“Do you have any politics?” Princess Margaret asked Sonny.
“Conservative, ma’am,” said Sonny proudly.
“So I assumed. But are you involved in politics? For myself I don’t mind who’s in government so long as they’re good at governing. What we must avoid at all cost is these windscreen wipers: left, right, left, right.”
Sonny laughed immoderately at the thought of political windscreen wipers.
“I’m afraid I’m only involved at a very local level, ma’am,” he replied. “The Little Soddington bypass, that sort of thing. Trying to make sure that footpaths don’t spring up all over the place. People seem to think that the countryside is just an enormous park for factory workers to drop their sweet papers on. Well, those of us who live here feel rather differently about it.”
“One needs someone responsible keeping an eye on things at a local level,” said Prince Margaret reassuringly. “So many of the things that get ruined are little out-of-the-way places that one only notices once they’ve already been ruined. One drives past thinking how nice they must have been once.”
“You’re absolutely right, ma’am,” agreed Sonny.
“Is it venison?” asked the Princess. “It’s hard to tell under this murky sauce.”
“Yes, it is venison,” said Sonny nervously. “I’m awfully sorry about the sauce. As you say, it’s perfectly disgusting.” He could remember checking with her private secretary that the princess liked venison.
She pushed her plate away and picked up her cigarette lighter. “I get sent fallow deer from Richmond Park,” she said smugly. “You have to be on the list. The queen said to me, ‘Put yourself on the list,’ so I did.”
“How very sensible, ma’am,” simpered Sonny.
“Venison is the one meat I rr-eally don’t like,” Jacques d’Alantour admitted to Caroline Porlock, “but I don’t want to create a diplomatic incident, and so…” He popped a piece of meat into his mouth, wearing a theatrically martyred expression which Caroline later described as being “a bit much.”
“Do you like it? It’s venison,” said Princess Margaret leaning over slightly toward Monsieur d’Alantour, who was sitting on her right.
“Really, it is something absolutely mar-velous, ma’am,” said the ambassador. “I did not know one could find such cooking in your country. The sauce is extremely subtle.” He narrowed his eyes to give an impression of subtlety.
The princess allowed her views about the sauce to be eclipsed by the gratification of hearing England described as “your country,” which she took to be an acknowledgement of her own feeling that it belonged, if not legally, then in some much more profound sense, to her own family.
In his anxiety to show his love for the venison of merry old England, the ambassador raised his fork with such an extravagant gesture of appreciation that he flicked glistening brown globules over the front of the princess’s blue tulle dress.
“I am prostrated with horr-rror!” he exclaimed, feeling he was on the verge of a diplomatic incident.
The princess compressed her lips and turned down the corners of her mouth, but said nothing. Putting down the cigarette holder into which she had been screwing a cigarette, she pinched her napkin between her fingers and handed it to Monsieur d’Alantour.
“Wipe!” she said with terrifying simplicity.