Hidebound Hump Day — Cornelis Drebbel 15

Wednesday, October 31, 2018 

Man Sun gears Steampunk Eugene_Ivanov_2442

Eugene_Ivanov, Wiki Media Commons

Happy Halloween, everyone!  Welcome back to the spontaneously written, #SteamPunk serial, Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.  Everything about the story is driven by the random things that were sent by readers, back in 2015

When I say everything, I mean it — even the location.  Although no one seemed to notice (or at least they didn’t seem to mind), after all those weeks, I still had not gotten a “thing” that guided me to where all the zany events were taking place.  Author and translator, Olga Núñez Miret sent the “things” for this chapter, and I finally saw a general location for the story.  Which of “Old Family Bible, Carved Whale’s Tooth, and Vine Leaves” do you think gave me the location? Read on and find out.

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

Chapter 14.  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 Felicity’s supposed niece, and thinks being nice to Copper would endear him to Felicity?

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?

All aboard!

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

15 — Old Family Bible, Carved Whale’s Tooth, Vine Leaves

Mourning Angel_Cat

Lilith thought this image from the Atonement universe was just right

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.

I 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 an interesting 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

“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 - Victorian young girl

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.”

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 2

Basil Gill 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.

1860 Carved Whale Tooth

“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 realized I spoke without thinking yet again.  I couldn’t tell him about 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.

closeup photo of doll

Patrick Hendry, Unsplash

“Oh what a shame,” I said.  “Copper is a good deal taller than the doll, but from a distance it should be quite convincing.  Yes, she would love it.  Such a pity not to give it to her,” I commented as I looked around for the girl.

I spotted Copper 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

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.  How I wished for enough time to ask 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 large chimpanzee cavorted and gesticulated wildly.

***

To be continued…

***

Real World Notes

Victorian Dolls.  When I was a young girl I always wanted one of those beautifully dressed, elaborately coiffed porcelain dolls.  They were also called bisque dolls and were characterized by their realistic, skin-like matte finish.  They had their peak of popularity between 1860 and 1900.  During the 19th century, dolls’ heads were often made of porcelain and combined with a body of leather, cloth, wood, or composite materials, such as papier mâché or composition, a mix of pulp, sawdust, glue and similar materials. 

Could Ignatius Belle now be in jeopardy?  Or is he only pretending to lead the hydrofoil away from the others?  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” One Lone Dandelion, Free Verse Poem, and Candle Wax take our trio.  Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers will continue on Straightlaced Saturday.  

I’ll be looking for you at the station.  

Hugs! 

***

Now some shameless self-promotion.

Atonement in Bloom

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The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

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Atonement, Tennessee

(E-book still on sale at 99¢ )

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Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I

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This is a work of fiction.  Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2015 and 2018 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this work 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 provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.

 

Hidebound Hump Day — Cornelis Drebbel 14

Wednesday, October 24, 2018 

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who got on the party bus for the launch of Atonement in Bloom!  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate everyone who hosted the launch post, reblogged, allowed me to use images, and otherwise helped me promote my new novel.  If you missed the launch, don’t worry.  The double-decker bus is still rolling!  Just click the back arrow at the bottom of this post.  Beep-beep yeah!

mauve Dolly Baird of Bunbarton 1906

Mrs Howard Johnston – Dolly Baird of Bunbarton, by Boldini 1906

Welcome back to the spontaneously written, #SteamPunk serial, Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.  Maybe you’ve heard me mention that I seem to have a physical need for color.  I used to wear black occasionally — it’s a color.  However, I’ve seen so very, very much of where I’ve lived this past decade, that I mostly avoid it now. If I wear all neutrals, light or dark… well, I just don’t feel very good. 

The Victorians had a particular fondness for a certain color.  It is one of the random things I was given to drive this chapter.

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

Chapter 13. The handsome innkeeper, Ignatius Belle unexpectedly showed up at the remote location where our heroes were hiding.  When he brought up the topic of Calvin Hixon’s inventions, Felicity tried to deflect the subject.  She suddenly felt cautious.  Not distrustful of Ignatius, mind you, just cautious.

However, Ignatius wasn’t ready to be diverted.  “I hear he was always designing amazing machines.  Word was that Alexander Graham Bell once contacted him about his design for a hydrofoil,” Ignatius said.

Cornelis made an impressed face.  The alchemist wasn’t a bad actor.  Felicity knew he was pretending to be impressed.  As soon as Cornelis had appeared at the estate, he had learned about Hixon’s hydrofoil and the letter from the famous Alexander Graham Bell.

All aboard!

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

14 — Bicycle, Mauveine, Shepherd’s Pie

Girl on bicycle, advertisement circa 1897

The silly straightlaced standards of our society baffled me.  Something that was perfectly ordinary for a man was quite out of the question for a woman.  Whether I wore a cumbersome skirt with a ridiculous bustle, or my preferred trousers shouldn’t make a bit of difference to anyone.  Neither should anything about how I led my life.

Everything was always so caught up in hidebound propriety, and really had nothing to do with me. 

Honestly, I thought.  People and their moralities. 

The fact that people judged me for traveling with Cornelis Drebbel astounded me.  They always assumed impropriety when there was none.  That’s why I had taken to keeping the Dutchman’s presence a secret for the most part.  That was fine with the alchemist.  He wasn’t exactly a people person.

The alchemist and I were not a pair, not romantically involved. 

My, I thought, a romance with Cornelis after the accident of alchemy that put him in that strange state.  That would be tricky to say the least. 

I blushed when I caught myself pondering the whats and hows of it.

Basil Gill

Basil Gill (1877-1955) as Ignatius Belle

“It’s unseemly for a woman to go traipsing across the countryside with a man!” Ignatius said heatedly.

The argument seemed to have escalated while I considered the implications of a physical relationship with someone in the uniquely nonphysical condition of the Dutchman.

That last remark offended Cornelis Drebbel, if his bulging eyes and the throbbing vein in his forehead were any indication.  I realized I had best step into the fray.

“Mina, if you’ll not allow me to take you and Copper back into town, then at least come downriver with me.  I have business to attend anyway, so I may as well take care of it straight away,” Ignatius said, addressing me by the alias I had provided.

I didn’t feel like a Mina.  Whatever had possessed me to come up with that name?

Ignatius took me by surprise and I blurted out what I was thinking.  Cornelis was right that sometimes I had no manners in that regard.  However, I’d never let the alchemist know I agreed. 

“Business?  What sort of business?” I asked; all curiosity and no tact.

The tall innkeeper smiled disarmingly, as if I had been perfectly polite.  Maybe he saw my curiosity as acceptance.

“It’s just a small business transaction.  I sometimes buy items and resell them.  I’ve bought some aniline purple.  Are you familiar with it?  The synthetic organic chemical dye?” he asked.

“Oh, do you mean mauveine?  I simply adore the color,” I said with what I hoped was just enough enthusiasm to make up for anything he may have perceived as rudeness.

Mauve Queen Marie Henriette

Queen Marie Henriette of Austria

“Precisely.  The dye will fetch a good price.  The color is quite popular.  Perhaps a hundred years from now, people will think of mauve as the color of our era,” Ignatius said with just a touch of whimsy.

Cornelis rolled his eyes and sarcastically muttered something about “marvelous mauve.”

“Assuming you mean to hire a coach at the next town, I can take you there.  It won’t put me out of my way, as I had planned to go there to pick up the dye anyway.  Or I can take you back home.  Really, it’s the only reasonable course of action.  What will people think of you wandering the countryside with your… associate,” Ignatius said, echoing the words I used when I introduced Cornelis Drebbel.

“Why, the same sort of thing they’d say if she paraded down the river on a paddle boat with an innkeeper,” Cornelis said drolly.

A fire sparked in Ignatius’ eyes at that comment and I feared the two would argue again.  The next time they quarreled, I was sure it would come to blows.

“Mina, you can’t mean to tell me that you would rather walk to the next town!” Ignatius exclaimed, but then he shook his head and grinned.  “Surely you are not afraid of the steamboat.  You don’t seem like a woman who would be intimidated by technology,” he said.  His voice and facial expression became softer.  “Oh Mina, I promise you it is perfectly safe,” he said encouragingly.

I glanced at Cornelis Drebbel.  An aura started to shimmer greenly around him.  It wouldn’t do to let the dashing innkeeper see that.  Quickly I moved so that Ignatius would have his back to the alchemist.  I was astonished that Cornelis would use one of his tricks in front of anyone.  However, that aura meant that he was up to something.

Pigeons pulling a slipper coach. Victorian trade card, circa 1881

An instant later a pigeon fluttered down, alighting on a bush next to the Dutchman.  A closer look told me that it was not just a pigeon, but a messenger pigeon.  Cornelis hummed a happy sounding tune as he removed a note from the tiny container on the bird’s back.  The alchemist looked inordinately pleased with himself.

“Ah good,” Cornelis said jovially, so I knew he was fabricating something.  “They are on their way.”

“Who?” Ignatius quickly demanded.  “Who would be coming to this Godforsaken place?”

It was fortunate that the innkeeper spoke abruptly, because that prevented me asking the same question.  I would have spoiled whatever story Cornelis had in mind.

“If you must know,” Cornelis began acerbically.  “We were not, how did you put it?  Wandering the country side.  With that strange unrest at the Hixon estate, it was a good time for a holiday.  So, we were going to some old friends of my family.  Then, as Mina mentioned, our horses were stolen when we stopped here.”

“And how…” Ignatius started but hesitated, looking at the pigeon.  “Do you mean to say you used a pigeon post to communicate to these people?”

“Why of course.  I’d never go anywhere without some of my birds,” Cornelis said affably and stroked the pigeon’s head.

Cornelis even cooed to the pigeon.  I thought that was laying it on a bit thick.

Terrence Mann as Cornelis 2

Terrence Mann as Cornelis

The tall innkeeper’s eyes narrowed as he looked down at Cornelis and the bird.  I wondered what Ignatius was thinking.  Back at the Hixon estate when I first introduced the two men, Ignatius seemed to think the name Cornelis Drebbel was familiar.  Even though he didn’t pursue the issue, it gave me pause.  It was possible that he knew of the Dutchman’s acclaim as a long ago inventor, but it was unthinkable that Ignatius could deduce anything about his unique situation.

That paddle steamer proved the innkeeper’s interest in technology and tinkering.  However, something Ignatius said when he first arrived nagged at me.  Ignatius Belle had mentioned Calvin Hixon’s inventions. 

I told myself that shouldn’t bother me.  The entire town thought of Hixon as an eccentric.  The inventions were surely common knowledge.  Perhaps Ignatius simply admired the brilliance that Copper’s father evidently possessed.

The innkeeper looked charmingly perplexed as he studied Cornelis.  I couldn’t help smiling.  The Dutchman noticed my expression and rolled his eyes heavenward. 

“Do try and control yourself,” he murmured using one of his tricks, so that only I could hear.

Ignatius Belle inclined his shoulders to speak to Copper.  She drew back and based on the look on his face, he was genuinely hurt by her negative reactions to him.  I felt a little sorry for him.  He had been very kind.

“Have you ever been on a paddle steamer?” he asked Copper, meaning the boat that unexpectedly brought him to us.  “We could do some fishing from it.  Maybe catch something for our dinner?” he asked her, though Copper’s brows knitted in a skeptical expression.

“I have my bicycle onboard,” the innkeeper continued undaunted.  “There’s enough room to ride it a little on deck.  I could teach you,” he offered. 

I was taken aback by the way he suddenly seemed to want to entice the girl onto his boat.  However, Ignatius had been consistently generous.  He thought I was Copper’s aunt.  If he was interested in me, then it was only natural that he would want to win over my “niece.”

Copper looked intrigued about the prospect of learning to ride a bicycle.  Cornelis noticed the minute change in her expression and took half a step, inserting himself partly in front of the girl.

“Neither fish nor fishing will be necessary,” Cornelis said.  “Unfortunately we’ve little time for bicycle riding on boats.  We were just about to eat.  Won’t you join us?” the Dutchman boldly invited the innkeeper.  “I’m sure there’s more than enough.”

What was Cornelis thinking by inviting Ignatius for a meal?  Thanks to his alchemically affected sneezes we had not gone hungry, but did he really mean to offer leftover pancakes and short ribs?

Cornelis waved toward a shade tree.  Beneath the tree a blanket was spread and at its center was a large picnic basket.

“Umm!  What’s that smell?” Copper asked.

“That, my dear, would be shepherd’s pie,” the alchemist said with a genuine smile for the girl.  “Would you like to unpack the basket so that we can eat?  Perhaps our… our guest will help you.”

The suggestion was enough for Copper.  It seemed like the child was always hungry.  To my surprise, she grabbed Ignatius’ hand and half dragged him over to the tree.  Cornelis may have accidentally smoothed Copper’s unaccountable distrust of the innkeeper.  The same thought occurred to the Dutchman if the pursed twist of his lips was any indication.

“I didn’t think your tricks included the ability to make real food,” I whispered.  “I thought you only did things like that accidentally.  You know, like when you sneezed and pancakes appeared.”

“That’s quite true.  Conjuring edible food is not a skill I’ve mastered,” he said.  “Despite two centuries of attempts,” he added in a very droll tone.  “I have to—  Think of it as reaching in and take something.  I have to take something that already exists.”

“So you stole the pie?” I asked.  “Cornelis Drebbel, I’m shocked.  Did you steal some family’s dinner?”

“No, nothing of the kind,” Cornelis defended himself.  “It wasn’t a poor family.  They had a huge feast laid out.  And I didn’t simply take it,” he added with a pout.

“Oh?” I asked, eyebrows raised.

“No. I did not.  In return for the shepherd’s pie I left them a very fine laying goose, and the makings for all the frog’s legs they could possibly eat,” Cornelis said, lifting his chin.

***

To be continued…

***

Real World Notes

Mauveine.  William Henry Perkin discovered the first synthetic dye when he was only 18 years old. The color was known as aniline purple, Perkin’s mauve, or mauveine.  It is also among the first dyes to have been mass-produced.  Young Perkin was actually trying to synthesize quinine when he made the colorful discovery.  He patented it and opened a dyeworks mass-producing it.

Pigeon post is the use of homing pigeons to carry messages.  Pigeons were effective as messengers due to their natural homing abilities.

Even though Copper and the Alchemist distrust him, the Woman in Trousers certainly seems to like the dashing innkeeper.  Ignatius seems to know an awful lot about the Hixon situation.  That bothers me.  Stay tuned.

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers will be back again next week for Hidebound Hump Day.  Right now, I think I’ll take a break on Saturday.  

I’ll be looking for you at the station.  

Hugs! 

***

Now some shameless self-promotion.

Atonement in Bloom

Amazon UK

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The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

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Atonement Video Cover copy

Atonement, Tennessee

(E-book still on sale at 99¢ )

Amazon UK

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The Three Things Serial Story: A Little 1920s Story Kindle 

This is a work of fiction.  Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2015 and 2018 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this work 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 provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.

 

Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 10

Color My World — Please!color teacups

Maybe you’ve heard me mention my thing about color. I seem to have a physical need for color.  I used to wear black occasionally — it’s a color. However, I’ve seen so very, very much of it in DC, that I avoid it now (except for basic slacks once in a while). If I wear all neutrals, light or dark… well, I just don’t feel very good, and wearing black makes me feel downright funerary.

Years ago, a male coworker asked me, “How many colors do you have in your wardrobe anyway?”

(At the time I’d barely started building said wardrobe, so the question really made me pause.)  Puzzled, I turned the question on him. “How many colors does your wife have in hers?”

“Oh four maybe,” he said with a shrug.

I had never given it thought before, but suddenly that seemed like a sad state to me.  Only four colors? My work-friend was obviously waiting for my answer. “I don’t know, but I plan to have all of them,” I said with a grin.

There are so many variations in colors that my ready-to-explode closet is still lacking a few.  One of those shades would be a true mauve.  So it captured my attention when Christine Robinson elaborated on the “things” she sent for today’s episode. She described mauve as the color of the Victorian Era.

2015 mauve fashionThat led the research geek in me down some marvelously interesting trails. Like they say, everything old is new — I saw that mauve is the fashion color for fall/winter 2015.  So I decided to decorate this episode with everything mauve.

(In case you wondered, mauve is a lovely color, but my favorite is green.)

As I said, Christine (or C.E. Robinson) at “Before Sundown – remember what made you smile” provided the things for today.  Do take a look at her blog. It’s filled with beautiful stories and books. Some are akin to fairy-tales, others are real life fairy-tales. There are plenty of colorful and energetic photos. It’s a feast for the mind and the eye.

I won’t hold you up any longer. The steam locomotive just pulled into the station. Check the images and text for informative links.

 All aboard!

***

From last time…

“For a moment I had a wild image of you escaping on one of Mr. Hixon’s inventions.  You knew he was an inventor didn’t you?” Ignatius asked.

I nodded, but gave it a dismissive wave of my hand.  I hoped I had implied that I thought my “half-brother’s” tinkering was frivolous, to keep the conversation away from that topic.  I suddenly felt cautious.  Not distrustful of Ignatius, mind you, just cautious.

However, Ignatius wasn’t ready to be diverted.  “I hear he was always designing amazing machines.  Word was that Alexander Graham Bell once contacted him about his design for a hydrofoil,” Ignatius said.

Cornelis made an impressed face.  His mouth formed a silent Ooo.  The alchemist wasn’t a bad actor.  I knew he was rarely impressed.  As soon as Cornelis had appeared at the estate, he had learned about the hydrofoil and the letter from the already famous Alexander Graham Bell.

***

Sir William Henry Perkin 1838-1907

Sir William Henry Perkin 1838-1907

10.  Bicycle, Mauveine, Shepherd’s Pie

The silly standards of our society baffled me.  Something that was perfectly ordinary for a man was out of the question for a woman.  Whether I wore a cumbersome skirt with a ridiculous bustle, or my preferred trousers shouldn’t make a bit of difference to anyone.  Neither should anything about how I led my life.

mauve Dolly Baird of Bunbarton 1906

Mrs Howard Johnston – Dolly Baird of Bunbarton, (1906) by Boldini

Everything was always so caught up in propriety, and really had nothing to do with me.  Honestly, I thought.  People and their moralities.  The fact that people judged me for traveling with Cornelis Drebbel astounded me.  They always assumed impropriety when there was none.  That’s why I had taken to keeping the Dutchman’s presence a secret for the most part.  That was fine with the alchemist.  He wasn’t exactly a people person.

The alchemist and I were not a pair, not romantically involved.  My, I thought, a romance with Cornelis after the accident of alchemy that put him in that strange state.  That would be tricky to say the least.  I blushed when I caught myself pondering the whats and hows of it.

“It’s unseemly for a woman to go traipsing across the countryside with a man,” Ignatius said heatedly.

The argument seemed to have escalated while I considered the implications of a physical relationship with someone in the uniquely nonphysical condition of the Dutchman.

That last remark offended Cornelis Drebbel if his bulging eyes and the throbbing vein in his forehead were any indication.  I realized I had best step into the fray.

Mauve perfume bottle“Mina, if you’ll not allow me to take you and Copper back into town, then at least come downriver with me.  I have business to attend anyway, so I may as well take care of it straight away,” Ignatius said, using the alias I had provided.

I didn’t feel like a Mina.  Whatever had possessed me to come up with that name?

Ignatius took me by surprise and I blurted out what I was thinking.  Cornelis was right that sometimes I had no manners in that regard.  However, I’d never let him know I agreed.  “Business?  What sort of business?” I asked; all curiosity and no tact.

The tall innkeeper smiled disarmingly, as if I had been perfectly polite.  Maybe he saw my curiosity as acceptance.

“It’s just a small business transaction.  I sometimes buy items and resell them.  I’ve bought some aniline purple.  Are you familiar with it?  The synthetic organic chemical dye?” he asked.Mauve Rose

“Oh, do you mean mauveine?  I simply love the color,” I said with what I hoped was just enough enthusiasm to make up for anything he may have perceived as rudeness.

“Precisely.  The dye will fetch a good price.  The color is quite popular.  Perhaps a hundred years from now, people will think of mauve as the color of our era,” Ignatius said with just a touch of whimsy.

Cornelis rolled his eyes and muttered something about “Marvelous mauve.”

“Assuming you mean to hire a coach at the next town, I can take you there.  It won’t put me out of my way, as I had planned to go there to pick up the dye anyway.  Or I can take you back home.  Really, it’s the only reasonable course of action.  What will people think of you wandering the countryside with your… associate,” Ignatius said, echoing the words I used when I introduced Cornelis Drebbel.

“Why, the same sort of thing they’d say if she paraded down the river on a paddle boat with an innkeeper,” Cornelis said drolly.

mauve bodiceA fire sparked in Ignatius’ eyes at that comment and I feared the two would argue again.  The next time they quarreled, I was sure it would come to blows.

“Mina, you can’t mean to tell me that you would rather walk to the next town!” Ignatius exclaimed, but then he shook his head and grinned.  “Surely you are not afraid of the steamboat.  You don’t seem like a woman who would be intimidated by technology,” he said.  His voice and facial expression became softer.  “Oh Mina, I promise you it is perfectly safe,” he said encouragingly.

I glanced at Cornelis Drebbel.  An aura started to shimmer greenly around him.  It wouldn’t do to let the dashing innkeeper see that.  Quickly I moved so that Ignatius would have his back to the alchemist.  I was astonished that Cornelis would use one of his tricks in front of anyone.  However, that aura meant that he was up to something.

An instant later a pigeon fluttered down, alighting on a bush next to the Dutchman.  A closer look told me that it was not just a pigeon, but a messenger pigeon.  Cornelis hummed a happy sounding tune as he removed a note from the tiny container on the bird’s back.  The alchemist looked inordinately pleased with himself.Lady with pigeon

“Ah good,” Cornelis said jovially, so I knew he was fabricating something.  “They are on their way.”

“Who?” Ignatius quickly demanded.  “Who would be coming to this Godforsaken place?”

It was fortunate that the innkeeper spoke abruptly, because that prevented me asking the same question.  I would have spoiled whatever story Cornelis had in mind.

“If you must know,” Cornelis began acerbically.  “We were not, how did you put it?  Wandering the country side.  With that strange unrest at the Hixon estate, it was a good time for a holiday.  So, we were going to some old friends of my family.  Then, as Mina mentioned, our horses were stolen when we stopped here.”

“And how…” Ignatius started but paused, looking at the pigeon.  “Do you mean to say you used a pigeon post to communicate to these people?”

mauve Vic boots“Why of course.  I’d never go anywhere without some of my birds,” Cornelis said affably and stroked the pigeon’s head.

Cornelis even cooed to the pigeon.  I thought that was laying it on a bit thick.

The tall innkeeper’s eyes narrowed as he looked down at Cornelis and the bird.  I wondered what Ignatius was thinking.  The fact that he seemed to think the name Cornelis Drebbel was familiar gave me pause.  It was possible that he knew of the Dutchman’s acclaim as a long ago inventor, but it was unthinkable that Ignatius could deduce anything about his unique situation.

That paddle steamer proved his interest in technology and tinkering.  However, something Ignatius said when he first arrived nagged at me.  Ignatius Belle had mentioned Calvin Hixon’s inventions.  I told myself that shouldn’t bother me.  The entire town thought of Hixon as an eccentric.  The inventions were surely common knowledge.  Perhaps Ignatius simply admired the brilliance that Copper’s father evidently possessed.

Queen Marie Henriette of Austria

Queen Marie Henriette of Austria

The innkeeper looked charmingly perplexed as he studied Cornelis.  I couldn’t help smiling.  The Dutchman noticed my expression and rolled his eyes heavenward.  “Do try and control yourself,” he murmured using one of his tricks, so that only I could hear.

Ignatius Belle inclined his shoulders to speak to Copper.  She drew back and based on the look on his face, he was genuinely hurt by her negative reactions to him.  I felt a little sorry for him.  He had been very kind.

“Have you ever been on a paddle steamer?” he asked Copper, meaning the boat that unexpectedly brought him to us.  “We could do some fishing from it.  Maybe catch something for our dinner?” he asked her, though Copper’s brows knitted in a skeptical expression.

“I have my bicycle onboard,” the innkeeper continued undaunted.  “There’s enough room to ride it a little on deck.  I could teach you,” he offered.

I was taken aback by the way he suddenly seemed to want to entice the girl onto his boat.  However, Ignatius had been consistently generous.  He thought I was Copper’s aunt.  If he was interested in me, then it was only natural that he would want to win over my “niece.”

mauve Girl BicycleCopper looked intrigued about the prospect of learning to ride a bicycle.  Cornelis noticed the minute change in her expression and took half a step, inserting himself partly in front of the girl.

“Neither fish nor fishing will be necessary,” Cornelis said.  “Unfortunately we’ve little time for bicycle riding on boats.  We were just about to eat.  Won’t you join us?” the Dutchman boldly invited the innkeeper.  “I’m sure there’s more than enough.”

What was Cornelis thinking by inviting Ignatius for a meal?  Thanks to his alchemically affected sneezes we had not gone hungry, but did he really mean to offer leftover pancakes and short ribs?

Cornelis waved toward a shade tree.  Beneath the tree a blanket was spread and at its center was a large picnic basket.

“Umm!  What’s that smell?” Copper asked.

“That, my dear, would be shepherd’s pie,” the alchemist said with a genuine smile for the girl.  “Would you like to unpack the basket so that we can eat?  Perhaps our… our guest will help you.”Mauve teacup Wileman Co 1893

The suggestion was enough for Copper.  It seemed like the child was always hungry.  To my surprise, she grabbed Ignatius’ hand and half dragged him over to the tree.  Cornelis may have accidentally smoothed Copper’s unaccountable distrust of the innkeeper.  The same thought occurred to the Dutchman if the pursed twist of his lips was any indication.

“I didn’t think your tricks included the ability to make real food,” I whispered.  “I thought you only did things like that accidentally.  You know, like when you sneezed and pancakes appeared.”

“That’s quite true.  Conjuring edible food is not a skill I’ve mastered,” he said.  “Despite two centuries of attempts,” he added in a very droll tone.  “I have to—  Think of it as reaching in and take something.  I have to take something that already exists.”

Villa Claire

Vevey, Claire Villa 1910

“So you stole the pie?” I asked.  “Cornelis Drebbel, I’m shocked.  Did you steal some family’s dinner?”

“No, nothing of the kind,” Cornelis defended himself.  “It wasn’t a poor family.  They had a huge feast laid out.  And I didn’t simply take it,” he added with a pout.

“Oh?” I asked, eyebrows raised.

“No. I did not.  In return for the shepherd’s pie I left them a very fine laying goose, and the makings for all the frog’s legs they could possibly eat,” Cornelis said, lifting his chin.

***

 Has Copper finally taken a liking to Ignatius Belle — and is that good or bad?  Cornelis fabricated an excuse (in the form of “old family friends”) to separate our trio from the handsome but prim innkeeper, but where will they go next?  Will Ignatius stubbornly follow? Only the things can say.  So be sure to be at the train station again next time!

 And now for the Episode-10 culinary delight.  I’m pleased to share Christine’s personal recipe choice.  It’s dated 1912!

Recipe:  Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherds Pie

Take a pound of cold mutton, a pint of cold boiled potatoes, one-half an onion grated, one or two cooked carrots; cut the mutton and potatoes into small pieces and put them with the onion and carrot into a deep baking dish. Add a cupful of stock or water, salt, pepper and a tablespoonful of butter cut in bits.

Pare and boil four medium-sized potatoes, mash and add cup of cream, salt and pepper to taste, beat until light, then add enough flour to make a soft dough. Roll out and cover the dish with the dough, make a cross cut in the center to allow pie steam to escape, and bake in a moderate oven one hour.

A modern shepherd’s pie is made like the above with the addition of a few capers and a stalk or two of celery.

A note from Christine regarding the oven:  I question the one hour in moderate oven. Ovens are hotter today so I’d think maybe 45 minutes based on crust brownness.

 ***

 

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

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