Tag Archive: heyer


never knew heyer wrote mysteries too………………gud ones too . love this neville character and his fiance , forgot her name .

A breeze, hardly more than a whisper of wind, stirred the curtains at the long window,and wafted into the room the scent of the wisteria covering the wall of the house. The policeman turned his head as the curtains faintly rustled, his rather glassy blue eyes frowning and suspicious. Straightening himself, for he had been bending over the figure of a man seated behind the carved knee-hole desk in the middle of the room, he trod over to the window and looked out into the dusky garden. His torch explored the shadows cast by two flowering shrubs without, however, revealing anything but a nondescript cat, whose eyes caught and flung back the light for an instant before the animal glided into the recesses of the shrub. There was no other sign of life in the garden, and after a moment of keen scrutiny, the policeman turned back into the room, and went to the desk. The man behind it paid no heed, for he was dead, as the policeman had already ascertained. His head lay on the open blotter, with blood congealing in his sleek, pomaded hair.

Glass laid down the receiver, and restored his handkerchief to his pocket. “Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in his riches,” he said.

The sombre pronouncement recalled Simmons’s thoughts. He gave a sympathetic groan. “That’s true, Mr. Glass. Woe to the crown of pride! But how did it happen? How do you come to be here? Oh dear, oh dear, I never thought to be mixed up with a thing like this!”

Yes, but I don’t like murders. So inartistic, don’t you think? Besides, they don’t happen.”

“This has happened, sir,” said Glass, a little puzzled.

“Yes, that’s what upsets me. Murders only occur in other people’s families. Not even in one’s own circle. Ever noticed that? No, I suppose not. Nothing in one’s experience – one had thought it so wide! – has taught one how to cope with such a bizarre situation.”

He ended on an uncertain laugh; it was plain that under his flippancy he was shaken. The butler looked at him curiously, and then at Glass, who, after staring at Neville Fletcher for a moment, licked his pencil-point, and asked: “When did you see Mr. Fletcher last, if you please, sir?”

“At dinner. In the dining-room, I mean. No, let us be exact; not the dining-room; the hall.”

“Make up your mind, sir,” recommended Glass stolidly.

“Oh! And what about Mr. Neville? Was he annoyed?”

“I shouldn’t like to say, Sergeant. Mr. Neville is a peculiar young gentleman, not given to showing what he feels, if he feels anything, which I sometimes doubt.”

“Well I do, frequently,” said Neville, who had come into the room in time to hear this remark.

The Sergeant, unaccustomed to young Mr. Fletcher’s noiseless way of entering rooms, was momentarily startled. Neville smiled in his deprecating fashion, and said softly: ‘Good-evening. Isn’t it shocking? I do hope you’ve arrived at something? My aunt would like to see you before you go. Do you know who killed my uncle?”

“It’s early days to ask me that, sir,” replied the Sergeant guardedly.

“Your words hint at a prolonged period of suspense, which I find peculiarly depressing.”

“Very unpleasant for all concerned, sir,” agreed the Sergeant. He turned to Simmons. “That’ll be all for the present,” he said.

Simmons withdrew, and the Sergeant, who had been eyeing Neville with a good deal of curiosity, invited him to sit down. Neville obligingly complied with this request, choosing a deep armchair by the fireplace. The Sergeant said politely: “I’m hoping you may be able to help me, sir. I take it you were pretty intimate with the deceased?”

“Oh no!” said Neville, shocked. “I shouldn’t have liked that at all.”

“No, sir? Am I to understand you were not on good terms with Mr. Fletcher?”

“But I was. I’m on good terms with everyone. Only I’m not intimate.”

“Well, but, what I mean, sir, is -‘

“Yes, yes, I know what you mean. Did I know the secrets of my uncle’s life? No, Sergeant: I hate secrets, and other people’s troubles.”

He said this with an air of sweet affability. The Sergeant was a little taken aback, but rallied, and said: “At all events, you knew him fairly well, sir?”

“We won’t argue the point,” murmured Neville.

“Do you know if he had any enemies?”

“Well, obviously he had, hadn’t he?”

“Yes, sir, but what I’m trying to establish -‘

“I know, but you see I’m just as much at a loss as you are. You weren’t acquainted with my uncle?”

“I can’t say as I was, sir.”

Neville blew one smoke ring through another, and watched it dreamily. “Everybody called him Ernie,” he sighed. “Or Ernie dear, according to sex. You see?”

The Sergeant stared for a moment, and then said slowly: “I think I get you, sir. I’ve always heard him well spoken of, I’m bound to say. I take it you don’t know of any person with a grudge against him?”

Neville shook his head. The Sergeant looked at him rather discontentedly, and consulted Glass’s notebook. “I see you state that after you left the dining-room you went into the billiard-room, where you remained until Miss Fletcher came to find you. At what hour would that have been?”

Neville smiled apologetically.

“You don’t know, sir? No idea at all? Try and think!”

“Alas, time has hitherto meant practically nothing to me. Does it help if I say that my aunt mentioned that a most peculiar visitor was with my uncle? A fat little man, who carried his hat in his hand. She had seen him in the hall.”

“Did you see this man?” asked the Sergeant quickly.

“No.”

“You don’t know whether he was still with your uncle when you went up to your room?”

“Sergeant, Sergeant, do you think I listen at keyholes?”

“Of course not, sir, but -‘

“At least, not when I’m wholly incurious,” explained Neville, temporising.

“Well, sir, we’ll say that some time between 9.00 and 10.00 you went up to your room.”

“At half-past nine,” said Neville.

“At – A moment ago, sir, you said you had no idea what time it was!”

“Oh, I hadn’t, but I remember now one solitary cuckoo.”

The Sergeant shot a startled look towards Glass, standing motionless and disapproving by the door. A suspicion that the eccentric Neville Fletcher was of unsound mind had darted into his brain. “What might you mean by that, sir?”

“Only the clock on the landing,” said Neville.

“A cuckoo-clock! Well, really, sir, for a moment I thought – And it struck the half-hour?”

“Yes, but it’s quite often wrong.”

“We’ll go into that presently. Which way does your room face, sir?”

“North.”

“It’s at the back of the house, then? Would it be possible for you to hear anyone coming up the side path?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t hear anyone, but I wasn’t trying to.

“Quite,” said the Sergeant. “Well, I think that’ll be all for the present, thank you, sir. Of course, you understand that you will not be able to leave this house for a day or two? Just a matter of routine, you know. We’ll hope it won’t be long before we get the whole thing cleared up.”

“Yes, let’s,” agreed Neville. His gaze dwelt speculatively on a picture on the wall opposite the fireplace. “It wouldn’t be robbery, would it?”

“Hardly, sir, but of course we can’t say definitely yet. It isn’t likely a burglar would come when Mr. Fletcher was still up, not to mention the rest of the household.”

“No. Only the safe is behind that picture -just in case you didn’t know.”

“Yes, sir, so the butler informed me. We’ve been over it for finger-prints, and as soon as we can get Mr. Fletcher’s lawyer down we’ll have it opened. Yes, Hepworth? Found anything?”

The last words were addressed to a constable who had stepped into the room through the window.

“Not much, Sergeant, but I’d like you to have a look at one thing.”

The Sergeant went at once; Neville uncoiled himself, got up, and wandered out of the room in his wake. “Don’t mind me coming, do you?” he murmured, as the Sergeant turned his head.

“I don’t see as there’s any objection, sir. The fact is, a man was seen sneaking out by the side gate just after 10 p.m., and unless I’m mistaken he’s the chap we’re after.”

“A – a fat man?” suggested Neville, blinking.

“Ah, that would be too easy, wouldn’t it, sir?” said the Sergeant indulgently. “No, just an ordinary looking chap in a soft hat. Well, Hepworth, what is it?”

The constable had led the way to the back of a flowering currant bush, which was planted in a bed close to the house. He directed the beam of his torch on to the ground. In the soft earth were the deep imprints of a pair of high-heeled shoes.

“They’re freshly made, Sergeant,” said Hepworth. “Someone’s been hiding behind this bush.”

“The Women in the Case!” said Neville. “Aren’t we having fun?”

The Sergeant had found himself listening to a panegyric  ( A panegyric is a formal public speech, or (in later use) written verse, delivered in high praise of a person or thing,   ) on the late Ernest Fletcher: how charming he was; how popular; what perfect manners he had; how kind he had always been to his sister; how gay; how dashing; how generous! Out of this turmoil of words certain facts had emerged. Neville was the son of Ernie’s brother Ted, many years deceased, and certainly his heir. Neville was a dear boy, but you never knew what he would be up to next, and – yes, it did annoy poor Ernie when he got himself imprisoned in some horrid Balkan state – oh, nothing serious, but Neville was so hopelessly vague, and simply lost his passport. As for the Russian woman who had appeared at Neville’s hotel with all her luggage before breakfast one morning in Budapest, saying he had invited her at some party the night before – well, one couldn’t exactly approve, of course, but young men did get drunk sometimes, and anyway the woman was obviously no better than she should be, and really Neville was not like that at all. At the same time, one did rather feel for Ernie, having to buy the creature off. But it was quite, quite untrue to say that Ernie didn’t like Neville: they hadn’t much in common, but blood was thicker than water, and Ernie was always so understanding.

Questioned more closely, no, she knew of no one who nourished the least grudge against her brother. She thought the murderer must have been one of these dreadful maniacs one read about in the papers.

The Sergeant got away from her, not without difficulty, and very soon left the house. Aunt and nephew confronted one another in the drawing-room.

“I feel as though this were all a horrible nightmare!” said Miss Fletcher, putting a hand to her head. “There’s a policeman in the hall, and they’ve locked dear Ernie’s study!”

“Does it worry you?” asked Neville. “Was there anything there you wished to destroy?”

“That,” said Miss Fletcher, “would be most dishonest. Not but what I feel sure Ernie would have preferred it to having strangers poking their noses into his affairs. Of course I wouldn’t destroy anything important, but I’m sure there isn’t anything. Only you know what men are, dear, even the best of them.”

“No, do tell me!”

“Well,” said Miss Fletcher, “one shuts one’s eyes to That Side of a Man’s life, but I’m afraid, Neville, that there have been Women. And some of them, I think – though of course I don’t know – not what I call Nice Women.”

“Men are funny like that,” said Neville dulcetly.

“Yes, dear, and naturally I was very thankful, because at one time I made sure Ernie would get caught.”

“Caught?”

“Marriage,” explained Miss Fletcher. “That would have been a great blow to me. Only, luckily, he wasn’t a very constant man.”

Neville looked at her in surprise. She smiled unhappily at him, apparently unaware of having said anything remarkable. She looked the acme of respectability; a plump, faded lady, with wispy grey hair and mild eyes, red-rimmed from crying, and a prim little mouth, innocent of lip-stick.

“I’m now definitely upset,” said Neville. “I think I’ll go to bed.”

She said distressfully: “Oh dear, is it what I’ve told you? But it’s bound to come out, so you had to know sooner or later.”

“Not my uncle; my aunt!” said Neville.

“You do say such odd things, dear,” she said. “You’re overwrought, and no wonder. Ought I to offer that policeman some refreshment?”

He left her engaged in conversation with the officer on duty in the hall, and went up to his own room. After a short interval his aunt tapped on his door, desiring to know whether he felt all right. He called out to her that he was quite all right, but sleepy, and so after exchanging good-nights with him, and promising not to disturb him again, Miss Fletcher went away to her own bedroom in the front of the house.

Neville Fletcher, having locked his door, climbed out of his window, and reached the ground by means of a stout drain-pipe, and the roof of the verandah outside the drawing-room.

The garden lay bathed in moonlight. In case a watch had been set over the side entrance, Neville made his way instead to the wall at the end of the garden, which separated it from the Arden Road. Espaliers trained up it made the scaling of it a simple matter. Neville reached the top, lowered himself on the other side, and let himself drop. He landed with the ease of the trained athlete, paused to light a cigarette, and began to walk westwards along the road. A hundred yards brought him to a crossroad running parallel to Maple Grove. He turned up it, and entered the first gateway he came to. A big, square house was sharply outlined by the moonshine, lights shining through the curtains of several of the windows. One of these, on the ground-floor to the left of the front door, stood open. Neville went to it, parted the curtains, and looked into the room.

A woman sat at an escritoire, writing, the light of a reading-lamp touching her gold hair with fire. She wore evening dress, and a brocade cloak hung over the back of her chair. Neville regarded her thoughtfully for a moment, and then stepped into the room.

She looked up quickly, and gave a sobbing gasp of shock. The fright of her eyes gave place almost immediately to an expression of relief. Colour rushed into her lovely face; she caught her hand to her breast, saying faintly: ‘Neville! Oh, how you startled me!”

“That’s nothing to what I’ve been through tonight,” replied Neville. “Such fun and games at Greystones, my dear: you wouldn’t believe!”

She shut her blotter upon her half-finished letter. “You haven’t got them?” she asked, between eagerness and incredulity.

“All I’ve got is the jitters,” said Neville. He strolled over to her, and to her surprise went down on his knee.

“Neville, what on earth – ?”

“Are you an escapist?” inquired Neville solicitously. “Is that why you write improbable novels? Have you felt the banality of real life to be intolerable?”

“My novels aren’t improbable! It may interest you to know that the critics consider me as one of the six most important crime novelists.”

“If you think that you’re a bad judge of character,” said Neville.

Helen gave a strangled shriek of exasperation. “Oh, don’t, don’t! What does any of that matter at a time like this? What am I to do?”

Sally turned away from Neville. “All right, let’s get this thing straight,” she said. “I don’t feel I’ve got all the data. When did you start falling for Ernie Fletcher?”

“I didn’t. Only he was so attractive, and – and he had a sort of sympathetic understanding. Almost a touch of the feminine, but not quite that, either. I can’t explain. Ernie made you feel as though you were made of very brittle, precious porcelain.”

“That must have added excitement to your life,” said Neville reflectively.

 

“Lummy!” said Miss Drew elegantly. “Gilded vice, and haggard harpies, and suicides adjacent? All that sort of thing?”

“It wasn’t gilded, and I don’t know about any suicides, but it was a bad place, and yet – in a way – rather thrilling. If John knew of it – the people who belonged to it – Sally, no one would believe I wasn’t a bad woman if it was known I went to that place!”

“Well, why did you go there?”

“Oh, for the thrill! Like one goes to Limehouse. And at first it sort of got me. I adored the excitement of the play. Then I lost rather a lot of money, and like a fool I thought I could win it back. I expect you know how one gets led on, and on.”

“Why not have sold your pearls?”

A wan smile touched Helen’s lips. “Because they aren’t worth anything.”

“What?” Sally gasped.

“Copies,” said Helen bitterly. “I sold the real ones ages ago. Other things, too. I’ve always been an extravagant little beast, and John warned me he wouldn’t put up with it. So I sold things.”

“Helen!”

Neville, who had been reposing in a luxurious chair with his eyes shut, said sleepily: “You said you wanted copy, didn’t you?”

“Even if it didn’t concern Helen I couldn’t use this,” said Sally. “Not my line of country at all. I shall have to concentrate on the murder. By the way, Helen, who introduced you to this hell? Dear Ernie?”

“Oh no, no!” Helen cried. “He absolutely rescued me from it! I can’t tell you how divine he was. He said everything would be all right, and I wasn’t to worry any more, but just be a good child for the future.”

“Snake!” said Sally hotly.

“Yes, only – it didn’t seem like that. He had such a way with him! He got hold of those ghastly IOUs, and at first I was so thankful!”

“Then he blackmailed you!”

“N – no, he didn’t. Not quite. I can’t tell you about that, but it wasn’t exactly as you imagine. Of course, he did use the IOUs as a weapon, but perhaps he didn’t really mean it! It was all done so – so laughingly, and he was very much in love with me. I expect I lost my head a bit, didn’t handle him properly. But I got frightened, and I couldn’t sleep for thinking of my IOUs in Ernie’s possession. That’s why I told Neville. I thought he might be able to do something.”

“Neville?” said Miss Drew, in accents of withering contempt. “You might as well have applied to a village idiot!”

“I know, but there wasn’t anyone else. And he is clever, in spite of being so hopeless.”

“As judged by village standards?” inquired Neville, mildly interested.

“He may have a kind of brain, but I’ve yet to hear of him putting himself out for anyone, or behaving like an ordinarily nice person. I can’t think how you ever succeeded in persuading him to take it on.”

“The dripping of water on a stone,” murmured Neville.

“Well having taken it on, I do think you might have put your back into it. Did you even try?”

“Yes, it was a most painful scene.”

“Why? Was Ernie furious?”

“Not so much furious as astonished. So was I. You ought to have seen me giving my impersonation of a Nordic public-school man with a reverence for good form and the done-thing. I wouldn’t like to swear I didn’t beg him to play the game. Ernie ended up by being nauseated, and I’m sure I’m not surprised.”

“You know, you’re not hard-hearted, you’re just soulless,” Sally informed him. She glanced at her sister. “Was I invited to stay to be a chaperon?”

“Yes, in a way. Besides, I wanted you.”

“Thanks a lot. What happened tonight?”

“Oh, nothing, Sally, nothing! It was silly of me, but I thought if only I could talk quietly to Ernie, and – and throw myself on his generosity, everything would be all right. You were busy with your book, so I got my cloak, and just slipped round by the back way to Greystones, on the off chance of finding Ernie in his study.”

“Oh, don’t be a fool! Don’t you realise you’ll have led them straight to Helen?”

“Oh no! No, really I haven’t,” Neville replied, with his apologetic smile. “I climbed out of my window, and over the wall.”

“You – Did you really?” exclaimed Sally, her thunderous frown vanishing. “I must say I should never have thought it of you.”

“Atavism,” he explained.

“Oh, Neville, how on earth did you manage it?” Helen asked, a note of admiration in her voice.

He looked alarmed. “Please don’t get misled! It wasn’t a bit heroic, or daring, or even difficult.”

“It must have been. I can’t think how you did it! I should never have had the nerve.”

“No nerve. Merely one of the advantages of a University education.”

.

just books programme

today 24th sep on just books    Philip Larkin , Kingsley Amis  – The Riverside Villas Murder , Georgette Heyer .

bbc weekend world – sculptor Antony Gormley http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_Gormley places works on alps etc.

File:Leighton-Stitching the Standard.jpghttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Leighton-Stitching_the_Standard.jpg

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