Let me introduce myself. The name’s Alfred Doolittle. You might have heard of my daughter Eliza if you’ve been in London this past year. The clever girl learned to speak and act like a lady, and passed herself off as a duchess at some fancy embassy ball. Lizzie sounded so posh, even the upper crust were fooled. I have to thank Professor Henry Higgins for that. The Governor taught her how to speak proper, and not like the caterwauling Cockney flower girl she used to sound like in the East End.
And sorry it took so long to answer the door, I couldn’t hear you knocking. My home’s been taken over by freeloading relatives who spend their whole time either sleeping or making a racket. That’s what I get for allowing myself to become a respectable member of the middle class. A right chump, I was, for letting respectability rob me of my easy ways.
Course, I’m almost as famous as Eliza now. You see, I’ve become a lecturer for the Moral Reform League. I blame Professor Higgins for that, too. Before he took Eliza on as his pupil, I was a common dustman in the East End. Happy I was to be one of the undeserving poor, putting the touch on friends for a drink or a little loan to see me through the end of the week. Then I hear that my daughter’s moved in with the Governor and that Colonel Pickering fellow. Well, I went right off to Wimpole Street, demanding I get some sort of compensation for them corrupting the blooming girl. Didn’t even want much – a five pound note was all – which the Professor seemed happy to fork over. But he was so impressed by my gift of gab, he contacted some American millionaire who ended up hiring me as a lecturer.
I now have an annuity of three thousand pounds, which turned me into a bloody member of the middle class. Except you got to act proper once you’ve climbed up the social ladder. My lady friend Rose Cleary, who was perfectly content as my common law wife for years, demanded I make it legal before we moved to Pimlico. Had no choice but to say the vows before a vicar. After all, I can’t rightly lecture for a moral reform league if I’m living an immoral life. But I sorely miss being too poor to afford any morals.
Anyway, I may have a sweet house in Pimlico, but I got to take care of this growing brood of my wife’s relatives. They make so much noise, I can barely manage to sleep until noon anymore. Instead, I wake up to the sound of people yelling and babies crying. I get dressed quick and head for The Hand and Shears pub in Smithfield. That’s where I tell people I hold my ‘business meetings’, but in truth it’s my home away from home. If I’m not off lecturing six times a year for the League, that’s where you’ll find me. Oh, except for the racetrack and the stables. That’s the best thing about being a toff. I got me a racehorse.
How did that come about, you ask? Well now, I’m a bit fond of putting a quid down on a favorite prizefighter in the ring. That’s where I met my new friends, Lord Saxton and Jonathan Turnbull. They mentioned buying a racehorse, so I jumped at the chance – and got the honor of naming him the Donegal Dancer. Donegal because Eliza’s mum was born there, and Dancer since my darlin’ Sarah loved to dance.
To share the expenses and the prize money, we formed the Wrexham Racing Syndicate. Even got a duchess to buy in! I tell you, we’ll not go wrong with a spirited horse like the Dancer. The colt’s a sure winner. Once I was the one begging my friends for a quid or two; now I’m the one having to protect myself from being touched by my wife’s lazy relatives and my mates in the East End. One good turn deserves another, I suppose. Like I said, my old easy life is gone now that Professor Higgins shoved me into the middle class. And without a warning or a ‘by your leave’.
As expected, our blooming beauty of a racehorse won at Ascot. We broke out the champagne in the Winner’s Circle and had ourselves quite a celebration. Eliza was as thrilled as all us owners. Even Higgins seemed happy, and the Governor don’t look like the type who’d recognize a prize piece of horseflesh. Yes, things were going just dandy at Ascot, until some crazy fool ran out on the racetrack. Then something even more terrible happened to one of our own syndicate members before our day at the races was over. And that caused Scotland Yard to start breathing down all our necks.
I tell you, even the respectable classes don’t get the respect they deserve when murder’s on the racing form.
You can read more about Alfred in Move Your Blooming Corpse, the second book in the “Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins” mystery series, published by Minotaur. The first book in the series is Wouldn’t It Be Deadly.
This is the first stop on the Move Your Blooming Corpse Mystery Virtual Book Tour. For other stops on this tour, CLICK HERE.
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About the authors
D.E. Ireland is a team of award-winning authors, Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta. Long time friends, they decided to collaborate on a mystery based on George Bernard Shaw’s wonderfully witty play, Pygmalion, using all his beloved characters, including Eliza Doolittle, Henry Higgins, and Colonel Pickering. Sharon and Meg both live in Michigan, have patient husbands, brilliant daughters, and share a love of good books, tea and history. Their first book in the series, Wouldn’t It Be Deadly, was a 2014 Agatha nominee for Best Historical Mystery.
For more information, check out their website.