Hearing secret harmonies
not knowing Lord Widmerpool personally, I have the advantage of ignorance. That is sometimes a useful weapon. I am perhaps not so foolhardy as you all seem to think. There are aspects of the Trapnel story with which, in his latest frame of mind, Lord Widmerpool might even welcome association. I mean Trapnel the despised and rejected – insomuch as Trapnel was despised and rejected.’
    I felt confidence in Delavacquerie’s judgment, and could grasp some of what he meant. Nevertheless his train of thought was not wholly clear.
    ‘But even the new Widmerpool will hardly stomach such an association with Gwinnett, will he?’
    ‘We’ll see. I may be wrong. It’s worth a try.’
    Delavacquerie was giving nothing away at this stage. During what remained of the meeting no matter of consequence was discussed. Death’s-head Swordsman had first to be read. That was the next step. Luncheon came to an end. Emily Brightman said she was on her way to the British Museum. Members was going to his hairdresser, before attending another literary prize committee later that afternoon. After saying goodbye to the others, Delavacquerie and I set off for Fleet Street.
    ‘How do you propose to tackle Widmerpool?’
    Delavacquerie’s manner changed a little from its carefully screened air employed at the table.
    ‘Tell me, Nicholas, did not Pamela Widmerpool take an overdose that she might be available to the necrophilic professor?’
    ‘That was how things looked at the time. She may have decided to do herself in anyway.’
    ‘But it might be said that Gwinnett – by, perhaps only indirectly, being the cause of her end – avenged Trapnel for destruction of his novel, and consequent downfall?’
    ‘You could look at it that way.’
    ‘In a sense Gwinnett represents Widmerpool’s revenge on Pamela too?’
    ‘That also occurred to me. The Revenger’s Tragedy . All the same, the point is surely not going to be easy to put, as man-to-man, when you confront Widmerpool?’
    ‘Nevertheless, I shall bear it in mind.’
    ‘I never thought Gwinnett would get the book finished. He gave up academic life when all the trouble happened. I last heard of him teaching water-skiing.’
    ‘A promising profession for a man keen on Death?’
    ‘I don’t think Gwinnett does away with his girls. He is not a murderer. He just loves where Death is. The subject enraptures him. Emily Brightman says there was an earlier incident of his breaking into a mortuary, where a dead love of his lay.’
    Delavacquerie thought for a moment.
    ‘I can understand the obsession, like most others. People love where Beauty is, where Money is, where Power is – why not where Death is? An American poet said Death is the Mother of Beauty. No, I was being perhaps unduly secretive at lunch. I’ll tell you. I have a special line on Lord Widmerpool. My son is at the university of which he is the chancellor.’
    I knew Delavacquerie’s wife had died ten or fifteen years before. I had never met her. They had come across each other in England, the marriage, so far as I knew, a happy one. Delavacquerie sometimes spoke of his wife. The son he had never before mentioned.
    ‘In the ordinary way, of course, Etienne would scarcely know who was the chancellor of the university. Lord Widmerpool, as we were saying at lunch, has for some little time been laying stress on his own closeness to the younger generation, and its upheavals. You may have seen his letters – always signed nowadays “Ken Widmerpool”, rather than just “Widmerpool”, as a peer of the realm – a matey approach habitually brought into play so far as students of the university are concerned. He has made his house a centre for what might be called the more difficult cases.’
    ‘Was your son involved in the Quiggin twins’ paint-throwing?’
    Delavacquerie laughed at the suggestion.
    ‘On the contrary, Etienne is a hard-working boy, who wants to get a good economics degree, but naturally he does the things his

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