you all right? Lutwidge asked.
No. I never feel at ease when the rooms oafish third party
fails to introduce his lovely companion.
Oh, sorry. Bradley, this is
I know. He rose totteringly to his feet and kissed Tabithas
hand. A moment I have waited for quite some time. You are lovely,
he said, looking into her eyes. I am jealous.
That is a reversal, Tabitha said. It is I who have
been so jealous of you.
No cause, no cause, he smiled, quoting Lear. I take
it everything went according to plan, Carter?
Well, not exactly, sir.
He frowned as the Colonel described the nights turmoil.
But his Majesty is all right?
Yes, sir. They took him off to his boat, where I believe he waits
So he does. Well, not a bad job, if I do say so myself. I believe
I managed to take all the variables into account.
You mean it has been you, this whole time, Lutwidge asked,
controlling events from behind the scenes?
Do not give me too much credit, Bradley said modestly. I
was simply trying to nudge things in the right direction. It was a novel
and amusing experience. Something to pass the time, you know.
Surely it was more than a diversion, Tabitha argued. You
are a virtuous man. Admit it.
Never! he smiled. And now I must be on my way.
But you cant leave again! Lutwidge said. I just
Alas, I must. I have fallen in love, you see. Requitedly, this
time. And my lover waits, impatiently, I hope.
But why cant you stay, the both of you?
Because it is not our palace anymore. Not that it ever was.
He took a last look at the reconstructed fresco. I shall leave
this as a gift to the nation. Undeserving philistines.
I do not understand, Tabitha said.
It will be hard enough to change things here, now that news of
the contagion is official, without having a dying poofter and his nancy-friend
on the throne. Didnt you hear my speech?
You wrote that? Lutwidge exclaimed. Bradley, it was
the most inspiring call to action!
Good God, you didnt take it seriously, did you? I was trying
to be ironic, he groaned. Next thing I know, you will be
standing for Brompton South.
Well as a matter of fact that is exactly
He is all yours, Bradley told Tabitha, allowing her to help
him on with his coat. I am sorry to be in such a rush. We are
making off with the Royal yacht, you see. Hoping, in the confusion of
the moment, no one will notice. My friend and I intend to float through
the Greek isles. I love that word, isle, the way it is cast
in the perpetual future. Ill do this. Ill
do that. Ill love you. The way it implies a
constant tomorrow. Do you know what I mean? I suppose not. Ignore me.
My mind rambles. And so must I. He paused at the door. I
asked Carter to bring you back here partly for your own safety, but
also because I wanted this to be my final picture of you two, as a happy
couple, together at last. Lutwidge, my friend, you have made a fine
choice. It was wonderful to see you this one last time.
Let him go, Tabitha said, sensing it was emotion, not rudeness,
speeding his old friends departure.
Just a moment later, though, there was the sound of a scuffle, then
a roar, such as might come from a sick and cornered lion.
Help! Colonel Carter called.
They found him kneeling in the hallway, not ten feet from the door.
The long, evil, black handle of a dagger sprouted from Bradley Ghoulrichs
Fauntleroy! Carter screamed, Ill have your head
Seeing Lutwidge and Tabitha arrive, he took off in pursuit of the murderer.
Dont touch my blood, Bradley said calmly, as Lutwidge
took his head and cradled it in his lap.
Lady Tabitha bent over and undid his shirt. Looking at the wound, the
depth to which the blade had sunk, she gave a quick shake of her head.
It looks as if...you did not quite take all the variables into
account, Finchs voice broke, trying to adopt the gentle,
teasing tone of their youth.
Oh, well pardon me if I failed to predict the deranged actions
of a tongueless fellationist, Bradley complained. A grimace of
pain distorted his features. What is that?
Nothing, Tabitha apologized, for her locket had swung loose
and was dangling before his eyes.
No, let me see. He raised his hand with difficulty.
Just as well, you know. I doubt I would have made it to Greece.
And to die in some seedy gambling resort like Biarritz, well, I could
never have lived it down.
It doesnt open, Tabitha said, seeing him press the
Surely it does. There is a hidden catch, you see? My mother had
one exactly like this. It was given her... he paused in wonderment,
as the front sprung open to reveal the picture of a man inside the heart-shaped
frame, ...by my father. This man here. It was a vanity of his,
to give these lockets to the women who How came you by his picture?
Your father? Finch asked No, it was Esme Bournevilles
locket. It is most likely a picture of Tabithas father.
The three looked at one another.
It would explain the almost incestuous fascination he has for
the both of us, Bradley told Tabitha, then turned so he was staring
straight up at Lutwidge. Perhaps you will stop pestering me now,
since you have found a more proper altar at which to lay your offerings.
I? Finch said indignantly. Pester you?
My brother, Tabitha said, taking his hand.
Sister, Bradley murmured, his eyes closing. My, no
doubt, better half. So good of you to come, at long last. Wont
Shots echoing down the hall, and the bellow of a man in agony, indicated
Colonel Carter had already exacted his revenge.
Bradley? Lutwidge asked.
But his friend was no more.
With the modest income Lady Tabitha inherited from her late half-brother,
Lutwidge and she were at last able to marry. They did so at St. Eustaces,
the Reverend Timothy Belcher presiding. The Baroness Tattson and Duchess
Middleton proclaimed they had never seen a lovelier couple. At the next
election, Lutwidge Finch was returned to Parliament, where his character,
conviction, vision, and politically savvy wife all stood him in good
stead. Indeed, when not cheering on their beloved Hammers
at Upton Park, the couples Bedford Street home is rumored to be
where much of the true work of rebuilding the nation takes place.
Shortly thereafter, the Reverend Belcher obtained a country living,
and now resides there with his wife, the former Ethyl Simons, in a large
white rectory with gingerbread trim. It is rapidly filling with children.
His departure was hardly welcome news to Mrs. Hatchitt, but nothing
could have prepared her for the shock of meeting the Reverends
replacement, a woman! This, one of the administrations first reforms
(for the new monarch proved surprisingly open-minded), knocked the housekeeper
for a loop from which she has yet to recover.
Godfrey Egan, with his newfound wealth, shut himself up in an isolated
house on the Downs. Here he succumbed to a mania for collecting, and
spent the rest of his life behind a high fence, patrolled by great barking
dogs, fingering rare books which he never read, and hefting valuable
bottles of wine which he could not bring himself to drink.
Carrier was never found. It was suspected the would-be assassin had
thrown himself into the Thames.
Inspector Jenkins served six years hard for his role in
the Containment Scandal. Upon his release from prison, he became a village
constable in the wilds of Cornwall. Here, he took an interest in the
local choral society and found he had a good voice. One night, after
rehearsal, he and a fellow tenor went out for a glass of lemon squash
and... But that is another story.