READERS’ STORIES: The butler, the cat and Sir James

by Northern Life

My visit was to the main house of a large estate, and it stood at the end of a tree lined drive.

The central elegant stone edifice with picture windows was flanked by two equally elegant long wings facing each other across a pebbled courtyard. The final touch to the scene was an iron fence and huge ornate gates.

I parked the car on the outside of the complex, and using a small gate headed for the kitchen area at the end of the left wing. This is where my patient, a big ginger moggy, would be. The door was opened by a butler clad in a green working apron, he smiled briefly then said “If you don’t mind going to the main door miss, I will meet you there.”

They took me totally by surprise. One of the first things I was told on coming to work in Yorkshire was that the front door was for official visitors. The doctor, the vicar and the vet went to the back door.

The other lesson I soon learnt was, when visiting a big house, never to put my case on the ground having rung the bell. This rule applies to medics as well. Hold on to it and you are accepted, popped beside you the greeting will be: “I’m sorry, we never buy anything from the doorstep” and the door will be shut before you have time to open your mouth. It happened to me twice, and to a
doctor friend once.

As I walked across the cobbles towards the main section of the house I could see the butler running along the corridor lining the wing, busily putting on a smart black jacket as he went. Now smartly attired he held the door open for me then said “Follow me please” and set off back again to the kitchen.

My patient was curled up by the Aga feeling very sorry for his feline self, but luckily it was a problem that could be solved in one go. Having finished I packed my case and followed the butler back up the corridor.

“Would you mind having a word with Sir James before you leave miss? He is very fond of Ginger and wants to know what has been wrong.”

He stopped in his tracks for a moment and added: “A word of warning, if you see the dog Major advancing on you as you talk, tell Sir James and he will call him back.”

With that I was announced and shown into the study to meet the delightful gentleman who was standing by his desk. I knew Sir James was blind, so as I spoke to him I made sure to keep direct face contact while looking around for the dog. There by the window in a big basket lay a huge Rhodesian Ridgeback – not my favourite canine breed.

Within minutes the animal looked up, glared at me and I watched his lips part in a savage snarl as he noisily got up and crawled in my direction.

Interrupting the conversation I said: “Excuse me Sir James, would you mind calling Major back?” The response was the one I hoped for: “What? Oh sorry! Major – in your basket.” Making as much noise as he could, the dog walked back to the basket and flopped down with an audible grunt. Two minutes later, the whole thing was repeated but luckily as he warmed up for a third and I wondered if the command worked every time, we finished our discussion and Sir James rang the bell to summon the butler to escort me out.

With his usual dignified walk the butler preceded me across the marble entrance hall to the big door. As we went I said: “Oh. Many thanks for the warning about that dog, it was really scary.”

“Not at all miss, glad I was of help. Sir James is very fond of Major. Speaking personally I hate the miserable bastard’s guts. Good morning, miss, and thank you for looking after Ginger.”