Tales From The Pantry: A Butler's Diary

From the pantry of an historic country house comes the ongoing diary of its butler, Mr Dean Fielding. I shall be giving you a glimpse of the family I serve and of the lives both 'Below Stairs' and 'Above'. I hope you follow my jottings daily.

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Location: United Kingdom

Have been butler here for over 15 years. Having previously, and unusually for these days, worked my way up from footman to under-butler to my current post. You can now follow me on Twitter via: http://www.twitter.com/butlerfielding

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bishop's Mitre or Cardinal's Hat?

The Carstone family headed off to spend Easter in Prague, (which allowed me the opportunity to take a few days off to spend with my family). They are returning home at the end of the week, and I am already back at work, and trying to ensure that everything will be in tip top condition at the House for when they return.

Friday evening was not an unqualified success. I hardly expected it to be. Llywelyn, from the very beginning, had the fevered gleam in his eye of the true believer. I just wanted to be tucked up in my nice snug bed. I still haven't finished my Brian Johnstone book. I met him (Llywelyn not Brian Johnstone), as he requested, at the Tradesman's Entrance at 10pm. He didn't bring his volume of 'Carstone's supernatural history' with him. I think he would have required some sort of trolley, or durable pack horse, in order to do so in any case. All the stories and tales have, no doubt, been confined to his memory long ago.

Our first point of call was the State Dining Room, where, Llywelyn breathlessly explained, the ghostly image of King Charles I, or "a figure very like him" had been spotted at alarmingly regular intervals. We stayed there for about fifteen minutes, but nothing appeared to break the silence and serenity of a room, which even in the semi-darkness still seemed to radiate more majesty than any spectral monarch, headless or otherwise, could have managed. I also noticed that a leg of one of the chairs at the Dining Table seemed to be slightly wonky. I will have to see to that before the family return from Prague.

I then followed Llywelyn to several other rooms, and although I found his stories to be fascinating and wonderfully well told (I think he should seriously consider publishing a book on them. Surely there would be a call for a slimmer, more concise book on the ghosts of Carstone House, that locals could purchase and take home with them without running the risk of acquiring a hernia) I found my mind wandering to other things: should the cushion covers in the Chintz Room be cleaned again? Was that a speck of dirt on the face of the longcase clock in the Family Dining Room? Would Mr Miles be joining the family next week-end? Was the chandelier really as secure as I thought (I could swear it moved slightly as we left the room)? Should I fold the napkins on the Dining Room table in the bishops mitre, cardinal's hat, or arum lily style, for the week-end?

If Lywelyn had known that while he was telling his heart-stopping, blood curdling, flesh creeping tales, his audience had been mentally pondering the merits of the Bishops Mitre, as opposed to the Cardinal's Hat, he would have thought: "I have lost him." He might well have been right.

I felt rather guilty since Mr Llywelyn had put in so much effort. We did not see or experience anything. I think the ghosts were rather inconsiderate. They could have at least clanked a few chains, or slammed a door (not too hard though, we would not have wanted to wake anybody up), but they were obviously not interested in us. The only 'ghostly' thing I heard was a wail coming from the Game Larder, which on further investigation turned out to be Simon, the Footman. Sigh. Standards are slipping when footmen are pretending to be ghosts. He did not wear a sheet over his head though, so I suppose that was a blessing.


Anonymous Augustine Mulliner said...

By the way, have you found out what the head gardener was doing the other day, after midnight? Rather spooky, what, what?

11:24 am  
Anonymous Aunt Agatha said...

What intrigues me is the Van Dyck painting of Charles I. What is the relation to the post? Is it the hat?

2:48 pm  
Blogger Mr Fielding said...

No Augustine, I did not find out what he was doing. I haven't had chance to ask him. I shall corner him at some point no doubt.

Aunt Agatha, I like to create intrigue. The Van Dyck painting refers to the famous State Dining Room ghost of King Charles I, who rather inconsiderately refused to show itself to us. I must say I can hardly blame him.

10:12 pm  
Anonymous Aunt Agatha said...

I understand. But ghosts usually have a reason for appearing somewhere. Of course the matter is obfuscated slightly by the ghost not appearing at all. Did Llywelyn explain why the ghost of Charles I has a partiality for this particular State Dining Room?

5:15 pm  
Blogger Mr Fielding said...

I really don't know. Charles I stayed here at one point during the Civil War, so that must be the link.

I have no idea why the King would particularly want to return here, but then again Llywelyn did add the qualifier "Or somebody like him." so perhaps it is a cavalier, but not actually the King himself.

Then again, Llywelyn might just be talking rubbish.

7:22 pm  
Anonymous Augustine Mulliner said...

Are butlers permitted by their guild to say "rubbish"?

4:25 pm  
Blogger Mr Fielding said...

Indeed we are. As long as we confine such utterances to the confines of 'Below Stairs.'

Forgive me, but having been subjected to several hours of Llywelyn spouting his supernatural tales, the word 'rubbish' must be forgiven. I might even go so far as to say 'twaddle'.

5:59 pm  
Blogger RanTen said...

Mr. Fielding, I stand reprimanded...ie for my earlier comments...

Otherwise i was looking forward to tales of ghosts and ghouls - England, i am told, has the most ghosts per sqr. mile?

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