Lord Peter Wimsey, Rome
22 May 1935
Rome is hot, and I would otherwise be sweltering unhappily on this terrace, but that my signet ring is conspicuously absent from my finger, and I believe it is on yours instead, for you have said yes to me and I cannot think of anything else. A thousand sweltering days, relentless sunshine for this pale Englishman – I will bask in it, I will bask in the memory of you and one sun-dappled afternoon on the Cherwell, and a slightly less illuminated but all the more enjoyable evening on that same river. Harriet, light of my life – am I being too sentimental? Excessively romantic? Does this rambling bore you terribly? Pray forgive any excessive poetics; I am too much i’ the sun, and I revel in it, and in you.
Is it possible that the great orb shines o’er the Piazza di Spagna as a favourable sign to our love? Have the elements given their approval? (Do not tell me it has rained in London and spoil the effect). I do not presume to have any sway in the universe, but I cannot help but read all signs as echoes of your wonderful, world-turning “yes”. Red carnations in the Pincian Gardens – you have said yes – an afternoon breeze lifts the curtains of my room outward, they sigh blissfully – you have said yes – the most glorious strains of Palestrina float in from Trinità dei Monti – you have said yes and we are to be married and I am transcending.
I am also piffling. Sorry.
Bunter would be the first to tell you that this declamatory indulgence of mine increases proportionally during either of two possible moods: incandescent joy (as now) or, in his words, as ”a necessary method of distraction in the undertaking of detective work.“ Nothing to detect here, Harriet, the clues are simple: 1. my ring is missing, I have a distinct memory of bestowing it upon you in lieu of something more your taste and style – appropriate ring pending, I promise, 2. I have been humming incessantly an air from Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict, which the observant Bunter was kind enough to point out to me at breakfast this morning, and, 3. I bought you roses after leaving the Embassy this afternoon, only to remember upon return to the hotel that you may be with me in spirit but are in London in body. This sort of absent-minded spending greatly amused Bunter, though he attempted to disguise it. He arranged them in a vase and suggested I bring them as a peace offering to a rather stiff diplomat I lunched with yesterday – but they are yours, Harriet, and the diplomat might need an olive branch instead.
All this to say – I do not need Bunter to pontificate on my current state of piffling, nor do I need to detect anything about my person – I love you, Harriet, which you knew already for some time, but I suspect now that you love me too, and that is a happiness I did not expect. One can attempt to prepare for any number of troubles or sorrows, but not for happiness. It has washed over me quite unexpectedly and shows no sign of abating.
The extent of my true distraction – aside from buying flowers for one’s far-off beloved – is this: I am trying to apply my mind to this Foreign Office problem and find that I do not give a damn. It has importance, yes, but my role here is limited, and the Office will continue to postpone the lunches and confrontations and art gallery tours ad infinitum, and I would much rather be doing the same time-wasting but in London, with you. I confess that I am not as focused on the duty of the moment as I ought to be. I gather (from the limited information I am offered) that the problem is lesser than that which took me from you before – and so my piffle may be less needed than expected. I hope for this, because the sooner I am done piffling here, the sooner I can come back to you and bestow better words on your worthier ears.
For now, I hope you will endure some nonsense scribblings from my pen, and that you (time permitting) will send me a few of your own. You have never written nonsense, though, and I love you for it. Give me the truth, plain and simple; tell me how you like Mother, and how Wilfrid and the water-mills are getting on, and let me know if roses shipped at high expense from Rome would be an acceptable gift, or is that the sort of thing you frown upon? I have no desire to make you frown; having been witness to your vast repertoire of expressions, I must say your smile is infinitely preferable. I look forward to the pleasure of prompting its appearance, as often as I possibly can, for the rest of my earthly life. I'm piffling again.
I think I see you out of the corner of my eye on every street corner – hoping for the day to come soon when that flight of fancy is no longer imagination but reality.