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If one lives in Galloway, one either fishes or paints. 'Either' is perhaps misleading, for most of the painters are fishers also in their spare time. To be neither of these things is considered odd and almost eccentric. Fish is the standard topic of conversation in the pub and the post-office, in the garage and the street, with every sort of person, from the man who arrives for the season with three Hardy rods and a Rolls-Royce, to the man who leads a curious, contemplative life, watching the salmon-nets on the Dee. Weather, which in other parts of the Kingdom is gauged by the standards of the farmer, the gardener, and the weekender, is considered in Galloway in terms of fish and paint. The fisherman-painter has the best of the bargain as far as the weather goes, for the weather that is too bright for the trout deluges his hills and his sea with floods of radiant colour; the rain that interrupts picture-making puts water into the rivers and the lochs and sends him hopefully forth with rod and creel; while on cold dull days, when there is neither purple on the hills nor fly on the river, he can join a friendly party in a cosy bar and exchange information about Cardinals and March Browns, and practise making intricate knots in gut.
The artistic centre of Galloway is Kirkcudbright, where the painters form a scattered constellation, whose nucleus is in the High Street, and whose outer stars twinkle in remote hillside cottages, radiating brightness as far as Gatehouse-of-Fleet. There are large and stately studios, panelled and high, in strong stone houses filled with gleaming brass and polished oak. There are workaday studios – summer perching-places rather than settled homes – where a good north light and a litter of brushes and canvas form the whole of the artistic stock-in-trade. There are little homely studios, gay with blue and red and yellow curtains and odd scraps of pottery, tucked away down narrow closes and adorned with gardens, where old-fashioned flowers riot in the rich and friendly soil. There are studios that are simply and solely barns, made beautiful by ample proportions and high-pitched rafters, and habitable by the addition of a tortoise stove and a gas-ring. There are artists who have large families and keep domestics in cap and apron; artists who engage rooms, and are taken care of by landladies; artists who live in couples or alone, with a woman who comes in to clean; artists who live hermit-like and do their own charing. There are painters in oils, painters in water-colours, painters in pastel, etchers and illustrators, workers in metal; artists of every variety, having this one thing in common – that they take their work seriously and have no time for amateurs.
Into this fishing and painting community, Lord Peter Wimsey was received on friendly and even affectionate terms. He could make a respectable cast, and he did not pretend to paint, and therefore, though English and an 'incomer', gave no cause of offence. The Southron is tolerated in Scotland on the understanding that he does not throw his weight about, and from this peculiarly English vice Lord Peter was laudably free. True, his accent was affected and his behaviour undignified to a degree, but he had been weighed in the balance over many seasons and pronounced harmless, and when he indulged in any startling eccentricity, the matter was dismissed with a shrug and a tolerant, 'Christ, it's only his lordship.'
Wimsey was in the bar of the McClellan Arms on the evening that the unfortunate dispute broke out between Campbell and Waters. Campbell, the landscape painter, had had maybe one or two more wee ones than was absolutely necessary, especially for a man with red hair, and their effect had been to make him even more militantly Scottish than usual. He embarked on a long eulogy of what the Jocks had done in the Great War, only interrupting his tale to inform Waters in parenthesis that all the English were of mongrel ancestry and unable even to pronounce their own bluidy language.
Waters was an Englishman of good yeoman stock, and, like all Englishmen, was ready enough to admire and praise all foreigners except dagoes and niggers, but, like all Englishmen, he did not like to hear them praise themselves. To boast loudly in public of one's own country seemed to him indecent – like enlarging on the physical perfections of one's own wife in a smoking room. He listened with that tolerant, petrified smile which the foreigner takes, and indeed quite correctly takes, to indicate a self-satisfaction so impervious that it will not even trouble to justify itself.
Campbell pointed out that all the big administrative posts in London were held by Scotsmen, that England had never succeeded in conquering Scotland, that if Scotland wanted Home Rule, by God, she would take it, that when certain specified English regiments had gone to pieces they had had to send for Scottish officers to control them, and that when any section of the front line had found itself in a tight place, its mind was at once relieved by knowing that the Jocks were on its left. 'You ask anybody who was in the War, my lad,' he added, acquiring in this way an unfair advantage over Waters, who had only just reached fighting age when the War ended, 'they'll tell you what they thought of the Jocks.'
'Yes,' said Waters, with a disagreeable sneer, 'I know what they said, "they skite too much."'
Being naturally polite and in a minority, he did not add the remainder of that offensive quotation, but Campbell was able to supply it for himself. He burst into an angry retort, which was not merely nationally, but also personally abusive.
'The trouble with you Scotch,' said Waters, when Campbell paused to take breath, 'is that you have an inferiority complex.'
He emptied his glass in a don't-careish manner and smiled at Wimsey.
It was probably the smile even more than the sneer which put the final touch to Campbell's irritation. He used a few brief and regrettable expressions, and transferred the better part of the contents of his glass to Waters' countenance.
'Och, noo, Mr. Campbell,' protested Wullie Murdoch. He did not like these disturbances in his bar.
But Waters by this time was using even more regrettable language than Campbell as they wrestled together among the broken glass and sawdust.
'I'll break your qualified neck for this,' he said savagely, 'you dirty Highland tyke.'
'Here, chuck it, Waters,' said Wimsey, collaring him 'don't be a fool. The fellow's drunk.'
'Come away, man,' said McAdam, the fisherman, enveloping Campbell in a pair of brawny arms. 'This is no way to behave. Be quiet.'
The combatants fell apart, panting.
'This won't do,' said Wimsey, 'this isn't the League of Nations. A plague on both your houses! Have a bit of sense.'
'He called me a —,' muttered Waters, wiping the whiskey from his face. 'I'm damned if I'll stand it. He'd better keep out of my way, that's all.' He glared furiously at Campbell.
'You'll find me if you want me,' retorted Campbell, 'I shan't run away.'
'Now, now, gentlemen.' said Murdoch.
'He comes here,' said Campbell, 'with his damned sneering ways —'
'Nay, Mr. Campbell,' said the landlord, 'but ye shuldna ha' said thae things to him.'
'I'll say what I damn well like to him,' insisted Campbell.
'Not in my bar,' replied Murdoch, firmly.
'I'll say them in any damn bar I choose,' said Campbell, 'and I'll say it again – he's a —'
'Hut!' said McAdam, 'ye'll be thinkin' better of it in the morning. Come away now – I'll give ye a lift back to Gatehouse.'
'You be damned,' said Campbell. 'I've got my own car and I can drive it. And I don't want to see any of the whole blasted lot of ye again.'
He plunged out and there was a pause.
'Dear, dear,' said Wimsey.
'I think I'd best be off out of it too,' said Waters, sullenly. Wimsey and McAdam exchanged glances.
'Bide a bit,' said the latter. 'There's no need to be in sic a hurry. Campbell's a hasty man, and when there's a wee bit drink in him he says mair nor he means.'
'Ay,' said Murdoch, 'but he had no call to be layin' them names to Mr. Waters, none at all. It's a verra great pity – a verra great pity indeed.'
'I'm sorry if I was rude to the Scotch,' said Waters, 'I didn't mean to be, but I can't stand that fellow at any price.'
'Och, that's a'richt,' said McAdam. 'Ye meant no harm, Mr. Waters. What'll ye have?'
'Oh, a double Scotch,' replied Waters, with rather a shamefaced grin.
'That's right,' said Wimsey, 'drown remembrance of the insult in the wine of the country.'
A man named McGeoch, who had held aloof from the disturbance, rose up and came to the bar.
'Another Worthington,' he said briefly. 'Campbell will be getting into trouble one of these days, I shouldn't wonder. The manners of him are past all bearing. You heard what he said to Strachan up at the golf-course the other day. Making himself out the boss of the whole place. Strachan told him if he saw him on the course again, he'd wring his neck.'
The others nodded silently. The row between Campbell and the golf-club secretary at Gatehouse had indeed become local history.
'And I would not blame Strachan, neither,' went on McGeoch. 'Here's Campbell only lived two seasons in Gatehouse, and he's setting the whole place by the ears. He's a devil when he's drunk and a lout when he's sober. It's a great shame. Our little artistic community has always gotten on well together, without giving offence to anybody. And now there are nothing but rows and bickerings – all through this fellow Campbell.'
'Och,' said Murdoch, 'he'll settle down in time. The man's no a native o' these parts and he doesna verra weel understand his place. Forbye, for all his havers, he's no a Scotsman at a', for everybody knows he's fra' Glasgow, and his mother was an Ulsterwoman, by the name of Flanagan.'
'That's the sort that talks loodest,' put in Murray, the banker, who was a native of Kirkwall, and had a deep and not always silent contempt for anybody born south of Wick. 'But it's best to pay no attention to him. If he gets what is coming to him, I'm thinking it'll no be from anybody here.'
He nodded meaningly.
'Ye'll be thinking of Hugh Farren?' suggested McAdam.
'I'll be naming no names,' said Murray, 'but it's well known that he has made trouble for himself with a certain lady.'
'It's no fault of the lady's,' said McGeoch, emphatically.
'I'm not saying it is. But there's some gets into trouble without others to help them to it.'
'I shouldn't have fancied Campbell in the role of a homebreaker,' said Wimsey, pleasantly.
'I shouldn't fancy him at all,' growled Waters, 'but he fancies himself quite enough, and one of these days —'
'There, there,' said Murdoch, hastily. 'It's true he's no a verra popular man, is Campbell, but it's best to be patient and tak' no notice of him.'
'That's all very well,' said Waters.
'And wasn't there some sort of row about fishing?' interrupted Wimsey. If the talk had to be about Campbell, it was best to steer it away from Waters at all costs.
'Och, ay,' said McAdam. 'Him and Mr. Jock Graham is juist at daggers drawn aboot it. Mr. Graham will be fishing the pool below Campbell's hoose. Not but there's plenty pools in the Fleet wi'out disturbin' Campbell, if the man wad juist be peaceable aboot it. But it's no his pool when a's said and dune – the river's free – and it's no to be expectit that Mr. Graham will pay ony heed to his claims, him that pays nae heed to onybody.'
'Particularly,' said McGeoch, 'after Campbell had tried to duck him in the Fleet.'
'Did he though, by Jove?' said Wimsey, interested.
'Ay, but he got weel duckit himsel',' said Murdoch, savouring the reminiscence. 'And Graham's been fushin' there every nicht since then, wi' yin or twa of the lads. He'll be there the nicht, I wadna wonder.'
'Then if Campbell's spoiling for a row, he'll know where to go for it,' said Wimsey. 'Come on, Waters, we'd better make tracks.'
Waters, still sulky, rose and followed him. Wimsey steered him home to his lodgings, prattling cheerfully, and tucked him into bed.
'And I shouldn't let Campbell get on your nerves,' he said, interrupting a long grumble, 'he's not worth it. Go to sleep and forget it, or you'll do no work tomorrow. That's pretty decent, by the way,' he added, pausing before a landscape which was propped on the chest of drawers. 'You're a good hand with the knife, aren't you, old man?'
'Who, me?' said Waters. 'You don't know what you're talking about. Campbell's the only man who can handle a knife in this place – according to him. He's even had the blasted cheek to say Gowan is an out-of-date blunderer.'
'That's high treason, isn't it?'
'I should think so. Gowan's a real painter – my God, it makes me hot when I think of it. He actually said it at the Arts Club in Edinburgh, before a whole lot of people, friends of Gowan's.'
'And what did Gowan say?'
'Oh, various things. They're not on speaking terms now. Damn the fellow. He's not fit to live. You heard what he said to me?'
'Yes, but I don't want to hear it again. Let the fellow dree his own weird. He's not worth bothering with.'
'No, that's a fact. And his work's not so wonderful as to excuse his beastly personality.'
'Can't he paint?'
'Oh, he can paint – after a fashion. He's what Gowan calls him – a commercial traveller. His stuff's damned impressive at first sight, but it's all tricks. Anybody could do it, given the formula. I could do a perfectly good Campbell in half an hour. Wait a moment, I'll show you.'
He thrust a leg out from the bed. Wimsey pushed him firmly back again.
'Show me some other time. When I've seen his stuff. I can't tell if the imitation's good till I've seen the original, can I?'
'No. Well, you go and look at his things and then I'll show you. Oh, Lord, my head's fuzzy like nothing on earth.'
'Go to sleep,' said Wimsey. 'Shall I tell Mrs. McLeod to let you sleep in, as they say? And call you with a couple of aspirins on toast?'
'No; I've got to be up early, worse luck. But I shall be all right in the morning.'
'Well, cheerio, then, and sweet dreams,' said Wimsey.
He shut the door after him carefully and wandered thoughtfully back to his own habitation.
Campbell, chugging fitfully homewards across the hill which separates Kirkcudbright from Gatehouse-of-Fleet, recapitulated his grievances to himself in a sour monotone, as he mishandled his gears. That damned, sneering, smirking swine Waters! He'd managed to jolt him out of his pose of superiority, anyhow. Only he wished it hadn't happened before McGeoch. McGeoch would tell Strachan and Strachan would redouble his own good opinion of himself. 'You see,' he would say, 'I turned the man off the golf-course and look how right I was to do it. He's just a fellow that gets drunk and quarrels in public-houses.' Curse Strachan, with his perpetual sergeant-major's air of having you on the mat. Strachan, with his domesticity and his precision and his local influence, was at the base of all the trouble, if one came to think of it. He pretended to say nothing, and all the time he was spreading rumours and scandal and setting the whole place against one. Strachan was a friend of that fellow Farren too. Farren would hear about it, and would jump at the excuse to make himself still more obnoxious. There would have been no silly row that night at all if it hadn't been for Farren. That disgusting scene before dinner! That was what had driven him, Campbell, to the McClellan Arms. His hand hesitated on the wheel. Why not go back straight away and have the thing out with Farren?
After all, what did it matter? He stopped the car and lit a cigarette, smoking fast and savagely. If the whole place was against him, he hated the place anyhow. There was only one decent person in it, and she was tied up to that brute Farren. The worst of it was, she was devoted to Farren. She didn't care twopence for anybody else, if Farren would only see it. And he, Campbell, knew it as well as anybody. He wanted nothing wrong. He only wanted, when he was tired and fretted, and sick of his own lonely, uncomfortable shack of a place, to go and sit among the cool greens and blues of Gilda Farren's sitting-room and be soothed by her slim beauty and comforting voice. And Farren, with no more sense or imagination than a bull, must come blundering in, breaking the spell, putting his own foul interpretation on the thing, trampling the lilies in Campbell's garden of refuge. No wonder Farren's landscapes looked as if they were painted with an axe. The man had no delicacy. His reds and blues hurt your eyes, and he saw life in reds and blues. If Farren were to die, now, if one could take his bull-neck in one's hands and squeeze it till his great staring blue eyes popped out like – he laughed – like bull's eyes – that was a damned funny joke. He'd like to tell Farren that and see how he took it.
Excerpted from Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers. Copyright © 1959 Lloyd's Bank Ltd., Executor of The Estate of Dorothy L. Sayers. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted March 14, 2015
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Because of all the fishing and trains sayer seems to add interesting stuff that i skip when re read like bell ringing notes and secret code solving and bus and trains routes
but its historical because where are all the trauns and country buses and the vicar riding five miles on oarish visit and heroines walking one or two miles without sneakers another world and did you figure out where vthe electric came from in country houses.? Own generator!
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