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12th March 1857: South Pasture, Glitch Manor, Weardale, England.
Hodges manhandled the last carbuoy of diethyl ether to the south pasture. He set it down, with the rest, in the shadow of the extinct volcano. The sun was low in the sky, just risen over the tops of the moors. In front of him, Glitch fussed over the flying grouse beater. Apart from the previous years lightning machine and it's galvanic battery, this was the biggest project the men had embarked upon.
The flying machine consisted of eight huge U shaped pipes, radially arranged, with a tank in the centre and a spider work of aluminium struts forming the seating. An influence machine and leyden jars completed the assembly.
"Hodges, what is this wire for?" Glitch asked. Although having paid for the materials and construction of the flying machine, Glitch was totally unconversant with its finer details, and had so far only criticised the seating arrangement.
"That be the starting wire, squire." Hodges said laconically. He added, "We be able to conflagrate all the pipes at once with that there wire, Master Glitch."
Glitch had initially refused to get involved with what Hodges called his "resounding pressure pipe". Hodges had been working on resonant fuel-air systems in his spare time. The occasional explosion from Hodges' work area next to the cess-pit, Glitch had determinedly ignored. Only when Hodges achieved resonance did Glitch show interest. He had to. Not only had the thundering noise permeated throughout Weardale, it was of such intensity that Glitch's prize herd of longhorns suffered simultaneous explosive defecation, with three prolapses and a fatality. Every window in Glitch Mansion had rattled, and Maud the maid ran round the courtyard screaming that Lucifer was back. She had never fully recovered from the volcanic eruption which had interrupted a love-tryst with Hodges. Once Glitch had determined that the man-sized U shaped tube was not made of precious metals, and was quite different to Hodges' previous pressure converter, he had allowed his assistant to explain his "resounding pressure pipe". It ignited interest in Glitch. He had immediately seen its potential, and plans for the flying grouse beater were born.
"So, Hodges. Where do we pour in the ether? Hodges!... Hodges!" Glitch looked with dismay at his reeling assistant, staggering wild eyed around the apparatus. "You've been sniffing the ether again Hodges!"
"I know master." Ever since Glitch had banned Hodges from his Indian hemp plantation, Hodges had tried various other ways to ameliorate the discomfort his de-gloved testicles gave him. Ether vapour worked.
"Listen Hodges! Get up to the mansion and slap some more horse lineament on your damned injuries! This ether habit you've gotten into will be the death of you! And bring down my Orca-head seat, I'm not about to fly, sitting on that." He indicated the lightweight seating Hodges had made for the grouse beater. It was made from aluminium metal, and Hodges had been justifiably proud of his electrolytic reduction of molten cryolite.
"But Master Glitch, the platform will be unstable! And the ratio of the lifting forces to the weight will be reduced, Master."
"We'll use more diethyl ether Hodges, that is, if there's any left from your deprivations. The Orca seat Hodges!"
While Hodges staggered up the pasture to collect the seat, Glitch found the ether tank, uncorked it and started filling it from the carbouys. Half-way through emptying the third carbouy, Glitch found the smell of ether becoming overpowering. The sods of earth under his feet were becoming sodden. He was becoming uncommonly light-headed. His last rational thought, for some time to come, was that of a possible drain tap on the ether tank. And its possible open state. Hodges was, at this moment, struggling towards Glitch with an Orca-head love seat balanced on his head.
Glitch suddenly became aware of the giant metallic octopus writhing in the green sea in front of him. It was a Kraken of nightmare appearance. Galvanised into action, Glitch turned to run along the deck of the "Golden Trefoil", a fine whaling ship, toward the bow where the harpoon gun was gimballed. His experience of a lifetime of whaling and piracy showed as Glitch deftly began preparing the gun. He slickly placed a percussion cap onto the nipple of the mighty harpoon gun and, braving the spray and heaving decks, swung it around to bear onto the monster of the deep. Deep admiration from his loving crew was shown by their cries of encouragement as he aimed, not at the Kraken, but at a new foe. Heading straight for the Golden Trefoil was that ultimate predator, a killer whale. Glitch's aim was true. The harpoon thundered, the steel shaft flew true to its target and exploded in a red spray of mammal blood.
In actuality, from Hodges' point of view, Glitch had whirled round, dervish like, and fixated on him with a maniacal expression. Whilst Glitch slowly unscrewed the end-cap off his air-cane, he continued to hold Hodges in his glazed gaze.
"Master Glitch, what be the matter?" Hodges asked. He sniffed the air, "There be a strong smell of ether Master, you closed the drain-cock I hope?...Master? Master! Please, Master Glitch, don`t shoot!" Hodges looked at the muzzle of the .44 calibre air-cane. It was pointed at his head and, since he himself had put close to three hundred pumps into it before sunrise, was known to be instantly lethal at this range.
"Take that, you brute of the ocean, despoiler of mermaids!" Glitch heroically shouted as he pulled the trigger. A remaining dash of rational visual processing gave him a moment of unease, Orcas not being known for staggering about when hit. This uneasy moment soon passed, as he spotted the south pasture extinct volcano. "Land ahoy me hearties! It's a south-sea tropical paradise! Shiver me timbers lads, last one off the ship gets keel hauled!" Then Glitch promptly collapsed.
Hodges emerged from under the head shot love seat, hurried over to his master and dragged him clear of the ether. While Glitch recovered, Hodges mused to himself about how fortunate they had been. Usually when Glitch was about on his property, he carried his "poachers doom." A four-bore double barrelled blunderbuss, created by his father to deal out instant justice. Its presence instead of the air-cane would have finished Hodges in a hail of hog-shot. Enhanced hog-shot. Each individual lead-antimony alloy ball-shot containing a pellet of gold fulminate. The tremendous detonation of the huge gun, permanently set since Mad Judge Glitch's day on full-auto one-two, could easily have ignited the ether vapours. If the muzzle flash had failed to ignite the ether, then the multiple detonations, as individual hog-shot exploded against mammalian cranial bone, could have sparked a conflagration. Glitch would have been engulfed in an inferno, adding to his probable shoulder dislocation discomfort.
As it was, a couple of hours later, the men were recovered and Glitch had ordered alterations to the grouse beater. The finely crafted, ultra-lightweight aluminium space frame seats had been removed and Hodges told to sell on the metal, since it was more valuable than gold or platinum.
The flying machine now had the injured Orca-head love-seat crudely strapped to it. Hodges was dismayed that Glitch had spent so little time listening to his qualms about dynamic instability. His master was preoccupied with ensuring the crystal decanters built into the Orca skull were full of his favourite tipples, forty year old Irish whiskey and a blend of absinthe fortified with tincture of hemp. Hodges was even more dismayed when he saw Maud the maid struggling down the pasture towards them, carrying a large hamper and a crate of brown ale from Newcastle.
"Master Glitch, er.. I be more than a little worried sir."
"What's that Hodges?" Glitch looked up from burnishing the gold leaf lettering he`d just applied to the Orca's snout.
"Well,... I be thinking that this machine will b.." Hodges was interrupted.
"Machine? Machine?" Glitch spluttered, "This be,...This IS damn it! Maud's got all of us talking like yokels now! This is the Golden Trefoil Hodges, no mere machine!" He flourished a hand towards his lettering.
"It be fine letter..." Hodges was interrupted again.
"Talk properly" Glitch demanded darkly
"Sorry Sire,.. sorry, I mean Master Glitch. I`m particularly concerned with the present centre of gravity, if the individual tubes resonate at slightly different frequ..." A third interruption of this series.
"Ah-Ha! Maud, talk of the devil", Glitch exclaimed as she arrived and put down her load.
"Where Master? Please not again! Save me 'Odges!" Maud danced around, skirts lifted, frantically looking for sign of Lucifer erupting from the pasture.
"Good grief girl! Calm down, there's no visitor from the underworld here. And cover yourself up Maud! I haven`t seen the like since the last meeting of the Stockton Gentlemans Nitrous Club! You haven't got a sister in the entertainment industry have you Maud?" Glitch inquired.
Hodges groaned and, totally distracted from beat frequency instabilities, waddled over to his coat to get the bottle of horse liniment to soothe his excited scar tissue. Maud, nether regions no longer exposed, but still keeping a close eye on the earth beneath her, proceeded to load the bottles and provisions into the Orca's thoracic cupboard.
Glitch was in an overly optimistic mood about the Golden Trefoil. He reasoned that the maiden flight should be a dramatic demonstration of the flight characteristics his flying machine. He reckoned a smooth take off from the south pasture, a hover over Glitch Manor, then off up-dale and over the tops to Alston. Or perhaps down-dale and over to Lord Barnard's gaff - he'd herd the deer round Raby Castle. He climbed up onto the Golden Trefoil, sank into the luxurious weasel-skin upholstery of the love-seat, and poured himself a tot of fortified absinthe.
"Right-o Hodges, lift off in five minutes! Come and explain all these knobs, levers, dials and pedals to me." Glitch shouted.
Hodges sheepishly appeared from behind the cinder cone of the south pasture extinct volcano. Maud followed, carrying the bottle of horse liniment she had been vigorously applying to his injuries. Hodges looked up at his master. He had seen that expression on Glitch's face before. Total confidence. Without a shred of doubt about a positive outcome of some barely understood experiment. He'd seen that look the day of the fluorine isolation. More recently, during Glitch's diamond synthesis experiments, Stan the cart-horse had expired in spite of Glitch's optimism about the safety of experiment five. The white hot molten copper slug had indeed been ejected at around mach six from the detonation of the conical picric acid casting, internally clad with a conical form of copper sheet. The high velocity slug had indeed impacted with the block of cumberland graphite and produced some 2.6 grams of diamond dust.
Unfortunately Hodges had to recover the result of the experiment, a mass of solidified copper, diamond dust and graphite, from muscle tissue. Poor Stan had been some fifty yards from experiment five, chewing on a carrot, innocently working on his hatred for carts and completely ignorant of carbon allotropes. Stan was felled as though pole-axed.
Looking now at how his exquisitely balanced, ultra-lightweight flying machine had been converted into a overweight monster with an unbalanced pilot, Hodges felt deep forebodings of doom. He "checked" the ether tank with his nostrils until Glitch called for him to join him at the helm. Hodges eventually managed to get himself up onto the Golden Trefoil and collapsed in a daze into the love-seat opposite Glitch. In preparation for flight, Glitch opened a bottle of brown ale and charged his large persian hubble-bubble with hemp.
"Off we go then Hodges. First stop Alston. Which is the loud pedal?" Glitch asked, unaware that starting the Golden Trefoil was to be a long drawn out process. First, he had to invigorate Hodges with a belt of Irish Whiskey. The ether effects, the stress, and the enthusiastic liniment application had taken their toll on his assistant. "Hodges! Wake up you lazy dog and drink this. Immediately!"
Hodges woke with a start, "I hope that pig speculum is clean doctor...Oh, Master Glitch, please allow me to beg your pardon, I was having my medical nightmare again." Hodges gratefully accepted the Whiskey, absinthe, brown ale and smoke from the pipe, Glitch plied upon him. Glitch was being uncharacteristically generous, in an attempt to invoke a sense of optimism in his assistant. It worked. Hodges leapt off the Golden Trefoil and began turning the influence machine to charge the leyden jar ignitor.
"Stand back Maud!" Hodges shouted, hog-fat dribbling from his ears, "This may be a little hazardous."
Part Two of this article here
Part Two of this article here
Copyright © 2002 Roger Curry
All Rights Reserved
More on-line articles concerning Ernest Glitch can be found here
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
Apparatus for the detection of helium produced from uranium
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