A small dinner party with a few guests has been organized for this evening at Krankenstadt Palace, but, as usual, the Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II is distracted by other affairs of state. We begin, however, with his ever-faithful manservant Hives late one September morning in the sunny drawing room of the Palace. Hives has the morning and early afternoon off. He is seated with a fresh pot of Frisian tea at hand and a copy of David Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature on the writing desk before him. The door opens, and the Grand Duke peeks his head in and spots his gentleman's personal gentleman. Let's eavesdrop on their conversation that follows.
Irwin-Amadeus II (enters room): Ah, Hives! There you are. Enjoying our morning off, are we?
Hives (turns a page without looking up): I am indeed, Sir. Just catching up on a little light reading before returning to more pressing matters once I am back on duty this afternoon.
IA (flops down on settee near Hives and stretches out): Yes, Hives, yes. That's what I needed to speak to you about I'm afraid. That dinner party we are having here this evening.
H (continues reading): Yes, Sir?
IA: Well, it's just the guest list, Hives. Is there anyway we can change it?
H (sips tea from china cup and replaces it on saucer): The guest list was finalized and invitations sent three week ago, Sir. You approved it yourself. We decided to keep things understated this time in compliance with your own wishes.
IA (puts left wrist across forehead and bugs eyes at ceiling): I know, Hives, I know. It's just that the de Bouleversements are part of the evening, and. . .
H (gives up trying to read, places bookmark in Hume, and closes it): Since Monsieur de Bouleversement is your new Minister of Finance, Sir, you will admit that it is a prudent idea to include him and his wife as part of the evening's festivities. I might suggest that to un-invite him at this late point would be the height of rudeness and could conceivably result in considerable public scandal among Krankenstadt society.
IA: Yes, Hives, that's all very well and good. But I've been looking at some of the state ledgers these last few days since ol' de Bouleversement took things over, and I can't make heads or tails of the blasted things. Hives, it might as well be Greek. All of those columns and figures. Damned confusing I tell you. And the funny thing is, I can't figure out where our money is going, Hives. I thought for certain that there was more of it available, though, before de Bouleversement's arrival from. . . Paris, wasn't it? Or maybe Bern?
H: Geneva, Sir. The Monsieur and Madame de Bouleversement came to us from the city of Geneva.
IA: Ah, yes. That's it. Still. . .
H (interrupts): And, Sir, do remember that figures are not your strong suit to begin with, and you lack the specialized training of Monsieur de Bouleversement in the area of maintaining the state accounts.
IA: Yes, you're right there, Hives. I'll be the first to admit it. Numbers, debts, and credits give me a frightful headache I'm afraid. But something just seemed slightly off when I looked at those ledgers. The sheer disorder of things. I can't quite put my finger on it though. Aren't ledger books supposed to be more orderly and easier to make sense of?
H (changing subject, pours cup of tea for the Grand Duke and takes it to him): Tea, Sir?
IA: Yes, Hives, thank you. Just put it on the table there. Still, Madame de Bouleversement is easy on the old eyes, eh Hives?
H (clears throat discreetly behind one hand): Madame de Bouleversement has been blessed where the feminine charms are concerned, Sir.
IA: But, her husband? Ponderous doesn't begin to describe it, Hives! Oh, a pleasant enough chap outwardly, yes. But from what I've seen these last several weeks, he manages to cast a pall over any social gathering of which he is a part. Even at the dinner table, all of that talk about state finances, budgets, and things. It makes one's head spin. And it's hardly the kind of thing to discuss in mixed company around the supper table. I mean, what about things like art, literature, drama, the opera, philosophy, who said what to whom in which salon? There is so much else to talk about besides old, musty ledgers. By the way, what was that you were reading when I came in, Hives?
H: Just a little something I picked up from a bookseller last week during my afternoon errands, Sir.
IA (sips tea, burns upper lip, and winces): Another one of your chapbook mysteries, eh Hives?
H (picks up Hume and leafs through it before placing the book on table once more): Indeed, Sir. Just a little insignificant escape from the concerns of daily life, as you say. Will there be anything else, Sir?
IA: When you're back on duty this afternoon, Hives, lay out my new suit. You know, the tweed one with the plus fours, my tan brogues, and brown hat. I want to drop by the Brummen und Summen this afternoon for a spot of late luncheon before returning to the Palace to bathe and prepare for this evening. Might as well get on with things, I suppose, and Monsieur de Bouleversement be damned.
H (mildly reproachful): Very good, Sir. But might I remind you that it might be in better taste to opt for something in charcoal or darker blue for your afternoon soiree.
IA: What? Oh, blast, Hives! Don't start again with that whole (makes face) 'No brown when in town' thing again. I've heard enough. I like that suit, and I'm going to wear it out. We'll have no more talk of it today.
H: Very good, Sir.
IA: Now, what about drawing my bath, Hives? It's almost half past eleven.
H: Sir, I am off duty until two o'clock this afternoon.
IA: What? Oh, right. Well, then have one of the chambermaids do it then, please, Hives.
H: As you wish, Sir.
IA: And Hives? Stress to the maid in question that there is to be no lingering, peeking, or giggling from behind the door once the tub is full. She is to leave the room and find something else gainful to do on another floor. I don't want to hear rumors of any more sniggering later among the household staff about some non-existent beauty mark somewhere best left unmentioned. You know how these things get started and spread like wildfire. And besides, it's just not true. There is no beauty mark where there should not be one. Imagine that girl making up a thing like that? Dashed embarrassed I was, too, the last time it happened.
H (stifles a smirk from behind his hand as he turns to leave): Very good, Sir.
-- Curtain Falls --