Her eyes greenish and remote, with a rich glint of lunacy.
Dennis held his breath. When the girl spoke it was briskly and prosaically.
“What did your Loved One pass on from?” she asked.
“He hanged himself.”
“Was the face much disfigured?”
“That is quite usual. Mr. Joyboy will probably take him in hand personally. It is a question of touch, you see, massaging the blood from the congested areas. Mr. Joyboy has very wonderful hands.”
“And what do you do?”
“Hair, skin and nails and I brief the embalmers for expression and pose. Have you brought any photographs of your Loved One? They are the greatest help in re-creating personality. Was he a very cheerful old gentleman?”
“No, rather the reverse.”
“Shall I put him down as serene and philosophical or judicial and determined?”
“I think the former.”
“It is the hardest of all expressions to fix, but Mr. Joyboy makes it his specialty — that and the joyful smile for children. Did the Loved One wear his own hair? And the normal complexion? We usually classify them as rural, athletic and scholarly — that is to say, red brown or white. Scholarly? And spectacles? A monocle. They are always a difficulty because Mr. Joyboy likes to incline the head slightly to give a more natural pose. Pince-nez and monocles are difficult to keep in place once the flesh has firmed. Also of course the monocle looks less natural when the eye is closed. Did you particularly wish to feature it?”
“No, let us eliminate the monocle.”
“Just as you wish, Mr. Barlow. Of course, Mr. Joyboy can fix it.”
“No. I think your point about the eye being closed is decisive.”
“Very well. Did the Loved One pass over with a rope?”
“Braces. What you call suspenders.”
“That should be quite easy to deal with. Sometimes there is a permanent line left. We had a Loved One last month who passed over with electric cord. Even Mr. Joyboy could do nothing with that. We had to wind a scarf right up to the chin. But suspenders should come out quite satisfactorily.”
“You have a great regard for Mr. Joyboy, I notice.”
“He is a true artist, Mr. Barlow. I can say no more.”
“You enjoy your work?”
“I regard it as a very, very great privilege, Mr. Barlow.”
Evelyn Waugh / The Loved One>