“Well, Sir John, how goes the investigation,” said Lord du Bois to Sir John as the ball whirled around them. “Any new leads?’
“Not as such,” said Sir John. “We’ve heard a number of hair-raisings stories, more than a few of which were a little tall. But nothing that forms a pattern, nothing to help us find the creature.”
“Oh well,” said du Bois. “If the worst that happens is you meet a few souls and dance a few reels, the night won’t be a complete loss. Have some food as well, I had this all specially made.”
Lord du Bois indicated the spread of food next to them, which was equally matched in its generosity and quality.
“Thank you, Lord du Bois,” started Sir John.
“Vulpine, please!” said du Bois. “Ah, here comes your lovely wife. Bonsoir madame.”
“Bonsoir, Lord du Bois,” said Marie. “This is a most pleasant evening.”
“As I hoped,” said du Bois. “And I … is that aconite?”
“Maybe,” said Marie. “It was picked locally.”
“Good God, you must take it off at once!” said du Bois. Marie looked shocked.
“What is the matter?” she said. Lord du Bois quickly grabbed a napkin and took the flower and put it in his pocket.
“I am sorry for the drama,” said du Bois, “but it’s highly poisonous. If you’re eating any food a petal could fall on your plate and …”
“I … am sorry,” said Marie.
“Please, no harm done,” said du Bois. “You can now, safely, enjoy the food. Please excuse me for a moment.”
“What happened?’ said Phlebotomous who just arrived as du Bois left. “I saw him grab at you from the other side of the room. Is that a sort of dance?”
“No,” said Marie. “He removed my flower. He said it’s poisonous.”
“Oh,” said Phlebotomous, “yes, to humans it is. I forgot.”
“Well, I must say were running out of luck here,” said Sir John. “The flower is gone. The silverware is made of gold, and I haven’t seen a drop of vinegar.”
“No, apparently Lord du Bois doesn’t like vinegar,” said Phlebotomous. “I overheard him telling the Mallum’s butler.”
“Strange thing to … wait, he doesn’t like vinegar?” said Sir John.
“Yes, that’s what I just said,” said Phlebotomous,
“But why deny your guests?” said Sir John. “I don’t like mustard, but I would still serve it.”
“Unless you didn’t want it around you at all,” said Marie.
“Didn’t want what around you?” said du Bois, reappearing. The trio all looked at him guiltily.
“I brought you this, Mrs Jennings,” said du Bois, holding out a rose. “I felt guilty for wrenching your flower from you earlier, so fetched a replacement from the garden.”
“Thank you,” said Marie, “We we’re remarking on your silverware.”
Lord du Bois chuckled.
“The goldware you mean,” he said. “Actually, it’s only goldplated, but I much prefer the colour to silver. I imagine it looks a little ostentatious. The locals regard it with a kind of awe.”
“It’s … different,” said Marie, “but each to his own.”
“Oh!” said du Bois, “On that we can certainly agree! But, please, permit me license to abandon you again.”
Lord du Bois left and the Jennings and Phlebotomous stood there.
“Are you wondering what I’m wondering?” said Sir John.
“Whether this is a waltz or not?” said Phlebotomous.
“No,” said Sir John. “We came here looking for someone who hates wolfsbane, vinegar, and silver. I think we may have found him.”
He glanced at Lord du Bois standing on the other side of the room.