Thilo

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 10

"It's been an exciting day what with one thing and another, so what would you like to drink Thilo?"

"Might I have a gin and tonic?"

"Certainly, my boy. What about you Stephen?"

"Scotch over ice please. Just a blended whiskey will do."

"I'll have the same, so would you like to do the honours?"

"Sure. What about Mum?"

"I suspect she'll follow Thilo and have a G&T, but best you wait until she gets downstairs or Thilo will have two to get through if I've got it wrong."

"I'm sure he'd manage!"

"You like your gin then?"

"To be honest, I'd never tried it before going to Keswick, but yes, I love it!"

"Nice to know that some old traditions never die!

So, you have a Quartermaster at school just like we did?"

"Quartermaster?"

"Yes. One boy is nominated to obtain alcoholic drinks, account for the stock and dish the stuff out after supper.

Who's yours?"

"His name is Benjamin Forester."

"Sir Arthur Forester's boy?

Well, I'll be damned! Arthur was ours when I was there!

Small world, and no mistake!"

"Funny thing is, Ben almost never touches it, or if he does, he sticks to beer."

"Definitely not like his old man. Arthur had a tendency to get well and truly pissed…… well, most of us did if I'm honest!

I take it that your teachers know?"

"I think they suspect, although nothing's been said, but Mr Amos made some remark that made me think that perhaps they do."

"It was a part of sixth form life even before my time there. They knew then, and doubtless they know now, but so long as students are sensible, it's just another tradition like booing the headmaster at the end of the spring term, or riding bicycles through the refectory on November 5 th . Those stupid practices go back centuries. God only knows their roots."

"Do you know? I always wondered about those!"

"Stress relief for the younger boys. A way by which they can see a lighter side of what's otherwise a very tough environment, and the booze? If you've managed to survive six years there, you're more than man enough to handle a drink or two.

You'll miss the place once it's time to leave. Believe it."


Following supper, we went back to the library for a nightcap.

It was here that Dad issued his instructions.

"After what happened today, all members of staff who can handle a gun are going to be armed. Naturally the police aren't that happy, but we're on private property, so there's damn all they can do about it, so I want you lads to go down to the gun room and select something for yourselves. I don't mind what you take, but make sure they can be silenced and fitted with night-sights. Take at least three clips of ammunition, and keep them with you at all times, even if you have to get up to use the toilet, you must take them with you.

No one expects there to be a repeat of today; this we're doing only to ere on the side of caution.

The house together with all the out-buildings will be alarmed, so no going out unless they're disarmed or you'll have every copper within a ten-mile radius descending on the place.

All understood?"

"Yes Dad."

"Thilo?"

"Yes, but I'm sorry you're being put to so much bother."

"We can handle bother. Don't give it another thought."

"But what if you get raided again? This isn't like back home, so letting lose with firearms could get you into all sorts of trouble."

"Given the circumstances, I think you should let me worry about that.

If that time comes, then the only matter of concern is the safety and wellbeing of everyone on the estate, and all necessary steps will be taken to achieve that end, but unless I'm very much mistaken, I think it won't come to that. Those men didn't expect to be met with any opposition, and when they fail to report back to their masters? Let's just say that perhaps they'll read the writing on the wall."

"I hope to God you're right."

"All assuming the rest of your break goes smoothly, before you return to Keswick I'll sit you both down and explain a few things, but for now just try and relax."


As thing transpired, the remained of our holiday went without incident.

The police had found a hire car in an adjoining lane which contained two backpacks which gave up the identities of the two men who had come after us, wallets containing money and passports and return flight tickets to Luanda.

They went to court facing charges of Assault with Intent to Cause Grievous Bodily Harm together with Entering the Country Illegally, and were promptly deported, then two days before we were to return to school, Dad sat us down and had a talk with us.

"So far, so good, but I'm sure you want to understand how it was I felt happy about arming you and the staff.

It's quite simple really.

Following the English Civil War, some families that had stayed loyal to the Crown were granted an absolute right to carry arms in order that they might protect our Nation and those of our allies.

These were, for the most part, members of the nobility, - our family amongst them, but this edict, one sealed in law under an Act of Parliament, has never been repealed. I've had my legal people study it, together with having made representations to members of the judiciary. This Act still stands as legal justification to do what we did, and what's more, if things had got out of hand and our so-called raiders injured or killed, we have this Act of Parliament there to back us up.

Stipulated within this Act, are details of who may, and who may not carry arms.

Obviously Pat as my wife has this right, also Stephen as my son. Also, selected members of our staff, or, in the words of the Act, our servants, can be directed by the family to do the same on their behalf.

Now do you see?

What we were doing was 100% within our rights."

"So, what you're saying is, if I had shot one of those men, everything would be okay?"

"So it would seem.

I knew about this Act, but never took any notice of it up until that incident, but then I decided it needed closer scrutiny, but there's one thing you have to understand Stephen. This is like our Peerage. Once the family line stops, so does this right to bear arms, and given your…… sexuality?"

"Oh, thanks for reminding me Dad?

So, I adopt!"

"Still no good. Your heir, if an adopted male, could and would inherit your estate, but not your title. He must be 'a descendant of the body'. He would be granted an honorary title and known as The Honourable Whatever, but never Viscount or Lord."

"Not that killing anyone is high on my agenda, but if it was, and the alternatives for handing down that legacy was important, the alternatives open to achieve that end make me shudder."

By now, Thilo was curled up in a ball on the couch, quietly wetting himself with laughter, and struggling to talk coherently said,

"You'd better hope for some serious technological advances before impotence sees you off then!"

"And you can shut the fuck-up? I thought you were on my team!"

"I said I batted for the same side, not that I was on your team!"

"Dad?

How would I stand if say…, I were to kill some kid who holds duel South African and Namibian nationality?"

"You'd probably get away with it, but hiding the body might cause a few headaches!"

By now, Thilo was almost in hysterics, so I prodded him in the ribs.

Dad burst out laughing and left the room.

"Not on my team, huh?

Get yourself up those stairs. I need to check your pubes for sheep tics!"


Somehow, my semiconscious head heard an alarm chime. I struggled to think what it was, but then Thilo leaned over and kissed me.

"Half an hour before supper, and its Best Dress time."

"Tell you what? You wear that dress and I'll go back to sleep."

"Stephen? We go back to school tomorrow, so let's not let your parents down by being late."

"Ah hell!

I thought we were already back.

Let me get showered and I'll be with you."

"Make it quick then, and by the way?"

"By the way what?"

"I am on your team.

I'm in love with you!"

" Really??"

"Yeah, really…., unless you don't get yourself ready for supper like right now!"

"Okay.

It's dining room tonight, isn't it?"

"Uh-huh. Black tie. There are guests coming."

"Forget the shower. I'm only going to smell of sex after all.

Who's coming, or didn't they say."

"No idea, but Winterton is dressed up like a penguin so they have to be high-fliers."

"Right.

You get that dress on while I change into my Glad-rags!"

"Fuck you!"

"Me Top, you Bottom, remember?

Let's just do it."


"Good evening Mr Stephen, Mr Thilo? May I get you something to drink?"

"Thanks Winterton. A stiff Bells over ice please."

"And for you Sir? I've chilled down a couple of bottles of Muscadet in anticipation, and if I might say, your choice is impeccable."

"You've sampled it then?"

"Naturally Sir, but only to ensure that it was sufficiently chilled."

I stifled a giggle.

"Yeah, right!"

Winterton eyed me, then I noticed a smile playing around his lips.

Thilo also noticed and came back with his own comment.

"Then might I suggest that the sampled bottle you keep to one side and the full one served at table? For now, I'll stick with a gin and tonic, and how that first bottle is disposed of I'll leave up to you, but remembering that it's far too good to pour down the sink!"

"As you wish Sir. I have in mind someone who would very much appreciate a fine wine once his duties permit.

Now, if you'll excuse me gentlemen, I fetch your drinks."

Once Winterton had left the room, Thilo burst out laughing.

"I thought you said he was grumpy? I rather like him."

"And if you continue to shove bottles of wine in his direction, he'll rather like you as well!

He can be a bit sour sometimes, but on nights like tonight, he really pulls out all the stops, which reminds me. We should go and find out who our visitors are, but we should wait for our drinks so Winterton can announce us."

"Is that really necessary?"

"Black tie dinner, so it's someone of standing, and protocol dictates that the butler announces new arrivals into the room.

Shit! Winterton would have a fit if we just rolled in there!"

"I've a lot to learn, haven't I."

"Not so much. Actually, most of it is common sense, like when we're announced, you acknowledge Mum and Dad before the guests. I might be number three in the household, but I'm still lower ranking, so it's Dad first followed by Mum, and then the guests."

"What about their titles? Do I say My Lord? I mean, I can't go calling him Charlie, or your Mum Pat?"

"Sir and Madam, but only initially. Once the formal introductions are made, it's business as usual.

I say Father and Mother, then it's Mum and Dad like always.

Oddly enough, just being in formal evening suits helps."

"I'll take your word on that. This is the first time I've ever worn one.

Is my bow tie straight?"

"You look great. You've managed to transform yourself from a scruffy farm kid to a young gentleman without even trying!"

"Thanks. I know you were only being facetious, but it's made me feel more relaxed."

Just at that moment, Winterton came through with our drinks.

"Shall I announce you Sirs?"

Thilo took a mouthful of his drink.

"Dutch courage I think it's called!"

"I don't believe it's necessary Sir, in fact I think you'll be pleasantly surprised."

I took a swig of my drink.

"Not Dutch courage. I just happen to like the stuff!

Come on then. We might as well get this done and dusted."


Winterton opened the doors that lead into the lounge, cleared his throat and waited until he had everyone's attention.

"My Lord, My Lady and gentlemen.

Viscount Broadhurst and Mr Thilo Roker."

"Good evening Father, Mother?"

"Good evening to you son."

"Good evening Sir, Madam."

"Good evening to you Thilo.

Now, I know our guests don't need any introduction to you, but you son? May I introduce Mr Hans-Peter Roker?

Obviously both of you already know Mr Kabundai, and it's a very great pleasure to welcome them to Malvern Park.

Now the formalities are out of the way, more drinks please Winterton."

"Very good Sir."

Thilo was sporting an ear-to-ear grin as he walked over to where Moses was standing, punched him on the arm before giving him a hug, then turning his attention to Hans-Peter, did much the same to him.

"Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"

"Well, I had planned on visiting you in Cumbria, but then Charlie suggested that as I had business in Wales to sort out, why not come and stay here overnight and travel to Wales come the morning. It seemed to me to be a perfect idea.

Stephen? What can I say.

Thank you just isn't adequate. Not only because of what you did at school, but Charlie tells me that you were instrumental in the detaining and subsequent deportation of those thugs that came after you."

"Thanks, but I think we were just very fortunate in as much as we were armed with the intention of going after mink when they showed up.

It could have been very different."

"That still doesn't detract from the fact that you saved, not just your life, but that of the last remaining member of my family, and my debt to you is enormous."

During my conversation with Hans-Peter and Moses, Thilo was having one of his own with Mum and Dad.

"You certainly look the business Thilo, and as for your etiquette? Absolutely spot on!"

"I had to receive tuition though!"

"You'll become accustomed to it if, as we all hope, you and Stephen……"

"Then I will definitely get used to it!"

"You have no idea how pleased we are to hear you say that. Stephen will no doubt give me grief for telling you, but he doesn't talk about his um…… Private life. I can understand that, it isn't the sort of conversation you have with your parents, so keeping quiet was the easy option, but you're a completely different proposition. He's come out of his shell. He wants to show you off to the world and damn the consequences. He's always been a happy lad, but now he's almost supercharged."

"With your permission, I don't see myself going anywhere unless he's by my side.

I love him."

"Not that you ever needed it, but permission freely given, my boy!"

Mum turned to see Winterton standing in the doorway trying to get her attention.

"We're ready to serve dinner whenever you say Madam."

"Thank you Winterton. We'll be through in about five minutes."


Mum and Dad sat at either end of the table, with Thilo sitting opposite Hans-Peter and me opposite Moses.

Yes, I would've preferred to sit next to Thilo, but again, this was etiquette; mix the hosts amongst the guests, and whilst it could be argued that Thilo was a guest, Mum and Dad were trying to send signals that they looked upon him as family.

Dinner was awesome; Helen had excelled herself.

A light Smoked Trout Turenne followed by homemade Beef Consommé served with warm home baked baguettes, a small salad together with various smoked meats, then the main course of Roast Suckling Pig and fresh vegetables. To follow was a small citrus-based fruit salad to refresh the mouth, blackberry and apple crumble and a cheese board with Port and Cognac.

"Do you guys eat like this every evening?

It was a wonderful meal!"

"God no Hans!

Last night was Helen's day off, so I drove into Malvern and got us fish, chips and mushy peas which we ate in the kitchen!"

"Very English!

How much of tonight's feast came from your farm?"

"Well now, let me see.

The trout came from the lake; we have a smoker out back. The consommé was made from our beef and the bread made from flour milled from wheat we harvested last year. The smoked meats are off the farm, as was the suckling pig. Unfortunately, we don't grow salad crops, so they're bought in from a farm nearby as were the fruits in the fruit salad. Apples we have plenty of, and blackberries grow wild all over the place. We can't lay claim to the cheeses, but they're locally sourced from the same farm as the salads, meaning most of the meal came from within a ten-mile radius, - except for the wines of course.

I'd like to change that, and maybe when Stephen takes over the running of the place, he might get around to organising something so he can keep me in a perpetual state of inebriation during my retirement!"

"Do you sell produce through farm shops?"

"Not really. There's a certain amount of back-scratching between farmers, like Sam who owns the farm who supplied the cheeses and what-not, has a side of beef off us from time to time together with lamb and pork, but mostly it's traded wholesale. We have agreements with other farms who produce things we don't, so there's a degree of incestuous trade out there."

"Support your fellow farmer!"

"So far as we're able, yes.

A crowd of us meet at a pub every couple of weeks so we can exchange ideas, and have a better understanding of what each of us are up to.

We've had the use of other farmer's land when we've been pushed, and we've lent land to them when they're running short of space. It works well, and anyway, it's nice to have a boy's drunken night out every now and again!"


By ten in the evening we'd adjourned back to the lounge where the conversations continued, but by eleven-thirty I began to feel tired, and noticing Thilo desperately trying to stifle yawns, decided it was time to head for bed.

"I hope no one objects, but a hard day on the farm coupled with a super meal and a not inconsiderable amount of wine, I need to get to bed, more especially as we've got to get back to Keswick by tomorrow evening?"

"No. You carry on son, you as well Thilo if you like.

I think we'll be up for a while yet."

We said our good-nights, and on the promise that Moses would get back to collect us early the following afternoon, we made our way upstairs.

Outside our respective rooms, we shared a good night kiss and a long cuddle.

"I'm sorry you didn't get much boy-rocking practice in, but this holiday has been like nothing I've ever experienced. The farm, the work, your folks, everyone has made me feel so welcome to the point where I almost never thought about home."

"Did you really enjoy being here?"

"Not only did I enjoy it, but I love this place.

I did let something slip that might have muddied the waters though. In the event, it was cool, but it could've been misconstrued."

"Go on?"

"I told your father. I told him that I loved you."

"What was his reaction?"

"We have his blessing. His blessing Stephen!"

"Why are you so surprised?

Look at you.

Not only are you witty and intelligent, you're not afraid of hard graft.

You come from farming stock. You know what you're doing and you're good at what you do, and to top it all, you love what you do.

He wasn't exactly bouncing off the walls when I came out to them. I was a disappointment, but they handled it.

I think they wondered if I was about to chuck the idea of taking over the farm and go for some fairy occupation, but then, over time they understood I had a passion for the land and everything it represents, so then their problem was whether or not I'd find a soulmate who I could share it with.

I want to be your soulmate, and I yours if you'll let me?"

"Can I share your bed tonight?"

"Tonight, and every night.

I love you so much Thilo!"

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