Chapter 6 – John and Jason Build A Water Heater


Starting the work

John stretched his arm and elbow up and down. It was now four weeks since the battle at Smith’s house.  Millicent had set his arm and put it in a cast afterwards. The following days Millicent and Charles, the ships AI, had him drinking milk, eating cheese and eggs and all manner of vegetables.  They also had him taking daily walks. Somehow that helped the healing process. The foods were full of calcium and he understood why that helped. The daily outdoor walks made no sense but they were insistent.  Something must have worked because the cast came off after the 3rd week. He was then given a set of exercises and stretches. They were tedious but his arm felt better afterwards.

Life on the ship with the others was growing more tolerable.  The addition of Simone had helped in some ways. She was more personable than he and had pointed out that being in society wasn’t all tea and crumpets. Jason had been the last to forgive him for aligning himself with West Enders and posh types.  The night of drinking with Rachael and others had created some bonding. Jason’s aunt might not have been as strong as his father, but she sounded every bit as difficult to live with. And she had been as proletariat as his father in different ways. Jason’s resentments of his attempt to be upper class started to make sense.  John couldn’t say for sure if it was all past Jason, but he was at least speaking civilly now.

Jason had been anxious to return to Dunstable. John could certainly understand Jason wanting to see Candace. And he wanted to research his parent’s house more thoroughly.  So his return made perfect sense. What didn’t make sense was Millicent’s insistence that John join him. “Help him with the water heater,” she said. When John pointed out that Stephan had helped with the last one, she said had a real job and John could learn a thing or two from Stephan. That ended the discussion.

Thus John was now in Stephan’s office reviewing the previous plans with Jason and Stephan. Stephan knew more about boilers than John so John mostly listened to the conversation absorbing knowledge.

The big man scratched the back of his neck as he pondered the diagram, “The heater in the basement gets plenty of pressure from the roof cistern, but if we put a tub on the second floor, we don’t have the same kind of pressure.”

John rubbed his chin and said, “I’ve been looking at some of the work by Joseph Bramah [1]and William Armstrong[2]. They developed a ‘hydraulic accumulator’.”

Stephan looked at him with narrow eyes, “I’m listening.”

John went to the chalk board and made a quick sketch, “A weighted plunger pulls the water in and when the pressure is sufficiently high enough, the valves switch to pressure the water system.”

Stephan mused, “I knew they were getting  close to an early water system state in London.  I am not sure how much weight you’re talking about, but the roof might not take that and the water. “

John shrugged and said, “If the pressure is high enough, you don’t need the cistern on the roof. “

Stephan looked at the drawing for a moment and smiled, “We’ll need some tight tolerances on that accumulator of yours.  That makes it interesting. “  Stephan began drawing on John’s pictures on the board. John provided ideas on the hydraulic set up. For once Jason could only listen and help where he could. It was refreshing to John that he knew something Jason didn’t know. After a couple of hours, Stephan stretched and said, “Alright lads, I’ve got a business to run and we’ve just designed the world’s most expensive water heater.  John, check the water pressure numbers to see if we need this beast or we can manage with gravity. Jason,  work your numbers to determine the diameter of the tube through the heater  would need to be if the pressure was lower.” He took off his apron and headed out the door and turned around, “Since this is the only real task you have, I expect progress that we can discuss before dinner hours tonight.”

John was about to protest, but Jason stayed him with his arm and said, “Certainly Stephan,  although I expect you’ll check the number and fix our mistakes.”

Stephan harrumphed and waved his arm at them dismissively as he walked out the door.

John fumed a bit and then turned to Jason and said, “I know you used to work for the man, but I didn’t…and I don’t work for him now.”

Jason smirked as he sat down to the table and started jotting notes down on the paper, “True, but we’re building the water heater for him and his wife. That makes him our client.”

John wrinkled his face as Jason said this and then said, “I missed the part where we signed a contract.”

Jason shrugged, “It’s my obligation and Millicent is holding me to it. She sent you along. I’ll buy your beer tonight.” He looked up from his notebook and smirked, “Did you learning anything from him in the last two hours?”

John sat on a stool and looked a bit sheepish, “I’ve had semesters that didn’t provide that much practical experience. I forgot that he worked with Millicent before.”

Jason smiled, “I expect he’ll have us working like he worked with Millicent for the duration. Welcome to our world Mr. O’Malley.”

John felt stricken and pulled out a notebook. Jason said, “However, Stephan is a practical man and never needed to work equations. Tell me, once you get the numbers, how long will it take you to get information he can use?”

John thought for a moment, “The equations for pressure are straight forward.  Getting the numbers are the pain. But the actual calculations are pretty quick.  Too bad we don’t have one of Professor Roget’s log log slide rules. It would be even quicker.”

Jason pulled something out of his bag and waved it, ”Like this?”

John eyes went wide as he looked at the sliding ruler and then sputtered, “Where did you get that?”

Jason smiled and said, “I described it to Charles, he provided advice, materials and that magnificent machine shop on the ship.”

John smiled, “That will speed things up.  I’ll start drafting my work, but I need a proper cup of tea to get started.”

Jason laughed, “I am a coffee person myself, but I’ll take a cup if you bring it. Ask Jolene,  she’ll tell you where the supplies are.”

John  squirmed a bit, “Jolene?”

Jason said, “She might be busy. You can ask Stephanie. She’ll be friendlier right now.”

John looked panicked, “You know her better. She’ll want to talk to you.”

Jason smiled, “She doesn’t know you. Now is the perfect time to get to know her better…shoo.”

[1] Joseph Bramah developed the hydraulic press.  He applied Pascal’s principles by using a piston with a larger cross area over a smaller tube to increase the overall pressure in the small tube.

[2] William Armstrong (along with Joseph Bramah) used Pascal’s principles to improve industrial efficiency. He developed “Hydraulic Accumulators” or tall towers of water that could be used to drive hydro power.  Armstrong with Bramah are considered founders in the field of hydraulics.

Getting a Cup of Tea

John stammered but headed out the door.  In the kitchen, he looked around Jolene was talking with Peter and they looked to be in the middle of preparation for lunch. While he had only been here a day or two, he could recognize people who should not be disturbed by trivialities.  Jolene was the person who chastised Millicent Morgaine.  He walked through the kitchen door and into the main dining room. Stephanie was carefully writing the daily menu on a sandwich board.  John waited for a  moment by the table before asking, “Who do I talk to about making a pot of tea.?”

Stephanie kept her focus on the board, but said “Jolene and Peter are already in the kitchen and can help you with that.”

John shuffled his feet a bit turned towards the kitchen door and then came back, “To be honest, I find Jolene a bit intimidating.”

Stephanie laughed and finally looked up, “She has that way about her. Let me finish a bit here and I’ll get the kettle on and show you where the teas and coffee are kept.” She finished the sentence she was writing and then led him back into the kitchen. She gave him a quick lesson on working with the gas stove (don’t leave it turned on!). She showed him where the teas were and then headed back to the dining room to continue her work on the sandwich board.  He followed her into the dining room to wait for the water to boil.

She worked on touching up the sandwich board and said, “While we’re waiting for the tea, you can tell me how a posh city boy ended up with a rough country boy.”

John sighed and crossed his arms and said, “I’m not all that posh”. He broke in the sing songy Cockney accent saying, “I were raised in Stepney and learned me proper rhyming Cockney.” He stopped, straightened his vest and returned to the smooth accent he had spent years cultivating, “I practiced west end accents in my junior years and managed to hold onto it enough that I could pass for lordly in a parlor.”

Stephanie eyed him with a raised brow and said, “That is quite a feat.  I don’t think Jason could pull that off. “

John said, “I think that I can is still a sore point with Mr. McNeil.  Jason didn’t really care for my efforts. And truth be told, I was a bit of an ass in school.”

Stephanie leaned back and smirked, “Jason had a time with Findley. I supposed he doesn’t care for the high class stuff because of that. But I find it hard to believe you were anything but smooth.”

John shrugged and blushed at the same time and said, “I’ve done my share of reading to hold up conversation, but I also got standoffish with Jason and others. I guess you could say I was trying to hide that I was poor.”

Stephanie said, “Jason really doesn’t like how some people seem to lord it over the rest of us. As a waitress, I learned to take it in stride – meant better tips.  But Jason…farm folk aren’t real mannered to start with and then he’s always been a bit resentful that his successful parents were forgotten.”

John scratched his chin and said, “His parents are an enigma.”

Stephanie smiled and said, “Such a grand word. They are a mystery. “ John turned red but Stephanie waved it away,  “Father prefers they just stay forgotten. Seems they were taking risks.”

John said, “I’ve heard as much”

Stephanie got up and headed into the kitchen, “Your tea should be ready.” She quickly prepared a tray of milk and sugar and the pot. She handed him the tray and said,  “It’s Tuesday so be sure to stay tonight after dinner.” John cocked his head in question. Stephanie answered, “The staff gets Tuesday nights early and we younger ones celebrate. Jason will know and you’re practically family.” She added a wink and pushed him towards the office.

John entered the office with the tray and tea set. Jason smirked a bit at the scene John created.  John flushed a bit and then straightened and assumed his best service accent, “Tea for sir?”

Jason laughed and pointed to Stephan’s desk and John sat the server there and started preparing two mugs of tea.  John said, “Stephanie seems like a nice girl.”

Jason said,” She is. She’s very bright and sharp in business. I think she runs the dining room now more than Jolene does.”

John said, “You weren’t interested in her?”

Jason said, “Candace has my mark. Stephanie is fine, but she been like a sister to me the past few months. Besides history shows my relationship skills need improvement.”

John smirked this time and said, “Rachael told me.”

Jason sighed and took a sip of tea and said, “Mind you, any fellow ought to be cautious when courting Stephanie.  I would hate to be the young man that crosses her with Stephan as her father and Jolene as her mother.”

John stopped mid sip and looked at Jason. Jason smiled, “ Stephanie’s nice, but I would watch my food and drink closely if things went south.” Jason clapped John’s shoulder and said, “Now, let’s start writing up these plans.”

Tuesday Evening at the Pig and Cow

That night, as Stephanie had predicted, the pub seemed to close up early. Jason and Candace had joined up with Geoff and the three of them were already laughing at some story by Geoff. John looked around at other groups. Stephanie was in conference with her mother. Kimberly was serving the last tables. John shuffled his feet a bit and felt awkward. Stephanie may have said he was almost family but he felt very alone at the moment.  Over at the bar, Stephan waved him over and John sat down. Stephan cleaned a glass as he said, “What’ll ye be drinking?”

John looked over the bar at the taps and wall options, “It’s been awhile since I was in a proper pub. I’ve been drinking gin and whiskey for the past couple of years.”

Stephan waved his hand dismissively, “Bah…I can fix that gin habit o’ yours.  Restore ye to yer roots.” Stephan placed five tumbler glasses in front of John.  Stephen then poured samples of each of the tapped beer into the tumblers and arranged them from lightest to darkest.  He pointed to each “Wheat, Lager, Pale Ale, Bitter, and Stout”. Stephan then explained the virtues and vices of each.  John considered and started with the wheat beer. He found it a bit sweet for a beer but a good flavor otherwise.

Stephan went back to cleaning the glass and waved around the room at one point, “Lad, you’ll find you will need to be confident when you walk into a room.”

John said, “Pubs haven’t been my element for a while. I do ok in a card room or a coffee house.”

Stephan said amiably, “I was always a bit rough for that crowd. Abigail could always work card rooms and coffee houses. Sean could too, but he had his rough edges.”

John tried the next beer, a lager. He sipped it. It was less sweet and a bit fuller. He commented, “I like this one better. Why would I have to ‘work a crowd?’ Aren’t my expenses paid already?”

Stephan set the glass down and leaned in to say, “You will be the exotic native from a far off and backward land brought in to experience civilization or some tripe like that.” He leaned back and poured his own beer, a stout. Stephan continued, “Some people were easy to talk to, but some set my teeth on edge with all that ‘species superiority’ crap.”

John sighed and drank from the lager, “That could have been my life for the past four years.”

Stephan eyed him sideways and took a drink and then said, “I’ve heard a bit.  Thought it might sound familiar.”

John set the empty tumbler down and moved to the Pale Ale and sipped.  He winced a bit and said, “A bit more of a kick and a tad bitter. “ He tasted a bit more, “A bit like the Wheat but with more body and a hint of bitter. I think the debutantes were the most obnoxious. They always wanted to hear stories of  my early life as if I was some Dickensonian urchin spending my childhood barefoot in the snow.  At least the older folk were willing to discuss common interests such as the latest column in the ‘Quarterly Review’or common whist plays.”

Stephan said, “The pale ale has a bit more hop and you’re tasting that now. You’ll see a lot of both types on your journey.  I expect you’ll want to help Jason and that Rachael lass so that they keep their heads. It wouldn’t do to piss off the punters.”  He drank his beer and then mused, “I suppose it ain’t polite to talk about people like that.  But somebody has to pay for all that work.  For the money these people put in, they get to mingle with the ‘exhibits’. And that is you.”

John took a drink of the bitter, winced and said, “How does Rachael drink that swill?” He went back to the lager and said, “Maybe I’ll give lessons on attending society parties to the group.”

Stephan laughed and said, “Jason could sure use em’”

Stephanie sat down and Stephan poured a lager for her. She asked, “Jason could use what?”

John smirked and said, “Lessons on society party manners.”

Stephanie snorted as she took a drink at the same time as his comment and began alternately laughing and coughing, “Oh Lord, you must give warning when such a comment is coming.” She cleaned herself with a napkin and waved a hand at her face dramatically and said, “Whew!”

Geoff, from the far table, shouted, “You three are having far too much fun. Whatever are you discussing?”

John answered smoothly, “Enrichment opportunities.”

This resulted in more laughing, coughing and spilt beer by Stephan and Stephanie.  Stephanie gasped, “Please …stop…can’t breathe.”

John eyed the stout dubiously, but Stephan was already pulling a proper pint of the lager and set it down in front of John saying, “on the house for the man who managed to reduce me to tears.”  John took the beer and raised it back and took a long drink in East End style. Jolene sat down with the three at the bar and said, “Your group sounds like the fun one tonight. Don’t know about those stick in the muds over there. Do tell.” Stephan and Stephanie recounted the entire sequence in hushed tone while John blushed.  When Stephan shouted “Enrichment opportunities!,” there was more laughter and Jolene choked on her sherry.

A history of Findley

When the titters had subsided, John asked, “Knowing what I know now, Sean must have been well off. I know how much we were told we would have at the end.”

Stephan looked uncomfortable and said, “There is a bit of mystery on that.  The house is big and a good sum would go to that, but it is near worthless now. I never did see that laboratory of his, but if those books are any indication significant money was tied up in it.  But Sean also played a bit loose with Millicent’s rules.  He invested in key industries that he knew would grow.  That is never a sure thing, but he had more insight than most. “ Stephan rubbed the back of his neck and then said, “There should have been more. His aunt and uncle should have had enough money to upgrade and hire proper help. But Patrick swore it seemed to all be in the house and the house was worthless. All that was left with Jason was a couple hundred pounds. Generous to be sure, but not enough to invest or upgrade the farm.”

John drank his beer and then asked, “Did you or Sean ever socialize with Mayor Brown?”

Jolene snorted that time and said, “Stephan’s not the high tea and biscuits type. Preston Brown is friendly enough, but Stephan is at home in a pub and Preston Brown’s wife…she had definite ideas of proper. Sean could be proper when he wanted and he brought along Martha who wanted to socialize with them. ”

John nodded, “Jason wondered where Findley got his airs. He said Preston Brown was a decent sort and Jason couldn’t figure out how Findley got so damn entitled.”

Jolene said, “Clarissa Brown had Findley late in life. I think the two of them had given up when Findley came along.  Gentry raise children differently anyway. Clarissa was left to raise Findley on her own. Preston was busy getting his factory working. Sean helped with that, even if Stephan didn’t approve.  “

Stephan grimaced and shook his head disapprovingly.

Jolene continued, “Anyway, Findley wanted for nothing from his mother.  Preston seemed to be happy that she was happy and left her to raise the new child. She spoiled him horribly. I heard later that the servants could do nothing with him even when she was alive. However, Clarissa died in a riding accident when Findley was 12 or 13.  Preston was devastated and retreated for about a year. With Preston’s withdrawal and his mother’s death Findley had even less parental control. By the time Preston had recovered, Findley now expected everything his way and Preston could do nothing to correct 15 years of neglect.  Findley had become what you see now I suppose – selfish, tyrannical, conceited, unrestrained.“

John’s face darkened, “I had called him a friend in University. I am embarrassed by that now. I knew he had a dark streak, but I ignored it.  I’ve seen the depths of it now. Looking back over those years, I was quite the fool. In that, Jason is absolutely right about me.”

Stephan said a bit comfortingly, “Findley can be very charming. If one didn’t know he was as manipulative as Loki himself, he would have you eating out of his hand.” Stephan said, “But everyone in Dunstable knew him. When he went to London, he had whole new audiences. “ Stephan took a drink and said, “People also said he got worse while he was in London. Here, he had to behave because his father might do something. There, he had no controls.”

John added, “And he probably had someone encouraging his baser instincts.”

Stephan said, “Don’t beat yourself too hard lad. Jason knew Findley was a right bastard.  You didn’t and Findley played you.”

Jolene smacked her hand hard on the bar and said, “Enough of this dour talk of unwelcome folk. When will I have my nightly bath?”

John said, “I’m the new one here. I’ll defer to the experience of yon Jason” nodding his head in the direction of the other trio, “and your husband.”

Stephan said, “Unless you want the bath in the store room, it’s complicated.  John O’Malley here has a solution but we’ll need to order parts from London. Three, four weeks for those. A few days to assemble. John and Jason can rough things in and spruce up the new bathing room in their idle time.”

John’s eyes got big, “There was nothing about that.”

Stephan said, “Tiling is an ancient and honorable skill and good work. Both of you should learn.”

John started to protest and then looked at Stephan who looked quite serious. He looked around the room and then said to Stephanie, “Seems I will be here for a while.”

Stephanie smiled broadly and said, “I’ll show you the town sites after lunch tomorrow. Having seen those, we can have a proper tea and discuss that book you’ve been reading.”

Jolene started to protest, but Stephan put a hand on her arm and said, “We’ll cover tomorrow, lass. But we need to discuss schedules after that.”  John looked at Stephan and Stephan winked. Then John remembered Jason’s comments, looked at his beer and paled.

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4 thoughts on “Chapter 6 – John and Jason Build A Water Heater

  1. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – John and Jason Build a Water Heater – Work Begins | The Finder's Saga

  2. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – Jason and John Build a Water Heater – Getting a Cup of Tea | The Finder's Saga

  3. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – Jason and John Build a Water Heater – Tuesday Evening at the Pig and Cow | The Finder's Saga

  4. Pingback: The Omicron Matter – Jason and John Build a Water Heater – A History of Findley Brown | The Finder's Saga

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