Antonio and Cherie, having breakfasted, discuss the genre of the political memoir. Unbeknownst to them, Baron Brown has set spies to work within their household ...
‘Your interminable diary!’ Cherie threw my Smythson journal across the room. I flinched, fearing for the rare African Ostrich leather. Would I be able to buff the scuffs occasioned by its sudden exodus?
“Listen to me, Antonio.” She was a woman on fire - although, I hasten to add, not literally - her dark eyes blazing with passion, that wide, scarlet-lipped mouth quivering with indignation. “You are straying into dangerous territory. What if the Baron were to hear of this?”
“I have not the slightest fear of him! I have taken lessons in literary technique from a Mr. Trollope.” I strode across the polished walnut floor, retrieved my journal and placed it on the rosewood armoire.
Cherie’s embonpoint shivered like a milk pudding above the strictures of her corset, but I noted with some relief that her mouth was less tremulous.
I gazed towards the Houses of Parliament, visible had not the heavy, tapestried curtains been left unopened by Ann, our idle chit of a parlourmaid. “Yes. Trollope has instructed me in the art of writing a Roman á Clef. I shall be describing real life, behind a façade of fiction.”
Cherie plucked a bonbon from a Meissen dish and nibbled at the sugared crust, the crystals coating her little, pink tongue like a small snake caught in snow.
My speech quickened in my heartfelt excitement. “But, Cherie, my book shall be different from the traditional political memoir. Most such memoirs are, I have found, rather easy to put down.” I examined my fingernails modestly. Yesterday’s manicure was bearing up well. “So what you will read here is not a conventional description of who I met or what I did.”
“Thank Heavens for that!” Cherie threw herself, somewhat dramatically, onto the velvet chaise longue. Her pansy-printed taffeta gown floated like the petals of a delicate flower around her voluptuous curves. “Shall you write about me, my love?”
I blew her a kiss. “How could one not? You shall have more mentions than Petros and McAllister put together!”
My mood was exuberant, and a heady giddiness fuelled my generosity.
I stood in front of the magnificent marble fireplace. The coals burned merrily, my posterior glowing as I warmed to my theme. “In my books,” I said, reaching for a thin porcelain cup of Indian Breakfast tea, “there is a range of events and dates. Other politicians are absent from it, not because they don’t matter, but because my aim was to write not as a historian, like Herodotus, Tacitus or even Gibbon, but rather as a leader."
“A leader?” Cherie raised a quizzical eyebrow, the coquettish effect of which brought a slight but pleasurable tremor to my breeches.
I girded myself. “There have been plenty of accounts – and no doubt there will be dozens more – of the history of my ten years as prime minister, and numerous people could write them – shall we say? – passably well -”
My train of thought was broken as ma Cherie choked back a sob.
“O! That dreadful book by that dreadful man!”
I rushed towards her, knelt at her feet and clasped her hands. They trembled like distraught doves in my manly grip.
A single tear formed a silvery track down her porcelain cheek. “He said dreadful things about me, Antonio!”
“Which one, my sweet?"
I thought of the countless blackguards who had sworn friendship then betrayed us. The bearded chap with the dog; Lepre-Scott, the opera singer from the Far North whose vulgar calling card bore the legend Lepre-Scott, The Voice That Can Clear Fog. So many, so many ...
A shadow of a wince flitted across my youthfully smooth brow. Cherie had recovered her composure and was calling for the new lady’s maid. No matter the money spent on elocution and tutors, one could take the girl out of Bootle but –
“Yes, ‘um.” The accent of The Colonies grated coarsely on my ear.
Carole stood before her mistress. She was a good girl, with an honest expression; a maid to be trusted, one who would not run tittle-tattling to the guttersnipes who frequented the sordid alehouses of Fleet Street.
“Carole.” Although still on my knees, I had an air of absolute authority. “Please arrange hot water for your mistress to bathe. That will be all.” I dismissed her formally, but with a kindly glimmer in my strikingly blue eyes.
I turned back to Cherie. “Let us continue our discussion of my meagre literary efforts. There is only one person who can write an account of what it is to be the human – singular not plural – being at the centre of history."
“Moi?” Cherie blushed fetchingly. Her gentle laugh like the trickle of a mountain stream through tiny quartz pebbles.
“No, my darling, little ninny. Me."
To be continued