The Courtesy of Death

The Courtesy of Death by Geoffrey Household Read Free Book Online

Book: The Courtesy of Death by Geoffrey Household Read Free Book Online
Authors: Geoffrey Household
in general and asked me what district I preferred. He knew damned well what district I preferred. I answered curtly that I wanted Glastonbury
and the Mendips.
    ‘If you should change your mind, there will shortly be an executor’s sale of a very profitable free house the other side of Bath,’ he said.
    That was a long way from his area, so I asked him how he knew about the sale and how sure he was of it.
    He was embarrassed and murmured a lot of verbiage, meant to be imposing, on the subject of the grape-vine between managers. When I pressed him for details of his profitable free house, I was
surer than ever that it was a clumsy invention to find out whether I should be tempted and what my resources were. I fear I was deliberately cruel to him as he wriggled in his chair and fiddled
with papers.
    Dropping his vague proposal as soon as he reasonably could, he told me he knew of a building site near Wookey. A licence had recently fallen in and he believed that the local Bench would
transfer it to a respectable hotel proprietor.
    ‘The site belongs to a Mr H. B. Fosworthy,’ he said, his pale forehead beginning to glisten with sweat. ‘Perhaps you know him?’
    ‘I do not,’ I replied. ‘But I remember the name. Hadn’t he escaped from a private nursing home or something?’
    And I told him how a complete stranger had called at night when I was staying at The Green Man and asked me if I had seen his patient.
    I thought that would fix him, and it did. He was out of his depth, uncomfortably dominated by me, and looked as if he would like to creep under his desk. I was exasperated by the silly little
man, and left the bank snorting at the incompetence of these anti-Fosworthians. It was only when I had driven half-way back to London that I remembered that Aviston-Tresco had never asked for
Fosworthy by name. If he, too, remembered that he hadn’t, I had given myself away. I thoroughly deserved it for bullying instead of meekly listening.
    Three days passed—of a dullness that only an exile in London can know. You go to a show or two. You eat in restaurants. You try to get in touch with old friends who are always out or
abroad or ask you to lunch the following week. You are eager to talk to anyone who will talk to you.
    I had more or less dismissed Fosworthy and his affairs from my mind, deciding that all this agitation was to be expected from a bunch of religious nuts. It was possible that mysterious Avalon or
the inexplicable holiness of Glastonbury might have something to do with it, but my best theory was that they had discovered uranium in the old Roman lead mines of the Mendips, that they were too
impractical—including the bank manager—to have the faintest notion what to do and that muddled pacifist convictions compelled them to keep quiet. It was an improbable guess, since the
hills must have been thoroughly and semi-officially prospected during the uranium boom, but it did account for the facts. They were afraid of me as a mining engineer, not as a future innkeeper.
    On the fourth evening I left my depressing furnished flat to go out and buy myself a lonely meal. While I was strolling to the bus stop, I came face to face with Aviston-Tresco. He hailed me
very cordially as if I had been an old friend. His manner did not seem forced. The strange circumstances of our only meeting naturally created a sort of intimacy. We did
not—officially—know each other’s names. So he introduced himself, and so did I.
    I guessed of course that his appearance in my district was no accident, but I was in a mood to hear what he had to say. Whatever his quarrel with Fosworthy, he was presentable and intelligent.
Dunton had described him as brilliant in his profession and leading a full life. I think I had the idea of getting the truth out of him as one reasonable and discreet man to another. He gave me the
impression that he, too, was very ready to talk.
    ‘Would you care to come along to my club and have a

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