Les carnets de Milord Thomson
AFTERTHOUGHT JOHN WELLS
The capitals of Europe have been trembling for the past week with the shock waves that heralded the greatest journalistic earthquake of the century. Today, in this paper and simul- taneously in the American picture magazine CIA News, that earthquake explodes. Philbie Thyroid de Beaujolais, for many years the dreaded head of the French SMOOCH organisa- tion in Washington, at last blows the gaffe.
It is to be regretted that the format of this paper does not permit us to reprint a photo- graph of an elderly male model in floor-length black cloak and broad-brimmed black felt hat with his back to the camera who might well be Monsieur de Beaujolais. It is also to be regretted that we are unable to reproduce the SMOOCH special agent's badge, with Monsieur de Beaujolais's photograph pasted over that of a fat woman in a bathing costume and the name 'Marcel Proust' lightly erased beneath it. Most of all it is to be regretted that we cannot include the facsimile letter from the Office du Secret Service Francais and signed by Madame de Gaulle: 'Cher Thyroid, Je vous congratule sur votre splendide travail pour le cm'
It is, however, sufficient to say that the hysterical smears emanating from the Elysee Palace this week to the effect that Beaujolais does not exist and that the memoirs were written by Robert Markham alias Kingsley Amis are a shoddy device designed to undermine the cir- culation of this paper and the security of the entire solar system. It is hard to imagine a more implausible story. Now read on.
My first time that I have, as they say, smelled a rabbit was in the spring of 1968. At five minutes past three in the morning the telephone have jangled in the room where I was staying in the Hotel Joxy, an amusingly poky little maison de joie just next door to the White House.
'Alio; I have said.
'Monsieur Philbie Thyroid de Beaujolais, dreaded head of the French SMOOCH organisa- tion in Washington?' an unfamiliar voice have inquired.
'To the extent that I am in possession of my faculties at this hour of the night.' I have wittily replied, 'yes.'
'Tres bien,' the voice have remarked. 'here is X.'
I must confess that at that time neither I myself nor my companion were acquainted with any person of that name, but after a whispered dialogue beneath the sheets I have requested him to continue.
'Pardon,' the voice have breathed. 'I am just arrived at the aeroport with thirty-five muftied friends. Kindly send a char a bancs to collection us and make discreet reservations at an hotel. A double room I believe would suffice. Forgive
me that I have not communicated before: the truth is that something have emerged of such impotence that we no longer trust our codes, let alone the telephone. Milord Thomson have defected from the KGB.'
The sensations reeled. Weakly replacing the art nouveau telephone, I have kissed farewell to my companion, pulled up my cloak, hat, false beard and black spectacles, and left the room in a doze.
Bicycling to the Old Louisiana Buckwheat Parlor, a small café on Agatha Christie Pros- pekt frequented at the time by NATO agents, artists and creative thinkers, where X and his thirty-five associates could group themselves casually about a table without arousing sus- picions, my mind grovelled to assimilate the astonishing news. Known only by his code- name, 'Milord Thomson,' the defector was perhaps the biggest noise to have fallen into our small pool for some years. Hand in glove up to the neck with Kim Philby, the mastermind behind the bloody propaganda campaign of innuendo and relentless boredom that had so shattered the British Public and their M15 in the winter of 1967, was it possible that this monster should present himself in such a place as Washington?
But present himself he had. X and his bizarrely disguised companions—the standard SMOOCH uniform of beret, striped vest, onions and bicycle was here and there variegated with a smoking, a tweed evening dress or the costume of a freakibopper—sat desolate in the café. 'Milord Thomson,' a stocky, faceless man in fashionable psychedelic spectacles and a 'thirties-style bell-bottomed raincoat, growled monotonously on, outlining his plans for world domination, unfolding his philosophy, impas- sively listing the massive army of 'news agents' already in his pay, ready to gather and distribute unquestionably whatever 'information' he chose to give them. Struggling against sleep—many of the espions were sprawled desperately about, dozing in attitudes of chronic boredom—X and his left and right hand men persevered with their task. Astronomic sums of French francs were mentioned, some concealed as 'advertising revenue,' some as 'gestures of goodwill.' Milord remained adamantine. He was not defecting from rouble-rich Russians for pigeon-feed : he was playing on the bigger swings. Auntie Sam had him in thrall.
It was as he was leaving the café in ponderous triumph—X and his agents evocatifs lay snoring about the table—that the man we had learned to know as Milord Thomson thrust art in- credible missive between my hands. In the form of a coded cable, it read simply : DEAR FATS— I presumed this to be some allusive anagram— HOW ABOUT DIGGING UP SOME FROG CREEP TO SAY OLD BIGNOSE IS A COMMIE STOOGE. CORDI- ALLY YOURS RICHARD HELMS. Attached I dis- covered to my infinite bafflement a tightly rolled bundle of dollar bills and a note written in ink in majuscule letters: O.K. LE JEU EST EN HAUT. JE CONFESSE QUE MON V RAI NOM WEST PAS DU TOUT CH ARLES DE GAULLE. JE SUIS IMPOSTEUR.
JE APPELLE VRAIMENT MONSIEUR M \TAH ARI OBLOMOV ST ALINOVITCH. EXCUSEZ MO1 POUR VOUS A VOIR TROMPE POUR SI LONGTEMPS. C'ETAIT L'OR DE MOSCOW QUI WA SEDUIT. AMOUR. CHARLES MARIE JOSEPH DE GAULLE, PRESIDENT. P.S. PARDONNEZ MA FEMME, ELLE EST INNOCENTE.
For some moments I was incapable to believe the evidence of my own eyes. Then with a blow the import of this strange cry from the heart struck me with the force of a thunderbolt. For hours I lay stunned. At last I have collectioned
myself sufficiently to telephone to Paris. I have explained the incredible facts revealed in the authentic document which has fallen as if by chance between my lap, recommending in the most strong terminology the immediate arresta- tion of the fraud. At once I have detected a coolness on the parts of my superiors. The next day in Washington a posse of French male nurses in white coats have pursued me through the streets: on entering my bureau I just failed to be entrapped in the meshes of an enormous net : only narrowly have I escaped death when upon inserting my key in the latch of my house the whole building jumped into the air. At last I have had no alternative but to resign : Milord Thomson may have been the dupe of Moscow: he may now be the dupe of Washington. The so-called General de Gaulle may be the dupe of international communism: I flatter myself that I, at least, am nobody's dupe.
Next week: I uncover a small Burmese tool of the Vietcong at the head of the United Nations.