Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 32: The Conspiracy to End All Conspiracies

Previously, Lady P P can’t remember a darn thing. And she’s completely lost any interest in fashion. Is there no justice?

The Ichabod Crane figure of Pip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law, said to the Prime Minister of England, “I have news.”

“Yes, I have heard the news,” the Prime Minister said, displeased that he was interrupted by this flunky from the Defense Staff’s Office. Hadn’t he told his Personal Secretary that he did not want to be interrupted? He had. What now? “Her ladyship, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott was drowned. Now the whole damned country from the queen on down to the sewage cleaners are upset about the commoner. Why everybody cares I do not know. You’d think she was Princess Di. Well, she was not. She was an American with a lot of cash who bought herself a title. That’s all. Now go away before I kick your skinny rear all the way to Whitehall. Leave me in peace.”

“But Prime Minister …,” Pip said.

“My God, man,” the Prime Minister said and wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Did you not hear me?”

The Prime Minister had raised his voice. He seldom raised his voice. It was the sound of not raising his voice that had gotten him where he was. It was the tone and the words he spoke. All the diners in the Commons Dining Room turned to see the Prime Minister stand and raise his fist. He was fighting mad. When he went fighting mad, he was dangerous. He knew how to use his fist. His mother’s brother MacFeeney, the brawler, had taught him the fine art of fisticuffs and his fisticuffian bro had fought the great Sullivan himself.

The Ichabod Crane of a Pip looked like he was about to run away. He was no boxer. The Prime Minister would make mincemeat out of him. Before P. M. could slam Pip’s pip of a face, Sir Myles stepped in front of Pip.

P. M. halted his fist’s progress and dropped his hand to his side. He smiled. He was always glad to see Sir Myles di Fussye-Pants. The two had been friends for quite some time. They had something important in common. The same woman. Two Ems had been P. M.’s mistress for several years. And she was Sir Myles’ very popular wife. As the Queen of London Society, she knew how to throw a party, and she definitely knew how to party like it was 1899.

“Our friend has some news,” Sir Myles said.

P. M. returned to his chair, then offered Sir Myles a seat at his table. He did not offer Pip a seat. It just wasn’t done. Allowing someone of his lowly station to sit at the same table as the P.M. Especially not in public. That would have been taking his liberalism too far.

“What is the news, Myles?” P. M. asked his friend.

“I haven’t been told, Argyle,” Sir Myles said. He was one of the few allowed to call Prime Minister Mactavish by his Christian name Argyle.

P. M. scratched his bald head. He looked over at Pip, standing uncomfortably nearby.

“Well, young man?” he demanded.

“Yes, sir,” Pip said, then recognized his mentor, “Sir Myles, I have news.”

“Well, get on with it, man,” P. M. demanded some more.

“Her ladyship, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott of Haggismarshe, is not dead.”

“What!” Both P. M. and Sir Myles stared up at Pip, their mouths dropping open when they heard the news.

“Would you repeat that?” Sir Myles said.

“Lady Wimpleseed Prissypott is not dead. This is why the Chief sent me over to interrupt your meal, Prime Minister.”

“What do you mean?” P. M. wanted to know. “Of course, she is dead. The Times has reported her death. Therefore, it must be true. The Times is never wrong.”

“I assure that The Times is incorrect, sir. They will have to offer a retraction.”

“Lower your voice, man,” Sir Myles said. “And have a seat. I am tired of seeing you standing there like some Ichabod Crane of a Flip, Pip. Sit and tell us what you know. But quietly, please.”

“With your permission, Prime Minister,” Pip said, taking his place in the seat across from the P. M. He knew where his bread was buttered and he had not been about to sit without his boss’s boss’s boss’s permission. That was no way to advance a career either in government or the law. One simply did not go against one’s betters.

“By the way, young man,” P. M. said, “By the way, who in Disraeli’s name are you?”

“I am Pip Flip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law. I am also a member of the Defense Staff.”

“Yes, I knew the old chip, Kip Flip, Pip,” P. M. said. “Used to be a mighty fine solicitor until he tripped over a law case. I think he defended your wife in a law suit once, did he not, Myles?”

“He must assuredly did,” Sir Myles said. “Did a damned good job of it too. Two Ems won her case and gathered more than the damages she originally asked. We had enough left over from that suit to pay for passage around the world. We’re planning on a trip next summer. A second honeymoon.”

The prime minister was ready to get down to business. He lowered his voice to a whisper and asked Flip, “So what do you know that I don’t know? What would cause The Times to retract their story? And keep your voice low please. We do not want a panic. The Times is never wrong. After all, it is The Times. You do know that?”

“Sir, I agree. The Times is never wrong,” Pip whispered. “And The Times is not wrong this time. They reported what had been reported to them on Gibraltar. So, you see it’s the second-hand smoke that always does the most harm.”

“Damn that fake news,” the P.M. spat out.

“Then she is not dead?” Sir Myles said.

“She is alive, Sir,” Pip said quietly. “One of our men saw her on the outskirts of Barcelona.”

“No?” P. M. said.

“She was in pretty bad shape when he saw her,” Pip reported. “She was dressed in a white underdress. Her hair was all caked with mud. She had no shoes on her feet.”

“Is he sure it was her?” Sir Myles intruded.

“Yes, sir. He is. The woman he saw had her ladyship’s bright red hair. And those amazing bosoms. There is no mistaking those bosoms. They are internationally famous bosoms, the best in the world today.”

“Tis true, Myles,” P. M. said. “I’ve seen those bosoms. They are some bosoms. Bosoms enough to unstiffen an Englishman’s stiff upper lip. I saw them at the wedding and I was in awe. It made me jealous of an English lord for the first and only time in my long career. There is no mistaking those bosoms. But where is she now? Does the man know?”

“He followed her,” Pip Flip continued. “She was taken in by a church. The Church of St. Teresa de Avila. She’s staying at the convent. The Sisters of St. Teresa de Avila are caring for her.”

The Prime Minister and Sir Myles breathed a sigh of relief. It was one heck of a sigh of relief that they both breathed. They were relieved.

Then they realized. Sir Myles was the first to whisper, “That means that The Times was wrong. It will have to retract. They will not retract. Because The Times is never wrong.”

“Her life is in danger?” P. M. said.

“There’s more, sir,” Pip whispered. “She has amnesia.”

The P.M. and Sir Myles leaned forward, their interest heightened by all the intrigue.

“And they are keeping her that way,” Pip said. “They have hired a quack of a doctor, a Doctor Qwackers. He has his ways to keeping her from remembering. He has done more damage to more people in the country of Spain than any other quack quack of his time. And there’s more.”

“There’s more?” Sir Myles and P. M. asked at the same time. They looked at each other. How could there be more? What more could there be?

“Of course, there’s more,” P.M. said. “There’s always more. Even when there’s no more, there’s more. Thanks to that blasted Oliver Twist.”

“Yes, sir,” Pip said to the Prime Minister. “The Church of St. Teresa de Avila in Barcelona is the headquarters of the Wah Wah League.”

“What?” both his listeners spoke at the same time again.

“It’s the headquarters of the Wah Wah League?” P. M. asked. “Could you repeat that?”

“The Church of St. Teresa de Avila is the headquarters of the Wah Wah League.”

“We heard you the first time,” P. M. said.

“You said to repeat it,” Pip said. “I was responding to your request, sir.”

“I know what I said,” P. M. said.

“Argyle,” Sir Myles said quietly, “you do know how to turn a phrase.”

“Thank you, Myles. You are very kind. So how do we go forward now.”

“That is why I am here,” Pip said. “Chief and I are the only ones who have this information. And the man on the ground, of course. Cdmr. Thomas Edward Button. He’s known within the department as Double Oh Seven Button-Button.”

“Hmmmmn,” P. M. hemmed. “Button-Button, you say?”

“Yes, sir. I do say,” Pip said, “and there’s one more thing.”

“That figures,” P. M. said. “There’s always another thing. What now?”

The Times has contacted us to have our man take care of her ladyship. The Times already has this information. Don’t know how they got it but they do.”

“It’s the leaks,” Sir Myles commented. “There’s always a trump full of leaks.”

“Don’t you mean ‘trunkful of leaks’?” P.M. asked.

“That too,” Sir Myles said.

“In these kinds of things,” Pip continued, “we are pretty thorough. But somebody on the Defense Staff has dropped his pants. I think it’s the Chief. But I am not sure. I think they’ve offered him a substantial retirement. Maybe even a Chairman of the Bored.”

“So why is the Chief,” P. M. asked, “passing this information on to me?”

“He isn’t, sir,” Pip said. “I am doing this on my own initiative.”

“My, my,” Sir Myles said. “This is one hell of a horns of a dilemma. Two Ems would love this. She loves a good puzzle. Always solving those ‘Where’s Waldo’ things.”

The Prime Minister’s wheels had started turning all this over in his mind.

“Has Chief done anything yet?” he asked Pip.

“He has contacted Button-Button to do as The Times asked.”

“Sounds like,” Sir Myles said, “whatever you choose to do, you had better do quickly. Are you going to let this Button-Button fellow go through with this?”

“Double Oh is to do nothing,” Pip said. “He’s to allow the Wah Wah League take care of the problem. Then The Times will be off the hook. The story that her ladyship is dead will be true. But there is plans on the part of the Defense Secretary to take out the Wah Wahs in their headquarters. They plan to send in Special Forces and bomb the place. When it’s over, everybody in that church and convent will be dead. Double Oh is to do something only if her ladyship escapes. He is to transport her to the Falklands and leave her to the sheep.”

“They do have some vicious woman-eating sheep in the Falklands too,” Sir Myles said. ‘So, Pip, what is in it for you? Why are you not going along with the program?”

Pip said. “I figured that if I kiss the Prime Minister’s bottom, and a mighty fine bottom it is, si–”

“Why thank you, young man,” the P.M. smiled.

“–I could advance.”

“I must say,” P. M. said, “that you are a damned good bottom kisser. Almost as good as I used to be before I had a bottom to kiss.” He was starting to take a liking to this Pip fellow. Kip Flip, the Flip he was the chip off of, had instructed his son well in the art of Machiavellian Machevellianness. “So, what are your plans, Pip?”

“The Chief wants me to go over to Spain and make sure that it’s all going according to plan. I am to stay at the consul in Barcelona. I will be under the direction of the British ambassador.”

“Our ambassador to Spain?” Sir Myles wanted to know.

“Yes,” Pip said.

“This gets more interesting as it goes along,” Sir Myles said.

“This means,” P. M. said, “that I can’t trust anyone in my own government.”

“I am afraid so, Sir,” Pip said. “It was that briefing with the Queen. His lordship, the Lord of the Gartery, reported to Lords what happened. Lords is now conspiring to put their own man in your place.”

The Times has wanted to see you sacked,” the Prime Minister’s good friend said, “for a very long time. Seems now they have the opportunity.” He turned to Pip and asked, “Who is the fool they are planning to replace Argyle with?”

“You are, sir,” Pip said to Sir Myles.

Next Week, Back to the Convent

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