A notable social conquest on the compellingest occasions, Thornhill was known for abjuring them all on the grounds of mal de muse when their folly lay already too exposed for his flair for le mot juste. But, owing Betty as he did, for borrowing her Mercedes for that bourboned escape from the Townsends' when he thought he might die from Bernard Herrmann's sound track, Thorny admonished his dog to awaken him early, to be able to outfit himself appropriately. Raking through the long week's detritus of his memory for elements of his last equine experience, he applied himself to their retrieval from those hampers and footlockers his lawyer had begged him to throw out, or at least donate to Science.
Reckoning against all odds, on a flicker of humour at Montpelier, Thornhill thought that if he could make any sense of the occasion it would be by the bareback expedients of Mame Dennis on Meditation. "A harness unhinged," it came to him, might just get him past the stirrup cups at Betty's tent, in time to excuse himself from the paddock tea. Yet, as for the horror of all those hooves, concentrated on one ever-narrowing compass of ground, and lain so proximately to his hostess' hellishly gossamer clos, he knew not how to make provision. Earphones, he knew, could scarcely deflect the prodigious bass notes of 30 tons of cavalry, massed for his bespoke annoyance.
"Oceans!" he exclaimed. "Oceans it is, Spiffy," he chortled to himself. He remembered reading somewhere in Knowles as a schoolboy - or was it in White? - how oceans would flood the senses at the least misadventure of the face, thence to insulate the cranium from the thud of country sport. Surely Betty would invite someone to lend a hand.
Who knows, what labial musings so captured poor Thornhill on that occa-sion, that he found him-self lost in fond rehearsal, and missed the Races entirely? Torn between a thank-you note and one of contrition, he calibrated his missive with the strictest avoidance of fanny, and hoped the blotter of time would handle the rest.
North by Northwest
Morton da Costa
À bout de souffle