Claire was wringing her hands together already. Morgan supposed there was no help for that. The good Lord knew that facing anything yourself, no matter how bad, was easy — at least, easy for a mother, if she compared it to her child having to face it. “What — what if –” Claire murmured.
“Don’t worry,” replied Morgan. She patted Claire’s shoulder. Sometimes — most of the time — Claire desperately needed to give free reign to her emotions. She’d kept them under lock and key for far too long. Giving them the airing they desperately craved could only be to the good. However, “most of the time” didn’t apply when there was work of a delicate nature to be done.
Seeing to Lynn, and seeing just what could be gotten out of her, was about the most delicate work Morgan could imagine.
The chambermaid who had opened the door led them to the music room. That must have been where Alison and Lynn were waiting for them. Of course Lynn didn’t know it was for her they came; the three of them — Alison, Claire, and Morgan — had discussed the matter and thought it would be best if Morgan observed Lynn a bit more before she became aware of it. Lynn just thought they were going to have tea.
Still, the music room wasn’t far, and Claire barely had enough time to take a deep breath, shake herself all over, set her shoulders, and begin to walk like a lady — Morgan the whole time moving with her usual careless stride — before the chambermaid opened the door and curtseyed. “Lady Claire and Lady Morgan, Majesty,” she announced, then quietly withdrew.
As for Morgan and Claire, that left only the greeting dance to be done.
Lynn beelined for her mother, leaving Claire to exclaim over her daughter’s growing middle and Lynn to laugh and tilt it forward for better inspection. “Look!” she chortled. “I look pregnant again — not just chubby!”
“Oh, shush, Lynn, you never looked chubby!” gasped Claire.
Morgan, however, had other intelligence to gain. A raised eyebrow to Alison — Any better?
Alison shook her head.
Morgan muttered a few swear words safely in the confines of her own head. Damn it. She had half-hoped that constant reinforcement from Tom, from Alison, from Arthur himself would convince Lynn that worrying over the gender of her baby wasn’t worth making herself sick, or, even better, that which type of baby she happened to have before the year’s end was no judgment on her as a Sim. But of course it wouldn’t. You couldn’t fix in a day what it took years to break. Claire was living proof of that.
Plink — plink — plink — The tiny sounds woke Morgan from her reverie, and confused, she glanced at her to see where they came from.
“Elise!” laughed Lynn — that made the little girl look up, though she visibly quailed to see so many new people. “Are you trying to say hello?”
Elise popped a thumb into her mouth and watched the Sims around her, her furrowed brows clearly reserving judgment until more could be determined about these strangers.
“You remember me, don’t you?” cooed Claire, creeping forward. “It’s Nanna!”
Elise’s eyes lit up. “Nanna!” She pointed to her little toy. “‘Nanno!”
“You’re playing your piano?” gasped Claire, crouching to Elise’s level. “Just like Nanna?”
“Oh, aren’t you just darling!” Claire kissed Elise’s head. Elise beamed.
And then, as Claire retreated, it was Morgan’s turn. “Hello, sweetie!” she called, crouching. “You remember Auntie Morgan, don’t you?”
Elise leaned away — no, not away, into herself. Morgan backed up, giving her a bit more space. There was no use scaring the baby, after all.
“Elise,” said Lynn, reaching over the armrest of the sofa to stroke the top of her daughter’s head. “Elise, don’t you remember Auntie Morgan? Your friends Pascal and Chloe’s mama?”
“Mama?” asked Elise, looking between her mother and Morgan in obvious confusion.
“Better not remind her of Pascal and Chloe,” murmured Morgan. “I think they scared her last time.” Pascal and Chloe were only a few months older, but still, that was plenty bigger, plenty stronger when compared to a little girl like Elise. They were also fearless, and Elise … wasn’t.
Morgan grinned one last time at the little girl, blew her a kiss, and retreated to the sofa with Claire. Sometimes, it was best to give the little ones the space they needed. Nothing good came from forcing them to act like adults, putting up with what an adult would be expected to bear with a grin, too soon.
She glanced through half-lidded eyes at Lynn. The only question that remained — when to step in when the adults could no longer grin and bear it?
But for now, she would sit back and let someone else take the lead in the conversation. Claire promptly did. “Have you seen Clarice recently, dear — my lady?” she added, including Alison in the question. Morgan was fairly certain she was the only one to see her sister-in-law rolling her eyes at the honorific.
Lynn laughed and nodded. “She insists on seeing me every week! I don’t know whether to be worried, or tell her she’s overzealous, or assume it’s all just an excuse to see her goddaughter,” Lynn smiled at Elise’s head, Elise already back to steadily plinking out what Morgan supposed might be a melody on her little toy, “or what.”
“Oh, she can’t be too zealous! That’s — that’s not possible,” replied Claire, trying desperately to add a little laugh to the end and not succeeding. “Having … having someone talking to you, listening to you through it all, that can’t be too helpful, can it?” She glanced at Alison, begging for backup.
“Indeed not,” replied Alison, saving them all from going down a potentially dark — and potentially dangerous, given Claire’s history with pregnancies and what they were trying to avoid with Lynn — road. “Besides, it gives Clarice a chance to ask a few questions of her own, doesn’t it, dear?” Alison added, winking at Lynn.
Lynn chuckled. “Oh, yes, certainly. Sometimes I wonder whether her questions aren’t so much to make sure everything is going normally for me as they’re meant to reassure her that everything is going normally for her.”
“I guess even all those books she’s read haven’t told her everything,” replied Claire.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” muttered Morgan. “Half of them are written by monks.”
Alison shot her a look — a be nice look. “But that’s only to be expected, isn’t it? In so many villages, the monk or monks are the only ones who can read. Who is going to collect the midwives’ knowledge and see it safely written down if not them?”
Morgan shot Alison a look — a be serious look. “I find that most midwives tend to do fine teaching their apprentices all that they know — and someday, perhaps, the apprentices will start to learn to read, and they can tell us their secrets in their own words.” She shrugged. “Besides, don’t you find — you especially, Gwendolyn, Claire, being musicians — that writing things down can be … stultifying, in a way? If you’re working from a written piece of music, you have to stay true to the composer’s vision, whereas if you are composing for yourself, you have much more freedom. Perhaps the midwives feel the same way when it comes to their treatments.”
“Well I — I can hardly speak for midwives,” Claire faltered, “but there’s always a great deal of freedom when you interpret a piece of music. Every musician, I think, puts a slightly different spin on it. I’m not sure if that would be wise with midwifery.”
“Indeed,” added Alison. “Truly, Morgan, do you think it would be best if every midwife had her own recipe for a soothing potion, or one to stop bleeding? They can’t all work.”
Actually they could, as long as the essential chemistry of the midwife’s relationship with her patient was correct and she wasn’t feeding the patient outright poison. If you had a good enough relationship with your patient, you could give them spring water, tell them it was a potion to ease their aching back or calm their upset stomach or shrink their swelling feet, and they would believe you, drink it, and be cured. It would even work with swamp muck — hell, it might work better with swamp muck, since most Sims expected something that was good for you to be unpleasant. And if the midwife in question happened to be a witch, then she might be able to magic swamp muck into working as advertised whether or not she had a good relationship with the patient.
But all Morgan said was, “Perhaps not — but I think you’ll find that most midwives do have their own recipes. Besides, as you mentioned, monks are often the only ones in a certain area able to read … so what good does it do a midwife to tell her monk all of her secrets for him to write them down, if the midwife in the next town or next kingdom over won’t be able to read them?”
“Morgan,” Alison asked, shaking her head slightly, “are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?”
Morgan didn’t answer at first, too busy watching Lynn blink, her gaze volleying between Alison and Morgan. There was Claire to consider, too. Whatever Morgan might think privately about certain subjects, she’d kept quiet about them around Claire. There was no use tearing down her whole belief structure before a new one had been erected to take its place, not in Claire’s fragile state. Still, Lynn wasn’t that fragile, and nor for that matter was Claire …
So Morgan smiled, and shrugged, and replied, “Well, if you think that I’m trying to say that most of the monks who write obstetrical manuals have fallen back onto mankind’s — and I do mean mankind’s — oldest tactic when it comes to dealing with the mysterious workings of women … yes, I am.”
Alison knew exactly what Morgan was talking about, so she leaned back and shook her head, snorting softly. Claire seemed to have an inkling, to judge by her furrowed brow and bitten lip. Only Lynn watched the three of them, her gaze still jumping from one to the other, as innocent as Elise as she played on the floor. “Er,” Lynn murmured, glancing at Alison because she was probably safest, “I’m afraid I don’t follow …”
“I mean,” answered Morgan, “that when men haven’t the faintest idea what’s going on with women — which, let’s face it, since we’re talking mostly about monks here, they generally don’t — they just make something up.”
“Oh — oh, but monks must have a … a better idea of what’s going through a woman’s head than, than an ordinary man, don’t — don’t you think?” Lynn asked. “I mean — monks, especially in the remote areas we’re talking about, they serve as confessors to regular women! That must give them some insight that ordinary men simply don’t have.” She glanced at Alison. “Right?”
“That is,” Alison mused, diplomatic and noncommittal as ever, “an interesting point …”
“But — but we’re not talking about women’s minds here, are we?” Claire squeaked. “While a monk who serves as a confessor to women might — might — be able to understand more about our thoughts and hearts than a regular man, even a monk …” Claire glanced at Morgan. “A monk wouldn’t have more than an ordinary man’s understanding of a woman’s body — unless he happened to be a doctor — and it’s a woman’s body we’re discussing here, isn’t it?”
“I’d hope that a monk would have a rather smaller understanding of a woman’s body than the average,” Morgan muttered drily, prompting a scandalized giggle from Lynn, a mature chuckle and roll of the eyes from Alison, and a tiny smile from Claire. “But aye, that is what I’m saying. A monk isn’t going to pick up a great deal about the workings of a woman’s body in the confessional. He probably wouldn’t even be able to glean from the confessional what an ordinary woman knows about the inner workings of her body, and that in and of itself isn’t much.”
“I’m … not sure I follow,” Lynn murmured. “Don’t — don’t we all know a little bit about how our bodies work?”
“Oh, we know what to expect and when,” Morgan replied, “roughly, and we know what foods we ought to avoid, and how much sleep we need to function, and all the rest of it. But — just to use one example — we don’t know why some women, and men for that matter, are at their best early in the morning, while others don’t seem to become human until it’s practically noon. And we don’t know why some Sims can eat certain types of food until the cows come home, and others take one bite and get an upset stomach. And for that matter, we haven’t the least idea why sometimes women give birth to girls, and why sometimes women give birth to boys.”
Alison’s eyes flew wide, and Morgan could practically see the words forming on her lips: Are you joking? Did you just say that out loud? Claire’s gasp was open enough that even Elise looked up and around, whimpering. As for Lynn, she patted her daughter’s head, her lower lip catching between her teeth.
“S-surely,” Lynn murmured, “the — the good Lord sends boys to virtuous women, to — because that is their duty. To give their husbands sons.”
Morgan could feel Claire and Alison’s eyes boring holes into her skull, probably telling her to shut up while she was still ahead, or at the very least tread softly. And if Morgan had been dealing with Claire at her worst, she would have gone slowly and softly. But Lynn wasn’t Claire, and she sure as hell wasn’t at her worst yet. Lynn could better handle the truth, or the lack of truth, unvarnished than Claire could.
So Morgan shrugged. “Personally, I always thought that bringing the Lord into it was just avoiding the question.”
“But perhaps,” Lynn stammered, “perhaps — perhaps some questions are meant to be avoided. Doesn’t the Lord work in mysterious ways?”
“I’ll never deny that,” Morgan replied, “but not asking certain questions … well, there certainly are some things in which man ought not to meddle. But we don’t know, for certain, what those are. And how will we find out, unless we ask as many questions as we can?”
“But — but if we start by asking certain questions, we — we generally don’t realize we’re going too far until we’ve already gone too far — aye?” questioned Lynn.
Of course that was the case. Sylvia Marie the Mashuga have found that out to her detriment, and of course where one curious or foolish one blazed a trail, others were sure to follow — and go too far down, as Dindrane had found out. But what was the alternative? To never ask a question, attempt to find out more, use the talents the good Lord gave them for good? They would have never gotten out of their mud huts if that was the case — if they had even gotten into them in the first place.
Morgan wondered how best to answer this when Elise whimpered again. She rubbed her eyes with both hands, yawning.
“Aww,” Lynn asked, leaning over the arm of the sofa, “is Elise tired? How does a little rest sound?”
Elise made a face — well, all children did when confronted with the prospect of nap time — but Claire jumped in. “Oh, Lynn, can I put her down for her nap? Lionel and Evette are almost done with taking naps. I’m afraid I’ll forget the knack of it!”
Elise looked up. “Nanna nap?”
“Yes, Nanna will take you for your nap!” Claire held out her arms, and that was all it took for Elise to make her way to her feet and toddle over.
“I’ll go with you,” murmured Alison, rising.
“Oh, you don’t have to, I remember where the nursery is –”
The door closed on Claire’s polite protests, Alison still at her side. Leaving Lynn and Morgan alone.
Morgan barely bit back her smile. Perfect.
Lynn, however, only had a polite smile for her, though she couldn’t help the way her eyes kept sliding to the door. Finally, she laughed — a forced laugh, but a laugh. “It’s so silly. Sometimes I worry every time Elise leaves my sight. But — my own mother has her! And she’s only putting her down for a nap!”
“I’m afraid worrying is part of being a mother,” replied Morgan. “Ask Alison, or your own mother — it doesn’t go away, even when your children are quite grown up.”
“Indeed.” Lynn rubbed her belly. “And — I suppose — with every new baby, it … multiplies?”
“Something like that,” Morgan replied.
Lynn sighed, still rubbing her belly. Below her breath — or so she probably hoped — she murmured, “I wish …”
More than that, she didn’t say — or Morgan didn’t hear. But Morgan’s eyebrows went up all the same. She rose, stood before Lynn. Before Lynn could do more than let her eyes widen, Morgan said, “You know, I always had a bit of a soft spot for Arisimle’s theory about Sim sex determination.”
“I — beg your pardon? I’m not sure what you mean …”
“Surely you’ve heard of Arisimle, the great philosopher?”
“Oh, aye, of course, but –”
“He thought,” Morgan interrupted — it was rude, but she had a point to get across — “that it was all down to the man’s seed, you see. If the seed was working properly, then you would get a boy baby. If it wasn’t, you get a girl baby. While I’ve never liked the idea that it takes a defective seed to make a little girl, the theory does have some interesting possibilities, don’t you think?”
“I … suppose?” asked Lynn.
“In putting everything on the father,” Morgan explained, “it removes any blame — or, alas, praise — from the mother, if whatever baby results isn’t to the father’s liking. Because let’s face it, it’s usually the father who is the most vocal proponent for a boy or a girl, isn’t it?”
Lynn didn’t answer, but she did blush and look away.So. We’re getting somewhere.
“In my copious spare time,” continued Morgan, “particularly when I’m feeling rather annoyed with the world at large, I rather like to image the faces of certain … shall we say, obnoxious fathers who have the audacity to put their wives through harsh pregnancy after harsh pregnancy, only to complain about the final result, if they found out that the so-called ‘failure’ to produce a boy is all on them.”
“All men need sons,” Lynn murmured to her skirts. “And — and some men give their wives so much … so much … is it so much to ask for a son or two in return?”
“Maybe if the women could consciously control what type of child they bore … perhaps. But they can’t, Lynn. You can’t — I can’t. Is it right to make a woman feel like a failure after she’s put in a good-faith effort to give her husband what he needs?”
“The Lord — the Lord will help a virtuous woman do her duty. He — He must.” Lynn looked up and pleaded, “The Queen — she had a baby boy on her first try! So did Jessie! And Dannie!”
“And so did my sister,” shrugged Morgan. “Maybe it’s irreverent of me, Lynn, but I can’t help but think that theory that the Lord gives sons to virtuous women … well, it sounds like something the Order of St. Consort would come up with, doesn’t it? Something to ensure that women behaved and spent their time trying to bear their husbands sons, never mind whether their behavior has any effect on what kind of children they have or no.”
“But is a little boy so much to ask for — so much to want?” pleaded Lynn. “We need a boy! Look — look what’s happening in Glasonland, because they don’t have a boy!”
“Honey,” Morgan said as gently as she could, “I’m going to be very honest here — but Glasonland was in trouble long before King Vortimer and Queen Viviette had their daughter. And even if they had had a son — so what? A son would have bought them some time. But if the Brothers Tarquinii run the kingdom into the ground, as everybody is half-expecting them to, do you think the people would be content to sit tight and wait for that child to grow up? Would you, if it was your country?”
“But — but –”
“Sims like to blame women when things go wrong,” Morgan continued. “If — when — things in Glasonland go south, plenty of fools will blame poor Queen Viviette for it. But they’re wrong. If Glasonland’s problems can be laid at the door of one Sim, it isn’t Queen Viviette’s. It’s Vortigern’s.”
“But there — there are so many times when — when if a child had been born a boy, a civil war would have been averted, or a throne wouldn’t have passed into the hands of another dynasty, or –”
“So what?” Morgan asked. “Lynn, you’re an intelligent, educated woman. Sure, maybe the outcome of a pregnancy could have changed history in a few cases. But if bad things happened after a Queen bore a girl — it wasn’t because a Queen bore that girl. The fault lies in the hands of the men — yes, I said men — who let things get to the point where the only thing that could save them was the birth of a boy from one particular woman at one particular time. Lynn, you’d get better odds on a coin toss. What responsible government lets things get to that state?”
Lynn’s face crumbled. “But I — I don’t want things to get to that state! All I want –” She brought her hands up to her face. “All I want is a little boy! A little boy, to keep the dynasty secure! A little boy for Tommy! Is that so much to ask?”
“Lynn …” Morgan sighed, then helped Lynn up and leaned her head on her shoulder. “Do you know what Tommy wants, Lynn?”
“He won’t even admit that he wants a son! He’s treating me like I’m glass! I’m not stupid! I know what I have to do!”
“He’s not telling you that he wants a son because that isn’t what he wants most,” Morgan replied. “Of course Tommy knows that you two need a son. But you know what he wants most?”
Lynn shuddered and shook her head.
“He wants you healthy and happy. He doesn’t want you tearing yourself up inside over things that you cannot help. And you know what, Lynn? We — your mother, your sisters, your friends, Alison and Arthur, me — we all want the same thing for you. Because, you know why, Lynn?”
Lynn shook her head again.
“Because you are a person, Lynn,” Morgan replied. “Because you are not a brood mare fit for nothing more than popping out heirs. You are a sweet, intelligent, caring woman. And you deserve to feel so, so much better than the way you’re feeling now — baby boys or no baby boys.”