She left the room and quickly dashed down the stairwell, paused for a moment at the curtain and, seeing a dark undisturbed room, swept it aside and went to the machine. Its little eyelids were closed, head hung in sleepy repose. She pulled aside the split tunic and looked at the work set before her.
Moonbeams illuminated the cogs and wheels, pulley systems and brass connectors. The complexity fascinated her. Despite the pressing need to hurry, she could not help but admire the interconnected cogs and wheels, tiny pulleys and cunningly worked brass connectors, shining softly before her wondering eye in the moonlight.
She focused her attention on the large alphabet wheel located towards the bottom of the doll. The large brass wheel made of up all twenty-four letters, each tipped with a metal knob that a cantilever would read as the wheel revolved.
She released the lever and watched both the lever and the letter produced, comparing the action with the rising and falling of the lever. When the entire message was complete she noted where the lever started to read, and changed the metal top on that particular section first.
She affixed the top of the first letter, I, with a little metal tip that would tell the machine to write, following through letter by letter until she hoped all the tips were associated with intended message.
Just as she was repositioning the final letter, she heard a key rattle in the door down below, followed by hearty laughter. She fumbled and dropped the little metal tip. She dropped to her hands and knees, groping for the piece and listening to the hushed voices in the stairwell.
She found it, repositioned the piece on the last letter, and tossed the covering over the case. Just as she darted behind a heavy curtain panel, candlelight glowed on the floor, spilling onto her toes. She stood on the balls of her feet, pressing against the wall as two people entered the room.
"What did I tell you, Miss Fox? I said I could bring you in after hours and here I've done so. I should hope you hold me in high regard."
The doorman! Julia leaned her head against the wall and rolled her eyes up to the coffered ceiling. So the tricky little man had used his employment to gain him favor with a lady of his fancy. Of all nights!
The woman giggled, followed by some indeterminate murmuring. And then, "I shall never doubt you again, Mr. Bradley. Oh, this is just terrifically romantic. Are you going to show me all the little dolls?"
Julia fought a groan. A rotation around the room, fumbling with each doll and then watching it execute its talent, followed by the requisite feminine appreciation would take approximately forever.
Surely, The Blinder was returning to his senses by now, leaving poor Millie at his mercy.
She wasn't even sure if she could stand still that long. Her legs had already started to ache; her right foot cramping painfully. She switched all her weight to her left foot and winced as she flexed her toes.
But then all pain ceased.
Soon the doorman would wind up The Writer and find its new sinister message displayed before his ladylove. Alarmed, he would immediately search the room for interlopers and find her hidden not so cunningly behind a brocade curtain panel. Certainly, she would be exposed as a charlatan with a penchant for scientific tinkering. More critically, the impact of the message would be lost.
Her heart started to race. She couldn't let the couple discover her trickery, not like this. The message was meant for the large audience that always gathered for the first show of the day. She could hear the whir and clicks of the harpsichord player, followed by incredulous gasps.
"Is it magic?" Miss Fox asked, breathlessly.
Mr. Bradley laughed. "No, madam. It's called science."
The automaton finished playing its tune.
"Just for you, I've arranged something special."
She listened to their footsteps falling in unison as they crossed the floor towards the writer. The footman's voice droned in her ears, punctuated by the woman's giggles. Julia felt paralyzed, unable to stop the inexorable flow of events from ruining all her plans.
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