Anthony d’Ackerley raps smartly on the door with his stick.
Andrew d’Ackerley’s Mrs Ethel opens; Tibby must be busy. She recognises the newcomer and curtsies. “Your Lordship. His Lordship is in.”
Anthony d’Ackerley inquires of Mrs Ethel, whom he’s known since his boyhood days growing up in Chronowatsit Street, how she is, while he deposits his stick and gloves at the door.
Andrew d’Ackerley looks up from his book. “Goodness. Do come in, Anthony.”
Anthony d’Ackerley says, “Good evening, Andrew”, and sits down on the sofa opposite you. He waits as Mrs Ethel leaves.
Andrew d’Ackerley steeples his fingers and looks the younger man over. “How are you doing?”
Anthony d’Ackerley looks tired, as he tends to look these days, and more than a little stressed. “As well as can be expected, I’m afraid.”
You gently say: Ah.
Anthony d’Ackerley folds his hands in his lap. “The second part is somewhat easier than the first.” He glances at you. “The children and their governess left for Skund day before yesterday; the other servants went ahead two weeks ago. I myself depart tomorrow.”
Andrew d’Ackerley nods lightly. “I shall come visit when you are settled in.”
Anthony d’Ackerley leans back in the sofa and crosses one leg over the other. He looks mildly surprised, and looks at it. “I have never quite met a sofa that has wanted to swallow me before.” He nods as well. “That would be pleasant. It will give me an opportunity to show you the changes I’ve made, and for you to look over the changes I propose to make.”
You softly say: Quite so. I do have a proposal of my own as well, although it will be up to Mr Morecombe to make it happen.
Anthony d’Ackerley asks: Oh?
Andrew d’Ackerley explains with a trace of delicacy, “You are aware of our father’s… indiscretions, I am sure. I have been considering our… Not quite legitimate siblings. Perhaps to offer them recognition after a fashion as well as a proper last name.”
Anthony d’Ackerley smiles. “It would be quite proper. I fear that our father behaved abominably in that regard.”
Anthony d’Ackerley doesn’t say that he thinks the man behaved abominably in other regards as well.
You say: Quite. I was thinking of instating them by the name of Briarwyld. Children of the estate, rather than that one man.
Anthony d’Ackerley says: Quite. I think it would be admirable.
You ask Anthony d’Ackerley: Perhaps with a small sum for past grievances, enough to support a decent education..?
You softly say: Unless Mr Morecombe is keeping something from me, we can certainly afford it.
Anthony d’Ackerley says to you: Why not just make a settlement? Education, trade, marriage. It could be useful in any way they see fit.
Anthony d’Ackerley says: Oh, we can more than afford it.
You say: Quite so. I’ll have Mr Morecombe work out the details. I simply wanted your approval as well. After all, this will somewhat formalize the fact that we have half a dozen bastard brothers and sisters.
Anthony d’Ackerley says to you: The forests to the west and southwest were thinned, and the estate has made a fat profit from timber over the past few years.
Anthony d’Ackerley says: I would rather acknowledge their presence than deny it, as our father did.
Anthony d’Ackerley says: It is more honourable, somehow.
You quietly say: He did not so much deny them as simply ignore them. We argued about it on occasion. He called me a reckless sap.
Anthony d’Ackerley thoughtfully says: Then I wonder what that makes him.
Anthony d’Ackerley says: Made him, rather. It’s odd to think of the squire being gone.
You drily say: A healthy good old boy of breeding.
You say: Or a horny old goat, depending upon whom one asked.
Anthony d’Ackerley says to you: You missed the funeral. We had to go closed casket. He simply drank himself to death.
You quietly say: I do feel a small bit of empathy for him. Imagine being married to a woman who will cheerfully try to kill off your children to favour her favourite.
Anthony d’Ackerley quietly says: But mother wasn’t always like that. She said he made her that way, and I can believe it.
You say: I think, brother, that they made each other.
Anthony d’Ackerley says: Can we agree that – yes.
Andrew d’Ackerley shakes his head. “It is… somewhat a relief, to have mother exposed. I feel that perhaps now we can move forward and perhaps set a somewhat better example for the future.”
Anthony d’Ackerley drily says: I shall need a new identity now that I am no longer to be the upstart little brother.
You matter-of-factly say: I find you quite a bit more tolerable with your eyes open.
Anthony d’Ackerley says: And I find you a little more palatable now that you no longer actively detest my presence in the world.
You softly say: You think for yourself now.
Anthony d’Ackerley says to you: You never gave me a chance.
Anthony d’Ackerley says: So you were left with your illusions about me.
Anthony d’Ackerley says: And I did try, with you, for many years.
Anthony d’Ackerley says: That you must acknowledge.
You quietly say: I am going to… respectfully disagree. You were mother’s puppet for many years. Perhaps it is best to put it behind us.
Anthony d’Ackerley asks: Puppet? I believe puppets actively participate in their masters’ manipulations do they not?
Anthony d’Ackerley says: I never did.
You say: I believe the idea is that they perform the play unwittingly and unknowingly, directed by another.
Anthony d’Ackerley says: Quite, but in my case, my only crime was to exist.
Anthony d’Ackerley says: Mother did want me to do this or that, but I always refused.
You say: A crime of which we are both horribly guilty.
Anthony d’Ackerley says: I was interested in the estate only, and in my family, of course.
You quietly say: And I, in outliving mother, out of spite.
Anthony d’Ackerley chuckles as tea is brought in and set down. “I quite look forward to the quiet life in Skund. The library there is extensive now; I had it refurbished and added to. It is splendid.”
You dejectedly say: I suppose that means that the duties of calling upon the Rusts falls to me now. You cruel man.
Anthony d’Ackerley helps himself to a cup of tea. “Why, I think you will do splendidly.”
You say: I -detest- Ronnie Rust.
Anthony d’Ackerley smugly says: I know.
You say to Anthony d’Ackerley: When you are settled in, I believe that my wife would like to visit the estate. You must let me know when it is… convenient. I imagine you wish or a bit of quiet time.
Anthony d’Ackerley says to you: My dear Andrew, we will have nothing but quiet time. Please, you and my sister-in-law are welcome to visit whenever it is convenient for you.
You quietly say: Take some time to mourn in quiet, Anthony. I made the mistake of not doing so when Dameer died. It lead me to places that I should not have gone to.
You say to Anthony d’Ackerley: Time helps.
Anthony d’Ackerley quietly says: I shall – have to take your word for that.
Andrew d’Ackerley nods. “I know. I didn’t believe it either.”
Anthony d’Ackerley says: I don’t believe it. Nor do I believe it is possible to move on, although you have shown it is possible.
You softly say: It took time. And I went through another wife and copious amounts of alcohol to do so. Allow yourself to grieve, Anthony.
Anthony d’Ackerley nods as he finishes his tea. He doesn’t put his cup down. “I do not think I want to go down that route. But yes, you’re right. I have not yet grieved for Alexis.”
You quietly say: I finally found the time while we were sailing. Lots of hours on the deck just looking into the skies and… letting go.
Anthony d’Ackerley considers a career sailing around the Disc, raising his children on board a ship, and dismisses it regretfully. It would hardly be ideal. “I shall have quiet in Skund.”
Andrew d’Ackerley nods lightly. “I wish I could offer better advice. Regrettably, I have never been good at coping with strong emotion.”
Anthony d’Ackerley drily asks: Who is?