26th of February, 18__; Post-expedition observations:
I am quite thrilled at the possibility of including lace in the creation of my inventions. I cannot describe the relief at being able to incorporate fashionable accoutrements that are quite practical. I must explain.
In my brief sojourn into the Twenty-Second Century as part of the Eddington-Gebes Expedition last December, I snipped a bit of cloth from the screen surrounding Dr. Agyen-Fa’s laboratory table after his most unfortunate and horrid demise. (See Notes from Expedition 72:Cresswell and Pasnastakov, 9 Dec 18__,) I’m sure I did not remove enough to make any difference to the Precession of Time, since it was just a bit of selvage protruding from an exposed seam. Truly, the workmanship of textiles in that technologically wondrous century was disappointing, as the seams were all quite uneven and raggedly stitched. I had anticipated mastery of basic skills in so advanced a civilisation. But, I digress.
Having exhausted my supply of specimen bottles earlier in the expedition, I had wrapped the bit of cloth in my handkerchief and tucked it discreetly into my bodice before we returned to the Time Chamber. After our return to our Time of Origin, I half expected the sample to have disappeared, as happens to so many inventions and artifacts that we have attempted to convey backward through Time.
I do not understand why some do and some do not endure the migration. To that end, I have created a list of artifacts and their respective behaviors in that regard, which I intend to study to discover the underlying commonality. Dr. Farnsworth and Sir Bedwater (dreadful name, that–poor man) have been kind enough to send me their observations after each expedition, including some quite detailed illustrations of objects in their Native Time and in our Time of Origin. Sir B__ is quite a talented illustrator, and Dr F is an experienced observer. I am eager to compare his expedition notes, with special interest in those items that refuse to accompany us, as it were.
Upon my return from the E-G Expedition and without even changing out of my traveling clothes, I rushed to my drawing room window where the morning light shines so exquisitely (when I can convince the staff not to draw the dolorous drapes) and unwrapped my hastily swathed treasure. My breath caught as I folded back the bits of handkerchief. It survived! Examining it closely with my magnifying glass, however, the specimen seemed somehow soiled; it was grey and streaked compared to its scintillating white sheen when I clipped the tiny scrap in the twenty-second century. I was sure it was not an optical illusion or an effect of lighting. In my drawing room, it had a distinctly greasy appearance, as if it had been smudged with machinist’s oil or coal, and it gave off an unseemly smell. I am sure that the quite luminous, although artificially propagated, lighting in Agyen-Fa’s laboratory (light had seemed to suffuse from the walls and ceiling in equal measure) would have revealed rather than obscured the greasy particles that now appeared on the sample under my glass.
This definitely would not do. I wished to show my humble discovery in its pristine state to the gentlemen at the University when we were to meet Tuesday next. Rushing upstairs, dropped a square of lavender soap into the wash basic adjacent to my bed and immersed the grey scrap in the now grey scrap, with the intention of giving it a good scrubbing. Quite suddenly and startlingly, it resumed its sparkling white color upon immersion with no further effort on my part.
Then an even more curious thing began to happen. I hardly noticed it at first. The threads making up the cut edge of the selvage started to extend along the longitudinal axis of the former seam. Slowly, one of the threads was elongating itself like some rapidly reproducing Dipylidium, except it was not flat. It grew in little spurts, segment after segment. As it grew, the level of water in the basin decreased and the soap fragment shrunk incrementally, leaving behind a very fine, white, chalky residue along the edge of the bowl. The residue deposited in delicate concentric circles of fine dust that were visible against the dark blue ceramic floral pattern of the bowl.
I stood mesmerized, watching the slowly elongating coil of thread until the water and soap were quite consumed. Regaining use of my wits, I collected the dusty residue into specimen bottles and sealed the newly created thread away into my prototype of Lady Cordelia Cresswell’s Preservation and Restoration Receptacle. I have taken the residue to my dear friend and colleague, Doctor S.M. Entwhistle, at Oxford. I must confess that I have not yet given him a sample of the thread, nor even told him about it. I was quite mysterious about the origin of the dust, and S.M. was very noble and accommodating, assuring me that he would consider it a personal challenge to determine its origins. I fear I may be encouraging the poor man unintentionally, but he is the finest chemist I know, and he will certainly understand my eagerness. Again, I digress.
I removed some of the thread from the Receptacle, intrigued with its powers of propagation and its renewed glossy sheen. It reminded me of the iridescent feathers of Piffler’s Rock Doves found high in the Esbereaux Montane. I had quite enough to make a little edging for the my gloves, which I did as a caprice while I pondered its mysteries. Neglectfully in my eagerness to manufacture something from the marvelously self-propagating material, I pulled my candle quite close on my sewing table, neglecting to use a sconce. My cat leapt to my lap (Mandrake does so love it when I sew), and to my horror, upset the candle directly onto the tiny scrap. I hurriedly pulled the candle away and grabbed the pitcher of water, prepared to extinguish the expected flame. However, I hesitated in confusion, since I did not know how effective water would be in extinguishing a fire on something that seemed to eat water. To my relief and surprise, the fire remained confined to the candle wick, having refused to spread to the underlying fabric. It had not even scorched the scrap. I examined it more closely under my glass. It had sustained no damage.
Was it a fortuitous fluke? I clipped a tiny piece of the fabric, retrieved my specimen forceps from my expedition supplies, and used it to place the cloth directly into the now safely ensconced candle. It refused to burn. I nearly flew down the stairway to the parlour, opened one of the gas lamps, and thrust the scrap into the flame with no effect. Becoming quite emboldened by its complete lack of reaction, I tossed a bit into the fireplace with the same result. What wondrous material had I transported?
However, these were but smallish fires. I had to try this material on something more challenging. Dashing out to the stable, I mounted my brother’s velocipede and rode to the smithy across the square. I would have to be quite circumspect in gaining access to Mr Broadbent’s forge, since he thought it was bad luck for a woman to touch it. A short way from the smithy, I dismounted, and kicked one of the wheels of the velocipede with my boot, bending a spoke sharply and causing great pain in my toe. I hardly had to feign discomfiture when I limped to the smithy in distress at having damaged my brother’s equipment. Gruff but solicitous, Mr B agreed to investigate the damaged vehicle, while I dabbed my eyes with my handkerchief. The moment he left the forge, I grabbed up a long pair of iron tongs, using them to dip my sample directly into the hottest heat of the forge. I could only afford a few seconds, since Mr B’s return was imminent, but that should be enough. I dropped the apparently unaffected cloth on the anvil, touching it hesitantly. Not only did it remained perfect condition, it was cool to the touch. I was thrilled!
Controlling my face to display the proper composure, I greeted Mr. B’s retrieval of the injured velocipede, with proper humility and I claimed him to be my Hero. I am sure he thinks I’m quite daft and cannot figure out how I managed to damage the spoke, which he quickly hammered out. My large gratuity for his time should more than compensate for any interruption in his horseshoe repair or in his repairing to the pub.
Tomorrow, I shall endeavor to create more thread. I have a marvelous use for this material; I can barely control my excitement. My brother has been complaining that heat loss from his steam boiler has limited total energy output. I have great hopes that a boiler cozy made from this remarkable material will deal smartly with this conundrum. I think I’ll surprise him with it for his birthday. Perhaps I’ll make a matching engineer’s apron, resistant to burning. How delightful! I’ll have to think of a more masculine pattern. ‘Til tomorrow.