Sunday Snippet, Dido.

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

It starts with the trope, Lady Rachel on her way to London, is stranded in the country by an unfortunate accident. They’ve made their way to the house in the distance, but not without slipping in the muddy lane.

The Master was introduced here. He was somewhat annoyed at the disturbance, but willing to see that his guests were properly entertained.  The housekeeper, Mrs Hobbes, leads Rachel and Lucy to their rooms to prepare for dinner The carriage wright makes a cameo appearance in a previous snippet.

Last week saw the arrival of Rupert’s Uncle George and a hint at the complicated family history – a history that was not completely … harmonious.

After a peek into Rupert’s history, George makes a somewhat unusual proposition to Rachel which was continued. The rain finally scuds off to the North Sea leaving a fine day – for riding and other things. Rachel, unsure of her own feelings, arranged for her companion to use the only sidesaddle.  Meanwhile Rupert and Rachel discover a shared interest in music, which leads to a proposal.  George has just returned from finding a magistrate to deal with a mob. At the ball a slippery character from the past makes his first appearance. George disposes of him, for the time being, in the this snippet.  Rupert explained about his previous work in chemistry and Mr Oliver returned equipped with a search party.

Rachel gets a start on clearing the mess, in the library, because she can actually read the titles.

A Surprise Visit.


Rachel stood in the diminishing pile of books, like Dido in the remains of a literary Carthage, when a carriage pulled up outside of the Hall late in the afternoon. While the maids and footmen had repaired much of the damage, the chaos of the morning was still evident when two stylish women strode into the library, leaving their servants to handle the mundane details. The elder of the two, a ferocious looking woman in her middle years, snapped her fingers, said, “Tea,” before she dusted off a chair, and sat down, rigid in her disapproval. The other, an elegantly dressed young woman who was close to Rachel’s age, added, “What are you waiting for? Tea. It was a tedious journey and we are in need of refreshment.”

Seeing that the bell pull was still torn from its wire and feeling the desperate need for a change of scene Rachel left them and found Mrs Hobbes. “If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, Mrs Hobbes, our visitors would like tea … in the library. Are there still three cups intact?”

Despite the carnage that lay around them, Mrs Hobbes retained her humour. She smiled when she said, “Not from the best set, Ma’am, but they’ll do for this company.”

“Thank you.” Rachel returned to the library and continued restoring books to their shelves. She picked up the first of several bound notebooks. They were in Rupert’s hand, his laboratory notes; copied gracefully and clearly so that his experiments could be repeated. While she studied them, wondering what he meant by Sal. Nat. or Cinnabar and nitric spirits or for that matter what it meant to reflux, Mrs Hobbes came in with the tea tray. She put it on a table; then quietly bowed to the two women. “Ma’am,” she said to Rachel, “your tea.”

“Thank you Mrs Hobbes.”

Rachel sat across from the two women and poured the tea. “I’ll be mother.”

The older one, her brown hair showing the beginnings of grey streaks, and wearing the minimal bonnet of a dowager on the make, raised her eyebrows when she said, “A servant, drinking tea with her betters. Rupert must learn to enforce proper deference in his people.”

The other one, much prettier and younger, with blonde hair, an elegant necklace, and a fine lace collar above her muslins added, “Lady Bedlington, I’m sure she could use the refreshment. We must excuse excesses when there has clearly been a cataclysm of no small magnitude. Whatever happened here?”

Rachel inspected them, “Lady Bedlington? George’s mother … and you must be Miss Deacon. I’m Lady Hayforth. I’m so pleased to meet you. We’re soon to be related.”

“We are?”

“I suppose, well with the short time, and … this upset. Rupert hasn’t had time to compose a letter. But”

“Oh My Lord, you’re not engaged to my grandson?”

“We haven’t negotiated the settlements yet, but yes. Rupert offered me his hand, and I accepted the honour … with great pleasure. It’s made both of us so happy.”

Lady Bedlington put her face in her hands. A minute later, when she finally had composed herself, she raised it to confront Rachel and say. “Where is my foolish grandson?”

“And my fiancé for that matter?”

“I wish I could tell you. General Byng’s men searched the Hall this morning. They took Lord Hartshorne away and George followed them to see what he could do.”

“I wish you would not be so familiar with my fiancé Ma’am.”

“I apologize, Miss Deacon, but he asked me to call him that … as a friend.”

“As a friend? Most unsuitable. I shall have to remind my dearest to keep his distance. It’s a besetting sin of his.”

“I’d say it’s charming. May I ask why you’re here? We were hoping to travel to London soon. My cousin, Lord Bromley, expects me.”

“George, I mean Lord Bedlington didn’t say anything about you or you and Lord Hartshorne in his last letter. I can see why.”

“Miss Deacon … as much as I count your fiancé as a friend, he is simply that, a friend.” Only a friend, yes, only a friend. “If you’re concerned, my companion, Miss Holloway can reassure you on that point.”

“You have a companion? Here.”

“Of course. I was on my way to stay with my cousin, for the season, when my carriage broke. Lord Hartshorne graciously,” Not so graciously at first, “offered us shelter.”

“That wretched pile, on the main road, was that your carriage?”

“Unfortunately, yes. I think our plan is to take Lord Hartshorne’s carriage. At least I hope it is, because his is incomparably better than mine ever was.” Rachel smiled at the thought.

“Dirty dishes!” Lady Bedlington leaned forward and exploded, “You baggage, you adventuress. Attaching yourself to my grandson. I’ll see that you don’t wed him.”

Rachel bit her tongue to avoid rising to the argument. Instead of giving Lady Bedlington a piece of her mind, she rose, stiffly, and after nodding to her said, “I must see to these books, Ma’am. These,” she pointed at the bound notebooks, “are his laboratory notes. I’m sure he’s most worried about them, and one seems to be missing.”

Eventually, tired of being ignored and of enduring her intended mother-in-law’s sputtering temper, while equally curious about the contents of Lord Hartshorne’s library, Miss Deacon rose. She knelt beside Rachel and said, “May I help?”


Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page. We actually are preparing books for publication and have some sort of plan – amazing as that seems.

In this Gilray Cartoon, Pitt the younger is distilling Royal favour and gold to further his dreams of power. Aqua Regia – the water of kings – is a mixture of hydrochloric and nitric acids which has the happy property of dissolving gold. I’m not sure what the issue was about the barracks he’s sitting on, but there was certainly some scandal or another.
V0011302 An alchemist using a crown-shaped bellows to blow the flames Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org An alchemist using a crown-shaped bellows to blow the flames of a furnace and heat a glass vessel in which the House of Commons is distilled; satirizing the dissolution of parliament by Pitt. Coloured etching by J. Gillray, 1796. 1796 By: James GillrayPublished: 21 May 1796 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
One of the big differences between Alchemy – prescientific chemistry – and chemistry is that scientists keep records that others can use to reproduce their work. Rupert’s missing notebook might be important.

Plans

What’s Going On?

Amelia and I have plans. Not necessarily good ones, but definitely plans.

Initially we’d planned to release “The Art of Deception” soon. That’s been put on hold while we write the intermediate (or an intermediate) book in the series between it and “A Formulaic Romance.” These will be a series on “Regency Spies.” Even though the transition between late Georgian and Regency occurs in the middle of the series. “The Divinity School,” set shortly after “The Art of Deception” continues the saga and is slightly under 1/3 written.

Meanwhile, Amelia will take up some of the slack. We’ve put together two science fiction stories. One, “Illegal Aliens,” is set in modern Britain and has the old Gods up to interesting tricks. The other, “A Dartmoor Story” is set in the same world as “Cynthia the Invincible.”  It explores the tetchy relations between the Terran Empire, the Xylub and the Cataxi.

 

Sunday Snippet, Surprising discoveries in a box.

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

It starts with the trope, Lady Rachel on her way to London, is stranded in the country by an unfortunate accident. They’ve made their way to the house in the distance, but not without slipping in the muddy lane.

The Master was introduced here. He was somewhat annoyed at the disturbance, but willing to see that his guests were properly entertained.  The housekeeper, Mrs Hobbes, leads Rachel and Lucy to their rooms to prepare for dinner The carriage wright makes a cameo appearance in a previous snippet.

Last week saw the arrival of Rupert’s Uncle George and a hint at the complicated family history – a history that was not completely … harmonious.

After a peek into Rupert’s history, George makes a somewhat unusual proposition to Rachel which was continued. The rain finally scuds off to the North Sea leaving a fine day – for riding and other things. Rachel, unsure of her own feelings, arranged for her companion to use the only sidesaddle.  Meanwhile Rupert and Rachel discover a shared interest in music, which leads to a proposal.  George has just returned from finding a magistrate to deal with a mob. At the ball a slippery character from the past makes his first appearance. George disposes of him, for the time being, in the this snippet.  Rupert explained about his previous work in chemistry and Mr Oliver returned equipped with a search party.

The search continues this week.

Applied Science.


One of the soldiers said to General Byng, “Not here, Sir.”

“Next room then.”

Seizing Rupert’s small sample of sodium from the shelf in the parlour, one of the men dumped the oil on the floor. Thinking it valuable, he put the metal in his pocket. He then discovered the hard way, when his trousers caught fire, that sodium was not to be held close to delicate areas[1]. Heading off their intention to quench the fire with a jug of water, Rupert managed to retrieve the metal before either the trousers or the man was burned too badly.

Rupert interrupted General Byng, “If you would tell me what you are looking for, I might save this destruction.”

“We’ll known when we find it.”

“So the destruction is the purpose of this search?”

“You might say that, but I’ll deny it.” There being little else to tear apart, they moved on to the next room. Screams echoed up from downstairs. Rupert’s cook defended her domain with more ferocity than her looks suggested.

Eventually the path of destruction wended its way to the Rupert’s workshop. Rupert stood in the door, blocking it. “No. Please. There are things in here that.’

His objections were of little avail. The soldiers ignored his next words, “Are dangerous if not handled right.”

General Byng laughed, “Move him aside, Lads. If it’s not here, then he’s clean.”

Rupert struggled against the two men who held him while the rest filed in and started tearing his laboratory apart.

Meanwhile, Mr Oliver sidled up to George and Rachel. He drew a quiet breath, and expressed his unctuous concern, “Would have been cheaper to settle you know. Easier.”

“Never. You’ll hear from my solicitor and Lord Hartshorne’s one.”

“Fat lot of good that’ll do you. M’Lord. I have Lord Sidmouth’s ear. The shining golden boy who can do no wrong, I am. Especially when there are so many dangerous reformers loose in the countryside.”

Rachel spat, “At least for the moment.”

Mr Oliver gave her a stiff bow. “That’s all it will take. Ma’am.”

An explosion, followed by screams, interrupted their conversation. Not that it was a flowing or enjoyable one in any case. One of the soldiers found a small box, labelled, “Explosive, do not disturb.”

It contained samples of Oxymuriate of Potash mixed with flowers of Sulphur, and various similar fulminating or detonating mixtures. Chemicals that would ignite or explode with little provocation.

He shouted, “Here Sir, we’ve got it,” to General Byng.

“Open it and see.”

Rupert tried one last time to intervene for their safety. He shouted, “Please don’t. It contains sample detonators. A long-term study of their stability. They could.”

It was too late. The soldier opened the box and picked up one of the fulminates. It still worked three years after Rupert had made it. Unfortunately, it was more sensitive than the original preparation and blew the man’s hand to shreds when he handled it roughly.

Years of war had inured General Byng to wounds and screams, at least those of the enlisted men. He turned to the men holding Rupert and said, “He’s under arrest. We’ve found what we need.” Then he turned to the others and said, “See what you can do for poor Lewis, and have that man be quiet. Poor discipline.”

The men frog-marched Rupert off to await his trial. Red drops of blood showed where Lewis walked as he stumbled after them.

Rachel looked at the destruction, watched the men escort Rupert off, and started to sob. Quietly, but definitely.

George patted her, perhaps too familiarly for an uncle-to-be, on the back and then said, “I’ll follow them. See what I can do. Habeas Corpus is still in effect, despite what General Byng says. I’ll find a magistrate.”

“You will?”

“Yes, now dry those tears. Keep busy and try not to worry. You know and I know this was a low attempt at revenge. It will be fine. Worse comes to worse, I’ll send an express to the General’s cousin Poodle. He’s well connected – something to do with the F.O.”

Rachel nodded her agreement. George headed for the stables, which consistent with his statement about revenge, were untouched. Even though they’d be an excellent place to store explosive compounds or gunpowder.

Rachel headed for the library. She would start on the books. Unlike many of the servants, she could easily read the titles.

[1] A friend of mine at university did this. He thought a small amount of sodium, ‘borrowed’ from his organic synthesis lab, would be useful for a prank. He was OK. Needed a new set of trousers, though.


Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page. We actually are preparing books for publication and have some sort of plan – amazing as that seems.

Then as now, science was transforming the world. We see the changes that happen today as happening at a breakneck pace. Even though the pace was slower then, it appeared just as fast as today because before that time the world was thought to be static. You knew your place and you stayed in it – none of those things like getting rich by building a steam engine or worse a train or a “Puffing devil.”

A reconstruction of the Puffing Devil.
A reconstruction of the Puffing Devil.

Some issues resurface from time to time, but the “cow-pock” or vaccination (derived from the latin for cow vacus) has made a real difference in our lives.the_cow_pock

Sunday Snippet, The Pilgrim Returns

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

It starts with the trope, Lady Rachel on her way to London, is stranded in the country by an unfortunate accident. They’ve made their way to the house in the distance, but not without slipping in the muddy lane.

The Master was introduced here. He was somewhat annoyed at the disturbance, but willing to see that his guests were properly entertained.  The housekeeper, Mrs Hobbes, leads Rachel and Lucy to their rooms to prepare for dinner The carriage wright makes a cameo appearance in a previous snippet.

Last week saw the arrival of Rupert’s Uncle George and a hint at the complicated family history – a history that was not completely … harmonious.

After a peek into Rupert’s history, George makes a somewhat unusual proposition to Rachel which was continued. The rain finally scuds off to the North Sea leaving a fine day – for riding and other things. Rachel, unsure of her own feelings, arranged for her companion to use the only sidesaddle.  Meanwhile Rupert and Rachel discover a shared interest in music, which leads to a proposal.  George has just returned from finding a magistrate to deal with a mob. At the ball a slippery character from the past makes his first appearance. George disposes of him, for the time being, in the this snippet.  Last week Rupert explained about his previous work in chemistry

Mr Oliver returns in this snippet.

Consequences.


George’s confidence about seeing the last of Mr Oliver was sadly misplaced. The doorknocker banged early in the morning, echoing through the house. Mr Brindle hurried to answer.

A man in a General’s uniform spoke “Took you long enough.” He stood with a small squad of men and more importantly, Mr Oliver.

“Sir?”

“Call your master.”

“As you desire. Would you care to wait in the hall?”

“No. We’ll stay here.”

“As you wish. I shall summon Lord Hartshorne.” Mr Brindle turned and entered the building. Unfortunately, it meant that he missed seeing the General motion to his soldiers. The squad double-timed as they placed guards at all of the doors and in places where they could watch the ground floor windows.

A minute later Mr Brindle shuffled into the parlour where Rachel was breakfasting, “Ma’am.”

“Yes?”

“There are some gentlemen at the front door, Ma’am.”

“What about them?”

“They desire to see Lord Hartshorne, and I thought it best if you were aware. It might … be useful to have you there.”

A bleary-eyed and hastily dressed Rupert stumbled outside fifteen minutes later followed by Rachel and George. “Good morning General Byng,” he said, “What brings you to Oulten Hall so early on such a fine day?”

“Nothing good My Lord. Information has been laid that you are in possession of a large amount of explosive material. Unauthorized and illegal possession, I might add.”

Rupert scanned the men who remained in front. Mr Oliver was grinning. Rupert said, “Stuff and nonsense.”

“We shall see. Put it to the test with a search. Can’t have the revolutionaries getting their grubby hands on explosives. Bad enough if they have pitchforks and shotguns.”

“No you won’t.”

“I’m afraid this.” General Byng produced a sheet of paper that was adorned with a seal, “this is a search warrant. Not that we need it, but best to obey the formalities. Stand aside, Sir, while we search your dwelling.”

George demanded, “Let me see it.”

General Byng nodded to a soldier and with that; the man carried the document to him. George scanned it. “It’s not legal. Sir John should-”

Legal or not, George’s pronouncement had little effect. General Byng nodded to his command and was followed by the men when he charged inside. Mr Oliver gave George a slight bow, smiled at Rachel and followed. The men made their way from room to room, leaving little intact. The stuffed animals, mostly intact, joined piles of books, papers and journals in haphazard chaos on the floor in the library. The destruction was near total. Only the skeleton in the corner stood, though he was shorn of his drapery.


 

I’ve used Gilray cartoons, including the featured image above (about William of Orange (I put the wrong image up at first – it’s now correct)) to illustrate Regency and late Georgian life.

Gilray was a much better artist than his cartoons indicate. He visited the Flemish part of Holland (what would become Belgium after the 1830-31 rebellion). and drew realistic pictures.

flemish_characters_by_james_gillray flemish_characters_by_james_gillray_2

While the style is similar to his cartoons, there aren’t the political overtones that are in the cartoons.

Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.

Spring Daffodils

Daff’s

It’s dull, drizzly, and grey. Here are the first of this year’s spring flowers to brighten things up.

dsc_0174 dsc_0176 dsc_0181

The trick, of course, is to get down where the flower is and shove the lens as close as maybe to it. These are on an eastern exposure of our house and in flower much earlier than most.

No art of deception? What gives.

My collaborator has finally agreed to put up a different work, and on her own blog for a change.

Illegal aliens is a departure from the comfortable world of the regency.

 

Sunday Snippet, After the Ball.

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

It starts with the trope, Lady Rachel on her way to London, is stranded in the country by an unfortunate accident. They’ve made their way to the house in the distance, but not without slipping in the muddy lane.

The Master was introduced here. He was somewhat annoyed at the disturbance, but willing to see that his guests were properly entertained.  The housekeeper, Mrs Hobbes, leads Rachel and Lucy to their rooms to prepare for dinner The carriage wright makes a cameo appearance in a previous snippet.

Last week saw the arrival of Rupert’s Uncle George and a hint at the complicated family history – a history that was not completely … harmonious.

After a peek into Rupert’s history, George makes a somewhat unusual proposition to Rachel which was continued. The rain finally scuds off to the North Sea leaving a fine day – for riding and other things. Rachel, unsure of her own feelings, arranged for her companion to use the only sidesaddle.  Meanwhile Rupert and Rachel discover a shared interest in music, which leads to a proposal.  George has just returned from finding a magistrate to deal with a mob. At the ball a slippery character from the past makes his first appearance. George disposes of him, for the time being, in the previous snippet.

This week Rupert explains things.

After the Ball – What George Did.


Once the ball was finally over, in the carriage home, Rachel asked, “What happened to that man?”

“Mr Oliver?” George said, “I suggested that he make an early night of it.” He smiled, “rather forcefully I might add.”

“And Rupert, my love, you said you’d known him.”

Rupert hesitated; then said, “Yes … he offered me money … to see, make a copy of what I was doing for the army. I think it was when I refused that he introduced An- that woman to Lord Biddle.”

“What were you doing, Gas … Rupert that would be worth money?”

“I guess what I did is not really secret, the secret details aren’t interesting anyway. You’ve shot with one of those scent-bottle locks George.” Rupert stretched back in his seat, ready to be expansive.

“Dashed good gun. Yes. Faster and more reliable than my Manton.”

“The Army thought so too. Started working on them in the Tower Armoury. They came within aces’ aim of levelling the place with all the fulminate they made. Guy Fawkes would have been delighted. His Majesty less so.”

Rachel and George leaned forward to hear every word. George said, “I see. So…”

“So I worked on more stable fulminating mixtures. Oxymuriate of potash, various … fillers to make it more stable. I was, ah, more than moderately successful. Had the war dragged on, it would have made a big difference. General Shrapnel’s shells with my fuses, mayhaps on rockets. Torpedoes that exploded on contact. Can’t say too much more. It would have been ‘interesting’ to say the least.”

Rachel gasped, “So he was a French agent?”

“Maybe. More likely working for the highest bidder – French, American, those damned Prussians or even the Tsar.”

“Good Lord Nephew. I never knew. Just thought you were playing around.”

Rupert laughed, “I’m not saying it wasn’t fun, but I’m glad to work on safer things.”

Lucy, who had been quiet because she was tired and had consumed more than her share of the punch, said, “I bet Lady Hayforth is too.”


It’s probably obvious that the title, “A Formulaic Romance” refers obliquely to chemistry. There’s another arcane reference in the text. Anyone caught it yet?  It’s sort of, maybe, perhaps, important, given what Rupert worked on in the past.  What are Spirits of Hartshorne?

Anyone who considers making sodium safe is either incredibly brave or incredibly foolish. I leave that decision to the reader.

I suppose the secret is finally out. Oxymuriate of potash is potassium chlorate. An interesting and um, somewhat explosive oxidizer. Spirits of Hartshorne is Nitric acid. Nitrates, and particularly organo-metallic nitrates are … unpleasantly unstable. They tend to complain violently about shock. In 1803 a brave and in my informed opinion exceedingly foolish chemist made mercury fulminate by mixing ethanol, mercury and nitric acid. It is something of a surprise that he died a natural death.

The British army, seeing the advantages of the pill-bottle locks – namely that they almost always work, won’t set your hair on fire like a flintlock, and are generally faster and more reliable – wanted to use them on an army-wide scale. The trouble is that Dr Forsythe’s original design used mercury fulminate and at the scale an army would require is especially dangerous. The armoury at the tower was nearly destroyed before they abandoned the idea.

The percussion caps of the American civil war (or earlier – the Crimean war) were a mixture of oximurate of potassium and sulfur. It worked and was far less dangerous than mercury fulminate. The same mixture was used in strike-anywhere matches until recently. The Native Americans used matches to re-prime cartridges during their long rebellion against those nasty european immigrants (us). It used to be possible to hit matches with a hammer and get a decided bang.

 

Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.