“It’s very annoying, Mr. Stevens,” said he, “but can I trouble you to—to step—er—down—stairs—with the glasses? It’s ’ighly mortifying, but may I ask you to—er—step a little lively, Mr. Stevens?”
Without a word, Mr. Stevens caught up the tray from the piano and glided away on his toe-points; whereupon Mr. Brimberly (being alone) became astonishingly agile and nimble all at once, diving down to straighten a rug here and there, rearranging chairs and tables; he even opened the window and hurled two half-smoked cigars far out into the night; and his eye was as calm, his brow as placid, his cheek as rosy as ever, only his whiskers—those snowy, telltale whiskers, quivered spasmodically, very much as though endeavouring to do the manifestly impossible and flutter away with Mr. Brimberly altogether; yes, it was all in his whiskers.
Thus did Mr. Brimberly bustle softly to and fro until he paused, all at once, arrested by the sound of a slow, firm step near by. Then Mr. Brimberly coughed, smoothed his winglike whiskers, and—pulled down his waistcoat for the third time. And lo! even as he did so, the door opened, and the hero of this history stood upon the threshold.
OF A MOURNFUL MILLIONAIRE WHO LACKED AN OBJECT
Geoffrey Ravenslee was tall and pale and very languid, so languid indeed that the automobile coat he bore across his arm slipped to the floor ere Mr. Brimberly could take it, after which he shed his cap and goggles and dropped them, drew off his gauntlets and dropped them and, crossing to his favourite lounge chair, dropped himself into it, and lay there staring into the fire.
“Ah, Brimberly,” he sighed gently, “making a night of it?”
“Why, sir,” bowed his butler, “indeed, sir—to tell the truth, sir—”
“You needn’t, Brimberly. Excellent cigars you smoke—judging from the smell. May I have one?”
“Sir,” said Brimberly, his whiskers slightly agitated, “cigars, sir?”
“In the cabinet, I think,” and Mr. Ravenslee motioned feebly with one white hand towards the tall, carved cabinet in an adjacent corner.
Mr. Brimberly coughed softly behind plump fingers.
“The—the key, sir?” he suggested.
“Oh, not at all necessary, Brimberly; the lock is faulty, you know.”
“Sir?” said Brimberly, soothing a twitching whisker.
“If you are familiar with the life of the Fourteenth Louis, Brimberly, you will remember that the Grand Monarch hated to be kept waiting—so do I. A cigar—in the cabinet yonder.”
With his whiskers in a high state of agitation, Mr. Brimberly laid by the garments he held clutched in one arm and coming to the cabinet, opened it, and taking thence a box of cigars, very much at random, came back, carrying it rather as though it were a box of highly dangerous explosives, and setting it at his master’s elbow, struck a match.