One bright, cold autumn morning, in late November 1768, the ruler of the Grand Duchy of Stollen -- Irwin-Amadeus II -- and his faithful English manservant Hives have retreated to the relative calm of the drawing room in Krankenstadt Palace. As the ever-present Portugese Water Dogs, Max and Moritz, soak up the available late morning sunlight on the floor of the chamber, Irwin-Amadeus waxes philosophically while Hives attempts to read the early edition of Die Krankensstadt Tageblat. . .
Irwin-Amadeus: (Cheerfully) Thank you, Hives. The Egg and B were delightful. Delicious.
Hives: (Wearily preoccupied) Very good, Sir. I'll relay your compliment to the kitchen staff.
IA: (Pushing his chair back, standing, and stuffing his hands into the pockets of his dressing gown) Hives, what's been going on the last year with this awful Zichenauer invasion? I mean, what do you think that dreadful Princess Antonia wants?
Hives (Looking up absent mindedly from his place across the table): I couldn't hazard a guess, Sir.
IA: (Looking directly at Hives) Oh, come now Hives! Surely you must have an opinion on the matter?
H: (Turns a page of the newspaper) It's not really my place to venture an opinion one way or the other, Sir.
IA: (Looks puzzled) Oh, yes. I see what you mean there, Hives. But you must have some ideas swimming around the old noggin. And what's the general view in London on the matter? Hmm? What do people there think Zichenau wants with Stollen?
H (Looking over the top of his newspaper): I can't say that I know with any degree of assurance, Sir.
IA: But Hives, surely with your connections, you must have some idea what George III thinks about all of this.
H: (Patiently) I imagine, Sir, that His Majesty, much like many of the kings and princes here on the Continent, is keeping a close eye on the matter.
IA: (Furrowing his brow) Hmm. . . Yes, Hives, I see your point. I imagine old Georgie Porgie must have more than a passing interest in the things happening to the east of Hanover. Although we are quite a ways beyond that. A bit east of the sun and west of the moon, and all that, what?
H: (Paging through the newspaper and responding absent mindedly) Indeed, Sir.
IA: Um, Hives?
H: Yes, Sir.
IA: I think I'll have a stroll around the palace gardens and orchard early this afternoon before meeting with my ministers about all of this Zichenauer mess. Would you lay out my best lobster costume with the new right claw?
H: (Putting the newspaper down breifly) Sir, do you think, given the gravity of the situation, that it might be more advisable to wear somewhat more conservative attire to the function this afternoon?
IA: What? Oh, yes. I see what you mean, Hives. Well then, lay out my blue coat, white breeches, white waistcoat, riding boots, and my new wig.
H: (Returning to his paper once again): Very good , Sir.
IA: (Walks over to the sleeping dogs, bends over, and rubs the stomach of Max, who groans and stretches in the late morning sunlight): Oh, and Hives?
H: (Impatiently) Yes, Sir.
IA: (Looks troubled) You don't think Princess Antonia has her eye on trying to become engaged, or married, or anything like that, do you?
H: (Turning a page): That would be hard to say, Sir. I wouldn't rule out the possibility, however remote it might be. But one can never be too presumptuous in these situations.
IA: (Pacing the floor thoughtfully, looking out the windows toward the sunny orchard beyond): No, Hives. I suppose you're right there.
H: (Turns to the daily crossword puzzle, picks up a quill pen from the writing desk, dips it in an ink pot, and fills in the answer to first clue) Indeed, Sir.
IA: (Walks back toward the writing desk where Hives sits, and looks thoughtfully into space) Yes, Hives. It is a most troubling affair all this business between Stollen and Zichenau. Most troubling.
H: (Fills in another answer in the puzzle) Yes, Sir.
IA: (Rubs hands together, bounces on toes, and turns toward Hives) Well, that's that then. Hives? I think I'll have a bath now.
H: (Absent mindedly) I'll alert the press, Sir.