nineveh_uk (nineveh_uk) wrote,

Wimseyfic: Attenbury Emeralds again

There is absolutely no excuse for this fic. That said, ignoring Disraeli’s advice, there is an explanation: it is Jill Paton Walsh’s fault. The Attenbury Emeralds is set in 1951. Internal chronology is not one of its strengths, but it definitely starts in Spring 1951, with the Festival of Britain yet to open. Let’s say it starts on the 1st April, which seems to fit the weather well enough.

In Spring 1951, we are told, Bredon Wimsey is 16. That means he was born, at the latest, in March 1935. Which means he was conceived in summer 1934. Which is well over a year before his parents got married… For a number of reasons, I find this scenario entirely implausible. One of the reasons is addressed in the following fic.

Oh, and I cannot say strongly enough that the following scenario is not my personal canon.

‘Oh shit!’ said Harriet Vane


‘Are you sure?’ asked Eiluned.

‘Yes. I never miss. Besides – ’

‘Ah.’ Eiluned hesitated. ‘Is it Peter’s?’

‘No, it’s the King of England’s. Of course it’s Peter’s! I’m not going about with any other men, am I?’

‘Sorry. I didn’t realise you and Peter were –’

Harriet blushed. ‘We’re not - weren’t - we were drunk. Yes, I know. He dropped me back at my flat and came up to borrow a book and we had another cocktail – it’s not that funny – and, well, there you have it. I’m expecting, and what on earth am I going to do about it?’

Eilenud put down her cup and saucer and folded her arms. It was one of her friend’s more admirable traits, she though, that whilst Harriet was quite capable of making bloody stupid decisions, she wasn’t stupid about tackling the outcomes. ‘Do you want me to be brutally practical about it?’

‘Yes,’ Harriet said firmly. ‘It won’t make things any better not to face up them.’

‘All right. How long has it been?’

‘Not very – it was only last month.’

‘That’s a good start. There’s no help in ignoring it until you start showing.’

‘Oh hell.’ She bent her face to her knees. ‘I can’t believe I’ve been such an idiot. All that time with Phil I was so careful, and now this happens. And I am not going to cry again.’

‘Good girl. Look, have a cup of tea. It’ll give you something to do other than wring your hands. That’s better.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘Doesn’t matter. Look, this night of passion, I suppose you must have liked him enough to bother, but it doesn’t seem to have changed your mind about Peter. I mean, you don’t suddenly seem to be full of his hitherto unnoticed charm.’

‘If only it were his charm.’

‘All right,’ said Eiluned gently, ‘but hasn’t Peter said anything himself? It doesn’t seem like him somehow.’

‘I don’t think he remembers,’ said Harriet quietly. ‘I didn’t quite realize at the time, but I don’t think he can have been very well – it was after the end of a case, and he goes all nervy and things. I did ask him how he found the book, and he went terribly pink so he obviously remembers something, but I think he must believe he dreamt it.’

‘Oh dear.’

‘I know. The whole thing’s such a mess! I feel so rotten. That really is the word for it. All sort of hollow inside and something growing in the dark. It’s horrible.’

Eiluned had never considered herself very good with people who were crying. She had left that to Sylvia over the Boyes affair, and found Harriet a new flat. She located a couple of clean handkerchiefs in Harriet’s uncharacteristically untidy bedroom and gave her brisk hug.

‘Don’t scrub your eyes like that, you’ll hurt them. Come on, Harriet, you asked me here to be brutally practical, so let’s look at it like that. If you don’t do anything about it, there’s going to be a baby. Do you want to have it and raise it yourself?’

‘Good God, no!’

‘Thought not. We’ll cross that off straight away. Have you considered anything else?’

‘Not really. Well I suppose I have a bit, but – would you go through the rest, please?’

‘All right. You could vanish to Switzerland for a few months and arrange to give it up when it’s born.’

‘Someone would find out.’

‘Not necessarily. But it is a risk. As well as the risk of the other, of course.’

‘That does rather worry me,’ Harriet admitted. ‘It killed my mother, you know.’

‘Your mother had rheumatic fever. But it’s a factor. Next option, you could get rid of it now, end of story.’

‘I could. It takes a bit of arranging, of course.’

‘You’d manage it – you’d manage any of it, you know, if you really wanted.’

‘Now you’re just being nice to me.’

‘Of course I’m being nice to you, you’re in a jam. But it’s quite true. You don’t expect other people to do the hard work for you. It is one of your many merits. Have some more tea.’

Harriet took the proffered cup. ‘So have we finished the brutally practical choices?’

‘Not quite,’ said Eiluned. ‘You could marry Peter.’

‘You can’t be serious!’

Eiluned shrugged. ‘It’s what any other woman would be doing. He wants to marry you, he’s responsible – part-responsible – for the current crisis, he loves you, and you –’

‘I am not in love with Peter Wimsey!’

‘Really? I suppose that’s progress.’

‘What on earth do you mean?’

‘You weren’t in love with Phil, but you decided you had to be to go to bed with him, and look how that ended up.’

‘Thanks very much.’

‘You were fooling yourself,’ said Eiluned, not unkindly. ‘It would be a good idea not to do that now, even with the best of intentions.’

‘I am trying to,’ said Harriet grimly.

‘Good. So would you rather marry Peter?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous. How can I? It’s wouldn’t be fair, not just because there’s a baby. He’d end up wondering if that was the only reason why, and it would be. It’d be perfectly miserable.’

‘Would it?’ Eiluned grinned. ‘I must admit I’m disappointed. Though they do say drink impairs performance. That reputation, and it turns out that you don’t seem to care, and he can’t remember.’

‘What reputation?’

‘Oh come on, Harriet! You must know about Peter – he’s been linked with all sorts of women. Sylvia could probably name a dozen at least, you know she reads all the gossip columns. Wasn’t that spectacular singer, what’s her name, Marie-Helene, but she was Hungarian or something, she was his mistress. She was here for Rosenkavalier in ’29.’

‘I’d no idea,’ said Harriet, intrigued despite herself.

‘Evidently the charm doesn’t work on you – or he hasn’t tried it on, which is more interesting. You could consider it.’

‘No,’ said Harriet decidedly. ‘It’s impossible. Even if I did want to, however would we manage it? Even if we got married tomorrow by special licence, no-one believes that honeymoon baby nonsense. You know what it’s like. I’ve spent the last four years having everybody talking about my private life. I’m damned if I’m giving them another excuse to do it for the rest of time.’ She smiled ruefully. ‘I have learnt a bit from experience. I knew Phil was a mistake pretty soon, but I’d persuaded myself into it and felt I had to keep justifying it. I won’t do that again.’

‘Is that what you really think?’

‘Yes. Yes, it is. If my unconscious really wanted to marry Peter Wimsey, I’d be delighted at having my hand forced.’ She blew her nose vigorously. ‘But I don’t feel like that. I just wish it were all over and that I didn’t have to worry about it. So I think that’s what I’d better do.’

‘If you’re sure.’

‘I am. It’ll take a few days to sort out, of course, but I don’t think I’ll change my mind.’ She opened the small bureau and dug out an address book. ‘I suppose Edward Wainwright still does it?’

‘I didn’t know you knew that.’

Harriet shrugged. ‘I knew about Sarah Young. Remember her? Someone said she ought to have gone to him.’

‘That was indiscreet. I hope someone shut them up.’

‘Oh yes. It’s ironic. It’s part of what let me take up with Phil - knowing I could do something about it if the worst happened. And that ought to have told me that I didn’t think it was the same as marriage at all. No use crying over that again, nor this. I’ll get this dealt with and that will be that.’

‘And Peter?’ asked Eiluned.

‘Oh,’ said Harriet, ‘I daresay I’ll dine with him again. He’s rather hard to refuse. But I certainly shan’t be lending him any more books.’


Note: Given that DLS, whose religious convictions (and a fair amount of sentimentality) not so long before had included opposition to birth control, seriously contemplated terminating her own socially embarrassing pregnancy and had the means to achieve it, I don’t think it implausible that Harriet would consider the same and go through with it.
Tags: wimseyfic
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