Orren rumors -- which I now know to be as reliable and accurate as any bonstable [a subtle and devious monster whose powers include self-delusion -bb] -- placed Spirshash in: Squensqueeg Stream; the Alley of the Hatmakers; the Avenue of Sellers of Personal Matters, presumably getting a divorce; a whorehouse watching a puppet show; my bed, waiting for me; or one or another fishmarket. I was rather surprised to find him in the Alley of the Hatmakers, grimly looking at hats.
"Oh, hallo, Spirshash," I said.
He looked rather like an ulgrane caught creeping into the ducal palace. "What are you doing here, Sythyry?"
"I am questing for answers, O Orren."
He squirmed. "It's hats, not answers, that they sell in this place, Sythyry."
"I shall not be bothering the proprietor for answers."
He looked thoroughly guilty. "Sythyry? I don't think it would be a good idea for me to be seen alone with you just now."
"If we're alone, we'll hardly be seen..." It is very hard to break the habit of talking like that, even when I need very sharply to be both straightforward and pleasant.
"We're hardly alone now." Half a dozen people, mostly Orren, were lurking around watching and listening with such interest that my feathers should have caught fire.
"We are rather bescandalled, aren't we? Perhaps you could tell me why? Since I don't remember us doing the slightest scandalmaking thing for at least three months, and since the scandal has cost me every chance with Strenata." I was fairly sure that at least one Orren was taking notes.
"Oostmarine and Strenata somehow decided that you and I were behaving improperly together," he said.
"Well, and we weren't. Why didn't you tell them that?"
"Tillissa can be a bit aggressive with her questions on occasion..."
"I had begun to notice that. I was interrogated of late myself."
"... I told them the truth, really," he said.
"Well, then, why were they so upset?"
"They didn't hear the truth. Not 'til this morning," he said.
"How could they not hear it?"
He curled his tail in as much of a knot as an Orren tail can curl. "I didn't mention very loudly when you went home. So they thought I was with you for the whole evening."
I decided it was very important to embarrass him more. "Spirshash? Whatever did you do after I left you alone in the middle of town?"
He started pulling tiny seashells off the hat and cracking them between his clawtips. "I ran into Oonspath -- Strenata's roommate, you know -- and somehow found myself buying him brandy at Darraden's."
"Oonspath can extract money from one in the most remarkable ways, can't he?"
"He's quite good at it. I daresay he's hoping to be the duke's treasurer by the time he's sixty-three."
"And executed seven times in the public square for embezzling by the time he's sixty-six, I daresay." A horrible thought came to me. "So everyone thinks you and I and Oonspath ...?"
His ears were flatter than last year's beer. "I hope not everyone."
"I hope not anyone!"
"Well, then Oonspath and I went to a puppet show. And then I came home. And that's all. Really. Nothing else."
"That sounds rather harmless, if rather cheated. Your wife and husband were upset because...?"
"Well, they don't like me going to puppet shows." If he kept curling his tail up and flattening his ears more each time, they would surely meet, approximately two-thirds up his lungs.
"They seem a bit fussy ... I don't think I should say too much bad about them though." By now seven-and-twelve people were gathered at a moderate distance for their listening, or, in the case of the hatmaker, for the writing of a bill of sale for the hat Spirshash was destroying.
"You and I didn't have a private booth at Darraden's. And we certainly didn't lock the door, or do anything else that might be misinterpreted. And I got the Gnessoise as a present, not to distract them from anything. And I didn't call out 'Oonspath' instead of 'Oostmarine' that night, really!" He was thoroughly in his wild rush.
"Spirshash? I remember the evening well enough; we didn't even see Darraden's. And I don't want to hear about the privacies of you and your husband, really. And you're ruining that hat."
"Hat?" He stopped chattering and looked at the devastation he had made for himself. "Oh, heavens. That was to be a peace offering."
"Well, the last one of Gnessoise seems to have worked rather badly too. Perhaps you should try a different approach altogether? Maybe you could invite them out to something or other? It seems they're more distressed by whatever you do when you're out without them than they are pleased by whever you've brought them."
"Seven staring gods! I should think you're right, O Zi Ri!" He slammed the demolished hat on his head, atop his own, and leapt over a shelf of haberdashery, and raced for home. I must admit I sighed; I find Orren in wild rushes to be terribly cute.
The haberdasher, who was Cani, waddled up to me. "I doubt me that I can catch up with that Orren gentleman any time soon. Would you be so good as to pay for that hat? As it was you who started him breaking it, after all."
This was thoroughly ridiculous and unfair! I talked him into accepting three lozens as a deposit, and gave him Spirshash's address. For some reason, the haberdasher did not accept my offer to carry the bill there. Perhaps he thought I would not be welcome enough to deliver it.