Updated: Aug 30, 2022
Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger
Sophronia Angelina Temminnick is not one to be deterred from eavesdropping on her mother because of siblings and household mechanicals roaming the hallways. Her mother is talking to Mrs. Barnaclegoose, a lady with strong opinions on reforming daughters, and a stranger. This is not good. Sophronia has no intention of being reformed and desperately wants to know what the ladies are talking about, so she enlists the dumbwaiter in her espionage. The dumbwaiter is resistant to the point of recalcitrance, and despite Sophronia’s best efforts, the dumbwaiter falls and she lands akimbo in the parlor, her skirt torn, and a splattered trifle on Mrs. Barnaclegoose.
Mrs. Barnaclegoose flees the scene, leaving Sophronia at the end of a verbal deluge delivered by her older sister Petunia who is sure that Mumsy will sign Sophronia over into servitude to the vampires. This is terrible! The vampires will want to suck Sophronia’s blood and make her dress in the height of fashion! Frowbritcher, the mechanical butler, enters with instructions for Sophronia to go see her mother this very moment. Bother.
Sophronia is taken to her father’s library where Mumsy is sitting with a lady of indeterminable age. The gray in her hair seems off, her face flashes the picture of youth one second then matronly the next. This is Mademoiselle Geraldine, the headmistress of the exclusive Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Mrs. Temminnick is at her wits end with Sophronia’s unladylike behaviors. She reads, she climbs and she takes machines apart!
Mrs. Temminnick is called away to deal with the dumbwaiter leaving Sophronia alone with Mademoiselle Geraldine. Mademoiselle Geraldine establishes that Sophronia has some unique abilities in a young lady. She has fast reflexes, is fearless, is curious, and she seems to know there is something not quite right about Mademoiselle Geraldine's appearance. At Mrs. Temminnick’s reappearance, Mademoiselle Geraldine declares in her thick French accent she will take Sophronia to her academy right now. She will take a short walk around the gardens and give Sophronia just half an hour to pack. With little to no fanfare, Sophronia’s belongings are packed and she is off to finishing school.
Once inside the well-appointed carriage, Sophronia finds she and Mademoiselle Geraldine aren’t the only occupants. The lively and sparkly Dimity Ann Plumleigh-Teignmott and her younger brother Pillover are also aboard. While the sullen Pillover is destined for Bunson and Lacroix’s Boys’ Polytechnic to disappointingly follow in his father's evil genius footsteps, Dimity shall be joining Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality with Sophronia. Some remarks made by the Plumleigh-Teignmott siblings are rather confusing… things about being a finishing school on the surface, the term "covert recruit" and the academy having no fixed address. Suddenly the carriage jolts to a stop.
The carriage has been captured by flywaymen sporting what appears to be an onion pinned to their hats. They demand Mademoiselle Geraldine hand over the prototype, but the headmistress, rather thickly in Sophronia’s opinion, protests her innocence. What proceeds is a quarter of an hour spent watching as the flywaymen toss their belongings, including their unmentionables!, across the ground. In frustration at the lack of results, one of the flywaymen pulls Mademoiselle Geraldine out of the carriage.
Sophronia, Dimity and Pillover watch Mademoiselle Geraldine perform some terrible hysterics. It seems she has abandoned them. Turning out their pockets and finding little useful, Sophronia grabs Pillover's monocle, climbs out of the carriage to the roof and finds the flywaymen’s air balloon dinghy tied to the luggage rail. Using the monocle to burn the rope enough to snap it, Sophronia then takes the driver's seat and the reins to make their getaway. The flywaymen only notice her actions and start shooting when it is too late. Because Sophronia is a good person, and only Mademoiselle Geraldine and the unconscious driver know where they are going, she turns the carriage around and instructs the Plumleigh-Teignmott siblings to grab Mademoiselle Geraldine. The plan goes off swimmingly.
Thankfully the driver comes to and takes the reins back, leaving Sophronia to clamber back inside the carriage. She finds Dimity in a dead faint on the floor, Mademoiselle Geraldine being hysterical, and Pillover quietly reading. Dimity faints at the smallest sight of blood and was grazed by a passing shot sending her out cold. Her smelling salts are back on the road with their unmentionables so there's nothing to do on that front but to leave Dimity passed out. Sophronia is convinced Mademoiselle Geraldine is shamming, probably, so they can’t question her. With no better options, Sophronia orders the driver to carry on to Bunson’s.
During the journey, Mademoiselle Geraldine breaks character and starts talking without her dreadful French accent. She is not, in actuality, Mademoiselle Geraldine, but instead she is Miss Monique de Pelouse, a senior student at the academy on her final mission in order to Finish. She was to collect the children and the prototype but it’s all gone wrong and it’s not her fault! Eventually the tirade stops and quiet descends over the carriage as they reach Bunson’s and Pillover leaves them. Sophronia, and the now awake Dimity, are denied entrance on account of them registering as female by the porter mechanical. After depositing Pillover, they head on to the wilds of Dartmoor toward Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
A short while later, the ladies reach their destination. Sophronia imagined she would find the school scuttling about Dartmoor on many mechanical legs since it doesn't have an address, but instead she finds the most magnificent, if oddly-shaped, dirigible floating majestically in the sky. An easygoing gentleman with a silk top hat tied about his head wearing a long coat and, scandalously NOT wearing shoes, opens the carriage door and helps them out. This isn’t another flywayman nor even a highway robber, rather it is a man called Captain Niall. He declares it too windy for them to travel up to the academy at the moment and that they will need to wait until nightfall, but it is not long before it is suitably dark. Captain Niall disappears for a few moments and a giant wolf returns. Sophronia, having never encountered a werewolf before, takes flight and the wolf gives chase. He doesn’t attack and when Sophronia notices he is still wearing his top hat, she comes back to her senses. Captain Niall is a werewolf! And he works for the school!
In his wolf-form, Captain Niall leaps to a platform lowered down from the giant dirigible carrying the girls one-by-one. Monique seems put upon, Dimity squeals the entire time and Sophronia relishes the thrill. Shortly after, they enter the bowels of the Finishing School and meet Professor Beatrice Lefoux, Sister Mathilda Herschel-Teape or Sister Mattie, and Lady Linette de Limmone. Once Monique relays her false version of their journey to the teachers and declines telling them the location of the prototype they are so interested in, Lady Linette sends Dimity to her room and makes introductions to Sophronia, their covert recruit. Soon Lady Linette escorts Sophronia through the corridors of the dirigible to the real Mademoiselle Geraldine’s quarters. Ordered to wait outside and not to move, Sophronia fails to eavesdrop then wanders down the corridor, setting the alarms off on a maid mechanical, causing a very displeased man to emerge from one of the rooms.
The man in question is Professor Braithwope and he spouts a fair few “whot, whots” until Lady Linette comes to retrieve Sophronia to meet the Headmistress. Mademoiselle Geraldine’s suite is like a sweet shop, sadly the cakes are fake as it is a hobby of hers to create the realistic delights. The meeting goes well, Sophronia deploying discretion and discernment recommended by Lady Linette as it seems Mademoiselle Geraldine has no clue as to what is really going on at her Finishing School.
Soon Lady Linette is required on deck as Professor Braithwope has spotted something in the sky far away but fast approaching, Flywaymen! The alarm is sounded and suddenly the squeak deck is swarmed by mechanicals with cannons in their chests. Professor Lefoux joins them, announces that Monique has been punted back down to debut status, and asks why the Flywaymen haven’t been shot out of the sky. A lady asks questions, then she shoots. The Flywaymen shoot a glob of garlic mash causing Professor Braithwope to sneeze and wheeze then sends up a request to parley.
The Flywaymen catapult a mechanimal sausage dog across to the school. It pops (poops?) out a printed message, giving three weeks to produce the prototype or they shall call for reinforcements. Absurd! A plan is hatched involving the creation of a surrogate prototype with the assistance of Bunson’s. With the matter settled for now, Sophronia is taken to her room, but before she goes, she hides the mechanimal, christened Bumbersnoot, in her large pinafore pocket.
In the debut’s room, Sophronia introduces Dimity to Bumbersnoot. Monique is there and challenges Sophronia about having the mechanical sausage dog, but Sophronia suggests a bargain: Monique won’t tell anyone about Bumbersnoot and Sophronia won’t tell anyone how Monique has completely fabricated the story of their journey. Sophronia is then introduced to the rest of the debuts: Lady Sidheag Maccon, Agatha Woosmoss and Preshea Buss. The girls discuss their teachers and the variety of subjects on their specialized curriculum, and Sophronia concludes this is a finishing school for either intelligencers or assassins, and she’d quite like being an intelligencer. She also finds out that Professor Braithwope is a vampire, which is obvious when you think about it. Now, off to lessons!
On the way to class, Sophronia tells Dimity about the Flywaymen and that they need to find the prototype Monique has hidden to prove they are better than she is. After class, and to Sophronia’s shock, she discovers she rather likes the lesson! This class is about vampires with Professor Braithwope which is rudely interrupted by an explosion from Professor Lefoux’s classroom. Black smoke and soot-covered students litter the corridor but Sophronia sneaks around them to take a look standing next to Professor Braithwope who quizzes her about her curiosity and observations. He doesn't notice Sophronia rubbing a finger in the soot which Dimity later suggests they send to Pillover for analysis. Class resumes and they study the best and most deadly application of wooden stakes, hat pins, and hair sticks and learn to judge men by their cravats.
The ladies attend lessons with Sister Mattie then Lady Linette before retiring back to their rooms where Sophronia and Dimity find that their luggage has been retrieved. Those two decide to share a room, as do Agatha and Sidheag and Monique and Preshea. Sophronia is an early riser unlike her fellow pupils because she’s not used to the decadent London hours, so she decides to go explore the airship and find coal for Bumbersnoot. Since she can’t go skulking around the corridors where the mechanicals could find her, she uses the outside rope ladders and balconies until she reaches the boiler room.
It’s a hubbub of activity with engineers, firemen, and soot-covered boys running around stacked boxes, piles of coal and ladders. While exploring and pocketing a few pieces of coal, Sophronia meets Phineas B. Crow, otherwise known as Soap, who seems to be the leader of the gang of Sooties. He impresses Sophronia with his entrance as he rides a unique contraption down a mountain of coal. Soap isn’t impressed that Sophronia is an uptop, but he does seem rather taken with her. They look forward to meeting again and regularly. Sophronia does have a mechanimal to feed after all.
Later, whilst following the mechanical tracks in the hopes of finding the Steward’s office in order to send her sooty glove from the explosion to Pillover at Bunson’s, Sophronia and Dimity find Monique skulking about, so they follow her. She too is headed to the Steward’s Office and seems very put out that they are now afloat and it will be another three weeks before they head back to Bunson’s. Annoyed Monique stomps off, her letter clutched in her hand.
Sophronia never thought she would enjoy finishing school but she really, really does. Every day starts with a light repast as Mademoiselle Geraldine believes breakfast should not be luxurious and warns the girls to watch their figures. Lessons take the usual etiquette and deportment curriculum one would expect from a finishing school and incorporate the fine arts of death, diversion and modern weaponries with an analytical approach to murder that is fascinating. After two weeks, Sophronia approaches Lady Linette. She wants to know exactly what they are learning at the school. Lady Linette tells her they are being taught how to finish, anything and anyone who needs finishing. Sophronia also asks her how they knew to recruit her, and Lady Linette tells her that finding out is part of her training.
On the third week afloat, the school lowers enough for the students to jump off to the heath for a lesson with Captain Niall, who, Sophronia realizes, is obviously naked under his great coat on account of him being a werewolf. Today they are learning knives! Captain Niall instructs them to find a stick for practice. When Captain Naill goes down the line of students inspecting their chosen weapon, he asks Sidheag if she knows how to use hers, oh yes she does and they spar. Both are very impressive, Captain Niall is obviously stronger and faster being a supernatural but Sidheag holds her own. Monique is selected to demonstrate another way of using the stick. She employs advanced eyelash fluttering, plesentaries, and flirtation before stabbing Captain Niall in the neck. Dimity faints at the blood and while she is out, Sophronia finds out from Sidheag that there’s a rumor that Monique has a patron amongst the teachers.
Sophronia asks Sidheag about her upbringing following remarks made during their lesson with Captain Niall. Sidheag was raised by werewolves, the Kingair Pack, and Lord Maccon isn’t her father but grandfather several generations down the line. During their conversation, Bumbersnoot sluggishly waddles in. The mechanimal needs feeding, and the platter of coal Sophronia received from an anonymous benefactor a few days ago is all gone. Time for Sophronia to visit the sooties.
When everyone is in bed, Sophronia sneaks out and again clambers and climbs the outside of the ship to avoid the mechanicals. The boiler room is still a hive of activity but there is someone new who greets her upon her entrance through the hatch: an incongruous French nine year old boy who actually winks at her! This is Vieve. Soap explains Vieve is looking to be the next big inventor, hence their interest in Bumbersnoot, and when your aunt is Professor Lefoux, there are big footsteps to follow. Suddenly the perimeter alarm sounds! Sophronia makes an exit through the hatch and moves quickly around the side of the ship intending to see what is going on.
The Flywaymen are back with reinforcements to demand the prototype. The teachers are ready though and when the Flywaymen shoot, nearly hitting Sophronia in her hiding place, Lady Linette gives the order and Professor Braithwope points his crossbow up at the Flywaymen and shoots a small bolt. All the mechanicals swivel and fire at once, their own bolts following Professor Braithwope’s projectile. When the smoke clears, Sophronia sees that the Flywaymen have taken direct hits and at least two of their dinghies are listing. The Flywaymen fire back, ripping a hole in the school’s middle balloon. Lady Linette calls a ceasefire and tells the Flywaymen they will give them the prototype.
Before breakfast the next day, Sophronia updates Dimity on her escapades the previous night. Professor Lefoux fully expects the Flywaymen to be back as the prototype was a fake, and suggests they take the school up into the gray. Sister Mattie also asked about Bunson’s, which the girls suspect are building a replacement prototype or better looking fake. They’ll need to head to Bunson’s for repairs anyway. Sidheag interrupts them then, Lady Linette is in their living room and demanding to speak to Sophronia right away. Sidheag suggests she was seen the night before; clearly Sidheag heard their conversation.
Sidheag is correct, Lady Linette was told by a fellow student that Sophronia was seen scrambling about the outside of the ship at night. Whilst this shows commendable and untapped skills in climbing and night stealth, it can’t go unpunished. Sophronia will report to cook every night for pot cleaning duties, and for being told upon, she will be denied attendance to the upcoming stopover at Swiffle-on-Exe, and for being out during lockdown, she will not be allowed off the ship at all. Thank goodness she is not being expelled.
Sophronia is convinced Monique was the one to rat on her and confronts her on the way to tea and scones. Monique unsurprisingly and rather convincingly denies the accusation, goodness she is good! Over the consumption of comestibles, Mademoiselle Geraldine announces the upcoming stopover and that there will be a small troupe performing much to the general excitement of the pupils. Three nights later, while everyone is looking for the perfect outfit for the excursion, Vieve comes to visit Bumbersnoot. Vieve is enchanted by Bumbersnoot; he offers to clean and service the mechanimal’s squeaks the following day while everyone is out, which Sophronia gladly accepts. After Vieve leaves, Dimity confronts Sophronia for not telling her she had befriended Professor Lefoux’s niece. Niece?
Well, it appears Vieve likes to dress as a boy and fraternize with sooties and Professor Lefoux lets her. Vieve returns as promised the next day to work on Bumbersnoot. Sophronia takes the opportunity to find out what Vieve knows about the prototype. Vieve is actually a font of information. The prototype is for a new communication device since the telegraph failed because of the aether and two were made, one for London and another for Bunson’s. It is the Bunson prototype that has gone missing which Sophronia informs Vieve Monique took and hid. Ah! That explains why she failed her finishing mission and wasn’t permitted to go on the excursion and is skulking about the teachers area. Well, there is nothing for it, Sophronia needs to sneak into Bunson’s and take a look at the communication machine there. It's a good thing they are friends with the sooties and Vieve has her anti-mechanical mobility and magnetic disruption emission bracelet, or as Soap calls it “the obstructor.”
Sophronia and Vieve manage to recruit Soap in their escapade and exit the ship through a hatch in the engine room to the misty moor below. Far away, somewhere else on the moor, Captain Niall is running around in his werewolf form as it is the full moon. Entering Bunson’s proves to be no problem and the only human they encounter is Pillover who joins their misadventure to the roof where the communication transmitter is located. The maid mechanical and locked door they encounter prove little obstacle, so they enter a dumbwaiter but people sized, which raises them to the device.
The device looks like a potting shed with two out houses inside. It’s very lackluster to all but Vieve who climbs inside and deduces that the signal must use the aether creating point-to-point communication. The prototype then must be a sort of valve that facilitates that. With their information-gathering complete, they begin to head back to the airship. Unfortunately on the way, Sophronia bumps into a maid which sets off the alarm. Scandal! There is a girl in the sacred masculine halls of Bunson’s! While they are hiding in a closet, Pillover, being the only one allowed to roam free, is forced to wear one of Sophronia’s petticoats as a distraction, making people believe there was a false alarm. It works a treat and they manage to exit Bunson’s without further fuss.
On the moor, however, is a different problem. On a hill not too far away is a werewolf in a top hat, Captain Niall. The wolf scents the air and begins running toward them growling. Sophronia, Vieve and Soap run full out to the airship, but the rope ladder isn’t lowered until the last possible moment. Sophronia orders Soap and Vieve up first, and as she climbs, Captain Niall bites down and viciously mauls her other petticoat. Thankfully the sooties pelt Captain Niall with coal to keep him at bay. Despite her disheveled appearance, Sophronia dashes to Professor Braithwope. He must raise the alarm that Captain Niall is on the loose in werewolf form in case he attacks the returning students and teachers.
It takes a bit of persuasion to get Professor Braithwope to believe her, but finally he dashes off at supernatural speed to keep the students safe from Captain Niall. When Dimity returns, she regales Sophronia with the story of Professor Braithwope fighting a werewolf, but there was blood so she fainted and missed the actual fight. Thankfully the other girls complete the story: Mademoiselle Geraldine also fainted so Lady Linette was able to dispatch some of the older girls to perform the fan and sprinkle maneuver. The conversation then turns to Bunson boys and the sooties. Thankfully Lady Linette knocks and the conversation is ended. Before Sophronia can turn in for the night, Professor Braithwope asks to speak to her. They agree that neither saw anything that they shouldn’t have when she knocked earlier in the evening *knowing look of mutual understanding.* Yes he definitely wasn't drinking someone's blood and she definitely wasn't out roaming anywhere she shouldn't have been.*
For the next three months, the school stays aloft in the gray. With Flywaymen on the constant search for them, it was deemed the best option, however, this stops any external communication, which is particularly vexing to Monique. Sophronia supposes it must be because of the prototype. After speaking to Dimity, Sophronia recalls that Monique took a turn around her family’s garden while she was pretending to be Mademoiselle Geraldine and Sophronia was packing for school. She must have hidden the prototype then!
Sidheag continues to demonstrate her weapons proficiency, this time with Professor Braithwope who has taken over lessons as Captain Niall can’t go in the gray. One day when Sidheag is being particularly recalcitrant, Sophronia confronts her about her grumpiness because, like it or not, she is stuck there and she is a Lady. Then Sophronia has the idea to include Sidheag in her jaunt to the boiler room that night. Sidheag absolutely loves it because she can properly roughhouse with the sooties and doesn’t have to act like a girl. They even come up with the idea of wearing reinforced boots to help with kicking. Yes, Sidheag, who really seems to not have any interest in anything about becoming a lady, has suggested an accessory!
Dimity is put out by Sophronia and Sidheag’s friendship and jaunts to the boiler room despite her not being able to climb, not liking being dirty, and not wanting to learn how to fight. To compromise, Sophronia suggests that Dimity give her extra training on general ladylike matters. Eventually Sidheag joins and they become an odd little study group. The group grows to four after an incident between Agatha and Monique. Monique cornered Agatha and made her ugly cry in front of Mademoiselle Geraldine. Monique was being her typical “kind” self about Agatha’s appearance and told her she likely wouldn’t be invited back after winter break. If Sophronia and Dimity have any say in it, they’ll help their friend and prove Monique wrong.
Talking to Dimity about the Flywaymen attack, Sophronia describes the well turned out man in a top hat and funny emblem pin, and Dimity says he is a Pickleman. They are interested in money and power and their leader is called the Great Chutney. Dimity doesn’t really know much more than that. Dimity asks if they should go and speak to the adults but Sophronia argues that the prototype is likely at her house and she wants to be the one to sort it out.
A rumor is being spread by Monique that Dimity is stepping out with Lord Dingleproops, a Bunson's boy she was fraternizing with when Sophronia, Soap, Vieve and Pillover were wearing petticoats and sneaking around Bunson's. She would never! There is only one thing for it: revenge! Sophronia proposes that they go after the prototype, but in order to do that they would have to go to her sister's coming out ball. This cheers Dimity up. Once they have the prototype, they’ll need to get it into safe hands. They decide that the person who recruited Sophronia would be best as the ball will be at the beginning of winter break and the school will be nowhere near them. It’s a terrible idea, but the only one they have. The first thing they need to do is break into the school's record room to find out which intelligencers live near Sophronia to determine who recommended her recruitment. To do that, they need ‘the obstructor’ from Vieve and some Soap.
They visit the boiler room to ask Soap for assistance. Unfortunately it will take too long to teach Sophronia the lockpicking skills to get into the records room, but Soap thinks their plan sounds fun so he’s in. After a week and many arguments about who is to come, in the end, it's decided that small numbers are best, so Sophronia, Dimity and Soap head into the unknown attic levels of the school only to find a mechanical soldier stationed outside the conveniently labeled records room.
The mechanical fires a sticky net thing at the trio. Soap dives out of the way and is half shielded by Sophronia’s petticoat, but Sophronia and Dimity take direct hits. Soap hacks at the net with his knife while Sophronia and Dimity use sewing scissors. Once free, Soap picks the lock and they’re in. The room is filled with a giant filing machine with records dangling like laundry high up in the air. Eventually they find a call machine and work out how to use it. They locate a cluster of relevant records of former pupils from Sophronia’s area, one is dead, the second lived in the area for only a short period, and the third is Mrs. Barnaclegoose! Staging the room so blame for the mess would fall on someone else, the trio leaves.
The next day after breakfast, Monique mentions Petunia’s little coming out ball and that she has an invitation to it. What?! How?! She’s figured out a way to get herself invited so she can retrieve the prototype herself! At the beginning of lessons, Lady Linette mentions the infiltration of the record room and questions the girls but nobody knows anything concrete and nothing is missing to search for. Later, back in their rooms, Sophronia and Dimity are talking about how it looked as if Sidheag would spill the beans about their record room exploits when Sophronia realizes that Sidheag IS a turncoat, she was the one who tattled on her sneaking out, not Monique. Sidheag admits she did it to get a black mark on her record because she wants to be kicked out of the school. She has more important stuff to be worried about with her pack. Sidheag and Agatha take this as an opportunity to demur from the ball.
At the end of the school year, the airship comes out of the gray and lowers to Swiffle-on-Exe near Bunson’s. Carriages await their passengers on the green and the lower deck is a hive of activity as students chatter amongst trunks, hat boxes and carpet bags. Waiting for Sophronia and Dimity is Roger, her family's stable boy, in a cart. Monique, who will be riding with them, is decidedly unimpressed. Dimity asks if they can also collect Pillover because it's likely their mother has forgotten about him due to some evil scheme or other. They find Pillover at the center of a group of Pistons, Bunson’s boys who like to wear top hats with a ribbon and random cogs stuck to it, riding boots sans any horses and kohl smudges on their eyes. Pillover isn’t paying their heckles any attention, he has a book to read. He does pay attention when his sister calls out, and climbs upon the cart. They have a ball to get to. The ball piques the interest of the Pistons. Also interested in their cart is an air dinghy, it seems they have also picked up Flywaymen.
Flywaymen approach with pistols. This time the ladies are ready. At first flinging hat boxes at them, Sophronia and Dimity dash around on to the Flywaymen’s dinghy which has been loosely lashed. Soon they are floating away and learning how to operate the craft as they go. They get the right of it and catch up to the cart which Pillover lashes them to. It turns out to be a very pleasant journey to the Temminnick estate where Sophronia’s mother is ordering people about in preparation for the ball. Opinions regarding bringing an air dinghy home are expressed, introductions are made and warnings of Flywaymen are dismissed.
The ladies get ready in the Nursery, Sophronia wearing a hand-me-down gown from her sister from last season, much to Monique’s disgust and Bumbersnoot is turned into a lacy reticule. Pillover joins them properly attired for the evening and together he, Sophronia and Dimity take part in the festivities while keeping one eye on Monique. Whilst observing her quarry, Sophronia notices young men not of her acquaintance in attendance. It seems they have been invaded by Pistons! One draws her into a quadrille while another, Dimity's Lord Dingleproops, tries to spike the punch. Sophronia keeps an eye on Monique while she dances. Pillover argues with another Piston about spiking the punch at the same time a Pickleman enters the ballroom and Monique makes her escape on the arm of a dandy gentleman. Dimity is sent to deal with the Pickleman and Sophronia will deal with Monique.
Sophronia follows Monique into the garden where the gentleman who looked like a dandy confirms Westminster received her message and asks for the merchandise while pulling out a gun. Who is Westminster? Vampires? Parliament? Without saying a word, Monique reaches into a mechanical birdbath behind her and draws out a package before asking for her payment. Just then, a gentleman wearing a top hat wound with green ribbon approaches and demands the item. The Pickleman then blows a whistle which sets Bumbersnoot wriggling and letting off steam, but this is nothing compared to the huge man-sized mechanical dog that thrashes through the trees with one clear purpose: to destroy.
Dimity pops up from a lilac bush while Pillover is inside dealing with the Pistons. Sophronia asks that she and Pillover bring the Pistons and a cheese pie Mumsey kept in reserve outside to her. Meanwhile, Monique is unimpressed with the threats she is receiving. Pillover then comes running out of the ball holding the flask from the earlier punch-spiking kerfuffle with a gaggle of Pistons chasing after him. He runs straight at Monique’s group and Dimity pops up with the cheese pie. Sophronia then makes her entrance into the fray, calling out for Monique and begging her to come back to the party before executing a perfect stumble, knocking the dandy’s gun from his hand and tearing open Monique’s dress which allows her to replace the prototype she has hidden under there in her reticule with the cheese pie. Meanwhile, Dimity has grabbed the flask and poured it over the giant mechanimal which causes it to spark and catch fire when it starts to move toward Sophronia.
Sophronia feeds the prototype to Bumbersnoot as the sparks from the giant mechanimal land on the hem of Monique’s dress, a lilac bush, and a gazebo, making them catch fire. Chaos then ensues. Dimity is lecturing Lord Dingleproops and the Pistons on propriety and at the same time warning that the gazebo is on fire, Pillover is tussling with the other Pistons, Monique is screaming at the mechanimal, the Pickleman is trying to put out the flames on the mechanimal and the dandy is waving his gun about demanding the prototype from Monique who doesn’t know she is clutching a reticule with a cheese pie in it to her breast.
At a word from Sophronia, Dimity and Pillover break free from the fracas and escape to the house. Setting their appearances quickly to rights, they enter the ballroom to look for Mrs. Barnaclegoose. Monique makes an entrance then, completely indecent. Her gown is torn to pieces, her undergarments burned and singed and she is spitting mad. Behind her are the Dandy and the Pickleman, and hopefully they think the Pistons are the ones who absconded with the prototype. Monique then throws a cheese pie at Sophronia.
Petunia’s coming out ball is declared a resounding success! All the antics of the evening came together perfectly. Sophronia meets with a graduate of Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality who was sitting quietly in the front parlor watching the comings and goings. Sophronia handed over Bumbersnoot with a warning that he needs to let the item pass through and asks her to make sure it gets into safe hands as it’s a matter of finishing in the other way. Sophronia thanks Mrs. Barnaclegoose for recommending her to the academy before leaving.
The rest of the ball is rather anticlimactic. Monique takes over a guest bedroom and leaves early the next day while Dimity and Pillover spend the winter break with Sophronia’s family. Whether anybody really noticed the addition of the Plumleigh-Teignmott siblings amongst the Temminnick’s extensive brood is anyone's guess. Though Mrs. Temminnick noticed a little improvement in her youngest daughter's deportment, she declares that Sophronia still needs more work. Delighted, Sophronia returns to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality with the prototype ensconced at Bunson’s and under reproduction, a commendation in her file for unwarranted but well executed fancy dress operation maneuvers and Bumbersnoot waiting for her in the sitting room.