It’s time for another sniff at the roses inside the window boxes of parliament as we once again join the men from the ministry, people with all the charm and romantic appeal of a set of old and musty history books, accept these men are twice as boring.
“I just can’t understand it. Who would have sent it.”
The people who were supposed to work in the General Assistance Department were clustered around the desk of Mr Lennox-Brown, the man who set the agenda, that agenda consisting of doing as little work as possible. On this morning however, everyone present in Mr Lennox-Brown’s office was actually doing some work. On this day, their agile minds had turned to the task of working out a problem. No. This problem was not one of government or official department duties. The minds of everyone present had focused upon a card that lay upon Lennox-Brown’s desk.
“It’s a very pretty card, Mildred,” Mr Lamb was saying now, his voice full of that fatherly tone that often rang through his voice when he was addressing his secretary. He pointed to the card, decorated with red roses and smiled across at Mildred. “You are a lucky thing.”
But Mildred didn’t seem at all convinced. “”Oh, I don’t know, Mr Lamb,” she said doubtfully. “I don’t know who sent it.”
Mr Lennox-Brown was smiling. He was enjoying himself immencely. Now that everyone was concentrating upon the valentine card, that meant that no one was concentrating upon the pile of papers upon his desk, a pile that was growing in volume with every day that passed. “Maybe it was your boyfriend, Mildred,” he said bye way of a theory.
Mildred shook her head. “No, sir. I don’t have a boyfriend any more. I got rid of him last week.”
“Why?” Lamb asked, face full of concern.
“Because he did something he shouldn’t have done!” came the veament reply.
Both of Mildred’s superiors exchanged scandelised looks before turning their attention once again to Mildred. “He did not,” Lamb asked, horrified.
Mildred nodded. “He did.” Her face took on the look of the affronted. “I caught him chasing one of his lady friends through Hide Park only last week. He chased her behind some trees and caught her by the bushes.”
That was too much for Mr Lamb. His face turned red and he slammed a hand down onto Mr Lennox-Brown’s desk. “Well,” he said furiously, “that’s just too much. What is wrong with the young people today, behaving like that in Hide Park. I’ll make a note to tell my land lady never to go strolling in Hide Park again. I don’t want her coming across any of that, I can tell you.”
Lennox-Brown spoke in a far calmer voice as he again pointed at the lavishly decorated card. “Now, now,” he said soothingly. “Let’s get back to the matter in hand. Read the card again, Mildred. Let’s try and work out who sent it to you, shall we?”
Mildred merely nodded in reply and picked up the card from the desk. Opening it with a flurrish, she began to read. “To the most beautiful secretary in Whitehall,” she began. “I have often admired you from afar, longing to tell you how I truly feel about you. I like you very much, Mildred. Your laughter is the music of my soul. Your sunny smile is the brightest thing in the room when you smile upon me. I wish you to be my valentine, Mildred, if only you would accept me. From your greatest admirer.” And she folded up the card again and eyed her colleagues with a curious expression. “Who do you think that is?” she asked.
But both Lamb and Lennox-Brown shook their heads. It seemed as if they knew no more about who sent the card than Mildred herself did.
And then Lamb turned pale. “Maybe it’s Sir Gregory,” he said, appalled.
Mildred too turned pale. “Oh no, sir,” she said in a voice of horror, “please don’t say that.”
But Lamn merely added, “you know how he behaves with the other secretaries. He’s been out with Finella Freebody and Miss bentwater from the typing pool. The man’s got a fondness for women in government.”
In an effort to bring a measure of calm to the conversation, Lennox-Brown said, “I don’t think it’s Sir Gregory. It doesn’t look like his writing.”
“Then who is it, sir?”
Lennox-Brown merely shook his head. “I have absolutely no idea.”
But there was one person in the room that had not yet spoken, one person in the office who had not yet offered an opinion as to who had sent the valentines card to Mildred. That person was standing around Lennox-Brown’s desk along side everyone else, and he too was looking down at the card that Mildred had placed back down upon Lennox-Brown’s desk. This person had remained silent throughout, unwilling to speak though he knew the answer to Mildred’s question. He knew who had sent the valentines card. He knew who Mildred Murfin’s greatest admirer was and he knew also that he would not be able to divulge that secret.
He stood silently by his superior’s desk, his mouth firmly shut as Mildred continued to ponder over the sender of the rose covered valentines card. Bernard Woolley knew that he couldn’t say anything. How could he? How could he when he was the one who had sent it?