Bond commented drily, 'That is certainly a valuable bonus' - the irony was lost on Griffon Or - 'but I'm afraid I am still not interested. And I have no relatives and no children. Now about this man...'
Griffon Or broke in excitedly, 'And this charming motto of the line, “The World is not Enough”. You do not wish to have the right to it?'
'It is an excellent motto which I shall certainly adopt,' said Bond curtly. He looked pointedly at his watch. 'Now, I'm afraid we really must get down to business. I have to report back to my Ministry.'
Griffon Or Pursuivant looked genuinely affronted. 'And here is a name going back at least to Norman le Bond in 1180! A fine old English name, though one perhaps originally of lowly origin. The Dictionary of British Surnames suggests that the meaning is clearly “husbandman, peasant, churl”.' Was there an edge of malice in the Griffon's watery eye? He added with resignation, 'But, if you are not interested in your ancestry, in the womb of your family, then, my dear sir, in what can I be of service?'
At last! James Bond let out a sigh of relief. He said patiently, 'I came here to inquire about a certain Blofeld, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. It seems that your organization has some information about this man.'
Griffon Or's eyes were suddenly suspicious. 'But you represented yourself as a Commander James Bond. And now the name is Blofeld. How does this come about?'
Bond said icily, 'I am from the Ministry of Defence. Somewhere in this building is information about a man called Blofeld. Where can I find it?'
Griffon Or ran a puzzled hand round his halo of curls. 'Blofeld, is it? Well, well.' He looked accusingly at Bond. 'Forgive me, but you certainly have wasted plenty of my, of the College's time. Commander Bond. It is a mystery to me why you did not mention this man's name before. Now let me see, Blofeld, Blofeld. Seem to recall that it came up at one of our Chapter meetings the other day. Now who had the case? Ah, yes.' He reached for a telephone among the nest of books and papers. 'Give me Sable Basilisk.'
The Hairy Heel of Achilles
JAMES BOND'S heart was still in his boots as he was conducted again through the musty corridors. Sable Basilisk indeed! What kind of a besotted old fogy would this be?
There came another heavy door with the name in gold and this time with a nightmare black monster, with a vicious beak, above it. But now Bond was shown into a light, clean, pleasantly furnished room with attractive prints on the walls and meticulous order among its books. There was a faint smell of Turkish tobacco. A young man, a few years younger than Bond, got up and came across the room to meet him. He was rapier-slim, with a fine, thin, studious face that was saved from seriousness by wry lines at the edges of the mouth and an ironical glint in the level eyes.
'Commander Bond?' The handshake was brief and firm. ' I'd been expecting you. How did you get into the claws of our dear Griffon? He's a bit of an enthusiast, I'm afraid. We all are here, of course. But he's getting on. Nice chap, but he's a bit dedicated, if you know what I mean.'
It was indeed like a college, this place, reflected Bond. Much of the atmosphere one associates with the Senior Common Room at a University. No doubt Griffon Or mentally put down Sable Basilisk as a young dilettante who was too big for his boots. He said, 'He seemed very anxious to establish a connexion between me and Bond Street. It took some time to persuade him that I'm perfectly content to be an ordinary Bond, which, by the way, he, rather churlishly I thought, said meant “a churl”.' » Sable Basilisk laughed. He sat down behind his desk, pulled a file towards him, and gestured Bond to a chair beside him. 'Well, then. Let's get down to business. First of all' - he looked Bond very straight in the eye - 'I gather, I guess that is, that this is an Intelligence matter of some kind. I did my national service with Intelligence in BAOR' so please don't worry about security. Secondly, we have in this building probably as many secrets as a government department - and nastier ones at that. One of our jobs is to suggest titles to people who've been ennobled in the Honours Lists. Sometimes we're asked to establish ownership to a title that has become lost or defunct. Snobbery and vanity positively sprawl through our files. Before my time, a certain gentleman who had come up from nowhere, made millions in some light industry or another, and had been given a peerage “for political and public services” - i.e., charities and the party funds - suggested that he should take the title of Lord Bentley Royal, after the village in Essex. We explained that the word Royal could not be used except by the reigning family, but, rather naughtily I fear, we said that “Lord Bentley Common” was vacant.' He smiled. 'See what I mean? If that got about, this man would become the laughing-stock of the country. Then sometimes we have to chase up lost fortunes. So-and-so thinks he's the rightful Duke of Blank and ought to have his money. His name happens to be Blank and his ancestors migrated to America or Australia or somewhere. So avarice and greed come to join snobbery and vanity in these rooms. Of course,' he added, putting the record straight,'that's only the submerged tenth of our job. The rest is mostly official stuff for governments and embassies - problems of precedence and protocol, the Garter ceremonies, and others. We've been doing it for around five hundred years so I suppose it's got its place in the scheme of things.'
'Of course it has,' said Bond staunchly. 'And certainly, so far as security is concerned, I'm sure we can be open with each other. Now this man Blofeld. Truth of the matter is he's probably the biggest crook in the world. Remember that Thunderball affair about a year ago? Only some of it leaked into the papers, but I can tell you that this Blofeld was at the bottom of it all. Now, how did you come to hear of him? Every detail, please. Everything about him is important.'
Sable Basilisk turned back to the first letter on the file. 'Yes,' he said thoughtfully, 'I thought this might be the same chap when I got a lot of urgent calls from the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence yesterday. Hadn't occurred to me before, I'm afraid, that this is a case where our secrets have to come second, or I'd have done something about it earlier. Now then, in June last, the tenth, we got this confidential letter from a firm of respectable Zurich solicitors, dated the day before. I'll read it out:
'We have a valued client by the name of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. This gentleman styles himself Monsieur le Comte Balthazar de Bleuville in the belief that he is the rightful heir to this title which we understand to be extinct. His belief is based on stories he heard from his parents in childhood to the effect that his family fled France at the time of the Revolution, settled in Germany under the adopted name of Blofeld, assumed in order to evade the Revolutionary authorities and safeguard their fortune which they had sequestered in Augsburg, and subsequently, in the 1850's, migrated to Poland.
'Our client is now anxious to have these facts established in order legally to obtain right to the de Bleuville title supported by an Acte de Notoriete which would in due course receive the stamp of approval of the Ministere de la Justice in Paris.
'In the meantime, our client proposes to continue to adopt, albeit provisionally, the title of Comte de Bleuville together with the family arms which he informs us are “Argent four fusils in fesse gules” and the de Bleuville motto which, in English, is “For Hearth and Home”.'
'That's a good one!' interjected Bond. Sable Basilisk smiled and continued:
'We understand that you, honoured Sirs, are the only body in the world who is capable of undertaking this research work and we have been instructed to get in touch with you under the strictest conditions of confidence, which, in view of the social aspects involved, we think we have the right to request.
'The financial standing of our client is impeccable and expense is no object in this matter. As a preliminary honorarium and upon acceptance of this commission, we propose a payment of one thousand pounds sterling to your account in such bank as you may designate.
'Awaiting the favour of an early reply, we remain, honoured sirs etc. etc., Gebrüder Gumpold-Moosbrugger, Advokaten, 16 his, Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich.'
Sable Basilisk looked up. James Bond's eyes were glittering with excitement. Sable Basilisk smiled. 'We were even more interested than you seem to be. You see, to let you in on a secret, our salaries are extremely modest. So we all have private means which we supplement from fees received for special work like this. These fees rarely go above fifty guineas for a piece of pretty tough research and all the leg work at Somerset House and in parish records and graveyards that is usually involved in tracking a man's ancestry. So this looked like a real challenge for the College, and as I was “in waiting” the day the letter came in, sort of “officer of the watch”, the job fell into my lap.'
Bond said urgently, 'So what happened? Have you kept the contact?'
'Oh yes, but rather tenuously, I'm afraid. Of course I wrote at once accepting the commission and agreeing to the vow of secrecy which' - he smiled - 'you now force me to break presumably by invoking the Official Secrets Act. That is so, isn't it? I am acting under force majeure?'
'You are indeed,' said Bond emphatically.
Sable Basilisk made a careful note on the top paper in the file and continued. ' Of course the first thing I had to ask for was the man's birth certificate and, after a delay, I was told that it had been lost and that I was on no account to worry about it. The Count had in fact been born in Gdynia of a Polish father and a Greek mother - I have the names here - on May 28th, 1908. Could I not pursue my researches backwards from the de Bleuville end? I replied temporizing, but by this time I had indeed established from our library that there had been a family of de Bleuvilles, at least as lately as the seventeenth century, at a place called Blonville-sur-Mer, Calvados, and that their arms and motto were as claimed by Blofeld.' Sable Basilisk paused. 'This of course he must have known for himself. There would have been no purpose in inventing a family of de Bleuvilles and trying to stuff them down our throats. I told the lawyers of my discovery and, in my summer holidays - the North of France is more or less my private heraldic beat, so to speak, and very rich it is too in connexions with England -1 motored down there and sniffed around. But meanwhile I had, as a matter of routine, written to our Ambassador in Warsaw and asked him to contact our Consul in Gdynia and request him to employ a lawyer to make the simple researches with the Registrar and the various churches where Blofeld might have been baptized. The reply, early in September, was, but is no longer, surprising. The pages containing the record of Blofeld's birth had been neatly cut out. I kept this information to myself, that is to say I did not pass it on to the Swiss lawyers because I had been expressly instructed to make no inquiries in Poland. Meanwhile I had carried out similar inquiries through a lawyer in Augsburg. There, there was indeed a record of Blofelds, but of a profusion of them, for it is a fairly common German name, and in any case nothing to link any of them with the de Bleuvilles from Calvados. So I was stumped, but no more than I have been before, and I wrote a neutral report to the Swiss lawyers and said that I was continuing my researches. And there' - Sable •Basilisk slapped the file shut - 'until my telephone began ringing yesterday, presumably because someone in the Northern Department of the Foreign Office was checking the file copies from Warsaw and the name Blofeld rang a bell, and you appeared looking very impatient from the cave of my friend the Griffon, the case rests.'