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

Author: rharrisonauthor

International man of mystery. Well not really, although I can mangle several languages and even read the occasional hieroglyphic. A computer scientist, an author and one of the very few people who has both an NIH grant and a book contract. A rising author of sweet romantic historical fiction. An ex- booktrope author.

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