There are times we run into people in our lives and we share a short time with them on our path of life…this is one of those times…course I can’t say my account of this event is as it’s being told here by keyhole Charlie…ahum…Charles…but then if truth be told a certain woman might have her knickers in a bunch…just remember as you read this…and I won’t give the ending away, but we were all younger and there’s a part of the story that’s missing…you’ll figure it out when you read the end and why things ended up the way they did. BTW 3 is my lucky number….*wink*
I have a 3 part story to share with my readers.
Part 1 today
Part 2 – May 11
Part 3 – May 18
The Butler’s Tale
By Charles Eden Westcott
Houston Havens? Oh yes, I remember her. One could hardly forget. A trifle vulgar perhaps and for one so slight, rather outspoken but a sweet little vixen all the same. His Lordship was quite smitten. I remember his reaction when he first set eyes on her. ‘Just look at that delightful bum,’ he said.
I thought his Lordship had gone mad when he told me to prepare the east wing for a party of visiting Americans. ‘A model shoot; they’ll be here from Sunday to Friday,’ he said. ‘Give them the best of everything and spare nothing, it’s all rechargeable.’
How sad I thought, that it should come to that. Barrington Hall, the ancestral home of the Barrington’s since 1645 had been put at the disposal of a bunch of bloody yanks. Regrettable yes, and untimely, following the dismissal of half the staff, but with creditors snapping at his heels his lordship was feeling the pinch of a costly divorce and counting the cost of his indecorous lifestyle. Indeed, it was his insatiable appetite for crumpet that led to the departure of Lady Barrington. Thank goodness she took her ghastly children with her.
Preparing guest rooms is nothing out of the ordinary, of course. It’s all part of a butler’s lot. In forty years at Barrington Hall I’ve serviced the needs of the great and the good from royalty to knights of the realm, yet I’ve never seen the like of the travelling circus that accompanied Ms Havens.
Since his lordship was out with the hunt when a fleet of limousines arrived, I tended his apologies when greeting Ms Havens and her entourage; an agent; a hairstylist; chauffeurs and shifters, and people responsible for makeup, wardrobe and lighting. Oh, and a photographer of course, along with a couple of gum-chewing lackeys who professed to be his assistants. Uncouth the lot them, yet I was duty bound to serve them lunch.
Whilst most were agreeable to smoked salmon sandwiches and a pot of tea in the Great Hall, others expressed a preference for coffee. Not an unreasonable request but one chap, a disgustingly unkempt specimen in sandals and shorts, was particularly awkward.
‘Hey Charlie, have you got any fries?’
Fries indeed! Thankfully, his compatriots were more deferential. Ms Havens herself was most complimentary. ‘Thank you Charles,’ she said, as she dabbed her mouth with a napkin. ‘It’s an honour to be here and a thrill to meet a real English butler. I’ve never been buttled before.’
Contrary to the insinuations of the snorting ignoramuses in her company, I thanked her politely. Though I maintained my dignity, Ms Havens’ physical assets and coquettish manner hadn’t escaped my attention. I found her most endearing, yet I have to say her claim seemed highly unlikely.
After lunch I showed them to their rooms. I had thought to give them a guided tour of the old place, but no, for all their appreciation of Barrington Hall’s splendour they only wished to freshen up before an exploration of the gardens. I can’t say I blamed them. A beautiful summer’s day is as good a time as any to view an English garden in all its glory.
After clearing the table I slipped off to warn Cedric the gardener that our visitors had arrived, and remind him they’d been granted full access to the grounds. I found the old duffer skiving in the potting shed.
‘Don’t worry; I’ll keep out of their way if they keep out of mine. There must be a thousand soiled plant pots in here and they’re all need of a scrub. Wouldn’t like to give me a hand, would you?’
‘Certainly not, they’ll be full of spiders and creepy crawlies and things. There could even be mice.’
‘Scared, are you?’
‘My valour is not in question. It’s simply matter of hygiene. I’m not handling grubby plant pots while I’ve got my white gloves on.’
‘Well take them off then.’
C-clang! C-clang! C-clang!
Saved by the bell I thought, as I hurried to the house. Though I hadn’t the foggiest idea who was ringing it, I wasn’t the least bit surprised to find it was one of those blasted yanks – the hippy in sandals and shorts.
‘How dare you ring that bell! And let go of that rope! That’s the staff bell, to be rung by authorised persons only.’
‘Okay Charlie, it’s only a bell. Just wanted help, that’s all. I’m lost.’
‘And I suppose he’s lost too,’ I said, as another of the blighters came sliding down the banister.
‘Everybody’s gone out without us. We just wanna know how to get to the garden.’
Blithering idiots. I escorted them all of thirty paces to the front door, where I pointed across the lawns. ‘Your friends are over there. Just follow the noise.’
Ms Havens and the photographer chap had wasted no time in getting down to work. Alas, the same could not be said of their chums. Beyond getting sloshed they appeared to do very little, but mine was not to reason why. Mine was to replenish their glasses and smile as best as I could. Not a difficult task in itself, but endless trips to the wine cellar had me jiggered and my smile muscles suffered terribly as the afternoon progressed. Indeed, I was sweating profusely and giving serious consideration to borrowing the gardener’s wheelbarrow when his lordship returned from the hunt, and how his eyes lit up when he saw Ms Havens; he couldn’t get off his horse fast enough.
‘My God, is that Ms Havens? She looks absolutely stunning. Just look at that delightful bum.’
‘Take Satan to the stables, will you Charles? There’s a good fellow. I’m going to introduce myself.’
Oh, how I loathed that horse. I never did like the thing, as it surely knew. As soon as his lordship handed over the reins, the beast lifted its tail and dropped its dinner.
His lordship was carefully dismantling the various mechanisms of his pride and joy – an antique musket that belonged to one of his ancestors – when I served tea in his study later.
‘Ah, thank you Charles.’
‘Am I to assume we’ll be dining in the Great Hall this evening, Sir?’
‘Your assumption is correct.’
‘As you wish Sir. Would you like the roast duck liver and brown butter sauce for starters, or the quail’s eggs with…’
‘Be sure to seat Ms Haven’s at the top of the table, I want her next to me.’
‘Yes Sir. As for the main course, I’d venture to suggest that tournedos of beef with ox cheek and celeriac may be a little too refined for the American palate. Perhaps we could have grouse and celeriac with walnut and salted grapes, or bresse duck with beetroot, cabbage and verjus. For dessert we could serve Champagne Cheesecake or…’
‘Yes to what, Sir?’
‘Yes to everything, just bung it on the table and let them help themselves.’
‘Would that be with fries, or without?’
‘Facetiousness does not become you, Charles. Our American friends might not share our graces but they’re here as our guests. As such, you’ll treat them with courtesy and respect, and give them whatever they want. Now get on with it. Tonight’s menu is the least of my priorities.’
‘Ah yes, tomorrow’s creditors’ meeting.’
‘Creditors be blowed, I shan’t be meeting them or anyone else. My engagements this week are hereby cancelled. I have better things to do, namely; Miss Havens.’
What a fiasco. I’ve seen better manners at a chimpanzees’ tea party. Turbot and brown butter sauce with fries and tomato ketchup, I ask you, has anyone ever heard of something so disgusting? No wonder the hideous hippy threw up on the carpet. Of course his lordship was blind to it all. He was too smitten with Ms Havens to notice the cigar in the mouth of the pig’s head, or the chewing gum someone had stuck on its snout.
For all its impropriety it would be churlish of me to deny that a pleasant evening was had by all. His lordship seemed particularly pleased with himself, as well he might. Having spent the entire evening sniffing around Ms Havens like a randy dog, he was most ebullient when he escorted her to her room.
‘Tell me Ms Havens; are all American women as attractive as you?
‘Why thank you your lordship, that’s real kind of you but actually, I’m half Irish.’
‘How unfortunate, have you got any English in you?’
‘English? You gotta be kidding.’
‘Perhaps you’d like some?
‘Oh my, you’re so bad!’
Ms Havens laughed. As did his lordship, in delight, at the jiggle in Ms Havens’ bosom. Outside her room he took her hand and raised it to his lips, and bade her goodnight with the softest of kisses.
His lordship was still beaming when we retired to the west wing. ‘Don’t look so surprised, Charles’ he said. ‘A little charm goes a long way, you know. Did you see how she smiled at me? She wants me, I know she does, I can feel it in my trousers. Mark my words; I shall bed her before the week is out.’
To be continued…………..