The Art-Music, Literature and Linguistics Forum
May 29, 2023, 05:29:05 am
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length
News: Here you may discover hundreds of little-known composers, hear thousands of long-forgotten compositions, contribute your own rare recordings, and discuss the Arts, Literature and Linguistics in an erudite and decorous atmosphere full of freedom and delight.
  Home Help Search Gallery Staff List Login Register  

12: Overture to Murder

Pages: [1]   Go Down
Author Topic: 12: Overture to Murder  (Read 3 times)
Level 8

Times thanked: 53
Offline Offline

Posts: 2180

View Profile
« on: May 24, 2023, 11:42:01 am »


BY the morning of Thursday, June 6th, the cheerful bonhomie which had marked the inauguration of the conference had undergone a sad modification. It was raining---a light chill, weeping rain that went on and on, gently yet maliciously. It had been raining for forty-eight hours. It looked like raining for another week. Even Hansford Boot, oppressed as he was by Penpeti’s constant threat of exposure, felt a warm surge of self-satisfaction course through his veins on finding his dour prophecy so amply fulfilled. The park was dismal with the slop and squelch of innumerable overboots and soggy sandals. Every tent was thick with the effluvia of damp tweeds. Every tree glistened and dripped and sulked behind a grey mist of rain. The Children of Osiris scuttled about the park with the aimless frenzy of disturbed ants; from bell-tent to lecture, from lecture to meal, from meal to meditation, from meditation to the dubious comfort of their camp-beds.

They made every effort to preserve their initial enthusiasm, but even the most fanatic found it difficult to concentrate on such lecture subjects as “The Triune God of the Resurrection” or “The Inner Symbolism of Thoth” when they were made uncomfortably aware of hard benches, wet socks, damp underclothes, and the evil odour of massed mackintoshes. Eustace did his utmost to whip up an interest in the niceties of dogma but it was uphill work. He himself, at the mercy of his personal troubles, was in exceptionally bad form. Twice in one lecture members at the back of the marquee were forced to ask him to speak up as they couldn’t hear a single word he was saying. Twice Eustace tried to oblige them, only to find his voice issuing from him in a quavering falsetto. People began to cough and fidget and rustle their papers.

It was Penpeti who really rescued the convention from the doldrums. He was here, there and everywhere, his magnetic eyes flashing, his rich oriental voice upraised in greeting, his oddly-garbed figure striding through the rain with Jehovah-like indifference. His lectures were evangelical in their thunder-and-lightning intensity. Penpeti ignored the intellect and concentrated on the emotions of his rain-sodden audiences. His panegyric on the “Significance of Set, the Evil one” was applauded as a masterpiece of didacticism. He made them wriggle on their benches under the lash of his sarcasm. He filled them with remorse and a desire for repentance. He left them exalted in a whirl of mystical excitement, so that many, quite unconscious of their surroundings, passed out there and then into a state of “non-being”.

Miss Minnybell alone remained totally unmoved. From the middle of the third row she just sat there and stared at Penpeti with watchful and suspicious eyes. She noted his every gesture. Every detail of his person. And towards him she projected a stream of enmity. More than ever she was convinced that Penpeti was plotting to waylay her in some dark corner of the park in order to liquidate her. Her obsession had never been more virulent.


It was with a sigh of relief that Eustace watched Terence and Mrs. Summers depart for Downchester shortly after lunch on Thursday. Now that the critical hour was approaching his nervousness was at fever-heat. Sid had slipped up to London on Monday and returned with the complete “Penpeti” outfit, which he had concealed in the loft. Three times he had rehearsed Mr. Mildmann in the part he was to play. Together they had pored over Sid’s simple plan of the Dower House. The dummy revolver was ready and waiting. Sid had even coached his employer in the kind of dialogue that might prove effective, forcing him to transmute his gentle tones into a kind of staccato bark; an ordeal that caused poor Eustace to squirm with embarrassment. In Sid’s opinion nothing could go wrong. Eustace had already told Alicia that he would not be over to dinner at the manor that evening, owing to pressure of work. The Daimler was ready primed to rush him to the Dower House and back. Even the weather, Sid claimed, was in their favour, for the low rain-clouds would certainly mean a premature dusk. By the time Eustace was scheduled to approach the Dower House it would be almost dark.

For all that, as the afternoon wore slowly to a close, Eustace was filled with apprehension. He had a hasty cup of tea with his flock in the crowded mess-tent, slipped away unobtrusively, climbed into his waiting car and returned to the North Lodge. In about three hours’ time he was due to go over to the barn and “doll himself up”, as Sid put it. He spent the time in quiet meditation, alternating with periods of cold panic and a very natural impatience. If he succeeded in his quest he was quite sure that Penelope would never speak to him again. On the other hand, if he failed . . .

Closing his eyes against the possibility and dire consequences of failure, Mr. Mildmann screwed himself up to the sticking-point. The clock on the mantelshelf ticked relentlessly, throwing the minutes with gleeful indifference over its shoulder!

Report Spam   Logged

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Pages: [1]   Go Up
Jump to:  

Powered by EzPortal
Bookmark this site! | Upgrade This Forum
SMF For Free - Create your own Forum

Powered by SMF | SMF © 2016, Simple Machines
Privacy Policy