Uchronic Portraits:

The Oxford Street Irregulars

Appeared Sunday, Aug 15, 2004 in Number #3 of Jeux d'Ombres

by Olivier Legrand


High ranking Invisible (and former master spy) Sir Mortimer Grey recently created a special team of Extraordinary Agents placed directly under his command and operating outside the boundaries of the Club's Offices and Circles. These elite operatives are called "The Oxford Street Irregulars" (for reasons that Sir Mortimer only knows).

Assembled at the end of 1890, the team has so far completed only a handful of missions. (All of these missions have taken place in or around London, but the team could easily travel to Europe or even to America if the need arose.) On the surface, nothing seems to differentiate the Irregulars from any other Circle of Club Agents...
In fact, only the Invisibles, some well informed Curators and a (very) few Agents know true purpose of the Irregulars: to hunt down traitors to the cause and to expose those operatives of the Machine attempting to infiltrate the ranks of the Club. This latter possibility is the source of much worry for Sir Mortimer, especially after the recent machinations of the Supreme Council. The Irregulars constitute an instrument of internal security and inquiry within the Club, an element essential to any secret organization worthy of the name.
The Oxford Street Irregulars is composed of four Agents, each one hand picked by Sir Mortimer and carefully selected to represent a variety of social classes and to ensure a wide array of skills. They are: Sir Reginald Musgrave (tasteful gentleman and brilliant amateur detective), Violet Saint-Jones (the "Canary of Lambeth", demimonde and accomplished spy), Arthur Ridley (former inspector of Scotland Yard now private investigator) and, finally, Ambrose McFarlane (interrogation expert).
Here are their Portraits:


doyle.jpg (23725 octets)


Vocation: Man of Society

Assets: Aristocrat, Charming, Connected, Keen Strategist, Large Fortune, Nerves of Steel, Powers of Observation, Trusty Servant, World Traveller

* Note: Musgrave's Trusty Servant is a valet of imperturbable mien named Collins. Collins is well aware (and supportive) of his Master's membership in the Club and can also be regarded as an agent of the organization.

Collins' Assets: Eidetic Memory, Exceptional Coolness, Extreme Patience, Nerves of Steel, Practical Mind

To the world outside the Club Sir Reginald represents a perfect specimen of English manhood. He is an extremely elegant and phlegmatic gentleman with a hint of eccentricity. Musgrave was born in 1858 (making him 32 years old today), he is the last heir to one of the most prominent of Northumberland families. He received a typical upper class British education at Cambridge after which he entered into a diplomatic carrier working for the prestigious Foreign Office. This position allowed him to travel all over Europe and the Middle East where events conspired to draw him into the Great Game (the covert war of the Great European Powers). As a member of His Majesty's Secret Service and the St James' Club Sir Reginald was a likely candidate for the Club and was one of the first agents recruited by Sir Mortimer. (Sir Mortimer liked to call these early operative His Whist Players. As it turns out Sir Reginald is a fair hand at the card game.) Musgrave has successfully completed a number of missions for the Club (including an incident in the Swiss Alps that almost cost him his life) before being assigned to the Irregulars. His skill and experience make him the cell's natural leader, or as his compatriots call him "Captain Prospero".


doyle.jpg (23725 octets)


Vocation: Jack-of-All-Trades

Assets: Charming, Conjurer, Connected, Gifted Actor, Intuitive Mind, Magnetic Personality, Master of Disguise, Nerves of Steel, Powers of Observation

* Note: Ms. Saint-Jones (born Sally Jones) is approximately 24 years of age (if she just happens to actually be 32 this shouldn't be an issue as a gentleman would never ask her in the first place). Violet is, with out a doubt, one of the most beautiful women in London. She also possesses such a particularly melodious voice that the title of "The Canary of Lambeth" has been bestowed upon her. Her voice, couple with her remarkable personality allowed her to pursue a career on the stage as a singer and actress (that is until her very recent retirement). She is what members of polite society call an "adventuress" or a "demi-mondaine", a woman who uses her charms to be introduced into good company. Like others in her position Miss Saint-Jones has taken various lovers, all of whom were well off and well born. Step by step Violet has made her way up in the world, which has earned her some jealousy and enmity. Today Miss Saint-Jones has given up the theatre and her fashionable pastimes to devote herself to the Club. Almost all of her companions are unaware of the circumstances that led to her joining the organization, but all of them recognize that her extraordinary personality and array of talents make her an agent of the first order. Of course Sir Reginald knows the details of Violet's past, but a well educated gentleman would never reveal any of the sordid details... and the rumors that the two are lovers are not a topic for polite conversation.


doyle.jpg (23725 octets)


Vocation: Man of Action

Assets: Accomplished Athlete, Constant Vigilance, Exceptional Agility, Iron Will, Powers of Observation, Practical Mind, Pugilist, Robust Constitution, Street Savvy

* Note: Perspicacious and courageous, Arthur Ridley was one of the best investigators of Scotland Yard had, that was up until the events of six years ago. At the time Ridley was a promising young inspector with brilliant future but he made the policeman's one unforgivable error: he pushed an investigation too far. He was inquiring into the dread business of a murder that occurred at a house of ill-repute (reserved for alleged "gentlemen") and implicating the son of a famous duke. Instructed by his superiors to sweep the matter under the rug, Ridley was obstinate in his desire to bring the young man to justice, but to no avail. The unrepentant miscreant was never worried, but his father intervened and Ridley found himself dismissed from the police force. Arthur then established himself as an inquiry agent, even though being a private investigator was not seen as an honorable profession. In 1888 he was making a personal survey of the Jack the Ripper murders when he made the acquaintance of Dr Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle, quickly perceiving the value of a man like Ridley, introduced him to Sir Mortimer. After the standard period of internal observation Ridley was integrated into the Irregulars.


doyle.jpg (23725 octets)


Vocation: Man of Mystery

Assets: Analytical Mind, Constant Vigilance, Eidetic Memory, Extreme Patience, Hypnotist, Interrogation Specialist, Iron Will, Nerves of Steel, Powers of Observation

* Note: With its bowler hat and its leather satchel, Ambrose McFarlane could resemble to any London office worker... if only he didn't always wear a gas mask. And a very distinctive gas mask it is, fitted with a strange grill through which McFarlane's voice can be heard. But his is not a normal voice: it issues from behind the mask as an eerie, whistling murmur. Before being recruited as one of Sir Mortimer's "Whist Players", agent McFarlane was a member of the British Secret Service. There he was an effective and methodical spy having taken part in many missions before he was captured by the villain Colonel Thursdyke. The Colonel subjected McFarlane to terrible tortures hoping he could break him and obtain confidential information from the man. Thanks to his Iron Will Ambrose held strong for several days, until he was rescued by John Peel. When the physicians of the Club examined McFarlane they were horrified when they realized that he had been forced to inhale an experimental gas which had severely damaged his lungs as well as his vocal cords. From that day on he was condemned to a life of wearing his gas mask. He continues to loyally serve the Club (he was the agent entrusted with setting up the Sounders section) and now works with the Irregulars as their master of interrogation!

English Interpretation by Jordan Block

Uchronia 1890 created by Olivier Legrand, Zaïdin Amiot and Mathieu Tortuyaux

This article originally appeared in Issue #3 of Jeux d'Ombres, Sunday August 15th 2004

Original french text and page design found here