There is a disused dumbwaiter which the Dowager Lady Plantagenet-Featheringstonehaugh had installed, for when she would be taking afternoon tea, and sometimes breakfast, in her suite of rooms overlooking the Virginia Woolf Memorial Pond.
Cissie and Elspeth, encouraged by Ghastly Prendy, managed to get most of Mr D-C into the dumbwaiter, but unfortunately, he is a bit tall, and they were about to give up trying to lever him into the contraption when Mrs Eulalia Hawkins appeared on the scene. La Hawkins is very big and powerful, and within minutes she had folded the Old Chap more or less in two and stuffed him in securely.
All was going well, and he was being transported successfully down towards the ground floor, when the dumbwaiter, with Mr Dorking-Clark neatly packed inside, jammed somewhere between the first and second floors. No amount of pulling and shoving dislodged him; neither could they get the vehicle to travel up or down. But, the bell rang for luncheon, so they hurried down and left him there. After all, who would want to be late for one of Cook’s delicious luncheons?
Now this is where the two strands of my little tale come together.
What Cissie and Elspeth hadn’t known was that the Christmas Greeting Cards for this year had already been planned, designed and printed, and that only the envelopes remained to be addressed. And to keep them safe, Dear Lettice, Mr Jack Lincoln-Palmistry and our lovely Raj, had secreted them in the dumbwaiter for safety. Of course, if the dumbwaiter hadn’t been half full of Greeting Cards, Mr D-C would have fitted in there with room to spare... long as he may be. But it was.
A couple of day later, Ghastly Prendy remembered that he was still there and, having given a couple of tugs on the still unyielding ropes, left him to his own devices until, on the next morning, Cissie and Elspeth also remembered, and thinking that he may have been a little peckish, went to the second floor, and managed to drop half a packet of digestive biscuits and a slice of Battenberg cake down to him.
When he thanked them, but in doing so, pointed out that he was getting thirsty, both Elspeth and Cissie, kind souls that they are, returned after afternoon tea, carrying a large tea pot that they had spirited away from the Queen Alexandra Day Drawing Room and Recreation Area where our Sharon had been serving afternoon tea with scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream.
They couldn’t manage to lower a cup and saucer down to the Old Boy so they told him to open his mouth and they poured the half-full teapot’s contents down to him. It may be that his complaints that the tea was still a little too hot, brought his whereabouts to Nurse Smythe’s attention. But although these do not constitute her designated duties, she kindly helped a little.
Unfortunately, despite a fair amount of effort and a good deal of laughter, we still couldn’t bring the dumbwaiter up or down to release him and as our Polish handymen Józef, Wladyslaw and Czcibor are on holiday until the New Year, he will have to stay there until Twelfth Night when they return.
We have attempted to keep up his spirits, and several of the Old Girls entertained him with a medley of Christmas Carols. The Rev Hugh Halitosis also helped entertain him by retelling his popular Christmas Sermon, (’Surely God must be an Englishman’). Well, it passed the time nicely for both of them.
But even more unfortunate than his incarceration in the dumbwaiter, the Christmas Greeting cards are also with him, and as he has reported to us that they are wet with tea and covered in moist digestive biscuits and Battenberg cake, it seems that your anticipated Twilight Lawns Christmas Card will not be popping through your letterbox this year.
Hilda Plantagenet-Featheringstonehaugh (Matron)