(Epilogue, The Steam Man Band, Delilah returns from the dead, and The persistence of sandwiches)
Duo and Trike held fast to her hands as she entered the side stage door. They giggled to see their automaton brothers playing music on the stage.
“There’s Pappy,” chirped Duo. He was, after all, hard to miss. Still a gangly giant of a man, pale as a sheet and sporting blue-black hair.
“Pappy!” Trike broke away and ran for his father.
Colonel Walter scooped up his son as if it was the most natural thing in the world to swing a child around near four automatons that had once been used in war. The audience gasped a little, of course. They didn’t know that these children viewed the automatons as playmates at best and playthings at worst.
They had no idea that she regularly had to pluck either Duo or Trike off of The Spine’s chimneys when she and he both were doing the mending. Or that they thought it a great game to sneak ‘Pappy sandwiches’ out of Hatchworth and then ferry the diabolical things to their father. They laughed to hear her scolding him. They learned to play instruments from Rabbit or Three. And had imagination adventures all through the mansion with all four of the original automatons.
Iris joined her husband and her children on the stage. All six of them. And went through the little routine that they had for family incursions onto the stage. All a good show to promote Walter Automatons to the gentry and anyone else who could pay for their making.
Every Walter Automaton had personality. If they tried to mass manufacture them, there was something… lacking. The generic factory automatons had no sense of self, no sense of love, and subsequently came to ruin relatively quickly. If care and attention went into their making, they would come out of the factory as almost-people, and thereby last a lot longer than their generic counterparts.
Of course, it did mean that a Walter Automaton was a commission piece, made to order, and therefore not exactly common. And not exactly cheap. Becile, meanwhile, had managed to make knock-off automatons of a more generic nature… which the public lapped up despite numerous risks to health and home because of the things.
There was a surprising giant in the audience, that evening. A tall pale lady who could still make Iris feel like a dowdy dummy. She looked exactly like…
No. She was dead. She’d died years ago. Before the Cavalcadium had both vanished and been forgotten by the larger throng. Before the portals to Kazooland had changed… everything. Including her brothers’ attitude to her marriage.
Iris kept a solid eye on the Delilah lookalike. Such a magnificent creature could not be ignored, even when she was fielding questions from mothers who were anxious about the relative safety of Walter Automatons. Though the sight of two rambunctious boys clambering all over the machines seemed to put most people at ease.
Delilah’s pallid twin had Miss Viviana Broodwell in her wake, and made her way to darling Peter. Shook his hand, and said, “Well done. They are wonderful.”
The look on Peter’s face said it all. This truly was the dear departed Doctor Delilah Moreau. Somehow risen from the grave.
The woman chuckled. “Why Colonel... you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Miss Doctor Moreau,” he said, retreating into rigid formality. “I must congratulate your beloved Miss Broodwell on her most excellent cure for your former condition.” He even summoned a smile for her. “I am glad to know that your brilliance will not be lost to the world. And might I recommend a residence in Kazooland’s Horroria, once you tire of San Diego?”
Delilah had a very sharp smile, now. And pointed tips to her ears. And her hair was permanently jet black. “Yes, I’ve visited. I’ll consider it when I truly need to depart. Now she angled her gaze to Iris. Making her freeze from pure trepidation.
Horroria vampires were relatively harmless. And had a peculiar hierarchy of manners concerning blood-taking. Iris was not so sure of these two.
“And I must congratulate you on your most excellent marriage,” she said. “I can see the improvement you’ve made on him, Mrs Iris Walter. You’re a good match.” Delilah pitched her voice low and whispered in Iris’ ear. “Don’t fret, dear. Viviana and I have been keeping the vampires away from you and your darling boys. You are protected.”
Iris had no further response but a stumbling, “Thank you very much,” and a mandatory curtsey.
She would never see her again, and part of her was a little glad at that.
Nevertheless, she clung to her dear Peter for the remainder of that evening. Sticking fast to his side as if guarding him from the spirit of romances past. She needn’t have bothered. Peter just... glowed with love… whenever his eyes turned her way. He adored her so much, that an impressive figure like Miss Doctor Moreau just faded away into the background.
Still smitten, after all this time.
He bent down to Duo and murmured, “Do you think you could get me one of my sandwiches from Hatchworth?” with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
Those bothersome and dreadful sandwiches!
Iris tutted and sighed, “Oh, Peter…” much to the amusement of their children. All six of them.