Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Settling In

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.

Of course, 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....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

For Christmas is Coming...

The weather outside was horrible, the sleet pelting the glass and leaving the cobblestone streets below slick, the gaslamps' glow reflecting dimly upon them. I watched as two dark figures, Mr. Gears and Giles came through the front gate, each carrying two large sacks. They disappeared around to the side of the house, no doubt coming in through the kitchen door so they could hang their wet coats in the scullery and get a bracing cup of hot tea (or oil in Mr. Gears' case) from the cook.

I turned away from the window and surveyed the room before me. Piles of scraps were scattered here and there and a few large sacks were in the corner of the spare room. Other than the disorder, the room was warm and cozy, a fire dancing in the grate and the lights casting a warm glow about the room. Opening one of the large sacks, I dumped the contents onto the floor and knelt down, sorting the bits of fabric into their respective piles, by colour and fibre content. Laudanum the cat purred happily in his basket near the fireplace and I softly hummed a tune I had heard earlier in the week being whistled by some men on the street.

After awhile Giles and Mr. Gears could be heard coming up the stairs with their burdens. As they entered the room, Giles' red cheeks and nose suggested that the weather truly was as chippy as it would seem.

"Where would you like these madam?" Mr. Gears asked.

"Over with the other ones, if you please Mr. Gears"

They brought over the sacks, Giles struggling a little with his and left them with the others.

"Thank you for assisting me with this, I appreciate your help, as I'm sure those who will benefit from these quilts will appreciate them as well" I smiled warmly at the men "I cannot stand to see this perfectly good fabric go to waste while there are those who will be suffering from the cold this winter". Giles nodded in agreement, while Mr. Gears inclined his head at my words. "I'm sure you have things you'd like to attend to this evening, so I'll not keep you here. Thank you again for bringing these sacks over from His Grace's shop". The men turned and left, each heading to their respective activites for the evening.

I opened one of the new bags and looked through the fabrics within. This sack contained a good mix of fine woolens and tweeds, along with some bright red scraps left over from the merino wool long underwear that Edward sold in his shop. All of the fabric was new, it was the discarded bits left over after each garment had been cut out. Most of the fabrics were of a wool blend, but there were some piles of linen and cotton's from the shirts as well as colourful bits from the waistcoats.

In the previous weeks, when trying to learn my way around Babbage, I had noticed a large population of urchins as well as those who seemed to live by their wits alone. As the weather grew cooler, my thoughts had turned to how these people were going to keep warm during the winter in Babbage....the deep snow blanketing the streets, the frosty wind whipping around the street corners, whistling through broken windows. A warm quilt or blanket and a few other items would be very useful to keep the cold at bay. Edward had shown me some time ago his left over fabric remnants and now I would turn them into something warm, useful and comforting for others this Christmas. With any luck I would be able to put together a Christmas hamper for anyone who would like one.

After sorting fabric for an hour, I heard Edward's step in his study and decided I had done enough for one evening. Smiling softly and brimming with ideas, I closed the door to the spare room and started towards the study, looking forward to spending the remainder of the evening with my beloved.