Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 37: Prime Minister Executes His Plan

Previous, the Prime Minister met with the Queen. 

The Prime Minister was in the loveliest of moods as he stepped into his carriage to return to Number 10. The ride from Buckingham Palace back to his residence was one of the happiest he had ever made. Usually he was in a foul mood. The audiences with Her Majesty had always gone at the very least not well. This one had gone extraordinary well. Now all he had to do was implement the plan he, Pip and Sir Myles had worked out in secret the last evening at the Prime Minister’s Table in the Commons Diner.

For an autumn day, the sun was especially warm, shining down its favoritism upon him. He drove through St. James Park and watched the pelicans. The lake was an especially lovely shade of blue that autumn day as his carriage made its way down the Mall and past Whitehall and on.

As his carriage arrived at Number 10, Sir Myles was waiting for him at the door. “Are they all in there?” he asked.

“They are indeed, Argyle,” Sir Myles said, shaking his friend’s hand. “They are indeed. Did Her Majesty agree to The Plan?”

“She did. Every last line of it. She thinks it is a great strategy. And I am now completely in her favor. So, let’s go and do our dirty work. I am going to enjoy this.”

The Prime Minister, followed by Sir Myles, walked into his Cabinet Room. All his ministers stood.

“Prime Minister, what is he doing here?” the Chief of Defense Staff demanded.

“Sit, gentlemen,” the Prime Minister said. “I most assuredly am going to sit. I hate to do dirty work standing.”

His Cabinet took their places at the big round wooden table that some attributed to going back to the Round Table at Camelot. The men were very unsettled. What was going on?

“Prime Minister, I asked you a question?” the Chief of Defense Staff demanded a second time, gesturing toward Sir Myles sitting at the Prime Minister’s side.

“Oh, Sir Myles has a new portfolio,” the Prime Minister said, his hands resting peacefully on the round table made of sturdy oak. “He will be assuming the duties of the Defense Ministry and the Defense Staff. He will be both the Defense Secretary and the Chief of the Defense Staff.”

The Cabinet was stunned.

“What? You can’t do that, Argyle Mactavish,” the Defense Secretary protested.

“That’s right,” the Chief of the Defense Staff joined in. “Your government will fall if you lose our support.”
“’Tis true,” Prime Minister said. “My government will fall. But you know what? You are both sacked. And so are the rest of you. You have plotted against my government for the last time. I demanded your loyalty and you gave me treason. Tomorrow morning Her Majesty will announce the dissolution of Parliament and the call for new elections.”

“Her Majesty can’t do that,” the Chancellor of the Exchequer stood up and shouted. “She does not have the power. The public will go mad.”

“Oh, but she does have the power,” the Prime Minister said smiling. “She has not exercised that power in many years. We are, after all, a constitutional monarchy, and Her Majesty is still the Head of State.”

“The public won’t stand for it,” the Chancellor sat back down. “Besides you need our support to win an election. Without it, you are a done-for.”

“I’m afraid, Thurston,” the Prime Minister addressed his Chancellor of the Exchequer directly, “that you will be the done-for. When the public finds out what you had in store for Lady Wimpleseed Prissypott, how you plotted to take her life, you gentlemen will be the done-fors.”

“But you can’t prove that,” the Defense Secretary interjected.

“Oh, yes, I can, Charles.” The Prime Minister reached down into his briefcase and pulled out several cables addressed to the British Ambassador in Spain. They instructed him to instruct 007 James Bond to carry out the order of The Times to make her ladyship disappear. One way or another.

“You bastard,” the Personal Assistant to the Prime Minister said. “How dare you?”

“No, P. A., how dare you? So, gentlemen, you have till midnight to have your desks cleaned out. We, the queen and I, are making a clean sweep. Tomorrow is about to be a new day.”

Each of the Cabinet members stood and marched out the door. The Home Secretary stopped and turned back to the Prime Minister. “I am sorry, Argyle,” he said. There were tears in his eyes. “The devil made me do it. And you know what a taskmaster he can be.”

“Holsteen, you should have listened,” the Prime Minister said to his former friend, “to the angels of your better nature. For your own good and for the good of your country.”

The Personal Assistant was the last to leave. “Prime Minister, I promise you that you will regret this,” he said, glaring at his former boss. “I promise you that. The Times will destroy you.”

“P. A., before it’s over,” Sir Myles said on behalf of his friend, “The Times will no longer be The Times. I assure you of that.”

Next week, To Rescue or Not to Rescue.

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 36: The Prime Minister Prime Ministering

Previously, a ghostly rebellion.

Her Imperial Majesty, the Empress of India, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Egypt and Lots-of-Other-Places, Queen Victoria’s face was serene, and at peace. She sat in her very large queen chair, her throne if you will. She sat in the Queen’s Audience Chamber in one of her many long black mourning dresses with their white lace, her white hair done up in a large bun the way she liked. Across her lap lay the edge of a large fabric the size of the Bayeux. It was one the queen had been knitting since the first anniversary of her husband Albert’s death. It contained many scenes from his life.

At the center of the fabric was a portrait of a handsome vigorous Albert. Scenes from his life circled that portrait, scenes of Albert hunting, Albert teaching, Albert riding, Albert freeing slaves, Albert advising his queen and his wife in manners of state, Albert being as handsome as Albert could be. The section she was working on this day was Prince Albert and the Great Exhibition of 1851. Just looking at her soul mate, though only a portrait and not the real thing, still gave her goosebumplings.

The look on Her Majesty’s face was one of reliving those days some thirty-odd years earlier. Of late, she had been working very hard to finish the fabric that had required most of her life since. She wanted it completed before her death, and she had come to realize she did not have that many more years to spare.

The queen looked up at the door of her Audience Chamber. The Prime Minster stood waiting for her to recognize his presence.

“Prime Minister, why do you disturb us in our time of respite? We thought we were quite clear. We do not wish to see the Prime Minister again. You can confer with our Personal Adjutant if you desire to convey a matter to Her Majesty.”

“Yes, Your Majesty. I understand. But your Personal Adjutant thought this should be a matter for Her Majesty’s ears. I have news of the gravest of matters. It is a matter that only Your Majesty can address. No one else.” The Prime Minister was making every effort to salve the queen’s ego and hoping his strategy worked.

“Dear Bertie is dead, and you have news. What news can be more disturbing than the death of our beloved husband?”

“None, Your Majesty, none. The thing is that I have good news and bad news.”

“Good news? Yes, we could use some good news. Autumn is always in need of good news. What is your good news, Prime Minister.”

“Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott of Haggismarshe is alive.”

“That is not what The Times has reported. And you must know that The Times never reports anything falsely. If The Times reports it, it is not fake news. It must be true.”

“I agree,” the Prime Minister said. “May I approach Your Majesty’s Person and relay the full details?”

“Well, if you must, you must,” the queen said impatiently. This was nothing new. She was always impatient with prime ministers. They were the bane of her existence, the sore tooth she never seemed able to pull. All but one that is. His name was Benjamin Disraeli. The worst of the bunch had been Gladstone.

This Argyle Mactavish was no better or worse than the rest of the lot. So, she supposed she could be patient. But he had better hurry. She had more important things to do, like knitting. And oh, she must do some gardening and possibly some riding. Yes, riding with the memory of John Brown at her side was always an enjoyable experience for the elderly queen, none more enjoyable. “But please do not push my patience. I have the work of state to do as you must know.” Her head pointed toward the fabric on her lap.
The Prime Minister stepped over to her side, careful not to step on the large fabric spread out on the floor in front of her person.

“I too thought the news of her ladyship was wrong. That I was being given hopeful news that would later turn into nothing but a rumor. But I have an eyewitness. One in our service in Spain.”

“What does Spain and those Spaniards have to do with Lady Marye Caterina?” Her Majesty wanted to know. Her curiosity was beginning to arise. She had started to listen to the Prime Minister’s news. She continued her knitting but her knitting had slowed to a snail’s pace.

The Prime Minister took a position, sitting down on the carpet beside his queen’s chair. “Your Majesty, it seems that when the S. S. Twit went down, her ladyship somehow escaped. Our investigations have revealed that she is a very good swimmer. A very good swimmer indeed. She was able to swim to the coast of Spain, just south of Barcelona. Evidently, she wandered into the district of Sant Monjuic. There she was taken in by a priest. She is resting comfortably in a convent. But my understanding is that she has amnesia, Your Majesty.”

“Amnesia?” The queen’s interest was indeed perked up. “Is she in good health? We do hope she is in good health.”

“She is. But, Your Majesty, her life is in great danger. From two sources.”

“No, Prime Minister, tell me it isn’t so. The death of Little Nell and now this. I don’t think my heart can take it.”

“But it is, Your Majesty. I am afraid it is. The church and the convent she is staying at is the headquarters of the Wah Wah League. There are those in our government who want to take her out. Otherwise she will become a bargaining chip for that dastardly piece of barbarism that the League is.”

“Can you save her ladyship. Oh, I do hope so.”

“We do have a plan.”

“Oh, goody two shoes.”

“There is a second problem,” the Prime Minister continued. “It is The Times. Even if we save her, The Times will deny her existence and try to make her disappear. They cannot allow their reputation to be burnished that way. They have infiltrated my government at every level and are out to destroy any effort I might make to save her ladyship. And Lords is back at its old tricks, trying to take her title and her lands should she return. Of course, when it comes to Lords, there is hope.”

“Hope, Prime Minister?” Her Majesty asked. What hope could there be? For years, the queen had allowed Lords to run the show. Until now, they had never asserted their power over the queen’s desire. The queen had sent down messages to the Lords that she was interested in the welfare of Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott of Haggismarshe. American-born or not, her ladyship was still one of her subjects. And she, the queen, was the Mother of All Her People. How dare Lords challenge her prerogative. They would regret this.

“Westminster is surrounded by the Gathering of Ghosts. The lords of Lords can neither leave nor enter. They are trapped, and they don’t have a quorum to do their business. All sorts of mischief has broken out down there. The ghosts throughout the realm have gathered in favor of her ladyship. But you know how stubborn Lords can be. Ghosts or no ghosts, they will not give in easily.”

“So, what do you intend to do?”

“I need your help, Your Majesty.”

“How can a weak old woman such as ourself help?” Her Imperial Highness desired to know.

“You can dissolve Commons and call for new elections.”

“But it isn’t done, Prime Minister. You know that. The House of Commons would be wailing about interference from the throne. You know yourself that Commons is very protective of its prerogatives.”

“I do indeed, Your Majesty,” the Prime Minister interjected. “I do indeed. But, when Your Majesty acts in concert with my government, it will not be thought of as interference. It will be thought of as support against the overthrow of Commons by the Lords. Lords plans to install its own government with Sir Myles di Fussye-Pants at its head. Thank God, I have Sir Myles at my side. Lords thought they had him in the palm of their hands. After all, he comes from one of the oldest families in the realm. But he is a very independent thinker. Nothing could gladden him more than the defeat of this plan of Lords.”

“Why does Sir Myles support you, Prime Minister?” the queen wanted to know.

“He finds all this conspiracy against her ladyship distasteful. As you know, he has an American wife, the former EmmiliaLouise Muddytenstein-in-the-Alps. And he is allied with a number of aristocracy with foreign wives. If Lords pulls this off, that will be the end of aristocratic marriages to wealth. No wealthy American worth her salt will marry an English aristocrat without access to his title. Sir Myles will be supporting the new elections.”

“I certainly don’t understand why Lords has gone down this suicidal path,” the queen commented.

“It does seem like suicide, Your Majesty. That is for sure. But they are doing it in the name of Tradition. They don’t want to see the country sold off to foreigners.”

“I see, Prime Minister. I do see. Yes, you have our support. I will have the Lord Chamberlain draw up the papers immediately.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” the Prime Minister said.

“No, Prime Minister,” the queen said. “Thank you.”

Then Her Imperial Majesty, the Empress of India, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Egypt and Lots-of-Other-Places, Queen Victoria did something extraordinary. She stood up. She never stood up for a prime minister. With one exception, of course. That exception being Benjamin Disraeli whom she loved as she loved one of her children. The queen stood up for Argyle Mactavish. She gave him her hand to kiss. He kissed it and rose at her insistence.

“Now, Your Majesty, I must return to Number 10. I have some firings that are in order.” He bowed and backed out of the Audience Chamber.

Next Week, the Prime Minister does his thing.

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

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 19: Revolutions stirring

Previously Quills returned with a vengeance.

What do ghosts do while their mistress is on holiday? On the Haggismarshe Estate, it was summer, one of the most beautiful in years. The trees were filling out with their fruit. The planted crops were exactly where planted crops were supposed to be. The rain came when the rain was supposed to.

The staff were at their finest. The Manor House was spotless, a sparkling clean. Everything was prepared for her ladyship’s return whenever she desired. She had been a relief from the old fuddy-duddy Lord Dunnville Percival Wimpleseed-Prissypott. At first, they thought she would be a disaster. Two old pissy-pots instead of one. When they first learned that she was American, all had frowned. Even the seldom-frowning butler, Charles, frowned. Americans could be such savages.

Then they met her ladyship. They were duly impressed. She was young, vibrant, alive and breathing. The alive-and-breathing part impressed them the most. They genuinely liked her ladyship and were sad for her when she moped around the estate after old fuddy’s demise. When she left to go abroad, they were glad. Not for their sake, but for hers. It just wasn’t natural to have all that money and titles and be so melancholy. The death of old Wimpleseed-Prissypott must have been hard on the young bride. Her ladyship ought to have some fun.

For the ghost, Benjamin Patrick Nutt, her ladyship was an even more glorious experience. An American. Finally a fellow countryman, or in her case, countrywoman. So that summer he came out of his normal dingy, damp places. He’d even taken to having a spot of ghostly tea with the other two manor house ghosts, Earl Grey Wimpleseed and Sir Long John Longjohn Prissypott. During one of their ghostly teas, B. P. commented, “I miss those mighty fine bosoms. Mighty fine bosoms indeed.” The other two ghosts agreed.

When B. P. walked the halls, he would spring a bright “Howdy” on any human he came into contact with. It was not a boo-ish howdy or a howlingish howdy, rather the kind of howdy you say if you are in the peak of happiness. As he was. Unbelievably happy. The summer evenings after tea he went out on the Manor House lawn and lay in the hammock and dreamed of her ladyship’s return.

Then late one afternoon, a rider for the Headless Horseman Post Service came with the mail. To say that Benjamin Patrick Nutt, Earl Grey Wimpleseed and Sir Long John Longjohn Prissypott were surprised to see Headless would be an understatement. There had been no ghostly communication between Haggismarshe’s ghosts and the rest of the ghost world in forty or fifty years. The last mail they received had been about the conversion of Scrooge. The three had been happy about that. They had known how much it meant to the Marleys.

Headless approached the three as they were finishing their afternoon tea. He handed B. P. a letter. It was from Giles Gilesworth, the limping ghost butler at the Times. Ghosts did not receive letters from Giles unless the news was exceedingly disturbing. One could see the glee on Giles’ face as he wrote the letter. It had been such a long time since he had had anything of consequence to communicate to the English Ghost World. He felt like a weatherman during a hurricane. “I am sorry to report how bad the hurricane is. But I have a job to do. And, oh yes, I have a job.”

B. P. cut the seal and opened the letter. He read:

“I am so sorry to disturb you in your summer idyll. But I thought it urgent to communicate that the House of Lords is considering revoking Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott’s title and lands. They feel that the marriage was never consummated and should be annulled. But all is not hopeless. She has allies in the Lords and Her Majesty, the Queen, has taken an interest. This has been reported to me by the House of Lords’ very own ghost, Gregory of Hecklestag. Giles, ‘The Times’.”

The American ghost read the communiqué a second time. A frown crossed what existed of his face. Earl Grey Wimpleseed and Sir Long John Longjohn Prissypott each read it aloud. They were all trying to absorb the disturbing news. It was not that disturbing to Earl Grey and Sir Long John but they were distressed about their friend. Before the news, they had never seen B.P. in such a happy state. Now this news. What were they going to do?

***

No one called the Prime Minister Irving from Swirving any longer. No one called the Prime Minister four eyes any longer. No one called the Prime Minister the little man any longer. No one called the Prime Minister short cakes either. He was called Prime Minister or the PM for short.

A man of the people, he had come by his power and position the hard way. He had earned it, rising through the party ranks rung by rung. He began life as an orphan like Oliver Twist. Early on, he realized that he was either going to be condemned to a life of pickpocketry and theft or he would have to take his fate into his own hands and become a politician. He chose the second.

And now all that he had achieved was at risk. All because of some aristocrat called Wimpleseed-Prissypott. My God, the country seemed overrun by the titled breed. They grew like weeds. What must Lords be thinking to get the Queen all in a tizzy? This did not look good.

The Prime Minister’s carriage pulled up at Number 10. He stepped out and headed to the door. His Personal Secretary was waiting in his office.

“Prime Minister,” the P. S. said as the P. M. entered his office. “You look white as a ghost. What happened?”

The Prime Minister poured himself a good stiff drink, drank it and then poured another. “The Lords have gone and done it.”

“Done what, sir?”

He downed the second drink, then he sat down on the couch in the middle of the room.

“I don’t know. But those nincompoops are up to some skullduggery or other. That’s what you have to find out, P. S. We have to get control of this thing or it will be the end of us. Not only me. The Party as well.”

“But the Queen?” P. S. said.

“Yes, the Queen. Wales has gotten the old bitty in a tizzy about something or other that the Lords is up to. All I know is that it affects a Prissypott.”

“What is a Wissywott?”

“It’s a Prissypott. You need to go up to Lords and take a bit of a look around. See what our spies have to say.”

“Sir, did you get a chance to talk to Her Majesty about that other matter we discussed?”

“No, I didn’t get past this Prissypott matter.”

“The Duke of Pimpletonia said that it was urgent that Her Majesty be informed. Her life could very well be in danger.”

Next Week All is not well aboard the S. S. Twit