Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 23

To those of you in the USA…

4th of July Victorian

Happy Independence Day!

 In celebration, rather than taking you to the Victorian Era on our usual steam locomotive, this time we’ll bring all our picnic paraphernalia and get on board a red, white, and blue decorated dirigible and soar into our story.

Steering the airship is Kathryn, aka KR Bigfish from Another Foodie Blogger, who gave us the “three things” for this episode.  As sometimes happens, a comment also made its way into the episode.  Kathryn mentioned a particular purple critter, and I couldn’t resist. But I’ll leave that for a surprise.

Remember to check for fun and informative links in the text and images.

The dirigible is tugging at its ropes — ready to sail through the air, through time and realities.  So… All aboard!

From last time…

“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?”

***

23.  Broken Knife, Sea Urchin, Potable Water

Reading Ape purple“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.  I had no weapon on me, not so much as a little muff pistol.

Pen knifeAbruptly 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.

Copper lavenderI 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 as 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.

sea urchin violetAs I gazed into the shallows of the sparkling amethyst water I noticed a violet colored sea urchinHere even fishes and such are one color of purple or another, I thought.  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.”

Amethyst Walking Stick by Fabergé

Amethyst Walking Stick by Fabergé

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.

“Whatever are you talking about, Dutchman?” I looked up at Cornelis and asked while Copper stood staring at the chimp in a suit.

“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.

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

“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.

“Do I have a doppelgänger?” a giggling Copper wanted to know, and I realized she’d found a new favorite word.  “The monkey might be Daddy’s doppelgänger,” she added, giggling even harder.Lady with pigeon

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 purple primate.  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.

Green fairy skunk“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.Drebbel stamp

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.  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 over a hundred years.  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.”

***

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?  And what about that one eyed one horned flying purple people eater?  Be at the train station next time to find out what happens to Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers!

Don’t forget this episode’s recipe!  Since the food related thing, or ingredient, was “potable water” I chose one of Kathryn’s seafood recipes.  I really appreciate that she often shares simple recipes made from things I might have on hand.  I know you’ll enjoy this one.

Recipe:  Spicy Canned Tuna Ceviche

Spicy Tuna ceviche

https://anotherfoodieblogger.wordpress.com/2015/06/07/spicy-canned-tuna-ceviche/

Photo and recipe credit: Another Foodie Blogger

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 17

Orpheus Smoky Mary float Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras Locomotive. Happy we’re back on track & ready to dance (Click here)

Back on Track

Last time I hit a bump in the road (or rather the railroad tracks).  However, the Victorian locomotive is back on schedule and running at full steam.

John W. Howell gave us the very first set of “things” to guide the plot of this pantser serial.  Happily later he sent a second set of three, which I’ve held in reserve.

You’ve heard about John’s great book, My GRL, and the first chapter is available for preview at his blog. But what you might not know about is a really cool radio interview he did.

Except for two second sets of “things,” the serial’s cupboards were bare. There was nothing to drive the train… (A second set of three things was also sent by real estate professional and cooking blogger Suzanne DeBrango.  Those will inspire the plot and setting for Episode-18.)

Alastair Wong the elder was a very minor character in both Three Ingredients serials. The set of “P” words John provided drove this plot to a connection with a different character from Three Ingredients 2, a Ghost in the Kitchen.  Those of you who were around for that story will be pleased to see this connection.

When I started “decorating” it seemed to me that the Victorians had a particular liking for mushrooms. If you think you see a theme in this episode, you are not mistaken.

The steam engine has reached the station.  All aboard!

From last time…

Cornelis held out his harmonic tuner.  A faint current of green streamed from the tuner all the way down the hill to the washing machine.  The machine 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. 

It was in large glowing green script.  I read the word aloud, 

“Daddy.”

17.  Pistachio, Penne Pasta, Porcini

Mushrooms Hat VictorianMy first thought wasn’t exactly a thought.  All cogitation was clogged in a bottleneck of befuddled ideas.  The first thought that got through the blockage was relief that Copper was up at the pavilion.  It would be awful if the supernaturally printed word, Daddy, got her hopes up for no good reason.

I wasn’t feeling too optimistic myself, and to be honest, I was losing my sense of trust. And that single, magically written word brought out all my suppressed concerns.  As if it wasn’t bad enough that I experienced occasional twinges of distrust for Ignatius Belle (who turned out to be Copper’s half-brother), it also bothered me that I had begun having doubts about Copper’s father, Calvin Hixon.

Granted, if Hixon was abducted, he probably had no chance to leave a warning or reason.  But what if he left of his own accord?  The notion was so awful — had he willingly left his daughter with no explanation, and worse left the child on her own?

Other than his unfortunate money situation, Calvin Hixon appeared to be utterly brilliant.  Could the circumstances be more complicated than an abduction?  Did Hixon stand to somehow see a financial gain from the situation?  Could he be involved in his own disappearance?  Oh surely not, I told myself.  I’m over-analyzing things.Alice Mushroom Victorian

Most often the simplest answers are the correct ones.  But was running away as simple as being abducted…?  Had Calvin Hixon suddenly run away from his adversaries, perhaps thinking he would lead them away from his daughter, thereby keeping her safe?  I’m still over-analyzing, I admonished myself.

“Felicity,” I heard my name and realized that Cornelis had called it more than once while I pondered the unpleasant thoughts about Calvin Hixon.

“Do step back,” the alchemist told me.  “Something unexpected might happen,” he said as he reached into that supernatural void through which he sometimes fetched things.

“Unexpected?” I said sardonically, knowing how often Cornelis’ tricks tended to go awry.

To my surprise he 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 that with a frown.  Hurriedly he placed the map atop the cloth.

He held up the harmonic tuner and gave it one sharp clear ring.  The tiny ping of a sound reverberated and grew.  I felt the vibration at the base of my spine.  I could feel the sound spreading outward all around us.  In the distance the big gong in front of the pavilion gave a mighty boom, the volume of which was magically transported into our midst.  I put my hands over my ears, involuntarily squeezing my eyes shut.

Cautiously, I opened one eye.  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 diming to a flat pistachio green.

***

Kinkaku-ji Temple Sunset

Kinkaku-ji Temple Sunset

I don’t know if it was a meteorological effect or if it was residual magic from the previous night, but when I got up the next morning, the sky above Alastair Wong’s home blazed with yellow clouds at sunrise.  No wonder they called it the Golden Pavillion, I thought.

Cornelis said he wanted to get an early start, but judging by the activity of the household staff, I suspected they were always up at that hour.  As I admired the sunrise, the alchemist drove up in the little steam engine.

Mushroom swing Victorian girlsIt didn’t seem like there could be enough room, but Cornelis, Copper, Alastair, and I all managed to get on the road locomotive.  To my surprise, Victoria, who was so taken with Copper, insisted on coming along.  I wouldn’t have thought one more person, not even a tiny woman like Victoria, could fit on the locomotive… and she carried a large picnic basket too.  Yet somehow the tiny woman and the big basket managed to fit.  When I saw the hint of a green aura surrounding the alchemist I understood how the group of us managed to get onboard.  One of his tricks had made room for everyone.

We would part company with Alastair and Victoria when we reached the Pacific.  Wong would take the road locomotive back to his pavilion estate for safekeeping, while Copper, the alchemist, and I continued our journey.

I looked a question at the basket Victoria carried.  The night before, all the noise and vibrations from the harmonic tuners had given me a headache — and I still had it.  So I was probably frowning fiercely.  Victoria looked a bit uneasy.

“It will be past time for a meal before we reach the ocean.  Copper is a growing girl and must eat,” the tiny woman said with a sharp nod that would have settled any row.  I tried to reign in my smile, because I truly did take her seriously.Mushroom ad Victorian

“Besides,” she turned and spoke to Cornelis in a flirtatious tone that took me completely by surprise.  “You will love what I’ve done with the porcini mushrooms you mentioned earlier,” she added, and the Dutchman’s eyebrows shot up toward his hairline.

“Ah yes,” the Dutchman sighed.  “Porcini are God’s great gift to humanity, a mushroom delicate enough to flavor a sauce, yet vigorous enough to stand up to a grilled steak.”

Really…, I thought.  Should he encourage the tiny woman by flirting?  And Could Victoria actually be attracted to Cornelis?  The idea seemed not merely imaginative and impractical, but just plain impossible.  I scratched my earlobe as the idea took root.  Then I had the wicked thought that I’d like to see an argument between Victoria and Cornelis.  The Dutchman would surely get his comeuppance.

“What are you smirking about?” Cornelis asked quietly.

“Oh?  Did it seem so?  It was just a bit of indigestion,” I said with no attempt to hide my expression.

Victoria held tightly to Copper’s hand as the steam engine barreled toward the ocean.  The tiny woman’s eyes were huge with astonishment for the speed at which we traveled.  However, it was clear that she possessed a fierce determination.  She would not have gone back if the chance was offered.

***

Burrell Road Locomotive

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.

Mushrooms Victorian ad 2“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, 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 unequalled 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.”Vintage kitchen bouquet ad

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.

 

Menu

Antipasti

Warm Mediterranean Olives with rosemary and lemon zest

Insalata de Compo: Mesclun salad with cherry tomatoes

Primi

Penne Alla Vodka:  Penne pasta with tomato, cream, and vodka sauce

Risotto Ai Porcini:  Risotto with pecorino cheese, porcini mushroom and fresh basil

Secondi

Salmone in Padella:  Pan-seared salmon filet

Menu credit:  Scottadito.com

 

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.”Mushroom faries Carrousel

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 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.”

Copper reverently handed Cornelis the second harmonic tuner.  A detailed carving of the fabled three mystic apes — see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil surrounded the bell.  He 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.

Chicks Mushroom VictorianThe 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.Mushrooms Victorian christmas

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.  But 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.

Drebbel submarine

***

Don’t get off the steam engine yet — here’s the recipe for this episode.  It’s something for all the carnivores out there!  Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Porcini-Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Truffle Butter Sauce

Porcini-Crusted Beef

Photo and Recipe Credit:  Epicurious.com

***

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 6

On Wings of WhimsyRocking chair

The four naughty chimps probably weren’t as much of a surprise to those of you who have been with Teagan’s Books for awhile.  I don’t think I can get more whimsical than a ghost cowboy riding a giant seahorse.  I really shouldn’t let those wings of whimsy sprout again, lest you think I’m off my Victorian rocker…

However, I was talking to Mary J McCoy-Dressel, when she provided the “things/ingredients” for this episode.  She made an off-handed, fanciful comment and… well… I ran with it.  I’ll let you guess which “thing” gave wings of whimsy to this episode.

I hope you’ll check out Mary’s blogs and books. I think of Mary as a romance writer extraordinaire.  She has a veritable dynasty of gentleman cowboys and “sensual, contemporary western romance” books.

Mary DD Ranch 3 bks

It’s time to get back on track with this weekend’s episode.  Be sure to take the train all the way to the end of the line for this weekend’s recipe.  All aboard!

From last time:

“What is it?” I asked once I could see Cornelis Drebbel properly again.

“There are people coming.  More than one group.  From more than one direction,” he said sounding like he was still trying to understand what he saw.  “We have to hurry.”

6. Soup Bone, Destiny, Ceramic Statue

“Copper!” I called.  “We have to hurry.  Where are you?”

I had climbed the narrow stairs up to the tiny room at the top of the turreted tower of the lovely Hixon estate.  I wanted to get the best possible view of the land around me, but I didn’t hold much hope of seeing anything in the dark.

The Empress of Little Rock

The Empress of Little Rock

Opening the window, I leaned out precariously.  Although I needn’t have been concerned about falling out — the wretched bustle on my skirt wouldn’t fit through the window.  I exhaled in exasperation at the convention of fashion I had to adopt.

When I looked to my right, I saw a small light.  At first I took it for a firefly, but it wasn’t.  It was too far away, I wouldn’t see a firefly at such a distance.  Then I saw another light near it — and two more.  Torches.  They moved steadily toward the house.

Bustle-CorsetI twisted my torso and looked to my left.  There I spotted more lights, coming from the west.  One lantern held still and several others moved toward it.  I had no doubt that the group of them would also begin moving toward the Hixon estate soon.

However, Cornelis detected three groups, each approaching from a different direction.  Quickly I walked across the round turreted room to the other window.  I stretched out as far as I could, but I didn’t see anything.

If only there were more stars, or a bigger moon, I thought.  Well then, if I couldn’t see, perhaps I could hear.  I held very still and strained to hear, isolating the sounds of nature, the insects and owls.  Faint and far off I heard growls and barks, but they were only canine.  Probably two dogs fighting over a soup bone.

Abruptly the dogs gave a startled yip.  Then I heard the familiar screeching and chattering of chimpanzees.  I still couldn’t see anything.  I wondered how far away they were.  Of the two groups with torches one seemed to be about as far away as the other.  I could only guess about the chimps.  Their cacophony might carry a long way in the quiet of the night.  Or for all I knew, they might be nearer than the others.

I hurried down the turret stairs and headed for the bedrooms to find Copper.  When I told the girl to only get the most important things, I’d meant clean nickers, stockings, and a change of clothes…  However, she struggled to carry a sizable carpet bag.  It was black with a floral design done in cheery shades of mauve and red.  It also looked too heavy to contain only the “important things” I told her to gather.Victorian knickers

Shaking my head I looked at the bag.  “Copper, there’s no time for me to sort through your bag and get the things you really need,” I said resignedly.  “I hope you chose well, because it certainly seems you chose enough.”

The girl tried to mollify me by holding out the harmonic tuner — the erstwhile silver dinner bell from the Belle Inn.  In truth I was pleased with her quick thinking.  No one told her to look for it.  I smiled despite myself.  I didn’t know what to do with a harmonic tuner, but Cornelis did.  It might prove very useful.

When Copper shifted the heavy bag I heard a muffled but pretty chime.  “That doesn’t sound like something ‘important’ now, does it?” I said and with a groan hefted the heavy carpet bag.

“Yes it is!” she insisted.  “Daddy gave it to me.  It’s the most important thing I have.”

Previously the Copper I had come to know was logical, creative, and resilient.  To my surprise the girl’s lower lip began to tremble.  How could I be so insensitive?  She really was just a kid.  Copper had been through enough in the past few days to make any adult a nervous wreck.  And now Cornelis and I were about to tear her away from her home and run headlong into parts unknown.

Feeling ashamed of myself, I put the bag down and put my arms around Copper for a hug, which she returned with a sob.  “Go ahead and cry if you need to,” I said softly.

She sniffled, shook her head, and wiped her nose on her sleeve.  “I’m fine,” she said.

Tiffany Arabesque bellCopper opened the bag.  I saw with relief that she had packed the owl-shaped lamp, the base of which held the priceless letter and drawings of Leonardo da Vinci.  She removed whatever made the chiming sound.  I didn’t get a look at it because she was quick to secret it inside her blue cape.  I felt like such a heel when I thought she must be afraid I’d take her father’s gift away from her.

“May I see it?” I asked, trying to make amends.

It was an ornate bell with detailed carvings of the fabled three mystic apes — see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.  After dealing with the real life chimpanzees, I could have wished the design was of anything but apes.  However, I wasn’t the girl whose father had made it a cherished gift.  Even so, it was artistically rendered in a style that made me think it was a Japanese antique.  It was likely quite valuable.

I nodded appreciatively.  “Of course you should keep it with you.  Put it some place safe, so you don’t drop it,” I said.

“You’re right.  We do have to hurry.  Those stinking naughty monkeys are getting close,” Copper added causing me to smile at her bravery.  “I mean chimpanzees,” she amended, no doubt remembering Cornelis correcting her.Wise Monkeys statues

With a chill I realized she was correct.  The chimps moved faster than I expected.  Their eerie screeching filled the night.

My suitcase and hatbox were sitting in the hallway.  Copper picked up my suitcase, which was less than half the weight of the carpet bag she had dragged through the house.  When she moved to get my hatbox too, I hastily said that I would get it.

“I need you to get the doors,” I gave my excuse.  “So you’ll need a free hand.”

The truth of the matter was I never let anyone carry my hatbox.  It contained the skull of Cornelis Drebbel.

We stepped quickly down the stairs.  I hesitated so I could adjust the heavy carpet bag and make sure I had a tight hold on the hatbox.  I saw Copper turn back to gaze at her house.  She looked up at the beautiful home with large sad blue eyes.

“I’ll bring you back as soon as everything is sorted out,” I assured her.

Copper shook her head.  There was something very grown up about the way she stood and the expression on her face.

Copper pensive“Daddy says that your destiny isn’t always what you expect,” the girl said.  “I didn’t get it when I was real little,” said the suddenly mature moppet at my side.  “But I think I understand now.”

A simian scream split the air.  It came from the far end of the lawn, from the shade tree where I had tied my borrowed horse when I arrived at the Hixon estate.  At that moment I could have wished for a fast horse, but Ignatius Belle had taken his dapple mare back into town with him.  I heard simian screeching in the distance, growing closer and ever wilder.  It made my skin crawl.

Two pinpoints of light seemed to stare at me from the high branches of the tree.  I shuddered when I realized it was one of the chimpanzees.  It must have come ahead of the others, like some kind of advance guard.  I was amazed at how well the creatures were trained.  Who could possibly train and control animals in such a remarkable way?

The chimp must have seen me looking back at him.  It started wreaking havoc in the branches of the tree, jumping up and down and screeching bloody murder.  His fellows in the distance screamed back excitedly.  It sounded like there were a lot of them.  I remembered nervously how strong they were.  I hoisted the carpet bag, putting its strap over my shoulder so I could take Copper’s hand.  I had to make sure we weren’t separated.Burrell Road Locomotive

An earsplitting screech made me look over my shoulder.  However, the noise was not simian; rather it was a metallic sound.  Then I heard the shrill whistle of escaping steam.  The doors of the outbuilding where Cornelis was working burst open.  The road locomotive moved toward us with a loud clickity-clack clickity-clack.  As it increased speed, the clicks and clacks blurred together into a continuous noise.

Copper squeezed my hand.  I followed her gaze.  The chimpanzees had amassed at the shade tree.  They milled curiously as they watched the road locomotive.  One and then another would chatter to the others.  I had a bad feeling that they were working themselves up for an attack.

1903 Girl 2 Horses postcardOne very large chimp moved far ahead of the rest.  Standing alone, he gesticulated wildly.  He paused, screeched and repeated what seemed to be the same set of motions.  It did seem a little odd to me, but the antics of angry apes were not something I had time to consider, not in those circumstances.

“Daddy…” Copper murmured.

Poor Copper, I thought, pleading for her missing father.  “Everything’s going to be fine,” I shouted to be heard above the chimpanzees and the noise of the approaching road locomotive.

Cornelis built up speed with the engine and charged directly into the group of chimps.  The apes scattered with wild complaints.  The accident of alchemy that left him in his strange state, also gave him some otherworldly powers.  When he blew the locomotive’s whistle, it belched a long gout of green flame with a sound so shrill and loud my ears rang long after the noise was gone.

“Don’t hurt them!” Copper shrieked, and I supposed she hadn’t grasped how strong and dangerous a pack of attacking and very large adult chimpanzees actually were.

“Those are no organ grinder’s monkeys!” I cried.

“Chimpanzees!” Cornelis corrected me.

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

Yes, he corrected me at a time like that.  The alchemist could be absolutely insufferable with that kind of thing.

The Dutchman blew the locomotive’s whistle a second time and it went to an escalating pitch that climbed until I could no longer hear it.  However, I could feel that the awful sound was still there.  The chimpanzees screamed in pain.  The group of them scattered and ran away.  Or I thought they did.

The alchemist brought the road locomotive back around to where Copper and I stood.  He jumped down from the engine, grinning ear to ear.  He was quite pleased with himself.

“Isn’t it an amazing machine!” Cornelis exclaimed.

“How did you do that?  With the green flame and the sound,” I asked as I rubbed my fingers inside my ears.

“You liked?” he said with bobbing eyebrows.  “I could have done more if I’d thought to bring the harmonic tuner.”

At that comment, Copper retrieved the device that looked like a decorative silver bell and handed it to the Dutchman.  He bowed and thanked her effusively.  I saw that she also held the monkey bell her father had given her.Victorian gown bustle stripes

Cornelis lithely climbed back onto the locomotive.  He held out his hand for Copper but she couldn’t quite reach, so I gave her a boost from behind as I climbed.  Then I saw the apes.  Three of them remained, undeterred from whatever their mission was.  I had to assume they meant to capture Copper.

A very human-like, extremely strong hand grabbed my ankle before I could get onto the engine.  When I looked down, all I could see were the big chimpanzee’s bared teeth.

I struggled to hang onto the locomotive.  Copper grabbed my arm to try and help, but then I feared that if the chimp pulled me free, that she would be dragged down with me.  I was relieved to notice that Cornelis still had her other hand.

“Cornelis!  Go!” I yelled and he saw the three chimps.

The locomotive jolted back to life.  I was afraid I would lose my grip if I moved, but I kicked backward with my other foot.  My boot heel thudded softly against something and the chimp’s hold on my ankle loosened enough for me to dislodge him.

In the commotion our lantern fell to the grassy ground.  A small fire spilled around the torch, but it was slow to spread, as the weather had been damp throughout the week.

1924 Little Dipper Champagne adThe three chimps looked at one another and chattered.  One of them motioned with his simian hands.  I recognized him for the same chimp who had gestured so insistently before.  He fiercely looked right into my eyes.  Was that the same set of motions he made earlier?  I saw their muscles bunch as the trio of adult chimpanzees readied to jump onto the locomotive.  I knew we could not fight off all three of them.

The alchemist began muttering odd sounding words that I quickly recognized for the strange language he used when he was about to do something that would either end horribly or be extraordinary.

He held the harmonic tuner in one hand, but still held protectively onto Copper with his other hand.  The “bell” began to make that strange multi-level sound it had generated before.  I could see an aura vibrate around it.  The sound and sensation doubled.  I realized half of it was coming from a second source.

That was when I saw that Copper held the cherished “mystic monkeys” bell her father had given her.  It was the second source of the harmonic sound.  A tri-colored aura made a rainbow around the bell and the girl.  The sound seemed to vibrate through the entire world.  Then I felt it inside my throat, and wondered if my voice would take on that dual harmonic sound when I spoke.

Copper

Copper

“Dear God,” I said in a strangely pulsating voice that sounded odd to my own ears.  Cornelis only glanced at me, so focused was he on his task.  “It’s another harmonic tuner!” I said just as the alchemist finished the magic he was working.

He looked at me with a wide eyed expression of shock at my words.  I was jolted and nearly fell from the engine as an aura that matched the one surrounding Copper quickly engulfed the three of us and the road locomotive too.  I felt more than saw something radiate out from the aura.  It stretched, expanded, and then contracted abruptly.

The harmonic sounds staggered as they dwindled.  The auras vanished.  The world was incredibly quiet after the bombardment of sounds.  Nature did not stir.  The noises of night were silent.  As I looked down from the engine the first thing that caught my eye was a shining spot of celadon green.  It was our lantern, it lay where it had fallen with flickers of what once had been flames in the grass around it.  The little fires were cold and unmoving.

I started to climb down from the road locomotive.  Cornelis reminded me to use caution.  I scanned the area, but I didn’t see the chimps anywhere.  Then I saw it.  I jumped down from the engine.  A large celadon green ceramic statue rested on the ground.  Three wise monkeys, see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil stood transformed.

“Are they still alive in there?” Copper wanted to know of the transmuted chimpanzees as she looked over my shoulder.

Cornelis and I exchanged a knowing glance.  Copper looked inexplicably dismayed, considering how the creatures had been attacking us.

Lewis Francis Hadley,  the Long-haired Sign Talker

Lewis Francis Hadley,
the Long-haired Sign Talker

“Possibly so,” the Dutchman told the girl and she looked less upset.  “Quite possibly so.”

She brushed a tear from her cheek.  “Daddy!” Copper cried.  “He was saying ‘daddy’ when he waved his arms around,” she said to my astonishment.

“Do you mean sign language?” I asked incredulous, but Copper nodded.

“I think so,” Copper said.  “He wasn’t doing it right, but it looked like he was trying to say daddy.”

The idea of an ape communicating through sign language was preposterous.  I thought it was wishful thinking on Copper’s part.  I could have thrown something at Cornelis when he made a comment that basically encouraged the fantasy.  I frowned and made a face when my next thought was that the trickster would just use one of his tricks to let anything I threw pass right through him.

“He likely wanted you to believe he could lead you to your father,” Cornelis said.  “But you know they were naughty monkeys, and you could not trust them,” he added and Copper nodded her reluctant agreement.

“Chimpanzees,” I said because I couldn’t resist turning the Dutchman’s correction on him.

His eyes narrowed but he didn’t respond to my taunt.  Instead, he looked past me.  “We’ve no time to doddle,” Cornelis reminded us.  “The other two groups are mere minutes away.”

When I turned to look I saw the torches again.  There were two groups, one larger than the other.  They still approached from different directions, but they were indeed much closer.

***

The question remains — who controls the chimpanzees?  Was it Copper’s fertile imagination, or did the chimp really try to use sign language to say something about her father?  Who are the other two groups of pursuers? Will our trio escape? Only the things and ingredients can say.

Don’t leave yet.  Here’s a point of interest for this episode:

Washoe and the family teach Loulis to use sign language

Since Mary’s food-related thing (ingredient) was soup bone, I couldn’t resist sharing a link to one of my two favorite soups of this winter.  Its creator is Suzanne at A Pug in the Kitchen.  Suzanne also sent “things/ingredients” for a future episode but it is a few weeks away.  Bon appétit!

Recipe: Cannellini Bean, Kale, and Bacon Soup

Cannellini Bean Kale Bacon SoupRecipe and photo credit: Suzanne DeBrango

I look forward to seeing you next weekend. Who knows where the steam locomotive will take us — only three things or ingredients can say.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 4

A Flight of Fancy

Laura Locoul Gore (Dupree Family)

Laura Locoul Gore (Dupree Family)

Welcome. I invite you to come with me on a flight of fancy, somewhere in the late Victorian Era.

I’ve done all sorts of things in my life — nothing glamorous. There are also a lot of things I’ve never done. This is not a “bucket list” ramble, but one of those never-done things is Mardi Gras. In the USA, Mardi Gras is just around the corner. I’ve never been to that type of carnival.

I don’t think I want to be in the middle of that big crowd, but I do appreciate the spontaneous vibe of the celebration. And a virtual celebration seems like a great way to lift the spirits!  So I’m giving a nod to Mardi Gras with the images for this episode — and maybe next week too, since that’s closer to the carnival date.

Enough of my thoughts — back to the serial.  Remember, everyone is welcome to send three random “things” or food-related things (“ingredients”) to drive the story.  Please keep in mind that earlier things gave the story a setting in the late 1800’s.  So try not to send anything that didn’t exist back then.

Andrea Stephenson at Harvesting Hecate, Thoughts on life, writing, creativity and magic  sent the things/ingredients for Episode-4.  I sincerely admire her writing.  Andrea’s blog is stunningly well crafted.  Her writing style has what I would describe as an easy grace.  There’s something comforting to me about the way she uses language.  Her words and topics resonate with me.  Pay a visit to her blog.  I think you’ll enjoy yourself.

Orpheus Smoky Mary float Mardi Gras

Orpheus Smoky Mary, Mardi Gras

Andrea’s ingredient (food-related thing) was pease pudding. That sent me on an adventure!  I searched the WordPress countryside and found a truly entertaining cooking blog – Two Fat Vegetarians.  I enjoyed their presentation of pease pudding. You’ll find it at the end of this episode. Check it out.

A last nod to Mardi Gras, is inspired by Chris the Story Reading Ape. You’ll have to read to the end of the episode to find it.  Be sure to look for fun links along the way. Some are in images others are in the text.

Let’s get this steam locomotive back on track. Laissez les bons temps rouler!  Here’s Episode-4.

Artist’s Palette, Pease Pudding, Owl-Shaped Lamp

The hand of a heavenly painter colored the evening sky, dipping the brush in an artist’s palette of pink, orange, and gold.  Squinting in the fading light, I wondered if doing so would give me wrinkles as everyone claimed.  I didn’t particularly care.  What was a face without a bit of character?

I lifted the skirt of my dark green and cream striped gown as I picked my way through the barn, wishing I had brought a pair of trousers with me.  As I squeezed between the wall and a work table, a space I should have been able to navigate with ease, the wretched bustle got caught.  Carefully, I extricated myself.

Spooky Victorian in VeilThe barn was empty of life, except perhaps for a few mice.  It was easy to see that the horses had been gone for a while, evidence of the financial problem Cornelis uncovered.  Surely Hixon kept at least one for his own transportation, I thought.  Had he left on horseback then?  Was he abducted?  I came full circle to the first question I faced when I came to the estate – who was the dead man in the study?

Since I had no idea what I was looking for, my intention had been to search the storage building and barn for anything that didn’t belong.  However, Calvin Hixon was a man of extraordinary interests and tastes.  Not belonging was a description that could be applied to nearly everything he owned.  I supposed that made all the strange articles and artifacts actually belong, in that way.

Secretly I thought it would have been better if Cornelis had sorted through all the oddities in the outbuildings.  The alchemist had remarkably broad knowledge of such things.  However, Cornelis would have taken days with the task, getting consumed as he looked at each object.  So it was just as well left to me.

I searched the barn and the larger storage building.  There was another shed on the opposite side of the grounds.  I had not inspected it yet.  So far I had seen many interesting, if unexplainable, gadgets and oddments, but nothing that gave me a clue as to what was going on.  At least I found a stash of canning jars — and some containing food.  In the dim light they looked unspoiled.  The hungry girl had eaten everything I brought earlier, and I hadn’t seen much else in the larder except some dried peas.  I put the jars in a burlap sack and hefted it over my shoulder.

The food was welcome, as it was unlikely that I would spend any time at the Belle Inn when I went back for my things.  No matter what the obstacles, I had to return to the inn to get my hatbox.  I couldn’t leave the area without the hatbox.  It contained the skull of Cornelis Drebbel.

1903 Mardi Gras manLeaving the barn, I gazed in concern at the beautiful sunset.  How much time did we have?  Sheriff Alvin Bullard was going to send someone to attend to the body of the still unknown man.  As he left he indicated that might take a bit of time, but how much?  A few hours?  A few days?  To my knowledge, there was no doctor in residence in the little town.  The veterinarian was half a day’s ride away.  Perhaps they used him as the coroner.

With a sigh I headed back to the main house.  I walked through the rolling lawn to the back of the house and its broad covered porch.  I recalled that the child, Copper, had been out at play somewhere.  When she returned home she found her father gone and the stranger at his desk in that most unfortunate condition.  That was all Copper knew.

My heart lurched for an instant when I heard Copper’s shrill cry.  However, the exclamation became a gale of giggles.  While it was the last thing I could imagine happening, Cornelis Drebbel took a liking to the child.  The Dutchman was supposed to be investigating the sprawling manor while I looked through the outbuildings.  I began to wonder if the entire time he and Copper had been playing whatever spontaneous games the girl invented.

When I opened the kitchen door my nose met a shocking smell.  I was stunned because the aroma was delicious.  “Cornelis?” was all I could manage.  I was at a loss for words.

Masked Victorian GirlsThe kitchen still looked like a battleground for Armageddon, but the smell was tantalizing.  The Dutchman had a smug look on his face.  He gave the tip of his pointed beard a twist as he smirked.  “Haven’t I always told you I was a good cook?  Yet you never believed me,” he said and gave a sly glance at Copper who giggled again.

“I didn’t think there was any food to cook,” I said, trying to ignore the alchemist’s self-satisfied behavior.  “Admittedly it smells good.  What did you manage to make?” I asked.

He removed the lid from the pot to display a perfect pease pudding.  Then I remembered seeing the uncooked peas the first time I entered the horrifying mess of the kitchen.

“But we don’t have any bread to spread it on,” Copper said in a disappointed tone, but she quickly cheered when Cornelis waved the pot’s lid to push more of the aroma to her nose.  “All we need is a spoon,” she decided with a grin.

“Oh, but my dear, you are mistaken,” Cornelis told Copper.

Judging by the disorder, Copper had looked through every inch of the kitchen in search of food.  It was no wonder she looked surprised by his words.  The Dutchman pointed to a wooden breadbox atop one of the cabinets.  It was a little out of my reach, but I spotted a small stool in a corner.  I had the box in hand in no time.

1891 Masquerade dance card“Always,” Cornelis began and held up one finger to emphasize.  “When searching for something, always remember to look above your normal line of sight,” he told Copper.

“It’s stale,” she said in disappointment when I opened the breadbox.

“It’s not so bad that we can’t make toast from it,” I told Copper and her eyes lit up.

A short time later we were all happily stuffed with pease pudding and toast.  I asked Cornelis if he had found anything interesting while searching the house.  Or if he found anything that gave a clue to what might have happened to Copper’s father. Or that business of the letter from Alexander Graham Bell and the bizarre hydrofoil contraption.

Cornelis gave the back of my hand a sharp tap with one finger.  It gave an unpleasant static shock when he did that.  He refused to tell me how it was done.  However, it might have been one of the extraordinary things he was able to do after that accident of alchemy left him in his current state.  At any rate, he meant to remind me to think before I spoke.  I made a poor choice when asking about Copper’s father in the child’s presence.

“I mean a clue to where he might have gone,” I stammered, trying to backtrack.  However, the child was more concerned about getting the last bit of her pease pudding onto the remaining toast.

“What could possibly be more interesting than that wonderful Wurlitzer organ in the back parlor?” Cornelis exclaimed.  “It’s no ordinary musical instrument, you know.  It’s perfectly keyed to the harmonic tuner you found at the Belle Inn.  Why, there’s no telling what the two could do when used together.  If only I had the second harmonic tuner,” he said wistfully.

“The second one?  Do you mean there is another of those odd sounding little bells?” I asked.

Mardi Gras King, Dave Hennan, March 7, 1905

Mardi Gras King, Dave Hennan, 1905

“Naturally my dear.  Harmonic tuners are always made in pairs.  A single one will do remarkable things, but the pair together – and in combination with a harmonic amplifier like that very special Wurlitzer.  Why there’s no telling what could be done!” he said with enthusiasm.

I was never sure when Cornelis was onto something that held importance to a situation, or if he was being carried away by passion for his wild ideas and inventions.  Clearly the organ was something exceptional, but was it relevant?

“We found this too!” Copper cried, happy to be able to contribute.

Cornelis had that self-satisfied expression again.  I knew he had been holding back.  Copper got up and ran to a table in the corner.  Amid the clutter I had not noticed the addition of an object.  She picked it up carefully and brought it over to me.

“What have we here?” I said and for the girl’s sake I showed much more interest than I felt.

“It’s a lamp.  It’s supposed to look like an owl,” she said.

“Well, it’s certainly a curiosity,” I commented.  “It looks like it’s carved from some sort of rough mineral,” I added.

“It’s salt — Himalayan salt,” Copper told me.  “Daddy said it is special salt and when it gets warm, it gives off healthful vapors.”

1800 Mardi Gras Queen

1800 Mardi Gras Queen

My interest grew as I examined the unusual piece.  The Dutchman murmured something I didn’t quite hear in his usual droll tone.

“It’s even more interesting if you turn it over,” Cornelis repeated pointedly.

When I upended the owl-shaped lamp, I found an opening.  Some very old documents were tightly rolled and inserted into the lamp.

I was about to pull the ancient papers out of the lamp’s cavity when I heard a door bang open.  My immediate thought was that the coroner had already arrived.  However, it had been an interior door.  The sound came from the direction of the study, unless of course it actually was from the study.  The crash of the door was followed by strange sounds that steadily drew closer.  Thump-drag.  Thump-drag.  Thump-drag…

An earsplitting screech preceded a cacophony of similar sounds.  Scrabbling feet and overturning furniture followed.  The front door slammed open so hard the stained glass window rattled.  I looked at my companions.  Copper seemed curious but not alarmed as she ran her finger around the pot, getting the last bit of pease pudding.  Cornelis Drebble returned my questioning gaze with wide eyes and a knitted brow.

I dashed to the door and looked into the hallway.  I heard Cornelis depart with a pop.  The first thing I saw was the open door to the study, where the unknown cadaver had been left, sitting at the desk where we’d found him.  A table in the hallway was overturned, breaking a vase that held flowers.  The front door stood wide open.  I saw movement at the porch stairs, so I hurried to the door.

1857 Mardi Gras Mistick Krewe of ComusThree very large chimpanzees were in the process of dragging the corpse away.  I stood in mystified, shocked silence.  With a loud pop, Cornelis appeared at the foot of the stairs.

“What the bloody…” he began.  “Stop!  You lot!  Stop that this instant!” Cornelis ranted at the chimpanzees.

They stopped and looked quizzically at the alchemist.  One scratched its head.  They chattered briefly to one another.

“Now put that back where you found it!” Cornelis demanded regarding the body.  “This instant!” he added.

It looked as though the chimps might actually do as he said.  The alchemist dashed to the top of the stairs and motioned to the chimpanzees.  He certainly had their attention.  Cornelis switched to an encouraging tone.

Victorian Chimp sailor suit“Yes, bring it back up here.  Yes, you understand, I know you do.  Come on.  Back up the stairs,” he said and began cajoling the apes.

One of them took hold of the body’s foot and started pulling it back up the stairs.  It looked like the other two might follow suit.  Then a horrible shrill screech sounded right behind me.  Something bounded into me.  It knocked me down and my head banged against the doorframe.  A fast moving blur of fur hurtled past me and launched into the Dutchman, sending him tumbling down the stairs.

I heard a flat sounding pop, and Cornelis was gone.  I had only heard that particular sound one time before, and that time the alchemist had been seriously harmed.  It seemed that I was about to become insensible as well.  My legs wouldn’t hold me when I tried to stand.  When I touched my temple my fingers encountered blood.

Falling again to my hands and knees I saw the fourth chimp join the other three.  While the porch floor seemed to spin, I watched as the furry quartet danced a jig.  Then the naughty chimps dragged the unknown dead man away.  The whole world swayed and went dark as one chimp gave a parting screech.

Naughty Chimps

***

The mysterious woman in trousers is out cold.  She found the “flat sounding pop” with which Cornelis Drebbel vanished disturbing.  So what happened to the alchemist?  You’re invited back next weekend when Sally Georgina Cronin at “Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life” provides the things and ingredients — and the recipe too.

Here’s this week’s promised culinary delight, and featured cooking blog.  Be sure to check out “Two Fat Vegetarians.”

Recipe:  Pease Pudding

https://twofatvegetarians.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/recipe-pease-pudding/

Pease Pudding Episode 4

Photo and Recipe Credit:  Two Fat Vegetarians

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

New Interactive Serial – Episode-1

Three Things: A culinary mystery with “things and ingredients” sent from readers everywhere.

Welcome one and all!
It is my pleasure to tell you that we have a first-time contributor of ingredients/things to begin this “interactive” serial.  John W. Howell did me the honor of sending things for the kickoff of the new story.  I hope you’ll visit his wonderful blog and take a look at his book too.  You’re sure to enjoy your stay there.My GRL cover

Last weekend I did a poll, asking everyone to vote, choosing from several options for the next serial.  (And I was downright pleased with myself for getting the handy-dandy poll thingamajig to work too!)  Quite a few of you were kind enough to click on your preferred option.  So now I will announce the results.  Drumroll

A solid 44% of you voted to …

Begin an all new serial from scratch, with an all new setting and characters!

You were ready to get behind the wheel! I was happy to get three sets of “things” right away for the kickoff of the new interactive serial. So let me show you how my mind works.

Copper

Copper

Since I couldn’t avoid looking at all three sets of three, the whole shebang influenced the setting and characters. I’ve already admitted to being a research geek — Stilton cheese, through a twist of fate gave us a character’s name and personality. How?  A sort of happy accident — when I saw the name of the first Englishman to market Blue Stilton cheese was Cooper Thornhill, for a moment I thought I’d read — Copper.  I liked the name too much to let it go.

I also had to know when Wurlitzer organs (that will be in Episode-3) were first made — and suddenly I knew that era had to be the general time-frame for the story.  I opted for the late 1800’s, near the end of the Victorian era.

Many of you particularly liked Maestro Martino, the ghost chef from Three Ingredients, Cookbook 2, so I wanted to add a mystical magical element to the new serial. Don’t ask me to explain my twisting thought process but…

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

I had a vague idea about a skull, and somehow that made me research alchemists… and that gave us the supernatural character for this serial, Cornelis Drebbel. I borrowed him from history.

As for the mysterious woman who wears trousers — you’re about to meet her, but I have no idea from where she came other than it was inspired by the late 19th century setting.  She was just there.

Be kind and remember that this story is propelled by the things or ingredients that you send. So it might take a few episodes for it to really begin to flow.

Enough of my stalling. I present to you, our all new interactive serial —
Three Things: Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

1.  Stilton Cheese, Mare’s Milk, Calamari

I was having second thoughts.  The fishing town was too small for my unconventional presence to go unremarked, plain and simple.  That was apparent as I watched a single carriage pass by on the dirt road and the driver turned to stare.  It was downright obvious from the shopkeeper’s scandalized expression when I stepped inside Best’s General Store.

Yes, I knew I should limit my wanderings to large cities.  However, I was weary of the crowds and odors.  And the noise!  I was desperately tired of the clamor and clang of cities.

Jaime Murray as the woman who wears trousers

Jaime Murray as the woman in trousers

It was a pleasing little town with a salt tang in the breeze and cozy houses.  I liked it the moment I set foot there.  I took a tidy suite in the Belle Inn. 

There was even a store where I unexpectedly found the most marvelous Stilton cheese.  Cornelis would be delighted with that find.  For once, he might not be so grumpy when I wake him, I thought.

However, as I stood in the general store and watched Mrs. Billie Best and her customer from the corner of my eye, I foresaw that my stay in the charming township would be brief.  I blocked any distractions from my mind so I could hear their conversation.  I already knew they were talking about me.  How could they fail to comment on my mannish waistcoat and trousers?

It always raised eyebrows when I dressed that way, but I wanted freedom of movement that I’d never have whilst restricted by the yards and yards of fabric that made a proper skirt and bustle.  Besides, my first thought that morning was “I’ll be damned if I’m going to squeeze myself into a corset today.”

I pushed back my top hat, pretending to read a label while I listened to the two women speculate about me and my strange apparel.  They had the most outlandish conjectures about my foreign accent and from whence I’d come.  A smile quirked my lips and I tried not to laugh out loud.

The proprietor of the Belle Inn stood across the room shaking his head at the foolish conversation.  Ignatius Belle made a good first impression when I checked in at his inn.  He stepped over to me.  I hoped his housekeeping staff had as much respect for guest privacy as he seemed to have.  I’d hate for a curious maid to wake Cronelis.  That would be most unfortunate.  Actually it could get quite ugly.Victorian men hats

“Ma’am, you were right about the mare’s milk,” he said loud enough for the women to hear.  “Doc said there was a fungus in the grass she was eating before she foaled,” the innkeeper said in a respectful voice.  “He said that’s likely what caused the problem.  The Johnsons have a pregnant mare, and they’re going to foster the foal.”

My relief that the little horse would be well was genuine.  I was glad my off-handed comment had been helpful.  Cornelis always complained that I spoke before I thought, and that I drew unnecessary attention to myself.  Yet it ended well that time, and there was the added benefit that now at least the innkeeper accepted me.  Although I still doubted I would remain there for long.

“Your dinner is on the house tonight.  Whatever you want, and as much of it as you care to eat.  Your comment likely saved the foal’s life,” he said then looked suddenly shy.  “Just a humble way of saying thank you.”

The burst of bashfulness was rather endearing on a man of his stature.  Ignatius Belle did not fit my image of a proper innkeeper.  They should be rotund, pink-cheeked men with aprons.  My host however, was tall and well-made and he wore a suit and a Bowler hat.  He barely gave my trousers a glance.  Interesting.Victorian child cape

The bell affixed to the shop door chimed and a wide eyed moppet came cautiously inside.  She might have been seven years old or she may have been nine.  Disgraceful as it may sound, I knew nothing about children.

An unfortunately familiar odor reached my noise when she walked past me.  The bouquet was dreadful, but it gave the girl my full attention.  She hesitated in her walk, just one step, and then she moved toward the counter.  The shopkeeper frowned and her patron became even more disdainful — if that was possible.  However, their scorn was not due to the odor I detected.  They hadn’t noticed it, but I was sensitive to such things.

She had hair the color of a new penny.  There was a smudge of dirt on her little nose.  Her stylish cape was made of peacock blue wool, embroidered in cream silk thread, with a cream colored tassel on the hood.  Her eyes twinkled with intelligence.

And she reeked of death.

I smiled.

At that very moment I knew that little russet haired child was the reason why I’d come to the out of the way little town.  I didn’t know how it would come about, but I was certain — she would be the heart and soul of the next adventure!

What would Cornelis make of the girl?  He despised anyone who was weak, and children by definition were weak.  So the Dutchman detested children.

I smiled again — broadly.

“Your daddy spoils you too much Copper Hixon, letting you wear your Sunday best when you go out to play,” said the storekeeper from behind her counter.  “Flaunting his wealth on clothes for a child, when there’s others as have to put their noses to the grindstone to get along.”

A barely audible remark came from her customer.  “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” the other woman mumbled.  “She’d best be glad her pa recovered from that influenza last spring, else she’d be in the orphanage, and no fine clothes there,” the customer added in a resentful whine.

child labor“Old Hixon should’ve taken another wife,” Billie Best declared.  “There are plenty of women here abouts who’d make him a good wife,” Billie Best replied with a mystified shake of her head.  “But he’d have none of them after that dance hall floozy died birthing this one,” the storekeeper said with an unconcerned wave toward Copper.

“I’d not have that evil child in my house,” said the other woman.  “Any child that kills the mother birthing it is the devil’s own, you mark my words.”

The girl’s eyes widened at the mention of the orphanage and she was clearly afraid.  Copper swallowed hard.  “I need… I mean Daddy sent me to buy food to make dinner,” she stammered.

I noticed that she didn’t specify what food nor did she have a shopping list.  But why would she?  The odor that clung to her was faint.  However, I had no doubt about its origin.  No one told the child what to buy for dinner, but she was hungry enough to think of shopping for it.

The woman behind the counter looked at the girl and her mouth turned down in contempt.  “Did your daddy send you with money to pay his bill?” Mrs. Best asked, emphasizing the payment.  “He’s months behind.  No?” she said when Copper shook her head and looked confused.  “Well, you go back and tell him that hard working folk have to be paid.  Not everybody was born with a silver spoon in their mouth.  He’ll have to pay off the bill he’s run up before he gets another crumb from Best’s General Store!”

“Now was there really any need to speak so harshly to the child?” the innkeeper asked.

The child turned and fled the store.  The tassel on her cape caught on the door and was left behind as she ran.  I excused myself to my new landlord.  Quickly picking up the cream colored tassel, I followed to see which direction little Copper went.  Then I turned and ran back to the Belle Inn.Belle Inn

When I opened the inn’s door, the aroma of fried calamari slowed my stride.  It wafted to me from the kitchen.  It made my mouth water.  I reigned in my haste.  There was no need to run.  The child wasn’t going anywhere.  Not yet.

I popped into the kitchen, profusely complimented the cook, and asked if dinner could be sent up to my room.  Cornelis hated it when I ate in my room, but he didn’t have much choice in the matter.  I couldn’t resist the calamari!

My hatbox was on a high shelf.  I carefully took it down and opened it.  An object that appeared to be a ball covered by a satin scarf was inside.  My top hat would fit around it, as a form to keep the hat’s shape.  But in truth it was no such thing.  I removed the scarf and held up a human skull.

“Cornelis,” I exclaimed.  “Adventure is afoot!  This is no time to be lazy, Cornelis Drebble.  Wake up!” I said and placed the skull back in the hatbox.

My eyes closed against the bitter chill that blew through the room.  A moment later I looked into the eyes of the Dutchman.  Though he stood no taller than me, his presence was forceful.  He was a handsome man.  He had light hair with a mustache and pointed beard, much like a Musketeer.  However, the disgruntled expression on his face belied his gentle manners.  He gave a polite bow, yet managed to make the movement seem sarcastic.

“Why such haste?” he asked drolly, and smoothed back hair that perpetually looked mussed from a nap.

“Don’t be such a grump,” I said, and holding up the parcel of Stilton cheese I watched his nose twitch in anticipation.

To the Dutchman’s consternation, I held back the cheese.  I wouldn’t share that until I got what I wanted.  When I handed him the cream colored tassel from the girl’s cape he was hardly mollified.

“This bauble does not seem so portentous,” he complained.

As one eyebrow climbed toward his hairline, I knew he’d been won over, despite his sullen look and tone.

“Stop sulking and tell me about the girl,” I said, trying to be firm.  One had to be firm with Cornelis. If he saw the slightest weakness…

“Ah, so that’s it is it?  You think it’s her?  Bringing on a child would complicate things enormously,” he asked, finally showing interest.  “It seems awfully — how to describe it?  So unassuming,” he said with a little twist to one side of his mouth as he looked at the tassel.  “Do you really think she is the one?” he asked, his tone softening.

“You tell me,” I prodded.

Cornelis shimmered and blurred before my eyes, as his mind traveled.  Then with a sharp pop he disappeared.

 ***

To be continued…

Most of you voted for a completely new serial, so there you have the beginning.  See you next weekend for Episode-2 where we’ll have things / ingredients from Kathryn, aka KR Big Fish at https://anotherfoodieblogger.wordpress.com/

Wait — don’t leave yet. Each episode of this culinary mystery will feature a recipe.

I scoured the WordPress virtual countryside for recipes.  That led me to One Happy Table, Vegan Food for the Whole Family, and I chose the following recipe to round out Episode-1.  Click the link for this beautifully photographed step by step recipe.  Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Baked Oyster Mushroom Calamari

oyster-mushroom-calamari

 Photo and recipe credit: One Happy Table

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.