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Lord Peter Wimsey has 37 entries in the series. OverDrive Listen 9 · Adobe PDF eBook 1 · cover image of The Complete Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries. 'Peter?' said Lady Peter Wimsey to her lord. 'What were the Attenbury emeralds?' Lord Peter Wimsey lowered The Times, and contemplated his wife across the. The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries Volume One by Dorothy L. Sayers - ebook.
My mother was dead then, and I was living by myself in lodgings. Well, one day I got a letter from my intended, saying that she had seen me down at Southend on the Sunday, and that was enough for her. All was over between us. It's a cruel thing to be ill all alone in lodgings, and nobody to look after you. You might die there all on your own and nobody the wiser. Just an unfurnished room I had, you see, and no attendance, and not a soul came near me, though I was pretty bad.
But my young lady she said as she had seen me down at Southend with another young woman, and she would take no excuse. Of course, I said, what was she doing down at Southend without me, anyhow, and that tore it.
She sent me back the ring, and the episode, as they say, was closed. I thought I'd been half sick and half asleep in my lodgings, but it was misty-like to me. And knowing the things I had done other times—well, there! I hadn't any clear recollection one way or another, except fever-dreams. I had a vague recollection of wandering and walking somewhere for hours together. Delirious, I thought I was, but it might have been sleep-walking for all I knew.
I hadn't a leg to stand on by way of evidence. I felt it very hard, losing my intended like that, but I could have got over that if it hadn't been for the fear of myself and my brain giving way or something. But now I'll tell you something. There was one thing as always haunted me—a thing that had frightened me as a little chap.
My mother, though she was a good, strict woman, liked to go to a cinema now and again. Of course, in those days they weren't like what they are now, and I expect we should think those old pictures pretty crude if we was to see them, but we thought a lot of them at that time.
When I was about seven or eight I should think, she took me with her to see a thing—I remember the name now— The Student of Prague , it was called. I've forgotten the story, but it was a costume piece, about a young fellow at the university who sold himself to the devil, and one day his reflection came stalking out of the mirror on its own, and went about committing dreadful crimes, so that everybody thought it was him. At least, I think it was that, but I forget the details, it's so long ago.
But what I shan't forget in a hurry is the fright it gave me to see that dretful figure come out of the mirror. It was that ghastly to see it, I cried and yelled, and after a time mother had to take me out. For months and years after that I used to dream of it. I'd dream I was looking in a great long glass, same as the student in the picture, and after a bit I'd see my reflection smiling at me and I'd walk up to the mirror holding out my left hand, it might be, and seeing myself walking to meet me with its right hand out.
And just as it came up to me, it would suddenly—that was the awful moment—turn its back on me and walk away into the mirror again, grinning over its shoulder, and suddenly I'd know that it was the real person and I was only the reflection, and I'd make a dash after it into the mirror, and then everything would go grey and misty round me and with the horror of it I'd wake up all of a perspiration.
When I was a kid, my nurse had a trick that frightened me. If we'd been out, and she was asked if we'd met anybody, she used to say, 'Oh, no—we saw nobody nicer than ourselves. Of course I'd have rather died than tell a soul how the thing terrified me. Rum little beasts, kids. At first it was only at intervals, you know, but it grew on me. At last it started coming every night. I hadn't hardly closed my eyes before there was the long mirror and the thing coming grinning along, always with its hand out as if it meant to catch hold of me and pull me through the glass.
Sometimes I'd wake up with the shock, but sometimes the dream went on, and I'd be stumbling for hours through a queer sort [Pg 14] of world—all mist and half-lights, and the walls would be all crooked like they are in that picture of 'Dr. Many's the time I've sat up all night for fear of going to sleep. I didn't know, you see. I used to lock the bedroom door and hide the key for fear—you see, I didn't know what I might be doing.
But then I read in a book that sleep-walkers can remember the places where they've hidden things when they were awake. So that was no use. The dream went away then. I had blessed peace for three years. I was fond of that girl. Damned fond of her. Then she died. I felt bad about it. I couldn't—I didn't like—but the dreams came back. I dreamed about doing things—well!
That doesn't matter now. I was still at Crichton's. Head of the packing department I was then, and doing pretty well. It was a wet beast of a day, I remember—dark and drizzling. I wanted a hair-cut. There's a barber's shop on the south side, about half way along—one of those places where you go down a passage and there's a door at the end with a mirror and the name written across it in gold letters. You know what I mean. There was a light in the passage, so I could see quite plainly.
As I got up to the mirror I could see my reflection coming to meet me, and all of a sudden the awful dream-feeling came over me. I told myself it was all nonsense and put my hand out to the door-handle—my left hand, because the handle was that side and I was still apt to be left-handed when I didn't think about it.
It was grinning at me—and then just like in the dream, it suddenly turned its back and walked away from me, looking over its shoulder——. I woke up in my own bed and there was a doctor with me. He told me I had fainted in the street, and they'd found some letters on me with my address and taken me home. They put me on to inspecting their outdoor publicity. You know. One goes round from town to town inspecting the hoardings and seeing what posters are damaged or badly placed and reporting on them.
They gave me a Morgan to run about in. I'm on that job now. But I still have them. Only a few nights ago it came to me. One of the worst I've ever had. Fighting and strangling in a black, misty place. I'd tracked the devil—my other self—and got him down. I can feel my fingers on his throat now—killing myself.
The fourth dimension … it's not a thing I ever heard of, but this man Wells seems to know all about it. You're educated now. Daresay you've been to college and all that. What do you think about it, eh? Nerves and all that. Legends, you talked of. Well, there's some people think those medeeval johnnies knew quite a lot.
I don't say I believe in devils and all that. But maybe some of them may have been afflicted, same as me. It stands to reason they wouldn't talk such a lot about it if they hadn't felt it, if you see what I mean. But what I'd like to know is, can't I get back any way?
I tell you, it's a weight on my mind. I never know, you see. And I'd get married. Then you'd have a check on your movements, don't you see. And the dreams might go again. I've thought of that. But—did you read about that man the other day? Strangled his wife in his sleep, that's what he did. Now, supposing I—that would be a terrible thing to happen to a man, wouldn't it? Those dreams …". He shook his head and stared thoughtfully into the fire. Wimsey, after a short interval of silence, got up and went out into the bar.
The landlady and the waiter and the barmaid were there, their heads close together over the evening paper. They were talking animatedly, but stopped abruptly at the sound of Wimsey's footsteps.
Ten minutes later, Wimsey returned to the lounge. The little man had gone. Taking up his motoring-coat, which he had flung on a chair, Wimsey went upstairs to his bedroom.
He undressed slowly and thoughtfully, put on his pyjamas and dressing-gown, and then, pulling a copy of the Evening News from his motoring-coat pocket, he studied a front-page item attentively for some time. Presently he appeared to come to some decision, for he got up and opened his door cautiously. The passage was empty and dark. Wimsey switched on a torch and walked [Pg 16] quietly along, watching the floor. Opposite one of the doors he stopped, contemplating a pair of shoes which stood waiting to be cleaned.
Then he softly tried the door. It was locked. He tapped cautiously. The little man looked at him, scared, but did as he was told. Wimsey gathered the folds of his dressing-gown closely about him, screwed his monocle more firmly into his eye, and sat down on the edge of the bed.
He looked at Mr. Duckworthy a few minutes without speaking, and then said:. You've told me a queerish story to-night. For some reason I believe you.
Possibly it only shows what a silly ass I am, but I was born like that, so it's past praying for. Nice, trusting nature and so on.
Have you seen the paper this evening? He pushed the Evening News into Mr. Duckworthy's hand and bent the monocle on him more glassily than ever. On the front page was a photograph. Underneath was a panel in bold type, boxed for greater emphasis:. The photograph bears on the back the words 'J. Oh, God! It's come at last. But as sure as I'm born I knew nothing about it. Though how it came there I don't know. I haven't had one taken for donkey's years, on my oath I haven't—except once in a staff group at Crichton's.
But I tell you, sir, honest-to-God, there's times when I don't know what I'm doing, and that's a fact.
The left eyelid droops a little. That's correct, too. The forehead here seems to have a distinct bulge on the left side—unless that's an accident in the printing.
Duckworthy swept his tousled cowlick aside. With the ginger lock pushed back, his resemblance to the photograph was more startling than before. Slants up to the left. Very attractive, a one-sided smile, I always think—on a face of your type, that is.
I have known such things to look positively sinister. Never heard of her—except, of course, that I read about the murder in the papers. Strangled—oh, my God! They've recognised you down in the bar. The police will probably be here in a few minutes. No,"—as Duckworthy made an attempt to get out of bed—"don't do that. It's no good, and it would only get you into worse trouble. Keep quiet and answer one or two questions.
First of all, do you know who I am? No, how should you? My name's Wimsey—Lord Peter Wimsey——". She came from somewhere in Surrey, I think. Aunt Susan, I used to call her. I haven't seen her since I was a kid. And were you ever ill as a child? To have the doctor, I mean? This question came so unexpectedly as to stagger the wits of Mr. Duckworthy, but after a while he said he thought it was Biggs or Briggs. Except—oh, yes! What is your Christian name? As far as I know, you know.
Oh, my Lord! If only it was possible to prove an alibi! That's my only chance. But I'm so afraid, you see, that I may have done it. Do you think—do you think they would hang me for that? He did not add that, even so, his acquaintance might probably pass the rest of his life at Broadmoor. Duckworthy, "if I'm to go about all my life killing people without knowing it, it would be much better that they should hang me and done with it.
It's a terrible thing to think of. He stood up as a knock came at the door, and said heartily, "Come in! What can we do for you? The police sergeant paid no attention to either of them, but stalked across to the bed and confronted the shrinking Mr.
Duckworthy, you'll excuse this late visit, but as you may have seen by the papers, we've been looking for a person answering your description, and there's no time like the present. We want——". The officer pulled out his note-book and wrote: And who might you be—sir? I know nothing at all about the murder.
About Mr. Duckworthy I know what he has [Pg 19] told me and no more. I dare say he will tell you, too, if you ask him nicely. But no third degree, you know, sergeant. No Savidgery. But it's a gloomy time of night, don't you think? Why not wait till the morning?
Duckworthy won't run away. I will undertake to produce him whenever you want him. Won't that do? You're not charging him with anything, I suppose? I've got to get back to town fairly early, but I'll drop in at the police-station on my way. You will find Mr. Duckworthy in the lounge, here. It will be more comfortable for you than at your place. Must you be going? Well, good night, all. I'll send you up a solicitor first thing in the morning.
Tell him what you've told me, and tell the police what he tells you to tell them and no more. Remember, they can't force you to say anything or to go down to the police-station unless they charge you. If they do charge you, go quietly and say nothing. And whatever you do, don't run away, because if you do, you're done for. Wimsey arrived in town the following afternoon, and walked down Holborn, looking for a barber's shop.
He found it without much difficulty. It lay, as Mr. Duckworthy had described it, at the end of a narrow passage, and it had a long mirror in the door, with the name Briggs scrawled across it in gold letters.
Wimsey stared at his own reflection distastefully. Or is it a case of fourth dimensional mystery? The [Pg 20] camel he got stuck in the door. It goes for days without a drink and its table-manners are objectionable. But there is no doubt that this door is made of looking-glass. Was it always so, I wonder? On, Wimsey, on. I cannot bear to be shaved again.
Perhaps a hair-cut might be managed. He pushed the door open, keeping a stern eye on his reflection to see that it played him no trick.
Of his conversation with the barber, which was lively and varied, only one passage is deserving of record. Been re-decorated, haven't you? Senile decay setting in. I don't want any hair-tonics to-day, thank you. No, nor even an electric comb. I've had shocks enough. It worried him, though. So much so that when he emerged, he walked back a few yards along the street, and was suddenly struck by seeing the glass door of a tea-shop.
It also lay at the end of a dark passage and had a gold name written across it. The name was "The Bridget Tea-shop," but the door was of plain glass.
Wimsey looked at it for a few moments and then went in. He did not approach the tea-tables, but accosted the cashier, who sat at a little glass desk inside the door. Here he went straight to the point and asked whether the young lady remembered the circumstance of a man's having fainted in the doorway some years previously. The cashier could not say; she had only been there three months, but she thought one of the waitresses might remember. The waitress was produced, and after some consideration, thought she did recollect something of the sort.
Wimsey thanked her, said he was a journalist—which seemed to be accepted as an excuse for eccentric questions—parted with half a crown, and withdrew. His next visit was to Carmelite House. Wimsey had friends in every newspaper office in Fleet Street, and made his way without difficulty to the room where photographs are filed for reference. The original of the "J. Scotland Yard was easy. Chief-Inspector Parker was Wimsey's closest friend.
An inquiry of him soon furnished the photographer's name, which was inscribed at the foot of the print. Wimsey voyaged off at once in search of the establishment, where his name readily secured an interview with the proprietor. As he had expected, Scotland Yard had been there before him. All information at the disposal of the firm had already been given. It amounted to very little. The photograph had been taken a couple of years previously, and nothing particular was remembered about the sitter.
It was a small establishment, doing a rapid business in cheap portraits, and with no pretensions to artistic refinements. Wimsey looked it over, laid it down, and pulled from his pocket the copy of the Evening News in which the print had appeared. It must have been put in the wrong way round. Now, fancy that happening. You know, sir, we often have to work against time, and I suppose—but it's very careless.
I shall have to inquire into it. Queer it should have been just this particular one, isn't it, sir? I wonder the party didn't notice. But we generally take three or four positions, and he might not remember, you know.
No doubt this one was selected and the others destroyed. We don't keep all the rejected negatives, you know, sir. We haven't the space to file them. But I'll get three prints off at once.
You shall have them in an hour or two, sir. But it's astonishing to me that the party didn't complain. And so it would be—to him. Don't you see—that's the only view he could ever take of his own face. That photograph, with the left and right sides reversed, is the face he sees in the mirror every day—the only face he can really recognise as his.
Wimsey reiterated the need for haste, and departed. A brief visit to Somerset House followed; after which he called it a day and went home. Inquiry in Brixton, in and about the address mentioned by Mr. Duckworthy, eventually put Wimsey on to the track of persons who had known him and his mother.
An aged lady who had kept a small green-grocery in the same street for the last forty years remembered all about them. She was a nice-looking young woman, too, and my daughter, as was expecting her first, took a lot of interest in the sweet little boy.
Born somewheres on the south side, he was, but I remember she never rightly said where—only that it was round about the New Cut. She was one of the quiet sort and kep' herself to herself.
Never one to talk, she wasn't. Why even to my daughter, as might 'ave good reason for bein' interested, she wouldn't say much about 'ow she got through 'er bad time. Chlorryform she said she 'ad, I know, and she disremembered about it, but it's my belief it 'ad gone 'ard with 'er and she didn't care to think overmuch about it.
Harbottle, if I may say so. You look extremely flourishing. Nine of them does 'ave a kind of spreading action on the figure. You wouldn't believe, sir, to look at me now, as I 'ad a eighteen-inch waist when I was a girl. Many's the time me pore mother broke the [Pg 23] laces on me, with 'er knee in me back and me 'oldin' on to the bed-post.
Duckworthy came to live in Brixton? Black 'air it was then, but it turned into the brightest red you ever see—like them carrots there. It wasn't so pretty as 'is ma's, though much the same colour. He didn't favour 'er in the face, neither, nor yet 'is dad. She said 'e took after some of 'er side of the family.
Susan Brown. A big, stern, 'ard-faced woman she was—not like 'er sister. Lived at Evesham she did, as well I remembers, for I was gettin' my grass from there at the time. I never sees a bunch o' grass now but what I think of Mrs.
Stiff, she was, with a small 'ead, very like a stick o' grass. Wimsey thanked Mrs. Harbottle in a suitable manner and took the next train to Evesham. He was beginning to wonder where the chase might lead him, but discovered, much to his relief, that Mrs. Susan Brown was well known in the town, being a pillar of the Methodist Chapel and a person well respected.
She was upright still, with smooth, dark hair parted in the middle and drawn tightly back—a woman broad in the base and narrow in the shoulder—not, indeed, unlike the stick of asparagus to which Mrs.
Harbottle had compared her. She received Wimsey with stern civility, but disclaimed all knowledge of her nephew's movements. The hint that he was in a position of some embarrassment, and even danger, did not appear to surprise her. I don't want to be a trouble to you, madam, and I know I'm given to twaddling rather, being a trifle on the soft side myself—so I'll get to the point. Wonderful system they have there. But of course—being only human—it breaks down now and again—doesn't it?
She folded her wrinkled hands over one another on the edge of the table, and he saw a kind of shadow flicker over her sharp dark eyes. Never was good at explaining myself. There were twin boys born, weren't there? Under what name did they register [Pg 24] the other!
I'm so sorry to be a nuisance, but it's really rather important. I wouldn't have bothered you for a supposition. I know there was a twin brother.
What became—at least, I do know more or less what became of him——". But it didn't die, you know. In fact, it's alive now. It's only the name I want to know, you know. As a matter of fact, I happen to know that the murder was done by the brother. That's why I want to get hold of him, don't you see. It would be such a relief to my mind—I am naturally nice-minded—if you would help me to find him. So much unpleasant publicity, don't you know.
Whereas, if we can lay hands on the brother quickly, you and Robert need never come into it at all. But all the same, you are aching to tell me how you deduced it and I am willing to be instructed. Are all twins wrong-sided? And are all wrong-sided people twins? Or rather, no, yes. Dissimilar twins and some kinds of similar twins may both be quite normal. But the kind of similar twins that result from the splitting of a single cell may come out as looking-glass twins.
It depends on the line of fission in the original cell. You can do it artificially with tadpoles and a bit of horsehair. So you see, while poor old R. There were three sisters of the name of Dart—Susan, Hester and Emily. Susan married a man called Brown; Hester married a man called Duckworthy; Emily was [Pg 25] unmarried. By one of those cheery little ironies of which life is so full, the only sister who had a baby, or who was apparently capable of having babies, was the unmarried Emily.
By way of compensation, she overdid it and had twins. Susan was a tartar—besides, she had married above her station and was climbing steadily on a ladder of good works.
She delivered herself of a few texts and washed her hands of the business. Hester was a kind-hearted soul. She offered to adopt the infant, when produced, and bring it up as her own.
Well, the baby came, and, as I said before, it was twins. He had agreed to one baby, but twins were more than he had bargained for. Hester was allowed to pick her twin, and, being a kindly soul, she picked the weaklier-looking one, which was our Robert—the mirror-image twin.
Emily had to keep the other, and, as soon as she was strong enough, decamped with him to Australia, after which she was no more heard of. Robert and Richard were two pretty men. Robert was registered as Hester Duckworthy's own child—there were no tiresome rules in those days requiring notification of births by doctors and midwives, so one could do as one liked about these matters.
The Duckworthys, complete with baby, moved to Brixton, where Robert was looked upon as being a perfectly genuine little Duckworthy. He does not seem to have been a nice little boy. Two years afterwards, his path crossed that of Brother Robert and produced the episode of the air-raid night.
Anyway, he wasn't told. I imagine that the shock of the explosion caused him to revert more strongly to his natural left-handed tendency. It also seems to have induced a new tendency to amnesia under similar shock-conditions.
The whole thing preyed on his mind, and he became more and more vague and somnambulant. That explains the central incident of the mirror. I think Robert must have mistaken the glass door of the tea-shop for the door of the barber's shop. It really was Richard who came to meet him, and who retired again so hurriedly for fear of being seen and noted.
Circumstances played into his hands, of course—but these meetings do take place, and the fact that they were both wearing soft hats and Burberrys is not astonishing on a dark, wet day. No doubt the original mistake was the photographer's, but I shouldn't be surprised if Richard welcomed it and chose that particular print on that account. Though that would [Pg 26] mean, of course, that he knew about the wrong-sidedness of Robert.
I don't know how he could have done that, but he may have had opportunities for inquiry. It was known in the Army, and rumours may have got round. But I won't press that point. They say that similar twins are always in close sympathy with one another—that each knows what the other is thinking about, for instance, and contracts the same illness on the same day and all that.
Richard was the stronger twin of the two, and perhaps he dominated Robert more than Robert did him. I'm sure I don't know. Daresay it's all bosh. The point is that you've found him all right. Uncanny, a bit, don't you think so? He was a professor of ethnology, and this was not his first visit to the Pyrenees. He had, however, never before penetrated to any place quite so remote as this tiny hamlet, clinging, like a rock-plant, high up the scarred granite shoulders of the mountain.
He scented material here for his book on Basque folk-lore. With tact, he might persuade the old man to tell his story. Langley took the hint. To press the question would be to encounter obstinate silence. Later, when they knew him better, perhaps——. His dinner was served to him at the family table—the oily, pepper-flavoured stew to which he was so well accustomed, and the harsh red wine [Pg 27] of the country.
His hosts chattered to him freely enough in that strange Basque language which has no fellow in the world, and is said by some to be the very speech of our first fathers in Paradise.
They spoke of the bad winter, and young Esteban Arramandy, so strong and swift at the pelota, who had been lamed by a falling rock and now halted on two sticks; of three valuable goats carried off by a bear; of the torrential rains that, after a dry summer, had scoured the bare ribs of the mountains. It was raining now, and the wind was howling unpleasantly. This did not trouble Langley; he knew and loved this haunted and impenetrable country at all times and seasons.
Sitting in that rude peasant inn, he thought of the oak-panelled hall of his Cambridge college and smiled, and his eyes gleamed happily behind his scholarly pince-nez. He was a young man, in spite of his professorship and the string of letters after his name. To his university colleagues it seemed strange that this man, so trim, so prim, so early old, should spend his vacations eating garlic, and scrambling on mule-back along precipitous mountain-tracks.
You would never think it, they said, to look at him.
She drew back the latch, letting in a rush of wind and rain which made the candle gutter. A small, aged woman was blown in out of the night, her grey hair straggling in wisps from beneath her shawl. It is a bad night. The parcel is ready—oh, yes.
Dominique brought it from the town this morning. You must take a cup of wine or milk before you go back. It is but a month now to the Day of the Dead. You are not afraid, Martha? The Evil One cannot harm me. I have no beauty, no wits, no strength for him to envy. And the Holy Relic will protect me. He knows our country and speaks our [Pg 28] language as you hear. He is a great traveller, like the American doctor, your master.
It occurred to him that an American doctor who had buried himself in this remote corner of Europe must have something unusual about him. Perhaps he also was an ethnologist. If so, they might find something in common. It was a small package, neatly sealed, bearing the label of a firm of London chemists and addressed to "Standish Wetherall, Esq. Almost a miracle. I know this man. I knew his wife, too——". Is she the same woman I know? Describe her. She was tall, beautiful, with gold hair and blue eyes like the Madonna.
Is this she? There was a silence. The old woman shook her head and muttered something inaudible, but the daughter whispered:. He pulled out his note-book and scribbled a few lines. It is to say that I am here, his friend whom he once knew, and to ask if I may come and visit him. That is all. Perhaps, though a foreigner, you are of the Faith? This seemed to satisfy her. She took the letter and the money, and secured them, together with the parcel, in a remote pocket.
Then she walked to the door, strongly and rapidly for all her bent shoulders and appearance of great age. Langley remained lost in thought. Nothing could have astonished him [Pg 29] more than to meet the name of Standish Wetherall in this place. He had thought that episode finished and done with over three years ago.
Of all people! The brilliant surgeon in the prime of his life and reputation, and Alice Wetherall, that delicate piece of golden womanhood—exiled in this forlorn corner of the world! His heart beat a little faster at the thought of seeing her again. Three years ago, he had decided that it would be wiser if he did not see too much of that porcelain loveliness.
That folly was past now—but still he could not visualise her except against the background of the great white house in Riverside Drive, with the peacocks and the swimming-pool and the gilded tower with the roof-garden. Wetherall was a rich man, the son of old Hiram Wetherall the automobile magnate. What was Wetherall doing here? He tried to remember. Hiram Wetherall, he knew, was dead, and all the money belonged to Standish, for there were no other children.
There had been trouble when the only son had married a girl without parents or history. He had brought her from "somewhere out west. Then, when he was a man over forty and she a girl of seventeen, he had brought her home and married her.
And now he had left his house and his money and one of the finest specialist practices in New York to come to live in the Basque country—in a spot so out of the way that men still believed in Black Magic, and could barely splutter more than a few words of bastard French or Spanish—a spot that was uncivilised even by comparison with the primitive civilisation surrounding it. Langley began to be sorry that he had written to Wetherall. It might be resented.
The landlord and his wife had gone out to see to their cattle. The daughter sat close to the fire, mending a garment. She did not look at him, but he had the feeling that she would be glad to speak. Do not go up there. No one will stay in that house at this time of the year, except Tomaso, who has not all his wits, and old Martha, who is——". The good doctor brought her here three years ago last June, and then she was as you say.
She was beautiful. She laughed and talked in her own speech—for she knew no Spanish or Basque. But on the Night of the Dead——". But she fell into the power of the darkness. She changed. There were terrible cries—I cannot tell. But little by little she became what she is now. Nobody sees her but Martha and she will not talk. But the people say it is not a woman at all that lives there now.
It is—enchantment. Two years since on Easter Day—is that my father? We heard the blessed church bells all day long. That night there came a knock at the door.
My father opened and one stood there like Our Blessed Lady herself, very pale like the image in the church and with a blue cloak over her head. She spoke, but we could not tell what she said. She wept and wrung her hands and pointed down the valley path, and my father went to the stable and saddled the mule. I thought of the flight from bad King Herod. But then—the American doctor came. He had run fast and was out of breath.
And she shrieked at sight of him. A great wave of indignation swept over Langley. If the man was brutal to his wife, something must be done quickly. The girl hurried on. At Easter-tide the power of the Evil One was broken and she would try to flee. But as soon as the Holy Season was over, the spell would fall on her again, and therefore it was not safe to let her go.
My parents were afraid to have touched the evil thing. They brought out the Holy Water and sprinkled the mule, but the wickedness had entered into the poor beast and she kicked my father so that he was lame for a month.
The American took his wife away with him and we never saw her again. Even old Martha does not always see her.
But every year the power waxes and wanes—heaviest at Hallow-tide and lifted again at Easter. Langley would have liked to ask more, but his host glanced quickly and suspiciously at the girl. Taking up his candle, Langley went to bed. He dreamed of wolves, long, lean and black, running on the scent of blood. Only too delighted to have you come and cheer our exile. You will find Alice somewhat changed, I fear, but I will explain our misfortunes when we meet.
Our household is limited, owing to some [Pg 31] kind of superstitious avoidance of the afflicted, but if you will come along about half-past seven, we can give you a meal of sorts. Martha will show you the way. The doctor's house was small and old, stuck halfway up the mountain-side on a kind of ledge in the rock-wall.
A stream, unseen but clamorous, fell echoing down close at hand. Langley followed his guide into a dim, square room with a great hearth at one end and, drawn close before the fire, an armchair with wide, sheltering ears.
Martha, muttering some sort of apology, hobbled away and left him standing there in the half-light. The flames of the wood fire, leaping and falling, made here a gleam and there a gleam, and, as his eyes grew familiar with the room, he saw that in the centre was a table laid for a meal, and that there were pictures on the walls. One of these struck a familiar note. He went close to it and recognised a portrait of Alice Wetherall that he had last seen in New York.
It was painted by Sargent in his happiest mood, and the lovely wild-flower face seemed to lean down to him with the sparkling smile of life. A log suddenly broke and fell in the hearth, flaring. As though the little noise and light had disturbed something, he heard, or thought he heard, a movement from the big chair before the fire. He stepped forward, and then stopped. There was nothing to be seen, but a noise had begun; a kind of low, animal muttering, extremely disagreeable to listen to.
It was not made by a dog or a cat, he felt sure. It was a sucking, slobbering sound that affected him in a curiously sickening way. It ended in a series of little grunts or squeals, and then there was silence. Langley stepped backwards towards the door.
He was positive that something was in the room with him that he did not care about meeting. An absurd impulse seized him to run away. He was prevented by the arrival of Martha, carrying a big, old-fashioned lamp, and behind her, Wetherall, who greeted him cheerfully. The familiar American accents dispelled the atmosphere of discomfort that had been gathering about Langley. He held out a cordial hand. The old woman had put the lamp on the table, and now asked if she should bring in the dinner.
Wetherall replied in the affirmative, using a mixture of Spanish and Basque which she seemed to understand well enough. These people speak nothing else. But of course Basque is your speciality, isn't it? But we'll go into that later. I've managed to make the place reasonably comfortable, though I could do with a few more modern conveniences. However, it suits us. Ah, yes, I forgot—you have not seen her yet. You were—rather an admirer of my wife in the old days.
Nothing specially surprising about it, was there? Here comes dinner. Put it down, Martha, and we will ring when we are ready. The old woman set down a dish upon the table, which was handsomely furnished with glass and silver, and went out.
Wetherall moved over to the fireplace, stepping sideways and keeping his eyes oddly fixed on Langley. Then he addressed the armchair. Get up, my dear, and welcome an old admirer of yours. Come along. Dorothy Sayers, a Christie-contemporary and renowned English author, wrote a series of addictive novels whose hero, Lord Peter Wimsey, will call to mind your favorite literary sleuths. While the series was incredibly successful, Sayers unfortunately abandoned her last Wimsey book in Following the author's death in , author Jill Paton Walsh took Sayers' notes and turned them into a full book—the first Wimsey mystery to surface in more than six decades.
Since the publication of Thrones, Dominations in , Walsh has written three other Wimsey novels. Below, you can see our top seven Dorothy Sayers books, which continue to impress us after all these years. After a car wreck in the countryside, Lord Peter and his manservant Bunter find shelter in a church in an isolated town. The two must contend with murder, a decades-old jewel theft, and a mutilated corpse before their time in the strange society is up.
There is little doubt that the woman will be found guilty: She downloadd several different kinds of poison in the weeks before the murder. Lord Peter, however, begins to doubt her guilt—and to develop feelings for her. Want more whodunits? Sign up for the Early Bird Books newsletter and get the best daily ebook deals delivered straight to your inbox.
Lord Peter goes undercover as a copywriter at an advertising agency in order to solve the murder of a former employee there, who Lord Peter suspects was pushed down an iron staircase. When the woman whose name Lord Peter cleared, Harriet Vane, finds a dead man—throat cut and blood drained—on a beach, she knows there is only one person to call.