Not a proper post, just a listing of some place-names:
- Bishop’s Boozey
- Duke’s Doddery
- Dunamany Wenches
- Idiot’s Utterly
- High Hiccough
- Maid’s Malplaquet
- Malplaquet Middling
- Malplaquet St. Swithin’s
And the sequence of interactions between the Professor and the Lord Lieutenant:
The Professor had found the Lord Lieutenant out of bed. The latter happened to be the Master of the Malplaquet Hounds, the one with the electric bell-indicator which Maria had coveted for Gull Island, and he had evidently been having a Hunt Ball or a Farmers Dinner, for he was dressed in a scarlet tail coat with violet facings, and was wearing the buttons of the Hunt, awarded only For Valor. He had changed into mauve carpet slippers with his monogram worked in gold.
He was a tall man with an anxious expression, and he had a walrus mustache which he had to lift with one finger, when he wanted to eat.
He took the Professor into the Dining Room, and gave him a glass of port, while the latter told his story.
The Dining Room had a polished mahogany table with a sideboard to match, and fourteen chairs ranged round the walls, where the servants had to say their prayers every morning. The wallpaper was dark red and there were oil paintings on the walls. There was a picture of the Lord Lieutenant on a Borzoi-looking horse, by Lionel Edwards, with a lot of hounds wandering about among its legs. There was one of the Lady Lieutenant, on a roly-poly one, by Munnings, and another of some of the little Lieutenants, on anatomical ones, by Stewart. There was a baby Lieutenant, on a rocking horse, and several generations of Grandpa Lieutenants, on mounts called Mazeppa, Eclipse, or the Arab Steed. Some of the pictures were of mares and stallions by themselves, and these included honest creatures by Romney, fiery creatures by Delacroix, sagacious creatures by Landseer, and dotty animals with distended nostrils by anonymous eighteenth-century artists. The only person not on a horse was the Hon. Lettuce Lieutenant, the eldest daughter, who had made the mistake of being done by Augustus John. He had left it out on purpose, out of spite.
The Lord Lieutenant said: “But I say, I mean to say, do you mean to say, old boy, that this vicar of yours and that charmin’ Miss What’s-her-name have been maltreatin’ the gel in the what-do-you-may-call-it?”
“I have been trying to tell you …”
“But, good Lord, my dear chap, you can’t do that sort of thing in the nineteenth century, or the twentieth, or whatever it is. I mean, you take the first two figures, and add one, or subtract one, I forgot which, for reasons I never could fathom, possibly owin’ to these X’s which those chaps are always writin’ on monuments, and then it is different. Now, take horses …”
The Lord Lieutenant poured himself a glass of port, inserted it neatly under his mustache, and eyed the Professor warily across a silver horse full of walnuts.
“There you are, you see. All hearsay. Now, take horses. You are always meetin’ chaps who say they know of a horse that trotted thirty miles an hour, but when you ask them was it their horse, they say it was some other chap’s horse, and there you are. Now …”
“Good heavens …”
“Here, have a cigar. We keep them in this filly here, for parties. Look, you just press her tail down, like this, and the cigar comes out of her mouth, like that, oh, I’m sorry, and at the same moment her nostrils burst into flame, so that you can light it. Neat, isn’t it?”
The cigar shot out of a gold-plated steed, hitting the Professor on the nose, while a musical box inside the creature’s stomach played the last bars of “A-Huntin’ We Will Go.”
“I came to ask …”
“My dear old boy, look here, be advised by me. You drop the whole thing. You’ve got it muddled up. Perfectly natural, of course; no criticism intended. Anybody could get muddled on a thing like that, I should have done myself. But when you’ve been a Lord Lieutenant as long as I have, or a Chief Constable, or whatever I am, you’ll know that the first thing a Lord Lieutenant has to get hold of is a motive. Can’t have a crime without it. I assure you, it’s an absolute fact. First thing a criminal must do is get a motive. It’s in a book I read. Printed. Now what motive could Miss What-you-may-call-it possibly have for wanting to hand-cuff young Thingummy in the what’s-it?”
“Whereabouts, eh? Gypsies, I daresay. Wonderful chaps with horses. Now …”
“Not roundabouts!” shouted the Professor. “Whereabouts …”
“Here, have some coffee. We keep it in this copper horse here, with the methylated lamp under its tummy. You just twist his near fore, like this, and it pours out of his ear, like that, oh, I’m sorry, and the sugar is strewed about in this silver-plated stable here, to represent bedding. Pretty, isn’t it?”
The Professor mopped the coffee off his knees despairingly, while the coffeepot played “John Peel.”
“I have a right as a citizen of this country to ask for police protection, and it is your duty, as the Lord Lieutenant, to investigate the grounds …”
“Good Lord, old boy, you can’t have police protection here. What’s the good of sending old Dumbledum to protect you? Besides, I happen to know he has a lumbago. His wife sent up to borrow a smoothing iron only this evening. And who, may I ask, would stop all the motor cars, and take their licenses and that, if Dumbledum was protecting you all the time?”
“Here, have a chocolate. We keep them in this china hunter here, for convenience. You just lift its tail, like this, and the chocolate comes out there, like that, oh, I’m sorry, and he plays the ‘Meynell Hunt,’ only some of the notes are missing. Useful, isn’t it?”
The Professor fished the chocolate out of his coffee with fury.
“And another thing, old boy. What about witnesses? That’s one of the first things you have to have in a crime, believe me, as a Lord Lieutenant—unless you go in for circumstantial evidence, as we call it, or whatever they call it. Witnesses! It’s vital. You can’t do anything, hardly, without them. Look at that fellow who blew the other fellow up, unless it was himself, in the garage, or the swimmin’ bath, or whatever it was, only the other day. He had dozens of witnesses. Blew them all up as well. You see? I mean, you could almost say that you can’t do a crime without ’em. And where are yours, do you suppose?”
“I have a witness, Mrs. Noakes.”
“And who is Mrs. Noakes, when she’s at home?”
“Mrs. Noakes is the cook at Malplaquet.”
“Good Lord, not Mrs. Noakes! Mrs. Noakes is Mrs. Noakes? Why, I know Mrs. Noakes as well as me own mother. That’s an extraordinary thing, I must say, I mean that she should be her! Well, I remember her quails in aspic, in the old Duke’s day, poor fellow, yes, and her oyster soufflé. An invaluable woman. Often we tried to get her to come over to us, but she preferred to stay. Family feelin’. Now, take horses …”
“Well, hounds then.”
“Yes, hounds. Take hounds. A hound will eat almost anything.”
“Here, have a cigarette. We keep them in this platinum polo pony here, for sentimental reasons. It’s an old pony of my own, poor chap. Dead, of course. Must have been dead about forty years by now. You just lift up the polo stick, like this, and he opens his mouth, like that, and out comes a cigarette, oh, I’m sorry, use a napkin, and, as you see, he plays ‘Old Faithful.’ Sad, isn’t it?”
The platinum pony had shot out a stream of about fifty cigarettes, knocking over the coffee and the port into the Professor’s lap.
He leaped to his feet, banged the table, and shouted wildly: “I demand a hearing! I refuse to be pelted with these articles!”
Then he folded his arms and sat down on a comic cushion, which began to play “Boot, Saddle, to Horse, and Away.”
“Good Lord, old boy, what are you sitting on that for? You aren’t supposed to sit on that. It’s supposed to be a sort of trick, to catch people …”
The Professor hurled the cushion on the floor, which made it play again, swept several horses out of the way, and shook his fist under the Lord Lieutenant’s nose.
“No good browbeatin’ me, old boy. Everybody always browbeats Lord Lieutenants. Doesn’t do a bit of good. To tell you the bitter truth, I simply don’t believe a word you say. Tryin’ to pull me leg. Won’t work. Now, if Mrs. Noakes was to tell me all this about dungeons and things, I’d believe her like a shot. I’d believe her if she told me that a mince pie was a ham omelet. But when a chap like you comes along, jabberin’ about roundabouts …”
“But I tell you that Mrs. Noakes will corroborate what I say …”
“Produce her, then. Produce your witness. That’s what we say, in the Law, you know. Produce your witness.”
“How can I produce her when she’s an old woman with a bad leg five miles away in the middle of the night?”
“There you are, you see. As soon as we get down to brass tacks, you always say it can’t be done. Like trottin’ at thirty miles an hour. I say I’ll believe Mrs. Noakes, you say you can’t produce her. I say I don’t believe you, you start chuckin’ cushions about. Now, take horses …”
The Professor clutched his whiskers.
“Take horses. You can always believe a horse. I always say to everybody, Give me a horse, and I’ll believe it. If a horse says there is wire in that gap, believe me, my boy, there is wire in it. Or take hounds. I always say to everybody, Give me a hound, and I’ll believe it. If a hound says there is a fox in that gooseberry bush, or in that hatbox, or wherever it is, believe me, my boy, there is a fox in it. Always believe a horse or a hound.”
The Professor had sunk back in his chair, pulling his hair out in tufts, when there was a gentle scratching on the door.
“That’s one of the hounds,” said the Lord Lieutenant happily. “Let him in, there’s a good fellow. I suppose I must have fourteen or fifteen of them round about the house, in various places. They sit under all those chairs at dinner and wait for biscuits, like dear old Lord Lonsdale. Always believe …”
A footman, however, opened the door, and announced deferentially: “A strange dog, me Lord.”
Captain was standing politely on the mat, with a shopping basket in his mouth. When he saw the Professor, he wagged his tail and came in.
The Professor read the letter in the basket and passed it to the Lord Lieutenant.
“Read for yourself.”
“Dear me, a letter from the dog. Interesting, very.”
He produced an eyeglass from his waistcoat pocket, disentangled the ribbon from his mustache, fixed it in his eye, and began to spell the letter out.
“ ‘Kind sir come back at onct …’ Bad spelling, that. Should be an S in it. However, you can’t expect good spelling from a dog. It’s not their nature. ‘… as them as what you knows of sir is up to triks again, namely that here Vicar and his fly by nite’—Good Lord, that will be Miss What’s-her-name, just like you said—‘and have gorn off’—good heavens—‘gorn off to cut Maria’s throat’! Poor child, poor child, good gracious, this is shockin’! ‘So please to come at onct’—I should think so, too—‘as If not it may be two late and Tell His Lordship’—that will be me, I expect—‘to bring the Army’! My stars, thank heaven the hound has come in time! Always believe a hound! How clever of him to write it. Must have learned it in a circus or somewhere. Bring the Army, he says. Yes, of course. The Army. Fancy cutting a child’s throat like that! Well, we must act. Action. Let me see. Where’s Kingdom? Somebody fetch me Kingdom. Oh, there you are, Kingdom. Here, Kingdom, get me some people on the telephone. Get me the Army and the Navy and the Air Force and the Fire Brigade and the Home Guard and the Rural District Council and the St. John’s Ambulance Association. Get me. Here, get me the telephone. I’ll do it meself.”
The butler carried in a telephone in the form of a plastic Derby winner, and the Lord Lieutenant began to shout commands into its mouth, occasionally applying its tail to his ear.
“Is that the Exchange? Where is the Exchange? Why not? Well then, why didn’t you say so? Get me Mr. Winston Churchill. Certainly I said Mr. Winston Churchill. Give him to me at once. Who the deuce are you, Sir? I tell you I’m the Lord Lieutenant. No, I’m not. Yes, you are. An imposter? So are you. That settled him. What? My good man, what’s the use of Mr. Attlee? Get me Mr. Churchill, like I said.”
Well, they dissuaded him from recalling Mr. Churchill at last. After that, he wanted to have General Eisenhower, Field Marshal Montgomery or Scotland Yard. The Professor cunningly went aside and wrote a message, which he persuaded Captain to deliver, saying that though the Far Eastern Battle Fleet might be very useful, yet they themselves, being on the spot, would be sure to get there sooner. The Lord Lieutenant was delighted by this second example of canine sagacity, and agreed to send at once for P. C. Dumbledum. The posse was collected without further argument.