Under the Sea, a Virtual Art Gallery Showcasing the work of Rob Goldstein

Opening Announcement

Welcome to my art gallery.  Today the venue is the #steampunk submarine of Cornelis Drebbel, who graciously allowed us into his domain. 

I’m excited to present the artwork of Rob Goldstein, who illustrated Hullaba Lulu.  Please join me for a stroll through the submarine to view his images.

Yes, that’s the first piece of Rob’s art on display ― Sea World.  Isn’t it calming?

Sea World

Sea World

First, we need to go to San Francisco to pick up Rob, the guest of honor.  Cornelis, it feels like we are already under weigh.  I’m surprised you put your book down without a fight.  What was all that clicking about?  What do you mean click you?

Cornelis:  No, click me, not click you. Click Me Happy.”  It’s exciting for me to be able to choose the book’s ending, Teagan.  But I simply couldn’t pick one.  So, I decided to just pick up the author.  Olga Núñez Miret, of Author Translator Olga is on her way through the airlock.  

Olga, what a pleasure.  I’m so excited about your translation of “Atonement, Tennessee.”   Although I thought we were going to pick up Rob first.  Cornelis, it’s Rob’s show!  (I sigh…)  Nothing ever goes to plan when Cornelis Drebbel gets in the mix.  

Lovely isn’t it, Olga?  Rob calls it Cegeste.

Cegeste

Cegeste

Robbie!  What a lovely surprise.  What’s that?  Okay Cornelis, I forgive you since you’ve brought Robbie Cheadle of Roberta Writes   and some of her gorgeous cakes.  My goodness, just look at all the cakes and chocolate.  

Won’t you have a slice?  They’re delicious.  I don’t know if I would have been able to cut any of the beautiful cakes Robbie brought.  Cornelis, however, had no problem… 

a-cake-from-robbie-e1537102411201.jpg

Robbie’s Cake

I see we have the refreshments set up beside a porthole.  What a view!

Porthole Cornelus-The Sub

Art by Rob Goldstein

Ah, we’re already in San Francisco Bay.  That’s the beauty of traveling with an alchemist!

What’s that thing outside the window?  Oh!  That’s the mini-sub shuttling Rob’s V.I.P. guests.  Sorry let me turn off that claxon.  It’s letting us know the shuttle has docked.

Mini Sub

Art by Rob Goldstein

Welcome aboard, Rob!  I see you have all your special guests with you.  Thank you so much for bringing these wonderful people.  I know some, but not all of them.  So, would you please check the passenger manifest for me, to make sure no one is lost?

Sally G. Cronin, of Smorgasbord Variety Is the Spice of Life, Linda Bethea of Nutsrok , Annette Rochelle Aben, Erika Kind, Mary Smith, Diana Peach of Myths of the Mirror, and Danica Piche.  What a wonderful group!

I saw that, Cornelis…  I know those wriggling bushy eyebrows mean you’re flirting.  Mind your manners with our guests.  What did you say, alchemist?  Oh, yes.  Thank you.  You did go “outside” to retrieve a piece of art, but you’d still better behave yourself.

Finding the Lost De Milo (2)

Finding the Lost DeMilo

Sally, it’s so good to see you!  Won’t you help the rest of the VIPs tour the submarine?  I know you are already familiar with Cornelis and his submarine.

What’s that, sailor?  More guests?  Oh, it’s Christine (CE) Robinson, from Before Sundown and Denise (DL) Flinn.  I see they’ve come down the West Coast to catch the submarine here at the City by the Bay.  I can guess which of Rob’s images will be Christine’s favorite ― Sundown.

Sundown

Sundown

Forgive me… Let’s get back to guiding you around this undersea gallery.  Here’s the refreshment table.  Have one of those lovely shell-shaped plates of hors d’oeuvres, and a shimmering glass of champagne.  Yes, those Victorian Era sailors are our waiters.  If you need anything, be sure to let one of them know.  They fill in when the band takes a break too.  I see they’re serenading Mary J. McCoy-Dressel

Related image

Wow, I see that Cornelis used a trick of alchemy to display some of Rob’s art outside the submarine.  Deborah Zajac of Circadian Reflections, Fraggle of Rocking a Camera Across the Universe, and Cindy Knoke are out there with their underwater cameras.  They are such great photographers.  I can’t wait to see the results on their blogs.

Diver Cornelus - 9th and Harrison

Art by Rob Goldstein

Oh, sailor.  Thank you for refilling our champagne glasses.  Could you please make sure everyone gets back inside?  I don’t want anyone to be left behind in any sort of Ripple Effect.

The Ripple Effect

Ripple Effect

That didn’t take long…  Do you hear the country tune the band is playing?  It’s by Jan Sikes, “Mama’s House.” (click for song) That tells me that this alchemically powered submarine is at the Gulf Coast of Texas where we’re going to pick up more guests (including Jan) who are from the Lone Star State.  There’s Jan, John W. Howell, of Fiction Favorites, and Lisa Amaya, of Life of an El Paso Woman

I see Teri Polen of Books and Such, and Staci Troilo, and there’s Brad, from Writing to Freedom came down to the Texas coast from their homes to meet up with them too. 

Hi, John.  I’m happy you all could make it.  Oh, I like that image too.  Being from Port Aransas, I can see why you’d be drawn to “By the Sea.”

By the Sea.bmp

By the Sea

I see reflections in the porthole.  Jennie Fitzkee, from A Teacher’s Reflections, is that you?  I’m so glad you could take a break from your classroom to join us.  And you brought Dan Antion from No Facilities with you!  Thanks to you both for coming all the way down to the Gulf Coast to meet the submarine.

Cornelis, are we ready to get going again?  We have to pick up guests from farther north, like Donna Parker, Jacquie Biggar, and Joanne Sisco.  

Cornelis:  Really… It’s not as though I can just chant Yadadarcyyada and make my submarine disappear and then reappear.

(I gasp.)  Yadadarcyyada is an incantation!  (I put my hand over Cornelis’ mouth to keep him from saying it a second time.)  Cornelis, please watch what you say.  The last time you spoke that word twice, you and the submarine went to a very strange place! A vanishing act is not on the program ― except for the one in Rob’s collection.  Sorry, if I say more it will be a spoiler for my blog serial, Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.

Vanishing Act

Vanishing Act

Hold on, what was that sound?  Donna!  Everyone!  Are all of you okay?  I’m delighted to see you, but I hope an accident of alchemy didn’t pull anyone away at a bad time.

Cornelis:  Oh, do calm down, Teagan.  It was just a little prank.  I had already made arrangements with them.  We wanted to surprise you.

Rob, what am I going to do with that alchemist?  Ah, you are so kind – thank you for this plate.  I haven’t had a moment to visit the refreshment table.  I see they got your favorite Brie.  It looks delicious.  Are you enjoying your show?  Yes, I think it’s going well and everyone is having a great time.  You could say it’s quite a Conquest.  You know I can’t resist a play on words.

Conquest

Conquest

We seem to have stopped.  That looks like the wreck of some long-lost luxury liner… and that’s Nicole, from The Bookworm Drinketh.  She’s found several crates of champagne!  Sailor, would you please help Nicole inside?  Now we have plenty of champagne, just in time to zip across the Atlantic to pick up more guests.

Cornelis, are you sure your submarine has enough power to get there?  What do you mean it does now?  Erm… what’s that you’re holding?  It looks like an Aladin’s lamp…  What are you doing?  Be careful polishing that thing.  Purple smoke is coming from it! 

Oh!  Cornelis, you’ve brought the Lamp Magician.  What a great idea!  Dear Magician, thank you for joining us.  Please relax and enjoy this undersea art gallery.  But wait, the lamp is smoking again. This time the smoke is bright pink. It reminds me of something from my Thistledown serial.  Look! There’s Andrea from Harvesting Hecate, and Sue Dream Walker too.

Yes, Andrea?  I agree that image is lovely.  Rob calls it My Blue Heaven.

My Blue Heaven

My Blue Heaven

Oh good, there’s Janet Weight Reed, of My Life as an Artist.  Thank you for coming, Janet. 

I’m glad she’s already aboard.  Janet is keeping Cornelis Drebbel out of trouble (for the moment at least) by having him pose for a watercolor portrait.

I see Janet brought Chris the Story Reading Ape.  Now I understand why they only had two passengers for that run.  People can be timid about getting on a mini sub with a great ape, even though Chris is a perfect gentleman.

It’s wonderful to see you, dear Ape.  That one?  Rob calls it Eclipse.  Yes, it’s one of my favorites, though I really can’t choose.

Eclipse

Enter a caption

Oops, excuse me!  (Several sailors rushing past.)  They’re getting the mini sub ready to pick up another group guests.  Let’s see who’s on the passenger manifest. 

Dyanna, of Ravenshawks’ Magazine, and  Michael of OKIOS Redaktion.  What’s all the barking?  I see, how fun. Christoph Fischer brought his Labradoodles and Hugh Roberts of Hugh’s Views and News brought his Corgis!

Good, there’s Melissa, from Today You Will Write with Suzanne of Musings on Life & Experience.  Thank you for visiting, everyone.  Please make yourselves at home and enjoy this showing of Rob’s wonderful images. 

Cornelis Drebbel inside sub _001

Art by Rob Goldstein

Click over to Rob’s blog to see the related treat he has made at his blog.  https://robertmgoldstein.com/

The comments are part of this art show, so I hope you’ll visit as many of the folks there as you can.   

You are part of this party too.  So, be sure to leave a link to your own website in the comments.  Leave a comment mentioning your favorite “Under the Sea” related thing, song, recipe, or art.  Come and go and comment as often as you want.  Rob, Cornelis, and I will be here on the submarine all weekend.   

Heartfelt thanks for visiting.

Stay tuned for Hidebound Hump Day on Wednesday with Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers chapter 8.  Cheers!

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.

Artwork Copyright © 2018 by Rob Goldstein

Copyright © 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 7

Wednesday, September 19, 2018 

Girl with Cherries

Welcome back to Hidebound Hump Day and the next episode of the steampunk serial.  The next random “thing” a reader left to drive the plot of this story should come as no surprise — “steam engine.”  Let’s see if I use it in a way you expect.  (winks)

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

Chapter 6 The handsome innkeeper, Ignatius Belle, has caught Felicity’s eye.  Yet Copper is decidedly distrustful of the tall man.  Who is right? Is Felicity thinking with her head or her… erm… heart?  What about that sheriff?  Can we trust him?  More worrisome than whom to trust and not, Cornelis disappeared with a disconcerting “flat” pop.

All aboard!

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

7 — Steam Engine

Flying Scotsman Print

***

After the men left, Copper and I set about putting the disaster of a kitchen to rights.  I had a lot of thinking to do, and it helped if my hands were busy.  It also helped distract me from worrying about Cornelis Drebbel.  Copper told me she had not seen him since “the naughty monkey” knocked him down the stairs.

Copper sat at the table.  She had the owl-shaped lamp turned upside-down.  It was proof of my hit on the head that I had forgotten about the lamp and its hidden compartment.  Before I could caution her, Copper pulled out the documents.

“Be careful with those.  I think they’re quite old.  You wouldn’t want to tear them,” I said, and complimented myself on keeping my voice gentle when I was startled enough that I might have snapped at her.

rolled printer papers on table

Unsplash

We spread the papers on the kitchen table.  One was a letter written in an unknown language.  I had no idea what it said, but it looked quite official, with an embossed crest.  However, the document was so old that the embossing was unclear.  The other pages appeared to be plans, drawings for strange inventions.

“A magnifying glass would be useful,” I murmured.

“Daddy keeps one in his desk,” Copper said helpfully.  “Do you think the monkeys will come back?” she asked, her tone edged with fear.

“We’ll go look together, shall we?” I said with a smile.

As we stood I heard a pop, then a little electric shock at my neck when a finger tapped it.

“Cornelis!” I said, barely stopping myself from hugging the Dutchman.  “I was worried half to death.  Where have you been?  Are you all right?”

“Yes, yes.  Although it took me a bit to… shall we say, compose myself,” he said in a rueful voice.

Cornelis Drebbel Alcmariensis

Cornelis Drebbel

Copper’s eyes were wide as she regarded the alchemist.  Her brow knitted and she looked suspicious.  The blue eyes narrowed and she looked at Cornelis intently. 

“Are you a ghost?” she asked bluntly.

The Dutchman grinned impishly.  He gave a twist to his pointed beard and wriggled his eyebrows.  Copper’s expression relaxed.

“That’s rather hard to say,” Cornelis told Copper.  “I never died.  However, my body stopped living hundreds of years ago.”

Copper tilted her head, thinking about the strange answer Cornelis gave her.  I got the feeling that she would study the matter until she understood it.

“Oh!  What have we here?” he exclaimed excitedly over the ancient papers.  “Don’t tell me this is what was hidden in the lamp!” he cried and Copper and I both nodded, taken aback by his enthusiasm.  “Really?  The audacity!  To hide such treasures that way.  Don’t you know what these are?”

“I couldn’t read the language,” I defended myself.  “I know a smattering of the Romance languages, but I haven’t had time to decipher the texts.”

Aerial Screw drawing

“Well, I suppose it isn’t any wonder,” he said agreeably enough.  “These are so old that the language has changed a good deal.  You really have no idea what they are?” he asked genuinely surprised.  “My dear, these are the work of Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci!  They are valuable beyond belief.”

The Leonardo da Vinci?” I couldn’t help asking, even though I knew I was playing right into his theatrics.  “Then they must be at the core of whatever is going on here,” I said with certainty.

I asked copper if she could reach dishes to set the table in the dining room.  She could, so I busied her with that task so I could speak to Cornelis privately.

“I’m even more concerned about Copper’s father now.  I can’t imagine he would leave without this carefully hidden treasure.  Or Copper either for that matter,” I said quietly.

“Perhaps he meant to lead whomever away from the child?” Cornelis offered and that explanation made sense, although it didn’t feel right.

“If he has been abducted, we don’t know who they would contact for ransom.  So, their next move would be to take Copper and threaten her life to make Hixon give them the da Vinci papers,” I speculated.

Copper - Victorian young girl

Copper

“Yes, but that is assuming there are only two factions,” Cornelis said.  “These papers are so valuable there might be multiple parties involved, each working against the other,” the alchemist said.

That idea was complicated enough that my head pounded harder.  The pain had finally eased off, but it came back with a vengeance.  I groaned.  Cornelis took my elbow and led me to the dining room.  Copper had even arranged the food Cookie and Bitsy sent via Ignatius Belle.

As we ate, Cornelis spoke in a very matter of fact tone.  I was sure he did so to avoid alarming Copper. 

“I mentioned that I thought there were multiple factors involved?” he said as if he was talking about something utterly boring.  “I also have a hunch that they will converge here.  So I think we should begin a journey, an adventure,” he said smiling at the girl.  “We should set out as soon as we can.”

“But we’ve no transportation.  It will attract attention, but we’ll have to hire a coach,” I said.

“Too bad Daddy didn’t get the steam engine to work right,” Copper said surprising both of us.

“Steam engine?” Cornelis and I echoed in unison.

“Uh-huh.  It’s in the building on the other side of the house,” Copper motioned toward the remaining outbuilding — the one I had not had a chance to inspect.

yellow pillar candle in black lantern

Unsplash

The alchemist found lanterns where Copper said they would be.  He blocked the girl’s view of what he was doing as he used one of his tricks to light them quickly.  We hurried to the outbuilding. 

The chimpanzees had been very large and amazingly strong.  I couldn’t help glancing uneasily into the darkness, wondering if they would come back that night.

Soon we reached the building.  It was locked, but breaking a lock was also within the range of the Dutchman’s unearthly talents.  The building was small, and apparently only had one room.  A machine of some sort filled most of the space.  I lit a lamp to see it better.

I marveled at what the light showed.  The contraption looked very much like a steam locomotive.  However, it was closer to the size of a stage coach.  It had a tall column in front for the steam.  There were two wheels in front, supporting the engine, an area for a few passengers, and two much taller wider wheels in back.

“What on earth is this thing?” I asked of the strange contraption.

Cornelis had that look in his eyes.  I mean that obsessively excited look he got about inventions and wildly impossible things. 

“Isn’t it wonderful?  It’s a traction engine,” he said quickly before vanishing.

“It’s a road locomotive,” Copper informed me.  “Daddy always said this part was the trouble,” Copper said pointing at something I couldn’t see, but Cornelis was suddenly looking over her shoulder making an ah-ha sound.

Boadicea traction engine Great Dorset Steam Fair.jpg

Road Locomotive, Public Domain Image

The alchemist abruptly looked away, distracted.  I could feel the air around Cornelis Drebbel vibrate.  The sensation made the hair on my arms stand on end.  I knew he was somehow investigating the odd engine — what worked and what did not.  I heard a clang from somewhere inside the machine.  Then he muttered happily to himself.

“Do you think you can make it work?” I asked after a moment.

“Oh yes,” he said.  “In no time at all,” he added with a smile that twitched his mustache.

As I looked at Cornelis his form blurred and became transparent.  I had come to realize that meant he was somehow present in more than one place at a time.

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

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

 ***

To be continued…

***

Several different groups converging on our trio?  Who could they be?  Are they friends or foes? 

The road locomotive is a bit of “Real Steampunkery Tech” — that’s my made-up word.  Will Cornelis get it working before it’s too late?  

The next group of things were “Ceramic, Destiny, and Soup Bone.” We’ll see where they take Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers — next week on Hidebound Hump Day!

Real World Notes

Road Locomotive.  An early, experimental steam-powered road vehicle.  A type of (steam-powered) traction engine, usually referring to those designed for heavy haulage on common roads.

Thanks for getting on the steampunk locomotive for this rerun.  

Invitation 2 medium

I’ve been posting episodes twice a week.  However, for the weekend of September 21st,  I’m preempting  Straightlaced Saturday, for Under the Sea,  a virtual art show featuring the work of Rob Goldstein, who illustrated Hullaba Lulu.  This serial continues next week on Hidebound Hump Day.  I’ll be looking for you there. 

I hope to see you at the art show too.  Hugs! 

***

Now some shameless self-promotion.

Pigs collection cover banner

The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

Amazon UK

Atonement Video Cover copy

Atonement, Tennessee

Amazon UK

Bijou front only 2

Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I

Novel-book-The Three Things Serial Story-Teagan Riordain Geneviene-The Writer Next Door-Vashti Q-spotlight-author

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.

 

A “Revealing” Straightlaced Saturday — & Cornelis Drebbel 6

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Did the allure of the word “revealing” lure you to my clutches? I’m giving a shout-out to the fabulous Mae Clair who has just revealed the delicious cover of her next novel!

Book cover for End of Day, mystery/suspense novel by Mae Clair shows old dilapidated church with bell tower and a cemetery in the background overgrown with weeds

The big release of the book won’t be until January, but you can pre-order End of Day here.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait — sooo you can go ahead and read Cusp of Night to which the new book will be a follow-on.  (Hint-hint.)

Now, Felicity and Cornelis have their hands full so lets get on with the Straightlaced Saturday episode of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

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

Chapter 5.  Naughty chimpanzees ran amok, stealing the corpse of the still unknown man, and knocking Felicity out cold.  She found the “flat sounding pop” with which Cornelis Drebbel vanished disturbing — and so did I!  So what happened to the alchemist?  Let’s find out. 

All aboard!

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

6 — Corset, Irish Soda Bread

 

Steampunk woman Noel Nichols Unsplash.png

The Woman in Trousers wouldn’t have worn anything so revealing, but this fun steampunk image by Noel Nichols for Unsplash captures the spirit of the story.

 

I was worried about Cornelis Drebbel.  Whenever he appeared or disappeared it caused a pop sound, like champagne being uncorked.  I couldn’t tell you why.  He refused to discuss the accident of alchemy that caused him to be in his unique state. 

However, it gave him several inexplicable abilities.  Even I didn’t know the extent of those talents.  He wouldn’t talk about them either.  The one thing I did know was the only other time his departure was accompanied by that strange flat sounding pop, he was almost lost forever.

After that thought the pounding in my head took center stage in my mind.  A drop of water landed on my face, causing me to open my eyes.  My field of vision was filled by two enormous blue orbs.  The tear-filled eyes were so close to my face that I reflexively drew back, bumping the back of my head.  As if I needed another lump there.

“Copper?” I mumbled, trying to focus my blurry vision.

I jumped again when I saw something that my rattled brain took for a fat hairy snake, inches away from my face.  I nearly screamed, but before the cry escaped my lips, my vision cleared.  The furry snake was Sheriff Alvin Bullard’s thick mustache.

close-up photo of man with mustache

Unsplash

The sheriff helped me sit up.  The porch and the world around it lurched when I moved.  My hand shot out wildly, trying to catch my balance.  I felt like I was falling, but then I remembered that I was already prone on the floor of the porch.

Copper’s tight hold on my arm didn’t budge even as Sheriff Bullard helped me to a sitting position.  I leaned back against the wall of the house.  When he stood he noticed the blood on the doorframe where I hit my head when the big chimpanzee careened into me.

“You took quite a knock on the head,” Sheriff Bullard commented and I groaned in reply.  “Did someone attack you?” he asked.

I took a deep breath, trying to steady myself.  I was intensely glad that I refused to wear a corset.  Wearing one of those hideous things, I would never have been able to get enough air into my lungs.  It was no wonder so many women suffered from “the vapours.”

“Something hit me from behind.  Something large,” I said, my thoughts still fuzzy.  “It knocked me against the doorway,” I added, gingerly touching my bloodied temple.

Abruptly my head cleared.  I remembered the four large chimpanzees and them dragging the cadaver away.

Soft footsteps moved close to me.  I thought perhaps it was Cornelis.  The world swayed when I looked upward.  It was not the alchemist.  Rather, it was Ignatius Belle, the attractive and most un-innkeeper looking proprietor of the Belle Inn. 

Basil Gill 2

Basil Gill as Ignatius Belle

Copper’s grip on my arm got even tighter as he approached.  I wouldn’t have thought she was that strong.  Her hold on my arm was downright uncomfortable.  I shifted in attempt to dislodge the girl.

“I won’t let you take her from me!” Copper shocked me by yelling at the two men.  “You can’t take—” she said with a tiny hesitation.  “You can’t take my Aunt Mina!”

That was astonishing.  Could the child be that quick on her feet? 

Copper apparently heard me introduce myself as her father’s half-sister, Mina, when I opened the door to the people from the Merciful Haven Orphanage.  However, when I met Copper, I told her I was there to apply for a governess position.  She had to know that at least one of those things was a lie.  She must have been terrified of that orphanage to think so quickly.

I wanted to ask Copper if she had seen Cornelis after he vanished with that off sounding pop.  However, I didn’t want to draw the sheriff’s attention to the Dutchman.  Where was the alchemist?  He had the power to speak directly into my ear without showing himself.  If he was unharmed, then why hadn’t he made himself known to me?

Ignatius Belle stooped down and tried to reassure Copper that he and the sheriff were only there to help.  A handsome man like Ignatius, with his kind smile and those soft eyes would have been enough to make most grown women melt.  A young girl should have been putty in his hands.

Copper however, drew away from him distrustfully.  I found her reaction intriguing.  I considered the innkeeper from a new perspective, wondering if there was more than met the eye.  However, I saw nothing that caused me concern — quite the contrary.  I liked what I saw.

Copper curious w-green

“The child’s been going on about some flight of fancy,” Sheriff Alvin Bullard said.  “She says monkeys took away the dead body from the study and knocked you down,” he said with a tolerant smile for a child’s whimsy.  “Though she’s a little old to tell such tales,” he added in a mildly chastising way for Copper’s benefit.

I tried not to react when I saw Ignatius and Sheriff Bullard exchange a look.  Their expressions didn’t seem to indicate that they fully believed Copper’s explanation was simply a product of an overactive imagination.  

Did they did they secretly credit her story about the chimps?  What could the men know that would allow them to believe the preposterous truth?  

However, my head throbbed so much that I quickly forgot about that unspoken exchange and the twinge of fear it gave me.

The neigh of a horse distracted me.  Twilight had deepened while I lay senseless on the porch.  In the diminishing light I saw an enclosed wagon with lanterns affixed.  It was a hearse.

Hearse, circa 1900.  Wikimedia Commons

“Weren’t you going to send the coroner to remove the body?” I asked the sheriff.

Then a startling thought made me look at Ignatius Belle.  So far, most of the townspeople I had met held more than one role.  For instance, the sheriff was also the local grist mill’s owner.

“You are not innkeeper and undertaker, are you?” I asked the tall man, suddenly unsure how attractive I found him. 

Most ladies would find the idea repellent.  After giving careful attention to the set of his shoulders and the line of his jaw, I decided that didn’t matter if he was also a coroner.

“I inherited the wagon, but the duties of coroner or undertaker are beyond my skills,” Ignatius told me and held my gaze longer than was absolutely necessary.

Sheriff Alvin Bullard looked from me to the innkeeper, lifted one eyebrow, and cleared his throat pointedly. 

“We’d only been here a short time when you regained consciousness,” Bullard said.  “May I help you inside?” he asked.

At first I reached out to take his offered hand, but when I moved the world took such a turn that it nearly took my stomach with it.  I shook my head negatively and that only made it worse. 

“I think I’ll just rest here for a moment longer,” I said ruefully.

Wikimedia Commons

Ignatius Belle stepped quickly to the hearse.  He returned with a suitcase, a hatbox, and a basket.  I recognized the first two items as my own.  I felt a stab of worry that he had opened the hatbox.  It contained the skull of Cornelis Drebbel.

I lifted my hand reflexively toward the hatbox, but forced myself to rest the wayward appendage in my lap.  It took all my self-restraint to let the hatbox sit untouched.  I wanted to open it and see if anything had been disturbed, but I couldn’t let anyone else know that.

Taking a deep breath, I reminded myself what anyone who opened the hatbox would find.  They would see my favorite top hat.  Inside the hat was a round satin covered form, which helped keep the hat properly shaped.  They would have to remove the hat and then the satin scarf before knowing the “form” was actually a human skull.

“Why?” I started to ask, but for once thought before I spoke.  “It’s very kind of you to bring my things.  I would have retrieved them tomorrow.  I didn’t mean to cause you any trouble,” I told Ignatius.  “I didn’t want to presume on my half-brother’s hospitality, since there was no way for me to let him know the exact date I expected to arrive.  Besides,” I dissembled. “You can imagine… meeting with family one hasn’t seen in so many years… I felt the need to settle my nerves before coming here, so I took accommodations at your inn,” I said.

The sheriff gave a knowing nod to my explanation.  Ignatius was turned away from me as he placed my belongings next to the door.  Copper watched him intently.

“Alvin, I mean Sheriff Bullard, told me what had happened here when he asked me to bring the hearse to pick up the um…” he stopped short and looked at Copper.  “The you know.”

“You mean the cadaver?” Copper chimed in, emphasizing what was apparently a new and interesting word in her vocabulary.

Ignatius cleared his throat. 

“Err, yes.  He explained that you were Calvin Hixon’s half-sister and would be staying here to look after the girl.  So I expected you would need your things.  If you plan to come back into town I’ll simply take them back with us,” he said with a smile.  “Maybe you really should consider coming back with us.  No offence, but you don’t look well.”

“Oh, I’m feeling better already,” I assured the handsome innkeeper.

two white wooden rocking armchairs outside house

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I didn’t know what kind of monkey business I had stumbled into, but those people from the Merciful Haven Orphanage clearly hoped to get control of Hixon’s estate.  I didn’t want to risk having Copper in town with them.  There was no telling what they’d do with an opportunity like that. 

If Ignatius had conveniently brought my belongings to me, that saved me having to retrieve them.  However, it did create another problem.  He would be taking his horse back with him, and I’d be without any transportation.

Finally, I felt like I might be able to stand.  Ignatius took my hand and all but lifted me to my feet.  Maybe I wasn’t ready to get up yet after all, I thought as I swayed.  He put his arm around my waist and I leaned into him until my equilibrium equalized.  And maybe just a little while longer.

The unfamiliar basket sitting next to my bag and hatbox caught my eye.  It didn’t belong to me.  I was about to tell Ignatius that he must have picked it up by mistake, when he followed my gaze.

“That’s from Cookie.  She and Bitsy were there when Alvin told me about the dea— about the situation you found here,” Ignatius began then glanced at Copper.  “Cookie could manage the inn singlehandedly if she were of a mind.  She could manage the entire town for that matter.  She has such a head for details and anticipating needs.  It was her idea to send dinner.”

Wikimedia Commons

Copper, Cornelis, and I had eaten our fill of pease pudding and toast, but the aromas wafting from the cloth covered basket were tantalizing.  Ignatius picked it up and handed it to me.  I couldn’t resist peeking inside.  I gasped with pleasure when I found pork roasted with onions and apples, roasted potatoes and carrots, and an entire loaf of Irish soda bread.

“Are you sure you’re alright, Miss Hixon?  I have to agree with Ignatius that you don’t look well,” the sheriff asked me, and with the nasty bump to my head, I nearly ruined everything by not knowing who Miss Hixon was.

Oh yes.  Miss Hixon was supposed to be me, Mina Hixon, Calvin Hixon’s long lost half-sister.  “Yes.  Yes, I’ll be right as rain in no time I’m sure,” I said.

“I’m worried about leaving you alone,” Ignatius Belle said.  “I think that head injury is worse than you’re letting on.  At least let me send one of the maids to stay the night and look after you.  I’m sure Bitsy wouldn’t mind.”

I wondered at the solicitous offer, but I politely declined.

The sheriff insisted on looking around inside, since someone had been in the house and attacked me.  I didn’t want him snooping around, but it would look odd if I refused.  The dead body was his province as well.  So I ushered them inside.

Sheriff Bullard purposely took the lead as we walked down the hallway toward the study.  The broken vase and flowers were strewn across the marble floor.  The study door stood open. 

green leafed trees outside window

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Once inside the room we saw the window had been pushed wide open.  The desk chair was overturned.  The papers and other items that had been on the desktop were scattered across the rug.  The desk drawer was open and the contents had obviously been riffled.  Books had been pulled from their shelves and discarded haphazardly.

That explains the fourth chimpanzee, I thought.  It lagged behind to search for something.  Then it slammed into me as it hurried to catch up with the other three.

Yet, could the creature be intelligent enough to do something like that?  Perhaps they could be trained to recognize particular objects and retrieve them.  But for what had the chimps been searching, besides the corpse?

As the two men looked around the study I drew Copper aside. 

“Copper, it’s important that you don’t talk about the chimpanzees,” I whispered.  “I’m afraid it will cause trouble if they know,” I whispered about the sheriff and the innkeeper.  “Do you understand?” I asked and received an eager nod in return.

When the sheriff asked again if I had seen my attacker, or whomever took the body away, I maintained that I had seen nothing.  If the lawman knew about the chimpanzees, I was certain that it would do more harm than good.  At minimum I’d be branded a lunatic and unfit as Copper’s guardian, and the orphanage people would waste no time in getting control of the Hixon estate.

Besides, someone was controlling the animals and to my thinking, the law could only get in the way. 

 ***

To be continued…

***

The Woman in Trousers seems to have taken a shine to handsome innkeeper, Ignatius Belle.  Although Copper is decidedly distrustful of the tall man.  Is the girl right to be suspicious of him?  What about that sheriff?  Can we trust him?  And most importantly, where is Cornelis Drebbel and is he okay?  

Next time we’ll see what I did with the random thing “Steam Engine.”

Real World Notes

The Vapours.  Also the vapors is a depressed or hysterical nervous condition.  It described certain mental or physical states, such as hysteria, light-headedness, and fainting.   Ladies’ tight corsets could squeeze their internal organs, including the lungs, and could restrict breathing causing the wearer to feel faint and suffer “the vapours.”  Today, the phrase “a case of the vapors” is most often used either melodramatically or for comedic effect. 

Thanks for getting on the steampunk locomotive for this rerun. I’m posting episodes twice a week, so the steampunk locomotive will be at the station this weekend for Straightlaced Saturday, where this serial continues.  I’ll be looking for you there.  Hugs! 

***

Now some shameless self-promotion.

Pigs collection cover banner

The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

Amazon UK

Atonement Video Cover copy

Atonement, Tennessee

Amazon UK

Bijou front only 2

Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I

Novel-book-The Three Things Serial Story-Teagan Riordain Geneviene-The Writer Next Door-Vashti Q-spotlight-author

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.

 

Hidebound Hump Day — Cornelis Drebbel 5

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

You can also click here for the video.

You’ve arrived at Hidebound Hump Day! As you can see, I had a special treat for this chapter.  Chris Graham (the Story Reading Ape) did the above animation, and I’m tickled pink!

His character, Artie the genius chimp, has been here several times.  Before Artie came along…  No, wait. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who are new to this steampunk train.  So I’ll tell you about that at the end.  Read on.  Back to  Hidebound Hump Day.

Cover Copper Alchemist Woman n Trousers

Thanks for being at the station for this rerun of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.  This steampunk adventure was written spontaneously, in my “three things” way.  Readers at that time in 2015 left random “things” that built everything about this story, including the plot, settings, and characters.  While he didn’t leave it as a “thing,” back then Chris Graham was talking about something that had a large influence on this story. You’ll see the root of that today.

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

Last time  we met the local sheriff, Alvin Bullard. He seemed somewhat less unpleasant than the trio from Merciful Haven Orphanage.  I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll see more of him.  Fortunately, Felicity got rid of them before they could get their grubby little hands on Copper. (Thanks to an assist from a bit of alchemy involving the Wurlitzer.) 

Felicity also found a letter from Alexander Graham Bell to Copper’s father.  It was about a hydrofoil Mr. Hixon invented. Hmmm… Shall we see what our friends are up to now? 

All aboard!

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

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

White_Mill_sunset

The sheriff is part owner of the local grist mill. (Photo: White Mill in Sandwich, Kent, England)

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

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

The barn was empty of life, except perhaps for a few mice.  It was easy to see that the horses had been gone for a while, evidence of the financial problem Cornelis uncovered. 

Surely Hixon kept at least one for his own transportation, I thought. 

Had he left on horseback then?  Was he abducted?  I came full circle to the first question I faced when I came to the estate— Who was the dead man in the study?

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

gray wooden house under gray sky

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

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

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

Skull Victorian setting pink

Leaving the barn, I gazed in concern at the beautiful sunset.  How much time did we have?  Sheriff Alvin Bullard was going to send someone to attend to the body of the still unknown man. 

As he left he indicated that might take a bit of time… but how much?  A few hours?  A few days?  To my knowledge, there was no doctor in residence in the little town.  The veterinarian was half a day’s ride away.  Perhaps they used him as the coroner.

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

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

When I opened the kitchen door my nose met a shocking smell.  I was stunned because the aroma was delicious. I was at a loss for words.

“Cornelis?” was all I could manage.  

person filtering powder on round stainless steel bowl

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The kitchen still looked like a battleground for Armageddon, but the smell was tantalizing.  The Dutchman had a smug look on his face.  He gave the tip of his pointed beard a twist as he smirked. 

“Haven’t I always told you I was a good cook?  Yet you never believed me,” he said and gave a sly glance at Copper who giggled again.

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

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

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

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

Judging by the disorder, Copper had looked through every inch of the kitchen in search of food.  It was no wonder she looked surprised by his words. 

The Dutchman pointed to a wooden breadbox atop one of the cabinets.  It was a little out of my reach, but I spotted a small stool in a corner.  I had the box in hand in no time.

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

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

bread and bread knife on top of brown wooden chopping board

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

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

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

“I mean a clue to where he might have gone,” I stammered, trying to backtrack. 

However, the child was more concerned about getting the last bit of her pease pudding onto the remaining toast. 

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

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

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

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

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

File:Vintage Goldtone Owl-Shaped Cigarette Lighter, Copyright Florenza (8456138179).jpg

Public domain image (Actually a vintage cigarette lighter, pretend it’s a lamp.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo of assorted-color petaled flowers floating on body of water

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

An earsplitting screech preceded a cacophony of similar sounds.  Scrabbling feet and overturning furniture followed.  The front door slammed open so hard the stained glass window rattled. 

I looked at my companions.  Copper seemed curious but not alarmed as she ran her finger around the pot, getting the last bit of pease pudding. 

Cornelis Drebble returned my questioning gaze with wide eyes and a knitted brow.

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

Three very large chimpanzees were in the process of dragging the corpse away.  I stood in mystified, shocked silence.  With a loud pop, Cornelis appeared at the foot of the stairs.

“What the bloody h—” he began.  “Stop!  You lot — yes you!  Stop that this instant!” Cornelis ranted at the chimpanzees.

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

Victorian Chimp sailor suit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naughty Chimps

Four Naughty Chimps courtesy of Chris the Story Reading Ape

 ***

To be continued…

***

Diary Notes

The naughty chimps in this episode were inspired by Christopher Graham’s “Four Naughty Chimps.” As you saw in the animation at the beginning of this post, Chris (and his sister) collected the poetic works of their mother, Agnes Mae Graham and made a lovely book.  (Previews here.)

My Vibrating Vertabrae cover

Book of poetry by Chris Graham’s mom

UK USA CA AUS IN

***

I’m delighted to say that I’ve kept contact with the wonderful the reader who gave the “three things” that kept this chapter on the tracks.  That is the amazingly talented Andrea Stephenson at Harvesting Hecate, Thoughts on life, writing, creativity and magicAndrea’s lyrical words are pure magic.  Be sure to visit her blog.

***

Somewhere there is a second harmonic tuner? And mysterious hidden documents? That’s curious.  More importantly, the mysterious woman in trousers is out cold.  She found the “flat sounding pop” with which Cornelis Drebbel vanished disturbing — and so did I!  So what happened to the alchemist?  

Thanks for getting on the steampunk locomotive for this rerun. I’m posting episodes twice a week, so the train will be at the station this weekend for Straightlaced Saturday, where this serial continues.  I’ll be looking for you there.  Hugs! 

***

Now some shameless self-promotion.

Pigs collection cover banner

The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

Amazon UK

Atonement Video Cover copy

Atonement, Tennessee

Amazon UK

Bijou front only 2

Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I

Novel-book-The Three Things Serial Story-Teagan Riordain Geneviene-The Writer Next Door-Vashti Q-spotlight-author

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.

 

Straightlaced Saturday — Cornelis Drebbel 4

Saturday, September 8, 2018 

A “Mighty Wurlitzer” circa 1929

Thanks for being at the station for this rerun of my steampunk serial with a Victorian setting.  This adventure was written spontaneously, with “three things” left by readers (back in 2015) driving every element of this story from the setting to the characters.   

Writing Process

I enjoy alteration, as you will see while this story progresses.  Names are never accidental with me. You’ll see that many of the minor characters have names that begin with “B.”  I did that as a subtle way of helping you keep up, since I’m conscious of the fact that it’s hard to keep up with a serial. 

Also, I entertained myself with the names of a group of characters you’ll meet today.  Suddenly I needed to name four lesser characters. That was just too many “B” names to throw at you.  I’ll let you see for yourself the “method” of naming I used.

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

Chapter 3.1  Felicity, the woman in trousers, and Cornelis Drebbel, the alchemist, met Copper, the unusual little girl.  We were relieved to learn that the dead man in the study was not Copper’s daddy, but we don’t know who he actually is.  Meanwhile the sheriff and a group of people from the dreaded orphanage were knocking at the door.  Shall we let them in? 

All aboard!

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

4 Wurlitzer Organ, Hydrofoil

Copper with Flowers

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. I suspected the people from the orphanage had motives that were less than pure, and I didn’t want the child to be so easily within their reach. 

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 manner.  However, it was an 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.  Yet I knew Calvin Hixon had not been born in the little town.  They couldn’t know much about the extended family.

Sheriff badge

At 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 prominentnose 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.Goosey Goosey

But why were those people at the Hixon residence 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.

I already 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. 

Victorian parlor

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

“No doubt another long lost relative,” Ethel Farthing, the more aggressive woman said with a sneer 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 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 venture 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…

***

Real World Notes

Wurlitzer Organ.  Cornelis was gleeful to find one.  Wurlitzer, is an American company started in Cincinnati in 1853 by German immigrant (Franz) Rudolph Wurlitzer. The company initially imported stringed, woodwind and brass instruments from Germany to the U.S.A.  Wurlitzer also provided musical instruments to the U.S. military. In 1880, the company began manufacturing pianos and eventually expanded to make pipe or theatre organs popular in the days of silent movies.

Hydrofoil.  Yes that really is Bell on a real hydrofoil.  Concepts for such a craft were developed as early as 1899.

***

Well now…  Felicity, the woman in trousers, found a slue of questions, but no answers when she met the local sheriff and a trio of unsavory people from the orphanage — a place of which Copper was terrified.  Why were they at the Hixon residence?  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? Be at the statioWednesday for Hidebound Hump Day, where this serial continues.  I’ll be looking for you there.  Hugs! 

***

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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 3

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Copper w Chalkboard

Welcome to Hidebound Hump Day!  I call it hidebound because Victorians are sometimes described that way.  It might be hard to decide who the “hero” of this story is, but everything revolves around Cornelis Drebbel. 

I suppose Cornelis is a bit of a tortured soul, due to the accident of alchemy that put him in the unusual state I gave this fictional version of the real life scientist.  With that segue, I’m going to digress for a moment.  Here’s a congratulatory shout-out to Staci Troilo who has just launched a new book!  Tortured Soul is the latest in her fabulous Medici Protectorate series. Be sure to check it out.

Tortured Soul Promo

Back to business… Thanks for being at the station for this rerun of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers — a steampunk serial with a Victorian setting.  I’m posting episodes twice a week, so I hope you’ll come back for the next chapter, which will be posted at Straightlaced Saturdays.  

This steampunk adventure was written spontaneously, in my “three things” way.  Readers at that time in 2015 left random “things” that built the plot and characters.  I had no idea what anything would be until the next thing came along.  

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

Chapter 2 showed us that Cornelis Drebbel, the alchemist, has some magical abilities.  He’s not a superhero, but those talents do come in handy.  He used his talents to check on little Copper.  All was not exactly well.

Felicity, the woman in trousers, got acquainted with the staff of the inn where they stayed, and learned a little about the handsome proprietor, Mr. Ignatius Belle.  She also found an unusual bell in her room. 

All aboard!

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

— Quail’s Egg

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.

Advertisement circa 1900.  Public domain image

For 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 if 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.

File:Miss Coleman of Fernlees governess.jpg

A governess in New South Wales, 1890.  Public domain image.

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, closer to the corpse.

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.

Advertisement, 1907.  Public domain image.

“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.

As 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.  Based on 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.

Advertisement, 1889.  Public domain image.

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.

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.

Copper pensive

“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.

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.

File:John Etherington Welch Rolls (1807-1870) in the 'Oak Parlour' at the Hendre..JPG

A parlor, circa 1870. Public domain image.

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.

“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.  Yet 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.

Signet ring

Signet ring with coat of arms.  Public domain.

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!”

 ***

To be continued…

***

Diary Notes

One of the photographs in this chapter shows a John Etherington Welch Rolls in the “Oak Parlour” at the Hendre mansion near Monmouth.  He was the grandfather of Charles Stewart Rolls, co-founder of Rolls-Royce.  The Oak Room was his study, decorated with carved paneling and collector’s items.  It was described as a typical Victorian gentleman’s retreat.

I hope all of you are aboard for this rerun. The story will resume this weekend for Straightlaced Saturday.  We’ll see what I was able to write about with Wurlitzer Organ and Hydrofoil.  I’ll be looking for you at the station.  Hugs! 

***

Now some shameless self-promotion.

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The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

Amazon UK

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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.

Straight-Laced Saturday — Cornelis Drebbel 2

Saturday, September 1, 2018 

Cover Copper Alchemist Woman n Trousers

If you saw my Wednesday post, then you know that I’m trying to lighten my workload for awhile.  To do that, and to prepare you for what will eventually be coming next, I’m re-running a past “three things” style serial.  It’s Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers — a steampunk serial with a Victorian setting. 

For what does that prepare you?  After I’ve finished editing Atonement in Bloom and doing some book-izing work for the Pip-verse, I will begin an all new serial — The Skull of the Alchemist.  Another three things, pantser story with you, dear reader, providing the random things!  That new, eventual story will be a follow-on to these reruns. 

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

Copper curious w-green

Our narrator, the woman in trousers, discovered Copper, an intriguing little girl.  While the story didn’t “tell me” the woman’s name for many episodes, to simplify things here, I’ll go ahead and tell you her name is Felicity.

We learn that Felicity travels with the mysterious Cornelis Drebbel.  I could tell you more about that episode, but many of you probably didn’t see the Wednesday chapter, and I don’t want to spoil it.  So click back to the previous episode now, please if you missed chapter-1. 

Ah good, you’re back.

About the reruns.  This is a spontaneously written, steampunk adventure.  Since my fictionalized Cornelis Drebbel character has several vehicles, happily I can still shout

All aboard!

Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

2.  Soup Pot, Kitchen Sink, Mail-Order Wine Club

Cornelis Drebbel, shimmered and blurred before my eyes.  Then the alchemist popped out of my suite at the Belle Inn.  I do mean that literally.  He disappeared with a pop sound.  Though he acted put upon when I asked him to do such investigative errands, I knew he secretly relished getting out on his own. 

As I waited for his return, I gazed speculatively at his skull, which rested in my hatbox. 1900 Maid with tray

There was a light knock at the door.  It was one of the Belle Inn’s staffers bringing up dinner.  I was infinitely glad she hadn’t come a moment earlier.  Though I flaunt tradition and wear trousers as I please, it would still be hard to explain having a man in my room.  Or at least what would look like a man from the maid’s point of view.

She brought the tray into my suite and sat it on the small round table.  It was laden with several covered dishes of food and an ornate little bell.  The aromas escaped tantalizingly from the dishes.

“Thank you.  It’s very kind of you, miss.  It smells delicious,” I said as my stomach made a noise of agreement.

“Oh, just call me Bitsy — everyone does,” she commented as she uncovered a generous portion of the fried calamari I ordered.

Bitsy only glanced at my trousers.  That was rare.  Reactions to my usual attire ranged from bulging eyes, to gasps, to righteous rants.  Once a woman even screamed hysterically.  Yet the maid barely seemed to notice.  My eyebrows went up just a bit.  Naturally I was surprised by the lack of reaction.  However, I was also gratified.  I’d have to make sure and give her a handsome tip.

K-Hepburn-2

Katharine Hepburn

“Mr. Belle said to make sure you had plenty of anything you want from the kitchen.  That was some smart thinking you had about the little foal.  Even Cookie was impressed,” the maid chattered, merrily jumping from one subject to the next.  “You didn’t mention it, but I brought you a treat from Cookie’s soup pot,” Bitsy said.  “She makes lovely soups, a different one almost every day.  After all, woman cannot live by calamari alone — regardless of how delicious it may be,” she added with a grin.

The aroma of the soup was lovely indeed, but my attention fell upon the bell.  The intricate design of the silver bell was unexpected.  Even the patina of the silver was unusual.  The young woman told me to just ring it if I wanted anything at all.  Bitsy picked up the bell and gave it one ring to reinforce her words.

The bell had a very strange, almost harmonic sounding ring.  As I commented on how unusual looking the bell was it occurred to me that I had seen all manner of bells about the Belle Inn.  Bitsy laughed when I mentioned the fact.Tiffany Arabesque bell

“Oh yes, the bells of the Belle Inn,” she said.  “I only moved here six months ago, so I don’t know the history of the place that well.  But it was the whimsy of one of Mr. Ignatius Belle’s ancestors to collect all sorts of bells, being as their family name was Belle,” Bitsy said.

“The Belle family’s been in this town forever, but Mr. Ignatius Belle was from some other branch of the family tree.  He inherited the inn and moved here.  But he took to things like he’d been here since childhood.  He’s very fond of those bells.  I’ve seen him gather up a bunch of them, and ever so carefully clean and inspect each one,” Bitsy went on about her employer.  “I thought it was sweet. You know?  A big, strong man with a highfalutin education being so taken with little bells,” she said with an impish grin.

It might have been interesting to learn more of what the maid knew of the proprietor and all those bells.  After all, Ignatius Belle was a fine figure of a man.  However, I gave my sincere thanks to Bitsy and hurried her on her way.  It would not do for her to be here whenever the Dutch alchemist reappeared from thin air.

Barely a moment after the maid left I heard another pop, and Cornelis materialized.  He looked at the large tray of food and then rolled his eyes at my selection.  I reminded him that I had gotten the Stilton cheese of which he was so fond, and he was somewhat mollified.

“Well?” I urged.  “What did you learn?”

He pursed his lips considering whatever he had seen.  “She’s clever, that one.  Reasonably resourceful.  Definitely determined,” he said of Copper, the young girl I saw at the Best’s General Store.  “Though I am not sure I have the same conviction that you feel,” he added.

Flexibone corset adHis lack of positivity made me feel deflated.  I plopped down on the side of the bed and slumped. That poor posture was not something I could manage in proper female attire.  The boning of corsets did not tolerated a slouch.

“So you don’t think it’s her?” I said, not sure whether or not I was asking a question.

“I don’t know that she is,” the Dutchman said seeming to contradict himself.  “Yet I don’t know that she is not.  It bears investigation.”

“How so?” I asked, wanting to know what had stirred even a small amount of interest in the jaded alchemist.

“Because of the dead man at the desk in the study,” he replied in a tone that suggested that should be obvious.

“Oh!  So that’s why she positively reeked of death.  What an awful thing for a little girl to find,” I murmured sadly.  “It is her father?” I made it a question, though I expected it must be so.  “That would explain why she was so frightened when the women at the general store mentioned the orphanage.”

The Dutchman shrugged as he absently tossed the cream colored tassel from Copper’s cape into the air and caught it.  “I don’t know if the deceased is Calvin Hixon.  I can’t say who the man is.  He is slumped over the desk, face down.  He does, however wear a signet ring that indicates he is part of the family,” Cornelis supplied that tidbit.

One might think Cornelis would have bothered to move the body enough to get a look at the man’s face.  However, he was unexpectedly, and often inconveniently, squeamish about such things.

Copper

Copper

“I didn’t think there was any family, just Copper and her father,” I said, perturbed.  “I suppose it must be him then.  You didn’t see anyone about the house or grounds?” I asked, but Cornelis shook his head negatively.

“There had been a governess up until a couple of months ago,” Cornelis offered.  “Hixon wrote a glowing recommendation for her, but there was no clear reason for her dismissal.  Except of course the money troubles.”

“Money problems?  Why didn’t you say so?” I asked. 

The man could be infuriating.  I knew Cornelis delighted in holding back the important facts for dramatic effect — and doubtlessly to watch the expression on my face. 

“What kind of financial problems did Calvin Hixon have? Could you see that?” I asked to the Dutchman’s obvious delight.  He loved to have an audience.

“Oh my,” he began.  “There were unpaid bills for everything but the kitchen sink!” he said.  “Calvin Hixon had clearly been having financial issues for months, possibly years.”

Curiosity finally got the better of Cornelis Drebbel and he investigated the tray of food the maid left.  He seemed quite pleased by the soup.  He looked hopeful when he spotted the bottle of wine, but his smile faded in an exaggerated way when he read the label.

The Dutchman had a mind filled with ever changing wild ideas for things, inventions and new ways of doing things.  He had brought many of those ideas into existence before an accident of alchemy had radically changed his own existence.  The look on his face told me he was having one of those inventor-type ideas.

1893 Burpees Wine ad“How is it that we end up in so many places that don’t have a decent bottle of wine?” he grumbled in a droll tone that was edged with exasperation.  “Why has no astute businessman gathered all manner of fine wine and made it available to back-of-beyond places like this one?  It wouldn’t be so complicated,” he complained, but his eyes twinkled with his idea.

“What do you mean?” I asked, though it was usually a bad idea to encourage him. 

Whenever Cornelis had an idea, he would go on about it until he had laid out a five year plan for its creation. 

“Through the post, like purchasing things from a catalogue?  Sent to individuals, rather than businesses?” I pondered aloud, realizing all the while that I had let him draw me in once again.  “So what you’re suggesting is a mail-order wine club.  Things are different than in your day, Cornelis.  All the different taxes and levies in various areas would make it impossible,” I commented, once again the voice of reason to his wild ideas.

Stilton Cheese

I felt rather guilty when I saw the disappointed expression in his eyes.  It actually wasn’t such a bad idea.  It was much more reasonable than his underwater boat device or his floating bomb.  However, I frowned because I shouldn’t have let myself be sidetracked.  I had to figure out Copper’s situation.

Cornelis gave me directions to the Hixon estate.  Hopefully Ignatius Belle would let me borrow a horse.  I had to travel by more mundane means than the alchemist.  Cornelis would meet me there.

I wrapped up a large portion of the calamari and freshly baked rolls, and when Cornelis wasn’t looking, I packed some of the Stilton cheese I had gotten for him.  Based on the incident at Best’s store, it was obvious that the child had run out of food. 

A good meal might also help me gain her trust.  She had seemed skittish at the general store, even before the surly comment from those women about her going to an orphanage.  How she was involved in the grand scheme of things was a mystery to me, but I was certain that Copper Hixon played a key part.

Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)

Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)

The alchemist had such a twinkle in his eyes when he dematerialized that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him rub his hands together in anticipation.  Instead he gave the tassel from Copper’s cape a toss toward the ceiling and disappeared.  When I realized it would likely land in the soup, I jumped off the bed to catch it.  However, Cornelis reappeared before the tassel came back down and he caught it.

“Oh yes,” he said as if he’d never left.  “I need a look at that harmonic tuner.  I may have seen its counterpart at the Hixon estate.  So do be a lamb and bring it with you,” he said drolly.

“The what?” I asked.

He pointed toward the food tray on the table.  “They seem to be using it as a dinner bell,” he said.

I cautiously picked up the ornate bell that had such an unusual ring.  I had thought of the sound as harmonic and perhaps with good reason.

“A harmonic tuner…?” I repeated, looking curiously at the unusual bell.

 ***

To be continued…

***

Diary Notes

This serial was written in 2015.  Some of the contributors of “things” don’t seem to be around the blogosphere any more.  One of my favorites was Kathrine at Another Foodie Bloggerwho left the things for this episode.

I hope all of you are aboard for this rerun. The steampunk locomotive will be the station on Wednesday for Hidebound Hump Day, where this serial continues with Quail’s Egg, Wurlitzer Organ, and Hydrofoil!  I’ll be looking for you there.  Hugs! 

***

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