83. Man and the Reason for Living

That evening, the refugee camp hosts a double-wedding.

Father Nate Szyba looks cold and solemn and forbidding, and reads the rites in sepulchral tones. Aramil looks radiantly happy, and Ajax is composed and prim, with an air of quiet triumph appropriate to someone who has been wooed and won. Aramil wears the same outfit he has worn all along: Riding clothes with an unnecessarily ornate embroidered waistcoat, now smirched with dust and filth. Ajax wears riding clothes. Despite his lingering fever, he’s managed to wash and press them, and to polish his boots. Lucius, too, has recruited his strength and woven daisies and other wildflowers into Ajax’s long, white hair.

Virginia has a slight smile, and keeps looking over at Inglorion, who looks pained and anxious because he’s carefully parsing each of the vows and making sure he can commit to what’s stipulated in the ceremony. Virginia’s riding habit is freshly washed, but she had no way to press it, so it’s creased and the bustle doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny. As usual, Inglorion has given little thought to his clothing. Virginia has ensured that his clothes are washed, dried, brushed, and on him. Since he favors well-cut classics in neutral colors, there’s nothing obviously amiss with his appearance. He’s submitted to Lucius’s styling efforts, too, which resulted in a simple queue secured with the usual black silk ribbon and an extravagant but still tasteful arrangement of poppies. Inglorion will forget to remove it, and will carry out the rest of his official duties adorned for his wedding.

After the ceremony, Father Nate provides each couple with a signed, witnessed note in lieu of a marriage certificate. Inglorion asks to see the Book of Common Prayer, and flips straight to the 39 Articles, seeking clarification. He seems to be on the verge of asking for religious instruction, perhaps even enrolling in divinity school.

Late that night, at dinner, as he’s drafting his daily account of events, he asks Aramil and Ajax, “I don’t know what’s proper here. Should I refer to Ajax as the bride, or is that you, Aramil?”

Aramil says with much dignity, “What a foolish, heteronormative question. If you need a word, call us spouses. Or, no — Ajax should be called my reason for living.”

Inglorion gives a shout of laughter. “Aramil Augustus and the Reason for Living?”

Aramil wrinkles his nose. “That’s the worst children’s book ever.”

“It’s certainly not a porno,” says Inglorion. “No, I’ll tell you what it is, though none of you fucking heathens will appreciate it. ‘Aramil Augustus and the Reason for Living’ is a lost philosophical essay by Martin Heidegger.”

Aramil shakes his head. “No, it’s too specific. You have to abstract out my name. It should be ‘Man and the Reason for Living.’ What’s that in German?”

“I don’t know. I’ll look it up when I get back. That’s perfect, though — the Schlegel brothers would be proud. I imagine it reading like a sequel to Lucinde.” From their distracted expressions, Inglorion can tell he’s lost his audience. “What a pack of ignoramuses you are,” he says cheerfully.

“What did you put for us, dear?” asks Virginia.

“That part was easy. ‘Virginia Regina and Inglorion Atropos Androktasiai were united in marriage by Father Nate Szyba according to the Episcopal rite, with their son Lucius in attendance.’ Very respectable. It’s not necessary to go into the backstory, and to reveal that I’m a soiled dove, and you rescued me from a brothel in a Nevada mining camp.”

“Were you addicted to opium?” she asks.

“Possibly. I haven’t decided yet. I do know that the town’s population was decimated during the rescue attempt. You were very tough and courageous, my dear, as always, and Lucius’s aim was excellent.”

“That’s a comfort. I’ve done my best with him, but one never knows.”

“You’ll be glad to know that during the daring rescue, all three of us were dressed in the height of taste and fashion, according to the latest Parisian mode, though that’s impossible in my case. I haven’t quite worked that out. I may actually be a French emigre, in which case my gown would be only a season or two out of date.”

Virginia nods. “Your rescue had become urgent, then. It’s the only reason you would consent to go. You needed to refresh your wardrobe: Silk stockings, gloves, to re-trim your hats. It’s impossible to get those items in Nevada. Or, indeed, in Philadelphia.”

“Oh, no, no! You adored me, and couldn’t leave me there in such rough company.”

“Is that how it was? I’m sure you’re right. You are adorable, and you would be very popular in a mining camp.”

“That’s a comforting thought. I’ll have something to fall back on if Liamelia becomes too hot to hold us.”

For the first episode of Inglorion’s adventures, click here.

For a linked table of contents, listing all of Inglorion and Valentine’s adventures, click here.

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