“Crack!” The many bits of the cup settled into a pile in the puddle of tea.
“Now that is an indignity; quality china in pieces,” whispered the efficiently moving figure as he crouched to gather up the shards.
“It’s you! How could that be?! I saw the thing end up and go down…” Dollianna’s rickety joints were now vibrating uncontrollably as she attempted to control her squirming.
As he stood up and turned to deposit the shattered cup onto a pile of waste paper, Alowishus looked over and observed Dollianna’s state. “You do seem most startled to see me. And I’ll answer your next question together with the first: Once we were in far enough that we sensed our fate, Dr Cooper began to prepare to force me overboard to ensure that I was given adequate time to clear the suction. I should have noticed what he was planning, but as you can imagine memories of the Birkenhead terror were by this time crippling my senses.”
Alowishus paused to regain his composure, and settled onto the settee next to the quivering doll. “Do ease yourself, little creature. You may if so inclined find some reassurance in what I shall relate.”
Dollianna started at him with the kind of regard normally reserved for demons. For the first time in memory she experienced being unable to speak.
Alowshus assumed a relaxed pose and looked at Dollianna trembling beside him. It occurred to him that she had earned her current disquiet honestly and fairly, yet as ever it was not within his heart to deny any creature another chance. “Young doll, you must regain self-possession.”
Dollianna chuckled to herself about his reference to her age—she was nearly 400 hundred of this planet’s years old—and his unfortunate use of the word ‘possession.’ If he only knew in which manner this body of hers truly was ‘possessed.’
Alowishus continued his efforts to enlighten and thereby soothe the terrified doll: “There are details not within your grasp which may help assuage your unease, if you are patient enough to allow me to impart them to you. Firstly, as far as I am aware, Dr Cooper is deceased.”
Dollianna coughed, and then sighed partial relief. She looked squarely up at Alowishus and grinned slightly, “Rest his soul,” making every effort not to chuckle.
Continuing, Alowishus explained that Cooper had grasped Alowshus by the collar and dragged him overboard while exclaiming, “You were a child! Women and children first, ship’s boy or not! You were spared because you were deserving, Bligh; because it was right. I could never survive knowing you had died to save me, not accepting the truth about your part in that tragedy. Accept the truth and live!” Alowishus’ protestations were by this time futile, as he was in the water and Cooper was about to be sucked under as the ship rolled.
As Cooper had evidently foreseen survival impulse grasped the reins and Alowishus instinctively kicked himself free of the doomed vessel as it rolled into the sea. He swam as competently as he was able in his advanced years and by the time the ship upended he was well clear enough to turn and witness it go down violently, spitting crates of Ceylon’s finest out into the air as it plunged. Evading consumption by both the relentless waves and the ubiquitous sharks, Alowishus had assembled a rickety raft from pieces of broken crates and made it ashore.
Dollianna couldn’t help viewing Alowishus with even more respect for not only having the determination to survive such an ordeal, but the strength to face her after she had tried to kill both him and Cooper. Repeatedly. With nasty weapons. And undercooked pork. She expressed to him that she had no further interest in seeing harm done to him as she had tricked Fitzsimmons into paying her for ‘sinking the Teabag.’ “After all, I don’t work for free.” She assured him that the whole affair had been strictly trade to her and that once paid she was absolved of any liability for his fate.
Alowishus considered her carefully for a moment, then changed his tone. “I am aware of more of this than you or anyone else realizes. I have knowledge of the secret you fear Mr Addlebrass may leak to the community at large.”
Dollianna gasped and stared at him.
He continued: “I also know that he is currently beyond your reach in an institution.” Before he could say any more, Alowishus noticed a flash of light and felt a rush of warmth running down the side of his face as the world turned on its side…