Our Finest Virtue

Thick cigar smoke curls through the air of this stately reading room, wafting across the ornate oil paintings that hang on the clover-green walls. Empty brandy glasses sit on the oaken end-tables. Several stiff leather armchairs provide a stylish place to recline. Clearly this room is regularly inhabited by men in cravats. An important looking sign hangs on the wall.

There are two obvious exits: east and south.

Alaia bounces into the room as is her usual custom and stops short as she sees you in your customary chair. “Hi!”

Andrew d’Ackerley looks up. “Ah, hello, Alaia. I wanted a word with you, actually, if you’re not busy?”

Alaia looks remarkably unbusy as she usually does. “I’m not busy, but if this is about homework or something, can it wait? I’ve just been yelled at for putting my gum under the table in prep.”

Andrew d’Ackerley laughs softly. “No, no. Not in a house master or faculty role, I promise.”

Alaia flops into a chair. “Okay! Well in that case I’m all ears.” She leans forward looking like she is literally all ears.

Andrew d’Ackerley’s lip curls up into a small smile. “I wanted to talk to you about a mutual friend. Or rather, the lady friend of a mutual friend.”

Alaia’s eyes are big. “Ooh. Who?”

Andrew quietly says: I noticed the look on your face when you realized that Miss de Vitis appears to be quite fond of Doctor Montague.

Alaia shrugs an expressive shoulder. “Well, I was a bit surprised she was saying it so much.”

Alaia says: You know, cause he doesn’t like us talking about him or asking him stuff about his life.

Alaia remembers a rather awful punishment she was given once for doing just that.

Andrew d’Ackerley nods. “Doctor Montague is a very private man. That is why I wanted to suggest that we let this… development… stay between the two of us.”

Alaia grins. “Well, alright. I was going to tell some of the girls, but I won’t say anything.”

Andrew d’Ackerley nods approvingly. “I’m sure that the good doctor’s fancies are a subject of interest to a lot of the young ladies. More so with his hair having its own fan club and all.”

Alaia giggles at this. “Well have you seen it? He does stuff and it never gets out of place.” She pats her own curls dismally. “Wish mine would.”

Andrew d’Ackerley reaches up to touch a strand of his own sandy-white locks. “I have to admit that I have never really paid attention to the hair styles of gentlemen to any great extent. I suppose I find ladies’ hair to be of more interest.”

Andrew says: Still, ’tis no great surprise that a handsome, healthy, and unwed man still in his youth would draw the female eye.

Alaia eyes your own hair. “Well, I like men’s hair better I guess although the girls in magazine photos are pretty cute.” She beams. “I guess, and he doesn’t really encourage the girls so that makes them like him more.” She snorts. “‘Sif they stand a chance anyway.”

Andrew d’Ackerley chuckles softly. “I suppose that I do not wish to see our good doctor upset and angered by idle gossip. I would also prefer not to see various ladies of the guild starting to scratch each other’s eyes out in jealousy.”

Alaia looks slightly alarmed at this prospect. “And it could happen too now we’re learning poisons”, she says cryptically.

Andrew d’Ackerley’s gaze turns serious. “Yes. As a matter of fact, I have dealt with attempts to poison my wife twice. Granted, two different wives.”

Andrew says: And unlike Doctor Montague, I am not considered a prize catch by the ladies of the guild.

Alaia’s eyes are round. “Does that happen a lot to your wives then?” She shakes her head. “I’m amazed women still marry you.”

Andrew d’Ackerley nods again. “Twice. That said, I have always been amazed that anyone would marry me as well.”

Alaia pushes the leather of the armchair in with an exploratory finger. “Well your current wife’s very beautiful, she was in the paper for her food column picture.”

Andrew mildly says: My current and, gods willing, lasting wife has admirers enough of her own that I should possibly check my own clothes for poisoned needles, indeed.

Andrew says: My point is, jealous people do bad things.

>

Alaia nods solemnly. “Well, okay. I’ll keep it in mind.” She sighs. “I won’t gossip although it’s very hard to have news and not say. But I do understand what you mean by the greater good.”

Alaia says: Or something.

Andrew softly says to Alaia: I thought you might. Yours is a sharp mind. Tongue too, but predominantly a sharp mind.

Alaia grins. “Thanks, my dad told me I was too sharp-tongued but I was just like him so it doesn’t matter I guess.”

Andrew d’Ackerley looks innocent. “I have certainly never been accused of such a thing myself.”

Alaia says to you: That’s why you and I are such friends.

Andrew says to Alaia: Because we are both gentle, soft-spoken and mellow individuals? I must concur.

Alaia says: And really clever too.

Andrew says: But foremost of all, we are modest.

About Andrew d'Ackerley

Earl of Briarwyld, Skund; Knight of Ankh-Morpork; Doctor of Languages at the Assassins’ Guild; Master of Dance and Deportment at the Assassins’ Guild; Senior Lecturer in Languages at the Assassins’ Guild, House Master of Cobra House, the Assassins’ Guild.
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