Hammer of the Pygmies
Part One – A Spot O’Bother
The room shuddered in accordance with the muffled explosion that sounded from outside of the building. The fine crystal chandelier swayed, while upon the table, with its embroidered white cloth, the porcelain and silverware rattled. A freshly poured cup of tea swayed, though not a drop spilt over the edge.
There sat at the table, reading a newspaper, a tall man of handsome demeanour. His blond hair, moustache and sideburns were neatly trimmed and cared for, with not a strand out of place. He had reached the age where its exact nature proved hard to pin down, for while no touch of grey yet marred his hair, the sure sign of the passage of years, his face and pale eyes showed a gravity that came only with wisdom and experience. Wearing a finely tailor suit, vest and cravat, he looked every inch a gentleman of breeding and means.
Sir Richard Hammerman, gentleman-adventurer, late of East Dalforth Estate in Albion, but at present making his residence in Her Immortal Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s domain of Cape Colony in South Africus, twitched aside the corners of the evening newspaper he had been perusing to look with a keen blue eyed gaze down the length of the table towards the doorway that led into the room. It took only a few moments for the door to swing open, admitting a big, solidly built man with a ruddy complexion. The man bore a large walrus moustache and short cropped ginger hair as well as an expression of thoughtful concentration.
“The doctor I presume?” Sir Richard inquired.
Sir Richard responded with a touch of a nod before returning to the pages of his newspaper. “It would be prudent, I believe, to have a cup of tea ready for him, Obadiah.”
Obadiah Crabb stepped back out of the room, leaving Sir Richard to his reading, awaiting the arrival of the good doctor. The Cape Colony Times, the local news sheet, contained reports gathered from across the Empire and its Dominions, from mysterious Indus and the arid lands of Australis, from across the dark continent of Africus and the industrious colonies of the New World, and was the paper read by the Gentlemen of Cape Colony. His eye caught note of news from the Indus frontier, of reports of clashes with tribal rebels in those troubled lands, followed up by a report of the continuing boom of the Australis Gold Rushes, where the lucky were striking it fabulously wealthy overnight, and of the disappearance of another professor in the steaming jungles of Central Amerigo, seeking out mysterious lost troll cities said to be able to unlock the secrets of eternal youth.
When the door at least reopened, Sir Richard had finished both with his cup of tea and the perusal of the paper. The man who entered the room, Doctor Hamilton Gooding, had a face dominated by a long nose and an impressive bushy salt and pepper beard, one that fell halfway to his waist. Smudges of soot touched his cheeks and forehead, all but for the circles around his eyes where his brass rimmed goggles had sat, goggles now bushed up onto his head. He pulled off a pair of thick leather gloves and tossed them onto a chair, along with the heavy work apron he carried, one that bore the pock marks that could only be received by hot sparks. Removing a pair of spectacles from his coat pocket, he slipped them on, hooking them over his ears.
“Problems, I take, Dcotor?” Sir Richard enquired politely.
“Aye, that there is, laddie,” Hamilton replied in his thick Scotti accent, taking a chair at the other end of the table from Sir Richard. “The wee mule is having a spot o’bother. I requested a Number Three Tumbling Ratchet, but what they supplied me with was a blasted Number Five, ye ken? Caused the whole contraption to o’erheat and near take my head off.”
Obadiah slipped unobtrusively back into the room, setting a fresh cup of tea down on the table before Doctor Gooding.
“Much appreciated, laddie,” Hamilton said, easing his frame back into the chair. Taking up the silver sugar tongs, he added a cube of sugar from the bowl they sat in and commenced stirring it in.
“Has this in any manner set back our plans?” Sir Richard asked, folding up the paper and setting it down on the table. Obadiah busied himself clearing away the plates and platters that had been set down for dinner.
“Not at all. I’ll have the wee beastie up and about functioning afore ye can mention it.”
“That is good to hear,” Sir Richard observed with calm politeness.
Out in the hallway, the clock began to jangle, marking the arrival of a new hour.
Sir Richard pushed back his chair and rose to his feet. “If you will excuse me, Doctor, I am expected down at the Club.”