Welcome to the thirteenth episode of our current Tale for Our Time: The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie's first published novel, and the book that introduced the world to Hercule Poirot.
Thank you for all your kind comments about this caper. Michelle Dulak, a First Day Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club from Oregon, is to musical detectives what Hercule Poirot is to criminal detectives. But this case is a tricky one:
I have spent the usual week or so trying to identify your music for this Tale. The more-than-slightly-demented waltz sounds Hindemith-y, but of course it can't be Hindemith if it's from anywhere near 1916 (I notice that usually your music comes from near the Tale's actual date). And I know pretty much all 20s Hindemith anyway; it isn't in there.
But there's an instrument in there -- when the music turns to the minor -- that sounds like a heckelphone. That's an awfully rare instrument. (I've seen one in person only once, when an orchestra I played in did Holst's Planets.) Richard Strauss did use it, though, in some of his bigger scores. So I am going to guess one of the earlier Strauss operas. I'm probably wrong, of course.
Oh, dear, so close, Michelle. It's another heckelphonic composer, Erik Satie, and the "Valse du mysterieux baiser dans l'œil" ("The Waltz of the Mysterious Kiss in the Eye") from La Belle Excentrique. It was a ballet collaboration - not a terribly happy one - between Satie and Jean Cocteau, and exactly a century ago - 1921 - you could have seen it in Paris, conducted by the composer and danced by Caryathis, at the Oasis, the fashionable garden theatre owned by the couturier Paul Poiret - which was close enough to Poirot to have me listening for musical evocations of Styles.
In tonight's episode of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, having been exonerated by the great detective, Inglethorp decamps to the local inn:
As I came down to a late breakfast, John drew me aside, and informed me that Mr. Inglethorp was leaving that morning, to take up his quarters at the Stylites Arms until he should have completed his plans.
"And really it's a great relief to think he's going, Hastings," continued my honest friend. "It was bad enough before, when we thought he'd done it, but I'm hanged if it isn't worse now, when we all feel guilty for having been so down on the fellow. The fact is, we've treated him abominably. Of course, things did look black against him. I don't see how anyone could blame us for jumping to the conclusions we did. Still, there it is, we were in the wrong, and now there's a beastly feeling that one ought to make amends; which is difficult, when one doesn't like the fellow a bit better than one did before. The whole thing's damned awkward! And I'm thankful he's had the tact to take himself off. It's a good thing Styles wasn't the mater's to leave to him. Couldn't bear to think of the fellow lording it here. He's welcome to her money."
If you've yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For more details, see here - and don't forget our special Gift Membership. I'll be hosting Part Fourteen of The Mysterious Affair at Styles right here tomorrow evening. Just ahead of that we'll have Rick McGinnis's Saturday movie pick.