Monday, November 7, 2016
Capitola's Election Special
We're back with the Rare Reads Book Club and Capitola. For those of you who don't know what we're talking about, catch up here and here.
In the meantime, it's Chapter 2 and once again we are starting in the middle of a story with a bunch of new people we know nothing about.
It begins with somebody named Old Hurricane raging that another guy named Black Donald has tricked him by disguising himself and freeing some prisoners. Hurricane is furious! Mad at himself and everyone around him who didn't recognize the dastardly Donald.
"I've coddled him up with negusses! I've pampered him up with possets and put him to sleep in my own bed!" cries Old Hurricane.
Sounds pretty serious! What in the heck are negusses and possets anyway? cried Stephanie.
Google to the rescue. A quick search of the word negus brought up two definitions. The first is a king, specifically the title of a sovereign of Ethiopia. That revelation brought me to a very interesting article on the origin of the word negus and its use in modern-day music, but after reading that article, I figured that the second definition was probably the one that E.D.E.N. Southworth meant here. A hot drink of port, sugar, lemon, and spices.
A little more searching, and guess what. There are a few recipes for negusses floating around the Internet, like this one from Jane Austen's Cookbook and this other one from Esquire magazine. It was invented, according to the Esquire article, by Colonel Francis Negus in the early 1700s, and, since it is served warm, makes a dandy mid-winter drink.
Posset, it turns out, is another kind of drink--a drink made of hot milk curdled with booze and typically flavored with spices--which sounds kind of ewwww until I realized that pretty much describes Bailey's, Kahlua, and Rumchata.
Interesting tidbit, according to the website, historicfoods.com, a posset was served in a posset pot that had this little pipe sticking out of it. Once set, a posset settled into three layers. The top layer was the foam on the top. People called it the grace, and they ate it with a spoon. The middle turned into a spicy custard, also consumed with a spoon. The grace and the custard sat on top of the boozy stuff at the bottom that you sucked out of the posset pot through the pipe.
So Old Hurricane went to the trouble of concocting a dish like that for Black Donald and then Donald turned around and tricked him? No wonder Hurricane was ticked.
In the middle of this tirade, we read:
"'Uncle!' said Capitola."
Hey, we finally meet our heroine--at least I think she's going to be our heroine. And she's Old Hurricane's niece. The pieces are starting to fall into place. But her interjection doesn't stop her uncle from continuing to rant--this one for your election enjoyment:
"...at the very next convention of our party I'll nominate him to represent us in the National Congress; for, of all the fools that ever I have met in my life the people of this county are the greatest! And fools should at least be represented by one clever man--and Black Donald is the very fellow! He is decidedly the ablest man in this congressional district."
Finally, the party breaks up and Hurricane--whose real name is apparently Major Warfield--goes out to take care of his animals and that's when a servant tells him about the beautiful young girl who has been brought to the nearby Hidden House.
"She had better be dead than in the power of that atrocious villain and consummate hypocrite!" the Major rails. So Colonel Lenoir's reputation precedes him.
The chapter ends with Capitola also finding out from her servant, Pitapat, that there is a new neighbor at Hidden House. Capitola immediately decides to arrange a visit to the consternation of poor Pat, who has been told by Major Warfiled not to spill the beans about the new next door beauty.
"Now why doesn't he wish me to call there? I shall have to go in order to find out, and so I will," thought Cap.
I think I'm gonna like this chick.