I recall that last time I penned an episode of my adventures as a one-twelfth scale explorer, inadvertently lodged in the year 2017, my normal sized assistant and myself were pondering a method of combustion for the steam engine we were building, to allow me to power up my Machine and escape to my own dimension – in every sense of that word.
By a piece of great good fortune, I myself was able to solve that particular conundrum. It occurred when I noticed, in a nearby city, an establishment named Whitherspoons. It had a most favourable external aspect and, hoping that I might have stumbled upon a high quality gin palace, I eagerly made my way towards it. No sooner had my foot alighted on the threshold, however, than I was pushed backwards by a person carrying a cage almost as large as himself and being propelled from the building with considerable force by a burly and irate landlord. The language which passed between them convinced me that this was in no way the kind of establishment I had anticipated, so I turned my attention instead to the evicted individual.
“Honessly,” he was mumbling, “it was only a puff o’ smoke. Nuffin’ to make a fuss about. This no smokin’ rule is ridickilus.”
I assisted him to his feet and righted the cage which, I then noticed, contained a greenish yellow reptilian creature with a baleful expression.
“It’s ‘er fault!” the man said angrily, gesturing towards the animal. “Reached out an’ grabbed a bit o’ coal from the scuttle by the log burner, didn’t you!”
The creature attempted to slink further down the cage and averted its gaze.
“All I wanted was a quiet pint! Wos a bloke s’posed to do, eh?”
“What manner of creature is it?” I enquired.
“She a fire starter,” he replied. “Twisted fire starter. Best sort. They fit better in the cages, see? Cost me an arm an’ a leg, she did. But that’s the nature of the beast, innit? Give ’em a bit of coal and they start a fire, don’t they? An’ when they go nickin’ coal that’s been left lyin’ around in scuttles, well, stands to reason she’s gonna start smokin’, don’t it? An’ wot wiv pubs all bein’ no smokin’ hestablishments these days, little madam only been an’ got me slung out, didn’t she?”
“I understand your predicament,” I responded.
That was when I had my enterprising idea.
“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to allow me to take her off your hands, would you? I can promise her an excellent home and plenty of coal.
He regarded me solemnly. “Well,” he began slowly, “Like I said, she cos’ me…”
At that moment, though, the door of the inn opened and two exceedingly merry gentlemen emerged, bringing with them a distinct odour of cheap ale. The temptation was too great for my companion to resist.
“Go on then. Take ‘er, an’ welcome. Jus’ don’t feed ‘er unless yer want a fire startin’. She’ll try anythin’ to get round yer. ‘Arden yer ‘eart, mate. Don’t say I didn’t warn yer.”
And without further ado, he handed me the cage and returned to his beverage, while I headed back eagerly to my assistant’s cottage with my new acquisition.
Henry’s Engine Room, including the twisted fire starter, will be on display at the Steampunk-Shrunk! stall at Glastonbury Town Hall on Saturday 25th March 2017.