Jones stopped walking. “Is something the matter, m’lord?”
He flavoured his tone with a dash of curiosity. Enough to allow his employer a taste of compassion but not so much as to obscure the spirit of subservience.
“Not at all, not at all.” Mudeford’s voice quivered.
“Are you sure, m’lord? If I may say so, you sound a little disconcerted. Possibly even inconvenienced.”
“Never better. Oblivious to the slightest inconvenience. Well. Apart from…perhaps a touch of the old…ailurophobia.”
“Indeed, m’lord. Most inconveniencing.” Jones’s face remained as impassive as his voice. “If I may presume to enquire, what is the old ailur…ailuro…the inconvenience?”
“It’s a blasted nuisance is what it is, Jones. Is that ruddy cat gone yet?”
“Ah, I see. No, it appears to be taking the sun in the tree. By the way it’s regarding us, I believe it is claiming seignory over the tree and, by extension, the property beneath it.
“How utterly conceited. What gives the wretched animal any right to demand that everyone else indulge its…its…pecadilloes?”
“I really can’t imagine. M’lord.”
“It really is the limit, Jones.”
“Quite so, m’lord. Shall we take a different route?”
“Yes, yes, let’s do that. Honestly Jones, I should know better. I really should.”
“On the contrary, m’lord. Didn’t Mr Freud say that a little nervousness around animals is a healthy thing. Especially when they are covered with fur and one is caught without a pack of hounds.”
“He said that did he? And you concur with him?”
“Quite so, m’lord. I have heard it is an affliction that even Mussolini is inconvenienced by.”
“Do be quiet.”
“Very good, m’lord.”