My Holiday in the Peak District, day 2

M. continues to write in his journal, hunched over and hiding his words from sight. He’s either working at that or on his mouldy old manuscript. I usually like such things immensely, but this one is tatty and dog eared and has an unpleasant smell. We used to be able to talk about what he was translating, snags and difficulties, curioisities. But it has been ages since M. felt able to share any of his work, rather he has taken to muttering over his translations and I have taken to hating them.

Still, this area is so beautiful. The village is full of old stone houses built every which way along the hillside. The main road curves down through it, but at every turn are narrow passages that send you up or down the hill through a maze of cottages each one more quaint than the last. Flowers are everywhere. Best of all, only a handful of these homes are the overly manicured and perfectly restored houses of the rich and newly arrived. Most are comfortable, lived in. Loved. They sit cradled amongst these great green hills. The shop fronts are mostly the beautiful curved bow windows I so love, and several are full of pastries and books.

It’s a good thing it’s so beautiful, because my god. Sprake. I thought Charteris was bad, but he’s lovable next to Sprake… I was so looking forward to meeting an archaeologist. The disappointment was thus doubled. It’s not the tweed. Sometimes I quite like tweed. He looked me up and down when we met and then ignored me completely until he’d had a few pints down the pub. Then I sent him about his business after his most inappropriate suggestions. I did refrain from punching him, he is a friend of M.’s after all. He huffed off and refused to talk to me any more, started hitting on the bar staff instead.

She did hit him.

But that was later. I’d given up getting a word in edgewise — not because M. and Charteris and the others were speaking too much, but because of their unnatural silences. Their sideways glances at the locals in the pub. Their almost gibbering countenances and the whites of their rolling eyes in the dim glow of the lights. I smelled M’s pint when he went to the toilets for the fifth time just to make sure no one had spiked it. I don’t think they did. It tasted fine. I don’t know how I can find out for certain.

There is definitely something going on.

I asked M. if he knew, demanded he tell me. He could only say ponderously that Charteris has summoned him for some dark purpose, and we would have to wait until it was revealed. I sat in the cosy warmth of the long narrow pub, ancient and thick walled, a cheery wood stove in one corner splashing light across the flagstones. I had a friendly chat with the local bookseller about the nicest, and least arduous, walks in the area nearby. And then we were off.

That’s when Susan, the lovely woman working behind the bar, hit Sprake. The others didn’t see, and he skulked behind, perhaps hoping to make good. I gave her a thumbs up sign and she flashed me a huge smile, and we were off back home. Not before I caught the rumbles of anger from a couple of farmers down at the other end of the bar. I didn’t think it was too wise of Sprake to remain behind on his own, but wise was not a word I’d use to describe him.

We, at least, got home safe and sound. I brushed my teeth and went straight to bed, happy to that way avoid any more strange silences or awkward thoughts half blurted out to which no response was possible. I heard Sprake come in sometime later, and the fuss the rest made of him.

I rather hoped he showed up to breakfast with a black eye.

Day 3

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