Gil seemed to think about that for a long time, his head down. They sat in silence as the fire dwindled in the pit and finally Gil asked, “Were ye afraid o’ growin’ up?”
“When I was younger? I wasn’t.” Arnold paused as he thought about that for a few moments, “I wasn’t thinking about it at least…I never told myself I’d be ruined if I grew up.”
“I’m rather afraid o’ growin’ up… I dinna wanna be like all those grownups…” Gil looked up at him slowly after a few moments. “‘cept ye. Ye dinna seem like the rest…”
Arnold didn’t know quite how to respond to that, he didn’t think anyone should look up to him as a role model considering all his problems. But apparently Gil did so he felt compelled to add something, “I will tell you this, I was afraid of changing who I was….I just never thought it would come with age…and it didn’t really.”
Gil looked curious, “Aye? Wot did it then?”
“The past few months here in Babbage did.” Arnold replied honestly. “But the changes have been for the better…I suppose it’s a more remarkable place than I gave it credit for.” Arnold resisted a chuckle as he added, “Even if it is still a form of perdition.”
Arnold came very close to laughing, “It’s where the souls of the damned go. You might say hell, I suppose.”
“Babbage is ‘ell?” Gil mused over the thought for a moment. “Sometimes I fink I’m bein’ punished by livin’ ‘ere… sometimes tis the best place ever…”
“Maybe the place has managed to be both at the same time.” Arnold knew that he had leapt away from rational thinking completely now in his amusement, but it had been awhile since he could just relax and talk as kids did. “Perdition and the City of Angels all in one.”
“Wonder iffen every place is really like that… ye jes’ notice it more ‘ere.”
“Maybe you’re right Gil. Maybe you’re right.”
Gilhooly shrugged… “I ain’t right much, mister A, best not lissen ta me…”
“You’ve got to be right sometime. And there’s no one who could tell you you’re wrong about this.”
Gilhooly Skute giggled and finally sat up straight in his chair, “A stopped clock, aye?”
“Is right twice a day, yes,” Arnold remembered the speech that he would have recieved at this age about becoming educated. “I’m not going to suggest you go to the brothers or school though.”
“Twice a day would be a record…” Gil said, but with another chuckle. “Anyways…glad things are gettin’ back in order… cept fer the monsters an’ end o’ the world…but I might ‘aveta learn me letters fer me new job tho.”
Arnold shook his head, knowing how Gil must feel about that, and offered him his condolence, “Just remember it could be worse, there are only 26 letters in the alphabet.”
“Aye?” The young urchin didn’t seem very comforted “Still seems like rather a lot…”
“Maybe, but there are no end to numbers.” Arnold explained.
“There ain’t?” Gil asked with a tilted head.
“He might try to teach you math, and unlike the alphabet and words, math has no end. The highest number you know of is still not the highest.” Arnold watched as Gil tried to wrap his head around that concept. “So just tell yourself at least it’s not math.” Arnold paused as he tried to think of other facts that had used to cheer him up, but in the end he had to shrug from his position on the couch, “That’s all I have…at least about that….For the end of the world…well it seems more like the end of Babbage…”
“‘e’s a bruvver, ‘e loves ‘is numbers…” Gil said finally, and Arnold commiserated with the urchin.
“If he tries to teach you math…well, there’s not much to tell yourself.” At least nothing that would actually make you feel better,the cat thought to himself. “Tell yourself it’s for the money and food…or for the city or something. If even that can’t motivate you…well then I’m at a loss. They aren’t for everyone.” The Brothers, Maddox, and half this town might disagree with that statement, but urchins knew it was a truth.
Gil seemed ready enough however to latch on to one of them, “Money an’ food is good.”
Arnold waited a few moments and then confessed that he hadn’t always known how to do any of that either. They talked for a short time and he told him about why he had been such a slow learner. “I didn’t want to be taught.”
“I didn’t understand the point to any of it, or it’s use at first. We didn’t have anything like it back home.”
“Aye, I get along jes’ as well wifout letters…”
“But when I figured out how people knew what was inside something without smelling it I became more interested in learning,” Arnold continued. “I’d know a food building from a far distance or if something was edible or not. Once I began to understand those things other uses just became apparent.”
“Oh aye,” Gil seemed to think for a moment, though Arnold didn’t think he had been completely convinced yet. “Tis rather smart…”
“Well, I have to go. It was good talking to you again Gil.”
“Ta ra then, look out fer cracks!”
As Arnold left he was in a good mood, but it didn’t last for more than a half an hour. There was both the Dark Aether to worry about and now he had to think about what he would do with the information that Gil had told him. He knew the Dark Aether had to come first, and besides he had never been searching for that information for any reason except to learn who in this town was dangerous. At no point had he ever intended to make a case with what he found, and he also vaguely recalled someone telling him the Church had been let off for the death of Pip, a person who was now alive again. No one could press charges at Mr. Underby for the death of someone who was not dead. Still, he had promised Blackberry that he would tell him if he ever found out anything…maybe after the holidays if they all survived…
But then he got a face full of water-pressure-that-should-have-killed-him-by-all-rights and he stopped talking to the rabbit.