nineveh_uk (nineveh_uk) wrote,
nineveh_uk
nineveh_uk

Fragmentary fragment of Wimseyfic

Missing scene without much of a start or finish - how does Harriet end up, of all places, with Peter at the Eton and Harrow match?

Harriet is fortunate she attended in 1933 - it might not have been quite as awful as 1932, which was covered by the Guardian.

"This morning I was standing near the carriages at the side of the pavilion. I had omitted to come to the match in top-hat, and an overpowering dowager bore down on me. And she demanded of me imperiously, "A match card, please!". Quite naturally she took me for some hireling of the back stairs."

This photograph from 1937 is deservedly notorious, though ironically the three working-class boys would live longer and happier lives than the Harrow boys (moral: do not take your son to India without having him vaccinated against diphtheria).

(Incidentally, diphtheria is a brilliant example of how well vaccination works, being all but wiped out within the UK within a decade after the introduction of routine vaccination in children. While we're at it, lets raise a glass to the end of rinderpest. Query to any Anglo-Saxonists, is this Archbishop Wulfstan's orfcwealm? But I digress.)

And finally ending the introduction, have a Pathé newsreel from 1930.

***

Without further ado...

Fragment

‘Poor man,’ said Harriet. ‘But perhaps he might have felt that a traffic accident was kinder than the alternative – there was no chance he’d get off, I suppose?’

‘None,’ answered Peter. ‘He could be tied into the drug gang all right, and as for the murder he had motive, opportunity, means, that simply no-one else could have had. He might have pleaded innocent, of course, but the evidence was a lot more than circumstantial, and with the drugs business and blackmail appearances would have been decidedly against him. Besides, there would have been ten years penal servitude for the drugs even without the murder.’

‘That’s not quite the same, though. There is way out after ten years.’

‘You’re right. I’m sorry; I oughtn’t to talk about it like that with you. It’s beastly thoughtless of me.’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ said Harriet, ‘my skin’s pretty thick on that account. Only it was the way out I used to think about, you see. About being buried there. But don’t let’s talk about him. I only wish that I’d been at the cricket match. It sounds a terrific show; I’d forgotten you played. I’d have liked to have seen it.’

‘Would you really?’ said Wimsey with sudden cheer. ‘I’d no idea. I never took you for a cricket lover.’

‘How unimaginative of you. As a matter of fact, I was on my school team. I even set one of my first stories at a match. It was called Dead Ball and published in a men’s magazine, and the villainous captain poisoned his best batsman’s gloves. It wasn’t very good, but I got a letter from a twelve year-old boy telling me he thought it was a corker.’

Peter laughed. ‘A career is born. Did you bat or bowl?

‘Wicket-keep.’

‘I ought to have guessed. I bet you stood up to the stumps.’

‘Naturally.’

Wimsey speared his asparagus enthusiastically. ‘Look here, it’s the Eton and Harrow match next week. It’s not exactly ten to make and the Ashes to win, but it’s usually quite decent and it seems that I owe you a cricket match as well as last week’s dinner. Should you care to come?

‘Won’t it be frightfully busy?’

‘You mean, will my people be there? No. My nephew ought to have been, but he’s in the San with a bust foot, young idiot. Do say you’ll come. I promise only to introduce you to civilised people. There are some even among the upper ten thou, you know. You might get another story out of it, and I can endeavour win your devotion with tales of my sporting achievements. I have never tried that. I don’t expect it to work, but I shall persuade myself that it’s the effort that counts.’

‘I suppose it might be entertaining,’ said Harriet, ‘and I do need to come up with some more short stories. Do you think a villain might strangle someone with the boundary rope?’

‘Too thick. I imagine that poisoning the tea is too old-hat?’

‘I’m afraid so, and insufficiently specific. One can poison the tea anywhere.’

‘I suppose so. Need it be a first class match? If you had a village ground with a slope to it, you might crush somebody with the roller. Come to that, if the victim were drunk you could crush him anywhere.’

‘And bury him beneath the new-laid square.’

‘Oh, I like that! The constabulary has to decide whether to dig it up now or wait until the local tyro has triumphed with his hundred.’

‘And the body isn’t there at all – it’s in the roller, and trundled quietly away at the end.’

‘I thought mysteries were supposed to end with the villain caught and order re-established, God in his heaven, all right with the world?’

‘Usually, yes. But if you have a good enough idea you can get away with something else. I don’t think the body in the roller on its own would cut it. He would have to thoroughly deserve his fate and bring it on himself somehow.’

‘Poetic justice?’

‘Literary justice, at any rate. I like the roller. It has a potential for that kind of delicate ghoulishness that sells.’

‘Then you’ll come?’

‘I don’t know. I should feel conspicuous.’

‘Why should you? There’s a crowd, all right, but most people will be there to talk to their friends and enjoy the weather, possibly lending half an eye to the pitch every hour or so. The sporting press will be watching the game, the society pages will be watching the debutantes, and the socialist press will be watching the privileged crowd for signs of offence to the common man, of which they are sure to find plenty. No-one will be looking out for celebrated mystery novelists enjoying a cricket match. The most we'll be subject to is half a line somewhere for my sister-in-law to chew over and that needn't bother you. Though you ought to get on with Helen; she's almost as opposed to your marrying me as you are.’

‘You don’t offer much incentive to a closer connection with your relations.’

‘Naturally. I wish to be loved for myself alone.’

‘And not your beautiful house at Pemberley?’

‘It isn’t mine. Besides, I tried that before and it didn’t come off. Come to Lord’s, Harriet, and I shall be on my best behaviour and introduce you to a bloke at the MCC who could tell you absolutely everywhere that one might stash the corpse and how to get into the locked dressing room at midnight.’

‘When you put it like that,’ said Harriet, ‘I can hardly refuse.’
Tags: wimseyfic
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