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For All Nails #209: The World is a Vampire

London, England, UK
5 May 1975

"Excuse me, Ronnie, might I have a word with you before you go?"

Sir Geoffrey Gold thought that Ronald Spade, Lord Sidney, looked rather unhappy
about being asked to remain while the rest of the cabinet filed out of the
room.  Of course, it was difficult to tell with Sidney, who looked unhappy even
on those rare occasions when he was not.

Sidney tended to look out of place when he was seated amongst his cabinet
colleagues.  He was the tallest man in Sir Geoffrey's cabinet, and also the
heaviest.  He looked like a football player who had been stuffed into a Cork
Street suit and dropped into the middle of a seminar on chartered accountancy.

When you met with him person-to-person, though, he tended to dominate his
environment through sheer physical presence, which was the chief reason Sir
Geoffrey preferred to spend as little time alone with Sidney as possible. 
Today, however, it was necessary for Sir Geoffrey to speak with his Home
Secretary in private.

"Ronnie," Sir Geoffrey began, "I'm sure you're aware of our efforts to rally
public opinion behind the Government on the matter of the war."

"I am," said Sidney simply.  Another reason Sir Geoffrey didn't like being
alone with Sidney was that getting him to say more than a syllable or two at a
time was like pulling teeth.  He would be even more taciturn than usual, Sir
Geoffrey was certain, because he knew what was coming, and intended to be as
uncooperative as possible.

With a sigh, Sir Geoffrey continued.  "A man who has been in politics as long
as you ought to know that public approval is, in a sense, a limited resource. 
It can be acquired, and it can be expended, and if you expend more than you
acquire you'll eventually run out.  Right now, we're spending huge amounts of
public approval on the war, and the longer the war lasts without any obvious
progress toward victory, the more expensive it becomes."

Sir Geoffrey paused again.  After an awkward couple of moments, Sidney
responded with, "I understand."

"I wonder if you do," Sir Geoffrey said in exasperation, "because while I'm
busy husbanding public approval for the war, you seem to be busy expending it
on this wretched _Vlad Tepes_ business!"

"Prime Minister, that book is a disgrace!" Sidney exclaimed, moved by passion
into a veritable flood of verbiage.  "This Blake Hamilton fellow thinks he can
slander the Party and get away with it by pretending he's writing about
something else!  'Historical phantasy' my eye!"

 "Be that as it may, Ronnie," Sir Geoffrey reproved him, "we can't afford the
trouble it's causing us.  It's become a _cause celebre_ for every fool, traitor
and weakling in this country, and you know how many of /those/ there are."

"But, sir!  This fellow's calling us all a gang of blood-sucking fiends!  It's
intolerable!" Sidney insisted.

"Nevertheless, Ronnie," Sir Geoffrey said sternly, "for the time being, we'll
tolerate it all the same.  I want you to return all those copies you've
impounded and put your men back to work finding spies and wreckers instead of
haunting bookshops."

"Very well, sir," Sidney rumbled, and now Sir Geoffrey was certain that the
Home Secretary really was genuinely unhappy.  "It sticks in my craw, though,
having to let this Hamilton rotter spread his filth."

"I don't care for it any more than you do," Sir Geoffrey said, "but there is a
time for decisive action and a time for forbearance, and these are times that,
unfortunately, call for the latter."

"Yes, Prime Minister," Sidney said despondently.

"I want you to be clear about one thing, though, Ronnie," Sir Geoffrey
continued.  "The day will come when our forbearance will be at an end, and on
that day, I assure you, Mister Blake Bloody Hamilton and all those jeffy scum
who support him will be made to pay for their insolence.  With interest!"