A bleary-eyed John MrWhippyface pushed the last page back across the desk to Mistress Owen. "There, 'tis done. But is it enough ?"
He had toiled late into the night on the 4th Floor of 100 Parliament Street, shaping and re-shaping the phrases, ordering and re-ordering the sentences, as the printer's deadline drew closer and closer. He was not alone. Grizzled and faithful retainer Raymond Gallagher, white-haired from his 15 years service with Mr Murdoch's company, stood behind, as his first draft was edited and amended. Then the final version was read to those assembled.
Friends from Mr John's olden days on the backbenches sat on the closest ottoman. The countenances of pinch-faced horse-fancier Philip Davies, and the more rounded features of Andrew Bridgen, moved in tempo with the reading. "That'll learn the pecksniffs", muttered Davies, passing a mug of hot beer and gin to Bridgen. "Freedom is on its way, and will not be stopped".
In the corners of the office were gathered Mr John's chosen touchstones, who had bolstered the new Secretary's confidence and resolve during the preparation of this most dangerous document. Young Ashley Highfield, rosy-cheeked Miss Dawn Airey, and musick-maker Darren Henley all stood; Dame Colette Bowe took a chair. As if conducted, they uttered "Yes, yes" and "Well done, sir" at moments of special weight in the reading.
Mr John's soft baritone did not waver, despite the sustained pressure of the previous year. He had, he knew, spent too much time in the company of women; he had travelled far, and eaten well; he had suffered the laughter of colleagues and the sniping of whey-faced hacks; and what should have remained private for all men, mind not a Minister of the Crown, was now the subject of street sniggering.
The reading ended. The Secretary, heavy-lidded but still presenting the wry smile that had attracted so many formidable women, glanced around the glistening eyes of his audience, and said "I think Maggie would have approved, don't you ?"