Doctor Raleigh Montague puts away his papers at last and prepares to be social; it’s a rare weekend he doesn’t show up at the guild, and he didn’t over this past weekend. He moves to the cabinet. “What’s your poison, d’Ackerley? I think we might have – tea.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Mineral water, or tea will be fine as well.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: … I really need to stock my own office. It’s still got most of my predecessor’s wardrobe in it.
Doctor Raleigh Montague quickly puts the small portable kettle on and laces a cup with tea leaves. He grins. “Strange thing to store in your wardrobe at work. Perhaps he had a busy social life.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague says: I didn’t really know him at all.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley politely says: He certainly kept quite a few throwing knives. And unlabelled bottles.
Andrew d’Ackerley walks over and settles at the desk as well.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley sits at the desk.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley asks: So, had a nice weekend?
Doctor Raleigh Montague pauses in the act of pouring himself a brandy. “Unlabelled bottles are not pleasant things in our profession.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague makes your tea as the kettle boils and hands you a cup. “Not a bad weekend, even if Ankh was blanketed in snow. You?”
Andrew d’Ackerley accepts the tea and adds one lump of sugar to it. “Oh, quite nice. I had a chat with one of your students, Alaia, as well. Lovely girl.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague looks amused as he settles down with his brandy snifter. “Regular mischief.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Mm, quite. I think I managed to keep her out of trouble this time, though.
Doctor Raleigh Montague toasts you with his glass. “I thank you.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague asks: What exactly was she about to do, or dare I not ask?
Andrew d’Ackerley clinks his teacup against the glass in a mockery of a proper toast. “Mm. She picked up some exciting gossip to share with the girls. I managed to convince her to keep quiet.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague raises an eyebrow. “Dear me. These girls, d’Ackerley, will be the death of me.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague says: Mind you, it’s not like the boys at Viper House didn’t gossip; of course they did.
Andrew d’Ackerley observes with amusement, “I have often felt that way about the lot of them, girls and boys alike. However, you do seem to have made quite the impression on Miss de Vitis. I just convinced Alaia to leave it be.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague narrows his eyes as the implications of this sink in. “What?”
Andrew d’Ackerley looks up from his tea, quirking an eyebrow over the monocle. “I’m sure she is not the first lady to blush and fidget at the mention of your name, mister his hair has its own fan club.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague groans and puts his glass down, getting to his feet as he does. He strides to the window. “That is – unfortunate.” He stares out over the rooftops of Morpork, lost in thought for a second. “And so now I am the target of idle gossip at the guild – something I have strived so hard to avoid.”
Andrew d’Ackerley sips his tea. “Not unless Alaia doesn’t keep her promise to me.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague turns around to face you, leaning against the window as he does. “It will make no matter if she does or does not keep her promise to you if Miss de Vitis continues to fidget and blush at the mention of my name.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley calmly says to Doctor Raleigh Montague: Ladies are fickle like that. Let her blush. I’m sure she is not the only lady in the guild who fancies you. She will not be the last, either.
Doctor Raleigh Montague taps the fingertips of his left hand against the window sill thoughtfully. “Well, as long as that’s all she does, I suppose you do have a point.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley offhandedly says: Alternatively, get married and develop consumption. I have never drawn the ladies’ eyes to any great extent.
Doctor Raleigh Montague amusedly says to you: How comes Alaia to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time? She managed to sneak into the pits – and now this.
Andrew d’Ackerley replies with equal amusemment, “She reminds me of myself at that age. I think that is why I like her.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague grins. “My dear chap, you do not give yourself enough credit. You have drawn the ladies’ eyes enough to marry three times, surely a record worth noting.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: I am possibly just a sucker for romantic affection, my friend. Be that as it may, I am quite content with the lady whose eye I do possess. I think I made a seamstress very happy last night by pointing that out.
Doctor Raleigh Montague laughs as he returns to his desk, and the brandy snifter. “Indeed. That sounds like a story in itself. Pray tell me more.”
Andrew d’Ackerley gestures dismissively. “I was simply having a nice chat with a young lady of that profession. She thought I wanted to hire her. She was relieved to find out that I had no such intention.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague swirls and sips his brandy with an almost religious fervour. He shakes his head thoughtfully. “It always baffles me that anybody would choose that for a profession.” He holds up a hand. “And yes, before you tell me of the social evils that befall the women who have no other choice, I am amazed that in this day and age that this should be the case, still.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Mm-hmm. However, it is not for me to tell a young lady about the perils of her trade, I am certain she is aware.
Doctor Raleigh Montague drily says: Indubitably, sadly enough.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: It amused me, however, how relieved she was that I was not looking to hire.
Doctor Raleigh Montague chuckles. “It seems odd that she would care, either way. Is she acquainted with your wife, perhaps?”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Aye, she mentioned something about that.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley amusedly says: Aye, it does, but still. The burn. The pain. The blow to my masculinity. Even seamstresses sigh with relief when he passes them by.>
Doctor Raleigh Montague amusedly says to you: There, there, d’Ackerley. At least you have a wife to warm your bed at night, not to mention your cold, cold heart.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley dramatically says: No woman will ever thaw out this ice.
Doctor Raleigh Montague quips quickly, “Except the one who did.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: All three of them. Although third time does seem to be the lucky time for me.
Doctor Raleigh Montague says: Three times a charm; I’ll keep it in mind.
Andrew d’Ackerley steeples his fingers. “Mm. I admit that I feel somewhat awkward when talking about my wife, that is, my first or second wife…
Doctor Raleigh Montague says: So, your ex-wives.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: The romantic in me protests that true love does not leave a trail of ex-wives.
Doctor Raleigh Montague waves this aside airily. “I don’t know about the romantic in you, d’Ackerley, but mistakes can be – and are often – made. At least you have the courage to try again.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague says: I am convinced that I could never be married again.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley quietly says: I felt like that at first when Dameer died.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Then… I felt I needed to have somebody in my life who cared whether I lived and died. I suppose I got a tad desperate, even.
Doctor Raleigh Montague doesn’t say anything, but his eyes are sympathetic. He nods. “Yes. And that was a mistake, which is clearly why it ended. As for me, I think I am well and truly done. Imogen was the first – and the last.” His eyes are far away. “I do not possess that fine art that other men do of letting anyone get past a certain point, least of all a woman, and Imogen felt it keenly.” He sighs. “I simply couldn’t be the husband she needed me to be.”
Andrew d’Ackerley studies the other man’s face for a bit, then replies, “Pozpaws respects that point in me. She knows that she will never own all of me, just like I know that I will never own all of her.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague enviously says to you: And I – I envy that.
Doctor Raleigh Montague says: Most women want to possess all of me, and I am simply not one of those men who ever could be.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley quietly says: I count my blessings daily. With the right woman, men like us can be happy. But do not make my mistake and rush in a second time, no.
Doctor Raleigh Montague shakes his head. “No. I can promise you I will never do that.”
Andrew d’Ackerley lights a sleek cigarette and places it in a cigarette holder. “You are not under pressure to wed. Enjoy your freedom and the lack of obligations that comes with it.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague helps himself to a cigar from a drawer beside him, and offers you one for after you’ve finished your cigarette. He lights it, and settles back in his chair. “Oh, I intend to, d’Ackerley. I have no desire to wed. I do not think it suits me to have a wife, and I infinitely prefer to live alone.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: I have set up a little place, a flat if you will, to have an office away from home. Some of my business I prefer to keep out of the eyes of the ladies of the house.
Doctor Raleigh Montague blows a smoke ring and glances amusedly at you. “Ah, a secret lair that not even your wife knows of, eh?”
Doctor Raleigh Montague lazily says: You dog.
Andrew d’Ackerley lights the cigar from the end of the cigarette. “Oh, she knows it exists but…”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Mm-hmm. There are some of my affairs I like to keep private, as you well know.
Doctor Raleigh Montague amusedly says to you: And plenty enough of mine I’d like to keep private as well, naturally.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley asks: I take it that you will not be bringing Miss de Vitis to my… establishment?
Doctor Raleigh Montague puts his feet up on his desk, looking a little too relaxed for his own good. “You’re crazy, d’Ackerley. Why would I ever tell anybody about that part of my life, when I haven’t in three years, ever since I started?” He glances at you. “It’s one of the reasons Imogen blew up at me, that final day. She said I was doing something she wasn’t to know about, and killing myself, and that she felt useless as a wife. And I, being the cad that I was, I dismissed her.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague simply says: And she left.
Andrew d’Ackerley nods. “I do not think women will ever understand why men must balance on the precipice to feel truly alive. I am secretly relieved that my wife does not ask.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague says: I do not wish to be possessed, and I do not wish to possess. I do not know why this is so hard to accept or understand.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley quietly says: Most people fear abandonment.
Doctor Raleigh Montague shrugs. “Then I do not understand that. Perhaps I am just not cut out for relationships.” He taps the ash from his cigar into a glass ashtray on the desk. “I can only ever offer some of myself, never all.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says to Doctor Raleigh Montague: When is anyone perfectly suited for one or the other, Montague? When I was a youth I wanted to marry so that someone would love me. Married, I still find myself sometimes looking wistfully at girls in spite of having everything I need. Men are never quite satisfied, I fear.
Doctor Raleigh Montague says to you: And yet, funnily enough, to be married was never one of my dreams.
Doctor Raleigh Montague pauses. “You know – some of my history. What man in his right mind would ever wish to involve another in that madness? I fell for Imogen; I don’t deny it. I think, mostly, I fell for the way she loved me.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague says: But a family? Children? No. I am simply not the right man for it.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: I’ve spent most my life trying to meet my parents’ expectations or rebelling against them. I married Poz, finally, because all she asks of me is that I be her friend. Not her master, not her pet.
Doctor Raleigh Montague quietly says to you: And it is a reasonable request.
Andrew d’Ackerley nods and sips the last tea. “It is. As for children… I don’t think I would make a good father. Fortunately for any potential offspring of mine, I also seem unable to sire them.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague finishes his own brandy. “Pssh, old chap. I think you might make an excellent father, mostly because you know what not to do.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: What, spend my time drunkenly raping the country lasses? That is not too complex.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Avoiding that, I mean.
Doctor Raleigh Montague says: That, and putting undue expectations on sons.
Andrew d’Ackerley steeples his fingers. “I am somewhat off that hook, at least. With Anthony as my designated heir and his son after him, it’d only be a mess if I was to add a pup of my own to the roost.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague grins and smokes his cigar. “Very obliging of your brother, in that case.”
Andrew d’Ackerley gestures a vague dismissal. “He’s always been the one who did things right. I have come to terms with it. He seems to be doing a very good job at restoring the estates, and I am sure that once his kids are old enough to recognise faces, I will help influence them.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague amusedly says to you: Besides, you might just father a girl.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley amusedly says to Doctor Raleigh Montague: In that case, should such a thing ever occur, I pity the male half of the population for I shall guard her like a very angry hawk.
Doctor Raleigh Montague grins lazily. “And quite right too.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: -Especially- from suave gentlemen whose hair has its own fan club.
Doctor Raleigh Montague laughs. “Give me -some- credit; I will console myself by being her favourite uncle and teaching her lethal kicks.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: According to Alaia, my marriage to Poz is the most romantic thing ever to happen on the Disc. I wonder who told these girls all about it.
Doctor Raleigh Montague rummages on his desk and pushes a lurid magazine towards you, clearly intended for teenage girls. “I confiscated that from Miss Bingham-Jones the other day. There’s a feature on your wife, and they certainly make it sound like she has quite the life, married to a nobleman, owns her own businesses, writes by day, and dances by night.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague says: Add the iconographs to that drivel, and there you have it.
Andrew d’Ackerley glances at it. “Does it remember to note that my lady wife outranks me in terms of nobility?”
Doctor Raleigh Montague drily says to you: They quite forgot to mention that.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Thought so. It doesn’t sound quite as romantic as being swept up and away by a knight on a white horse, I suppose.
Doctor Raleigh Montague shakes his head, looking amused. “Not at all; they do make it sound like you rescued her.”
Andrew d’Ackerley laughs softly. “From what, being the city’s most desirable bachelorette?”
Doctor Raleigh Montague grins at you. “Pile of filth, isn’t it? It gave me great pleasure to confiscate it.”
Andrew d’Ackerley chuckles and nods. “Goodness, I don’t even publish that level of pointless non-truth in the Slab.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague laughs as he stubs out what’s left of his cigar. “And that is saying a lot, that is.”
Andrew d’Ackerley smiles. “It is. And I enjoy every minute of it. Who is better suited to drag a man’s reputation through the filth if not that man himself?”
Doctor Raleigh Montague gazes at the softly falling snow outside his window and stretches. “Who, indeed? Mind you, I am quite glad to no longer be featured in your Page Three column. Miss Smitten really did pay undue attention to me for quite some time.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: That must have been before I returned to the editor’s chair.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Given that page three is dedicated to an Agatean beauty these days.
Doctor Raleigh Montague grins. “Quite, and Miss Smitten is currently undercover in Genua, for some bizarre reason.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague drily says: I keep tabs on people who keep tabs on me.
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Of course. Who wouldn’t? I publish mild dirt, I keep the filth in secret drawers in case I need it.
Doctor Raleigh Montague says: Don’t we all.
Andrew d’Ackerley studies the other man a moment. “I should play fair by you, I suppose. I intend to take over Alaia.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague raises an eyebrow. “In what fashion?”
Andrew d’Ackerley quietly says: The girl is a troublemaker. She has a keen intellect and she likes being in trouble. If she continues on her current path I’ll have her set up as one of my finest agents in a few years.
Doctor Raleigh Montague raises an eyebrow. “Quite so. Mind you. Dammit, d’Ackerley. She’s only seventeen. Just – ease her in slowly, and keep her safe.”
Andrew d’Ackerley nods. “Fret not, my friend. I am neither cradle robber nor child abuser. For all we know, she might decide to marry and raise ten snot-nosed brats.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague laughs. “Heaven forbid, and although it hasn’t happened yet, I am starting to feel keen sympathy for her husband of choice.”
Andrew d’Ackerley says, with obvious amusement, “I am simply grateful to not be seventeen. I would have fallen for her so hard she could have dragged me around by a ring in the nose.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague laughs at the thought of this. “She’s trouble, that girl. Smart as a whip, brave to the point of being foolhardy, and naturally rebellious. Cute as a button too.”
Andrew d’Ackerley smiles. “Aye, makes me all fuzzywarm and paternal inside.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague grins. “Her own parents are rather overprotective, which might not be so odd for first-generation immigrants.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: No, quite. This city is not friendly to those who look foreign. It has always amused me how quickly my own family integrated into Ankhian society — have blond hair and blue eyes and marry a Rust, ta da.
Doctor Raleigh Montague nods at you. “Yep, I’ve got the blonde bit covered.” He pauses. “Uberwaldean ancestry gives us a pass. White is white everywhere.”
Sir Andrew d’Ackerley says: Aye. Small gods bless the ancient Hacknkoffs for never importing blood from Brindisi, I suppose.
Doctor Raleigh Montague raises an eyebrow. “Quite, quite.”
Andrew d’Ackerley steeples his fingers again. “Speaking of the Rusts, I really need to get back to my long term goals of ruining them financially and making Old Freddy off himself in embarassment.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague folds his arms, his feet still on his desk, and lazily leans back in his chair, which obliges with a slight creak. “Want some help?”
Andrew d’Ackerley quirks an eyebrow over the monocle. “And pray tell, how good are you at passing for a wealthy foreign investor, I wonder?”
Doctor Raleigh Montague tips his invisible hat to you and tells you in flawless Uberwaldean that he is so looking forward to seeing the new system of clacks to invest in; all that gold’s been burning a hole through his ancestral home’s property wall and he’s dying to move to Ankh-Morpork, ah the dream, the dream. Look, he even does the hand gestures to match.
Andrew d’Ackerley laughs softly. “I shall have to introduce you at the next clan get-together, then. Everyone knows I have no head for managing my vast fortune, and if I show up with a wealthy investor, there will be several lords vying to take you away from me.”
Doctor Raleigh Montague laughs. “And this is where I should rub my fingertips together and cackle like a maniac, eh?”
Andrew d’Ackerley smirks. “Indeed. Let us make certain that the Rusts never exhaust their supply of, say, slightly tainted silver from — where shall we say, Borogravia?”
Doctor Raleigh Montague laughs. “We shall, d’Ackerley. We shall.”