Mirrored from Sythyry.
“I suppose, Fennel, that you are about to assert that you never saw that Rassimel boy in your life before,” proclaimed Cresset.
“Despite your instant recognition of him, by name, as soon as he arrived,” said Marjoram.
“And I suppose, Fennel, that you are about to assert that you never indulged yourself carnally with him,” proclaimed Cresset.
“Despite where you were putting your hands and hand-feet when we came in, to say nothing of what you and he were talking about,” said Marjoram.
“And I suppose, Fennel, that you are going to maintain your frequent amatory exhaustion is still due to Melna and Lovage,” proclaimed Cresset.
“Despite Melna and Lovage complaining that you exhibit the same amatory exhaustion on their nights too,” said Marjoram.
“Well? Have you nothing to say for yourself?” demanded wife and mari in unison.
Fennel, for reasons more martial than marital, decided on a counterattack. “I do indeed. Among the reasons why the discriminating Herethroy nobleman might prefer a Rassimel printer’s boy to his spouses — among the many reasons — is that he does not gang up on one. Neither does he put words in one’s mouth. His specialty is putting them on paper, and other things in his mouth, to be sure!”
“So you are casting us off in favor of your printer’s boy, are you?” — “If you cast Melna and Lovage off as well, you won’t be a Herethroy nobleman any more.” — “Nor will you enjoy the substantial allowance from us that you use to amuse yourself so diligently,” said his spouses.
Fennel saw a tactical advantage. “If I cast you off in favor of a printer’s boy, what will that say about you? Who would marry you? There are hardly surplus Herethroy men about!” Which was true enough. Herethroy women counted themselves fortunate to marry once; few save the most extraordinary ever remarried. Co-lovers, while not so common as women, were not desperately in demand either. “And the barony — the title would devolve to your younger sibling!”
Cressel lowered her antennae. “What of our hopes for children, in this circumstance?”
Fennel sensed the power of his approach. “What, indeed? If I cast you off, you shall grow old and die childless! Or, if you prefer, and if you are so clever as to arrange it, you might manage to produce a bastard — and thereby add the scorn of adultery to the scorn of divorcedness!”
Cresset and Nasturtium shuddered. “We note, from your use of the conditional tense, that you are also considering the opposite — that you not cast us off in favor of a printer’s boy.”
“This is indeed the case! My alternatives lie before me, in a splendid panoply of choices, each with their own pleasures! On these hands I continue to enjoy the life of an idle and leisuresome Herethroy nobleman. On these, I switch to the excitement and bodily excesses of an urban bohemian, rich in lovers, liquors, and illicit licenciousnesses: a short life, to be sure, but a shining one! And, as an added inducement, a life without troublesome ties and sarcastic spouses!”
“Had the appeal of the second alternative to you been made clear from the beginning, we might have chosen to be a touch less sarcastic,” said Cresset and Nasturtium to each other. “Relying on outvoting him may have been unwise.”
“Still — I am a generous man! Currently, five days a week I am obligated to one marriage, and the other four to the other. Let us rearrange matters: four days to one, four to the other, and the last night a week …” said Fennel.
Cresset interrupted, “Unacceptable! All marital theory clearly shows that the male must not be allowed to choose which triad he prefers! Any options in the schedule lead to comparisons, to jealousy, to disharmony!”
“The last night a week, I shall spend alone — or, to be more technically accurate, I shall spend away from both marriages,” said Fennel with a grin. “This avoids the theoreticial difficulties completely.”
“Unacceptable also! You are incapable of discretion in matters of transaffectionate adultery! As we have recently noticed! We reject any arrangement which leads to our public humiliation as spurned spouses, whether by means of divorce or persistent perversion!” snapped Nasturtium.
Fennel’s antennae wilted. “I shall be more discreet…”
“We have no great respect for your discretion,” said Nasturtium.
Cresset said, “I have another idea. In Vheshrame Mene there is that newly-built city Kismirth — with the casino, and some time-distorting stuff or other, I believe. In Ulmarn, I propose that you act with the strictest decorum and propriety. But, say, once a year, you shall take a vacation to some distant spot, such as Kismirth, alone. And there you shall behave, or misbehave, as befits a … I do not wish to describe you, for a well-bred woman should not use such language.”
Fennel said, “Once a year? Insufficient! I am a man of substantial appetites, when confronted by compliant rather than complainant concubines! Five times a year!”
“Twice a year, and those substantial appetites had best show themselves between-whiles upon the baronial bed!”
Inevitably, they settled on three — a number which could be reduced if Fennel’s behavior was less than perfect. All three spouses felt that they had avoided a terrible social precipice. Being well-trained nobles (or better-trained would-be nobles), they took pains to deal with each other with decorum and punctilio, if not with frequency.
This would be described as a “happy marriage” in certain circles. In other circles, it would be considered distinctly lacking in at least one of those two dimensions.