I stood on the lawn in front of the house, smiling and chatting to the assembled group.
They had each paid to be a part of our Pledger and Benefactor day and we were making sure they felt they received their money's worth. I had given a guided tour of the house and was now making myself available to answer any questions they might have.
As I explained for the seventh time in as many minutes about why the house is limewashed, and therefore not black and white, I noticed a couple of people in the crowd that I was certain were not part of the group. For a start, our Pledgers and Benefactors were all dressed in wet weather gear and sensible footwear, having previously toured the woods and farms on the estate. They also wore name badges. A couple in brightly coloured shorts, with a dog in tow, stood out somewhat.
I watched them for a while, as I continued to chat to our official guests. They'd obviously taken advantage of the unpadlocked gate, as this was actually a closed day, and they would have found the ticket office unmanned. Dogs are not allowed beyond the Gatehouse either, so my hackles were up, but I felt loathe to have a public confrontation in front of our VIPs.
Eventually the man separated from his companion and headed into the house. I was agog at the cheek of it. I finished my conversation about limewash and excused myself. I found the uninvited guest in the Great Hall.
"Hello," I smiled. "Are you with the Pledger group?"
"Oh no, " he replied, "we're just visitors."
"Ah," I said. "Well I'm afraid we're actually closed today. This is a private function."
"Well nobody told us!" he exclaimed.
"That's because there was nobody in the ticket office to tell you. Because we're closed."
I walked him back outside and locked the house before any other opportunistic passersby wandered in.
I then scampered over to the courtyard where McColleague was in charge of the refreshments. I began to recount my tale of naughty visitors blagging a free visit.
"So, I had to usher him out of the door and - bloody hell! There they are again! I've asked them to leave once already!"
Sure enough, the completely unfazed couple, with dog, were now wandering into the courtyard and having a good look round.
"Well," huffed McColleague, "the nerve of it! I'd be so embarrassed, wouldn't you, if I found out I was in the middle of a private function and shouldn't be there?"
"Absolutely," I agreed. "They'll be over here wanting a cup of tea and a biscuit next!"
Our steely stares may have dissuaded them for trying for a free cup of tea, though. As it was they made a point of having a leisurely stroll around, before sauntering off - in the opposite direction to the exit. It was most frustrating. It was as if they knew I couldn't go for the jugular, wouldn't risk a potential scene, it being a day to impress our paying guests and all.
How very, very naughty some people are.