Arabella of Mars: Chapter 3

A plantation in a flourishing 18th century British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby, a young woman who is perfectly content growing up in the untamed frontier. But days spent working on complex automata with her father or stalking her brother Michael with her Martian nanny is not the proper behavior of an English lady. That is something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England.

However, when events transpire that threaten her home on Mars, Arabella decides that sometimes doing the right thing is far more important than behaving as expected. She disguises herself as a boy and joins the crew of the Diana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company, where she meets a mysterious captain who is intrigued by her knack with clockwork creations. Now Arabella just has to weather the naval war currently raging between Britain and France, learn how to sail, and deal with a mutinous crew…if she hopes to save her family remaining on Mars.

Arabella of Mars, the debut novel by Hugo-winning author David D. Levine offers adventure, romance, political intrigue, and Napoleon in space—available July 12th from Tor Books. Read chapter two below, or head back to the beginning with chapter one.

 

 

3
Escape

 

Arabella tried the door again and again, but no matter how hard she pressed against it, it would not shift even half an inch.

“Pray do not continue in your efforts, Cousin,” came Beatrice’s voice from without. “The door is securely shut, and even if you should succeed in opening it, I remain here with the pistol. And I will use it, if necessary. Please do not require this of me.”

“This mad scheme cannot succeed!” Arabella cried. “To put an end to one’s own relatives for personal gain would surely render the inheritance invalid!”

“You underestimate my husband, Cousin. Despite his occasional follies, he is a barrister, and very clever. He will find some way to avoid suspicion.”

“Murder will out,” Arabella said, but even as she spoke she realized that platitude was not always true. Mars was but thinly peopled; many had met their end there in lonely circumstances, with no witnesses and no evidence. If a cousin from Earth were to pay a visit, a convenient hunting accident could easily be arranged, and accusations of foul play would be difficult or impossible to support. “If nothing else, I will not let him escape blame.”

“And who are you?” Beatrice gave a nervous little laugh. “A seventeen-year-old girl—a wild child known for headstrong, intemperate actions—a jealous cousin deprived of her inheritance and ten thousand miles away from the court where the issue would be tried. Even if you could make your opinion known, who would listen to you?”

Arabella leaned against the door, breathing hard.

Though she did not want to believe what Beatrice said, she feared her cousin might be correct.

* * *

Hours passed. The light in the tiny window near the ceiling faded and dimmed as the sun sank toward the horizon. From time to time Arabella tried the door, but on each attempt Beatrice’s voice dissuaded her from further effort.

Simon had said that he would be on the last coach to London. She must find some way to stop him. But how? Her reticule contained nothing but minor toilette articles and a bit more than nineteen shillings—not nearly enough to bribe her way past Beatrice or even the maid. The tiny pantry had but a single window, quite high up, and the shelves held nothing more than a paltry selection of bread, potatoes, and other foodstuffs. Not even a butter-knife could be found.

Whatever could she do?

Arabella removed the silver locket which hung on a chain around her neck—the locket which had never once left her person since her exile from Mars—and opened it. Up from her trembling palm smiled a miniature portrait of her brother, painted by an itinerant artist when he had been fifteen years of age. The companion portrait, of herself at age twelve, rested in Michael’s watch-fob.

The youthful face in the portrait seemed so gay, so happy, so unconcerned. Arabella was the only one in all the worlds who knew how much danger he was in, and she seemed helpless to prevent it.

Even if she could somehow manage to make her way home before Simon reached London, she could not imagine Mother doing any thing to prevent him from carrying out his plan. So mired in propriety was she that she would never make an accusation, much less take action, against him until it was far too late.

No. It was up to Arabella, and Arabella alone, to prevent Simon from carrying out his dreadful scheme.

Decisively, she snapped the locket shut and looked around, seeking a fresh perspective upon the situation. What, she asked herself, would Khema do if similarly trapped?

The door was blocked and guarded. The rough plaster walls and wooden floor seemed too strong to be defeated without tools. The single window was far too small for escape.

Or was it?

As quietly as she could, Arabella climbed up to it, stepping up the shelves from one side of the tiny pantry to the other. The window was no more than a foot and a half wide and nine inches high; it was not made to open, and its cracked and bubbled glass was too filthy for a clear view to the outside.

But the frame… the frame was old, the paint cracked and peeling. And under the paint… the black of dry-rot.

Bracing herself awkwardly across the topmost shelves, Arabella pried at the splintered, rotted wood with her cuticle-knife. Though splinters abraded her skin and lodged painfully beneath her fingernails, a few bits and slivers came away, revealing still more rot beneath.

With grim determination she kept at her task, sending a shower of wood chips sifting down toward the floor. She worried that Beatrice might hear her, but no protests came from without. Her toes and calves began to ache from holding herself pressed against the ceiling, and the shelf pressed painfully against the backs of her thighs.

And then, suddenly, a large sliver came free all at once and the frame collapsed!

Arabella gasped and pressed the cracked glass, now free, into place before it could fall and shatter, nearly losing her footing on the shelves beneath her in the process.

Once she had caught her breath and stilled her beating heart, she gingerly picked the three large pieces of glass from the ruined frame and set them down upon the top shelf.

The cool air of a summer’s evening came through the opening, its blessed breath drying the perspiration which her efforts had brought to her cheeks and forehead, and for a moment she relaxed. But she was still a long way from escape.

She was, she knew, quite tall and exceptionally straight and slender for a girl of seventeen. How her mother had despaired of her daughter’s figure! “It is all on account of this planet’s inadequate gravity,” she had complained to Father. “It makes children grow up weak and spindly.” But in this case her shape might prove her salvation, for she estimated that she might just be able to squeeze herself through the opening.

But what would she find beyond it?

Cautiously she put her head through the window and looked about. The sun had fully set, but the light of Earth’s enormous moon revealed clearly that the window was only ten feet above the ground. And a large bush lay directly beneath, which would break her fall. She thought she might chance it.

But could she trust her instincts?

The force of Earth’s gravity was greater than that of Mars, as had already been demonstrated to her on numerous painful occasions. A leap which seemed entirely reasonable to her might here be sufficient to break her leg, or her neck.

“For Michael,” she whispered, and touched the locket.

She squirmed about, seeking to maneuver herself into a position whereby she would not plunge head first from the window as she exited, but very quickly realized that, while her hips might be able to pass through the opening, her black bombazine mourning dress would not.

She paused, breathing heavily, and considered her options.

Her mother would be appalled. But the night was dark, and her brother’s life was at stake.

How she wished she had her thukhong!

Quickly, but as quietly as possible, she descended to the pantry floor. Removing her dress without assistance in the confined space was maddeningly difficult, but she finally managed it. The shift, petticoat, and stays beneath she left on, to protect her skin from the shattered window frame as well as for modesty; the reticule she tucked securely beneath the stays at the small of her back.

Then, staring up at the moonlight that stole through the window opening, she had an idea. She balled up the dress and tossed it onto the top shelf. en, hitching her shift and petticoat up to her hips, she climbed back up to the top.

Straightening the dress to its maximum length, she removed one of the upper shelves from its brackets and tied the sleeves firmly about it. The remaining fabric extended less than a yard and a half, but she hoped it would make a difference.

Twisting about until she lay face-down across the remaining shelves, she maneuvered her feet out the window, then her legs, then her hips… her hands clinging to the shelf brackets with desperate strength. Once her hips were clear of the opening—with her knees against the outside wall’s rough plaster, and the cool night air caressing her thighs—she hauled on the black dress, drawing the wooden shelf up to her collarbone.

This was as far as she could go without committing herself to the drop.

“Now or never,” she breathed, and with her knees she pushed her stomach through the window. Her weight took her the rest of the way.

The splintered window-sill rasped painfully against her bosom.

She felt herself falling.

And then the shelf slammed into the window opening, halting her progress so rapidly her teeth clacked together.

The noise was tremendous. Immediately she heard Beatrice call her name, and chains rattling against the pantry door.

Quickly Arabella lowered herself as far as she could, her feet scrabbling against the wall, hands gripping the black dress. Soon she hung from the dress’s end, arms fully extended, gasping from the effort. Her feet swung in the air, feeling nothing beneath no matter how she stretched her toes.

From the window above came the sound of the pantry door opening, a light from the kitchen, and a gasp from Beatrice.

Arabella closed her eyes tight and released her hold on the dress.

With a shriek and a crash she fell into the bush, its branches

tearing at her legs and arms, then tumbled out of it and onto the hard ground.

From within the house came the sound of Beatrice’s voice: crying out alarms, calling for Jane, and casting imprecations on Arabella even as she rushed through the Ashbys’ little house.

Arabella pulled herself to her feet—panting hard, heart hammering. Her dress hung from the window above, far out of reach.

At least she still retained her reticule.

She gathered up her petticoats, turned, and ran.

She was a hundred yards or so down the lane when Beatrice rounded the corner of the house, shouting, “Stop! Stop! Stop or I shall shoot!”

Arabella did not stop. Surely Beatrice would not—

A loud crack came from behind. But though the sound nearly stopped Arabella’s racing heart, a zing and crash from the shrubbery to her left showed that, though Beatrice might be willing to pull the trigger, she had aimed wide—or else her skill as a marksman did not match her intent.

Arabella risked a glance over her shoulder. Beatrice stood panting, winded, the smoking pistol still in her hand, her eyes desperate. “Please, Cousin!” she cried. “Come back! Simon will regain his senses, I am certain of it!”

“I am not!” Arabella called back. “You must help me to stop him before he commits murder!”

Though the expression on Beatrice’s face held nothing but misery, she shook her head. “For the sake of my child,” she replied, “I cannot.” She then cried out, surprisingly loud, “Help! Oh, help me! Madwoman! Madwoman!”

Lights flickered to life all around, and voices were raised in alarm.

Arabella turned and ran.

* * *

Dodging through copses of trees smelling of loam and leafmould, scrambling over stone fences damp with moss, stumbling across plowed fields stubbled with wheat-stalks, Arabella ed headlong, caring for nothing other than to evade pursuit. Though the moon was setting and only half-full, it was so very much larger than Phobos that its light was still sufficient to keep her feet from roots and other obstacles. Strange chirruping noises— from birds or frogs or insects, she knew not what—came from the shadows, reminding her just how unfamiliar this landscape was to her; her desert skills availed her not at all.

From time to time she paused, gasping, peering in every direction. But Beatrice was nowhere in sight, and any sounds of pursuit were inaudible over her pounding heart.

After she knew not how long a time, exhaustion compelled her to stop. She crept into the darkness in the shade of a rock wall and lay panting on the cold ground there for just a moment’s rest.

A moment later, or so it seemed, she woke with a gasp from sleep. The moon had entirely vanished, and the sun’s wan light had begun to illuminate the horizon. Somehow, despite the excitement of the chase, fatigue had gotten the better of her.

Immediately she began to shiver from chill and weariness. The earth beneath her felt cold as ice, and besides the effort of escape she had barely slept or eaten in the last two days. She hugged herself miserably and bunched her sodden, soiled shift beneath herself as best she could.

What could she do? She had nothing—no family, no friends, hardly any money, not even decent clothing. Only the locket with Michael’s picture, and a grim determination.

The rising sun limned a farmhouse on a rise not far away. Arabella levered her stiff and protesting body to its feet, and began walking toward it.

* * *

The kitchen door creaked open a crack and a wrinkled, suspicious face peered out. “Who might you be?” the old woman said.

“Arabella Ashby, ma’am,” she replied. Her voice, after a cold night sleeping on bare earth, was little more than a croak.

The woman snorted. “What d’yer want?”

For a moment the apparently simple question vexed her completely. What did she want? To report the terrible crimes that her cousins had perpetrated upon her, and planned to perpetrate upon her brother. To send word to her mother of her situation. Most of all, to prevent Simon from traveling to Mars and carrying out his monstrous scheme. But that could all come later. Just now she was cold, and weary, and hungry. “Please, ma’am,” she rasped, “I’ve been the victim of a horrible crime. If I might come in, and warm up for a bit, and—”

“Strumpet!” the old woman interrupted. “Away with ye.” And with a firm, harsh motion she shut and latched the door. A moment later her eye reappeared at the window nearby, fixing her with a hostile glare.

Arabella stood motionless, stunned and appalled by the woman’s inhospitality.

A hand joined the eye at the window, gesturing unequivocally: Go away.

Arabella spat at her—or tried to, her mouth being so dry that only a tiny drop of spittle escaped her lips to fall ineffectively on the dirt before the door—turned, and walked away.

She cursed herself for her naiveté. A filthy, disheveled, bloodied young woman, in a scandalous state of undress, with a mad story of imprisonment, betrayal, and murder? She should never have expected to be believed. And even if she should somehow find someone who accepted her outlandish tale, it might be hours or days before they took any action. In that time Simon could easily take passage to Mars, and once the ship had launched he would be beyond the power of any one to stop him.

Arabella gritted her teeth and turned her steps toward the rising sun.

Toward London.

* * *

She could not walk all the way to London, of course—not if she wished to catch up with her cousin in time. Simon had taken the mail-coach, but no such option was open to Arabella. Even though she had what she hoped was sufficient money for the fare, for a woman of quality to travel on a public conveyance without male accompaniment was completely inconceivable.

If only she had not been born a woman.…

Arabella stopped dead in the path, appalled at the notion which had just occurred to her.

She shook her head and walked on.

As she proceeded, she debated with herself whether theft and deception could truly be justified by necessity. At the same time, she kept a sharp eye out for an opportunity to commit those very sins.

Finally, as she topped a rise, she came upon a small but prosperous farm. Wheat waved in the fields, chickens scratched in the yard, cattle grazed contentedly.…

And clean clothes hung on a fence, apparently having been left to dry overnight.

Arabella looked all around. There was no one in sight.

To steal was a sin. But at this very moment Michael might be rising from his bed, yawning and stretching, unaware of the doom that approached him.…

“I have no choice,” she whispered to herself, touching the locket.

Moving as quickly and as quietly as she could, she descended from the rise and scrambled over the low stone wall marking the edge of the property. From the wall it was only a few steps to the fence on which the clothing hung.

There were several complete sets of clothes here, men’s and women’s both.

After only a moment’s hesitation, she selected breeches, hose, a shirt, a coat, and a soft cap which seemed to be about the right size for her. She attempted to assuage her guilt by taking only those articles which seemed the most worn, which she hoped would be missed the least and might also provoke the least suspicion. Finally, from her reticule she drew a single shilling, leaving it where the clothing had been—a token payment to be sure, but she knew not what other expenses might come her way.

Gathering up the clothes into a compact packet, she took one last guilty look back at the farmer’s cottage before running away across the field.

* * *

Secreting herself behind a hedgerow which blocked the view from the farmhouse and the nearby road, Arabella clothed herself in her stolen garments. The coat was too broad across the shoulders, she had neglected to obtain a neck-cloth, and there seemed to be several other minor articles missing, at least to judge by the buttons in the breeches which attached to nothing she could find. The space in the front of the breeches she filled with a wad of fabric torn from her tattered shift.

She left the rest of her ruined garments rolled up in the hedgerow, along with the reticule, whose contents she distributed among her pockets. From her previous clothing she retained only the shoes, sturdy Mars-made half-boots which she hoped would not appear too girlish.

Now there remained only the problem of her hair.

On Mars Arabella had never paid much attention to her hair, wearing it short enough to keep out of her eyes and combing it only when her mother insisted. But since arriving in England, the formerly occasional demands of fashion had become constant, and Arabella had been subjected to interminable rounds of combing, brushing, braiding, and fussing that left her extremely vexed. us it was with great satisfaction that she pulled back her hair and cut the majority of it away with her cuticle-knife, leaving the discarded strands in the hedgerow for birds to make their nests of.

The result was, even she had to acknowledge, extremely untidy, being executed with an instrument only middling sharp and without the aid of a looking-glass, but as she pulled the cap low on her brow she reflected that it was not much worse than the rest of her outfit.

But still… worn, ill-fitting, and stolen though her clothing might be, what a relief it was to have her legs properly covered again! No more would she suffer the indignity of a skirt catching on a protruding branch, nor be forced to concern herself with the prying eyes of the public upon her exposed flesh.

Her outfit was no thukhong—how she missed that warm, comfortable leather garment!—but in it she nonetheless felt ready for any eventuality.

* * *

Half an hour later, Arabella swaggered along, hands in her pockets and arms a-kimbo, aping her brother’s con dent stride as best she could. Ahead on the path lay an inn, where she hoped she might obtain something to eat and perhaps directions to a mailcoach or stage-coach. To cover her anxiety, she whistled loudly in what she intended as a manly fashion. She hoped she had made no dreadfully obvious mistakes with her unaccustomed garments.

The inn still lay some five hundred yards distant when she heard, and then saw, a black-and-scarlet mail-coach approaching along the road. She burst into a run, holding on to her breeches at the waist to keep them from sliding down to her ankles and hoping the wad of fabric that filled out the front did not fall too badly out of place.

As she rushed along, her brains rattling in her head from each blow of her heels on the path in Earth’s heavy gravity, she saw the coach come to the inn, draw to a halt, and the guard at the rear of the carriage hand down a packet of mail to the innkeeper. The coach seemed to be just on the brink of departing.

But finally, stumbling, panting, and catching at her falling breeches, she leaned heavily against the side of the coach before it left. “I should like,” she gasped, pitching her voice as low as she could, “to take passage, to London.”

“You are in luck, my lad,” the driver said, hooking a thumb over his shoulder. “There’s one seat open inside.”

“Bless you, sir.” But as she reached for the door handle, the driver blocked the door with his hand.

“Seventeen shillings sixpence, sir.”

“Sev—!” Arabella’s mouth hung open at the shocking fare.

“Outside’s cheaper, but there’s none left.” The four dusty and miserable-looking men seated on the coach’s roof regarded Arabella with red-eyed indifference. “Or you could take the stage tomorrow for half the price. But this here’s the Royal Mail, and we waits for no man. So what’s it to be, lad, stay or go?”

Seventeen shillings sixpence was nearly all the money that remained in her pocket. But one day’s delay could make the difference between intercepting her cousin in London and watching in helpless despair as his ship sailed away into the interplanetary atmosphere. “I shall go,” she said, and counted out the coins.

Before she had even properly seated herself, the coach jolted into motion, slamming her into the wall on one side and her neighbor on the other in irregular alternation. She felt rather like a hat being rattled about in a hat-box, and the noise precluded all conversation.

It was not until the coach was halfway to Tetsworth that she realized she had successfully posed as a boy without being questioned.

* * *

The day passed as though in a fever. She slept fitfully as the coach jolted along, often waking with a fellow traveler’s elbow in her ribs or coat-button in her eye. She had no idea where they were; from where she sat she had only a sliver of a view through the tiny window. In the darkness and noise of the lurching coach, conversation was impossible even if she had desired it.

Her stolen clothing itched at her conscience as badly as the worn and rustic fabric itched at her body. For the hundredth time she told herself that she had had no choice—that, despite the great hardship she knew her theft would cause some unknown farmer, the risk to her brother’s life was greater still. Yet she knew her beloved Khema would be terribly disappointed in her.

She remembered the automaton dancer—a tiny doll, less than two feet tall, which had leapt and pirouetted most realistically when its key was wound. It had been her favorite of all her father’s automata, and very dear to him as well.

Until one day she had, in a foolish excess of enthusiasm, turned the key one too many times. The mainspring had snapped with a hideous metallic twang, leaving the dancer frozen in mid-leap.

She had been in the dunes behind the drying-sheds, desperately shoveling sand over the broken device, when Khema had found her. “What is this, tutukha?” she’d said.

“It’s my father’s automaton dancer,” Arabella had replied, her voice quavering. “It… it broke, and I thought that if I took it away and buried it he wouldn’t notice it was gone.”

Khema’s eye-stalks had curved back in skepticism. “It broke, did it? And I am sure that you had nothing to do with this?”

Exhausted and still all aflutter from her frantic rush to conceal the damaged automaton, Arabella had been able to do nothing more than shake her head.

Khema had bent down to Arabella’s level, her black and subtly faceted eyes fixed on Arabella’s. “We Martians have a concept we call okhaya,” she had said. “In English you would say ‘personal responsibility,’ though that does not quite convey how very important okhaya is to us. We believe very strongly that if one does something wrong, one should immediately admit it and make amends. To conceal a bad action, or even worse to lie about it, brings very great dishonor.” She had sat back on her heels then, the sand crunching beneath the complex carapace of her knees. Silently waiting.

Arabella had withstood that calm, expectant gaze for no more than a few seconds before bursting into tears and admitting her crime.

The automaton had not been repairable, and she had had no desserts for a month. But, though he was terribly cross at the damage, her father had said he was proud of her for her confession.

Suddenly the coach halted and the door was flung open, making her blink in the unaccustomed light. “London!” cried the driver. “All out!”

* * *

Arabella stumbled out into a vast confusion. Horses, men, and ladies milled all about in a riot of gaudy colors, the noise of hoofbeats and shouted conversations adding to her bewilderment. Buildings of brick and stone towered three and four stories on every side. A terri c smell of soot and dust and offal assaulted her nostrils.

“Get out there, you!” someone shouted. She turned to see a coach-and-four thundering down upon her, and threw herself from its path only to collide with a woman in a fashionable green dress. “Take a care, you guttersnipe!” she cried, and shoved Arabella rudely away.

Heart pounding, Arabella scrambled to the nearest wall and pressed herself against it, trying her best not to be trampled.

It was the most people she had ever seen in one place in her entire life. The whole population of Shktetha Station, a small town north of Woodthrush Woods, could have t into this one street without crowding, but this mob of people filled the street and the next one and the one after that… on and on to the limits of the vast metropolis.

The very thought made her giddy.

This was not the first time she had been in London, of course; she had passed through the city when she had arrived on Earth last year. But on that occasion, weak and debilitated after a fourmonth aerial journey, she and her mother and sisters had been carried from the ship directly into a private carriage and conveyed immediately to Marlowe Hall. Too enervated to even raise her head, her impression of London had been little more than a blur.

And now she found herself in the thick of it. Lost, bewildered, friendless, nearly penniless, dressed as a boy in a suit of stolen clothes, she had to find her cousin Simon somewhere in this enormous crowd and stop him before he could take passage to Mars.

The coach had deposited her in front of an inn called The Navigator, whose sign showed a man seated at a writing-desk with a map spread out upon it. If the mail-coach from Oxford always arrived here, Simon might have spent the night here. He might even still be here, awaiting passage to Mars.

 * * *

Arabella drew herself straight, pulled up her breeches, and took a deep breath before entering. en she paused and adjusted her padding, which had slipped down to her knee. is business of being a boy was not easy.

The inn was as bustling with people within as the street had been without. Raucous conversation babbled at every table, adding up to a terrible din. Looking around, she identified a lean and unfriendly-looking fellow stacking dishes behind the bar as the likely proprietor.

“If you’re looking for a room,” the barman said as she drew near, “we’re full up.”

“No, I am looking for my cousin,” she said. It was difficult to pitch her voice low, like a boy’s, while at the same time raising it to be heard above the tumult of the crowd. “Simon Ashby, from Oxford. He would have come in on the mail-coach yesterday.” She could only hope that Simon was not traveling under an assumed name; if he were, the chances of finding him were slim indeed.

With an annoyed sigh, the barman set down his dishes and shifted to the other end of the bar, where he drew out an accountbook from a cupboard. “No one by that name,” he said after running his eye down the last page.

Arabella’s heart fell, but only a little. It would have been unreasonably good fortune to have found Simon in the first place she looked. “Thank you for looking, anyway.”

The barman shrugged. “I hope you find him.” He stuck out his hand. “Best of luck, Master… ?”

Awkwardly Arabella took the proffered hand, which gripped her own with crushing force. “Ashby,” she stammered as her hand was briskly pumped. “Ara… Arthur Ashby.”

* * *

Arabella spent the rest of that day calling at inn after inn looking for her cousin. Sometimes she received concerned, solicitous aid, other times a brusque rebuff, but no one admitted having seen any one by that name.

What would she do, she thought as she walked, if she did find him? She was smaller than he, and weaker, and he might be carrying his pistol, so she would be foolish to attack him physically. She could denounce him to all the people around when she found him, and importune them to assist her in detaining him. But all she had against him was an accusation—she held no proof that he had imprisoned her, nor that he planned to murder her brother.

But still… the accusation, together with the pistol, might carry some weight with the local magistrate. When she found Simon, she would have to make enough noise that the two of them would be detained by the constables; once she had explained herself, surely, as the Gospels promised, the truth would make her free.

As plans went, she had to confess, this was not much of one.

A merry sound of chimes distracted her from her concerns, and she looked up to find herself in front of a clockmaker’s shop. A clockmaker’s shop that also sold automata.

Prominently presented in the shop window was a fine specimen of an automaton—an artist seated at a drawing-desk, about three feet high. A display model, designed to demonstrate the maker’s skills, only the right half of its body was clothed. The left half lay open to the air, displaying its gears and works.

But though the mechanism was impressively complex and finely made, it was flawed. The automaton bent and dipped its pen and scratched out its work with a cunning and lifelike motion, but the drawing that emerged—a ship at sea, its sails flying—had a long horizontal line drawn right through the middle of it. Several more copies of the same drawing were visible within the shop, on sale for a penny apiece, and each one was marred by the same error.

The fine automaton was damaged, just as her life had been damaged by Simon’s perfidy.

With grim determination she turned from the shop window and continued to the next inn.

Excerpted from Arabella of Mars © David D. Levine, 2016

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