Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sleepless In Tuxedo (Death Comes To Perigord 4)

“Well, sir, and what conclusion have you arrived at?” he inquired.  The tone was not supercilious; but it certainly had a touch of kindly condescension that reminded me of a pompous examiner who had put me through it when I was a nervous youth undergoing the first professional in Edinburgh.

         “Homicidal melancholia,” I said, and not at all as I would have said it to an examiner.

         His eyebrows went up.

         “Really – as bad as that?  Why not ephemeral mania?”

        Because, for one thing, ephemeral mania does not begin with sleep, as his did.”

        “Is that certain?  At all events it ends in deep sleep, and he may be sleeping somewhere now.  Still” – he waved a hand – “I’ll have to consider that possibility. By the way, have you – er—envisaged the probability of its being a case of senile dementia?  He was an old man, you know.”

      “There was no evidence of childish degeneration when I saw him.  His will-power was strong and his physical condition good."

        “And you do not consider that points to some other form of mania?”

        “No, he slept for hours on end.”

         “He certainly did,” Carey intervened.  “All the testimony we’ve had confirms that; but is it important?  You’ve twice mentioned sleep.”

      Whether or no this intrusion was meant for remonstrance by the weary Chief Constable I cannot tell, but Sullivant turned on him.

        “It is of decisive importance – a maniac is entirely sleepless,” he almost snapped back.

From:  John Ferguson, Death Comes To Perigord (Chapter IV:  The Gilt Tennis Ball).  London and Glasgow, William Collins and Sons Co., Ltd., 1931.


  1. Curtis,

    I think it is a sanguine moment indeed when one recognizes that senile dementia may well provide an effective cloak not only for homicidal melancholia but for ephemeral mania.

    Have not our middle-of-the-night memories of mysteries and the movies always taught us many things, as in the pitch-dark we snap bolt-upright in the pillow-crumpling position?

  2. Death Comes To Perigord, a 1931 murder mystery by Scottish poet John Ferguson, which is set in Guernsey, contains numerous passages that are as revelatory and as satisfying as this one. The book belonged to my mother and recently it called to me to be taken down from the shelf. Apparently, Ferguson wrote it at a time when mysteries were enjoying a tremendous vogue. Unfortunately for Ferguson, a lot of famous non-mystery writers then tried their hand at mysteries and his book got overlooked in the crowd. It's pretty good and a lot of fun, especially for the Guernsey lore and place descriptions and for Ferguson's unusual vocabulary and prose style. Perigord, incidentally, is the name of a manor house in the book. As for the Sleepless In Tuxedo aspect of the post, I really need to work on that and will try to include improvement in this area as my contribution to Jane's back-to-school plans. She begins high school in two weeks -- Yikes! Her birthday is next week. She picked up a lot of guitar over the summer and today she wants me to buy her a ukulele for her birthday. I would prefer her to explore banjolele, but we shall see. Curtis

  3. Curtis,

    Well... zither?

    Which reminds me (sort of, by way of Central Europe, dark streets and zithers), of Conrad Veidt... superstar of darkness.

    When I hear the word "Perigord" I always think of Ezra Pound's walking tour of the roads of France in 1912, his involvement then with the "Spirit of Romance", troubadours, Provence & c. This consummated in a narrative poem after the manner of Browning (EP's master for a time, in the dramatic narrative mode).

    This link is longer than this comment, so I hope it works:

    Ezra Pound: Near Perigord