It was nearing 12 at night and the Prime Minister was seated by himself in his office, reading a long note that was slipping through his brain without giving the least bit of knowledge of what it was saying. He was waiting for a ring from the President of a far distant country, and between questioning when the pain of a man would telephone, and making an attempt to put an end to unpleasing memories of what had been a very long, tiring, and hard week, there was not much space in his head for anything more. The more he attempted to give sense to the print on the page before him, the more clearly the Prime Minister was able to see the face of one of the person on the other political side taking great pleasure in his troubles. This one man had was on the news that very day, not only to number all the shocking things that had taken place in the last week (as though anyone needed more memory) but also to give cause why each and every one of them was the government's errors.
The Prime Minister's heart rate quickened at the very thought of these statements against him, for they were not good or true. How on earth was his government to have stopped that bridge's sudden fall? It was cruelly wrong for anybody to suggest that they were not giving money enough on bridges. The bridge was less than ten years old, and the best experts were at a loss to make clear why it had broken cleanly in two, sending a twelve automobiles into the deep water of the river. And how was anyone able to suggest that it was need of policemen that had been a cause in those two very disgusting crimes made public far and wide.? Or that the government had to have somehow seen the strange weather in the West Country that had caused so much damage to persons and property? And was it his error that one of his under Ministers, Herbert Chorley, had given this week to act so strangely that the was now going to be giving much more time with his family?
"A dark feeling has gripped the country,” the political man from other side had stated, not keeping very secret his own wide smile.
And unhappily, this was all true. The Prime Minister felt it himself; the country in fact did seem more sad than general. Even the weather was shocking all this cold mist in the middle of July. . . . It wasn't right, it wasn't normal. . . .
He turned over the second page of the note, saw how much longer it went on, and gave it up as a bad effort. Stretching his arms over his head he looked round his office sadly. It was a handsome room, with a great stone fireplace facing the long windows, tightly shut against the uncommonly cold weather for this time of year. With a small shake, the Prime Minister got up and moved over to the window, looking out at the thin mist that was pushing itself against he glass. It was then, with his back to the room, that he head a soft cough in back of him.
He became stiff, nose to nose with his own fearful-look seen in the dark glass. He had heard that cough before. He turned very slowly to face the room and saw no one.
“Hello? he said, making an attempt to sound more without fear than he felt.
For a short time he let himself the impossible hope that nobody would answer him. However, a voice gave an answer at once, a cold, certain voice that sounded as though it were reading a statement. It was coming – as the Prime Minister had been certain at the first cough – from the little man with great eyes, dressed in long silver hair who was viewed in a small, dirty oil painting in the far side of the room.
“To the Prime Minister of Muggles. Important we meet. Kindly give an answer straight away. Yours truly, Fudge.”
The man in the painting looked questioningly at the Prime Minister.
“Er,” said the Prime Minister, “look . . . It's not a very good time for me. . . . I'm waiting for a telephone all, you see . . . from the President of ---”
“That is able to be changed,” said the picture at once. The Prime Minister's heart stopped. He had been in fear of that.
“But I truly was somewhat hoping to say ---”
“We shall make certain the President will put your talk out of his mind. He will telephone tomorrow night,” said the little man. “Kindly give an answer straight away to Mr. Fudge.
“I . . . oh . . . very well,” said the Prime Minister feebly. “Yes, I'll see Fudge.