“Amanda Jane Elizabeth Grace, what have you done to yourself?” Lady Caterham wailed at her daughter. “You're covered in grease, and we must leave for the assembly in an hour.” Amanda stood in the doorway of Lady Caterham's room, awaiting instructions from her mother. Lady Caterham sat at her elegant gilded and mirrored dressing table while she gave instructions to her daughter. Lady Caterham's maid was waiting to put the finishing touches on her mistresses' gown and hair while Lady Caterham dressed down her slovenly daughter.
“I was just repacking the bearings. We don't want the wheels to fall off our carriage, do we? The roller bearings Sam and I put together turn so much easier than the old wooden axle, and I think you'll like the way we've sprung the box. It-.”
“And that's another thing young lady. Playing around with machines. Why, look at those hands. Even if Mary can clean the grime from under your nails, what man would look twice at you with those hands?”
“There's more to life than men, mother.”
“No there isn't, at least not for a young lady of refinement like yourself. Do you want to die an old maid, alone and forgotten?”
“No, not as such. It's just. Well. Oh dash it Mother, the man for me won't be upset with a little grease and the odd broken nail.”
“One more thing young lady, watch your language. Where did you ever pick up such an expression? Keeping company with that blacksmith?”
“Oh no Mother. Sam is very polite. At least when I'm present. Ask Mary about him if you want confirmation. It's Freddy and his friends, when they come in from the hunt, who use such expressions. I thought.”
Lady Caterham spat out, “You don't think. That's the problem.”
“I do. If my brother can say it, and far worse, then it's suitable language.”
“Suitable for a man that is. Now go, get cleaned up. We must not be too late for the assembly. Not if you want a dance.”
Lady Caterham ignored the tone of that last remark and watched as her eldest daughter, a striking, tall, auburn-haired young woman walked off to change into the dress of a refined and cultured young lady. Then she turned back to the mirror on her dressing table and wondered if she, like the gold-leaf on the table, was showing a touch of tarnish.
“My Lady,” Millicent, her maid, pointed out, “Miss Amanda will have no trouble attracting male attention. She's a fine looking young woman. As you were at her age.”
“That's true, but she'd look so much better without that black grease streak covering her forehead and staining her hair, or that house-dress. It's just so torn and patched, stained with who knows what, and covered in grease. How can she stand to wear it?”
“I don't know Ma'am, but she'll be presentable, even elegant. Mary will see to it.”
“I'm sure she will, but I so wish Amanda would focus on the important things in life. Like marriage, men and children. Get her head out of the clouds.”
“Or the steam, Ma'am. I've heard that the 20th regiment is stationed nearby. There should be plenty of fine young men, officers in their red-coats. That should catch her eye and turn her thoughts in the right direction.”
Lady Caterham thought for a few moments and then replied, “I hope so. Although last time, she ended up talking all night to an engineering officer from the artillery. A nobody, who was a captain just because he'd been to school at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich and knew how to move guns and build fortifications. It would have been better to leave her home. What's the point of going to the assemblies if you don't flirt with eligible men?”
Much to Lady Caterham's relief, and fully justifying the expense of hiring her, Mary turned Amanda out dressed in the proper mode of a young lady. The grease was gone from her face and her auburn hair was immaculate, as were her muslins. She wore a simple string of pearls, suitable for a young woman venturing into the wilds of society. While no amount of cleaning could restore her hands and nails to the pristine state that was so important in a fashionable young woman, she would be wearing gloves. They would hide most of the damage. One did not hold hands without something between you and the young man.
Amanda did nothing that spoiled Lady Caterham's trip. While she may have cast an eye over the bearings, axles and springs, she didn't stop to play with them. Indeed, without the squeaks, the jarring and the shaking normal in a carriage, Lady Caterham arrived at the assembly in a remarkably refreshed state. When they arrived at the assembly, one of the officers, a captain, swept Amanda away. He led her onto the dance floor for the first country dance of the evening. All in all, it made for an outstanding start to the evening.
The vicar's wife, Mrs. Peabody, addressed Lady Caterham, while she and the other mothers watched their daughters perform the figures on the floor. “Lady Caterham, I know you suffer in the carriage rides and I was planning to offer to chaperone your daughter, but it looks like you're well. Did you find a cure for the travel sickness? I only ask because I suffer too.”
Despite her misgivings about Amanda's mechanical interests, Lady Caterham's bosom swelled with pride as she said, “It was Amanda's doing. She redid the springs and the axles on our carriage. It was such a smooth and quiet ride that I barely noticed we were moving.”
“She did? I must say, she is a clever girl.”
“And see, she's dancing with.” Lady Caterham stopped, “Who is that?”
“Oh, that's Captain Williams' cousin. He's studying divinity, at Oxford.”
“A suitable connection?”
“Absolutely, quite nearly related to the Fairfax's. They say he will inherit a sizable income. With his family connections, he's bound to become a bishop.”
Lady Caterham smiled at Mrs. Peabody. “In other words, a connection to be encouraged. I do so hope Amanda will find something other than machines to tinker with.”
“I agree, a husband and children will soon put her head straight. Settle her down.”
Their happy optimism about Amanda's prospects would have been tempered had they been able to hear her conversation with the young man. While good looking, indeed handsome, with blue eyes, dark hair and a firm visage, able to dance the figures with a natural athletic grace, polite, educated and well mannered, he was also a serious disappointment.
“Mr. Williams, you're studying divinity?”
“A suitable study for a gentleman, honorable and in the service of both man and God.”
“If you say so, but with a chance to meet Dalton or Henry or Davy or,” and here Amanda gave a frisson of excitement, “Even Faraday. You have the chance to study natural philosophy with such masters, and you choose divinity.”
“What's wrong with divinity?”
“It's so commonplace. I'd cut off my right arm to study with any one of those men and you're just wasting the opportunity.”
Mr. Williams was nonplussed. Unable to think of anything witty, eventually he replied, “Please don't do that. You have a pretty, indeed beautiful, right arm. It wouldn't look right, replaced with a hook.”
Amanda smiled back and laughed as she said, “I didn't mean it literally, but I'd kill someone for the chance you have and are throwing away.”
“Please don't do that either. I suppose I could try law.”
Amanda's grimace suggested that option was, if anything, even less appealing than divinity.
“In my defense, none of the masters you mentioned are fellows at Oxford.”
“Still, there must be someone.”
Despite her misgivings about divinity students, Amanda couldn't help feeling disappointed when the dance drew to a close and it was time for the supper break. Mr. Williams bowed and returned to his cousin's company, while she found her mother.
Lady Caterham's interests and hopes were peaked, and she asked, “So, Amanda, what did you think of him? He has real prospects.”
“About Mr. Williams?”
“He seems a nice enough man. Although I wish he were doing something with his education. Something worthwhile.”
“Damning me with faint praise?” It was Mr. Williams. He had walked up behind them and was carrying two cups of punch. “Miss Caterham, I thought you could use this, after your exertions on the dance floor, and with the crush.”
Amanda blushed at his attention, then curtsied, accepted the punch from him and said “Thank you. I didn't mean to disparage you.” Her mother beamed at Mr. Williams, but fortunately showed her good sense and stayed silent.
He replied, “You didn't say anything that you hadn't told me to my face. It is true, divinity is dull work, but I never had much aptitude for natural philosophy.”
Lady Caterham loudly whispered, cautioning her daughter, “Amanda, behave. Watch that tongue of yours.” Mr. Williams did not fail to notice Amanda rolling her eyes at the admonishment, nor that she kept smiling at him.
He added, “It may be a liberty, but could I ask for a third dance? That is if you are free.”
“She accepts,” Lady Caterham injected.
“Mother, please. That is so fast, to dance three dances with the same man. What about my reputation?”
“What harm can there be when the man is so obviously moral. When do you take orders, Mr. Williams?”
“Early next year, when I finish my studies at Oxford. Miss Caterham, if you would rather not dance with me, I'd be disappointed but willing to release my claim.”
“No, no, I didn't mean that. Yes, I'd love to dance with you again. Please. Even two more times.”
“Twice more is excessive,” Lady Caterham added.
When the next dance started, another country dance that would let the participants converse between the figures, Mr. Williams asked, “So Amanda, why are you so interested in natural philosophy?”
Amanda blushed, “Not philosophy, engines, power, steam. Ever since I saw Trevithick's engine in London, I've wanted to build one of my own.”
“Indeed? Tell me about it. Have you made much progress?”
“Some, but I don't have any engines, right now. Sam and I are building another one. It will be a corker.”
“Mr. Perkins, my maid's husband, a blacksmith.”
“So not a rival.”
Amanda laughed, “Good Lord, no.”
“Good. So if you don't have an engine, what else are you interested in?”
Amanda paused until the next chance to talk, and then replied, “Bearings, bearings and springs.”
“I want to go fast, very fast, so quickly that the axles would smoke and the wheels fall off with a regular carriage. Sam and I can build the engine and the gears, but need a carriage that will handle the power.”
“I suppose your family approves?”
“What they don't know won't hurt them.”
“If you say so, Miss Caterham, but I've found keeping secrets leads one into sticky situations.”
“What do you know of secrets? Studying for the clergy, I'd assume you lived a tame life.”
Mr. Williams stopped, stunned that she would shoot so near the mark, interrupting the dance figure for a few seconds. “More than I can tell you.” Then he quickly resumed the dance.
Amanda was piqued, “So you have a secret, or are you just offering me a nut to crack open as a puzzle?”
“I hope you'll find the meat at the heart of this nut to your liking.”
“Are you trying to flirt with me?”
“Yes. Trying, but it seems I'm not succeeding.”
“If you're like most men I've met it's just a conker, hard on the outside, bitter and inedible on the inside. What brings you to the wilds of Sodbury?'
“That I can answer directly. I'm on a repairing lease. Been burning the candle at both ends too long at the 'varsity.”
“Daily Compline and Evensong too much for you?”
“One might say that.”
“From what my brother Frederick says, it's probably the all-night drinking and parties on the Cherwell.”
Mr. Williams smiled at her, which she took for confirmation. Then he added, “It's the all-nighter's in any case. I was told to rest, and leave off it until I recovered.”
“Have you recovered?”
“I've made great strides. Dancing with beautiful women helps immensely.”
Amanda blushed at the compliment.
All too soon the music ended. Mr. Williams and Amanda bowed to each other. Good manners dictated that she dance with other partners. For some reason the officers who were available and willing seemed curiously flat. Good dancers, elegantly mannered, but deficient in conversation.
The evening ended well, at least the dancing did. Partway back to Caterham hall, when the carriage went over a steep bump, there was snap. It was followed by a gentle hiss and the box leaned sharply to the right.
Lady Caterham was startled, “What was that?”
“One of the seals broke. Blast.”
“Amanda! What did I tell you about your language.”
“I'm sorry. It's just Sam and I put such a lot of effort into building the springs. To have one fail so quickly. It's highly annoying.”
'”I just wish, Amanda, that you would pay attention to the important things in life, marriage and men.”
The next day, at the reasonably civilized time of the mid-afternoon, a distinguished young gentleman rode up to the front of Caterham Hall. He came dressed for a social call and to impress the mistress of the house. After a stable boy dashed out and took his mount, the young man ascended the stairs to the front door. He was about to knock when an observant footman opened it.
“May I ask for whom you are calling, Sir?”
“Lady Caterham, or her daughter, Miss Caterham. If she is available and willing to talk.”
While his impassive expression belied none of his curiosity and even less of his amusement, the footman continued, “Who should I announce?”
“Oh. Mr. Williams. Mr. Edward Williams. I met them at the assembly last night and hoped to continue my acquaintance.” He handed the footman his card.
The footman took the card and bowed; then added “Sir, if you would follow me.” He escorted the man to a front room, the library, and intimated that he would inform her ladyship. The library, in common with many country house libraries, was more for show than reading. Mr. Williams scanned the titles, and saw that most of the spines were unbroken. They were old familiars, books he had been forced to read in his education, or books he had latter chosen to read. A well-educated man, apparently studying for the ministry, needed to understand the history of the Roman Empire, and Mr. Gibbons 'Decline and Fall' was familiar.
He stopped with a start when he turned the corner of one bookshelf and came to a partially hidden alcove. Instead of the unused order that characterized the rest of the library, he came to a section that was in active chaos. He picked up one book that was lying open, face down, and read, “Principles of Mechanics.” He frowned at the equations it contained. Then he smiled to himself and put it back. A disorderly stack of pages was tucked into a corner of the room nearby. They were full of drawings and calculations. All were done in a fine feminine hand.
He paged through the sheets and studied Amanda's work. As he gazed with interest at a calculation of the optimum size for a piston, he was interrupted from behind.
“That's my daughter's trash. I try to remind her to be tidy.”
“Lady Caterham,” Mr. Williams bowed, “I am so pleased to see you.” He put the pages back on the stack. “I hope I haven't disturbed anything, then. I see you've managed to keep her work confined to one corner.”
Lady Caterham signed, “If you only knew the effort it took. Amanda and her enthusiasms.”
“At least, I suppose, her lessons in watercolor and drawing didn't come amiss.”
“I wish she'd draw flowers. She had such a good eye for them, and her needlepoint, it was precise. You can see one of the screens she made by the fireplace. Though, I must admit she never had much of an ear for music.”
“Pistons and gears are a unique accomplishment for a young lady, Ma'am. How did she get started with them?”
“She went with her father and brother to see one of Trevithick's demonstrations when she was twelve. That was all it took. She came back with her head in the clouds of steam. Full of hot air if you ask me.”
“Indeed?” He paused, “In any case, I am pleased to see you Ma'am. I presume the exertions of the last night were not too tiring.”
“Everything was fine until we were nearly home. Then something snapped in that contraption Miss Caterham rigged on our carriage. Shame, because it was a comfortable ride.”
“There was a pop, and suddenly we were on our sides. Almost tipped over.”
A voice came from the doorway. “That isn't true, Mother.” Amanda inserted herself into the conversation.
“Amanda! Get yourself changed. Imagine letting Mr. Williams see you looking like that.”
“Like what? Ma'am.” Mr. Williams was disarmingly pleasant, “Surely she had no notice of my visit.”
“Covered in oil and wearing that awful dress.”
“I don't know,” He added. “That grease and oil somehow become you, Miss Caterham. Your mother said something went wrong with your carriage last night?”
“One of the bl-,” Amanda caught herself, “One of the springs let itself down. The seal broke and the cab tilted a bit to the right.”
“Tilted? Amanda, dearest, I was nearly thrown in your lap.”
“But you weren't Mother, were you. I left the thoroughbrace in place for just such an occasion.”
Much to Lady Caterham's surprise, Mr. Williams took this all in his stride. “Miss Caterham, if it wouldn't be too difficult.”
“Could you show me what happened?”
“Could have, had you been here this morning. It's all fixed now. Had to be more careful at boring out the tube. Sam cannot hammer them exactly to size, so we make them undersize and bore them out.”
“Really, how interesting. Boring and not reaming?”
“Amanda,” Lady Caterham had a dangerous tone to her voice. “This is becoming tedious. Please hurry to get cleaned up so you can receive your visitor properly. I'm sure Mr. Williams did not ride all this way just to talk to me.”
Amanda replied, “Reaming isn't precise enough and it can make tiny cracks in the pipe. That's why the seal failed, Sam cut corners.” Then she turned and walked from the room. At the doorway, she added with a curtsy, “I'll be back shortly, Mr. Williams. Thank you for visiting, and I apologize for my tardiness.”
“I should like to talk with you, Miss Caterham. Perhaps we could walk in the garden when you are ready?”
“Talk about what?”
“A matter of great doctrinal importance.” He smiled at her, mocking his own avowed profession. “If you would not mind.”
While her maid, Mary, restored Amanda's hair and face back to respectability and helped her don a gown that wasn't grease-stained or torn, Mr. Williams continued to talk with Lady Caterham. He had a few important questions.
“Ma'am. May I inquire if you are Miss Caterham's guardian?”
“No, my husband is still living. He and my son Frederick are off in the Cotswolds at a hunting party.”
“So, should I be interested in courting Miss Caterham?”
“You should apply to him, but,” She paused, unsure how to make her point.
“I understand. He generally does what, sorry, approves of your decisions?”
“In important matters we are of one mind.” She omitted the implied, “mine of course.”
“I see. So I may have your permission to see where your daughter's interests lie?”
“Yes, but I must warn you. You'd have a better chance if you were made of iron and hissed steam.”
Mr. Williams laughed, “I've been accused of having an iron will sometimes, and there were lot's of hisses at my last sermon.”
“I wish you luck.”
Mary delivered, as usual, and a few minutes later, a cleaner and much more presentable Amanda walked into the library. Her maid followed her, expecting to act as her chaperone. Mr. Williams rose, showing his good manners, when she entered the room.
Amanda curtsied again, “Mr. Williams.” Then she turned to her mother and added, “As you can see, I'm presentable.”
“And, I see, dressed for the walk.”
“Yes, isn't that what you suggested we do, Mr. Williams, or did you have some other ideas? I'd love to show you my workshop.”
Her mother said, “Amanda! He doesn't want to see that. Go for a walk. Your father used to take me down by the riverside. It's still scenic.”
Smiling at the situation, Mr. Williams joined Amanda and said, “I think that sounds delightful. Shall we?”
Amanda shrugged her acceptance. Mr. Williams wasn't bad company. Then she added, “Anything for a quiet life. See, Mother, I do appreciate male company.”
They walked together, followed by Mary at a discreet distance. As they left Lady Caterham's earshot, Mr. Williams said, “I'd love to see your workshop, but maybe some other time. I'm in my best clothes and would hate to get them too filthy. My laundry bill will be high enough as it is.”
Mary didn't miss his point and added, “Miss Amanda, I wouldn't be able to clean the grease from that gown.”
“Well,” Amanda replied, “It's not like anything is happening there, right now. I gave Sam a break. We need to develop better tools for making pipes. I didn't realize how hard it was until I helped with the small piece we needed to repair the carriage.”
“Is that what those papers were about?”
“The ones in the library. I must say, you have a fine hand.”
“I hope you didn't mix them up, they were in order.”
“No, I could see that.” Then Mr. Williams gently chided her, “May I add, that 'Principles of Mechanics' is an unusual read for a young lady. I'd have thought 'the Mysteries of Udolpho' or some such romance would be to your liking.”
Amanda stopped short. She was about to reply sharply, and then noticed the smile on his face, “You're teasing me. Aren't you?”
“I never saw the point in those books. All heartthrob and passion in some made up land. I want to do real things.”
“So I can tell. Can I ask you a question?”
“You just have.” There were times when the engineer in Amanda was terribly literal.
“No, I mean about your family?”
“You have my permission to ask another question if you want.”
“Oh, so what about them?”
Amanda shook her head in confusion, “I guess you want me to tell you about them. Why didn't you ask that?”
“Should I have been so explicit? Then, how are your brothers and sisters?”
“You must have met Freddy, he's up at Oxford. I mean, down for the moment and hunting with my father at a friend's estate in the Cotswolds. Usually, though, during the term he's up there.”
“Can't say I've had the pleasure, which college?”
“That is surprising, I should know him since that's my college. What is he studying?”
“Something useless. You'd have to ask him.”
“I'll make a point of it. Useless like divinity?”
“I hope I didn't say that to your face.”
“You did imply it, rather strongly. Last night.”
“I'm always saying things like that. Mother doesn't like it.”
“I think your bluntness adds to your charm. Do you have other siblings?”
“A younger brother Geoffrey, he's at Harrow,” she paused, “and the pride of my mother, Susan.”
“Three years younger than me and already married. To Lord Yaxley.”
“Does that bother you?”
“That she's married, no. She is an empty-headed flighty girl and suited for little else. It's just that now Mother expects me to follow in her footsteps.”
“So it does bother you.”
“I gather 'Mother's expectations' are the fly in the ointment.”
Amanda stopped again and looked directly into Mr. Williams' eyes. She had a determined stare. “Yes, I suppose someday I'll meet someone suitable. In the meantime, I'm not just going to sit around and wait. I want to do things, make my mark in the world.”
Mr. Williams returned her stare. It was disquieting, and it gave her unsettling stirrings. Even more disquieting was his reply, “Maybe you have. On me.”
“That's not what I meant, and you know it. Besides, I'm looking for someone who isn't content to just be a minister.”
Mr. Williams smiled, “I'll be a bishop some day.”
“I suppose that shows some ambition. Tame, but at least a spark of ambition.”
“That's humbling. Tell me, then, what do you want to do?”
“I told you last night when we were dancing. I want speed, power and more speed. I'm building a steam carriage.”
“Then it truly is a pity that we can't see your workshop. Tell me more about it.”
“Are you sure?”
“I'd truly like to know what you're doing.”
“There's so much and it's technical. Not anything a divinity student would understand. Also, Mr. Hungerford doesn't want me to tell too many people. That way we can patent it and sell the licenses.”
“Who is this Mr. Hungerford?”
“I shouldn't have mentioned him. It's a secret.”
“My lips are sealed. Trust me Amanda. I know how to keep secrets.”
Amanda started to walk again, then stopped once more, turned back to face Mr. Williams and said, “It can stay secret forever, so I'll risk it. Mr. Hungerford is the owner of the mine on Coalpit Heath. Sam and I rebuilt his steam pump when it broke last year. Now it uses half the coal and pumps more than twice as much water. He pays us a retainer to keep it running.”
“I'd say that's a mark to be proud of.”
“We can do even better now.”
“So, is he paying?”
“For what? Oh, I guess you mean my shop.”
“That's what I meant.”
“He's a partner in my firm.”
Mary added, “So is my Sam.”
Mr. Williams paused in thought and then said, “Now I shall have to see this shop of yours, Lady Hephaestus.”
“Hephaestus, the Greek God of Smiths. I don't think there was a muse of ironwork, and none of the Goddess’s fit. Though you'd be a good fit for his wife, Aphrodite, though more faithful than her, I should hope.”
“Flirting with me again?” Amanda blushed at what she realized was a compliment.
“Yes, and this time I think I succeeded. Don't you?”
Amanda laughed, “Yes you have.”
“Good, your mother warned me that to win your approval, I'd have to be made of iron and breath steam.”
“No, that's not true.' Amanda suddenly felt shy, and looked away. “It's just.” She stopped, unable to put her confused feelings into words.
Seeing Mary's disapproving stare, Mr. Williams refrained from hugging Amanda and laying his heart at her feet. Instead, he merely said, “Miss Caterham, I respect you and value your company. Shall we continue to the riverside?”
Relieved to have a respite, Amanda smiled at him, and said, “Yes, let's. There is a particularly beautiful spot a quarter mile this way.”
“Lead on, My Lady. Though you make anywhere beautiful with your presence.”
“Oh stop it. Wait until you see my workshop.”
“Alas, I suspect our visit will resemble Aphrodite visiting her husband's forge. Nonetheless, I still maintain it will be beautiful enough while you are there.”
Amanda gave him a sour half-smile, “That's enough foolery. If I can't walk with a sensible man, then I'll just go home.”
“Then you're an unusual woman; one who dislikes compliments. What would you like me to talk to you about?”
“Why don't you ask me about my latest design for an engine? Sam and I have developed a secondary expansion chamber.”
“An expansion chamber. Captures the steam and extracts more work from it.”
The next morning, Lord Caterham and his son Frederick thundered into the stable-yard on their hunters. They had ridden hard from Ewelme manor in Dursley after receiving important news the night before via a messenger from Lady Caterham. Lord Caterham rushed into the house, while Frederick ensured that the stable hands properly rubbed down, cooled off, watered and fed their horses.
“Elizabeth!” Lord Caterham shouted after he entered the hall, “Is it true?”
“Is what true?”
“Amanda finally has a beau.”
“Quiet, please. Let's talk in the parlor. Things are, I think, at a delicate stage and I don't want to upset them.”
A few minutes later, in the parlor, behind a closed and latched door, Lady Caterham filled her master and helpmate in on what had happened.
“They met at the assembly. Danced three dances, and would have danced a fourth had manners allowed. Then he rode here yesterday, ostensibly to see how we had recovered from our exertions, but”
“But really to chat with Amanda. He even saw her covered in grease and wearing that awful dress she likes.”
“The grease-stained and patched one?”
“I'm surprised he didn't just make his excuses and leave right then.”
“Well, he didn't, and he asked my permission to address her. Amanda was up in her room changing at the time. Of course I accepted. No objections?”
“If it gets Amanda's mind off of steam and onto marriage, absolutely not.”
“I didn't think there could be. Then they went for a walk, down by the river,” she paused, “Mary chaperoned.”
“What did Mary say?”
“I didn't inquire into the details, but she felt Amanda enjoyed the man's company.”
“So what do we know about this man?”
“He's a Mr. Edward Williams, well-born and connected to the Fairfax's. He's studying divinity at Oxford.”
“Which college? Maybe Freddy knows him.”
His wife continued on her own thread, “Mrs. Peabody says he'll be a bishop some day.”
“So he's a catch. One to be encouraged.”
“Did you think I'd interrupt your hunting just to see off a wastrel? By now, you should know I can handle that myself.”
Since Lady Caterham was possibly the only woman whose frozen glare could intimidate Mr. Brummel, Lord Caterham was sure that she could see off any undesirable without his assistance.
“I forget myself. So what should I do? Though I must admit I'm surprised that anyone who wasn't a natural philosopher or a grimy engineer could make a dent in her affections.”
“It is a miracle. Enough to restore one's faith in a divine creator. There's even more.”
“He and she have arranged to tour her workshop this afternoon, and she's upstairs trying to decide on what to wear.”
“That is serious. She doesn't even like us to visit that shop.”
There was a quiet knock on the door, and then it opened. Amanda asked, “Father, I'd heard you were back. Was the hunting that bad?”
“It wasn't bad, but I'd heard you had some successful hunting yourself.”
Lady Caterham hissed under her breath, “George!”
Amanda smiled; then replied, “If by that, you mean, a visit by a pleasant young man, then yes. You're not already supposing?”
“No, no, but.”
“Hope springs eternal?” She laughed, “Don't get too far ahead in your hopes. He's studying for the ministry, and I somehow cannot see myself as a minister's wife. Could you imagine me doing everything Mrs. Peabody does? Visiting the sick, teaching parishioner’s children, putting up the harvest festival decorations, or having interminable teas with the Ladies of the Parish. I can't.”
Privately, Lord Caterham had to admit that he couldn't see that either, but this was such a step in the right direction for his daughter that he wasn't about to throw the least bit of obstacle in its path. So he changed the subject, “Did Mr. Williams mention which college he was a member of?”
“New College, Freddie's. Doesn't remember Freddy, though.”
“Who doesn't remember me?” Frederick found his way to the parlor, having dealt with the horses. Or at least ensured that the stable hands were at their work.
Amanda regarded her brother with a mixture of affection and envy. Affection, because he was a likeable if somewhat flighty, young man, and envy, because he could attend university while she could not. She said, “Mr. Williams, Edward Williams I think. He said he was a member of the New College.”
“Oh, let me think a bit. Is he tall, dark haired, athletic sort of chap?”
“Yes, has lovely deep blue eyes, too.”
“I wouldn't know about that, but if he's who I think he is, he's a fourth or fifth year man. Wouldn't mix with us lower form students. I mean he's practically a fellow himself.”
“That's odd, I mean to take that long to study divinity.”
“If that's the man, he's a deuced odd divinity student. Never see him at Compline or Evensong.”
“So you attend service?”
“Not always, but often enough. The divinity students must attend, I mean, that's what they're studying. They're supposed to enjoy it, and even if they don't they should get used to it.”
“So mayhaps there's some hope for him after all,” Amanda said, “If he's not completely set on the church. In any case, he should be here soon. He wanted to see my workshop.”
“Amanda, dear,” Lord Caterham added, much to the discomfort of his wife, “That shows he has serious intentions. A man who would willing spend time in that dingy place, rather than being out riding to hounds, must have an ulterior motive.”
“Father! He's just a pleasant mannered man. He's on a repairing lease due to overwork at college, and getting up a mild flirtation with a safe young lady. I'll miss him when he's returned to Oxford, but only because he's good company.”
Lady Caterham added, “If you say so, Amanda,” in a dry tone of voice.
“I do. He'll have forgotten about me in a fortnight, and find some poor girl who is much more suited to be a minister's wife within six months.”
There was a gentle cough in the background. They turned and one of the footmen respectfully bowed, “There is a gentleman to see Miss Caterham.”
Mr. Williams strode from behind him and said, “Miss Caterham, I doubt I'll have forgotten about you so quickly.”
Amanda blushed, “I hadn't meant my comments,” she paused, “I'm sorry, I thought I was only speaking to my family.”
“I understand, they must be anxious for you.” He smiled at her, “and no, I don't think you'd enjoy living in a country parish either. Well, not unless I could find one near Manchester with its smoke and steam.”
Amanda quickly recovered her poise and introduced both her father and brother to Mr. Williams. She said, “Frederick, is this the man were thinking of?”
“Why yes. Are you in your forth or fifth year?”
Mr. Williams brushed the question aside by saying, “That's not important. What is important, is that visit to your workshop, Lady Hephaestus. I should like to see your secret temple of steam.”
“So should I,” Freddy added, “Ever since you've hooked up with him, Sam doesn't shoe horses. Always says he's too busy. Dashed inconvenient that is.”
Amanda smirked, “He is busy, and there are several farriers within an easy walk. The reason I don't want you wandering around the shop is simple. It's not a place for the unwary. Keeping it locked keeps it safe. Since Mr. Williams asked me, so very prettily, for a visit, I'm willing to show him.”
Freddy studied Mr. Williams and almost said, “I bet his blue eyes and handsome face helped,” but didn't, which showed that underneath his flightiness there was a core of good sense. Instead, he went down on bended knee, clasped his hands to his breast and mocked, “Goddess of the forge and fire, mistress of the clouds and steam, would you let me see your secret lair? Please.”
“Don't be silly.”
“Well, how about it, Sister of mine?”
“If you insist. Just be careful.”
“Seriously, even if Sam isn't hammering away and the forge is cold?”
“Even then, you as well Mr. Williams. There are acid baths to pickle the metal and a plating solution.”
Mr. Williams said, “Pickling the metal?”
“Clean the surface with acid so that it welds cleanly.”
“I hope you are careful with that. I'd hate for you to be hurt.”
“I am, but it's Sam who does the heavy work. Should we go?”
A few minutes later, Amanda led a precession to her workshop. What she had hoped would be a more or less private conversation with Mr. Williams morphed into a family excursion with her brother and father tagging along. At least her mother remained at home. When they reached the door, she took the lock and spun the rings on the side of it. With the right combination, it snapped open, and she removed it from the door.
“I say Amanda, that's clever!” Frederick said, “Where did you find that?”
“Made it. It's a puzzle lock. That way both Sam and I can open it without a key.”
She started to pull the door open. Then Mr. Williams stepped forward and took the door from her. A confusing jumble of machines and parts greeted them when they looked in. Amanda led the way and started to tell her followers about the things they saw.
Frederick and her father mostly stood in stolid wonderment, while Mr. Williams asked intelligent questions.
“Miss Caterham, why do you have so many gauges?”
“The tricky thing is making parts to exact tolerances.” She walked over and picked up a small piston. “You see, if we can avoid having to use huge sloppy leather seals then we can make smaller faster engines; ones that don't leak and can handle live steam.”
“Oh. Makes sense.”
“Not just makes sense, but it's cheaper too. When Sam and I fixed Mr. Hungerford's engine, all the bolts were individual sizes. Every one was different, and each one had to be hand fitted. We've been slowly swapping them out for a standard size. At least a couple of standard sizes. Means Sam can just bring a bolt from here when something breaks.”
There was a voice from the door, “As I just did, Ma'am. One of the pivots on the rocker arm snapped this morning.”
“Sam! I'm glad to see you. I wanted to show Mr. Williams the shop. My father and brother insisted on tagging along.”
Sam respectfully touched his forehead in a salute, and then said, “Sir, any questions that I can answer?”
Mr. Williams said, “I was about to ask what is the purpose of putting those machines in a line?”
“Ah, sir. 'Tis simple. We're planning to run a shaft along the ceiling. Then the drill and lathe can be powered from an engine. It will save no end of effort.”
Amanda continued, “Not to mention the hammering machine we're building. Make coarse forming much easier.”
Mr. Williams asked, “So you'll be able to turn out the parts quickly and cheaply?”
“That is the plan, Sir. Savings will pay for an apprentice or two.”
Her father asked his first question of the trip, “Amanda dear, who is paying for this? I doubt your pin money is covering it. Not if I know your Mother.”
That was one question Amanda did not want to answer, but eventually she did, “Mr. Hungerford. We fixed his engine and pump at the mine on the Heath. We have a partnership, he and Sam.”
“Good. Shows initiative young lady. Very good. Laudable.” Something about the tone of her father's remarks bothered her.
The tour continued and Amanda showed them a pair of thick wooden beams that were resting on two saw horses. They were bolted together with iron cross-pieces to make a frame. Springs held a pair of axles below the frame and there was a mechanism to turn one axle.
“This is the start of my carriage. Need to finish the wheels and an engine, but it will move.”
Freddy looked it and said, “It's so small. You can't fit carriage wheels on it.”
“No, much smaller, metal wheels. I'm working on drawing them up now.”
Sam added, “I've started on the engine. That's the boiler and firebox over there.”
“Miss Caterham,” Mr. Williams added, “They're much smaller than any engine I've seen. Can you make it work?”
Amanda smiled; then said, “Yes. It's the precision that matters, and we've been making the tools to do precise metalwork.” She noticed Sam was unusually quiet, “Do you need to get the forge started?”
“No, Miss. But it's best that they leave. Doesn't do to tell too many people about what we're doing. At least not before the patent's approvedi.”
“A patent you say?” There was an avaricious glint in Lord Caterham's eye. “Are you saying this is worth something, real money?”
“Yes, My Lord,” Sam replied.
Mr. Williams said, “My mouth is sealed, but clearly we should go. Miss Caterham, if you're willing and the weather holds fine, would you care for another walk by that stream?”
Amanda blushed, “Why, yes. We could turn the other direction when we get to the stream. That's pretty too.”
Mr. Williams looked Amanda directly in the eyes, “Especially if you're there.”
She blushed, but didn't shush him this time.
iA patent cost L100, of which L20-30 went to the patent authority. The rest were “processing fee's.” If you knew the ropes, you could do it for less, but it was a major investment. It lasted for 14 years for machinery.