Vigil

What I don’t know where to fit in: Mialle asking if we could speak to someone who was in the Guild of Archan first and changed to the Guild of Anshen (Seran said the king’s best friend was one but he was away to the war and we might be able to talk to his father, who was still in the Guild of Archan) and Ferin saying that he couldn’t believe that all of his family were bad people though they were in the Guild of Archan by tradition.

When the bell rang we followed the people going into the main building. First a wash in a huge wash-room where twice as many people could have washed comfortably, then dinner: soup with chunks of different vegetables and a hunk of bread, just like I’d had from Mother Maile. Master Seran and the queen had come in just as some of the youngest members of the Order started serving. It was a strange sight, the queen eating soup like any ordinary person! She didn’t eat much, though, because every time she got the spoon near her mouth she remembered something she wanted to say.

Then other people cleared the tables and the bell rang again for the temple service. Mialle and I stood outside, but I felt a bit like I wanted to go in, and couldn’t push myself to do it. I told myself that all I wanted was to see the fire-pot again and there were simply too many people in the way.

Then the service was over and Ashti came out, talking to one of the Sworn. He came over to me and said “Ashti has just made it clear that you might want a room for the two of you.”

I felt my ears go warm but I nodded. “If that’s possible?”

“Certainly. Do you two also want a room together?” That was to Mialle and Vurian, who now stood next to us.

“If you like,” Vurian said to Mialle, but she didn’t like, and they went to take their things to the attic.

We got a room on a corner of the building where everybody lived, with a bed that was wide enough for both of us but the rest was exactly the same as in the rooms for one person, a little table and a stool and a chest and a washbasin stand. “You can stay here until– well, we don’t know when our people will be back from the war.”

It wasn’t late yet but we were so tired that the bed looked very inviting, and we were asleep before we could think of anything else.

We were up early, not even because of any bells but because we had a window looking out on the yard and it was noisy. People were coming in with carts and putting up tents! Not to camp in the yard, it turned out, but to see if they needed any repair. It was part of the army going north with the queen.

We found Mialle and Vurian in the dining room (we knew now that it was called “refectory”). There was porridge and bread, and the bread was soft and yellow. “Mmm, egg bread,” Vurian said. There was honey in it, too, and some spice that I didn’t recognise.

Ashti and Mialle wanted to go to the library, and it turned out that it was the place where we were least in the way, too. I wanted to see some maps of places where I hadn’t been (I’d only seen the map of our own villages, because our village priestess had one, and taught us to understand it), and Vurian knew where to find a map of Valdis! He pointed how we’d come all the way from the north gate to the south gate on the boat, and where the roads were that went to other places. And I saw a map of Essle too, all little islands, and one of the whole world, or at least most of the world, with the Gold City on it that the king had conquered from the Khas, and Ashas that he was away to conquer now.

Then Master Seran appeared in the library, “oh! You’re all here! Good thing because I’d like to speak with you some more.” He took a rolled-up map with him, and when he spread it out on his table it turned out to be almost the same as the priestess had. “Nalenay doesn’t have a regiment, right? Just the town guards.”

“What’s the difference?” Mialle asked.

“The town guards guard only the town, and a regiment goes to fight for the king when he needs them. Or the queen as the case may be.”

“No, just the town guards. There was a soldiers’ camp but that was only to collect the people who’d joined the army.”

“How many town guards?”

I counted on my fingers: Coran, Yssa, the tall one whose name I could never remember… “Six. No, I think eight.”

“Any of the villages have a militia?”

“Is that a regiment?”

“People who train regularly and fight if there’s any fighting to be done ”

The only people I could think of in Ashinay were Aunt Alyse and her band of farmers with pitchforks and flails and scythes and spears who could catch a wild boar or chase away thieves, but we hadn’t had thieves since I was a little kid and that was only one hungry poor man who Aunt Alyse had caught all by herself and fed and put to work so he didn’t need to steal food. And Jerna the cowgirl had married him later.

What Mialle’s village had wasn’t much different, and of course we didn’t know about the others.

Master Seran asked us to tell everything we knew about Nalenay and the villages, and that was more than we knew we knew! He drew everything on the map that he could, and it looked a lot fuller when we were finished. I wish the priestess in Ashinay could borrow it to make a copy for herself!

“There’s one other thing,” Master Seran said, “a complication, in fact.” And he took a letter from a pile of papers. “This is a letter from the queen’s lawman in the palace, Hallei Lyan. He’s in the Guild of the Nameless.”

“That’s why she came here and we couldn’t go to the palace, because he’s there,” I said.

“Exactly. Well, and a few other people. King Athal and Queen Raisse want to make it clear that they’re king and queen for everyone, regardless of Guild. But that does complicate matters sometimes.” And he read the letter to us, but most of it was in words we didn’t understand. “I’ll summarise: Lyan is worried that we’re keeping you prisoner here.”

“But you’re not!” I said. “Well, we can’t go out but that’s not the same thing.”

“It will be hard to convince Hallei Lyan of that,” Master Seran said. “There are a number of things we can do. You could answer his letter so he knows that you are not our prisoners, in your own words. You could go to the palace, with an escort, and tell him in person.”

“I’d rather go and talk to him than try to write a letter, that’s much easier!” I said. I remembered how much Halla and I had sweated over the letter to the queen, and that wasn’t even about us!

“It would be a meeting of only the three of you, if any of us stayed in the room he would think that you’re under our influence. One disadvantage of speaking with him in his own office is that he is likely to decide that you are his responsibility — he is a master in the Guild that you are apprentices in, after all. You might not be able to leave the palace.”

“But he’s not our master!”

“He would feel that he had to report you to the head of the Guild, and you would be assigned a new master. And if you refused that it would be counted as your second time running away. It would have grave consequences. You would survive, I don’t doubt that, but there would be sanctions.”

That word meant punishment. And perhaps we deserved punishment for leaving Master Merain. On the other hand, if Layse was right any apprentice in either Guild ought to learn more than Master Merain had been teaching us, and it had been too dangerous for any of us in Nalenay anyway.

“There are more options,” Master Seran said. “I could write the letter, though that would do little to take away the impression that you’re my prisoners. Or we could ignore it.”

“I don’t know,” I said, “I would like to explain to Hallei Lyan myself but only if I could be sure that I can come back here.”

“You would not be sure,” Master Seran said. “I think it’s best to wait until we know how things turn out in Nalenay, and then decide what to do. Until then–”

“We’re stuck here,” Mialle said.

“There might be a way around that. It’s good for you to meet other people of our Guild than only the Sworn, to get to know us. There’s the Spotted Dog, that’s a safe inn, I can ask some people from there to collect you tonight so you can eat and drink and dance and talk to people.”

“That’s where the Khas cook makes pie, right?” I asked.

“Bakhmet, yes. You’ll probably see her, too.”

Master Rava collared me the moment we left Master Seran’s office to help her repair weapons for the soldiers. I learned the difference between a kitchen knife and a fighting knife! She did all the swords herself, “a sword is in a class of its own, I’ll teach you that yet,” but after a couple of knives and polearm blades she knew I could do it and only looked my way every now and again to see how much of the pile was left.

When there was nothing left of the pile (except swords) she sent me away, and I found Ashti sitting in a quiet bit of the yard, spinning wool on a stick. “I was so looking forward to not having to do anything for a while!” she said. “But I got bored! The Order has some sheep so I went and plucked the wool from the hedge and cut a stick so I could spin.”

“Show me the sheep?” I asked, and we went out of the little gate and stood looking at the lambs and kids jumping around like lambs and kids do, and we snuggled some and talked some.

“What do you want to do?” I asked. “I mean, now you’re here? Are you going back?”

“I don’t know!” she said, and she looked a bit desperate. “I want to be an ordinary woman for a while, to wear something else than grey, to live in a house of my own! But then I want my own children with me, of course. Perhaps the queen will get them from Grandmother and bring them here.”

“You could write a letter, or they might not get the idea,” I said.

“I’m sure the queen thinks of everything.”

“I want to finish my apprenticeship with Master Rava,” I said, “but I don’t want to live in the Order house forever! Perhaps we could get a little house together and live like ordinary people. Oh! I know what you can do, you’re a really good schoolmistress.”

Then we wanted to snuggle some more but a billy-goat got loose and butted me in the butt. I caught him and lifted him back over the hedge, and then the little gate opened and one of the Sworn was there with a man and a woman we didn’t know. They were Faran and Imri from the Spotted Dog, to fetch us. “I serve drinks there,” Imri said, and Faran said he washed dishes in the kitchen.

It was easy to get there: the Order house was close to the city gate, and the gate had a walkway to the other side of the river. It was only for people, with a horse or a cart you had to go upstream and use the bridge and go downstream again.

“Take care you don’t fall in!” Faran said, “I don’t know if you can swim but that water’s been through the whole city and it’s filthy now.” Vurian and I could swim well enough, Mialle so-so, and Ashti not at all. But no, the water didn’t look pleasant to swim in, and it was probably cold too, and we had only the clothes we were wearing (and those were the old ones from Nalenay) because someone had taken our travelling clothes away to wash.

On the other side there was a bit of a square, or rather a triangle, that the inn was on: it had three stories and all the shutters on the front were open. Above the door there was a sign: a dog with spots of all different colours, colours that no dog ever has (like green and blue) too.

When we came in people looked at us a bit suspiciously, and I saw why, we were the only people in the Guild of Archan. “Are they with you, Imri?” someone asked, and when Imri said yes it was all right. She got a slate and a piece of chalk and said, “What would you like? Commander Seran says that all your food and drink tonight goes on the Order slate. Light ale? Dark? Strong? Cider?” She already had four large mugs in one hand, but Ashti wanted a small one, and I think she got cider. I asked for dark ale, and it was better than anything I’d ever tasted in Nalenay, even in the posh inn. Imri hung the slate on a nail on the wall where there were already other slates with writing on them.

A lot of people wanted to talk to us, we were probably a strange sight! A guy a couple of years older than me said, “Let me guess what you do: the black you can’t get out from under your nails, the little burn marks on your hands and wrists, and especially those shoulders, I think you might be an apprentice smith.”

“Right,” I said, “almost a journeyman smith.”

“I’m a journeyman coppersmith myself,” he said, “my name is Leshan.” I looked for Mialle but she was by the fire, in a spot more quiet than where Ashti and I and Vurian were, talking with an old man. Well, we had the whole evening.

Then there was a shout from the kitchen, “Pie!” and a young woman came through the kitchen door carrying a huge platter full of different pies and put them on a table that people hastily took their mugs off. That must be the Khas! She was stocky and had a sort of flat face and her skin was the colour of dried-up mud, and she didn’t look dangerous at all.

Vurian took a pie and went to share it with Mialle, because these pies were big enough for two, and I got a wooden plate from a stack and put a pie on it for me and Ashti. It happened to be my favourite, egg and onion!

After all the pies were gone Faran came to fetch the empty dish and plates, and the table was taken apart and put against the wall, and four people with a drum and a shawm and a hurdy-gurdy and a big viol went to sit and stand on a platform in the corner and began to play. “Do you dance?” Vurian asked us, and yes, at least Mialle and I did, only we didn’t know the dances they did here. “No problem,” Vurian said and swept Mialle away.

“I don’t know how to dance!” Ashti said, but I took her around the middle and led her to the dance floor. We couldn’t move much anyway, it was so crowded. But when Vurian noticed Mialle could really dance they went outside, where there was more room, and good dancers were doing different figures.

Mialle and I got a chance to play too so the musicians could have a drink and dance: they had a clay flute like Mialle’s own, only larger so it was lower and louder, and I got the drum, which was really two drums joined together. After a while the others came back, and then Leshan got his chance to talk to Mialle about coppersmithing. But it wasn’t what she was looking for, because Leshan’s workshop only made things for boats, nothing decorated! “You need to talk to Sidhan, I think,” Leshan said, and he went into the crowd and came back with a woman a lot older than us, more than thirty, short, with dark brown skin, dressed in a wonderful yellow gown with gold edging. “She’s a master goldsmith. Sidhan, this is Mialle, she might want to learn from you.”

Sidhan and Mialle hit it off at once. I danced some more with Ashti, and when we came back I heard Sidhan say, “are you interested in why different metals work the way they do?” I knew that that was exactly what Mialle was interested in!

Me, I’m not interested in why, only in how, and perhaps where and when. I know there are different sorts of iron, and what’s good for knives isn’t good for gates and candlesticks and the other way round, but I don’t need to know why it’s that way, it’s enough to know that it is and which is which.

“How long will you be in Valdis?” Sidhan asked Mialle. “You could come and work with us for a couple of weeks.”

“That’ll be hard,” Mialle said, “I can’t go out of the Order house, it’s dangerous.”

“Guild dangerous?” Sidhan asked. “Wreck my workshop because you’re in there dangerous? Pull you from your workbench and cut your throat dangerous?”

“I don’t know!” Mialle said, almost wailing.

“I see we’re going to need to talk about this properly,” Sidhan said, and she took us to the scullery where Faran was washing dishes and two young boys were drying but otherwise it was a lot more quiet than in the taproom. Vurian had come along, and Leshan too. “There’s been a lot of commotion lately, the Order sheltering young people from the other Guild, Her Majesty hurrying to the Order house, rumors about trouble in the north, those things might well be connected.”

I so wanted to tell her everything! Mialle was more cautious: who could overhear? But Sidhan made a curtain like Vurian had done on the boat, only much stronger. I don’t think we told her everything, but we did tell her a lot. And of course she saw our scars. “That’s been taken off in a hurry,” she said. “Master Layse did that, I know her touch, she stayed here at the Dog when she was going north. If she’d had enough time it might not have left a scar at all. But it’s likely to fade, and it’s even possible that you’ll grow out of it completely.”

“I didn’t know that Layse was a master,” I said, “I thought she was still a journeyman!”

“Journeyman smith and master in the Guild,” Sidhan said.

“She taught me half the smithing I know,” I said, “Master Rhanion was away all the time.”

Sidhan tutted about that, not about Layse’s teaching but about Master Rhanion being away. “And Mialle’s master too. What is the world coming to? Well, we’ll start by catching up with any teaching you ought to have had and didn’t get. We’ll find a way to get you into my workshop, even if I have to ask the Order for an armed escort every day. Are you planning to go back at all?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “I’m going to learn from Master Rava first, and –well — I really don’t want to go back to Master Merain. And Master Mernath. Grand Master Mernath.”

Sidhan sighed. “What you ought to do,” she said, “is to go out tonight, in the Order’s field, make a camp-fire, hold a vigil, and ask the gods to show themselves.”

“With the sheep?” I asked. “That field?” And I didn’t know what a vigil was, but it sounded like it just meant sitting up at night to pray.

“Yes, the field with the sheep and the goats. It’s outside the city but still Order ground so it ought to be safe. I have to warn you, Anshen rarely speaks, though I heard a story of him kissing a young runner in a boat, outrageous! The other one does speak, a lot even, but you can count on him lying.”

“I’m coming too,” Vurian said, “I should have thought of that much earlier. I thought a vigil would be a good idea when you were staying with us, but we left before we could do it. And I’m good at laying a camp-fire. It would be best to use an eternal temple fire, but it’s a day’s journey to the one on the Three Hills road.”

When we were leaving — with Faran and Leshan, because Imri was busy — I beckoned to Sidhan and said, “Could you please lend Ashti something colourful to wear?”

“Now?” she asked.

“Tomorrow?”

“That won’t be a problem,” she said. I thanked her and went with the rest, who were already almost on the bridge.

When we were on the bridge Vurian and Leshan suddenly stopped both at once. “Hide!” Vurian said, and I made the sheepskin cloak I’d done before, but I knew it wasn’t enough. Then Vurian and Leshan, and I think Faran too, made some kind of hiding thing. “It’s a master and a journeyman of the Nameless, in a little boat,” Leshan said.

I had a wild idea that it might be the queen’s lawman, but that was too ridiculous so I didn’t say it. We crept to the other side of the bridge without anything happening, and when we came to the gate of the Order house the Sworn who opened it said to Leshan and Faran, “you come in too, better stay the night, we saw them watching, the two of you shouldn’t be seen going back together.”

“They know where we are now,” I said.

“Or they were watching to see if you’d come out of the Order house,” the Sworn said, “not go in.” I don’t think they’d been there when we went out, so they probably hadn’t seen us come out! But it was still scary that the people who were after us might have caught up with us.

Vurian got firewood from the woodshed, and Ashti and I and Mialle got our blankets, and someone had given us a flask of watered wine and a basket of pasties. We found a bit of dry ground and Vurian immediately started preparing for the fire: first he put eight stones the size of his fist in a circle, then added smaller stones until there was a very low wall, and he laid the fire inside of that and got a torch from inside the Order house to light it. (Come to think of it, perhaps it was fire from the temple!)

We wrapped ourselves in blankets — Vurian and Mialle in one, but Ashti and I needed two — and then Vurian said “if we’re going to meet the gods we should call them!” It was a bit of a problem which invocations we ought to do because we needed both Archan and the Nameless, and did we call the other gods as well? Ashti and Mialle didn’t have a strong opinion, Vurian thought that everybody should do their own invocation, but I still had the note in my purse that I’d got from Layse with the invocation to the Nameless on it, so I thought we could do both, and if both, why not all? It wasn’t a bad thing to have Timoine and Mizran and Naigha if they wanted to come.

But if we did both Second Invocations, only one could be in its proper place. “Let’s do the other one at the end,” Vurian said, but that didn’t feel right, I wanted to do both in second place but I didn’t mind the Nameless going first, we were on his ground after all.

So we did not four, but five invocations, and when we’d finished there was a young man sitting between me and Mialle (with the sheepdog that had ambled up when we were praying between me and him) and another young man between Vurian and Ashti, both very handsome, looking exactly alike.

The one between Vurian and Ashti talked. It was Mialle he talked to, mostly, and I don’t remember everything that he said — a bit like Master Mernath, telling her how wonderful and special she was and how much she could achieve if she would only let him guide her, and a bit like the queen’s lawman, all words that I didn’t really understand so I couldn’t catch him lying, but it was like the time Ma gave me fever medicine when I was a kid, with so much honey that she thought I wouldn’t taste the bitterness, but I did, it was underneath all the time.

I groped around for goat droppings to throw at him, to break through the smoothness, but there weren’t any. Vurian had cleaned the ground too well! But Mialle didn’t need that, she could throw words at him. “Do you really think I’m going to fall for that? You might think again.”

“But think of your family, who brought you up in the right tradition,” Archan said, “are you going to fail them?”

“If you’re so big on family why can’t you and your brother make up?” I asked.

“Sadly it’s not the time for that yet,” Archan said, but he looked not at all sad.

“Oh? And when will that time be? At the end of the world?”

“Will the world ever end? The One said nothing about that when he made it.”

Then Anshen –I have to call him by his name now– got up and walked straight through the fire to Archan and offered both his hands. Archan scowled, turned away and disappeared. Anshen came back and laid a hand on my shoulder for a moment, and his other on Mialle’s.

“Is it very strange to give pasties to gods?” I asked, with one in my hand.

“I don’t see why not,” Ashti said, “we give hair to Naigha, and pasties are much nicer, even when they’re burnt! So I tried to hand the pasty to Anshen, but the dog got in first and snapped it up. Anshen grinned and winked.

Mialle got up, took a deep breath, and put a hand in one of Anshen’s. That was what I’d wanted to do too, so I took his other hand, and then Mialle’s free hand with mine.

I don’t know how long we stood there like that but eventually Anshen let go of us and started to walk towards the Order House gate. He melted into the shadows before we could see if he went through or disappeared like his brother.

Ashti whooped and grabbed me around the middle. We all sat down, exhausted, and Vurian said, “I never thought the Nameless could be so — persuasive. Now I understand much better why people stay with him!”

“I thought you were all flighty, didn’t follow any rules, or made rules yourselves when the rules don’t suit you!” I said. “But when you made the fire and we prayed, it was important to do it the right way.”

“Well, when the rules are bad of course you make new rules!” Vurian said. And we settled down for a good talk about that, but Leshan and Faran appeared with a jug of ale and more food. “Is there a party?” they asked. “We heard you talking from upstairs. And the place was full of gods.”

“Yes, I think this calls for a party,” Vurian said, “any of you brought something to make music with?” Mialle had her clay flute, and I found one of the goats’ water buckets to drum on. “We’ll teach you the dances from around here!” Vurian said, but he wasn’t the one teaching because Mialle let him play the flute. He started out with a strange ugly sound because he blew too hard, but then he figured it out and it didn’t sound at all bad. Leshan took Mialle’s hand, and Faran Ashti’s, and they showed them how to dance to the melody Vurian played. It looked very courteous, with little steps and tiny polite bows, as if they were all noble!

“My grandfather banged a Brun once,” Leshan said when I mentioned that, “only it was a man so nothing came of it.”

“He must have banged women too or he wouldn’t have been your grandfather!”
I said.

“Yes, he likes both, though nowadays he only talks about girls. Hey! I saw you talking to him at the Dog!” That was to Mialle, and it turned out that it was the old man she’d been talking with at the fire.

Birds were starting to sing. It became light. We put out the fire and cleaned everything up and went back through the gate, to find that we’d missed breakfast (but we’d been eating pasties and the bread and sausage that Leshan and Faran had brought, so that was all right) and the yard was full of strange people. A whole lot of soldiers in armor walked in, mostly men and a few women, all as mud-brown as the cook in the Spotted Dog, with spears and short broad swords. Those must be the Khas regiment! They did look fearsome.

Rava came from the smithy and took me by the arm. “I’m off north, it’s a matter for smiths and anyway they can’t do without me. You can work here while I’m gone, if you like.”

“I can shoe horses,” I said, “but I haven’t done that for ages.”

“There’s not much horse-work anyway, most of it is weapons and utility stuff, for the town watch as well. I’ll show you where everything is.” She did show me everything: tools, materials, even the tally-book. It wasn’t until she was gone that I realised she’d given me the full run of the workshop, trusted me with it.

Now the temple bell rang and everybody wanted to go to the service. And so did Mialle and I. It was very peaceful, even though the temple was full to the brim. I didn’t catch all the words of the singing, but it sounded like the invocation to Anshen only much more of it.

I wondered if anyone would notice us, and yes, someone did and it was the queen!

She walked out of the temple between us. “I see that you’ve been taking steps,” she said. “We’ll be away for at least six weeks — armies don’t move fast — but after that I’ll invite you to the palace, as I promised.”

I was about to protest that it would be dangerous, but then something occurred to me. “Master Lyan and the other masters don’t have a claim on us any more, do they?”

“They don’t,” the queen said, “the only people you’re still in danger from are those who want revenge for what happened in Nalenay.”

No more Master Merain. And that made me remember how Anshen had laid his hand on our shoulders and look for the scar. I could still feel it a little, but no longer see it, and it was fading away even as I felt for it. Mialle’s was a bit easier to notice but it was fading too.

“There’s more that’s needed, though,” the queen said. I understand that you” –Mialle– “have been offered work with the goldsmith Sidhan. But you need a master in the Guild of Anshen — Sidhan might serve in that capacity too, for both of you. All three of you, because it’s probably not a good idea for the priestess to learn in the Temple. And perhaps Vurian until he’s off to Turenay.”

If that could happen! As if we’d called her –perhaps the queen had called her!– Sidhan was there. “I’ll see you all at my workshop first thing tomorrow. I’ll have a room ready for you.”

“I’ll be working in Master Rava’s workshop,” I said, “and when she’s back I’m going to apprentice with her.”

“For everything or just smithing?”

“I don’t know! But I think just smithing. I don’t want to join the Order. Not now, anyway.”

“I can imagine not now!” Sidhan said with a wink at Ashti. “Though she could certainly use someone to succeed her. Not that she’s all that old yet, but she won’t last forever and good smiths in the Order are rare. But I’ll have you as my apprentice in the Guild for now, and when that army comes back we’ll see what happens. What about you, little priestess?”

“I don’t know what I want to do,” Ashti said, “only that I don’t want to do nothing.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll find something for you.”

“And what about me?” Vurian asked.

“Oh, there’s a broom in the corner.” Then Sidhan gave me a small squishy package and disappeared into the crowd.

We all went to bed, of course. We were dropping. Seeing the army leave would be interesting but we couldn’t stay awake for it. When we were in our room Ashti got a bucket of water and rinsed some bloody rags.

“Good thing you didn’t get your courses on the journey,” I said.

“Oh, I was taking herbs then. — Talking of herbs, I could take those and not have a baby when we make love.”

“But I thought you wanted another baby?”

“Yes, I do — but if we do, it’ll be born at a strange time of year. Priestesses’ babies tend to get born–”

“Around the Feast of Mizran,” I said. Even I knew that: one season to sprout, one season to form, one season to grow.

“Well, at least we don’t have to think about it for another couple of days.”

Then I opened the package, and it was a gown in shimmering colours! It looked like a nightgown. Ashti looked at it with starry eyes but wouldn’t put it on. “Suppose I bleed all over it! No, that’ll have to wait for another couple of days, too.”