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The Significance of the Scarab - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
The Significance of the Scarab

The Significance of the Scarab



Editor’s note: This brief sketch is offered in further explanation of the events chronicled by Dr Watson as ‘The Adventure of the Malfoy Animagus’ and certain extracts from the Wimsey Papers for 1895,  which it will assist the reader to have read before. 


The occluded sky of cloud was of that dove-grey that is commonest at twilight, and the grey sea was evident beyond the sere, flat fields; yet the Sluice and the River had that curious quality of reflecting more light than the eye took in with the air, and in their placid pewter it could be seen that the hour was that before tea.  The young boy who paced the summer garden gravely in his holidays had recently returned from the blare and blatancy of London, by a succession of ever-smaller and slower trains, to the hush and homeliness of Norfolk: his name was James John Paul de Vere Brown, and he was fifteen years in age.  He was a small, neat person with an abstracted manner, a round face, a general air of near-sightedness, and a nose that, although uncharitably classed as snub, seemed to find its way unerringly into mystery – and, what is rather more, through them, to the truth, and out the other side.  In the absence of his father, and of his elder brother who was newly commissioned in the Army as martial training for the unending war to keep the family’s last acres together and to manage, in time, the estate as a great captain manages a siege-train, the young Master Brown was in some sort the acting head of the family.  Certain alarming appearances that had been unwittingly brought to his attention by his sister Victoria, who was newly engaged to an impoverished squire named Fane, a man as poor as the Browns and for the same reason of ancestral recusancy, had impelled him to go up to Town; it was however his habit to see through appearances, and he now awaited with equanimity the arrival of Dr John H. Watson as the forerunner of Mr Sherlock Holmes.  Equanimity was another of his habits, and had been largely responsible for his placement in Hufflepuff House; he was pleasantly aware that Dr Watson was himself an ornament of the House, and unlikely to fall into the common misconception that the loyalty and equability of the Hufflepuff character was but a minor recompense for wanting the reckless dash of Gryffindor, the inhuman acuteness of Ravenclaw, and the objectless ambition of Slytherin.  For himself, the young Wizard with the homely name of Brown had three ambitions: to see Victoria soundly wed, to see his brother settled equally soundly in possession of the family’s Norfolk estates, and to make his own escape into secular orders and, if possible, to a parish in his native Essex.  He was not however devoid of gallantry or of cleverness: if, like his surname, he was as simple as the flat fields and the wilder fields of the sea, he was as deep as either and as complex.  Just now, his immediate ambition was to clear his mother and sister of imputations of scandal, his gallantry was enlisted in their behalf, and his wits, which were good ones enough to paraphrase any page in Aquinas, were working to accomplish these ends with the minimum of fuss.


Deekin, the family’s sole House-Elf, drew his attention to the imminent approach of the Unspeakable Dr Watson, and he hastened into the shabby, comfortable old pile that was his family’s inheritance to greet the investigator.


The good doctor proved solid, reliable, and the model of the North Briton of the Borders, concealing beneath a bluff and almost bumbling manner a solid commonsense as massive and well-founded, and as unshakeable, as the British Constitution.


‘Doctor Watson?  How good of you to come.  I take it that Mr Holmes is interesting himself in the matter.’


‘I seem always to be regarded as his adjunct.’


‘You cannot have celebrated your friend without becoming yourself celebrated, Doctor.  I must say I am relieved that the best of the Aurors, and you, a man commonly rumoured to be the worthiest of the Unspeakeables, has come to our aid.  I do hope that anything like open scandal can be avoided.’


‘It is to that end – in part – that I am here.’


‘Of course.  But we are agreed, naturally: justice must be done, without scandal if possible, but done nonetheless.’ 


Dr Watson’s shoulders tensed, and then relaxed.  It was evident enough that he had been an athlete in his youth, and still longed for direct action.


‘You will wish to know the facts.  They are quite simple.  We live a very retired life.  The house-elf left to us, old Deekin, is responsible for our simple wants and commands in Diagon and at the local shops.  All of our neighbours are known to us; those who call, we have known for many years, and our ancestral wards, which date to the time of the Dissolution, would indicate if any who stopped here were Polyjuiced or under a glamour.  At the times at which my mother is alleged to have been involved in an intrigue, she was in fact here at home, and indeed At Home: numerous witnesses, Muggle and Wizarding, and ranging from a Wizarding Gilbertine prior to Colonel Sir Oliver ffinch-Fletchley, can attest to this.  I may say of the latter that he was actually stopping with us, he and my father having been comrades in India, and he living nowadays in Cambridgeshire.  Sir Oliver is a Muggle and a Protestant, of the old Evangelical stripe, the sort that saved us in the Mutiny, and an ornament of the Royal Artillery: neither on Wizarding nor on religious grounds could he be imagined to be interested in shielding us. Equally, of course, he could hardly have carried away with him any ingredients for Polyjuice Potion, let alone that he left here only after the incident in which you are interested.’


‘That seems very clear.’ 


‘Thank you: a thorough grounding in Thomistic method has its merits.  You will, I make certain, wish to interview the rest of the household.  I shan’t interfere, and I’ve my parents’ authority to make you free of the place, without let or hindrance.  You will also wish to be able to report to Mr Sherlock Holmes any incident, however trivial, that has been at all out of the ordinary, and so you shall.’


‘And has there been such an incident?’


‘Only one of which I am aware.  For the past year, we and several of our neighbour Wizards and Witches have been plagued by black-beetles, against which all the usual Charms and remedies have been wholly inefficacious.’




‘Yes; not bees, I’m afraid.  That it is impossible as a matter of character that my mother should have engaged in misconduct is perfectly true, and perfectly useless: I don’t find that such considerations sway most people nowadays, Wizard or Muggle.  But surely there are very few explanations for the failure of the usual Charms against vermin.’


‘It is said,’ mused Dr Watson, consideringly, ‘that Animagus forms commonly answer to the character of the Wizard.’


Young Master Brown blinked, and made a slight motion with his hand as if to dismiss a paltry distraction.  ‘That may be so.’  He was respectfully impatient.  ‘It seems to me, sir, with respect, more pertinent to consider the nature of the Animagus form.  And for what are black-beetles notorious, and what in them causes the greatest revulsion to us?  Surely the carrying away of exuviæ, all too apt for the stealthy collection of the final element of the Polyjuice Potion. I may add that, since the casting of the proper Charms against such predation and the entry of Animagi, these infestations have ceased, which does, you know, strike me as significant.’


‘Does it,’ said Dr Watson.  ‘I imagine it will strike Holmes quite as forcibly.’


‘I think it should, Doctor.  Deekin will be your Vergil through the remainder of the house and your embassy to the household.  Do send an Owl when Mr Holmes has resolved the matter; I’m sorry I can’t stop any longer, but I must get to Mass: it is, after all, the Feast-Day of St Grimwald.’









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6 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 20th, 2010 10:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Kaleidiscope Eye

a nose that, although uncharitably classed as snub, seemed to find its way unerringly into mystery – and, what is rather more, through them, to the truth, and out the other side.

Ah, the young Brown. And a lovely further glimpse at Watson. And Grimwald? Interesting indeed. These reflections of the narrative through the several perspectives are tireless fun for the reader.
noeon From: noeon Date: June 20th, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Kaleidiscope Eye

Sorry, that was me. But at least it proves anonymous comments can be friendly? :)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 21st, 2010 10:12 am (UTC) (Link)

So it does.

And I thank you.
femmequixotic From: femmequixotic Date: June 20th, 2010 10:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do love your Watson. So much. And dear Brown! I have to admit to a thrill of glee at seeing him in this setting. \0/

Very lovely, dear. I quite love this universe.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 21st, 2010 10:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Everyone loves Watson.

And the future Fr Brown is always engaging to write. Thank you, my dear.
femmequixotic From: femmequixotic Date: June 21st, 2010 10:30 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Everyone loves Watson.

You've inspired me to find more Father Brown. It's been too long since I've spent time with him, I think.
6 comments or Leave a comment