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CASTLE, mine          Copyright Paul Audcent 2013

I wrote this because I hear of so many grandparents that loose the connection with their grandchildren due to separation, divorce and vindictive single parents. Alas it has become a crying shame and grandparents have been left out of the discussion mainly by the courts. But they do have rights! Oh and I do love visiting castles! So I chose an elderly, grumpy grandfather to be the voice of this tale, so apologies to all grandpa's!

 

Chapter 1 A time to reflect

 

'Bloody Hell, she's come, but not with the little one!' I peered over the windowsill my arm on the bedside table that Maisie stands my meals on. The dam thing moved and I fell in a heap and a thump. There came a wild stamping up the steps and a violent entrance as Tom my valet rushed to my side. He crouched and picked me up like the useless bag of bones I had become. I was then gently steered back into my bed, the pillows punched and my eiderdown replaced.

"Tom, I saw Robroy's mother coming across the lawn again."

"Indeed your Grace?"

"Yes indeed Tom, as clear as I see you, now off you go and find out what she wants now."

"Begging your pardon Sir but thats Finlay's job, him being your Butler."

"Bugger Findley he's in the pocket of you know who, now get on with it."

You know who is my dratted sister Sofia, or rather half sister, the one Father had when he intertwined himself around his third wife after two unsuccessful marriages. Well at least she gave him a quieter time, always popping off to town whenever she could and leaving him to his stamps and three unruly sons. Eventually he discovered her in cohorts with his jockey so he sacked them both and took it all out of we boys. Hell we were just in our teens as I remember. Now look at us, me, at the top of a tower spiteful as ever, Eustace as useless as ever in the South of France growing lemons by all accounts, and Gidsgone so called because he always got away with it in spite of being the cause of some mischievous. Real name was Gideon, now in the outback of OZ farming sheep and doing little else so I hear. Yes I hear a lot sat up hear it comes up though the heating pipes, they tittle tattle all the time, both the relatives and the staff.  So there are my siblings all three of them hands dipping into the family funds like woodpeckers around a bucket on money. The worst of them all is Dulcie my wife, first and only one alas, but she gave me  two children, both I dread. Oh yes, I had a name, Heir. Apparently my arrival was a shock to my dear Papa, not being due for some weeks I spoilt his hunt by arriving as he was climbing up on his horse. "Oh the blasted heir has arrived" Thus I became Heir and thankfully not blasted. He was supposed to have checked me over once and congratulated my mother when he called me 'Bit thin and wretched, old horse'. Well I might have been, but she definitely was not, and as I have related, she gave him two more thin and wretched.

Ah yes when Dulcie and I got spliced I did have a name and it was Heir Lockston Armitage but after father died it was shortened to 'Your Grace', even by Dulcie though I suspect she called me other names behind my back, even though I allowed her three pairs of new shoes a year! 

Now Sofia likes all the tittle tattle and pumps all the staff  for tit bits of info especially on me, but shes not even in line so she's just plain nosy!

 

Now what did that poor wretched woman want, Tom's not come back, he is my fourth valet so looks like I'm due a filth pretty soon unless he hurry's up. Think I'll wander over to my pipes, well struggle at least but what I get from them is rich and juicy! Got two sets to listen too, on either side of the room, bloody nuisance but at least I get some exercise. You've Right staff kitchen/dining, Left Dulcie study and drawing room et all.

Its about Nick, my eldest, seems he has forgotten to pay his monthly dibs thats maintenance to you, for the care of my grandson little grand-heir. Yes he has a proper name, she put her foot down and called him Nicholas Robin or was it Robert, I call him Robroy to myself. Nice little lad, don't see too much of him alas, she keeps him well away. They broke up a month after he was born, I guess Nick did not like the competition, though she was all over the little lad like a vacuum cleaner. Bonny blond hair and a sweet face, must have taken after G'pa.  Last time she bought him up here he said 'thank you Grace' very nicely so I said 'I would prefer Grand-papa' and she said 'Nicholas Robin cannot pronounce that, its too long a word your Grace, Grace is much easier'. Well I admit I was stumped for a minute then I said 'well he won't learn long words will he if you don't teach him.' And that foolish woman said its up to the schools to do the teaching.' I couldn't stop myself 'You blithering idiot of a woman....' But before I could finish she dashed out of the room with a scream.

My grandson peered up to me with questioning eyes. 'Well thats women for you Robroy.'

“Yes grand-papa” And although he waved and followed his mother downstairs I shouted after him 'Ask for a mince pie Robroy.' But I felt warm inside, that little Robroy had come up trumps. Of course he could pronounce that word!

Ten minutes later a heavy clattering of boots forewarned me the arrival of a very flushed grandson clasping two mince pies tightly to his chest which he deposited carefully on the side table.

'Just push that chair over here Robroy by the table will you, and grab that cushion so I can see you plainly.'

"Grand-papa my name is Nicholas not Robroy!"

'Oh but I already have a son called that!' said I.

"And you have a second one called Robin, well Uncle Robin."

'Well I never,' said I, 'and by the way, to make it easier since you are only four, you can call me Grandpa not the Papa.'

"I call my father Papa and Grand-papa would suit just as well."

'Well use both then, which ever pleases your inner being,' I replied somewhat tersely.

"They told me you could be testy" answered the four year old perched benignly on his plump cushion with an almost smug smile on his bright little face.

'Testy' said I, 'only with impudent larrikins like you my boy and don't you consider two pies being a touch greedy?'   

"Well actually Grand-papa this crushed one is for you, cook said it would cheer you up as its got brandy in it."

'And is it the same as yours?'

"No she crushed it so I would notice the difference, to give you the right one."

' Very  thoughtful I'm sure what a clever cook we have.' a brief pause.

"Well I asked her too in case I forgot!"

'You have two hands a right and a left, A right for Grandpa and a left for me, simple.' I retorted.

"I am only four and a quarter, I held them close not to drop them, but if you like I will have the crushed one and give you the nice one."

'Well thats really kind of you Nicholas but I better have the proper one if your Grand mama smells brandy on you, I or Cook will be for the high jump!'  So we munched away my grandson and I until crumbs were dabbed with licked fingers and Grand mama's face appeared  round the door frame.

"Is my little angle free to come and get ready for home?"

'No,' I said loudly, 'we haven't finished.'

"I have Grand-papa”, squeaked the voice by the table.

'Darn Dulcie, I was enjoying my grandsons company did you have to come up and ruin it!'

"Yes your Gracelessness, Nicks mother has a home to go too so don't be so grasping, The boy does have home, and school tomorrow."

Well the boy hopped off his high cushion and clasping the arm of the chair launched his small body onto me and gave me an enormous wet and crumbly kiss on my cheek, then quickly jumped down and out through the door followed by a doting granny leaving me somewhat flummoxed.

'Come back soon Nick, please,' I yelled in a shaky voice. Dam the crumbs I said as I swept them them off the covers.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2. A trip out, and an adventure.

 

I looked out the window then dressed, the sun was out and a late Spring beckoned. I had not seen Nickolas since the day of the pies and I thought a little drive in the fresh air would be quite the thing if it passed the local school. Nick was five today and I wanted to present him with a brand new scooter with extra large wheels to make the ride more comfortable. It had a brake set on the rear board for safety. I had sent Tom out to buy it a week ago and had him pack it in brown paper box after I had seen it to approve.

He came upstairs to guide me down and into the car with Dulcie fussing behind us both.

"Now where are two off to." she demanded.

'Out for fresh air and a walk if I can, now don't fuss Dulcie, Tom will drive carefully and we won't be visiting pubs.'

So off we drove with the package safely strapped on the rear to the school. But alas it was closed for mid term, so once again we went on to Nicks home, a pleasant little cottage on the edge of the estate. Tom alighted and walked up the path between rows of growing vegetables and knocked on the door. He knocked several times but there was no answer. A neighbor came to our rescue and poked her head though my window.

"Oh its yourself my Grace."

'Indeed it is Mrs. Grant I've come to see my Grandson."

"Alas he and his Mother have left the village, about a month ago."

'Where have they gone? My manager said nothing.'

"I don't believe he was told, she just left in a taxi and Mr Grant helped her with their luggage, young Master Nick looked quite bewildered poor lamb as he was hustled into the back. I'm so sorry your Grace it was his birthday today I think."

'Indeed it is Mrs Grant and thank you for the information, I will tell my Manager to find a new tenant as soon as possible.' I nodded but she understood my distress, 'back to the castle now Tom please.'

"And the walk sir?"

'But I sat back my hand tightly on the parcel that Tom had unstrapped from the back. 'Bugger the walk, home now please.'  I left the parcel on the back seat. More in hope than anything else.

 

Good Lord these steps are getting steeper all the time,  Tom came back from garaging the car and helped me up the last few. Dulcie came out and saw Tom with the box unopened. I shook my head and told her the sad news. She took it badly.

'Well' I said as we crossed into the entrance hall, 'you get what you deserve old fruit.'

“And what do you mean by that!” came the cool reply.

'Dulcie, you spoilt those two brats of ours all the time, giving them this, giving them that, whenever they asked, which was often by the way. I cannot remember a time when they actually offered to help. Look at them Nicks off with a mistress, and Robin, well goodness knows where he's gone.'

“He's traveling at the moment, you can be so unkind to your own children. He is in Australia, he's been to see Gideon and has rented a flat in Sydney.“

' Nonsense our two boys take after their uncles!' A quick calculating look at my lady wife stopped any further discussion and I trod those blasted stone steps back up to my bedroom.

'Tom ' I shouted 'leave the scooter in the garage until I can find him please.'  I continued up very depressed and not a little angry, a trip spoilt.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3. A time to wait a time to search.

 

Well the best thing to do, my dear wife said, was to contact my ever absent son and ask him gently where the hell was my grandson. But my dearest said to ask nicely.

'Tom get me Master Nick on the phone please.' Tom bidden left abruptly for the phone downstairs. My dear Dulcie had not furnished my abode with one of those natty mobile ones so beloved of the younger generation. I think she felt I would spend the family fortune, meager as it was, on horse racing, a pursuit I am not afflicted by one little bit, so no communication equipment whatsoever, except my lungs and a stick to bang with!

Ten minutes passed and Tom has arrived all puffy and out of breath, his permanently sad face even sadder.

"Alas your Grace your son cannot be found, on holiday I believe."

'So you telephoned his address?' A weedy little flat near Knightsbridge.

"No your Grace her ladyship told me."

'My wife told you did she, well I want you to ring Nick now please and if Her Grace intervenes you have  my permission to ignore her and ask her to pop up here for chat, now off you go and please do what you have been told.' Exit a troubled Tom and I lay back and took a hearty swig from my pumpkin broth, recently delivered by the housemaid whose name I've forgotten. Well she has been with us two years or so.

Back came, Tom now completely exhausted and tells me Master Nick is away on holiday in Crete with a stunning blond. Some people have all the luck. So I asked Tom to contact Nick in his hotel if he can find it and to get hold of Lonson our local Beak and have him visit me as soon as possible.  

"Shall I say it is urgent your Grace?"

'Just tell him to pop in at his convenience, thank you Tom.'

 

Well Lonson arrived a few days later obviously not keen to visit the castle with me in it. I once had the occasion of upbraiding him when one of my dedicated gardeners caught him with pockets full of pears when he was just ten. Williams Bon Cretion I think they were or some such. Anyhow he was bought to my study and given a sound telling off which, as I remember, included a threat to a severe beating if caught again. But Lonson was made of sterner stuff and both apples and pears continued to disappear over the years and mainly at night, no wonder the boy eventually found the law to his liking eventually fetching up as our local magistrate.

'Well do you have any apples in your pockets?' I asked directly as he was ushered into tower bedroom.

"Indeed not your Grace, you have a long memory and if I might add a somewhat spiteful way of welcome. Now how can I help?"

So I told him how my grandson had vanished, and how I needed his advice on how to proceed in finding him.

"Well I would suggest you use a detective, to track him down."

'Well I did think of using our local constabulary and that you might set things in motion.'

"Cannot help there, its not really a missing person if the lad has been whisked off with his mother, and actually its your son who could make a request begging your pardon."

'Beg all you like Lonson, but that idiot son of mine appears to be infatuated with a blond bimbo and appears to have little interest in his own child. That naturally annoys me greatly.'

"I'm sure it does your Grace so a detective appears to be the only solution, I do by chance have a name if you are interested. Healy, ex inspector friend of mine retired of course and in need of something extra in his retirement. Has all the contacts one needs for the job. I will ask him to call."

'No need just give him the scenario and let him get on with it, and any traveling needed I am to be told, agree to expenses and all that.'

"Right" Lonson rose from his chair.

'Just one thing Lonson how on earth did you manage to keep plucking my apples and pears without being seen?'

"Ah your Grace and his fruit, you remember old Habard, slightly deaf, always forgot to latch the walled garden gates, eager for the pub no doubt, so I crept in without a care and did very well selling at our local market. I admit I owe you for paying my way in tuition fees. "

'Well I never, I never guessed, but now I can see you were well on your way to a predatory profession. Goodbye and do your best please.'

"Thats the first please I have heard you say your Grace, so I will endeavor to get Healy for you, and by the way those figs in the out house I kept for my mum."

With that parting shot he was up and away, and some hope filled my aching joints and a small smile creased my face, he was certainly an impertinent lawyer!

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4 A break though of sorts.

 

Well Lonsons man came and went. A small scruffy type not used to climbing slippery stone steps and advanced slowly into my room. Hesitant to sit I noticed, until I yelled 'for goodness sake sit here close to me I am not going to yell across this room' he nodded and crablike skirted the room until he reached the chair then sat in with an audible sigh.

"Lonson filled me in with your requirement your Grace, I require 200 on the spot and another 200 to cover expense like."

'Like what?' said I

"to cover fares."

'Expecting to go far eh?'

"In case, just in case, hotels train, you know."

'No I don't but thats hardly enough for a decent stay, I will right you a chi tty for a thousand which you will give to her ladyship, and mark you, I require a full account of each expense. Agreed?'

The little man nodded and departed, chitty clutched in his hand. I noticed the limp and shouted 'A war wound?' but he turned and waved.

"I fell off the bike coming up your drive."

 

Maisie came up with coffee and a tea cake.

"S pose your Grace needs something to read?"

'No'

"Can't be looking out the widow all the time, he can't come, he's a prisoner no doubt."

'Who Maisie are you talking about?'

"Your little one to be sure, heard Madam had gone funny and locked him up Sir.'

'I'm not a Knight Maisie, now where did you hear that?'

"Pub last Thursday were in the snug."

'Quite, I expect you hear all sorts of rumors in there and no doubt a number of lies, so where did that piece of information come from?'

"Were Teddy Greenlake, heard it from his cousin in Warwick, grand lady and small boy took rooms close by."

'Now Maisie a Mr. Healy is currently staying at the pub, I want you to go and find him and tell him what you told me, now pass me my wallet in the coat over there please.'

Maisie rose to bring my coat to my bed and I took a note out.

'And whilst you are there have a pint on me, now off you go and better tell cook I sent you off.'

"She'll not be pleased."

'Then tell her I sent you on a private mission, that should cover you.'

I thought for a while how the downstairs servants had their own little community with various levels of authority and command. Here I was at the top of the tree, yet a slave to my own bed, with a window to the world on the outside but hearing and seeing nothing on the inside, well yes I do have my pipes, so there and then I decided to venture out into my own little community and peer and pry into every bodies affairs. After all I was the paymaster in spite of what her Grace thought. So I gently slid across the bed collected my trousers from the rack, picked up my coat and in my slippers I descended the staircase carefully. Instead of heading for the saloon I found the back staircase I used as a child and made my way softly to the innumerable rooms downstairs. I had a brief look as Maisie closed the outside door on her way to perform her errand. There was sharp shout from cook then all was still. So I arrived in cooks domain and I opened the heavy door to see all and sundry sipping tea with a large walnut cake already sliced on the bare table.

'Oh, I'll a slice of that if I may Cook.'

A very surprised cook rose to her feet followed by the rest of the bunch, half of whom were completely unknown to me. I was certainly at a loss as to who they might be but I presumed some were from the estate and others may have been hangers on. So much for my wifes housekeeping. Since we lost Maisie's mother who was the original housekeeper the Duchess had suggested she carry out the task, alas another failure.

Cook handed me a slice on and I left them to it.

'By the way Cook I did ask Maisie to do an errand for me, I hope you did not mind as I know your staff are all so....' the last word was left hanging as I closed the kitchen door.

 

As I left I realized I had not been in that kitchen since I was a small lad and how enormous it had been in those days when the staff lavished care attention and cakes on me, a very spoilt little chap. So cake in hand I climbed the stairs slowly and shuffled into the saloon spreading crumbs as I avidly ate the cake which was by far nicer than what was served to the gentry of this house. So I confronted Madam with the fact that the servants hall ate better than we did! She gave a little sniff, so I told her I wanted a proper housekeeper. She said it cost money so I said I will cut both my sons allowance in half so go ahead and start recruiting. Her only response was to start bawling about her beloved layabout sons. I picked the telephone up and rang our youngest in Australia.

"Dad do you what time it is over here" came a belligerent reply.

'Yes I said its late, now listen your Mother is coming over for a visit in a few weeks, make sure she is truly welcomed. And I am cutting yours and Nicks allowance you are both old enough to survive on your own.'

"How is my dearest brother, still chasing the ladies?"

'Correct, and I have had enough, goodbye."

I just heard him say 'you will pay mothers fare please' before the phone hit the cradle!

Mother was snuffling into her handkerchief so I went down the hallway and opened up the two doors and proceeded down the steps to the bench where I stopped and sat and drank in the view. What marvelous sunny day it was and to think I had cooped myself up in that stuffy bedroom these past two years, and for what reason? Yes I had a wheezing cough and a bit shaky on my pins but as the sun warmed my face I felt at ease with myself, but I expect Maisie news has given me hope. Now to look for a new housekeeper, but why?  Maisie would fit the bill, her mother had been superb. There, all is finalized and may I say, in just a brief hour. All it needs is a returned grandson and a respectable elder son to make my life complete.

 

I was dozing just a short nap waiting for afternoon tea, but instead in walked Molly Simpson, though my bedroom door, without knocking!

"Thought your Grace needed my services?" she said out loudly, she woke me up!

"Heard about the grandson, missing they said."

'Indeed Mrs Simpson' said I more in astonishment. How can you help may I ask?'

"I have this wonderful gift, I can see things.

'Yes its called eyes'

"No what I mean is in my mind, I can transport my mind in search of lost things or people, its a gift you see."

'You can tell me where my Nick is then?'

"Yes your grace for a fee."

'Ah theres the crunch of the matter, a fee. I thought people with gifts like you volunteer these gifts.'

"Well we do in cases of poverty but and old gentleman in a castle, a large one I might add is a different case."

'You suppose Madame I am rich because I live in apparent luxury, four turrets and a roof, all in need of constant repair, how much to open that mind of yours?'

"Forty pounds if you please sir."

'Who on earth sent you up here?'

"Cook."

'Then go downstairs and ask Cook for the money no doubt she has more than I do.' With that I threw my arm at the door, bloody woman coming up here unannounced, obviously she must have via the kitchen and Cook! She left with a snort and slammed my door which I always keep open so I can yell for assistance should I ever need too. So I rose quickly and softly crept down the back stairs and there in the kitchen was the Simpson  woman with Cook, so I listened to them chatting.

"What a miser for forty quid I could have told his Nick was living in Beechly not a dozen miles from here."

"Too right, biggest tyrant in the house when 'is missus is away, always complaining so I spits on food before it gets sent up

Gracious thought I, so stealthily I climbed away up to the bedroom, dressed and called for the car.

 

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5. Back to school.

 

Tom brought the car around to the front as I cleared the steps in a flying leap, I wish! Instead I clambered down each one carefully until he reached me and guided me down the rest.

"Where to your Grace"

'Beechly school please Tom' said I quite out of breath, whoever built those dam steps to the front door obviously had a point to make. I think I will install an electric chair!

With me ruminating about step transport systems Tom drove me quickly to the school and let me  outside the staff entrance. Well I presumed it to be as it seemed well maintained compared with the dirty double doors in the middle, no doubt to let the hordes out quickly.

'Miss Frobisher if you please' said I to a rather stumpy receptionist. A receptionist in a minor village school, WHAT ARE THINGS COMING TOO!

" Miss Frobisher is busy she takes classes you know, and who do you think you are just walking in here without an appointment."

I thought for a moment but I was rather taken aback, bloody hell my father built this school just so his boys could go to it, Mother being absolutely dead against sending her beloved offspring too far away from her apron strings. 

'I am the Duke, Madam, my father built this edifice.'

"Well it needs repainting, so tell him that when you see him please."

'He died several years ago you abomi.....' just about to add the rest but Jane Frobisher stormed out of the corridor toward me.' Bloody Hell that was quick thank you Madam.'

Madam gave me an evil look and went back to her typewriter.

"Well Useless what do you want?" she yelled.

'Listen its Heir or your Grace, Janiepainie.'

"How dare you call me that Eustace, I am a headmistress now,  someone might hear."

'Eustace is my brother you've got us mixed up, Useless was in a class lower than ours!'

We were at school together and kids always made up nicknames. Which reminded me the purpose of my visit.

'I take it my grandson is here Jane' said I somewhat more conciliatory.

"Indeed he is unless he has scampered when he heard you bellowing at me."

'Jane is he or is he not, I wish to see him for just a moment if you please.'

"Only parents can request that on school property."

'Actually its my property, the estate never gifted the school to the education department it remains under my control whereas you don't, you are the property of the tax payers, and I suppose I am one of those as well.'

"Well thank you for that Heir, your property is in urgent need of refurbishment so when can I expect a maintenance visit? Its really a relief to know the property is not Department owned as I have been onto them these past three years."

'Very well Jane I will have Habard my gardener come and take notes, he will arrange some tradesmen to do what is required, now may I see young Nick.'

"Yes in my office if you please." I followed her down to another corridor with the shrill sounds of times tables. She opened a door and beckoned me to sit in chair then she went out.

Two minutes later the door reopened and in burst young Nick right into my arms as I rose unsteadily to my feet.

"Grand-papa I'm rescued at long last." he said breathlessly.

I held held him close and set him on my lap as his enthusiasm had knocked me back in the chair.

'Now listen Nick, I want you to ask your mother to come and live with Grand-mama and I in the big house. We have four turrets as you know, one is mine one is Grand-mama's and one will be your mothers and you.'

"What is the fourth one for?"

'Guests and any relatives who may stay.'

"May I have some friends to stay as well Grand-papa?"

'I guess so as long as they are not too noisy. So I would like to ask your mother to come this Saturday and speak with me about the arrangements, my spies tell me your other Grandparents are feeling the pinch so to speak.'

"You have spies grand-papa, how exciting I expect they keep you well informed."

'Quite young Robroy, how else did I find you!'

"Is Miss Frobisher one of them?"

'No of course not.'

"I just asked if she kept you informed of my progress, at school work you understand."

'No she has not said a word at all, she has asked me to do is repair the school.'

"Well perhaps Grand-papa you could rip up that concrete paving and put grass down. As often we children fall and scrape our knees especially when we are scrapping."

I looked down at him this little scrapping boy in horror.

'Not fisticuffs!'

"No Grand-papa just wres

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