From: Jeffrey Creighton

Well, millennium or no millennium (and personally, I'm still holding out for 1 Jan. 2001), we are still in the twelve days of Christmas, a time for banishing serious thought and surrendering to silliness and frivolity--a
concept which seems to appeal to most people, regardless of religious beliefs.

The following story is offered in the spirit of the season, with best wishes to all the folks at Britslash for a very happy 2000.

Title: Allied Liberation
Author: Jeff Creighton
Fandom: Keeping up Appearances
Pairing: Richard/Onslow
Rating: PG-13
Status: New
Archive: Britslash
Disclaimers: These characters are taken from the BBC programme Keeping up Appearances, and were not created by me.

For David


Allied Liberation

by Jeff Creighton


Richard Bucket awoke with a guilty start, and immediately surrendered to his customary feeling of vague despair. He knew something was wrong, but what was it? Was it something he had left undone, which he ought to have done? Something he had done, which he ought not to have done? Or something he had done wrong, which would have to be done all over again quite differently? He was lying with his eyes closed, weighing up the available options in his mind, when a familiar voice shrilled into the room, singing a selection from Oklahoma.

"Oh, what a beautiful morning! Oh, what a beautiful day! I've got a beautiful feeling everything's going my way." The voice slid from song into a disapproving cluck of the tongue. "Richard! Time to get up Richard! I won't have you lying in bed all day, just because you've taken early retirement."

Richard tentatively opened one eye. There was Hyacinth, standing over him with a feather duster and disapproval. Ah, he thought. At least now I know what I've done wrong. I haven't got up. Best to know the worst at once. He looked over at the clock.  "It's only a quarter to eight," he said meekly.

"Richard," said Hyacinth, "I will not have you lowering standards.  I take a great deal of pride in your high-powered executive energy, and if you think I am going to allow you to subside into complacency you are very much mistaken. Now, breakfast on the table in five minutes. And please remember, Richard," she said as she sailed out of the room, "that we do not appear unshaven at the breakfast table."

"Oh, we don't, do we?" said Richard softly, through clenched teeth. At that moment, the alarm clock went off. Richard struck out and slammed his fist through it. The clock fell to the floor and smashed into
several pieces.  Oh dear, he thought. I've done something wrong again, haven't I?

Five minutes later, Richard rushed into the kitchen, trying to staunch the bleeding from the three cuts he had made while hurriedly shaving. "Hyacinth," he said, "about that alarm clock."

"It's lovely, isn't it?" said Hyacinth. "It's an exact reproduction of one used by the Duke of Bolton. Rather a shame we have to keep it in the bedroom. It means none of my guests ever gets a chance to see it at my candlelight suppers." Hyacinth thought for a moment. "I could move it discreetly to the dining-room sideboard, the next time we entertain. What a good idea, Richard! You're such a help to me."

Richard put his face in his hands and moaned quietly.

"There you are, Richard," said Hyacinth, as she set a bowl in front of him, "your special breakfast cereal."

"Hyacinth," said Richard, "do I have to eat this? I swear, I found a pebble in it last week."

"Richard!" said Hyacinth. "This cereal is eaten by the Danish Royal Family. I feel quite confident that the Danish Royal Family are not in the habit of breakfasting on pebbles. I expect it was a highly nutritious grain of some sort."

"It was a pebble," Richard said quietly.

"Richard," said Hyacinth, "I simply will not have you accusing the crowned heads of Europe of eating pebbles. It looks like envy, and people of our social position should be above all that."

"But Hyacinth--" At that moment, the telephone rang.

"Richard," she said, "I do not have time to discuss this with you now. I expect that's someone important. Now, eat your pebbles--I mean, eat your nutritious breakfast cereal." She swept out of the room.

Richard sighed, and took a spoonful of the cereal. He bit down, and promptly broke a tooth on something which seemed remarkably like a pebble. "Oh, dear," he moaned softly, "somehow, I'm sure this is going to
be my fault."

Hyacinth picked up the white slim-line telephone with a flourish.  "The Boo-KAY residence, the lady of the house speaking!" There was a pause. "Oh, is that you, Daisy? What's the matter now, dear? Is it Daddy? Daisy, I simply cannot understand you if you insist on sobbing like that while you speak. What is the matter? ... Onslow? What about Onslow? ... Do try to calm yourself, dear ... You say Onslow's stopped
being what? Stopped being attentive to you, dear? Well, you know, Daisy, if you wanted a husband who would open car doors for you, you should have looked for one from a more exclusive neighbourhood ... What's that, dear?  ... That's not the kind of 'attentive' you mean? Well, what on earth do you mean?" There was a long pause. Hyacinth gasped and clutched the telephone receiver to her bosom. "Daisy! I will not discuss such matters on the telephone. You want who, dear? Richard? You want Richard to go around and talk to Onslow? Oh no, Daisy, I don't think that would be suitable at all. It's been years since Richard has given me any trouble of that sort."

Daisy sobbed into the other end of the phone. "But I can't take it any more, our Hyacinth! It's been months. I feel as if I'm going mad.  I swear, if this goes on much longer, I'm going to have to divorce him."

"Divorce him?" said Hyacinth. "Daisy, that is entirely out of the question. It was difficult enough for me when the Royal Family started going in for that sort of thing. I absolutely forbid it in my family."

"Well, then, what am I going to do?" Daisy sobbed.

"Never fear," said Hyacinth. "I think I've just had an idea. I shall talk to Richard, and then send him straight round."

"You will?" said Daisy. "Oh, thank you, Hyacinth!"

Hyacinth consulted her watch. "I still have to feed him, and explain to him what's required. I'll have him round there in an hour."  Hyacinth put the phone down firmly, squared her shoulders, and marched back to the kitchen. She found Richard holding his cheek and making small moaning noises.  "Enjoying your cereal, dear?" said Hyacinth.

"Well, actually," said Richard, "I think I've broken a--"

"That's nice, dear," said Hyacinth. "I knew you would. Now Richard, we seem to be having a bit of a family crisis."

"Again?" said Richard.

"I've told Daisy you're to go round there this morning, and have a talk with Onslow."

"Have a talk with Onslow? Why?"

"Apparently," said Hyacinth, looking conspiratorial, "Daisy's feeling somewhat neglected, and she wants you to help Onslow realise his responsibilities."

"Responsibilities? What sort of responsibilities?"

Hyacinth tapped her toe. "Let us just say," said Hyacinth, "that Daisy needs a few more ... car doors opened for her. I think we can leave it at that."

"You want me to go round and tell Onslow to open car doors?"

"What I want," said Hyacinth, "is for you to make it clear to Onslow how important it is to pay attention to Daisy. To make her feel special. The sort of thing you do with me, dear. Like last week, when you bought me those flowers."

"I think," said Richard, "that you ordered the flowers and then charged them to my account."

"Which reminds me," said Hyacinth, pulling out an envelope. "The bill came yesterday. Do be sure to pay it promptly, will you dear?  Tradesmen can be very surly to one if one doesn't pay one's bills
promptly."

"Yes, Hyacinth," said Richard. "But what exactly am I supposed to say to Onslow?"

"Richard!" clucked Hyacinth. "Do I have to think of everything?  Use your executive initiative, dear. Take charge of the situation. Sit up straight."

"Yes, Hyacinth," said Richard.

"Deal with Onslow firmly and decisively. And don't be too long about it. I have to do some shopping in town this afternoon, and I shall want you to drive me."

"Yes, Hyacinth," said Richard, and attempted to take a sip of coffee.

"Such a busy day!" said Hyacinth, whisking the coffee cup out of Richard's hands, dumping the coffee into the sink, and rinsing the cup out under a stream of scalding water. "No time to linger, dear. I have such a lot to do today. I'm afraid I'll not have time to invite Elizabeth round for coffee this morning. I shall ring and tell her. I do hate to disappoint her. I rather think," she said with a complacent smile, "that my invitations to coffee are the highlight of her day."

"They do seem to loom rather large in her life," said Richard.

"Thank you, dear!" said Hyacinth. "There, you see? You always know the right thing to say to make me feel special. Now, off you go and talk to Onslow. Wear your new blazer."

"Do I have to?" said Richard. "Onslow's doesn't seem like a blazer sort of household."

"You're trying to set an example, Richard. It's very important to set an example. Besides, some of the neighbours might see you on the way."

"Yes, Hyacinth," said Richard, getting up and stumbling to the door in defeat. In the doorway, he stopped and turned. "I don't suppose," he said, "that I might have time to stop at the dentist's along
the way?"

"Of course not, dear," said Hyacinth. "What silly things you say sometimes, Richard. Now run along."

"Yes, Hyacinth."


Richard arrived at Onslow's and Daisy's house, and pulled open the gate, which was tottering on a single hinge. It fell with a clatter into the middle of the path. Richard stepped gingerly over it and sidled past the rusting hulk of abandoned car which was the main furnishing of the front yard. He stared dispiritedly at the front door, its window cracked and taped, and then rapped a few times. The door sprang open, and there
stood Daisy, doing a rather unconvincing simulation of astonishment.  "Richard! What a nice surprise!" She called into the front room.  "Onslow! You'll never guess who's come to see us."

There were confused banging noises from the front room. "I hope it's somebody who knows how to fix this telly," a voice called back.

"It's Richard, come to have a chat," Daisy called back.

"He hasn't brought your Hyacinth, has he?"

"No, he's on his own," said Daisy.

"Well, tell him to come through, then."

"I'll leave you to it," Daisy whispered to Richard. They stepped into the front room and discovered Onslow, banging determinedly with the flat of his hand on the top of the television set. 

"Morning, Dickie," said Onslow.

"Onslow," said Daisy with elaborate nonchalance, "Rose and I are just off to do some shopping. We won't be back till dinner time."  Onslow merely grunted in reply.  "Rose!" Daisy called up the stairs. "Get down here, it's time for us to go."

Down the stairs Rose came fluttering, in fishnet stockings and a skirt three inches above the knee. She sagged melodramatically against her sister. "I can't possibly go now, our Daisy. I'm expecting a call any minute from Mr. Cumberland."

"That's Rose's new gentleman," Daisy explained to Richard. "She met him at a tea-dance two days ago. She says he's something in computers."

"And she's been keeping round-the-clock vigils on that phone ever since," said Onslow.

Rose turned to Richard appealingly. "They have no soul. They don't understand. Mr. Cumberland has been a revelation to me. Mr. Cumberland and I were made for each other."

"Never mind that now, our Rose," said Daisy, dragging her to the front door. "You promised, remember?" she hissed in her ear. "I'm sure Richard can give a message if Mr. Cumberland calls."

"Yes!" said Rose, clutching at Richard. "Tell him ... " she pondered for a moment, "tell him the force of his white-hot passion has inflamed the innermost core of my being."

"Is that what they're calling it nowadays?" said Onslow.

"Rose," said Richard, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, "I really don't think I can tell him that.  Perhaps I could just say you'll ring him back when you've got a chance?"

"That'll do fine," said Daisy. "Daddy's upstairs, but we've just given him his pill, so he should sleep for hours. So you and Onslow can have your little talk. Undisturbed." She dragged Rose, twittering in protest, out the front door.


Richard found himself feeling a little like the mouse who had been deputed to bell the cat. Onslow, after much banging on the top of the telly, had succeeded in producing a recognisable picture of the Teletubbies. "Oh, nice!" he said, rolling his eyes, quickly switched to another channel, and eased himself back into his chair.  "So, Dickie," he said. "What brings you--now, where's me manners?  There should be some bevies in the fridge. Go get us a couple, will you?"

Richard made his way out to the kitchen, scaring the life out of a mouse who had been planning to pass the morning undisturbed. He brought back a can of lager.  "It's a little early for me, I'm afraid," said Richard.

"Why do you keep holding your cheek like that, Dickie?" said Onslow, as he cracked open the can.

"A little breakfast accident," said Richard. "Bit of a toothache."

"Ah," said Onslow, "I don't blame you then. Never pour lager on a toothache. Whiskey. There should be a bottle over there somewhere, if you dig deep enough."

"No," said Richard. "Really, I couldn't."

Onslow gave a long-suffering sigh, heaved himself out of the chair, and began rummaging for the bottle of whiskey. He produced a cracked china cup, and filled it to the brim.  "There," he said, "that should put you right."

"Thanks," said Richard. He sipped at it, holding the liquid in his mouth for a while before swallowing.

"Now," said Onslow, settling himself back down, "to what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?"

"Well," said Richard, "it's a little embarrassing, really. Hyacinth sent me."

"Oh, nice! That's false pretences, that is," said Onslow.

"Nothing against you, Dickie, but I'd throw you out right now, if it weren't too much trouble getting out of this chair again."

Richard sighed. "I know. I didn't want to, really. But you know what Hyacinth is like. Hyacinth thinks that Daisy's feeling ... um ... a little neglected."

Onslow sighed. "She's always going broody on me, Dickie. I'm not eighteen any more, you know. I keep telling her: what about New Year's Eve? Remember New Year's Eve?"

"Yes, but Onslow," said Richard, "it's nearly Easter."

"Funny," said Onslow, "that's what she said."

Richard took another sip of the whiskey. "This really is rather good," he said. His toothache was beginning to fade.

"I don't suppose your Hyacinth makes these sort of unreasonable demands on you, does she?" said Onslow.

"Oh, I don't know," said Richard, turning a deep red and staring at the floor. "About average, I suppose."

Onslow shook his head. "You're a braver man than I am, Dickie.  You deserve a medal, you do."

Richard sighed and sipped his whiskey. "Hyacinth thinks," he said tentatively, "that it might help if you just paid more attention to her in other ways."

"Other ways?"

"Yes," said Richard stammeringly, feeling the absurdity of the remark as soon as he had uttered it. "Opening car doors. Buying flowers.  That sort of thing. What kind of whiskey is this? It really is awfully
nice."

"Oh, no, Dickie. That'd only give her ideas. What we need is something to put her right off it. Get her mind on other things. You see, the problem with Dais is that she doesn't have enough resources within herself. She doesn't take an interest in other things, like I do.  See, women are like that. They don't have enough to take them out of themselves, so they've always got sex on the brain. They can't help themselves, they just can't stop thinking about it. I think it's genetic.  See, for centuries, while we were off conquering things, they were sat home with nothing to do but think about when we were coming back. That's where the problem started."

Richard regarded Onslow as he lazily lit a cigarette, and thought that a more unlikely candidate for going out and conquering could hardly be imagined. "Actually," he said, "I think Hyacinth would be rather good
at conquering things."

"Ah well, your Hyacinth, she's one of a kind," said Onslow, and shuddered. "But the thing with us is, we're always looking for new experiences. Which reminds me," he said, and picked up the remote control. He switched channels again, and found some racing. "There, that's more like it. Want a bag of crisps?"

"No thanks," said Richard, "I think I'll just stick with the whiskey." He was now drinking it quite contentedly, and in larger and larger sips.

"No," said Onslow reflectively, "what Daisy needs is an occupation, to keep her from getting broody all the time. It's those romance-books she reads. They give her ideas. Here: hand me that paper, will you?"  Richard handed him the paper. Onslow was keeping one eye on the television screen, while flipping to the racing form. "Ever have a flutter?"

"No," said Richard, "Hyacinth wouldn't--"

"Say no more," said Onslow. "Look at this!" he said with sudden interest.
"What?" said Richard.

"Doncaster. At thirteen-to-one. Lunchbucket."

"It's pronounced Lunch-boo-KAY," said Richard, astonishing himself with a sudden chuckle. He noticed the cracked cup was empty, and immediately refilled it with whiskey.

"That's a sign, that's what that is," said Onslow. "You don't pass up on a sign. It's an hour till the race, we've still got time to put a tenner on it. Here, hand me that phone."

"But what if Mr. Cumberland tries to call?" said Richard, getting up and going to the phone a little unsteadily.

"Sod Mr. Cumberland," said Onslow. "I'm calling me bookie's."  

"I really ought to be getting back to Hyacinth," said Richard, handing the phone to Onslow. "She wants me to take her--"

"Dickie," said Onslow, giving Richard a reproachful look.

"Well, all right, then," said Richard, sitting back down heavily on the sofa. "I'll just wait and see how the race comes out." He found himself suddenly possessed with a peculiar sensation of well being. I suppose, he thought, this must be what it feels like to relax. He found his face was developing a silly grin, and he couldn't seem to get rid of it.

The coffee table sported a bottle of whiskey, now three-quarters empty, and five or six crumpled crisp-packets. Onslow sat forward in his chair, his eyes on the television screen. Richard was standing behind him, leaning against the back of the chair, one hand on Onslow's shoulder to steady himself.

"It's starting, Dickie," said Onslow.

"So it is," said Richard, attempting to focus. "I'm not really up on this sort of thing. How many times do they run around the ... " he paused, searching for the word, "the track-thingy?"

Onslow sighed. "It's the sport of kings is this, Dickie. The Queen Mum watches racing. I'm surprised your Hyacinth doesn't make you watch this. How's the tooth?"

Richard looked about him as though he'd misplaced something.  "What tooth?" he said. "Did I come in with a tooth?"

"Never mind," said Onslow. "Just watch the race."  The horses sprang from the starting gate. "Come on, Lunchbucket!" cried Onslow.

Richard swung his arm through the air. "Come on, Lunch-boo-KAY!" he bellowed.

"Dickie," said Onslow, grabbing Richard's hand in excitement,  "Dickie ... he's coming up through the pack."

"Up through the pack!" said Richard.

"Dickie, I'm serious," said Onslow. "He's ... he's ... " Onslow leapt out of his chair. "Dickie, he's won it!  We've won it! Ten quid at thirteen to one!" He threw his arms around Richard, lifted him off the ground, and swung him around.

"We've won?" cried Richard, as his feet touched the ground again.  "We've ... "  Suddenly, Richard found himself enveloped in Onslow's aroma. It was compounded of sweat, lager, ciggies and smoky-bacon-flavoured crisps, but Richard did not pause to analyse its components. He simply fell into
it gratefully.  "Onslow ... " he murmured.

"Yes, Dickie?" said Onslow, staring down at him in some puzzlement, but not letting go his grip.

"Onslow ... " he sighed, and held on tighter. He gazed up at him.  "I don't suppose," he said, "I don't suppose we could pretend it's New Year's Eve?"

Onslow gazed down at the man in his arms. "You're a dark horse, Dickie." He paused a moment. "I don't generally like to get into much activity this early in the day. It upsets me equilibrium. But," he gave Richard a knowing wink, "seeing as it's you, and it's a special occasion ... "

Richard sagged into Onslow's arms. "Oh, thank you, Onslow!"

"But I've got to warn you, Dickie," said Onslow, "I am a little out of practice. Everything was in working order last time I checked but, like I said, it's been a few months."

"A few months!" said Richard, starting to laugh. "A few months!"

"All right, no need to go broadcasting it to the whole street.  How long's it been for you?"

"It was when ... " said Richard, clinging to Onslow and struggling to get the words, "it was the night ... it was the night Sheridan was conceived."

"Sheridan?" said Onslow. "But Dickie, Sheridan's ... "

"Twenty-five years old!" Richard sobbed into Onslow's chest.

Onslow held Richard out at arm's length and gave him a good long look. "Dickie," he said, "I'm prepared to do me best for you. But I ain't a miracle worker, you know. I'm not sure even I could make up for twenty-five years' lost time in one afternoon."

"Could we make it two afternoons then?"

"Well ... " said Onslow, reflecting.

Richard gazed at Onslow longingly. "Or five? Or ten? Or possibly ... a hundred?"

In his room Daddy came awake and sat bolt upright in bed. For a moment he couldn't recall where he was, but then it came to him. Allied command post. There were confused noises coming from below, a sort of
rhythmic thumping. Must be the bloody Jerries up to summat again, he thought. He sprang out of bed, and quickly threw on his uniform.  He crept to the bottom of the stairs. The noises seemed to be coming from the front room. He sidled up to the door, and took a good look at the scene before him. Then he croaked out:  "Soldier! You know damn well that's against regulations. I want to see you in my office at 1400 hours." He turned and went out to patrol the front yard.

Onslow's head popped up over the back of the sofa. "Oh, nice!" he said.  From beneath him there came a sound no human being had heard in years. It was the sound of Richard giggling.

When Rose and Daisy arrived home they found Daddy marching purposefully up and down the path. He challenged them.  "Civilians not allowed beyond this point," he said.

Rose rolled her eyes. "He thinks he's back in the war again.  We've simply got to get that medication changed."

"Come along, Daddy," said Daisy, "inside, and I'll give you your dinner."

"I've got a soldier under arrest in there," said Daddy. "Conduct unbecoming a member of His Majesty's forces. T'other one escaped."

"Yes, fine," Daisy said. "We'll court martial him after you've had your dinner. Come along, Daddy."

Rose bundled Daddy off to his bed. There was no sign of Richard in the front room. Onslow was sat in the chair, his head thrown back, snoring. Daisy stared at him impatiently for a few moments, then went over and shook him.

"Onslow! Onslow!"

Onslow jumped. "Ah, it's you, Dais," he said, staring at her a little blearily. "Make us a bacon butty, will you?"

"Where's Richard?" Daisy said.

Onslow shrugged. "Off home, I suppose."

Daisy approached the subject gingerly. "Did you ... have a nice talk?"

"Me and Dickie?" said Onslow. "Nice enough."

"And?" said Daisy expectantly.

"And what?"

"Did he give you any ideas?" Daisy smiled pleadingly

"Ideas?" said Onslow, lighting a cigarette. "Ideas? Oh, right.  He did give me one or two."

"Ooh!" said Daisy. A shiver ran from her head to her toes, and back up to her head again. She slipped an arm around his shoulders. "Oh, Onslow ... "

"Thursday afternoons," said Onslow.

"What about Thursday afternoons?"

"Me and Dickie. We're having a boys' afternoon out, every Thursday. We decided."

Daisy stared at him blankly. "And?"

"And what?"

"Is that the only idea he gave you?"

Onslow sighed. "Dais, you know I can't think on an empty stomach.  What's a bloke got to do to get a bacon butty around here?"  Daisy's mouth drew into a thin line. She stood up, marched to the phone, and began furiously dialling Hyacinth's number.

Richard let himself into the house. He leaned against the doorway into the living room, and stared dreamily off into space. Hyacinth, who had been dusting the knickknacks with a reproachful air, turned on him
immediately.  "Richard! Where on earth have you been, Richard? I expected you back over an hour ago. It really is too bad, Richard. My shopping trip is ruined."

"What?" said Richard. He gazed vaguely around the room until his eyes lighted on Hyacinth. "Oh, hello," he said.

"Richard! Are you listening to me?"

"Do I have a choice?" said Richard.

"I said, my shopping trip has been ruined. Where on earth have you been all this time, Richard? I do hope you made some progress with Onslow."

"Onslow?" said Richard. He smiled and gazed out the window. "Oh, yes. I did. He complimented me."

"That's nice, Richard. But really, dear, you could have telephoned."

"He said ... " Richard sighed happily, "he said I was good at it."

"Good at what, dear?"

"I never knew I was good at it," said Richard. "You never told me I was good at it." He turned to Hyacinth with curiosity. "Did you know I was good at it?"

"Really, Richard," said Hyacinth, "I do not have time for guessing games."

"I don't suppose you did know. I mean, how could you? You only ever gave me three tries at it, and the last one was over twenty years ago!"

"Three tries?" said Hyacinth. Her eyes snapped suspiciously.  "Richard, I am afraid that we may be entering into a rather vulgar conversation. I simply will not have you entering into vulgar conversations. Do you hear me, Richard?"  To her astonishment, Richard burst out laughing.  "Richard!" Hyacinth cried in a panic, "what on earth has got into you?"

"It's just ... it's just ... " Richard gasped, struggling to control his giggles and get the words out, "how many people do you think there are in the world? Five billion? Six billion? And out of all those people, I married you. What are the odds?" He collapsed onto the sofa and howled with laughter. "I mean, it's really rather funny when you think about it. I would have had a better chance of winning the lottery.  I would have had a better chance of becoming heir to the throne. I would have had a better chance of being struck by lightning. I wouldn't have minded so much, being struck by lightning. It would have gone so much more quickly."

At that moment, the phone began to ring.

"Richard," said Hyacinth, "you're ill. I'm putting you to bed immediately. If Sheridan were here he'd be appalled."

"No!" said Richard, standing up and fixing Hyacinth with a steely gaze. "I'm going up for a long hot soak in the tub. Then," he continued loftily, "I think I shall go out for the evening. Stop by a few pubs, have a few drinks. Don't wait up for me, Hyacinth. I don't know when I'll be back."

Hyacinth opened her mouth to speak, but she never did. Instead, she fainted dead away, stretching her length on the carpet, which was an exact reproduction of one in Sandringham House.

Richard stared at his wife for a few moments. Then he wandered out to the hallway, where the phone was still ringing. He lifted the receiver from its cradle, set it carefully to one side, and turned towards the stairs. He paused for a moment. He thought he could hear, very faintly, Daisy's voice screaming: "Hyacinth! Hyacinth!" He shook his head. Must be his imagination.  He turned with an easy grace he had not had in years, and began walking up the stairs to the bathroom, hands in pockets, whistling.


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