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The Profumos

An extract from Wicked Baby, my novella about the Profumo Affair.

Dawn broke.  Valerie stood, dusted the Persian blue off her lap and drew back the curtains.  From the kitchen window she could see the last car turn around the bend, as in a funeral procession.  The morning’s first light was bleak.  She set water to boil on the Aga, for another pot of coffee as the front door quietly closed and her husband’s footsteps approached.

He sat down in a wooden chair, pulled on a red cardigan.  The stone floor was cold.  He smiled gratefully as she placed a mug in his hand.  The hangdog expression was familiar by now, and it didn’t convince.  This was not the man she had married; she looked quickly away.

“I will speak to the House today.  The party has drafted a statement, everything has been arranged.”  She nodded as he passed her the typed memorandum.

 ‘My wife and I first met Miss Keeler at a house party in July 1961, at Cliveden… I met Miss Keeler on about half a dozen occasions at Dr Ward’s flat when I called to see him… There was no impropriety whatsoever in my acquaintance with Miss Keeler …’ 

Valerie folded the stiff sheet of paper and placed it in her lap.  “It’s a very strong statement, dear.  I’m sure no one will doubt your intentions.  But I can’t help wondering – wouldn’t it be wiser to admit your mistake?  Then both our consciences will be clear.”

Jack’s eyes narrowed.  “Darling, you’re wonderfully naive.  It would be beneath me to take such a risk with all our futures.  You do understand, my dear?”

“Of course.”  Her lips pursed.

“I won’t be coming home after question time.  But there’s a charity dinner tonight at Quaglino’s and I do hope you’ll accompany me.  It is so important that we put up a united front.”

“I’ll be there.  It will be nice to go out together again.  You’ve been so busy lately.”  She dangled the denial in her hand.  “I must find myself something to wear.  Shall I put it on the account, dear?”