“Henry, I know what I need.”
“A glass of water, Dear?” He began to sit up.
“I need an automaton.”
“An automaton?” said Henry. “Why ever would you—”
“I am too indisposed to keep up with the housework, Henry. One of M. Tuttle’s Home Help Automatons is quite what I need.”
“Dear,” said Henry. “You’ve seen the types of people that come out of that shop with automatons. Gentlemen and bankers. Solicitors. Not people like us. Not common folk. Why…I can’t begin to imagine the cost of an automaton.”
“Of course. Of course.”
Henry rolled over and went back to sleep, and Ruth did, too.
However, the next day, when Ruth felt well enough to arise, yet unwell enough to attend to any of the household chores, she put her mind to it and managed to get dressed and walk across the street. She paused in front of M. Tuttle’s Home Help Automaton shop, eye-to-eye with the display automaton on the sidewalk. It was an ugly thing, indeed, with its dull, metal waistcoat and its rusted metal boots, its single, central eye and its metal hook hands. If one could call them hands. She began to have reservations about moving such a thing into their household, until she remembered the coal dust on the carpets and the cobwebs in the corners. Ruth turned away from the automaton, and pushed open the door.
She found herself alone in the small shop, alone—amongst piles of cast-off tea kettles, carriage wheels, trumpets and buckets, shovels and pick axes. On one side of the shop, there was a tremendously long curio cabinet that stretched from near the front window of the shop to very near the back wall. She peered through the glass and saw several flutes, dozens of mouth organs, and a wondrous array of jewelry. The piercing shrill of a steam jet caused Ruth to jerk her head around to find its source, and she watched as a person in a long leather apron emerged from a door on the back wall.