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Note: this article would best be read in context, i.e. after having perused the letters and accounts of Ernest Glitch, Experimentalist, in the order they appear in The Chronicles
A fully automatic weapon 24 years before Hiram Maxim.
1st May 1861, Glitch Mansion, Weardale.
Hodges stood fifty feet from the muzzles. The lettuce he held, impaled on his hook, swayed slightly at arms length. The whine of the centrifugally disposed galvanic engine filled the room as it rotated the barrels. Coronal tendrils of St. Elmo`s fire danced around the trigger-slide. Glitch, peering through an optical device bolted to his Electric-Gun shouted, "Hodges! Hold that target steady, you dolt..... steady!" Glitch sharply pulled back the trigger-slide. With a huge percussive roar the gun fired - for about a tenth of a second. The lettuce exploded.
As the smoke cleared, Glitch was triumphant. He strode over to where Hodges stood, covered in lettuce remains. Whacking his servant over the back of the head with his palladium tipped cane, he exclaimed, "Get yourself cleaned up Hodges, you pathetic Nematode! And bring in a crate of Brown Ale, and whatever the Bishop would like to drink!" He looked over at his guest, "Bishop?"
The Bishop of Durham was stunned. This demonstration of Glitch's latest invention in the Big-Game Room had left him impressed. The barrels of the weapon glowed a dull red. Smoke from the 72 individual detonations wafted around the Ibex & Impala heads, and up to the Elephant head trophy, crowning the arch where Hodges stood. "Just a quart of Sherry and a gill or two of absinthe for me old man, it's a little early."
Hodges sullenly shuffled out, leaving a trail of shot lettuce. He inspected his hook. He'd felt a 0.410in projectile strike it during the brief barrage. Sure enough, a smear of lead dulled the bright chrome steel. The sound of the multiple discharge had penetrated the viscous hog-fat filling Hodges' ear canals. While he procured the refreshments, Hodges mentally replayed the sound of the gun's discharge. Upon analysis, he determined that a slight increase in rotational inertia of the barrel assembly would pay dividends. At least during the last dozen discharges.
"So, Bishop. I'm sure you can imagine the ease with which we can civilise the heathen world using Electric-Guns!" Glitch gestured towards the still smoking weapon. "I myself cannot but think of the hunting possibilities. Attached to the howdah of my War-Elephant, I can foresee wiping out whole litters of nursing Siberian Tiger Cubs with it!"
Glitch was busy assembling smoking materials to accompany their drinks. He said, "Perhaps later Bishop. First I'd like you to try a new extract." He showed the Bishop a pile of orange yellow acicular crystals. "From Reed Canary grass, Bishop. Phalaris arundinacea, a strong and limber grass found upon my property near the old cerussite mine."
Hodges brought in the drinks. Delicately balanced on his left hand, a 16th century gold tray held a magnum of quality Iberian sherry, a lead-crystal decanter of green Andorran absinthe, a large gold tankard and a fine Italian crystal glass. He dragged in the crate of Newcastle Brown Ale with his hook.
The Bishop looked at the organic crystals with concern. He was extremely dubious about Glitch's vegetable extracts. Memories of convulsions and being rendered temporarily colour-blind, with a preparation of Wormseed & Wolfs-Bane on his last visit, showed on his face.
"Don't worry Bishop! These days I have Hodges try out my extractions. There's no way I'd risk your having a bad reaction again; not after our close shave with the Aconite, eh?" Glitch ground the yellow crystals into a fine powder using a beautiful blue lace-agate mortar and pestle.
"I've considered using a fine drawn glass tube Bishop, to inject preparations directly into Hodges' blind eye. The rear of the eyeball being a direct pathway to the brain... if not an actual extension of the old grey matter eh?" He poured the powder over a quantity of dried and chopped Cannabis Indica from his plantation.
"For some reason he became quite agitated when I proposed this method of testing my plant extracts. There was no reasoning with him Bishop! The man has no use for his left eye, yet he hesitates to allow the occasional use of it for the advancement of science!" Glitch filled the bowls of two clay pipes with the mixture. He proffered one to the Bishop.
The Bishop hesitated. Glitch reassured him, "As I say Bishop, there's nothing to be concerned about. Hodges likens the result of smoking this concoction to the combined effect of a quart of wood alcohol, fifteen grains of white arsenic and seven or eight bladders of nitrous oxide. Mellow, he says, with undertones of Demonical Terror."
The next morning Glitch was up with the larks. After blasting one of the noisesome skylarks to kingdom come with his Holland & Holland 8-bore sidelock, he breakfasted. The Bishop of Durham was still clinging to a stuffed wart-hog in the Big-Game room. He'd refused breakfast and had clung to the inert beast since his smoke the night before.
Glitch shouted for Hodges, strode into the Big-Game room and said, "Right-Ho Bishop! Enough is enough! Hodges, disengage the Bishop. He appears to be exhibiting a striking form of rigid paralysis, the like of which I haven't seen outside of Bedlam!"
Hodges began kicking the Bishop's kidneys to effect his removal from Glitch's stuffed tusker. Glitch shouted, "Careful you dolt! That's a Madagascan long-hair!"
The Bishop was showing no sign of releasing his terror-grip on the wart-hog. In fact, he was showing few signs of life; other than drawing breath, the Bishop appeared expired and rigor-mortified. The experimental smoke of Canary Reed grass had obviously had a detrimental effect upon the Bishop's mental health.
Copyright © 2003 Roger Curry
All Rights Reserved
More on-line articles concerning Ernest Glitch can be found here
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A STEAMPUNK NOVEL, FULL OF
ANARCHIC EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE
"Hodges emitted a scream the like of which
I hadn't heard since his scrotum was burned off
Unrelated to this post, below is an example of
eclectic science esoterica
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