Sunday, April 03, 2005

New Forest, Hampshire and the Bramble Hill Hotel

... Jonathan had discovered the Bramble Hill Hotel, lying in the middle of the forest itself. Whether the kindly but unfortunate owner, Captain Prowse, thought himself lucky to have us as guests is a moot point. We must have been a great trial to him ...
... The Captain's eagle eye swept the room and came to rest on the bed. An expression of disbelief crossed his face.
'Why? Where's the bedspread?' he enquired. A rhetorical question, but one that Jonathan thought he should respond to.
'Bedspread?' he croaked.
'Yes,' said Captain Prowse tersely, 'there was a bedspread on the bed. I put it there myself. Someone, for some strange reason, had put it in the cupboard. I wonder where it has gone?'
'It's in the cupboard,' said Jonathan in a low voice.
'In the cupboard?' said the Captain. 'Again?'
'Yes,' said Jonathan.
'How do you know?' asked the Captain.
'I put it there,' said Jonathan, with the demeanour of one confessing to infanticide.
'You put it there?' asked the Captain.
'Yes,' said Jonathan miserably.
'Did you put it there the first time?' As a military man, he quite rightly liked to be apprised of all the facts.
'Yes,' said Jonathan.
'Why?' asked the Captain with ominous calm. There was a long silence while we all looked at Jonathan, who managed to achieve a rich blush that any self-respecting heliotrope would have been proud to wear.
'Because I thought they wouldn't like it,' he said, thus passing the buck to my poor innocent wife and myself. However, the Captain, with experience of slovenly recruits absent without leave and with a fund of plausible stories up their sleeves, was not to be distracted by this prevarication.
'Surely,' he said icily, 'if Mr. and Mrs. Durrell were in any way dissatisfied with the counterpane or bedspread, it was for them to inform me and not your place to secrete it in the cupboard. However, I have no doubt that Mr. and Mrs. Durrell will make up their own minds as to the suitability of the bedspread and communicate their displeasure or otherwise to me, without the intervention of a third party.'


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