Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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 Chapter 19


"How was Washington, Jones?"

Tensy had an odd, rather masculine, way of putting certain questions. There was almost a locker-room aura to this one, and the answer might have been, "Fuckin great, Tensy." In the event, Jones answered,

"Quite interesting."

"Did you bed your little girl friend?"

"Oh no. She did have to more or less hide out over the weekend, and I took her to my hotel. But she had a separate room, and we were perfectly proper."

"Why did she have to hide out?"

"She was suspected of helping one government agency steal a computer from another."

"There are times when I wish we had some different sort of government."

"Anyhow, I learned something of interest to you."

"I'm not sure I want to know."

"Heike and I crashed a party at the British Embassy. Party crashing is a recognized activity in Washington."

"A woman has to be attractive to do that. Is she pretty?"

"In an innocent, almost childish, way. Anyhow, I had a long conversation with an English diplomat who, I think, is some sort of intelligence person. He knows Reggie."

"Really? Well, of course, these sorts of Englishmen do tend to know one another. They go to the same schools, and there aren't that many of them."

"I happened to tell him that story about Reggie trying to fly the French admiral out of France. This man didn't seem surprised, and he said, "That would have been SOE." Does that mean anything to you?"


"SOE stood for Special Operations Executive. It was a British spy service like MI5 and MI6, but it specialized in sabotage and assassination. The violent side of expionage."

"I know Reggie was in the RAF. He has documents, medals, all kinds of things."

"I'm sure he was. But he must have been transferred to the SOE. When they needed pilots, they would naturally have looked to the RAF."

"So what."

"He must have become part of the English intelligence community. With his ability, he'd have been promoted from rescuing the odd Frenchman to more important things. Then, when the war ended, most of SOE was shifted to MI6. He's not Bertie Wooster."

"Well, no. I've only pretended to believe that. Besides, Bertie himself might be capable of more than Jeeves would suspect."

"It's also well-known that MI6 is full of gentlemen part- timers, mostly unpaid, who remain in it for life."

"My position is that, as long as Reggie supports my journals and myself, he can do mostly what he wants. I once caught him tumbling a hotel chambermaid, and I only tut-tutted."

"He's probably now spying on America for England. He got more out of me than I should have let go."

"Well, you can be more careful next time. Anyhow, we're allied with England."

"Sure. I don't really object. But it might explain some things."

"Yes. The visits of these aristocratic English ladies. There are obviously enduring intimacies between them and Reggie. I assumed that they had to do with sex."

"Maybe not. Those ladies may be agents under Reggie's control. That would be why they have those whispered conversations in the garden."

"So, if I find out more about them, I may find out what Reggie's trying to do."

"Yes. Are you going to tell him what I've found out?"

"I usually do tell him things."

"I know."

"This might make him uneasy. People aren't supposed to spy on allied and friendly countries."

"I'm sure they all do."

"England and America are now about as close as separate countries can be."

Jones said nothing as Tensy considered a moment and replied,

"There are always some divergent interests. Some English people want to hold on to as much of the empire as they can. America has no interest in that."

"No. But England now has a virtually socialist government that wants to get rid of the empire. I don't think there's any conflict between Truman and Attlee on that."

"Well, Jones, Reggie's hardly a socialist. He's really a Churchill man, and Churchill's now over here giving those iron curtain speeches."

"Yes. Our defence department certainly wants to contain Russia, and we're already doing it. What's Reggie's attitude?"

"He'd probably like to have the empire back, but, of course, he's also a containment man. For practical purposes, all that matters is being anti-Soviet. Reggie certainly is that."

Jones replied,

"Even if we are mostly in agreement, I don't know if it's a good idea to tell Reggie what I know."

Tensy looked a little troubled as she said,

"There's one very good reason not to tell him. If he, or whoever he reports to, were to decide that he's blown, he might go back to England. It may be that spying is what keeps him here."

"If so, it's funny that he's in Cincinnati. There can't be anything to spy on here."

"Then, again, it removes him from suspicion. His agents come here to report, but they're old friends from England. Even if some of them are under some suspicion, that wouldn't automatically transfer to Reggie. Particularly since anyone who knew him would assume that they're past or present girl friends.

The bell rang at that point, and people began to struggle out of the Pink Room. Tensy headed off for a literature class on John Milton which met, most ingloriously, in a dingy classroom opposite the furnace room. Jones went upstairs.

Arriving in the department office, Jones found Sarah Swift and Roger Ennis. They were sitting on a lavender couch which, shortly after Wilson Adams' retirement, Sarah had had sent over from Central Stores. Breaking off her conversation with Ennis abruptly, she said to Jones,

"Yesterday, I saw that big package addressed to your journal. Was that your first submission?"

"Yes. I read it last night."

"How was it?"

"Long, dull, and mistaken. But it's by someone fairly famous. His name would look good on the cover of our first issue."

"That would be a terrible start, Jones. It's okay to be mistaken, but combined length and dullness is unforgiveable."

"If I reject it, I'll probably make an enemy. I always try to avoid that."

Ennis said,

"I bet he's already sent it to other journals, and had it rejected. He saw your new one, and thought it worth a try."

Sarah added,

"The other editors will laugh at you if you print it."

That possibility hadn't occurred to Jones, but it decided him. He replied,

"I guess I'll have to get together a reasonably politic rejection letter."

Ennis said,

"The easiest way is to send it to a referee, and let him reject it. You then send the author an anonymous copy of the referee's report. Have you ever gotten one yourself?"

"No, I guess not."

"Your papers must have been accepted without question, but I've had a few. In a couple of cases, I've suspected that the editor never sent the paper out at all, but wrote the negative report himself under cover of anonymity."

Sarah burst out,

"What a dirty trick!"

Ennis replied,

"If the editor really doesn't like the paper, it saves him the time and uncertainty of sending it out, and also the pain of appearing to reject a paper from someone he may know. He may even pretend to disagree mildly with the referee, but give in to him grudgingly."

Jones said nothing, but Sarah was quite agitated. She asked Ennis,

"Are academic people really as two-faced as that?"

"Some are. Those of us who haven't published tend to bear the brunt of these things."

Ennis laughed, apparently without bitterness, and went off down the hall.

After he left, Sarah said to Jones,

"He's in a horrible position, and he takes it so well."

"Yeah, he is likable. And he's a good teacher. I enjoyed his class."

"Yes, I've taken three of his classes, and they were all excellent. I know your journal deals in entirely different sorts of things, but I wonder if Tensy could publish one of his papers in her journal."

"You could ask, maybe. But don't be pushy. I'm beginning to realize that editors have their problems."

"I'm never pushy."

"I'm glad to hear it. Incidentally, how do you think the logic is going?"

"Your advanced class? Very well. Even I understand most of what you're doing. You're also more articulate than I would have thought, Jones. Not only that, you don't give the impression of incipient violence barely contained."

"Thank you. What do you hear about the beginning logic class?"

"You mean that joke of a class that the department is trying to foist off on the students?"

"As bad as that?"

"Worse. Of course, the response varies from one section to another, and even within sections. Some of the girls think that Brock Morison is cute and sexy. The boys may lynch him."

"What about the other sections?"

"Most of the students, even the ones in your section, are confused and angry. They don't understand the material, and they think they'll be flunked."

"Only about ten per cent have dropped the course so far."

"That's because they have another week and a half to drop without a failing grade. But they still lose their tuition money."

"I didn't know that."

"Those are the sorts of things the faculty makes a point of not knowing. But most of these kids work to earn their tuition money. They don't drop a class until they're sure they have to. Then, if they do, they're very pissed."

"I have overheard some angry words in the hall."

"When six hundred out of the enrollment of seven hundred drop, you'll hear a lot more. At least, Professor Hawthorne will. I'll probably be sitting out here in the middle of a mob all trying to charge into his office at once."

"I didn't know that ever happened."

"It doesn't often. Most departments play by the rules. Except for a few well-known beginning science courses, they don't place unreasonable demands on the students. In return, the students put up with tons of professorial bullshit, knowing that they can ignore most of it and still pass."

"And we've just broken the rules?"

"Big time."

"Okay, what do we do to head off the debacle?"

"Tell the students the truth. That the course is a failed experiment. And then do the right thing. Assure them that they'll all pass. And make it clear that anyone who makes any kind of effort will get a B or an A."

"I don't think I, or anyone else, could stand up and say that."

Sarah smiled maliciously and replied, mockingly,

"After all, what would the Speech and other departments think?"

"Well, yes."

"Alternatively, I could start a rumor to that effect. I'll be considered a reliable source, and enough students will believe the rumor to stay in the course and stave off disaster. But, of course, I'll be deniable."

"You should come to Washington, Sarah. You'd be a success."

"However, I'm a reputable rumor-monger. I won't spread it unless you assure me that it'll be honored."

"I can speak only for my own section. But I think you can get Sam and Milton, and the others, to do the same thing."

"You won't give them the impression that they'll pass, and then double-cross them?"


"Okay then. I'll get to work."

"How will you do that?"

"A rumor is spread most effectively by mentioning it quietly, under promise of confidentiality, to only a few of the most reliable and respected people. It then spreads, as you would say, exponentially. At the end, no one will even remember who started it."

As Jones stood to leave, a tall woman with lots of blonde hair, a full skirt, and high heels swept into the room. She hardly seemed dressed for the dead of winter, and Sarah addressed her,

"Hi Octavia, don't you get cold like that?"

"These buildings are overheated, and it's not far to my car. I bet I've missed Roger."

"He left for his class a few minutes ago."

"I must have his schedule confused. Perhaps I should make faces at him from the doorway."

"It's hard to get an unambiguous message across that way."

"All my messages are ambiguous. Is the class down the hall?"

Sarah pointed, and, as the visitor half twirled to leave, Sarah called to her,

"By the way Octavia, this is Jones. Jones, this is Octavia Ennis."

That stopped her. She burst out,

"I've heard all about you, Jones. I'm told you have no first name."

"People keep making names up for me, but nothing but Jones seems to stick."

Octavia, almost Jones' height in her heels, drew back a little to look him up and down. She then said to Sarah,

"Henry, don't you think? It softens him."

Sarah replied,

"It takes some doing to make him cuddly. We could make him Henry Howard Jones."

"Yes, that's good. Well, you'll have to come over for tea, Henry."

With that, she was gone. Jones sat down again and said,

"She's beautiful."

"Yes. She's also widely appreciated."

"You mean?"

"Yes. But not by the milkman and people like that."

"Does Roger know?"

"I'm sure he does. But he also has his interests. Including little old me."

"By God, Sarah! Does she know?"

"Certainly. She approves of me in that role."

"How about Sam and Milton?"

"They don't know anything. But Octavia knows about them. That's one reason she approves of me. I'm too much of an exhuberant party girl to want to steal Roger. She also thinks that I'm a calming influence. Imagine that!"

"That is a little hard to imagine. I don't suppose Wilson knew about any of this."

"He found Octavia charming. All men do. But I don't think he suspected anything."

"You're sure Roger doesn't mind?"

"No. He thinks that Octavia is too much for one man to handle, not just sexually, but altogether. He's also happy that he doesn't have to buy all the expensive clothes she wears. I think all the lovers contribute in that area."


"In case you're wondering, that doesn't even border on prostitution. Any sane man with a mistress like Octavia would want to buy her pretty things."

Sarah gestured upward with her arms, as if making obeisance to the Goddess of Pretty Things. Jones didn't respond enthusiastically, and she asked,

"What's the matter Jones? Didn't they do these things in your little town?"

"There was what was called cheating. It often led to divorce, and sometimes to violent confrontation. But this is different."

"Because it's more civilized and everyone agrees?"

"I don't know."

"Roger and Octavia don't have children. Why shouldn't they have some fun?"

Sarah laughed at Jones' apparent discomfiture, and added,

"Besides, I bet you've had affairs with married women."

Jones didn't deny it, and she continued,

"You felt okay because it was secret and dirty?"

"Now, Sarah, you've overlooked the main point. Extramarital sex certainly occurs widely, but it still isn't the norm in America. Once you say that anyone is free to go at it openly with anyone, there's no point to marriage or most of our other institutions."

"A man like you could go from one mistress to another without ever having a home of his own."

"I'm not that advanced."

Jones' beginning logic class met in Old Tech, a wormy old building that had moldy brown and gray lumps of matter, presumably specimens of something or other, in glass cases. The lecture room, rising from a big marble-topped desk in front to a creaky last row of half-broken armchairs, was almost absurdly long and narrow. The desk, smelling of chemistry, had spigots for water and gas. There were a half dozen other spigots, but, Jones, fearing anything from hydrogen to chlorine, kept carefully away from them. There was also a large shiny new microphone which contrasted with everything else in the room.

When Jones entered, the noise of people talking and yelling to one another was, as usual, rather painful to the ears. It also had, as Sarah had implied, a noticeably angry tone.

The microphone was interesting. One could speak quietly into it, and then, when necessary, raise the accumulated dust in the room with a spin of the volume knob on the console. Even then, it was hard to get the initial attention of the class.

Jones had found that, by putting the microphone in the desk drawer and turning the volume up full, he could produce a noise equivalent to a thousand fingernails scratching the blackboard. It could be considered a way of testing the sound system, but the resulting sound made the students stop talking instantly as they recoiled and dropped their pencils to cover their ears with their hands. Then, when Jones started speaking quietly, everyone listened. On this occasion, using the royal 'we' he had come to favor, he said,

"We realize that this material is quite difficult for many of you. However, from now on, you'll be able to do all the work in groups of four or five, just turning in one paper. Students can often teach other more than they learn from the lecturer, and we'll be going around the class, from one group to another, to make sure that everyone is on the right track."

Jones paused, and a hand shot up from the front left. When he recognized the fraternity-looking student, the latter asked,

"Does that include tests?"

"Certainly. You can also bring any notes and books you want to classes and tests."

There was a sudden roar of approval, something like the outpouring from a pent-up volcano, and Jones had to put the microphone back in the drawer to quell it. He then proceeded, as best he could, on a watered-down, but still recognizable, version of logic.

Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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