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Pictures of Perfection

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REGINALD HILL
PICTURES OF PERFECTION
A Dalziel and Pascoe novel

Pictures of perfection as you know make me sick and wicked

COPYRIGHT

This novel is entirely a work of fiction.
The names, characters and incidents portrayed
in it are the work of the author’s imagination.
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead,
events or localities is entirely coincidental.

Harper
HarperCollins
Publishers
1 London Bridge Street,
London SE1 9GF

www.harpercollins.co.uk

First published in Great Britain
in 1994 by HarperCollins
Publishers

Copyright © Reginald Hill 1994

Reginald Hill asserts the moral right to
be identified as the author of this work

A catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

HarperCollins
Publishers
has made every reasonable effort to ensure that any picture content and written content in this ebook has been included or removed in accordance with the contractual and technological constraints in operation at the time of publication.

Source ISBN: 9780006490111
Ebook Edition © JULY 2015 ISBN: 9780007370313
Version: 2015-06-22

DEDICATION

TO

T
HE
Q
UEEN OF
C
RIME
E
DITORS
,

ELIZABETH WALTER,

THIS WORK IS
,

WITH HER GRACIOUS PERMISSION
,

MOST AFFECTIONATELY

DEDICATED
,

BY HER ADMIRING

AND GRATEFUL

FRIEND
,

THE AUTHOR
.
          

Nullum quod tetegit non ornavit

CONTENTS

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Author’s Note

Volume the first

Prologue Being an Extract from the Draft of an Uncompleted History of Enscombe Parish by the Reverend Charles Fabian Cage, D.D. (Deceased)

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Volume the second

Prologue Being Extracts from the Journal of Frances Guillemard

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Volume the third

Prologue Being an Extract from the Journal of Ralph Digweed Esq.

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Volume the fourth

Prologue Being an Extract from the Journal of Frances Harding (neé Guillemard)

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Volume the fifth

Prologue Being an Extract from the Draft of an Uncompleted History of Enscombe Parish by the Reverend Charles Fabian Cage, D.D. (Deceased)

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Keep Reading

About the Author

By Reginald Hill

About the Publisher

AUTHOR’S NOTE

the epigraph and all the chapter headings are taken from Jane Austen’s letters.

PROLOGUE BEING AN EXTRACT FROM THE DRAFT OF AN UNCOMPLETED
History of Enscombe Parish
BY THE REVEREND CHARLES FABIAN CAGE, D.D.(DECEASED)

It is a truth fairly universally acknowledged that all men are born equal, but the family Guillemard, pointing to the contra-evidence of their own absence from the Baronetage, have long been settled in Yorkshire without allowing such philosophical quibbles to distress or vex them.

The first stirrings of populism in the last century had been shrugged off as a mere Gallic infection, susceptible to applications of cold iron and a diet of bread and water. But the virus proved a virulent strain, eventually getting a firm grip on a country weak and convalescent after the Great War, and by the nineteen thirties even the Guillemards had begun to suspect its presence in their own Norman blood.

And by 1952 when Selwyn Guillemard, the present Squire, inherited the estate, he was ready to accept, without prejudice, that there might after all be something in this newfangled notion of the Rights of Man.

The Rights of Woman, however, remain very much a theme of science fiction.

About thirty years ago, Squire Selwyn had the ill luck to lose his only son and daughter-in-law in a motoring accident, a grievous loss and one which, despite all my urgings, he seemed more inclined to bear with pagan stoicism than Christian fortitude. Nor did he at this stage derive much consolation from the survival of his infant granddaughter who henceforth was brought up at Old Hall.

A child reared in an ageing household is likely to be either precocious or withdrawn and little Gertrude Guillemard showed few signs of precocity. Indeed, so quiet and self-effacing was she that even her antique name seemed too great a burden for her and it was soon alleviated to Girlie.

The Enscombe Old Hall estate is naturally entailed upon the male line. Modern law has rendered such archaic restrictions easily removed, but whichever way he looked, Squire Selwyn could see little incentive to change. Behind, he saw the sternly admonitory face of tradition; ahead, he foresaw that the diminished and diminishing estate was going to need a more vigorously heroic hand than his own to keep it from total collapse, and no one who had ever seen Girlie Guillemard in her infancy could have supposed her to be a heroine. So the Squire had few qualms about admitting his great-nephew, Guy, as heir apparent.

His wife, Edna, nursed hopes that the main and collateral lines might be joined by a marriage of cousins. These pious hopes survived their adolescence which saw Girlie mature into a
self-contained and biddable young woman and Guy sprout into a bumptious self-confident public schoolboy, though a more perceptive woman than Edna Guillemard might have been rendered uneasy by the infrequency of Guy’s visits to Yorkshire (which he designated mega-boring) and the stoicism with which Girlie bore his absence. Then, shortly after the young folk reached their majorities and could decently be given some firm prothalamic nudges, tragedy struck the Guillemards again, and Edna died of a too tardily diagnosed adder bite. Once more I officiated at a Guillemard funeral.

Afterwards the Squire invited me to join himself and the youngsters in his study for a glass of sherry. We talked for a while, as one does, of the virtues of the dear departed, then the Squire took a huge meerschaum from his crowded pipe rack, slowly filled and lit it, and seemed to go into a reverie with his eyes fixed on the furthermost left-hand corner of the room. Finally he nodded, turned his attention to me, and said, ‘Edna had a fancy to see these yonkers in church again pretty soon, getting married. What do you think?’

‘More to the point, what do
they
think?’ I replied.

Now Guy too produced a pipe, all gleaming with stainless steel, pulled the tobacco jar towards him and went through a similarly lengthy filling and lighting process before saying, ‘I think I’m a bit young yet to be thinking of marriage, Squire. But
a few years on, who knows? In the meantime, I’m happy to admit some kind of gentleman’s understanding.’

Then he sat back in his chair, smiling complacently, I presume at what he took to be his diplomatic dexterity.

The Squire looked at Girlie. Slowly she reached forward and took a smaller meerschaum from the rack. Slowly she filled it from the jar, slowly she lit it. Satisfied, at last she sat back in her chair and took two or three appreciative puffs. Finally she spoke.

‘As for me,’ she said, ‘I’d rather screw a rabid porcupine. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to see about lunch.’

When she left she took the pipe with her. What had been a gesture became first a symbol, then, alas, an addiction. There were other changes too. All the Laura Ashley dresses her grandmother thought so became her were discarded (though not destroyed, many of them reappearing a short while later when little Frances Harding came to live at the Hall) and Girlie took to wearing jeans and wellies during the working day, and stark black and white for formal occasions. Her Alice-length hair was reduced to a helmet of turbulent curls, and very soon the great local debate about who would now run the household was rendered superfluous as it became apparent that Old Hall had a new and formidable chatelaine.

The estate was managed by a factor under the
notional supervision of the Squire, but the latter, never the same since the loss of his son, now retreated even further into a protective eccentricity. The task of checking the books soon devolved upon Girlie. These were the insane ’eighties when the psycho patients took over the surgery and started remodelling society in their own image of perfection, without benefit of anaesthetic. Trevor Hookey, the factor, soon revealed himself as a dedicated Thatcherite, wielding his knife with a zealot’s glee, crying, ‘If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not working!’ and assuring Girlie proudly that the new sleek and slimline Old Hall estate was the super-efficient model of the future.

Girlie listened politely to this liturgical formulary for a couple of years. Then as her calculator squeaked up the dismal ‘grand’ total at the annual Reckoning of 1986, she interrupted the zealot, saying, ‘Enough. I have seen the future and it sucks. We aren’t sleek and super-efficient, we’re emaciated and moribund. There’s only one large economy left for us to make.’

‘And what’s that, my dear?’ asked Hookey with a patronizing air.

‘Your salary,’ said Girlie Guillemard.

These Reckonings, by the way, take place on Lady Day, that is the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25th, which is in England a Quarter Day, and has in Enscombe since time immemorial, or at least since 1716, been the day for the settling of accounts. That it survives as an occasion is a tribute
to Yorkshire doggedness. Naturally the largest and most general payments to be made in the area are the Squire’s rents, and while the Guillemard estate was still extensive and ways were rough, it was common courtesy to offer the tenants some refreshment before they set off home.

But over the years, even before the awful ’eighties, the estate was contracting and roads were improving, and gold coin under the floorboards was giving way to paper money in the bank, and eventually cheques and giros and standing orders made it hardly necessary for the physical collection of rents at all. In any other county, The Reckoning would have ceased to exist save in the memory of greybeards and the annals of antiquarians. But the difficulty of prising a Yorkshire terrier’s teeth from the neck of a rat is as nothing to that of persuading a Yorkshire tyke to give up a long-established freebie. So The Reckoning has evolved into an annual bun-fight at which the collection of rents occupies only a couple of minutes, and the refreshment and gossip a couple of hours.

From ’86 on it was Girlie who sat in the seat of custom and Girlie who ran the estate. With the factor’s departure the village had anticipated that perhaps Guy the Heir would appear to nurture and protect what would one day be his own. But the ’eighties, which had turned this green and pleasant land into a valley of dry bones for so many, had rendered it a loadsamoney theme park for others, and Guy the Heir was far too
busy plunging his snout in the golden trough to be concerned with a run-down, debt-ridden estate in mega-boring Yorkshire.

But they were not long, the days of swine and Porsches. And by the early ’nineties the smartest pigs, those who could still remember how to walk on two legs, were putting as much distance as they could between themselves and the wrack of that frightful image of perfection they had worshipped in vain. It would be comforting to see this as conversion. Alas, I fear that they are merely searching for new horizons to pollute, new territories to exploit. I fear nowhere is safe, not even the green grass, clear air, translucent waters and simple country folk of a distant, mega-boring Yorkshire dale.

BOOK: Pictures of Perfection
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