During Gaudy Night

Wimsey's stride on the pavement was agitated. He'd been secluded in his room at the Mitre too long and had felt a sudden, violent desire for air. This whole business is getting to me, he thought savagely. The danger—and I can't do anything. Like waiting for the Germans—

"Wimsey, as I live and breathe!"

"Why, Mallory!" And there it all was again, the bombing in the distance, Lieutenant Mallory jumping nervously at each percussion. He thrust the memory away and dredged up a more pleasant one, of the old Mall with his cricket bat at the ready, steely-eyed. "What are you doin' round Oxford, Mallory? Haven't taken up residence, have you?"

"No, no, just visiting family. I'm joining an old friend for a drink. He'll like you. Join me?"

"I could use one. Who is he?"

"Rum thing, really. We played together as little chaps in skirts in South Africa. He moved back to England, then we did, and a few years later, bless me if we didn't go to the same grammar school in Birmingham. Lost sight of him at university—he was in Exeter College and I Balliol, and then the War. He had a bad time of it at the Somme but invalided out a little later."

He didn't say it, but Wimsey knew they were both thinking it: Lucky devil.

"Funny thing," Mallory continued, "he spent the whole War scribbling away at poetry and inventing a language. Now he's got a professorship, Merton College. Met up with him unexpectedly last week. He asked me to come round and meet a few of his literary friends. But what of you these days, Flim?"

"I've been racking the old brains about a little problem in one of the colleges," Wimsey answered lightly. Little! he mocked himself. When you know she could be the first victim of more than a cruel pen.

"I've heard of your detective prowess! Makin' quite a name for yourself, Flim. Ah, here's the place."

Wimsey glanced up at the white building with its oval sign bearing the picture of a bird and a baby, then followed Mallory in. In the pub's homey, smoky atmosphere, a slender, twinkling-eyed man a little shorter and older than Peter came to meet them. He shook Mallory's hand, gave Wimsey a quizzical look.

"Lord Peter Wimsey," Mallory said grandly, "my old friend J.R.R. Tolkien."