Read A Wreath for Rivera Online

Authors: Ngaio Marsh

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #det_classic, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural, #Police, #Alleyn; Roderick (Fictitious character), #Fiction; American

A Wreath for Rivera

A Wreath for Rivera
( Roderick Alleyn - 15 )
Ngaio Marsh

When Lord Pasern Bagott takes up with the hot music of Breezy Bellair and his Boys, his disapproving wife Cecile has more than usual to be unhappy about. The band's devastatingly handsome but roguish accordionist, Carlos Rivera, has taken a rather intense and mutual interest in her precious daughter Félicité. So when a bit of stage business goes awry and actually kills him, it's lucky that Inspector Rodrerick Alleyn is in the audience. Now Alleyn must follow a confusing score that features a chorus of family and friends desperate to hide the truth and perhaps shelter a murder in their midst.

Ngaio Marsh
A Wreath for Rivera

also known as 'Swing, Brother, Swing'



Lord Pastern and Bagott

Lady Pastern and Bagott

Félicité de Suze, her daughter

The Honourable Edward Manx, Lord Pastern’s second cousin

Carlisle Wayne, Lord Pastern’s niece

Miss Henderson, companion-secretary to Lady Pastern


domestic staff at Duke’s Gate


Miss Parker






Breezy Bellairs’s Boys

Breezy Bellairs

Happy Hart, pianist

Sydney Skelton, tympanist

Carlos Rivera, piano-accordionist


Caesar Bonn,
maître de café
at the Metronome

David Hahn, his secretary

Nigel Bathgate, of the
Evening Chronicle

Dr. Allington

Mrs. Roderick Alleyn


of the Criminal Investigation Department, New Scotland Yard

Roderick Alleyn, Chief Detective-Inspector

Detective-Inspector Fox

Dr. Curtis

Detective-Sergeant Bailey, finger-print expert

Detective-Sergeant Thompson, photographer

Detective-Sergeants Gibson, Marks, Scott and Sallis

Sundry policemen, waiters, bandsmen and so on


Who asked for it and

now gets it

with my love


From Lady Pastern and Bagott to her niece by marriage, Miss Carlisle Wayne:


3, Duke’s Gate

Eaton Place

London, S.W.I


My dearest Carlisle,

I am informed with that air of inconsequence which characterizes all your uncle’s utterances, of your arrival in England. Welcome Home. You may be interested to learn that I have rejoined your uncle. My motive is that of expediency. Your uncle proposed to give Clochemere to the Nation and has returned to Duke’s Gate, where, as you may have heard, I have been living for the last five years. During the immediate post-war period I shared its dubious amenities with members of an esoteric Central European sect. Your uncle granted them what I believe colonials would call squatters’ rights, hoping no doubt to force me back upon the Cromwell Road or the society of my sister Désirée, with whom I have quarrelled since we were first able to comprehend each other’s motives.

Other aliens were repatriated, but the sect remained. It will be a sufficient indication of their activities if I tell you that they caused a number of boulders to be set up in the principal reception room, that their ceremonies began at midnight and were conducted in antiphonal screams, that their dogma appeared to prohibit the use of soap and water and that they were forbidden to cut their hair. Six months ago they returned to Central Europe (I have never inquired the precise habitat) and I was left mistress of this house. I had it cleaned and prepared myself for tranquillity. Judge of my dismay! I found tranquillity intolerable. I had, it seems, acclimatized myself to nightly pandemonium. I had become accustomed to frequent encounters with persons who resembled the minor and dirtier prophets. I was unable to endure silence, and the unremarkable presence of servants. In fine, I was lonely. When one is lonely one thinks of one’s mistakes. I thought of your uncle. Is one ever entirely bored by the incomprehensible? I doubt it. When I married your uncle (you will recollect that he was an attaché at your embassy in Paris and a frequent caller at my parents’ house) I was already a widow. I was not, therefore,
jeune fille
. I did not demand Elysium. Equally I did not anticipate the ridiculous. It is understood that after a certain time one should not expect the impossible of one’s husband. If he is tactful one remains ignorant. So much the better. One is reconciled. But your uncle is not tactful. On the contrary, had there been liaisons of the sort which I trust I have indicated, I should have immediately become aware of them. Instead of second or possibly third establishments I found myself confronted in turn by Salvation Army Citadels, by retreats for Indian yogis, by apartments devoted to the study of Voodoo; by a hundred and one ephemeral and ludicrous obsessions. Your uncle has turned with appalling virtuosity from the tenets of Christadelphians to the practice of nudism. He has perpetrated antics which, with his increasing years, have become the more intolerable. Had he been content to play the pantaloon by himself and leave me to deplore, I should have perhaps been reconciled. On the contrary he demanded my collaboration.

For example in the matter of nudism. Imagine me, a de Fouteaùx, suffering a proposal that I should promenade, without costume, behind laurel hedges in The Weald of Kent. It was at this juncture and upon this provocation that I first left your uncle. I have returned at intervals only to be driven away again by further imbecilities. I have said nothing of his temper, of his passion for scenes, of his minor but distressing idiosyncrasies. These failings have, alas, become public property.

Yet, my dearest Carlisle, as I have indicated, we are together again at Duke’s Gate. I decided that silence had become intolerable and that I should be forced to seek a flat. Upon this decision came a letter from your uncle. He is now interested in music and has associated himself with a band in which he performs upon the percussion instruments. He wished to use the largest of the reception rooms for practice; in short he proposed to rejoin me at Duke’s Gate. I am attached to this house. Where your uncle is, there also is noise and noise has become a necessity for me. I consented.

Félicité, also, has rejoined me. I regret to say I am deeply perturbed on account of Félicité. If your uncle realized, in the smallest degree, his duty as a stepfather, he might exert some influence. On the contrary he ignores, or regards with complacency, an attachment so undesirable that I, her mother, cannot bring myself to write more explicitly of it. I can only beg, my dearest Carlisle, that you make time to visit us. Félicité has always respected your judgment. I hope most earnestly that you will come to us for the first week-end in next month. Your uncle, I believe, intends to write to you himself. I join my request to his. It will be delightful to see you again, my dearest Carlisle, and I long to talk to you.


Your affectionate aunt,

Cécile de Fouteaux Pastern and Bagott


From Lord Pastern and Bagott to his niece Miss Carlisle Wayne:


3, Duke’s Gate

Eaton Place

London, S.W.I


Dear Lisle,

I hear you’ve came back. Your aunt tells me she’s asked you to visit us. Come on the third and we’ll give you some music. Your aunt’s living with me again.


Your affectionate Uncle George


From “The Helping Hand,” G.P.F.’s page in


Dear G.P.F.

I am eighteen and unofficially engaged to be married. My fiancé is madly jealous and behaves in a manner that I consider more than queer and terribly alarming. I enclose details under separate cover because after all he might read this and then we
be in the soup. Also five shillings for a special Personal Chat letter. Please help me.




Poor Child in Distress, let me help you if I can. Remember I shall speak as a man and that is perhaps well, for the masculine mind is able to understand this strange self-torture that is clouding your fiancé’s love for you and making you so unhappy. Believe me, there is only
way. You must be patient. You must prove your love by your candour. Do not tire of reassuring him that his suspicions are groundless. Remain tranquil.
Go on loving him
. Try a little gentle laughter but if it is unsuccessful
do not continue. Never
let him think you impatient. A thought.
There are some natures so delicate and sensitive that they must be handled like flowers. They need sun. They must be tended. Otherwise their spiritual growth is checked
. Your Personal Chat letter will reach you to-morrow.


Footnote to G.P.F.’s page


G.P.F. will write you a very special Personal Chat if you send a stamped and addressed envelope and five-shilling postal order to “Personal Chat.
. 5 Materfamilias Lane, E.C. 2.”


From Miss Carlisle Wayne to Miss Félicité de Suze:


Friars Pardon




Dear Fée,

I’ve had rather a queer letter from Aunt Cile, who wants me to come on the third. What have you been up to?





From the Honourable Edward Manx to Miss Carlisle Wayne:


Harrow Flats

Sloane Square

London, S.W.I


Dearest Lisle,

Cousin Cécile says you are invited to Duke’s Gate for the week-end on Saturday the third. I shall come down to Benham in order to drive you back. Did you know she wants to marry me to Félicité? I’m really not at all keen and neither, luckily, is Fée. She’s fallen in a big way for an extremely dubious number who plays a piano-accordion in Cousin George’s band. I imagine there’s a full-dress row in the offing
à cause
, as Cousin Cécile would say,
the band and particularly
the dubious number whose name is Carlos something. They aren’t ’alf cups of tea are they? Why do you go away to foreign parts? I shall arrive at about 5 p.m. on the Saturday.





From the
gossip column:


Rumour hath it that Lord Pastern and Bagott, who is a keen exponent of boogie-woogie, will soon be heard at a certain restaurant “not a hundred miles from Piccadilly.” Lord Pastern and Bagott, who, of course, married Madame de Suze, (née de Fouteaux) plays the tympani with enormous zest. His band includes such well-known exponents as Carlos Rivera and is conducted by none other than the inimitable Breezy Bellairs, both of the Metronome. By the way, I saw lovely Miss Félicité (Fée) de Suze, Lady Pastern and Bagott’s daughter by her first marriage, lunching the other day at the Tarmac
à deux
with the Hon. Edward Manx, who is, of course, her second cousin on the distaff side.


From Mr. Carlos Rivera to Miss Félicité de Suze:


102, Bedford Mansions

Austerly Square

London, S.W.I


Listen Glamorous,

You cannot do this thing to me. I am not an English Honourable This or Lord That to sit complacent while my woman makes a fool of me. No. With me it is all or nothing. I am a scion of an ancient house. I do not permit trespassers and I am tired, I am very tired indeed, of waiting. I wait no longer. You announce immediately our engagement or — finish! It is understood?



Carlos de Rivera


Telegram from Miss Félicité de Suze to Miss Carlisle Wayne:




Telegram from Miss Carlisle Wayne to Lady Pastern and Bagott:



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