Interviewer (trying hard not to stare at the anti-hero’s startling golden and athletic looks): Lord Venn – that is the correct form of address for a viscount, I believe – it is a pleasure to meet you.
Harley Venn (stooping to kiss her hand): Charmed, Ma’am. You may call me anything you like, and I’d forgive you. The pleasure is entirely mine, I assure you. ..Then, in your age, delicate females are allowed to interview such abandoned rascals as myself? That is careless of your male relatives: I’m of a mind to warn them.
Interviewer [repressing a smile]: There is no need to go to that trouble. I wouldn’t let my male relatives interfere in my work as a journalist.
Harley Venn): I wouldn’t let any sister of mine go and talk alone with a fellow with my reputation – or lack of it. But no more of that: — to the interview, then, Ma’am: I am obliged to meet Jack Molyneux and some fellow pugilists for a bout at midday.
[The interviewer starts, and they both glance round at a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning).
Harley Venn: Don’t trouble about that: it’s only the family curse, and don’t affect you. But come closer anyway, Ma’am, so I can protect you from that damned Hooded Skeleton- beg pardon: you can see I’m not used to respectable female company. – You see, I thought I caught a glimpse of the filthy thing over there by the window. It is a mass hallucination merely, but it might scare you.
Interviewer (smiling wryly): That is kind of you, Lord Venn, but I’ll stay over here…Rumour has it that there is a curse on the males of the Venn family: that must be alarming.
Harley Venn: Not just us, at that. My friend Molyneux’s old governor, who was a great friend of my Uncle Toby, came to a sticky end besides, and then my uncle’s former steward was squashed flat as a pancake when lightning struck a wall next to him. Soon after that, young Carstair’s great-uncle was found dead hanging by the heels from the eaves of his country house.
Interviewer: Oh dear.
Harley Venn: But I still hold that it is all a series of conjuring tricks, myself, and maybe a touch of mass mesmerism, or some such tomfoolery.
Interviewer: Mesmerism? ah, of course: hypnosis.
Harley Venn [laughs carelessly]: But don’t you know I’ve enlisted the aid of a Professor of Magic, Marksmanship, Swordmanship, Languages and Subtle Influences to sort matters out? I don’t credit the tricky rogue will solve anything, but Molyneux and young Carstairs were set on hiring the fellow. [More seriously] Besides, I need to protect my betrothed.
Interviewer: Ah, yes, I hear your lordship is recently engaged to the niece of your late uncle’s steward, the man who was killed by that lightning strike.
Harley Venn: ‘Venn’ will do: charming creatures such as yourself don’t need to address me formally…Yes, I am recently engaged to Miss Clarinda Greendale. She’s a fine girl. You probably heard she didn’t have much choice in the matter, being compromised by me. Taradiddles, of course. The fact is, the poor girl got tangled up in it when old enemy of mine set some hired bravoes on me. She helped see ‘em off, using her parasol. But then she was caught out alone in the house with me, and that was it for her fair fame, no matter if I was half conscious.
Interviewer [sternly]: You were rumoured to have a list of heiresses as prospective brides.
Harley Venn [winks): Was I, Ma’am? True enough, Miss Greendale turned me down before, giving me some hard words while she was about it, but no matter, that is in the past.
Interviewer: Perhaps she had some doubts about your character?
Harley Venn [grins]: No, Ma’am, she had no doubts about my character at all, knowing me to be a good-for-nothing, brawling, drinking, gambling, wenching racal.
Interviewer [feebly] Well, I wish you both very happy.
Harley Venn: I thank you. She’s a fine girl, as I say, and she’s got nerves of iron. There’s no doubt there’s no doubt she can keep her head. Those old fellows who let a series of theatrical tricks put ‘em in their graves couldn’t. We’ll see off this so-called family curse together.
[With a brisk tapping, O’Hare, Harley Venn’s rascally manservant, opens the door.]
O’Hare: Them dunns is back again.
Interviewer: Dunns? Oh yes, debt collectors.
Harley Venn: Don’t trouble me with such minor matters, O’Hare. Can’t you see I am giving an interview to publicise the book about me? You know what to do: have your brats give ‘em the welcome we always save for fellows whining about payment.
O’Hare: And I cannot for the life of me get credit anywhere in the neighbourhood for the wine, neither.
Harley Venn: Then go outside the neighbourhood: say I sent you.
O’Hare: They say all over Town that your sending me is why they won’t give me credit.
Harley Venn: Insolent rogues! I’d best search about for some spare tin about the house. Be off with you, O’Hare, you rascal, and look for some yourself…My apologies, Ma’am, for involving you in this domestic trivia. I hoped to offer you a glass of wine at least, and it turns out we can‘t get a drop. Some coffee, perhaps? Or someone left some cordial somewhere, from when I was getting the better of that beating.
Interviewer [rises]: No, really, Lord Venn, don’t trouble, I must be on my way. –- Thank you for doing this interview with me, and I wish you every success with doing away with the Curse of the Venns.
O’Hare [to himself as he goes out] He’ll need it.