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?"
"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?'
'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.
"No Grand-papa just wrestling," he gave me a baleful glare so I nodded agreement.
'Off you go back to class now my boy wonder.' I gave him a quick hug and off he shot back to his class mates. Jane peered around the door.
'The boy wants grass to replace the playground concrete Jane. Thanks for letting me see him.'
" I wondered why this term he had become much quieter. I think you need to have a talk to Nick the elder. You know his son has a lot in common with you, Your own Nick takes after the Duchess."
Not my Duchess but the Duchess. Jane really never liked Dulcie. Dulcie came from a different region and time. Refused to mix with my old friends, yes I had missed a lot following my fathers instructions.
I thanked Jane profusely and Tom drove me back. When we arrived at the bottom of the blasted big stairs I asked him to run Habard down to the school tomorrow to see Miss Frobisher, and then get him to send the tradesmen up to me as I want an electric chair facility installed by the steps and a quote for the school repairs.
Then feeling satisfied with myself I lurched up those dam steps then the staircase to my bedroom. I rang down for Tom who came up to tuck me in.
'Is that frightful woman still with cook?
"The one who reads your mind and then spins out some knowledge, yes I believe they are enjoying a meringue together."
'Pop down Tom please and give her this.' I handed Tom some forty pounds. 'I think she deserves this. By the By Tom I have a feeling cook won't be with us much longer.'
Chapter 6. A confrontation.
"Lady Evesham your Grace." Finlay opened the study door wider and my daughter in law strode in.
'Morning Edith. No grandson?'
"This is not a pleasant visit your Grace, presumably you are not in the habit of sending a policeman with a brief message."
'Well I'm sorry it was the best method I could think of bar sending three of the estate staff to pull you out of the rented house which I presume is not mine.' I invited her to sit and waved Finlay away. He closed the door carefully as one might expect. But I spied a small crack in the door jam, a brief thought hit me that he was only making sure I was safe from my daughter in laws handbag, a hefty swing from her could knock me out, after all she came from good farming stock!
"So father in law what are we to discuss, an increase in my rent or what?"
'I don't believe I own a house in Beechly, anyhow there are two no three things I need to talk to you about and I am sorry that one concerns my eldest son so you might be offended.' She nodded.
'Are you both considering a divorce? After all neither you or Nick have lived together for quite some time, I know you have talked to my Dulcie but she refuses to tell me what you two are up to. I have packed her off to Gideon for the moment.'
"We are still married and I have refused his request for a separation, I'm quite happy about his other ventures after all he's just a child, mentally that is, and he does have a son. " A long pause, "and I suppose I still have some feeling for him and not just because of little Nick. What does annoy me is that my boy has a closer affinity for his upstart of a grandfather than for his own father."
I ignored the upstart, I thought loving or caring was closer to the truth but then my own boys were certainly not perfect.
'I have reduced Nicks money by half. In fact both the boys have been cut back.'
"Why, thats cruel I know Nick had taken a mortgage on a flat in London and now I was expecting a call for us to join him eventually." She reached for her handkerchief and I do admit never really liking her, I thought she was just a trollop catching Nick and providing him with child. It takes two to tango thats true, but I saw in that instance that I had been wrong. Thinking of my grandson, she really had bought him up well.'
'Edith are you working at the moment?'
"Mothers always work, washing, food, sewing"
'Quite, so I expect my Nick sends you an allowance or some such for you both.'
'So do you mind asking how do you support yourselves
" We just manage, I've sold all the gifts Nick gave me, rather I've pawned them or sent them to auction, then of course my parents have helped me."
'Would you come and live here instead, you can have one of the free turrets.'
" I prefer where we are thank you besides if you really want to help you could give us one of those tied house on the estate, I'm sure you have some to spare."
'Up to ten years ago we found the estate was not bringing in what it used to and what extra taxes maintenance and all my factor has had to rent out every one and not being kept for the staff.'
'You've notice some of the notice boards around the place?'
"Yes and some of the rooms have been roped off."
'Indeed we are now a display castle for the general public on weekends only, thank God, but their money is most welcome. Your mother in law has volunteered herself to run a cafe, thats when she gets back but frankly I am perturbed at the very thought. '
"You have cook!"
'Ah her days are numbered, I don't like disloyalty in the ranks, but I was thinking of your parents they ran a cake shop years ago. After they sold their farm that is.'
"Have you been checking on them!"
'Well in looking for you and little Robroy I had a detective visit you old home town just in case you were there.'
'You are not aware of their circumstances?'
"They wrote to say they had moved."
'Indeed Edith, to a small rented flat, they sold their home so that they could support you and our grandson. They have been supporting you for the past six months, I believe they also bought you a motor vehicle. All these things they have done for you and Robroy So I have written to them asking if they would help out running the cafe and they would be given an estate house once one becomes available.'
"They probably will say no, after all their son in law is not their favorite person."
"Do you want me to convince them to come? I still believe Nick and I can have life together. You always thought I just grabbed him because of his position, in fact he never mentioned you or the duchess at all. The first thing I knew who you were was when we got married in this Mausoleum. But I'll do a deal with, you get Nick to return and we live here together and I will convince Mum and Dad to come." She said all this in a torrent of words so it took me a few minutes to comprehend the significance. But in this discussion I had been out maneuvered and I instantly saw some positive role for Edith.
'Fine with one further suggestion, I want a secretary I can trust, someone with brains and management skills, and thats you Edith. At the moment I've got my gardener going down to the school to look at the maintenance and organize trades people and quotes and what not. I believe you can handle that and maybe relieve our factor the job of estate houses, he really does have a lot on his plate with the Home Farm and the estate and the public weekends to organize.'
"Yes well I would prefer to handle the public open days and Nick could surely organize the estate houses. I truly believe he was bored here as you liked to control every aspect of the estate, so you never gave your sons any chance to apply there own initiatives. You even try to be a father to our Nicki and I think my husband, your son, resented that."
And so it was I went down to London to see my son, living in a friends garage as they were foreclosing his mortgage, and we had it out we two. There was lots of shouting and cursing and eventually we made up. There was no blond bimbo and indeed he did miss his wifes organizational skills, amongst other things. So he came home two weeks later and Edith joined him in one of the spare turrets, newly decorated by them both. And cook was sacked and Dulcie came home and Robroy started to take both his Grandfathers out for walks on the estate hunting for butterflies, rabbits and moles. Then to sit quietly and converse with nature and get away from the chattering women. Alas Robroy will soon learn otherwise and Jane tells me a little lost girl at school has taken his fancy. Dulcie and Edith are over the moon.
Chapter 7 And then again.
I suppose it would have been an ideal time to close this account but that was not the end of it. Yes Robroy and Grandpa Evans and I did go exploring, once I even managed to jump over a fence and was saved from injury by my two companions Dulcie was beside herself when Robroy opened his mouth and told all, I was banned from venturing outside the estate, but I've always thought other peoples property was more interesting than my own. So why did all the public visitors spend money to come and ogle at us on weekends? So my gardener Habard decided to retire. Nick told me he was keen to take over the management of the gardens.
"Well Father its true people want to see a real live Duke but these days they expect bigger gardens and plenty of herbaceous borders, after viewing the house they want to picnic in the grounds."
'They've got a cafe to go too with tables and chairs as well as your in-laws to serve them.'
"Well we need to extend the lawn close to the cafe for one thing, a rose garden close by and I believe a small circular lake for boating would not go amiss."
'Boats, they cost money and insurance to cover visitor injuries.'
"Well I will get onto it and we will have a family discussion. And I think we should involve my Uncles, after all this was their home as well!"
'Well heres something else to discuss, your brother is returning home so you will need to accommodate him somewhere, I was thinking the old stables as a possibility.'
"Fine I'll check them out."
'Just the roof and the walls etc. Nick Robin will want to do his own maintenance and decorating, give him something to do!'
With the garden under new management Robroy and his father started to spend time together planning drawing and building. One project included a small tree house for young Nick and his friends, built by both his father and Uncle built the the timbers and roof and Edith did the inside decoration. Robin took over the estate houses to every-bodies relief, especially Nick who rather enjoyed the garden planning. Robin was a bachelor boy and Dulcie secretly hoped he would rent out one of the estate houses to a lovely lady!
One weekend, a Saturday it was, I was having a lie in with a cup of tea balanced on my bedspread. There was an enormous clattering up the the tower steps and sixteen children burst into my bedroom, its leader was the erstwhile grandson Robroy.
'What are you here for Nick?'
"Well Grand-papa the rope up to your staircase with the word PRIVATE was not there, so I thought great we can all go and see Grand papa's tower and say hello."
'Hello and goodbye.'
"No thats rude Grand-papa and I think you just might offer us one of those pear drops you keep hidden in that big jar under the bed."
'Excuse me why are half the school here, did you all pay to come in, did your mother know you bought the school up here!'
" Please go and I will negotiate with my Grand-papa" The children gradually sidled down the steps clattering and chatting all the time whilst Robroy stood his ground eying his grand-papa
"Well they've gone so that will be seventeen Pear drops please Grand-papa"
'I thought you were going to negotiate.'
"I have." came the answer quick as a flash, the boy is growing up I thought as I reached under the bed to grasp my jar, bur two smaller hands got there first.
'Get one of my clean handkerchiefs from the top drawer over there Robroy, sweets for other people must be kept clean!' So I counted eighteen pear drops in the handkerchief.
"That's one too many Grand-papa!"
"Well at least you can count, so thats for getting rid of the visitors so quickly, a fine leader you've become and the extra sweet is for you. Now off you go and look after your charges please.' I had visions of a stampede of children rioting throughout the house!
The new gardens Nick and my grandson had created were to be far better than I had expected. The lake was sumptuous and the lawns surrounding it became a hive of family picnicking and how the herbaceous borders ended close to Mr. and Mrs. Evans fine cafe. I warned Nick about the expense and maintaining the dam things every spring and summer, but as usually I was ignored. They will bring in extra customers to the cafe. So with the help of Robroy, I popped in, rather he pushed me in on my wheel chair as my legs were not obeying any command from me. The place was full, so I asked various customers their opinions and all without a doubt gave the food the highest marks. Robroy went to join his beaming Grandparents and the Evans stepped smartly forward.
'Gracious me that is a positive marvel how well you must cook Mrs Evans!'
"Well your Grace we now only just manage the cafe all the cooking is done by someone our grandson found for us. A marvelous cook and quite exceptional at baking cakes!"
'Oh well thats all to the good, and may I taste one please?'
"Of course you may I will ask cook to bring you a fresh plate of scones and cream."
Well yes those of you who are already ahead of me will know who came though that kitchen door with plateful of scones. My old sacked cook from the castle. All I could do was to smile a thank you type smile and glare at Robroy, whose innocent expression changed not one iota.
"That young Master Nicholas found me looking for work in the village two weeks ago and spoke to his grandparents and here I am your Grace."
'Well I'm glad you have found another position so quickly Cook and by the sound of it your public really appreciate your home cooking. Well done and I am sure you will be careful with Mr and Mrs Evans and treat them better than you did me.'
"Indeed your Grace they are quite different people than you and the Duchess."
'Yes Cook indeed they are, So I wish you well and thank you for the scones a drop of strawberry jam if you please.'
"You won't forget to pay, they are my best scones."
'Indeed not but as its a treat I expect my grandson to pay. He bought me here for what purpose I do not know. It would seem my own home is gradually being whittled away from my control. Good day to you Cook.' At which I beckoned Robroy to join me and he fished in his pocket for a note to pay his Granny Evans at the till. The jam arrived post haste via Cook and Granny Evans waved the money away but Robroy persisted so we ate in silence he glaring at me as I had with him.
As we finished he helped me into the wheeled chair and pushed me outside.
"We are definitely a pair you and I Grand-papa whats good for the goose is good for the younger goose!"
'Are you sure you want to live in the castle, you wouldn't like to live somewhere else?'
"Like where Grand-papa?"
'Well you know that island you and your father created in the middle of the lake, how about there, after all the castle is I believe only big enough for one master.'
"True Grand-papa, but both your sons will be together soon. And I heard Mother saying my Aunt Sofia is due to stay as Father has invited her. The stables are large enough to divide into three or more flat lets at least, and Father says the old carriage house is big enough to lease out for summer vacations."
I had quite forgotten we had all these spare buildings. I suppose it was a well I had two strong sons and a little leader to supervise us all. How quickly children grow up, and come to think of it Gideon has some offspring as well, I wonder if they will all be like young Nick. If so my Robroy will have some competition. Oh incidentally the new cook at the castle turned out to the old cooks niece, its a small world in our part of the world. Well at least I have my bedroom and my jar of pear drops, I'll think I'll hide them behind my bureau, under the bed is becoming too well known! I think its going to get very noisy over the whole week not just at weekends and I'm sure someone is going to forget the private rope as they did before, think I'll take over little Nicks tree house, they did the work but they used my timber!
Chapter 8. The more the merrier.
I should have realized that my peaceful world would be turned upside down. My Australian nephews were, to put it politely, a proverbial headache. Gideon had no control over them and Nicholas found one of them half dead having fallen out a tree fork where he had been building a fire to BBQ sausages on. Thankfully Nick called an ambulance and with the help on the local fire brigade doused the flames. I asked Gideon was it not an offense to start fires in Australia and he said it was a crime where culprits were dealt with most severely, but he added, Australia is a dry country with lots of trees and scrub and wholly burnable. A small spark can create a nightmare. But of course Britain was quite different, lots of greenery and wet! He went on to say, anyhow my son was being adventurous! Well you can imagine how I reacted and the minute that young oaf of a nephew returned from hospital I had the boy roped up to the tree right next to where he had lit the dam fire. And he stayed up there all night with both his parents camped below to protect him!
The other nephew was about Robroy's age so they both were in the same class at school, you remember Robroy had a young lady very interested in him, well the advent of a fellow cousin soon spoiled the fling much to Dulcie's anguish. Well for a while at least as, because they became inseparable. Now what was there name, Jarvis the fire starter, and Brigan the younger. They had a older sister who quite frankly was the leader of the pack and a marvelous co-coordinator. Nothing was to much for her and she gladly helped Edith with the public tours, and whats more she made sure my private notice stayed up on weekends forbidding even Robroy from visiting his Grand-papa in case other members of the public followed him up the stairs! There was a secret staircase that my brothers and I had discovered once when we were playing hide and seek all those years ago. What looked like a cupboard door by right handed pies actually led to a wooden set of stairs leading down to the rear entrance by the kitchen. When father died I had it locked up and when staff asked about the door by the kitchen I told them it was the old dairy cheese room but full of beetle and therefore dangerous. Now I suspect Gideon telling my Robroy about this secret as one day I found him in my bedroom knocking on the paneling of the door. Then up raced Brigan shouting yes he heard the knocking noise downstairs by the kitchen.
“Its a secret way.” shouted Robroy, his face a picture of sheer delight. “Can we explore Grand-papa?”
'Don't have a key, lost it years ago.' said I evasively.
“Please Uncle, its a way we can get round Mini's private notice.” Brigan sidled up my bedside.
'Listen Brigan, I will tell your sister what you said, anyhow who on earth gave her the name of a Disney character?'
'Hum, that explains a lot, but Mini was only protecting my afternoon snooze.'
“Well Grand-papa, its a way I could use to bring you drinks and cakes.” Robroy then bent down and looked under the bed.
'Gone' I said.
“Gone but not far I suspect Grandpapa but how on earth do expect me to do all this without a reward.”
Two rewards I suspect since there are two of you in on this.'
“Are these the pear drops you and Nick are taking about?” Brigan looked about him, “I would hazard a guess and say they are behind some furniture, possibly that bureau over there.”
Robroy dived over in that direction and managed to pry my glass bottle from behind the bureau.
“Its not safe for you to hide it there Grand-papa, its too far for you to walk!”
'Nonsense who says I walk, I slide crab like over the flour and prise open my jar when the need takes me.' Well beaten I unscrewed the lid and offered to the boys.
“And the key?' Robroy held his other hand out, the other one was digging in the pear drops to find the red one!
'In the top drawer”. Said I
“We will keep the bottom door shut at all times, just in case.”
'Thank you Robroy I certainly don't want burgers up here!'
Well yes they tried the key and with a few grunts managed to unlock the door by the pipes and quietly they descended the wooden stair case after closing the door behind them. I placed the pear drop jar under my bed back in its old place.
Ten minutes later the pipes door reopened in trod two grinning faces, jubilant after their adventure and both sucking the pear drops. I pretended sleep as young Nick pocketed the key and left via the stone steps. Now they had not locked my pipes door so presumable they needed the key to open the bottom door. Last thing I heard was my Robroy telling Brigan that the pear drops were back in there old place under the bed.
Perhaps I'll get Tom to bolt a safe up here, well protect my sweet tooth, thats if I could remember a safe code, my memory is not as great as it could be, but then again why bother, there is now two of the imps to contend with and I must admit being a little delighted at their antics. Suddenly there was a shout from far below, Mini had discovered the boys on their way down,
“Its alright Mini.” came Robroy's high toned voice, “Grand-papa is fast asleep now.”
And so he was.
Chapter 9, a step sister arrives, and with her comes trouble.
'What is wrong with you Robroy?'
'For what earthly reason may I ask, you were happy yesterday, you rushed up here with a school report full of glowing words, even a mention in red ink from the head mistress. My, I was really proud of my grandson. I was never very good at arithmetic..'
“Arithma what?” a little face beamed up at me, he being very taken with my pear drops jar.
' Maths to you. OK Robroy you can have one after you have told me what is troubling you.'
“Its personal, its about you Dad and me.”
'Go on.' said I, so he unscrewed the cap and dived in to fish my very last red pear drop.'Well alright you can have that one, but tell me why you are so down whilst you suck away.'
“ Well Mini was saying as she is the oldest of our generation she will become the new Duke after you die.”
“And what is worse she said she will take over your tower bedroom as it has the finest view.”
'Will you repeat that with less sucking.' I was shocked.
“Mini said she would become the boss once you went to your grave.”
'I have no reason to go to my grave, besides which, we have a family mausoleum where we get laid out once we leave this mortal coil. Is it the Dukedom or my tower that concerns my one and only grandson or maybe the thought me dying, eventually?'
'”Its the bedroom and you do have a lovely view don't you grandpapa especially since my father and I built that lovely lake with my island and my tree house standing close by.”
I grunted and wondered who Mini had got this from, it took me two seconds to rule either of my brothers which left the recent arrival of Sofia. Intimating, nosy jealous Sofia. And after all that Dulcie had done to settle her in.
'What did Mini say she learnt from your Aunt Sofia?'
“How did you know it was Aunt Sofia.”
'I just new now grab that chair and bring it over here, do you want to put the cushion on as well so we can be eye to eye?'
“I am now too tall Grandpapa but,” he scraped the soft padded chair over and plonked himself in it. Yes he was growing and besides which he still held tightly to my pear drop bottle. “Well since you asked Grandpapa, we all believe what Mini said as Aunt Sofia was quite adamant she was correct and that the government would change the laws on equality.”
'Well thats fine but is has no reflection on hereditary. I am the eldest of my siblings, Your father is the eldest of his brother and you are the eldest of his brood. Which is easy as you are the only one, so far. Now between you and I, lets all wish for another son for your father and mother as your cousins are a bit unruly.'
Two bright eyes flashed across from his chair to me.
“How did you know Grandpapa, you really are amazing!”
“Mother is having a baby, she told me last night. I feel slighted now as she must have told you first, or Dad.”
'I had no idea, it was just a wish on my part, I thought about it a month ago when Jarvis was burning my golden oak down. An heir we've got so a spare we need.'
“Well you can also see that from your window, I call it the window of the world.” He got up passed me my sweet bottle, now three pears drops lighter, and went over to the windowsill. “And you can see the diary cows over there in the distance and the greenhouses all unloved!”
'Thats because they need new glass, we had a big storm a few years back and the hail was huge and cracked the panes. I suppose we could repair them and grow tomatoes.'
“Mother thought she would ask you if she could make some plants for sale to the public, think its called a nursery.”
'Well if we could let her have them, but to leave a space for our toms, pass me over that pad and pen and I will write a note to your father to organize the repairs etc.' I quickly wrote a brief note to Nick and a request to buy some tomato seeds and other seeds that his wife may require. I handed the note to Robroy who carefully folded it and placed in his shirt pocket.
“And Grandpapa, so there is no dispute, could I have a note from you saying I'm to have your Tower bedroom once you have gone please. Just in case others want to grab it. I do love this room with its wonderful view and the pipes we both listen too and the secret door and staircase.”
'And me.' said I to drop in these lovely thoughts.
“Alas Grandpapa you won't be here it will be the Mausoleum for you. But not too soon I hope!”
'Well I expect it will come eventually, to me your Dad and Uncle Robin and you eventually and there we will all be together at last and mouldering away. But listen Robroy we must make sure Aunt Sofia is kept away, it will be our own little castle, just ours.'
“Agreed Grandpapa but I doubt we would be able to talk like we do at the moment, but at least we would all be together and with Mother of course.”
'Indeed Robroy all together, but we have a new baby to welcome and you and your cousins to grow up and get gainfully employed and keep the house safe and well maintained, such a lot of work. '
“Father said I would take over the gardens and when Granny and Grandpa Evans retire I could take over the running of the cafe.”
'Ah, all planned out my Robroy, I see I will leave all this in safe hands, but remember all this will be yours eventually, no one can legally take it from you and don't be cross with Mini it was not her fault it was Aunt Sofia and her attitude towards her elder brothers that bought this on. Her wishes to change the state of things here are wistful thinking and you can be sure our little talk has made me aware to protect you and your father and Uncle Robin from spurious approaches. But listen, be careful to choose both your ways and your friends carefully, too many great houses have fallen to rot and decay though gambling and alcohol.'
But there was no reply and I gently lowered the pear drop bottle under the bed while my Robroy snuggled his head against the padded chair, he was fast asleep.
Chapter 10 A wonderful visit and beaten again.
Jasmin our first cousin wrote to ask if she could come and help with my siblings repair of their flats which Nick and Robin were giving much of their time. They really had done a marvelous job in converting three of the stables to livable accommodation except for the internal work. I raised the matter with my siblings at tea that night and both Eustace and Gidion were delighted to have Jasmin whom we all loved in our own way. When we were young our mother would ask her sister if Jasmine could stay with us for holidays, now I'm sure the real reason was to have her own sister for company during the summer months and provide a level of protection for my mother from her autocratic husband! So we got cousin Jasmin as a gift because of Mothers desire for company. Jasmin's own mother our Aunt Vi was a large spirited lady and Father was much subdued when ever she came to stay.
Jasmin bought her only boy Tommy and Jess his sister with her, and we wondered how they would fit in with their second cousins especially the Australian boys, but my Robroy as usual took over command of his increased troops and Tommy and Jess were welcomed into the fold. I expect those
children immediately roamed all over the place as Jasmin had not been here since her mother had died, so she was as enthusiastic as her own children.
Once when I was in the study planning our budgets for next year, Jasmin pooped her head around the door.
“You busy Heir?”
'Doing the budgets for next year.'
“ How many stables have you got besides the three for Sonia and the boys?”
'I think there should two more which are closest to our old wagon store., why did you want one?'
“No I am happy in the West tower,. No I was thinking, do you remember all the great times we had on those carts with the horses you father had.”
“Well the carts and wagons are still there, young Nick showed us all yesterday and I was recounting to my two what fun we had with the horses last night.”
'Which young Nick was it, Robroy Nick or the older Nick?'
“Well as a matter of fact it was your grandson Heir and by the look of him I felt there was a hidden agenda behind his twinkling eyes.”
'That my dear cousin you can be quite sure of, he runs this place and me, even his Uncles are justly cautious of him.'
“Thats only because Eust and Gid know how fond of him you are, you should be stronger and say no occasionally.”
Just then the boy himself brushed past with 'an excuse me Aunt', and came and hovered over my desk.
“I heard Aunt Jasmin saying you had to be stronger about me, I was just passing so I heard it all after all Aunt had not gone and closed the door and I did want to ask you to consider...”
'No Robroy I am working on our budgets.'
“Ah thats excellent I am just in time for my proposal.”
'You've asked cousin Jess to marry you have you?' Jasmin came into the room and sat beside me with a grin on her face.
“No Grandpapa it was something else, but cousin Jess is lovely and what I ask for will no doubt really please her.”
“I think what we have here Heir is a budding politician!” Jasmin laughter rang though the room.
'God forbid dear cousin, so what does he want.' said I looking directly at Robroy.
“Horses Grandpapa so we can use those ancient wagons and the coach for yourself and Grand-mama”
'And has anyone put you up to this?'
“Was all my own idea.”
'Yes so I suspected, and I presume you know exactly which type of horse you require?'
“Indeed Grandpapa, there have to be two Shires, for company and also to pull the big hay wagon.”
'Have you calculated how much they would cost, how much the wagon and carts would cost to repair and if I remember correctly that coach had a wonky wheel and would need fixing before my wife would even consent to ride in it!'
“Grandmama said she loved too, I asked at breakfast this morning.” The eyes were definitely twinkling so I guessed he knew he had won, but he added just to show his strength in case of a final rebuff, “and my father and Uncle Robin and three of our farm workers have volunteered there services for free, so it won't cost much.”
I thought to myself I would not be playing chess or droughts or any card came with Master Robroy. And certainly not for money. But I will attack again to see how deeply he has gone into it.
'Right the cost of the Shires, their regular food requirements ,what are you going to do with all that manure!'
“Cut down on your sweet allowance Grandpapa, use the wheat straw for food and bedding, and a compost heap for Mother to grow her seedlings.” came the quick as a flash answer.
Jasmin looked me in the eye, she had tear in her eye.
'Now look what you have done to Aunt Jasmin, she is quite shocked, she has a tear in her eye.'
“Thats because she's a lovely lady and you all enjoy her company, but she is a child at heart.”
That caused Jasmin to roar with laughter and ring my desk bell.
“That's the end of the fight, Grand-papa nil grandson three.”
“ All right Robroy but there are three rules, One, Aunt Jasmin is to help you pick out the horses, two, you must clean them out and three you pay for Vets fees I will pay for the food, they will need bran and proper food like Lucerne.”
Well young Robroy placed his hand over my desk and insisted I shook his, all I could say was I should shake your neck instead. But that bought another peal of laughter from Jasmin!
Chapter 11 Clip Clop.
Well it was a fine morning, the sun was beaming through the windows, Tom had obviously come in and opened up the curtains but left me to sleep awhile. So I stirred my stumps and roiled over for a pleasant snooze until I heard the faintest clip clop noises coming from the long driveway below, so with a grunt I rolled back over and ambled over to the windowsill. There in the distance were two Shires with Jasmin and Robroy with a lead on each gradually making their way up the driveway. I looked beyond and saw a large transport turning around the car park we had built for the public. I looked again as Jasmin lifted young Nick onto the back of the horse, then she finding a tree stump close by stepped up onto her horse and so they proceeded up the gravel toward the house. I reckoned I had just time to go down my stairs to meet them. As quick as I could I dressed and walked down and through the hallway to the main doors which were wide open and all of the children before me on the stone steps. Even Dulcie was out there in the fresh air to welcome the new animals. So I leaned on one on the stone lions and watched the procession with the children jumping up and down in excitement.
'What have you called them.' I called out.
“Him and Her.” came the Robroy's reply.
'Thats not proper names for lovely beasts as these two, now proper names.' I called back.
“We are going to have a family meeting to choose, once we have stabled the Shires.” yelled Jasmin as they turned off toward the stables and coach house. They were followed by all the children eager to touch and fondle the new animals.
“I suppose its just as well they all love animals.” Dulcie turned to me, “and yes I am really looking forward to our ride in the coach that Nicholas has promised.” She took my arm and guided me back inside to the dining room.
“I told Tom not to wake you so cook has held back the breakfast until you woke and I believe the children are all starving so I will ring for cook to bring in all the eggs and bacon now ready for our tribe to devour. Sonia was not happy to find no meal served so she went back to her room in a huff. I do hope she won't stay long dear Heir. The boys are setting up her stable apartment as we speak, so we will get the tower back and Jasmin can have that with her two.”
'Well Dulcie we can always get the boss to speak to her.'
Dulcie smiled up at me.
“You really do like little Nick running things, don't you. Your Robroy. Do you know that Edith has talked Nicholas into adding that name officially via deed pole?”
I shook my head.
“It will be his third name apparently.”
Then all the children raced in just as Maisie, Cook and Tom bought in the breakfast for them to serve themselves. There were ample slices of bread and jam and a huge basin of golden chips.
'I guess it won't be long Dulcie till we get Big Macs and fried chicken, oh here is Jasmin coming she looks quite worn out.'
“Heir, there are some things you've forgotten to tell young Nick, there are farriers costs, leather harness and replacing those round wooden pavings in those two stables”.
'Well Jasmin we will just have to send those horses back and get a couple of small ponies instead.'
“No way” come an eruption of young voices.
'Well its not too late we haven't named the Shires yet so they could go.'
“We we have already Grandpapa, we decided on our way over to the house with Aunt Jasmin. It was unanimous, well almost but with final agreement.”
'Presumably you had a hand in promoting the two names Robroy?' I felt Dulcie's hand on my arm so I said I'm only teasing the boy. 'Well come on what have you called them?'
“No I did not we sat down in the stables and Aunt Jasmin called for names for the male and then for the female.”
'Hang about are they brother and sister?'
There were a lot of shaking of heads.
“Babies Grandpapa”. But I had already worked that out for myself and I bet it eventually meant one each for my tribe.
'Stabling will be a problem'.
“The stables close to the coach house are twice the size of the others which are apartments now. Father choose the smaller ones as they would cheaper to heat in winter.”+-
Presumably Robroy you suggested this to your father at the time before he and Uncle Robin started their renovation?'
'Indeed Grandpapa one has to think of everything, well, because you and Grandmama are getting so old and Grandpa and Granny Evans as well. so we have to look ahead and look after you all.”
'I've got two sons to do that.' said I as I sat down to a welcome breakfast. Then I thought for a moment.
'Robroy when you have finished you breakfast and stopped organizing us all, Will you pop up to my bedroom and fetch down the jar of pear drops, You can all finish them off as I will not be buying anymore. I have two unnamed Shire horses to feed now.'
“Well.” said an urchin with his mouth full of chips, “ They do have name Grand papa it is Lord and Lady. But that means, but I will not have sweets on my visits!”
“True, but it will save your teeth from trouble my boy. A bit late for my husband!” Dulcie passed me a slice of bread to sop up the egg on my plate, so I kissed her.
Chapter 12 A sister leaves
So Autumn came and Sofia complained yet again about the cold and wet weather.
“Heir there are fungi in my ceiling and I swear its too damp in that hell hole you've put me in. What is worse, is I am next door to those vile horses you let your dam grandson buy. All I hear is snorting and foul fatrts, I've told my nephews and they just laugh!”
'Well I will ask Jasmin if she would mind moving from the turret to the foul cottage next door to those develish horses. But you do realize they do most of the hard labour around the estate and much beloved by your grand nephew and nieces.'
“That may or maybe be the case, but I will have your rooms and you can dam well have that smelly cottage!”
'Oh,' said.' it comes out at last, my Robroy warned me you were after my roooms and my turret. No absolutely NO!'
“Then I shall leave and I will tell all our fathers old chums about the incivility of his eldest son, I have friends you know, in high places, and I shall duly inform them of you and Dulcie's unfortunate manners. Do you hear Heir.”
'Loud and clear dear Sofia but you leave Dulcie out of it, she has been kindness herself to you and our cousin.'
“Yes thats another thing that Jasmin is only a cousin and not even related to my father.”
'No that is correct she is or rather was my mothers niece, whereas if my memory serves me correctly your mother was kicked out for being a strumpet with Fathers jockey, and do you know what I'm inclined to ask you for, a DNA just to proved you actually are my fathers daughter. So take that along to your high flying friends and see what they can make of that!'
Well yes you can make what you want of our final conversation and I did heap it on a bit, if only Sofia had turned out to be half as nice as Jasmin but there was what really annoyed me was my Robroy was right yet again. But had I put a wrecking ball in his way by argueing with his great Aunt?
So before she packed and was ready to leave her stable cottage I climbed down from my high horse and walked over there in the pouring rain and apolgised.
'I will ask Jasmin to move to the Stable cottage and if you decide to visit again I will make sure the back turret will be clear for you to stay.' I was actually on the door step having not been invited in and thought my periferal vision had caught the bobbing head of Robroy. He seemed to be brushing down one of the horses.
Naturally Jasmin was delighted as she loved those growing giants as much as anyone. But first she had to check if there was room for her children. Yes she said bit of a squeeze but it will do us nicely. But then my Robroy upped and asked if he could live there as well so to be as close to the shires as his cousins. Then I said ,
'you could have lived with Aunt Sofia you little imp.'
All I got was a glare and he ran off. Alas Jasmin said she did not have the room but why not let him stay one night in the hay loft above just to see how he would take to it.
Well Jasmin obviously knew more about children than Dulcie and I did for one night was enough for Robroy.
“Grandpapa,” he said at breakfast the next day scratching the hay out his skin,”They huffed and puffed and such noises all though the night, I did not sleep at all.”
'Well its their stable and they can do what they like as long as they did not fight and break the place apart.'
“I think they are in love Grandpapa.”
Well what answer could I give to that except,
'I'm surprised there was enough room for that sort of thing in that stable.'
“Well there was and if you think about it Grandpapa they actually need less space!”
Well I did not want to think about it, to me it meant more money for feed and a brooding mare as well!
And so it came to pass, a foal was born and the children went into histerics and their parents were just as bad. My Nick and Robin and that imp Robroy attended the birth with plenty of hay to protect and keep warm the little foal. The Vet came next day and examined both mother and daughter he said and asked Robroy what name was he going to give to the new arrival. Well aparently he finger pointed in the direction of my turret. I had come down to pay the Vets bill and I was told by him I had naming rights. I thought long and hard and could honestly not think of one until I remebered Sofia.
'How about Sofia?'
“Absolutly NO said the young Master of the stable, Grandpapa if you cannot think of a really nice name then don't bother, you only said my aunt to get me going. “
I looked his father who had a big grin on his face.
'Right Nick I give you naming rights.'
He thought for a while.
“How about Jennie, after our local wrens?”
“Great” we all said, as all the children had now converged around the little foal and her Mum. Lord poked his huge head in as he was outside munching in a bran bag hung up outside.
“Will we sell her Grandpapa, I hope not, as she is part of the family.” Robroy looked me straight in the eye so I shook my head.
'Its not my decision, but she is a delightful creature and since we don't have dog I think she will do.'
“Absolutely not Heir, not in the house, I've heard of porkers living in homes but not horses,” Dulcie had arrived to see what all the fuss was.
By the way Sofia did leave in a more gentle way and no I did not get a DNA done but it was worthwhile just to keep that hanging over her head. So much so that she did visit again and became quite ameniable, even one morning helping Robroy to muck out the stable. Unbelievable I thought and how well they got on. I suspect in part its because Robroy accompanied her to the local train station in the car with Tom. Sofia would have recgonized that as a real kindness on his part as he was due to got out on the cart to pick hay with his father.