(First etiquette lessons, A need of physic, A silly episode, and Professional work)
Mrs Cambridge helped Iris quietly escort the metal men into the kitchen. Where thick walls protected the mechanical babies from all but the worst of the shouting. Both automatons huddled under the table clung to each other in abject misery.
Iris helped them drink cool water to help refill their boilers, and calmed them with a nonsense song that her own mother had used when Iris had felt out of sorts. And cleaned their face plating with an old rag.
"No meaning be mean," said Rabbit in the end. "Wanted the pretty."
"We ask when we want things," soothed Iris. "And we are patient if the answer is 'no'."
"Not fair," grumbled Rabbit. "Wanted it."
They were machines who had just watched themselves get put together. Of course they didn't understand. "People don't come apart like you do," she tried. "And it's wrong to make them."
The Spine bubbled and whined, it was difficult to understand him, but Iris swore she heard, "Self bad. Self wrong."
"You didn't do anything," said Iris.
"Yes," bubbled The Spine. "Is why Self bad."
Poor babies. "You've both got so much to learn," she told them. "This is your first day in this wicked world, of course you're going to get things wrong. But that never means that you are wrong. Please remember that."
"...'es, Ma..." mumbled The Spine.
Iris would spend some time regretting that she didn't correct him there and then. But she was quickly distracted by limping footfalls and the sound of Colonel Walters voice.
"I'll need some ice, please, Mrs Cambridge." He sat heavily by the kitchen table.
Iris crawled out first, followed by Rabbit and then The Spine, who climbed Rabbit to achieve verticality.
Colonel Peter Walter was a mess. He'd evidently received a drubbing at the hands of his father. Bruises bloomed across his face and blood oozed thickly from various cuts. He was out of breath and his white coat was torn.
Iris rushed for the first aid, tending him as automatically as she had tended her brothers. He did not struggle against her ministrations. Not even when she got him down to shirtsleeves and began unbuttoning that.
"People don't come apart and it's wrong to make them," said Rabbit, echoing her words.
"I'm not taking Pappy apart, I'm just taking some clothes off so I can see where he's hurt." Just as she'd feared, he'd blocked some blows with his arms. She sponged his injuries with a brine, and began applying lint and bandages. Nothing needed stitches, thank goodness.
"That's professional work, Miss Iris," said Colonel Walter appreciatively. "I've never seen a neater bandage in all my years. Not even from the experts."
Iris continued applying them. "Six brothers and a rough neighbourhood," she explained . "I'm no doctor, but I know my physic."
Mrs Cambridge returned with an ice bag to press against the Colonel's bruises. "What did he do to you now?"
"I had one of my silly episodes. The Admiral my father set about curing me," he said in a perfectly matter-of-fact monotone. "He stopped when I went down, this time."
Miss Verity Ponsonbury may have had a lucky escape, but Colonel Walter paid for it in full.