“It’s a mystery, a complete and utter mystery!” said Sir John, looking perplexed.
“What is?” said Phlebotomous.
“I can’t find a dinner table in all of London. What’s so special about a mid-week in February?” said Sir John.
“I have one booked,” said Phlebotomous. “A lady friend who said she’d like to see me. A Miss Isabella Swan. I’m quite excited about it as I believe Miss Swan is interested in a new gearing mechanism I’ve invented.”
The vampire leaned forward.
“I intend to show her the plans,” he said conspiratorially. “In fact I’d better go and prepare. I want to make sure I have the final draft for this evening.”
Phlebotomous left the room and Miss Henderson walked in the room with a pot of tea. Her eyes were rather red.
“Miss Henderson, I know you wanted this evening off, but we’re having trouble getting a table, would tomorrow be acceptable instead?” asked Sir John.
“I don’t care if I never have an evening off again,” said Miss Henderson. “I shall die an old maid either way.”
“I see,” said Sir John. “Yes … well … just tonight, really. Oh, by the way, this was in the mail for you.”
Sir John passed Miss Henderson a letter and left the room, glancing quickly back at Miss Henderson as he did. Miss Henderson opened the letter to find a card. Her face suddenly lit up. She fell into the seat and absently reached for a biscuit. She barely noticed Marie come in the room and shot up out of the seat when she did.
“I’m sorry Mrs Jennings,” she said, “only I just had some good news.”
“It’s fine Miss Henderson,” said Marie. “Are you alright? You look like you have been crying.”
“I was … expecting something,” said Miss Henderson, “and … that something didn’t happen and then it did happen.”
Marie looked puzzled, so Miss Henderson showed her the card and Marie smiled.
“So you shall be dining with the young detective,” she said.
“Sush, Mrs Jennings,” said Miss Henderson, turning red, “or the world will… Oh no!”
“What is it?” said Marie as she saw the maid’s face fall.
“I told Sir John I would stay in this evening,” said Miss Henderson mournfully, “when I thought I was abandoned.”
“Well, we are going out ourselves,” said Marie, “so I don’t imagine that’s an inconvenience.”
“No, Mrs Jennings,” said Miss Henderson, “Sir Jennings said he couldn’t get a table. That’s why he asked me to stay.”
“Ah,” said Marie, “maybe I had better assist.”
Marie went to the telephone and picked it up. She looked in the directory then dialed a number.
“‘’Ello, is that the Ritz” she said, “I would like to book a table for two this evening.”
There was a pause and a quiet voice could be heard on the other end.
“I see, no tables at all,” said Marie. “Perhaps if you look again you could … trouver! Yes, seven pm is perfect. The name is Jennings.”
“Thank you Mrs Jennings!” said Miss Henderson. Sir John came in the room at that point and Miss Henderson bounded out.
The Jennings sat down for tea and biscuits.
“I found us a table for tonight,” said Marie, “at the Ritz.”
“Oh good, good,” said Sir John, a little distracted. There was a short pause while he slurped some tea.
“Do you think,” said Sir John, “that there’s anything amiss with Miss Henderson?”
Marie smiled a little.
“No mon cher,” she said, “not now. But it’s good of you to notice.”
Sir John munched on a biscuit.
“I really think,” said Sir John, “that I’m developing an intuition for these things.”
There was a sound from near the fireplace from Morag. It must have been a noise she was making in her sleep and sounded strangely like a chuckle.
*Thanks to The Graphics Fairy for the lovely vintage Valentine’s card.