Authors: Geoffrey Household
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Extract of a letter from Mrs. Eudora Hilliard, dated: New York, June 17th 1974
Yes, I agree with you. It is now nearly ten years since my nephew disappeared and we can try to clear his name without either of us having much fear of prosecution. But you
should write the story, not I. Your tastes and character will carry conviction, and you have, thank God, no enemies—apart from your battles with Marketing Boards of which Tessa writes with a
tempestuousness which you are too tolerant to feel yourself.
Me, I do have enemies who give other names to what I call my pro-American activities. So if I were to write the story of Alwyn’s disgrace and escape it would be suspect from the start.
woman again, they would say!
You’ll object that there are incidents which you are not all that keen to publicise. I can’t help it. It’s your duty to Alwyn. But it might, I think, be possible to get around
the difficulties by presenting our story as fiction and disguising names and places as far as you can. Those who loved Alwyn Rory and served under and over him will see through it at once and at
last understand what happened to him and why.
For the general public he is no longer news. So perhaps you should start with a reminder of the actual facts of the case of Lieutenant Mornix, generally supposed to be living it up in the
paradise of the Soviet Union but undoubtedly frying in hell. We don’t have to bother at all with Mornix himself—a traitor, a name, an obliterated ghost leaving behind him the malignancy
in which you and Alwyn were caught up.
Your Government never said exactly what information this guy was selling to the Russians. Alwyn was too loyal a servant of the state to go into details, and even I do not know. But you can
explain that it was to do with underwater listening and beacons on the sea bottom—with the possible landing of agents as a sideline—and that it was far more important to find out what
the other side wanted to know than to arrest Mornix straightaway. So your Intelligence hand-fed him with stuff they wanted his employers to believe, together with just enough truth to make it all
On the day when they were ready to arrest him Mornix vanished. It was the sort of failure that is part of the game—no general ever won all his battles—and nothing would ever have
come out if it hadn’t been for a fat slob of an MP trying to embarrass the Government. He asked in the House what action had been taken to explain the continued absence from duty of
Lieutenant Mornix, and he got the answer that the police were following the usual routine for tracing a missing person. Then back he came with:
‘Is it a fact that Lieutenant Mornix was employed in a secret naval establishment?’
The Under-Secretary replied that he was employed in H.M.S.
, a shore-based establishment of no particular secrecy and open to the public.
That was a dam’ silly reply, because next day the news hawks were down at Portland in scores and they found that while the public could certainly stroll round the gardens of H.M.S.
—a large country house, not a ship—that was about all they could do.
Naturally none of us ever knew what went on behind the scenes in, I guess, agitated meetings of the Cabinet, the head of MI5 and the Ministry of Defence, but the next front-page news was the
resignation of a junior minister and the appointment of a Special Tribunal. The public always demands a scapegoat, Willie. One had been found. The other was on the way.
Here, verbatim, is part of the evidence given by my nephew to the Tribunal sitting
it sure was! Not a word, as you know only too well, ever leaked out. I
never showed this transcript to anyone while I was in England, for I didn’t want to spend the rest of my declining years in the Tower of London. You can safely swear you invented it. I
believe forty more years must pass before the top secret evidence to the Tribunal is open to historical research.
Quote this transcript as an introduction to whatever you write! Without it nothing will make sense.
‘Mr. Rory, I understand that it was known to your service that Lieutenant Mornix was in the pay of a foreign power?’
‘And it was your duty to supervise his movements?’
‘Yes. But not too closely.’
‘So there was always a possibility that he might abscond?’
‘My orders were that his suspicions should never be aroused. I therefore took risks which I would not normally have taken.’
‘Why were such orders given to you?’
‘That question should be put to another branch of Intelligence.’
‘It has been stated in evidence that Special Branch had ample evidence justifying the arrest of Lieutenant Mornix when he left H.M.S.
on May 30th. Would you agree?’
‘And that you gave instructions that the arrest should be delayed until his return to Portland.’
‘I did. I had good reason to believe that his employers required him in person for consultation. If only I could find out whom he met and where, my case was complete.’
‘So you alone were in a position to decide whether he should or should not be arrested?’
‘To some degree—yes.’
‘On arrival in London he was followed?’
‘He was, but very discreetly. I have already explained that it was vital that he should have no suspicion.’
‘Where in fact did he go?’
‘To number Forty-two Whatcombe Street. He had some difficulty in finding the address, suggesting that he had never visited the street before.’
‘You think that was the rendezvous with his employers?’
‘No. I think it was intended to check the hounds—like a fox going through a flock of sheep.’
‘What happened then?’
‘My agents were able to watch the house, back and front, till dark, but Mornix never came out. Arrangements were then made with the police to raid the house on suspicion of a drug offence
and check the identity of every person in it. He was not there.’
‘How do you suppose he left?’
‘There was a continual coming and going of odd types, very hairy and—on such a warm day—half naked except for beads and fringes. I imagine that Lieutenant Mornix put on some
such disguise, stood in the porch talking to other tenants and simply walked off with them. Under those circumstances he would be hard to recognise even for an expert. My agents could not stop
everyone and check whether whiskers and Afro-American hair style were false.’
‘The escape of Mornix seems to have been organised by persons or a person with considerable experience, Mr. Rory.’
‘Could such a person have got him out of the country?’
‘I doubt it, unless as diplomatic baggage.’
‘A rather bulky piece of baggage!’
‘Not if divided into manageable pieces.’
‘Please be serious, Mr. Rory! Suppose he was assisted by someone with inside knowledge of the security controls?’
‘Possible. But I do not believe such a traitor exists in my service.’
‘Let us return to Forty-two Whatcombe Street. The lady whom the tribunal has decided to refer to as Miss X owned the house?’
‘Assuming for a moment the unlikely event of a Minister of the Crown frequenting a suspicious character, would her antecedents be automatically investigated by MI5?’
‘I wouldn’t say automatically. If there was a definite request, with some prima facie evidence that her contacts were undesirable, she might be discreetly investigated and the
‘Was there such a request in the case of Miss X and from whom?’
‘There was a request from the CIA.’
‘And was she in fact investigated?’
‘No. It was considered unnecessary. The lady, her opinions and her contacts were all well known.’
‘You were on terms of friendship with the Minister?’
‘We belong to the same club and have common interests.’
‘Was it you who introduced Miss X to the Minister in the first place?’
‘It was. He told me he wanted to know more about the communal living and revolutionary idealism of the younger generation. As Miss X had let the lower flat of her house to such a commune
and as she was a woman of good family and high intelligence I suggested he might talk to her.’
‘You were aware of the more intimate relationship which developed?’
‘From hearsay only. In any case it was a private and normal relationship between a young woman and an older man who found each other mutually attractive. In my opinion the Minister was
quite wrong to resign.’
‘You still think then that it was nothing more than coincidence that Miss X lived in the very building where Lieutenant Mornix disappeared?’
‘The fullest investigation is taking place.’
‘Shutting the stable door when the horse has bolted!’
‘If you wish. But there is no evidence against her beyond some unconventionality in her politics and choice of friends.’
‘In forming your favourable opinion of Miss X had you anything to go on besides your personal acquaintance with her?’
‘I had other sources of information.’
‘May the Tribunal know what they were?’
‘Common friends. I don’t want to drag in names which have nothing to do with the case.’
‘Mr. Rory, I am bound to put to you certain questions regarding your personal affairs. I must emphasize that you are fully entitled to refuse to answer them here and
‘I will tell the Tribunal to the best of my ability anything it wishes to know.’
‘On May 30th, the date of the lieutenant’s escape, your bank account was overdrawn to the extent of £1,560.’
‘It may have been.’
‘On June 15th the overdraft amounted to nearly £1,900.’
‘Probably. I had bought some claret I couldn’t really afford.’
‘On June 16th your account stood at £89 in credit.’
‘Of course it did not! Well, I mean there must have been a mistake.’