Leonard was good at taking care of people when they were ill. In fact, when he’d been a small boy, he’d had to take care of Lavinia for five weeks after she’d nearly died of pneumonia because her caretakers were gone. He would take care of Richard, too, until Richard’s concussion had healed and he was back on his feet, even if that mostly meant sitting in a dark room reading by the light of a candle or simply being alone with his thoughts, while Richard slept off the medicines he was given for most of the day.
By November 22, which the Americans celebrated as Thanksgiving, Richard was much better, sitting up in bed with the windows open. He and all the other victims of the wagon crash were staying in the home of Monica Carter, the angel, because she was trained as a nurse. Leonard had also been staying over, though he avoided Clarissa and Ernest Janson like the plague. Serena came to call sometimes, but Leonard knew that she was spending most of her time in the sea, which was her natural home. He didn’t hold it against her at all, in fact, he was happy that she was getting to be in the place she loved so much.
On November 22, Leonard had been sleeping on top of the covers of Richard’s bed – with his permission, of course, having a pleasant but bizarre dream that somehow involved the French Revolution, which he had been reading about before bed. He was torn from this dream by Mrs Carter practically breaking down the door and kicking him awake.
“What the hell?” Leonard asked. He immediately winced, because making any reference to Hell or damnation on an angel’s property was physically painful, similar to the way that making any references to the Bible or prayer was on a demon’s. He had also sworn in front of Mrs Carter, who was a woman, but he figured she wouldn’t mind.
“That probably hurt,” Mrs Carter said.
“Look at the paper.”
Leonard skimmed the first section of the newspaper that had been shoved under his nose. His eyes caught a few words in particular – Lincoln, President’s Message, Congress, secession, Union, compromise, Cabinet, and dissolution. A stone of dread hit the pit of his stomach. “Oh, no.”
Mrs Carter slapped the paper with the back of her hand. “Nothing’s happened yet, but I see foreshadowing for what’s about to happen. I think the South is about to secede.”
Leonard sat up and cracked as many of his aching joints as he could. He yawned, and looked out Richard’s window into the gray evening. His sleep schedule had suffered greatly, as evidenced by the fact that he had evidently slept the day away. “You can’t possibly be sure of that.”
“Do- do you remember what happened just before the Fall?”
He glared at her. “This is nothing like that.”
“Which means they will kill each other.”
“Do you follow American politics, Duke Mephisto?”
“Slavery has been a debate since this country was formed. Some people think it’s great, some view it as a necessary evil, some people – myself and everyone on this island included – think it’s just evil, and some people don’t care. However, I’m sure you can imagine the friction between people who love slavery and people who hate it.”
“Yes, I was there to witness it in England,” Leonard said. “I was a staunch abolitionist, myself.”
“That’s good, you’ll fit right in here.” Mrs Carter paused. “Did you pay attention to the election?”
“I paid as much attention as I could without leaving this room.”
“That’s good.” Mrs Carter sat down next to him on the bed. “Who did you support?”
“Lincoln, I suppose. I want slavery gone worldwide, and I follow anyone who has that as their goal.”
“Us too.” Mrs Carter handed him a piece of paper with a lot of numbers on it. “The election results. Lincoln united the Republicans and won most of the North, though his win was mostly through the electoral college. It’s odd that he didn’t get any votes from several Southern states – Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, or Tennessee. He only got one percent of the votes in Virginia, as well. Do you know how the electoral college works?”
“No,” Leonard said.
“It’s a thing that’s a big part of the election. No time to explain further. In any case, these are the states that have been supremely angry about slavery, and now that Lincoln’s president, they’re even angrier. I think they’re going to secede over it. Though, Texas might not join in if they do secede, because their governor, Samuel Houston, says that it’s folly to leave the Union or, God forbid, start a war over it.”
Leonard looked at her paper of election results for a moment longer, then looked back up at her. “I’m glad to know all this, but why are you telling me this now?”
“Because you’re in America at present, and it’s a big deal. You need to know about it.” Mrs Carter sucked in a breath. “If the South does secede… it’s going to impact everyone. Think about how much of England buys cotton from them, and how important their ports are to international trade. Or, think about what’s going to happen if America fights a civil war. Think about how that might impact politics.”
“The Shaw-Captains buy cotton from the South,” Leonard said. “But Hell is for the most part self-sufficient. We have sinners to do our work.”
“A kind of slavery in itself,” said Mrs Carter.
“They put themselves there, and they could leave at any time. Besides, they do get paid for it. And we have straight feudalism, unlike America.”
“It’s still slavery.”
“We pay the sinners, and we don’t own them.”
“We can agree to disagree, but we still need to talk about how this might impact both of us, Above and Below. One of the Shaw-Captains sent a Speaker to talk to us about how they’re dealing with the high cotton prices and the possibility of the industrial production in the North being halted for the war. We also need to talk about… um…”
Leonard knew what she was about to say. He had had this exact conversation with Harriet and Tecualt through letters, and he knew how they were handling it. “The possibility of an influx of souls in the case of a war.”
Mrs Carter nodded. “Yes, that. What are you doing about it?”
“Tecualt has mobilized a force specifically for escorting the souls through to my land, and taking them to Heaven if they manage to redeem themselves. He has another force ready to keep things under control in the case of the soldier souls making trouble when they get down there. Other than that, Tecualt is fighting off the rebellion, which the possibility of a war up top should quench entirely.” Leonard ticked things off on his fingers as he spoke. “Harriet has families lined up to adopt any dead children who might need to spend time being punished in purgatory, or, unfortunately, children who might have to be condemned to Hell. She also somehow managed to find people to help soldiers with any psychological problems they might have gained. She’s offering extra food and days off work for anyone who stops their usual work to build new housing for the soldiers and anyone else who might have died. She’s rearranging who gets what jobs so that the slave owners are punished more harshly, and the people who died as young soldiers or civilians get easier jobs. She has people ready to train said soldiers for multiple of these jobs depending on what they did in life. She’s also asked people to open their homes to the possibility of new souls needing housing.”
Mrs Carter nodded along with him. “Good. We’re not expecting as many new arrivals in Heaven, but we’ve still prepared in much of the same ways you have, building new housing, mostly high towers into the clouds, finding positions for new arrivals, getting together psychiatric help for the people sent to their deaths by the war, mobilizing a militia of souls who were soldiers to get people from Hell and Purgatory if they’re sent there mistakenly in the chaos, buying the few things we can’t instantly make from the Shaw-Captains in bulk, getting people together to adopt dead children, building new schools for the education of anyone who didn’t get it in life – especially the children. The democratic assembly has issued multiple statements on what it’s probably going to be like, so that the souls are generally prepared for the chaos and know the protocol to deal with it. Some of them are also prepared for new additions to their families should a soul with no family arrive, and a lot of souls are pooling resources for the souls that will go to purgatory.”
“I should buy up what I need from the Shaw-Captains,” Leonard said. “That’s a good idea that I hadn’t thought of.”
They fell silent for a moment, before Leonard said, “What if there isn’t a war?”
Mrs Carter sighed. “At this point, I can’t see there not being one. Besides, our orders to prepare for the war came from on high – literally.”
“Oh. Everyone in Hell is mostly just doing it out of panic.”
Mrs Carter laughed.
Richard sat up. “Mrs Carter. Good morning. I see I missed a party.”
“Not quite,” Leonard said. “We were just talking about the possibility of an American Civil War.”
“Oh. Is it very likely?”
“It would seem so,” Mrs Carter said.
Richard pulled his legs close to his chest. “Well, I suppose it’s a good thing I can’t be drafted, then.”
There was a heavy knock at the front door. Mrs Carter stood up. “That’s the Speaker. I’m sorry, Richard, but we really do need to go talk to this person.”
“It’s alright. I hope you enjoy yourselves.”
Leonard laughed at how dark that now-humorous statement was. He followed Mrs Carter downstairs and into her parlor, where the Speaker waited for them.
Sorry that this chapter is basically just another infodump! The action picks back up again soon, I swear. In the meantime, there’s a new drawing of Monty on the art page that you can go look at! Fun fact: That needle-like thing on his jacket that you’ll see is called a chockpin, and it’s something used on a ship. Harpooners would wear them to mark themselves as having killed a whale, which was a major and laudable feat back before humans realized that whaling is really, just, not good at all. And, I mean, if I killed an enormous animal with a bit of iron from a fragile wooden boat, I too would probably want to brag about it. You can see them having chockpins to mark themselves as harpooners in In the Heart of the Sea (2015), a very good movie about the Essex, the real life tragedy that inspired Moby-Dick.