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private room at half-past seven sharp. Guests to ask for room X."

The secretary nodded in agreement.

"It can hardly be a hoax," she remarked after a short silence.

"No." The manager tapped his teeth with his pen thoughtfully. "But if by any chance it was, it would prove an expensive one for us. I wish I could think who this Comte de Guy is."

"He sounds like a Frenchman," she answered.

Then after a pause: "I suppose you'll have to take it seriously?"

"I must." He took off his pince-nez and laid them on the desk in front of him. "Would you send the maître d'hôtel to me at once."

Whatever may have been the manager's misgivings, they were certainly not shared by the head waiter as he left the office after receiving his instructions. War and short rations had not been conducive to any particularly lucrative business in his sphere; and the whole sound of the proposed entertainment seemed to him to contain considerable promise. Moreover, he was a man who loved his work, and a free hand over preparing a dinner was a joy in itself. Undoubtedly he personally would meet the three guests and the mysterious Comte de Guy; he personally would see that they had nothing to complain of in the matter of the service at dinner…

And so at about twenty minutes past seven the maître d'hôtel was hovering round the hall-porter, the manager was hovering round the maître d'hôtel, and the secretary was hovering round both. At five-and-twenty minutes past the first guest arrived…