When Sir Arthur Cwmlech’s home is robbed and the Illogic Engine–his prize invention, stolen, it is only natural that he and his clever assistant Miss Tacy Gof consult with another inventor, the great Mycroft Holmes, about who has taken it. But it is really Mr. Holmes’ Reasoning Machine who they are there to see, for it is only fitting for one automaton to opine on a matter concerning the fate of another of its kind. This charming story by award-winning
fiction writer Delia Sherman is a delightful romp set within an a slightly altered version of one of our most beloved literary universes.
On a foggy autumn morning, a horseless carriage chugged slowly along a fashionable London street. The carriage was of antique design, steam-driven instead of the more modern clockwork, with a tall chimney pipe that added its acrid mite to the smoky air. A burly footman sat on its box, peering through the gloom at the house numbers. As they passed a pleasant Georgian lodging-house, he hastily pulled the brake and the carriage came to a halt with a long hiss of escaping steam.
The door burst open and a young gentleman sprang out onto the pavement. He was perhaps twenty-two, tall and knobby, with longish light hair and small, round spectacles. His low-crowned hat was crammed to his ears and his coat was buttoned askew. His careless appearance suggested Bohemian tendencies. The carriage’s obviously homemade shaded fog lights revealed a mechanical bent. Not an artisan, not with that coat. A gentleman mechanic, then, possibly an inventor.
The young woman who alit after him was more difficult to parse. She was younger than the gentleman and clearly on comfortable terms with him. One would have thought them brother and sister, had there been the slightest resemblance. As it was, she was dark where he was fair, tiny and compact where he was tall and loose-limbed, and her severe mulberry walking costume spoke of a lady’s companion rather than a lady. She carried a practical-looking cane that she did not seem to need.
A sulfurous swirl of fog briefly enveloped the pair. When it cleared, they were climbing the lodging-house steps with their footman a few steps behind, bearing in his arms what looked to be a large and elaborate doll clad in china blue.
The young gentleman rang the bell.