Replacing a Child

I have found myself thinking about Arthur lately. The other day, watching the queen with her children, I thought of him, and again today, talking with Anna. I had gone over there to talk about financial arrangements between the infirmary and the tavern. Riley was there, of course, doing the things Riley does. Anna and I got to talking and I happened to mention my lack of experience in child-raising. This led to me explaining why; about Alexandra’s death giving birth to Arthur, and how it worked out that the best thing to do was to have my brother and his wife adopt him. She told me that she was childless but that Riley had become her own, since arriving in Jasper Cove, though Emanuel also seemed to be developing a rapport with her. I complimented her on the way she dealt with the child and remarked that from my observation, he did seem to do well with her. Then we got down to the business I had originally intended, talking about the financial arrangements. It turns out that there is no financial arrangement. Financially, it might still be a good arrangement, however. As Anna put it, the cost of the food is more than balanced by the amount of medical care not being incurred as a result of Aoibheann’s cooking. While that might seem a little unkind, I had to agree she had a point. I asked if I could at least do something like taking care of the infirmary’s accounts by way of recompense. She looked a little embarrassed, and I suspected she was not a great one for the paperwork, so I assured her that it couldn’t be any worse than Aoibheann’s books had been and she eventually handed them over. I left her giving the child dinner, taking some chicken and vegetables back for the tavern’s lunch menu. I found myself in a distinctly contemplative mood, wondering about how Arthur was doing now, and what age he was out there in the real world. Also, I was thinking how strange it was that this Anna’s kindness and manner reminded me so much of the Anna I knew back in London.

Later, I came by the tavern again to find it unusually crowded. Jade was there, along with Aoibheann, a strange looking woman with blue hair, Emanuel and Anna. Aoibheann surprised me somewhat with an angry outburst at the blue-haired woman, telling her to get out. I didn’t know quite what was going on, and at first it seemed as if maybe the princess had gone missing again. Eventually, I learned that the youngest, Hadley, was sick and that people had been worried. The row was because the blue-haired woman had made some comment to the effect that a child was easily replaceable. I must admit that this seemed a somewhat callous comment. At this point, the woman left, apparently flying by some means. The others then told me that she was a robot. This was not a word I had heard before, but apparently means some kind of mechanical being. I was a little surprised, as the ones I had seen in London were large and clunky and leaked steam all over the place. I suppose, given what the king said to me the other day about being outside time, this may have been a creation of a different time. This one seemed of more human shape than the person who arrived dressed as a mechanical being at the party. Unless, of course, that was not a costume, and she too had been a robot.

With that person gone, things seemed to relax a little. I introduced Jade to everybody, as she did not appear to have done so otherwise. We spoke of the child and speculated that she may have eaten something she should not have at the picnic. Jade volunteered her knowledge of herbs and healing, which interested both Anna and Aoibheann, the latter wanting to learn more of herbs and how to identify them. Privately, I thought this a good idea, but forbore to tease her about it. Jade seemed most pleased to be able to meet with both of them. She also was most interested in Emanuel’s bookshop.

The party seemed to start to break up after that. Anna left to recover Riley from somebody called Martha before Riley started wrecking the house. Emanuel made some joke about having fed her too much sugar, but then avowed that he hadn’t really. He seems to have an odd sense of humour, having also joked about wanting a picnic with black jack and hookers, which seemed to alarm Anna slightly, as one might expect. He reassured her that it was just a joke and she seemed satisfied. He departed in the direction of the bookshop, followed by Jade. Anna departed in search of Riley, leaving me just with Aoibheann. She looked very nice this evening, wearing a dress I had not seen before, white with a floral print. Unusually for her, it was quite bright, and also short, ending just below the knee. I told her it looked nice and she said the king had given it to her, to wear to an art exhibition, but that had been cancelled because of the child’s illness. Then she asked me to look after the bar so she could go and get changed and do some cleaning in the kitchen.

So once again, I found myself in the tavern alone. A man might start to get paranoid, but it seemed due to no cause of mine that they all left. In truth, I appreciated the silence, save for the crackling of the brazier and the tinkle of the fountain in the gardens. I wanted to get back to Edmund’s adventures, but there were other things to do. There were Anna’s books to sort out and an agreement to draft. That is going to be fun. A standard share deal is no problem, but I know not how to value my company in terms of the local currency. I shall have to put it to the king in terms of the currency I know. I am sure he will know how to convert that.

It is strange how life turns out. Yes, I wonder about my son, and how he has grown, but I do not now, as I once often did, wonder how life might have been had things turned out differently, had Alexandra lived. That path is closed. Each choice I make takes a different path, leaving others behind. Sometimes circumstances dictate the path – I did not choose to be shipwrecked – but then, the choices are my own again. I chose to follow that ferryman and I am content with that choice. Of course, this could all be some dream, and I will wake up tomorrow in the cabin of the Bold Admiral and all this will be a ragged memory of half-remembered images. Somehow I doubt it. I do not think that is my reality and I am not going to use that cop-out for Edmund’s either. Perhaps, some day, maybe on one of these trading missions the king mentioned, I will be able to resume my quest to find Katharina, but for now I am content with where I am.


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