Hives enters the private study of the Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II. . .
Hives: (Peeks around door) Excuse me, Sir?
Irwin-Amadeus II: (Busily applying green paint to trooper figures) Yes, Hives? Have you brought that refill of coffee I asked for an hour ago?
Hives: (Hesitates) Ummm, no, Sir. Frau Goetterfuncken has stepped out for a moment, and none of the remaining kitchen staff seem to have any clue about how to operate one of those French presses.
IA: Blast! Oh, well. Too much coffee makes my painting hand less steady. Hives? Better wait on that coffee until the midday meal with my ministers then.
H: As you wish, Sir (Remains standing just inside doorway).
IA: (Starts to paint once more, but glances in Hives' direction and wrinkles brow) Was there anything else, Hives?
H: Yes, Sir. There was the small matter of a brief message just arrived via courier.
IA: (Adjusts painting glasses and begins painting again) Yes, Hives? What was it then?
H: It seems the Lady Leonora Christina von Grandin and her party were delayed for a few days in Riga where they were to embark on a ship bound for Stockholm, and (pauses). . . your letter of invitation reached her.
IA: (Taken aback) Oh. . .
H: Yes, Sir. And it appears that her parents met her there where her father had been conducting some business in the city before they all returned home together.
IA: (Puts down paintbrush) I see. . .
H: Indeed, Sir. All three members of the von Grandin family and their party have accepted your Christmas invitation. They plan to be in Krankenstadt by early next week.
IA: (Color drains from his face) Oh. . . no. . .
H: Yes, Sir. It does seem to be something of an awkward position you occupy at that moment.
IA: Yes, Hives! Thank you for pointing that out to me. I'd almost missed it.
H: And there is also the matter of how to deal with your Aunt Irmgard and her annual Christmas invitation, Sir, which you accepted weeks ago.
IA: Thank you again, Hives. Thank you. That little detail had almost escaped my attention too. Oh, dash it all! Looks like I'm in it up to my neck. And just as I was starting to make some headway on these Swedish dragoons.
H: Indeed, Sir.
IA: (Looks at ceiling in exasperation) Oh, Hives! Hives! Why on earth do things like this always fall into my lap? The Lady Leonora Christina is a most stunning example of the fairer sex,
H: Indeed, Sir. She is a healthy young woman.
IA: (Making a pained expression) But that laugh.
H: (With caution) It is rather. . . (clears through gently) pronounced, Sir.
IA: (Shudders) Pronounced? Hives, her laugh is like another person in the room. It has a personality all its own. Like those socially awkward cousins most of us have but never talk about.
H: The Lady Leonora Christina von Grandin is your distant cousin, Sir.
IA: (Rinses brush and caps paint) You see what I mean, then.
H: Indeed, Sir.
IA: (Stands, smooths clothes, and adjusts wig) Well, Hives, I suppose there is just one thing for it.
H: What's that, Sir? To send a letter of regret to your Aunt Irmgard?
IA: No, Hives, no. Lunch at the club. Please cancel that midday meeting with my ministers and have a coach brought round to the side entrance of the palace in half an hour. Maybe I'll be able to sort out something during the ride there.
H: Very good, Sir.