Fiction: Claridge of the Klondike

An essay by Euphemia Thorniwork, as provided by Judith Field
Art by Leigh Legler

London, 1898

The Solicitor took Father’s will from the hand of an automaton standing next to the desk. He waved the machine away and began reading. “To Euphemia Thorniwork, my Pheemie, my only daughter, I leave whatever money is in my bank account. She is of age, therefore she may receive the bequest without delay. It will contribute toward funding her intended mathematical study. Great things await her.” Only Father had called me Pheemie. Tears pooled in my eyes at the sound of it spoken in another man’s voice.

The solicitor continued, “I have faith that she will devise a way of paying for the remainder. I also leave her one of my inventions that may facilitate the matter.” He looked up and removed his pince-nez. “That is all. Despite my urging, your father included no indication as to what that is.”

The following day, I tried to poach an egg for lunch. It appeared that, contrary to all Father had taught me about chemistry, it is possible to burn water. As I scraped the cinders into the bin, I was interrupted by a knock on the front door.

A figure stood outside, the shape and size of a man but constructed of bronze. It was dressed like a country gentleman, with a black band tied around the upper right arm. The face, with a slit for the mouth to enable the voice to project, was smooth. Engraved curlicues above its eyes imitated eyebrows. According to the copperplate letters engraved on its forehead in Father’s handwriting, its name was Claridge. Its green glass eyes fixed mine. “My master–your late father–required that I reside with you as your adviser.”

I took a step back. “Adviser? How can an automaton get me to Oxford University?”

“I have faith that we will devise a way of achieving it.”

Illustration of a steampunk robot wearing a shirt and tie.

Claridge’s voice softened. “I have dragged you half across the world for no more than a game of chance. I truly believed that, in a few weeks, we would make our fortune.”

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2019 collection.

Readers may remember Euphemia Thorniwork from the essays published here: “Escapement” (Summer 2015) and “The Fissure of Rolando” (Spring 2017). She is a student of mathematics at Huxley College, Oxford, working her way through college as an assistant in the Physics Department. Following a laboratory accident, she was thrust into in a parallel universe where the events told here took place. Shortly after the end of this account, she blacked out and came to in our world. But who’s to say which is the real one?

Judith Field lives in London, UK. She is the daughter of writers, and learned how to agonise over fiction submissions at her parents’ knee. She’s a pharmacist working in emergency medicine, a medical writer, editor, and indexer. She mainly writes speculative fiction, a welcome antidote from the world she lives in. Her work has appeared in the USA, UK, and Australia. When she’s not working or writing, she knits, sings, and swims, not always at the same time. She is Assistant Editor at Red Sun Magazine.

Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at

“Claridge of the Klondike” is © 2017 Judith Field
Art accompanying story is © 2019 Leigh Legler

This story originally appeared in The Colored Lens.

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