“Well, that’s all sorted,” Bilbo said. “And with any luck we should make March Ides Woods in time for lunch.”
“Yes, I’ve phoned to say we may be delayed by a few minutes,” Thorin replied. “Fortunately they’re only providing ploughman’s so there’s no problem there. I’ll just count and make sure we’ve got everybody.” He counted the passengers on the coach and then said, “What’s she doing here? I assumed she’d have gone in the ambulance.”
“Who, Mrs Macbeth? No, she said she was washing her hands of the whole thing and saw no point in missing this afternoon’s excursion just because her husband was being taken to hospital.”
“Right! Well, let’s get off before anything else happens.” Thorin started the coach engine and they drove down the drive and away from Castle Elsinore.
Once they were on the main road, Bilbo said, “Speaking of anything else happening, did the hotel phone you about Mr Falstaff?”
“Yes, they’ve confirmed the taxi collected him this morning and the taxi driver ensured he got on the train. Dis has said he will be met at the other end and driven home and then hopefully that’s the last we hear from him. Frankly, I think he’s fortunate we’re paying for all this, we really ought to charge him.”
“It’s less hassle this way, and at least he can’t complain we didn’t ensure he got home safely.”
“That’s if he doesn’t decide to get off the train somewhere between here and there.”
“If he does that it really will be on his own head. I’ll make sure to contact Dis just to be certain he does arrive.”
“In the meantime, you need to help me find the entrance to this place. It’s a real pain to spot and if I miss it there’s nowhere to turn round.”
Bilbo looked intently through the windscreen, suddenly saying, “There, it’s coming up on the right.”
Thorin braked and then pulled onto the driveway.
“Oh!” Bilbo said. It was a narrow driveway, wide enough for a coach, but no wider and there was a car coming towards them.
“There’s always one,” Thorin muttered. “Yes, the one-way system does take you slightly out of the way, but it’s there for a reason.”
The driver appeared to be waving at Thorin to reverse the coach. “No way, mate!” Thorin muttered.
The driver started to get out of his car, so Thorin leant out of the window. The driver looked at Thorin and decided he would reverse after all. The coach finally made it into the carpark.
The passengers disembarked and Bilbo led the way to the café.
“You’re late,” the man greeting them grumbled.
“Thorin did phone to say we’d been slightly delayed due to an ill passenger,” Bilbo replied. “And we’d have been here sooner if your signage made it clearer that people shouldn’t try to leave via the entrance. Have you thought of putting up a ‘no entry’ sign?”
He snorted. “Right,” he said loudly to the assembled group. “Follow me. State whether you ordered ham or cheese ploughman’s and you will be given your plate. Then go and sit at the tables over in the corner. And where are you going?”
The two ladies turned to look at him. “Where do you think?” snapped one of them.
“Well, come straight back.”
Bilbo walked back to the coach to find Thorin talking to someone.
“Is everything okay?” Thorin asked.
“I’m afraid being late has rather upset your colleague,” Bilbo replied.
The other man laughed. “That’s Cassius. Don’t worry, he’s always like that. We’re short-staffed or he wouldn’t be working there. My name’s Brutus, by the way.”
“That’s something. And I’m afraid I was rather rude to him about your lack of signage.”
Brutus looked towards the entrance and sighed. “I said that needed doing first thing this morning. Bloody Julius has been too busy with his grand new plans, that all the day-to-day maintenance is getting ignored again. Anyway, come and get your lunch.”
“Do we need to queue up with the passengers?”
“No, you’re welcome to join us in the staff room if you’d like. Thorin normally does.”
Brutus led the way around to the side of the house, to a covered area where some of the staff were eating their lunches. Two ploughman’s were ready plated and waiting.
“Please help yourselves,” Brutus said. He turned to one of the other men. “Mark, could you spare someone to put up a replacement No Entry sign to stop people trying to leave that way.”
Mark groaned. “How urgent is it?”
“As soon as possible.”
“Why wasn’t it done this morning?”
“Why do you think?”
“Okay, I’ll get it done.”
Brutus found his own lunch and sat down with Thorin and Bilbo. He checked the time. “I’ll collect your party at two o’clock and take them on their tour. What time do you want to leave?”
Thorin thought for a moment. “Can your café cope with providing tea and cake or will this put Cassius out even more?”
“I can warn Calpurnia there’s likely to be a few extra. She won’t mind. And Cassius finishes at two, so he won’t be here.”
“In which case we’ll say four o’clock and we’ll drive straight back rather than taking the more scenic route.”
“No problem. I’ll let them know.” Brutus stood up. “Enjoy your afternoon, gentlemen.”
Having finished their lunch, Thorin suggested to Bilbo they go for a walk around the March Ides Woods. They spend a very pleasant hour wandering through the woodland and looking at the flowers growing there.
As they made their way back to the coach, Bilbo’s phone pinged. He glanced at it. “There’s a missed call from Dis. We must have been out of signal. I’d better phone her.”
He did so and when she had rung off, he looked at Thorin. “Mr Falstaff failed to get off the train at our station, so she has no idea where he is. His suitcase however remained on the train until it reached Plymouth. The station staff found our luggage label on the handle and phoned her. Oh, and also, Mrs Macbeth provided our office phone number as her husband’s next of kin contact number to the ambulance crew. Can we get her to phone the hospital?”
Thorin groaned. “This day is just going from bad to worse.”