Brilliant Devices - By Shelley Adina

Chapter 1

The Evening Standard

October 9, 1889


In a tragedy that strikes at the very foundations of society on two continents, one of London’s brightest lights and most brilliant minds, Lord James Selwyn, of Selwyn Park, Shropshire, and the leader of modern railroad invention in the Texican Territories, Mr. Stanford Fremont, have both lost their lives in a train wreck on the plains of the Wild West.

Both men were traveling west on the inaugural journey of the Silver Queen, the newest locomotive in a vast railroad empire that stretches from New York in the Fifteen Colonies to San Francisco, the capital of the Royal Kingdom of Spain and the Californias. Accompanying Lord James was his fiancee, Lady Claire Trevelyan, of London.

The journey was to be a showcase for Lord James’s latest invention, the showpiece of the newest exhibition at the Crystal Palace, the Selwyn Kinetick Carbonator. The Carbonator had produced enough coal to power the locomotive and several luxury coaches, as befitted Fremont and his titled guests, with only two stops to take on unprocessed coal during the entire journey across the Wild West.

However, on the second day out of Santa Fe, disaster struck. From what the Texican engineers can piece together from the wreckage, the arid atmosphere of the salt flats caused the coal to ignite prematurely and with such vehemence that it caused the tender and boiler to explode. The locomotive was blown off the tracks, and the passenger coaches jtmogt"umped the rails, resulting in total loss of life.

Funeral services for Lord James Selwyn will be held at St. Paul’s on Friday, the eleventh of October, at eleven o’clock in the morning. His Royal Highness the Prince Consort, patron of the Royal Society of Engineers, is expected to address the mourners. Services for Lady Claire Trevelyan will be held privately at the family estate in Cornwall.

This publication humbly extends its condolences to the Selwyn and Trevelyan families, who have been beset with tragedy in recent months. As our readers know, Vivyan Trevelyan, Viscount St. Ives, was killed in a mishap while cleaning his antique pistols. Old Lord Selwyn himself passed away recently. With the death of Lord James, his only son, the baronetcy now passes to a cousin, Peter Livingston, who recently announced his engagement to Miss Emilie Fragonard, of Cadogan Square.


Claire Trevelyan smoothed the newspaper on top of the navigation chart. She had been encouraging the Mopsies to read the easier headlines aloud, until they had all stumbled upon this particularly grisly one in the “World” section.

“My poor mother. No sooner does she cancel my first funeral than she must immediately plunge into plans for my second.”

Andrew Malvern looked up from the tiller, where he and Jake were jointly calculating how much altitude the airship, the Stalwart Lass, would have to gain in the next hundred miles to take them over the aptly if unimaginatively named Rocky Mountains.

“We can send a pigeon as soon as we reach Edmonton. That paper is a week old. The funeral will already have been held, so there is nothing you can do to forestall it.”

Maggie laid a hand on Claire’s arm. “Yer mum’ll be happy to ’ear you ent dead again, Lady. Funeral or no funeral.”

“She’s going to stop believing in reports of my demise after this, that is certain.” Claire angled the paper down so Maggie could see it. “Can you read this line to me?”

“Wiv the death of … Lord James, ’is only son, the … Lady, I dunno that one.”


“I beg yer pardon, wot’s that?”

“It’s a title, Maggie. It means that if you met Peter Livingston, whom I once seated next to my friend Emilie at a dinner party because she was sweet on him, you would call him Lord Selwyn. Once she marries him, Emilie will become Lady Selwyn.”

“Instead of you.”

“Quite right. Instead of me. I’m sure her mother is delighted that there is no longer any danger of her being left off the guest lists at dinner parties.” Claire sighed, gazing out the expanse of glass that formed the upper section of the Stalwart Lass’s gondola. “To think that I once worried about such things.”

“We’ve got other things to wors things try about,” Alice Chalmers called, coming along the gangway from the engine at the rear of the gondola. “She’s not giving me any lift at all—it’s everything I can do to keep her airborne. We can’t take a run at those mountains unless Andrew and Tigg can pull a miracle out