[Continuing, seamlessly, from where Tokenism left off …]
After several minutes, bidding farewell to the goats, Poumfrex descended from his mountain fastness. His unexpected return home to Tea Strainer House, family pile of the centuries-old Poumfrex tea strainer manufacturing dynasty, was not unlike the unexpected return home of Charles Rainier in Random Harvest (Mervyn LeRoy, 1942). Just as we weep, uncontrollably, at any viewing of that film, so there was weeping within the walls of Tea Strainer House, and outside, in its gardens too.
There was one significant difference. Charles Rainier, played by Ronald Colman (1891-1958), sports a dapper moustache. Poumfrex did not. He had grown one once, in his youth, when first able to, but it had sprouted in an entirely different colour to the rest of his hair, which, at that time, was browny tawny chestnutty, with flecks of ginger and black. The colour of the incipient moustache was indescribable. It appeared to be a shade outwith the known spectrum, and thus it provoked remark, usually unkind remark, and this was unwelcome to Poumfrex, who in his youth was shy and self-conscious. He was no longer so, but he chose never to revisit moustacheland.
He felt himself touched by the copious weeping which greeted his return, and pranced like a ninny through all the halls and corridors of his beloved home, blowing kisses and waving his arms. He gave little thought to the sad fellow with the coupons he had been paid to escort and who had thrown himself down a well. Poumfrex’s communion with goats in the mountains had restored the boisterous and bright-eyed optimism which came naturally to him.
Whence it came was a deep mystery, for all the other members of his clan were sombre and sour and moody and pernickety and rancorous and morose and always, always, weeping, gushing great buckets of tears at the faintest of plucks on their heartstrings.
But he was happy to be home, and he avoided the sounds of constant wailing and keening, once he had done his tour of the house, by taking a turn around the gardens. Here were the filbert hedges and ha-has, the lupins and hollyhocks and topiary tea strainers of his childhood. Memories came flooding back as he pranced like a ninny in the torrential rain. He remembered the day he saw gnomes hiding behind the hedges. He remembered the Great Watering Can Party. He remembered the visit of Neville Chamberlain with his odd-shaped head. He remembered lying on his back on the lawn in the middle of the night, gazing up at obsolete constellations of stars. He remembered digging Ruskinian holes, and filling them with conkers. He remembered Mr Snippage, the old head gardener, who looked like the aged Ruskin, and, like Ruskin, had hallucinatory visions of snakes.
While Poumfrex was happily remembering all these things in the garden, an unaccustomed silence had fallen inside the house. There was no longer any weeping, no wailing nor keening. Just like in Three Days Of The Condor (Sydney Pollack, 1975), where CIA analyst Joe Turner, played by Robert Redford (b.1936) pops out of the office for five minutes and returns to find all his colleagues have been slaughtered, so when Poumfrex stepped back in through the French windows he discovered that every single occupant of Tea Strainer House had been done to death while he was prancing like a ninny around the garden.
Poumfrex had a nose for crime. As he wandered through the halls and corridors of his beloved home counting the bodies, one idea impressed itself with more and more intensity upon his brain. This must be the work of the lumbering walrus-moustached serial killer Babinsky!
[To be continued … ]