Read Snobbery with Violence Online
Authors: M.C. Beaton
worked as a Fleet Street journalist. She is the author of the Agatha Raisin novels, the Hamish Macbeth series and the Edwardian Murder Mystery series – all published by Constable & Robinson. She divides her time between Paris and the Cotswolds.
Praise for M.C. Beaton’s Edwardian Murder Mystery series:
‘If you missed the first novel in the series, get it right away.
Snobbery with Violence
introduced the Edwardian heroine Lady Rose Summer. Her second appearance [
] is, if anything, even wittier and more amusing than the debut.’
Globe & Mail
‘Fans of the author’s Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth series should welcome this tale of aristocrats, house parties, servants, and murder.’
‘A light-hearted romantic romp through Edwardian snobbery, with hints of the cataclysmic changes in store for high society.’
‘Fans of the author’s Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin mysteries . . . will welcome this new series of historical whodunits.’
‘Combines history, romance, and intrigue resulting in a delightful romantic mystery.’
Midwest Book Review
Also by M.C. Beaton
Edwardian Murder Mystery series
Snobbery with Violence
Sick of Shadows
Our Lady of Pain
Hamish Macbeth series
Death of a Valentine
Death of a Witch
Death of a Gentle Lady
Death of a Maid
Death of a Dreamer
Death of a Bore
Death of a Poison Pen
Death of a Village
Death of a Celebrity
Death of a Dustman
Death of an Addict
Death of a Scriptwriter
Death of a Dentist
Constable & Robinson Ltd
3 The Lanchesters
162 Fulham Palace Road
London W6 9ER
First published in the UK by Severn House Publishers, 2005
This paperback edition published in the UK by Robinson,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2010
Marion Chesney, 2003, 2010
The right of Marion Chesney to be identified
the author of this work
been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in Publication data is
available from the British Library
Typeset by TW Typesetting, Plymouth, Devon
Printed and bound in the EU
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
For my husband, Harry,
and my son, Charlie,
Sapper, Buchan, Dornford Yates,
practitioners in that school of Snobbery with Violence
that runs like a thread of good-class tweed
through twentieth-century literature.
All the world over, I will back the masses against the classes.
William Ewart Gladstone
nlike White’s or Brooks’s, it was simply known as The Club, lodged in a Georgian building at the bottom of St James’s Street, hard by St James’s Palace. Its membership mostly comprised the younger members of the aristocracy, who considered it a livelier place than the other stuffy gentlemen’s clubs of London.
Some of them felt that the acceptance of Captain Harry Cathcart into The Club was a grave mistake. When he had left for the Boer War, he had been a handsome, easy-going man. But he had returned, invalided out of the army, bitter, brooding and taciturn, and he seemed unable to converse in anything other than clichés or grunts.
One warm spring day, when a mellow sun was gilding the sooty buildings and the first trembling green leaves were appearing on the plane trees down the Mall, Freddy Pomfret and Tristram Baker-Willis entered The Club and looked with deep disfavour on the long figure of the captain, who was slumped in an armchair.
‘Look at that dismal face,’ said Freddy, not bothering to lower his voice. ‘Enough to put a fellow off his dinner, what?’
‘Needs the love of a bad woman,’ brayed Tristram. ‘Eh, Harry. What? Rather neat that, don’t you think? Love of a bad woman, what?’
The captain, by way of reply, leaned forward, picked up the
and barricaded himself behind it. He wanted peace and quiet to think what to do with his life. He lowered his paper once he was sure his tormentors had gone. A large mirror opposite showed him his reflection. He momentarily studied himself and then sighed. He was only twenty-eight and yet it was a face from which any sign of youth had fled. His thick black hair was showing a trace of grey at the temples. His hard and handsome face had black heavy-lidded eyes which gave nothing away. He moved his leg to ease it. His old wound still throbbed and hurt on the bad days, and this was one of them.
He was the youngest son of Baron Derrington, existing on his army pension and a small income from the family trust. His social life was severely curtailed. On his return from the war, he had been invited out to various dinner parties and dances, but the invitations faded away as he became damned as a bore who rarely opened his mouth and who did not know how to flirt with the ladies.
He put the
back down on the table in front of him, and as he did so, he saw there was a copy of the
lying there. Someone must have brought it in, for The Club would never supply a popular paper. There was a photograph on the front of a suffragette demonstration in Trafalgar Square and an oval insert of a pretty young girl with the caption, ‘Lady Rose, daughter of the Earl of Hadshire, joined the demonstrators.’
Brave girl, thought the captain. That’s her social life ruined. He put the paper down again and forgot about her.
But Lady Rose was possessed of exceptional beauty and a large dowry, so a month later her parents felt confident that her support for the suffragettes would not be much of a barrier to marriage. After all, the very idea of women getting the vote was a joke, and so they had told her in no uncertain terms. They had moved to their town house in Eaton Square and lectured their daughter daily on where her duty lay. A season was a vast expense and England expected every girl to do her duty and capture a husband during it.
Normally, the independently minded Lady Rose would have balked at this. She had been refusing a season, saying it was nothing more than a cattle market, when, to the delight of her parents, she suddenly caved in.
The reason for this was because Lady Rose had met Sir Geoffrey Blandon at a pre-season party and had fallenin love – first love, passionate all-consuming love.
He appeared to return her affections. He was rich and extremely handsome. Lady Rose was over-educated for her class, and her obvious contempt for her peers had given her the nickname The Ice Queen. But to her parents’ relief, Sir Geoffrey appeared to be enchanted by their clever daughter. Certainly Rose, with her thick brown hair, perfect figure, delicate complexion and large blue eyes, had enough attributes to make anyone fall for her.
But the fact was that her support for the suffragettes had indeed damaged her socially, and it seemed as if Sir Geoffrey had the field to himself. Resentment against Rose was growing in the gentlemen’s clubs and over the port at dinner parties after the ladies had retired. Suffragettes were simply men-haters. They needed to be taught a lesson. ‘What that gal needs’, Freddy Pomfret was heard to remark, ‘is some rumpy-pumpy.’
As the season got underway and social event followed social event, the earl began to become extremely anxious. He felt that by now Sir Geoffrey should have declared his intentions.
One day at his club, he met an old friend, Brigadier Bill Handy, and over a decanter of port after a satisfying lunch, the earl said, ‘I’d give anything to know if Geoffrey means to pop the question.’
The brigadier studied him for a long moment and then said, ‘I think you should be careful there. Blandon’s always been a bit of a rake and a gambler. Tell you what. Do you know Captain Cathcart?’
‘Vaguely. Only heard of him. Sinister sort of chap who never opens his mouth?’
‘That’s the one. Now he did some undercover work behind the lines in the war. You mustn’t mention this.’
‘I’m a clam.’
‘All right. Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll give you my card and scribble something on the back of it. I’ll give you his address. Pop round there and ask him to check up on Blandon. It’s worth it. Rose is your only daughter. They say she talks like an encyclopaedia. Wouldn’t have thought that would fascinate Blandon. How did you come to make such a mistake?’
‘Not my fault,’ said the earl huffily. ‘My wife got her this governess and left the instruction to her.’
‘I hear that Lady Rose is a member of the Shrieking Sisterhood,’ remarked the brigadier, using the nickname for the suffragettes.
‘Not any more, she ain’t,’ said the earl. ‘Mind you, I think the only reason she lost interest was because of Blandon.’
‘Well, maybe there is something to be said for love, though I don’t hold with it. A girl should marry background and money. They last; love don’t. Here’s my card.’ He wrote an address down and handed it over.
The earl put his monocle in his eye and studied it. ‘I say, old man. Chelsea? No place for a gentleman.’
‘If Captain Cathcart were the complete gentleman he wouldn’t dream of doing your snooping for you. But you’ll be safe with him.’
Lady Rose was at that moment fretting under the ministrations of her lady’s maid. Having abandoned the Sisterhood – but only briefly, she told herself – Rose had once more subjected herself to the stultifying dress code of Edwardian society. While she had been supporting the suffragette movement, she had worn simple skirts and blouses and a straw hat. But now she was dressed in layers of silk underclothes, starched petticoats and elaborate gowns with waterfalls of lace. Her figure was too slim to suit the fashion of ripe and luscious beauty, and so art was brought to bear to create the small-waisted, S-shaped figure. A beauty had to have an outstanding bust and a noticeable posterior. Rose was lashed into a long corset and then put into a Dip Front Adjuster, a waist-cinch that stressed the fashionable about-to-topple-over appearance. Her bottom was padded, as was her bust. By the time the maid had slung a rope of pearls around Rose’s neck and decorated the bosom of her gown with brooches, Rose felt she looked like a tray in a jeweller’s window.
Geoffrey always praised her appearance but had implied that once she was married she would be free to wear more comfortable clothes. Rose stared at the mirror as the maid put in pompadours, the pads over which her long hair would be drawn up and arranged. Sir Geoffrey had said nothing about when
are married. But he had stolen a kiss, just the other night, behind a pillar in the Jessingtons’ ballroom, and stealing a kiss was tantamount to a proposal of marriage.
The captain lived in a thin white house in Water Street, off the King’s Road. The earl fervently hoped that the man was a gentleman and not some Neverwazzer who wore a bowler hat or carried a coloured handkerchief in his breast pocket or – horror upon horrors – brown boots with a dark suit. He had never met him but had heard about him in the clubs.
The earl climbed stiffly down from his carriage and waited while his footman rapped at the door. To his relief, the earl saw that the door was opened by a sober-looking gentleman’s gentleman who took the earl’s card, carefully turned down at one corner to show the earl was calling in person, put it on a silver tray, and retreated into the house.
The earl frowned. His title should have been enough to grant him instant admission.
The captain’s servant returned after only a few moments and spoke to the footman, who sprinted down the stairs to tell the earl that the captain would be pleased to receive him.