sam_storyteller: (Default)
sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-03 02:56 pm

LORD PETER: The Lost Chord. G.

She instantly seized on the ones Peter calls "Little Mischief" and "The Lost Chord" and said, "Somebody who understood him took those -- was it Bunter?" -- Busman's Honeymoon

Warnings: None.

Part of the Wimsey of Ficlets podfic anthology by the lovely [ profile] blueyeti!

Also at AO3.


The glass photography plates were piled neatly in a corner awaiting development, with Bunter's usual tidiness. There had been a dinner party in the luxurious bachelor quarters of 110A Picadilly the previous day, and he hadn't had time to develop them between supervising the cook, preparing the brandy, attending the gentlemen, and making sure everything was proper and right. It pleased him to make things proper and right, particularly for Lord Peter, who noticed and appreciated it. And he had heard the talk when he was out of the room -- not meaning to hear, of course. And wasn't it a servant's right to eavesdrop, at any rate?

Freddy Arbuthnot always had something nice to say about his service, and one of the other men, a relatively new acquaintance, had expressed an admiration mixed with terror which Bunter was not unused to. Lord Peter had trusted him to choose the brandy himself, and he had not disappointed, if Colonel Marchbanks was any judge, and Bunter knew he was.

So, glowing with the quiet satisfaction of a job well done and knowing that Lord Peter had basked in the praise of his servant as much as he himself had (Bunter felt, though Peter would have been horrified by the idea, that a good servant was like fine art; a credit not only to himself but to his employer's tastes), Bunter turned himself to his photographic work. Lord Peter had eaten and was dressing, and would call if Bunter was needed.

Rather than call, however, his Lordship wandered into the darkroom just as Bunter was hanging up the final photograph to dry, and it was safe to turn on the light and allow him entrance. The darkroom was, as it were, Bunter's space and his lordship rarely visited without permission, express or implicit, but it was also a useful neutral territory. Bunter was master here, and when Lord Peter needed a friend and a crony more than a servant, here was the best place to find it.

"Wastin' my money wooin' young maids with your camera again?" Lord Peter asked, grinning. Bunter gave him a small smile -- gentlemen will have their jokes -- and began tidying up the developing trays. Most of the photographic plates were tests of light and fingerprint powder in various conditions; they were Lord Peter's thumbprint in fact, pressed onto pieces of glass and photographed with a number of different powders (white, Mercury, lampblack) on various backgrounds.

"Oh, I say, this one's almost art, isn't it?" he asked, pointing to a striking contrast -- white powder on deep, uneven grey, the result of laying the glass over a tank of water. "Is that your eye, d'you suppose, or natural happenstance? Not that I don't think you could, Bunter -- deuced fine portrait-photographer you'd make if I ever sacked you."

Bunter expressed a mild wish to continue in his Lordship's service, accompanied by an inquiry if Lord Peter was intending to sack him soon. Peter laughed quietly. If Peter's teasing seemed cruel and Bunter's over-subtle, it was the result of years of familiarity, which bred understanding.

"Hullo-ullo," Peter said suddenly. "What's this?"

Bunter, too late, realised that he ought to have checked the photographs before allowing his lordship entry. Peter was leaning over one tray, peering at a nearly-dry print, long nose barely inches from the paper. "When did you take this one, Bunter?"

"I beg your lordship's pardon -- " Bunter began, but Peter stopped him.

"Don't. Can I take it down?"

Bunter nodded, briefly, feeling rather as though the bottom had dropped out of his stomach.

Lord Peter unclipped it and carried it, carefully, out of the darkroom and into the library, where he stood under one of the windows, examining the photograph in natural light.

"Do you suppose it's truth or myth that Aboriginals believe the camera steals the soul, Bunter?" he asked finally.

"I wouldn't know, my lord."

"I suspect you'd know better than I would."

Bunter fell silent.

"When did you say you took it?"

"I did not, my lord. It was taken the day after..." Bunter hesitated.

"The day after Penberthy up and shot himself?" Peter asked, brutally.

"Yes, my lord."

His lordship bent to examine the photograph again, seating himself on one of the narrow window-seats. Bunter couldn't help wishing for a camera, as inappropriate as the wish was. He knew what the photograph showed; he remembered taking it, though he'd forgotten the plate, perhaps purposefully, and left it in a corner for, oh, three weeks now.

The thin, gaunt look had gone from his employer's face since then, and after all a suicide was in some ways easier than a trial to struggle through. Especially with someone who was, in Bunter's private opinion, an apalling tick like Penberthy, who'd kill an old man and marry a woman he didn't love just so he could study glands. Honourable suicide was too good for the likes of Penberthy. But at any rate, Peter's illness was there in the photograph; granted, it was softened, and no-one who didn't know his lordship had been ill would look twice at it.

Lord Peter had been playing cantatas, unusual for his merrily Anglican soul, and he had ended just as Bunter was passing the doorway with a camera; the late afternoon light picked out highlights in the pale blond hair and silhouetted his face as it bent over the keyboard. Able hands still rested on the keys, but to Bunter's expert eye they seemed rather lost, and Peter himself looked as though he had been thrown into a deep confusion.

Bunter, a natural photographer, had taken the picture before he realised what he was doing, not expecting it to come out, and indeed everything but his lordship was slightly out of focus. It was unnervingly intimate, and it had been taken without his lordship's permission or knowledge, at a time when Peter had been unusually fragile of mind.

The silence stretched out between them, Peter studying his own image, Bunter studying Peter -- who was in no small part Bunter's creation, from the choice of suits to match his colouring to the delicate handling after the war, which had drawn him back from the brink.

"May I have it?" Peter asked, finally. "I think I should like to give it to my mother."

"Of course, my lord." The stomach having dropped out of him through nerves, Bunter was surprised to find a warm pleasure right in the pit of it.

"It's very good, Bunter."

"Thank you, my lord."

"I look almost human." Peter said, then before Bunter could respond (not that he knew how) he added, "Sorry, that was unworthy of me. Do you often -- "

"No!" Bunter said quickly, then recovered himself. "It was an accident, my lord."

Peter raised an eyebrow, but Bunter's face was impassive.

"Well, I shan't have you horsewhipped for it, stop looking so pale," his lordship answered. He tested the back of the paper to make sure it was fully dry, then placed it in a leather folio of sheet music he was planning to take down when he visited the Dowager later in the day. "Bunter, there are no accidents between us."

Bunter affected misunderstanding. "My lord?"

"Never mind. Ripping good work, you know. Learn anything from the developing today?"

He probably meant the fingerprints; almost certainly he meant the fingerprints. Still, caution was warranted.

"Yes, my lord," Bunter said slowly, "but I believe I shall keep it a trade secret."


[identity profile] 2005-09-23 07:16 am (UTC)(link)
How is it that this has no comments on it? Did it lose them in transit from somewhere else? I think I shall believe that, because it just seems impossible - or disgraceful might be a good word here too - that this should not have received any.

True, Wimseyfic is perhaps on the esoteric side (and such a pity too, everyone ought to read more Sayers!), but really. This is excellent. And I've always agreed with Harriet in Busman's Honeymoon (you know, "Bride's Wedding-Night Confession; Titled Clubman Slays Valet and Self") - I do love Bunter so. :D

There, have I gushed enough to make up for all this blank space? And will I get away with an anachronistic icon if I tell you how truly the sentiment is meant?

And is there ANYTHING you can't take on?? :D

[identity profile] 2005-09-23 11:16 pm (UTC)(link)
It was only recently posted -- most of the comments are on the original post in my regular journal :)

I'm glad you enjoyed it!

[identity profile] 2005-12-28 06:21 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, I'm so happy that you posted your year-end summary ... I've actually been looking for this fic for some time. I imagine I read it when you first posted it, and then lost the link. But it's beautiful ... such a quiet piece, and suited to the characters both in the language you chose and the characterization. I'm adding this to my memories this time, to make sure I don't lose it. I hope you'll write more Wimseyfic!

[identity profile] 2005-12-28 10:19 am (UTC)(link)
Did I mention I LOVE and adore this, and am glad you mentioned it in your end-of-year roundup so I have a link to it again?

[identity profile] 2005-12-28 02:35 pm (UTC)(link)

I'd really like it if you wrote more, y'know. Wimseyfic is so utterly delightful.

[identity profile] 2006-02-11 10:48 pm (UTC)(link)
I've been thoroughly enjoying your work as Julian Knightley over on the Dungeons, but this is (unaccountably) the first time I've checked out your fic.

And oh my god, Wimseyfic. You have to understand that Gaudy Night made an absolutely irrevocable impression on my young mind when I was about twelve. So when I say that this piece is absolutely beautifully done, well, I don't mean it lightly. The characterization of both Bunter and Lord Peter is absolutely spot-on.

Gorgeous work. Thanks for sharing it.

[identity profile] 2006-02-12 06:17 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you! I'm glad you've enjoyed Julian (he's such fun to play) and that the Wimseyfic has been fun for you. I'm quite a fan of Gaudy myself, and it's nice to know I've got the tone and characterisation right.
disassembly_rsn: Run over by a UFO (Beware of Book)

Reviews R Us, Livejournal delivery edition

[personal profile] disassembly_rsn 2006-07-03 02:51 am (UTC)(link)
Having said so on my own LJ, I hereby repeat: you write most excellent Wimsey fanfic. I salute you.

You also brought me to the realization that I really didn't know THE UNPLEASANTNESS AT THE BELLONA CLUB very well, because I couldn't place Penberthy when I first read your story. I'm reasonably sound on most of the other novels (FIVE RED HERRINGS being the exception), but not that one. I now have a copy and have been dipping into it. I like it better now than when I first tried it.

On to the review.
This is a very nice missing moment. The initial quote is from the diaries of Honoria Lucasta, Dowager Duchess of Denver, specifically the extracts at the beginning of BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON. I had never wondered what might be so character-revealing about them that they would instantly catch the attention of the Dowager and Harriet.

I like the touch that Freddy is always polite to Bunter. I approve of Freddy.

Very reasonable supposition, that the darkroom would be Bunter's turf and therefore a useful place to converse on a more equal footing than elsewhere in the flat.

Having now re-read a fair bit of the ending of UNPLEASANTNESS, I sympathize with Bunter. It seems just like him, too, that he would take a much harsher line than his lordship does about the some of the specimens they catch, but wouldn't say anything. I'd expect him to have a similar opinion - but more emphatic, now that I think on it - about the culprit in WHOSE BODY?

Yes, I can see why Bunter would be uneasy about his lordship's reaction to having his privacy invaded by the camera without his knowledge.

Observation: If Bunter's viewpoint is being used throughout, I would expect more 'his lordship', some 'Lord Peter', and no plain 'Peter'. I could understand under different circumstances if Bunter slipped into 'Major Wimsey / Sergeant Bunter' mode, but plain first names between them would seem very unusual to me.

Copyediting nitpicks:
- [checks dictionary, since mine is in the computer these days] "Piccadilly" takes two C's.
- "apalling" takes two L's (and I agree with Bunter's characterization of Penberthy).
disassembly_rsn: Run over by a UFO (Default)

Re: Reviews R Us, Livejournal delivery edition

[personal profile] disassembly_rsn 2006-07-03 02:54 am (UTC)(link)
"appalling" also takes two 'P's.

Pride goeth before a fall, and the right hand often hits "post comment" when it should hit the dictionary icon one more time.

Re: Reviews R Us, Livejournal delivery edition

[identity profile] 2006-07-03 04:06 pm (UTC)(link)
I don't think ANYONE reads Five Red Herrings twice if they can help it :D

Glad you enjoyed -- and thanks for the fixes! They're going into my edits file.

Re: Reviews R Us, Livejournal delivery edition

[identity profile] 2007-12-29 11:43 pm (UTC)(link)
Going back and reading your Wimseyfic because I got several originals for Christmas. Agreed that this vignette is lovely, but disagreed that no one rereads Five Red Herrings. I love that one! It's one of my favorites! It has train schedules! And the solving of the murder depends upon them!

...on the other hand, I'm the guy whose girlfriend does all his holiday shopping at the transit museum cos it's easiest. So perhaps I'm a wee bit in the minority. ;)

Re: Reviews R Us, Livejournal delivery edition

[identity profile] 2007-12-31 03:33 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the fic and I'm always thrilled to get a nice long juicy comment on a story. :)

I think the only reason I really recall Penberthy so vividly is that the ending, in the club, left such an impression on me. It's the first time I really saw Peter as an adult, in some ways. It's odd.

And thank you for the nitpicks! I do have trouble keeping in one POV during short stories, so I'll have to have a look at that and see what to do about it here. :)

[identity profile] 2006-10-18 04:47 am (UTC)(link)
Unbelievable. :cheers:

[identity profile] 2007-11-09 07:21 pm (UTC)(link)
I've just finished reading the entire Wimsey series, and have gone searching for fic.

This is an amazing missing scene and the relationship between Peter and Bunter is perfectly done. Bunter and his photography has always fascinated me, and I love his experiments with fingerprints. That the capture of Peter in photograph was an accident just makes it more perfect.

Also, as for your comment above about not reading The Five Red Herrings twice? No kidding. I was lucky enough to get through it the first time. *g*

[identity profile] 2007-12-09 04:37 am (UTC)(link)
Awww, this is just gorgeous. I've just found your journal, and will certainly be reading more.

[identity profile] 2008-05-07 08:31 am (UTC)(link)
I've always wondered what "The Lost Chord," looked like, and now I do.

In the hands of a lesser writer, this could have been saccharine or heavy handed, or - horrors - totally wrong about the image. But I think you got the tone of how such Bunter-Wimsey conversations go balanced beautifully, especially the sharp perception of both men, visual and verbal, Peter's ability to let the vail between man and master fall without being maudlin and Bunter's willful misunderstanding and caution to allow - god, I'm struggling to communicate this - allow both of them such frank comments with a grace that maintains proper distance without censure.

You have a gift for the spaces in between what is said, what is meant and the rhythm of how a conversation should flow that is deft and wonderful.

It makes me grabby, grabby, grabby to devour more. So. Happy. Because it seems as if you've written quite a lot.

I shall spam you unmercifully. Prepare yourself.
ext_2909: (books)

[identity profile] 2008-08-06 12:34 pm (UTC)(link)
I very much enjoyed this story. There's a beautiful subtlety to it that's perfect for Bunter and Peter. I do love Bunter's satisfaction in the provision of excellent service at the beginning, and his indulgence of Peter's fripperies. Excellent tension when the photograph is discovered, also - I think I was holding my breath along with Bunter to see how Peter would react.

Wonderful work. :D

[identity profile] 2008-09-28 04:42 pm (UTC)(link)
I always wondered what those pictures looked like--though Sayers came up with such marvelously evocative names that one can almost guess. This isn't quite what I'd had in mind, but I think it's my new personal canon. Really lovely missing moment, and a beautiful glimpse into the relationship between Peter and Bunter, early on. Well done.

been quite awhile since you wrote this, but...

[identity profile] 2009-09-21 03:27 am (UTC)(link)
I stumbled across this when looking for pictures of Lord Peter, and... oh my. I don't really go for fan fic as a rule--not that I don't like the idea of it, but there are so many published books that I want to read that they get higher priority--but I was curious about this one, and... wow. I just recently finished reading all the Lord Peter books and I'm working my way though the short stories and... this is wonderful. Great job!

Re: been quite awhile since you wrote this, but...

[identity profile] 2009-09-21 01:50 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm glad you enjoyed it! :)

[identity profile] 2009-12-05 05:58 pm (UTC)(link)
Truly excellent. I found it through crack_van, and considering that I have liked every one of your fics I've read, I really ought to read more.

[identity profile] 2009-12-05 11:45 pm (UTC)(link)
Another wanderer from Crack Van, and glad to have found such a precisely accurate bit of expansion on canon; the way that Bunter and Lord Peter relate as men of polished intelligence is one of the joys of the series.

Julia, such a wonder, this story.

[identity profile] 2009-12-07 07:20 pm (UTC)(link)

A really beautiful job at filling in a missing bit. This truly reads like canon, and that's the highest compliment I can give you. Very well done!
ext_3057: (Default)

[identity profile] 2010-04-19 06:14 pm (UTC)(link)
I wonder why I haven't seen this before - I've searched for Wimsey fanfic often enough. I finally discovered crack_van and am scouring their archives.

I love this vignette. It's in the right voice and it's a beautiful piece in its own right.
annariel: Alex Kamal from The Expanse (Default)

[personal profile] annariel 2011-02-23 04:16 pm (UTC)(link)
Found this via crack_van. A lovely short story!
bead: (Default)

[personal profile] bead 2011-06-24 10:19 pm (UTC)(link)
Not to call on too many puns, but perfect pitch on this one, oh Sam.
hardboiledbaby: (heels)

[personal profile] hardboiledbaby 2012-04-10 07:29 am (UTC)(link)
Here via blueyeti's podfic. All seven ficlets in the anthology were wonderful, but I especially enjoyed Lost Chord. Absolutely perfect Bunter POV, this is now part of my head canon. :) Thanks so much.
peoriapeoriawhereart: Opening the can and skipping names (Dangerous and good to know)

[personal profile] peoriapeoriawhereart 2012-10-18 06:47 pm (UTC)(link)

A little bit of Bunter is always a joy.