A London winter at its most indulgent, well worth the cost: smart,
select. His wife and daughter enjoy the Mayfair shops, while
he spends mornings riding, lunches at his club in Regent Street,
is back for tea—just ladies’ nonsense, not what he would call a meal:
lettuce hearts, thin bread and butter. Almond biscuits. Iced fancies.
Tea with lemon in china you can see through. And the gossip…
the Archduke and the pretty hat-shop girls, the French Comte’s
fat wife’s lovers, and the German industrialist with that charming,
witty, young male secretary. He nods knowingly; it’s good
to see them so relaxed and happy. Impossible back home
where there are shadows at every turning. They forget it here.
But he cannot: on his desk each afternoon the letters demanding
answers to that eternal, ghastly question—what’s to be done about
the tenants? Even the good ones who always pay their rent cannot,
despairs his agent, ready for the bailiffs. Eviction is slow; trailing
sick children and half-dead parents, just how far off will they go?
Food has come from America: Indian corn, which takes hours to cook—
if there’s enough turf—a hard grain they can’t digest, adding to
the cramps and vomit of typhus and dysentery. Yes, shipping off a few
will help. No remedies. No solutions. Till the assassin in the lane.