My Constant Resting-Place

Author: Nefret24

Disclaimer: These estimable personages are not mine but belong to the incomparable Dorothy L. Sayers and her estate. This is not intended for infringement or profit but for the love of piffle.

Spoilers: Busman's Honeymoon, small hints from Strong Poison, Gaudy Night

Summary: "... Lord Saint-George was in tearing high spirits and I had my hands full of him. He pretended five times that he had lost the ring, and just as we were setting out he mislaid it in earnest; but his lordship, with his customary detective ability, discovered it for him and took charge of it personally." Mr. Mervyn Bunter, Busman's Honeymoon DLS.

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It was a beautiful morning, cool, crisp and golden-hued, he noted. He had been standing at attention in his dressing gown (for almost an hour now, he observed his pocket watch guiltily), just gazing out at the village, the quaint homes with their brick facades softened by the glow of sunrise, and past them, the landscape, vast, open and fogless.

A perfect day. His wedding day. An absurd, lurking suspicion that somehow Bunter had contrived it to be so with assorted occult rituals the night before flitted through his mind (for nothing as vulgar as umbrellas, snow shoes or the other various accoutrements of foul weather should mar his lordship's nuptials) but was quickly dismissed.

He usually never appreciated the mornings after late nights dosed with bromide, typically contenting himself with lazily awaking on his own and allowing his mind to play catch-up before Bunter brought forth the bacon and eggs. This, however, was not a morning to be caught unawares. He supposed, during his lengthy meditation upon the Mitre's meager surroundings, that it was a testament to his sheer nerves that no amount of medication could seduce Morpheus for the few precious hours that remained of his bachelorhood.

The idyllic nature of the newly risen sun had made him decidedly maudlin, he realized suddenly, and he brought himself from gilded clouds thudding back to earth with a single, cynical thought: I was meant to remain a bachelor.

Almost unwillingly, his thoughts strayed to Barbara. He, who prided himself on attention to detail, had found that his memory of her face (that face, which once claimed by another, had launched a suicidal young lieutenant back to the trenches and subsequently brought about a lifetime's worth of horrible nightmares) was hazy and ill-defined; she was blond, he recalled, and lithe, but of which color eyes she had, he had completely and utterly forgotten.

One pair of dark eyes. One face. One heart, his heart, inextricably tied to it, somehow irrationally and against all scientific proof otherwise melded into one great heap of a thing; that unremarkable face, surrounded by dark, bushy hair, that filled with expressions of intelligence and wit and mirable dictu, five years in the making, love for him.

It had been a costly war to wage, long and arduous and painful. Even now, he was loath to think he had won, for it seemed very vulgar to consider his beloved as the vanquished foe and himself the parading conqueror. The press (the vultures!) would consider it the other way round, but then they always did catch the wrong side of things, as his odd friendship with Sally Hardy would attest.

Still, he had gotten what he wanted, and Harriet, dear sweet Harriet, had been persuaded that she wanted the same thing, so all was well, wasn't it?

A gentle knocking betrayed Bunter's presence just outside the room. A quiet "yes?" brought forth his valet, carrying with him a tray of tea and buttered toast with his profuse apologies.

"I did not realize that my lord would awaken so early. I have brought a light breakfast. If my lord would prefer, I could have the cook prepare some eggs?"

"No, no, Bunter. That's quite alright- this will serve," he said, nodding slightly, taking note of the contents of the tray, but not removing himself from his post at the sill. "Is Jerry still asleep?"

"Yes, my lord. The first of the guests have arrived, Mr. Rumm, and I have taken the liberty of securing him a mild refreshment."

"Has he brought his Bible with him?"

"Yes, my lord, and is attired in uniform," Bunter commented, the merest hint of distaste entering his voice. Bunter's standards did not necessarily include ex-criminals turned Salvation Army men as proper guests of his lordship's nuptials, but he would not question his employer's judgement. "He asked me to tender to you his greatest congratulations and extend the offer to sing any manner of the Songs of Zion to your liking, if so called upon."

"And I thought that Helen with 'The Voice that Breath'd O'er Eden' was going to be the worst of it. Break the news with all deftness of touch, Bunter, and make apologies for our worldly decadence. You'll see that he's sent on with the others to the church?"

"Yes, my lord. I will see to it presently if there's nothing else you require?"

"No, thank you, Bunter," he replied, and soon heard the soft click as the door closed behind his valet.

Bunter, imperturbable as always. He, himself, on the other hand, had worked himself into a right state yesterday, visiting his mother's in a terror after hearing that Oxford had had some rain showers. Silly, really; there was no safer driver than Harriet, who had such an extreme dislike for autos and their high speeds. His mother had told him as much, in that round about, scattered way of hers that he had always found simultaneously endearing and exasperating, and kindly offered menial employment to take his mind off of its own horrifying creations. (He later heard from the footman that Jerry had gotten stuck with the job and had made a right mess of things, having little experience with domestic matters and a tendency to break things when excited.) He reminded himself to make reparations to the mater at a more expeditious time.

Guests arriving already. His lordship's wedding attire, pristine and stylish as habit, starched and creased razor-sharp, hanging in the wardrobe, out of sight but not out of mind. His best man lazily snoring in the next room over, having done god-knows-what to her future ladyship's wedding ring. He glanced over at the tray Bunter had left, and helped himself to some buttered toast.

Chewing thoughtfully, strains of hymns began to make their way unbidden into his consciousness, snatches from ceremonies and days gone by, from Duke's Denver to the meager house on Whitechapel Road where Songs of Zion rang out reliably every Saturday evening. And with Advent still months away, he found himself humming Bach between the breadcrumbs. Sleepers, awake! ... Arise, the bridegroom is coming... prepare for the wedding...

By the time he had emptied his teacup, he began to hear the telltale thumping and muffled curses generally associated with his nephew's waking state. He inferred that Saint-George was a little worse for wear after his well-meant festivities the night before, and when Bunter came to alert him to this, sent his valet down to the kitchen with a particularly nasty, though effective, hangover remedy to be sent up with his young lordship's breakfast.

After a brief cigarette, there was the last minute paperwork to run over: making sure letters were sent to those who would disturb his lordship's honeymoon over a housing dispute that such actions would not be tolerated; the Cattery's funds for the next few months secure and to be dispensed forthwith by the hands of his bankers; cheques written to cover the fees of transportation for his guests, to the land-lady of the Mitre, to the local pub for Saint-George's impetuous bottle of champagne, ordered in the wee hours of the morning and typical to form, unpaid for, and for the Warden's Latymer Scholarship.

Bunter reappeared, notifying him that all the guests had arrived, were currently partaking of refreshment, and would soon be sent on their way. He had seen to it as well that the gifts for the bridesmaids were wrapped and properly stowed away for transport.

"The hell-hounds?"

"I have not seen any members of the press yet, my lord," Bunter said, with ominous overtones that boded those individuals no good.

"I assume the getaway remains unchanged?"

"I have left strict instructions with the staff of her ladyship that are to be obeyed to the letter. Her ladyship herself has also undertaken methods to throw off the scent, as it were, and has been of great assistance. I anticipate no further trouble. I will post those letters, if your lordship is finished? Thank you, my lord. Would your lordship care to partake in a light lunch before getting dressed?"

"Being not quite so full of buttered toast and sentiment, I suppose I ought to: one might make a nuisance of oneself with a rumbling stomach at the altar. I'll take it in here-- Jerry hasn't turned up yet," his lordship mentioned pointedly.

"Ah, yes. I thought it best that your lordship be allowed to work in peace. He had been quite adamant to see you since his remedy was applied."

"No doubt to tell me, with burning palette, exactly how effective it was," Wimsey replied soberly, with only the slightest twitch in his lips. "Alright," he sighed, laying aside his pen, "best to let the lion off its leash, Bunter. The zoo is awake and ready for it."

"Yes, my lord."

Bunter disappeared again, and again he found himself humming Bach and musing on the first half of a sonnet "...where the spinning world/ Sleeps on its axis, to the heart of rest..." slightly perplexed that in the span of one very wakeful morning his brain should be so preoccupied with such restful metaphors.

He was found thus, humming contemplatively in his sitting chair, when his nephew swung into the room with characteristic exuberance.

"Good morning, Uncle! Today's the day, eh?" he said cheerily by way of greeting, and sat down opposite him. "Bunter's bringing up grub?"

"Yes. May I presume that your head has settled back onto your shoulders?"

"Only just. That's one devil of a chaser- where on earth did you dig that up?"

"You are not the only one who has enjoyed a misspent youth," he replied obliquely, and held out his cigarette case to his nephew. "Bunter can supply you with the recipe; if you continue to act the way you do, I suggest you form a collection."

"For my own health?" the younger man grinned rakishly, and lit his cigarette. "Not planning on securing the family line with my soon to be most favorite aunt?"

"Jerry, I believe that when I called you one of the greatest thundering nuisances this family has known, I underestimated you. You are one of the greatest thunderin' nuisances in the whole of bloody Europe," Wimsey replied, glaring at his nephew through his monocle glass.

The aforementioned nuisance merely chuckled, then chirped appreciatively as Bunter entered with a light meal.

"Brilliant, as usual, Bunter," St. George complimented his uncle's valet in between mouthfuls. "D'ja know, I'm not quite certain where I put Aunt Harriet's ring?"

Bunter restrained himself only barely, his face showing visible disapproval.

Wimsey merely fixed his monocle glass with painstaking slowness and then resumed to cut his fish. "Jerry, if you think you're going to win a prize for Nuisance of the Northern Hemisphere, you're sadly mistaken. It's in your left pocket and I suggest you stop fiddlin' with it."

Jerry sulkily removed his hand from his dressing gown pocket and took a large bite out of a roll. "I momentarily forgot to whom I was speaking. You'd think you'd be able to stop detectin' on your own wedding day?"

"'Tis ingrained; t'will endure wind and weather. And marriage, apparently," his uncle replied mildly.

Their lunch was uneventful, excluding the second feint of his young lordship to lose his aunt's wedding ring within his uncle's teacup. Bunter, much distressed, was allowed to exit with the ring in his possession for cleansing purposes while Jerry received the mildest of rebukes his uncle had ever served him.

After a long pause, his brow furrowed with thought, Saint-George eyed his uncle askance. "I say, Uncle- what gives? Feelin' quite alright, are we?"

"I'm in perfect health, Jerry, aside from a persistent irritation," Wimsey said with a pointed look at his nephew, sipping the dregs of his tea.

"Well, alright," Jerry said cheerfully, supposing that his relation's paleness was no more marked than usual. "I'm sorry about Bunter," he remarked unrepentantly.

"It's rather reckless of you to continue in this vein. If Bunter should crumple into a depressed heap, the whole wedding'll be off."

"I believe it. Somebody's got to keep decorum with all of us Wimseys running round. Leave it to Mother and you'll be able to cut your guests for the wedding breakfast in half."

"Which might be fortuitous, considering the amount of china you rendered useless yesterday. Oh, don't look like that. My lips are sealed and my pocket book is open- as usual. Just don't expect me to bail you out on my honeymoon—I don't care what kind of mess you're in: if you're hospitalized with 24 hours to live, I'll send flowers to your funeral."

"What a horrid thing to say!" Jerry exclaimed with laughter.

"What? It would be a very tasteful flower arrangement. Bunter would handle it, of course."

"Of course."

As a genie appearing at the recitation of his name, Bunter appeared within the doorway and made a gentle cough. "If your lordships are finished dining, it would be expeditious to begin getting dressed."

"Oh ho, Uncle! The hour of doom approaches! Now is the time to dash back to London and retain your freedom. Well?"

Wimsey was thoughtfully staring at his pocket watch, amazed that the morning was lost to them already. His nephew, realizing he was not succeeding in provoking his quarry, toddled off down the hall after reclaiming the wedding ring. Bunter still remained in the doorway, expectant.

"My lord?" Bunter prompted, as his pocket watch reclaimed his attention.

"Yes, Bunter. Let's get this over with, then," he said soberly, and closing the watch with a thoughtful caress, unhooked it from his dressing gown and laid it aside.

Bunter's ministrations to his employer were, as they always were, attentive and meticulous. His gentleman was very silent, without his usual friendly chatter and running commentary on the day's events. Bunter surmised that it was only to be expected and refrained from commentating on his lordship's heightened pallor.

He murmured excuses and tended to Saint-George, who though in appearance, bore resemblance to his employer, was in temperament an opposite pole. His younger lordship continued making feints with his future ladyship's ring, moving it from one trouser pocket to another. Bunter was extremely unamused.

So it was when he rejoined his own gentleman that his temper was a bit out of sorts. He found him as he had earlier, at the windowsill, this time humming under his breath- an improvement. "My lordship Saint-George is ready. May I help your lordship into your jacket?"

"Good Gad, Bunter, you have the look of a man on the edge. What has the fulsome child done now? We can have him exterminated, if you like," Wimsey offered, with a glimmer of his usual good humor. "It's the only humane thing to do with infernal pests of that nature."

"Were you talking about me? I distinctly feel my ears burning," said Jerry, strolling into his uncle's room, flipping his top hat over and over in his hands.

"I watch out for my other extremities if I were you," Wimsey said severely, shrugging into his overcoat with Bunter's assistance. Claiming his top hat from his valet, he placed it upon his head at a rakish angle, then re- affixed it to a more proper position with the aid of a mirror on the wall.

"Well, Bunter, I should think that we do your not inconsiderable skills proud?" he asked, pulling on his gloves as he gestured to himself and his nephew.

"I could injure passers-by with these creases," his nephew complained with a morose look at his trousers.

Bunter merely sniffed with dignity, refraining from commenting on the disreputable state of his young lordship's trousers from yesterday. "If my lordship's are satisfied, I will have the car brought round."

Having thus dispatched Bunter, Jerry assessed his uncle. Immaculate in gray, not a hair out of place, his hat, shoes and monocle glass polished to gleam, a pink cravat starkly setting off the paleness of his face. He looks good for his age, Jerry supposed. He looks like his money was his second assessment, not untrue, but not exceptionally perceptive.

He looks like he's going to be sick.

"Still, all ready and willin'?" he asked, his genuine concern entering his voice.

His uncle shot him a surprised glance. "Jerry, I'm not as bad as all that, am I? Not so decrepit that I can't stand through mass," he joked unconvincingly.

"You just look pale, is all," Jerry mumbled. "That lingering affection you apparently harbor is mutual, you know," he admitted sheepishly.

"Why, Saint-George. I'm touched. I'm also quite fine. Have you got everything? Bunter'll have a fit if we dawdle any longer."

Wimsey was not pleased to see his nephew furiously patting down his pockets, and then out-turning them in a panic. "Jerry, not again."

"No, no," his nephew cried in between nervous chuckles. "This is just like what's-his-name the shepherd and the wolf. It's really gone. Oh, damn!"

The indisputable panic on Jerry's face was enough to convince his uncle, who was taking the news considerably well, given the circumstances. "When did you last have it?"

"Er... when I was getting dressed..." he looked forlornly at the door.

"Well, let's go then," said Wimsey, striding out of the room and down the hall to his nephew's bedroom and unfortunately, meeting Bunter in the process. "A slight hitch in the proceedings, Bunter," he apologized, placing a friendly hand on his valet's shoulder. "Have you happened to see her ladyship's ring?"

Bunter's face darkened. "No, my lord. I understood that his young lordship had contained it within his trousers."

Jerry appeared on his uncle's heels, holding both trouser pockets turned out.

"You've checked all your other pockets?" Wimsey asked, moving into the other room and scanning the floors.

"Yes, Uncle... Oh God, I'm so sorry," he said mournfully, his hands idly patting down his suit jacket.

All three men occupied themselves in scanning the floor, each taking areas of the room to scour. None appeared to be having any success. Then suddenly, Wimsey stopped and quickly moved out of the room.

A light whistling sound in the hallway warned the two remaining men of his return. "Call off the hounds, Sherlock: the rajah's diamond has been found. Right where it fell out of your pocket—when you turned it out."

Jerry sheepishly downcast his eyes, and wisely for once, said nothing. Bunter straightened and clearing his throat, reminded the gentlemen of the waiting auto.

"By all means. Bright angels beckon me away/ To sing God's praise in endless day."

"Uncle, I am sorry," Jerry said again as they descended the stairs. Wimsey merely looked at him and smiled enigmatically.

They got underway, after Bunter had seen to their seated comfort, and then set to driving his lordships at a leisurely pace to the church. Saint- George, chastised in deed rather than in word for his clumsy joking, fidgeted the whole way, but had apparently persuaded himself to be quiet.

Wimsey had remained deep in thought and every once in awhile, the other two men could catch snatches of idly hummed music. Neither being gifted with the bridegroom's musical erudition and memory, they did not identify the tunes or assess any importance to them, other than define it as a sign of his odd mood.

Wimsey, himself, found the hymns ever more thought-provoking, especially considering they occupied his mind from the more pressing and problematic matter of facing with finality that he was being driven to his wedding. Where he would meet his bride, be bound til his dying day in matrimony, a sacrament he worried would be a task beyond him.

Tricked into thinking about that which he would not by preoccupying notions to avoid doing so, he briefly wondered if Harriet was similarly nervous. At first, he thought not, knowing the cool practicality with which she took things in hand. But then, marriage is not an inconsiderable undertaking, for anyone. And more than he, she would be subjected to a world that she had never experienced first-hand: the scrutiny of his peers, the running of a household, the burden of procuring heirs to satisfy the denigrating Duchess.

"We've arrived, my lord." Bunter interrupted his reverie, and looking, Wimsey saw his valet appear at his other side, holding open the passenger door.

"Thank you, Bunter," he said quietly, and carefully extricated himself from the vehicle. Bunter took matters firmly in hand, and after a last minute appraisal of both gentlemen, ushered them both through the church side- door.

When they appeared at the altar with the priest, approving murmurs rose from the assembled congregation. The Dowager, the Duke and Helen were sitting up front, Charles and Mary relegated to a few pews behind (the Duchess' doing, no doubt) with fellow officers, and behind them, Miss Climpson and Miss Murchison with a couple other loyal members of the Cattery.

A slight nudge at his left gave him pause, and stopping his scansion of the pews, looked up to the rear of the church. There stood Miss de Vine, hair precariously piled atop her head, and attired in a dark suit that rather suited her severe features. Shortly, the music began, though he paid it little heed, a buzzing preoccupying his ears.

Miss de Vine was followed by a beaming Miss Lydgate, flushed with excitement and looking very much like she was about to break out in tears; then came the Dean, cheerful and swathed in furs, and the petite Miss Chilperic, tripping slightly on the train of her dress and blushing furiously as she entered her pew.

And then the bride.

The Warden was at her arm, though by then, Peter had become so thoroughly distracted that he did not return her nod of assurance. When she finally reached his side, he barely registered kissing the Warden lightly on the cheek, hyper-aware of his bride's close proximity. Turning back to the altar, he shared a side-long glance with Harriet, in whose pride and confidence he took courage.

He took his bride's hand in his, leading them to their designated place. Devoting half of his attention to the opening prayer (familiar since childhood) and the rest in silent contemplation of the verses he had been singing, suddenly, remarkably, true:

Thy Zion thou hast chosen, Lord And thou hast said I love her well; This is my constant resting-place And here I will delight to dwell.

His beloved was not a city of God, he conceded (just as she was not the conquered, or the conqueror, nor a myth or a character from a novel, nor a dream, but wonderfully real, indisputable flesh and intelligence, his Harriet), but the Bach was oddly reassuring- and not just as a distraction this time. With her, he would finally be at rest, in a land of perpetually flowing milk and honey.

He bowed his head, and devoted his full attention to where it should be.