sonetka (sonetka) wrote,

After The End, The Last Of It

One final bit of Strong Poison fic, and I think that after this the well will be just about dry, at least when it comes to Where Are They Now fics about characters who only appear in that book and then never again. I did have an idea for a Mrs. Pettican/Hannah Westlock follow-up, but it didn't really come together -- besides, given the time the story takes place, it's reasonable to assume that they both found other jobs pretty quickly, and having the Tale Of The Murderous Former Employer to dine out on certainly wouldn't hurt them socially. (Though I'm sure Mrs. Pettican was horrified that those eggs would have been sitting innocently in her kitchen for hours, right under her nose). Perhaps I'll need to move on to Have His Carcase for the next series of fics. Mrs. Weldon/Antoine: The Later Years, anyone?

But for now, I give you the Rev. Mr. Boyes, three or four years on. All comments and corrections are gratefully accepted, and of course, I own nothing.

Ryland Vaughan had only been able to secure a half-day's leave from the bank, so while the Reverend Arthur Boyes would have preferred to have his breakfast in peaceful solitude, he could hardly fail to invite that young man to join him when he appeared on the parsonage doorstep at eight o'clock sharp, eager to gather as much information as possible about Philip's childhood before the departure of the eleven o'clock train to London. Vaughan had brought a large, battered notebook with him, and appeared to have but little appetite – he contented himself with a cup of strong tea, rubbing his head periodically as if it pained him, and talking all the while. Mr Boyes, who was never quite awake until after he had breakfasted, had to beg Vaughan to desist for a few moments. “I shall be quite at your service after breakfast, but I find it very difficult to think until then.”

Vaughan made a few polite noises and then retreated into the section of the morning paper which Mr Boyes had already finished. A few moments later, a loud snort almost caused a startled Boyes to drop his scone.

“Well-known detective authoress,” said Vaughan bitterly. “Did you see this item here? Miss Harriet Vane, the well-known detective authoress, has recently returned from an extended trip abroad, where she – here, see for yourself.”

He thrust the paper in Boyes's face, though in fact there was no necessity for doing so. Mr Boyes had already seen the item when he had read the paper half an hour earlier. “What of it, Mr Vaughan?” he inquired with a yawn.

“Traveling abroad,” said Vaughan. “As if she hadn't a care in the world. She wouldn't bother to talk to me about Phil for my book, even if I asked her. She has quite enough to occupy her, going to literary cocktail parties and keeping His Detective Lordship on a string.”

“He seemed a very sympathetic young man, when I spoke to him,” said Boyes absently, starting in on his egg.

“It's all play-acting,” said Vaughan. “He made out that he sympathized with me as well, but he was only interested in getting the girl out of the dock. And she must have known something about it, she –”

Boyes looked up sharply. “Mr Vaughan, while I am pleased that you wish to write my son's biography, you must understand that I have no intention of discussing the trials with you. It is an extremely distressing subject. I am grateful that Mrs Boyes did not live long enough to see her family torn apart in such a fashion, but I can assure you that even for me, it was painful enough. Be good enough not to speak of Miss Vane, or of – of Norman Urquhart, or anyone else in that connection.”

Vaughan blinked, and suddenly looked very tired. “My apologies, Mr Boyes. My tongue runs away with me sometimes ...” the ensuing pause threatened to become uncomfortable. “Do you mind if I take that last piece of toast?”

“Not at all.”

They were quiet for a few more minutes until the plates had been cleared, then, at Mr Boyes' suggestion, decamped into the sitting-room, where Mr Boyes had gathered together a number of Philip's school exercise books and some early literary attempts. He had tried to look at a few of the early poems and had found his heart contracting unpleasantly – it almost felt as if the young Philip might walk in at any moment and tell him that the last few years had been merely an unhappy dream.

Mr Vaughan, apparently chastened, made no effort to discuss Philip's death and the aftermath any further, and confined himself to taking industrious notes on Philip's childhood, the clever sayings he had produced, his early dislike of school, and the prizes he had nonetheless managed to win, both for his original essays and for his Greek and Latin translations. “I had hoped that he would study philology at university,” Boyes found himself saying, “He had a real talent for languages, had he cared to develop it. But he placed a few poems in a literary magazine called, I think, Volcano or some such name, and after that he cared for nothing but writing. He said he would far rather make poor things of his own than merely copy the great words of dead men.”

“That was very like Philip,” said Vaughan, taking one of the schoolbooks into his hand as if it were a particularly precious jewel. “He wanted to be on the front lines, not hanging back in the old forms. If he had only … but at least we still have his work.”

It was a very long hour and a half, but at least Vaughan packed up his notebook, along with Philip's old books, and made his departure for the railway station.

Mr Boyes, who had intended to sort through a mass of overdue paperwork before lunch, found that he was so unsettled that he could not concentrate. Finally, he pushed the papers aside and went for a walk; it was a hot, beautiful summer morning and the garden behind the house, although he could not maintain it as well as its creators would have wished, was nonetheless a pleasant enough place to recoup one's thoughts. Philip had spent a great deal of time here as a child; many of those early poems had been composed sitting on the creaky bench by the begonia patch, although he had naturally slammed his book closed whenever he noticed his father approaching. The churchyard was not far distant, where Philip's mother lay, alongside his infant sister (although she would have been Philip's elder, had she lived). And now Philip was there as well.

As for Norman Urquhart, he lay, as his sentence had been, in Pentonville where he was last confined. That death had been, in some ways, even more dreadful than Philip's. Mr Boyes had attempted to visit his nephew by marriage several times before the end, to offer his prayers and, as far he was able, forgiveness, but each time he had been refused. Even now he could not be sure whether he could have fully, sincerely, forgiven the man had he been confronted with him in the flesh. The thought of Philip's dying as a result of unbridled emotion had been a horrible one, but that his death should have come as a long-desired result of years of careful planning, from a series of cold-blooded financial calculations – that had been very hard. They have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But it was not just Philip and himself whom Urquhart had pierced. Almost, for a moment, Boyes had wished Miss Vane guilty after all, but the facts had spoken for themselves. To have persisted in believing her guilty would have been to do her almost as grave an injustice as Philip's cousin had done to him.

And as time had passed, he had found to his own surprise that it rather pleased him to see favourable mention of her in the papers. There had been that shocking occasion when the poor girl had stumbled upon a corpse on a beach somewhere to the south, but that reflected no discredit on her, and indeed the whole business seemed to have been satisfactorily if not happily resolved. Otherwise, she seemed to have stayed on a straightforward and industrious path, no matter what Vaughan might insinuate to the contrary. He could not, in fact, entirely understand Vaughan's animus against her, unless it were perhaps simple literary jealousy – though why that should be so, when Vaughan had never said a word indicating interest in detective novels, was a mystery to him. Poor Vaughan; a lonely soul, obviously, and rather trying as so many lonely souls were wont to be. Mr Boyes had serious doubts that Vaughan's biography of Philip would ever see print, or even that he would finish writing it. He seemed to be treating the biography merely as a reason to talk of Philip, not as an end in itself. Well, there was little harm in that. All the same, however, it was good to see that the distant Miss Vane had chosen to remove herself and keep on moving forward. As long as she was doing well, there had been at least one good thing saved from the tragedy of Philip's murder. And Philip, who had been a kindly boy at heart, would surely have been glad to see her well and happy.
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