Genre: Grace and Favour, Man from UNCLE
Prompt - Mr. Humphries, what are you doing under there?
thespian15, I hope you enjoy this and I apologize that this is unbeta'd, but I have Sparky working on a long one! :D
If someone had once told Wilberforce Clayborne Humphries that he would be working on a farm after his retirement from service, he would have called them a very bad name and walked quickly away.
However, since coming to Millstone Manor, a benefit the retirement fund for him and his fellow co-workers from Mr. Grace, he’d learned how to milk a cow, rod a drain, plant potatoes, drive a tractor, cut wood, teasel, as well as a host of other tasks that would have left his mother pale and weak.
All that considered, he’d not learned how to handle the riding lawnmower. In fact, none of them had. It was a game of chance when it came to drawing straws for the task and he always seemed to be holding the short straw.
He’d tried talking firmly to it, well, as firmly as he could, and he tried to be kind and understanding. The mower would have none of it. It operated with a will of its own, obeying no one but itself.
Mr. Humphries looked up at the very blue sky, dotted with very white clouds and wondered just how long it would be before someone missed him Certainly Mavis would at bedtime, but before then was anyone’s guess. Even with guests, they all pretty much did their own thing after breakfast. He knew that Mr. Rumbold had taken the Waverlys into Tender Bottom for some shopping and that Mr. Solo had made arrangements to go riding with Miss Lovelock that afternoon. It was a mystery what Mr. Kuryakin was up to. He was a bit like Mr. Humphries in that regard. He didn’t seem to mind his own company at all.
Mr. Humphries shaded his eyes and tried to see beyond the thick thigh-high grass. While the sun was nice, it would be very warm in a short time… unless it started to rain… or worse. He didn’t trust the weather out here. It wasn’t like London weather at all.
He just hoped the mud that was encasing his lower body didn’t pull him down any deeper. As long as he stayed still, he seemed fine for a moment, but for how long was merely conjecture. Happily he didn’t have long to wait. He heard the voices long before he saw them. It was lucky it was the young Mr. Solo and Mr. Kuryakin
“And I’m telling you, Napoleon, there is no way the X-15 is going to out-perform the X-14. That is the top of the line, it never jams, a range that goes on for forever—“
“And it cries like a little baby if you even hint at dampness. I need something that is waterproof, crushproof, and preferably THRUSH proof--”
“Ex- excuse me,” Mr. Humphries was loath to interrupt, but he was starting to sink again.
“Did you hear something?” Mr. Kuryakin asked his partner. “Hello?”
“I’m down here.” Almost instantly two heads were blocking the sun from him.
Mr. Kuryakin immediately scrambled down to the edge of the ditch. “Mr. Humphries, are you injured? What happened?”
“No, I’m all right, just a bit stuck at the moment. Unfortunately, the mower got away from me.”
Mr. Solo looked around, shading his eyes from the sun. “Where is it? I don’t see it.”
“Under me… somewhere. It just took off and suddenly here we were.”
Mr. Solo swore. “I’ll go get some help. Illya, you… render aid.”
Mr. Kuryakin sighed and Mr. Humphries looked as apologetic as he could. “I’m sorry. I’ll be happy to wait--” That won him a smile.
“No, it’s not that, Mr. Humphries. Napoleon will do anything to protect his new suit.”
“I thought it looked rather new. Who is your tailor if I might be so bold as to inquire?”
“An old friend of ours by the name of Del Floria.” Illya took off his suit jacket and slipped out of his shoulder holster.
“Oh… oh, my. “ Mr. Humphries stared at the weapon, terrified and yet fascinated at the same time. Mr. Kuryakin carefully set it down.
“Oh, don’t worry, I have a permit to carry it here. Now, let’s get you out.” Illya tugged, grunting with the effort. “I don’t mean to be personal, Mr. Humphries, but you aren’t the lightweight I thought you were.”
“Just a tick.” Mr. Humphries leaned forward, nearly submerging himself in the muck. He made a face and wiggled around. “Okay, that’ll do it.”
“Forgot I had my seat belt on.” His smile was wan.
Illya rolled his eyes. “Okay, that one is for you. Now, try and kick off from it.” He pulled with all his might and Mr. Humphries gave it his best.
Suddenly they were flying backwards and landed on the grass. Mr. Humphries grunted as his back hit the ground and then squealed as Illya landed on top of him. For just a moment, nose-to-nose, neither man moved.
“Well, that’s done it,” Illya said, panting slightly from his exertion.
A figure approached and by the sheer girth and rocking motion, Mr. Humphries knew that it was Mr. Multurd and shut his eyes at what he knew was coming.
“Mr. Humphries, what are you doing under there?” Mr. Multurd roared as Mr. Kuryakin rolled off him and stood.
“Picking turnips!” Mr. Humphries snapped back as their guest helped him to his feet.
“I keep telling Mavis you’re a lost cause, but she will not hear me.”
“Mr. Multurd,” Mr. Kuryakin interrupted. “We need a tractor and some chain.”
“I don’t know how you fellas do it in America, but we don’t get that carried away with it here. Cor, usually we make due with flowers and takeaway.”
Mr. Kuryakin sighed and exchanged a disgruntled look with Mr. Humphries. “The riding mower is stuck in the drainage ditch.”
“Right place for it, too. Possessed by the devil, it is.” Mr. Multurd started to walk away across the field. “When the mower’s bewitched, leave it in the ditch.”
“I’d agree with that.” Mr. Humphries looked down at his ruined outfit. “I think I’d like a very long bath and a very large drink.”
“Is he always like that?” Illya watched as the man picked his way through the field.
Mr. Humphries nodded. “We think he might have fallen out of the loft a time or two along the way, but he’s happy.”
“He’s touched. It probably is just as well we leave mower where it is. I think UNCLE wouldn’t mind springing for a new mower, considering how well you have taken care Mr. and Mrs. Waverly.”
“I couldn’t… could I?”
“Consider it done. I’ll have Mr. Solo voucher it. It’s about time for him to get his clothing allowance anyhow.”
They never did go back for the mower, something Mr. Humphries, nor any of them ever regretted. They merely erected a stone to mark the place and, as Mr. Multurd suggested, they let it stay in the ditch. It’s hard to say who was happier with the decision, but as he drove happily across the lawns on their new riding mower, Mr. Humphries wisely thought that it was probably him.