Tea and Supper
It is getting closer and closer to the turn
of the 20th century, but it feels as if time stood still in this
old country club. The thick walls of sand color speaks of the
many great scholars that have graced the hallways for over two
centuries. The rule of who sits on the board is not always by
majority vote. It is by who ever at the time holds the title that
chooses the next successor to carry on the traditions of the club
with honor. For the past two and a half decades, time has came
and left in a blink of an eye. My colleagues and I have been on
the board for a quarter of a century and still counting.
I stand by the window leaning against the velvet drapes in royal blue held together by a yellow tassel looking out into the vast forest in front of me. The storm clouds are coming in and soon the ground will be muddy again. In some way, I feel calm as the light drizzle builds up on the window. Here I am in the classic and ageless tea room with my colleagues. Cup of herbal tea in my hand as usual. Stronger drinks for the two sitting quietly with the daily news in their hands.
There is Lyon Reginald Hollin Elderworth who is a little younger than I am that looks at the glass half full of a dark amber brandy to swirl around and smell the sweet scent of bliss. There is hardly anything to bring him down from the Cumulus clouds upon the ocean blue sky.
Then there is Harold Zachory Stephan Astonbury who looks at the world as a half empty glass of Scotch that is diluted with too much water. He is the eldest on the board and the most grumpy. At first he was not this way, but bitterness consumed him when his wife passed away 22 years ago.
This is not your typical country club for the elite socialites. The founder, Edwin Julius Albert Trevelyan-Berryworth earned his doctorate at Oxford back in the 1600's. The family was engaged in a variety of businesses, but he always felt kin to the library, classrooms and scholars. He never felt close to anyone at the many clubs despite his wealthy background. The ones he most admired happened to be the professors and educators he had encountered through his many studies. Then he thought how nice it would be to build a club reserved for the scholastic minds of his time and future generations of curious minds seeking to gain more knowledge.
Soon after that initial thought, he had
rounded up a few of his close friends to create this unique club.
There were quite a few places to choose from, but there was one
place that caught his eye the most. The only problem was there
was a small cabin owned by a stubborn, old teacher that most of
the town thought to be on the eccentric side. He not only lived
in the cabin, but taught many students over the years too. Many
people have tried to buy the land from him, but none were able
to. Then one day, the founder went to talk to this teacher with a
long, salt and pepper colored beard.
"Hello, Sir. I am Edwin Trevelyan-Berryworth. Are you the owner of this cabin?"
The teacher looked at him with a raised eyebrow, "Yes, I am. No, I will not sell this land to you."
Edwin looked a bit surprised wondering why he would say no without hearing his offer first. He said to him, "Before you say no, please hear me out. Why is it that you say no so quickly?"
The wrinkled face and weary eyes looked straight at him and said, "You want to build something on this land for profit without care about contributing to the community the same as all the others."
The founder sat for a moment and thought about it and asked, "If I was able to contribute to the community, what do you have in mind?"
The old man looked at him
wondering if he could be the one. "There must be something to go
back to the schools and educators of the land. Education is
fundamental and should be the driving force to every part of the
economy. Can you create a business that will help educators which
in turn helps the students and growing minds of tomorrow?"
The founder stood there and smiled back at the old man. "Allow me to explain to you of what I had in mind when I came here. I am Dr. Trevelyan-Berryworth, a professor of art and philosophy. My colleagues and I would like to create a country club designed for educators. The profits will go into helping schools in various ways. The main goal of the club is to see that the many schools are able to educate the young minds of tomorrow and have the knowledge of veteran scholars. Civilization did not come this far by waving swords in the air all the time. There has to be a group of scholars to bring logic and prosperity. What do you think of the idea, Sir?"
The old man smiled and said, "Finally, there is someone to carry the torch of knowledge. All is not lost. I can finally rest in peace. If you are true to your words then this land will be given to you."
Dr. Trevelyan-Berryworth looking some what shocked said, "Yes, I am true to my words. I will build this club immediately and you shall see that every club member is an educator."
It did not take long to build the manor of 120 rooms on a forest of 100 acres in a growing town Northwest of Somerset call Altonwiltonshire. The board was composed of seven who were bound by honor to uphold their duties of the manor. They are the only ones aside from the working staff who live at the manor at all times. Aside from being the only club of such high caliber to be exclusive to educators, the other ground breaker was this place allowed both genders to share the charming manor in peace. To maintain the tradition, there were always three males and three females on the board. Who ever the seventh one is depended on what the six thought was the best candidate to be part of the board. This seventh seat alternates between the two genders.
A year after the manor was built and the old man was happy to see that Dr. Trevelyan-Berryworth kept his word, he died peacefully in his sleep. Before he died, he wrote a letter to the professor telling him more about the land he was watching over so carefully.
[ Dear Dr. Trevelyan-Berryworth,
I, Hubert Elliot Cecil Chestershire hereby pass the torch of wisdom to Edwin Julius Albert Trevelyan-Berryworth, the founder of Trevelyan-Berryworth Manor. You not only have the honor of holding this torch and passing it on to future souls of honor, but you are also the keeper of this sacred land. This land was kept clear away from many for centuries. It has always been reserved for a noble cause and it shall remain that way. If at any time the sacred vows are not kept, this club shall crumble to the ground. Believe me, there had been a few in the past who have chosen to turn their backs against the wishes of the great ones before them. They were not spared of their demise.
There is always a few spirits who will take over in each generation to watch over the land. You and the other board members will have the fate of meeting these spirits as do future board members to come. Do not be afraid of them for they only come to bring a message and remind the board of how important it is to continue the traditions of this land.
They will not always give you their full names. Sometimes they give you their titles or a nickname they go by. But they all have the same purpose and interest in mind. Let all your future board members be aware of the special visitors they will encounter. They will all encounter them within a year of taking the new post. Then there after, they will visit on occasion. If for any reason a board member does not encounter a spirit within a year of their new post then it is wise to replace them for they will tear apart the sacred land. All who sit on the board will be notified of this matter by the spirits. There is not any way for the false members to deny their fate.
I wish you a long life and good tidings. If there are any questions that you bear much weight on then call upon the spirits to guide you. Call only the ones that reveal themselves to you. Until they appear, you can not call upon any spirit. In the mean time, live as you are and carry on the honorable duties of the land.
Farewell, Albump ]
There is only so much of the story that Dr. Trevelyan-Berryworth has shared with the members of the club. The few details that are intimate were kept within the board to a select few. From what I was told, Albump was his nickname as a young fellow because he either bumped into something or someone often enough that his family would call him that.
Upon reading his nickname on the letter, he wondered how the old man knew his nickname that was only used by family members. There was not any recollection of seeing him before or even brought up in any conversation. Nobody in the family seem to recognize the name Hubert or Chestershire. It had always been a question he wanted an answer to.
When it was my turn to be part of the board, sure enough the spirit showed up within a year of my new post. At first, I was a little nervous to see and hear spirit in front of me. Then later, I was glad to know that I am fit to carry on the traditions and honor of this club.
Even though there are four others on the board, it is Lyon and Harold that I bond with the most. In some way, they help keep me balanced. Although at times, I feel quite torn when they are always in conflict of every other topic. Despite all our differences, we seem to continue having our afternoon tea and evening drinks before supper everyday.
A knock on the door was heard and Lyon answered it. The butler came to tell us that supper is ready in the main dining hall. Oh how I love the meals prepared by Chef Fullington. We have a handful of chefs and he usually prepares supper.
My colleagues finished their last drop and put their glasses down. I was savoring the last part of my tea and put the cup next to the silver kettle. We all walked down the long corridor before approaching the main hall and into the main dining hall.
The room was partially full by the time we
had arrived. We sat in our usual seats at the corner table
closest to the kitchen. Then in came Archibald with a cart full
of cheeses and wine to start our meal.
He gave a warm smile and said, "Good evening, gentlemen. I have your usual selection of wine and cheese tonight."
Lyon smiled back and replied, "Good evening to you, Archie. How are you tonight?"
As he was setting the cheese platter on the table and poured the Chardonnay in my glass, Merlot for Lyon and Cabernet Sauvignon for Harold, he replied back, "I am well. It is nice to be healthy. There are two main courses for tonight. They are the Beef Bourguignon and rack of lamb. I will be back with the assortment of bread. Enjoy your first course, gentlemen."
My mouth was salivating at the thought of the rich stew. It is also a memorable dish for me because it was what I had for my first meal at the club. Ahh yes, I remember as if it was yesterday. Comfort food on a chilly night such as this is always appreciated.
I can recall how persuasive I was to a few businesses back then. There is a membership fee that increases every year to keep up with inflation. At that time, it was 10,000 pounds. Most educators at that time did not have such even in their savings account. The catch was not to have members pour out their savings, but to have the local businesses help their community by donation.
Aside from the interviews and list of
requirements to become a member, this was the main part that
makes the club different from the rest and help the local schools
of all grade levels. The potential members could gather donations
in any way they can as long as it was ethical and the donors
understood what they were donating for.
Some members were fortunate enough to have the continuous support of the businesses each year. Then there were others who always had to keep up with the smaller businesses on their donations. Why the businesses would choose to donate to these educators had to do with knowing what they can do for the future generations. Everyone that joined were currently employed by a school. The companies had their ways of figuring out which instructor did their jobs well. Who ever that became a member of course had more influence over the institution they were teaching at. It meant more funding for the schools from a reliable source.
For the few that became members of this club, it gave them a chance to attend a wider range of schools if they wish to continue their studies and apply for employment in the more prestigious institutions. It is a place for them to unwind and enjoy the privileges of a country club that they would never be able to afford at most of the fancy clubs. There is definitely prestige at every end, but it was more focused on education than pure business or be another place for the wealthy to indulge in their luxuries.
At this time, I can see Lyon enjoying his Camembert and Harold sipping his Cabernet Sauvignon as he places the nutty and grainy Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings in his mouth one by one. I was tempted to have what Harold was eating, but opted for the Havarti. Archie brought out the dinner rolls fresh out of the oven along with the usual assortment of rustic bread. As usual, we would grab a hot roll and then our favorite bread.
Harold would be the first to put a slice of herbed bread on his bread plate. Lyon would get his multi-grain bread. As he always said, "You can never go wrong eating whole grain. It is good for your body." I would usually go for the raisin bread. There was always some sort of bread with dried fruits and nuts. Fruits make my mouth happy. But every time I mention how fruits are good, Harold would say, "Fruits do not always bring happiness."
I always enjoy the first course. It is a good start to a wonderful, savory, multi-course meal. Many probably are thinking the same judging by the lack of speaking in the room that is nearly full. Comfort is written all over their faces when they bite into the fresh rolls, aged cheeses and fine wine. I often lose myself in the sea of happy faces and think of the earlier years.
"Duke. Duke. Duke."
Then I have noticed Lyon giving me a nudge. He was trying to get my attention since Archie came to take our orders.
"Would you like the beef or lamb tonight, Dr. Arch-Angleton?"
"I would like the beef please."
"Alright. Two beef and one lamb for the table. I will bring the stuffed squash out shortly."
I wonder if it is the squash dish I am thinking of that the chef usually makes. Sometimes he gets a little creative. I continue to indulge on the cheese and wine as I wait for the second course.