Dartmoor story V #amwriting #WIP

Things get a tad more strange.

Following from the last installment: A new chapter. The start of the story can be found here.

Chapter 2.

Elizabeth was glad enough of her waterproof by the time they arrived back at her uncle’s house in Barnecourt. A rain squall had blown through, and even though she’d managed to put the cloak on, her dress was soaked. So was Mary’s but she laughed it off. Elizabeth just sat there and shivered. Unfortunately, their pony could only pull the trap slowly up the steep hills between Moreton Hampstead and Barnecourt. Elizabeth wondered if it would be faster to get out and walk. It hadn’t mattered the day before when the weather was fair and the scenery novel.

“My dear niece,” her uncle said, when they finally arrived at the house. “You look positively blue with the cold. Come into the kitchen and warm yourself.” He bustled her inside to the stove, where a few coals kept the boiler warm. “Are you feeling well?”

“Cold,” Elizabeth’s teeth chattered, and she had a short coughing spell.

“Had I known the weather would turn, I’d have never let you go in the open trap.” He put a couple more pieces of coal in the stove and stirred it up to get the fire going. “Hope I don’t put it out. Mary’s the expert with this dratted contraption.”

The warm close air of the kitchen helped Elizabeth, and after a few minutes she stopped shaking. She did not stop coughing.

Uncle Sylvester listened to the cough, and balanced the administration of a tot of warm whiskey against the alternative of a dose of Ipecac. Finally, he asked Elizabeth, “Has Ipecac ever helped your cough?”

She shook her head, “No!”

“Then whiskey it is. A touch of honey mixed in sometimes helps.” He went off to prepare the medicine. By the time he returned, Mary had arrived and produced a bowl of hot water. Elizabeth sat with her head over it, wrapped in a towel and inhaling the steam. Mary looked up at him when he returned and said, “Whiskey, is that all you doctors ever think about? Cut some thyme from the garden, and I’ll put it in the bowl with the steam.”

The warm moist aromatic mixture soon soothed Elizabeth’s cough. Her uncle took one look at her, and said, “Bed. You need your rest. … Mary, will you see that she’s tucked in and warm? I must see to my laboratory; things are afoot.” He dashed out.

Mary smiled at her charge and added, “I could give you some broth, or would you prefer to just sleep?”

“I’ll go to sleep, and maybe then I’ll be able to join you for supper.”

On the way upstairs, Elizabeth stopped for a breath and said, “Is my uncle always so odd, distracted?”

Mary chuckled, “Not usually. He must be hard at work on something. We’ll probably hear it soon enough – when it explodes.”

“Does he always make things explode?”

Mary added, “I don’t think that’s his idea; it’s just what always seems to happen. Still, he’s happy and usually unhurt.” Then she led Elizabeth to her room and helped her into her dry nightdress. Then she wrapped her in a warm quilt and helped her into bed.

In the process, Elizabeth noticed that some of her things had been moved. “Mrs Trent, would anyone have looked through my room while we were away?”

“Why ever would anyone do that, Miss? It’s only George and Dr Standfast who were here.”

“It’s just things aren’t quite the way I remember leaving them.”

“You must be tired, I can’t imagine either of them searching your things. Maybe they had to move something when they were fixing the roof. In case plaster fell.”

“I suppose I’m just tired and seeing things.”

The next installment.

Hope is the thing with feathers (254)

Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.


Hazel Hall

Here are old things:
Fraying edges,
Ravelling threads;
And here are scraps of new goods,
Needles and thread,
An expectant thimble,
A pair of silver-toothed scissors.
Thimble on a finger,
New thread through an eye;
Needle, do not linger,
Hurry as you ply.
If you ever would be through
Hurry, scurry, fly!
Here are patches,
Felled edges,
Darned threads,
Strengthening old utility,
Pending the coming of the new.
Yes, I have been mending …
But also,
I have been enacting
A little travesty on life.


D. H. Lawrence, 1885 – 1930

And who has seen the moon, who has not seen
Her rise from out the chamber of the deep,
Flushed and grand and naked, as from the chamber
Of finished bridegroom, seen her rise and throw
Confession of delight upon the wave,
Littering the waves with her own superscription
Of bliss, till all her lambent beauty shakes towards us
Spread out and known at last, and we are sure
That beauty is a thing beyond the grave,
That perfect, bright experience never falls
To nothingness, and time will dim the moon
Sooner than our full consummation here
In this odd life will tarnish or pass away.

Dartmoor story IV #amwriting

Things get a tad more strange.

Following from the last installment:

“Other than that thunderstorm, like a baby. This is the first time I haven’t had my nightmares in a couple of years. Well, I did wake up to something scrabbling at my window, but that had to be mice.”

“Yes, mice.” Uncle Sylvester paused, “Mice yes, that’s right, mice. Mary told me that your dresses were fine, well made, suitable for London, but not suitable for country rambles. We were thinking that you would like to get some plainer ones made so you can wander about the downs without worry.”

“Are you sure I’ll be strong enough?”

“I think,” Her uncle said, “you’ll make a rapid recovery. I can already see that the fresh air agrees with you.”

Elizabeth smiled at him and said, “I hope so.”

“You’ll be surprised how good the clean air and healthy living in Dartmoor are for consumption. Finish your breakfast, and I’ll have Mary take you to Moreton Hampstead. See a draper.”

“Uncle, I’m sure I could make my own, and with Mrs Trent’s help.”

“Yes, yes, but we don’t have the fabric. You’ll need supplies, even if you stitch them yourself.”

Mary started to object, as a competent housekeeper she had more than enough fabric on hand for a simple farm-dress, but then she caught Dr Standfast’s glance and agreed to the trip.

“Excellent,” he said, “While you’re out, George and I will need to repair the roof. It looks as if there’s a pair of broken tiles over the window to Elizabeth’s room.”

“There are?” Elizabeth asked.

“When you go to put on your town clothes, take a look up from the window.”

Having finished her tea, and a hefty helping of bread, butter and jam, Elizabeth returned to her room to change. She followed her uncle’s advice and looked above the window. There were several shattered and damaged tiles. If she didn’t know better, she could have sworn that they had been shot. Certainly something hard had shattered them. She said to herself, “I wonder if one of the local children was throwing stones.”

“Mrs Trent,” Elizabeth said, as their pony easily trotted downhill to Moreton Hampstead, “It sounded to me that my uncle wanted us out of the house. Is something going on?”

“No Miss, he wants you to get out in the sunshine. At least while the weather’s good. It can be awful close weather up here at times. Have you see the downs and tors at their best.”

“I guess. Do we need the fabric?”

“I wouldn’t say we do, but Miss, there’s always something to look at in the town. You do need a plain dress that won’t get too mucky and we can brush clean when it does. That and a rain cloak. That pretty little thing of a parasol umbrella you brought from London won’t last long when the rain sets in.”

“And I suppose we can’t make a good rain cloak.”

“Not a good one, Miss,” Mary laughed.

“You know Mrs Trent, I wouldn’t have believed it, but I think Uncle’s right. I am breathing better.”

“Dr Standfast is a sharp man and a good doctor, Miss Elizabeth.”

“Mrs Trent, do you know what happened to the roof by my window? It sounded as though something were there last night. Just when the thunderstorm started. There wasn’t any hail was there?”

Mary paused, and changed the direction of the conversation. “Nay Miss. This here is North Bovey. A pretty little place, but nothing to compare with Moreton Hampstead.”

“Or London.” Elizabeth added with a laugh.

“Nor London. Not that I’ve ever been there. Can you tell me about it?”

Mary queried Elizabeth about the wonders of the city all the way into town. Crowds, omnibuses, gas-lights, museums, concerts, and even whether she’d danced with young men and had a fancy for one. Elizabeth sighed that the men she had met so far were rather dull.

“Well, Miss,” Mary said, “I don’t know that country folk are exciting.”

“I expect they just weren’t the right men for me.”

They pulled into town, and after arranging to bate their pony at The Horse, walked across the street to the ironmongers. Mary paused outside and said, “I need to check on some things Mr Trent ordered, I’ll meet you at the Moreton Drapers. They’re just up the street.” She pointed the direction.

Elizabeth agreed to walk on ahead and left for the drapers. The store supplied a combination of the fabrics and notions needed to make clothing as well as a small selection of readymade clothing for the touring and less-discerning or perhaps, more desperate, trade.

The clerk greeted her, “Miss, can I be of service?”

“I hope so. I need a rain cloak.”

“Here on a walking holiday?”

“No, but after that thunderstorm last night, I should think I need one.”

The clerk said, “What thunderstorm?”

“Wasn’t there one here? There were flashes and bangs all around the farmhouse.”

“That must have been that crazy old coot who lives up at Barnecourt. Always making noisy bangs, firing off fireworks and dashed silly things like that. Wish he wouldn’t ’cause he’s a good doctor.”

“I think you mean my Uncle Standfast.”

“Oh.” The clerk paused and then after a moment to sort his feelings turned back to the business at hand and said, “You were wanting a rain cloak. We have a wide selection.”

He was displaying their selection, kept on hand for the visitors from the city who discovered that the wind-driven rain of the high moors and umbrellas did not mix. Elizabeth was deciding between a yellow vulcanized rubber slicker and a green waxed cape when Mary came in. The clerk said, “Mrs Trent, I shall be with you presently.”

“I’m with her. Miss James, have you seen anything you like?”

“Which is better, a waxed cape or this rubber one?”

“Get the waxed, it won’t be torn by the briers.”

The clerk promptly took the waxed cape and set it aside for her. “Anything else you’ll be needing Miss?”

“A skirt, something that will do for walking.”

“I have some ready-made’s, but Mrs Trent is an excellent needlewoman.”

“As am I, but need something now. We need fabric as well, don’t we, Mrs Trent?”

Mary stepped up and gave the clerk her requirements. She’d written them down to save time. A few minutes later, with the cloak, an awful woollen skirt, and a small bolt of fabric put on the account, Mary and Elizabeth left the shop.

Elizabeth said, “He called my uncle a ‘crazy old coot’ and said he shot off rockets and made all sorts of odd noises. Is that true?”

“He’s not crazy nor a coot, but he does like his explosions. He’s been known to help test blasting powders for the quarries at Hayter, up on the Tor.”

“Was that what happened last night? I only ask so I can get some notice and not be surprised.”

Mary said, “Did you care for some tea before we return?”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“No, I didn’t. Ask your uncle about it. Are you hungry after our expedition?”

The next installment.

The start of the story can be found here.

What the Thrush Said

John Keats, 1795 – 1821

O Thou whose face hath felt the Winter’s wind,
Whose eye has seen the snow-clouds hung in mist,
And the black elm tops ’mong the freezing stars,
To thee the spring will be a harvest-time.
O thou, whose only book has been the light
Of supreme darkness which thou feddest on
Night after night when Phœbus was away,
To thee the Spring shall be a triple morn.
O fret not after knowledge—I have none,
And yet my song comes native with the warmth.
O fret not after knowledge—I have none,
And yet the Evening listens. He who saddens
At the thought of idleness cannot be idle,
And he’s awake who thinks himself asleep.

(i know the featured image isn’t a thrush, but a wren looks better)
DSC_0007 Here’s a wood-thrush from my feeder.

FrankenKitty 11 #wewriwar #amwriting


(Some assembly required)


Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors.  This is a sample from my work in progress, “Frankenkitty”, and I hope you enjoy it.  It started out as a young-adult superhero book, and well, you’ll see. The week before last week, in the chapter, “The Gerbil from Hell,” the girls found a test subject. The trouble continues this week. This snippet picks up right after last weeks where Amber and Mary’s coil blew out the town electrical grid.

As the lights came back on, Jennifer put the gerbil in a jar and Amber poured enough of the glowing pink solution over it to cover the corpse; Mary nudged them and muttered, “MOS.”

“What are you doing?” Dr. Maria Venik or Mrs. Gross was not a woman to stand for much nonsense.

Amber had a story ready, “This is a special fixative. It will help dye the gerbil’s body so we can see what’s inside without cutting it up.”

“Is that why it’s glowing, Fluorescein?”

“Yes, Mother.”

“What were you doing with the coil?”

“That was my bad,” Jennifer said, “I wanted to see what it did; more than I expected.”

“I hope you’re not hurt,” Mrs. Gross was suddenly worried that her householder’s insurance might not cover burns from electron accelerators and Tesla coils or worse.

This is a work in progress. In other news, I’ve become a booktrope author, but more on that latter. It has meant a change in pen-name. The week before last week’s is here.
and you can read the whole last chapter if you’d rather.  I’ve added a sub-title “(some assembly required).”

I’m also looking for reviewers for my nearly ready book “The Curious Profession of Dr. Craven” It’s moved out of layout to final assembly.  There was a bit of a hiccough in production, but that’s sorted out.

Get Free Stuff and try out my landing page. There are two free complete short stories available after you’ve gone through the hoops.

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A Visit from St. Nicholas

Attributed to Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;


“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

Dartmoor story III #amwriting

Things start to get strange.

Following from the last installment:

Early that morning, while it was still dark, Elizabeth woke to the noise of something scrabbling at her window. She turned in bed to look at it, and then saw a thundering combination of flash and noise. She said to herself, “Must be a thunderstorm.” She rolled over and went back to sleep, ignoring the other claps of thunder that followed.

Indirect daylight was diffusing into her room when she woke in the morning. She leaped up, well rested, and dashed to the window to look at the view she could only see indistinctly the night before. It was, as Mary intimated the night before, lovely, striking, and indeed beautiful.

Even more striking, when she looked down at the farmyard below her, was her uncle. Walking back from the fields, he carried a large rifle and a shovel over his shoulder. He looked up and waved to her before he entered the house. She threw on her house-dress and dashed downstairs to catch him.

She found him in the kitchen, seated informally with Mary and George. She noted that his clothes were mucky, as though he’d been digging. Pouring himself a cup of tea, he offered her one. “We don’t stand much on formality here. I generally breakfast in the kitchen with my servants, but if you’d prefer to use the parlour?”

Elizabeth laughed, “No, this is fine. Better than fine, it’s cosy. What were you shooting? I think I heard you last night, unless it was a storm.”

Her uncle paused, “Rabbits. After the storm.”

“Rabbits?” Elizabeth pointed to a gun that was sitting in the corner. “With that?”


“Isn’t it a bit big? It looks like my Cousin James’ service rifle. He said they used it to hunt elephants and buffalo when he was in Africa.”

“They were big rabbits.”

“They’d have to be. The cartridge is bigger than my finger. I wouldn’t think there’d be much left of a rabbit if you hit it. Even if it was a big rabbit.”

“If you must know, I used a shot-shell. Didn’t have the best of hunting, though, so it won’t be rabbit pie for dinner tonight.”

“That’s a shame. It looks like no rabbits and you slipped in the mud to boot.”

Mary asked, “Did you sleep well, Miss Elizabeth?”

“Other than that thunderstorm, like a baby. This is the first time I haven’t had my nightmares in a couple of years. Well, I did wake up to something scrabbling at my window, but that had to be mice.”

The next installment.

The start of the story can be found here.


William Cullen Bryant, 1794 – 1878

They talk of short-lived pleasure—be it so—
Pain dies as quickly: stern, hard-featured pain
Expires, and lets her weary prisoner go.
The fiercest agonies have shortest reign;
And after dreams of horror, comes again
The welcome morning with its rays of peace.
Oblivion, softly wiping out the stain,
Makes the strong secret pangs of shame to cease:
Remorse is virtue’s root; its fair increase
Are fruits of innocence and blessedness:
Thus joy, o’erborne and bound, doth still release
His young limbs from the chains that round him press.
Weep not that the world changes—did it keep
A stable changeless state, ’twere cause indeed to weep.

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