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 Post subject: Giles at Christmas - Final Chapter Posted 4/11/2017
PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2017 10:16 am 
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Giles at Christmas

By

Darkwiccan


Rating: PG

Disclaimers: Willow and Tara and other characters borrowed from the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer are the property of their creator, Joss Whedon, and his affiliates, Mutant Enemy, Fox, and UPN. Jeeves is the creation of P.G. Wodehouse and the property of Dover Publications and (I'm assuming) the Wodehouse Estate.

Summary: The continued zany adventures of a silly upper-class British gentlewoman named Willow Rosenby and her remarkable servant Giles. Set in the mid-1920’s. (I'd originally set the time-period as around 1915, but after many years, realized these escapades fit more naturally into the 1920's)

Note: You may want to read “Leave it to Giles” or “The Inimitable Giles” before you read this story. Two reasons... one, you'll get better accustomed to the jargon and two, you'll have a better understanding of what the frilly heck is going on.

This story is complete. I will be posting the chapters in installments. I'm starting off with the first two chapters in this initial posting. Going forward, updates will be added on Tuesdays in keeping with the tradition of B:tVS air dates.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Chapter 1



Being a rather bonnie bird with a rather constant disposition of the sunny sort, I find many things delight me. Be they exciting or droll, or rather fuzzy or shiny sorts of things, I like them. But, I dare say, there is nothing I delight in more than the holidays. By Jove, the holidays are indeed a scrumptious time full of yummies for one’s tum and presents to warm one’s heart and feet. And, quite rightly, I find the notion of Santa Claus tumbling down chimneys to be very bright! Here’s this rather jolly sort of fellow whose raison d'être, as it were, is to bring you things that make you happy. Rather like my man, Giles, you know.


Giles, my valet, is really a tremendous fellow. He has a sort of omnipresence about him that instills one with a sense of ease and safety and thoughts of everything’s going to be just right. Why, if it weren’t for my man Giles and his massive brain I wouldn’t have met my darling Tara. Tara: the light of my life, the apple of my eye and so many other clever sayings. I shall be forever grateful to Giles for scheming us together, and it was due to this very gratitude that I set about to searching for the perfect Christmas gift to thank him with.


But there was the rub, as they say, what sort of thing to get? I was having the most awfully rummy time trying to come up with any sort of jolly ideas to suit the man. It had been almost a year since I had found it necessary to force the old melon to consider anything of gravity. The bean thumped horribly as I sorted out the possibilities. A book? Surely the chap has read them all. Why his cerebellum certainly devours old pages for breakfast and tea. A tie, or some other sort of thing for wearing? Unfortunately, Giles has never been keen on my superior sense of fashion, so that notion was sent packing, mauve trousers and all. I had thought of creeping about his room for clues, but I’ve never been good at that sort of thing, always getting caught with my hand in a drawer and other such pippingly awkward scenarios.


I decided to confer with Tara on the matter. She was the sort of girl who was quiet and sympathetic, to whom you could tell your troubles to in the certain confidence of having your hand held and your head patted. The sort of girl to whom you could go to and say, “I say, I’ve just murdered someone and I’m really rather worried about it,” and she would reply, “There, there, try not to think about it, these sort of things happen.” The little mother, in short, with the added attraction of being thoroughly in love with me.


“Willow, my dear,” she said to me after I had proffered my pontificating, “you are simply adorable.” I felt my chest puff proudly even as my cheeks shone with a rather clownish red. She went on, “so sweet of you to think of Giles at this time of year.”


“Yes, well,” I said, “certainly the time of year for it. Holly and bells and festive whatnots dangling about and putting one in a gay mood. I just haven’t the foggiest what to give the old boy.”


“Well, Willow, rather fortunately, as Giles was accompanying me to the dressmakers, we got to talking of our hobbies.”


“Hobbies, you say?” I asked, “Dashed economic with his time, that Giles. I’d never have puzzed out when he’d get ‘round to such things as hobbies. What’s he at, then? Trains? Bottle caps? The odd tiny-ship-in-even-tinier-bottle biz?”


“Actually, he confided in me that he rather enjoys collecting old serving ware.”


Serving ware?” I was at once aghast and confused. A not uncommon pairing for myself, I should say. “Certainly not! You mean he has a fondness for old soup taurines and platters and the like? But, my dear, that is so near to what he does, you know, as a valet. Aren’t hobbies meant to distract one away from one’s daily profession?”


“I suppose for some,” Tara conceded, “but he did express his fondness for them to me. In fact, as we passed by an antique shop in Brompton Road he indicated to a charming old creamer that he said he’d had his eye on for quite some time. Perhaps you could get him that.”


“But dearest, wouldn’t that be rather like giving the maid a new feather thingummy whatsit?”


“Duster?”


“Yes, one of those. Rather heartless, I’d say. ‘Happy Christmas, now back to work, you can start with the tree.’”


“Perhaps. But what if it’s what she really wanted?”


I felt the old lemon squeeze itself to knotty pulp. This was all too much thinking for a bird out of practice. Well, what of it, I thought to myself, I hadn’t a bally clue what to get Giles for Christmas, and if an old cream dispenser would suit him fine, well by Jove, it suited me.


“Right then,” I said, “what’s the jug look like?”


“A cow.”


“I’m sorry, did you say a cow?”


“Yes, darling. It’s a charming little thing in the shape of a cow. Most unusual and quite a collector’s piece, or so Giles tells me. Eighteenth century I think he said.”


I decided not to question the oddity of it and press on. “Good egg! I’ll pop down to the shop tomorrow.”




-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------




Chapter 2



The next morning as I slid into my chair at the breakfast table and started to deal with the toothsome eggs and bacon which Giles had given of his plenty, I was conscious of a strange exhilaration, if I’ve got the word right. I’d resolved as soon as I’d finished to sup, it was off to the shops to bid in on the bovine bottle for Giles. I was feeling rather bright-ish and full of pepper. As schemes go, and believe me I know of schemes having been caught up in them more often than I’d care to, sneaking off to the shops to procure my valet a pygmy trifle of my appreciation for him was a snap, as they say, and a particularly merry undertaking.


“These eggs, Giles,” I said, “Very good. Very tasty.”


“Yes, miss?”


“Laid, no doubt, by contented hens. And the coffee, perfect. Nor must I omit to give word of praise to the bacon. I wonder if you notice anything about me this morning.”


“You seem in good spirits, miss.”


“Yes, Giles, I am happy today.”


“I am very glad to hear it, miss.”


“You might say I’m sitting on top of the world with a rainbow ‘round my shoulder.”


“A most satisfactory state of affairs, miss.”


“What’s the word I’ve heard you use from time to time? Eu, something?”


“Euphoria, miss?”


“That’s the one. I’ve seldom had a sharper attack of euphoria. I feel full to the brim with Vitamin B. Would you like to know why, Giles?”


“If you feel so inclined as to relate the reasoning, miss.”


“Christmas Spirit, Giles! Christmas spirit. It’s all around us, don’t you know! Even as the snow falls the soul warms and the heart is fuzzy with peace on Earth and good will to old men, or is it all men – I say, what about the women? There’s a bit of a rum go, not mentioning us.”


“I do believe, miss, the phrase ‘good will to all men’ is in fact a reference to all mankind which would, I am certain, include women, miss.”


“Well, that’s a deep swell of the fresh into the old lungs. For a moment I thought we’d been given a-miss.”


“I am relieved to know that the clouds have lifted. Your elbow is in the butter, miss.”


“Oh, thank you, Giles.”



*******************




It was with a light heart that I went out into the street and hailed a passing barouche. I was conscious only of the pleasure at the thought that I had it in my power to perform this little act of kindness. Scratch Willow Rosenby, I often say, and you find a Girl Scout.


The antique shop in the Brompton Road proved, as foreshadowed, to be an antique shop in the Brompton Road and, like all antique shops except the swanky ones in the Bond Street neighborhood, dingy outside and dark and smelly within. I don’t know why it is, but the proprietors of these establishments always seem to be cooking some sort of stew in the back room.


“I say”, I began, entering; then paused as I perceived that the bloke in charge was attending to two other customers.


“Oh, sorry,” I was about to add, to convey the idea that I had horned in inadvertently, when the words froze on my lips.


Quite a stab of misty fruitfulness had drifted into the emporium, obscuring the view, but in spite of the poor light I was able to note that the smaller and elder of these two customers was no stranger to me.


It was old Sir Quentin Travers in person. Himself. Not a picture. Pop Travers was an old friend of my Uncle Willoughby, for whom I am named. In addition to being an old friend of Unc’s, he is also an old, and by old I mean aged, near-sighted and generally unpleasant, judge of the lower courts. You know, the johnnies who deal with bonnet-pinchers and purse-stealers and the like, and for some reason, as long as I can remember, Old Pop Travers has always confused me as being one of the many dishonest birds brought before his billowing robes. I’d say that I must have one of those faces, but I’d rather not think such things about myself. At any rate, as a result, I’ve never been fond of the shrimp-faced son of a whatnot.


There is a tough, bulldog strain in the Rosenby’s which has often caused comment. It came out in me now. A weaker person, no doubt, would have tiptoed from the scene and head for the horizon, but I stood firm and gave him the surreptitious once-over.


My entry had caused him to turn and shoot a quick look at me, and at intervals since then he had been peering at me side-ways. It was only a question of time, I felt, before the hidden chord in his mis-memory would be touched and he would confuse this slight, distinguished looking figure, leaning on her umbrella, yet again with a recent defendant. And now it was plain that he was hep. The ancient fellow in charge of the shop had pottered off into an inner room, and old Travers came across to where I stood, giving me the up-and-down through his windshields.


“Hullo, hullo,” he said, “I know you, young lady. I never forget a face. You came before me once.”


“We have met before, Sir Quentin, but I am sorry to disappoint you, dear fellow,” I said rather firmly, in the hopes of shaking his memory to rights, “but I am in fact a relative of your old friend Lord Willoughby. We’ve met before at Easeby, if you recall.”


He eyed me rather like a fish. “Bag-snatching,” he stated through slitted eyes. “I remember it distinctly. You can’t fool me, my dear. I never forget a face. Still, it’s all past and done with now, eh? We have turned over a new leaf, have we not?”


“If in fact there were any leaves to turn, old Travers, but as I said--”


“Tut, tut, my dear girl, it’s pointless to try, I remember all my cases with utter clarity. Still, I understand your desire to put it behind you, looking so well as you do now. Splendid. Luke, come over here. This is most interesting.”


His buddy, who had been examining a salver, put it down and joined the party.


He was, I had already been able to perceive, a breathtaking cove. About seven feet in height, and swathed in plaid ulster which made him look about six feet across. He caught the eye and arrested it. It was as if Nature had intended to make a gorilla, and had changed its mind at the last moment.


But it wasn’t merely the expanse of the bloke that impressed. Close to, what you noticed more was his face, which was squared and powerful and slightly mustached towards the center. His gaze was keen and piercing. I don’t know if you have even seen those pictures in the papers of Dictators with tilted chins and blazing eyes, inflaming the populace with fiery words on the occasion of opening a new skittle alley, but that is what he reminded me of.


“Luke,” said old Travers, “I want you to meet this young lady. Here is a case which illustrates exactly what I have so often maintained – that prison life does not degrade, that it does not warp the character and prevent men and women from rising on stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things.”


I recognized the gag – one of Giles’ – and wondered where he could have heard it.


“Look at this girl. I gave her three months not long ago for snatching bags at railway stations, and it is quite evident that her term in jail has had the most excellent effect on her. She has reformed.”


“Oh, yes?” said the Dictator.


Granted, it wasn’t quite, “Oh, yeah?” I still didn’t like the way he spoke. He was looking at me with a nasty sort of supercilious expression.


“What makes you think she has reformed?”


“Of course she has reformed. Look at her. Well groomed, well dressed, a decent member of Society. What her present walk in life is, I do not know, but it is perfectly obvious that she is no longer stealing bags. What are you doing now, young lady?”


“Stealing umbrellas, apparently,” said the Dictator. “I notice she’s got yours.”


And I was on the point of denying the accusation hotly – I had, indeed, already opened my lips to do so – when there suddenly struck me like a blow on the upper maxillary from a sock stuffed with wet sand the realization that there was a lot in it.


I mean to say, I remembered now that I had come out without my umbrella, and yet here I was, beyond any question of a doubt, umbrella’d to the gills. What had caused me to take up the one leaning against a seventeenth century chair, I cannot say, unless it was the primeval instinct which makes a bird without an umbrella reach for the nearest one in sight, like a flower groping toward the sun.


A strong apology seemed in order. I made it as the blunt instrument changed hands.


“I say, I’m most frightfully sorry.”


Old Travers said he was too – sorry and disappointed. He said it was this sort of thing that made him sick at heart.


The Dictator had to shove his oar in. He asked if he should call a policeman, and old Travers’s eyes gleamed for a moment. Being a magistrate makes you love the idea of calling policemen. It’s like a tiger tasting blood. But he shook his head.


“No, Lucas, I couldn’t. Not today – the happiest day of my life.”


The Dictator pursed his lips, as if feeling that the better the day, the better the deed.


“But listen,” I bleated, “it was a mistake.”


“Ha!” said the Dictator.


“I thought the umbrella was mine.”


“That,” said old Travers, “is the fundamental trouble with you, my girl. You are totally unable to distinguish between mine and yours. Well, I am not going to have you arrested this time, but I advise you to be very careful. Come, Luke.”


They biffed out, the Dictator pausing at the door to give me another look and say, “Ha!” again.


A most unnerving experience all this had been for a girl of sensibility, as you may imagine, and my immediate reaction was a disposition to give the idea of Giles’ present the miss-in-balk and return to the flat. I realized now what madness it had been to go into the streets of London alone, and I was on the point of melting away and going back to the fountain head, when the proprietor of the shop emerged from the inner room, accompanied by a rich smell of stew and a sandy cat, and enquired what he could do for me. And so, the subject having come up, I said that I understood that he had an eighteenth-century cow-creamer for sale.


He nodded his head. He was a rather mildewed fellow of gloomy aspect, almost entirely concealed behind a cascade of white whiskers.


“Right-o, thou of unshuffled features and agreeable disposition”, I said, for one likes to be civil, “how much for the thing?”


“Fifty pounds.”


I goggled at the ancient face. Fifty pounds for a trifle thing barely over a hundred years old? Bally mad, I say! I decided I would have to sap the fellow of the confidence in his price and asked to see the thing. Perhaps if I sneered at it well enough, he’d be inspired to cheapen it by a few bob.


I don’t mind confessing that I’m not much of a bird for old silver, so I wasn’t expecting the heart to leap up to any great extent at the sight of this exhibit. But when the whiskered ancient pottered off into the shadows and came back with the thing, I scarcely knew whether to laugh or weep. The thought of Giles’ paying hard cash for such an object got right in amongst me.


It was a silver cow. But when I say “cow”, don’t go running away with the idea of some decent, self-respecting cudster such as you may observe in the nearest meadow. This was a sinister, leering, underworld sort of animal, the kind that would spit out the side of its mouth for a tuppence. It was about four inches high and six long. Its back opened with a hinge. Its tail was arched, so that the tip touched the spine – thus, I suppose, affording a handle for the cream-lover to grasp. The sight of it seemed to take me into a different and dreadful world.


It was, consequently, an easy task for me to give it a good sneering at. I curled the lip and clicked the tongue, all in one movement. I also drew in the breath sharply. The whole effect was of one absolutely out of sympathy with this cow-creamer, and I saw the mildewed cove start, as if he had been wounded in a tender spot. I decided to go in for the kill and declare it not to even be an antique, though plainly it was. It was worth it for the haggle.


“Oh, tut, tut, tut! I said, “Oh, dear, dear, dear! Oh, no, no, no, no, no! I don’t think much of this, “ I said, curling and clicking freely. “All wrong.”


“All wrong?”


“All wrong. Modern Dutch.”


“Modern Dutch?” He may have frothed at the mouth, or he may not. I couldn’t be sure. But the agony of spirit was obviously intense. “What do you mean, Modern Dutch? It’s eighteenth-century English. Look at the hallmark.”


“I can’t see any hallmark.”


“Are you blind? Here, take it outside to the street. It’s lighter there.”


“Right ho,” I said, and started for the door, sauntering at first in a languid sort of way, like a connoisseur a bit bored at having her time wasted.


I say “at first” because I had only taken a couple of steps when I tripped over the cat, and you can’t combine tripping over cats with languid sauntering. Shifting abruptly into high, I shot out of the door like someone wanted by the police making for the door after a smash-and-grab raid. The cow-creamer flew from my hands, and it was a lucky thing that I happened to barge into a fellow citizen outside, or I should have taken a toss in the gutter.


Well, not absolutely lucky, as a matter of fact, for it turned out to be Sir Quentin Travers. He stood there goggling at me with horror and indignation behind the pince-nez, and you could almost see him totting up the score on his fingers. First, bag-snatching, I mean to say; then umbrella-pinching; and now this. His whole demeanor was that of a man confronted with the last straw.


“Call a policeman, Lucas!” He cried, skipping like the high hills.


The Dictator sprang to the task.


“Police!” He bawled.


“Police!” yipped old Travers, up in the tenor clef.


“Police!” roared the Dictator, taking the bass.


And a moment later, something large loomed up in the fog and said: “What’s all this?”


Well, I dare say I could have explained everything, if I had stuck around and gone into it a bit, but I didn’t want to stick around and go into it. Side-stepping nimbly, I picked up the feet and was gone like the wind. A voice shouted, “Stop!” but of course I didn’t. Stop, I mean to say! Of all the damn silly ideas. I legged it down byways along side streets, and eventually fetched up somewhere in the neighborhood of Sloane Square. There I got aboard a cab and started back to civilization.


I arrived home to find a pile of telegrams on the table.



*******************


To Be Continued...

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Check out some of my most popular works: Special ... Leave It to Giles ... The Inimitable Giles ... Giles at Christmas

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Last edited by DarkWiccan on Tue Apr 11, 2017 8:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2017 7:47 am 
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Oh dear, how will Giles pull Willow's tail feathers out of this one? With style, no doubt :grin

I love Willow's narrative, the flow of the speech pattern comes across very strongly and fluidly - the whole time I was imagining her going about her business in good old London (probably from watching Penny Dreadful lately, the visuals were easy to imagine - not quite the same time, but close-ish), and my mental image had her stopping and talking to camera directly all the time, while everyone else just went on with their day and didn't notice her doing it. The descriptions were lovely as well, never distracting, but full of colour and funny observations.

(Speaking of funny observations, one that wasn't intentional, but seemed to turn up with Rosenby-like randomness, I accidentally read the description of Luke's face as 'slightly mustached towards the centre' as 'slightly muscled towards the centre', which immediately made me think of Brian Thompson - dude's got a powerful face - and I hadn't even remembered that he was Luke until I looked it up later. How's that for strange?)

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2017 9:18 pm 
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Hi Chris! - Thank you so much for stopping my and reading my little trifle.

Quote:
I love Willow's narrative, the flow of the speech pattern comes across very strongly and fluidly


Thank you, thank you! I actually have to work the old cerebellum pretty hard writing these Giles as Jeeves stories. Willow is so daffy, and she's absolutely "of her time", so the jargon can become a bit unwieldy. I spend hours not only writing, but also proofing, re-working and polishing. I'm so glad to see that the effort pays off!!

Quote:
I accidentally read the description of Luke's face as 'slightly mustached towards the centre' as 'slightly muscled towards the centre', which immediately made me think of Brian Thompson - dude's got a powerful face - and I hadn't even remembered that he was Luke until I looked it up later. How's that for strange?)


LOL - hey, as long as you ended up thinking of the right guy, no matter how you ended up thinking of the right guy, is OK with me!!

Thanks again for your very kind words :bounce

Cheers
DW

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Check out some of my most popular works: Special ... Leave It to Giles ... The Inimitable Giles ... Giles at Christmas

Challenge Fics!: You Could Be Her ... Glasses ... Graffiti ... Pizza Day

Forbidden Fics?: Check out the Litterbox!

Oops, I made a mythtake... wt4ever


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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 10:18 pm 
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I'm always late to the party. Plus I haven't actually read through the post yet. But a) wanted to get participated so it is easier to pull up later and b) had to tell a story.

So in 2010 I was moving back home after living in Oregon for 3 years, my wife had left before me to start school while I finished another month of work. I was all by myself in a mostly empty house when I finally went over to the library and found some vhs to borrow and found Wooster and Jeeves. Would never had thought to watch it if it hadn't been for reading your fics back in the day.

It is awesome to see everyone writing again. I guess I need to get with the reading...

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:28 am 
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dtburanek - I'm just thrilled you stopped by! I got you into Jeeves and Wooster? Really? YAY!! That is so awesome.

You'll likely recognize this storyline, then (depending on which season you picked up). I hope you like my take on it.

Cheers!
DW

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Check out some of my most popular works: Special ... Leave It to Giles ... The Inimitable Giles ... Giles at Christmas

Challenge Fics!: You Could Be Her ... Glasses ... Graffiti ... Pizza Day

Forbidden Fics?: Check out the Litterbox!

Oops, I made a mythtake... wt4ever


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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - Chapter 3
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:31 am 
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Chapter 3




I don’t know if you were among the gang that followed the narrative of my earlier adventure with my cousin Alexander “Lumpy” Harrison-Phipps – you may have been one of those who didn’t happen to get around to it – but if you will recall I mentioned that he often found himself in trouble over creatures, that is to say those of the opposite sex. When last I saw him he was betrothed to the showgirl Anya Jenkins, as far as I knew it, this fact remained unchanged, but when I found myself eyeing this mound of envelopes askance, I knew they spelled trouble.


I had had the idea at first glance that there were about twenty of the beastly things, but closer scrutiny revealed only three. They had all been dispatched from Totleigh-in-the-Wold, and they all bore the same signature.


They ran as follows:


The first:


Rosenby,
Berkley Mansions,
Berkley Square,
London.
Come immediately. Serious rift Anya and self. Reply.
Lumpy



The second:


Surprised to receive no answer my telegram saying Come immediately serious rift Anya and self. Reply.
Lumpy



And the third:


I say, Will, why don’t you answer my telegrams? Sent you two today saying Come immediately serious rift Anya and self. Unless you come earliest possible moment prepared to lend every effort effect reconciliation, wedding will be broken off. Reply.
Lumpy



My misgivings, I saw, had been well-founded. Something whispered to me on seeing those bally envelopes that here we were again, and here we were. It wasn’t bad enough that old Lumps was in the soup with his showgirl, but as mentioned, the dispatches had been sent from Totleigh-in-the-Wold, which just so happened to be the country estate of Sir Quentin Travers, the unfounded magistrate. I had failed to mention earlier, that when old Travers was a young Travers and nothing more than a lawyer, he had been charged with the dealings of the Harrison-Phipps estate when Lumpy’s governor had doffed his mortal coil for wings and harp.


The sound of familiar footsteps had brought Giles floating out from the back premises. A glance was enough to tell him that all was not well with ye employer.


“Are you ill, miss?” he enquired solicitously.


I sank into a chair and passed a shaky hand over the brow.


“Not ill, Giles, but all a twitter.” I related the incidents of the day, disguising my true reasons for being in the antique shop by saying that Aunt Sheila had bade me inspect a piece of silver for her husband Ira. An entirely believable ruse, and a necessary one as I still intended to pop back to the dingy suite and purchase the horrible cow-creamer for Giles Christmas gift. I handed him Lumpy’s telegraphs to peruse.


He ran his eye over the dossier, then transferred it to mine, and I could read the respectful anxiety he was feeling for the well-being of the young miss.


“Most disturbing, miss.”


His voice was grave. I could see that he hadn’t missed the gist. There was no need to explain to him. But for you, dear reader, I’ll illuminate. If things with Old Lumpy and Miss Jenkins really had gone sideways and he was again a single man of name, it would only be the work of a moment before the great, hairy, eyeball that is my Aunt Sheila descended upon my darling Tara as a suitable, indeed more desirable, replacement for the showgirl. Of course, Miss Maclay would never be swayed by any such hackneyed propositions thrust upon her by my meddling relation. But any attention on her meant attention on me, which further meant attention on us as a pair or rather, a pairing.


This was why I now lighted a feverish cigarette and hitched the lower jaw up with a visible effort.


“What do you suppose has happened, Giles?”


“It is difficult to hazard a conjecture, miss.”


“The wedding may be scratched, he says. Why? That is what I ask myself.”


“Yes, miss.”


“And I have no doubt that it is what you ask yourself?”


“Yes, miss.”


“Deep waters, Giles.”


“Extremely deep, miss.”


“The only thing we can say with any certainty is that in some way – how we shall presumably learn later – Lumpy has made an ass of himself again.”


I mused on Lumpy Harrison-Phipps for a moment, recalling how he had always stood by himself in the chump class.


“What shall I do, Giles?”


“I think it would be best to proceed to Totleigh Towers, miss.”


“But how can I? Old Travers would sling me out the moment I arrived.”


“Possibly if you were to telegraph Mr. Harrison-Phipps, miss, explaining your difficulty, he might have some solution to suggest.”


That seemed sound. I hastened out to the post office and wired as follows:


Harrison-Phipps
Totleigh Towers
Totleigh-in-the-Wold

Yes, that’s all very well. You say come here immediately, but how dickens can I? You don’t understand relations between Pop Travers and self. These not such as to make him welcome visit Willow. Would inevitably hurl out on ear and set dogs on. Useless suggest putting on false nose and pretending be new maid for housekeeping, as old blighter familiar with features and would instantly detect imposter. What is to be done? What has happened? Why serious rift? What serious rift? How do you mean wedding broken off? Why dickens? What have you been doing to the girl? Reply.
Willow



I toddled out of the P.O. and back to the flat and found myself standing face-to-face with my darling Tara. Her face was all a-flush and her breath quick and heavy as though she had been running from some large nasty thing.


“Hello, darling,” I said. “You seemed awfully piqued. Are you alright?”


“Willow, dear, horrible news.”


“Yes I know, Lumpy and the showgirl on the outs at Totleigh Towers.”


“No, not that.” She paused moment, thoughtfully, “Though you must tell me of it once I’ve finished.” She took a deep breath and began again. “I was down to Brompton Road to check on the creamer to see if you had got it--”


“Ah, yes, well, about that, I’ll be down to get it tomorrow--”


“But, Willow, darling, it’s gone! It’s been purchased out from under you by some elderly magistrate called Travers.”


“What?” I startled, “That blighter! I’ve always felt that old Pop Travers was capable of anything.” Still, I couldn’t see what she thought there was to be done about it. The whole situation seemed to me essentially one of those where you just clench the hands and roll the eyes mutely up to heaven and then start a new life and try to forget.


She gazed at me in silence for a moment.


“Oh? So that’s how you feel, is it?”


“I do, yes.”


“You admit, by every moral law that cow-creamer belongs to Giles?”


“Oh, emphatically.”


“But you would take this foul outrage lying down?”


I paused and gazed back at her evenly. “My dear, Tara, I fear you are beginning to sound like one of my ruthless relatives from whom we are always trying to escape.”


She inhaled dramatically to make a reply that I was certain would be full of vinegar, when thankfully Giles entered with a tray, telegraph nestled atop it.


“This has just arrived, miss.”


“Thank you, Giles.”


He hovered noiselessly nearby while I read it. It ran:


See difficulty, but think can work it. Travers views me as son. Will plead with him you be allowed to come. Expect invitation shortly.
Lumpy



I handed the missive back to Giles.


“I think that we should start at once, miss.”


“Yes, I suppose.”


“Start for where?” Tara sprang in. “To do what?”


“Giles, will you excuse us a moment?”


“Of course, miss. I shall begin to pack immediately, miss.”


I turned to Tara and as quickly as I could relayed the whole nasty business involving Lumpy and Anya, as well as my history with Old Travers and the day’s mix-up at the antique shop, and anything else I felt would help her to see my side of things, with nary a pause for breath. Unfortunately, only one thing seemed to stick in her mind.


“So Totleigh Towers is the residence of Sir Quentin Travers, the horrible man who got away with Giles’ cow-creamer?”


I sat myself down and began to appeal to her reason.


“Well, it never really was his creamer, my lovely dumpling. Just because he gave it the doting eye now and then--”


“Oh, Willow, you would allow this, this, stick-up man to get away with the swag? You would just sit tight and say ‘Well, well!’ and do nothing?”


I weighed this.


“Possibly not ‘Well, well!’ I concede that the situation is one that calls for the strongest comment. But I wouldn’t do anything.”


“Well, I’m going to do something. I’m going to steal the thing.”


I started at her, astounded. I uttered no verbal rebuke, but there was a distinct “tut, tut!” in my gaze. Even though the provocation was, I admitted, severe, I could not approve of these strong-arm methods. And I was about to awaken her dormant conscience when she added:


“Or rather, you are!”


I had just lighted a cigarette as she spoke these words, and so, according to what they say in the advertisements, ought to have been nonchalant. But it must have been the wrong sort of cigarette, for I shot out of my chair as if somebody had shoved a bradawl through the seat.


“Who, me?”


“That’s right. You’re going to stay at Totleigh. You will have a hundred excellent opportunities to get your hands on the thing.”


“But, dash it!”


“I can’t see what you’re so upset about. It doesn’t seem to me much to do for a valet such as Giles.”


“It seems to me a dashed lot to do for a valet such as Giles, and I’m jolly well not going to dream--”


“Now, Willow listen,” Tara now had hushed her voice to ensure she held my attention keenly. “I wasn’t going to tell you this before because I had wanted it to be a sort of surprise, but the truth is that cow-creamer has been in the Giles family for generations.”


“Then what was it doing in an antique shop up for sale?”


“I’m getting to that,” she went on. “When Giles was a boy, his father had been the valet to a Lord Grindle, and when Grindle found himself up to his ears in debt, he went and asked Giles’ father for a loan of sorts.”


“Oh my!” I said. To beg one’s valet for cash is beyond uncouth, it’s simply not done. It is unforgivable. It is ungentlemanly.


“Giles father had been Lord Grindle’s valet for nearly twenty years, and was quite fond of his master, so he let propriety slip and agreed to the loan, which came in the form of the cow-creamer.”


“Dickens!”


“Well, naturally, Lord Grindle pawned it for cash and ever since then, Giles has kept track of the hands and the shops it has passed through, waiting diligently for the chance to buy it back.”


I understood now. At all cost, the cow-creamer must be returned to Giles. The poor fellow, who knew he had such a corking family history? I sat down and had a thoughtful pull off the cig.


“Oh, Willow, I do wish you wouldn’t smoke,” Tara tutted gently, calmer now that she had made her point on the jug. “You know I hate it so.”


I blinked out of my daydream and nodded, tamping it out in the ashtray.


Giles entered.


“The bags are packed, miss.”


“Very good, Giles,” I said. “Then let us be starting.”


*******************



To Be Continued...

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Last edited by DarkWiccan on Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:32 pm 
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I love Tara this chapter - she's got some of that down-to-earthness, and the deep feelings under a quiet exterior, that we associate with TV Tara, but there's also this element of posh zaniness that makes her a great fit for your Willow here.

The telegrams were great too, loved the phrasing - dropping words for brevity, but at the same time keeping the same kind of verbal flourish as the rest of the story. Willow writing "Why dickens" :laugh

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Through the Looking-glass - Every world needs a Willow and Tara.


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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:25 pm 
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I love the period dialogue in this piece.

It's a little flowery, but it sets the tone wonderfully.
Though i find myself wondering how far our two favourite ladies have gone in their relationship, and what THAT might sound like in this language :)

Looking forward to the next bit :bounce

(And yes, i read the earlier episode. The dress-burning really stuck with me :P

R :flower

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:52 am 
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Replies and then update!

Artemis -

Quote:
I love Tara this chapter - she's got some of that down-to-earthness, and the deep feelings under a quiet exterior, that we associate with TV Tara, but there's also this element of posh zaniness that makes her a great fit for your Willow here.


Thank you! Yes, I was only able to hint at Tara's own version of "zaniness" in the first two stories, and more the second than the first, really. Tara (both on the show and here) has a very deep sense of justice, and when she feels that someone is being treated unfairly (whether herself, or someone else), she has to act. The major difference is that the Tara in this series is a lot more self-assured and willing to take extra steps to see justice served. This also makes her a bit more "zany" and driven... and has been a fun element to write.

Tara is going to be absent for a few chapters, but I think you'll be pleased to see this trend of "take-charge-Tara" continue when she reappears later on.

I'm also glad you liked the telegrams! I had a lot of fun writing them and figuring out what I wanted to short-hand, and what I wanted to leave.


Azirahael -

First of all, I've been reading Coming Home and absolutely LOVING IT. I will provide feedback in the story thread once I'm completely caught up. Don't worry, I'm a fast-reader!

Now to your feedback here...

Quote:
I find myself wondering how far our two favourite ladies have gone in their relationship, and what THAT might sound like in this language


The fourth paragraph of the sequel to "Leave It to Giles": The Inimitable Giles answers this question handily... :flirt

Quote:
i read the earlier episode. The dress-burning really stuck with me :P


LOL! Although, I don't think the dress was burned. The purple stockings definitely were. The dress was given to the cook in an act of questionable charity by Giles.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond!!

I've decided to post two chapters this next update. Chapter 4 is rather "wee", so I felt it only fair to also include Chapter 5.

Enjoy!

Cheers
DW

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - Chapters 4 and 5
PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:54 am 
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Chapter 4




“Giles,” I said, breaking a thoughtful silence which had lasted for about eighty-seven miles, “I have been in some tough spots in my time, but this one wins the mottled oyster.”


We were bowling along in the two-seater on our way to Totleigh Towers, self at the wheel, Giles at my side, the personal effects in the dicky. We had got off round about eleven-thirty and the genial afternoon was now at its juiciest. It was one of those crisp, sunny winter days with the pleasant sweetness of snow in the air, and had circumstances been different from what they were, I would no doubt have been feeling at the peak of my form, chatting gaily, waving to passing rustics, possibly singing some little carol.


Unfortunately, however, if there was one thing circumstances weren’t, it was different from what they were, and there was no suspicion of song on the lips. The more I thought of what lay before me at these bally Towers, the bowed-downer did the heart become.


“The mottled oyster,” I repeated.


“Miss?”


I frowned. The man was being discreet, and this was no time for discretion.


“Don’t pretend you don’t know all about it, Giles,” I said. “You were in the next room throughout my interview with Tara, and her remarks must have been audible in Piccadilly.”


He dropped the mask.


“Well, yes, miss. I must confess that I did gather the substance of the conversation.”


“Very well, then. You know that I had intended to get you the cow-creamer as a gift for Christmas.”


“Yes, miss. The thought of it was indeed kind, miss.”


I was coming over rather misty, and felt the need to wear the old beater on the sleeve for a moment.


“Because, Giles, you really are a marvel, old boy.”


“Thank you, miss.”


“I can’t imagine how I made it as far as I did without you. You’re the first person to ever truly understand me.”


“I am deeply moved, miss.”


“I wanted to give you that blasted creamer to thank you, Giles. But like most things I try to do without your help, the whole thing went off the rails.”


“I appreciate the attempt, miss.”


“But, listen, Giles,” I said with no slight resolution, “I am going to get you that cow-creamer. It is of the Giles’ and therefore must be returned to the Giles’. And since you know that now Pop Travers has it in his possession he would never let it out, we really only have one choice as to go about redeeming it. Rosenby, the supposed bag-snatcher,” I grumbled. “Rosenby, the umbrella pincher. And now to present the world Rosenby who goes to the houses of retired magistrates and, while eating their bread and salt, swipes their cow-creamers. Faugh!” I said, for I was a good deal overwrought.


“Most disturbing miss.”


“I wonder how old Travers will receive me, Giles.”


“It will be interesting to observe his reactions, miss.”


“He can’t very well throw me out into the snow, I suppose, Lumpy having invited me?”


“No, miss.”


“On the other hand, he can- and I think he will – look at me over the top of his pince-nez and make rummy sniffing noises. The prospect is not an agreeable one.”


“No, miss.”


“I mean to say, even if this cow-creamer thing had not come up, conditions would be sticky.”


“Yes, miss. Might I venture to enquire if it is really your intention to endeavor to carry out the plundering of the cow creamer?”


You can’t fling the hands up in a passionate gesture when you are driving a car at fifty miles an hour. Otherwise, I would have done so.


“I’m going to pinch it back for you, Giles. Though, normally I tend to tottle and vacillate, on this I am firmly resolved. My name is already mud at Totleigh Towers and that old Travers is firmly convinced that I am a combination of Raffles and a pea-and-thimble man and steal everything I come upon that isn’t nailed down.”


I saw that he appeared to find something humorous in the recital. Giles does not often smile, but now a distinct simper had begun to wreathe his lips.


“Regarding this morning’s events, it was a laughable misunderstanding, miss.”


“Laughable, Giles?”


He saw his mirth had been ill-timed. He reassembled his features, ironing out the smile.


“I beg your pardon, miss, I should have said, ‘disturbing’.”


“Quite.”


“It must have been exceedingly trying, meeting Sir Quentin in such circumstances.”


“Yes, and it’s going to be a dashed sight more trying if he catches me pinching the cow-creamer. I keep seeing a vision of him doing it.”


“I quite understand, miss. And thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great pitch and moment in this regard their currents turn awry and lose the name of action.”


“Exactly. You take the words out of my mouth.”


I drove on brooding.


“And here’s another point that presents itself, Giles. Even if I want to steal cow-creamers, how am I going to find the time? It isn’t a thing you can just take in your stride. You have to plan and plot and lay schemes. And I shall need every ounce of concentration for this business of Lumpy’s.”


“Exactly, miss. One appreciates the difficulty.”


“What a life!”


“Yes, miss.”


“Still, stiff upper lip, I suppose, Giles, what?”


“Precisely, miss.”


During these exchanges, we had been breezing along at a fairish pace, and I had not failed to note that on a signpost which we had passed some little while back there had been inscribed the words “Totleigh-on-the-Wold, 8 miles”. There now appeared before us through the trees a stately home.


I braked the car.


“Journey’s end, Giles?”


“So I should be disposed to imagine, miss.”


And so it proved. Having turned in at the gateway and fetched up at the front door, we were informed by the butler that this was indeed the lair of Sir Quentin Travers.



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Chapter 5



“Childe Roland to the dark tower came, miss,” said Giles, as we alighted, though what he meant I hadn’t an earthly. Responding with a brief, “Oh, ah,” I gave my attention to the butler, who was endeavoring to communicate something to me.


What he was saying, I now gathered, was that if desirous of mixing immediately with the inmates I had chosen a bad moment for hitting the place. Sir Quentin, he explained, had popped out for a breather.


“I fancy he is somewhere in the grounds with Mr. Lucas Spode.”


I started. After that affair at the antique shop, the name Lucas was, as you may imagine, rather deeply graven on my heart.


“Lucas Spode? Big chap with a small moustache and the sort of eye that can open an oyster at sixty paces?”


“Yes, miss. He arrived earlier today with Sir Quentin from London. Miss Jenkins, I believe, is in residence, but it may take some little time to locate her.”


“How about Mr. Harrison-Phipps?”


“I think he has gone for a walk, miss.”


“Oh? Well, right ho. Then I’ll just potter about a bit.”


I was glad of the chance of being alone for a while, for I wished to brood. I strolled off along the terrace, doing so.


The news that Lucas Spode was on the premises had shaken me a good deal. I supposed him to be some mere club acquaintance of old Travers’s, who confined his activities exclusively to the metropolis, and his presence at the Towers rendered the prospect of trying to carry out the cow-creamer business, already calculated to unnerve the stoutest, twice as intimidating as it had been before, when I had supposed that I should be under the personal eye of Sir Quentin alone.


Well, you can see that for yourself, I mean to say. I mean, imagine how some unfortunate Master Criminal would feel, on coming down to murder at the old Grange, if he found that not only was Sherlock Holmes putting in the weekend there, but Hercule Poirot as well.


The more I faced up to the idea of pinching that cow-creamer, the less I liked it. It seemed to me that there ought to be a middle course, and that what I had to do was explore avenues in the hope of finding some formula. To this end I paced the terrace with a bent bean, pondering.


Old Travers, I noted, had laid out his money to excellent advantage. I am a bit of a connoisseur of country houses, and I found this one well up to sample. Nice façade, spreading grounds, smoothly shaven lawns, and a general atmosphere of what is known as old-world peace. Cows were mooing in the distance, sheep and winter birds respectively bleating and tootling, and somewhere near at hand there came a report of a gun, indicating that someone was having a whirl at the local rabbits. Totleigh Towers might be a place where Man was vile, but undoubtedly every prospect pleased.


And I was strolling up and down, trying to calculate how long it would have taken the old bounder, finding, say, twenty people a day five quid apiece, to pay for all this, when my attention was arrested by the interior of a room on the ground floor, visible through a French door.


It was a sort of minor drawing room, if you know what I mean, and it gave the impression of being over furnished. This was due to the fact that it was stuffed to bursting point with glass cases, these in their turn stuffed to bursting point with silver. It was evident that I was looking at the Travers collection.


I paused. Something seemed to draw me through the French door. And the next moment, there I was, vis-à-vis, as the expression is, with my old pal the silver cow. It was standing in a small case over by the door, and I peered in at it, breathing heavily on the glass.


It was with considerable emotion that I perceived that the case was not locked.


I turned the handle. I dipped in, and fished it out.


Now, whether it was my intention merely to inspect and examine, or whether I was proposing to shoot the works, I do not know. The nearest I can remember is that I had no really settled plans. My frame of mind was more or less that of a cat in an adage.


However, I was not accorded the leisure to review my emotions in what Giles would call the final analysis, for at this point a voice behind me said, “Hands up!” and, turning, I observed Lucas Spode in the window. He had a shotgun in his hand, and this he was pointing in a negligent sort of way at my middle. I gathered from his manner that he was one of those fellows who like firing from the hip.


I had described Lucas Spode to the butler as a man with an eye that could open an oyster at sixty paces, and it was an eye of this nature that he was directing at me now. He looked like a Dictator at the point of starting a purge, and I saw that I had been mistaken in supposing him to be seven feet in height. Eight, at least. Also, slowly working the jaw muscles.


I hoped he was not going to say, “Ha!” but he did. And as I had not yet mastered the vocal cords sufficiently to be able to reply, that concluded the dialogue sequence for the moment. Then, still keeping his eyes glued on me, he shouted:


“Sir Quentin!”


There was a distant sound of Eh-yes-here-I-am-what-is-it-ing.


“Come here, please. I have something to show you.”


Old Travers appeared in the window, adjusting his pince-nez.


I had seen this man before only in the decent habiliments suitable to the metropolis, and I confess that even in the predicament which I found myself I was able to shudder at the spectacle he presented in the country. It is, of course, an axiom as I have heard Giles call it, that the smaller the man, the louder the check suit, and old Travers’s apparel was in keeping with his lack of inches. Prismatic is the only word for those frightful tweeds and, oddly enough, the spectacle of them had the effect of steadying my nerves. They gave me the feeling that nothing mattered.


“Look!” said Spode. “Would you have thought such a thing possible?”


Old Travers was goggling at me with a sort of stunned amazement.


“Good God! It’s the bag-snatcher!”


“Yes. Isn’t it incredible?”


“It’s unbelievable. Why, damn it, it’s persecution. She follows me everywhere, like Mary’s lamb. Never a free moment. How did you catch her?”


“I happened to be coming along the drive, and I saw a furtive figure slink in at the window. I hurried up, and covered her with my gun. Just in time. She had already begun to loot the place.”


“Well, I’m most obliged to you, Luke. But what I can’t get over is the girl’s pertinacity. You would have thought that when we foiled that attempt of hers in the Brompton Road, she would have given up the thing as a bad job. But no. Down she comes here the very same day. Well, she will be sorry she did.”


“I suppose this is too serious a case for you to deal with summarily?”


“I can issue a warrant for her arrest. Bring her along to the library, and I’ll do it now. The case will have to go to the Assizes or the Sessions.”


“What will she get, do you think?”


“Not easy to say. But certainly not less than--”


“Hoy!” I said.


I had intended to speak in a quiet reasonable voice – going on, after I had secured their attention, to explain that I was on these premises as an invited guest, but for some reason the word came out like something Aunt Sheila might have said to an ill-performing servant a mile away across a ploughed field, and old Travers shot back as if he had been jabbed in the eye with a burned stick.


Spode commented on my methods of voice production.


“Don’t shout like that!”


“Nearly broke my ear drum,” grumbled old Travers.


“But listen!” I yelled. “Will you listen!”


A certain amount of confused argument then ensued, self trying to put the case for the defense and the opposition rather harping a bit at the row I was making. And in the middle of it, just as I was showing myself in particularly good voice, the door opened and somebody said, “Good heavens!”


I looked around. The wavy hair, the beady eyes, the rather lumpy physique: Alexander Harrison-Phipps was in our midst.


“Good heavens!” he repeated.


He was looking at us with a sort of boyish, wide-eyed wonder.


“What’s all the noise about?” he said. “Why, Willow! When did you get here?”


“Oh, hallo. I’ve just arrived.”


“Did you have a nice journey down?”


“Oh, rather, thanks. I came in the two-seater.”


“You must be exhausted.”


“Oh, no, thanks, rather not.”


“Well, tea will be ready soon. I see you’ve met old Pop.”


“And Mr. Spode.”


“And Mr. Spode.”


“I don’t know here Anya is, but she’s sure to be in to tea.”


“I’ll count the moments.”


Old Travers had been listening to these courtesies with a dazed expression on the map – gulping a bit from time to time, like a fish that has been hauled out of a pond on a bent pin and isn’t all sure it is equal to the pressure of events. One followed the mental processes, of course. To him, Willow was a creature of the underworld who stole bags and umbrellas and, what made it worse, didn’t even steal them well. No patriarch likes to see his charge on chummy terms with such a one.


“You don’t mean you know this woman?” he said.


Lumpy giggled his odd sort of wheezing laugh for which he had been given no end of taunts when he was a boy.


“Why, Pop, you’re too absurd. Of course I know her. Willow Rosenby is an old, old, a very dear old friend of mine. I told you she was coming here today.”


Old Travers seemed not abreast. Spode didn’t seem any too abreast, either.


“This isn’t your friend Miss Rosenby?”


“Of course.”


“But she snatches bags.”


“Umbrellas,” prompted Spode, as if he had been the King’s Remembrancer or something.


“And umbrellas,” assented old Travers. “And makes daylight raids on antique shops.”


Lumpy was not abreast – making three in all.


“Pop!”


Old Travers stuck to it stoutly.


“She does, I tell you. I’ve caught her at it.”


I’ve caught her at it,” said Spode.


“We’ve both caught her at it,” said old Travers. “All over London. Wherever you go in London, there you will find this girl stealing bags and umbrellas. And now in the heart of Gloucestershire.”


“Nonsense!” said Lumpy.


I saw that it was time to put an end to all this rot. I was about fed up with that bag-snatching stuff. Naturally, one does not expect a magistrate to have all the details about the customers at his fingers ends, but one can’t just keep passing a thing like that off tactfully.


“Of course it’s nonsense,” I thundered. “The whole thing is one of those laughable misunderstandings.”


I must say I was expecting that my explanation would have gone better than it did. What I had anticipated was that after a few words from myself, outlining the situation, there would have been roars of jolly mirth, followed by apologies and back-pattings. But old Travers, like so many of these police court magistrates, was a difficult man to convince. Magistrates’ natures soon get warped. He kept interrupting and asking questions, and cocking an eye as he asked them. You know what I mean – questions beginning with “Just one moment” and “You say” and “Then you are asking us to believe-” Offensive, very.


However, after a good deal of tedious spadework, I managed to get him straight on the umbrella, and he conceded that he might have misjudged me unjustly about that.


“But how about the bags?”


“There weren’t any bags.”


“I certainly sentenced you for something at Bosher Street. I remember it vividly.”


“I have never come before your court, Sir Quentin. Ever since we were first introduced at Easeby several years ago, you have always mistaken me for one of your criminals, and I must say I find it very off-putting.”


“When did we meet at Easeby?”


“Pop, Willow’s old Willoughby’s niece. She’s named for him.”


I stood up rather tall in my little frame.


“That’s right. And in answer to your question, Travers, we met four years ago when you were summering there. At that time you accused me of being a policeman’s helmet pincher.”


Travers was plainly taken aback. Then he perked up.


“Well, how about that affair at the antique shop? Hey? Didn’t we catch her in the act of running off with my cow-creamer? What has she got to say to that?”


Spode seemed to see the force of this and nodded.


“The bloke at the shop had given it to me to look at,” I said shortly. “He advised me to take it outside, where the light was better.”


“You were rushing out.”


“Staggering out. I trod on the cat.”


“What cat?”


“It appeared to be an animal attached to the personnel of the emporium.”


“H’m! I saw no cat. Did you see a cat, Luke?”


“No, no cat.”


“Ha! Well, we will pass over the cat--”


“But I didn’t,” I said, with one of my lightning flashes.


“We will pass over the cat,” repeated old Travers, ignoring the gag and leaving it lying there, “and come to another point. What were you doing with that cow-creamer? You say you were looking at it. You are asking us to believe that you were merely subjecting it to a perfectly innocent scrutiny. Why? What was your motive? What possible interest could it have for a woman like you?”


“Exactly,” said Spode. “The very question I was going to ask myself.”


This bit of backing-up from a pal had the worst effect on old Travers. It encouraged him to so great an extent that he now yielded completely to the illusion that he was back in his bally police court.


“You say the proprietor of the shop handed it to you. I put it to you that you snatched it up and were making off with it. And now Mr. Spode catches you here, with the thing in your hands. How do you explain that? What’s your answer to that? Hey?”


“Oh, Pop!” said Lumpy. “Naturally your silver would be the first thing Willow would want to look at. Of course, she is interested in it. She’s Ira Gregson’s niece.”


“What?”


“Didn’t you know that? Your uncle has a wonderful collection hasn’t he, Willow? I suppose he has often spoke to you of old Pop’s.”


There was a pause. Old Travers was breathing heavily. I didn’t like the look of him. I had completely forgotten about Uncle Ira’s silver collection, and it was suddenly clear to me now that these two were rival collectors. Old Travers glanced from me to the cow-creamer, and from the cow-creamer to me, then back from me to the cow-creamer again, and it would have taken a far less astute observer than Willow to fail to read what was passing in his mind. Sir Quentin had put two and two together, and now, dash it, was under the immovable belief that I was there to nick the creamer for his antiquing foe.


“Oh,” he said.


Just that. Nothing more. But it was enough.


“I say,” I said, “could I send a telegram?”


“You can telephone it from the library,” said Lumpy. “I’ll take you there.”


He conducted me to the instrument and left me, saying that he would be waiting in the hall when I had finished. I leaped at it, established a connection with the post office, and after a brief conversation with what appeared to be the village idiot, telephoned as follows:


Maclay,
Berkley Mansions,
Berkley Square,
London.

Deeply regret quite impossible to carry out assignment re: you know what. Atmosphere one of keenest suspicion and any sort of action instantly fatal. You ought to have seen the old Travers’s eye just now learning of blood relationship of self and Uncle Ira. Like ambassador finding veiled woman snooping ‘round safe containing secret treaty. Sorry and all that, but nothing doing. Love.
Willow



I then tottled off down the hall to find Lumpy.



***************

To Be Continued....

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2017 3:12 pm 
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So I went back and re-read Leave it to Giles. I was a much better reader and commenter when I was wiccanbotanist....

Could not help but guffaw (good thing I'm in a hotel room and not on a train right?) at your last reply to me saying you make no promises about sequels.

And instead of sleeping like I should be (I have a 12 hour night shift starting in about 4 hours) I plan to re-read The Intimitable Giles instead.

I need to find more Wooster and Jeeves, it had been so long since I had seen it (it was one or two vhs I rented at the library back in 2010) I don't even remember which episodes I saw.

I had commented previously asking if I could worship you. Thank you for continuing to be a deity.

Delayne

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:14 pm 
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I daresay Tara will disagree with Willow's assessment that there's nothing doing on the cow front - inspirational telegram to buck up Will's spirits for a second attempt? Show up in person for a two-lady heist?

I love Giles's replies to Willow during the trip (slightly frightening to imagine her driving) - and it's nice that you have him stray enough from the hilarious 'yes miss' politeness routine to show his own character, but not so much as to break the running joke of how perfectly valet-y he is. Also as always, the slightly loopy ways Willow narrates - "sheep and winter birds respectively bleating and tootling" for instance :laugh

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2017 7:26 pm 
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Replies!!

dtburanek -
Quote:
So I went back and re-read Leave it to Giles. I was a much better reader and commenter when I was wiccanbotanist....


I'd say you're still doing a pretty great job as Delayne!

Quote:
Could not help but guffaw... at your last reply to me saying you make no promises about sequels.


LOL - yeah.... well... I should have known I'd come back to the wonderful world of W/T fic eventually.

Quote:
I had commented previously asking if I could worship you. Thank you for continuing to be a deity.


My gosh!! Um... that's awfully sweet of you... but honestly, just you reading and commenting is enough. Thank you!!


Artemis -
Quote:
I daresay Tara will disagree with Willow's assessment that there's nothing doing on the cow front - inspirational telegram to buck up Will's spirits for a second attempt? Show up in person for a two-lady heist?


Hmm... I suppose we'll have to see what happens...(rubs hands together)

Quote:
I love Giles's replies to Willow during the trip (slightly frightening to imagine her driving)


Glad you liked that Giles does have his own sense of humor (and is his own man). I've decided it was past time to let him stretch his personality muscles a little. As for being afraid of Willow's driving, no need. She's actually quite a good driver (as evidenced by their arriving safely at their destination and her being conscientious enough to not fling her hands up in a wild gesticulation while going 50 miles per hour).

Thanks for reading!!

Okie dokie... next chapter posts on Tuesday. See you then!

Cheers
DW

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - Chapter 6
PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 10:11 am 
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Chapter 6






“Oh, Willow,” Lumpy said when I’d found him, leaning against a banister. “You really shouldn’t have come.”


I goggled. I gagged. I nearly choked as I managed to sputter: “But you telegraphed me three times! You said ‘serious rift Anya and self.’ You even arranged an invite from that awful old man in order to gain my entrance, and yet you say I shouldn’t have come!”


“Oh that?” He giggled again, awkwardly. “That was nothing. It was all too perfectly silly and ridiculous. Just a small misunderstanding. She thought she had found me flirting with Travers’s daughter Faith, and she was a bit jealous. But I explained everything. I was only taking a fly out of her eye.”


“Faith? You mean Fifi? I had forgot she was Travers’ kid. Perhaps because she never accused me of anything criminal. What’s the bird up to these days?”


“She’s taken up breeding Aberdeens.”


“What, those scruffy little terriers?” I said.


“The same,” Lumpy explained. “We had been talking of her favorite stud, a little fellow she calls Wilkins, when the fly got in her eye.”


I suppose I might legitimately have been a bit shirty on learning that I had been hauled all the way down here for nothing, but I wasn’t. I was amazingly braced. As I have indicated, that telegram of Lumpy’s had shaken me to the foundations, causing me to fear the worst. And now the All Clear had been blown, and I had received absolute inside information straight from the horse’s mouth that all was hotsy-totsy between the showgirl and himself.


“So everything’s all right, is it?”


“Everything. Sometimes, Willow, I ask myself if I am worthy of such a rare soul.”


“Oh, I wouldn’t ask yourself that,” I said heartily. “Of course you are.”


“It’s awfully chummy of you to say so.”


“Not a bit. You two fit like pork and beans. Anyone could see that it was a what-d’ya-call-it…ideal union.”


“Really?”


“Absolutely. When’s the wedding to be?”


“On the twenty-third.”


“I’d make it earlier.”


“You think so?”


“Definitely. Get it over and done with, then you’ll have off your mind. You can’t be married too soon to a bird like Anya. They don’t often make them like Anya.”


He reached out and grabbed my hand and pressed it. Unpleasant, of course, but one must take the rough with the smooth.


“Dear, Willow! Always the soul of generosity!”


“No, no, rather not. Just saying what I think.”


Lumpy smiled and drew himself up a bit, as though attempting to shift his physique into a smoother form. The affect was discomfiting.


“I say, Will old chum, I wonder if you’ve noticed any difference in me?”


I threw my mind back as far as I could recollect; Lumpy had always been the same daffy chump I had always known.


“Difference? No I don’t think so. What sort of difference?”


“Be honest with me, Willow. Have you not sometimes felt in the past that I could be a little timid?”


I thought a moment. I’d never really considered the cove to be what you might call “timid”. Although, taking into consideration past performances, there never was a brawl Lumpy tended to avoid or an argument he’d skirted if he could help it. Perhaps it was so.


I saw what he meant.


“Oh, ah, yes, of course, definitely. You’re rather a sensitive plant, what?”


“I would have said the same thing a week ago.”


“What’s happened to you, Lumpy?”


At this point he glanced rather furtively about the place, before giving me a conspiratorial nod and leading me down the hall.


There is something that seems to speak to the deeps in me in the beaming smile of my host, as he plucks at my elbow and says “Let’s go have a whisky and soda in the smoking room.” It is on such occasions as this, it has often been said, that you catch Willow Rosenby at her best.


But now all sense of bien-etre was destroyed by Lumpy’s peculiar manner. There were mysteries here which I wanted to probe.


“What happened a week ago?” I asked.


“I had a spiritual rebirth. Thanks to Giles. There’s a chap, Willow! We are as little children, frightened of the dark, and Giles is the wise nurse who takes us by the hand and--”


“Switches the light on?”


“Precisely. Would you care to hear about it?”


I assured him that I was all agog. I settled myself in a chair and awaited the inside story.



------------------------------------------------------




Lumpy stood silent for a moment. I could see that he was marshalling his facts.


“A week ago, Willow,” he began, “my affairs had reached a crisis. I was faced by an ordeal, the mere prospect of which blackened the horizon. I discovered that I would have to make a speech at the wedding breakfast.”


“Well, naturally.”


“I know, but for some reason I had not foreseen it, and the news came as a stunning blow. And I shall tell you why I was so overcome by stark horror at the idea of making a speech at the wedding breakfast? It was because Lucas Spode and old Pop Travers would be in the audience. Do you know Mr. Spode intimately?”


“I’m thankful to say, ‘No’.”


“Well, he looks on himself as a Man of Destiny on a mission, you see. He takes his line through Napoleon.”


I felt that before proceeding further I must get the low-down on this Spode. I didn’t follow all this “Man of Destiny” stuff.


“How do you mean his mission? Is he someone special?”


“Don’t you read the papers? Lucas Spode is the founder and head of the Saviours of Britain, a Fascist organization better known as the Black Shorts. His general idea, if he doesn’t get knocked on the head with a bottle in one of the frequent brawls in which he and his follower indulge, is to make himself a Dictator.”


“Well, I’m blowed!”


I was astounded at my keenness of perception. The moment I set eyes upon Spode, if you remember, I had said to myself, “What, Ho! A Dictator!” and a Dictator he had proved to be. I couldn’t have made a better shot if I had been one of those detectives who see a chap walking along the street and deduced that he is a retired manufacturer of poppet valves named Robinson with rheumatism in one arm, living in Clapham.


“Well, I’m dashed! I thought he was something of that sort. That chin…those eyes…and, for a matter of that, that moustache. By the way, when you say ‘shorts’, you mean ‘shirts,’ of
course.”


“No. By the time Spode formed his association, there were no shirts left. He and his adherents wear black shorts.”


“How perfectly foul.”


“Yes.”


“Bare knees?”


“Bare knees.”


“Golly!”


A thought struck me, so revolting that I nearly dropped my toddy.


“Does old Travers wear black shorts?”


“No. He isn’t a member of the Saviours of Britain.”


“Then how does he come to be mixed up with Spode? I met them going around London like a couple of sailors on shore leave.”


“Sir Travers is engaged to be married to Spode’s aunt.”


I mused for a moment, reviewing in my mind the scene in the antique bin. In that shop, Sir Travers had given the impression of a man who had found the blue bird. Now a clue to that fizziness had been provided.


“Don’t let’s go wandering off on side issues,” said Lumpy, drawing me out of my musings. “Where was I?”


“I don’t remember.”


“I do. I was telling you that I would have to make a speech at the wedding breakfast – to an audience, as I said before, of which Lucas Spode and Sir Quentin Travers would form a part.”


He paused and swallowed convulsively, like a Pekingese taking a pill.


“I am a shy man, Willow. You know how I feel about making speeches under any conditions--”


“I must stop you there, my good man,” I said, interrupting him. “On this point you have me irrevocably confounded. Why, by now you’ve been all around the countryside galloping about on the vaudeville stage with your affiance. Not to mention your mother, my Aunt Jessica, and that walrus Jenkins. Surely, giving a silly speech to the extended fam is nothing more than a trifle to you now.”


He looked at me rather oddly.


“You don’t understand, old chum. How could you, never once trodding the boards?”


“Enlighten me then, dear Lumps.”


“There are footlights, you see, and great bright lamps overhead; why, you can’t see a meter past the stage! We might as well be performing in a private room.”


“Surely there is some sort of a clue as to the existence of the audience.”


“Well, of course, the laughing and clapping give them away. But I don’t have to see them, is the point.”


Things became clearer in that moment, and I said so.


“You can imagine, then,” he went on, “what it was like for me to have to contemplate that wedding breakfast. To the task of haranguing a flock of aunts and cousins I might have steeled myself. I don’t say it would have been easy, but I might have managed it. But to get up with Spode on one side of me and Sir Quentin on the other… I didn’t see how I was going to face it. And then, out of the night that covered me, black as the pit from pole to pole, there shone a tiny gleam of hope. I thought of Giles.”


His hand moved upwards, and I think his idea was to bare his head reverently. The project, was, however, rendered null and void by the fact that he hadn’t a hat on.


“I thought of Giles,” he repeated, “and I took the train to London and placed my problem before him. I begged him to try to find some way of getting me out of this frightful situation in which I was enmeshed – assuring him that I would not blame him if he failed to do so, because it seemed to me, after some days of reviewing the matter, that I was beyond human aid. And you will scarcely credit this, Willow: I hadn’t got more than halfway through the glass of orange juice with which he’d supplied me, when he solved the whole thing. I wouldn’t have believed it possible. I wonder what that brain of his weighs?”


“A good bit, I fancy. He eats a lot of fish. So it was a winner, this idea?”


“It was terrific. He approached the matter from the psychological angle. In the final analysis, he said, disinclination to speak in public is due to fear of one’s audience.”


“Well, yes, I could have told you that.”


“Yes, but he indicated how this might be cured. We do not, he said, fear those whom we despise. The thing to do, therefore, is to cultivate a lofty contempt for those who will be listening to one.”


“How?”


“Quite simple. You will your mind with scornful thoughts about them so that when you are called upon to address them, they have lost their sting. You dominate them.”


I pondered this.


“I see. Well, yes, it sounds good, Lumpy. But will it work in practice?”


“My dear girl, it works like a charm. I’ve tested it. You recall the speech I gave at that recent dinner of yours?”


I cast the old bean back to the rather cheery supper my lovely Tara and I had hosted the previous week. By Jove, Lumpy had made a speech and an admirable one at that. I started.


“You weren’t despising us?”


“I certainly was. Thoroughly.”


“What, Miss Maclay?”


The thought of anyone, man or beast, tossing a recusant regard in the direction of my treasured lamb was enough to set the fires alight behind the old green peepers.


He went on, “and you, and all the rest of those present. ‘Worms!’ I said to myself. ‘What a crew!’ I said to myself. ‘There’s old Willow,’ I said to myself. ‘Golly!’ I said to myself, ‘what I know about her.’”


I gagged on my beverage, spraying half a mouthful across the room. What did he know about me? My mind reeled. About Tara? Our companionship?


I felt the world dip worryingly away from me and only managed to right the whole swirling vessel after I realized Lumpy was still going on about his successful oratory, seemingly without notice of my lapse into panic.


“With the result I played on you as on a lot of stringed instruments and achieved an outstanding triumph,” he concluded.


I must say I was conscious of a certain chagrin. A bit thick, I mean, being scorned by a goof like Lumpy – and at that moment when he had been bursting with one’s own meat and veg.


But soon more generous emotions prevailed. After all, I told myself, the great thing – the fundamental thing to which other considerations must yield – was to get Harrison-Phipps safely under the wire and off on his honeymoon. And but for this advice of Giles’, the muttered threats of Lucas Spode and the combined sniffing and looking over the top of the pince-nez of Sir Quentin Travers might well have been sufficient to destroy his morale entirely and cause him to cancel the wedding arrangements.


“Well, yes,” I said, “I see what you mean. But, dash it, Lumpy, conceding the fact that you might scorn myself and – stretching the possibilities a bit – Miss Maclay, you couldn’t despise Spode.”


“Couldn’t I?” He laughed a light little laugh. “I did it on my head. Old Travers, too. I tell you, Willow, I approach this wedding breakfast without a tremor. I am confident and debonair. There will be none of that blushing and stammering and twiddling the fingers and plucking at the tablecloth which you see in most bridegrooms on these occasions. I shall look the men in the eye, and make them wilt. As for the aunts and the cousins, I shall have them rolling in the aisles. The moment Giles spoke those words, I settled down to think of all the things about Lucas Spode and Sir Quentin Travers which expose them to the contempt of their fellow men. I could tell you fifty things about Pop Travers alone which would make you wonder how such a moral and physical blot on the English scene could have been tolerated all these years. I wrote them down in a notebook.”


“You wrote them down in a notebook?”


“A small leather-bound notebook. I bought it in the village.”


I confess I was a bit agitated. Even though he presumably kept it under lock and key, the mere existence of such a book made one uneasy. One did not care to think what the upshot and outcome would be were it to fall into the wrong hands. A brochure like that would be dynamite.


“Where do you keep it?”


“In my breast pocket. Here it is. Oh no, it isn’t. That’s funny,” said Lumpy, “I must have dropped it somewhere.”


************


To Be Continued....

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 7:12 pm 
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It's going to get good!

And I don't suspect Giles already has it in his care ready to put it properly in place this time.

So I went back to the re-reading, the sequel especially, and was quite undetermined on whether it was a re-read or just a read. I feel rather daft still I cannot sort it out. You had posted it the month after I returned to states. But I do remember getting involved in a Christmas collaborations that year that I barely got my story done for, so I had to have been around....

Anyway, I look forward to next Tuesday.

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 5:52 pm 
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Oh dear, silly Lumpy - but he only has himself to blame. Not just for being so careless, but thinking uncharitable thoughts about Tara (and Willow too)? That will not do. I'm sure all will be sorted out in the end (no doubt with Giles's careful management), but he should think himself lucky that karma didn't drop a well-deserved anvil on him for that one.

Also, everything about 'Fifi' is hilarious :laugh

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2017 9:26 am 
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dtburanek -

Quote:
And I don't suspect Giles already has it in his care ready to put it properly in place this time.


Unfortunately, no such luck. We'll figure out just who has it in this next chapter...

Thanks for going back and re-reading (or just reading) the original stories. I hope that you enjoyed them again (or for the first time) :grin

Artemis -

Quote:
Oh dear, silly Lumpy - but he only has himself to blame.


Only too true! But what disaster will his twit-ish wreak? Only time, and a few more chapters... will tell.

Quote:
Also, everything about 'Fifi' is hilarious :laugh


Just wait until you actually meet her!

Thanks for continuing to read and comment :)

Update follows!

Cheers
DW

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - Chapter 7
PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2017 9:28 am 
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Chapter 7





I don’t know if you’ve had the same experience, but a thing I have found in life is that from time to time, as you jog along, there occur moments which you are able to recognize immediately with the naked eye as high spots. Something tells you that they are going to remain etched, if etched is the word I want, forever on the memory, and will come back to you at intervals down the years, as you are dropping off to sleep, banishing that drowsy feeling and causing you to leap on the pillow like a gaffed salmon.


One of these well-remembered moments in my own case was my time at my first boarding school when I sneaked down to the headmistress’s study at dead of night, my spies having informed me that she kept a tin of biscuits in the cupboard under the bookshelf; to discover, after I was well inside and a modest and unobtrusive withdrawal impossible, that the blighted woman was seated at her desk and – by what I have always thought a rather odd coincidence – actually engaged in the composition of my end-of-term report, which subsequently turned out to be a stinker.


It was a situation in which it would be paltering with the truth to say that Willow retained unimpaired her customary sang-froid. But I’m dashed if I can remember staring at Mother Mary Hubert on that occasion with half the pallid horror which had shot into the map at these words of Lumpy’s.


“Dropped it?” I quavered.


“Yes, but it’s all right.”


“All right?”


“I mean, I can remember every word of it.”


“Oh, I see. That’s fine.”


“Yes.”


“Was there much of it?”


“Oh, lots.”


“Good stuff?”


“Of the best.”


“Well, that’s splendid.”


I looked at him with growing wonder. You would have thought that by this time even this pre-eminent subnormal would have spotted the frightful peril that lurked. But no. His eyes shone with a jovial light. He was full of élan and espièglerie, without a care in the world. All right up to the neck, but from there on pure concrete – that was Alexander Harrison-Phipps.


“Oh yes,”, he said, “I’ve got it all carefully memorized, and I’m extremely pleased with it. It’s amazing the amount of material you can assemble, once you begin really analyzing people. Have you ever seen Spode eat an asparagus?”


“No.”


“Revolting. It alters one’s concept of the Man as Nature’s last word.”


“That’s the sort of thing you wrote in the book?”


“I gave them about half a page. They were just trivial, surface faults. The bulk of my researches went much deeper.”


“I see. You spread yourself?”


“Very much so.”


“Say, Lumpy old top, did any of your ‘researches’ have to do with Miss Maclay and myself?”


“Oh, nothing of the sort. Spode and Pop Travers were my only subjects.”


I breathed a not-inconsiderable sigh of relief.


“And it was all bright, snappy stuff?”


“Every word of it.”


“That’s great. I mean to say, no chance of old Travers being bored when he reads it.”


“Reads it?”


“Well, he’s just as likely to find the book as anyone, isn’t he?”


I remember Tara saying to me once, apropos of how you never can tell what the weather’s going to do, that full many a glorious morning had she seen flatter the mountain tops and then turn into a rather nasty afternoon. It was the same with Lumpy now. He had been beaming like a searchlight until I mentioned this aspect of the matter, and the radiance suddenly disappeared as if it had been switched off at the main.


He stood gaping at me very much as I had gaped at Mother Hubert on the occasion to which I have alluded above. His expression was almost identical with that which I had once surprised on the face of a fish, whose name I cannot recall, in the royal aquarium at Monaco.


“I never thought of that!”


“Start now.”


“Oh, my gosh!”


“Yes.”


“Oh, my golly!”


“Quite.”


“Oh, my sainted aunt!”


“Absolutely.”


He moved to the tea table like a man in a dream, and started eating an old crumpet. His eyes, as they sought mine, were bulging.


“Suppose old Pop Travers does find the book, what do you think will ensue?”


I could answer that one.


“He would immediately put the bee on the wedding.”


“Of course he would. Oh my gosh!”


“Still, I wouldn’t worry about that, old man,” I said, pointing out the bright side, “because long before it happened, Spode would have broken your neck.”


He plucked feebly at another crumpet.


“This is frightful, Willow.”


“Not too good, no.”


“I’m in the soup.”


“Up to the thorax.”


“What’s to be done?”


“I don’t know.”


“Can’t you think of anything?”


“Nothing. We must just put our trust in a higher power.”


“Consult Giles, you mean?”


I shook the lemon.


“Even Giles cannot help us here. It is a straight issue of finding and recovering the notebook before it can get to Travers. Why on earth didn’t you keep it locked up somewhere?”


“I couldn’t. I was always writing fresh stuff in it. I had to have it handy.”


“You’re sure it was in your breast pocket?”


“Quite sure.”


“It couldn’t be in your bedroom, by any chance?”


“No, I always kept it on me – so as to have it safe.”


“Safe. I see.”


“I’m trying to think where I saw it last. Wait a minute. It’s beginning to come back. Yes, I remember. By the pump.”


“What pump?”


“The one in the stable yard. Yes, that is where I saw it last. I took it out to jot down a note about the way Sir Quentin slopped his porridge about at breakfast. I had just completed my critique when I met Faith Travers and took the fly out of her eye, Willow!” he cried, breaking off. A strange light had come into his eyes. He brought his fist down with a bang on the table. Silly ass. Might have known he would upset the milk. “Willow, I’ve just remember something. I then put it back in my breast pocket. Where I keep my handkerchief.”


“Well?”


“Don’t you understand? What is the first thing you do, when you find a girl with a fly in her eye?”


I uttered an exclamation.


“Reach for your handkerchief?”


“Exactly. And draw it out and extract the fly with the corner of it. And if there is a small, brown leather bound notebook alongside the handkerchief--”


“It shoots out--”


“And it falls to earth--”


“--you know not where.”


“But I do know where. That’s just the point. I could lead you to the exact spot.”


For an instant I felt braced. Then the moodiness returned.


“Yesterday before lunch, you say? Then someone must have found it by this time.”


“That’s what I’m coming to. I’ve remembered something else. Immediately after I had coped with the fly, I recollect hearing Faith say, ‘Hullo, what’s that?’ and seeing her stoop and pick something up. I didn’t pay much attention to the episode as the time, for it was just at that moment that I caught sight of Anya. She was standing in the entrance of the yard, with a distant look on her face. I may mention that in order to extract the fly I had been compelled to place a hand on Faith’s chin, in order to steady the head.”


“Quite.”


“Essential on these occasions.”


“Definitely.”


“Unless the head is kept rigid, you cannot operate. I tried to point this out to Anya, but she wouldn’t listen. She swept away and I swept after her. It was only this morning that I was able to place the facts before her and make her accept my explanation. Meanwhile, I had completely forgotten the Faith-stooping-picking-up incident. I think it is obvious that the book is now in the possession of young Miss Travers.”


“It must be.”


“Then everything’s all right. We just seek her out and ask her to hand it back, and she does so. I expect she will have got a good laugh out of it.”


At this notion I quietly gagged. I couldn’t think it possible that any girl would find humor in a veritable index of insults directed at her pater. Even if he was a total frost. I opted not to think on it for the moment and pressed on.


“Where is she?”


“I seem to remember her saying something about walking down to the village. If you’re not doing anything, you might stroll and meet her.”


“I will.”



*****************

To Be Continued...

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Last edited by DarkWiccan on Tue Jan 31, 2017 12:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2017 9:48 am 
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Oh, drat.

Really enjoyed the back and forth between the two.

I use "quite" a lot myself. I double checked and did not find "indeed" however.

Pip Pip, jolly good, keep up the good work and all that. I do look forward to meeting Fifi

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
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So it all rests with Faith - is she a dutiful child to Quentin, or might she be inclined to rebel against him and his odious Spode? Anyone who likes Scottish terriers can't be all bad, surely? One would hope?

I don't know if it was the product of your getting more and more into the swing of Willow's style as you got further into the story, or if it just hit my funny bone in the right way this morning, but I thought the narration and dialogue was particularly sparkling this chapter. Chuckles throughout, and "I hadn't thought of that" "Start now" made me laugh out loud. :laugh Great work :bow

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
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Replies and then an update!

dtburanek - Thanks ever so! Glad you're enjoying this silly trifle so far!!

artemis - Huzzah! I managed to make you literally LOL. Yay!

Quote:
So it all rests with Faith - is she a dutiful child to Quentin, or might she be inclined to rebel against him and his odious Spode? Anyone who likes Scottish terriers can't be all bad, surely? One would hope?


Hmmm... well... we shall see.... :devil


Onto the next chapter!

Tally-ho!
DW

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - Chapter 8
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 9:35 am 
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Chapter 8




It did not take me long to get to the end of the drive. At the gates, I paused. It seemed to me that my best plan would be to linger here until Fifi returned. I considered lighting a cigarette, but immediately binned the idea, hearing the ghostly tutting of dear Tara at the back of my mind. I meditated a moment, trying to figure where I’d picked the bally habit up anyway. Not able to point the finger at anything in particular, I painfully shifted the old lemon’s gears and mulled over the matter of Lumpy’s blasted notebook.


Although slightly easier in the mind than I had been, I was still very much shaken. Until that book was back in safe storage, there could be no real peace for the Rosenby soul. Too much depended on its recovery. As I said to Lumpy, if old Travers started doing the heavy solicitor and forbidding banns, when all the smoke had cleared Lumpy would be at liberty.


I was still musing in a somber and apprehensive vein, when my meditations were interrupted. A human drama was developing in the road in front of me.


The shades of the evening were beginning to fall pretty freely now, but the visibility was still good enough to enable me to observe that up the road there was approaching a large, stout, moon-faced policeman on his bicycle. And he was, one could see, at peace with the world. His whole attitude was that of a policeman with nothing on his mind but his helmet.


Well, when I tell you that he was riding without his hands, you will gather to what lengths the careless gaiety of this serene slop had spread.


And where the drama came in was that it was patent that his attention had not yet been drawn to the fact that he was being chivvied – in the strong, silent, earnest manner characteristic of this breed of animal – by a fine Aberdeen terrier. There he was, riding comfortably along, sniffing the fragrant evening breeze, and there was the Scottie, all whiskers and eyebrows, haring after him hell-for-leather. As Giles said later, when I described the scene to him, the whole situation resembled some great moment in Greek tragedy, where someone is stepping high, wide and handsome, quite unconscious that all the while the Nemesis is at his heels, and he may be right.


The constable, I say, was riding without his hands: and but for this the disaster, when it occurred, might not have been so complete. An unexpected Scottie connecting with the ankle bone at such a time, and you swoop into a sudden swerve. And, as everybody knows, if the hands are not firmly on the handlebars, a sudden swerve spells a smeller. And so it happened now. A smeller – and among the finest I have ever been privileged to witness – was what this officer of the law came. One moment he was with us, all merry and bright; the next he was in a ditch, a sort of macédoine of arms and legs and wheels, with the terrier standing on the edge, looking down at him with that rather offensive expression of virtuous smugness which I have often noticed on the faces of Aberdeen terriers in their clashes with humanity.


And as he threshed out of the ditch, attempting to unscramble himself, a girl came around the corner, an attractive young prune upholstered in heather-mixture tweeds, and I recognized the familiar features of Faith Travers.


Miss Travers was plainly vexed with the policeman. You could see it in her manner. She hooked the crook of her walking stick over the Scottie’s collar and drew him back; then addressed herself to the man, who had now begun to emerge from the ditch like Venus rising from the foam.


“What on earth,” she demanded, “did you do that for?”


It was no business of mine, of course, but I couldn’t help feeling she might have made a more tactful approach to what threatened to be a difficult and delicate conference. And I could see that the policeman felt the same. There was a good deal of mud on his face, but not enough to hide his wounded expression.


“You might have scared him out of his wits, hurling yourself about like that. Poor old Wilkins, did the ugly man nearly squash him flat?”


Again, I missed the tactful note. In describing this public servant as ugly, she was undoubtedly technically correct. But one doesn’t want to rub these things in. Suavity is what you need on these occasions. You can’t beat suavity.


The policeman now lifted himself and bicycle out of the abyss, and was putting the latter through a series of tests, to ascertain the extent of the damage. Satisfied that it was slight, he turned and eyed Faith rather as old Travers had eyed me in the antique shop.


“I was proceeding along the public highway,” he began in a slow, measured tone, as if he were giving evidence in court, “and the dorg leaped at me in a verlent manner. I was zurled from my bersicle-”


Faith seized upon the point like a practiced debater.


“Well, you shouldn’t ride a bicycle. Wilkins hates bicycles.”


“I ride a bersicle, miss, because if I didn’t I should ‘ave to cover my beat on foot.”


“Do you good. Get some of the fat off you.”


“That,” said the policeman, no mean debater himself, producing a notebook from the recesses of his costume and blowing a water beetle off it, “is not the point at tissue. The point at tissue is that this makes twice that the animal has committed an aggravated assault on my person, and I shall have to summons you once more, miss, for being in possession of a savage dorg not under proper control.”


The thrust was a keen one, but Faith came back strongly


“Don’t be an ass, Oates. You can’t expect a dog to pass up a policeman on a bicycle. It isn’t human nature. And I’ll bet you started it, anyway. You must have teased him, or something, and I may as well tell you that I intend to fight this case to the House of Lords. I shall call this lady as a material witness.” She turned to me, and for the first time became aware that I was no lady, but an old friend. “Oh, hallo, Willow.”


“Hallo, Fifi.”


“When did you get here?”


“Oh, recently.”


“Did you see what happened?”


“Oh, rather. Ringside seat throughout.”


“Well, stand by to be subpoenaed.”


“Right, ho.”


The policeman had been taking a sort of inventory and writing down in the book. He was now in a position to call the score.


“Piecer skin scraped off right knee. Bruise or contusion on left elbow. Scratch on nose. Uniform covered in mud and’ll ‘ave to go and be cleaned. Also shock – severe. You will receive the summons in due course.”


He mounted his bicycle and rode off, causing the dog Wilkins to make a passionate bound that nearly unshipped him from the restraining stick. Faith stood for a moment looking after him a bit yearningly, like a girl who wished that she had half a brick handy. Then she turned away, and I came straight down to brass tacks.


“Fifi,” I said, “passing lightly over all the guff about being charmed to see you again and how well you’re looking and all that, have you got a small, brown, leather-covered notebook that Lumpy Harrison-Phipps dropped in the stable yard yesterday?”


She did not reply, seeming to be musing – no doubt on the recent Oates. I repeated the question, and she came out of the trance.


“Notebook?”


“Small, brown, leather-covered one.”


“Full of a lot of breezy personal remarks?”


“That’s the one.”


“Yes, I’ve got it.”


I flung the hands heavenwards and uttered a joyful yowl. The dog Wilkins gave me an unpleasant look and said something under his breath, but I ignored him. A kennel of Aberdeen terriers could have rolled their eyes and bared the wisdom tooth without impairing this ecstatic moment.


“Gosh, what a relief!”


“Does it belong to Lumpy?”


“Yes.”


“You mean to say it was Lumpy who wrote those really excellent character studies of Lucas Spode and father? I wouldn’t have thought he had it in him.”


“Nobody would. It’s an interesting story. It appears—”


“Though why anyone would waste time on Spode and father when there is Oates simply crying out to be written about, I can’t imagine. I don’t think I have ever met a man, Willow, who gets in the hair so consistently as Constable Oates.”


“Where’s the book, Fifi?” I said, returning to the res.


“Never mind about books. Let’s stick to Oates. Don’t you loathe policemen, Willow?”


I was not prepared to go quite so far as this as my attitude towards an, on the whole, excellent body of fellows.


“Well, not en masse, if you understand the expression. In re this Oates of yours, I haven’t seen enough of him, of course, to form an opinion.”


“Well, you can take it from me, he’s one of the worst. Do you recall telling me of the time when Winifred’s brother Wesley tried to pinch that policeman’s helmet in Leicester Square?”


“My but that was ages ago. I still can’t believe he took up the dare!” Wesley was a fine chap as chaps go, but not one inclined to rule-breaking, as a rule.


“Well, I didn’t think much of it at the time, but the other day it suddenly came back to me. For months I had been trying to think of a way of getting back at this man Oates, and you had showed it to me.”


I started. It seemed to me that her words could bear but one interpretation.


“You aren’t going to pinch his helmet?”


“Of course not.”


“I think you’re wise.”


“It’s man’s work. I can see that. So, I’ve told Ryland to do it. He often said he would do anything in the world for me, bless him.”


Fifi’s map, as a rule, tends to be rather grave and dreamy, giving the impression that she is thinking deep, beautiful thoughts. Quite misleading of course. I don’t suppose she would recognize a deep, beautiful, thought if you handed it to her on a skewer with tartar sauce. Like Giles, she doesn’t often smile, but now her lips had parted – ecstatically, I think – I should have to check up on Giles – and her eyes were sparkling.


“What a man!” she said. “We’re engaged you know.”


“Oh, are you?”


“Yes, but don’t tell a soul. It’s frightfully secret. Father mustn’t know about it till he has been well-sweetened.


“And who is this Ryland?”


“The curate down in the village.” She turned to the dog Wilkins. “Is lovely kind curate going to pinch bad, ugly policeman’s helmet for his muzzer, zen, and make her very, very happy?” she said.


Or words to that general trend. I can’t do the dialect, of course.


I stared at the young pill, appalled at her moral code, if you could call it that.


“Curate?” I said, “But, Fifi, you can’t ask a curate to go about pinching policeman’s helmets.”


“Why not?”


“Well, it’s most unusual. You’ll get the poor fellow unfrocked.”


“Unfrocked?”


“It’s something they do to parsons when they catch them bending. And this will inevitably be the outcome of the frightful task you have apportioned to the sainted Ryland.”


“I don’t see that it’s a frightful task. It ought to be right up Ryland’s street. When he was at Magdalen, before he saw the light, he was a dickens of a chap. Always doing things like that.”


Her mention of Magdalen interested me. It had been Lumpy’s college and, in my younger, spritely days, I had been known to cut up with he and his school chums. Always on the up and up, of course, but Aunt Sheila was never keen on my gadding about with the boys. I can still hear the echoes of her screeching about the “scandal” we, or more to her point I, was inviting on the Rosenby’s good name.


“Magdalen man, is? What year? Perhaps I know him.”


“Of course you do. He often speaks of you and was delighted when I told him you were coming here. Ryland Finn.”


I was astounded.


“Ryland Finn? Old Skittle Pin Finn? Great Scott! I’d often wondered where he had got to. And all the while he had sneaked off and become a curate. You really mean old Skittle Pin cures souls?”


“Certainly. And jolly well, too. The nibs think very highly of him. Any moment now, he may get a vicarage, and then watch him smoke. He’ll be a Bishop someday.”


The excitement of discovering a long-lost buddy waned. I found myself returning to practical issues. I became grave.


It was all very well for Faith to say that this thing would be right up old Skittle Pin’s street. She didn’t know him as I did. I had watched Ryland Finn through the formative years of his life, and I knew him for what he was – a lumbering, newfoundland puppy of a chap – full of zeal, yes: always doing his best, true; but never quite able to make the grade; a man, in short, who if there was a chance of bungling an enterprise and landing himself in the soup, would snatch at it. At the idea of him being turned on to perform the extraordinarily delicate task of swiping Constable Oates’ helmet, the blood froze. He hadn’t a chance of getting away with it.


“He will, will he?” I said, “A fat lot of bishing he’s going to do, if he’s caught sneaking helmets from members of his flock.”


“He won’t be caught.”


“Of course, he’ll be caught. At Magdalen he was always getting caught. I know from Lumpy’s stories. Ryland seemed to have no notion whatsoever of going about a thing in a subtle, tactful, way. Chuck it, Fifi. Abandon the whole project.”


“No.”


“Fifi!”


“No, the show must go on.”


I gave up. I fell into a thoughtful silence, as I brooded on the dark future lying in wait for an old friend. I heaved a sigh, and resumed the conversation.


“So you and Skittle Pin are engaged are you?”


“Oh, Willow, I’m so happy I could bite a grape. At least, I shall be, if we can get father thinking along ‘Bless you, my children’ lines.”


“Oh yes, you were saying, weren’t you? About him being sweetened? How do you mean, sweetened?”


“Well, I was wondering if you might do something quite simple for me.”


A well-defined uneasiness crept over me. Simple? I doubted it. I mean to say, if her idea of a suitable job for curates was the pinching of policeman’s helmets, what sort of an assignment, I could not but ask myself, was she likely to hand to me? It seemed that the moment had come for a bit of in-the-bud-nipping.


“Oh yes?” I said, “Well, let me tell you here and now that I’m jolly-well not going to do it.”


“Why, you don’t even know what it is.”


“I’d prefer not to know.”


“Well, I’m going to tell you.”


“I do not wish to listen.”


“You would rather I unleashed Wilkins? I notice he has been looking at you in that odd way of his. I don’t believe he likes you. He does take sudden dislikes to people.”


The Rosenbys are brave, but not rash. I allowed her to lead me to the stone wall that bordered the terrace, and we sat down. The evening, I remember, was one of perfect tranquility, featuring a sort of serene peace. Which just shows you.


"I won’t keep you long”, she said, “it’s all quite simple and straightforward. I shall have to begin, though by telling you why we have to be so dark and secret about the engagement. You’ve got to face it. Curates are not so hot. So before anything can be done in the way of removing the veil of secrecy, we have got to sell Ryland to father. If we play our cards properly, I am hoping that he will give him a vicarage which he has in his gift. Then we shall begin to get somewhere.”


I didn’t like her use of the word “we”, but I saw what she was driving at, and I was sorry to have to insert a spanner in her hopes and dreams.


“You wish me to put in a word for Skittle Pin? You would like me to draw your father aside and tell him what a splendid fellow Skittle Pin is? There is nothing I would enjoy more, my dear Fifi, but unfortunately we are not on those terms.”


“No, no, nothing like that.”


“Well, I don’t see what more I can do.”


“You will”, she said. Again, I was conscious of that subtle feeling of uneasiness. I told myself I must be firm.


“Oh?” I said, guardedly.


She paused in order to tickle the dog Wilkins under the left ear. The she resumed.


“Do you ever read Milady’s Boudoir?”


“Miss Maclay has a subscription to it, but I am not a regular reader. Why?”


“There was a story in it last week about a young lover who gets a friend of his to dress up as a tramp and attack the girl’s father, and then he dashes in and rescues him.”


I patted her hand gently.


“The flaw in this idea of yours,” I pointed out, “is that the hero seems to have a half-witted friend who is eager to place himself in the foulest of positions on his behalf. In Skittle Pin’s case this is not so. I am fond of Skittle Pin but there are sharply defined limits to what I am prepared to do to further his interests.”


“Well, it doesn’t matter, because Ryland put the veto on that one. But he loves my new one.”


“Oh, you’ve got a new one?”


“Yes, and it’s terrific. The beauty of it is that Ryland’s part is above reproach. The only snag is that we have to have someone working with him and until I heard you were coming down here I couldn’t think who we were to get. But now you’ve arrived all is well.”


“It is? I informed you before, young Travers, and I now inform you again that nothing will induce me to mix myself up with your loathsome schemes.”


“Oh, but Willow, you must! We’re relying on you. And all you have to do is practically nothing. Just steal father’s cow-creamer.”


I don’t know what you would have done, if a girl in heather-mixture tweeds had sprung this on you, scarcely eight hours after an angel-faced companion had sprung the same. It is possible that you would have reeled. Most birds would, I imagine. Personally, I was more amused than aghast. Indeed, if memory serves me aright, I laughed. If so, it was just as well, for it was about the last chance I had.


“Oh yes?” I said, “tell me more.” Feeling that it would be entertaining to allow the little blighter to run one. “Steal his cow-creamer, eh?”


“Yes. It’s a thing he brought back from London yesterday for his collection. A sort of silver cow with a kind of blotto look on its face. He thinks the world of it. He had it on the table in from of him at dinner last night, and was gassing away about it. And it was then that I got the idea. I thought that if Ryland could pinch it, and then bring it back, father would be so grateful that he would start spouting vicarages like a geyser. And then I spotted the catch.”


“Oh, there’s a catch?”


“Of course. Don’t you see? How would Ryland be supposed to have got the thing? If a silver cow is in somebody’s collection, and it disappears, and the next day a curate rolls around with it, that curate has got to do some good, quick explaining. Obviously, it has to be made to look like an outside job.”


“I see. You want me to put on a black mask and break in through the window and snitch this objet d’art and hand it over to Skittle Pin? I see. I see.”


I spoke with satirical bitterness, and I should have thought that anyone could have seen that satirical bitterness was what I was speaking with, but she merely looked at me with admiration and approval.


“Don’t you think it’s a wonderful scheme, Willow?”


I rose. My face was cold and hard.


“Most. But I’m sorry-”


“You mean you won’t do it, now that you see that it will cause you practically no inconvenience at all? It would only take about ten minutes of your time.”


“I do mean I won’t do it.”


“Well, I think you’re a cow.”


“A cow, maybe, but a shrewd, level-headed cow. I wouldn’t touch the project with a bargepole. I tell you I know Skittle Pin. Exactly how he would muck the thing up and get us all landed in the jug, I cannot say, but he would find a way. And now I’ll take that book, if you don’t mind.”


“What book? Oh, that one of Lumpy’s?”


“Yes.”


“What do you want it for?”


“I want it,” I said gravely, “because Lumpy is not fit to be in charge of it. He might lose it again, in which event it might fall into the hands of your father, in which event he would certainly kick the stuffing out of the Lumpy-Anya wedding arrangements, in which event I would be up against it as few ladies have been up against it before.”


“You?”


“None other.”


“How do you come to it?”


“I—”, Here I paused a moment. Treading lightly and carefully seemed to be the order of the day. I didn’t dare give Fifi the full-picture, but some sort of a picture is what the situation demanded. Perhaps a water-color, or something in semi-tones. Gathering what few of my wits I had, I pressed forward. “I really can’t say beyond the admission that there would be sights.”


“Sights?”


“Indeed, my girl, sights. As in, ‘on me’ as in ‘my Aunt Sheila’s’ as in ‘matrimonial schemes’.”


She drank this in.


“Surely, your Aunt has no authority over you in that matter? And what on Earth does that have to do with whether or not Miss Jenkins and Lumpy tie the knot?”


“True on the former, but less so on the latter. It has a great deal to do with keeping Lumps and Miss Jenkins attached. It’s not my own state of marriage, or lack-thereof, I’m concerned with. It’s –”, I took another beat. “Look, you know of Miss Maclay.”


“Oh yes! That lovely American girl. Is she still holding down a room at your London flat?”


“Indeed she is.” And in a few terse words I outlined for her the events that had taken place at Easeby, particularly how Aunt Sheila had roped me into her scheme to try and get Lumpy to turn his sights from Miss Jenkins to Miss Maclay. I dared not go too deeply into greater heart of the matter, for obvious reasons, but did make it clear that Tara had no interest whatever in changing her last name to Harrison-Phipps.


“You will understand,” I said, “that I am implying nothing derogatory to dear old Lumpy when I say that the idea of Tara being united to him in the bonds of holy wedlock is one that freezes the gizzard. The fact is in no way to his discredit. I should feel just the same about marrying many of the world’s noblest men. There are certain males whom one respects, admires, reveres, but only from a distance. If they show any signs of attempting to come closer, one is prepared to fight them off with a blackjack. It is to this group that my cousin Lumpy belongs. A charming fellow, and the ideal mate for Anya Jenkins, but not Tara Maclay.”


“I never realized that’s how things were. No wonder you want that book.”


“Exactly.”


“Well, this has opened up a new line of thought.”


That grave, dreamy look had come into her face. She massaged the dog Wilkins spine with a pensive foot.


“Come on,” I said, chafing at the delay. “Slip it across.”


“Just a moment. I’m trying to straighten all this out in my mind. You know, Willow, I really ought to take that book to father.”


“What!”


“That’s what my conscience tells me to do. After all, I owe a lot to him. And he ought to know how Lumpy feels about him, oughtn’t he? However, as you’re being so sweet and are going to help Ryland and me by stealing that cow-creamer, I suppose I shall have to stretch a point.”


We Rosenbys are pretty quick. I don’t suppose it was more than a couple of minutes before I figured out what she meant. I read her purpose and I shuddered.


She was naming the Price of the Papers. In other words, I was now being blackmailed by a female crony before dinner.


“Fifi!” I cried.


“It’s no good saying ‘Fifi!’. Either you sit in and do your bit, or father gets some racy light reading over his morning egg and coffee. Think it over, Willow.”


She hoisted the dog Wilkins to his feet and trickled off towards the house. The last I saw of her was a meaning look, directed at me over her shoulder, and it went through me like a knife.


I had slumped into the wall and sat there, stunned. I’m not sure how long, but it was a goodish time. Winged creatures of the night barged into me, but I paid them no mind. It was not till a voice spoke a couple of feet above my bowed head that I came out of my coma.


“Good evening, Rosenby,” said the voice.


I looked up. The cliff-like mass looming over me was Lucas Spode.


I suppose even Dictators have their chummy moments, where they put up their feet and relax with the boys, but it was clear from the outset that if he had something resembling a sunny disposition he had not come with any notion of sharing it now. His manner was curt.


“I should like a word with you, Rosenby,” he said.


“Oh yes?”


“I’ve been speaking with Sir Quentin Travers, and he has told me the whole story of the cow-creamer.”


“Oh yes?”


“And we know why you are here.”


“Oh yes?”


“Stop saying ‘Oh yes?’ you miserable worm and listen to me.”


Many birds might have resented his tone. I did myself, as a matter of fact. But you know how it is. There are some fellows who you are right on your toes to tick off when they call you a miserable worm, others not quite so much.


“Oh yes,” he said, saying it himself, dash it, “it is perfectly plain to us why you are here. You have been sent by your Uncle Ira Gregson to steal this cow-creamer for him. You needn’t trouble yourself to deny it. I found you with it in your hands this afternoon.”


He eyed me in the manner of a fish at the glass.


“Well, what I came to tell you Rosenby is that you are being watched – and watched closely. If you are caught stealing that cow-creamer, I can assure you that you will go to prison. You need entertain no hope that Sir Quentin will shrink from creating a scandal. He will do his duty as a citizen and a Justice of the Peace.”


Here he laid a hand upon my shoulder, and I can’t remember when I have experienced anything more unpleasant. Apart from what Giles would have called the symbolism of the act, he had a grip like the bite of a horse.


“Did you say, ‘Oh yes?’” he asked.


“Oh no,” I assured him.


“Good. Now, what you are saying to yourself, no doubt, is that you will not be caught. You imagine that you will be clever enough to steal the cow-creamer without being detected. It will do you no good, Rosenby. If the thing disappears, however cunningly you have covered your traces, I shall know where it has gone, and I shall immediately beat you to a jelly. To a jelly,” he repeated, rolling his tongue round the word as if it were a vintage port. “Have you got that clear?”


“Oh, quite.”


“You are sure you understand?”


“Oh, definitely.”


“Splendid.”


A dim figure approached from across the terrace and he changed his tone to one of rather sickening geniality.


“What a lovely evening, is it not? Extraordinarily mild for this time of year. Well I mustn’t keep you any longer.”


The dim figure grew nearer. A familiar cough revealed its identity.


“I wish to speak to Miss Rosenby, sir. The dressing gong has been rung,” said Giles.


I rose from my seat.


“Giles,” I said, “stand by to counsel and advise. The plot has thickened.”



*******


To Be Continued...

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2017 7:45 pm 
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Favourite this time: "Stand by to be subpoenaed." "Right, ho." :laugh And Oates's lines in general, the spelling for his accent, 'dorg' and so forth, loved it.

And besides all the comedy (or rather, kind of in parallel to it) it's great how all the threads of the story (including past ones) bump into one another, getting all tangled up together in an increasingly unruly mess for poor Willow to navigate. Very good plotting, bravo :bow

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 9:36 am 
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Hi Chris!

I must admit that any praise for plotting must go to PG Wodehouse as I am following a couple of his stories for this fic. The wrench I get to add to the works is Willow's need to keep the nature of her and Tara's relationship a secret. So the tricky bit really comes in to play on that score.

Will the plot thicken further? We'll find out in the next chapter... coming up... NOW! :grin


Cheers!
DW

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - Chapter 9
PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 9:39 am 
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Chapter 9




I slid into my dinner dress, a rather dour knee-length little number quite representative of my current mood.


“Well, Giles,” I said, “how about it?”


During the walk to the house I had placed him in possession of the latest developments and left him to turn them over in his mind with a view to finding a formula, while I went along the passage and took a hasty bath. I now gazed at him hopefully, like a seal awaiting a bit of fish.


“Thought of anything, Giles?”


“Not yet, miss, I regret to say.”


“What? No results whatever?”


“None, miss, I fear.”


I groaned a hollow one. I had become so accustomed to having this gifted man weigh in with the ripest ideas at the drop of the hat that the possibility of his failing to deliver on this occasion had not occurred to me. The blow was a severe one, and it was with a quivering hand that I now shoed the feet. A strange frozen sensation had come over me, rendering the physical and mental processes below par. It was as though both limbs and bean had been placed in a refrigerator and overlooked for several days.


“You’re certain you’ve got the set-up?” I asked.


“Yes, miss. It is certainly a somewhat unfortunate state of affairs.”


I gave him one of my looks.


“Giles,” I said, “don’t try me too high. Not at a moment like this. Somewhat unfortunate, forsooth! Who was it you were telling me about the other day, on whose head all the sorrows of the world has come?”


“The Mona Lisa, miss.”


“Well, if I met the Mona Lisa at this moment, I would shake her by the hand and assure her that I knew just how she felt. You see before you, Giles, a toad beneath the harrow.”


“If I might suggest, miss – it is, of course, merely a palliative – but it has often been found in time of despondency that the assumption of formal evening dress has a stimulating effect on the morale.”


I looked up at him and found him delicately holding my fine, green-velvet dress by the hook of its hanger, a hopeful look on his bespectacled face.


“You think I ought to go to such lengths? I was told dinner was informal.”


“I consider that the emergency justifies the departure, miss.”


“Perhaps you’re right.”


And of course, he was. In these delicate matters of psychology he never errs. I got into the full rig and was immediately conscious of a marked improvement. The feet became warmer, a sparkle returned to the lack-luster eyes, and the soul seemed to expand as if someone had got to work on it with a bicycle pump. And I was surveying the effect in the mirror when an idea sparked to life in the old lemon.


“You know, Giles, all this business of Lumpy’s notebook has me thinking if this man Spode hasn’t some shady secret. Do you know anything about him, Giles?”


“No, miss.”


“But if we were to get the goods on him,” I said, “If he had buried the body and we knew where, it would render him a negligible force. But you say you know nothing about him.”


“No, miss.”


“And I doubt if there is anything to know, anyway. There are some chaps, one look at whom is enough to tell you that they are pukka sahibs who play the game and do not do the things that are not done, and prominent among these, I fear, is Lucas Spode. I shouldn’t imagine that the most rigorous investigation would turnover anything about him worse than that moustache of his, and to the world’s scrutiny of that he obviously has no objection, or he wouldn’t wear the damned thing.”


“Very true, miss. Still, it might be worth enquiries.”


“Yes, but where?”


“I was thinking of the Junior Ganymede, miss. It is a club for gentlemen’s personal gentlemen in Curzon Street, to which I have belonged for some years. The personal attendant of a gentleman of Mr. Spode’s prominence would be sure to be a member, and he would of course have confided to the secretary a good deal of material concerning him for insertion into the club book.”


“Eh?”


“Under Rule Eleven, every new member is required to supply the club with full information regarding his employer. This not only provides entertaining reading, but serves as a warning to members who may be contemplating taking service with gentlemen who fall short of the ideal.”


“But, how can you still be a member, Giles, seeing as how you are in service to a lady and not a gentleman?”


“My long tenure with the organization allowed that certain exceptions were favorably made, miss.”


A thought struck me, and I started. Indeed, I started violently.


“Did you tell them about me?”


“Oh, yes miss.”


“What, everything? The occasion on which I came home after Spikey Twistlethwaite’s birthday party and mistook the standard lamp for a burglar?”


“Yes, miss.”


Everything, Giles? Including my arrangement with Miss Maclay?”


“Yes, miss. The members like to have these things to read on wet afternoons.”


I goggled at him. “Oh, they do, do they? And suppose some wet afternoon Aunt Sheila reads them? Did that occur to you?”


“The contingency of Mrs. Rosenby-Gregson obtaining access to the club book is a remote one.”


“I dare say. But recent events under this very roof will have shown you how we women do obtain access to books.”


I relapsed into silence, pondering on this startling glimpse he had accorded of what went on in institutions like the Junior Ganymede, of the existence of which I had previously been unaware. I had known, of course, that at nights, after serving the frugal meal, Giles would put on the old bowler hat and slip round the corner, but I had always supposed his destination to have been the saloon bar of some neighboring pub. Of clubs in Curzon Street I had had no inkling.


Still, there didn’t seem to be much to be done about it, so I returned to what Constable Oates would have called the point at tissue.


“Then what’s your idea? To apply to the Secretary for information about Spode?”


“Yes, miss.”


“You think he’ll give it to you?”


“Oh, yes, miss.”


“You mean he scatters these data – these extraordinarily dangerous data – these data that might spell ruin if they fell into the wrong hands – broadcast to whoever asks for them?”


“Only to members, miss.”


“How soon can you get in touch with him?”


“I could ring him up on the telephone immediately, miss.”


“The do so, Giles, and if possible chalk the call up to Sir Quentin Travers. And don’t lose your nerve when you hear the girl say ‘three minutes’. Carry on regardless. Cost what it may, ye Sec. must be made to understand – and understand thoroughly – that now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party.”


“I think I can convince him that an emergency exists, miss.”


“If you can’t, refer him to me.”


“Very good, miss.”


He started off on his errand of mercy.


From downstairs there came the sudden booming of the dinner gong.





----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------




I suppose looking back on it now I should have taken more care to enjoy that dinner more than I gave myself leave to at the time. Had I realized it would be the last enjoyable meal I would entertain for this particular trip to the country I would have gotten my nose down at will. Whatever Sir Quentin Travers’ moral shortcomings, he did his guests extraordinarily well at the festive board, and even in my preoccupied condition it was plain to me in the first five minutes that his cook was a woman who had the divine fire in her. From a Grade A soup to a toothsome fish, and from the toothsome fish to a salmi of game that even the finest chefs of London would be proud to sponsor. Add asparagus, a jam omelet and some spirited sardines on toast, and you will see what I mean.


All wasted on me, of course. As the fellow said, better a dinner of herbs when you’re all buddies together than a regular blow-out when you’re not, and the sight of my host and Lucas Spode sat snuggled up together at the far end of the table, talking to one another in low voices, and staring at me from time to time was enough to put any bird of spirit off her fish course.


Once the final plate had been removed, I murmured something about fetching my cigarette case and sidled out and went up to my room. It seemed to me that either Lumpy or Giles would be bound to look in there sooner or later.


A cheerful fire was burning in the grate, and to while away the time I pulled the armchair up and got out the mystery story I had brought with me from London. As my researches in it had already shown me, it was a particularly good one, full of crisp clues and meaty murders, and I was soon absorbed. Scarcely, however, had I really had time to get going on it, when there was a rattle at the door handle, and who should amble in but Lucas Spode.


I looked at him with not a little astonishment. I meant to say, the last chap I was expecting to invade my bedchamber. And it wasn’t as if he had come to apologize for his offensive attitude on the terrace, when in addition to muttering menaces he had called me a miserable worm, or for the stares he had seen necessary to give me at the dinner table. One glance on his face told me that. The first thing a chap who has come to apologize does is to weigh in with an ingratiating simper, and of this there was no sign.


As a matter of fact, he seemed to me to be looking slightly more sinister than ever, and I found his aspect so forbidding that I dug up an ingratiating simper myself. I didn’t suppose it would do much toward conciliating the blighter, but every little helps.


“Oh, hallo, Spode,” I said affably. “Come on in. Is there something I can do for you?”


Without replying, he walked to the cupboard, threw it open with a brusque twiddle and glared into it. This done, he turned and eyed me, still in that unchummy manner.


“I thought Harrison-Phipps might be here.”


“He isn’t.”


“So I see.”


“Did you expect to find him in the cupboard?”


“Yes.”


“Oh?”


There was a pause.


“Any message I can give him if he turns up?”


“Yes. You can tell him that I am going to break his neck.”


“Break his neck?”


“Yes. Are you deaf? Break his neck.”


I nodded pacifically.


“I see. Break his neck. And if he asks why?”


“He knows why. Because he is a butterfly who toys with women’s hearts and throws them away like soiled gloves.”


“Right ho.” I hadn’t had a notion that that was what butterflies did. Most interesting. “Well, I’ll let him know if I run across him.”


“Thank you.”


He withdrew slamming the door, and I sat musing on what it could all mean. With a slight sigh, I resumed my goose-flesher, and was making fair progress with it, when a hollow voice said, “I say, Willow!” and I sat up quivering in every limb. It was as if a family specter had edged up and breathed down the back of my neck.


Turning, I observed Lumpy Harrison-Phipps appearing from under the bed.


Owing to the fact that the shock had caused my tongue to get tangled up with my tonsils, inducing an unpleasant choking sensation, I found myself momentarily incapable of speech. All I was able to do was goggle at Lumpy, and it was immediately evident to me as I did so that he had been following the recent conversation closely. His entire demeanor was that of a man being vividly conscious of being just about a half jump ahead of Lucas Spode. The hair was ruffled, the eyes wild, the nose twitching. A rabbit pursued by a weasel would have looked just the same.


“That was a close one, Willow,” he said, in a low, quivering voice. He crossed the room, giving a little at the knees. His face was a rather pretty greenish color. “I think I’ll lock the door, if you don’t mind. He might come back. He’s quite sore my engagement with Anya has broken off again, or rather, the reason for it. Why he didn’t look under the bed, I can’t imagine. I always thought these Dictators were so thorough.”


I managed to get my tongue unhitched.


“Never mind about beds and Dictators. What’s all this about you and Anya Jenkins?”


He winced.


“Do you mind not talking about that?”


“Yes, I do mind not talking about it. What on earth has she broken off the engagement for? What did you do to her?”


He winced again. I could see that I was probing an exposed nerve.


“It wasn’t so much what I did to her – it was what I did to Faith Travers.”


“To Fifi?”


“Yes.”


“What did you do to Fifi?”


He betrayed some embarrassment.


“I – er… Well, as a matter of fact, I… Mind you, I can see now that it was a mistake, but it seemed a good idea at the time… you see, the fact is…”


“Get on with it.”


He pulled himself together with a visible effort.


“Well, I wonder if you remember, Willow, what we were saying earlier today… about the possibility of her having possession of the notebook.”


“Yes, which I confirmed she does. But I hadn’t told you that yet, Lumpy.”


“Yes, well… I theorized that if she did have it on her person, then she might be keeping it in her stocking… and I supposed that one might ascertain…”


I reeled. I had got the gist. “You didn’t--”


“Yes.”


“When?”


Again that look of pain passed over his face.


“Just before dinner. I heard her singing folk songs in the drawing room. I went down there, and there she was at the piano, all alone…At least, I thought she was all alone… And suddenly it struck me that this would be an excellent opportunity to… What I didn’t know, you see, was that Anya, though invisible for the moment, was also present. She had gone behind the screen to get a further supply of folk songs from the chest in which they are kept…. And… well, the long and the short of it is that, just as I was… well, to cut a long story short, just as I was… How shall I put it? … Just as I was, so to speak, getting on with it, out she came… and… Well, you see what I mean… I mean, coming so soon after that taking-the-fly-out-of-the-girl’s-eye-in-the-stable-yard business, it was not so easy to pass it off. As a matter of fact, I didn’t pass it off. That’s the whole story. How are you on knotting bedsheets, Willow?”


I could not follow what is known as the transition of thought.


“Knotting sheets?”


“I was thinking it over under the bed, while you and Spode were chatting, and I came to the conclusion that the only thing to be done is for us to take the sheets off your bed and tie knots in them, and then you can lower me down from the window. They do it in books, and I’ve an idea I’ve seen it in movies. Once outside, I can take your car and drive up to London. After that my plans are uncertain. I may go to California.”


“California?”


“It’s seven thousand miles away. Spode would hardly come to California.”


I stared at him aghast.


“You aren’t going to do a bolt?”


“Of course I’m going to do a bolt. Immediately. You heard what Spode said.”


“But, Lumpy, pull yourself together. You can’t just run away.”


“What else can I do?”


“Why, stick around and try to effect a reconciliation. You haven’t had a shot at pleading with the girl yet.”


“Yes, I have. I did it at dinner. During the fish course. No good. She just gave me a cold look and made bread pills.”


I racked the bean. I was sure there must be an avenue somewhere, waiting to be explored, and in about half a minute I spotted it.


“What you’ve got to do,” I said, “is to get the notebook. If you secured that book and showed it to Anya, its contents would convince her that your motives in acting as you did towards Fifi were not what she supposed, but pure to the last drop. She would realize that your behavior was the outcome of… it’s on the tip of my tongue… a counsel of desperation. She would understand and forgive.”


For a moment, a faint flicker of hope seemed to illumine his twisted features.


“It’s a thought,” he agreed. “I believe you’ve got something there, Willow. That’s not a bad idea.”


“It can’t fail.”


The flicker faded.


“But how can I get the book? Where is it?”


“It wasn’t on her person?”


“I don’t think so. Though my investigations were, in the circumstances, necessarily cursory.”


“Then it’s probably in her room.”


“Well, there you are. I can’t go searching a girl’s room.”


“Why not?” I asked, “You had little difficulty hiding in mine. Or has it become necessary, as it seems to at intervals, to remind you, dear Lumps, that I am a girl?”


He looked at me much like a newt that had lost its way.


“Never mind,” I said. “Look, you see that book I was reading when you popped up. By an odd coincidence I had just come to a bit where a gang had been doing that very thing. Do it now, Lumpy. She’s probably fixed in the drawing room for the next hour or so.”


“As a matter of fact she’s gone to the village. But even so…No, Willow, I can’t do it. It may be the right thing to do, but I haven’t the nerve. Suppose Spode came in and caught me. The way he bounded in here it’s clear he’s a chap who wanders everywhere. No. My heart is broken, my future a blank, and there is nothing to be done but accept the fact and start knotting sheets. Let’s get at it.”


“You don’t knot any of my sheets.”


“But, dash it, my life is at stake.”


“I don’t care. I decline to be a party to this craven scooting.”


“For the last time, Willow, will you lend me a couple of sheets and help knot them?”


“No.”


“Then I shall have to go off and hide somewhere till dawn, when the milk train leaves. Goodbye, Willow. You have disappointed me.”


“You have disappointed me. I thought you had guts.”


“I have, and I don’t want Lucas Spode messing about with them.”


He gave me another of those dying-newt looks, and opened the door cautiously. A glance up and down the passage having apparently satisfied him that it was, for the moment, Spodeless, he slipped out and was gone. I returned to my book. It was the only thing I could think of that would keep me from sitting and torturing myself with agonizing broodings.


Presently I was aware that Giles was with me. I hadn’t heard him come in, but you often don’t with Giles. He just streams in silently from spot A to spot B, like some gas.


***********

To Be Continued....

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 9:32 pm 
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Lumpy has a true gift for disaster :laugh

And I love the whole bit about the club for 'gentlemens' personal gentlemen' too (I'm sure not far from the truth either). It seems quite trusting how Giles was very free in telling Willow about 'his' world, which I kind of feel like most gentlemen (and exceptions such as Will) probably are never even aware exists - but of course while Giles is the perfect personal gentlemen, he's far more than just that to Willow, and it's sweet seeing proof of that (as has been the case all along of course, from the cow creamer onwards).

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 5:04 pm 
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Love it!

It's like a cross between Sherlock, and Downton Abbey :)
I'm surprised that Giles was so free with the information both to and about Willow.

Can't wait for more :P

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:41 am 
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Artemis--
Quote:
but of course while Giles is the perfect personal gentlemen, he's far more than just that to Willow


So very true indeed! Although he might not outwardly admit it - as propriety would no allow for it - I think he has very paternal feelings toward Willow and feels it his responsibility to protect her, while also influencing her public behavior to be a little less "silly".

Quote:
Lumpy has a true gift for disaster


Darn tootin'! Just wait for this next bit...


Azirahael -

Quote:
It's like a cross between Sherlock, and Downton Abbey


And hopefully a little bit of Monty Python mixed in too!

I'm glad you're both enjoying it!

The next chapter follows... onward!

Cheers
DW

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - Chapter 10
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:43 am 
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Chapter 10




I wouldn’t say that Giles was actually smirking, but there was a definite look of quiet satisfaction on his face, and I suddenly remembered what this sickening scene with Lumpy had caused me to forget – viz. that the last time I had seen him he had been on his way to the telephone to ring up the Secretary of the Junior Ganymede Club. I sprang to my feet eagerly. Unless I had misread that look, he had something to report.


“Did you connect with the Sec., Giles?”


“Yes, miss. I have just finished speaking to him.”


“And did he dish the dirt?”


“Yes, miss.”


“Tell me all.”


“I fear I cannot do that, miss. The rules of the club regarding the dissemination of material recorded in the book are very rigid.”


“You mean your lips are sealed?”


“Yes, miss.”


“Then what was the use of telephoning?”


“It is only the details of the matter which I am precluded from mentioning, miss. I am perfectly at liberty to tell you that it would greatly lessen Mr. Spode’s potentiality for evil, if you were to inform him that you know all about Ilyria, miss.”


“Ilyria?”


“Ilyria, miss.”


“That would really put the stopper on him?”


“Yes, miss.”


I pondered. It didn’t sound much to go on.


“You’re sure you can’t go a bit deeper into to the subject?”


“Quite sure, miss. Were I to do so, it is probable that my resignation would be called for.”


“Well, I wouldn’t want that to happen, of course.” I hated to think of a squad of butlers forming a hollow square while the Committee snipped his buttons off. “Still, you really are sure that if I look Spode in the eye and spring this gag, it would make him wilt?”


“Yes, miss. The subject of Ilyria, miss, is one which the gentleman, occupying the position he does in the public eye, would I am convinced, be most reluctant to have ventilated.”


I practiced it for a bit. I walked up to the chest of drawers with my hands behind my back and said, “Spode, I know all about Ilyria.” I tried again, waggling my finger this time. I then had a go at it with folded arms, and I must say it still didn’t sound so convincing.


However, I told myself that Giles always knew.


“Well, if you say so, Giles. Then the first thing I had better do is find Lumpy and give him this life-saving information.”


“Miss?”


“Oh, of course, you don’t know anything about that, do you? I must tell you, Giles, that since we last met, the plot has thickened again. Were you aware that Spode has apparently sworn himself as protector of Miss Travers?”


“No, miss.”


“Well, such seems to be the case. Lumpy’s engagement to Miss Jenkins has gone phut for reasons highly discreditable to the male contracting party. Anya caught her fiancé with his hand on Miss Travers’ leg. So Spode now wants to break Lumpy’s neck.”


“Indeed, miss?”


“I assure you. He was in here just now, speaking of it, and Lumpy, who happened to be under the bed at the time, heard him. With the result that he now talks of getting out the window and going to California. Which, of course, would be fatal. It is imperative that he stays on and tries to effect a reconciliation.”


“Yes, miss.”


“He can’t effect a reconciliation if he is in California hiding out in some sunny town called Sunnyville, or Sunnyvale… or Sunnydale, or what have you.”


“No, miss.”


“So I must go and try to find him. Though, mark you, I doubt he will be easily found at this point in his career. He is probably on the roof wondering how he can pull it up after him.”


My misgivings were abundantly justified. I searched the house assiduously, but there were no signs of him. Somewhere, no doubt, Totleigh Towers hid Alexander Harrison-Phipps, but it kept its secret well. Eventually, I gave it up, and returned to my room, and stap my vitals if the first thing I beheld on entering wasn’t the man in person. He was standing by the bed, knotting sheets.


The fact that he had his back to the door and that the carpet was soft kept him from being aware of my entry till I spoke. “Hey!” – a pretty sharp one, for I was aghast at seeing my bed mussed about – brought him spinning round, ashen to the lips.


“Woof!” he exclaimed. “I thought you were Spode!”


Indignation succeeded panic. He gave me a hard stare. He looked like an annoyed turbot.


“What do you mean, you blasted Rosenby,” he demanded, “by sneaking up on a fellow and saying, ‘Hey!’ like that? You might have given me heart failure.”


“And what you do mean, you blighted Harrison-Phipps,” I demanded in my turn, “by mucking up my bed linen after I specifically forbade it? You have sheets of your own. Go and knot those.”


“How can I? Spode is sitting on my bed.”


“He is?”


“Certainly he is. Waiting for me. I went there after I left you and there he was. If he hadn’t happened to clear his throat, I’d have walked right in.”


I saw it was high time to set this disturbed spirit at rest.


“You needn’t be afraid of Spode, Lumpy.”


“What do you mean? Talk sense!”


“I mean just that. Spode, qua menace, if qua is the word I want, is a thing of the past. Owing to the extraordinary perfection of Giles’ secret system, I have learned something about him which he wouldn’t care to have generally known.”


“What?”


“Ah, there you have me. When I said I learned it, I should have said Giles learned it, and unfortunately Giles’ lips are sealed. However, I am in a position to slip it across the man in no uncertain fashion. If he attempts any rough stuff, I will give him the works.” I broke off, listening. Footsteps were coming along the passage. “Ah!” I said, “someone approaches. This may quite possibly be the blighter himself.”


Lumpy let out an animal cry and immediately backed himself up as far as he could go.


“Lock that door!”


I waved a fairly airy hand.


“It will not be necessary,” I said. “Let him come. I positively welcome the visit. Watch me deal with him, Lumpy. It will amuse you.”


I had guessed correctly. It was Spode, all right. No doubt he had grown weary of sitting on Lumpy’s bed, and had felt that another chat with Willow might serve to vary the monotony. He came in, as before, without knocking, and as he perceived Lumpy, uttered a wordless exclamation of triumph and satisfaction. He then stood for a moment, breathing heavily through the nostrils.


He seemed to have grown a bit since our last meeting, being about eight foot six, and had my advices in re getting the bulge on him proceeded from a less authoritative source, his aspect might have intimidated me quite a good deal. But so sedulously had I been trained over the year to rely on Giles’ lightest word that I regarded him without a tremor.


“Well, Spode,” I said. “What is it now?”


“Ha!” he said.


Well, of course, I was not going to stand any rot like that. This habit of his going about the place saying, “Ha!” was one that had got to be checked, and checked promptly.


“Spode!” I said sharply, and I have an idea that I rapped the table.


He seemed for the first time to become aware of my presence. He paused for an instant, and gave me an unpleasant look.


“Well, what do you want?”


I raised an eyebrow or two.


“What do I want? I like that. That’s good. Since you ask, Spode, I want to know what the devil you mean by keeping coming into my private apartment, taking up space which I require for other purposes and interrupting me when I am chatting with my personal friends. Really, one gets about as much privacy in this house as a strip-tease dancer. I assume that you have a room of your own. Get back to it, you fat slob, and stay there.”


Spode seemed a good deal impressed. He was staring incredulously, like one bitten by a rabbit. He seemed to be asking himself if this was the same shrinking violet he’d conferred with on the terrace.


He asked me if I had called him a fat slob, and I said I had.


“A fat slob?”


“A fat slob. It is about time,” I proceeded, “that some public-spirited person came along and told you where you got off. The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone.”


He did what is known as struggling for utterance.


“Oh?” he said. “Ha! Well, I will attend to you later.”


“And I,” I retorted, “will attend to you now. Spode,” I said, unmasking my batteries, “I know your secret!”


“Eh?”


“I know all about--”


“All about what?”


It’s an extraordinary thing about names. You’ve probably noticed it yourself. You think you’ve got them, I mean to say, and they simply slither away. I’ve often wished I had a quid for every time some bird with a perfectly familiar map has come up to me and Hallo-Rosenbyed, and had me gasping for air because I couldn’t put a label on her. This always makes one feel at a loss, but on no previous occasion had I felt such a loss as I did now.


“All about what?” said Spode.


“Well, as a matter of fact,” I had to confess, “I’ve forgotten.”


A sort of gasping gulp from up-stage directed my attention to Lumpy again, and I could see that the significance of my words had not been lost on him. Once more he tried to back; and as he realized he had already gone as far as he could go, a glare of despair came into his eyes. And then, abruptly, as Spode began to advance upon him, it changed to one of determination and stern resolve.


I like to think of Alexander Harrison-Phipps at that moment. He showed up well. Hitherto, I am bound to say, I have never regarded him highly as a man of action. Essentially the dreamer type, I should have said. But now he couldn’t have smacked into it with a proper gusto if he had been a rough-and-tumble fighter on the San Francisco waterfront from early childhood.


Above him, as he stood glued to the wall, there hung a fairish-sized oil painting of a chap in knee-breeches and a three-cornered hat gazing at a female who appeared to be chirruping a bird of sorts – a dove, unless I am mistaken, or a pigeon. I watched proudly as Lumpy tore it from its moldings and brought it down with a nice wristy action on Spode’s head.


If ever there was a fellow who needed hitting with oil paintings, that fellow was Lucas Spode. The gesture did divert Spode from his purpose for few seconds. He stood there blinking, with the thing round his neck like a ruff, and the pause was sufficient to enable me to get into action.


Give us a lead, make it quite clear that the party has warmed up and that from now anything goes, and we Rosenbys do not hang back. There was a sheet lying on the bed where Lumpy had dropped it when disturbed at his knotting, and to snatch this up and envelope Spode in it was with me the work of a moment.


I suppose a man who has been hit over the head with a picture of a girl chirruping to a pigeon and almost immediately afterwards enmeshed in a sheet can never really retain the cool, intelligent, outlook. Spode, hearing the rushing sound of Lumpy exiting, made a leap in its general direction and took the inevitable toss. At the moment when Lumpy, moving well, passed through the door, he was on the ground, more inextricably entangled than before.


My own friends, advising me, would undoubtedly have recommended an immediate departure at this point, and looking back, I can see that where I went wrong was in pausing to hit the bulge which, from the remarks that were coming through at that spot, I took to be Spode’s head, with a china vase that stood on the mantelpiece. It was a strategical error. I got home all right and the vase broke into a dozen pieces, which was all to the good – for the more of the property of a man like Sir Quentin Travers that was destroyed, the better – but the action of dealing this buffet caused me to overbalance. The next moment, a hand coming out from under the sheet had grabbed my dress.


It was a serious disaster of course, and one which might well have caused a lesser person to feel that it was no use going on struggling. But the whole point about the Rosenbys, as I have had occasion to remark before, is that they are not lesser persons. They keep their heads. They think quickly, and they act quickly. Napoleon was the same. Hastily, I leaned down and bit sharply into his ham-like hand which was impeding the getaway.


The results were thoroughly gratifying. With a sharp cry of anguish, he released the dress, and I delayed no longer. Willow Rosenby is a woman who knows when and when not to be among those present. When Willow Rosenby sees a lion in her path, she ducks down a side street. I was off at an impressive speed, and would no doubt have crossed the threshold with a burst which would have clipped a second or two off Lumpy’s time, had I not experienced a head-on collision with a soft body which happened to be entering at the moment. I remember thinking, as we twined our arms round each other, that at Totleigh Towers, if it wasn’t one thing, it was bound to be something else.


I fancy that it was the scent of eau-de-Parfum that still clung to her temples that enabled me to identify this soft body as that of my darling Tara, though even without it the delightful and familiar sensation of her pressed into my arms would have put me swiftly on the right track. We came down in a tangled heap, and must have rolled inwards to some extent, for the next thing I knew, we were colliding with the sheeted figure of Lucas Spode, who when last seen had been at the other end of the room. No doubt the explanation is that we had rolled nor’-nor’-east and he had been rolling sou’-sou’-west, with the result that we had come together somewhere in the middle.


Spode, I noticed, as Reason began to return to her throne, was holding my dear Tara by the left leg, and she didn’t seem to be liking it much. A good deal of breath had been knocked out of her by the impact of a redheaded companion on her midriff, but enough remained to enable her to expostulate with a fire not typical of her delicate sensibilities.


“What on earth is going on?” she demanded heatedly. “I’d only arrived five minutes ago and already I’ve met Lumpy racing along the corridor like a mustang; then, Willow, you come crashing into me at top speed. And now the gentleman in the toga is grabbing at my ankle.”


These protests must have filtered through to Spode, and presumably stirred his better nature, for he let go, and she got up, dusting her dress.


“Now, then,” she said, somewhat calmer. “An explanation, Willow, if you please. What’s this all about? Who’s the fellow inside that sheet?”


I, too, rose and adjusted my frock, then made the introductions.


“Mr. Lucas Spode, Miss Tara Maclay.”


Spode had now removed the sheet, but the picture was still in position and Miss Maclay eyed it wonderingly.


“Why have you got that thing round your neck?” she asked. Then, in a more tolerant vein, “Wear it if you like, of course, but I feel you should know it doesn’t flatter you.”


Spode did not reply. He was breathing heavily. I didn’t blame him, mind you – in his place, I’d have done the same – but the sound was not agreeable, and I wished he wouldn’t. He was also gazing at me intently, and I wished he wouldn’t do that either. His face was flushed, his eyes were bulging, and one had the odd illusion that his hair was standing on end – like the quills of a fretful porcupine.


“I must ask you to leave us, miss,” he said.


“But I’ve only just arrived,” said Tara.


“I am going to thrash this woman within an inch of her life.”


It was quite the wrong tone to take with my sweet cherub. She has a very protective spirit and, as should be obvious, is very fond of her Willow. Her brow darkened.


“You won’t touch her.”


“I am going to break every bone in her body.”


“You aren’t going to do anything of the sort. The idea! Stop or I’ll... Here, you!”


She raised her voice sharply as she spoke the concluding words, and what had caused her to do so was the fact that Spode at this moment made a sudden move in my direction.


Considering the manner in which his eyes were gleaming and his moustache bristling, not to mention the gritting teeth and sinister twiddling of the fingers, it was a move which might have been expected to send me flitting away like an adagio dancer. And had it occurred somewhat earlier, it would undoubtedly have done so. But I did not flit. I stood where I was, calm and collected. Whether I folded my arms or not, I cannot recall, but I remember that there was a faint, amused, smile on my lips.


For that brief monosyllables “I’ll” and “here” had accomplished what a quarter of an hour’s research had been unable to do – viz. the unsealing of the fount of memory. Giles’ words came back to me in a rush. One moment, the mind a blank: the next, the fount of memory spouting like nobody’s business. It often happens this way.


“One minute, Spode,” I said quietly. “Just one minute. Before you start getting above yourself, it may interest you to learn that I know all about Ilyria.”


It was stupendous. I felt like one of those chaps who press buttons and exploded mines. If it hadn’t been that my implicit faith in Giles had led me to expect solid results, I should have been astounded at the effect of this pronouncement on the man. You could see that it had got right in amongst him and churned him up like an egg whisk. He recoiled as if he had run into something hot, and a look of horror and alarm spread slowly across his face.


“Oh, do you?” he asked.


“I do,” I replied.


If he had asked me what I knew about her, he’d have had me stymied, but he didn’t.


“Er – how did you find out?”


“I have my methods.”


“Oh, really?”


“Ah,” I replied. There was silence again for a moment.


I wouldn’t have believed it possible for so tough an egg to sidle obsequiously, but that was how he now sidled up to me. There was a pleading look in his eyes.


“I hope you will keep this to yourself, Miss Rosenby? You will keep it to yourself, won’t you, Miss Rosenby?”


“I will –”


“Thank you, Miss Rosenby.”


“—provided,” I continued, “That we have no more of these extraordinary exhibitions on your part of – what’s the word?”


He sidled a bit closer.


“Of course, of course. I’m afraid I have been acting rather hastily.” He reached out a hand and dusted the strap of my dress. “Did I rumple your dress, Miss Rosenby? I’m sorry. I forgot myself. It shall not happen again.”


“It had better not. Good Lord! Grabbing ladies’ dresses and saying you’re going to break birds’ bones. I never heard of such a thing.”


“I know, I know, I was wrong.”


“You bet you were wrong. I shall be very sharp on that sort of thing in the future, Spode.”


“Yes, yes, I understand.”


“I have not been at all satisfied with your behavior since I came to this house. The way you were looking at me at dinner. You may think people don’t notice these things, but they do.”


“Of course, of course.”


“And calling me a miserable worm.”


“I’m sorry I called you a miserable worm, Miss Rosenby. I spoke without thinking.”


“Always think, Spode. Well, that is all. You may withdraw.”


“Good night, Miss Rosenby.”


“Good night, Spode.”


He hurried out with a bowed head, and I turned to Miss Maclay. She gazed at me with the air of one who has been seeing a vision. And I suppose the whole affair must have been extraordinarily impressive to the casual bystander.


“Willow! What was all that about?”


I waved a nonchalant hand.


“Oh, I just put it across the fellow. Merely asserting myself. One has to take a firm line with chaps like Spode.”


“Who is Ilyria?”


“Ah, there you’ve got me. For information on that point you will have to apply to Giles. And it won’t be any good, because club rules are rigid and members are permitted only to go so far. Giles,” I went on, giving credit where credit was due as is my custom, “came to me some little while back and told me that I had only to inform Spode that I knew all about Ilyria to see him curl up like a burnt feather.” Here I paused to muse a bit on the triumph of having seen Spode do just that. Then another thought occurred to me. “Dearest, not that I’m not thrilled to the moon and back to see you but, what are you doing here?”


“The telegram, darling.”


“Telegram?”


“Yes, the one you’d sent saying that you could see no way to fetch the cow-creamer out from Sir Travers’ custody.”


“Ah,” I said.


“I realized how awfully unfair it had been of me to ask you to undertake such a task without aide. I made arrangements to come down as quickly as I was able.”


“Did you alert Giles to your plans? Or anyone here at Totleigh Towers? There mayn’t be a room ready for you, and I fear it is likely that Sir Quentin won’t take kindly to surprise guests.”


Here she blushed and came over all rosy. Consequently, my heart did a little jig whilst accompanying itself in song. This was a common result of Miss Maclay coming over rosy in my company.


“I’m afraid I didn’t notify anyone,” she said. “I sort of just thought… well, it’s amazing what you can get away with when you’re viewed as an ‘uncouth American’. Besides,” she continued, “if there is no room available for me, I suppose I shall simply have to bunk with you. As long as you have no objection.”


Here she fluttered her eyelashes at me and I felt my insides knock together and become jelly. This too was the typical outcome of her fluttering eyelashes in my vicinity.


“I think we both know that the quantity of my objections to such a proposal is equal to or lesser than nil,” I replied, with what I imagine was likely an expression similar to that of a satisfied piglet.


“Excellent,” she said. “Now, dearest, I feel as though I may have missed a few pages out of one of your more interesting mystery books. Can you bring me up to speed on the plot so far?”


“Indeed.” I offered her my elbow and she looped her arm through mine. We set off on a turn about the halls of the manor house while I quietly regaled her of all the events thus far. By the time we’d reached the safety of my room, I’d concluded the story with our recent collision in the front hall.


Tara drew a deep breath. A sort of Soul’s Awakening look had come over her face.


“Willow,” she said, “do you know what this means?”


“Means, darling one?”


“Now that you’ve got the goods on Spode, the only obstacle to your sneaking that cow-creamer has been removed. You can stroll down and collect it tonight.”


I shook my head regretfully. I had been afraid she was going to take that view of the matter. It compelled me to dash the cup of joy from her lips, always an unpleasant thing to have to do to a companion whose lips have frequently brought one’s own happiness.


“No,” I said gently, “there I fear you’re wrong. Spode may have ceased being a danger to traffic, but that doesn’t alter the fact that Fifi still has the notebook. Before taking any steps in the direction of the cow-creamer, I have got to get it.”


“But why? You’ve already told me that Anya Jenkins has broken off her engagement with Lumpy. I thought the snag was that Fifi might cause the engagement to be broken off by showing Old Travers the book. But if it’s broken already—”


I shook the bean again.


“My beautiful faulty reasoner,” I said, “you miss the gist. As long as Fifi retains that book, it cannot be shown to Miss Jenkins. And only by showing it to Miss Jenkins can Lumpy prove to her that his motive in pinching Fifi’s legs was not what she supposed. And only by proving to her that his motive was not what she supposed can he square himself and effect a reconciliation. And only if he squares himself and effects a reconciliation can we avoid the distasteful necessity of dodging my Aunt Sheila teeing you up to marry Lumpy yourself and all of the attention she would send our way after you’ve politely declined. No, I repeat. Before doing anything else, I have got to have that book.”


My pitiless analysis of the situation had its effect. It was plain from her manner that she had got the strength. For a space, she stood nibbling her lower lip in silence, frowning like a girl who has drained the bitter cup. Dash it all, she was adorable.


“Well, Willow, how are you going to get it?”


“I propose to search her room.”


“What’s the good of that?”


“My dove, Lumpy’s investigations have already revealed that the thing is not on her person. Reasoning closely, we reach the conclusion that it must be in her room.”


“But, dearest, do you even know where her room is? Even with my limited experience, I can see the size of this estate is quite massive. And even if you found her apartment, whereabouts in it might she have hidden the notebook? You can be sure that she’s done a good job of concealing it. It won’t be anywhere obvious.”


As a matter of fact, I hadn’t thought of that. I imagine my sharp, “Oh, ah!” must have revealed this.


“Oh, well, search her room if you like, darling. There’s no real harm in it. In the meanwhile, I’ll see to having my bags sent up and if I might find anything for a late-supper. I didn’t have the opportunity to eat on the train.”


She placed a little kiss on my temple and passed along back out of the room. And I, somewhat discomposed, for I had thought I had got everything neatly planned out and it was a bit of a jar to find that I hadn’t, sat down and began to bend the brain. I took up my goose-flesher again and, by Jove, I hadn’t read more than half a page when I uttered a cry. I had come upon a significant passage.


“Giles,” I said, addressing him as he entered a moment later, “I have come upon a significant passage.”


“Miss?”


I saw that I had been too abrupt, and that footnotes would be required.


“In this thriller I’m reading,” I explained. “But wait. Before showing it to you, I would like to pay you a stately tribute for the accuracy of your information re Spode. A hearty vote of thanks. Spode qua menace, is a spent egg. He has dropped out and ceased to function.”


“That is very gratifying, miss.”


“Most. But we are still facing the great obstacle that young Fifi continues in possession of the notebook. That notebook, Giles, must be re-snitched before we are free to move in any other direction. Were you aware of Miss Maclay’s advent to the manse?”


“Yes, miss. I was just coming to inform you of her arrival in residence. Butterfield, the butler, is concerned that he may not have a room prepared for her before the staff retires for the evening.”


“Ah, well, I suppose she will just have to rough it with me for a night.”


“Most irregular, miss,” he warned.


“Yes, well, one must make certain sacrifices for the good of all, Giles.”


“Indeed, miss. You were saying something about the notebook, miss?”


“Yes. Miss Maclay made the excellent point that if the notebook is concealed in Fifi’s sleeping quarters, it may be anywhere and is undoubtedly well-hidden.”


“That is the difficulty, miss.”


“Quite. But that is where this significant passage comes in. It points the way and set the feet on the right path. I’ll read it to you. The detective is speaking to his pal, and the ‘they’ refers to some bounders who have been ransacking a girl’s room, hoping to find some jewels. Listen attentively, Giles. ‘They seem to have looked everywhere, but they never thought of the top of the cupboard, because’ – note carefully what follows – ‘because it is every woman’s favorite hiding place.’”


I eyed him keenly.


“You see the profound significance of that, Giles?”


“If I interpret your meaning, miss, you are suggesting that Mr. Harrison-Phipps’ notebook may be concealed at the top of the cupboard in Miss Travers’ apartment?”


“Not ‘may’. Giles, ‘must’. I don’t see how it can be concealed anywhere else but. This detective is no fool. If he says a thing is so, it is so.”


“May I enquire, miss, whether you yourself have ever hidden anything at the top of your cupboard?”


“Well, not I, no, Giles. But I’m not ‘every woman’, I think you’ll agree.”


“Undoubtedly, miss.”


“I have the utmost confidence in this detective fellow, and I am prepared to follow his lead without question.”


“But, surely miss, you are not proposing--”


“Yes, I am. I’m going to do it immediately. Fifi has gone to the Working Men’s Institute to play piano accompaniment for Skittle Pin Finn and his colored slides of the Holy Land for the Village Mothers and won’t be back for ages. So now is the time to operate while the coast is clear. Gird up your loins, Giles, and accompany me.”


“Well, really, miss--”


“And don’t say ‘Well, really, miss’. I have had occasion to rebuke you before for this habit of yours of saying ‘Well, really, miss’ in a soupy sort of voice, when I indicate some strategic line of action. Think feudally, Giles. Do you know Fifi’s room?”


“Yes, miss.”


“Then Ho for it!”


The first impression I received on giving the apartment the once-over was that for a young shrimp of shaky moral outlook Fifi had been done pretty well in the matter of sleeping accommodation. Totleigh Towers was one of those country houses which had been built at a time when people planning a little nest had the idea that a bedroom was not a bedroom unless you could give an informal dance for about fifty couples in it, and this sanctum could have accommodated a dozen Fifis. In the rays of the small electric light up in the ceiling, the bally thing seem to stretch for miles in every direction, and the thought that if the detective had not called his shots correctly, Lumpy’s notebook might be concealed anywhere in these great spaces, was chilling to me.


I was standing there, hoping for the best, when my meditations were broken in upon by an odd, gargling sort of noise, and to cut a long story short this proved to proceed from the larynx of the dog Wilkins.


He was standing on the bed, stropping his front paws on the coverlet, and so easy was it to read the message in his eyes that we acted like two minds with but a single thought. At the exact moment when I soared like an eagle onto the chest of drawers, Giles was skimming like a swallow onto the top of the cupboard. The animal hopped from the bed and, advancing into the middle of the room, took a seat, breathing through the nose with a curious whistling sound, and looking at us from under his eyebrows like a Scottish elder rebuking sin from the pulpit.


And there for a while the matter rested.


**********


To Be Continued...

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 Post subject: Re: Giles at Christmas - COMPLETE (posting in installments)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 6:21 pm 
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17. Mega-Witches
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Location: Sydney, Australia
Tara! :heart It wasn't absent when she showed up before, but it really stood out to me this chapter how - without Willow's unique narration style being lessened - there's this really obvious adoration that shines through. It's a clever balancing act in how you write for Willow there, 'silly' yet sincere, conveying the depth of feeling between them while still keeping the actual narrative light and breezy, the way Willow would describe it to someone.

Loved the frantic action around Spode until Willow's memory finally kicked in - it had the properly adorable farce feeling to it, with the painting and people dashing around and tripping up and colliding and confusion and so forth. And Wilkins is too cute a foe for words :laugh Great work :applause

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Through the Looking-glass - Every world needs a Willow and Tara.


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