As Rabbie listened patiently to the woes of his despairing Queen, the Duchess’ tour continued.
Out on the landing, Joyce was desperate not to let the Duchess see the unfinished dining room. Unfortunately, as a vulture senses a fresh kill, the Duchess knew Joyce was hiding something and insisted she must see every room. Joyce would have acquiesced – the shortcomings were only cosmetic – however, as they’d passed the door she was certain she’d heard Rabbie’s voice coming from within and unless she was sorely mistaken, he was soundly in his cups. Joyce thought quickly and decided to take a gamble.
“Of course you must see the dining room, Ma’am, if that’s your wish, but first, please let me fetch my husband to check the mousetraps. I’m afraid we’ve had a terrible battle with the little blighters since we moved in and the dining room seems to have become their last bastion,” she said innocently. Her improvised plan worked a treat –
“MICE!” bellowed the horrified Duchess, “Gracious! Did you say there was a residents’ lounge downstairs?” and she almost knocked poor Gavin off his feet as she headed at a gallop for the stairs.
Downstairs, Joyce sat the flustered and disgruntled Duchess down in residents’ lounge and offered her afternoon tea.
“Are there cakes?” the Duchess asked rather rudely.
“Yes, Ma’am, I believe Mrs Owen baked Lemon Drizzle, Victoria Sponge and Madeira especially for the… um, for you this morning.”
“Hmm,” sniffed the Duchess who, Joyce noted with wry satisfaction, was being very careful to keep her feet well off the floor, “I suppose I might just have time for a nibble.”
The Duchess had sampled all three cakes thoroughly and it was time to leave. She cast a final disparaging eye around the room and pronounced judgement:
“I shall report back to the Queen that you have equipped Agar Hall… adequately,” and glancing nervously around the floor she added, “Though, of course, she will be informed of the vermin issue too,” before heading quickly for the door.
“Of course, Ma’am,” a deflated Joyce said to the back of the retreating Duchess. Oh goodness, what will the Queen think about that? she fretted as she went to show the Duchess out. But of course Joyce had no need to worry, the Queen was perfectly aware that there were no mice in the dining room – if there had been, she would undoubtedly have noticed them!
Upstairs, the said Queen was positively pie-eyed but feeling a great deal more positive. Rabbie had eventually succeeded in convincing her that her Prince Phillip would come along one day soon and would be well worth the wait. He’d also promised to put on his thinking tam-o’-shanter to see what he could come up with regarding the ‘other business’.
“Noo pull yer sen together Bessie, and de ne be disappointing yer loyal public agin!” Rabbie had overcome his inhibitions about being familiar with his sovereign well before the first quart of whiskey was downed.
“Yesh I will, Rabbie. S’been awfully good of you to lishen,” said the Queen earnestly, “S’there anyshing, anyshing at all I can do for you?”
“Noo, lass, think nothin’ on it. It’s been ma pleasure to share a wee dram with ye. Och!“ Rabbie remembered something he’d been thinking about earlier, “There is one wee thing, Bessie…” and he went on to explain.
The Queen, was more than happy to grant Rabbie’s request when she heard what it was and, a few short phones call later, Hilary and Eileen were thrilled to little mint balls to be back at Agar Hall to meet the Queen.
Rabbie brought out his Box Brownie and captured the moment in a photograph that would forever take pride of place in their photo albums. Over the years to come, friends and family viewing the photograph would quip that, if they didn’t know better, one might imagine Hilary and Eileen to he holding the Queen up.. ha ha!
© 2017, Zoe. All rights reserved.