“He’s a funny little man, I’ll grant you that”, she said.
“Herr Hitler is a dear little man” Lady Astor had lived in England long enough to speak the words of her adopted country but not long enough to lose her American accent.
Lady Redesdale took a glass of sherry from Lady Astor’s servant and hid her smile behind it. Lady Astor’s speech never failed to amuse her, especially as Lady Astor’s dinners came with wine that positively demanded her indulgence.
It crossed Lady Redesdale’s mind that perhaps Americans heard the same note of absurdity in her own choice of words. Now that was an absurd thought. She must have granted Lady Astor’s wine a little too much indulgence. Lady Astor tickled her sense of humour because she had an accent. It sounded completely different when she spoke.
“I’m not certain I would go that far, Nancy dear.” Some of the thought must have lingered because she took care to speak precisely, making sure there was no hint of any accent at all in them. “There’s something a little hysterical about him. And dear me, that moustache. He is rather common and, well, Austrian. What do you think, Winston?”
“What I think has ceased to matter since I returned to the backbenches. I am no longer a watch officer of the ship of state. Merely a chronicler of its course.”
It took a man with the breeding of Lady Redesdale’s cousin to speak so humbly while leaving no doubt that what he thought mattered a great deal.
“I am certain you would get on with him famously,” said Lady Redesdale. “I heard that your friend Mr Lloyd George thinks very well of him. So does the Prince of Wales.”
“I very much doubt that I would.”
Winston poured himself more brandy. Lady Redesdale hadn’t seen the decanter find its way to the table next to his armchair, but she was used to his magnetic effect on decanters. Or rather on their contents. Their attraction toward him waned once they were empty. She had once seen one of the most refined drawing rooms in the country reduced to near dissolution by his scattered decanters. The butler had been mortified when he saw it, poor man. Not that he said anything, but Lady Redesdale knew servants well enough to know. An observer ignorant of whose house it was would have thought it belonged to a trade family, it looked so middle class.
“I don’t see why not,” she returned to the subject of Herr Hitler. “You agree on so much. Only the other day, you were saying that it’s our destiny to rule India. Herr Hitler says the same thing: Germans are inherently superior to Jews and Gypsies. Almost the equals of the English. I think he has a point. Do you know, Lady Rothschild cut me dead at the opera last week. Such poor manners, these people. No breeding at all.”
“My dear Lady Redesdale, the two are not to be compared at all. There is a great difference between bringing civilisation to a nation of Asiatics and to treating Europeans like cattle.”
“I’m sure you’re right.” Lady Redesdale’s tone made it clear that she thought he was entirely wrong. “Though Lady Rothschild makes no case for herself by being so bovine.”
“Hmmm-m-m-m.” Winston has a gift for making a ‘hm’ into a growl of disapproval.
Lady Redesdale exchanged a smile with Lady Astor. Thank Heaven there was someone in the room who could appreciate her wit.
“I’m sure you and Herr Hitler could settle your differences amicably,” said Lady Redesdale. “One should never take politics too seriously. We’re English.”