20. How to Be an Adult and a Gentleman

They’re silent for a time. Marcus feels remorse, so he says, “I don’t mean to give you a hard time about your daughter and her mother. It’s not a conversation I would have opened with our father. You may not care what I think, but you do care about being kind. And as the head of the family, it’s my duty to speak upon these subjects.”

“On morality?”

“If you like. Decency, propriety. Call it what you will. How to be an adult and a gentleman.”

Inglorion laughs, and gives Marcus a sweet, almost entirely sincere smile. “It’s a difficult role. You wear it lightly.”

“I’m learning.”

Inglorion’s gaze drifts as he watches the smoke from his cigarette. He’s thinking of how they were as young men: Marcus a wealthy prig, Inglorion a savage.

Marcus adds, “It’s easier for me, of course. I have all this.” He gestures to encompass the enormous Shelawn fortune, his citizenship and education. “And there’s a lot of Arahir in me. I didn’t get a fatal dose of Shelawn at birth.” His smile is small, almost private — a slight upturn at the corners of his lips. “It’s not all bad, of course, the Shelawn part. He was brilliant. He understood estate matters perfectly well. He left it to me because it bored him.”

Inglorion realizes that Marcus knew Tereus well, or at least, spent time in his company and worked with him. Why didn’t he understand that before? Probably because they were both like public figures or fictional characters to Inglorion, and it was absurd to try to imagine their private relations.

Inglorion says, “I wish — I don’t know how to ask —” He’s overcome by an emotion he can’t name. As a result, he has the same startled, shy appearance he had as a very young man. He looks down at the ash growing on his cigarette, averts his face as he searches for words. Finally he just asks flatly, “You knew him. What was he like?”

Marcus takes his time to answer. The diplomat in him tries to understand the question, and reply in a way that’s both truthful and mild. Finally he says, “It’s hard to say, perhaps especially for me. He was at his worst as a father. For you and Sieia, obviously, but for me as well. He held me in contempt, you know, thought I was slow and stupid. He was a gentleman of the old school, and I was much too tame for his taste.”

“I’m surprised to hear that. You were a model heir.”

“He didn’t care about that. He would have preferred me to lose fortune at dice, keep a string of hunters and a lightskirt or two, kill some poor fellow in a duel. I think it broke his heart that I finished my education without being rusticated or going into debt.”

Inglorion laughs ruefully. “Yeah, I can see that. But he must have been grateful that you ran the estate all those years.”

“Certainly, like you would be grateful to a barrister or an agent.”

Inglorion winces. “How was he otherwise?”

“That’s what’s hard to say. I don’t think I can convey it. He had a charm, a fascination. It’s beyond my ability to describe, and it never deserted him. People followed him, were eager to defer to him, subordinated their judgment to his. His brother, Lucius. Anyone who had been under his command. Even very canny political leaders — Xardic’s father was entirely under his sway. There are others that I won’t mention. It was almost an animal quality — a kind of dominance. It was partly looks, partly size, partly intensity and crude vitality.”

He stands up, wanders over by the fire, inspects it, goes through the ceremony of adding a log. “He was brilliant, you know. Not just clever, but a true polymath. He was a gifted linguist and musician. He composed and arranged music, was a talented amateur performer. His classical scholarship went far beyond the usual genteel dabbling. He produced his own translation of any text he cared about: Livy and Caesar and Thucydides. The Iliad, naturally.” He finishes up the fire, turns back to Inglorion, leans against the mantle, sips his drink. “You didn’t see all that, I think.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“No one here was really his equal. I certainly wasn’t. Aside from charm, that’s the power he had — he was so brilliant, so accomplished. He could step in and show you up, fluster you even if you were sure of your facts. By the time I was an adult he almost never did it, but he could. People found it daunting.”

“I never knew that,” said Inglorion in a wondering tone.

“Oh, yes. It was one of the most difficult things — for me, for Lavinia and Lucius. Not Lucius’s wife, your Aunt Valeria. She stood up to him all the time. He respected her. She was the only one who could fight him to a draw.” He breaks off, looks down at Inglorion, who’s sitting quietly, face a bit averted, listening carefully. His cigarette has almost burned down. He feels Marcus’s gaze, glances up, flashes a quick half-smile, stubs it out.

“You’re very like him,” says Marcus.

“So I’m told,” Inglorion says dismissively.

“Not just your looks. Your temperament and intellect.”

“Why do you say that, Marcus? To remind me not to bang all the housemaids? I haven’t done that in a long time.”

Marcus laughs, sits down next to Inglorion again. “I suppose not. I don’t know why I say it. Because it’s true. And it wasn’t acknowledged at the time.”

“I’ve always known. In some ways it means very little. I was born to a different station in life. I have more in common with your butler than I do with our father.”

“That’s not true, of course. Your situation would be easier if it were.” Marcus surveys his younger brother thoughtfully. “What do you intend to do, Inglorion? You’re old enough to marry, start a family, settle down.”

Inglorion laughs sharply out of sheer frustration, then catches himself, and looks at Marcus soberly. “There’s much that I can’t share with you. I have plans and political commitments that I can’t discuss, that are already partly realized.” He sees Marcus’s eyes narrow, and his face harden. Inglorion chooses his next words carefully. “I would never do anything to harm anyone here. Liamelia is my home, and I have deep ties here.”

Marcus takes a moment to consider, then says, “Unexplained wealth, hm?”

“Did you ever believe that I made a fortune abroad in trade? I have no business sense.” As Inglorion says this, he watches Marcus carefully: His face, his hands.

“True. It’s a dangerous game you’re playing.”

“It’s the hand I was dealt.” Inglorion’s eyes soften, and he smiles. “I love this city, though I was unhappy here. I love everything it represents, the people, the marble buildings. I still worship the Bringer of Light. Some things can’t be effaced by time or distance or sorrow.” He smiles again, more privately, and drops his gaze. His lyric outburst doesn’t suit Marcus’s sense of propriety. Just the same, he senses a slight relaxation, a drop in Marcus’s guard.

Finally Marcus says, “It’s all I’ve ever known. I’m no judge.”

Inglorion adds, “I’ve considered this to be my home and family when no one else did.”

Marcus looks surprised. “I’ve always thought of you as a Shelawn.”

“I’m not a Shelawn. I’ve never used the name, because I know I have no right to it.” He cocks his head, and gives a sudden, wicked grin. “Though if that’s what your lecture means, thank you.”

“Of course it does. I wouldn’t give it to a random man your age.”

Inglorion bows and says, “I’m grateful, brother.”

“I hope you know that I’ll serve you if I can. These are unsettled times.”

Inglorion’s face darkens. “I know. I am worried about Rosalee. She’s a funny child. She doesn’t speak, doesn’t acknowledge others. And she’s become worse suddenly. It’s as if she knows something.” He shakes his head. “Now I’m talking like a Gypsy. It’s simple, really. I want to take her to spend time with Collatinus.”

“The gardener?”

“Yes. He cared for me at that age. He was kind, and firm, and gentle. He’s the closest thing I had to a father.”

Marcus is silent for a moment. Inglorion sees that he’s realizing for the first time that his brother was raised entirely by servants. “There’s a lot that I didn’t know about you,” Marcus says. He toys with his glass, diverted by a memory. He says abruptly, “You really did seem like a little Tereus. You charmed the girls and took each one in turn, as if you had droit de seigneur. You got in fights all the time, always had stitches and bruises. I remember —” He breaks off laughing. “Okay, so this is how I knew you. We heard that one morning when the servants were all lined up for inspection, you punched the cook, just hauled off and clocked him, and had to be pulled off him.”

Inglorion furrows his brow. “Punched the cook? You mean that French fellow? When was that?”

“It was soon after you got here. You must have been 15 or 16. Old enough to know better.”

He considers, frowning. “I truly don’t recall that.” His face clears. “Oh, no, wait, I did mill him down. I’m surprised I got away with it — I’m not much of a boxer.”

“Why on earth did you do that?”

“Oh, he had it coming. I don’t recall exactly what he said. Something about one of the housemaids, that she was a lightskirt.”

“Was she?”

“Lord, no. She was a very sweet girl. I’d completely forgotten about that. I was outraged at the time — his sneering attitude. He insinuated that she was fucking Tereus and the majordomo for favors, and that certainly wasn’t true.”

“So you punched him?”

“Oh, yes. Knocked him flat, drew his cork. There was quite a scene. Septimus and the butler had to pull me off him. I should have waited and taken him aside later, but I wasn’t thinking. And, indeed, there’s something to be said for immediate punishment. He watched his tongue around me after that, I can tell you.”

Marcus regards his half-brother with a fascinated eye, then says, “You can see why we thought you were a roughneck.”

Inglorion laughs. “If anything, I was a bit of a prig. All that time, I never drank or did drugs, and I kept a shrine faithfully. I’ll grant you that I was hotheaded and ready with my fists. Remember, though, I was in rough company. I was small, and it was no secret that I was Tereus’s son. I don’t know if you had to fight much, but I was a natural target.” He stubs out his last cigarette, smiles at his brother. “It’s late. I should go. Do I have your blessing to bring Rosalee over to visit Collatinus?”

Marcus looks startled. “Of course. I hope you’ll bring her here, too. It would give Penelope pleasure.”

“I’ll bring her here if you wish it. I —” He searches for words. “I adore her. She’s like Sieia was to me. But she’s an unusual child. I wouldn’t want her to be hurt, or for Penelope to feel disappointed or slighted. She looks like a Gypsy,” he concludes lamely.

“I won’t force you, certainly. But Penelope loves small children, and she regrets not having a daughter. I think she’d come to love your Rosalee, no matter how she looks or behaves.”

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