But time had showed that the Farthing Set were right. The Continent was the
Continent and England was England, and old Adolf admired England and had no
territorial ambitions across the Channel. Nine years had been enough to test the
terms of the Farthing Peace and show that England and the Reich could be good
friends. The Farthing Set had been vindicated and stayed at the centres of
power. And now there had been a murder in Farthing House, so Farthing changed
its meaning for him again and Inspector Carmichael found himself being driven
through a green, peaceful and very beautiful England on a Sunday morning early
Carmichael came from Lancashire, not the industrial southern Lancashire of
cotton mills and unemployment, but the bleak northern uplands of moorland and
fell. His father lived in a crumbling house not much better than the farmhouses
of his tenants and struggled to send his sons to minor public schools.
Carmichael's had been so minor it had since perished, with no loss to anyone,
especially Carmichael. If he ever had sons, which he increasingly doubted, he'd
certainly not choose to send them to that hellhole to be starved and beaten.
Still, that, with the Dunkirk experience, had been good enough for Scotland
Yard, and he was a full Inspector now at twenty-nine, with good pay and
excellent prospects for advancement. Many hadn't done as well in the lean
post-war years. His older brother, Matthew, whose public school had been better,
if still minor, was living in the North helping his father with the sheep. He
didn't see civilization more than once a month when he went into Lancaster to
the bank and the solicitor and maybe a stop for lunch at the King's Head and a
quick hour at the pictures in the afternoon. It wasn't much, and Carmichael
sometimes paused in his enjoyment of the good things in life to consider the
pitiful lot of his distant brother.
All the same, there was enough of the Northerner left in him to distrust the
Hampshire countryside that was doing its best to beguile him. The trees, so much
more frequent and so much broader here than on his native moor, were in fullest
leaf and cast a delightful shade. Beneath them spread as solid a carpet of
bluebells as he had ever seen, sending their scent drifting into the car as he
was driven on past them. The sun was shining from a deep blue sky, as it rarely
shone on Lancashire, the fields were ploughed and planted, the hay was already
high, the grass was a verdant green and the birds were singing. As if this
wasn't enough, every few miles the road wound its way through a little village
with a church, a pub, a post office, thatched cottages, and enough individuality
to tell it from the last one. One might boast a manor house, a second a
duckpond, a third a village green, or a mighty oak with two old men sitting
beneath it as if they were about to hand down the wisdom of the elders.
"What's wrong, sir?" Sergeant Royston, at the wheel of the police Bentley,
spared a quick glance for his superior. "Didn't fancy Sunday duty?"
"Not especially," Carmichael said. "Though I hadn't anything special to do
today, and I might as well work now if the Yard needs me and have a free day in
the week when the shops are open. It's just this countryside depresses me
They swept into another little village. This one had a pretty girl feeding
white Aylesbury ducks outside one of the cottages. "It is lacking a bit of life
compared to town," Royston said as he rounded the curve back into the endless
fields and spinneys.
"It's not that," Carmichael said, as it suddenly came to him what it was.
"It's all so fat and complacent somehow, as if it's had too long living on its
rich soils and warm summers. It's fallen asleep in the sunshine. It could do
with something to give it a shake and wake it up, like a famine, or a plague, or
an invasion or something."
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...