That day, I chose to take my promenade in the public greenhouse. The architecture is of such intelligent design, one might suppose it was daylight being reflected from the panes of glass, not gaslight. I admit, I enjoy my walks in that place far more than is fashionable – the plants smell of home, of soil, and rain – and, when one reaches the back of the greenhouse, the stars stretch around it, the sky presses against the glass, until one feels as if to fall into the aether would be blissfully easy…

But I am usually alone if my fancies lead me to the greenhouse, as many seem to prefer their theatres and fairs, and to indulge the hobbies of their husbands. This day, there was only one other visitor – a man I had never met. I assumed that he had just arrived, and would leave as soon as he understood, that the greenhouse was not remotely Entertaining, but he remained. He seemed perfectly content to marvel at the English soil on this obscure, alien colony, and after a while, he joined me at the edge.

He must have sensed my surprise at finding another there, for, without turning his head, he began to speak.

“’In a field by the river, my love and I did stand/And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand./She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;/But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.’”

This he said so ruefully, I was moved to reply, yet I feared that anything I said would sound shallow and harsh, after he had spoken with such feeling. He turned his head towards me, and said;


“I beg your pardon?”

“W.B. Yeats’ Down by the Salley Gardens. I cannot say it is my favourite poem, or that Yeats is even my favourite poet, but it is the most appropriate.”

“You have lost your love?”

“Madam, I lost my life.”

He smiled sadly, and indicated that we might walk a little way. I took his arm and followed blindly.

“You stand like a soldier, sir.”

“Yes. That was the life I lost, or hoped to lose.”

“So the war still rages?”

“It ravages countryside and aethersphere alike.”

We spoke at length as we toured the gardens. I don’t know for how long we walked, or later, sat talking, or even remember what we discussed for the most part, but we did not leave until the lights began to dim in the greenhouse, and he offered to escort me home.

As we rode the tram over the belt connecting the greenhouse to the mainland, I saw that the town clock indicated that it was night, and that the streetlamps had been lit. By this time, the few who remained on the streets were young couples on their way home from some event or other, loud in rosy and, most likely, alcoholic, merriment. We must have looked so solemn to them, so strange, yet I felt a closeness to this man that was somehow the most impenetrable of barriers.

We slowed as we reached my doorstep, and I felt loath to bid him good-night. So, we stood in silence for an aeon, for longer than I could bear. I turned away to go inside, but he took my wrist in an attempt to stop me. As I looked at him, he said;

“Might I beg of you, a favour?”


“Let me conquer worlds in your name.”

– My name is Elizabeth, and I tend to hail from the more Historically Victorian side of Steampunkerie – I adore the social conventions and the imagination in the era, and love to see that applied to a potentially modern era.
As you may have guessed, I’m more the literary than the inventive type.