I have a 3 part story to share with my readers.
Part 1 – http://wp.me/p3LXwB-bO
Part 2 – today
Part 3 – May 18
The Butler’s Tale
By Charles Eden Westcott
The sun was blazing through the windows when I awoke next morning. On duty by seven o’clock, I was setting the table in the Great Hall when I heard somebody mooching about. Upon investigation, I found Ms Havens wandering in the main corridor.
‘Hi, good morning.’
‘Good morning Ms Havens. You’re up bright and early.’
‘Yeah, I usually am. I don’t get a lot of sleep.’
‘Can I get you some breakfast, and a cup of tea, perhaps?’
‘Do you think I could have a cup of coffee?’
In acquiescence to Ms Havens’ wishes I subsequently joined her with a tray of tea, coffee and hot buttered toast, whereupon I insisted she eat one slice, at least. That she managed to consume two pleased me immensely. ‘A fragile thing like you should never go to work on an empty stomach,’ I said, to which she smiled and told me I reminded her of her father. Given that I’m old enough to be her grandfather, I took that to be quite complimentary, flattering even, and I was happy to indulge her interest his lordship.
‘He seems a fun guy, for an Englishman. He told me his name was Edward.’
‘That’s right – Edward Barrington.’
‘So how did he get to be a lordship? I always thought lordships where old men but Edward’s only thirty three.’
‘The title is inherited. He became Lord Edward Barrington the ninth Earl of Newbury when his father passed away.’
‘Wow! You mean he’s an earl as well a lord?’
‘Oh yes, since the age of nineteen. Till then he was plain Master Edward.’
‘I guess his father died young?’
‘Not at all, the old man tipped ninety before he popped his clogs. An active old devil he was too. Always had an eye for crumpet – that’s ladies, to you – though he never sired a child till Edward came along. His mother though, was much younger, less than half the old man’s age. Sadly, she did die young, from a weak heart poor soul, when Edward was a boy.’
‘Then you knew his parents?’
‘Oh yes, I first met the old man when we were in the army. That was a long time ago, of course. He was a captain and I was his batman – his servant, if you like.’
A racket in the corridor put an end to our conversation. Since I could hardly be in two places at once, Ms Havens kindly volunteered to meet her boisterous companions and bring them to the Great Hall for breakfast while I scuttled off to the kitchen to recruit some serving staff.
His lordship was far from happy when I arrived late with his breakfast. Indeed, the air turned blue before I could explain I’d been attending to our guests, Ms Havens in particular. Somewhat pacified, he was more civil once I’d run his bath and presented him with the clothes he’d requested; a loose fitting white shirt and the tightest of trousers, presumably to show his equipment at his best.
Our visitors were out in the gardens when his lordship and I joined them at midday. As Ms Havens was busy flexing her assets in front of the camera, his lordship had to be content with displaying his trousers to Amelia, Ms Havens’ wardrobe assistant. Though their conversation was convivial, his lordship’s propensity for making a nuisance of himself is legendary and with that in mind I suggested, after a few minutes, that we attend to other matters and leave our guests to get on with their work. Predictably, my suggestion was ignored, upon which I took three steps back.
I was quietly admiring Ms Havens’ physique when his lordship interrupted a beautiful daydream.
‘Charles! Charles! They’re having a working lunch today. It’s a bit of a hike back to the house and they’d like to crack on while they’re making good progress. See what you can do, will you old chap? A selection of teas – and coffee – plus a case of chilled wine and a bite to eat should do the trick. Better still, a full buffet. Oh, and bring a bottle of brandy.’
Bloody marvellous. Whatever the reasoning, the logistics of the operation were clearly hampered by the absence of a chuck wagon. Since the problem was mine alone, I had no option but to commandeer the gardener’s wheelbarrow.
There was no sign of his lordship when I returned half an hour later, for which I was truly thankful. Nobody seemed to mind that the hors d’œuvres were squashed and all were happy to help themselves when I stepped aside to ease my aching back.
Over the course of a congenial afternoon I’m pleased to say they guzzled the lot and in doing so, the wheelbarrow became significantly less cumbersome. As for his lordship’s whereabouts, it seemed he’d made himself scarce after making an arse of himself. From what I could gather Ms Havens had been in earshot when he’d referred to her as a plastic paddy, upon which she’d unleashed a diatribe of coarse language and called him a spoilt Englishman.
His lordship spent the rest of the afternoon spying on Ms Havens from the sanctuary of the gardener’s shed, a resentful Cedric informed me, when I returned his wheelbarrow.
‘And a bloody nuisance he was too. Made a right fuss he did, and he didn’t leave till I’d cleaned and stacked every last pot.’
Anglo-Irish relations were further strained when Ms Havens snubbed her host at dinner that evening, a point made absolute when she plonked herself in a chair at the far end of the table. Mercifully, there were no more grand gestures and with wine flowing freely, a good evening was had by all. Nevertheless, by the time his lordship excused himself from dessert and retired to his study, neither had given the other a second glance.
When I called upon his lordship later I found him reassembling his musket. As nothing had been said of his altercation with Ms Havens, I resolved to maintain a diplomatic silence. I thought he might have mentioned it but no, he did not. Such was his absorption with the musket’s inner workings, he said little at all before dismissing me for the evening.
Good old British summer time. One day it’s roasting hot, next day it’s piddling down. A wretched morning brightened considerably when I found Ms Havens sitting alone in the Great Hall. Over tea and toast, and coffee, we resumed our conversation of the previous day. In hindsight, it wasn’t tactful of me to mention his lordship and I swiftly changed the subject when our guest denounced him as a jerk.
‘So, how are you this morning? I trust you slept better.’
‘Not really, I never seem to sleep well. I guess it doesn’t help that I’m in a strange bed.’
‘Perhaps, but in that room, in that bed, you should sleep like a baby. You’d be amazed if I told you who once slept in that bed. Remember Diana?’
‘Oh my God! You mean…oh my God, that’s awesome!’
I didn’t mean to deceive the poor girl. The truth is considerably less impressive than she’d been quick to imagine, but before I could elaborate we were disturbed by her compatriots presenting themselves for breakfast. Since I hadn’t the heart to prick her bubble, I said no more. I simply tapped the side of my nose as I rose from my chair and departed for the kitchen.
On a decidedly inclement day our visitors elected to stay in the house and make the most of our interior backdrops. I can’t say I was disappointed. After two days of playing dogsbody in and around the gardens, attending to them in the confines of the house was a doddle that gave me time to stand back and observe. Till then I had no appreciation of the Team Havens’ crew – as they called themselves – yet I was highly impressed when I watched them at work in the library. Even the hideous hippy appeared to know what he was doing.
Everyone seemed tired when we dined that evening. Once again Ms Havens kept her distance from his lordship and once again, his lordship excused himself early. I was on my way back from the kitchen with some profiteroles when I bumped into him in the corridor, and thought little of it when he said he was having an early night but later, on reflection, I wondered if he’d been a little unwell. Though he’d effectively dismissed me for the evening I was concerned enough to look in on him anyway, before I retired to bed. When I found him sound asleep, I slipped away quietly.
Wednesday began where Tuesday left off; the weather was dreadful and devoid of natural light, the Great Hall was dull and sombre. On the dining table, a solitary candle flickered in defiance of the gloom, its bright light dancing on the vacant chair beside me. Ms Havens had forsaken me, it seemed, and I ate my poached eggs in mournful silence.
For once I was pleased when the rabble arrived for breakfast. Ms Havens was not amongst their number but their energy brought an impetus that stirred me into action. After mustering the staff to serve breakfast, I took a pot of tea to his lordship. Still under the duvet, he didn’t stir till I clattered the serving tray on the bedside cabinet and swished open the curtains.
‘Good morning Sir, I hope you slept well.’
‘G-good morning Charles. What time is it?’
‘Eight o’clock precisely Sir.’
‘Are you sure? It’s still dark. It looks like the middle of the night.’
‘Blame the weather Sir. It appears we’re in for another stinker. Would his lordship like me to run his bath?’
‘No thank you Charles. I think I’ll stop here a bit longer.’
‘Very well, Sir. You’ll find the newspapers beside the tea pot. Would that be all?
‘Yes, you toddle off; I daresay our American friends will have need of you.’
As it turned out our American friends had little need of me, not till lunchtime anyway, and even then they were soon back at work. From shooting pictures on the landing all morning they progressed to the main staircase after lunch and from there to the Great Hall. It was 6pm before someone shouted ‘Okay guys, we’re done for today,’ upon which I gave a sigh of relief, as the table needed preparing for dinner and I couldn’t do a damn thing till they’d shifted their paraphernalia.
Though I set to work the minute they buggered off, I’d barely applied polish to the table when Ms Havens rushed in to collect a bag she’d left behind. On purpose, I suspect, from the way she scooped it up and then hurried to me. In a guarded whisper she said ‘Hi, I just wanted to say I’m sorry I missed you this morning but I had the most awesome sleep and…’
Our conversation ended abruptly when Dorothy, Ms Havens’ agent, came bursting through the door. ‘Oh good, you found it!’
‘Oh yeah,’ said Ms Havens. ‘Charles found it right here, didn’t you Charles?’
As honestly as I could, I smiled and remarked that a moment’s absent mindedness was quite understandable after an exhausting day.
‘I agree,’ said Dorothy, a middle aged lady with a smile encased in make up. ‘As wonderful as she is, it is hard work. A model’s life isn’t all glamour, you know.’
‘You can say that again, but it helps that I can sleep like a princess,’ said Ms Havens, who gave me the most delightful wink as the pair departed.
Our guests were quite chirpy at dinner that evening. As unkind as the weather had been, the interior shots had more than compensated. If the magazine people were happy then everyone was happy, it seemed, and the magazine people were ecstatic. The only sour note was the continuing cold war between Ms Havens and his lordship. Something had to give and when his lordship summoned me with a beckoning finger and whispered something in my ear, I eagerly obeyed his instruction.
With cautious optimism I presented Ms Havens with a silver serving dish and informed her it contained a message from his lordship. Naturally, she was wary and rather tentative in removing the lid. In a delicate situation, I deemed it wise to wait a few moments before seeking her response.
‘Would Ms Havens care to offer a reply?’
‘Yes, tell him to fuck off!’
His lordship was highly amused when I conveyed the response, and he roared with laughter when he caught Ms Havens scowling at him. Though I implored him not to agitate her further, he shrugged it off, insisting she was only playing hard to get. He was just as bullish when we spoke privately, later.
‘Believe me Charles; I’ll shag her if it’s the last thing I do.’
‘Perhaps Sir, but as blessed as you are, you might find it difficult from the other end of the table. As Ms Havens is going home on Friday and time is slipping away, might I suggest you alter your strategy?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, she hasn’t seen you in the best light, has she? I hope I’m not speaking out of turn to suggest she might perceive you as being rude and arrogant, a jerk even.’
‘Steady on Charles, I wouldn’t go that far.’
‘Nor would I Sir, I’m merely pointing out the possibility.’
‘Hmm, yes, a spoilt Englishman. So what do you have in mind?’
‘Well, I think it would help enormously if you were to show her your tender side. Ladies love that sort of thing. A piano recital, I believe, would be perfect.’
‘Good heavens, yes, a bit of sensitivity. I haven’t played in months but I’m sure I could manage a sonata or two, and it would set the tone perfectly for her seduction.’
To be Continued…….
The conclusion next Sunday