It was a typical afternoon in Babbage, the late autumn sun barely penetrating the smoke and soot in the sky. The weather had taken a cooler turn, and I was very glad for my warm cape. I had been out for a walk, getting my bearings of the city that I now called home, meeting some of my fellow citizens, including a mechanical man, who had the misfortune to be run down by one of the trolleys. Luckily Mr. Lightbulb Brightly was not seriously injured, but I hoped he’d be repaired properly by his creator soon.
A walk about town would not be complete without seeing the urchins out and about. For the most part they kept their distance from me, but I could not help but to notice that many of them had thin jackets and were not well dressed for the upcoming winter.
Mr. Gears met me at the front door and took my cape for me as I removed my gloves and hat before heading into the parlour for some tea and to look over any letters that came in the post. Settling into my favorite chair, I sorted through the mail, which consisted mainly of various notices, invitations, a few bills, the newspaper and two letters from my brothers. Putting the other mail to the side, I opened the letter from my older brother, Gunnar.
Of course, he was off in some exotic location, his letter full of vividly written tales of daring-do and adventure, the pages barely containing his bold, galloping penmanship. As well, he was madly in love, again, this time with a woman covered in snake tattoos who was the “refreshment server” at a local public house he was currently frequenting. I really did not want to know exactly what sort of “refreshment” she provided. He said he didn’t think he’d be making it home for Christmas but would be sending something through the post to Edward and I. He also said he was planning on staying at his current location for a few months, hoping to make some more money doing various jobs to fund his explorations. I sighed as I folded up his letter as Nell came in with the tea tray, the sounds of Mrs. Clowes haggling with the Rag and Bone man in the kitchen trailing in after her.
“Ah, thank you Nell! This is just the thing to warm me up after being out. The weather has gotten so chilly, I really worry for those who haven’t a warm place to call home if winter sets in soon. By the way, Mrs. Clowes is not stopping for idle gossip with the Rag and Bone man, is she? Last time he was here, he filled her head with such terrible stories about that voodoo man that she was nearly impossible for weeks!”
“No, ma’am, I don’t believe she is. When I left the kitchen, she was trying to get a better price this time as she feels the rags and scraps are of a superior quality. Although, now that I’ve left, I really couldn’t say which way the conversation has gone.” Nell smiled slightly before bobbing a curtsy and heading upstairs to dust Edward’s study.
I shrugged slightly and sipped my tea, the fragrance of bergamont soothing me, before opening the letter from Lunar. His letter was filled with news from Steelhead, the latest residents, recent social events and of course news of our friends there. Sheriff Fuzzball was managing to keep warm, in spite of his bald head and was maintaining law and order with his usual aplomb. Tensai had not blown up anything major recently but was working on a new device that had great potential and she sent her love. The main part of his letter, though, was devoted to the newest development of the city. Out of the wilderness surrounding Steelhead, Lunar was planning on carving out a unique addition to the community called “Nevermoor”. He described it as being a “gothic forest nouveau” and that there would be very little in the way of buildings. He had included some sketches of the statues he was planning having there and with his detailed descriptions I could picture it clearly in my mind. His talents were certainly going to shine with this new development. I made a note to visit him and Tensai before Christmas to see this as well as ready my bakery for the holiday season.
Letters read, I sat back to savour my tea and my mind wandered again to the poorly dressed urchins and some of the other residents that I suspected might not get to enjoy a hot meal on a regular basis, nor warm clothes. My mother had instilled in me the thought that helping others is one of the best things you can do in this world. I sipped my tea some more, when an idea started to grow in my mind….