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THE MIDLAND HOTEL (ST. PANCRAS)
THE dramatic moment of the evening came when Juliette, the new French maid,
with despair painted on her face, out of breath, and with her bonnet on one side
of her head, came running into the dining-room at the Midland Hotel, and told
Miss Dainty that the dog had escaped. Miss Dainty for one moment was
overwhelmed, for she pictured Jack in fierce combat with every big dog in
London; but, recovering herself, said that she wanted boy messengers. The wild
duck was getting cold, the manager was beginning to look unhappy, the waiter was
sympathetic but helpless, the French maid was weeping. If messenger boys could
straighten out the difficulties Miss Dainty should have had a dozen; but she
said that she only wanted three. So three little boys stood in a row and
received their instructions. One was to go, in a cab, to Miss Dainty’s flat to
see whether Jack had returned there; another, in a cab, was to go round to all
the places that Jack had been taken to during the day, chiefly milliners’ and
dress-[-286-]makers’ and bonnet-makers’ shops,
to see whether he had wandered away to any of those localities the third was, in
a cab, to go to all the places where Jack had special canine enemies to see
whether he had gone to fight a parting fight with any of them. The three small
boys were sent on their way, the weeping maid dismissed to mount guard over the
pile of baggage, and then I told the manager to serve us our duck and he smiled
again, while the waiter allowed the look of sympathy to die out in his face and
woke to sudden activity.
Canard sauvage à la presse.
Salade de laitue.
Pouding à la reine.
With the soup, which was strong and hot, Miss Dainty told me how she had
boarded out her pets for the time of her absence, and it seemed to me that the
gold-fish, the parrot, the cat, and the love-birds had, with Miss Dainty’s
usual perverseness, been sent to people who would loathe the sight of them. Jack
was to go with his mistress to protect her from all perils in an unknown land
and to bite Custom-house officers.
When the sole and its rubicund surrounding of tomatoes appeared, I inquired whether Miss Dainty contemplated matrimony during her travels, and was politely snubbed by being told that that was a matter in which she would not think of moving without first asking my consent.
As Miss Dainty toyed with the truffles of the excellently-cooked fillet, she informed me that America is a country which understands and [-289-] admires art, and I gathered that she looks forward to returning to England as a second Bernhardt or Duse, and that the bags of dollars which, with their hands and hearts, endless swains are sure to offer her, are but a secondary consideration.
Then came the wild duck; and as the manager was squeezing the rich brown fluid from the silver press the frightened maid came bustling into the room, and we heard the awful news that Jack was lost.
By the time that Miss Dainty had sent off her little army of boy-messengers and had ordered the maid back to her post on baggage guard, our table was the centre of attraction to the room. The old Anglo-Indian colonel, whose pretty daughter was sitting opposite to him, the family party of mother and son and daughter, the young honeymoon couple, the half a dozen old gentlemen dining in solitary state, all were taking an interest in the hunt for Jack. “I shall not leave London until Jack is found,” said Miss Dainty, as her slice of the duck’s breast was put in front of her. “But your boat starts tomorrow,” I protested. “The boat must wait,” said Miss Dainty decisively. “I don’t go without Jack.”
We ate our pudding in silence. “I expect the poor dear is fighting half a dozen dogs now,” was the only remark that Miss Dainty made with the ice.
I called for my bill: Two dinners, 12s. ; one bottle 343, 15s. ; two cups of coffee, 1s. ; total £1:8s.
“I am going now,” said Miss Dainty, as she [-290-] drew on her gloves, “to send Juliette and the boxes back to the flat, and then you shall drive me round to all the police-stations in London to see if Jack is at any of them.”
As we walked down the long corridor I was thinking of the pleasant evening I was going to spend, when there was a patter of little feet behind us, and the next moment Miss Dainty was hugging Jack, an unrepentant, muzzleless dog, with a great cut over one eye, and an ear bitten through.
When the train containing Miss Dainty and the bouquets and the boxes and the maid and the dog steamed out of the station I sighed a great sigh, which had something of relief in it.