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The Petro Dynamo

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Dear Eugenie,

I was delighted to receive your letter of Saturday this morning. Even in this world of miraculously fast transportation, it still takes far too long to hear from you. Can you imagine if we were separated twenty years ago, when the airships that carry the mail across the Atlantic were just the foggy glintings in a dreamer's eye? Or worse, the dynamos of plot in a tawdry scientific romance from Retif! Without those mailships, ferrying our letters to each other in a few days time, I would die of homesickness or worse. Duelling is not common in la Cité, but it's not unheard of. And I know you're well versed in the sagas of my uncontrollable temper.

But thanks to the positive influence your letters exert on my choleric humors, I have held my fury in check and buckled down to the business of being a medical student, despite the thousands of minor injuries inflicted upon my person by these galling Gauls. The University is the place to be right now and I am full in the middle of its ferment. To be sure, the École Centrale offers its lures to pull me away from my anatomy lessons. Have you heard of Professor Duvalier's new refinements of the auto-astrolabe? With gearing tuned to the tenth of an inch-pound, it will allow steamers to know their location to the half minute! As long as the moon is out, that is. The master was not pleased that I spent a long afternoon last week watching Monsieur Duvalier repair the dynamo. I missed three transplants and a transfusion, and had to make them up with a chaotic Thursday on which we had somehow still managed a 34 per cent survival rate.

It is truly amazing, Eugenie, how much more we know today than we did five years ago! The human circulatory system is opening up its mysteries to us one dissection at a time. Lives that were once lost to madness or disease are now offered a chance at salvation through the miracles of blood transfusion. It seems like there is no disease that cannot be cured with the proper, scientific adjustment to the balance of the humors. It seems like there is no injury that a sufficiently skillful surgeon cannot fix. The City bounces with a vitality generated within the walls of this institution, a certainty that whatever problems plague our society today only require a little focused ingenuity to be solved tomorrow. I only wish I could transport a little of that elan vital back to New Orleans. Our beloved city is so hopelessly enthralled with superstition and unworthy faith. Everywhere they talk about loas and goofer dusts as they watch their city get transformed magically before their eyes by the power of the scientific method.

I wish you could be here with me. Alone of our family you would appreciate the wonders of this city. You would appreciate the new buildings that go up on a daily basis, each taller than the last, with extraoardinary counterweight elevators bringing people up and down without the exertion of any manpower. You would appreciate the steam locomotive that they're demonstrating along the Seine. They say that in just a few years it will be ferrying products across the country at speeds near thirty kilometers an hour! You would love the Rue de Automates where street peddlers hawk the most marvelous machines, each one shouting to drown out the next! Of course I have purchased presents for you, which you will see in good time.

At the salon last night, Pierre and Luc-Richard were discussing new ways to use Jacquard's ingenious punched cards. Of course he used them to control looms, but any mechanism with repeated motions could be converted to be controlled by Jacquard cards. In the future, all laborious tasks will be performed by automatons. People will spend their days sitting at a table, punching out commands for their armies of automatons to obey. Sugarcane cutting automatons. Cottonpicking automatons. Cooking automatons to bake our bread and tractor automatons to plow our fields. A man will be accounted rich not by his number of hands but by his number of automatons.

I hope everything is well at home. Send my regards to Papa and the rest. With luck, I will be returning to New Orleans for Christmas dinner.

My Deepest Love,

University of Paris, May 1822


Dear Norbert,

I just received your most recent letter. Tsk Tsk. Skipping out on your lessons to play with toys! Really, Norbert, I expected better from you. It's something little Andre might do. His toys are decidedly less ambitious than yours. And less dangerous, too. The Lord help us if he ever gains access to a steam dynamo of any fashion. What I cannot understand is how you could ever miss a transplant. I swear, if they let me into one of those colleges I would never leave. I'd spend all my time locked in the surgery with anyone who would agree to let me examine them. Really, what I cannot fathom is that you have access to human specimens and you ever let them alone!

The human body is an ever-bountiful fountain of discovery. Even something so simple as the articulation of my wrist is an intoxicating mystery. There's a challenge for your Monsieur Duvalier: How to construct a mechanism as ingeniously articulated as God's own design. I am three times as clever as you, and you are cleverer by far than any in Paris, and I cannot learn from a better teacher than the human body. And yet while you and your third-rate intellect get to cavort around Paris with as many human specimens as you could ever hope to examine, I am left to skulk around marshy Pre-War graveyards with Sainte-Marie in search of my own cadavers. I do prefer it to sitting high tea with Aunt Audrette, but as you well know that's hardly a recommendation. The last two months we've gone hunting it hasn't worked out at all. Too often the low level graves wash out, or the bodies decompose with such astonishing rapidity that by the time we retrieve them there's nothing to see but some festering ooze and some hydrogen sulfide and methane gas.

Still better than tea with Aunt Audrette, though. She was asking after you this afternoon, wearing those dreadful green-brown petticoats and that hat which must have cost the lives of several poor peacocks. Papa knows how to speak to her, but I don't have any defenses against her insinuations except silence. So what if I don't have a beau yet? What does she expect of me? I told her I was following the example of Rachel and Leah and would refuse to be married until my dear older brother successfully finds a bride. See how you handle her pressure! I feigned a headache after I could take no more of it and used the time to sleep so I will be ready to stay up tonight.

I know you disapprove of us sneaking out at night, but really what would you have me do? I must learn anatomy if I am to be your nurse when you return from Paris, and there is simply no other way to do it. For live anatomy, Sainte-Marie is proving a willing if somewhat squeamish demonstrator. I have yet to persuade her to allow me to draw blood, but she has quite enthusiastically let me study the articulations of her muscles and sinews. (Don't worry about that either, Dear Norbert, we've been quite careful to conduct those sessions when the maids have been let out. Nobody but you is aware of the liberties she has allowed me to take for science, and I believe I must trust in your discretion.) But for dissections I have to have cadavers, and that means exhuming bodies and doing the preservation work myself. Canning days, you know. Papa can't figure out why it takes me two days to do a day's worth of canning.

Thanks for sharing Pierre and Luc-Richard's idea about the Jacquard cards. I had the loveliest dreams last night, of audiences gathering to watch looms dance to patterns dreamed up by the world's greatest artists.You have a practical brain, brother, but you forget to think about what technology can do for the dreamers. Be well, Norbert. I will see you on Christmas, and no luck about it.


New Orleans, May 1822

Dear Eugenie,

In Paris we are in the middle of a revolution! Oh, it is not one of those tedious popular revolts that made Paris so frightening back before we were born. I am speaking rather of the fight between the Miasmatic School and the Contagionist School. We may settle once and for all the question of what is the true cause of disease.

The Quarantine is in effect here in Paris in the wake of last year's outbreak of the Yellow Fever in Barcelona. (Don't worry, mon cherie, my tough Louisana breeding can hold its own against a continental Yellow Fever) Important doctors including Monsieur S. Lassis and Monsieur JA. Rochoux have closely studied the Barcelona outbreak and have declared that there is no possibility that the disease was spread by contagion.

Their evidence is quite persuasive. Among other strong evidence, they compared the strong health of those who treated the illness to the dire condition of those unfortunates struck with la fièvre jaune and can see no proof that the disease was transmitted contagiously despite the close and constant proximity of their doctors. Rather, Messieurs Lassis and Rochoux assert that a miasma of toxicity welling up from the sewers was responsible.

I must say that I find this Barcelona Manifesto most persuasive, and I am attaching a copy for your perusal. It opens up broad new avenues for research into the precise nature of the miasmas. What distinguishes a Yellow Fever-causing miasma from a malaria miasma? I'm dying, if you'll pardon the pun, to know the answer.

I mention all of this in the futile hope that you'll forget your desire to dissect stolen cadavers and move on to a new, less legally hazardous obsession. I know I waste my ink, but I must try anyway. Be careful, dear, and send all my love to Aunt Audrette, who thankfully has an ocean between her new hat and me, and the rest of the family.


Paris, 1822


Dear Norbert,

This time we did retrieve the buried treasure. We sought higher ground on the outskirts of the site and found a good clean digging spot. I wore knickers stolen from Papa. Sainte-Marie refused to take off her skirt and got it ruined in all the mud. She's a spirited colt, that one. And also a superstitious sort. As I dug, she blew goofer dust or some conjurer's nonsense all around to court the spirits of the Guede loa. It clearly must have worked, since we made it in and out with no trouble. I know you're looking at me askance right now, but it did no immediate harm and the smell of her incense partially masked the putrescence. You and your temper, Norbert, you always think you must fight the battle that's immediately in front of you, but sometimes it's better to wait people out. Sainte-Marie's religious beliefs are innocuous, and with time as she sees what I can do with science alone she'll discover our enlightenment. Besides, she's very fetching. Aunt Audrette would have nothing to complain about if you married her. It would solve all of our problems.

I've enclosed some sketches from my first dissections, which I began performing as soon as I figured out a way to get the smell of formaldehyde off my fingers. You didn't warn me about the odor! It's not all that unpleasant, but it does not go away. I can't exactly walk the Boulevard smelling like some fiendish natural philosopher. Furious experimenting ensued. For your future reference, a concentrated suspension of lavender oil is not good enough. Nor does a supersaturated sal ammoniac solution do the trick (I figured I could claim I picked that smell up from gardening, which is not the most plausible lie I've ever perpetrated, but I'm a lot more beautiful than you so I can get away with putting less effort into my mendacity).

Sainte-Marie suggested bathing in goats' milk, which would of course have only added the question of why we'd purchased ten gallons of goats' milk from Ma Odette to the question of why I smell of formaldehyde. In the interest of science, I tried rinsing just my hands in goat milk, but it worked about as well as I expected it would. But you'll be proud to learn that your little sister has figured it out. A combination of dilute disodium tetraborate ( I was careful not to let it stay on my skin for very long) to scrub as many of the particles off as I could and a heavy spray of that wonderful perfume you shipped me from Paris last month. At this rate, I'm afraid I'll be going through it faster than you anticipated.

But Norbert, please examine my sketches and tell me what you think of my observations. I focused on the capillary structure of the upper right arm, because I've read so much about its beauty and complexity. And also because that arm was the most well preserved part of the cadaver. The other limbs were mostly rotten by the time I got to them. The right arm was perfectly preserved, however. I removed a three centimeter section of what I believe is called the brachial artery with a scalpel and a pair of knitting needles. Then I sectioned it as thinly as possible and prepared the sections on glass slides for my microscope. Not far from what Respighi did two centures ago, and I don't doubt it's incredibly basic compared to what you're learning in Paris. But I did it myself, in New Orleans, and I did it while all of Town snickered about that funny darky girl who refuses to get married even though she's well above sixteen and everyone knows she's well-dowried. So you're not allowed to make fun of me.

It's incredible how small the capillaries are. I spoke to my friend the glassblower and he thinks he can blow tubes fine enough to transplant as substitute veins and arteries, but he boggled when I asked if he could blow capillaries.

Next week I start dissecting the brain.

The weather here is just as lovely as always. I swear, I do not believe it is possible for air to contain any more moisture than it does today. I envy you and your seductive Parisian summer. Enjoy the fancy belles in their bright summer dresses strolling down la Rue de Rivoli. Enjoy your clockwork soldiers marching up and down the Avenues. Enjoy the smells of fancy cuisines from across the Continent. New Orleans bustles, she bounces and she hops, but she never has time for romance. Enjoy it on my behalf.


New Orleans, June 1822


Sweet Eugenie,

C'est l'été glorieuse. A Paris les filles sont si belles. Et les hommes aussi!

It is a busy time in the surgery, but that's not my problem at the moment. I'm enlisting you to break the news to Papa that I am no longer an aspiring physician. I have been seduced, firmly, by la École Centrale. It is better this way. My anatomy tutors were growing exasperated by my lapses in focus, which I'm ashamed to confess sometimes stretched for three or four days this spring. Better I metamorphose into a full-fledged engineer than become a mediocre physician with a pathetic penchant for tinkering. I have apprenticed myself to Professor Duvalier, but I expect I will spend as much time in the wings of the chemistry faculty as I do in his faculté de génie mécanique. I have a notion that I can apply myself to improving the refinement of cane sugar. It is a supremely practical problem, I'm sure you'll admit. My hope is that Papa will see it the same way.

So I remain busy, though perhaps not quite as busy as I would be if I spent my days repairing the heartrending examples of misapplied mechanical ingenuity. A steady stream of hydrogen balloon accidents and steamster collisions make their way to the Sorbonne surgery once the weather in Paris becomes pleasant enough to accommodate adventurers with defective physiognomies and equally defective senses of self-preservation. This is not what drove me away from that noble profession, I assure you, Marie-Eugenie, but I can be honest in expressing my relief that I am no longer at their beck and call. I am hard at work with abacus and slide rule, but I do have time for the occasional summer ball.

I met up with Henri and his wife Fatima last week at a ball hosted by the Algerian Ambassador. I told you about them the last time I was home. I needn't say much more in a letter the maids might read. It was the first time we'd seen each other in several months, and I found their company equally charming this time. I have an invitation to dine at their home next Tuesday. I believe I will wear my blue suit, the one Marie Eloise sewed for me.You could mention to her that it is finding use, though not, I trust, what use that is.

Tout va bien. Please tell Papa gently. I know he was counting on me to claim Uncle Jack's practice, but it was not fated to be. In this age of gears and pistons, there is no better place to be than la École Centrale.

Avec amour,

July 1822

P.S. I am attaching a couple of papers that have scandalized tout Paris in the past few weeks. They're the work of a Swiss natural philosopher with some unusual theories about the elan vital. The research is a good five or six years old, but for whatever reason it only reached Paris this summer. I thought you'd be interested in taking a look. Herr Doktor Frankenstein is a compelling writer, but take a peek at his footnotes: Albertus Magnus of all people!


Dear Norbert,

Thank you so much for sending me those papers from Doctor Frankenstein. I am reviewing them carefully.


July 1822

Dear Eugenie,

Do you recall when we sat around the fireplace and reviewed the catalogue of the 1819 Paris Exhibition? We summoned a miniature Louvre of the imagination and strolled its magnificent Elysian grounds as the greatest heights of les arts mechaniques were put on display before us. Here in Paris I've had the opportunity to see many of those wonders in the person.

I'm sure you remember that fire engine pump we argued about. It has gone from a novelty to a commonplace over the course of the past year. Is is far smaller than I imagined it! Steam powered gears crank a turbine whose shape was imagined by Daniel Bernoulli. But Swiss metallurgy was not up to the task of casting the turbine, and only in the past decade have the French ironworks developed techniques for creating such complicated shapes. When I first saw it, I couldn't believe it was the same machine we had read about, until I saw it applied in combating a blaze in the shopkeepers' district. In minutes sufficient water erupted from its fountain to extinguish an extraordinarily dangerous fire. New Orleans, which has far less brick than Paris, would benefit from this pump even more.

The pump seems to me the perfect synthesis of the four elements. Fire is converted into air in order to move water out of earth to put out fire. A beautiful circle, a grand triumph of man over the forces of nature. Once we let the elements of nature dictate our lives, but now we have the tools to become dictators ourselves.

Of course, the fire engines can be driven by automatons these days as well. Consigned to the past are the days when unreliable human power or in better circumstances horsepower was required to bring water to the scene of a blaze. Already the Parisians have begun to forget what life was like before automatons. I told a young man the legend of Mose and he refused to believe that New York needed a 2.5 meter tall man to put out fires. "Why don't they just send the auto-engines?" he asked innocently, as if it were the most natural question in the world.

It is a unique psychosis, living in the center of the world. I hope the case I am no doubt developing is not too debilitating. I will tell you more later.

August 1822


Dear Eugenie,

This past week, I've stopped by the airship station every day to confirm that they continue to cross the Atlantic. The incontrovertible evidence has now been assembled. They do continue. Every day airships from New York, Atlanta, St. Augustine, and Port-au-Prince arrive in Paris. I can have this result peer reviewed and sent to you if you deem it necessary. Yet admitting another fact has grown unavoidable. It has now been more than two months since I last received a letter with news of New Orleans.

I have a scientific mind, and I am not prone to leaping to conclusions without justification. But even I, your noble brother, have begun summoning up bogey monsters to fret over in the absence of pure crude fact. My mind races, so that I cannot focus on the boiling in my curcurbite. I wake up in the night, in a womanly aspect. I walk along the Seine, but I cannot enjoy the pleasure of the hot late summer, so much less humid than New Orleans, for my thoughts keep returning to my unresponsive sister and the unspeakable tragedies that have befallen her.

Surely you know that you cannot have any secrets from me that you need hide for fear of their revelation. Did I say anything to Papa when I first realized that you had become friends with Sainte-Marie? No matter where your friendship takes you, I support you. In fact, my suspicion that you had paid a visit to the isle of Hispaniola was why I have left you alone for this long. But it has been too long for that. I would have received some notice by this point, whether it be your joyful announcement or a raging complaint from Aunt Audrette, desperate to find any lever by which to influence your behavior. But her missives to me have remained short and focused on her mission to find me a Continental spouse.

So instead my mind leaps errant to yet more outlandish and unproveable conclusions. Surely if you'd been kidnapped Papa would have been moved to find someone literate enough to write me a letter. Surely if you'd taken ill with malaria or the Scarlet Fever I'd be receiving more messages, each one less comprehensible than the last and each one more frustrated with your inability to leave your bed. I've never known you to let illness sap your spirit. Surely no matter what went wrong for you, despite the lamentable distance between us, I would be told about it sooner rather than later. I'm not that far out of the family loop yet, I trust. And yet my situation persists.

Have I angered you? Our relatonship has been leavened with the occasional tangle a deux over the years, but I believed us to be in a period of positive grace. We Creoles possess both the proud stubbornness of our Negroid forebears and the canny arrogance of our Caucasoid patriarchs, so it is not unexpected that we are prone to conflict among ourselves. Yet if anyone should be snobbily refusing to write it should be me. After all, my temper is notorious and feared on three continents. I have given provocation to gentlemen of nearly every race and social class and escaped by the skin of my teeth from two duels. You, sweet Eugenie, are not supposed to be the one who acts imperious. When I war with Papa, you are my soft landing. The sudden cold shoulder has left me in free fall. Whatever I have done, I stand on humble knee and beg forgiveness with as great a sorrow as I have ever felt.

And then, when I have realized that imitating Werther in self-pity is an unfruitful avenue of exploration, I circle at last to the conclusion I most do not what to think about. If I have not angered you, if you are not ill or eloped or ejected from Papa's house or unexpectedly forgetful or haunted by the ghost of the Redcoat who died on our back porch during the War, I fear that your misadventures amongst the more antiquarian citizens of New Orleans have finally yielded you the trouble I predicted it would.

Did I not say that New Orleans's graveyards are festering pits of miasma? Did I not warn you that even if you were lucky enough to avoid the yellow fever lurking behind every tombstone, you were likely to anger the sort of people whose poor opinion you do not want to court if you plan to continue living in Town? The sort of narrow-minded, superstition-driven gentlemen of the field who make up the large part of our beloved city's growing population feel every violation of the souls of their kin to be an assault on their very person. I do hope you are properly sorrowful now that you have met with their anger.

So what is the outcome? Having been caught in the act of desecrating the hallowed souls of departed city residents, and surely having repented your wickedness or foolishness or whatever name you choose to assign to your unseemly deeds, how have you paid for it? I pray that the enforcers of justice in the city saw your youthful exuberance for what it is and offered you the leniency and mercy that man must always bestow on the curious whims of womankind. But if this is not the case, please, Eugenie, write to me, and I will see that whatever tools I can throw at the problem are directed as resourcefully as possible. Now is not the time for your pride to get in the way of your seeking assistance. I am your brother and I owe you much for my love. You must not forget that even though we have been now separated for an unbearable amount of time.

I am booked to cross the Atlantic on December tenth on the airship San Michel, but if you require my earlier return I can suspend my studies of the dynamics of evacuated vessels and procure an earlier flight. Please, my darling, send me a note to assure me that all of my worries are groundless.

With great frustration I am

October 1822


Dear Norbert,

I received your last letter and I must apologize from the deepest part of my heart if any of the things you wrote are actually true. I did not contemplate the worry my departure from correspondence might provoke in you. I did not, in fact, contemplate that my dear brother had sufficient imagination to compose the letter I just read. Yellow fever! Public trials! Petty and wordless feuds! You ought to write a book, Norbert, really! I think you have a calling. Monsieur Dumas has competition.

The truth is far less exciting. I have been engaged, these past three months, in researches of my own. I had broken nearly all of my correspondences until your letter finally jarred me out of the laboratory. As to Sainte-Marie, whose affection for me you imagined into a Caribbean elopement, I haven't seen her in several weeks at least. I'm dreadfully sorry that I made you think that I might contemplate such a thing without you. The idea of entering into a nuptial arrangement without consulting my brother is completely abhorrent to me. Should I find someone more willing to accept my peculiarities of mind, you will be informed with ample time to raise your objections. I value your opinion highly and would not make such a commitment before God without your valuable advice.

My withdrawal from society began with one of your letters. Really, I'm surprised that amidst your fanciful and uncharacteristic conjectures you did not make any mention of Herr Doktor Frankenstein and his marvelous theories, because they are what seized me, not some posse deputized by the county sheriff. You alone in the world know just how deeply I can be seized by the passionate intellectual engagement with a new idea, and Doctor Frankenstein's ideas about the development of an artificial life force are truly astonishing.

I've never read anything that so clearly dissects the pathways of the human mind, reconstructing with Socratic rigor a platform so complicated that no less than eight times the doctor had to reinvent a mathematical principle that had defied Newton. This is decades worth of work, compressed into several years worth of research by an uncanny sense of which avenues will prove dead end.

When I first read Dr. Frankenstein's research, that was my response. Nothing more complicated than pure, unadulterated envy at the obvious insight which he possessed and I lacked. This envy transcended my ordinary envy at his European station and comfortable finances, for as I read the papers you sent me I became seized with the conviction that even if I were to have been given the privileges of his life I still could not have dreamed to make the breakthroughs that that man reached. If science is built on the backs of giants, Dr. Frankenstein is evidently a giant.

Yet that famed maxim of Newton's, that remarkable disavowal of responsibility for a train of discoveries unrivaled by any before or after, at long last gave me hope. For though I was not possessed with the gifts of genius that spurred Dr. Frankenstein on to his breakthroughs, I could nonetheless stand on his shoulders and build a new science on the discoveries in those papers.

I set out to reproduce and then, with God's assistance, refine Dr. Frankenstein's results. I began my course of study by reexamining the bodies Sainte-Marie and I had recovered from the old cemetery in the context supplied by Dr. Frankenstein's papers. To my delight I discovered that every single one of the tests he describes in his initial paper worked as promised when I performed it on my cadavers.

The process of setting up my laboratory to the requirements of this work and conducting the initial exploratory studies took me more than a month. It would have been much shorter, but for my having lost the assistance of Sainte-Marie, who refused to step into the laboratory again after I first applied a Galvanic charge to the cadaver and watched its dead muscles come back to life momentarily. She fled the laboratory while crossing herself as furiously as I've ever seen a person, and I was left without a reliable helper as I delved deeper into the powerful secrets natural philosophy has revealed to us about the workings of God's universe. I believe this set me back weeks, but having lost the one tether connecting me to society's structures, I became more and more divorced from any kind of timekeeping. I skipped meals until Cook figured out that if she didn't bring food to the laboratory I would starve.

The laboratory became my home more or less continuously. I had Henri and Claude drag a sack of straw in to sleep on so I wouldn't have even sleep as an excuse for leaving. I have not used the straw bed much, though. I have not slept much in the past three months.

After I had confirmed all of Dr. Frankenstein's more elementary results, I began to try to reproduce the only discovery of his that really mattered, the secret of life itself. That has been the work that has consumed me for the past two months. It has been a period I would not trade for anything in the world, because I have discovered new laboratory techniques, invented new equipment, and exerted myself to greater heights of achievement than I imagined myself capable of. Yet at the end of this period of work, I have nothing to report. I have failed to reproduce Dr. Frankenstein's synthesis of life.

Much of the challenge lay in the incredibly sensitive manipulations required to work with the instruments of life itself. Dr. Frankenstein reports constructing a being of more than eight feet tall in order to have proportionately larger nerve structures to work with. I rejected this solution for several reasons. First, I believed that my smaller hands would be better suited for work with smaller parts, and that a body as gargantuan as Dr. Frankenstein's creation would pose difficulties for me to move, being physically weak and recently without an assistant.

My own body was built starting with my preserved cadaver. Much of it was completely useless to me, nerve endings decayed beyond repair or internal organs worm eaten to the point of dissolution. Those I parts discarded, disguising them to the maids as the rejected remains of slaughtered animals. Though on reflection, I did not spend much effort on the disguise, and accepted their silent reflection as evidence that they believed me rather than evidence that they accepted whatever their mistress told them to. Who knows what they think of me now? Who knows what queer tales are being told of the funny Creole spinster with blood on her hands and human teeth in her trashbin?

For weeks I struggled to follow the schematics in Dr. Frankenstein's papers. Again and again I grafted newly synthesized nerves to weary, formaldehyde-stained muscles. Somebody I'd like to see how your Parisian-trained hands would manage the same task, Norbert. I wonder if the real reason you left surgery wasn't your incapacity to perform the subtle motions of a surgical repair with your clumsy, oversized hands. Again and again, as I repeated the procedures prescribed, fired the electrick connections required, I saw only a silenced body on my workbench.

And then disaster struck. I connected a Galvanic generator to my subject's cardiac muscle and cranked it with the full fury of my arms. As I evolved an elecktrical arc, I saw motion, wondrous motion, from that still workbench. I cranked harder and harder and the arc built up, until, I fear to report, the entire body set on fire and consumed itself.

I think now that there was more to Dr. Frankenstein's decision to oversize the body than his undextrous fingers, or else he was fortunate in that his decision hid other flaws from his discovery. With the nerves as tight together as I had them, the electrickal charge could jump from part to part with a vengeance, until all was consumed. And now, with my laboratory little more than a husk of smoldering wood, I cannot resume my researches and try again to fix what I have done wrong.

Yet I do not despair. I have invested a lot in this project, and it is time to step back and reap the dividends. I am attaching a schematic of the new burner I developed to more safely and accurately heat compounds. It can be powered by swamp gas, thus opening new avenues for local industry. And now my mind turns to other kinds of artificial life. Why build anything as messy as a human being when we can instead construct creatures out of metal and wood that are more durable, stronger, and more reliable. No excreta besides heat and light. No need to sleep to recover energy. Just wind them and watch them move.

It's the irony that gets me. Sainte-Marie fled while claiming I was building an unholy and dangerous creature in partnership with the Petro, yet all around her the streets of New Orleans are filled with the marching dynamos of the Petro. Often the distinctions are hard for me to see.

I am quite well otherwise, dear brother. The months tick down until I will see you on Christmas. Study hard and soon we will be reunited.


October 1822