nineveh_uk (nineveh_uk) wrote,

Wimsey ficlet: In the kitchen

In comments to my previous post, [personal profile] antisoppist raised the question of whether the dons and college servants know about Harriet's encounters with Mr Pomfret (concluding that the servants surely do). Which thought found itself blending with previous thoughts I had had on the identity of the unknown third person mentioned in Gaudy Night as probably a "suspicious scout" who knew or suspected the identity of the Shrewsbury College poltergeist. Which produced the following...

In the kitchen

'You'll never guess what I heard,' said Susan, rapidly distributing cutlery into its drawers. 'Mary Shepherd who's scout at Jesus, said that Mr Jenkyns, what's Proctor, caught Miss Vane in the arms of an undergraduate by the Lamb and Flag the other night.'

The other servants digested this information with various exclamations, summed up by Clarrie's, 'Well, I never! And the papers say she's that Lord Peter Wimsey's lady friend. His lordship won’t like hearing that.'

'That's as may be,' said Annie. 'I don't like to speak ill of a lady, but Miss Vane's manners are a bit free for my taste. I shouldn't wonder if a young man had been lead a bit further than was good for him.'

'I think you should watch what you're saying, Annie,' said Evelyn, sharply. 'Miss Vane is a respectable lady, and a guest in the college. It isn't for us to say what happened. It isn’t Mr Jenkyns' job to gossip, neither. I say it’s far more likely that the student was making a nuisance of himself. God knows, they do that often enough. My sister Millie’s youngest was positively menaced by a gang of them on the High.’

At which invitation, the conversation drifted into the fruitful subject of the wrongdoings of students. Annie had little to say, and soon disappeared to tend to the Hall, but Evelyn caught the Head Scout before the woman left the kitchen.

‘I think you ought to have a word with Annie,’ she said. ‘She oughtn’t to talk about Miss Vane like that, nor any of the ladies in the college. Miss Vane is very respectable, and has had a hard time. It isn’t right to gossip.’

‘Oh, Annie don’t mean anything by it, protested Clarrie. ‘She has high standards, that’s all. A woman in her position has to, a widow with two little girls to bring up.’

‘That’s as maybe,’ said Evelyn, ‘but I don’t call it high standards to talk like that about a college guest. We can’t help what outsiders say, but we should stick up for our ladies. A bit of fun’s all very well, I don’t blame Susan for saying it, but we needn’t leap to the worst conclusions.’

‘And neither should you,’ said Clarrie heatedly. ‘Annie’s a good woman who’s had a hard life. I won’t thank you to teach me my job, neither. Now I must be about my work, and I’m sure you’ve enough to be doing yourself.’

‘Yes, Clarrie,’ said Evelyn meekly. The Head Scout departed, leaving Evelyn to finish her work in the kitchen. She looked about her at the gleaming array of glass and silverware; there were such things as fingerprints. But she’d said herself about conclusions, and perhaps Clarrie was right. Annie, she thought, had no love for the college or its ladies - she ought to work in a men’s hall, except that she was pretty for her age so they probably wouldn’t have her - but it wasn’t right to draw overmuch on that. Still, it did no harm to keep a look out. Miss Vane was a nice lady, and very clever; Evelyn had had one of her books from the library, and had only guessed the murderer half-way through.

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Tags: wimseyfic
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