Happy Christmas from Mottley and Me!

15244623854_836518a177_kI made you a prezzie!

A Christmas confection featuring youthful shenanigans from our favorite detective, with a fluffy topping of seasonal cheer:

Mister Mottley Cooks His Goose.

Enjoy the story, and enjoy your holidays!






From Tommy Marchand to James Ayckbourne

December 21, 1924

Losedon Park, Elmsford


Staying at school over hols sounds jolly. There is nobody here but the babies next door and some girls down the hill. There is some good chaps in the village but Isobel says I’m not to play with village boys.

Here is my lizard Alfie. He is dead. You can keep him.

Sinserly yours


* * * * *

Lord Edmund Mottley to Lady Frances Mottley

December 21, 1924

Penrith, Cumberland

Dearest Frank,

If, Heaven forfend, you should ever need to flee opprobrium and hide yourself in a rustic Eden to forget your cares betimes, let me heartily recommend you avoid the Lake District in winter. I heard the sun came out yesterday, but I missed it whilst tying my shoes. Though the area has its advantages for those who wish to drown themselves – there being an approximately equal amount of water in the sky as in the Lakes – it’s too damn cold to go outside.

In any event, Happy Christmas and all that rot, and you’ll never imagine what Pater has given me for a present. I shan’t say he’s forgiven me yet for being sent down from St. John’s, but he has taken steps to, as he so charmingly puts it, “keep me out of trouble.” Bless him, he may as well try to keep the footmen out of the brandy, but I thought of the landlady’s cooking at this so-called hotel, and merely said ‘thank you’.

It seems Pater’s old friend Sir Aubrey Marchand was responsible for exposing the infamous “Zinoviev letter” – you know, that Bolshevist conspiracy scandal that precipitated the election this fall. Well, he’s just been appointed something frightfully high-up in the War Office by the new government coming in. I’m to be sent round on appro. for the Intelligence division. Pater’s reasoning being, that if I’m determined to stick my nose into everything and ask a lot of damfool questions instead of minding my studies, I might as well do it for King and Country, don’t you know? Since Pater can’t stand the sight of me right now, I’m to spend Christmas with Sir Aubrey and try to appear useful. Wish me luck.

I’m sure you will spend your Christmas appearing decorative, as always. Your present is enclosed. Since you deferred my gift on the grounds that you haven’t got a bean, I give you my last one. I have named it Cyril. Perhaps you could plant it outside your window on Christmas Eve and climb up to get the Golden Goose.

Please kick Harold for me, just on principle, and say ‘hello’ to George and Bunny if you see them.

Yours in ignominy,


* * * * *

It was cozy behind the settee. You were more or less wedged between the fireplace and the radiator-box. The crack between the seat and the back gave an excellent vantage-point of the door and the piano-bench. People naturally sat at the piano or near it. Nobody sat on the awkward little antique settee unless they had to. Tommy congratulated himself on a perfect strategic position.

Somewhere upstairs a high, clear voice called “Tommy!”

“Shh, Tug,” Tommy admonished. Tug thumped his tail and beamed up at Tommy, shuffling his front paws a bit closer to his boy. Tug being imaginary, the thump and the shuffle were as silent as a master spy-catcher could wish.

The door opened and his stepmother Isobel led a fair-haired young man into the room. “I hear you are musical, Lord Edmund. I thought you might not mind waiting in the music room,” she said. “Sir Aubrey will be along shortly.”

“Oh, rather! I mean, rather not. Erm…thank you, Lady Marchand. I say, is that a Bechstein?”

“Do you play?” Isobel’s long, beringed hands fluttered an invitation.

The young man hitched up his flannels and plunked down on the bench. His hands danced across the keyboard in a thrilling run. Tommy put out a warning hand to Tug, who was prone to get over-excited by music.

“Isobel!” a woman’s voice called from the corridor. “Is that you? I thought you loathed Rachmaninov?”

The speaker rounded the doorway. She was a hatchet-faced stump of a thing in tweed trousers. Her dark hair, showing early greys, was cropped in close curls. Mottley jumped up.

Through the window, a voice drifted: “Tom-my?”

“Alvina,” said Isobel, “This is Lord Edmund Mottley, a guest of Aubrey’s. Lord Edmund, this is my old friend, Alvina Whitely.”

Miss Whitely did not offer her hand. Instead, she whipped out a cigarette-case. “Correspondent, Sunday Journal. Isobel loathes Rachmaninov.” She lit her gasper.

“Lord Edmund, you play very nicely,” Isobel countered.

Mottley backed away from the piano. “I’m more a woodwind man, myself.”

“Isobel,” said Miss Whitely, “About that matter we discussed…”

Isobel turned swiftly. Tommy thought her back looked stiff and funny. “Yes, of course. Would you excuse me, Lord Edmund?” She shooed Miss Whitely from the room.

Mottley blew out a big breath and flopped back onto the piano-bench. Almost before he touched the cushion, a young lady bustled in, clad in sensible tweeds and a fuzzy cardigan, and he was on his feet again.

“Ah!” cried the young lady. “I beg your pardon. I seem to have lost my charge.”

“Would that be Tommy?”asked Mottley.

She gave one rueful laugh. “It would.”

Mottley stepped closer to her, his back to the piano, drawing her gaze away from the fireplace. “Edmund Mottley, by the way.”

“Trudy Finley.” She shook hands. “You’re staying for Christmas, I believe.”

“Yes, it was very kind of Sir Aubrey to invite me.”

Miss Finley put both hands in the pockets of her cardigan.”I can tell you, he’s very fair as an employer. Generous. Though quite set in his own ideas.”

“Oh, well. Eh,…thank you.”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” Miss Finley put a hand to her mouth. “I understood you were here about a position in Sir Aubrey’s department.”

“Oh, quite right! No, no offense taken. It’s just…ha!” He flushed to the roots of his hair. “I’ve never had a job before.”

“Oh.” Miss Finley looked grave. “Well, have you a favorite schoolmaster? One you really liked and wanted to think well of you?”

“Yes…” Mottley drew out his answer.

“Just pretend Sir Aubrey is him. Don’t worry.” She nodded. “It will be all right.”

“Thank you.” Mottley smiled. His face had been nothing much to notice before. Now, it seemed to catch the watery December sunshine and bounce it round the room like a reflecting-pool. A twinkle changed his grey eyes from slate to Carrara marble.

Miss Finley smiled back, and Tommy’s jaw dropped. This stranger must be a magician. Somehow he’d made Miss Finley pretty.

He was so stunned by this idea that he barely noticed her leaving. The man called Mottley sauntered over to the settee and sat down in one corner, stretching his legs across the seat. He pulled some pegs of wood from his pockets and fitted them together, one at a time.

“She’s gone. You can come out, now.”

“Awwww,” a small voice protested behind the settee. A large blue eye appeared behind Mottley’s left knee. “How did you know I was here?”

“You have got a shadow, you know.”

Tommy’s tousled head popped over the back of the settee, closely followed by the rest of him as he clambered out of his hiding-place. “I’m Tommy Marchand.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

“Are you a spy?”

“What sort of spy would answer that?” Mottley put the wooden instrument to his lips and played a snatch of the Rachmaninov in a high, sharp whistle.

Tommy pondered this answer. He nodded slowly. “Father’s got a spy here. A real Bolshie.”


“Oh, yes. He calls himself a Professor, but he’s really a spy. Tug pegged him at once.”


“My dog. He always knows who’s nice and who isn’t.”

“Does this professor do anything…spylike? Spy-ish? Spysome?”

Tommy frowned. “Spysome sounds like cooking. And yes, he does. He’s always getting foreign letters, and he won’t put his own out on the hall table to post – he carries them to the village. Besides, he’s always hanging about Father’s study.”


“He makes it look like he’s waiting for Father, but I reckon he’s waiting to find it unlocked when Father’s gone.”


“So I always make sure he knows we’re watching, me and Tug. Shhhhh!”

The door swung open. A head of wavy dark hair popped round it, accompanied by mournful brown eyes, Slavic cheekbones and a full mouth.

Mottley stood. “Hallo.”

The newcomer edged into the room. “Ah, Sir Aubrey…you have seen him?”

“‘Fraid not, just arrived myself. Edmund Mottley.”

“Raznetsky.” The Russian accent was deep. “Pardon … I go seek him.”

“Here I am, Professor.” A middle-aged man of extreme height and elegance strode into the music-room. “And you must be Lord Edmund. So sorry to keep you, I had Whitehall on the ‘phone.”

“Not at all, sir.” Mottley shook hands and flashed his best new-boy smile.

“Come along then, both of you. I’d like a word before dinner.” Sir Aubrey swept them both out in his wake. Mottley looked back on the threshold. Tommy stood on the settee, gesticulating wildly. With appropriate pantomime, he mouthed the word, bomb.

* * * * *

Sir Aubrey Marchand to the Director of Military Operations and Intelligence

December 22, 1924

Losedon Park, Elmsford

Dear John:

Thank you for your memorandum of the 18th inst. I agree that the interception of the Zinoviev letter was a stroke of good fortune both practically and politically, but I cannot take credit for that. Our man in Riga has cultivated his Latvian assets for years, and to great advantage. However, I assure you that Bolshevist agitation in this country did not end with the election! We can all sleep sounder with strong and right-thinking leadership in place, but we cannot afford to let our guard down entirely.

For example, I have with me this week Prof. Raznetsky, formerly of the Imperial Academy of Chemistry in St. Petersburg. He has been working for nearly ten years on chemical countermeasures to chlorine and phosgene. Reportedly, Rasnetsky has developed an airborne compound that reacts with the poison gases, causing them to precipitate as a harmless powder. I needn’t elaborate to you on the tactical importance of such a substance. (How is David doing? Is his new treatment helping at all?)

The Professor has so far refused to confirm that his compound exists, much less entrust us with the formula. His background would suggest a lack of sympathy with the current Russian regime, but there are several known Communists in the circle of expatriates and academics with whom he consorts.

Our only defense against large-scale chemical warfare is the threat of equal retaliation. It is vital that Soviet Russia should not acquire the Raznetsky formula. I shall do everything in my power to convince the Professor that his adopted homeland deserves his trust, and would appreciate any advice or assistance you may have in securing his confidence.

With warmest regards to Lillian and David and a Happy Christmas to you,

L. Marchand

* * * * *

From Tommy Marchand to James Ayckbourne

December 22, 1924

Losedon Park, Elmsford


We have a lot of Christmas guests. One is a Professor from Russia, Cook says he is a real Bolshie. I am looking out for Bombs. Isobel has a friend called Miss Whitely who writes for a newspaper. She wears trousers and smokes a lot.

There is also a chap called Motly who is funny and plays a queer flute called an obo. He is all right.

Motly helped me put a bucket of pond water over Finley’s door but he must have got it wrong because when she came in it got him all wet instead of her. She laughed for a long time and then went to see Father.

Will you have a stocking? Write back and tell me what you get.

with warmest Regards I remain

Yours Faithfully

Thomas Marchand

* * * * *

Alvina Whitely to Gerald Robinson


December 22, 1924


Poor old Isobel is in such a state, and poor me, for she’s leading me a merry dance. One minute she says she will, and then she won’t. It’s perfectly obvious what she wants to do – what she needs to do, but she can’t bring herself to the point.

I’ve told her over and over that the best thing for everyone is to get it over with, come clean and make a break. Poor dear, she somehow thinks if she only worries herself sick enough, she can worry out a way to please me, and Aubrey, and her own conscience, all at the same time.

I’ve offered to step in and do it for her, but she protests – quite rightly, I suppose – that I run more of a risk. If it all goes sideways, at least Aubrey is more likely to be civilized to her.

It really needn’t be so complicated, but she’s terrified of being found out. I reminded her it will all come out eventually, but she claims she just isn’t ready to cut ties. If only she weren’t so nervous!

I’ve never had much sympathy for you lot before, but now I’m beginning to understand. It makes me want to hitch up my braces and say, “Tchah, Women!”

Wish me luck,


* * * * *

The main advantage of afternoon tea, is a toasted muffin with plenty of butter. The second-best advantage, for a master spycatcher, is the opportunity to keep one’s suspect under close observation. Tommy took up his post next to Mottley, who gallantly wielded the toasting-fork. With his back to the fire and Tug at his feet, Tommy kept his eyes glued to Professor Raznetsky.

He watched Raznetsky nod to Isobel as she passed him a cup of tea. He watched Raznetsky grunt and shake his head when Alvina Whitely offered him the sugar. He watched Raznetsky smile at Miss Finley when she brought him a toasted muffin. When Raznetsky noticed something white on the floor between his shoes, and placed his foot over it with a casual air, Tommy nudged Mottley so hard he nearly dropped a slice of perfectly-done toast into the flames.

Tommy stared so hard at Raznetsky, that he never noticed Isobel start and flush at the folded paper on her saucer; or Miss Finley linger behind a certain chair. Mottley, however, did.

* * * * *

From Ermintrude Finley



Don’t be cross with me for writing, but we never seem to be alone! Between little Tommy roaming everywhere, and the house full of people, I feel that we’re constantly being watched. I burnt your note just as you said, and I will be ready on the night. You understand, I must finish my work here as honorably as I can, and then I’ll join you in London after the balloon goes up.

Wait for me,


* * * * *

The problem with key-holes is, of course, the size. A tiny sliver of a large room really doesn’t tell you much, unless someone happens to be doing something interesting in just the right spot. Professor Raznetsky was sitting in just the right spot, but he wasn’t doing anything interesting.

“Down, Tug!” whispered Tommy. Tug, impatient, was jumping on his legs. “Bad dog! Lie down.”

Sir Aubrey was saying something long and complicated. The Professor nodded. Why would Father let the Bolshie Professor into his study at all? Didn’t he understand what a terrible risk he was running?

“I say, old thing –” Mottley’s voice nearly sent Tommy headfirst into the door. Tommy whirled on him and held up a finger. Shush. “Ought you to be doing that?” Mottley went on, quieter.

Tommy stepped back from the door and pointed at the key-hole. Mottley peered through. Raznetsky shifted in his seat and glowered at the floor. Whatever Sir Aubrey was saying to him, he didn’t like it. He ran his hands through his thick, dark hair and leaned heavily on his elbows. When Sir Aubrey’s voice ceased, Raznetsky nodded. He drew a small notebook from his breast-pocket and waggled it at Sir Aubrey. “This is as far as I go.” He leaned forward over the desk, and disappeared from view.

Rapid footsteps clacked down the corridor. Tommy grabbed Mottley’s arm and dragged him around the corner. They peeped out to watch Miss Finley rap on the study door, and walk straight in without waiting for an answer. Sir Aubrey’s voice erupted from inside, with exclamations in high and low counterpoint. The rattle of the door-handle made them dive for cover again. Raznetsky, moving fast, nearly trod on Mottley, who immedately turned his attention to the floorboards.

“I don’t think it’s here, Tommy. Perhaps you dropped it outside,” he said.

“Or perhaps Tug took it,” Tommy offered.


Raznetsky spread his hands in amusement. “Ah, here is the British democracy, eh? The English milord is engaged as a Nannie.”

Mottley showed his front teeth. “Good one, old boy.”

“Pip-pip, old bean.” Raznetsky enunciated with care. He continued down the corridor, chuckling.

Tommy made an eloquent gesture at Raznetsky’s back. Mottley pulled his hand down.

“I say, don’t do that where anyone can see you.”

Tommy pulled away. “Come on, they’re talking about me.” He ran to the study door and planted his ear against the panel. This time Father’s voice was quite clear. He must have come out from behind his desk.

“Miss Finley, when I engaged you, you were quite in agreement with my philosophy that all boys are not suited for a public-school, certainly not all at the same age.”

“But Tommy is exactly suited for a public school, Sir Aubrey. All of his friends are gone away, many of them to Havilands. I think he would benefit from joining them.”

Sir Aubrey snorted. “I have never heard someone argue themselves out of a sinecure. Does the post not suit you, Miss Finley? Are the meals inadequate or your room too cold?”

“Sir Aubrey, I am advocating for the best interest of my charge.”

“I think I know what is in Tommy’s best interest. He belongs here with me.” Tommy could imagine Father tapping his finger on the desk.

Miss Finley’s voice rose. “Isolating him from social interaction will stunt his emotional development.”

Sir Aubrey’s voice receded. “Is this what they teach at college these days? Progressive claptrap.”

Miss Finley followed. “Sir Aubrey, this may be the most conventional piece of old-fashioned common-sense I’ve ever spoken in my life. Tommy is a lively, clever, imaginative child, and he would be better off on the rugger field with his friends than wandering around this empty house waiting for you to take notice of him. He’s not a spaniel for you to pet by the fire. He’s a boy, and he should be happy.”

“Miss Finley, you are insubordinate.” Behind Sir Aubrey’s voice was the chink of steel.

Miss Finley met it with pure intellectual ice. “That doesn’t make me wrong.”

The silence in the room grew long. Sir Aubrey broke it.

“You may go, Miss Finley – I shall give your remarks the consideration they deserve.”

Miss Finley’s footsteps came clacking to the door. Mottley and Tommy drew back to either side. She turned to close the door behind her, and found herself nose-to-nose with Mottley. She started. “Lord Edmund, I beg your pardon.”

Mottley took her hand. “Marry me.”

Miss Finley gasped out a laugh, and clapped a hand over her mouth. Tommy was alarmed to see tears in her eyes. She ran away.

* * * * *

From Tommy Marchand to James Ayckbourne

December 24, 1924

Losedon Park, Elmsford


We nearly caught a spy, Motly and me! I heard a noise outside my room to- night and looked out. I saw the Bolshie Professor in his dressing gown going down the corridor. I knew he was spying because he had only socks on to be quiet. I knocked up Motly but he did not want to come out. I told him about the Professor and we followed him to Finley’s room. I did not think Finley would be a Bolshie, but it shows you can’t be too careful.

We went right up to the door and I was so scared! It was worse than waiting for the dentist to pull. We couldn’t hear anything and Motly looked through the key hole. Then all at once he turned his back and sat right down on the floor. He said a lot of swears. I got some new ones.

I asked him if they were spying or making Bombs and he said no. I wanted to look too but he said No so loud I was afraid they would hear. So I came back to bed, but I had to write it down before I went to sleep.

When you come home I will tell you the new swears. They are good ones.

Your friend


* * * * *

The problem with knocking at doors early in the morning, is that if you knock loud enough to wake the occupant, you risk waking everyone else on the corridor. Tommy punctuated his rapping with whispered calls through the key-hole, leaving sooty fist-marks and face-prints on the panelling.

Mottley snatched the door open. Tommy gaped, for he had never in his young life seen a silk dressing-gown decorated with purple-headed peacocks. Mottley had one arm in it, and the rest slung about him like a toga. Mottley’s nostrils flared, but before he could speak, Tommy burst into full cry:

“I say, Mottley! You’ll never guess what Tug’s found.”

Mottley looked him over, from his ash-smeared face to the blackened knees of his trousers. “I expect not, no.”

“It’s a cryptic note. A real one, and somebody’s tried to destroy it.”


Tommy barged past him. “Shut the door, there’s a good chap. We don’t want everyone to see.” Mottley obediently shut the door. Tommy spread his treasure on the dressing-table, smearing black finger-prints across its glossy surface. He had brought a scrap of ordinary writing-paper, torn down one edge, curled and slightly scorched.

“Tug was nosing about the fire in the drawing-room, looking for St. Nicholas, you know, and found this beside the fireplace. The grate was absolutely full of ashes – ”

“So I see.”

“– But there was nothing else legible. This must have fallen to the side, or been blown out and missed.”

Mottley leaned against the door and rearranged the dressing-gown. “The dog found this?”

“Yes, I told you – Tug. No, Tug, get down! Bad dog, get your dirty paws off the bed.”

Mottley looked up. “Wait,” he said slowly. “What paws?”

Tommy gestured toward Mottley’s empty bed, without looking up from his precious paper-scrap. “Tug, of course.”

Mottley grabbed his forehead. He gave a quiet moan and rubbed his face hard, as if trying to force his eyeballs back into position. “You have an invisible dog. You might have told me.”

Tommy straightened up. “I thought you knew. I say, how about this paper? It’s really very cryptic, something about waiting for silver.”

Mottley slouched over to the dressing-table. He read the writing, an uneven column down the right margin of the page. “…waits! …silver…reaction.

“What do you suppose it means?” Tommy leaned on his elbows.

“Well, it appears the first and last words are the end of sentences, as they are punctuated. The word ‘silver’ is the middle of a phrase.

“Reaction. A chemical reaction? The Professor is a chemist, isn’t he? And silver is used for all sorts of things, isn’t it?”

“Photography, certainly. I don’t know about other types of – ”

“Bombs? What about bombs?”

“Highly unlikely, Tommy.”

“But you must admit it’s suspicious.”

Mottley sat on the end of the bed. “Yes, dammit, I must.”

* * * * *

From Tommy Marchand to James Ayckbourne

December 25, 1924

Losedon Park, Elmsford

Happy Christmas Jumbo

We are in such a row you won’t believe!!!! Father came shouting that someone had been in his study and stolen an Important Paper!!!!!

The whole house is turned upside-down and Father and Motley are searching everyone’s rooms. The Bolshie Professor has been shouting a lot of things in Russian, I bet they are swears but he is talking so fast I can’t remember them. Isobel’s friend keeps offering to help and Father just shakes his finger at her and says Nothing in the papers Not a word of this in your g – d – rag. He really said that.

Motley asked Father when it happened and Father put his head on his hands and said he must have left the door unlocked when he went to hear the waits singing last night. I was there and said The Waits! But Motley wouldn’t let me tell Father why.

They have not found anything yet but a bit of gold ribbon under the dining table.

I got a real telescope and a new pen-knife what did you get?


* * * * *

The worst part of Christmas Day is mistletoe. Tommy had the deep misfortune to be caught by both Isobel and Miss Finley, but he managed by some quick footwork to escape being caught by Miss Whitely, to both of their relief. Mottley could have caught Miss Finley as they went in to dinner — indeed, he practically walked into her. Tommy wondered why Mottley flushed and put both hands in his pockets. Of course Miss Finley was a girl, but it wasn’t as if she smelled.

The best part of Christmas Day is that nobody would even suggest you should eat dinner all alone in the nursery. Tommy beamed as he took his place at the table, but immediately frowned in concentration as he counted his forks. Outside-in, or inside-out? He glanced sideways at Mottley, who pursed his lips and tapped his fish-fork.

“Ugh!” Sir Aubrey rubbed at a rough patch on the table-cloth. “What is this? Is this paste? Tommy!”

“‘Twasn’t me, Father!”

“It wasn’t I,” said Miss Finley automatically.

“Never mind, Aubrey.” Isobel fluttered her long, tense hands. “It will wash out.”

Professor Raznetsky picked up his cracker. “Ah, the English tradition. We begin the party to ‘go with a bang’! This is correct, yes?”

Miss Whitely rolled her eyes. “That’s the phrase.”

“Ow!” Mottley grabbed his leg.

Isobel leaned across the table. “Are you all right, Lord Edmund?”

“Sorry, cramp,” he replied, glowering at Tommy. He presented his cracker, and he and Tommy pulled. Raznetsky pulled with Miss Finley, on his left, and so forth around the table.

Mottley turned to his left. “Why, Miss Whitely, you haven’t pulled your cracker! Let me –”

“Hasn’t the boy been humored enough?” Miss Whitely tried to put her cracker in her lap, but Mottley grabbed hold of the end.

“Lovely silver ribbon, there. Very special. Mine was gold, you know.”

Tommy jumped out of his chair. “Silver!” he hissed in Mottley’s ear. “Paste!”

Miss Whiteley glared. “I’d rather not. I’ve a dreadful head today.”

Mottley tugged on one end. “Tommy and I can pop it. I’ll give you the crown.”

Miss Whitely grasped the cracker by the middle. “Please don’t bother.”

Tommy, heedless of danger, darted between them and grabbed the other end.


* * * * *

The contents were no joke:

From the Right Honorable ______, P.C. to Sir Aubrey Marchand

Bewdley, Worcestershire

July 10, 1924

My dear Marchand:

Your obliging friend in Riga has got the look of the thing all right, but I wonder if he could be encouraged to pitch it a bit stronger? Congratulatory language to the British Communist Party is one thing, but it isn’t exactly incriminating.

The GBP aren’t happy with any of us right now, and it will be an uphill slog to roust them to the polls, in any numbers to help us. Get the House back, before the year is out – that’s our objective and we mustn’t shirk any opportunity. The only jolt strong enough to dislodge the bottom-feeders currently clinging to Downing Street, is evidence of direct foreign incitement to a violent revolution. Their facade of moderate, beneficent reform must be shattered once and for all.

The Party — indeed, the Nation — depends on you to defend us from the imminent danger of Bolshevism and its sympathisers and apologists. Whatever risks you may run in the name of freedom and British sovereignty, I, and the entire leadership of the Party, personally pledge to stand with you as a lover of your country and a devoted servant of your King.

We want a couple of months yet to solidify our position. Bring me something round the beginning of October; we should be ready to call a new election by then.

Sincerely yours,


P.S. We daren’t let them dismiss this as a conspiracy of crackpots – can’t he use the name of someone a bit higher-up in the Soviet organization? What about Zinoviev?

* * * * *

From Lord Edmund Mottley to Lady Frances Mottley

December 25, 1924

Elmsford, Berks.

Dear Frank,

By the time you get this, I expect you will have noticed the top of Pater’s head has come off. I apologize for all the noise. But really, it wasn’t my fault this time. I was very helpful to Sir Aubrey, and he thought very highly of me…until I told him what I thought of him.

Would you send me the name of that London apartment block you recommended? The new one with the good catering.

You can reach me at my club.

Happy bloody Christmas,


* * * * *

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