The gentleman arrived late in March and the Marquis recieved him graciously. That night and every night of his stay I waited upon the gentleman's every need as I had waited upon the Marquis for the past 20 some years.
Every evening I prepared supper for them in the banquet hall. It was a good deal of trouble to go to for just the two of them to dine, but as the Marquis no longer entertained regularly it was cause enough for the formality. The gentleman, after all, was a representative of the Duke. Every night at supper he met with the Marquis to discuss the workings of his serfdom and divine the cause of the last few years' steady decline in tribute to the Empire. Every night the Marquis patiently listened to the gentleman's lectures on the matters of government and economics, and answered all the gentleman's inquiries with polite yet delightfully vexing vagueries and musings.
During the day the gentleman roamed the estate or lingered in the library as the Marquis would not see him, save at supper, and his attempts to interview myself, the only servant of the manor, had not satisfied him in the least. Every night after dinner he returned to his chambers for the evening where I observed in secret his restless nights. Often I saw him run to shut the windows in a vain attempt to silence the howls of the wolves. But they would howl all night, because I of course had not fed them since the gentleman arrived.
Finally, one week after the gentleman had arrived I delivered to him the message that the Marquis did not wish to sup in the banquet hall that evening, but rather out on the veranda in the fresh air, where their discussions of the proper ways and means of state could be refreshed as well. The gentleman acknowledged this humble page but was not pleased. As I left he returned to the window of his chamber to contemplate the forest who's howling emanations kept his nights sleepless.
On the veranda I set the broad oak table with simple pewter place settings rather than the usual silver. They would certainly seem more fitting of the table itself. It was an single ancient slab from a mighty tree felled far from these mountains. It was a plain table, by most respects. It and the stout flat chairs that accompanied it were completely unadorned and had no varnish save what many years of what age and wear could do to darken them. Several gouges, blackened with grime and the dried accumulations of the various fluids spilled on the table over time, could be found on its surface. The Marquis, ever coy, would say that these only serve to define the bold and honorable character of the table.
The Marquis and the gentleman dined once again together that night, though they did not converse much. The gentleman was clearly uncomfortable with the spare arrangements, and the woods lingering just off to the East. The special seasoning I had added to his stew that supper took effect as soon as the meal was complete. I was just able to bus the gentleman's dishes away before he slumped over onto that old oak table. It was a curious recipe which I made a trek to procure once a year from a gnarled and crafty hag that lived in a cave deep in the mountains. The gentleman was not dead, and not even unconscious. He was, however, rendered quite immobile and utterly helpless for sufficient time. The Marquis got up from the table and removed his waist coat so as not to soil it. The wolves could be seen crossing the plain at that time, coming to the manor.
I proceeded with my role then, pulling the gentleman up onto the table and turning him over. His eyes glared at me with the most comical confusion. "Do not fear, good sir!" I told him as I removed his vest and shirt. "All matters of state shall soon be resolved by the good Marquis." And at that time I dimminished to simple observer as the Marquis approached the gentleman with his instruments in hand, and the wolves crept onto the veranda licking their chops and trembling in anticipation.