Sir John wasn't sure whether this question was entirely innocent, but it would make an interesting anecdote to add to his repertoire.
After lunch Sir John called the entire staff into his study: the cook, the gardener, the security guard and the odd-job man. They were not much good at their jobs, but at least they put up with the poor wages that he was obliged to pay them.
Sir John Now I've called you in here this afternoon because
a party of American tourists is coming at two o'clock. A lot
depends on this visit. If they like the place, we shall have
more visits. And that'll be good for business.
Gardener Are they all millionaires, then?
Sir John I wish they were. And by the way, do try not to shout
at anyone who walks on the lawn. The people you
shouted at last week were very annoyed.
Gardener Well, they walked all over the grass just after
I'd cut it.
Sir John Yes, but politeness is always good for business. As for
you, George, you're to keep your eyes open when there
are people here. So don't go to sleep, will you?
Guard No, sir.
Sir John Are you all prepared for the fifty teas, Cook?
Cook Oh, yes, Sir John.
Sir John Splendid. Well, remember, it will be good for all of us
if things go well this afternoon. Thank you.
Sir John couldn't help smiling to himself as they walked out. They were a strange-looking crowd, but they were all very loyal. He wondered what sort of impression they would make on the American tourists.
Sir John changed into his best suit and walked down to the gate to meet Mr. Schulman. The coach had just arrived. Sir John crossed his fingers as he led the group to the entrance hall.
Sir John Ladies and gentlemen, may I take this opportunity to
welcome you all to Pelham Manor.
It is an honour -
Cook Sir John!
Sir John Not now, Cook. I'm busy. As I was saying, it is an
honour for me to show you round. Many people who
come here for the -
Cook The John is ready, Sir tea. No, no, the Sir is -
Sir John Go away, Cook! As I was saying, people who come here
for the first time often tell me -
Cook Do you think they'll all want tea in their sugar?
Oh, dear, I mean -
Sir John Excuse me a minute, please, ladies and gentlemen.
Sir John took Cook's arm and led her out of the hall. He knew what was the matter with her. She kept a bottle of gin in a cupboard and often had a glass or two when she was feeling nervous. He took her to the kitchen and made her sit down. Then he went back to his visitors in the hall.
Nothing seemed to go right that afternoon. The gardener drove the lawn mower too fast round a corner and knocked down one of the guests as he was walking to the chapel. The security guard almost arrested another for picking flowers when he had quite innocently bent down to pick up his handkerchief. And tea, needless to say, was a disaster. Cook had drunk so much gin by four o'clock that the odd-job man had to prepare it for her. Unfortunately he was in such a hurry that he didn't boil the water for the tea, and the sandwiches he made were about two inches thick. The tour ended in the shop where souvenirs were on sale. Mr. Schulman came up to Sir John while the tourists were choosing postcards to send to their friends.
Mr. Schulman Very interesting tour, Sir John. Thank you so
much for taking us round yourself.
Sir John I must apologize for all the things that went
wrong. I suppose there's little chance of your
signing the contract now?
Mr. Schulman I'm afraid not. But it's not your fault, Sir John.
It's your staff. They're just not good " enough.
Sir John I know what you mean.
Mr. Schulman Well, thank you once again, Sir John. Goodbye
and good luck. Oh, I almost forgot: one of my party,
a Mr. Milsom would like to talk to you. I don't know
what it's about.
Sir John shook hands sadly with Mr. Schulman. Mr. Milsom he remembered, was the man who had almost been arrested for dropping his handkerchief.
Mr. Milsom Say, Sir John, where did you find your staff?
Sir John Oh, yes, I really must apologize.
Mr. Milsom Apologize?
Sir John Yes, apologize.
Mr. Milsom Don't look so miserable. They're perfect!
Sir John Perfect? I don't understand.
Mr. Milsom Look, do you want to make some money?
Sir John Of course I do.
Mr. Milsom Well, sign here then.
Later that evening Sir John told his wife that Mr. Milsom, a film director, would be making a film at the Manor, using the staff as actors. And the film, a highly successful comedy called Panic at Pelham Manor, made Sir John Pelham-Smith a very rich man indeed.
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