It's time for our second Christmas story by Dorothy L Sayers - and once again Lord Peter Wimsey finds a pleasant evening at a country-house requires his detecting skills. Tonight's tale, The Necklace of Pearls, is set at the home of Sir Septimus and Lady Shale on Christmas Day, and I have always enjoyed this vignette of a determinedly modern wife (1933) and a husband pining for the old cozy country Yuletide:
Sir Septimus Shale was accustomed to assert his authority once in the year and once only. He allowed his young and fashionable wife to fill his house with diagrammatic furniture made of steel; to collect advanced artists and anti-grammatical poets; to believe in cocktails and relativity and to dress as extravagantly as she pleased; but he did insist on an old-fashioned Christmas. He was a simple-hearted man, who really liked plum-pudding and cracker mottoes, and he could not get it out of his head that other people, 'at bottom,' enjoyed these things also.
At Christmas, therefore, he firmly retired to his country house in Essex, called in the servants to hang holly and mistletoe upon the cubist electric fittings; loaded the steel sideboard with delicacies from Fortnum & Mason; hung up stockings at the heads of the polished walnut bedsteads; and even, on this occasion only, had the electric radiators removed from the modernist grates and installed wood fires and a Yule log. He then gathered his family and friends about him, filled them with as much Dickensian good fare as he could persuade them to swallow, and, after their Christmas dinner, set them down to play 'Charades' and 'Clumps' and 'Animal, Vegetable and Mineral' in the drawing-room...
Ah, but "Animal, Vegetable and Mineral" is about to go seriously awry.
Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear me read The Necklace of Pearls simply by clicking here and logging-in. Our first Dorothy L Sayers Yuletide yarn can be found here - and a cavalcade of Christmas tales by everyone from Dickens to Steyn is awaiting you here.
Thank you for all your kind comments about our Christmas Tales for Our Time. Jan Schiebout, a First Week Founding Member of the Steyn Club from Florida, says of The Queen's Square:
Delightful tale that would be impossible to write today! The science behind the lantern light alone, obviously common knowledge to the readers of that time, and so critical to the identy of not only the killer, but also the plot to hide the murder, could never even be imagined today. A killer who surrenders with honor and even explains the crime? What a 'novella' idea! Did this story have anything to do with the board game, 'Clue'?
Further evidence of how our technology has stripped us of any mysteries in life. Cameras in every piece of technology we own, on every street corner and building, drones in the air, locater identifying technology in our cars and homes plus the DNA we leave on every surface we touch. I'm feeling nostalgic this week, and grateful for these,stories!
Thanks, Mark! Have a spiffy week (we're watching you on the British telly -)!
Thank you, Jan. Re that Brit telly, I'll be on every night this week at 7pm GMT/2pm North American Eastern. There's a rerun at midnight GMT/7pm Eastern, which may be more convenient for US and Canadian viewers.