Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott 23: Everybody’s talking

Previously Mata Hari manhandled Johnny Eager in the jungle, creating a rumble in the jungle.

Lady Jayne Greystoke stepped to the Speaker’s Platform in the House of Lords. She looked much older than her actual age. Africa had turned her hair white and her face was covered in wrinkles. The jungle had sucked the youth away from this once vibrant young woman of the lower aristocracy. All those mosquitoes, and lions and tigers, oh my.

And, of course, there was her five-year marriage to some fellow named Tarzan. He was an ape of a man, wasn’t he? That’s what happens when you go outside your class for a mate. Love, yes, but not a mate. One should always stay inside one’s class unless one is marrying an American heiress for her money.

Lady Greystoke had been invited to speak in Lord’s to give her perspective on Africa.

“The White Man’s Burden,” she began her speech. “It is our obligation. We Christians must Christianize the continent. It is the Thing to do. Unless we bring Christian civilization to that dark, dark place, the people will all end up like my ex-husband. Christianity would have saved him. We would still be in the arms of bliss, and he would be thoroughly civilized.”

As she was speaking, Sir Myles di Fussye-Pants was joined by Pip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law. He was about to take a trip but first he wanted to give his mentor the news. Better from him than most anyone else. But he knew Sir Myles was not going to take it well.

Pip handed Sir Myles The Times. Sir read the headlines, then stood up and left the chamber. Pip followed. In the hallway, Sir Myles turned to Pip. Pip had never seen his mentor’s face this white.

“First my beloved friend Dunnie,” Sir Myles said. “Now his bride”

***

The headlines all over the British Empire screamed: “Her Ladyship, Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott of Haggismarshe drowned in S. S. Twit disaster.”

When the news broke, the Prime Minister’s War Cabinet was gathered at Number 10. The Prime Minister, his Personal Secretary, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Defense Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Home Secretary, the Lord of the Admiralty and the Chief of the Defense Staff sat in the Big Room around the Big Table, discussing big things. It was the big job they had to do. The Deputy Prime Minister had just gone off on a tangent.

“Yes, D. P. M,” the Defense Secretary intruded, “we know you hate the French. But we have more important things to discuss today. Like who pays for lunch. Since we’re at the P. M.’s I vote that the P. M. buys. And I am up for steak and kidney pie.”

“Here, here,” everybody but the Prime Minister agreed.

“Then it’s settled,” Defense said. “P. M., it’s your treat.”

“How come I always have to buy?”

“You’re the one with the allowance,” Topsy of Exchequer said.

“Well, if I have to buy, then I choose the restaurant. I am fed up with the food we always get from that awful Rutter’s. Defense, I don’t care if your daughter is the chef there.”

“Here, here,” everybody but Defense agreed.

“So, where were we?” P. M. asked.

“We were discussing a strategy for lunch,” the Lord of the Admiralty spoke up. “And it seems that you went down like a captain with his ship.”

“We were discussing the Frogs,” Deputy said, trying to force his prejudice against the French upon the group.

“The hell we were,” Defense said.

“Calm down, boys,” Foreign Secretary interjected. “The Boers, we were discussing how boarish they’ve become of late.”

“I have a man down there in that part of Africa,” Chief of the Defense Staff said. “A certain Norwegian Karl Lutefisk is fishing for information. Somebody has done a bait and switch on him. But he telegraphed us to let us know he is back on the trail. Seems the Boers had some special diamonds stolen. And now they are all in a tizzy.”

“I heard they glowed orange,” the Personal Secretary informed the group. “The diamonds, not the Boers.”

“That’s the rumor,” Chief said. “Don’t know why they are special. The Boers are blaming us for the theft. Seems that an American is involved.”

“Unfortunately they caught one of our men,” Defense said. “He talked and blamed us.”

“Did they torture him?” Deputy wanted to know.

“No,” Defense said. “He just puked up the information. Seems he was dissatisfied with his Royal Beeswax and Petroleum Jelly bonus.”

“But that is no reason to betray the Crown,” P. M. said,.

“Anyway,” Defense said, “the Army is rather stretched of late. So, we’re unable to intervene.”

“Rahther,” Deputy said. He was a commoner but he was always putting on his rahthers to make others think he was an aristocrat and could fit in with society. London Society, that is. It’s what you do when you have a social climber of a wife.

“The Army is dealing with the Mau Maus and the Zulu. It is preparing to take off the gloves and pound the Boxer Rebellion in Peking into a knock-out or, at least, a TKO. All because the Boxers want their share of Peking Duck. Then there is Khartoum and the Khyber Pass, and it’s got its hands full in India. Don’t think we can take on anymore without a draft.”

“And that would be the end of our government,” the Personal Secretary said.

The Prime Minister threw the Times onto the table, revealing the headline. “What about this S. S. Twit incident?”

“Seems Gibraltar fell apart,” Admiralty said. “It’s going to be one hell of a job. Putting the Rock back together rock by rock. I have three ships on their way with aid.”

“And this Lady P. P.?” Prime Minister said. “Her Majesty will want to know the details.”

“No one has seen her ladyship’s extraordinary American bosoms,” Admiralty said, “since the sinking.” He remembered her ladyship from the wedding.

In fact, they all did, except the Personal Secretary. P.S. had been out of town. However, he had seen pictures, and he had to agree that they were extraordinary. He thought that they must be truly extraordinary if they were up close and personal.

“They are extraordinary,” Bottoms, the Home Secretary, interjected.

“Rahther,” Deputy followed.

“Here, here,” everybody but everybody agreed.

“All hands on the S. S. Twit,” Admiralty said, “met Davy Jones and are now in his locker. That is the reports the Admiralty has received with a number of confirmations.”

“You know,” Personal Secretary said, “Lords had voted to revoke her title and take her lands. That was going to be exceeding unpopular with the commoners.”

“Not with me,” Deputy said. “Oops.”

“Now we won’t,” Personal Secretary said, “have to suffer the consequences. It might have caused the government to fall. We were close to a vote of no confidence and we didn’t have much time. The Queen was very angry.”

“We will have a memorial service,” Prime Minister said, “in Abbey for her and the others who drowned. The public will get a bit of a show and things will be back to normal.”

“Except for one thing,” Topsy the Exchequer said.

“Yes?” Prime Minister wanted to know.

“Yes?” Deputy wanted to know.

“Yes?” everybody wanted to know.

“You see,” Topsy said, “there is no heir.”

“That’s not a problem,” Deputy said. “The lands will revert to the Crown.”

“No, no, no,” Topsy said. “We cannot have that.”

“And why not?” Deputy asked.

“Because the commoners will be unhappy,” P.S. said. “They will want the estate to go to one of their own.”

“No, no, no,” Topsy said again, only more emphatically.

“Well, then why?” the Prime Minister asked.

“The seizure of those lands will bankrupt the treasury,” Topsy said. “The Queen’s allowance is already over-budget. There is no way she’ll be able to afford all the upkeep of all that land. Lord P. P. had land holdings all over the island as well as in Ireland. The young American was the answer to a prayer. Thank God that Sir Myles came up with it. Course it helped that I suggested it to Two-Ems, his wife, when we were doing the light fantastic.”

“Ah, Two-Ems,” Prime Minister said. “I’ve seen her out in society and she is one excellent woman.”

“Yes, she is,” Topsy said, thinking of Two-Ems wonderland of wonderlands. “Anyway, we have to come up with a plan.”

“Perhaps the Queen could knight someone,” Deputy said. “Someone with a lot of cash who has brought industry to the country.”

“The thing is,” Topsy said, “how do we get it through Lords. They’ve been on a bit of a warpath with Commons lately.”

***

That evening the Prime Minister sat before his bangers and mash. The sausages were especially good. He was dining late in the House of Commons Dining Room. He was enjoying the meal. No one in the kingdom had better chefs than Commons. And he liked it that the Dining Room always had a table reserved for the Prime Minister. Privileges of power, you know. After the day with all its troubles, it was good to relax with a cold beer and a meal.

Pip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law, approached the Prime Minister’s table.

“Prime Minister?” Pip said hesitantly.

The Prime Minister looked up from his happiness. He frowned. More troubles. Damn, more troubles. Why couldn’t a Prime Minister just this once eat his food in peace? Did Disraeli ever have time off? Or was the crowd constantly chasing him down for a favor?

“Yes?” The Prime Minister eyed the bean stalk before him.

Next Week: Ghosts on the Prowl

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott 7: If there’s an itch, it must be scratched

In which two gentlemen at The Club tete-a-tete. A bit of foreshadowing.

Previously Lord and Lady Dunnie’s honeymoon was a bust. And on Gibraltar too. Lord Dunnie collapsed in a bowl of soup.

Two middle-aged gentlemen, one a regular of The Club, one a not-so-regular, were enjoying the aroma of the cigars filling the Smoking Room. Regular spotted his irregular friend through the haze of the tobacco smoke.

“I say, Bottoms.” he said. “Is that you, old chap?” He approached the irregular gentleman.

“It most assuredly is, Topsy,” Bottoms said. They both smiled. The old friends were indeed glad to see each other.

“Why haven’t we seen you at The Club recently?”

“Why don’t we have a sit while we chat? My bottom is about to kill me.”

The gentlemen, whiskey snifters in hand, retired to two very large, comfortable chairs. Each chair was so large a gentleman could sink for days into its softness, only to have to come up for a spot of air before returning to the comfortable safety of the lushness.

“Don’t tell me you’re actually doing your job as Home Secretary?” Topsy adjusted himself into the chair and relaxed.

“One does take one’s work seriously.”

“You don’t say. Isn’t that what the Bureaucrats are for?”

“But you are the Chancellor of the Exchequer?” Bottoms said. “Aren’t you pursuing your duties?”

“I haven’t a head for numbers. Don’t you know that we’re here for Show. Prime Minister needed a very pretty face for the Dog and Pony Show that is Society. I was he, being the best looking member of Commons.”

“As you can tell, dear boy,” Bottoms went on, “my face couldn’t get me into anything. It’s been the hard work I do that has led to my advancement into the P.M.’s circles. And I know just who’s bottom to pucker up to.”

“So what have you had on your plate at Home?”

Bottoms’ voice dropped into a whisper. “It’s very hush-hush in a shush-shush sort of way.”

Topsy leaned over to hear his fellow Cabinet Member. “Yes?”

“We’re afraid the Wah-Wah League has been rehabilitated.”

“You don’t say, old sport.” Topsy always enjoyed a spot of gossip. “I thought the Tsar had put the blinkers on the thing.”

“Not so, old chap, not so. And these Wah-Wahs have recruited that Iranian Cubist fellow.” Bottoms’ voice was even softer than before.

Topsy couldn’t believe his good fortune. No one ever confided in him, being a pretty face and all. “Iranian Cubist fellow?”

“Yes, rumor has it that he is a cubist painter who failed at cubism. He couldn’t find his way out of a circle and into a square, you see. He was so hurt that he’s taken to assassination.”

“Do we have anything to worry about then?” Topysy’s voice showed the kind of concern he might have had if he looked in the mirror and saw a pimple to mire his perfect reflection.

“Our men are on the job and have it under complete control. But Portugal. That may be a different story.”

“Not Portugal.” Topsy was worried. After all, he remembered the prophetic monologues, The Prophecies of Madame Woozy-Oozy. He had been a long believer of the Woozy-Oozite Persuasion. But he did not want it to get out. It could be the downfall of him. There had been a ban on Oozy-Woozydom in Britain for quite some time.

“Yes, Portugal. But no worries. Home has a very competent man on it.”

Bottoms’ bottom had developed an itch. He did not want to stand up and scratch. That would be the embarrassment of embarrassments. Instead he took another drink of his whiskey and let his bottom sink in deeper. His posterior found a scratchy crack in the cushion. Ever so slowly he pursued his strategy of moving his rather large bottom against it. There was a struggle. Who would out in the end? The crack or the itch? Finally, the crack won much to Bottoms’ relief. He released an audible ahhhh.

Topsy noticed the ecstasy on his companion’s face but did not say anything, fearing the worst.

“By the by, old sport,” Bottoms changed the subject, “when are you to tie the proverbial knot?”

“Haven’t found the right young lady yet.” Topsy had been looking for years. Thus far, no eligible young woman seemed to come his way. At least, one that fit his criteria. He wanted someone with a certain amount of decorum–and cash–but was not better looking than he was. It would destroy his image.

“I think you may now have the perfect opportunity,” Bottoms offered, finishing his drink. “The Times says Lady P. P. has just become eligible. She could very well be the very one to give your swizzle some stick.”

“Yes,” Topsy said out loud. And then to himself, “Never happen. Way too pretty. Way too pretty.”

Next week: A body goes missing