A Tour and Lunch

Gerhardt had just returned from a walk on the moors and was outside on the porch when Alexandra stepped out. He was pleasantly surprised to see her. “Hello,” he said.

“Hello. Nice dog. He’s sitting so still that I thought he was a work of art. What’s his name?”

“Cinder.”

“Cinder?”

“It was Helena’s idea. One of her favorite novels was The Cinder Path.”

“Oh. I guess it has to do with his color.”

“I guess so. This is an unexpected surprise.” He rose to his feet.

“I thought I would take you up on your offer for a tour, that is if it isn’t an imposition. I can come by another time that’s more convenient for you.”

“No, no. Now is fine. Cinder can stay here and rest from his exercise. We just returned from a walk on the moors.”

“The moors. Every time I think of the moors, I think of Wuthering Heights.”

“That’s another one of Helena’s favorites.”

“Although I like Wuthering Heights, I’m more of a Jane Eyre fan.”

He smiled. “Let’s begin the tour.”

They started across the massive grounds which seemed to stretch endlessly in all directions as it surrounded the sprawling mansion which in of itself was very impressive and imposing. It was a typical English manor house. “Your home is very impressive,” she remarked.

“I suppose it is. Helena loved it and was very happy here.”

“So, she inherited all of this?”

“Yes, because she was the oldest of three children.”

“That’s great. In Africa, women are denied the right to inherit land and other property.”

“That’s appalling. Something needs to be done to insure that women have equal inheritance rights.”

“Yes. There is a growing movement of women’s land rights advocates so, hopefully that will bring about the desired changes.”

He paused beside the tree which he had dedicated to Helena. “This is the remembrance tree I had planted for Helena.”

Alexandra gazed at it, moved that he had done that for his late wife. It was obvious that he loved her. “It’s beautiful,” she said. “Tell me about her.”

As they stood there, he told her about Helena.

“She sounds like she was a remarkable woman.”

“She was,” he readily agreed.

As they moved away from the tree, she stated rather than asked, “You’re from Germany.”

“Yes.”

“I have a friend who lives in Berlin. Which part of Germany are you from?”

“Düsseldorf.”

“Do you still have family there?”

“Yes, my parents and two younger sisters.”

“What was life like in Düsseldorf?”

“Very good. My family and I lived in a fine house. After my grandfather died, my grandmother moved in with us. I missed my grandfather. He and I were very close. One of the things I missed was him telling me stories. He was such a great storyteller. My favorite story was the one about listless lions and doomsday dungeons.”

“Interesting title. What was it about?”

“There were three lions. They were brothers. Tooth and Fang weren’t interested in anything. They just lay about, listless, not doing much except sleep and eat while Rawr did the hunting so that they wouldn’t starve. One day Rawr who was always up for an adventure persuaded his brothers to explore the vast uncharted terrain with him. They wandered for miles and soon got lost. The Tooth and Fang were angry with Rawr for drawing them so far away from their territory and they wondered how they were going to find their way back before it got dark. As they were arguing, a hyena came upon them. He kept a safe distance, of course as he offered to take them to a wise, old man who could help them to find their way back. The three lions followed him to a dungeon. They went inside but instead of the old man, they came face to face with a large fiery red dragon.”

“What happened to the lions?”

“Let’s just say, they didn’t leave the dungeon.”

“What about the hyena?”

“He was out of there like a shot.”

“Why did he take the lions to the dungeon?”

“Like the lions, he and his mate had wandered too far the pack and got lost. Unbeknownst to them, they stumbled upon one of those doomsday dungeons and out of curiosity they went inside. And they encountered a fierce some dragon who would have kept them there if the male hyena hadn’t begged the monster to let them go. The dragon told him he would spare their lives if he was able to bring back one of the big five.”

“The big five?”

“Yes. The lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo. So, the hyena went off to find one of these be dangerous animals while his mate was forced to stay in the dungeon. If he failed and returned alone, both of them would end up as tasty morsels for the dragon. So, it was a stroke of luck for the hyena when he found those three lions.”

“Those poor lions.”

“The moral of the story is, if you are a lion, never trust a hyena.”

“Oh, yes, because they are long-time enemies and rivals.”

“Yes.”

“What a great story. It reminds me of one of Aesop’s fables.”

“My grandfather told lots of stories like and I used to lap them up. I wrote them down soon after he told me so that I wouldn’t forget. I have two notebooks filled with his stories.”

“What are you going to do with them?”

“Publish them, I guess.”

“You’ll have to get someone to type them.”

“Yes.”

“If you like, I could do it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you. I appreciate that.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Remind me to give you the notebooks when you’re leaving.”

“I will.”

As they continued the tour, she couldn’t help wishing that she had brought her camera. The landscaped gardens, the architecture and the fountains were breathtaking. “Have you ever been approached by to have your home be used for a television series or a movie?”

“Helena mentioned that there had been offers but her father had refused. He didn’t want his home to be used for commercial means. Helena felt the same way.”

“I can’t say that I blame them although I read somewhere that Lady Carnarvon, a close friend of Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes saw what a good opportunity it would be to have Highclere Castle used for the period drama. It was a very profitable move and it helped to revive the estate’s fortunes.”

“Helena would have preferred to have tours and donate the fees to several charities.”

As they came upon the rolling parkland which led down to three lakes and woodland, she half-expected that at any moment, Mr. Darcy suddenly appear, dripping wet from his swim in the lake. She smiled at the thought and quickly sobered up when she imagined Gerhardt emerging from the water instead. He took her past the walled swimming pool which lay to the north west side of the house. “Nice pool.”

“Helena and I used it a lot during the summer months. She was like a fish in the water.”

“Is there any wild life around here?”

“Yes. We’ve spotted roe, fallow deer, hares and other game.”

“I can see why people love living in the country. It’s beautiful and very peaceful. A welcome change from the city.”

“Yes. I like the city, though. It’s nice being there during the week.” He showed her the tennis court, stables, paddock and the private golf course. “I sometimes enjoy a game of polo with friends,” he said as they paused at the paddock to look at the horses. “Have you ever ridden a horse before?”

She shook her head at once. “No and I’m not sure that I want to.”

“Lilith said the same thing but I encouraged her to give it a try and she loves it. Perhaps, I can persuade you to change your mind.”

“Perhaps.”

“Well, this marks the end of our tour of the grounds. I hope it wasn’t too much in one day.”

“No, it was fine. I enjoyed seeing the place. Thank you for taking the time to do it. I really appreciate it.”

“Stay and have lunch with me,” he said.

She stared at him. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“All right.”

“Good. I’ll let Mrs. Davies know so that the cook can prepare lunch for two.”

They headed back to the mansion.

Sources: Women Deliver; Britain Magazine; Country Life; Christie’s; World Wildlife; Fantasy Name Generators

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