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А Б В Г Д Е Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я


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*


At 6.45 p.m. the first – well, the first serious – rehearsal was under way for The Mikado. It was quite extraordinary, really, how much local talent there always was; even more extraordinary was how willingly, eagerly almost, this local talent was prepared to devote so much of its time to amateur theatricals, and to submit (in this instance) to the quite ridiculous demands of a producer who thought he knew – and in fact did know – most of the secrets of pulling in audiences, of ensuring laudatory reviews in the local press, of guiding the more talented vocalists into the more demanding roles, and above all of soothing the petty squabbles and jealousies which almost inevitably arise in such a venture.

Three hours, his wife had said – about that; and David Michaels had been waiting outside the village hall since 9.30 p.m. It wasn't all that far from home – back down the lane, past the pub, then right again up the road into the woods – little more than a mile, in fact; but it was now beginning to get really dark, and he was never going to take any chances with his lovely wife. His talented wife, too. She'd only been a member of the chorus-line in the Village Review the previous Christmas; but it had been agreed by all that a bigger part would be wholly warranted in the next production. So she'd been auditioned; and here she was as one of the three little Japanese girls from school. Nice part. Easy to learn.

She finally emerged at 10.10 p.m. and a slightly impatient Michaels drove her immediately along to the White Hart.

'Same as usual?' he asked, as she hitched herself up on to a bar stool.

'Please.'

So Michaels ordered a pint of Best Bitter for himself; and for his wife that mixture of orange juice and lemonade known as 'St Clements' – a mixture designed to keep the world's bell-ringers in a state of perpetual sobriety.

An hour later, as he drove the Land-rover back up to the cottage, Michaels felt beside the gear-lever for his wife's hand, and squeezed it firmly. But she had been very silent thus far; and remained so now, as she tucked the libretto under her arm and got out, locking the passenger door behind her.

'It's going to be all right, is it?' he asked.

'Is what going to be all right?'

'What do you think I mean? The Mickadoo!'

'Hope so. You'll enjoy me, anyway.'

Michaels locked his own side of the Land-rover. 'I want to enjoy you now!'

She took his hand as they walked to the front porch.

'Not tonight, David. I'm so very tired – please understand.'


Morse too was going home at this time. He was somewhat over-beered, he realized that; yet at least he'd everything to celebrate that day. Or so he told himself as he walked along, his steps just occasionally slightly unbalanced, like those of a diffident funambulist.


Dr Alan Hardinge decided that Monday evening to stay in college, where earlier he'd given a well-rehearsed lecture on 'Man and his Natural Environment'. His largely American audience had been generously appreciative, and he (like others that evening) had drunk too much – drunk too much wine, had too many liqueurs. When at 11.30 p.m. he had rung his wife to suggest it would be wiser for him to stay in his rooms overnight, she had raised not the slightest objection.


Neither Michaels, nor Morse, nor Hardinge, was destined to experience the long unbroken sleep that Socrates had spoken of, for each of the three, though for different reasons, had much upon his mind.


chapter forty-five | The Way Through The Woods | chapter forty-six







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