemist caught it with a glowing yellow-green thread of magic.
I was afraid to look at the measuring device that looked like a toothpick holder. It already showed warning shades of violet. However, I forced myself. I removed the device from the flowered carpet bag. The thin rods had darkened to various shades of violet and purple. Only one was still lavender. None at all were colorless. At least the crystal bird at the center was still clear. Cornelis said it might be too late for us to leave the amethyst world if the bird turned purple.
Cal Hicks cleared his throat nervously and broke eye contact with me. He called everyone to the basket of food, but hardly ate anything himself. He turned back to work fervently on the improved aerial screw. Though he couldn’t levitate like the alchemist he seemed to work almost as quickly.
Coverall clad chimpanzees ran back and forth, fetching all manner of things that Cal requested. Copper returned to stand at his elbow, handing him various small tools. I suspected that sometimes Cal pretended to need something, just to let the girl think she was helping.
Earlier Cornelis was utterly intense as he poured over an assortment of papers he’d gotten from Cal. There were maps, magazines, playbills, and newspapers. I couldn’t figure out what he could be looking for in such an assortment.
However, the alchemist saw links from one thing to another that I would never see without it being pointed out to me. He seemed to make some alchemical sense of the stack of papers and abruptly levitated up above the flying machine. Suffused by that yellowish green aura he began making enhancements to the aerial screw.
As I looked at magazines bearing images of well-dressed simians, all in assorted shades of purple, I was struck anew by how much like our own world this place populated by apes really was. I couldn’t help smiling when I saw a magazine cover bearing the image of an elegant female ape wearing an intricate lace gown, jewelry including a tiara, and holding a scepter.
“Is this your queen?” I asked Cal Hicks in delighted surprise.
“Why of course,” Cal replied, as if I had questioned the obvious. “That is Queen Triumphia,” he said, immediately recovering his perfect manners. “Haven’t you a similar monarch in your world?”
I grinned at the name Triumphia.
“Yes, although it isn’t exactly my queen, the English queen is called Victoria,” I told the amethyst ape.
Cal grinned back at me as he compared the name Victoria to his queen’s name.
Above us, Cornelis gave a whoop of success.
“This is far superior to the first model!” he cried.
With a sharp pop he disappeared from his spot in the air above us. An instant later he popped into the gondola of the aerial screw.
Itsy wandered closer. She didn’t look excited or surprised like everyone else. Rather, the maid looked worried. “There’s no more time,” Itsy murmured.
She darted to the gondola and grabbed the multi-armed thingamajig.
Earlier, that infatuated chimp covertly handed her something, which she quickly hid in her skirt. When she ran, I got a look at the secret-something. It was a harmonic tuner!
Cal Hicks had showed it to me previously. Instead of the mystic monkeys tuner that belonged to Copper, this one had people in the poses of see no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil. (Episode 24)
Itsy’s actions were so sudden and so unexpected that everyone was too surprised to try and stop her. She ran from the laboratory and out to the area that had been scorched and depressed by the confrontation-reunion between Absinthe and Aubrieta. (Episode 28)
Itsy held out the thingamajig and clanged the harmonic tuner against the contrivance.
The air in a large area before Itsy shimmered to a glowing hot pink aura. The center of the aura took on a wavy mirror like appearance. Then a wall of water rushed from the aura and poured into the burned out depression. Itsy was swept away by the water but managed to grab hold of a fence post.
With a whoosh sound a hydrofoil sped through the opening created by the magical devices. The moment I saw the craft I knew what had bothered me when I told Cal that Itsy and Bitsy had similar voices.
We had never gotten a good look at the woman leading the group on the hydrofoil. I said her voice was familiar, but I just couldn’t place it, no matter how hard I tried. The tone of the woman leader was commanding and harsh. It had been different enough that I couldn’t connect it to the gentle tones I previously heard from that same voice. At that moment I knew the voice belonged to Bitsy, the maid at the Belle Inn!
The hydrofoil rushed, out of control, down the length of the water that spilled from our world. It crashed into a stand of tall bushes. When the woman stood up, there was no doubt that she was Bisy. She bent over and vomited. The nearness of her doppelgänger already affected her.
“Get her away from me!” Bitsy shouted to the men who accompanied her.
The men waded out to Itsy, the simian. She seemed to think they were helping her and let them take her arms from the post to which she held. However, when they helped her to dry ground one held a knife to her throat. They spoke threateningly to her and she ran away as fast as she could, disappearing into the woods.
The hydrofoil held more passengers than I had realized. There must have been ten heavily armed men, along with Bitsy. They all moved toward us.
Cal Hicks had my arm.
“Quickly,” he hissed into my ear. “Get into the gondola.”
When I turned I saw that Copper was already climbing into the aerial screw. Absinthe and Aubrieta fluttered around her, touching various apparatus with their tiny paws. I looked back at the interlopers from my own world. They were looking right at me.
Mash. A sweetheart, or a crush. To court or ogle a woman. Courting someone would be mashing them. To attract sexually. Possibly from Romany masherava, “allure.”
Masher. A dandy. A man who makes unwelcome sexual advances to women.
Quail pipe. A woman’s tongue. “We kissed, but there wasn’t any quail-pipe.”
Quatch. An American term, circa 1925, meaning “to betray secrets.” Similar to quack, a verb meaning “to inform to the police,” and quag, “unsafe, not reliable; not to be trusted.”
Queen’s weather. A beautiful sunny day.
Real World Notes
Postage stamps. In 1840 the “penny black was the first postage stamp introduced to the United Kingdom. Today we find postage stamps in various different sizes, costs and designs being used to send mail in virtually every country in the world.
What will happen to Felicity, the “Woman in Trousers” of the serial title? Her hair is already streaked with purple, suggesting she has stayed too long in the amethyst world. One group of foes has caught up with our trio. Will they grab Felicity before she can reach the gondola? And will the aerial screw fly off without her?
See you next time, for the conclusion of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers!
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.
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