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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
Early LED? Letters to Faraday, with an account of country life between them
Fifth day of May, 1861. Glitch Manor, Weardale.
My Dear Faraday,
I hope this letter finds you in good fettle. In answer to your enquiry, I have pleasure in enclosing with this missive, a vial of crotalotoxin. I must warn you, my friend, of the flesh destroying qualities of this diamondback extract; Hodges lost part of his pectoral muscle after being bitten by a six foot specimen I threw at him, during our North American foray. The contents of the vial must represent some sixty strikes, Faraday; what in creation are you planning?
The Bishop of Durham is recuperating at his Bishop Auckland palace. The savaging my pack of Wolfhounds gave him, sharply brought him out from the state of rigid melancholia into which he'd fallen. He swears that his medical problems were precipitated by an organic compound I had prepared. As though I were responsible for it's psychomimetic properties Faraday! I myself have no power of persuasion over his diaphragm, his inhalation of vapourised mentally-warping organics being entirely an act of self volition.
Any further slanderous comments from this man of the cloth, and I will be forced to go to the press! Faraday, I have seen many abominations of human behaviour during my travels. Particularly on certain southern islands, and also at a house in Hartlepool. However, I was shocked by the attention the Bishop gave my collection of stuffed animals. Foulness of an unprecedented nature Faraday!
Hodges is in training for the annual bare-knuckle bouts at Appleby Horse Fair. We are looking forward to great sport, I plan to take several terriers for the ratting-pits, and my North-African Vulture will again take on all-comers at the cock-fights.
Hodges daily soaks his wrist stump in silicate of soda, and further hardens the callus by punching through inch-thick Scots Pine planking. The iridium staple holding his radius and ulna together is now entirely encysted, and I can only liken the texture of his stump to that of silicified rhinoceros horn. I fear for the lives of his pugilistic adversaries, Faraday, and I urge you to travel from London to witness this sport!
Of course you would be most welcome to stay in my humble mansion. Several members of the Stockton Gentleman`s Nitrous Club will be my guests; including Lord Armstrong, but excluding the Bishop! The pious blighter!
I plan to administer a near-lethal dose of arsenious oxide, mixed with tincture of belladonna, to Hodges prior to his pugilistic endeavours. These chemicals coursing through Hodges body, I will augment, using a bladder of nitrous oxide with the admixture of the merest whiff of phosgene gas. So stimulated, I expect Hodges to perform well, and I have such faith in him that I plan to bet his future five years salary upon his success. Meagre as it is, Hodges' annual salary is of some considerable value to him, as it enables him to feed his son. My investment on his behalf will be a great incentive for him to succeed.
My present experiments are concerned with the production of cold illumination from electricity. The Stables Battery has allowed considerable high temperature work to be performed here at Glitch Mansion. Using two large carbons of carved Borrowdale graphite, Hodges strikes an arc deep within a huge block of lime, insulated with Cypriot Asbestos. Most interesting of his preparations has been the compound of silicon & carbon. Iridescent hexagonal crystals of not inconsiderable beauty are the result of this unnatural combination. They are almost as hard and tough as diamond, Faraday!
It is with these crystals that I have been experimenting. Hodges has produced a variety of shades and sizes of crystal. From ice-clear through green to black. From microscopic to the size of a pangolin egg. One of the most beautiful is colourless and slightly larger than the brain of a flamingo. I intend to send it to Cohen of Covent Garden; he has cutters in Amsterdam who will ask no questions. Apart from it's double refraction, the gem should be indistinguishable from the fashionable carbon allotrope. It is not, however, with the optical dispersion properties of this carbon silicide which fascinate me. Cold light Faraday. When areas of certain crystals are probed with platinum needle-point carrying a modest electrical pressure, a cold blue light is emitted. I cannot foresee any immediate application for this electrical glow-worm, but I have Hodges working sixteen hour shifts on refinements
Please inform me if you wish to stay for the Horse Fair,
I remain your respectful servant and friend,
Appleby Horse Fair
Hodges was cowering inside the Vulture's nest box. Glitch stomped around the camp-site shouting, "Hodges you detrial organic scum, where in blazes are you?!" Glitch had his father's double barrelled fully automatic four-bore shotgun, "Poacher's Doom", across his right arm. In his left hand he held "Old Notched", the ancient dagger whose mammoth-ivory grip had lost much mass over the generations of Glitch use. Leopold was at his side, looking rabid and deranged. Glitch had artificially accelerated the dog's metabolism; the wolfhound was twitching with the anticipation of a kill.
Hodges was fully aware of the danger he was in. He would never presume to raise a hand to his Master, even to defend himself. And he had witnessed Glitch dispatch natives and indentured labour when only mildly irritated; Glitch was presently beside himself with fury.
Everything at the Appleby Horse Fair bare-knuckle bouts had been going well. Hodges had severely beaten several pugilists, both city and travelling folk, some of whom had dwarfed him. Glitch had instructed Hodges to take a fall in the last bout of the day, as he had bet heavily upon Hodges' Cockney opponent. Glitch had won over five guineas with early betting upon Hodges, but the Gypsy odds-makers had witnessed the speed and devastation of Hodges' knock-out right stump. A huge crowd had gathered to watch Hodges demolish yet another pugilist. Betting was vigorous.
Throughout the early fights, Hodges had been calm and clinical in the despatching of his opponents. His body was at a peak of chemical stimulation, his primary weapon a horn-hard silicified wrist callus. He'd felt unbeatable, but fully understood that it was time to take a fall.
Hodges eyed the "Cockney Giant", a bareknuckle pugilist of some repute, with his good eye. The man strutted about in a display of arrogant, heavy-weight confidence. His pig-like eyes showed only amusement when looking at Hodges' slight, wiry frame. Unaware of multiple chemical enhancements coursing through Hodges. Unaware of the silicified nature of Hodges' wrist callus. Unaware of Hodges propensity for violence of an extreme nature, the Cockney Giant dismissed the previous five wins by total knock-out as being beneath contempt, and utterly meaningless. His arrogance would have been bolstered by a success, had he but kept his mouth shut.
The Londoner had, however, goaded Hodges. He'd called him a short-arse. Hodges remained calm. He'd called him Cyclops. Slight mental agitation. He'd then made reference to Hodges' missing hand and resulting difficulties in onanistic diversity, which had enraged Hodges into immediate attack. When the pulse of adrenaline waned, Hodges realised his huge error. The Cockney lay still on the ground. Bright red blood oozed from the bull-neck of the man. His lower jaw was depressed deep into the neck, it's shattered parts partially hidden by the grossly distended tongue. Hodges had hit him once.
Unfortunately this had taken place at the weigh-in, and the ensuing chaos between Glitch and various book-makers was not inconsiderable. Matters came to a head when it was suggested that Glitch was morally responsible for the funeral & burial costs of the huge Cockney. Such a suggestion enraged Glitch to the point where he too, had lost control. He had unsheathed "Old Notched" and partially disemboweled the Londoner's manager, before going after Hodges.
The stench of Vulture shit was overpowering Hodges in the nest box. The Vulture dourfully looked at Hodges in the dim interior of its enclosure. Captured as a fledgling by Glitch during his North African campaign, the bird was ill-suited to Cock-Fighting. The bird was sullen and unless chemically enhanced, relatively good-natured. It experimentally pecked at Hodges' scalp, peeling a strip of skin and flesh from his skull. Hodges burst from the nest box screaming and gasping for fresh air.
"Hah!" Glitch exclaimed, "My faithful assistant."
Hodges stood before him, covered in green avian excrement. He awaited the wrath of his Master.
Glitch carefully sheathed the ancient meteoric-iron knife. He swung up the shotgun, "Poachers Doom", using both hands. Glitch shouldered the immense sidelock. Aiming at Hodges he said, "Start running you flocculant ingrate!"
Glitch was not unsporting, and decided he would let Hodges run to the extreme range of the weapon. Being hit by just one of the fulminating hog-shot would teach the blighter a lesson, he reasoned. The full double blast at close range had completely blown apart a fourteen year old poacher in Mad Judge Glitch's day, all sixty hog-shot simultaneously detonating within the boy`s starving emaciated body.
Hodges acted fast, "Sire, I have yet to tell you of my discovery of a natural source of your new form of carbon." Glitch appeared to waver, "In fact Sire, I have found two sources of that Allotropic Anomaly."
Glitch let out a howl of frustration, swung the gun away from Hodges and pulled the trigger. The finely crafted Holland & Holland locks of "Poachers Doom" fired both 4-bore barrels within one thirty-second of a second of each other. Each barrel, being a four-bore, could fire either a single ball (four of which, if made of lead, would weigh one pound = four-bore) or thirty antimony lead shot, each containing a grain of fulminating gold. The deafening double concussion of discharge was followed by the staccato of near simultaneous detonations as the hail of enhanced hog-shot hit and destroyed a beautifully decorated Romany gypsy caravan.
As the smoke cleared, Glitch got up off the ground, favouring his almost dislocated shoulder and glaring at Hodges. Finding a bulk supply of the new carbon allotrope found in the lamp black of a sputtering acetylene flame could be invaluable. Glitch had high hopes that, by using the new allotrope, diamonds could be easily made using high pressures and temperatures. "Tell me Hodges." Glitch commanded.
"Master, I was going to..." Hodges faltered as a travelling man strode up to the men to complain about his home's conversion to fire-wood. Glitch set Leopold, his attack wolfhound, onto the man. Soon the gypsy's screams attracted a crowd to watch the sport. Glitch and Hodges had to move behind the Vulture's nest-box for privacy. "You were saying Hodges?" Glitch prompted.
"Well Sire, I'm sure you remember instructing me at quarter to two on the afternoon of the seventh of July, fifty six, to.. " Hodges quoted Glitch, imitating his voice exactly "... perform extractive analysis upon carbon bearing materials to find this allotrope, and don't bother me with results until you've finished." Hodges paused, coughed, then said in his own voice, "The range of carbon bearing materials is near infinite, Master Glitch."
"Hodges... Any further cleverness from you and I'll have you whipped to within an inch of your life!" Glitch shouted. "I'll shatter your legbones like pipe-stems! You Ingrate! Now tell me what you've found so far! And why are you covered with Vulture excrement? And what`s happened to your scalp? Good grief man, I expect a certain level of hygiene in an assistant!"
Hodges recounted his extractive analysis endeavours, and Glitch wrote to Michael Faraday concerning the discoveries.....
Twentieth Day of June, 1861. Glitch Manor, Weardale.
My Dear Faraday,
Having returned to Glitch Manor, I find a letter from you, arrived while I was at Appleby. I apologise therefore, for any apparent tardiness in reply. Appleby was uneventful, I won a small amount on Hodges, but my Vulture performed badly. He got quite cut-up by an aggressive Dark Cornish Cock. I think avian resistance to performance enhancing poisons is considerable, next year I'll try him with beryllium bromide instead of the thallous salts and perhaps leave out the arsenic completely. I will of course try the combination on Hodges in case any complications occure. The bird is still young and I have great hopes of confounding my critics within the cock-fighting fraternity.
In answer to your enquiry, I have pleasure in sending you a large purple crystal of carbon silicide. In order for you to readily appreciate the hardness of this substance, I have also included within the package a fine cornflower blue, fusion grown corundum. The silicide crystal will scratch it with the ease of a diamond.
Faraday, I hope that you can recollect the substance of a letter I sent you in early July '56? [ see Fullerenes Discovered in Victorian England ]. It concerned my discovery of a new form of carbon. I vaguely recall that you could not replicate the experiment to a successful outcome. I have great pleasure in informing you of my most recent discoveries, concerning the natural occurance of this elusive allotrope.
As you know, Faraday, my collection of fulgurites is second to none. I remember you being considerably impressed by the tree-like silica monster Hodges retrieved, from a large Moroccan sand dune after a particularly powerful storm. I have some very rare carbonaceous fulgurites, from a small coal seam exposed at the very top of a quarrying operation at Middridge. I powdered several of these coal fulgurites and had Hodges perform an extraction with benzene. Success! A trace of the allotrope! But, Faraday, at such a low concentration in such a rare mineral, I fear commercial exploitation would be impossible!
Undaunted, I analysed all further mineralogical samples of a carboniferous nature from my collection. Success again Faraday! The low-grade metamorphosed sedimentary proterozoic carbonaceous pre-cambrian rock Schungite from Karelia in Russia contains between 0.01 to 0.1 percent! I have ordered several tonnes of this black rock for Hodges to process.
|Returning to the subject of a compound of carbon rather than an allotrope, my servant is quite busy at the moment. He has produced a batch of tiny, perfect hexagonal crystals of carbon silicide. Each crystal he partially embeds in a globule of gold. The free surface he probes with a needle-pointed platinum wire until an area of galvanoluminescence is found. The minute assemblies are then sealed within drops of soda-glass. He calls these electrical glow-worms Luminescence Emitting Drops. I will have him furnish me with sufficient quantity to perhaps enhance the appearance of our tree at Christmas, but I cannot foresee any great application for them. I have drawn one for your amusement.|
As you are aware, Faraday, we will soon be embarking on a Sporting & Geo-Chemical expedition. Hodges is working evening shifts to bring the Stables Battery up to full readiness for sodium metal production. After correspondence with Bunsen and Descloizaux concerning the subterranean dimensions of the Great Geysir, I suspect around a cubic foot of the metal will be sufficient for the experiment. I have a vat of anhydrous ambergris ready for it's storage and my Whaler is awaiting us at Whitby. I will, of course, let you know the outcome of the geyser augmentation, upon my return from Iceland.
Yours, with kind regards,
P.S. I was wondering, Faraday, whether either yourself, or perhaps one of your colleagues at The Royal Institution, know of a blighter named Carruthers? Fossil thief. Damnably bad form. Met the cad at the Stockton Gentleman's Nitrous Club.
I was considerably confused and thought I knew this chap. (You know what it's like, Faraday, after a few bladders!) One thing led to another, and before my wits were gathered, I was shewing this complete stranger my collection of insect fossils from the Durham coal-measures.
By chance, I had the collection in my carriage, together with Hodges' notes and drawings. My theory, concerning nature's propensity to favour forms most fit to function, explains the changes apparent in dragon-fly wing structure from the oldest to the most recent of the carboniferous strata. Both the unique fossil collection and the notes on this theory were stolen that night!
This man Carruthers was the culprit. Through the fog of nitrous and absinthe intoxication I dimly remember an off-hand comment where he mentioned "flogging this tat to Darwin."
Should this man shew in London, please advise him that if he ever sets foot again in the North of England I'll have Hodges work on him with his stump until all his bones are shattered, before throwing him to my dogs.
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
Chemical structure of the curare alkaloid toxin toxiferine
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