Read Appleby on Ararat Online

Authors: Michael Innes

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Appleby on Ararat

 

 

Copyright & Information

Appleby On Ararat

 

First published in 1941

© Michael Innes Literary Management Ltd.; House of Stratus 1941-2010

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

 

The right of Michael Innes to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted.

 

This edition published in 2010 by House of Stratus, an imprint of

Stratus Books Ltd., Lisandra House, Fore Street, Looe,

Cornwall, PL13 1AD, UK.

 

Typeset by House of Stratus.

 

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library and the Library of Congress.

 

ISBN:0755120795   EAN: 9780755120796

 

This is a fictional work and all characters are drawn from the author's imagination.
Any resemblance or similarities to persons either living or dead are entirely coincidental.

 

 

 

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www.houseofstratus.com

 

 

About the Author

 

Michael Innes is the pseudonym of John Innes Mackintosh Stewart, who was born in Edinburgh in 1906. His father was Director of Education and as was fitting the young Stewart attended Edinburgh Academy before going up to Oriel, Oxford where he obtained a first class degree in English.

After a short interlude travelling with AJP Taylor in Austria, he embarked on an edition of
Florio’s
translation of
Montaigne’s Essays
and also took up a post teaching English at Leeds University.

By 1935 he was married, Professor of English at the University of Adelaide in Australia, and had completed his first detective novel,
Death at the President’s Lodging
. This was an immediate success and part of a long running series centred on his character Inspector Appleby. A second novel, Hamlet Revenge, soon followed and overall he managed over fifty under the Innes banner during his career.

After returning to the UK in 1946 he took up a post with Queen’s University, Belfast before finally settling as Tutor in English at Christ Church, Oxford. His writing continued and he published a series of novels under his own name, along with short stories and some major academic contributions, including a major section on modern writers for the
Oxford History of English Literature
.

Whilst not wanting to leave his beloved Oxford permanently, he managed to fit in to his busy schedule a visiting Professorship at the University of Washington and was also honoured by other Universities in the UK.

His wife Margaret, whom he had met and married whilst at Leeds in 1932, had practised medicine in Australia and later in Oxford, died in 1979. They had five children, one of whom (Angus) is also a writer. Stewart himself died in November 1994 in a nursing home in Surrey.

 

 

1

Miss Curricle set down her book and peered through the plate-glass of the sun-deck café. “The sky,” she said, “is cloudless and intensely blue.”

The tone might have been thought needlessly instructive, for the atmospheric fact was obvious and – near the tropics – unsurprising. Or there might be sensed behind Miss Curricle’s didactic habit some administrative tradition in the family: just so in the nineties might her father, closing a file at five o’clock, have announced yet another meritorious enactment enforced. “
Intensely
blue,” reiterated Miss Curricle, again with a satisfaction suggesting that an invisible brush of her own had collaborated in this loaded effect. “Mr Hoppo, you have observed the sky?”

Mr Hoppo sat up with courteous alacrity; the movement constricted some invisible garment at his neck; his forefinger, hesitating, betrayed the absent clerical collar; as the unnecessity of the question struck him his features took on an over plus of benevolence. “Yes, indeed. It is quite remarkable.” He stretched in his seat, so as to bring into view – what is not always easy on a great liner – a strip of sea. “And the ocean too” – he spoke as one who will inevitably broaden the intellectual basis of any discussion – “the ocean too is quite remarkably blue – quite extraordinarily so. Possibly only the Bay of Naples–”

“The ocean,” said Miss Curricle briskly, “is not so blue as the sky.” Miss Curricle, perhaps because only glass and white paint and sky were visible to her and she had no intention of stirring, disapproved of the introduction of a rival element. “The sky is intensely blue. The sea too is blue – but less so.”

“I find I cannot agree with you. From where you sit I suspect your view to be imperfect. If you were to move this way–”

“Thank you, but it is scarcely necessary. The ocean makes no momentary change of its aspect in this part of the world.” Miss Curricle wriggled her behind more firmly into her chair, meantime preserving a hazardous minimum of ladylike poise in her unflinchingly squared shoulders. “And I observed before sitting down that it is less blue than the sky.”

“Less luminous, perhaps. But in point of sheer intensity of colour…ah, a whale!”

From her seat near the soda fountain Mrs Kittery giggled nervously – evidence of a power of swift perception behind her large and unspeculative eyes.

Miss Curricle turned back from the rail to which she had hurried. “I cannot see a whale. Nor, Mr Hoppo, do I believe that there
was
in fact–”

Mrs Kittery removed from her mouth the straw through which she was sucking lemonade. “Everything is blue,” she said largely and eagerly. “The sea and the sky and what they dress the boys in. It’s peaceful, I suppose. But sometimes I feel it gives you the blues, all that blue. I feel it would be nicer really – more restful – if the sea was green. Like a great big field.”

“The sea,” said Miss Curricle, seizing the opening, “is green. Most distinctly so. A
pure
blue is characteristic only of the firmament. Salt water is colourless in itself, or is possessed of a slightly greenish tinge. On shipboard, this may be observed in the bath.”

Mrs Kittery’s straw bubbled dangerously. Miss Curricle, with a glance at Mr Hoppo which seemed to admonish him to await further instruction where he sat, turned towards this new adversary. “Mrs Kittery, are you quite well? Or do you feel the motion? Or is not that one sweet drink too much? Have you considered that a feeling of infinite sadness inside often arises from no more than an error of the table – or for that matter of the soda fountain? Now that I come to look at you, you seem a sugar-intolerant type.”

“But I’m not infinitely sad inside, Miss Curricle. It’s just that sitting here sometimes I get a bit down. And it’s not my stomach. I think until
I
get old too I shan’t be any the worse of soft drinks nearly all the time.” Mrs Kittery paused, evidently hoping to see the severity of Miss Curricle’s scrutiny relax. “And anyway I like it. This is a bonzer drink after getting in a sweat.”

With much obvious kindness of heart Mr Hoppo chuckled. “How one does perspire,” he said robustly, “even at deck quoits on a day like this!” He paused and added pleasantly, “A
what
drink?”

“Bonzer.”

At the point where soda fountain turned into bar a three-month old copy of the
Times
folded itself together. “Ah,” said a heavily cordial voice, “an Australian. Here is a capital thing!” A military eye was revealed, merrily bent on Mrs Kittery. “And now we know why the lady would like a green sea. Her country – though beautiful, of course – is all greys and browns. Thousands of square miles of them.” A military eyebrow twitched whimsically, as if flicking away the last possibility of any offence. “I was there a week. I did think it extraordinarily beautiful, I assure you. A bit uncanny, of course, and practically no game. But dashed fine.”

Mrs Kittery’s eyes rounded in surprise. “Are you an artist?” she asked. “It usually takes ordinary people who come out quite a long time. To
see
it, I mean.”

“Artist?” The
Times
spread itself again rapidly. “Nothing of the kind, ma’am. Steward, small whisky!”

“I was impressed,” said Mr Hoppo in a judicial voice tempered by friendly warmth, “by the towns – cities, one should really say. One didn't expect them; one had thought only of the Great Outback. In Melbourne one might almost be in – well, in Glasgow. The better parts, of course.” He paused and assumed an expression which his mirror would have assured him was delightfully roguish. “But I believe my most abiding memory will be of the soap.”

“I should connect soap,” said Miss Curricle, “less with the Great Outback than with the Great Unwashed. Pray explain yourself.”

Mr Hoppo, if only because he was about to solicit laughter himself, giggled perfunctorily at this witticism. “In Australia,” he said, “they advertise their soap as guaranteed under the Pure Food Act. I could never observe it without mirth. The Land of the Sapophagi. Or perhaps it represents the Australians’ really acting on the maxim that inner cleanliness comes first.”

Mr Hoppo giggled again. The
Times
disapprovingly crackled – less perhaps at the joke in itself than at its association with Mr Hoppo’s never wholly invisible cloth. Miss Curricle discernibly wavered between attitudes and was ambushed by a titter. And a quiet young man in a far corner thought to make the experiment of grinning cheerfully at Mrs Kittery. In Mrs Kittery’s response, he noted, there was nothing conspiratorial. She needed no support, being as yet unaware of being obscurely conscious of offence. Indeed she now laughed suddenly and loudly, as one who sees a joke that has long been there for the seeing.

“When
I
got to Australia,” said Miss Curricle, “I understood it was New Zealand. There had been a mistake. A man in an office had given me the wrong booklet. I thought the scenery was disappointing and I complained and then it came out. That it was Australia, that is to say. And they would make no refund. Nevertheless there were things in Australia that I liked.” Miss Curricle pronounced this verdict incisively, as if conscious that she was abundantly restoring a proper tone to the conversation. “There was – let me see – yes, there was a zoo. Somewhere – in Sydney, perhaps, or Melbourne – there was really a good zoo. Almost first-class. Only some of the animals looked a little under-fed.”

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