“Never mind, Gustavus, never mind,” replied Mr. Ferdinand with some acrimony.
Being of a dignified nature he did not care to explain to a subordinate that there was a very pleasant-looking second-cook just arrived at the house of the Lord Chancellor on the opposite side of the square.
THE DOUBLE LIFE OF MISS MINERVA
On the following day, just as the Prophet was drawing on a new pair of suede gloves preparatory to setting out to Hill Street, Gustavus entered with a silver salver.
“A telegram for you, sir,” he said.
The Prophet took the blushing envelope, ripped it gently open, and read as follows:—
“Madame and self must confer with you this afternoon without fail. Shall be with you five sharp; most important.
Gustavus nearly dropped at sight of the wrinkles that seamed the Prophet’s usually smooth face as he grasped the full meaning of this portentous missive.
“Any answer, sir?”
The wrinkles increased and multiplied.
“Any reply, sir?”
Gustavus glided in a well-trained manner towards the door. When he got there the Prophet cried, rather sharply,—
“Stop a moment!”
“The—I—er—I am expecting a—a—couple this afternoon,” began the Prophet, speaking with considerable hesitation, and still gazing, in a hypnotised manner, at the telegram.
“A couple, sir?”
“Exactly. A pair.”
“A pair, sir? Of horses, sir?”
“Horses! No—of people, that is, persons.”
“A pair of persons, sir. Yes, sir.”
“They should arrive towards five o’clock.”
“If I should not be home by that time you will show them very quietly into my library—not the drawing-room. Mrs. Merillia is not at present equal to receiving ordinary guests.”
The Prophet meant extraordinary, but he preferred to put it the other way.
“Yes, sir. What name, sir?”
“Mr. and Mrs.—that is, Madame Sagittarius. That will do.”
Gustavus hastened to the servants’ hall to discuss the situation, while the Prophet stood re-reading the telegram with an expression of shattered dismay. Not for at least five minutes did he recover himself sufficiently to remember his appointment with Lady Enid, and, when at length he set forth to Hill Street, he was so painfully preoccupied that he walked three times completely round the square before he discovered the outlet into that fashionable thoroughfare.