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Authors: Michael Innes

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Lord Mullion's Secret

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Copyright & Information

Lord Mullion's Secret


First published in 1981

© Michael Innes Literary Management Ltd.; House of Stratus 1981-2011


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.


The right of Michael Innes to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted.


This edition published in 2011 by House of Stratus, an imprint of

Stratus Books Ltd., Lisandra House, Fore Street, Looe,

Cornwall, PL13 1AD, UK.


Typeset by House of Stratus.


A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library and the Library of Congress.


ISBN: 0755121023   EAN: 9780755121021


This is a fictional work and all characters are drawn from the author's imagination.

Any resemblance or similarities to persons either living or dead are entirely coincidental.



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About the Author


Michael Innes is the pseudonym of John Innes Mackintosh Stewart, who was born in Edinburgh in 1906. His father was Director of Education and as was fitting the young Stewart attended Edinburgh Academy before going up to Oriel, Oxford where he obtained a first class degree in English.

After a short interlude travelling with AJP Taylor in Austria, he embarked on an edition of
translation of
Montaigne's Essays
and also took up a post teaching English at Leeds University.

By 1935 he was married, Professor of English at the University of Adelaide in Australia, and had completed his first detective novel,
Death at the President's Lodging
. This was an immediate success and part of a long running series centred on his character Inspector Appleby. A second novel, Hamlet Revenge, soon followed and overall he managed over fifty under the Innes banner during his career.

After returning to the UK in 1946 he took up a post with Queen's University, Belfast before finally settling as Tutor in English at Christ Church, Oxford. His writing continued and he published a series of novels under his own name, along with short stories and some major academic contributions, including a major section on modern writers for the
Oxford History of English Literature

Whilst not wanting to leave his beloved Oxford permanently, he managed to fit in to his busy schedule a visiting Professorship at the University of Washington and was also honoured by other Universities in the UK.

His wife Margaret, whom he had met and married whilst at Leeds in 1932, had practised medicine in Australia and later in Oxford, died in 1979. They had five children, one of whom (Angus) is also a writer. Stewart himself died in November 1994 in a nursing home in Surrey.




The Mullions were still quite comfortably off, although they no longer managed to pay their way in the entirely unobtrusive fashion they would have wished. Twice a week, and through the greater part of the year, they were obliged to turn Mullion Castle into a Stately Home. The disturbance was heralded shortly after breakfast, when Lord Mullion ascended to the leads and himself hoisted his personal standard above the battlements. He didn't greatly care for thus announcing to the world that he was ‘in residence', since it seemed to him that whether he was at Mullion or not was a private matter with which the world had nothing to do. This particular small ostentation, indeed, was perfectly orthodox among his peers, a clear majority of whom probably maintained the habit. But Lord Mullion was a retiring man, who had to be kept up to the mark in the matter by his wife. ‘Hang out our banners on the outward walls,' Lady Mullion would instruct him as she finished her second cup of coffee. ‘The cry is still “They come”.' And of course it was very desirable that they should come, since the reference was not to a hostile army but to the cars and char-a-bancs which would presently be bumping up the drive. So Lord Mullion did as he was told, consoling himself with the thought that his gesture could be construed as being, like Macbeth's, one of defiance rather than of welcome.

But Lord Mullion did on every occasion himself punctiliously welcome the small posse of gentlewomen – locally recruited and in reduced circumstances – upon whom he relied for the purpose of guiding visitors round the castle. It gratified tourists, he had been told, to entertain the vague belief that it was members of the Wyndowe family itself who were doing them this semi-menial service. Indeed, from time to time Lord Mullion afforded some solid ground for a persuasion of this sort by himself issuing entrance tickets at a small table placed beneath the portcullis. While thus occupied he quite readily forgot the mild indignity of the whole affair and welcomed his visitors with the same unaffected cordiality that he would have directed upon acquaintances of his own sort whom his wife had invited to luncheon. This duty performed, however, he would then retire with the rest of his household to what the shepherding ladies described as the ‘private wing'. As Mullion Castle was not particularly large (except for the moat, which was enormous), and as most of what there was of it was well worth seeing, this meant rather a cooped-up existence for two days out of seven. But the money flowed in and was not to be quarrelled with.

On the whole it was only the servants who actively disapproved of being ‘open' every Wednesday and Saturday. Like the family, they were kept out of sight, so there was no question of their picking up tips from the tourists, visitors, sightseers, or whatever the invading hordes were to be called. Even the teas on offer in the great tithe barn were served by respectable women from the two nearest villages, since Lady Mullion found this arrangement useful both as an engine of patronage and as a means of maintaining desirable friendly relations with that particular stratum of her neighbours. And the indoor staff did have a certain amount of extra work on the ‘open' days. Strips of stout drugget had to be put down over valuable but perilously antique carpets, and various articles of furniture in similar condition had to be secured behind little rope barriers as in an old-fashioned picture gallery. Moreover there was a good deal of miscellaneous clearing up to do when the day's traffic was over.

Lady Mullion herself undertook one or two slightly vexatious tasks. She enjoyed deploying rather more in the way of floral arrangements than the household would normally have been content to accept (or the gardeners to supply). But the whole question of ‘being lived in' was a tricky one. The char-a-banc people in particular – the Mullions had been assured – liked to feel that in every room they visited a normal routine of the most aristocratic sort had been going on only minutes before. Lord Mullion thought there was a great deal of good sense in this. Nothing was more depressing, he was accustomed to say, than those châteaux on the Loire where, in the middle of gardens and waterways still admirably maintained, stands an enormous untenanted house with no more than a few sticks of tables and chairs and mouldering beds scattered at random here and there. But just where did one stop in the creating of this effect – or of this illusion, as it sometimes was? If one laid out preparations for bacon and eggs in a modest way in the breakfast room was it sensible to have a dinner-table awaiting almost innumerable banqueters on display at the other end of the castle? How lavishly, Lady Mullion asked herself, ought one to spread around those rather boring periodicals devoted to the celebration of fashionable life and rural pursuits? Again, what about Henry's cigars – so decidedly one among his few extravagances: ought the box to remain (open even) on his writing table in the library, or ought it to be shoved into a drawer? And then there were the photographs, family and other. The Mullions rather went in for these; they were perched in silver frames on little tables all over the place. Lord Mullion was a trifle vague about the several generations of Wyndowes thus on view, and only his wife could put a name to the army of relations, some in bath chairs and some in perambulators, thus patiently waiting to be recalled to mind. And there was the special case of the royal family. The Wyndowes happened to be among those of their kind who held the House of Windsor in high regard, and sundry exalted persons, sensible of the fact, had responded with the gracious bestowal of a signed photograph. Such exhibits meant much more to the majority of the ‘patrons' (as Lord Mullion with a mild irony sometimes termed his customers) than did the portraits of even the most authentically Tudor Wyndowes. And there was something not quite agreeable about this.

The problem of the photographs was a little exacerbated by the particular method of showing the castle which had been chosen by Lord Mullion. It had been explained to him by the experts in such enterprises that one can set about this in one of two ways. One can post, as it were, a sentinel or guard in every room and commanding every corridor, and allow one's visitors either to wander at will or to follow at their own pace a route marked out by a series of directing arrows pinned up in appropriate places. Or one can gather the visitors in clumps, and send the successive clumps round at convenient intervals under the wardenship of an individual guide. Lord Mullion had plumped for the latter method. He had already benevolently determined that the job should be in the hands of those elderly women of good family but narrow means (a number of them actually kinswomen of a remote sort) who abounded in the neighbourhood. They might not be terribly well informed, or even ‘educated' in the modern sense, and therefore be a little uncertain as to which had been Oliver Cromwell and which Thomas. But essentially they were in the know, and their poise and self-confidence, let alone the perfect amenity of their address, would be far from faltering even were they caught out by some tedious person who had been mugging up from his guide-book. And it had seemed to Lord Mullion that it would be less demeaning were these ladies to take round groups in a companionable and conversable way than simply to stand guard here and there over the family spoons and forks. But this did involve their having to answer impertinent questions about the occupants of the perambulators and bath chairs, or even to opine whether it might be that Lord and Lady Mullion were among those privileged occasionally to ‘stop by' at Buckingham Palace.

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