Over his tea Mr. Parker drew out the photographs of Lady Mary and Denis Cathcart from his breast pocket. He stood them up against the teapot and stared at them, looking from one to the other as if trying to force a meaning from their faintly smirking, self-conscious gaze. He referred again to his Paris notes, ticking off various points with a pencil. “Damn!” said Mr. Parker, gazing at Lady Mary. “Damn—damn—damn——”
The train of thought he was pursuing was an extraordinarily interesting one. Image after image, each rich in suggestion, crowded into his mind. Of course, one couldn't think properly in Paris—it was so uncomfortable and the houses were central heated.
Some buildings in the Roman Empire used central heating systems, conducting air heated by furnaces through empty spaces under the floors and out of pipes in the walls—a system known as a hypocaust. A similar system of central heating was used in ancient Korea, where it is known as ondol. It is thought that the ondol system dates back to the Koguryo or Three Kingdoms (37 BC-AD 668) period when excess heat from stoves were used to warm homes.In the early medieval Alpine upland, a simpler central heating system where heat travelled through underfloor channels from the furnace room replaced the Roman hypocaust at some places. In Reichenau Abbey a network of interconnected underfloor channels heated the 300 m² large assembly room of the monks during the winter months. The degree of efficiency of the system has been calculated at 90%.In the 13th century, the Cistercian monks revived central heating in Christian Europe using river diversions combined with indoor wood-fired furnaces. The well-preserved Royal Monastery of Our Lady of the Wheel (founded 1202) on the Ebro River in the Aragon region of Spain provides an excellent example of such an application.The Roman hypocaust continued to be used on a smaller scale during late Antiquity and by the Umayyad caliphate, while later Muslim builder employed a simpler system of underfloor pipes.By about 1700 Russian engineers had started designing hydrologically based systems for central heating. The Summer Palace (1710–1714) of Peter the Great in Saint Petersburg provides the best extant example. Slightly later, in 1716, came the first use of water in Sweden to distribute heat in buildings. Martin Triewald, a Swedish engineer, used this method for a greenhouse at Newcastle upon Tyne. Jean Simon Bonnemain (1743–1830), a French architect, introduced the technique to industry on a cooperative, at Château du Pêcq, near Paris.Angier March Perkins developed and installed some of the earliest steam-heating systems in the 1830s. The first was installed in the home of Governor of the Bank of England John Horley Palmer so that he could grow grapes in England's cold climate.Franz San Galli, a Polish-born Russian businessman living in St. Petersburg, invented the radiator between 1855–1857, which was a major step in the final shaping of modern central heating.
Here, where so many problems had been unravelled, there was a good fire. Cathcart had been sitting before the fire. Of course, he wanted to think out a problem. When cats sat staring into the fire they were thinking out problems. It was odd he should not have thought of that before. When the green-eyed cat sat before the fire one sank right down into a sort of rich, black, velvety suggestiveness which was most important. It was luxurious to be able to think so lucidly as this, because otherwise it would be a pity to exceed the speed limit—and the black moors were reeling by so fast. But now he had really got the formula he wouldn't forget it again. The connection was just there—close, thick, richly coherent.
“The glass-blower's cat is bompstable,” said Mr. Parker aloud and distinctly.
Bompstable is not an actual word…Parker was dreaming and said the first thing that came into his head.
“I'm charmed to hear it,” replied Lord Peter, with a friendly grin. “Had a good nap, old man?”
“I—what?” said Mr. Parker. “Hullo! Watcher mean, nap? I had got hold of the most important train of thought, and you've put it out of my head. What was it? Cat—cat—cat——” He groped wildly.
“You said 'The glass-blower's cat is bompstable,'” retorted Lord Peter. “It's a perfectly rippin' word, but I don't know what you mean by it.”
“Bompstable?” said Mr. Parker, blushing slightly. “Bomp—oh, well, perhaps you're right—I may have dozed off. But, you know, I thought I'd just got the clue to the whole thing. I attached the greatest importance to that phrase. Even now—No, now I come to think of it, my train of thought doesn't seem quite to hold together. What a pity. I thought it was so lucid.”
“Never mind,” said Lord Peter. “Just back?”
“Crossed last night. Any news?”
Parker crossed the English Channel from France to England.
Parker's eyes wandered to the photographs.
“I don't believe it,” he said obstinately. “I'm damned if I'm going to believe a word of it.”
“A word of what?”
“Of whatever it is.”
“You'll have to believe it, Charles, as far as it goes,” said his friend softly, filling his pipe with decided little digs of the fingers. “I don't say”—dig—“that Mary”—dig—“shot Cathcart”—dig, dig—“but she has lied”—dig—“again and again.”—Dig, dig—“She knows who did it”—dig—“she was prepared for it”—dig—“she's malingering and lying to keep the fellow shielded”—dig—“and we shall have to make her speak.” Here he struck a match and lit the pipe in a series of angry little puffs.
“If you can think,” said Mr. Parker, with some heat, “that that woman”—he indicated the photographs—“had any hand in murdering Cathcart, I don't care what your evidence is, you—hang it all, Wimsey, she's your own sister.”
“Gerald is my brother,” said Wimsey quietly. “You don't suppose I'm exactly enjoying this business, do you? But I think we shall get along very much better if we try to keep our tempers.”
“I'm awfully sorry,” said Parker. “Can't think why I said that—rotten bad form—beg pardon, old man.”
“The best thing we can do,” said Wimsey, “is to look the evidence in the face, however ugly. And I don't mind admittin' that some of it's a positive gargoyle.
“My mother turned up at Riddlesdale on Friday. She marched upstairs at once and took possession of Mary, while I drooped about in the hall and teased the cat, and generally made a nuisance of myself. You know. Presently old Dr. Thorpe called. I went and sat on the chest on the landing. Presently the bell rings and Ellen comes upstairs. Mother and Thorpe popped out and caught her just outside Mary's room, and they jibber-jabbered a lot, and presently mother came barging down the passage to the bathroom with her heels tapping and her earrings simply dancing with irritation. I sneaked after 'em to the bathroom door, but I couldn't see anything, because they were blocking the doorway, but I heard mother say, 'There, now, what did I tell you'; and Ellen said, 'Lawks! your grace, who'd 'a' thought it?'; and my mother said, 'All I can say is, if I had to depend on you people to save me from being murdered with arsenic or that other stuff with the name like anemones—you know what I mean—that that very attractive-looking man with the preposterous beard used to make away with his wife and mother-in-law (who was vastly the more attractive of the two, poor thing), I might be being cut up and analysed by Dr. Spilsbury now—such a horrid, distasteful job he must have of it, poor man, and the poor little rabbits, too.'” Wimsey paused for breath, and Parker laughed in spite of his anxiety.
“I won't vouch for the exact words,” said Wimsey, “but it was to that effect—you know my mother's style. Old Thorpe tried to look dignified, but mother ruffled up like a little hen and said, looking beadily at him: 'In my day we called that kind of thing hysterics and naughtiness. We didn't let girls pull the wool over our eyes like that. I suppose you call it a neurosis, or a suppressed desire, or a reflex, and coddle it. You might have let that silly child make herself really ill. You are all perfectly ridiculous, and no more fit to take care of yourselves than a lot of babies!—not but what there are plenty of poor little things in the slums that look after whole families and show more sense than the lot of you put together. I am very angry with Mary, advertising herself in this way, and she's not to be pitied.' You know,” said Wimsey, “I think there's often a great deal in what one's mother says.”
“I believe you,” said Parker.
“Well, I got hold of mother afterwards and asked her what it was all about. She said Mary wouldn't tell her anything about herself or her illness; just asked to be let alone. Then Thorpe came along and talked about nervous shock—said he couldn't understand these fits of sickness, or the way Mary's temperature hopped about. Mother listened, and told him to go and see what the temperature was now. Which he did, and in the middle mother called him away to the dressing-table. But, bein' a wily old bird, you see, she kept her eyes on the looking-glass, and nipped round just in time to catch Mary stimulatin' the thermometer to terrific leaps on the hot-water bottle.”
“Well, I'm damned!” said Parker.