Homecomings and Introductions.
All was ready and Ben was so excited he could hardly sleep at all. He dragged a spare mattress from one of the spare rooms down to the fire place with his friends, the Dunmours, his dogs and Raphael. He didn’t want to spoil anything in his room by sleeping in the bed and spoiling the bathroom with any untidiness or shower steam stains. Zara thought he was being a bit silly but at the same time Amazing and Graceful shone and sparkled. There was freshness in the hotel that was special and the only thing in the morning that spoilt that tranquillity was the snoring from Lamb Shanks, Ben, Hambone and Raphael in front of the embers of the fire. Agnes and Fiona were standing in the reception area looking at the melee before them of legs, fur and a mattress that had one corner singed obviously due to a spark from the fire. All the bodies and animals that were asleep suddenly all kicked into gear with the laughter created by Agnes and Fiona who were dressed and snickering at what they were seeing.
It was about 7:30am and the phone was ringing as soon as all the eyes in front of the fire had opened. It was the Bannocks wanting to know if there was enough food and should they bring anything with them. Agnes assured them there was plenty of food and that he should just bring himself his wife, Peebles and the staff if they wish to share the homecoming as well. The hotel was empty and there were rooms for everyone if they wished to stay over. And this was always the case. So extra ticking was needed for all rooms and towels for showers and a hangover the next day.
Ben was up and in his jammies in front of Agnes and Fiona scratching areas that normally they wouldn’t see. Zara was quick to point out that Ben should stop because he was completely oblivious to the fact that he was doing it ...because he was rubbing his crutch with one hand and scratching his eyes with the other. Agnes and Fiona didn’t know which way to look, up, down or sideways. Ben didn’t care he said, ‘Good morning ladies,’ and then walked up stairs to the communal shower at the far end of Amazing and Graceful and showered. He shaved and checked his appearance. He was to look handsome for his wife. It was as he was brushing his teeth and spitting into the sink the excess foam, he looked into the mirror and thought. ‘I hope she understands about the submarine and the Merrows or it could be curtains for him and his relationship.’
(I think...no I know...that Aubrey is just as keen to see him and be back in her own home because she was missing her husband something fierce...read on!)
The look Ben had at his own reflection was a curious one, with all that happened to him over the past weeks and the joy in his heart that all his family were coming home to nest again was far too much information to take on. He was checking for grey hairs because he certainly deserved some after the rescue of the sub, maintaining the hotel, and meeting mythological creatures for the first of many times. Ben thought about his life and how far he had come since the days of making mud and being yelled at for bricks. He missed Buzzsaw his friend and Victor and his family but that was all, the others were ratbags that didn’t deserve to have his friendship at all.
Aubrey and Zara were flying home to be by his side!
He finished rinsing his mouth and brushing his hair. He put on nice clothes and a Tweed Jacket to wait for his love to come home and he went back down to the fireplace with wolf whistles from Raphael and a huge happy growl from Hambone. Raphael said to him in a smiling french voice.....‘If I deed not know you better mon ami I would zay you have a date tonight no?’ And he giggled at Ben.
Ben blushed at the comments and went into the office to talk to Agnes about the rooms for everyone. All was ready. It was only 8:30am and the flight didn’t land till 3:30pm. Ben had a bit of time on his hands to sit back and relax in front of the fire and talk to his friends while checking his notes for the speech he had prepared for the handing over of the present Ben had made for the Queen of the Merrows. It was to the point and sincere to a fault. Ben was good at public speaking and it would not be too long before the first of the guests started to arrive just in time for lunch.
It took Ben 2 hours to get to the airport and it will take Aubrey and Zara about an hour to get through customs but maybe with Zara being so small and so often distressed with the dropping in altitude, her crying might get them both rushed through. So Ben would leave to pick them up at about 1:00pm just after lunch and this would also be enough time to word up all the family, friends and staff about what they were about to see later in the night just as the sun sets.
Ben was excited.
So it was time to play a few games of Backgammon with Raphael and unwind if he could before the guests started to arrive. Agnes made him a special chocolate coffee and he had his favourite shortbreads on hand to quell any nibbles he may have had. Inside the mirror above the fire place Mr Dunmour said.....‘Look at Ben will you, he is all dressed up and so very excited about Aubrey and his wee daughter coming home. I wish him all the best and his presents and gift for the Merrows and Aubrey are fantastic. HAMBONE!!!! Go and see if the aircraft is okay and Aubrey is on her way and report back please,’ said Mr Dumour and Hambone was gone in the blink of an eye.
Ben was losing at Backgammon quite successfully for the third time when Fiona said that she heard a car horn from the mainland. Ben left the game while Raphael set up another and he went to the stone steps to see who it was that was the first person down to the boats at Amazing and Graceful for the party. It was Peebles lifting his arm above his head in a bent armed fist like he did the day on the main stage at the highland games.
Ben rowed over and picked up his friend who had a small briefcase that he tucked into the bow of the boat and they talked like they had not seen each other for years and rowed back to the stone steps of the hotel. It was good to see Peebles he had so much to tell him and show him. Peebles nearly fell over when he saw the sub-side of the hotel and this huge old German submarine leaning against the hotel. He was speechless. Ben laughed and said...... ‘That’s nothing mate, wait till tonight. I have more news.’
‘Yoo cannee be serious lad this is huge news,’ said a dumb struck Peebles who could not believe that he was seeing something so big leaning against Ben’s hotel. Peebles was aware of the Dunmours and Hambone but he commented on how big Lamb Shanks had gotten since he saw him last. Lamb Shanks went straight to Peebles with a mouldy old tennis ball in his mouth and another car horn sounded four times. Ben left Peebles hurling the tennis ball up the stairs giving Lamb Shanks a chance to chase the ball thrown up the stairs and he went to investigate who sounded their horn four times. IT WAS THE ENTIRE BANNOCK CLAN AND STAFF WITH BEN’S MOTHER AS WELL!!!!!
It was early but Agnes was not surprised at all about how soon Lord and Lady Bannock appeared for the Welcome Home day/night party. They didn’t want to miss anything at all. Agnes thought to herself that it was not going to be hard to miss the submarine leaning against the hotel by any shape of the imagination. Ben rowed out as did Peebles with boats to ferry all the staff and Lord and Lady Bannock. Ben rowed Lord Bannock back to the hotel in his boat and Lord Bannock was standing in the boat playing the bagpipes all the way to the stone steps and kept playing them all the way to the reception entrance.
Everyone cheered as the sound of the pipes resounded throughout Amazing and Graceful and Lord Bannock’s face was deep red and his cheeks blowing air into the bag to make the wondrous sounds that were so indicatively Scottish. It was a welcoming of the clan back to its complete family size again and there were smiles and cups of tea being raised in praise of the pipes being produced and played with such passion.
It is 9:40am.
Ben started to look at his watch and Agnes said that he didn’t have to as she would tell him when it was time to go and get his wife and daughter from the airport. Lord Bannock finished his piping and dropped the pipes into a suitcase that was put near the fire and he screamed for a cup of tea. (Actually he yelled I need something wet in my mooth as ‘I am as dry a f--k without foreplay’ and his hands were filled with tea and shortbreads.) Before he could sip the tea Ben asked the Lord, Lady Bannock and the staff to come to the other side of the hotel to see the sub that he has leaning against his hotel.
‘What F—king Sub?????’ stuttered Lord Bannock throwing two shortbreads into his mouth and following Ben around the side of the hotel and there it was. ‘SUFFERIN F—KING DUCK BEN, YOU HAVE A SUBMARINE LEANING ON YOOR HOTEL LADDIE!!!!!!’
‘Yes I do, don’t I,’ said Ben sipping his cup of tea while listening to all the staff say pretty much the same thing and patter on about how it got there and where it came from all at once. ‘My friends and family I will explain all at lunchtime in the dining room. I just ask you to enjoy yourself and the hospitality of Amazing and Graceful and welcome home my Wife and Daughter as soon as they hit the stone steps, as I have missed them terribly while they have been in Australia.......’
‘But yoo’ve bun busy with a German soobmarine we see!’
‘Yes I have and I have made some wondrous friends who I will introduce you to later tonight so please be patient and enjoy yourself.’
Ben checked his watch and Agnes told him to stop doing that or people would start talking. She knew he was tense about not missing the aircraft and D-Mac not to miss his pick up as well. After more conversation and the careful introductions to the Dunmours, Zara and Hambone to all the Bannock staff members it was almost time for lunch and Fiona came out and said.......‘Family and Friends, lunch is served in the main dining room if you please would follow me......’
Cheers filled the reception centre and all the people filed into the dining room with tables set in immaculate style best befitting the most pompous dining room aboard the Titanic. There were complements thrown left, right and centre and Lord Bannock yelled at Ben he better watch out or he would take Agnes and Fiona off him because they do such fantastic work. The lunch menu was baked deep sea tuna with a beautiful hollandaise sauce that was pure bliss and a collection of salads that were from heaven. Fiona did a professional job and the applause from all in the dining room guests was proof that her culinary skills were without peer.
Ben grabbed a knife and tapped his glass to make a speech that he was going to make to welcome and begin the introductions to everyone about the new friends that he has made. Ben stood up and there was a generous amount of applause from all who were sipping coffees and teas whilst dunking, nibbling and chewing some of the best shortbreads in the land. Agnes appeared from nowhere as did Fiona with what looked like small baskets with small items wrapped in beautiful gold foil and red ribbons.
’My friends I am so glad that you can stay here in my home for the night because you are about to witness tonight something extremely special that I would ask you to promise you will not share with friends or town folk. This is to be a very gentle introduction with some people who until some weeks ago, I didn’t think existed at all.’
By now Agnes and Fiona came to stand either side of Ben as he spoke. The chair behind Ben as he spoke to his family was that of Raphael who was waiting for his queue.
’My friends and family I have been blessed to be introduced to a family and a young lady who have become as good as family too and I speak of the Dunmours who have taken up residence in the mirror above my fireplace, with their wonderful dog and friend Hambone.’
There was a small amount of applause because some of the staff were not too sure about having ghosts as friends and being in such close proximity.
’My friends I have come into a small fortune that I have found and wish to share with you as the only people that I love and who mean all the world to me, my wife and my daughter. You are my family and I want you to know that you all hold a deep place in my heart.
It is now that I would like to introduce you to Raphael my chair and good friend who owns a wonderful sense of humour and accurate sense of timing in chess, cards, backgammon, French and Italian I find. Please do not be afraid because he is about to give you a gift.’
Now Ben had the room’s complete attention, as did Raphael. Raphael began to creak and his timber groan gently at first as Ben spoke to the audience.
‘Agnes and Fiona have in their possession a present that I will be giving to all of you right now by way of a contract for your silence in what you are about to witness in tonight’s special event. Do I have your oaths of silence as a request from my family to yours?’
There was a silence then hands lifted into the air as Lord Bannock stood and promised his silence looking sternly at all his staff and his wife. ‘If Ben says it’s to be done, IT IS DONE!’ Everyone stood and promised to be true to the silence Ben required of them and that was the queue for Raphael to begin using the vines that covered his chair to reach into the baskets were being held by Agnes and Fiona.
The audience was speechless and Lord and Lady Bannock were fascinated. A present was dropped gently as a feather in front of every guest on all the tables. Ben watched in silence and smiled at everyone and settled some of them who were scared at the travelling vine delivering presents. As the vine delivered each present to its guest a small white flower appeared behind their chair. ‘Nice touch Raph,’ said Ben as he turned to face Raphael and the chair. He was a dear friend also and his gentle approach to not frightened staff and royalty was impeccable.
‘I would ask that you don’t open the present until everyone has one in front of them and then all at once open them together,’ said Ben as the last of the presents were laid on the tables before all the staff, kitchen hands, butlers, Ben’s mother, Peebles, Lord and Lady Bannock and finally two red roses with red foil on a beautiful vine were handed to Agnes and Fiona.
’My friends and family, it’s time to open your gifts. ’
There was a collective rustle of gold foil and ribbons as each present was gently opened up and all eyes fixed themselves on what was in their hands and then looked at Ben who was smiling at everyone like a Cheshire cat.
It was 11:45am.
Ben would have to leave soon and he had not told his guests what the surprise was so he tapped his knife on his wine glass and began.
’What I am about to tell you is sacred and as you have promised by the sharing of gifts and food and your loyalty, will remain the secret of the Bannock and Maitland clans from this time hereafter.
I have found a colony of creatures here in the Abyss or Dx4H as it has come to be known even to these creatures that are mystical, beautiful and need to be protected from the outside world. I have taken the first steps by bringing that submarine that was hanging over their colony up and onto the ledge by the side of Amazing and Graceful. My Home.’
You could hear a pin drop.
Everyone was spellbound.
‘Because of a tragic accident, the King of these people was killed by a ghost who wanted to see me taken into the Abyss and my life ended. I have made something on behalf of all of us that I am handing over tonight to these peoples as our way of apologising to them and in some way, giving them something to look at that will ease the pain of their loss.’
It was midday and Ben had one hour left.
The room was looking at the jewels they had in their hands.
All their attention was on Ben.
Staff who had been paid a simple wage now had in their possession financial security, a belly full of food and a simple request to remain silent about something that filled them with so much curiosity ...and a jewel that promised new clothes a home and some cash left over to have for bills.
What was the secret everyone wondered?