What Would Mother Say?

Some people are so impatient. A comely young woman came into the tavern this morning, while I was doing my regular morning inventory and catching up on my journal. She wanted to know where she could get a meal, a bed and somewhere to wash. I pointed out that we were in a tavern and had all of those things, plus a bath house next door if she wanted more than a stand-up wash. She then demanded to know where all the people and servants were, so I told her they were probably asleep. She wanted to know about the island, so I told her its name, a little about the island and our royals. She then demanded to know where the people were, what jobs were available, whether or not we had any nobility and whether or not there were lower class people she should be aware of as she was walking around. Before I could compose a reply, trying to explain a social structure I still do not entirely understand myself, she flounced out, presumably to find somebody else to interrogate. I do hope she learns a little patience if she intends to reside here. Even if I do admit that when I first arrived, I found the, how shall I put it, relaxed way of life a little frustrating. I have gotten used to it now, of course, and even find it enjoyable. I am sure she will learn.

I did learn a little about the social structure around here. In fact, I think I am part of it now. I was chatting with Anna in the tavern yesterday morning, when I was summoned to the castle to finally meet with the king. Of course, kings being kings, it wasn’t that simple. Even in the short time it took me to get there; he had been waylaid by some other meeting. Instead, I got to sit with the queen and some of the children while they had their breakfast. Well, at least, the children had breakfast. One sight of the sausages and eggs was apparently enough so cause the queen to relapse and start throwing up again. I suggested some of the remedies my mother used to give me when I was ill, but she claimed, against all appearances, that she wasn’t.

The children seem well adjusted and coping well with their mother’s indisposition. I joked with the elder one about the dragon some more. For a moment, I found myself wondering how my son, Arthur was faring with my brother and his wife. By my personal experience of time, he would be around eight years old by now, but here in Jasper Cove, who knows what era it is, let alone what year. For now, I shall have to experience parenthood vicariously through the princesses and perhaps the child Riley. I don’t that see I have a choice in that respect, as I do not know if I am even capable of fathering a child now. There are so many things that Katharina did not manage to teach me.

By and by, I was summoned to the king’s study, via an embarrassing wrong turning or two. We had scarcely begun our conversation when we were interrupted by a somewhat imperious individual who had the temerity to demand why I was wasting the king’s time with trivial tavern business that should have been passed through him. I do not think the king was best pleased. We were introduced, and this man turned out to be the much-vaunted seneschal, the Lord Niles Robespierre of whom Aoibheann had spoken. Within the space of a few minutes, I could already see why the queen would dislike him. I was very polite, and cool, even when he tried to prove his strength by his handshake. I merely pointed out that I had been summoned and had not yet had the chance to hear why the king had requested my presence. This seemed to amuse the king, who took the papers from Niles, admonished him for interrupting our meeting and then dismissed him, which pleased Niles not at all. I can’t say that I took an immediate liking to the man. Nor, I suspect, did he to me, as I am sure I count as a threat to his position. I wonder if he is of any relation to his namesake, he of the French Revolution.

With Mister, sorry, Lord Niles disposed of; the king and I were able to get down to business. I had already given him business cards for my financial and trading companies, so he was at least aware of the general thrust of my business. I explained a little more about them, in particular, my background, initially in accounting and subsequently in trading, using my experience as a purser. It was the latter that interested him most, though I suspect that if Niles continues to annoy people, I could pick up the accounting parts of his job too. The king explained the various trading he and his wife already have in hand and what I could add to that, adding a particular need for salt, spices etc and textiles. The former were no problem of course; silk, cotton and linen easy enough through my friend Giles over at Indo-China Imports; coal, fuel oil, construction materials… It occurred to me that I had done a lot of trading over the years, so there was pretty much nothing I could not get if needed.

I must confess that I did not understand entirely what he said next; something about Jasper Cove being outside of time and space and something about a being a multi-reality conglomerate. He also made reference to my coming from London and 1891, as though the year were a place rather than the present. I thought briefly of my earlier theory that I had crossed the Styx into the afterlife, which I would imagine to be disconnected from the passage of time, but then dismissed it on the grounds that the afterlife would be unlikely to have trading agreements with the living, it being pretty much a one-way arrangement. This place having a disconnection from time would explain a lot. I have, of course, encountered the concept of time travel in my reading of fiction, but I never expected it to be a part of my reality. But then, I never expected to become a blood-drinking creature of myth, or to work in a bar where I served drinks to dragons, so it would be foolish to dismiss other fantastical things as impossible.

Knotty problems of a temporal nature aside, the king had a proposal. A Jasper Cove subsidiary in New Orleans, also from 1891, would become a 20% shareholder in NHB International Trading, which would take on the trading of commodities with what I guess I should call the London of my time, and the Cove’s share of the profits being taken as what would otherwise be taxation elsewhere. This seemed an equitable arrangement, though it is going to take me a while to fathom out how to value 20% of NHBIT, having only issued the necessary number of nominal shares to create the company. I told the king this and he seemed to be ok with it. I said I would draft an operating agreement etc and we shook on the deal. I should give the draft operating agreement to him of Isabella directly though, as we wouldn’t want to upset that nice Mr Niles. We shook hands on the deal and he showed me the way out. As a nice little coda, as I was leaving the front door, Mr Niles got hit on the back of a head by a well-aimed water jug thrown by her majesty. I guess Aoibheann was right about her not liking the man.

Oh, and little bit of social mobility is involved here. Being part of the Jasper Cove business machine makes me part of the ruling classes. Like a lord, in fact. Lord Nathaniel Ballard, the king called me. It has an interesting ring to it, for all my normal disdain for titles. I wonder what mother would think of it.

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