Selworthy Beacon

This is a good short walk for a rainy and overcast day. Selworthy is a short distance past Minehead on the A39.   Leaving from the church parking lot, we went up hill and worked our way to the Beacon. The church is worth taking a look at with original features dating back to the 1500’s. One highlight for me was a 1609 copy of “An Apology for the Church of England” by John Jewel. It laid out the case for the Church of England being more Catholic than the Church of Rome and every parish was required to have a copy. Unlike many villages, Selworthy lost nearly as many men in WW2 as WW1.  However, like many small villages, Selworthy has sadly lost much of its population since then.

Selworthy Parish Church

It’s a surprisingly steep climb, steeper than Dunkery Beacon. There’s a side trail to the castle – a neolithic settlement – that we didn’t take. The wooded parts of the path are well covered and somewhat close – even at 13C. However, when it opens up, it is windy and exposed. I valued my windshirt.


The top of Dunkery Beacon is hidden by the clouds in the distance.

Porlock Weir is in the distance (There will be another post about that). There is a herd of belted galloway cattle that grazes the heath.

This shows the trail down.

The village itself is mostly national trust property. We stopped for an excellent cream tea at the Periwinkle Tea room.

The National Trust Property

The Tearoom is left of centre in this picture.
Selworthy Village

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Hunting a Lion on Exmoor.

Not the semi-mythical Exmoor beast, but a pub called “the Lion” in Timberscoombe. We thought we’d have a relaxed day with a short pub walk for lunch. Good pub food, a few pints, and an easy walk home.

Unfortunately the pub – which looks a decent place – was closed for renovation. Looking in the windows suggested it needed the work. So we had a few handfuls of trail mix (hint: buy the components and mix them yourself. It’s a whole heck of a lot cheaper.) and headed back.

Rather than simply backtrack, we tried a loop with short stretches on the A396. These weren’t too bad, there being pavement for most of it. (Sidewalks for yanks.) We did have a digression because some landowner had blocked off the public footpath. You’re not supposed to do that, but they did nonetheless.

Most of the paths on the way back were sunken roadways which tends to make for ‘close’ air and hot walking.

Dunkery Beacon – where we walked the day before, braving wind and rain, is somewhere in the back of this image.

We went through the pretty little hamlet of Ford and headed home for a beer and Stilton lunch.

Wootton Courtenay from the distance.

Sunday Snippet, Sometimes I take a calomel for my headache.

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.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.  We discovered why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger recently. Last week, Rachel awoke below decks in a ship (a channel barge).

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


“Vive L’Emporer.” Lars and the other hand snapped to attention.

“Is that why you want Rupert’s notes, his help?”

The man smiled. “Précisément. We must equalize the odds.”

Rachel said, “Untie me. I’ll behave.” Until I get a chance. Something tells me I’m due for a swim soon enough in any case.

“Bon.  See to it Lars. I’ll arrange for the tow. She should stay below until we’re away.”

The preventive officer groaned as his consciousness returned. “And see that he’s bound, No need to be gentle.”

****

Rachel, as directed, stayed below until the ship was cast loose from the harbour. She felt it gently sway as a team of horses pulled the bow around, and then along the bank.

She called, “Can I come up?”

“Nichts, not yet.”

The barge stopped, tied to the side of the first lock on the Ouse. Rachel felt it slowly sink. A sinking feeling that matched her worries. Then she heard the gates open, the boy on the horse team call, and they were off. Down the twisty Ouse river and toward the North Sea.

By the time they allowed Rachel on deck, the sky had darkened into night. Not that it stopped the tow.

She scanned the countryside, the low flat farmland that was so different from her home. “Where are we?”

Lars laughed, “I shouldn’t tell you, but sweetie, you won’t get away. The Ouse, downstream from Selby.”

“Selby?”

“Several kilometres east of Wakefield.”

It might as well have been on the moon.

Lars continued, “Komm. Mit mir. Time to earn your keep.” He led her to the galley. “You can cook, can’t you?”

“A little.”

“Wir have some fresh braut, sausage. Can you cook that?”

“Yes.”

“Gut.” He tossed some coal onto the stove and stirred it. “When that heats. The pans – behind you.”

“I see.” Rachel studied the contents of the galley. “You don’t believe in cleaning them, do you?”

“Nein. Adds flavour.”

“I see. I prefer clean pans. Do you mind if I see what you have, find my way around your galley?”

“Just cook something good for us to eat.” He turned and left her alone.

Don’t worry, I will.

****

Henri spat out his mouthful, then swore, “Mon Dieu woman, Can’t you cook?”

“Yes I can. What’s wrong with it?”

“You English. This is execrable. Mais what can you expect from an Englishwoman?”

“I don’t know. Looks good to me, and what’s wrong with boiled sausage? I put the peas in it too. Mashed nicely, good mushy peas.”

Lars growled, “Henri, this is worse than mine. Are you sure you want this minou to cook for us?”

The Frenchman stood. “This is disgusting. Alors madam. Je vais teach you the art of preparing the food.”

“If you insist. What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s foul.” Henri took a swig of wine to wash the taste from his mouth. “Even this execrable sweet English wine can’t hide the taste.”

He took a couple of steps towards the galley, “Follow me.” Then he grabbed his stomach. “After I return from the head.”

Moments later Lars and the other hand joined him. They hung over the edge of the gunnel, alternately squirting from both ends of their digestive tracks.

Rachel smiled to herself. So that bottle really was calomel, good. Then she grabbed a knife from the table and ran, unnoticed, to the front of the hold.


I’m walking. Not without pain, and not without a little bit of a limp, but I’m walking. It turns out, if you’re ever in this situation, that it’s important to restore flexibility.  You can walk through the pain. I moved from my Philmont boots to a pair of trail runners, the same type as I used in Wales last summer.

English food is something of a running joke to the French. It’s not that bad. Actually, it’s excellent when properly prepared. The thing is, the Brits do not complain. Well, they do, but very moderately. “I’m not exactly keen on this,” means “I loath and detest it.” So you can survive cooking awful food in a British restaurant – at least for a while.

I’ve had both some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in the UK and some of the worst (Boiled sausages at the University of Reading.)


Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.  The first book in our series, The Art of Deception is now available for preorder with an extract on instafreebie as a teaser.

Sunday Snippet, A fine and private place.

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.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.  We discovered why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger last week.

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


 

Rachel awoke to gentle rocking, a splitting headache and in damp dark panic. A panic that having her hands and feet bound did not help. The smell of the bilge rose up to greet her. She retched onto the deck, and that only improved the smell.

“Awake, my pretty?” Somewhere behind her, one of the sailors noticed her stirring. His heavy accent suggested he was from the Baltics, and not the nice parts of the Baltic coast.

“What?” words came slowly to her mind. She’d been grabbed, something forced into her mouth, then nothing. She wanted to scream, but the sound wouldn’t come.

“What happened, precious?” the man laughed, “You’re supposed to be a smart one, figure it out.”

He turned her over, “and I must add a pretty one. They’ll pay well to get you back. Or,” and here he leered at her. She couldn’t help but notice his stubble and missing teeth. She didn’t miss that the few teeth that remained in his mouth were decidedly dirty, “Or … well, we’ll find a way to make you pay your own way.”

“I’m not very wealthy myself, but my fiancé is Lord.”

“It’s not money we want Liebchen.” The man chuckled, “Not money. Not yours or his anyway. That book … not complete it is. Poor Fridhis found that the hard way.” The man crossed himself, “Rest in peace … pieces anyway.” He laughed at his little joke, “No lass, it’s the complete book, your precious fiancé’s book.”

“Lars!” Someone called from above deck.

“Was?”

“They’re coming. Inspecting the grain barges.”

“Gott verdampt es. … Sorry Miss.” Lars pulled a dirty rag from his pocket and shoved it in Rachel’s mouth. Then he dragged a cloth over her. “Should keep you quiet.”

In the process, despite her tied feet, Rachel made a creditable attempt at kicking him.

“Showing some spirit, ha. I begin to hope they don’t pay for you. More amusing when they struggle.” Then he clumped back up the ladder to the deck and shouted to someone. “She’ll keep.”

Rachel gagged on the rag Lars shoved in her mouth. The best thing it tasted of was pine tar from the spars they shipped from the Baltic. The worst things were unmentionable. Slowly, with her tongue she pushed it forward, eventually out. The horrible taste washed the panicky fear from her mind. There’ll be time to panic when I’m free.

She wanted to scream, but without anyone bar the sailors there, next time Lars would tie the gag in firmly. If she made a noise, it would have to be heard by someone who could help her.

There was a thump as the coast guard, the preventive officer’s boat knocked against hers. She heard, faint voices, “Ahoy.”

“Was ist es?” Lars, pretending he didn’t know English.

“Damn and blast. Another bloody Balt … Papers … documents … papieren?”

“Ach. Ich verstehe. Kommt.”

More clumping noises as the officer hoisted himself aboard; then followed Lars to the other end of the ship, the captain’s quarters in the stern. A few minutes later, she heard the officer. “Seems in order. Spars and stores unloaded. They’re waiting for corn and wool for the return. They’ll sail once it’s loaded.”

He turned to climb down to his boat; then stopped. Rachel heard him say, “Sorry, I forgot; so many ships. I need to see your cargo areas. Some blighted woman’s gone astray. Up in Wakefield, but they’ve told us to look for her here in Selby. Search the ships.”

“Nicht sehen.”

When the hatch opened, Rachel saw the light at the far end of the hull. The man clambered down and peered toward her. “I say,” he said, “What’s under that mass of cloth?”

“A spare sail.”

“So you do speak English. Thought as much.”

“Ja, never sure when the coast guard ist hier.”

“Fine. Do you mind if I check? They’re tearing the damned town apart for her. Wouldn’t do if I don’t check the hold. Have to be thorough about it.”

“Ja.”

“I say, did it just move?”

“Rats.”

“Perhaps. I’d best check.”

Rachel heard them approach. The officer’s boots in front, Lars’ softer shoes behind. Then she heard a thump, followed by the slumping noise of a body sliding to the deck. Lars chuckled. Then he climbed out of the hold and she heard him say. “Captain Lewis has accepted my invitation for a drink and some dinner. I’ll see that he ist back this evening.”

“Lucky sod.”

Her heart sank when she heard the preventive’s boat rowing away. It plummeted even further when she heard Lars and his companion walk over. They argued, loudly and strenuously, but mostly in a combination of languages she didn’t understand. Finally, a third man joined them, and said, with a heavy French accent, “Quiet. We’ll sail with the tide this evening. Tie this man. You can release l’femme.”

“What? Warum?”

He pulled the covers off Rachel. “Ma’am. Your friend. We’ll kill him if you try to escape, and I’m sick of Lars’ cooking. It needs a woman’s touch.”

“I see. And the alternative?”

“We leave you both bound until we don’t need you.”

Lars objected, “Without the corn? We’ll sail without the cargo?”

“We’ll pick up our real cargo in Brittany. Meet the ship off the coast and then to Saint Helena.”

Vive L’Emporer.” Lars and the other hand snapped to attention.


I’m walking. Not without pain, and not without a little bit of a limp, but I’m walking. It turns out, if you’re ever in this situation, that it’s important to restore flexibility.  You can walk through the pain. I moved from my Philmont boots to a pair of trail runners, the same type as I used in Wales last summer.

Saint Helena is a small volcanic island in the middle of the South Atlantic. Almost literally the most remote place on Earth (I suppose the south pole and Easter Island are more remote, but not by much.) Since Napoleon could not be trusted to stay put, it became his final abode. The Xkcd comic is appropriate here. It must have seemed like this to the British..

 


Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.  The first book in our series, The Art of Deception is now available for preorder with an extract on instafreebie as a teaser.

Sunday Snippet, and come to a boil

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.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.  We discover why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger this week.

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


 

“Sir Roger is downstairs. Says you’re needed. This very instant.”

Rupert rose, “If you’ll pardon me.” Then he followed the innkeeper downstairs.

Rachel looked around, “Well?” Seeing that Charity looked away from her, she continued, “Lucy, look after Miss Deacon. I’ll see what’s happening to my, my fiancé.”

She arrived downstairs just in time to see Sir Roger lead Rupert out of the building. Something was amiss, but Rupert went with him voluntarily. She followed, equally willingly, and with even more curiosity.

They hadn’t proceeded far down the street before Rupert turned around and saw Rachel. “Lady Hayforth, go back to the Hart.”

“No, I’m coming with you.”

“I’m not in trouble.”

“Not yet,” Sir Roger said.

“I assure you, Sir Roger, if I wanted to make explosives, I’d do it myself, and they would not explode until I wanted them to. I wouldn’t hire someone off the docks.”

“Rupert,” Rachel asked, “Why would they think you were involved?”

“Apparently my missing notebook,” He gave a nervous laugh, “It’s been found, or at least fragments of it have.”

“Who is your solicitor, or should I send an express for your uncle. Have your dashing Uncle George get you out of trouble, again?”

“That won’t be needed, Ma’am.” Sir Roger bowed, “But the scene … no place for a woman.”

Rachel laughed, “Depends on the woman.”

“Charity, will she be well? Please don’t neglect her.”

“Miss Holloway is there. Lucy won’t let anything harm the darling Miss Deacon.”

“You should be there as well, with your companion.”

“No.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I should be here, with you. Keep you out of mischief.”

Sir Roger gave a nervous laugh, all he was up to, and said, “Strong willed chit, ain’t she? I’ll see that she stays safe.”

They didn’t walk far before they came to the broken remains of what once had been a handsome half-timbered building near the shipyards. A constable, with the help of several soldiers, who had been on leave, held back the interested bystanders.

“I still don’t see, Sir Roger, what this has to do with me?” Rupert said.

“Here My Lord. This was in the street.” The constable bowed and handed him a tattered book. The cover bore his name.

“My notebook. No, this is a copy, another copy.” Rupert paged through it. “Looks like it was open, held open with a brick, here.”

Rachel pushed her way forward and examined it from Rupert’s side. “I know that writing. Mr”

“My Lady, please. That’s evidence.” Sir Roger quieted her.

Rupert gave a quick giggle. “Whoever copied it missed a few critical details. No wonder it exploded.”

Sir Roger said, “Details?”

“Purity of the acid, keeping the temperature in control … copper, lead, or silver impurities. Don’t let it dry in a copper pot, especially if it’s not purified. There’s a reason it’s taken more than fifteen years to move from the first scent-bottle locks to something the army could use. Still not there, in truth. My friends and I were getting close when that Corsican bandit was finally chained to his kennel.”

“Oh.”

“Yes. It was before my time, but I heard they nearly levelled the Tower of London.”

Rachel asked a more practical question, “What about the man in the building?”

“Poor fellow,” Sir Roger replied, “Not much left of him, but from what I can find out, a sailor … from the Baltic. Maybe Denmark or Danzig.”

“Not a Luddite?”

“Definitely not. Not an Englishman at all. Shame.” Sir Roger waited, cleared his throat, and finally said, “Lord Hartshorne, do you know how to destroy what’s left? Safely, I mean. Can’t have another explosion.”

Rupert laughed, “That’s the rub. I wish I knew. It’s safer when wet, but we’d just burn the residues. Carefully, mind you. It could get exciting.” He smiled at the memory, “We’d have fun with it in the evening.”

Sir Roger had his doubts but said, “I suppose we could wait for it to rain.”

“Unlikely there’s much left. Tricky stuff, tends to all go off at the same time. Do you want me to take a look?”

“If you think you’d be safe.”

Rupert shrugged, “Should be.”

“Rupert, please don’t.” Rachel felt the breath sucked from her body. “I’d. I don’t know … what.”

“My love,” he replied, “I’ve seen too many accidents to be reckless.” Then addressing Sir Roger he added, “You might want everyone to move back.”

He walked forward, and peered over the wall at the red mess that had once been a sailor from Denmark or Danzig or somewhere. “Poor fellow. Looks like he tried to make a large batch and it, ah, got away from him.”

Focused on this, he missed what happened to Rachel. A maid, claiming to be from the Hart, accosted her. “Lady Hayforth?”

“Yes?”

“Miss Holloway, your companion, she’s fallen ill. She needs you at once.”

“Lord no!”

“I’m sorry Ma’am. I was sent to find you.”

Rachel apologized to Sir Roger, “I must see to my friend. At the Hart, tell Lord Hartshorne where I’ll be.”

He nodded, unwilling to take his eyes off Rupert.

Rachel followed the maid towards the Hart. She never arrived.


I’m walking. Not without pain, and not without a little bit of a limp, but I’m walking. It turns out, if you’re ever in this situation, that it’s important to restore flexibility.  You can walk through the pain. I moved from my Philmont boots to a pair of trail runners, the same type as I used in Wales last summer.

The part about nearly leveling the Tower of London is true. It did not take very long (less than four years – he patented the pill-bottle lock in 1807 and the synthesis of fulminate was published in 1803) for Alexander Forsyth to invent a reliable firing mechanism that used mercury fulminate. It was, and like modern percussion caps is, a far more reliable way to fire a gun than a flintlock. Having actually fired both percussion and flintlock rifles, the flash in the flintlock pan (it will burn your face and makes safety goggles a must – unless you don’t mind wearing an eyepatch) and its propensity to hangfire if you don’t do everything exactly right makes the flintlock only suitable if you don’t have anything better.  The British Army agreed and hired him immediately. It was then, while he worked at the Tower armoury that they discovered the fulminate’s untoward propensity for going off in an interesting and energetic way did not diminish when you had pounds rather than ounces of it.

Forsyth turned down an offer of L20,000 pounds from Napoleon for his discovery. I guess he wasn’t a member of the SNP (snark).

Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.  The first book in our series, The Art of Deception is now available for preorder with an extract on instafreebie as a teaser.

Blackberry Torte.

The first of our wild blackberries have come in. Not enough for a pie, but enough to make a torte. The picture below shows it just out of the oven.

Start with:

  • 2/3 stick butter. (real butter is best for this, but margarine will do in a pinch).
  • 1 cup (300 ml) flour (plain flour in the UK)
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Cream them together. It should resemble a coarse flour when done.

Reserve about 1/2 the mixture. Add enough cold water to the rest to make a dough (If you add too much add flour until it is smooth and not too sticky (i had to)).

Roll it out, add 1/5 or so of the reserved mixture. Fold over and repeat until all the reserved mixture is used. Basically you’re making a flakey sweet pie crust.

Put the blackberries down the middle and add about 1/3 cup sugar.

Fold over and slit the top. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 375F (190C +-) for half an hour.

Enjoy. It’s best warm, but makes a great breakfast too.

Sunday Snippet, Things heat up.

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.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Last week Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. This week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


Sir Roger Tennant, pursuing his duty as a local magistrate, by attending a session at the new county courthouse in Wakefield, was shocked. He lost little time in telling his companion, another local magistrate, about it. “You’ll never guess who I saw on the street.”

“I won’t.”

“It was Sir Rupert. That young woman, Lady Hayforth or Haywood, she’s made such a difference in him.”

“She has?”

“Yes, he was escorting her, her companion, a Miss Hollow something or other, and another dashed striking young thing about the town.”

“You are talking about Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, that one? The one from Oulten Hall who never leaves his Hall.”

“Of course. Who else?”

“Good Lord, Eros must be working hard. Have to keep an eye on my Evelyn. Don’t want a surprise visit from a suitor.”

Sir Roger laughed, “I think my James has his eyes that way, if you catch my meaning. Anyway they were heading towards the boatyards.”

****

Rachel enjoyed the morning, with Rupert supporting her arm while they walked. Charity, for all her purported weakness and delicacy didn’t seem to require the support. They were going to see the boatyards on the Calder, and then when the excitement of watching a sloop slowly being assembled paled, find a nuncheon nearer the centre of town.

They had started walking back into the town, when Charity shouted “Ouch!” and started limping.

“What is it?” Concern evident in Rupert’s voice.

“My ankle, I’ve twisted it. These shoes aren’t made for this rough ground.”

Rupert, immediately worried about her, said, “Shall I find a chair, or if you’ll wait, I can send for the carriage.”

“No,” Charity smiled, with a game smile, as she said to Rupert, “I’ll be fine, if I can have support while I walk.”

Faker! Rachel said to Rupert, “I’ll wait with her.”

“No. If you wouldn’t mind, I’ll support her until we reach the York.”

“Needs must.” Rachel removed her arm from his support and stood there while Charity took his arm. Not much of a limp, is there Miss Deacon?

Charity smiled at her, “Thank you. Sorry to be such a bother.”

I see you’re feeling better already. “My pleasure.”

The York, the closest inn, had no parlour suitable for genteel company. Rachel watched as that tall, yellow-haired hussy walked with her fiancé’s support in front of her. To make matters worse, they chatted with an easy familiarity about topics beyond her education. Greek, classical myths, literature, even natural philosophy.

Lucy noted her mistress’s discontent. “Rachel?”

“What now?”

“Nothing, except mayhaps we should talk.”

Not you as well. “About what?”

Lucy prepared to earn her keep by charming her mistress out of her blue megrims. “Lord Hartshorne. You knew, know that there isn’t a deep passion between you and him.”

“We like each other well enough, better than most … my parents did for that matter. That woman,” She nodded to Charity, “She has George, isn’t that enough?”

“Evidently not, but in the end, she’ll only have the one of them.”

“That’s true.” Rachel smiled; then broke into laughter. “What a lark it would be if I ended up with Lord Bedlington. Can you imagine what his mother would say?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“She’ll fume, silently as becomes her rank. I don’t think it will come to that Rachel. Think about it. Poor Charity, all alone with that dreadful woman the last several days.”

“When you put it that way, there’s no surprise that she and my Rupert are talking. Besides, she’s had the advantages of education.”

“Lord Hartshorne did say, didn’t he, that he’d enjoy teaching you.”

“Yes, and I’m looking forward to it.”

They soon, all too soon for Charity and none too soon for Rachel, reached the Hart and Rupert went inside to negotiate a private parlour. While he was inside, a shock wave rocked the street, followed by a loud rumble and the crashing of a broken building. It could have been thunder from a nearby lightning strike, except that the sky was clear. Around them the horses bucked and whinnied, all except those too tired to care. Glass rained from windows further down the street where the shock had been stronger.

Once she’d caught her wits, Charity asked, “Was that the noon gun?”

Rachel shouted back, “There wasn’t one yesterday. This must be something else. Noon guns don’t shatter windows.”

Rupert strolled out of the inn, “Odd that noise. Haven’t heard it since that time in Cambridge. I have reserved a parlour Charity and … Rachel. Should we?”

Seated at table, in an upstairs parlour, Rachel asked him about that time in Cambridge. Rupert explained his remarks, “One of my … late friends. He tried different fulminates, managed to make a mixed silver and mercuric one. Stable enough when wet to accumulate a few ounces.” He lapsed into silent memory.

“It wasn’t stable, was it?” Rachel asked.

“No. It exploded when it dried out. Poor James. He was a good friend … These things happen.” He remained silent and then added, “Thing is, I told him not to make it. The week before a tiny amount had shattered my vessel. Sitting there, by itself, just went off. He should have listened to me.”

The waiter interrupted these melancholy thoughts by asking what they wanted to eat. Rupert started to answer, but didn’t have a chance to finish his order. The innkeeper himself burst in. “Lord Hartshorne, you’re needed.”

“What?”

“Sir Roger is downstairs. Says you’re needed. This very instant.”


I have to apologize on being a little remiss at replying and various social obligations. It is surprising what a broken ankle will do to your energy level (Even after several weeks, it’s mending but a royal PITA – I’m out of the boot, but still hobbling about. Here’s hoping. I’m getting antsy to ride my bike – the one with a decent sized motor – though I might have to follow Red Green’s advice.)

One of the key things to staying alive when making organometallic compounds, especially ones that are not exactly stable, is purity. Mercury fulminate is more or less safe to handle. Copper, silver, and gold fulminates … aren’t. Not at all. If you start from an amalgam (a mercury alloy) you get all sorts of interesting things. None are safe. (it also helps to keep control of temperature and have clean nitric acid.) I must add that none of these are reactions that anyone who is concerned with longevity or fingers should attempt.

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.