13th March 1887
Never trust a salesman. I was explicitly told, when I subscribed to Professor Turnberg’s Cabinet of Wonders, that they would substitute other mechanicals for those in a likeness of animals, as per my directions. After all, if I wanted a pet I would have bought a pet. What I wanted was mechanical art, but when I opened this month’s box, I found inside a life size clockwork cat.
I spoke to the delivery man, of course, as he was departing with last month’s miniature train, ready to take it to the next subscriber. He promised that he would raise the issue with his superiors. I fully expect a response by the end of the week.
No reply from Turnberg’s. I wager the delivery man never even passed on my message. I shall write to his superiors to complain.
In the absence of another mechanical piece to adorn the drawing room, I have reluctantly unboxed and wound the cat. It stalks the floor as my mother’s dreaded Mister Snubbles once did, rubbing itself against the furniture and purring in its strange, mechanical voice. I will admit that the work is uncannily convincing, but in a model of a cat, I find that far from appealing.
During a visit for tea, Lady Kirby insisted that I name the cat, saying that I could not spend a whole month calling it “the beast”. After some consideration, I have settled for Bella – if I cannot have the beast I will have beauty, however unfitting that name is.
Bella is becoming almost as much trouble as a real cat. It roams the house and protests before any closed door, of which there are many, given its propensity for scratching antique furniture. The
Today, Bella brought me a dead rat it had caught in the kitchen.
A dead rat. On my writing desk. Disgusting.
I must admit, the sophistication of this feline mechanical is truly admirable. Between the hunting, the playing, and the rubbing against my legs, it is unsettlingly close to the real thing. I will be glad when it is gone.
Bella has taken to sleeping on my desk while I work. It is inconvenient, but allows me to better show her off when business associates come calling. Having such a fine mechanical can do my reputation no harm.
Today, Bella did not come to sleep on my desk. I should have been more productive, but instead found myself worrying that my prize mechanical might have come to harm. I eventually found her sleeping in a box in a spare room. Her little chest was rising and falling as she purred in her sleep. Truly a remarkable piece of art.
No Bella at my desk for the third day running. I was eventually able to lure her into the study with a mouse-shaped toy on a string, but then she caught the mouse, chewed it up, and tried to swallow it. Only swift intervention on my part saved her from with shredded cotton tangling her gears. I would not want to have to pay for damages when she is returned to Turnberg’s.
Now she is sleeping in a sunbeam on the rug. I have drawn a sketch of her there, just to keep my hand in with the old pencils.
Three nights ago, I forgot to close the bedroom door and Bella came in to sleep with me. Since then, she has become my companion every night, curled up by my feet, sometimes rising in the darkness to go and chase mice in the kitchen. After years on my own, it is strangely comforting to share a bed, even with a mechanical beast.
At last, a letter from Turnberg’s acknowledging their mistake. They have promised that, from now on, my monthly subscription will match my request for no animals. As compensation for their mistake, this month they will be sending me an intricate clockwork village from their elite subscribers list. I greatly look forward to impressing Lady Kirby with it when she comes for tea.
Bella is back on the desk, in a box I placed there for her.
I find myself having second thoughts about the clockwork village. Where will I even display something so fine with the house in its current state? Perhaps I should save it for another month.
Bella is due to be taken away in three days. Perhaps she can take her box with her.
I don’t think I have time to make space for the village. I will send a telegram to Turnberg’s asking them not to change my mechanicals this month. Just while I make some changes in the decor.
I have given Bella her own blanket at the bottom of the bed, to keep her off the other sheets when I’ve oiled her joints.
The delivery man came today with the second cat. I will be calling this one Bete. He and Bella have been watching each other warily across the study, but I am sure they will soon be firm friends.
Along with Bete came the first item in my altered subscription – a set of mechanical mice for my cats to chase. Next month there will be birds.
I do not like pets, but my heart skips at the sight of a truly great mechanical.
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