The laundress feared the equerry’s ruff would droop if he spent any time in the laundry’s steam, so she met him at the door.
“Please,” the equerry said to the laundress, “tell me that’s not the ceremonial robe.”
The laundress looked unconcerned.
“That it is,” she said, “the colours might have run. A bit.”
“A bit? A bit? It looks as though you’ve bleached it instead of washing it.”
The laundress looked thoughtful. “Maybe I did at that. Let me check those sheets. Perhaps they got washed instead of…dear me, I think you’d better sit down.”
The equerry’s face was as purple as the robe used to be. The laundress thought the noises coming out of his mouth might mean something but she wasn’t sure what.
“There, it’s not too bad.” He looked so miserable that she wanted to cheer him up. “It’s rather a nice shade, don’t you think?”
The laundress wiped spittle from her face.
“Nice shade? It’s practically mauve. The emperor can’t receive the sultan wearing that.”
“Oh dear,” said the laundress. “Rather particular, is he? My husband’s like that. Won’t go out with a stain on his shirt. Don’t worry, I tell him, no one will see what’s under your jacket, dear. But no, one little stain and I have to wash…oh dear, you’re not feeling well, are you?”
“It takes the dyers weeks to get the imperial purple just right,” said the equerry. “Weeks! And the sultan arrives tomorrow. Do you know what they’ll do to us?”
“Please don’t shout,” said the laundress. “It gives me such a headache. Look, why can’t the emperor just borrow a robe from the archbishop? He seems such a nice man. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”
“And what would the archbishop wear? Bright green? Orange and yellow, perhaps?”
“Now there’s an idea ,” said the laundress. “He is rather drab. Oh dear, are you very upset?”
She spoke the last words to the equerry’s back as he strode away. Some people did take on so.