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.

The Art of Deception 50

The Art of Deception

or Pride and Extreme Prejudice

This week continues a spy story set in late Georgian England, the year before Trafalgar.  The conversation between Roderick, Hannah, and Alice started last week continues.


“Precisely … though you did a bit more than that; I’d say you thoroughly earned your reward.”

“Her reward?”

“Her freedom, I’d left instructions with our Minister to purchase her and then send her and Thomas north; things didn’t work out so smoothly.”

Hannah said,“Y’all can say that again; you was, what was it – person not great.”

“Persona non gratia.”

Alice asked, “Why’d you have to leave?”

“Her husband left one of my burglar’s tools in the President’s House when he visited her one night; unfortunately, it was stamped ‘Sheffield’ so I had a little meeting with one Captain Lewis, personal aide to his Excellency President Jefferson.”

“They was goin’ to sell me down river,” Hannah spat out, “Out picking tobacco in the sun, like a field nigger.”

“So I really didn’t have much of a choice … Well I did, I suppose; be completely without honour or common decency.”

Hannah explained for him, “He brought his picklocks, freed us and burnt down the slave pen.”

12241791_735836876546522_6197947469406170479_nNow that you’ve read my hackery, please see the talented writers in Weekend Writing Warriors.


My apologies for creative punctuation.

slave_shackles_wva Today’s snippet ties up a sub-plot started early in the story.  Roderick was a practical emancipationist. One may ask why Thomas didn’t free his wife. The answer is that as a black man, he would have been shot or imprisoned or worse if he were caught hanging around the slave pens in the evening. Sir Roderick, of course, could simply be “inspecting the merchandise.”

0111_whittier_slave

Emancipation wasn’t yet in force in England. However, the movement to free the slaves was well underway at the time of this story. It wasn’t quite fully respectable, being associated with “non-conformists” who weren’t members of the Church of England. Without being preachy, I always remember that the hymn “Amazing Grace” was written by a reformed slave captain.
gilray_corner

The idea of freeing slaves was not popular with the aristocracy. The lower left corner of the Gilray cartoon from last week shows an apish caricature of Africans signing an anti-slavery petition in the context of a gin-soaked and riotous assembly.

 

Still working on a cover idea – hard even though I’m a dashed good photographer (if I say so myself). That and editing the manuscript to put more description/reaction into it. (not to mention a few thousand words).

Frankenkitty is available.
Frankenkitty What happens when teenagers get to play with Dr Frankenstein’s lab notebooks, a few odd chemicals and a great big whopping coil? Mayhem, and possibly an invitation to the Transylvanian Neuroscience Summer School.

Like poor Cecelia, ” The Curious Profession of Dr Craven” is back from the dead.

I’ve released a sweet regency romance, Miss DeVere Miss_devere_1 This is a fun read.

Get Free Stuff and try out my landing page. There are three free complete short stories (including an ARC for Frankenkitty) available after you’ve gone through the hoops.

Sandhill Cranes 2017.

dsc_0135
The sandhill cranes have returned. We saw the first few birds a couple of weeks ago, but now they are there in flocks. When we drove through today, they were a tad more spread out than usual. These ones (above) were hunting the early wood frogs. I could hear the frogs while I took the pictures.
dsc_0159
These were across the street from the others. During the summer this hill is a cotton field, so I’m not sure what critters there are now.
dsc_0168
However, there must be something because the flocks were spread out over several fields. These were the closest to the road where there was a convenient place to pull over and take pictures. I used a 600mm sigma lens. I’m not thoroughly happy about the sharpness.

crane_map This map shows where to look if you’re interested in seeing them yourselves. Remember they are protected birds. If you continue to Centre there are some half-decent places to eat and the petrol is about 30 cents cheaper than in Atlanta.

Sunday Snippet, more doings at 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. Last week  while at the dance, a slippery character from the past makes his first appearance.

It won’t be his last.

An unfortunate event at a ball, ctd.


“Clearly your father didn’t tell you. It was made shortly before his unfortunate demise.”

“All I know is you helped him spend his money. Left us to rusticate on a mortgaged estate that could barely support itself.”

“I shan’t ask much for a settlement, breech of promise is such an ugly idea. Very destructive of one’s reputation, even if it is ultimately voided.”

Rupert glanced at Rachel. She was pale, barely fighting off a faint.  He turned to the man and uttered “You puppy!” from his clenched mouth. Then turning to Rachel he said, “Rachel, let me help you to a seat.”

As they walked to the far side of the room, neither of them noticed the grim smile of satisfaction that coursed over Mr Oliver’s face. After Rupert had helped her to a seat, Rachel looked up and said, “Did you say you knew him, how?”

“That cad, that puppy, he carried the letters between Antonia and Lord Biddle.”

“Oh Lud! What a mull I’ve made.” Rachel put her face in her hands. “I wish that … that … that fellow were at Jericho.”

“What do you mean ‘I’ve made’? I fail to see that you’ve done anything.”

Rachel bit her lip and looked up at Rupert, tears forming in her eyes. “I didn’t know about him … him and that awful woman.”

“How could you know?”

“I suppose you’re right, I couldn’t have. Please believe me that I have no interest in seeing Mr Harding or Oliver or whatever he calls himself now ever again. His effrontery.”

Rupert shook his head sadly, “I know.”

“He really did lead my father to perdition with the dice box, faro table, and … I don’t know what all they did. My father caught an ague from some.” She stopped, unwilling to voice ‘barque of frailty.’ “That man played him for a jobberknowl until he was skint.”

“Don’t let that dandiprat cut up your peace.” Rupert paused, “Unless there is something you’re not telling me.”

“No. Well maybe. He did have some of my father’s vowels. They should have been settled with the estate. There could be something like those. Who knows what my father may have signed before he died. It was a desperate time, and he wasn’t truly in his right mind.”

The musicians chose this auspicious moment to start tuning their instruments for the next dance. Rupert bent down and took Rachel’s hand. “This dance is ours.”

“But?”

“We’ll talk later; I’ve had my dealings with that puppy, too. Not just with that woman.” Rupert led her to the middle of the floor where they started the line for the next dance. It felt to Rachel as if everyone in the room were staring at them. Sir John certainly was. Rupert bowed to him and said, “I should like to lead this dance, with my newly affianced wife.”

“Oh,” He laughed, “I guess you meant what you said.” Then he tapped on a glass and shouted to get attention. “Dear guests, before we begin, a toast – to our neighbour Lord Hartshorne and his intended. Newly engaged. May their marriage be long, and happy.”

Rachel thought, If it isn’t happy, it will certainly be long, then she shook her head and studied Rupert. It will be happy. I will make certain of that.

Mr Oliver started to object, when he felt a firm hand on his shoulder. It was George. “You, sir, are coming with me. This is the last time you will bother Lady Hayforth. Do I make myself clear?”

The dance started with both Rachel and Rupert lost in each other, both too overcome with emotions to say much.

Part way through the dance, George re-entered the room, dusting his hands. He strode to his host, Sir John and said, “That’s done. What in the world ever possessed you to invite such a rotter?”

“He’s the man of the moment. Helped break those revolutionaries in Pentridge, at great personal risk.”

“Knowing him, I doubt it.”

“I must remind you I’m the host, and General Byng will be most displeased when he hears of how you’ve treated his best agent. A real British hero.”

George indicated his lack of concern when he said, “If you say so. I don’t know the general well, but I’m good friends with his cousin Poodle. I think I can weather the storm.”


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?

Rupert is being truly the gentleman in this snippet. In a way I’m sorry that fate is waiting just around the corner for him with a stocking stuffed with sand – sand and a little fulminating salt. However, it will all work out in the end.

If you hadn’t cottoned on yet, there are hidden depths in George. Not everyone was good friends with a respected and moderately senior member of the foreign office (even if Poodle was officially a ‘clerk’).

By the way, “Pope Joan” is the card game they’re playing in the featured image and the nine of diamonds is the “Pope.” Though I do suspect there is a hidden meaning beyond that in the caption.

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