Suited For Each Other
There was a disturbance in the Von Schroider household. It had been precipitated by the arrival of a box - a largish flat one, bound up in brown paper and delivered by a special courier in an impressive uniform. It was, the man announced, meant to be delivered directly to Mr. Siegfried von Schroider. The doorman who had collected it assured him it would be so, and then carried it off to the staff breakroom for everyone to get a good look at it. He was joined almost immediately by the massuer, two housekeepers, a laundry maid, and a sous-chef who had escaped from the kitchen by claiming he had a stomach-ache. The head chef had let him go, possibly because he realized that if the sous-chef was suffering stomach pains, it was probably because he had been helping himself to samples throughout the day. Everyone gathered around the box and had a look at it.
"Who is it from?" asked the laundry maid, who was in the back and couldn't see.
"It's from Herr Crawford," said the doorman. He leered. "You know. Master Siegfried's boyfriend."
A ripple of salacious excitement ran through the assembled company. For years, Siegfried had been stubbornly defying his mother when it came to looking at potential brides. Oh, he would talk to them if they were presented to them, would dine and dance with them if it was appropriate, but as soon as they were gone, he forgot all about them and went back to his own amusements and endeavors. A few of the female servants who were pretty and clever enough to have some expectations that he might take advantage of them had gone out of their way to make it easy for him, and he had, according to his mood, either ignored them or sharply rebuffed them. Those who worked closely with him (among them the massuer) had likewise entertained hopes, and then given up and begun to declare that the man was as vain and self-absorbed as Narcissus, and would never fall in love with anyone until science advanced enough to give him a clone. Then he had surprised his staff and infuriated his family by taking up with the president of Industrial Illusions. Bets had already begun among the servants as to how long that arrangement would last: either Siegfried's mother would pressure him into ending the relationship, or Pegasus would do something to infuriate him, or else Siegfried's own abraisive personality would drive the man away.
"Wonder what's in there?" the sous-chef said, prodding the box experimentally.
"Let's find out," said the massuer. Her clever fingers carefully peeled away the tape on one end of the wrapping, and then gently eased the box into view. The doorman lifted the lid, and everyone crowded around for a look.
There was a communal gasp of astonishment. Inside the box were several cloth items, which, though folded neatly, could not be mistaken for anything other than a suit of clothes. Even more horrifying, they were not pink, or purple, or even white. Any of those might have lessened the transgression somewhat, but these were clearly and undeniably green. The suit was a deep shade of emerald, and the shirt and scarf that accompanied it were the color of an after-dinner mint. For a moment, all anyone could do was stand there and gawp. From the moment it had dawned on young Siegfried that he was going to grow up to be a beauty, he had asserted strict control over his dressing and grooming. No one ever, ever attempted to get him to wear clothing that he hadn't picked out or at least approved of beforehand. Members of the staff who had been around for a few years occasionally regaled younger maids with stories of people who had tried in all innocence to help Siegfried choose his clothing for some important event, and had subsequently been sacked without references and were never seen again.
The sous-chef broke the silence with a low whistle.
"Whoo-wee!" he said. "That's broken it!"
"He'll have a fit," said the laundry maid.
"I always heard Pegasus was a little insane," said one of the housekeepers, "but I had no idea he was this brazen."
"He probably doesn't know. Poor man," said the other housekeeper, who was younger and more romantically inclined.
"Maybe it would be better," said the massuer, "if we just threw it away and pretended we never saw it?"
"That won't work," said the doorman. "Pegasus is bound to ask Master Siegfried what he thought of it, and then the secret will be out anyway. It would just be postponing the inevitable."
"Well, his mother will be happy, at least," said the laundry maid.
"Might as well get it over with, then," said the sous-chef.
Everyone agreed that there was nothing else to be done. They carefully put the box back in its wrapper and taped it up neatly again, so that even Siegfried's critical eye would never be able to detect anything wrong with it. Then the doorman whisked it away again to see that it was properly delivered.
Gossip in that castle spread far more quickly than a servant could carry a parcel. By the time the box was placed with all due ceremony in Siegfried's perfectly manicured hands, nearly everyone on the staff knew what was about to happen. The castle filled with a listening silence. Cleaning women stopped their gossip; gardeners clustered around the windows to eavesdrop; cooks and scullery maids quieted their rattling pans; butlers and valets fell into an ominous silence. As many people as dared clustered around the entrance to Siegfried's suite, listening for the sounds of consternation that were certain to ensue.
"Do you think he had a heart attack?" someone whispered. Everyone shushed him.
There was silence a moment longer.
"Do you think we ought to go in and see what happened?" asked someone else.
No one wanted to go. The heavy silence stretched on and on.
Finally, it was broken by the sound of a door swinging open - not with an angry slam, but with a careless fling of one who is hardly concerned with what damage he'll do to antique door-handles and hardwood wall paneling. Siegfried stepped out, wearing a thoughtful expression. He was wearing the green suit.
"The light simply is not sufficient in there at this time of day," he murmured, apparently to himself.
He glided serenely through the crowd of onlookers with the practiced serenity of one who has been brought up to see servants as invisible. He paused by a nearby mirror to have a look at his reflection, turning this way and that as he studiously attempted to view himself from all angles. He smiled.
"You know, I think he was right," he said. "This color really does bring out my eyes."
And he turned and walked back into his room.
The crowd dispersed as silently as it had come. The servants were mystified, and also a trifle let down by the lack of a spectacle. Later, they also realized that they had lost their sport. Siegfried had taken the fun out of their gossip about his love life, for everyone agreed that after the green suit incident, all bets were permanently off.