Hello, this is Jana and welcome back to Storynory. And I’m back with the third part of our story called The Duel in our series, The Dutch Hotel. Be sure to catch up with our earlier episodes. In brief the duel has now been fought and the kids Nafsi and yogi must return to their parents in the present time.
It was hard to believe that the twin brothers had wanted to kill one another just half an hour earlier. They were laughing and joking, and slapping each other on the back. Meanwhile Mr Cooper and the hotel staff were setting out a table by the side of the Serpentine River, with starched white linen, silver cutlery, and porcelain plates.
“Excuse me,” asked Yogi, “Do you like each other now?’
“Well it’s like this,” said Mr Lucas, “My brother Levi is very happy to be alive, and I am very happy not to have killed him.”
“No, no, don’t believe him. It’s the other way around. Lucas is happy to be alive and I am happy not to have killed him,” insisted Levi.
“You mean you missed on purpose?”
“Yes!” Replied the brothers in unison .
“Only don’t believe him. He is just a terrible shot!”
“No, don’t believe my brother. I am a marksman. He is a bad shooter. He does too much reading by candlelight and has very bad eyesight.”
Yogi did not know who to believe, but Mr Cooper said to him quietly, “It is clear they are both very happy to be alive. I hope they will appreciate their good fortune from now on.”
“What about Maria,” asked Nafsi. “Aren’t you worried about her?” She meant his daughter, whom both the brothers had loved, and who had run off to Scotland.
“I am a little anxious,” said Mr Cooper, “But there is more to that story than meets the eye.”
Mr Cooper returned to work, taking a Champagne bottle out of the ice bucket, popping the cork, and pouring the bubbly wine for the brothers. They took their places at the table on the river bank, raised their glasses and said: “Proost!” [proast] which means “Health” in Dutch.
“Next time I’ll put a bullet in you, you filthy scoundrel,” added Mr. Levi, looking into his brother’s eyes.
“That doesn’t sound very friendly,”said Yogi.
“It’s just a joke…. One hopes” assured Mr Cooper.
“Now Cooper,” said Mr Levi, “Be so good as to tell us whom your fair daughter is to marry. Neither of us know. Who is the lucky devil? I hope he’s richer than we are.”
“I am not privy to her plans,” insisted Mr Cooper. “I am merely relieved that my daughter has not been the cause of a tragedy.”
If Mr Cooper knew about his daughter’s plans, he was certainly keeping it a tight secret.
At around eight a.m., when everyone returned to the hotel, the staff and those of the guests who knew about the duel, were waiting anxiously for the result.
“What’s up with you, Ed?” Said Mr Lucas to the doorman, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I am glad to see you are both looking so well today,” replied Edward.
“Indeed, I never felt better,” replied Lucas, “apart from a slight ringing in the ears. It’s almost as if somebody fired a pistol close to my head! Talking of which, did you remember to bring the pistols with you cooper?’
“Yes Sir, of course.”
“That Brook fellow made us pay a pretty price for them. Put them in the safe will you? And if you don’t mind, store that letter from your fair daughter with them. They will be mementos of an unusual morning.”
When they went inside, Yogi said:
“I know where the safe is. It’s down in the cellar. My dad wanted to open it, but he couldn’t find the key, so he doesn’t know what’s inside. He’s hoping it might be gold bars.”
“We don’t have any gold bars,” said Mr Cooper. “But we do keep some important documents in it. And now these pistols.”
And then he went behind the reception desk and opened a little door at the top of the desk. Inside he pulled out a piece of wood.
“Wow! That’s a secret compartment,” said Yogo.
“We intend to keep it secret for now,” said Mr Cooper.
“But can I tell Dad in 150 years time?”
“Yes, he will be the manager of the hotel after all. If they key is still there after so many years, you might find something interesting things in the safe, but I doubt that it will include gold bars.”
But the problem for Nafsi and Yogi was how to return to the 21st Century? The e-skateboard had landed in the Serpentine River and its motor was making a sickly sound.
“My advice,” said Mr Cooper, “Is for you both to take some rest, and then to try returning home at 11am, around the same hour as when you arrived here in our era. When I travelled to your time, it was as if I walked through a hidden gate that had opened up. I did not have any transportation devices such as yours. I would not fret too much about the water and the duckweed clogging up your wheels. You shall return by passing through the secret gate.”
“I hope you are right,” said Nafsi, holding back a yawn. With all the excitement, they had hardly slept the previous night.
Mr Cooper woke the children at half past ten, and just before 11 they stood in the mews behind the hotel. “Well until next time,” he said, holding out his hand. Nafsi wondered for a moment what she should do, and then she realised it was polite to shake hands, which she did. Yogi held his hand and Mr Cooper shook it saying: “I hope to see you again, young man. You are always welcome here in our era.”
“And you should hang out and watch TV or play games with us!” Said Yogi.
“And be sure to bring Maria!” Added Nafsi.
Of course, these fond farewells assumed that they were about to return home, which was far from certain.
Nafsi drove the scooter and Yorgi stood behind her on the platform. At the moment the church bell began to chime the hour, she drove down the mews over the cobbles. Halfway along, the mews seemed to change - the garage doors that had been painted green turned white and a smart window sill became all flaky and in need of repair and burglar alarms appeared on some of the houses and suddenly, Norman, the chauffeur was saying, “Ah, there you too are. Your mother was just asking after you. It’s a good thing she didn’t see you both standing on one scooter.”
“How long have we been gone?’ Asked Yogi.
“You shouldn’t have left the mews at all, but it can’t have been more than five minutes,” said Norman. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell.”
“The e-skateboard fell in the Serpentine and it’s not working so well.”
“That was fast! How did you get down there?”
“Honestly. You promised you would be careful. Do you two want me to get the sack?”
“We won’t let Dad give you the sack,” promised Nafsi.
While they were speaking, a bright yellow open top car turned into the mews. The driver was wearing sunglasses and a scarf around her neck. She stopped the car on a double yellow line in front of the garage where Norman kept the hotel’s Rolls Royce.
“Excuse me, Madam,” he said: “You can’t park there?”
The woman looked at him and said, “Then you park it for me,” and she threw him the keys, which he fumbled and dropped onto the cobbles..
“I take it you are a guest at the hotel,” he said, as he picked up the keys.
“I am not a guest at the hotel. I own it,” said the woman as she got out of the car.
“Hello,” said Nafsi.
“Hi, kids,” said the woman.
“Zelda,” said Yogi, “Don’t sack Norman. He’s new. He doesn’t know that you own the hotel.”
“I won’t,” said Zelda. “I pay your father to do the hiring and firing.”
And she set off briskly out of the mews, presumably to walk round to the front entrance of the large impressive building that was her property.
“That’s Zelda,” said Nafsi.
“Now, I know,” said Norman, who opened the door of the car and sat down in the driver’s seat. It was part of his job to take the guest’s cars to a local church that rented out parking spaces. He turned the key in the ignition and the car jumped forward with a loud revving sound. He had not noticed that Zelda had left it in gear. She was at the top of the mews and she turned round when she heard the unfortunate sound.
When Norman finally headed off in the car, the kids left the scooter and the e-skateboard in his office, which he had left open. Then they headed back to the hotel. On the way, they agreed it was best not to tell anyone about their adventure in Victorian times. There were too many reasons why they might get into trouble, like using the e-vehicles, getting involved in a duel, and telling stories that nobody would believe.
Zelda was standing in the lobby, waiting for their dad.
“You’re not going to sack him, are you?” asked Nafsi.
“No, your father is doing a very good job.”
“I meant Norman,”
“Well if he doesn’t crash my car, then he can keep his job, for now,” she replied.
“Oh good, because he’s nice,” said Nafsi. “What have you come to see Dad about?”
“It’s very exciting. We are going to make a documentary film about the history of the hotel. I have been doing a lot of research into its history, and I found a lady in the Netherlands called Theresa van Gaal who is like the great, great granddaughter of one of the founders of the hotel. You know the story, there were two twins, who wanted to marry the same girl. They fought a duel in Hyde park and killed each other. So Tragic. So Romantic. Such a great Marketing Story!”
“But I don’t understand,” said Nafsi, “If they both shot each other and died before they got married, how come they have a great, great, great grand daughter.”
“Good point, maybe she’s a near relative.”
“Or I know,” said Yogi, “Maybe they fought the duel, aimed their pistols at each other, and both missed because they were such bad shooters.”
“Maybe!” said Zelda, patting his head. “But we need this story to be a romantic tragedy, not a comedy.”
Alan Jones, the children’s father, and the manager of the hotel, had arrived at the front desk.
“Shall we have tea in the Amsterdam room?”
“Yes please,” said Yogi.
“Not you kids, Zelda,” replied Alan.
“Oh, they can come too if they want. I like to hear what they think of our film. Kids have plenty of imagination.”
Dad chose a table which was more or less in the place where the kids had sat 150 years earlier when they met Maria, Mr Cooper’s daughter, whom both the twin brothers loved. This time their waitress was called Abi. Everything was very similar except for the sponge cake, which Yogi noted was not nearly so good as it had been in Victorian times.
They kids listened as Zelda explained her plans for the documentary, which she hoped to sell to a streaming service such as FlimFlix or Congo. The film followed Theresa van Gaal as she researched her family history and the legend of the twin brothers who owned the Dutch Hotel. She was due to arrive next week, and she would of course want to see every part of the hotel including the kitchens, the laundry, the garages, and talk to the staff - in particular asking if they had ever seen any ghosts. The turning point of the documentary would come when they opened the safe down in the cellar and revealed whatever secrets were held within.
“I bet they’ll find the pistols they used in the duel inside that safe,” said Yogi.
“Exactly!” Said Zelda, “Your kids understand the high drama of the film! So Yogi, tell me, what do you think about this idea. When Theresa visits the hotel, we get a safe cracker to blow open the safe with explosives and we find out what’s inside. How do you think that will look on the film?”
“Wow! That would be amazing!” Said Yogi.
“I hate to be a spoil sport,” said Alan, “But what if there’s nothing inside. Or we find an old cheese sandwich and a mouse trap. Wouldn’t that be a let down?”
“Well you are a proper spoilt sport,” said Zelda, “But this is up to you. You find the key to the safe and we can make sure that it is not empty.”
“But we’ve searched for the key and nobody’s found it!” protested Alan.
Zelda looked at her phone. “I’m sorry. I have to be at another meeting. I shall be on my way, as long as that Norman guy can bring me my car. But don’t forget Alan, find that key, I’m counting on you!”
“Yes boss,” said Alan, as Zelda got up and left. He had a glum look on his face.
“This isn’t exactly fair is it? He said. “The key’s probably been missing for 100 years. What shall I do? Pick the lock?”
Nafsi looked at Yogi. She knew that he couldn’t hold in the secret, but she decided that it was time she got a word in:
“You know, Dad, I’ve got a hunch there might be a secret compartment in the reception desk. I know a lot of old desks had them. That’s where I think the key would be.”
“But I worked on that desk, and I didn’t find a secret compartment.”
“That’s because you didn’t know where to look!” Said Yogi.
Dad was willing to give any idea a chance, so on the way out, the three of them went over to the reception desk where that morning - or was it 150 years ago? - they had seen Mr Cooper hide the key in a secret compartment.
“Our history teacher told us about these secret desks,” liked Yogi, “if you open up the little door in the centre, there’s like a miniature cupboard for keeping letters. And if you feel the sides, they probably come out. And that’s your secret compartment.”
“You seem very certain,” said Dad. But all the same, he took a look at the desk. At first he could not pull out the false wall, but Nafsi helped him, and to his surprise, they found a secret compartment! And the key that was inside it!”
“See, I told you!” Said Yogi.
Alan was completely baffled as to how his son and daughter could have been so spot on.
Next they went down to the cellar and tried the key in the lock of the safe. It was very stiff, but the door of the safe opened with a creak.
“Well, well well, what have we got in here?” Asked dad. He took out a wooden box, opened it and found two pistols!
“Yeah!” Said Yogi.
“Amazing!” Said their father. “Did Zelda tell you where the key was?’
“No, we promise, she doesn’t know anything about this,” said Nafsi. “Look Dad, there are some papers in here. They might be interesting.
Dad carefully pulled out the box of old papers, and they took them up to his office. They found the letters that Maria had written to the boys.
“Hmm,” said Alan, “It looks like the lady was called Maria Cooper and she did not want to marry either of them.”
“Who did she marry?” Asked Nafsi.
Alan investigated further. He found a letter from Maria’s father, Mr Cooper. It wasn’t easy to decipher the hand writing, but after studying it a while, he said:
“It seems she married a young man called Edward who worked as the hotel’s doorman. He came into his inheritance, which was a small farm in Hampshire, and they went to live there. But the thing is, Mr Cooper is writing to the Dutch Twins, which does not make any sense because they both shot each other.”
“It makes sense, if they both missed,” said Yogi.
“And then,” added Nafsi, “they realised there was no sense in fighting because Maria had run off to marry Edward.”
“How do you know that?”
Asked their Dad.
“I just guessed it. But it makes sense.” Said Nafsi.
“Well however you know, I think you might have saved my job. I hope Zelda is pleased when I tell her all this.
“I hope so too,” said Nafsi,” because I think she would have preferred it if the Dutch twins shot each other. She said she wanted a Romantic tragedy, not a comedy.”
“Well in that case,” said their dad. “I think I’ll keep the evidence of what really happened up here in my desk. We’ll put the pistols back in the safe and lock it. And when her safe cracker blows it open on camera, she’ll be very happy to find the two pistols. No need for any papers that contradict her romantic story.”
“But what about the truth?” Asked Nafsi.
“The truth,” said their father, “Is something that we know. But Zelda does not want the truth. She wants to believe the legend is true. And who are we to disappoint her?”
And that was the conclusion of our story The Duel, in our series, The Dutch Hotel.
Read by me, Jana, for Storynory.com
Written by Bertie