Archie Bing-Chumply, the personal assistant to Major Flounder at the Institute, hasn’t slept well, and it shows. His tweed jacket is extra rumpled.
He’s heard that business has dropped off ever since Mad Maude took over the Dainty Doily in Nitwittington-on-Thames. So that makes it an ideal place for a private meeting.
The Dainty Doily bell tinkles softely as he walks through the door. He sits down in the empty tea room with his back to the wall and surveys the lace curtains, the floral teapots on the shelf, and the thick neatly folded napkins.
A few minutes later, Maude appears from behind the counter and glares at Archie.
“What do you want?” She bellows.
“I’d like to see the menu.”
“This is a tea room, isn’t it?”
“It might be!” she says.
Archie keeps his cool. “I’m a customer and I would like…”
Maude gives him a withering look.
“Customer!” she says with disdain.
Both servers quit soon after Maude bought The Dainty Doily from the Philips Sisters when they moved to Upper Wallop. Even the dishwasher couldn’t stand her moodiness so here she is in charge of herself, and not as she imagined taking tea rather than serving it. But she likes the pristine circa 1920s serving outfit, size large. In her opinion, the only downside to owning the Dainty Doily Tea Room is the customers.
Archie relaxes his voice, and in the warmest tone he can muster replies, “I’d like tea and cakes, please.”
“Cakes are off the menu!”
“They leave crumbs! I hate crumbs!”
“But aren’t crumbs an occupational hazard?”
” I’ve cleaned up all morning. I’ve no time to clean up again.”
“You can get treatment for crumb aversion up at the Institute.”
“Don’t want to.” Maude now pouts.
“How about scones with cream and jam?” asks Archie.
“Too messy. Scones are off.”
They eye each other for a long moment in silence.
“Yes I can make a pot of tea,” she says reluctantly.
“And one more thing, “They’ll be three of us, today.”
“WHAT! That’s a lot more work!”
She stomps off behind the counter muttering to herself.