Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 33

Indies Agree…

Glenda Ozz

Billie Berk 1939

I love that “Indie” has endlessly different subjects, genres, and formats.  I’m happy that every indie author and blogger is unique.  Despite all that diversity, it seems that all indie authors agree on the importance of reviews – whether posted in a blog, magazine, or on a bookseller’s site.

Oh, I admit to my jaw-dropping awe when an author cheers that they’ve reached the milestone of 100 reviews… I have less than a dozen, so I’m quite impressed, as well as proud of their achievement.  So when one of my earliest author-blogger-supporters wished he had more reviews for his books, I wanted to do something… but I’m not a reviewer. I wished I could wave a magic wand for both of us… but neither am I Glenda the Good Witch.

Jump back a step, because the steam locomotive is roaring back toward the platform at top speed!

Since there was no new episode last weekend, here’s a link to the previous chapter. If you need extra catching-up, look to the top of your screen for this serial’s homepage button.

Yikes! The locomotive is moving so fast, I’m not sure it can stop — but the breaks are screeching and the the whistle blows as it stops on a dime, right at the platform.

The conductor gives you a mischievous wink.   All aboard!!!

33.  Toddlers, Queen, Superior

Billie Berk circa 1900

Billie Berk circa 1900

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.  The thingamajig on the submarine went through some rough treatment.  The one in the gondola didn’t show any wear and tear.  (Episode 22)  A malfunction in the contrivance was at least partly responsible for landing us in this purple place.

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.  She 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.Victorian Magazine 1891

“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.

“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.

Police NewsBefore 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.  But I forced myself.  I removed the device from the flowered carpet bag.  The thin rods were 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.Punch mag

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.

Queen Victoria 1859

Queen Victoria 1859

“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.

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.  Then I got a look at the secret-something that the chimp handed her earlier.  She had hidden it in the folds of her skirt, but it turned out to be the harmonic tuner.  Cal Hicks 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)  the Strand Magazine

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 was 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.  So it had been just 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!

Harper's Bazaar 1899The 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, I was certain 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.  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.

***

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?

Don’t leave yet!  Here’s a recipe.  Many times I’ve seen bloggers mention “curry chips.”  Now, I’m just not familiar with that dish. So I scoured the WordPress countryside and found a lovely recipe at “Lea & Jay.”  

Recipe:  Curry Chips

Photo and recipe credit:  Lea & Jay 

Curry Chips

https://leaandjay.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/curry-chips/

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 21

Pride Predjudice

 

Thanks for waiting 
Welcome back everyone.  I’m so glad you waited for the steam locomotive to the Victorian Era.

The “three things” for this chapter are from Donna Parker at Yadadarcyyada – Vague Meanderings of the Broke and Obscure, a truly wonderful blog. In Donna’s posts she shares her thoughts on a variety of things.  In one post she’ll have me laughing so hard my stomach hurts, and with an another I’ll be climbing up onto the soapbox with her as she gives voice to her feelings.  So be sure to visit her blog and look around, read a few posts.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

The “things” Donna sent created a new twist for the story.  I really wasn’t expecting it — but you’ll have to read on to learn what that is!

Now the locomotive is back on track, so without further ado, I present Episode-21.

From last time…

“There are places that are not nearly deep enough for this submarine,” he commented and Absinthe hissed as if scolding Cornelis.  “But with a little shifting of ‘the in to the out’…  Tucking a bit from this reality into the next…  Together Absinthe and I should be able to make it work,” he said.

“I don’t like the sound of that.  You know full well how often your tricks go awry,” I warned him.

21.  Ginger Beer, Cast Iron Finial, Backgammon

Cornelis Drebbel’s submarine traveled quite smoothly, I was relieved to note.  After having been inebriated by the vapors of Absinthe the startled Green Fairy, I was feeling queasy.  So I had worried about travel on — or rather under water.

Ginger Beer 3To my astonishment, the tiny skunk-like fairy led me to a bottle of ginger beer.  With a sharp pop, Cornelis suddenly appeared at my elbow.

“Where did you run off to?” I asked, referring to the fact that a moment before the alchemist wasn’t there.

“Good idea, Absinthe,” he told the fluttering fairy, but ignored my question.  “Do try and drink it, Felicity.  It will help settle your stomach.”

Cornelis absently tossed what looked like a cast iron finial.  I raised my eyebrows, silently prompting him for an answer.

“I went to get this,” he said, giving the ornament another toss.

I tried to look at the thing, but Cornelis gave it a spin when he threw it.  Several strands of iron reached up and twisted to come together at the tip making an open teardrop shape.  Those twisted strips combined with the spin Cornelis gave his throw, made the shape seem to shift in an odd way as it went up and down with his tosses.  I thought my stomach would lose its contents.

Absinthe glided down for a closer look at the finial.  Then the Green Fairy gave a series of discontent sounding grunts at Cornelis.  Apparently he didn’t like the finial to be tossed around.

“Oh, Absinthe.  Don’t get testy,” the alchemist told the fairy with as his mouth twisted in a derisive way.  “No harm will come to it.  Besides, it helps charge it.”

Terrence Mann as Cornelis 2

Terrence Mann as Cornelis Drebbel

“Why did you need a bedpost finial?” I wanted to know, despite another nauseous lurch from my stomach.

“This is no ordinary piece of cast iron,” Cornelis explained.  “At least it is not any more.  Once it crowned one of the posts of my bed.  You see, many of my ideas come to me as I sleep.  For some reason this particular finial gradually took on unexpected properties, although the other three did not,” the Dutchman said with a shrug.  “I thought we might use it to help the submarine over the shallow places.”

The Green Fairy sniffed delicately at the finial, or whatever it was.  Then he fluttered back to the ginger beer and chirped at me.  As I took the proffered bottle, I gave the Dutchman a contemptuous look.

“Have you no shame, Cornelis?  You could at least pretend to have a hangover,” I complained.

“As I have no real stomach, I don’t tend to digestive upsets,” the alchemist explained merrily.  “But as you know, my skull does exist in this world.  So I can get miserable headaches.”

“And head colds!” Copper chimed in, and giggled over the magical results of Cornelis sneezing when he and I were afflicted with that ailment.

The little skunk-like fairy snuffled and grunted in a way that sounded a lot like chuckling.  I gathered that he had also witnessed the alchemist under the influence of a head cold.

Copper

Copper

Copper was giggling so hard it was difficult to understand her words, but the fairy seemed to know what she said.  The only words I could pick out from the jumble of chortles were frogs and pancakes.

“You don’t act as though you have any sort of headache now,” I said, unwilling to laugh at the memory that so amused Copper, as I was feeling a bit put upon.

Cornelis chuckled.  “I developed a tolerance to Absinthe’s frightened flatulence.  When he and I first met, I startled him many times.  One begins to get used to the effect,” he said.

As I sipped the ginger beer I gave Cornelis an arch look.  I wondered if he may have deliberately “startled” Absinthe on more than one occasion, to cause him to produce those potent poots.  The Green Fairy wrinkled up his pointed nose and made a grumbling sound at Cornelis that led me to believe my assumption was correct.

A pinging sound interrupted the conversation.  It came from that multi-armed machine.  Its limbs shifted.  Those capped with blue and green gems lifted and spun while the arms adorned with warm colored jewels lowered unmoving.

“We’ve come to a shallow area,” Cornelis commented moving toward the device.  “Umm…” he pondered.  “The water is deeper than I expected.  We should be able to navigate it without much assistance.  However, if anyone should look, we will be easily spotted,” he added.  “Absinthe, have we caught up with any of those three groups yet?”

The Green Fairy fluttered to one of the two perpetual motion machines.  The glass dome filled with green fog.  After a moment the haze cleared.  A blurry figure lurched and bobbed.  When it came into focus I saw that it was the hydrofoil!  I saw the big chimpanzee jumping around and the woman who commanded that small group.  I tried hard to get a look at her face, but the image was too small.  She again wore rain gear, so I couldn’t even make out her figure to help me ascertain her identity.

Forlanini hydrofoil

The Dutchman looked uncertain.  “Absinthe, perhaps we should slow down.  We don’t want to get too close to them,” Cornelis said.

Absinthe chirped then made a tut-tut sound.  That worried me.  Surely we hadn’t…

“What!  They’re right behind us?  Do you mean to say we’ve gone under the hydrofoil and gotten ahead of them without even knowing they were there?” Cornelis exclaimed and the Green Fairy gave an indignant shrill warning.

Cornelis caught himself and quickly tried to calm the skunk-like fairy before he could spray that intoxicating vapor of highly concentrated absinthe.  Fortunately Copper had a soothing effect on the creature as she gently stroked his tiny head with a finger and murmured compliments to him.  Absinthe hopped onto her shoulder and snuggled down under her ear, making an occasional snuffling sound.  I heaved a sigh of relief.

“I need to create a very good illusion to keep them from seeing us,” Cornelis began.  “I think a mirror trick will suffice.  A few illusory reflections so that it seems to them that they see the route ahead, but they do not see us.  But we’ll have to be absolutely quiet,” he said emphatically.  “This illusion will amplify any sounds we make,” he stressed.  “We’ll have to maintain silence for quite some time.  I suppose that will be easier if we occupy ourselves somehow.  Ah!  I know,” he said as he hurried to open a drawer in the submarine’s desk-like bridge.

The Backgammon Players by Jean Beraud 1849-1935

The Backgammon Players by Jean Beraud 1849-1935

He looked rather pleased with himself as he produced a backgammon set.

“Unfortunately Cornelis, I don’t know how to play,” I told him.  “And teaching me will defeat the purpose of being quiet.  Oh, but you have some books over there,” I said noticing a bookcase in the corner.  “You and Copper can play while I read,” I suggested, knowing that the girl would enjoy the act of pretending to play even though it was unlikely that she actually knew the rules of backgammon.

“Yes, I want to play,” Copper added quickly.  “Absinthe and I can play against you Cornelis,” she offered, and the Green Fairy chirped and settled on the backgammon board the Dutchman had just opened.

Absinthe seemed to guide Copper in arranging the pieces on the game board.  Meanwhile Cornelis went to the second of two perpetual motion clocks.  It was a good deal larger than the first machine.  He gave the thing that looked like a cast iron finial another toss and then twisted it onto the base of the clock.  It began to spin slowly.  It had a rather hypnotic effect.  Looking at it made me queasy again.

Jaime Murray as the woman who wears trousers

Jaime Murray as Felicity, the Woman in Trousers

A green aura surrounded Cornelis.  From out of nowhere the alchemist produced postcard sized images of the waterway, the shorelines, and the sky.  He placed one hand just above the images and rested the other on the crystal dome of the perpetual motion clock.  As the glow around him intensified, one by one the images disappeared and then reappeared inside the dome.

“Wow!” Copper sighed and the Green Fairy made a soft shushing sound.

“I’m sure it’s important that we don’t interrupt Cornelis,” I whispered to Copper.

“Oh really?” Cornelis muttered drolly.  “My skills aren’t that limited.  Do go about setting up the game.  I’ll join you shortly.  Felicity, select a book and relax.”

I glanced at the titles.  Everything on the first three shelves was dry and scientific sounding.  When I looked at the fourth shelf I couldn’t suppress a chuckle.  The Dutchman had a small collection of Jane Austen books.

“You’ve an Austen collection?” I murmured in surprise.

“Yes.  I met the lady and several other authors.  She gave me the books.  You’ll see an inscription inside each, written in her own hand,” Cornelis said in a rather smug tone.

I was impressed.  “Pride and Prejudice,” I commented.  “My favorite,” I said reading the brief note from the author to her “dear friend, Cornelis Drebbel.”

“What’s it about?” Copper asked, moving to my side, apparently already bored with waiting for Cornelis to begin the game of backgammon.

“Shall I read a bit to you while Cornelis sets up his trick?” I asked the girl and she nodded.

Green fairy skunk“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

Abruptly I paused.  The term “rightful property” was trying to work past my headache and connect itself to a half formed suspicion about Calvin Hixon.  However, Copper interrupted my thought and it was absorbed into my aching head.

“So is it about a man getting married?” Copper asked when I paused, causing me to lose that train of thought.

I gave my head half a shake to clear the jumbled notions inside it, and immediately regretted the motion.  “It’s about a young woman, and yes it’s also about a man.  Fitzwilliam Darcy,” I told her with a smile as I anticipated enjoying a favorite story.

Copper looked intrigued.  “Is he handsome?” she wanted to know.

“Oh yes,” I answered.  “Darcy is noble and handsome, and smart too.”Victorian courting

I saw Cornelis emitting a bright green aura as he worked his spell.  He paused in making some very intricate looking adjustments to the perpetual motion machine.  The alchemist looked at us and rolled his eyes heavenward.

“Oh yada Darcy yada,” he said derisively, cutting off my praise of the character.

Absinthe suddenly looked up when the alchemist made the comment.  The fairy’s emerald eyes grew large and he shrieked.

“Oh bugger,” Cornelis said in frustration as the tiny fairy flew over to him making a series of very irate noises.

“What’s wrong with our tiny friend?” I asked worriedly though my voice came out in a sardonic tone.

Yadadarcyyada is an incantation.  I can’t believe I just said it aloud.  If you hadn’t picked that blasted book it would never have happened,” Cornelis complained and the Green Fairy screamed again when Cornelis said the magic word a second time.

The submarine started to vibrate.  It shuddered every few seconds.  Everything around me looked like reflections from a funhouse mirror; stretching, expanding, contracting, becoming triplicate reflections.

Drebbel Perpetual Motion Clock

Drebbel Perpetual Motion Clock

It was more than my upset stomach could take.  Apparently the nausea was plain on my face.  Absinthe gave a sputtering grunt and a wastebasket appeared in my hands, just in time for me to retch into the container.  I had the sneaking suspicion the tiny fairy was more concerned about keeping his submarine home clean — that he wasn’t so worried about my upset stomach.

Cornelis was yelling something about shifting of “the in to the out” and tucking a bit from this reality into the next — just as he had mentioned before.

The submarine began to spin.  I lost my balance and landed on the floor.  Copper fell down next to me, and I held the child with one arm and used my other arm to deflect books that fell down from the shelves and onto us.

Absinthe seemed to realize Copper was in distress.  He fluttered down to us, and landed on Copper’s shoulder.  Then he wrapped his tail protectively around her head.  A bright green light formed around us.  When I touched the aura, I was surprised to find it felt as hard as steel.

As the world around me whirled I saw Cornelis frantically working with the perpetual motion machine and the magical finial.  The submarine whirled so fast that everything became a blur.  As the force and pressure created by the maniacally spinning vessel became too great, darkness overtook me.

***

What has the unintended incantation “Yadadarcyyada” done to the submarine and its passengers?  Might the magical effect extend beyond the submarine?  Will it be enough to allow our friends to get away from the villains on the hydrofoil?  Be at the train station next time!

Now here is the recipe for Episode-21.  Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Ginger Beer,

A Probiotic Summer Drink

Ginger Beer 2

Photo and recipe credit:  A Real Food Lover.com

 

Next weekend the three things are from the wonderful R.C. in the Land of Enchantment.  See where Pickled Beets, Corded Stays, and Cold Cereal take our characters.

 

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 11

Location Revealed!

When my friend Olga at Just Olga offered “things” for an episode of this “interactive” serial, I knew they would be rich in detail. What I didn’t expect was for those things to reveal the location of the story… well, sort of.  It’s not an exact location, but a general one.

The Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman

You see, that’s how my Three Things serials work.  The “things” (or sometimes “ingredients”) you readers send inspire everything about the stories — even important things like the characters and the setting. Although we’ve already reached Episode-11, I was still waiting for the things to reveal the location. And when author Olga Núñez Miret sent her three things, one of them did just that.

Which of “Old Family Bible, Carved Whale’s Tooth, and Vine Leaves” do you think gave me the location? Read on and find out.

Olga has published such an impressive and varied collections of books — whether mysterious, suspenseful, or romantic.  She publishes in both English and Spanish, and some works are in audio books too.  I’m in awe of people who can write (or for that matter even read) so fast.  Today I’ll share three of Olga’s books with you, since there are three things. Click on the image for purchase information.

3 books OlgaNM

Our steam locomotive is right on schedule.  It just arrived at the station.  All aboard!

From last time…

Ignatius Belle seems a little too intent on getting Copper to visit his paddle steamer, anchored at the riverside near the abandoned church compound where our trio took refuge.  Or is it just that he believes the girl is the niece of the woman in trousers, and he wants to get closer to her?

However, Cornelis invented “old family friends” who are on the way to transport the trio to a fabricated holiday. So the handsome innkeeper will surely have to part company with Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.  Or will the “things” create more complications? Read on and find out.

***

11.  Old Family Bible, Carved Whale’s Tooth, Vine Leaves

There was a ragged hole in the roof of the old church.  Sunlight poured through the opening, engulfing Ignatius Belle.  He had taken off his coat and his white shirt caught the light so that it almost glowed.  The effect made him look tall, safe, and… angelic.

Angel Statue male mossI stared at him without realizing it.  Apparently I gawked for so long that it made him uncomfortable, because he chuckled and looked askance at me.  I stuttered, trying to explain without embarrassing myself by telling the man that he looked like an angel.

“It’s just that— Your shirt is dazzlingly bright in the sun’s light,” I stammered, then I reached up and wiped a drop of the shepherd’s pie from his collar, pretending that was the only thing on my mind.

“You’re right,” he agreed. “This is a fascinating ruin, but it is much too fine of a day to be indoors,” Ignatius said and surprised me by taking my hand.

He led me toward the front doors of the abandoned church.  “Oh wait.  What’s this?” I asked, stepping into an aisle where something was left behind on a pew.

At first I thought it was an old hymnal, but it was too large.  I carefully opened the book and turned thin, fragile pages.  Dates were recorded for births, deaths, and marriages.

Ruins St Dunstan

St Dunstan-in-the-East

“Look, it’s an old family Bible,” I commented in fascination.

I turned another page and my eyes were drawn to a name.  “Agustus Belle wed Antigone Stewart—”

“Please, let me see that,” Ignatius said, gently but eagerly taking the antiquated book from my hands.

He squinted and moved back to the place where the sun shone through the damaged roof.  “Those were my grandparents,” he marveled.  “They eloped.  No one was ever sure where they went to get married.  I wonder who this Bible belonged to,” he murmured, delicately turning the pages.

“It doesn’t appear to belong to anyone now.  The congregation, and apparently whatever village was nearby, they’ve all left long ago,” I began, as I looked up into serious brown eyes.  “I think whoever owned this book would want you to have it.  A tie to your grandparents,” I affirmed with a nod.

Ignatius took my hand again, smiled, and led me outside.  He held the old Bible under one arm, and pulled me close to him with the other.  I looked up, with sun-dazzled eyes as he lowered his head toward mine.

Copper

Copper

“Aunt Miiiina!” Copper cried my alias on a sustained note as she ran toward us.

I gave my head a sharp shake to bring myself out of the drowsy, mauve-colored moment.  Of all the bad timing.  But it was probably just as well, I thought.

“Look what I found!” Copper declared excitedly.

There was dirt under her fingernails as if she had been digging in the ground.  Tiny bits of rich soil littered the front of her dress.  The yellow petals of a black-eyed Susan stood out against hair the color of a new-penny.  She had tucked the blossom behind her ear.  I imagined her accidentally pulling up the flower by its roots, and spraying herself with dirt in the process.

Ignatius bowed playfully to Copper.  “Miss, that is a lovely flower, but it beauty pales next to your own,” he told the girl in a whimsical tone.

Copper tilted her head to one side and looked at the innkeeper as if she didn’t understand.  “He’s paying you a compliment,” I told her and tried not to laugh.  “Say thank you.”1860 Carved Whale Tooth

She made a quick movement that might have passed for a curtsey and mumbled her thanks.  Then Copper held her cupped hands toward me.  I hesitated, wondering if she dug up a mole and made a pet of it.

“Look!  Cornelis said it might be magic!” Copper said in a whisper that could have been heard at the riverbank.

In her hands was an ivory figurine inlayed with abalone shell, and not quite four inches long.  It depicted a man reclining on two humpback whales.  The style of the piece reminded me of Aztec artwork.

Basil Gill (1877-1955) as Ignatius Belle

Basil Gill (1877-1955) as Ignatius Belle

“I found it in the ground when I picked my flower.  Cornelis said it was an amulet,” Copper explained, testing the sound of what must have been an unfamiliar word.

“May I see it,” Ignatius asked.

Copper drew back slightly.  My warning look encouraged her to give the figure to Ignatius.  “It might well be magic of a sort,” he agreed in the tone sometimes used by adults encouraging children to believe in the supernatural.

The girl’s eyebrows went up expectantly and she moved a step closer to the handsome innkeeper.  “You realize we’re not far from the Pacific coast,” Ignatius said turning to me before continuing his examination of the ivory.

“This looks like the work of a coastal tribe to the north of here.  You see the little man?” he asked Copper who nodded interestedly.  “He is a shaman, and he is resting on the backs of his spirit animals — these two humpback whales, placed end-to-end.  Their eyes are made of abalone shell.  Oh, and look here,” he added in childlike excitement.  “You see where the shaman rests his head against the whale’s head?  That connects them and his mouth is the blowhole for the whale!  So this is meant to be the shaman traveling to the spirit world upon his whales,” Ignatius said to Copper’s amazement.Boulet Spirit Animal Totems

“So then,” I began.  “Is the ivory actually a carved whale’s tooth?” I asked and Ignatius affirmed with a smile.  “Copper, I’ll have to find a ribbon for you so you can wear this amulet around your neck.  After all, that’s how magic amulets are supposed to be worn,” I promised to her delight.

A shrill whistle interrupted our examination of the little carving.  At first I couldn’t tell from where the sound came, but I wasn’t looking up far enough.  The sun glinted off polished brass, high in a tree near the river.

“Cornelis Derbbel, of all things!” I declared when I spotted the alchemist in the upper branches of the tree.

The Dutchman whistled again and motioned for us to come to him.  By the time we reached the place, he had climbed down.  Or at least he pretended to have climbed for the innkeeper’s sake.  The alchemist probably descended via a less mundane means.  His face expressed a combination of excitement and worry that only Corenlis could achieve.

“You won’t believe this,” he told me.  “It would be wonderful if it wasn’t so horribly wrong.  But we have to hurry.  They’re only ten minutes or so away!” the Dutchman babbled.Drebbel stamp

“Cornelis, what are you talking about?” I demanded.

He calmed down minutely and held up his brass spyglass.  “I saw them headed this way on the river.  And they’re using a hydrofoil!” he added almost dancing in his enthusiasm.  “I can’t tell who it is though,” he added before I could ask.

I watched the attractive face of Ignatius blanch at the alchemist’s words.  “No.  It can’t be,” he groaned and paced a few steps as if torn.  “I should get you to safety.  But the hydrofoil can outrun my paddle steamer,” Ignatius fretted as he paced.

He seemed genuinely worried for our welfare.  I shot Cornelis a challenging look for his distrust of the dashing innkeeper.Burrell Road Locomotive

“We actually do have transportation,” I confessed.  “It’s just that we felt it had to be kept secret.  It’s one of Hixon— I mean my half-brother’s inventions, and I don’t think he was ready to show it to the world,” I told Ignatius a partial truth.

His eyes widened.  “Don’t tell me!  Do you mean to say that he finished the road locomotive?  That he actually got the steam engine working?” Ignatius cried.

I wondered how it was that the innkeeper knew so much about Calvin Hixon’s inventions.  “Well, mostly.  Cornelis put on the finishing touch, correcting a small problem with the design,” I said looking askance at the Dutchman who nodded with a wide grin.

“Then go!  Go quickly.  No, wait!” Ignatius faltered.  “The road locomotive makes a tremendous noise, does it not?” he asked and we all nodded emphatically.  “I’ll lead them away.  Hide and wait until they are well past.  I’ll make sure they see me.  If they think I have gotten the girl, they are sure to follow,” he said, and then inspiration lit his brown eyes.  “I can even make two bundles.  I’ll put hats on them or something so they can be you and Copper,” Ignatius said turning to me.Stripped Bustle Gown

“You can have my stripped gown,” I said catching his enthusiasm for the idea.  “It’s ruined anyway,” I justified my donation to the scheme.  When Ignatius looked like he would ask how it got ruined I added of my dive into the river to retrieve the skull of Cornelis Drebbel, “That’s a long story.  But there’s all manner of things in that large building,” I said pointing to the half ruined building where we hid the steam engine.  “I’m sure we can bundle up some things that will look like Copper and me, at least from a distance.”

“I’d love a look at the locomotive,” Ignatius said wistfully a moment later when we got to the building.

“Ah, but you realize there’s no time,” Cornelis reminded him with a sidelong look that made it clear to me that he still did not trust Ignatius Belle.

“I found this earlier,” Cornelis began in a sad tone.  “I meant to give it to Copper as the next thing to a playmate,” he told us as he presented a doll, about three feet tall, with hair the color of a new penny.  “But it’s better put to use to protect her,” the Dutchman sighed.Victorian Doll

“Oh what a shame,” I said.  Copper was a good deal taller than the doll, but from a distance it should be quite convincing. “She would love it,” I commented as I looked around for the girl.

I spotted her running back toward us, dragging my stripped frock behind her.  I reminded myself that it was already ruined.  She had also grabbed two ladies hats from that opened crate of accessories.  The hats didn’t match my gown or the doll’s dress, but that was of no importance.

Suddenly Ignatius pulled out a knife.  I gasped in shock and jumped back.  Cornelis had a green aura as he gathered his powers.  However, Ignatius didn’t see it because he was already running for the gaping hole in the wall of the abandoned storage building.  He shouted over his shoulder.  “I saw some vines growing just outside,” he called and he was gone.

Quickly he ran back inside, haloed in green vine leaves.  Ignatius used the vines to tie the bundles and they made passable human-like figures.

***

There was a cluster of bushes just far away enough from the riverbank.  Cornelis used one of his little tricks to make sure we wouldn’t be seen as we watched the paddle steamer pull away.  Just before it rounded a bend in the river, Ignatius gave a blast on the boat’s whistle.  He was making sure whomever piloted the hydrofoil didn’t lose him.

Forlanini hydrofoil

The HD-4

Ignatius claimed that he didn’t know who those people were.  He said the hydrofoil had changed hands a few times since all the chaos began.  I didn’t get to ask him about his involvement in the disappearance of Calvin Hixon, or any of the strange events surrounding it.  Neither could I ask him about his relationship with the man, Copper’s father.  But apparently there had been some level of interaction between the two men.  That might explain the girl’s distrust of the innkeeper.  However, there was no time for me to ask any questions.

Too soon a boat on feet-like skis that lifted it up out of the river neared our hiding place.  For the first time I wondered if Ignatius Belle was a hero or a traitor.  Perhaps he risked his life to lure villains away from Copper and myself.  Then again, he might be meeting them farther down the river, comrades in arms.

Cornelis Derbbel gave a soft surprised grunt.  He used one of his tricks to look farther than the human eye could see.  I raised the spyglass to see what startled the alchemist.  As the hydrofoil drew even with our vantage point, I saw a figure moving wildly on the vessel.  A very chimpanzee cavorted and gesticulated wildly.

***

Is Ignatius Belle now in jeopardy? The question remains as to whether the innkeeper is angel or aggressor.  And once again, who controls the chimpanzees?  Come back next time to learn where the “things” take our trio.

Next time our “things” are from delightful Christy Birmingham at Poetic Parfait. Stay tuned for her: one lone dandelion, free verse poem, and candle wax.

And now for this episode’s recipe.  My search of the WordPress countryside too, me to a lovely blog.  Though you are not likely in Cypress, you are sure to be intrigued – and it has a recipe page, Chef’s Choice Cypriot Recipes.  Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Stuffed Vine Leaves

Stuffed Vine Leaves

Photo and recipe credit: Cypriot Recipes at The Foreign Residents in the TRNC

 

https://tfrnorthcyprus.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/chefs-choice-cypriot-recipes-stuffed-vine-leaves-koupepiadolmades/

 

 

 

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 3

Victorian men hatsWelcome back to the late Victorian Era and our all new “interactive” culinary adventure!  The things and ingredients for Episode-3 have the story rolling along as they building the plot and characters.  Keep an eye out for informational links in the text and with some of the images too.

 

3.  Quail’s Egg, Wurlitzer Organ, Hydrofoil

The dapple mare Ignatius Belle loaned me cantered at a pace that seemed comfortable for the horse.  We traveled along a river.  Water lapped gently against the shore making a soothing sound.  I reigned in the mare, stopping under a large shade tree beside the main house of the Hixon estate.

Side saddle close upFor a moment I considered how I should approach a frightened child.  I decided to simply knock on the front door.  I expected that convention would outweigh Copper’s skittishness, especially within the familiarity of her home.  After all, when there was a knock at the door, one tended to answer it.

Though it irked me, I dressed in socially acceptable feminine attire.  Under the circumstances I realized that was best.  However, I still refused to wear a corset, and I absolutely did not ride sidesaddle!  If someone was upset about the sight of a bit of stocking showing above my boots, then they could look away.

After I dismounted the horse, I adjusted the full skirt and bustle.  The dark green and cream colored stripes were attractive, even if the design was utterly impractical.  I touched the smaller lady’s version of my favorite top hat.  It sat at a jaunty angle on my head, and was adorned with ribbons, feathers, and tulle.

Through the multicolored stained glass inset on the door I saw the shape of a small person approach after I knocked.  Sure enough, the door opened just a crack.  Although I thought I already knew the answer to the question, I asked if Mr. Hixon was available.

“Um… no.  No ma’am,” Copper said through the crack in the door without giving further information.

“Oh, that’s unfortunate,” I dissembled.  “I had an appointment with him.  I’ve come to apply for the governess position,” I said, hoping that Copper felt the need to have a grownup around.Victorian girl w cat

While I knew nothing about children, I expected that most youngsters who had nothing to eat and a dead body in the study would like to have an adult to fix things.  I held up the basket of calamari and rolls.

“I’ve brought my lunch, but there is too much of it.  Perhaps while I wait for Mr. Hixon, we could share it.  Maybe in the kitchen?” I suggested.

Cornelis had mentioned that the study and the kitchen were on opposite sides of the house.  I hoped the idea of me being in the kitchen would seem less threatening to the girl than letting me into another part of the house.

Indecision painted her face, along with the smudge of dirt I saw on her nose at the general store.  She bit her lower lip as she looked from the basket and back up at me.  The aroma of its contents was making me hungry again, so I knew her mouth must be watering.  A gurgling noise came to my ears.  That was surely her stomach growling.

“Governess?” Copper finally repeated.

“Yes.  You know how busy your father is.  He’s been looking to get a new governess to help with things, and to help look after you,” I said, hoping she had liked her former teacher as much as I expected.  Hixon wasn’t likely to have written the glowing recommendation Cornelis mentioned if the child didn’t like her.

“Um,” she began and licked her lips.  “Won’t you please come in,” she said in a rehearsed formal way.  “But you must make sure not to disturb my father,” she added with a frightened look in her eyes.

When I crossed the threshold I detected an unappealing scent.  It smelled like sweet oil, overlaying a vague odor of something that was rotting.  Forgetting my resolve to take things slowly, I turned to follow my nose.  Copper gasped and grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the kitchen and away from the odor.

Quail eggsAs might have been expected the kitchen was a horrendous mess of dirty dishes and disastrous attempts at cooking.  The shell of a quail’s egg lay on the floor.  Flour covered the work surfaces, part of what appeared to be an unsuccessful attempt at pancakes.  By the look of things, Copper must have been on her own for a while.  By the time I recovered from the shock of seeing a kitchen in such a state, the moppet had already eaten most of the food I brought.  The poor thing was ravenous.

I twitched with a shudder when the disembodied voice of Cornelis was suddenly in my ear.  He warned that someone was coming.  I could hear him more clearly than I usually could when he sent his voice without his body.  Usually his voice sounded rather far away in this circumstance, but at that moment he was loud and clear.  However, I heard a distracting faint chiming sound in the background and I wondered what it was.

“Who said that?” Copper asked with a start.

It surprised me that she heard him.  I told her that it was just a friend, but she pelted out of the kitchen.  I followed Copper as she ran to the front parlor to look out the window.  A small coach and a man on horseback approached.  Cornelis spoke into my ear again stating that the rider was the sheriff.  I asked who would be in the carriage, but he didn’t know.  Copper must have thought I was speaking to her.

“The orphanage,” she whispered wide eyed.

She looked likely to run again.  I knew I’d never catch her in that retched skirt and bustle I was wearing, so I quickly took hold of her hand.

“Don’t worry.  Whoever it is, I won’t let them take you,” I assured her.Sad Eyed Victorian Girl

Copper looked up at me with frightened eyes that were filled with tears and a spark.  That spark seemed like a trace of hope that I sincerely would protect her.  How could anyone resist that face?  However, I needed information, and I needed it fast.  The slow approach was no longer possible.

“Is there some other reason why the sheriff might be here?” I asked.  “What about your father?  Are you sure he’s just busy?  Is he… Is he well?” I asked the scared girl.

Her eyes moved to the direction of the study, where Cornelis said a dead man was slumped at her father’s desk.  “Copper has anything happened to your father?” I asked.  I realized that I might be pushing too hard, but I tried to make my voice gentle.  “Is he in the study?” I asked and that was as close as I dared come to asking if her father was dead.

“I don’t know!  No,” she cried sounding confused.  “I don’t know where Daddy is.  When I came back inside from playing he was gone.”

That surprised me.  “That isn’t him in the study?” I asked much too bluntly.

“No!” she screeched.

“It’s alright,” I reassured her, but I had to hurry and get some facts before the sheriff came into the house.  “How can you be sure that isn’t him?  You didn’t see his face did you?” I asked.

As soon as I said the words, I wished I could take them back.  Cornelis was right in saying that I spoke before I thought.  It was a poor choice of words, but Copper didn’t react as strongly as I feared.

“No.  His hair.  Daddy doesn’t have hair like that.  His is gray and thin,” Copper said.

The voice of Cornelis supplied the detail that the corpse had luxuriant brown hair.  Then he reminded me about the signet ring.

“Darling, have any relatives come to visit?  The man wears a family ring like your fathers.  Does he have brothers, nephews?” I had to ask since it was only hearsay that there was no family.  Copper shook her head, unable to take her eyes away from the view of the coach and the rider.Victorian Coach

The coach driver climbed down, ready to open the door and help his passengers alight.  I turned away from the window and took a step toward the study.  There was no more time to handle the delicate situation in a slowly paced, gentle way.  I had to investigate the room where the unknown corpse rested immediately; else I might never get another chance once the sheriff was on the scene.

A pop sounded and Cornelis Drebbel was suddenly in my path.  I ran right into the Dutchman.  Copper gasped.  It wasn’t like the alchemist to reveal himself to anyone.  I thanked the stars that Copper had only gasped.  She might well have screamed loud enough for the sheriff to hear.  I was sure that he and the coach would be at the gates by then.

With a flourish Cornelis bowed and took my hand.  That was also unlike him — behaving flirtatiously with me, I mean.  “You will need this,” he said and placed a beautifully carved ring on my finger.

“Cornelis, what—?” I began, dumbfounded.

Could the Dutchman have lost his mind?  I didn’t get to ask him at what foolishness he was playing, because he pointed dramatically at the window.

Signet ring“You will need this,” he said of the ring but before I could comment he continued.  “The people who are about to step out of the carriage?  The moppet is correct.  They are from the orphanage.  And the presence of the sheriff indicates that they have a serious purpose,” Cornelis said.

Copper shrieked.  The child didn’t utter a word when the alchemist materialized out of nowhere.  But mention an orphanage and she screamed.  All I could do was shake my head.  I hoped she wasn’t heard outside.

I ran to the study.  To my surprise, Copper followed even as I opened the door and entered the room where the dead body was.  The smell of sweet oil was almost overpowering.  It was as bad the odor of the corpse.  I saw the empty oil bottle lying on the rug at his feet.  Then I noticed that the back of his head looked greasy, and an oil stain ran all the way down the back of his waistcoat.

I almost laughed.  “Copper, did you pour the sweet oil on him?” I asked the child who stood a foot behind me.

“He stank,” she said simply but emphatically.

I hurriedly scanned the room for anything obvious.  However, I wasn’t sure for what I should be looking.  Neither was I certain of my purpose in this situation.  I had been drawn to this place for a reason, but it was unknown to me.  I didn’t think my purpose was merely to solve the riddle of the dead man at the desk.

First things first, I told myself as I turned my attention back to the body.  I had expected to see a pool of blood, but the top of the desk was clean.  The dead man’s left hand rested on the desktop.  Something seemed wrong about the position of the hand.  It had been moved.

Hadn’t Cornelis said he wore a signet ring?  Without looking I could feel the cool metal of the ring the alchemist placed on my finger.  “You’ll need this,” he’d said.  My eyes went back to the naked hand of the dead man.

“You moved a ring from the finger of a cadaver and put it on my hand?” I exclaimed, but Cornelis was nowhere to be seen.

“Cornelis Drebble!”

***Victorian gown bustle stripes

After extracting a promise from Cornelis to watch over Copper, and a dire warning of what he’d face if he let her run away, I sent the two to the back parlor.  A moment later I heard the Dutchman exclaim, “Oh look! It’s a Wurlitzer!”

There was no telling what Cornelis was talking about with that comment.  I thought he must have been saying something silly to get the child’s mind off the situation.  I hoped Cornelis would be responsible in looking after Copper.  He wasn’t always reliable.

An official seeming knock sounded at the door.  I took a breath and moved to answer it.  The “visitors” were clearly surprised to see me, particularly the people from the orphanage.  They included two women and a man.  The man, who was standing farthest back, mumbled that there was not supposed to be anyone there except the child.  I got the impression that he had plenty of courage to accost a child, but not so much if he had to confront an adult.

The sheriff was an ordinary looking man, with the exception of the shiny badge and a thick mustache.  He had the air of a man who was simply doing his job.  He glanced at my stylish frock and seemed to notice a horse hair that clung to my cuff.  He bowed over my hand in a formal but obvious ploy to get a good look at the signet ring.

I introduced myself as Copper’s aunt, her father’s half-sister, Mina.  Yes, Mina.  That was the first name that came to mind, though I’ve no idea why.  Of course my assertion was met with astonishment.  However, Calvin Hixon had not been born in the little town.  They couldn’t know much about the extended family.

Sheriff Seth Bullock-DeadwoodAt least the sheriff seemed to think it plausible enough.  He glanced again at the ring on my finger and nodded his head.  Whatever these orphanage people were about, from the sheriff’s point of view, a long lost relative showing up would simplify things for him.

I raised one eyebrow expectantly when none of them introduced themselves in return.  The sheriff understood, but the other three silently — and arrogantly stepped across the threshold.  The sheriff cleared his throat and they hesitated.

“Pardon my lack of manners,” he said awkwardly and began making quick introductions.

The county sheriff was Alvin Bullard, also part owner of the local grist mill.  The other man was Claude Dinkley, a board member of Merciful Haven Orphanage, as well as the county truant officer.  He had a slim build, a weak chin, and his starched collar was too tall for the length of his neck.  He also looked like he’d tremble in fear of one of the women.

That woman was Ethel Farthing, chairlady of the board and owner of the Merciful Haven Orphanage.  She was of average height and build.  Her movements were stiff and choppy, though she did not appear to be arthritic.  Ethel Farthing positively radiated bossiness and was the first to shoulder her way across the threshold uninvited.  She made a sarcastic comment at which the other woman gave a honking laugh.

Which brings me to the last visitor.  She was a tall willowy woman, Gertrude Hobbs, administrator of the orphanage.  Her wire rimmed spectacles sat far down her nose.  She was very quiet, but nodded sharply to everything Ethel Farthing said.  She had a small head with a prominent Goosey Gooseynose and a long neck.  Those features combined with her honking laugh and the large bustle of her gown reminded me of a goose, a greedy goose waiting for a chance to peck away at something.

But why were those people here at all?  How could they know Copper was on her own?  Did the authorities already know something about Calvin Hixon’s disappearance?  Why did they have such an interest in Copper?  Although I supposed if they established themselves as her guardians, they could take over the Hixon estate.  They looked like a covetous lot.  They were likely unaware of the financial problems Cornelis discovered.

As I motioned toward the front parlor where I planned to lead them I saw the sheriff’s nose twitch.  I had not anticipated him being an experienced lawman.  He recognized the odor of decomposition beneath the heavy smell of sweet oil.  His hand moved to the holstered gun on his hip as if reflexively.

He gave me a cold look.  “Is there some problem here, Miss?” he asked levelly.

There was little I could do, except tell the truth — mostly.  “Actually Sheriff, there is.  I arrived only a short time ago,” I began and I saw him take note of horse hairs that stubbornly clung to my gown.  Hopefully my unkempt attire corroborated that much.  “And I came into a terrible thing.  I’ve spent all my time trying to calm the poor child.  She was in hysterics.  Heaven only knows what she’s been through,” I said with a grain of truth.

“Do continue,” he said flatly when I paused.  He was definitely the no nonsense type.

“I found a stranger in my brother’s study.  The child has been too distraught to tell me what happened or where her father is.  I assumed he went into town to get help,” I said, though it didn’t look like the sheriff believed that.

“What stranger?” Gertrude, the bird-like woman asked.

Victorian Man Collar“No doubt another long lost relative,” Ethel Farthing, the more aggressive woman said before I could answer.

I chose to ignore the people from Merciful Haven as much as possible and focus on the sheriff.  I only wished I could ignore the doubtlessly ironic way the facility was misnamed.  Sheriff Alvin Bullard was the one with the real authority.  I led the sheriff to the study.  The others followed.  They gasped and nearly retched when they walked into the room.

“Nothing appears to be amiss,” I told Sheriff Bullard, and hoped against hope he would not to the kitchen where it looked like Armageddon had been fought.  “Well except of course for…  I assumed the poor man was struck by a sudden death, a heart attack, or a stroke perhaps,” I said with a distraught wave toward the dead body, trying to give the impression that I was just a helpless woman.

Making my eyes as wide and sad as possible, I looked up at the sheriff.  Oh yes.  That had him.  His shoulders relaxed and he took his hand away from the gun at his side.  He gave the corpse a cursory inspection.

Lovers Eye Brooch

Lover’s Eye Brooch

The orphanage people recovered themselves enough to start complaining about my presence.  Their assertions about concern over the welfare of the child sounded hollow at best.  Based on the expression on the sheriff’s face, he thought so as well.

“No sign of a struggle,” the lawman murmured as he looked at the body.  “No apparent injuries, no blood from an attack,” he observed.  Then he took a close look at the man’s face and at the desk and nodded again.  “No traces of vomit to indicate poison.  Not so much as a hair out of place.  I have to agree that the poor soul must have died from natural causes,” he said with a due amount of reverence and he looked at the others as if silently suggesting they follow his example of decorum.

“You said you attended the child,” he said to me and I nodded.  “I’d like to speak to her,” he added.

I made a reluctant, concerned face.  “I’ve only just given her a tonic to get her to sleep.  It would be best not to wake her.  Perhaps I could bring her to your office tomorrow?” I suggested and Sheriff Bullard reluctantly agreed.

The others were not so amenable.  A veritable caterwauling ensued.  They demanded to see Copper and determine her welfare for themselves.  Then they demanded some kind of identification from me.  Fortunately, it was in no way unusual for a person to be without such documents.

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

The voice of Cornelis whispered into my ear.  “Prime these fools for what I’m about to do,” he said but I couldn’t ask what he meant.  Thankfully he continued.  “Get them to face the corpse, and say something about making the dead unhappy,” he said.

I couldn’t imagine what the alchemist had in mind.  However, I moved to stand behind the body so they would have to look at it.

“It was my late brother’s wish that I come here as soon as I could.  As for this poor man, well that is up to the sheriff,” I said, unsure how to fit words to the alchemist’s unknown plan.  “It’s unwise to have such antagonism and animosity in the presence of the so very recently deceased!” I said in wide-eyed fearful seeming warning.  “It is dangerous to anger the spirits before they have had time to move on to the heavenly plane.”

As my words ended, a shrill harmonic sound vibrated.  It seemed to be within my own ears, but I saw everyone else react to it as well.  The sound escalated into loud eerie music that thundered within the room.  The volume was so strong that it vibrated through the floor and up through my boots.  I felt as though I stood in the middle of a gigantic cathedral pipe organ.

I finally understood the exclamation Cornelis made when he entered the back parlor.  He’d found a Wurlitzer organ and was using it to grand effect.  Somehow he had amplified the sound and made it seem to come from within the study.  A glint of silver caught my eye, and I spotted the ornate bell Cornelis took from the inn — the one he said was actually not an ordinary bell, but a harmonic tuner. 

Bass notes emanated from the Wurlitzer in an ominous way.  When he managed to add a sound like a howling cry on the wind the people from the orphanage nearly trampled the sheriff trying to get out of the study.  They stumbled and fell repeatedly in the hallway as they made for the front door.

The sheriff looked rather confused by the loud music.  I saw him look around the study for the source of it.  He seemed mildly uneasy as I walked him to the front door.  He seemed calm enough when he said he would send someone to take the body.  However, his footsteps became very quick as he went to his horse.  By then the dust stirred by the coach was all that remained of the officiaries from Merciful Haven Orphanage.

I returned to the study.  Something had caught my eye on the desk when the sheriff moved the corpse to check his face.  It was an envelope addressed to Calvin Hixon.  I had only glimpsed the return address, but I thought I’d seen a notable name.  I grimaced as I moved the corpse enough to retrieve the letter.

That was interesting, I thought as I read the envelope.  I had not been mistaken about the sender.  I removed the stationary from the envelope.  It was a businesslike missive, complimenting Hixon’s project.  I had no idea Hixon was an inventor.  Perhaps it was a hobby.  The letter was an offer of collaboration to improve a design belonging to Hixon that the writer called a hydrofoil.  The letter was signed by Alexander Graham Bell.

“Ah yes,” I thought.  “The telephone man.  And another Bell.”  It seemed that bells of one kind and another had surrounded me ever since I arrived.

Forlanini hydrofoil

Alexander Graham Bell and Hydrofoil

I reread the letter, trying to comprehend the idea of a boat that sat on “foils” that lifted it out of the water, allowing it to reach amazing speeds.  Could it actually be made to work?  Hixon’s invention had attracted the interest of someone like Alexander Graham Bell, so it must be worthwhile.  Was it related to his disappearance?  Did it have anything to do with the corpse beside me?

At that moment Copper ran into the study, followed by Cornelis.  Both laughed merrily at the fright they had given the child’s would-be guardians.

Cornelis picked up the intricate silver bell and gave it one harmonic chime.  The organ in the back parlor responded by making a comical oboe-like sound.

***

To be continued

I look forward to seeing you again next time when the things/ingredients for Episode-4 are from Andrea Stephenson at Harvesting Hecate, Thoughts on life, writing, creativity and magic.  Andrea’s blog is one of my favorites.  So tune in again next weekend for her episode.  … But what ever am I going to do with owl-shaped lamp?

Now for this week’s recipe!

I always hope to use a recipe to match one of the food-related things — and to find it on the site of a regular commenter. However, there weren’t that many recipes that included quail’s eggs.  So once again I scoured the WordPress countryside.  Now I’m glad that quail egg recipes are scarce, else I would not have found a delightful blog, Cooking in Sens!  It’s by Rosemary, “an American living in Burgundy, France.”  I hope you’ll enjoy her blog as much as I did.

Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Ginger Sesame Coquelet with Korean Quail Eggs

https://cookinginsens.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/ginger-sesame-coquelet-with-korean-quail-eggs/

Ginger Sesame Coquelet with Korean Quail Eggs

Photo and recipe credit:  Cooking in Sens

 

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