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Inspired by something salarnia posted today, I found an old fic and spruced it up a bit. My St Bride's boys (whom I own) crossed with Peter Wimsey (whom I don't).

"Honoria!"

"Helena!"

Anyone might have been forgiven for believing that the bellowing was caused by bulls of Bashan out on a spree and would have been surprised by seeing that the shouts of delight had come from two of the most well respected and eminent ladies in the land, each possessing an impeccable character - if also a hint of eccentricity.

"Peter playing today? I thought I saw him turning his arm over in the nets."

"He is indeed - the fresh air will do him good. I don't like it when he's brooding."


Helena nodded her head and made a particular point not to enquire after Barbara, she being the likely cause of the Duchess's concerns about her offspring. "Full of thinking, your Peter - needs something to use that formidable brain on. Reminds me of one of Jonathan's pals."

"Is young Jonty here? I always enjoy his company - makes me feel like quite a slip of a thing again." Honoria smiled indulgently. "No sign of a young lady ensnaring him yet?"

Helena shook her head. "Perhaps one day he'll meet hisdark lady and lose his heart but I fear that he's a confirmed bachelor - especially since he's now into his thirties." She didn't really fear any such thing - she knew very well that her son would never marry and was quite content with that. He'd found himself a partner for life who was much more interesting and pleasant than many a daughter-in-law might have been. The master-mistress of her son's passion was not present today, though, or else Honoria would have had two young men making her heart all a-flutter. He was at a meeting about imaginary numbers or some such stuff and would be unable to see his friend striding across the field in immaculate flannels.

Jonty Stewart - staying with his parents at the house of an old family - had been drafted into the Duke's Denver eleven when the Rector had taken a tumble over a stray hassock and twisted his knee. Jonty was a competent batsman - not having ever made the University team but being a constant credit to Bride's - and a workmanlike bowler under most conditions. Left arm round the wicket, despite being a naturally right-handed bat, he usually produced one tidy over after another without any great threat to the batsmen. Except if the wicket was wet, in which case he became deadly. Under these circumstances, the ball would spin and fizz in all directions, performing turns that his friend Orlando insisted should be quite impossible, had he not seen them with his own eyes. Orlando had even begun to write a paper on the very subject of the turning ball, inspired by his lover's skill.

Jonty knew, however, that he was not in the same class as Wimsey and had recognised that from the first time he'd seen the man play as a wiry thirteen year old. The families had known each other for years and there'd been more than one occasion when Lord Peter had taken apart Jonty 's bowling on a nice dry wicket. Wimsey had represented Oxford in the Varsity match, this achievement not in any way interfering with him obtaining as glorious a first as Jonty himself had acquired at the other place a dozen years previously. Jonty was pleased that this day they would be playing on the same side.

Once play began, the wicket proved to be a tricky one - a touch of green on the top providing some encouragement for the fast chaps, enabling them to make the opening batsmen from Duke's Denver duck and weave. But it soon lost its teeth and those in the lower order found a feather bed that enabled them to reach two hundred and fifty six with little difficulty. Lord Peter had contributed eighty of those, batting as low down the order as he dared.

Jonty didn’t relish the prospect of bowling on such a flat pitch, but a sprinkling of rain in the tea interval raised his hopes.

"Just what you'd have been hopin' for, eh?" Lord Peter, cup of tea in hand and a small pink cake balanced on the saucer, had sidled over to watch the summer shower pass over.

"Praying for, more like - there are short boundaries here and without a bit of moisture I suspect that they'd have been hitting me over them with regularity. Not that I found the things easy to reach when it was my innings." Jonty grinned.

"I did think you were a touch unlucky bein' given out. Certain that ball was missin' leg stump."

Jonty shook his head, "Irrelevant whether it was or wasn't - the umpire's word is always final. Anyway, he might now feel guilty enough to let a decision or two go my way later..."

As it transpired, Jonty had no need of any favours from the men in charge. Lord Peter had let his brother Gerald - captaining the team - know about Jonty's ability on a wet pitch and he'd been brought on to bowl pretty promptly. Not that he actually bowled for long - with him turning them through ninety degrees at one end and the gamekeeper, Snow, whizzing down deliveries at lightning pace at the other, the opposition capitulated. Five wickets apiece brought an early end to the match, followed by a timely opening of the barrel of beer and bottles of wine brought from the big house.

"Your Peter batted beautifully as always," Helena cradled a glass of particularly delicious Chablis.

"And your Jonathan left us all astounded with his bowling." Honoria favoured a goblet of Saint Emilion, admiring its colour as it caught the late afternoon sun.

The objects of their discussion, bearing glasses of beer, came over and kissed their mothers in the proper filial manner.

"Now you can discuss cricket or rugger or anything sporting," Helena implored, "but I hope that you will spare us the usual debate."

Honoria nodded her agreement. Their sons always ended up in a dispute about the relative merits of Shakespeare and Donne, Jonty espousing the former while Lord Peter fiercely defended the latter. "I've never understood why you get so excited by them anyway - both rather vulgar gentlemen to my way of thinking."

"Now that's a somewhat sweepin' dismissal of two such great poets, even by two ladies of impeccable taste." Lord Peter smiled indulgently at his mother.

Jonty grinned. "And I no longer enjoy discussing Donne since I met Orlando - my colleague Dr Coppersmith I mean, madam," he bowed to the Duchess.

"Now why should that be?" The chatelaine of Duke's Denver was genuinely intrigued.

"Because if he grew a moustache he would be the image of the poet - and a more contrasting nature you couldn’t find, Dr Coppersmith being a mathematician of great intellect and a stern, forbidding nature. Now when I read Donne I see my friend's face speaking the verse and I simply can't take it seriously any more."

The company laughed, Jontythe most of all, imagining clearly how horrified his lover would be to utter a line like Licence my roving hands, and let them go ... even in the privacy of their own room.

"We'll be seeing you for dinner tomorrow?" the Duchess produced her most enchanting smile.

Jonty bowed again. "Indeed. And I promise that Mr Donne and Mr Shakespeare won’t be gracing your table with their argumentative presences."

***

"I worry about that boy." Helena was enjoying the carriage ride back to their friends' house, with the sun slowly sinking and spreading a liquid amber light through the trees, the rooks gently cawing and huge bees quartering the hedgerows.

"Which boy?" Jonty was rather lost in thought, wishing that Orlando were there to enjoy the pleasant ride.

"Peter of course - did you think I meant that young gamekeeper with the rippling biceps?"

The smallest self-satisfied grin crept across Jonty's handsome face. "Didn't know you still noticed rippling biceps, Mama. Ow!" He began to rub his thigh.

"As I have pointed out before, you're not too old to get a smack." Helena sighed and shook her head. "Got himself all gaga over a quite unsuitable girl. Oh, I don't mean she's an actress or anything - impeccable family, of course. But she's vapid, Jonty. You're very lucky to have Orlando - he's not just pleasant to look at, he's intelligent. You'll be as happy in thirty years time as you are now. Peter, however..." Helena looked out of the window and appeared unusually pensive.

Jonty leaned over and took his mother's hand. "There's more isn't there? Come on, old thing, spill the beans to your favourite boy."

Helena grinned. "I can’t do that as he's at a mathematical seminar - but I'll tell you and you can pass it on. I know I'm not the perfect mother and it pains me to talk ill of a very old friend, but somehow between them the Duke and Duchess have got that boy's upbringing all wrong. He's a bag of nerves and I'm not sure he has the resources to cope on his own with what life may throw up." She shook her head. "And now," she said, plainly meaning that subject is officially closed, "I know that you've told me a dozen times, but how exactly do you get the ball to turn like that?"

***

The dinner at Duke's Denver was excellent; the ladies retired in a contented haze and the men were left to their own devices. Richard and his host went off to discuss the events in Europe that were becoming a worry to all men of good sense and the 'youngsters' were allowed to amuse themselves with a game of snooker.

"How do you keep yourself from getting bored?" Lord Peter enquired, having made an excellent start to his game. "You can't just spend all your time speculating about the identity of the dark lady or the gentleman whose face showed heavenly touches."

Jonty noted that the g had re-appeared - no gettin' or speculatin' this time - as if all affectations that had been adopted for the amusement of the locals were no longer needed in the comfort of Wimsey's own home. "Well, my colleague Dr Coppersmith and I have been known to indulge in a little amateur detecting."

Lord Peter’s eyebrows shot up. "Detecting? Like old Holmes and Watson?"

"The very same, though we wouldn't quite identify ourselves with those particular chaps."

"I've never quite considered that an occupation for a gentleman, though I can see the intellectual appeal."

"That's an excellent point. Orlando - Dr Coppersmith - derives great pleasure if there are any codes to crack or logical trails to follow. And it’s certainly gratifying - we've been drawn into a few cases and consulted on others and the thrill of the chase can be quite something." Jonty sent the black ball spinning into one of the pockets.

"But there's a consequence to the success of the hunt, isn't there? Some poor wretch ending up with his neck stretched on the gallows." Lord Peter looked decidedly uncomfortable. "Not sure I could live with that."

Jonty straightened up, left his shot. "We were fortunate in that the initial few cases we tackled didn’t go that far. Still, I find it difficult to condemn some of those we’ve brought to book. There but for the grace of God..." He shivered.

"Have any of your cases ended up with the hangman exercising his art?"

Jonty nodded. "Several - and in at least one case I was glad of it. I'm not proud of that fact, not very Christian, but a fact it is." He bent down, but his shot was poor, the red missing the pocket by inches - his heart was no longer in it.

"Shall we rejoin our elders and betters for a glass of port or brandy?" Despite his intense curiosity, Lord Peter refrained from enquiring about the circumstances of the particular case Jonty had referred to.

***

Lord Peter watched the Stewarts’ carriage depart, his mind racing - but then his mind often raced. Amateur detection; was this something to which a gentleman might legitimately apply his brain and his conscience, fulfilling a rather more useful purpose to his fellow man than the second son of a duke might normally do? He smiled ruefully at the thought that it would of course depend on Jonty and his colleague leaving a few cases for others to stick their noses into.

Sleuthing, investigation, examination of the scene, questioning of witnesses - his mind ran over the many pleasant things such a new hobby might involve. If it worked for a chap like Jonty, perhaps it would be the thing for him, too...

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
onebookwoman
Jul. 18th, 2010 03:33 pm (UTC)
I've read all of the Peter Wimsey books. To me, Dorothy Sayers writes as well as Dame Agatha. What a great thought that Jonty put the idea of detecting into Lord Peter's head. I half expected Peter to catch on to the relationship between Jonty and Orlando, but people see what they want to.
Being American, the fine points of cricket escape me. I watched a lot of World Cup soccer knowing full well that I didn't know half of what the players were doing(but it was still fun to watch, especially when they took their shirts off).
Thanks for a great short story.
mylodon
Jul. 18th, 2010 08:49 pm (UTC)
I love Dorothy L Sayers, especially have his Carcase and Murder Must Advertise. (Love the radio adaptations, too!)

If you want to really enjoy players taking their shirts off, try watching rugby. Players are much more muscular and good looking than wimpy footballers. Cricketers tend to be quite nice, but the outfits aren't so becoming. very elegant game, though.

Thank you!
leslieo54
Jul. 18th, 2010 05:43 pm (UTC)
Oh, nice. I enjoyed the whole fic, just for the usual style and air you write with and because I love Jonty and his mama, but that last section was brilliant. I love so much that Orlando and Jonty are the ones to set Peter to sleuthing... Very fun idea, and nicely executed. Thanks for sharing!
mylodon
Jul. 18th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading and commenting.

I've got it into my head that the Stewarts and the Wimseys are great pals and it sort of manifests itself sometimes...
darthanne
Jul. 19th, 2010 06:12 am (UTC)
This was a fun read, although I haven't read any of the Peter Wimsey novels. I love the fact that it was Jonty and Orlando investigating that got Lord Peter thinking about doing it too.
mylodon
Jul. 19th, 2010 07:26 am (UTC)
Thank you. Yes, I rather like that idea. too. I'm sure I've read somehwre a story in which a young Jane Marple goes to visit Sherlock Holmes and gets the detecting bug from him.

The Sayers books are good (I love Murder Must Advertise) but they're very much of their time.
lee_rowan
Jul. 20th, 2010 03:00 am (UTC)
Much superior to King's fanfiction, but this one really could do with a glossary for us ignorant Colonials.
charliecochrane
Jul. 20th, 2010 11:24 am (UTC)
I think the glossary would be longer than the story.

Thank you!
emeraldreeve
Jul. 20th, 2010 06:32 am (UTC)
Wonderful! I especially love this:


"I've never quite considered that an occupation for a gentleman, though I can see the intellectual appeal.
charliecochrane
Jul. 20th, 2010 08:43 am (UTC)
Thank you. That's the sort of line I write and find years afeterwards and think, "Ooh, that's good - did I really write it?"
jl_merrow
Jul. 20th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's lovely!
I adore the Peter Wimsey novels - although I never could stand the ones with Harriet Vane in! Must be my slasher propensities manifesting themselves early on! ;)
mylodon
Jul. 21st, 2010 11:21 am (UTC)
I have to admit even though I'm an ardent slasher, I do like the Harriet Vane stories - I like her as I like Agatha Troy so I don't mind them fooling with my best detective lads. :)

Thank, love.
stevie_carroll
Jul. 22nd, 2010 06:58 pm (UTC)
That was most delightful. Thank you for sharing.

mylodon
Jul. 22nd, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading and commenting. Glad it amused.

Edited at 2010-07-22 08:44 pm (UTC)
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )