“There is no dealing with great sorrow as if it were under the control of our wills. It is a terrible phenomenon, whose laws we must study, and to whose conditions we must submit, if we would mitigate it.” - Sheridan Le Fanu, Uncle Silas
Mr. Sugg wasted no words, but picked up the slumbering Parker and hoisted him into the taxi.
“Never - never - deshert -” began Lord Peter, resisting all efforts to dislodge him from the step, when a second taxi, advancing from Whitehall, drew up, with the Hon. Freddy Arbuthnot cheering loudly at the window.
“Look who’s here!” cried the Hon. Freddy. “Jolly, jolly, jolly ol’ Sugg. Let’sh all go home together.”
“That’sh my taxshi,” interposed his lordship, with dignity, staggering across to it. The two whirled together for a moment; then his lordship was flung into Sugg’s arms, while the Hon. Freddy, with a satisfied air, cried “Home without them then!” to the taxi-man.
Mr. Sugg scratched his head and watched the cab drive off. Then, depositing his lordship beside Parker, he directed the other taxi-man to convey them to 110a Piccadilly. “They can take care of each other,” he said to himself. “Mr. Parker an’ all – thank Gawd there weren’t no witnesses.”
“You mustn’t suppose - I say, you can’t suppose - well, what I mean to say is, Wimsey, you don’t think I’m trying to get what I can, with you?”
“Your sis-ter, I mean.”
“Do you think she looks an awfully lot like me, then? Old chap, that’s the nicest compliment she’s ever been given. I must have a tipple with you more often, for her sake.”
Parker sat up and began to dress, hurriedly. “I meant that you look like her. I wouldn’t have you think - Lord. We won’t speak of this again, will we? And where’s Bunter? I would have thought he’d be here by now. Thank God not.”
“Well, if you don’t want to, I shouldn’t dream of bringing it up,” Wimsey said, a very foolish look on his slightly foolish face, “but you weren’t nearly so worried last night, and you crashin’ around like that isn’t doing a thing for my poor woebegone head.”
“We slept - that’s all,” Parker said. “We were drunk; we slept it off.”
“I shall be as silent as the grave - that fine and private place; none do there, I think, embrace.” He grinned up from the bed, his straw-coloured hair falling over his forehead in shocking disarray. Seeing Parker’s expression, he sobered and straightened, covering his nakedness. “You needn’t worry about Bunter, in any case; he is, as they say, the very soul of discretion. And Freddy was three sheets to the wind, poor old thing, he won’t think anything of it.”
Parker, who had been struggling to do up his shirt buttons through a haze of drink and headache, jerked round to stare at him. “You haven’t been -” He could not find the words. “Not Bunter, surely?”
Now Wimsey was offended - even hungover Parker could see it; his eyes had gone blank and sharp, though his mobile mouth still twitched into a smile. “I may be a sodomite,” Wimsey said, “for that matter, you must be too; but - do you think Bunter would stand for it, really? My dear man, he would think that he was taking liberties, and die of shame.”
“Good morning, Bunter.”
“Good morning, my lord. Fine morning, or should I say afternoon, my lord. Your lordship’s bath-water is ready.”
“Thanks,” said Lord Peter. “Bunter - will you tell me what you think of me?”
“I will not, begging your pardon, my lord.” He was assiduously tidying the what-not, which had somehow become completely disarrayed in the night - the sweep of a careless hand, no doubt.
“I suppose you won’t. Not even if I fired you. You’ve said so before.”
“Indeed I have, my lord. If I may be so bold, your lordship’s bathwater will be cold soon.”
“Once, Bunter, you’d tell me what you thought of me. Remember - in Hooge?” Peter’s cold grey eyes gave the lie to his mood, though his tone was steady and light.
“I try never to think of it, my lord. It is a pleasure to do my duty. Your bathwater, my lord.”
Bunter’s back was ramrod straight, and he exited with exaggerated care, carrying Lord Peter’s things to be washed. As he left, he heard Peter sing after him in his high clear voice: “It’s a long way to Tipperary - it’s a long way to go - it’s a long way to Tipperary - to the sweetest girl I know! Hooray pour les Français - farewell Angleterre - we didn’t know how to tickle Mary - but we learnt how over there!”
“As you say, my lord,” Bunter muttered, and went to see about the bathwater.
“My lord, there remains a light in your wife’s room. I believe she is very much concerned about Crutchley.”
“Thank you, Bunter,” Wimsey said mechanically, and then, “no, stay. Bring the brandy. And for yourself as well - there’s nought so much the spirit calms as rum and true religion, eh?”
It was a mark of Bunter’s concern that he did as Wimsey said. His companionship, however, did not extend to conversation. After a quarter hour, Wimsey spoke again.
“It’s the nerves, you see. Whenever they come, I feel like - clawing out of my skin and into someone else’s.”
Bunter shifted uneasily. “Does Lady Peter know, my lord?”
“Yes. She calls it ‘being a Uranian.’ But - I believe she trusts that I am also a monogamist.” He shook his fair head. “On another day, I would say she was right, but Bunter -”
“No, my lord.” He stood. “Lady Peter told me, when you married, that she didn’t wish to take anything away from you. As I see it, my lord, I must give her the same consideration. You would regret it if it were another way. Begging your pardon.”
Long after Bunter’s footsteps had faded up the stair, Lord Peter stayed and stared into the fire; then, as the great church clock struck four, he arose, and came to Harriet’s bed.