Party Crasher

Without further ado, I give you the 2nd page of our as-yet-unnamed Lady’s adventure. It looks like there’s still more to find as well – how these pages got so scattered is beyond me! If you recall, she had just concluded a horseback chase of her ambulatory shearing device…

My manners truly are poor—it took all my effort not to laugh at the scene laid out before me. What had clearly been a dinner party only moments previously was now absolute chaos. My shearer (and I had to take a moment to be impressed with its dedication) was attempting to remove the hair of an older woman, who I recognized as the Lady von Boltenstein. (The Lady von Boltenstein has always carried a certain animosity for my family, being new money and Irish to boot. I doubt the day endeared me to her any further!) Her husband, the Lord von Boltenstein, was doing a quite excellent job of defending his wife’s hair using a serving platter. There were other couples present, most of the same age and social standing of the Boltensteins. Not my kind of party at all, I can tell you! Normally I would not have been welcome to come within a quarter mile of the sort of people attending, but when ones mechanical shearer is running amok, one does what one must.

I abandoned Belinda on the lawn and rushed to the shearer, pulling a sample of sheepskin out of my tool satchel as I went. The shearer was immediately distracted from the Lady von Boltenstein’s hair and came for me. I tempted my automaton into chasing me for the sheepskin, then dodged to the side like a bullfighter and flipped the deactivation switches as it blundered past me. It crashed into a decorative planter, rendering both it and the planter slightly less functional. Panting, I pushed the hair out of my eyes and looked up at the party guests.

That was when I saw him.

He was a tall, slender man with intelligent eyes and a kind face, much younger than the others. He had the kind of slouch that comes with a tall man trying to look shorter. He was dressed quite well—clearly of the same social standing as the other guests, but something made him immediately stand out. Everyone else was staring at me with faces full of horror, disgust, and indignation… But he looked both impressed and amused. His shoulders shook slightly with suppressed laughter. I confess I found him immediately endearing and gave him quite a grin! The corners of his mouth twitched a bit in response, but that quickly turned into a wince as the Lady von Boltenstein rounded on me in a rage.

“You impertinent little brat!” she seethed. “What do you think you’re doing, trespassing on my estate and destroying my property?” She waved a hand in a motion that encompassed the party guests, toppled tables and partially-shattered planter. “This is precisely why your terrible family isn’t welcome in Society, you uncouth, un-civil, urchin! Your common blood outs you!”

I allowed her to rant as I collected the automated shearer and loaded it onto the back of my patient mare. I felt it was better for her to vent her spleen on me than on her guests, especially the gentleman with the kind face. Who was he? He looked somewhat familiar, and as I looked from the red-faced Lady von Boltenstein over to his sympathetic gaze I figured it out. Of course the Boltensteins had a son! And the Lady’s blue eyes were much more attractive in a face not distorted with rage. I swung myself up onto the back of my horse (“And you ride astride instead of sidesaddle! You improper slattern!” The Lady continued her deprecations) and considered the young gentleman again. In for a penny, in for a pound, I decided, and held out my hand to him. His eyes widened, and I tilted my head toward the space behind me between the saddle and the shearer. My raised eyebrow said, “There’s room for one more.”

Sqeeeee!  I mean, ahem, how very riveting!  For such an obvious mechanical mastermind, she can certainly craft an excellent tale as well.  Just a few more piles to inspect, and I should have another page – stay tuned!

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Clockwork and Cliffhangers

Greetings again, dear colleagues. What a treat I’ve found this past week: another letter to the Ladies of Mischief, with not only details on a highly intriguing mechanical device, but also a very personal tale of the daily ups and downs of Victorian life. I’ve recovered the first page below, and will continue my frantic dig (I mean careful search) for the rest of the letter…

Dearest friends,

I write with exciting news! As you know, I have been developing an ambulatory, automatic sheep-shearer to make the shepherd’s life easier. When finished, it will truly be a marvel—it will live amongst the sheep, causing them to become accustomed to its presence. When the fleece is fine and ready in the springtime, the shearer will simply approach each sheep individually and, with no harm or discomfort to the animal, shear the fleece as neatly and cleanly as the most skilled man or woman could. It will pack the fleeces into convenient bags and when finished, deliver the bags of wonderful, fresh fleece to the shepherd. In this way I hope to carry on the wonderful work of my parents with their steam-powered fleece-picker!

This news isn’t about the ambulatory shearer. It involves the ambulatory shearer, but it’s about something else entirely.

I seem to have rescued a gentleman from an arranged marriage.

This wasn’t at all what I set out to do, I would like you all you know. I set out to test the ambulation systems of my shearer. I was initially pleased with the results, as it was quite capable of self-guided locomotion… Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for me?) it was only capable of self-guided locomotion. I had failed to take into account the lack of operational instructions in its system, and it quickly escaped the workshop and set off down the road in search of something to shear. (In hindsight, I ought not have left the shearing mechanisms intact while I tested the ambulation. I shall keep this in mind for the future.)

I found myself alone in my workshop, watching the culmination of weeks of work fleeing to cause havoc elsewhere! This was not a situation I could allow to continue, so I quickly saddled Belinda, my favorite mare, and set off after my shearer. It had quite a headstart, but being made of metal and clockwork it left a very distinctive trail in the dirt. It also occasionally left a bush or shrub partially bare of leaves—the shearing mechanisms were quite functional, if poorly aimed. By the time I caught up with it, though, it had crashed a party in the most literal way possible.

And that is all I have for now. I hope to recover the next page/s soon, and will post again the moment I do. I must say, I’m highly curious how this story continues – an ambulatory shearing machine (on the loose, no less). Amazing!

In other exciting news, I’m pleased to announce my collaboration with a knitting designer to reconstruct Miss Hackworth’s handkerchief, as mentioned in my previous post. A final pattern is nearly complete, quite a feat given the few scraps and pictures I was able to recover. Details soon!

Aha!

An early success in my daunting quest: I’ve recovered a letter, as transcribed below, addressed to the Ladies of Mischief.  Who or what this group was is yet to be seen.  However, it is clear from the letter that this Miss Hackworth is a shining example of the brilliant and adventurous women of the era.  But I mustn’t go spoiling what you can read for yourself below.  Dear colleagues, enjoy!

9th of June, 1885
Dearest Ladies of Mischief,

I have just arrived in New York, where my dirigible Lilith Ascending has landed to resupply. The journey over the Atlantic was as comfortable and well-planned as I’ve come to expect from my airship engineers. I’m pleased to report they incorporated one of my design suggestions in this, our latest airship: the perfumed Helium. You see, a major difficulty with Helium is that it can leak from the tiniest of openings, and it is colorless and normally odorless. My idea was to place a lace handkerchief, soaked in Ottoman Rose oil, inside the Helium chamber. Now, the airshipman can search for leaks by following their noses! My passage over the Atlantic was greatly enhanced by the sense of traveling through a lush garden, instead of miles above the cold sea. I plan to incorporate this change in all the Hackworth airships upon my return to London.
We will spend a week in New York, picking up new supplies and making some minor repairs. After that time, we will strike out West, to continue traveling until we reach the far coast. We are picking up two passengers on this leg, young men who have been overcome with gold fever and desire to make their fortunes. Our final destination is the frontier town of Seattle, where a gathering of great minds and inventors is scheduled.
After so long aboard the ship I am ready to explore this largest of American cities. I shall send another report before we embark on our journey West.
Sincerely,
Miss Coraline Hackworth

My goodness!  It just stirs the spirit, doesn’t it?  But I must get back to my search – still many more questions to answer.  I’ll update again as soon as I am able.

~The Archivist

An Adventure Begins

October the 17th

My dear colleagues,

One week ago, I discovered what may very well be the greatest cache of authentic Victorian Era artifacts our small but illustrious field has yet seen.  Perhaps “discovered” is not quite accurate, so I will start from the beginning.

Upon my elderly aunt’s death, my relatives began the arduous task of going through her very large estate.  In a secluded attic corner, they found a massive trunk containing – their words – antique lady’s stuff they thought I’d like.  And indeed, I am grateful for my relatives’ slim grasp of my field of interest – Cultural History of Victorian Women, with Emphasis on Technology, Fashion and Ingenuity – for it deposited in my lap a treasure the layperson could not begin to fathom.

I will spend the coming months chronicling the items contained within: letters, telegrams, small personal items, and sundry other objects too extraordinary to even speculate on at this time.  As my work progresses, I will post frequent updates here, with careful transcriptions, photographs, and details of the artifacts, as well as any information I can glean on the origin of the collection as a whole.  I hope that these findings will shed light of the amazing times these ladies lived in, and bring their adventures to life for a new generation of women.

Signed,

~The Archivist

ps. I apologize for the use of a pseudonym; however, I find it is the safest choice for me at this time, until the artifacts can be fully accounted for and moved to a secure location.

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