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by Robert Cooper

Chapter 5

Next day was a slow start. Geoff. and I rode over to Upton to tell them the overnight happenings, then we dropped down to the villa to see what was happening.

They had a good square meter of the tessary floor exposed and it was complete. No score marks from ploughs. It was a beautiful example. I gave permission for them to extend but again cautioned secrecy. I did not want treasure hunters all over the Manor.

Back to the Manor for a late lunch then a quiet afternoon of study.

Mr. Timms had promised us a 'mock' exam. on Tuesday morning to which we are NOT looking forward.

We had received the dimensions and drawings from two building manufacturers so Edward needed to contact the architect and arrange a meeting to discuss submitting plans for Outline Planning Permission. Perhaps Friday?.

We also had our meeting with the Local Education Director this coming Wednesday so we may be able to move forward with that part of the scheme as well.

Thursday to discuss our mock results so that effectively filled our week.

I say again "Being an Earl is damned hard work"

Trial of Mr. Wilkins is due on 15th. The 'Manor Gang' will be there in force as will Doctor Giles, Mr. Johns and Mrs. Sloan so Steven should have plenty of support.

On the day before Steven will have a briefing from the prosecuting barrister for the police. He will lead Steven through the evidence that they are presenting and also give some idea what to expect on cross examination by the defence council which will be upsetting for Steven as they will try and make Steven out as the instigator.

He is not to allow them to upset him, just tell the bare truth. If the defence gets too rough then the prosecution will object and ask for the judge to intervene to protect Steven. The Prosecutor will already have had a word about Steven's youth and vulnerability. After all, it takes a VERY brave lad to stand up in court against his own father.

We took our mock exam as planned, it was hellish hard but both Geoff and I felt we had done enough. We decided to ride over to the dig that afternoon and relax.

Next morning, after breakfast we had the Range Rover and driver take us to the council offices for our meeting with the Director of Education. He met us on time and we settled in his office. Mr. Timms presented our plan for a school at the Manor for local children both from the Manor villages and surrounding area for year groups up to 'O' level. We presented the results of our survey of the residents and an outline of the proposed school building. We pointed out that as it was beside the proposed leisure centre then those facilities would be available to the school as well. Swimming pool, gymnasium and racquet courts, all would be available. We also pointed out that at present the nearest school was more than 10 miles away and somewhat overcrowded. Mr. Timms said that he had already made contact with 10 potential staff, all highly qualified. If he was interested we would then produce a full proposal for him to put to the Education Committee. The Manor would provide the land and the building equipped and ready to use. The Education Committee would provide the normal 'per capita' allowance, equipment allowance and teachers salaries.

He said he would like to think it over and discuss with his staff and get back to us. We gave him a contact e-mail in case he needed any further information. Mr. Timms would be his contact at the Manor. We said our farewells and departed.

On the way back to the Manor we agreed that it had been a favourable meeting, at least he had not turned the plan down flat and the overcrowding had caught him in a vulnerable area and also that we were presenting a ready made and equipped building. Wait and see what he comes back with. The Manor could afford to subsidise the school and claim substantial tax benefits but assistance with teachers salaries and running costs would be helpful.

Exams are to find out what you KNOW; Mocks are to find out what you DON'T know.

Mr. Timms was encouraging but said that we need to keep working to obtain an 'A' grade. He is going to set out a revision programme for us. He intends to enter us for external examinations in May of next year in our four subjects. Assuming we get 'A's in all four we can then go on to Open University courses to get our degrees in Finance and Farm Management.

Trial Day 15th.

The Day. After a horrid day before with lawyers Steven was a nervous wreck. He did not sleep much and ate almost no breakfast.

We loaded up into cars and off to court.

Because he was a witness he had to stay in a waiting room until called to give witness in court without hearing what had already been said. I stayed with him as did Mrs. Sloan. Suddenly we were called into Court. What an anticlimax. The man had pleaded GUILTY!

The Judge said a few words about the case and that he would be sentenced next week.

He also praised Steven for his courage. He showed considerable courage in helping build the case and being prepared to stand in court and give evidence against his father.

He understood that there were other cases pending but Steven would not need to give evidence in those cases.

So we all went back to the Manor. Steven nearly collapsed with the sudden relief and Mrs. Lang had to provide hot chocolate and home made shortcake biscuits to help him recover.

Jay was jumping around with glee exclaiming "Got the bastard" from time to time. Mrs. Sloan was seen to smile broadly as if she agreed. We all assumed that Wilkins and McMillan would be given long prison sentences. Once we heard about these then it would be time to discuss Steven's future.

Life settled down to 'Manor Normal'. Mr. Timms applied two more mock exams, the results he said were 'adequate' but more work needed in certain areas. These three subjects he considered our weakest, the one looming in the new year was our strongest and he already expected an 'A' in that.

Standish reported that the staff, while surprised at the idea of a proper Christmas Party were fully in favour, and that he had found a large box of vintage ornaments.

Sheldon had a full stand of Christmas trees of various heights for us to choose from nearer the time.

Mrs. Lang was planning all sorts of delicious things to eat and Standish had made a selection from the Manor's wine cellar and was going to order a small barrel of beer. Provisional numbers looked to be about 100.

I asked for a list of names, especially the children so I could get presents organised.

Mr. Lang to let me know a 'wish list' from his stable boys.

If this was the first real Manor party I wanted it to be good.

I received a rather odd E-mail from Geoff's mother, Lady Fortescue-Smythe, asking about Manor plans for the Christmas period and would Geoff telephone her when he had time.

Of course this piqued his interest and he called back that evening.

He came off the 'phone with an odd look on his face. he said "This is embarrassing. Seems that me and Anthony will be sent to the Manor for Christmas"

"Parents are going to a posh Swiss resort for a month with some of their wealthy friends and it is not 'Kid friendly' and they think we would be bored stiff there and would have more fun at the Manor with the other young people."

(I felt that Geoff's parents were similar to my own, self centred and not really interested in their offspring.)

"How do you feel about having two outcasts dumped on you for Christmas?"

I replied "Great! I was worried that you would have to go home for Christmas. Now it seems I was worried for nothing."

"We can be together as usual instead of two lonely boys apart. A whole month apart would be torture. Anthony is always welcome, you know that. Call your mother and say it is all arranged here. Just say dates. You can go with the car to pick him up and say 'Hi' to your parents."

"You need to talk to your brother privately and see if he wants a double bedroom. He seems to get on well with Andrew Lang, or he may be bringing a 'special' friend. He certainly was not put out by our arrangements during his summer holiday."

And so it was arranged. Anthony (and friend?)would be collected by Geoff. They would stay for lunch then return to the Manor that afternoon.

A thought occurs to me. Geoff. and I must start driving lessons sometime in the New Year.

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