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Part 9

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« on: December 23, 2022, 11:28:01 pm »

Come hether freind, I am ashamed to hear that what I hear of you.... You have almost attayned to the age of nyne yeeres, at least to eight and a halfe, and seeing that you knowe your dutie, if you neglect it you deserve greater punishment then he which through ignorance doth it not. Think not that the nobilitie of your Ancestors doth free you to doe all that you list, contrarywise, it bindeth you more to followe vertue.
    ---Pierre Erondell

'So,' said the Bursar, coming briskly up to the High Table for lunch on the following Thursday; 'Jukes has come to grief once more....'

'Has he been stealing again?' asked Miss Lydgate. 'Dear me, how disappointing!'

'Annie tells me she's had her suspicions for some time, and yesterday being her half-day she went down to tell Mrs. Jukes she would have to place the children somewhere else--when lo, and behold! in walked the police and discovered a whole lot of things that had been stolen a fortnight ago from an undergraduate's rooms in Holywell. It was most unpleasant for her--for Annie, I mean. They asked her a lot of questions.'

I always thought it was a mistake to put those children there,' said the Dean.

'So that's what Jukes did with himself at night,' said Harriet. 'I heard he'd been seen outside the College here. As a matter of fact, I gave Annie the tip. It's a pity she couldn't have removed the children earlier.'

'I thought he was doing quite well,' said Miss Lydgate. 'He had a job--and I know he kept chickens--and there was the money for the little Wilsons, Annie's children, I mean--so he ought not to have needed to steal, poor man. Perhaps Mrs. Jukes is a bad manager.'

'Jukes is a bad lot,' said Harriet. 'A nasty bit of business altogether. He's much best out of the way.'

'Had he taken much?' inquired the Dean.

'I gather from Annie,' said the Bursar, 'that they rather think they can trace a lot of petty thieving to Jukes. I understand it's a question of finding out where he sold the things.'

'He'd dispose of them through a fence, I suppose,' said Harriet; 'some pawnbroker or somebody of that kind. Has he been inside--in prison--before?'

'Not that I know of,' said the Dean; 'though he ought to have been.'

'Then I suppose he'll get off lightly as a first offender.'

'Miss Barton will know all about that. We'll ask her. I do hope poor Mrs. Jukes isn't involved,' said the Bursar.

'Surely not,' cried Miss Lydgate, 'she's such a nice woman.'

'She must have known about it,' said Harriet, 'unless she was a perfect imbecile.'

'What a dreadful thing, to know your husband was a thief!'

'Yes,' said the Dean. 'It would be very uncomfortable to have to live on the proceeds.'

'Terrible,' said Miss Lydgate. 'I can't imagine anything more dreadful to an honest person's feelings.'

'Then,' said Harriet, 'we must hope, for Mrs. Jukes' sake, she was as guilty as he was.'

'What a horrible hope!' exclaimed Miss Lydgate.

'Well, she's got to be either guilty or unhappy,' said Harriet, passing the bread to the Dean with a twinkle in her eye.

'I dissent altogether,' said Miss Lydgate. 'She must either be innocent and unhappy or guilty and unhappy--I don't see how she can be happy, poor creature.'

'Let us ask the Warden next time we see her,' said Miss Martin, 'whether it is possible for a guilty person to be happy. And if so, whether it is better to be happy or virtuous.'

'Come, Dean,' said the Bursar, 'we can't allow this sort of thing. Miss Vane, a bowl of hemlock for the Dean, if you please. To return to the subject under discussion, the police have not, so far, taken up Mrs. Jukes, so I suppose there's nothing against her.'

'I'm very glad of that,' said Miss Lydgate; and, Miss Shaw arriving at that moment, full of woe about one of her pupils who was suffering from perpetual headache, and an incapacity to work, the conversation wandered into other channels.


Term was drawing to a close, and the investigation seemed little farther advanced; but it appeared possible that Harriet's nightly perambulationus and the frustration of the Library and Chapel scandals had exercised a restraining influence on the Poltergeist, for there was no further outbreak of any kind, not so much as an inscription in a lavatory or an anonymous letter, for three days. The Dean, exceedingly busy, was relieved by the respite, and also cheered by the news that Mrs. Goodwin the secretary would be back on the Monday to cope with the end-of-term rush. Miss Cattermole was seen to be more cheerful, and wrote a quite respectable paper for Miss Hillyard about the naval policy of Henry VIII. Harriet asked the enigmatic Miss de Vine to coffee. As usual, she had intended to lay bare Miss de Vine's soul, and, as usual, found herself laying bare her own.


'I quite agree with you,' said Miss de Vine, 'about the difficulty of combining intellectual and emotional interests. I don't think it affects women only; it affects men as well. But when men put their public lives before their private lives, it causes less outcry than when a woman does the same thing, because women put up with neglect better than men, having been brought up to expect it.'

'But suppose one doesn't quite know which one wants to put first. Suppose,' said Harriet, falling back on words which were not her own, 'suppose one is cursed with both a heart and a brain?'

'You can usually tell,' said Miss de Vine, 'by seeing what kind of mistakes you make. I'm quite sure that one never makes fundamental mistakes about the thing one really wants to do. Fundamental mistakes arise out of lack of genuine interest. In my opinion, that is.'

'I made a very big mistake once,' said Harriet, 'as I expect you know. I don't think that arose out of lack of interest. It seemed at the time the most important thing in the world.'

'And yet you made the mistake. Were you really giving all your mind to it, do you think? Your mind? Were you really being as cautious and exacting about it as you would be about writing a passage of fine prose?'

'That's rather a difficult sort of comparison. One can't, surely, deal with emotional excitements in that detached spirit.'

'Isn't the writing of good prose an emotional excitement?'

'Yes, of course it is. At least, when you get the thing dead right and know it's dead right, there's no excitement like it. It's marvellous. It makes you feel like God on the Seventh Day--for a bit, anyhow.'

'Well, that's what I mean. You expend the trouble and you don't make any mistake--and then you experience the ecstasy. But if there's any subject in which you're content with the second-rate, then it isn't really your subject.'

'You're dead right,' said Harriet after a pause. 'If one's genuinely interested one knows how to be patient, and let time pass, as Queen Elizabeth said. Perhaps that's the meaning of the phrase about genius being eternal patience, which I always thought rather absurd. If you truly want a thing, you don't snatch; if you snatch, you don't really want it. Do you suppose that, if you find yourself taking pains about a thing, it's a proof of its importance to you?'

'I think it is, to a large extent. But the big proof is that the thing comes right, without those fundamental errors. One always makes surface errors, of course. But a fundamental error is a sure sign of not caring. I wish one could teach people nowadays that the doctrine of snatching what one thinks one wants is unsound.'

'I saw six plays this winter in London,' said Harriet, 'all preaching the doctrine of snatch. I agree that they left me with the feeling that none of the characters knew what they wanted.'

'No,' said Miss de Vine. 'If you are once sure what you do want, you find that everything else goes down before it like grass under a roller--all other interests, your own and other people's. Miss Lydgate wouldn't like my saying that, but it's as true of her as of anybody else. She's the kindest soul in the world, in things she's indifferent about, like the peculations of Jukes. But she hasn't the slightest mercy on the prosodical theories of Mr. Elkbottom. She wouldn't countenance those to save Mr. Elkbottom from hanging. She'd say she couldn't. And she couldn't, of course. If she actually saw Mr. Elkbottom writhing in humiliation she'd be sorry, but she wouldn't alter a paragraph. That would be treason. One can't be pitiful where one's own job is concerned. You'd lie cheerfully, I expect, about anything except--what?'

'Oh, anything!' said Harriet, laughing. 'Except saying that somebody's beastly book is good when it isn't. I can't do that. It makes me a lot of enemies, but I can't do it.'

'No, one can't,' said Miss de Vine. 'However painful it is, there's always one thing one has to deal with sincerely, if there's any root to one's mind at all. I ought to know, from my own experience. Of course, the one thing may be an emotional thing; I don't say it mayn't. One may commit all the sins in the calendar, and still be faithful and honest towards one person. If so, then that one person is probably one's appointed job. I'm not despising that kind of loyalty; it doesn't happen to be mine, that is all.'

'Did you discover that by making a fundamental mistake?' asked Harriet, a little nervously.

'Yes,' said Miss de Vine. 'I once got engaged to somebody. But I found I was always blundering--hurting his feelings, doing stupid things, making quite elementary mistakes about him. In the end I realised that I simply wasn't taking as much trouble with him as I should have done over a disputed reading. So I decided he wasn't my job.' She smiled. 'For all that, I was fonder of him than he was of me. He married an excellent woman who is devoted to him and does make him her job. I should think he was a full-time job. He is a painter and usually on the verge of bankruptcy; but he paints very well.'

'I suppose one oughtn't to marry anybody, unless one's prepared to make him a full-time job.'

'Probably not; though there are a few rare people, I believe, who don't look on themselves as jobs but as fellow-creatures.'

'I should think Phbe Tucker and her husband were like that,' said Harriet. 'You met her at the Gaudy. That collaboration seems to work. But what with the wives who are jealous of their husbands' work and the husbands who are jealous of their wives' interests, it looks as though most of us imagined ourselves to be jobs.'

'The worst of being a job,' said Miss de Vine, 'is the devastating effect it has on one's character. I'm very sorry for the person who is somebody else's job; he (or she, of course) ends by devouring or being devoured, either of which is bad for one. My painter has devoured his wife, though neither of them knows it; and poor Miss Cattermole is in great danger of being identified with her parents' job and being devoured.'

'Then you're all for the impersonal job?'

'I am,' said Miss de Vine.

'But you say you don't despise those who make some other persons their job?'

'Far from despising them,' said Miss de Vine; 'I think they are dangerous.'

    Christ Church,
Dear Miss Vane,
If you can forgive my idiotic behaviour the other day, will you come and lunch with me on Monday at 1 o'clock? Please do. I am still feeling suicidal, so it would really be a work of charity all round. I hope the meringues got home safely.
              Very sincerely yours,

My dear young man, thought Harriet, as she wrote an acceptance of this nave invitation, if you think I can't see through that, you're mightily mistaken. This is not for me, but for les beaux yeux de la cassette de l'oncle Pierre. But there are worse meals than those that come out of the House kitchen, and I will go. I should like to know how much money you're managing to get through, by the way. The heir of Denver should be rich enough in his own right without appealing to Uncle Peter. Gracious! when I think that I was given my college fees and my clothes and five pounds a term to make whoopee on! You won't get much sympathy or support from me, my lord.


Still in this severe mood, she drove down St. Aldate's on Monday and inquired of the porter beneath Tom Tower for Lord Saint-George; only to be told that Lord Saint-George was not in College.

'Oh!' said Harriet, disconcerted, 'but he asked me to lunch.'

'What a pity you weren't let know, miss. Lord Saint-George was in a nasty motor-accident on Friday night. He's in the Infirmary. Didn't you see it in the papers?'

'No, I missed it. Is he badly hurt?'

'Injured his shoulder and cut his head open pretty badly, so we hear,' said the porter, with regret, and yet, with a slight relish at the imparting of bad news. 'He was unconscious for twenty-four hours; but we are informed that his condition is now improving. The Duke and Duchess have left for the country again.'

'Dear me!' said Harriet. 'I'm sorry to hear this. I'd better go round and inquire. Do you know whether he is allowed to see anybody yet?'

The porter looked her over with a paternal eye, which somehow suggested to her that if she had been an undergraduate the answer would have been No.

'I believe, miss,' said the porter, 'that Mr. Danvers and Lord Warboys were permitted to visit his lordship this morning. I couldn't say further than that. Excuse me--there is Mr. Danvers just crossing the quadrangle. I will ascertain.'

He emerged from his glass case and pursued Mr. Danvers, who immediately came running to the lodge.

'I say,' said Mr. Danvers, 'are you Miss Vane? Because poor old Saint-George has only just remembered about you. He's terribly sorry, and I was to catch you and give you some grub. No trouble at all--a great pleasure. We ought to have let you know, but he was knocked clean out, poor old chap. And then, what with the family fussing round--do you know the Duchess?--No?--Ah! Well, she went off this morning, and then I was allowed to go round and got my instructions. Terrific apologies and all that.'

'How did it happen?'

'Driving a racing car to the danger of the public,' said Mr. Danvers, with a grimace. 'Trying to make it before the gates were shut. No police on the spot, as it happened, so we don't know exactly what did happen. Nobody killed, fortunately. Saint-George took a telegraph pole in his stride, apparently, went out head first and pitched on his shoulder. Lucky he had the windscreen down, or he'd have had no face to speak of. The car's a total wreck, and I don't know why he isn't. But all those Wimseys have as many lives as cats. Come along in. These are my rooms. I hope you can eat the usual lamb cutlets--there wasn't time to think up anything special. But I had particular orders to hunt out Saint-George's Niersteiner '23 and mention Uncle Peter in connection with it. Is that right? I don't know whether Uncle Peter bought it or recommended it or merely enjoyed it, or what he had to do with it, but that's what I was told to say.'

Harriet laughed. 'If he did any of those things, it'll be all right.'

The Niersteiner was excellent, and Harriet heartlessly enjoyed her lunch, finding Mr. Danvers a pleasant host.

'And do go up and see the patient,' said Mr. Danvers, as he escorted her at length to the gate. 'He's quite fit to receive company, and it'll cheer him up no end. He's in a private ward, so you can get in any time.'

'I'll go straight away,' said Harriet.

'Do,' said Mr. Danvers. 'What's that?' he added turning to the porter, who had come out with a letter in his hand. 'Oh, something for Saint-George. Right. Yes. I expect the lady will take it up, if she's going now. If not, it can wait for the messenger.'

Harriet looked at the superscription. 'The Viscount Saint-George, Christ Church, Oxford, Inghilterra.' Even without the Italian stamp, there was no mistaking where that came from. 'I'll take it,' she said--'it might be urgent.'


Lord Saint-George, with his right arm in a sling, his forehead and one eye obscured by bandages and the other eye black and bloodshot, was profuse in welcome and apology.

'I hope Danvers looked after you all right. It's frightfully decent of you to come along.'

Harriet asked if he was badly hurt.

'Well, it might be worse. I fancy Uncle Peter had a near squeak of it this time, but it's worked out at a cut head and a busted shoulder. And shock and bruises and all that. Much less than I deserve. Stay and talk to me. It's dashed dull being all alone, and I've only got one eye and can't see out of that.'

'Won't talking make your head ache?'

'It can't ache worse than it does already. And you've got a nice voice. Do be kind and stay.'

'I've brought a letter for you from College.'

'Some dashed dun or other, I suppose.'

'No. It's from Rome.'

'Uncle Peter. Oh, God! I suppose I'd better know the worst.'

She put it into his left hand, and watched his fingers fumble across the broad red seal.

'Ugh! Sealing-wax and the family crest. I know what that means. Uncle Peter at his stuffiest.'

He struggled impatiently with the tough envelope.

'Shall I open it for you?'

'I wish you would. And, look here--be an angel and read it to me. Even with two good eyes, his fist's a bit of a strain.'

Harriet drew out the letter and glanced at the opening words.

'This looks rather private.'

'Better you than the nurse. Besides, I can bear it better with a spot of womanly sympathy. I say, is there any enclosure?'

'No enclosure. No.'

The patient groaned.

'Uncle Peter turns to bay. That's torn it. How does it start? If it's "Gherkins" or "Jerry," or even "Gerald," there's hope yet.'

'It starts, "My dear Saint-George."'

'Oh gosh! Then he's really furious. And signed with all the initials he can rake up, what?'

Harriet turned the letter over.

'Signed with all his names in full.'

'Unrelenting monster! You know, I had a sort of feeling he wouldn't take it very well. I don't know what the devil I'm going to do now.'

He looked so ill that Harriet said, rather anxiously:

'Hadn't we better leave it till to-morrow?'

'No. I must know where I stand. Carry on. Speak gently to your little boy. Sing it to me. It'll need it.'

My dear Saint-George,
If I have rightly understood your rather incoherent statement of your affairs, you have contracted a debt of honour for a sum which you do not possess. You have settled it with a cheque which you had no money to meet. As cover for this, you have borrowed from a friend, giving him a post-dated cheque which you have no reason to suppose will be met either. You suggest that I should accommodate you by backing your bill at six months; failing which, you will either (a) 'try Levy again,' or (b) blow your brains out. The former alternative would, as you admit, increase your ultimate liability; the second, as I will myself venture to point out, would not reimburse your friend but merely add disgrace to insolvency.

Lord Saint-George shifted restlessly upon his pillows. 'Nasty clear-headed way he has of putting things.'

You are good enough to say that you approach me rather than your father, because I am, in your opinion, more likely to be sympathetic to this dubious piece of finance. I cannot say I feel flattered by your opinion.

'I didn't mean that, exactly,' groaned the viscount. 'He knows quite well what I mean. The Governor would fly right off the handle. Damn it, it's his own fault! He oughtn't to keep me so short. What does he expect? Considering the money he got through in his giddy youth, he should know something about it. And Uncle Peter's rolling--it wouldn't hurt him to cough up a bit.'

'I don't think it's the money so much as the dud cheques, is it?'

'That's the trouble. Well, why the devil does he go barging off to Rome just when he's wanted? He knows I wouldn't have given a dud if I could have got cover for it. But I couldn't get him if he wasn't there. Well, read on. Let's hear the worst.'

I am quite aware that your premature decease would leave me heir-presumptive to the title--

'Heir-presumptive?... Oh, I see. My mother might peg out and my father marry again. Calculating brute.'

--heir presumptive to the title and estate. Tedious as such an inheritance might be, you will forgive me for suggesting that I might prove a more honest steward than yourself.

'Hell! That's one in the eye,' said the viscount. 'If that line of defence has gone, it's all up.'

You remind me that when you attain your majority next July, you will receive an increased allowance. Since, however the sum you have mentioned amounts to about a year's income on the higher scale of payment, your prospect of redeeming your bill in six months' time seems to be remote; nor do I understand what you propose to live on when you have anticipated your income to this extent. Further, I do not for one moment suppose that the sum in question represents the whole of your liabilities.

'Damned thought-reader!' growled his lordship. 'Of course it doesn't. But how does he know?'

In the circumstances, I must decline to back your bill or to lend you money.

'Well, that's flat. Why didn't he say so at once?'

Since, however, you have put your name to a cheque, and that name must not be dishonoured, I have instructed my bankers--

'Come! that sounds a bit better. Good old Uncle Peter! You can always get him on the family name.'

--instructed my bankers to arrange to cover your cheque--

'Cheque, or cheques?'

'Cheques, in the plural; quite distinctly.'

--cover your cheques from now until the time of my return to England when I shall come and see you. This will probably be before the end of the Trinity Term. I will ask you to see to it that the whole of your liabilities are discharged by that time, including your outstanding Oxford debts and your obligations to the children of Israel.

'First gleam of humanity,' said the viscount.

May I offer you, in addition, a little advice? Bear in mind that the amateur professional is peculiarly rapacious. This applies both to women and to people who play cards. If you must back horses, back them at a reasonable price and both ways. And, if you insist on blowing out your brains, do it in some place where you will not cause mess and inconvenience.

Your affectionate Uncle,
    Peter Death Bredon Wimsey.

'Whew!' said Lord Saint-George, 'that's a stinker! I fancy I detect a little softening in the last paragraph. Otherwise, I should say that a nastier kind of letter never came to soothe the sufferer's aching brow. What do you think?'

Harriet privately agreed that it was not the kind of letter she would care to receive. It displayed, in fact, almost everything that she resented most in Peter; the condescending superiority, the arrogance of caste and the generosity that was like a blow in the face. However:--

'He's done far more than you asked him,' she pointed out. 'So far as I can see, there's nothing to prevent you from drawing a cheque for fifty thousand and blueing the lot.'

'That's the devil of it. He's got me by the short hairs. He's trusted me with the whole dashed outfit. I did think he might offer to settle up for me, but he's left me to do it and hasn't even asked for an account. That means it'll have to be done. I don't see how I can get out of it. He has the most ingenious ways of making a fellow feel a sweep. Oh, hell! my head's splitting.'

'You'd better keep quiet and try to go to sleep. You've nothing to worry about now.'

'No. Wait a minute. Don't go away. The cheque's all right, that's the chief thing. Just as well, because I'd have had a job to raise the wind elsewhere, laid up like this. There's one thing about it--I can't use this arm, so I shan't have to write a long screed full of grateful penitence.'

'Does he know about your accident?'

'Not unless Aunt Mary's written to him. My Grandmother's on the Riviera, and I don't suppose it would occur to my sister. She's at school. The Governor never writes to anybody, and my Mother certainly wouldn't bother with Uncle Peter. Look here, I must do something. I mean, the old boy's been thoroughly decent, really. Couldn't you write a line for me, explaining all about it? I don't want to let my family in on this.'

'I'll do that, certainly.'

'Tell him I'll settle the blasted debts as soon as I can produce a recognisable signature. I say! think of having a free hand with Uncle Peter's pile and not being able to sign a cheque. Enough to make a cat laugh, isn't it? Say I--what's the phrase?--appreciate his confidence and won't let him down. Here! You might give me a spot of the stuff in that jug, would you? I feel like Dives in what's-his-name.'

He gulped the iced drink down gratefully.

'No, damn it! I must do something. The old boy's really worried. I think I can work these fingers after a fashion. Find me a pencil and paper and I'll have a shot.'

'I don't think you'd better.'

'Yes, I had better. And I will if it kills me. Find me something, there's a darling.'

She found writing materials, and held the paper in place while he scrawled a few staggering words. The pain made him sweat; a shoulder joint which has been dislocated and returned to position is no cushion of ease the day after; but he set his teeth and went through with it gamely.

'There,' he said, with a faint grin, 'that looks dashed pathetic. Now it's up to you. Do your best for me, won't you?'


Perhaps, thought Harriet, Peter knew the right way with his nephew. The boy was unblushingly ready to consider other people's money his own; and probably, if Peter had simply backed his bill, he would have thought his uncle easy game and proceeded to issue more paper on the same terms. As it was, he seemed inclined to stop and think. And he had, what she herself lacked, the grace of gratitude. His facile acceptance of favours might be a sign of shallowness; still, it had cost him something to scribble that painful note.

It was only when, in her own room after Hall, she set about writing to Peter, that she realised how awkward her own task was going to be. To put down a brief explanation of her own acquaintance with Lord Saint-George and a reassuring account of his accident was child's play. The difficulties began with the matter of the young man's finances. Her first draft ran easily; it was slightly humorous and rather gave the benefactor to understand that his precious balms were calculated to break the recipient's head, where other agents had not already broken it. She rather enjoyed writing this one. On reading it over, she was disappointed to find that it had an air of officious impertinence. She tore it up.

The students were making a vast noise of trampling and laughter in the corridor. Harriet briefly cursed them and tried again.

The second draft began stiffly: 'Dear Peter--I am writing on behalf of your nephew, who has unfortunately--'

This one, when finished, conveyed the impression that she disapproved strongly of uncle and nephew alike, and was anxious to dissociate herself as far as possible from their affairs.

She tore it up, cursed the students again and made a third draft.

This, when completed, turned out to be a moving, and, indeed, powerful piece of special pleading on the young sinner's behalf, but contained remarkably little of the gratitude and repentance which she had been instructed to convey. The fourth draft, erring in the opposite direction, was merely fulsome.

'What the devil is the matter with me?' she said aloud. (Damn those noisy brats!) Why can't I write a straightforward piece of English on a set subject?'

When she had once formulated the difficulty in this plain question, the detached intellect bent meekly to its academic task and produced the answer.

'Because, however you put it, all this is going to hurt his pride damnably.'

Answer adjudged correct.

What she had to say, stripped of its verbiage, was: Your nephew has been behaving foolishly and dishonestly, and I know it; he gets on badly with his parents, and I know that, too; he has taken me into his confidence and, what is more, into yours, where I have no right to be; in fact, I know a great many things you would rather I did not know, and you can't lift a hand to prevent it.

In fact, for the first time in their acquaintance, she had the upper hand of Peter Wimsey, and could rub his aristocratic nose in the dirt if she wanted to. Since she had been looking for such an opportunity for five years, it would be odd if she did not hasten to take advantage of it.

Slowly and with extreme pains, she started on Draft No. 5.

Dear Peter,

I don't know whether you know that your nephew is in the Infirmary, recovering from what might have been a nasty motor accident. His right shoulder is dislocated and his head badly cut; but he is getting on all right and is lucky not to have been killed. Apparently he skidded into a telegraph pole. I don't know the details; perhaps you have already heard from his people. I met him by chance a few days ago, and only heard of the accident to-day, when I went round to see him.

So far, so good; now for the awkward bit.

One of his eyes was bandaged up and the other badly swollen, so he asked me to read him a letter he had just that moment received from you. (Please don't think his sight is damaged--I asked the nurse, and it's only cuts and bruises.) There was nobody else to read it to him, as his parents left Oxford this morning. As he can't write much himself, he asks me to send you the enclosed and to say he thanks you very much and is sorry. He appreciates your confidence and will do exactly as you ask him, as soon as he is well enough.

She hoped there was nothing there that could offend. She had started to write 'honourably do as you ask,' and then erased the first word: to mention honour was to suggest its opposite. Her consciousness seemed to have become all one exposed nerve-centre, sensitive to the lightest breath of innuendo in her own words.

I didn't stay long, as he was really a good bit under the weather, but they assure me he is doing very well. He insisted on writing this note himself, though I suppose I oughtn't to have let him. I'll look him up again before I leave Oxford--entirely for my own sake, because he is perfectly charming. I hope you don't mind my saying so, though I'm sure you don't need to be told it.

            ---Harriet D. Vane.

I seem to be taking a lot of trouble about this, she thought, as she carefully re-read it. If I believed Miss de Vine, I might begin to imagine--damn those students!--Would anybody believe it could take one two hours to write a simple letter?

She put the letter resolutely into an envelope, and addressed and stamped it. Nobody, having put on a twopenny-halfpenny stamp, was ever known to open the envelope again. That was done. For a couple of hours now she would devote herself to the affairs of Sheridan Lefanu.


She worked away happily till half-past ten; the racket in the passage calmed down; words flowed smoothly. From time to time, she looked up from her paper, hesitating for a word, and saw through the window the lights of Burleigh and Queen Elizabeth burning back across the quad, counterparts of her own. Many of them, no doubt, illuminated cheerful parties, like the one in the Annexe; others lent their aid to people who, like herself, were engaged in the elusive pursuit of knowledge, covering paper with ink and hesitating now and again over a word. She felt herself to be a living part of a community engaged in a common purpose. 'Wilkie Collins,' wrote Harriet, 'was always handicapped in his treatment of the supernatural by the fatal itch' (could one be handicapped by an itch? Yes, why not? Let it go, anyway, for the moment) 'the fatal itch to explain everything. His legal training--' Bother! Too long. ' ... was handicapped by the lawyer's fatal habit of explaining everything. His ghaisties and ghoulies'--No; worn-out humour--'His dream-phantasms and apparitions are too careful to tuck their shrouds neatly about them and leave no loose ends to trouble us. It is in Lefanu that we find the natural maker of--natural master of--the master of the uncanny whose mastery comes by nature. If we compare--'

Before the comparison could be instituted, the lamp went suddenly out.

'Curse!' said Harriet. She rose and pressed down the wall-switch. Nothing happened. 'Fused!' said Harriet, opening the door to investigate. The corridor was in darkness, and a lamentable outcry on either side proclaimed that the lights were out in the whole of Tudor.

Harriet snatched her torch from the table and turned right towards the main block of the building. She was soon swept into a crowd of students, some with torches and some clinging to those that had them, all clamouring and wanting to know what was wrong with the lights.

'Shut up!' said Harriet, peering behind the barrier of the torch-lights to find anybody she recognised. 'The main fuse must have gone. Where's the fuse-box?'

'I think it's under the stairs,' said somebody.

'Stay where you are,' said Harriet. 'I'll go and see.'

Nobody, naturally, stayed where she was. Everybody came helpfully and angrily downstairs.

'It's the Poltergeist,' said somebody.

'Let's catch her this time,' said somebody else.

'Perhaps it's only blown,' suggested a timid voice out of the darkness.

'Blown be blowed!' exclaimed a louder voice, scornfully. 'How often does a main fuse blow?' Then, in an agitated whisper, 'Hellup, it's the Chilperic. Sorry I spoke.'

'Is that you, Miss Chilperic?' said Harriet, glad to round up one member of the Senior Common Room. 'Have you met Miss Barton anywhere?'

'No, I've only just got out of bed.'

'Miss Barton isn't there,' said a voice from the hall below, and then another voice chimed in:

'Somebody's pulled out the main fuse and taken it away!'

And then, in a shrill cry from someone at the end of the lower corridor: 'There she goes! Look! running across the quad!'

Harriet was carried down the stairs with a rush of twenty or thirty students into the midst of those already milling in the hall. There was a cram in the doorway. She lost Miss Chilperic and was left behind in the struggle. Then, as she thrust her way through on to the terrace, she saw under the dim sky a string of runners stretched across the quad. Voices were calling shrilly. Then, as the first half-dozen or so of the pursuers were outlined against the blazing lower windows of Burleigh, those lights too were blacked out.

She ran, desperately--not to Burleigh, where the uproar was repeating itself, but to Queen Elizabeth, which, she judged, would be the next point of attack. The side-doors would, she knew, be locked. She dashed past the hall stair and through to the portico, where she flung herself upon the main door. That was locked also. She stepped back and shouted through the nearest window: 'Look out! There's somebody in here playing tricks. I'm coming in.' A student put out a tousled head. Other heads appeared. 'Let me get past,' said Harriet, flinging the sash up, and hauling herself up over the sill. 'They're putting out all the lights in College. Where's your fuse-box?'

'I'm sure I don't know,' said the student, as Harriet plunged across the room.

'Of course you wouldn't!' said Harriet, unreasonably. She flung the door open and burst out--into Stygian blackness. By this time the hue-and-cry had reached Queen Elizabeth. Somebody found the front door and unlocked it, and the tumult increased, those within surging out and those outside surging in. A voice said: 'Somebody came through my room and went out of the window, just after the lights went out.' Torches appeared. Here and there a face--mostly unfamiliar--was momentarily lit up. Then the lights in the New Quad began to go out also, beginning on the South side. Everybody was running aimlessly. Harriet, dashing along the plinth, cannoned full tilt into somebody and flashed the torch in her face. It was the Dean.

'Thank God!' said Harriet. 'Here's somebody in the right place.' She held on to her.

'What's happening?' said the Dean.

'Stand still,' said Harriet: 'I'll have an alibi for you if I die for it.' As she spoke, the lights on the North-East went out. 'You're all right,' said Harriet. 'Now then! make for the West Staircase and we'll catch her.'

The same idea seemed to have occurred to a number of other people, for the entrance to the West staircase was blocked with a crowd of students, while a crowd of scouts, released by Carrie from their own Wing, added to the congestion. Harriet and the Dean forced a pathway through them, and found Miss Lydgate standing bewildered, and clasping her proof-sheets to her bosom, being determined that this time nothing should happen to them. They scooped her up with them--'like playing "Staggie"' thought Harriet--and made their way to the fuse-boxes under the stairs. There they found Padgett, grimly on guard, with his trousers hastily pulled on over his pyjamas and a rolling-pin in his hand.

'They don't get this,' said Padgett. 'You leave it to me, madam Dean, miss. Just turning into my bed, I was, all the late-leave ladies being in. My wife's telephoning across to Jackson to fetch over some new fuses. Have you seen the boxes, miss? Wrenched open with a chisel, they was, or summat of that. A nice thing to happen. But they won't get this.'

Nor did 'they.' In the West side of the New Quad, the Warden's House, the Infirmary, and the Scouts' Wing entrenched behind its relocked grille, the lights burned on steadily. But when Jackson arrived with the new fuses, every darkened building showed its trail of damage. While Padgett had sat by the mouse-hole, waiting for the mouse that did not come, the Poltergeist had passed through the college, breaking ink-bottles, flinging papers into the fire, smashing lamps and crockery and throwing books through the window-panes. In the Hall, where the main fuse had also been taken, the silver cups on the High Table had been hurled at the portraits, breaking the glass, and the plaster bust of a Victorian benefactor pitched down the stone stair, to end in a fragmentary trail of detached side-whiskers and disintegrated features.

'Well!' said the Dean, surveying the wreckage. 'That's one thing to be grateful for. We've seen the last of the Reverend Melchisedek Entwistle. But, oh, lord!'
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