This is the first time that the Knolly Estate has allowed the great man's memoirs to be published. What follows is the nineteenth chapter of 'The African Adventure'.
Mrs DeVries Part 3
I reined my horse in, and stared open mouthed , Elspeth came alongside.
“Magnificent isn’t it?”
“How much ?” was all that I could say.
“Knolly!” exclaimed Bertie “Steady on old fruit.”
Elspeth hid her smile behind her gloved hand, but her eyes once more had that twinkle.
“To build, I have no idea nor do I care and....... it is not for sale. Let me show you the grounds and then we’ll go up to the house and I’ll give you the grand tour.”
As she moved off, Bertie came over.
“She’s got to you hasn’t she.............. Hmmm?”
The clock in the tower struck the half-hour.
“Goodness is the that the time, come along Bertie” I answered, hopefully avoiding his probing question for the time bein. I was not going to admit it at this point , but I was rather taken with Mrs DeVries. This time though would be different I vowed , I would take my time, after all we had to save the World first !
“Hey..! Your not still taking the gender-benders are you ?” called Bertie cantering after me
I raised an eyebrow
“I only asked.”
We trotted after Elspeth down through the gates and along the tree lined avenue past the two lion surmounted plinths to the courtyard where a boy waited to take our horses from us. We dismounted and stood looking at the house itself if you could call it, that whilst Elspeth gave orders to her butler and maids who seemed to appear from nowhere.
Where we stood waiting we caught a glimpse of the stable block, chapel and barracks and watched as the rest of the Light Horse came past and funnelled through the archway their mounts wickering at familiar sights and smells. In front of us towered the main door covered by a portico with thick sandstone columns surmounted by two fine looking gryphons, guardians of the household.
“Right ..come along you two, stop gawping and follow me.” ordered Elspeth in a matronly like manner. “The other guests are already here and having drinks round by the tennis courts and that will give the maids time to sort out your rooms and have your luggage taken up once it arrives”.
“You have tennis courts ?” enquired Bertie.
Elspeth turned on the spot with that bright smile beaming “Why ? Do you two play? Oh how wonderful, perhaps we could have a small tournament during your stay? Oh do say yes.”
“Mrs DeVries, it would be shameful of us to disappoint such enthusiasm, we play a fine game of doubles. So if you have racquets and a team for us to trounce then we will glady entertain.” He replied on our behalf.
I groaned inwardly,tennis in this heat, and moved to thump Bertie who skipped away.
“I thought you wanted a bath?” I muttered through clenched teeth.
“Come along Knolly it’ll be fun and I don’t mean this evening, worth a wager too I’ll be bound.”
Elspeth clapped her hands with glee then took us by the arms “Oh yes and I’ll hold the money.”
I looked at her shocked “ Madam , you’ll do no such thing .”
“Oh pooh, Knolly ...don’t be such a bore.” She grinned thoughtfully “I’m sure your friend Mr Wilde would approve .”
“She has you there Knolly ,.hullo who’s this lot then ?”
We had during this badinage rounded the corner past the fountains to where the rest of the guests were situated taking drinks and admiring the view of the terraced gardens.
“Who’s a friend of Wilde then ?” said a seated voice.
“Oh lor !” whispered Bertie coming up short “its Jamesson....Dr Jim”.
Elspeth had moved towards our guests.
“S’alright Bertie, he won’t remember us, remember how much he’d drunk that night”.
She motioned us to join her “May I introduce Mr Knolly and Mr Harrison-Harrison.....Dr Leander Starr Jameson and Mr Cecil Rhodes.”
Jameson offered his hand “Call me Dr Jim, everyone who is my friend does.........”
I smiled and shook is hand “Knolly will do fine” and turned to Rhodes “Mr Rhodes.”
He shook he head “Rhodes will do fine, and your friend is the intrepid balloonist”.
“That’s me Mr...er Rhodes, Bertie Harrison-Harrison . I say that,s a pretty coloured drink you have there, what is it ?”
“Ah,.one of our new Cape wines. Elspeth, come along your ignoring your guests.”
I watched as Elspeth, Bertie and Dr Jim wandered off towards a liveried servant talking about the balloon and followed on with Rhodes by my side.“So Knolly, did we hear correctly that you are acquainted with Mr Oscar Wilde.” I nodded.
“A dreadful state of affairs” he continued “Still it’s his own fault and he certainly had it coming to him.”
“You condone his lifestyle then sir? Surely what a man does in the privacy of his own home and whom he surrounds himself with is up to him” Here I looked Rhodes straight in the eye. He couldn’t look back.
Red in the face he looked at his glass “Ah. I’m empty ....Dr Jim, I’m off to wash up before dinner ....coming. I’ll see you at dinner then Knolly ?”
I nodded and went in search of a drink myself whilst he scampered off towards the house.
Jameson looked up from his conversation with Bertie made his excuses and followed Rhodes like a badly behaved dog.
Bertie joined me his glass empty “That was rather sudden, Knolly. What did you say to him ?”
“I was testing a theory, that is all, nothing more.”
“Knolly, have you been upsetting my guests ?” Enquired Elspeth, looking back at the two figures disappearing through the doorway.
“Not at all, I just don’t like people pre-judging things when they themselves do not have all the facts at hand, especially when it is rumoured that they too seem to surround themselves with similar playthings.”
“Oh wicked, wicked Mr Knolly....poor Cecil” she giggled “Anyway gentlemen your rooms are ready and your luggage is on its way so I’ll show you around my house and to your rooms.....poor, poor Cecil.”
She chuckled to herself some more.
“Have I missed something here Knolly.”
“Bertie, I’ll tell you later, now lets go have a look around this fantasy.”
Elspeth clicked her tongue at this and strode off “Come along then”.
“Um....” said Bertie
She turned to see him waving his full glass “Well, bring it with you then.” and continued onward.
“Oh Lor...! Do behave Bertie” I exclaimed and we hurried after her.
If we thought the outside and the gardens of the house a marvel then the inside put us at a loss for words. She led us through a smaller doorway than that which Rhodes and Dr Jim had slunk through and we found ourselves in the kitchens, it was obvious that we were to get the full tour. The
kitchen staff never gave us a second look, just got on with whatever it was they were doing. Bertie made a beeline for something bubbling away on a stove and before cook could stop him he’d dipped a ladle in and raised it to his lips.
“...hmm lovely , what is it” he asked turning to the shocked women beside him “Is it a local delicacy”.
The cook looked across to Elspeth who nodded, and then with a grin cook lifted the lid.
“I’m boiling the jelly bags to get ‘em clean”.
“Fine....do you want to try some Knolly?”
“Perhaps later now do come on, this good woman has better things to do than look after your well being”. Bertie bowed and kissed her hand.
As we left the kitchen behind I took Bertie to one side.
“So, what did it really taste like?” He made a face . “One day” I continued “You are going to do something really stupid.”
He was about to say something when we passed out into the main hall and all that came out was a sound like “muh”.
Everywhere you looked there was wood panelling, the floor looked to be made up of marble slabs and the ceiling ...a magnificent creation that would not looked out of place in any of the Royal Houses the chandelier alone was stupefying.
Elspeth saw how we looked about and added “I have enjoyed spending my ex-husbands money as you can clearly see”.
It was not the splendour which had caught Bertie’s attention however. A loud squark echoed around the room and I looked in the direction it had come from , coincidently the same direction Bertie had run to and slid across the highly polished floor. At the bottom of the staircase in a huge case was one of the largest vultures I had ever seen.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The Shepherd and