“There ain’t no little slice,” replied Albert with regret. “I’ve ate it all.” He sighed and resumed. “I gotta scheme!”
“Fine! What is it?”
Albert knitted his brows.
“It’s like this. You want to see ’er lidyship, but you can’t come to the castle, and she can’t come to you—not with ’er fat brother dogging of ’er footsteps. That’s it, ain’t it? Or am I a liar?”
George hastened to reassure him.
“That is exactly it. What’s the answer?”
“I’ll tell yer wot you can do. There’s the big ball tonight ’cos of its bein’ ‘Is Nibs’ comin’-of-age tomorrow. All the county’ll be ’ere.”
“You think I could slip in and be taken for a guest?”
Albert snorted contempt.
“No, I don’t think nothin’ of the kind, not bein’ a fat-head.” George apologized. “But wot you could do’s this. I ’eard Keggs torkin to the ’ouse-keeper about ‘avin’ to get in a lot of temp’y waiters to ’elp out for the night—”
George reached forward and patted Albert on the head.
“Don’t mess my ’air, now,” warned that youth coldly.
“Albert, you’re one of the great thinkers of the age. I could get into the castle as a waiter, and you could tell Lady Maud I was there, and we could arrange a meeting. Machiavelli couldn’t have thought of anything smoother.”
“One of your ancestors. Great schemer in his day. But, one moment.”
“How am I to get engaged? How do I get the job?”
“That’s orl right. I’ll tell the ’ousekeeper you’re my cousin— been a waiter in America at the best restaurongs—’ome for a ’oliday, but’ll come in for one night to oblige. They’ll pay yer a quid.”
“I’ll hand it over to you.”
“Just,” said Albert approvingly, “wot I was goin’ to suggest myself.”
“Then I’ll leave all the arrangements to you.”
“You’d better, if you don’t want to mike a mess of everything. All you’ve got to do is to come to the servants’ entrance at eight sharp tonight and say you’re my cousin.”
“That’s an awful thing to ask anyone to say.”
“Nothing!” said George.
The great ball in honour of Lord Belpher’s coming-of-age was at its height. The reporter of the Belpher Intelligencer and Farmers’ Guide, who was present in his official capacity, and had been allowed by butler Keggs to take a peep at the scene through a side-door, justly observed in his account of the proceedings next day that the ‘tout ensemble was fairylike’, and described the company as ‘a galaxy of fair women and brave men’. The floor was crowded with all that was best and noblest in the county; so that a half-brick, hurled at any given moment, must infallibly have spilt blue blood. Peers stepped on the toes of knights; honorables bumped into the