Sometimes I read too many Golden Age mystery novels and start writing them myself. And whoops, I did it again. In Scotland.
Setting: Hamish MacHaggis’s estate in Glencampell, in the Highlands.
Occasion: a house party. Guests are Lord and Lady Scrymshawe, a fluffy-haired old lady named Agnes DuProcesse, and her niece, Hester Chesterfield, all from England; and Torquil MacTweed, Hamish’s cousin.
Scene: Morning. The breakfast room. Agnes nibbles at toast while Lady Scrymshawe sections a grapefruit and her husband tucks into scrambled eggs, bacon, and grilled mushrooms. Torquil enters and helps himself to porridge.
Torquil: Morning, Tolleshunt. Morning, Prunella. Morning, Miss DuProcesse. Where’s our host?
Lord Scrymshawe: Not down yet. Nor Miss Chesterfield. Jolly bad show. Wouldn’t have taken her for a late sleeper. Energetic sort of female. Robust. Jolly hockey-sticks.
Lady Scrymshawe: She rowed for Roedean.
Lord Scrymshawe: She’s a menace at tennis.
Lady Scrymshawe: Keeps her wicket at cricket.
Lord Scrymshawe: Plays polo solo.
Lady Scrymshawe: Always bags her birds.
Torquil: Even in the gorse?
Lady Scrymshawe: Of course.
Torquil: Sporty type, eh? Lots in common with Hamish, then.
Agnes: That’s what I think.
Torquil: He’ll win the caber toss at the Highland Games today or I’ll eat my bonnet. [Demonstrates caber-tossing with his spoon and knocks over his porridge] Och! I’ve spilt on my kilt!
Hamish [rushing in]: Gypsies! Tramps! And thieves!
Lady Scrymshawe: Tsk, tsk. Scotsmen are so excitable.
Lord Scrymshawe: What’s been stolen, Hamish?
Hamish: My new sporran! A god from my giftmother! I mean, a gift from my godmother! The one I showed everyone yesterday! It’s gone!
Lord Scrymshawe: Buck up, man! You’ve got other sporrans, presumably.
Hamish [sinking into a chair]: No. I lost my other one in a darts competition at the pub.
Lady Scrymshawe: Tsk, tsk. One hears too much about these pub nights of yours, Hamish. It’s time you married and settled down.
Agnes: That’s what I think.
Hamish: Never mind that. The Games start in an hour! Torquil, my dear old oatcake, tell me you’ve got spare sporran!
Torquil: Didn’t pack one. I’ve got some extra ghillie hose.
Hamish: Do you suppose I need hose? [sinks head in hands] A Scot sans sporran! I’ll be the laughingstock of Glencampbell.
Hester [bursting in]: What ho, chaps! Hope there’s some brekker left! I say, Hamish, you’ve got some jolly twisty roads in these parts! [piles food on her plate and sits down]
Lord Scrymshawe: You’ve been motoring, Miss Chesterfield?
Hester: All the way to Eliotness! Not easy to find a shop open this early. Oh, I say, these deviled kidneys are the cat’s pyjamas, what?
Hamish: Shopping? At this hour?
Hester: Crackin’ through the bracken, hell for leather through the heather. Look lively, Mr. MacHaggis. [throws a brown paper parcel to Hamish, who catches it and rips the paper open]
Hamish: A sporran! Oh, I say! But how did you know I’d need one?
Hester: Because Aunt Agnes took a good squiz at the one from your godmother. [hands it to Hamish] Look at the label, man!
Hamish: “A Ralph Lauren sporran. Made in China.” [gasps] A foreign sporran!
Torquil: If that had become known at the Games … you’ve had a lucky escape, Hamish.
Hamish: I have indeed. And all thanks to you, Miss Field. I mean, Miss Chester. I mean … may I call you Hester?
Hester [helping herself to more kidneys]: If you like.
Hamish: Or even, perhaps – Mrs. MacHaggis?
Hester: Sounds good to me.
Agnes: That’s what I thought.