Once again, I found myself in charge of the bar, but this time, there was a reason. Not a very pleasant one, but at least there was a reason.
I dropped by the tavern during the afternoon, more out of a wish for something to do than any expectation of company. But, company there was, in the form of Aoibheann, fresh from picking berries by the look of her, and the basket of fruit she was carrying. I gave her the takings, such as they were, from the previous night, for which she thanked me, and then she went off in the direction of the kitchen with the stated intention of making some tarts.
In the evening, there was no sign of her. There was precious little sign of anybody for a a while, but then Gwydion strolled by for a beer and to play his fiddle. We joked about choices of musical instrument and I told him how Mother had tried, and failed, to teach me the piano. He suggested that maybe I should try the trombone, but I declined on the grounds of far too much wind and arm movement being required. He said that he used to play the piano, but much preferred his harp and fiddle. I ventured to suggest that both of these were far easier to hoist onto the shoulders than a piano, and thus ideally suited to a travelling bard, which comment caused much amusement.
The lady from the bath house was there again, Melinda, I think her name was. She spoke of scented soaps and oils, and we discussed choices of soap scents for me, after I had told her that Father preferred good old-fashioned carbolic. Again, she tried to persuade me to come by the bath house for a good soak and a massage. It almost sounded as though more were on offer, but she had already vouchsafed that her’s was a respectable establishment, despite what Aiobheann suspected. A place of perdition, she called it. It’s not the phrase I would have used, but maybe it is a language thing. Or perhaps not. I have been in enough houses of ill-repute in various parts of Europe and have never heard them called that. I told her a little of my time in London, and the club that Vedis used to run. She seemed most interested in learning about Vedis, but aside from praising her as a most remarkable woman and a good person to have as a friend, I did not venture any further information and said she would have to ask Vedis herself. Until I know how things are arranged here, and how those of us who are different are viewed, it did not seem appropriate to comment on her nature.
Our musings were interrupted by the woman who looks like Anna, who came rushing into the tavern, grabbed a tray of tarts, presumably the ones Aiobheann had made earlier, and dumped them into the bin. It seems that Aiobheann does not know her botany well, and had made her tarts from the berries of Belladonna. By a stroke of good fortune, it seems that only Aiobheann herself had consumed any. She was, apparently, not at all well, but was expected to make a full recovery. So there, dear journal, was the reason for her absence.
One by one, the guests departed. Gwydion, no doubt, to pursue his muse; the other Anna to tend her patient; and Melinda to tend to her bath house. And I was left to tend bar on my own, with only my journal for company.