The power of money
MARCH 19, 2004
The moustachioed dowager from down the road had taken a shine to Penelope (Roedean). The Mole's top agent had been invited to lunch to offset The Dowager's normally dour nature and it was working. The breakthrough had come halfway through one of Mrs Batty's unbeatable roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding lunches when the conversation turned to Easter and Penelope was explaining that her family always eat rabbit for lunch on Easter Day.
"Good Lord!" said The Dowager.
"Yes," said Penelope. "He provides us with an Easter Bunny each year."
"You eat the Easter bunny?" said The Dowager, with a hint of outrage.
Everyone held their breath.
"Damned good thing!" she continued. "Beastly American invention."
They all laughed and The Mole breathed a sigh of relief and decided not to upset the old girl by explaining that the Easter Bunny was actually a German invention.
After lunch they retired to the drawing room and looked out across the rainy lawns of Mole Manor.
"I'm absolutely stuffed," said Penelope.
The dowager made a strange prmm-mph-like noise, which if nothing else was a change for her usual tut-tutting.
"My dear girl," she said. "A young lady is never stuffed. You may be replete but stuffed? I think not."
"No," said Penelope, with a twinkle in her eye. "I am definitely stuffed. Obviously you've never been properly stuffed."
The dowager smiled.
"Oh," she said. "I've had my moments."
The two were soon discussing the relative merits of different handguns.
"John Browning was the best," The Mole heard Penelope say.
"Yes, I like his poetry too," said Mrs Mole as she came in with the coffee. "I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er vales and hills. When all at once I saw a crowd. A host of golden daffodils."
There was a pause.
"That would be William Wordsworth," said The Dowager helpfully. "I presume you were thinking of Robert Browning."
"Silly me," said Mrs Mole.
"John was his brother," said The Dowager with mischief in her eye. "He designed pistols."
"What an extraordinary family," said Mrs Mole. "Coffee, anyone?"
The Mole closed his eyes and listened.
"You know Browning designed the Colt as well as the Browning," said The Dowager.
"Well," said Penelope, "the only real argument is whether they are as good as the Walther PPK"
The Dowager grunted in agreement.
"The PPK is a such sweet little gun," she said. "I used to use one of the British versions when I was in action in Berlin. I loved it."
The Mole smiled.
"I say," said The Colonel. "Did you see The Sunday Times? The Rich List. Alas, Bernard Ecclestone has tumbled to number eight on the list. If he drops much further I won't even talk to him any more. He is now only worth £2,323 million. Poor fellow."
"Do you honestly think they have tracked down all his assets?" said The Mole. "Don't be silly Colonel. And how can you take the list seriously when Max Mosley is not on it."
"Max Mosley?" said Penelope.
"The Mosleys, my dear girl, are not Johnny Come Latelys when it comes to money," said The Dowager. "There was a chap called Nicholas Mosley who made a great deal of money from wool in the 16th century. He bought the manor of Manchester, which owned an enormous amount of land. Manchester was a small town then but as the wool trade grew Manchester developed into the powerhouse of the industrial revolution, filled with dark, satanic mills. They used to call it "the workshop of the world". For 250 years the Mosley family enjoyed the right to tax and toll everything brought for sale in Manchester, not to mention collecting rents from thousands and thousands of tenants. I believe they sold the manor for some extraordinary amount of money back in the 1840s. But I don't suppose they have managed to use it all up yet. It takes several generations to burn money like that and that is assuming that they haven't made more."
"Very sexy" said Penelope (Roedean).
"Looking for a millionaire, are we?" asked The Dowager.
"It strikes me that Formula 1 is in a bit of a mess at the moment and a girl cannot base her career on a sport that is looking a bit wobbly." Penelope replied. "I think I just want to retire to the country, do good deeds and open garden fetes. Of course, I'd do the occasional bit of freelance assassination, just to keep my eye in."
"I am not sure wobbly is the right word," said The Mole. "There is no doubt that Formula 1 has a few problems but it will sort itself out. The teams are divided and they will be conquered. Some are rich and some are poor. There is a natural divide and you can bet that Bernie will divide them."
"They are going to get eaten like our friend the rabbit," said The Colonel, laughing at his own joke.
"We shall see," said The Mole. "It's going to be a bumpy ride."
"A bit like our little friend Penelope," said The Dowager.
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