Hiding The Body
Diary of the Dowager Duchess of Bilgewater
(with thanks and apologies to Dorothy Sayers, who did this sort of thing rather better)
My dear Lady Ermyntrude-
How is your dear mother? Is she keeping well? I do hope so! Send her my love. And I hear you have gotten engaged to a certain young man of Good Family; very suitable, and he is an eccentric, so I am sure you two shall be happy together.
I am including a few pages of my diary for your Perusal. It may just be that I grow Suspicious in my old age, but I do NOT think all is well at Bilgewater Hall. Could you not come down to us, and the sooner the better? Patricia sends her love, and seconds my invitation.
Elizabeth, Dowager Duchess of Bilgewater
I have been invited up to the Hall for a house party. Ever so excited to see what the new Duchess has done with the place, of course, though I fear that if she has ruined any of my pet decorative schemes, I shall be unable to hide my Dismay. Ah well, I must try. At least she is One Of Us, and not an American or a Commoner or anyone awful like that. Though of course, Americans who marry Dukes generally have money, and that would be nice.
The guests have arrived and have settled in acceptably. No serious aesthetic shocks thus far, though I have not yet inspected the Nursery (dear little ribbons everywhere, and I do hope they haven’t all been chucked out on Hygienic grounds; these modern young things are so Sensible, in the most Sordid of ways).
Later: Mr. Grimace, the family Solicitor, seems to have disappeared. He did not come down to dinner, and Sneakfork (who is getting rather shaky, though he is still Upright and looks exactly as a Butler should look; must inquire after his sciatica) reports that he was not in his room, though his Possessions are still there.
Later Yet: Sleep is elusive tonight. Got up and looked out of my window. The Grounds lovely in the moonlight, as always. But Patricia must have hired a VERY dedicated new gardener; he was out there, digging by moonlight. Perhaps a new bed of roses? Though if that is the plan, I rather doubt that they will do well there; the wall of the old Chapel will block most of the sunlight.
Woke up early and took Doldrums out for a walk. He was excited to be back in his old territory, and charged about like a puppy. I walked over to the Chapel and inspected the new bed of roses. Concluded that the new gardener, though he may be enthusiastic, has rather a lot to learn about his chosen profession. Instead of turning the earth up, it almost looked as if he’d replaced all the clumps of grass over the ground. Doldrums came to my side and started to dig up the earth. It took quite a severe reprimand to stop him.
I observed one of the guests (though alas I could not tell which) must have gotten up even before I did; I caught a glimpse of him off in the Oak Grove, and hallooed, but he must be rather deaf, poor man, for he merely continued his stroll and was lost to my sight.
Later: Patricia says that she has no new gardener, and no plans to grow roses by the old Chapel, where, she agrees, they would not do well.
Later Yet: Mr. Grimace is still missing. Patricia has sent out a party of servants to check the grounds. I do hope the poor man is not lying unconscious somewhere; the Grimaces have been Solicitors to the Dukes of Bilgewater for centuries, and have always been Loyal.
Later Still: Sleep will not come to these old bones. I got up and had a look at the grounds. The gardener was At It Again, digging in the old spot. Perhaps he has realized that roses will not do well there. But of course, that couldn’t be right, could it? Patricia said that there is no new gardener, and neither Old Adam nor Young Adam would even consider planting there.
Very Early: Only a few hours of restless sleep, but I felt rejuvenated nonetheless. Decided to have another early stroll with Doldrums. When we got outside, the naughty dog tore off like a racer towards the crumbling well that the Historical Society would never permit us to knock down, and stood at the edge, barking frantically.
There is now rather an ugly hole by the old Chapel; no gardener would permit it to remain that way.
I caught a glimpse of my companion in early-rising; this time, he was lurking behind an ancient willow that overhangs the well. Doldrums saw him too, and Did Not Care For Him One Bit. I had to call him to my side to prevent him from attacking.
Later: Mr. Grimace is still missing. Things are looking Decidedly Fishy, to employ a rather apt vulgarism.
Notes: Have wired to Bilgewater that I will be down on next available train.