|Servants Series 4
Author: ss9 PM
Can Flora recover from the tragedies of series 3? How will Walter react and will Will be able to safely avoid the butler's wrath? And who is this glamourous Scottish beauty who is causing quite the stir amoungst the male members of staff?Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Romance - Chapters: 8 - Words: 193,239 - Published: 08-21-05 - Status: Complete - id: 2544658
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The world was spinning, and for a moment Flora struggled to break free, she couldn't see yet she knew she was spinning, all she could hear was the rush of her blood in her ears and the roaring of laughter all around her. Suddenly there was light as the blindfold was ripped from her eyes and she went staggering forward trying to reach to someone to help steady her, but as she staggered forward the masked dancers all gracefully stepped out of her way, pointing and laughing at her as she floundered around like a new born lamb still so unsure on her feet. Then suddenly she caught a glimpse of an unmasked face, a face she knew as well as her own and with a renewed sense of purpose she floundered off in the direction she had thought he was headed, every few feet being battered by dancing couples all of whom who sneered at her in disgust.
For what seemed like hours she dodged couples, searched through endless corridors and archways, groves and clearings and each time all she could catch was the barest glimpse of him as he always turned the corner just as she arrived. Finally she decided enough was enough, she was so tired so she sat down on comfortable chaise lounge in a cosy arbour, and curling up rested her head on a nearby cushion, for a moment she contented herself with watching the exploits of the most bizarre looking birds she had ever seen. She knew that magpies stole things because they liked shiny objects but she had never heard of birds that both stole and dressed in clothes. It was as she watched some particularly vivid green-feathered birds fighting over a top hat that she felt barest whisper of lips on her neck. Turning round sharply she gasped when no one was standing there, getting up she walked round the chaise several times to make sure no one was hiding before leaning against the stone wall of the arbour in exasperation, and then suddenly falling backwards into darkness the whole world streaming away from her until she landed softly on something.
Sitting up and glancing around all she could see was the dull glow from a lamp that illuminated the room, however her contemplation of her surroundings was cut short when a pair of hands slid round her waist and a mouth began to kiss its way down the nape of her neck. In frustration she tried to turn around but found herself unable to move, forced to simply sit and watch as her mystery companion proceeded to undress her, then all of a sudden she was pushed on to her back and she was able for the first time to catch sight of his face.
"Walter!" She called out relieved that at last she had found him, but any further communication was abruptly cut off when his lips captured hers.
Gasping Flora sat bolt upright in her bed, shaking her
head in an attempt to dislodge the dream, placing a hand over her
still fluttering heart she took a few deep breaths in an effort to
calm herself down. It had all seemed so real,; the touch of his hands
and lips had felt so right so like they used to and Flora had to
choke back a sob. Is this the only way she would ever experience his
touch from now on, in her dreams, would they be all that would keep
her warm on a long winter night? Suddenly Flora threw back the covers
and practically jumped out of her bed, dashing over to her chair and
seizing her shawl she left her room and practically tip toeing down
the corridor to Walter's room. Pausing only for a moment afraid
that the Butler might have followed her childish example and locked
his door, Flora's relief was obvious when the
door handle turned quickly and silently.
Slipping inside Flora waited until her eyes adjusted to the darkness before creeping across the room careful to pick up her feet, avoiding the multitude of items Walter left scattered across his floor before teasing back the covers and clambering into bed next to him For a moment she allowed herself to simply lie next to him gazing at his handsome face, he looked so peaceful that she was almost loathed to wake him, but if she was to make up for earlier then that was something she had to do. Pulling her nightdress off over her shoulders Flora shivered for a moment in the cold air before eagerly snuggling herself against Walter and drawing warmth from him, smiling to herself when his instinctive response was to slip his arm around her pulling her in closer without waking up. Chuckling softly Flora began to trace her hands over his chest, nuzzling against his neck and kissing and nipping along his exposed collarbone, causing Walter to smile and shift slightly in his sleep murmuring her name softly.
Amazed at what a deep sleeper he had become Flora realised perhaps it was time to put into practice some of the more interesting pages out of lady Rebecca's little book. Sniggering slightly she leant down and ran her hand along the floor by the bed, smiling triumphantly when she caught hold of his trousers, running her hands across them she quickly found what she was looking for and unclipping them moved to the head of the bed. Next she gradually moved Walter's hands from where they lay clutching both her and the covers and tied them gently to the bed posts with his braces, that should make for an interesting exchange when she woke him up, and as per Rebecca's observations there is only one way to do that if you're hoping for an immediate reaction.
- - -
For a few minutes they remained as they were, Walter too exhausted to move his full weight pressing down on top of her, his head resting on her breasts. Shifting slightly Flora ran her hands soothingly up and down Walter's back nuzzling against the top of his head, Flora placed a row of kisses along her lover's forehead, wiping his sweat-stained fringe away from his face only just catching the murmered, "Dieu m'accordent un fils"
"Walter." She whispered softly causing the butler to glance up at her a deliriously happy expression on his face. "Walter, please." Flora gasped, causing him to look up quizzingly before leaning up and covering her lips with his own. For a moment they kissed softly and tenderly, before Flora breathlessly pulled away, placing a quick peck on the end of his nose. "Tell me something."
"What?" Walter asked.
"What did you, when you… well you know, it was French wasn't it, tell me Walter please."
"Ahhhhhh, and why should I tell you that hmmm? After all this is from a woman who still has me shackled with my own braces."
"You're not angry about that are you? I mean…"
"No I'm not angry with you." Jarvis replied, "I was surprised at first but pleasantly so."
"If I let you go will you tell me then?" Flora asked.
"I will!" Jarvis replied, and so Flora turned slightly raising her hands to release the butler and so missing the mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
Sighing when at last his hands were released Walter rubbed his sore wrists, before leaning down and capturing her mouth with his own, his freed hands roaming all over her body before tracing their way down her arms and deliberately seizing her wrists, slowly pushing them upwards. Suddenly Walter put his plan into action, raising her arms above her head; he held both her wrists with one hand whilst the other lashed them together with his braces before securing them firmly to his headboard. Flora had realised all to late his intentions, and by the time she started to struggle he already had a firm grip on her, squirming against him she tried futilely to free herself whilst Walter looked on amused, eventually realising she was trapped she stopped struggling and lay still glaring up at the butler.
"You sneaky bastard!" She retorted.
"Oh my love that is no way to talk to your captor why that might provoke me to do all sort of unspeakable things to you!"
"Knowing you you'll do them regardless!" Flora snorted.
"How very true!" Jarvis replied. "Now it's my turn to play, you lie there like a good girl and I promise not to be as rough on you as I could be."
"Fine, but first we made a deal, you still haven't told me what you said."
Smiling Jarvis leant in and captured her mouth, plundering it mercilessly, before finally pulling away when Flora began to gasp for breath. "Flora I will tell you, you'll just have to wait till I take you again but this time I promise to say it first in French and then in English. But first Madam I have a certain favour to reciprocate."- - -
A few minutes later Flora felt Walter's hands soothing away her sweat and tears stained hair, before planting soft kisses across her heaving shoulders, along the nape of her neck and then the side of her face, all the while whispering softly to her in French. "Je t'aime davantage que ma vie, vous sont mon amour, mon monde, mon tout!" Before reaching up and carefully releasing her bound hands and turning her gently onto her back before snuggling down next to her, his hands and mouth moving to cover every inch of her with a grateful kiss and caress. An exhausted Flora was content to simply lie there her hand moving to rake loving through his hair, as her lover nuzzled his face one more against her breasts and then her stomach, stroking the soft skin there lovingly. "Vous pelez est aussi lisse que la soie." He whispered before leaning up and placing a soft lingering kiss on her parted lips, pulling away he added, "Vos lèvres sont comme le plus parfait des rosebuds."
"Hmmmmm that all sounds wonderful, such a shame I can't understand a single word you're saying." Flora replied her voice low and husky as she wrapped her arms around Walter's neck pulling him in for anther kiss. "Now Walter Corey, as you promised…"
Chuckling slightly Walter rolled back over on to his back, "you remembered!"
"I did indeed, so confess!" Flora replied.
For a moment Walter didn't answer his face suddenly becoming serious, and he took a deep breath before turning back over to her. "By God I love you." Walter stated simply, a slight frown creasing his face when instead of smiling at him Flora's face contorted into an expression of confusion. "Why were you expecting something else? Something more poetic or lurid?" Walter asked a slight tone of annoyance creeping into his voice. "How come all of a sudden I love you isn't enough?"
Startled by his hostile reaction Flora placed her fingertips over his lips to stem the tide of his angry words before leaning forward and kissing him softly. "You know it is!" She added placatingly. Satisfied by her response and certain his fib had passed unnoticed Walter lay back next to her, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her possessively into his arms, nuzzling his face into her hair and breathing in her unique scent as he gradually drifted off into a deep and contented sleep.
An hour or so before dawn Flora Ryan lay awake with her thoughts, she had been laying here for hours unable to sleep, watching Walter's face in the moonlight and trying desperately to block out his snoring. It had given her some much needed time to think; last night she had been acting purely on instinct, her need for Walter and her desire to be with him overruling whatever other doubts she may still be having. But last night had been about much more than desire or comfort for Walter, he had seemed so single minded, and although he had been as outstanding a lover as always he appeared to be more concerned with something other than pleasure, and then there had been that phrase he kept muttering. 'Dieu m'accordent un fils', or as Walter had said, when he had eventual consented to translate, 'By God I love you'. Flora shook her head confused; she knew she didn't speak French but she was certain she remembered Jean-luc saying 'Je t'aime' when he told her he loved her.
Sighing softly Flora brushed her hand down the side of Walter's face causing him to shift slightly in his sleep and nuzzle against it, his own hands searching desperately for her, until they found her once more and slid down her body, one hand coming to rest softly on her stomach stroking the skin there softly almost reverently before coming to rest cupping the slight swell of her abdomen before whispering softly into her hair "mon fils". However despite Flora's lack of French somehow the meaning behind his words struck home and the full impact of what they had done and the consequences it might have struck her. How could she have been so stupid, of course Walter would assume that by giving herself to him that she was ready to try for a family once more.
Shaking slightly at that thought Flora tried to stifle the chocking feeling of panic, what if she was pregnant already, she wouldn't know for weeks for sure and then it would be to late she would be in Europe for at least three months and Walter would be away for much longer, at least six for his trip to India. She might have to go through the whole thing on her own, and what if she lost the baby again, how would she cope without him by her side let alone deal with the shame of another pregnancy outside of marriage? Trembling Flora pushed back the covers and sliding Walter's possessive hands from her body she crept out of bed. Pulling her nightdress over her head and wrapping her shawl around her trembling shoulders she opened the door and disappeared down the corridor.
- - -
The next morning Jarvis woke with a broad smile on his handsome face, stretching slightly he turned on his side expecting to wrap his arms around the woman he loved but instead his wandering hands found only empty air and an already cold space next to him in bed. Opening his eyes suddenly Walter glanced around the room, where the hell was she? Jumping up suddenly he stormed over to his desk expecting at least some note explaining why she had left without even saying goodbye. Riffling through his papers he slumped down in his desk chair when his panicked search revealed nothing new, standing up he walked over to his bed tracing the pillow next to his where the indent of her head was the only clue that remained of her ever being here. Where was she?
Slowly this one thought preoccupying his mind Jarvis began to wash and shave, before rummaging through his wardrobe to pull out one of his more sharp waistcoats, its cheerful red and green tartan causing him to smile to himself, his confidence in his own magnetism returning. She probably only slipped off earlier to fit in an early bath, lord knows after the activities of the night before she would need one and just didn't want to wake him. Brushing his hair back from his face he turned up his shirt collar and efficiently knotted his necktie unable to dull the bright twinkle in his eye that would reveal to anyone who knew him well just what he'd been up to the night before.
Whistling slightly he sauntered over to the bed picking up the now infamous red braces and fastened them to his trousers before pulling on both his waistcoat and jacket and opening the door intending to trot on down to breakfast. However just as he was closing the door behind him he realised in his haste he had forgotten his watch, marching over to his bedside table he quickly seized the forgotten item threading the silver chain through one of the button holes in his waistcoat and slipping the treasured watch into his waistcoat pocket. Turning on his heel he strode purposely downstairs having to resist the urge to jump and click his heels together or shout out loud at his excitement at being properly reunited with his lover, unable to suppress the unspoken hope that bubbled up inside him that last night was the first step on the road to creating his and Flora's family, after all as far as he was concerned last night was simply the first of many.
Had Jarvis bothered to glance at the time on his watch instead of replaying in his mind the exploits of the night before then he might have quicken his steps, For the first time since he had started his employment at Taplows he was so late up he had missed not only breakfast but also his early morning briefing with the Earl. So instead Flora had gone in his place, she had been quite relieved to, as it had given her the perfect opportunity to broach the subject of her trip. At first Flora had been convinced the Earl was going to bite her head off, for a moment he was unable to speak; obviously the idea of one of his servants taking time off for foreign travel of their own had rendered him dumb. However fortunately for Flora the Earl was not alone, when she had arrived that morning he had not been in his study as usual but in the morning room.
He had grunted it was because the chairs were more comfortable but Flora was convinced it had more to do with the fact that sitting in here he could keep his beady lascivious eyes locked on one Lady Rebecca Farqherson as she showed Lady Caroline the steps to one of the newest and rather lively court dances. Even whilst she was talking and he was supposedly reading the latest itinerary for his trip to India it was though the Earl was only half listening. Practically looking through her, his mouth slightly parted as he ogled Rebecca. His eyes taking in the swish and wiggle of her backside and then when she'd finished dancing and curtsied low the press of her cleavage as it strained delightfully against her dress with her more rapid breathing. For a second when he shuffled the papers an embarrassed Flora could have sworn she caught sight of his obvious burgeoning attraction for the young lady.
However just as Flora was certain the Earl was not only going to find his voice but use it to sack her for her presumption, her personal saviour arrived in the form of Lady Rebecca. She had obviously caught Flora's request and sensing her friend was probably going to be in trouble she interrupted the conversation in her usual graceful manner. "Excuse me sir."
"Not now Becca." The Earl replied but not harshly unable as always to dismiss the beautiful Lady Farquherson.
"I know you're busy it's just I couldn't help overhearing, and I was wondering couldn't we have a brief word in private…" Rebecca trailed off nodding in Flora's direction before walking towards the Earl and sitting delicately right next to him on the chaise lounge.
"Oh alright." The Earl replied waving a relieved Flora about her business.
When they were alone Rebecca turned to the Earl and began her pitch. "Couldn't you let her go?"
"But…But!" The Earl began, but Becca leant forward placing her fingertips gently across his lips to cut him off and at the same time revealing a healthy portion of cleavage, which drew the Earls eyes like magnets.
"I know it's presumptuous of me, to interfere in your affairs like this, and if you like you can tell me to keep my little nose out of it…" Rebecca trailed off glancing down bashfully purposefully playing with the pendant that lay round her neck before allowing her fingers to continue to rub up and down her chest occasionally dipping naughtily in between her breasts, the Earls eyes blatantly following their progress.
"Becca you know I would never!" The Earl stuttered, unable to resist the urge to pat her knee reassuringly.
Smiling up at him through her long lashes Rebecca leant even closer mirroring his hand on her knee, but placing her hand slightly higher around his mid-thigh. "Thank you it means so much to me that you value my opinion, I mean so many men, especially those arrogant young whelps they never seem to want to listen to me, they only seem to be interested in my looks and its only a real man who is willing to look beyond the outer wrapping."
"Yes well, indeed, not that your outer wrapping isn't delightful as well." The Earl added chortling slightly his hand on her knee sliding slightly higher and caressing her thigh softly through her dress.
"Oh stop!" Rebecca giggled girlishly, tapping his wandering hand slightly. "You'll get me embarrassed I mean a worldly man such as yourself …you must have much more beautiful women hanging around you than poor little me."
"Never!" The Earl replied. "You are the most exquisite creature I've ever scene, and the most modest, but even so what you're asking Becca my dear…"
"Oh I know, I know its asking a lot, it would be putting you out, it's just Flora's a dear friend and as such I have to ask you on her behalf, I mean I've always thought it important for friends to try and help each other out, lend a helping hand when a problem crops up." Rebecca replied her hand on the Earls thigh starting to move, causing him to jolt slightly.
"I know but Mrs Ryan is my employee not my friend and as such certain procedures and standards have to enforced."
"Oh I understand..." Rebecca leaning forward once more, brushing her cleavage against the Earls arm. "But I am your friend, and as such you'd be prepared to do me a favour, wouldn't you?" She asked her hand innocently drifting higher causing the Earl to sit up suddenly in the chair.
"Of course." The Earl replied automatically.
"Well what would make me happy is for you to make my friend happy, please let her go, pretty please?" She asked snuggling up against him.
For a moment the Earl was torn, and Rebecca could see him wavering. "I'd be ever so grateful." She added pouting slightly and fluttering her eyelashes, her hand patting the top of his thigh and her other hand returned to twiddling her pendant as she rocked her shoulders causing more of her cleavage to pull out of the top of her dress.
"Oh alright then!" The Earl replied laying his own hand on top of hers and attempting to move it even closer to his now obvious bulge, his other hand running further up her thigh openly caressing it though her silk dress.
"You Darling!" Rebecca exclaimed rescuing her hand and throwing it about the Earls neck kissing him softly on the cheek before jumping up from the chaise and dashing over to the door.
"Becca where are you going, are thought we might sit and chat some more?" The Earl exclaimed jumping up from his chair.
"Oh later later, I really must tell darling Flora the good news!" And with that she opened the door, blowing the Earl a kiss. Closing the door behind her she turned and almost bumped into the housekeeper. "Oh Flora!"
"What was all that about?" The housekeeper asked, stunned when Rebecca leant forward and kissed her softly on the cheek before sweeping past her on up the stairs, calling over her shoulder "Happy packing Flora my dear!"
It is lunch time in the servants quarters, and Will is sat at the head of the table, firmly placed in Adams' chair, as everyone chatted and gossiped noisily about the recent goings on with the new lady's maid Bridgette. Will rips into a bread roll and lounges back in his chair, smiling gleefully to himself as he surveys the table from his position of authority, believing that he should have found himself there over a year ago. Maybe Andrew would stay laid up for weeks, giving him enough time to try to win round Jarvis again - hmmm he would have to devise a cunning plan to carry on seeing Flora while desperately trying to curry favour with the butler, but if anyone could think up a successful strategy then it would surely be William Forest. He is in such deep thought that he fails to look up even once at the balcony - if he had then he may have seen an unmoving figure hovering in the doorway
Will dunking his bread into his stew: 'ere, George, what was that you were saying before about Lady Rebecca? Got an eye for His Lorship has she?
George guzzling his water then banging the mug on the table, causing everyone to turn their attention to him: Oh most definitely, you should've seen her in the morning room, fawning all over him, I mean I couldn't hear what they were talking about as I was over by the door, but she kept whispering into his ear and giggling, right weird it was. I mean, he's hardly a catch, is he?
Will wiping his mouth on the back of his hand: Well, now he's got his money back, those money-grabbing women won't be able to keep their hands of him, will they?
Lizzie speaking a little louder than she anticipated: That's rubbish, that is. She can't be after him in that way because...er...because...why are you all staring at me like that?
Fred snorting out a laugh: Oh you can't mean because of bloody Lord Prance-a-lot up there? He's such a fairy that one, anyone can see that! D'you know, I saw him talking to one of those gardeners all you girls are into, he was eyeing him up something rotten, I swear it!
Will smirking at a blushing Lizzie: Oh, I know what you mean, Liz, has that fat idiot of a father said something to you?
Lizzie gulping hard but trying desperately to stay calm: W...what about? Don't know what you mean?
Will grabbing a handful of rolls and beginning to juggle them: We've all seen how he looks at her, letching over her, the poor woman! Although if she really is after the Earl then her bad taste may easily extend to him! As if he could ever get a woman like her, well as if he could ever get a woman, I mean what did he do to your mother Liz, get her completely off her face first or did he pay her a nice little sum?
George tugging at his friend's arm furiously: Oi, Will, I think you'd better shut it mate...
Will as if not having heard, pulling his arm away: Mind you if she's having to marry Bonnie Prince Hugo then I suppose she needs all the fun she can get...
WILLIAM FOREST, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IN MY CHAIR!
A sudden loud clattering of cutlery replaces talk as all eyes swivel up to the balcony, as Will's heart plummets to the bottom of his shoes and a smirking under-butler approaches the rails, fully clothed in his livery and with his arms folded over his puffed-out chest. A murmur of 'Mr Adams' passes round the table, as Will stares open-mouthed for the longest moment of his life
Will the blood draining from his face, his spoon in mid-scoop in his stew: Mr Adams? I didn't know you were up and about, sir!
Adams rocking on his heels and grinning even more broadly at Will's discomfort: Well Mr Jarvis left me to tell you, as he knew how delighted you would be to see me back on duty, as I know how concerned you are for my welfare. And if you don't get your lazy behind out of my chair, laddie, I'm going to come down and break your arms, bone by bloody bone.
Huffing noisily, Will scrapes his chair back across the floor creating the most painful screech, everybody turning to face him as he stands behind the desk, the chair now behind him, his eyes fixed angrily on Adams'.
Adams gripping the rail and leering over: Now, move away from the table, and go and smarten yourself up before showing yourself upstairs! You look a disgrace boy! Lucky for you I came back when I did, as Mr Jarvis was about to demote you and give Georgie here a go at under-butler, he's so fed up with your arrogant attitude!
Will gritting his teeth and staring at his plate, aware that everyone is staring at him, open-mouthed: But I haven't done anything………
Adams: Well that's just precisely it, you've not done jack by the sound of it, chasing after a wee bit of skirt no doubt!
Will shooting a glance at Adams, a slight tone of alarm in his voice: Has Mr Jarvis said anything!
But before Adams can reply, Jarvis marches up next to him, and with a cursory, almost disapproving, glance down at the servants table turns to Adams and very nearly raises a smile
Jarvis: Ah, Mr Adams, feeling better I trust.
Adams without taking his deathly stare from Will: Indeed I am, sir. Much better. Ready and raring to go, in fact.
Jarvis pats him on the arm then turns to survey the hall as everyone continues to sit in silence, their stews quietly cooling as their lunch time ticks away. His stare comes to rest on Will, whose colour has returned and is now growing redder and redder with every passing moment, Adams' smug grin starting to completely crawl under his skin.
Jarvis glancing pointedly at his pocket watch: Mr Forest, I think you should take the advice of your betters and go and put some effort into your appearance as you will be expected on the door for lunch in less than ten minutes.
Will in desperate frustration: But sir, I was going to be tending the Earl and guests…..
Jarvis almost laughing in amusement: In case you haven't noticed Mr Adams is now back, so you are to resume your normal duties. Carry on with your food everyone. Go on, Mr Forest, as quick as you like, and make sure your wig is powdered properly this time!
With a defiant sharp sigh, Will thumps the chair down under the table and without glancing at anyone else turns on his heel and marches out, muttering expletives as he goes and slamming his fist into the nearest door in rage. Jarvis leans in to Adams as the other servants begin to chat and eat quietly, lowering his voice so nobody but his under-butler can hear
Jarvis looking Adams straight in the eye: Andrew watch him for me, will you. Report back anything……unusual. I don't want him to so much as wipe his own bottom without you knowing about it. He's beginning to ps me off far too much lately, I have a feeling Mr Cosmo may find himself with a promotion sooner than he might have anticipated.
Adams chewing his lip to resist another grin: Aye, sir.
Jarvis turning to leave, but then suddenly turning back: Oh, and another thing, if you must see Lady Rebecca, be discreet will you? I fear people may get wind of your little romance. I should ban you from seeing her, threaten you with the sack if you continue, but I won't as it would be more than my conscience could bear, but promise me no more looking through key holes or dressing in inappropriate attire? I am putting my job on the line for you here.
Adams nodding, turning a little pink: Of course, Mr Jarvis. Thank you sir.
Jarvis After one last glance at the servants: Right, come on then Mr Adams, let's go and tend the rabble, you know how they get when they're not being told what to do, they create complete mayhem and expect us to bail them out. And that's just Their Lordships!
With a chuckle the two men exit, the only thing on Adams' mind is to see Rebecca, even if it is just across a crowded dining room. She will be there in all her radiance, carrying his child, without anyone else suspecting a thing. One little glance of affection from her will be all he needs to keep him going until he can see her properly, feel her warmth once again, touch her, run his fingers through her long, red locks and protect her and their unborn infant from the cruelty of society's misunderstandings and prejudice. Surely she would never be after the Earl? Surely?
Meanwhile the housekeeper was
finishing her duties above stairs, however since her encounter with
Rebecca she had completed her inspections in an almost Zombie like
state, causing Charlotte to cross herself more than once lest
whatever was wrong was catching. It wasn't long before she was on
her last room that of Lady Caroline's, she always left this till
last as the young lady of the house was notoriously lazy, messy
and demanding so affording her maids little time to pick up after
her. However this afternoon as she knocked and entered waving
Charlotte inside to place the new flower
arrangements on the credenza, the door to the young lady's dressing room was flung open and a now very wet Bridgette emerged; her normally pristine blond ringlets looking like coils of sopping wet rope as they hung lifelessly down her pale face.
"My Goodness!" Flora exclaimed, her initial dislike of the new maid pushed aside in the face of her obvious distress. "What happened, did you slip and fall in the bath?"
Shivering slightly Bridgette shook her head. "Non…she errr…kicked zz bath over and threew a jug full of zz water in mon visage."
Sighing softly Flora removed the shawl from around her shoulders and wrapped it around Bridgette's shivering shoulders. "We'd better get you out of those things, I mean what with the terrible frost that's set in you'll really catch your death." Flora added ushering the maid out of the room and up the stairs.
A few minutes later and the pair were safety ensconced in Bridgette's room Flora staying to help the maid out of her wet clothes, before wrapping her in as many blankets as possible before the hot water for her bath arrived.
"Mon Dieu, it was awful the little monstre, she was in a terrible temper and there was nothing zat Annie or moi could do to calm her down, one moment she was sitting so still and quiet mais then zz next she was ranting, saying terrible things about both her papa and her over amorous husband." Bridgette trailed off nudging Flora with her elbow conspiratorially. "I think that last night was zz night!"
"Noo!" Flora replied, raising her hand to cover her mouth in shock.
"Ahh Oui! Je suis certain!" Bridgette replied chuckling slightly. "And I would say from her reaction that it couldn't 'ave been zz most inspirational of evenings!"
Covering her mouth with both her hands Flora tried to stifle the bout of hysterics that threatened, succeeding only smothering it slightly, so it emerged in little snorts and guffaws.
"Bridgette I was wondering, I mean this is going to sound bizarre but could you try and tell me what the English translation is for, now what was it….Dieu m'accordent un fils?"
For a moment Bridgette sat there thinking hard, "I would say it means en anglais, God grant unto me a son. Why do you ask?" Bridgette added when she saw Flora's face flush slightly with a combination of both anger and fear.
"Oh nothing important!" Flora replied her thoughts obviously miles from her conversation with the French maid.
"Really? I would say it appears zat my mistress was not zz only person at Taplows to up to mischief last night!" Bridgette added pointedly her gaze locked on the delicate row of tiny love bites along the housekeeper's collarbone that could just be glimpsed without the shawl. Gasping in embarrassment Flora's hand automatically flew up to cover the tell tale marks.
"I 'ave a suspicion that Monsieur Jarvis is somewhat better in bed zen any of his masters, ne c'est pas?"
"That is none of your business, besides how can you be sure it was him?" Flora retorted.
"Simple, you like myself are a woman with certain tastes and standards and zz Monsieur is zz only man 'ere worthy of my interest and so I assume yours as well."
Stuttering and spluttering at both the maid's presumption and her open declaration of interest in Walter, Flora stood up shocked walking over to the fireplace for support. "You are interested in Walter!"
"But of course, he is 'andsome, charming and now apparently also a good lover, why wouldn't I be interested in him?"
"But …but…" Flora replied unable to form a coherent sentence much to the French maid's amusement. "You can't."
"Why ever not, I mean since I 'ave been 'ere I 'ave been watching him closely to see if he is in a serious relationship, but as he 'as no permanent attachments, no wife or fiancée zen where is the 'arm in our getting closer?"
"But he and I… ! " Flora began.
"Oh I do not mind sharing him, after all I am sure there are zz days when you want zz time off, ne c'est pas?"
"No!" Flora exclaimed.
Frowning slightly a confused expression on her tiny face. "I do not understand, you never appear to spend anytime with him yet you expect to be able to keep him all to yourself?"
"Look Miss I do not know what things are like where you come from but here in England we have certain standards that people observe…"
"What like no relations before marriage?" Bridgette asked mockingly.
"Well…" Flora began.
"Or perhaps only indulging with one partner for your ole life?" She added
"Yes…" Flora replied.
"Et therefore no illegitimate enfants?"
Now shaking with fury, Flora walked over to the maid and physically seized her by the shoulders. "You stay well away from him!"
"Ow can I do that, after all the désirable Monsieur as already started giving me English lessons, and in return I 'ave offered to help improve his French, perhaps next time as per your recommendations I should suggest an adjournment to somewhere more private where I can vigorous test out his vocabulary and technique?"
Dropping the maid as if scolded, Flora backed away towards the door. "This is your last warning, leave us both alone!"
"Now zat is a shame, but if you like you can always come along to supervise our little sessions, and 'ou knows perhaps we can both convince you to participate, learning a little French would I'm sure do you the world of good!"
Shocked and disgusted Flora seized open the door and stormed off down the corridor slamming it firmly behind her.
It is obvious, even at first glance, that not everybody in the dining room had got off to a good start that day, or in some instances even a mildly reasonable one. Will is stood grumpily by the door, George ever so often glancing at him, slightly concerned, while Adams, Fred and Joe serve lunch to the assembled aristocrats, the only absentee being Lord Montgomery who is still away in London until the evening. Frank Keneally had strategically placed himself so he could have eye contact with both Franny and Rebecca, while still being on hand for Lord Julian. To his distress his employer had suddenly become extremely demanding, his mood slightly buoyed but yet amazingly his temperament a little, well, more masculine and assertive. Lady Caroline, on the other hand, after her outburst at Bridgette had gone into some sort of shock that even Annie failed to snap her out of. She had had to be practically carried to lunch, and nothing anyone now says to her at the table seems to register with her in the slightest. Her lifeless eyes are fixed straight ahead out of the window, and she begins to slowly chew her bread without even the slightest complaint about her soup or the pungent smell of the cheese.
The Earl had insisted that Lady Rebecca sat next to him, calling her over with a raucous laugh and causing Adams' stomach to churn in alarm, so much so that he had trouble carrying a fruit bowl successfully from the door to the table. Nudging a startled Fred out of the way, Adams serves Rebecca, desperately trying to get her to make eye contact with him but becoming increasingly aware that Lady Francesca is watching him closely from next to her sister, a sour look on her face as she blindly stabs a slice of cold ham with her fork. Hovering by his lover for a moment, Adams nearly bangs into her to try attract her attention, but eventually Rebecca waves him away with a cursory hand and a rather exasperated 'yes, thank you, Mr Adams', rolling her eyes at Frank who looked on in concealed amusement. Completely taken aback by this callous dismissal, Adams backs away slightly, a bemused expression spreading across his features – yes they had always had to be careful when around others, but this had never meant no affectionate glances or even touches, but her coldness had suddenly put him right off secretly brushing the back of her dress, which he had done so many times before.
But the frostiness in the room certainly doesn't end there. Frank, with a sly smile, eyes Lady Rebecca before turning his attention to a certain conquest of his from the previous night, remembering every intricate detail about her while all the while he tried to pretend she was Rebecca, and to very pleasing results too. Catching Franny's eye very briefly after a subtle cough, she glares at him momentarily down her nose before looking away, curling her lip almost in disgust. Frank's pleased look falls from his face at such a snub, and from then on every attempt to attract her fails miserably until he gives up totally.
Earl turning to Rebecca and grinning broadly: Becca my dear, will you be riding this afternoon? Before it goes dark?
Rebecca chancing a glance at Adams, who fails to see, then smiling falsely: Oh, I'm not too sure yet, I think I've got a bit of a headache coming on.
Earl patting her arm in the friendliest of manners: Well, just you let me know. Now I've got my MONEY back, I'm hoping to invest in a racehorse or two, maybe you would like to accompany me to the races when I get back from gallivanting around the world, what!
Hugo clearing his throat and smiling at the Earl charmingly: Oh I am sure we would both be delighted, thank you.
Earl his smile fading rapidly as he splatters his spoon harshly into his soup: Yes, well, we'll see.
At the end of lunch, Adams makes sure he stands right by the door, and to his own risk reaches out quickly and brushes Rebecca's hand as she passes. As if almost in slow motion, she turns her head, their eyes lock and the smallest of smiles tugs at her deep red lips, her love for him encapsulated in her eyes, and for the first time that afternoon, Adams feels reassured.
Jarvis meanwhile had at least managed to find his mother, even if the illusive Flora is impossible to pin down, as per usual. Standing in the doorway of her room, Jarvis watches with a heavy expression as Emily packs things into her trunk, sniffing every now and again and letting out a little whimper as she went. Throwing open a drawer she piles her stockings onto her bed, only a chance turn of the head causing her to notice her son, but even still after only a very brief pause she continues as if never noticing him. Why on earth should she be the one to say the first word?
Jarvis taking a step into the room, fiddling with the chain of his pocket watch: Mother, I……forgive me for last night, it was rude. I'm sorry.
Emily harrumphing and flinging open her wardrobe, her voice wobbling: Yes, well, what's done is done. I'll be out of your hair by nightfall.
Jarvis sighing in exasperation: Oh Mother don't be foolish, I didn't mean what I said about you or about Robert, what more can I say to you?
Emily turning furiously, hands firmly on her hips: What, I'M foolish! You want to ruin your life, and you say I'M the foolish one! It's always been the same with you Walter, ever since you were a small boy, just shouting without thinking, storming off, you couldn't even play with your friends without telling at least one of them that they were silly if they didn't follow your advice, the amount of times I had mothers round to the house complaining that you'd upset their little Billy or whatever with your big mouth!
Jarvis walks over and takes his mother by her hands and smiles at her. Oh, Emily thinks, blinking back a tear, he looks so much like his father when he smiles like that, the same look in his eyes, the same charm about him. He certainly has his temper too, although maybe a small part of the quickness of it could be attributed to her. Eventually, reluctantly, Emily smiles back at her son, reaching up and cupping his face with her hand
Jarvis softly, almost a whisper: Please stay, Mother, please. I'll make it up to you. I know really you're trying to help, but you must let me do this my way. Believe me, everything will work out for the best, I know it will. Trust me on this one, just for once.
Emily nodding slowly in defeat: I do trust you, you've done yourself and your father proud, you really have, my boy. You do what you think is right. But I know you men, with your stiff upper lips and your hidden emotions. Show her you care about her, never mind this French woman who's turned up, I can speak the language too remember and I know exactly what her game is.
Jarvis chuckling and moving towards the door: She is something, isn't she! I don't think you have to worry too much about her, she's just nervous. And you know yourself what it's like to feel like an outside in this place, so be nice to her, for me. Oh, and unpack those things of yours, and you'll find that there is a nice big slice of bread and lemon curd waiting for you in the kitchen on my instructions to Mr Simpkins.
Emily raising her eyebrows in exclamation: Oh, you didn't ask Felix then?
Jarvis coughing nervously, his pleasant smile replaced by a glower: Er, no, I didn't ask Felix.
And after seeing his mother's disapproving nod of the head Jarvis quickly realises that she is never going to change now and stop interfering no matter WHAT he says. With a small, forced smile Jarvis turns and marches out, his quest to find that minx of a housekeeper well and truly back on track
Downstairs the George and Will are sitting in the footmen's room, trying desperately to remove the residue of Fred and Joe's last practical joke from their livery before it was spotted by the ever watchful Mr Adams.
"I can't believe those two!" Will exclaimed moving to brush the last few chalk letters from the back of his coat. "I mean I was on my way up to attend on Lady Francesca and if you hadn't noticed before I walked out the room…"
"Tell me about it mate, who do those pair of Judy's think they are playing with?" George added. "I mean who are they that they can get away with labelling us those things! Fred is far fatter than you are mate, I mean we've all seen how you tuck in, you do love your food and no mistake but to write on the back of your coat gluttonous pig now that's going to far!"
"Thanks mate! I think! And I mean we all know how you go around with that gormless look on your face, but that's no need to label you a village idiot." Will retorted.
"THE!" George replied.
"Oh alright THE Village Idiot, or would you prefer Mr Village Idiot Sir?" Will asked sarcastically.
George's only reply was to throw his chalk dust ridden brush over to Will, hitting the footman on the side of the face and releasing a cloud of white powder which settled like blanket of snow over him.
"You Bloody Bd!" Will growled, attempting to brush the speckles off dust off on his face and hair.
"My pleasure mate!" George replied. Then after a few more minutes of silent labour George piped up again. "Hey Will mate, can I ask you something?"
"That depends if you're going to try and pump me for details again about what it was like bedding a certain person, who will as always remain nameless?"
"No..No, I won't, I mean I don't need to really the bloody broad grin on your face the next morning was enough to tell she must have been a bit of a goer!" George trailed off sniggering at the thought. "No I meant can I ask your advice about Grace?"
"Ask away mate, but I should warn you in advance with my track record with women to completely ignore any advice I give you, follow it at your own risk!"
"It's not like
that! It's just have you heard her talking behind my back, I mean
ever since Mrs Ryan and Mr Jarvis got engaged, well she's been
dropping these monumental hints about getting married and in order to
enforce her point she's not
been as friendly as she once was!" George added, raising his eyebrow to punctuate his point. "I think she wants us to leave and get married, have you heard anything?"
"Ahhhhh, well I'm glad to hear that one of you has some brains, after all one Cosmo in the world is more than enough!"
"Oi mate you can be nice if you want!" George retorted causing Will to smile mischievously.
"However to answer your question, I haven't heard anything, I suppose I've been somewhat preoccupied with my own problems."
"How are you mate? I mean after the bathroom scene with her who shall not be named, has anything else happened?" George asked.
"No!" Will replied his voice low and cracking slightly. "She's ended it, I suppose after everything I was only a diversion a bit of fun, and I know you all think I should just get over it but, I never felt like this for anyone before, she's always in my thoughts and my dreams!" He added softly.
"Yeah I think we all know that mate, the noises you come out with sometimes!" George said sniggering slightly.
"I don't call out her name do I?" Will asked panicking slightly.
"No mate you don't talk as such, its more moans and groans!" George replied trying desperately to keep a straight face as his friend was obviously still upset.
"Well that's something!" Will whispered. "I sometimes think if only I could have one more kiss, one more chance to hold her, make love to her, this time knowing it was really the last and so making it as perfect as possible, something I could treasure. But what's the chance of that happening, I tell you the only person she manages to avoid more than Mr Jarvis at the moment is me!"
"Mate if I thought you had a chance, but with Jarvis around well I'm sorry mate!" George replied.
"I know, it's just I'm not ready to move on just yet, but the trip to India will give me plenty of time?"
"That's if you get picked, you know the Earl isn't taking everyone, you might end up being left behind!" George joked.
"Yes and just think of that! I mean Taplows and its entire female staff alone for six months without any of their usual male companionship to distract them!" Will replied a certain twinkle re-entering his eye.
"Will!" George began.
"Oh let me at least dream Georgie boy, I mean after a few months she'll be gagging for it, I know her, really know her she's a fire cracker there's no way she'll be able to hold out against an all out assault of the Will Forest magnetism, she'd be on her back before any of you lot could say Lord Julian Dalrimple-Sykes."
Choking slightly at the comment, and the rather bizarre mental image it conjured, George began to shake his head. "No Will you can't!"
"What who says there is anything wrong with sabotaging my own chances of being picked, it's not like I'm hurting anyone!" He added before walking over to one of the cupboards, rummaging around for a while before finding and seizing the chalk. Storming over to the other footmen's jackets he paused for a moment before beginning to scrawl somewhat obscene messages on the back of them. When he had finished he turned round to grin triumphantly at George, before purposefully dropping the chalk into his own coat pocket, crushing it slightly so it would leave a tell tale clue before emptying the crushed fragments out onto the floor.
"I'd say that was stage one of the campaign firmly underway!" He called out to George as he practically sauntered out of the room and upstairs to attend on the Earl.
Smuggly whistling to himself, Will dances to the top of the stairs as he fixes on his wig, twirling and clicking his heels in such buoyant manner that it isn't until a hand firmly grips him by the shoulder that he finally comes to a startled halt. The footman twists round and grips the banister, almost slipping backwards as he gasps in surprise at the burning glare of his companion, the hand still resting firmly on his shoulder
Adams with a half smile and a loud snort: You should watch yourself, Mr Forest, you nearly had a nasty accident on the stairs just then, and we couldn't have you toppling down them, now could we, eh? Because we all know how THAT can turn out, don't we?
Will snarling in spite: What the hell do you want, Andrew? You're holding me up from doing my duties…….
Adams stepping towards him: Ah, yes, duties – talking of them, if you're think you're tending the Earl this afternoon then you're certainly mistaken William, I think we'll give Mr Cosmo a go.
Will shaking his head in disbelief: But you can't, I'm first footman not bloody George, I didn't tend His Lordship at lunch so I should damn well get to do it now, you just can't!
Adams lowering his voice to a hiss: Oh, can't I now? Who you going to tell, eh, Mr Jarvis?
With a growl Adams seizes him by both arms and forces him to walk back down the stairs, Will struggling and cursing back to the footman's room where George has just finished combing his hair. Shoving him into the room so he collapses against a chair, Adams turns to George, a small glint of satisfaction in his eyes at being back – almost as if the rest has done him a world of good, and now his appetite to ruin William Forest's life has become greater than ever before
Adams clicking his fingers at George: You! Go and tend the Earl, William here has got other duties to get on with.
George glancing, puzzled, from Adams to a stooped, humiliated first footman: But I'm meant to be on the main door……..
Adams rapidly losing patience: Frederick's doing it, now go on! The Earl will be wanting his bath! And close the door behind you!
With a quick, sorry glance at Will, who fails to return the eye contact, George snatches his wig from the table and hurries out, the door swinging shut behind him. For a moment the two men stand in silence, Adams pacing around Will with his hands firmly behind his back, his eyes locked on him, as if he were a mildly disgusting museum exhibit, while Will's breathing begins to increase rapidly and sweat beads gather on his forehead. After circling him twice, the under-butler comes to a sudden stop in front of him, and for the first time Will raises his head and returns the glare of utter hatred
Adams smacking his lips and leaning in: Don't look so glum, Forest, I'm not going to hurt you. I'm really quite a nice chap once you get to know me.
Will pouting in disgust, his voice wracked with fury: Oh I think I know you alright, Mr Adams! Every time it's just you and me I know how it's going to end, why don't you get out of my face, I'm sick of it!
Adams chuckling and smacking him hard on the shoulder in a seemingly friendly manner: Now, now, Mr Forest. Such a shame you think like that, it really is. Maybe I've been to harsh, maybe you HAVE been working too hard, and you should take the weight off your weary feet.
With that the under-butler kicks the nearest chair underneath Will and pushes him firmly by the shoulders down into the chair so hard that a shooting pain sears through the base of Will's spine causing him to wince in shock. But this doesn't stop Adams from walking behind him, smiling to himself and digging his nails deeply into the footman's shoulders, pinning him to the seat and leering over him
Adams: Such a shame that Mr Cosmo is going to be delegated all the first footman responsibilities from now on from me, isn't it, and you'll be getting all the crap jobs including polishing my shoes every morning before I get up.
Will desperately trying to shake off the painful grip: Why don't you leave me be, I mean it's not as if I'm chasing that daughter of yours any more, is it, eh?
Adams snorting in amusement: Only because she had more sense, could see you for what you really are – a good-for-nothing lay-about who should have been kicked out a year ago! No, you're too busy eyeing up a certain older woman….
Will's head shoots up at this, looking over his shoulder as Adams moves round so their faces are inches apart
Adams:.……Oh yes, I've seen you, the way you look at her, what is it about her Will, eh, does the way she issues her orders grab your fancy or what? Don't let Jarvis catch you lusting after her, or my little physical persuasions will just seem pleasurable in comparison. There's only one woman who was good enough for you and that was that little cow Esther Spicer!
Will his face twisted in fury, determined not to back down: You know nothing – NOTHING, you stupid Scotch gt. She's too good for this place; I'M too good for this place!
Adams suddenly lunges forward and grips Will's hand, twisting it round until it would go no further then crushing his fingers until he gasps in pain, tears of agony springing automatically to his eyes. With a further forceful tug, Adams causes Will's shoulder to pull and crack just enough to cause immense pain without permanent damage.
Adams digging his knee into Will's thigh: So, you think she's going to run off with you or something, is that it! And why the hell would she do that, when she hates your guts just like the rest of us do! You're a bloody waste of space lad, I know it, you know it, Mrs Ryan knows it, and certainly Mr Jarvis knows it. Now if you were thinking of running away on your own, well, that's a different matter, who would care, eh? You've got nobody here to care, no family, no sweetheart, the only one who may give a stuff is George and he'll be leaving one day to wed Grace May no doubt anyway. You'll end up just like your old man, unable to keep a woman without killing her, Mrs Ryan's best off out of it if she values her life!
This is it, the last straw, if Will had thought he didn't have the strength in him to push Adams away he had suddenly managed to find it. With a roar of rage, the footman lunges forward and drives his free fist into Adams' stomach, winding him and sending him flying back, his grip on Will's wrist freed. Will moves to pin Adams down on the floor, bringing his knee up into his crotch and holding his arms down on the cold stone
Will: She loves me and I love her, I know she does! You'll never understand, you don't have the ability to love or care for anyone! Why didn't you just die, eh! Why does God let the likes of you live and not Master Harry!
Quickly, to catch him off guard, Adams head-butts Will, weakening his hold long enough so he can push him off and over, straddling his chest and thumping him hard in the side of the face so the footman lets out a cry of pain
Adams pulling Will's head back by his hair: Think you can hit me, do you, you snivelling piece of filth! She doesn't love you, she can't stand you, told me herself she did, doesn't want you anywhere near her, and she said if you were to bother her again to do my worst!
Will tears rolling down his cheeks and blood dribbling from his nose: She never said that! You're a liar! She thinks you're the worst under-butler Taplows has ever had, she'd never ask you to do anything for her! You make her sick to her stomach, you make all women sick!
Adams climbing off Will and dragging him up by his shirt: Get to your feet, now! If she ever did like you, well she's certainly gone off you now – first Mr Jarvis, then you, well now she seems to be single again so who knows who she might go after next, maybe the Earl, eh, he's got money, so why not!
Will as Adams smacks him up against the wall, his head cracking: Just like Lady Rebecca, she's after him too – and I know how you want her, it must be sad to know that she'd rather go after an old windbag like His Lordship than touch you!
Adams lunges forward again, thumping him repeatedly in the stomach until Will collapses to the floor, sobbing softly as he doubles over, furious with himself for letting Adams get the better of him again and humiliating him so horrifically over Flora. With a final kick in Will's calf, the under-butler throws Will's wig at him, hissing at him to get cleaned up, get over his self-pity and get up to the front door to relieve Fred
Adams: And I'll be watching you like a hawk under Mr Jarvis' strict instructions. You so much as take a ps or blow that snotty nose of yours and I'll know about it!
Will pulls himself awkwardly to his feet, one arm wrapped around his bruised abdomen as he coughs, not even daring to look Adams in the eye for fear of another beating. Adams watches him in silence as he shuffles to the door, fixing on his wig, his breathing laboured and his shoulder throbbing with a dull ache. A small smile creeps across Adams' lips, thinking there is nothing quite like causing William Forest pain and upset. Only one thing is better than that, and he hasn't experienced it for at a couple of days, damn those doctors! A few days may as well be a lifetime when one is used to getting it as regularly as he had the past few weeks. Well, that certain frustration would with any luck be dealt with that evening – yes he will give Rebecca a night to remember alright, their future would be discussed afterwards and this time he will be damned if she won't say 'yes'!
Shaking slightly as he dipped his head into the water trough outside in the Servants Yard, Will winced as the freezing water stung his already bloody and bruised flesh. For a moment Will kept his head under water, it would be all too easy a few minutes longer and he would never have to endure another one of those Scotch gts beatings.
However he knew in his heart he couldn't do that, before pulling his head up from the water gasping for breath. Shaking slightly Will began to slowly unbutton his shirt, despite the cold he knew he had to try and gage the level of damage that Adams had inflicted.
It was at this second the Lizzie walked across from the laundry, a huge pile of Lady Rebecca's freshly laundered petticoats clutched in her small hands. Stopping suddenly on seeing Will so obviously dishevelled, her concern visible on her face.
"Move along Liz, there's nothing for you to see here!" Will muttered softly.
"Did he do this to you?" Liz asked.
"You know better than to ask me that Liz!" Will replied, his eyes hooded. "Besides you took your side, better to stick to it don't you think!"
"Will that's not fair!" Lizzie retorted.
"Life's not fair love, if it was then that father of yours would be locked up and I'd be under-butler and who knows perhaps if I was then…" Will trailed off shaking his head sadly.
For a moment both stood in awkward silence Mrs Ryan unspoken name hanging in the air between them. Finally Lizzie broke the stalemate. "You should let Mrs Ryan take a look at those!" She said pointing at the nasty bruising appearing over his abdomen. "Not to mention that cut looks deep, you may need stitches."
"Naa." Will replied shaking his rapidly bruising face. "I couldn't! I promised her I wouldn't trouble her…"
"Oh for goodness sake, this is hardly troubling her, it's her job to provide basic medical care!" Liz retorted. "Besides if you won't go tell her then I will!" She added determinedly turning on her heel.
"Liz wait!" Will called out after the maid, but it was too late she had disappeared into the house.
Meanwhile upstairs Grace was bustling about; she had managed somehow whilst baking that morning to pour half the mixture for one of the Christmas cakes all over her nice clean apron. Silently reprimanding herself for not paying attention and spending too much time daydreaming about a certain footman and imagining the scenario when he would eventually ask for her hand; she headed off upstairs to change.
However as she reached the maid's bedroom her hand resting on the handle she could hear the distinctive sound of a woman crying. Pushing the door open gently, Grace popped her head round the door; on her bed was Charlotte her face buried in her hands. Immediately concerned Grace moved over to comfort her friend, sitting next to her on the bed Grace patted her shoulder soothingly.
But Charlotte did not reply, instead she thrust a two tear stained letters into Grace's hands before falling back on to her bed, burying her head in the pillow, her body now wracked with sobs. Glancing down at the letters, Grace could see straight away that one was from the good Doctor Evan; worried that he had finished with her friend and that that was the reason for her melancholy Grace began to read.
However after quickly scanning the first few lines, and then reading the enclosed work of poetry dedicated to her friend's many virtues, Grace became convinced this was not the case; but if it wasn't then was she crying. Quickly glancing at the other letter it soon became clear. It was a very precise, very cold letter from her mother; obviously in response to one that Charlotte had sent her mother informing her about her walking out with a certain doctor.
Reading the whole letter through, Grace was shocked at how any parent could be so blunt and so unfeeling to her own daughter. Her mother stated quite plainly that if Evan's was not a catholic her girl had better break it off straight away, as they would not be willingly to welcome heretics into their family, and that if she was to persist in seeing a protestant she too would be excluded from the family fold.
However that was not the only cold home truth it contained. Her mother expressed serious doubt that giving the doctor's relatively superior social status to Charlotte that he could have serious and honourable intentions towards her. And she warned her daughter that if she continued to see him, he might try to pressure her into surrendering her honour, in which case she would also be excluded from the family, as it was not a 'haven for whores or heretics!'
Dropping the poisonous letter like it had bitten her, Grace turned to Charlotte rubbing her back soothingly. "It's all right Lottie she doesn't know what she's talking about, of course his intentions are honourable you can see that from his letter, he clearly adores you, and besides your not the sort of girl anyone could get the wrong impression about. I'm sure the good doctor respects you, he wouldn't lay a finger on you without a proposal I'm sure of it."
Sniffing slightly, Charlotte sat up from her bed wiping at her red eyes. "You don't understand Grace, around him everything's different…I…I want him to touch me."
"Well that's good isn't it?" Grace replied. "I mean you wouldn't want a husband you couldn't enjoy being with!"
"It's not that...It's just I'm not in control of myself when I'm with him, I doesn't matter to me whether he is a catholic or not, I haven't even asked him and when he kissed me…"
"He Kissed You?" Grace exclaimed, secretly thrilled for her friend's romance. "But that's wonderful!"
"Oh it was, but I've never found myself reacting like that, it frightened me the way it just felt so right and in that moment I never wanted to stop, Grace what if he doesn't want to marry me what if he just wants a brief liaison?"
"Well if that's not what you want then you simply tell him so." Grace replied.
"Yes I know…It's just…" She added leaning in to whisper to her friend, looking cautiously over her shoulders to see if anyone was listening in. "When we're together I don't think I'd be able to say no! Here and now with you I'm safe, I'm myself, but when I'm with him Grace it's like I'm more alive than I've ever been, my heart pounds and everything I see and hear is so much…well just so much more." Charlotte trailed off looking sadly out the window.
Leaning forward Grace wrapped her arms around her friend, hugging her softly. "Believe me Lottie I know just what you mean."
Downstairs the atmosphere was tense. After Lizzie had done her disappearing act Will had dashed alone to the footman's room intent on changing his shirt and getting out on duty before the housekeeper caught up with him and demanded an explanation for his injuries. However just as he was buttoning it up the door was flung open and in marched Flora Ryan her medical box under her arm.
"I understand from Miss McDuff that you've managed to injure yourself Mr Forest." The housekeeper snapped, her expression stating clearly she was dubious abut the veracity of the girl's claims.
"It's nothing Mrs Ryan." Will replied keeping his eyes cast down and the bruised side of his face obscured from her view. "I walked into a door, I told Lizzie there was no need to go bothering you but she wouldn't listen."
Harrumphing slightly Flora walked over to him placing her box on the table and seizing his arm gently to pull him out into the light. However that was the very shoulder that Adams had damaged and Will could not smother the reflexive hiss of pain. Immediately the seriousness of the situation became clear to Flora, and her expression of professional detachment became one of instant concern.
"Dear God Will, this was no door. Take off your shirt!" She demanded, and Will reluctantly complied, unbuttoning his shirt and revealing to the housekeeper the extent of his injuries. Shocked and slightly sickened by the grotesque bruising that was emerging all over his body, Flora instinctively examined him for other hidden injuries, broken ribs and open wounds. At the touch of her fingers running across his chest Will was unable to prevent the sudden hike in his breathing despite the increased pain it caused across his ribs.
Closing his eyes he tried to imagine she was touching for other reasons, but his personal daydream was broken when the housekeeper told him to take his shirt off. Lifting his damaged arm Will struggled in vain, wincing and biting his lip against the pain as he tried to shrug the clothing off over his wounded shoulder. Realising he was struggling Flora quickly stepped forward helping him to pull the shirt off of his body, and for a moment she was close enough for Will to catch the smell of camomile from her skin and the barest hint of rose's from her hair. Leading him over to a chair Flora pushed him down into it gently before moving behind him and beginning to examine his shoulder in more detail. As she moved it this way and that trying to ascertain the extent of the damage Will had to clench his fist against the pain. Finally satisfied Flora strode over to her medicine box, removing a little tin of salve she heated up a small amount between her hands before massaging it into his damaged muscles, it was as the pain was starting to ease that she began her interrogation.
"Well I suppose I do not need to ask who was responsible for this?" She tutted.
"I told you I walked into a door!" Will replied.
"What repeatedly?" Flora retorted sarcastically.
"I don't want to talk about it!" Will added.
"Will this has to stop, you have to talk to Mr Jarvis about this…"
"Like that would do any good!" Will cut her off. "Who do you think encourages Adams, and then turns a blind eye when something happens? He hates me, Adams hates me and now even you hate me!"
"I don't hate you Will." Flora replied walking over to her box and removing the iodine, which she proceeded to dab on the bruised areas.
"Then why treat me like I have the plague? I gave you my word, I've done everything you ever asked of me and yet you still treat me with contempt!" Will replied getting to his feet and leaning down so he towered over the housekeeper.
"I never meant to, it's just I don't trust…" Flora began placatingly.
"Me? After everything we've been through?" Will snapped.
"No… Me actually, I still don't trust myself around you Will, I won't deny that since our night together there have been times when I so wanted to be held and loved and it took all of my control not to find you and throw myself into your arms."
"Why didn't you? If you really do care me for too, what would be wrong with each comforting the other?" Will asked softly brushing his hand down the side of her face.
"Because in here," she replied tapping her head, "I know it would be the worse thing for either of us!"
"Are you certain about that?" Will replied leaning down and forcibly capturing her lips with his own, his arms reaching out and trying to pull her into his arms. For a second Will kissed her passionately trying to restrain the struggling housekeeper, however all to soon for him she broke free, stepping back before slapping him around the face with all her strength.
"Don't you ever do that again!" Flora spat. "I told before and I'm telling you again nothing is going to happen between us, it was just sex Will that was all it really was! I don't love you I was only using you, can't you understand that, and the more you try to push it into something it never was then the more self deluded you become! We are never going to be together in the way you want, never!" She added finally before snatching up the medicine box and without a backwards glance stormed back to her office, leaving a stunned and upset Will behind her.
A short while later, Lady Rebecca returns from her ride with Hugo, sweeping through the house and turning the usual heads as she goes, not least the Earl's as she passes him in the hallway. She nods and smiles in acknowledgement, although her mind far from on her fellow greeter as she ponders the idea of motherhood without her child's natural father around to emotionally support her, although she knows full well of course that Hugo would make a most agreeable father and would give her all the love and comfort a dear friend should. For a second the Earl's chatter fails to grab her attention, until finally he touches her arm and forces eye contact
Rebecca shaking her head and frowning in exasperation: I'm sorry, what was that?
Earl smiling softly and patting her elbow: I said, Becca my dear, that that deep blue shade of your dress very much agrees with your eyes. You really do look...er...most delightful. If you will excuse my forthrightness.
Rebecca her eyebrows flying up in surprise: Why thank you, I'm sure! Hugo always likes me in this colour too, he says it is the most striking dress I've got, apart from my ball gowns of course.
The Earl pouts and grumbles out something totally inaudible before moving closer to her and to her complete shock threads his arm around her waist, an almost giddy excitement on his face. Rebecca gasps, trying to subtly remove herself from his tightening pull, but any more resistance from her would render her completely unladylike and utterly embarrass His Lordship in the process, and that would be most unfortunate considering they are standing in his hallway in the middle of the afternoon
Earl his eyes raking over her face, his voice turning husky: I've got some pictures in my room, brought them back from Italy, would you like to see them, eh? Maybe you would consider posing for me, like the women in them, then possibly we could talk about your future, I mean you're not married to Hugo yet, and I have far more wealth...
Both Rebecca and the Earl turn to a loud cough behind them, the Earl pulling quickly away from Rebecca, a startled look of guilt on his face which turns to annoyance when he sees who it is. Rebecca sighs in relief, desperately trying to catch the intruder's eye and silently plead with them that it isn't how it looks
Earl stepping forward, his face red and flustered: What is it, man! Speak up!
Adams his eyes firmly fixed on the whereabouts of the Earl's hands: Admiral Dalrimple-Sykes wonders if you will be joining him in the drawing room, sir.
Earl huffing and glaring at Adams as if it is all his fault: The old beggar, he does pick his Goddamn moments!
With a shake of the head, he barely bids farewell to a bewildered Lady before storming away, yelling 'where's Jarvis! I want some brandy from my cellar!' For a moment, Adams and Rebecca just stand in silence, him shifting round awkwardly and Rebecca looking away, embarrassed. Eventually, she glances up at him and notices the upset on his face, so shaking her head she quickly scans around before lunging forward and grabbing his arm, pulling him through the house and into the library, slamming the door behind her and locking it quickly. But if she had looked hard enough, she may very well have seen another pair of spying eyes lurking from the top of the main staircase, whose owner swiftly and silently followed the two of them to the library door to try to listen to every word of their conversation.
As soon as they are safely inside the room, and without a word of greeting first, Rebecca leans up and passionately kisses her lover, running her hands up his waistcoat and guiding her fingers along his neck tie and collar and through his hair, pushing his head down towards her. Adams responds with enthusiasm and drifts his hands across her back and down to squeeze her bottom through all her layers of skirts, releasing her lips to nibble along her jaw bone and down the side of her neck.
Adams breathlessly kissing the exposed skin just above her collar: Can't I just rip off your clothes here and now? Who needs to talk?
Rebecca raising her eyebrows in a scalding manner and tapping his nose: WE DO! Now stop, as much as I want to I...
As she speaks, she gives Adams a gentle push in the stomach to move him away, but as she does so he flinches in pain and gasps slightly. Rebecca lets out a sympathetic whimper and supports him, desperately worried he is still too sick to be back on duty
Rebecca:...Andrew, what's wrong! Are you sick again! You should be in bed!
Adams frowning and trying to move her hands away: It's nothing, Becca, don't fuss.
But Rebecca ignores him, pulling up his shirt and vest to reveal a large bruise across his stomach. Adams tuts in annoyance, why did she have to do that? Well, he considers, she would have found out sooner or later
Rebecca her voice high-pitched in shock: What the hell have you been doing, Andrew! Look at you, you're hurt! It can only have something to do with one person, that William Forest!
Adams dismissing her comment with a shake of the head: Don't worry about it, you know how it can get!
Rebecca folding her arms and pouting in fury: I most certainly do! How dare he, punching a sick man - a man who is recovering from a heart condition! Does that boy have NO feelings at all? He is pushing his luck around here and no mistake!
Suddenly Rebecca begins to stutter, mentally cursing herself for her loose tongue, desperate to just bite it off and never talk again. How could she be so careless?
Adams tucking his shirt back in, his eyes narrowing in suspicion: What do you mean, pushing his luck, Becca?
Rebecca breathing in deeply and smiling to cover herself: Oh, nothing, something, er, my sister said, he had served her the wrong gravy at dinner two nights ago, but it was hardly something to bother you with in your sick bed, now, was it?
Adams chuckling and running his fingers down her soft cheek: It's not like you to get worked up over Francesca's pettiness, that's for me to do! I'll reprimand him, don't you worry.
Rebecca wrapping her arms around his neck: Oh, no need, no need. Just give me another kiss. I've missed you so much.
Adams doesn't have to be told twice, and pushing her up gently against the door kisses her firmly, his hands wandering down over her chest and brushing her abdomen affectionately. Thank goodness, Rebecca thinks to herself, but how he ever bought her gravy story she will never know.
Adams releasing her lips and nuzzling her nose: How is it that you get more and more beautiful every day? I couldn't bare to see the Earl all over you just then, drooling, it disgusts me! I won't ever let him touch you again.
Rebecca laughing softly and taking his hands in hers: And how do you propose to stop him? Give him a good talking to? Don't worry Andrew, I can handle him myself, he's harmless really! I feel sorry for him, he's desperate for an heir and he'll do anything for one.
Adams pulling her into a gentle embrace: I hardly call you just 'anything', Rebecca. He may be a fat old haggis, but he's got good taste. You're intelligent, witty, stunningly attractive and the most caring person I've ever met. I love you so much, I just can't bear the thought of losing you, whether it's to the Earl, to Hugo or bloody Prince Albert himself.
Rebecca closing her eyes and letting him rock her softly: Oh, I don't think Mr Kraus likes women all that much to be honest, something about his walk tells me that Hugo may be more his cup of tea, so that's two of your three out already!
Adams pulling away, grinning and kissing her forehead: Not that Prince Albert, you silly puddin', I mean the real one! Although I suppose Felix would also qualify as someone I'd hate to lose you to.
For a long, lingering moment, Adams stares deeply into his Lady's eyes, feeling the warmth of her abdomen through her dress on his hand and knowing that everything with the baby will be fine, and it will be strong whatever life throws at it. Torn between wanting his child to have the upbringing in privilege that Elizabeth never had and wanting to raise it as his own, Adams sniffs, blinking back a small tear which had found its way to the rim of his eye and simply hugs Rebecca again, suddenly not wanting to make love to her but to just hold and protect her instead.
Rebecca, for her part, desperately wants
to tell Andrew what has been happening with Frank, that he is working
for her sister and that although he is spying he also seems to have
other dishonourable intentions towards her, but she can't bear the
thought of worrying him and making him ill again. Besides, it is
highly likely that Frank would come off worse anyway and her
conscience just won't allow her to be the cause of the beating
Frank is likely to sustain if she tells him everything. After a
moment, they break apart and Adams vows to come to her room that
night so they can discuss their
future whether it be together or apart; her engagement to Hugo would very soon have to become marriage if she is to save her reputation, so time has suddenly become far more important than ever before between them.
Adams opens the library door and peers outside, glancing left then
right, and not seeing a soul around indicates to Rebecca to follow
him quietly out. Smiling lovingly at Adams, and with a little sexy
wink, she turns to leave, but the under-butler can't resist
snatching her back by her waist and softly kissing her again,
desperately wishing she could stay with him and not so much as go
into another room without him there to save her from the wandering
hands and eyes of the Earl. But, suddenly, something begins to worry
Adams, a strange presence as if they are being watched by
unfriendly eyes, causing him to pull away quickly
Adams quietly, dropping all physical contact: Well, you should get back to the others, they'll be wondering where you are.
Rebecca nodding and glancing over her shoulder, as if also sensing something: Yes, but just remember, whatever happens, I will always love you, Andrew. Always.
With an affectionate glance, Lady Rebecca saunters away leaving Adams to watch her, his mixed feelings churning inside him. He scans the scene again, the sense of a watchful presence still playing on his mind, but on seeing nothing he turns on his heels and walks off to quite possibly give William another yelling at. The eyes follow him as he marches past, their owner desperately wanting to knock him to the ground and pulverise him as their anger at being strung along by Rebecca intensifies rapidly. With a snarl, the scorned valet retreats into the darkness
the butler has decided to orchestrate a little get together with his
own lady love, the only time that day he had clapped eyes on her was
during lunch, and even then it was a fleeting encounter, he had been
arriving as she had been leaving, and he had spent the rest of the
morning cursing the Sturges-Bourne family for their inane
eccentricities. Why had the Earl demanded on seeing him immediately
after the family's meal had been served, did he do it on purpose to
cause Jarvis grief or was something else out there purposefully
keeping him and Flora apart? Despite all
this Jarvis was determined to persist, his luck had to change at some point.
Sauntering down to the kitchen he managed to collar one of the scampering kitchen maids, ordering her to immediately put together a tea tray for two, and not to forget some of Chef's lemon cake. As much as he loathed to think or talk about Felix anymore, Walter had to grudgingly admit the Chef did make the finest pastries he had ever tasted, and that would be just the thing to melt Flora's somewhat icy exterior. It was as he was casually leaning against one of sideboards, surreptitiously eyeing up an nice bowl of whipped cream and allowing his mind to run in a thousand different direction, all which included privacy, a naked housekeeper and a purloined bowl of whipped cream, that Felix made his grand entrance from the scullery shooing Jarvis's maid in front of him.
For a moment the two men stood eye to eye, neither giving the other ground, before Chef roughly slammed the tea tray down in front of the Butler. "Your Tea Mr Jarvis!" He exclaimed sarcastically.
Narrowing his eyes in contempt Walter moved to pick up the tray, whirling round he went to leave, but before he could do so Felix clamped a restraining hand down on the Butler's arm, causing him to literally jump in the air, the objects on the tray rattling dangerously. For a second it looked like the jug of cream would actually tip over completely, but at the last minute it righted itself and Jarvis turned round to stare poisonously at the Chef.
"Yesssssssss?" Jarvis hissed.
"Didn't you forget something?" Felix asked mockingly.
"Well that depends! No as I have yet to find a suitable replacement chef, I would say we have nothing at all to say to one another! When I have done then we will talk, oh should I say I'll talk and you'll listen; to my firing your UNWELCOME FOREIGN ARSE!" Jarvis bellowed causing then entire kitchen staff to turn and stare at the butler in shock, he then continued in his normal voice. "Until then Mr Kraus, attend to your pots and pans and stay out of my way!"
Chuckling slightly Kraus leant back against the table casually. "I thought the Earl would have told you?"
"Told me what?" Jarvis replied, unable to resist taking the bait.
"He's asked me to come to India." Kraus replied.
Shaking his head in amusement the Butler retorted. "Is that all? That I already knew, why do you think I've been looking for a new chef so diligently? It's amazing how the prospect of spending time cooped up on a ship with you for over a month can motivate one!" Jarvis added, his smug expression slipping slightly when the Chef's grin did not subside as he had expected. "Well what are you still smiling about? I mean to do it Kraus!"
Unable to restrain his amusement the Chef burst out laughing. "Oh my dear, dear Walter. You really should listen when the Earl is talking to you, giving you your little marching orders for the day, if you had done they you might have realised my contract is not with the Earl's household but with that of his son-in-law's Lord Julian, you have no power over me Walter! But I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to discuss the situation, after all I'm all the servants will undoubtedly be bunking together for the long voyage!" Felix added before turning his attention to his neglected whipped cream.
Red and barely able to contain his fury, the Butler edged towards the door, the tray rattling in his hands, all thoughts of an afternoon rendezvous with Flora now far from his mind. However just as he was about to leave Felix called out to him once more. "Oh Walter you've still forgotten it!"
Pausing the Butler glanced back over his shoulder. "Forgotten what?" He asked his teeth clenched.
"Your Thank-you for the cake, I'm sure Flora will enjoy it!" Felix jovially replied before heading back into the pastry, whistling as he went, leaving Jarvis to storm off to his office, slamming the tray down on his desk. All his plans abandoned he slumped down into his chair, before an idea struck him, seizing the teapot he poured the hot liquid all over the slices of cake, then seizing the tray he made his way back to the kitchen. There he unceremoniously dumping it slap bang in the middle of the table, muttering to himself as he turned and made his way back to his office scattering startled servants as he went.
As the evening began to draw in, the sun finally surrendering to the inevitable and dropping swiftly behind the hills surrounding the house, the temperature in and around the house fell rapidly as there were no clouds to keep in any vestige of warmth. Shivering slightly Fred and Joe clapped their freezing hands together; surely the Earls guests would be arriving soon? Preferably before they froze to death?
"How long have we been out here now mate?" Joe finally managed to ask, his teeth chattering so loudly that, Fred had so stifle a giggle.
"I don't rightly know, but I know if we have to stand here much longer the Earl will be getting some very realistic looking snowmen in time for Christmas!" Fred retorted, forcing his chilled hands under his arm pits to keep warm.
Fortunately for them, at that moment Reverend Postlebery's carriage appeared on the hillside, causing the shivering footmen to cry out with relief. It was at that moment that the under-butler arrived, looking smart and surprisingly punctual.
"How does he do that?" Fred muttered to Joe.
"Simple" Adams replied, a smug expression on his face. "Unlike you wee idiots I use me brains. If you stand on the main staircase you have an ample opportunity to spot a carriage in the distance and yet remain nice and cosy indoors!"
However before Fred could retort the Reverend's carriage had swung in front of the house and the footmen scurried to open it and assist the somewhat portly preacher from his carriage, but as they were doing so the folder the Reverend was carrying slipped from his grasp and the contents spilled out all over the driveway. Immediately the footmen and under-butler stooped to gather the flying papers, assuming that it was the usual Sunday sermon and alms requests the preacher delivered to the Earl for his approval every week. However it quickly became apparent that this was not the case, and the staff had to struggle to suppress their giggles as they quickly gathered the papers together, Fred taking the time whilst the Vicar was distracted to pocket one of the pictures for closer study later.
Adams then ushered the now crimson Reverend through the door and into the drawing room, where most of the other aristocrats were gathered, with a tightly bound smile, allowing the two footmen to finally crease up with laughter.
"Er Fred let us have a look!" Joe whispered, having spotted his friend pocketing one of the pictures earlier.
Nodding his head slightly Fred waved Joe over to one of the side corridors, once they were sure they were alone Fred fished out the picture.
"Urgh mate that's disgusting!" Joe exclaimed through his giggles.
"I know this was definitely the worst, why do you think I picked it!" Fred sniggered.
"Can a woman really do that?" Joe asked intrigued.
"Well I hardly think I'm the person to ask!" Fred retorted.
"I don't know if you were to show that to Isabel she might give it a go!" Joe suggested sniggering into his hand.
"I might, might I!" Replied a voice from right behind them.
Whirling round the pair saw the maid in question standing a few feet way, tapping her foot impatiently, her arms crossed and an expression of annoyance on her face. "Well hand it over!" She demanded.
"Oh no…It's nothing...well not for a lady's eyes!" Fred stuttered.
"Why don't I be the judge of that!" Isabel hissed, striding forward and seizing the picture from Fred's hand. For a second the lad's held their breath, expecting her to scream and alert the whole house, but instead she simply raised and eyebrow a slight twitch of amusement at the corner of her mouth. "You had it up the wrong way round!" She replied handing the paper back the right way to Fred. "Oh and before you ask, yes women can do that!" She added staring at her favourite footman with obvious interest. "If you have a spare moment this evening Mr Matkin I'd be delighted to give you a demonstration, on a few conditions of course!"
Smiling broadly now Fred closed the distance between them, leaving Joe to glance around awkwardly feeling all of a sudden like a prize gooseberry. "What conditions would these be?" He asked saucily.
Smiling sweetly Isabel leant forward and whispered into Fred's ear, her suggestions immediately sending the Footman's eyebrows shooting towards the ceiling. For a second after she pulled away Fred appeared speechless, gulping slightly as he tried to regain control of his thoughts. "You're on." He replied his voice somewhat more strained than usual. "How about the Pastry at around ten?"
"I'll be there!" Isabel added, smiling dangerously and causing Fred to swallow nervously, as he realised just what he had let himself in for.
"Well mate!" Joe said, finally breaking his awkward silence as Isabel disappeared up the stairs. "Since you're getting a live enactment, I don't suppose I can have the picture, I mean I've got two weeks before my next afternoon off?"
Dumbly Fred handed it over without a word, his usually jovial expression declared missing in action. Puzzled Joseph nudged Fred sharply in the ribs. "Why the long face Freddy boy? You're on a promise there; surely whatever she suggested can't be that bad?"
"Wait and ask me that in the morning!" Fred replied, as the pair turned and headed off down to the servants quarters.
Meanwhile upstairs Grace and Flora were finally getting the children into bed; Jennifer having recovered from her bout of measles was back in the nursery with the others. So finally after supper and their baths all four of them were slowly being tucked into their beds, however despite this none of them showed any inclination of actually going to sleep, instead demanding a bed time story from the housekeeper. Sighing slightly Flora pulled up the fireside rocking chair and asked Jennifer what story she wanted to hear. It wasn't long before all four were engrossed in Flora's rendition of Snow white, cowering under the covers at the scary parts of the story and laughing out loud at the antics of the seven dwarfs.
Early on in the story Grace had been roped in to assist the housekeeper by playing Snow white, the children's teddy bears and dolls had been cast in the roles of the dwarfs, whilst Flora put on her best cackle for the wicked Queen. Half way though the performance the troupe had been momentarily interrupted by Emily Corey, who had originally been looking for Grace and ended up staying and watching the second half; her eyes barely leaving the face of the housekeeper as she watched her come alive whilst playing with the children.
However just as the story was coming to an end, with Snow white lying on the hill top about to be brought back to life by the kiss of a handsome prince, the nursery doors swung open and in stormed Lady Francesca. Immediately her eyes swept across the untidy room and her still awake children before coming to rest on the housekeeper, who returned her glare without flinching.
"Mrs Ryan!" Franny exclaimed. "What is going on in here? You have strict instructions that my children are to be in bed by six o'clock and now it is approaching eight!"
"They weren't tired your ladyship." Flora simply replied.
"That is not the point!" Franny spat back. "If I say they are to be out the way by six, then that is what will happen!"
"Well what would you suggest? That we tie them to their beds or perhaps drug their milk?" Flora asked a completely innocent expression on her face, contradicting the obvious sarcasm of her words.
For a second Franny stood their stunned turning and looking at the housekeeper as if she was seeing her for the first time. Unsure as to whether Mrs Ryan was being serious or making a joke at her expense, she paused for a moment before replying her small mouth twisting into an unpleasant grimace. Who did these unmarried women think they were telling her how to raise her own children, first Rebecca going behind her back to talk to Lord Hussey about her sister's lack of maternal care and the need to rehire the old nanny, but now some chit of a servant was questioning her authority as their mother. For a moment longer Franny glared at Mrs Ryan, her eye's flicking over the older woman disapprovingly, why was it everyone even a mere servant seemed to be blessed with better looks than her? Well, Franny thought to herself with sick satisfaction, lets see how long those fine looks remain once she is chucked out on the street for her cheek.
"Are you questioning my decision Mrs Ryan?" Franny hissed malevolently.
"Not at all Madam, however as you can see the children are still in their beds! They were in them beds as per your instructions by six, however as neither Miss May nor myself possess the abilities of the sandman…"
"How dare you talk to me in this manner? It's obvious to me now you were hired more for you good looks than your manners Mrs Ryan!" Franny retorted. "Knowing old Sturges-Bourne it must have been a most interesting interview performance that landed you such a respected position on so few real qualifications!"
For a moment Emily and Grace were convinced the housekeeper was going to explode and tell the trumped up little madam what she really thought of her, glancing over at Franny they could see the almost fanatical glint her eye as she egged the housekeeper on, urging her towards the precipice that would inevitable lead to the sack. However all of a sudden the iron mask that the housekeeper had developed over her many years in service clamped into place and her heated expression smoothed out to one that betrayed not a hint of emotion.
"Very good Madam, is there anything else we can do for you?" Flora asked her voice surprisingly calm and even.
"No just get my children to sleep, and no more stories, I do not want their young minds warped by this romantic claptrap you lower classes seem to be brought up on!" And with one final sneer at the servants present she turned and swept out the room without even bidding her children goodnight.
For a moment or two after she had left Flora stood perfectly still, her mask still in place not betraying a flicker of emotion, however all of a sudden Emily spotted her bottom lip start to tremble and pretty soon the her whole body was shaking. Glancing over at Grace to deal with the children Emily quickly walked over to the housekeeper, seizing her by the elbow and quickly frogmarched her from the room. As soon as they were away from prying eyes Emily let her go, watching for a second as Flora's expression changed rapidly from barely contained fury to threatening tears and back again.
"It's alright we're alone you can let it out now!" Emily muttered softly, quickly covering her ears as immediately after her suggestion the housekeeper let out a loud screech and began to stamp her foot to try and exorcise her temper.
"How dare she?...That woman is a… well she's inhuman…treating her children like cattle…and servants like dirt under her shoe…I just want to rip her head off, and give it to the footmen to play kick with!" Flora ranted finally gasping for breath as she leant against the wall.
"Feeling better now?" Emily asked jovially, as she moved to stand next to Flora.
"Yes much better!" Flora replied, unable to stop the tears that had sprung to her eyes now that her anger had disappeared. "She called me a whore, I'd never do something like that, sell myself for a position in a household, people don't really think that do they? I mean I know I was young for a housekeeper when I first started here, I hadn't had nearly as much experience as the other candidates and I wasn't expecting to get the job but I had always thought I succeeded because I was the best not because the Earl liked the way I looked?"
Chuckling slightly Emily patted Flora's hand reassuringly, "you were by far and away the best applicant my dear. However I must admit I do know your looks paid a part in your getting the job!"
"What!" Flora exclaimed.
"Oh not with the Earl, although I'm sure he wouldn't object to having a handsome housekeeper as opposed to an ugly one, the influence was more over a certain esteemed colleague of yours!"
"Walter?" Flora asked softly.
"Indeed, did he never tell you?" Emily asked, and when Flora shook her head, she continued. "When was the first time you saw my son?" She asked softly.
"The day I started at Taplows, he wasn't around on the day of my interview with the Earl as he was attending his business elsewhere." Flora replied confidently.
"That may be how you remember it my dear, but I can assure you Walter had seen you long before you had started at Taplows."
"How? When?" Flora asked intrigued.
Smiling at the delighted expression on the housekeeper's face Emily continued. "Before you became a housekeeper, you spent some time as a lady's maid did you not?"
"Yes I did but how did you…"
"Ahh, well it will all be revealed. About ten years ago just after Walter became Butler here at Taplows, the Earl still owned racehorses then, his late wife was very found of them I believe, well of course every time one of the blasted things was raced it was a cardinal rule that the Sturges-Bourne family would be their to show support."
"Yes but what has this got to do with me?" Flora asked impatiently.
"Patience my dear girl is a virtue. Anyway as I was saying, after these events it is and was customary for the local bigwigs to throw a lavish party and invite the important racing families along. On one such occasion it was the turn of the Harrington-Smythe family, now I believe you may have heard of them my dear?"
"Well I should I did work for them for almost ten years."
"Yes well it was at this particular function that a much younger Walter Corey caught his first glimpse of a certain lady's maid, I believe she was engaged in some high spirited skulduggery, at the time…involving egg throwing?"
"Oh no…Not the practical joke on our family jockey, it was traditional since he had actually managed to win a race for a change, but I don't remember seeing Walter?"
"Don't you? Can't you remember a certain irate gentleman in a top hat who your egg happened to hit instead of a certain jockey?"
"Nooooooooooooooo!" Flora exclaimed. "It couldn't have been, well I suppose it could, there were so many visiting servant's on those nights that you simply lost track. I got hauled over the carpet for that I even lost my position as lady's maid, if it hadn't been for Charlotte insisting I stay and they she'd train me as a housekeeper I'd have been sacked without a character.
"Yes, I know. At the time he had been so affronted that this beautiful young lady, who he had been watching for most of the evening, and just building up the courage to ask to dance, could impeach his honour so easily that I'm afraid he lost no time in informing your butler."
"The dirty snitch!" Flora huffed, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Yes when he heard you'd lost your position he did feel bad about it, of course he had no idea you had subsequently been taken on as a trainee housekeeper! That's why he wrote to me, at the time I thought it was unusual him taking an interest in the affairs of a lady's maid not even from his own household. However that was an end to the story until about five years ago, when you came for your interview. At the time of your application Walter didn't know the name that went with your face, and so your application for the post got put through to the final short list purely on your own merit. Then when you came for interview he was indeed attending the Earl's business, but he was only in town and most surprised in the square to catch sight of a naggingly familiar face."
"I was trying to hire a trap to take me to Taplows!" Flora cut in.
"That's correct, but you were struggling." Emily added
"How do you…?" Flora began but trailed of when she saw the smug glance on Emily's face.
"Simple, as my dear boy has always hated not being able to solve a puzzle he trailed you for a while, it didn't take long before he had put two and two together, in fact it was at his suggestion or should I say insistence that a certain tradesman just so happened to offer you the use of his pony and trap free of charge."
"I thought he was just trying to get in with the new housekeeper!" Flora exclaimed
"Well I'm sure that helped, but then when he returned that evening Walter was able to finally put a name to the face, as a certain Flora Ryan was the only applicant being interviewed for the vacant housekeeper position that day. I'm not sure how he managed to influence the Earl, or whether he needed to do much at all, but afterwards he wrote to me saying that now he felt he had paid his debt to you, had removed the stain on his conscience that causing your demotion had created." Emily replied.
"Well I never, why did he never tell me?" Flora asked incredulously.
"I suppose at first he had no desire to implicate himself, after all it wouldn't look good the Butler interfering to get an old acquaintance a household position, and besides I think he was a little affronted…" Emily trailed off glancing down at the floor.
"Why?" Flora asked puzzled.
"That at your first formal meeting you showed no sign of recognising him, he was most out put about that, writing to me that he really shouldn't have bothered as the incident seemed to have made such a little impact on your life that you didn't even remember the face of your target, whereas he had spent time over the years wondering what had happened to you when he needn't have."
Chuckling slightly Flora retorted. "That sounds like Walter! I had no idea that was why he was so frosty with me; I thought it was because my work wasn't up to his high standards and so I spent months trying to second guess his every move, trying to prove myself worthy of my appointment."
"Oh I don't doubt it my dear!" Emily added chuckling slightly herself.
"I wonder…." Flora began but trailed off suddenly.
"What do you wonder?" Emily asked softly.
"How different our lives would have been if either he'd asked me to dance earlier in the evening or if my aim wasn't so lousy?" Flora added wistfully.
"We will never know my dear, but put it like this if it wasn't for your poor aim and Walter's pride then it is possible that the two of you would never have been as close as you're now, you might have had the pleasant memory of a night of romance with a handsome visiting servant but there wouldn't have been the chance for a husband and a family that you have now, if only you'd make up your mind to take it." Emily added, her eyes practically pleading with the housekeeper.
Suddenly uncomfortable Flora pushed away from the wall and began to tidy one of the nearby flower arrangements, her thoughts automatically flying back to the night before and her concerns about a not impossible impending pregnancy. Softly Emily walked over to the housekeeper laying her hand on her arm. "He loves you and you love him, that's obvious to anyone, I know you're afraid of another miscarriage Flora but all this indecision is destroying you both. Why don't take the chance of being happy, so much has happened to bring you two together it would be such a shame if now after everything you loose one another. Can't you go to him tonight, whatever happens with a family at least if you're together then you have each other? After all he's been waiting for you for so long, and I don't just mean since the accident, but it seems like he's been waiting for you all his life don't torture him anymore!"
Turning round Flora smiled softly at Emily taking both her hands in her own. "I'm afraid you're too late…"
"It's never too late!" Emily cut in insistently. "If you really love him you can work anything out."
"No I didn't mean too late for me and Walter, I meant you're too late for this little chat, if we had spoken yesterday then…." Flora trailed off catching Emily's surprised expression and grinning saucily.
"Please tell me you're not kidding!" Emily asked excitedly.
"I'm not kidding!" Flora replied seriously, "Not that one night solves all our problems, but it did make me realise just how much I need his love, so perhaps that's the first step?"
"Down the aisle?" Emily asked hopefully.
Laughing at Emily's dogmatic persistence Flora turned and walked down the hallway. "How can we since he hasn't got round to asking me!" She called back over her shoulder, leaving her future mother-in-law to both smile and inwardly fume over her son's inability to do anything right.
Excellent. Finally darkness has descended over Taplows, and this makes him very happy indeed. Revenge will be sweet, delectable, scrumptiously mouth-watering in fact. He knows he won't be missed for a few minutes, and anyway he is due for a break – well, not quite but he has worked for these aristocratic types long enough to know that when left in each other's company with a brandy and cigar, even if it is only late afternoon, they will be pretty much content until the dinner bell sounds. And besides, he knows where they're kept. Both of them. He had worked long enough at Taplows to know their exact location. Although he only needs one of them – yes, just the one will be perfect for the job. It won't be missed, how could it be? It's not as if the Earl looks at them all the time, he could have the 'borrowed' one back in its place and nobody would suspect a thing.
With a quick glance over his shoulder, he makes his way up the main staircase, not a soul in sight. The thought of revenge should have produced a broad smile on his face, but his mood only darkens further as he approaches the Earl's room, his breathing quickening as the adrenalin begins to pump through him at the thought of what he is about to do.
How could she have done this to him? After everything! Stringing him along like that, actually gaining his affection, leading him to believe that it was all over with that good for nothing idiot when in fact it had really been obvious that she still has feelings for one man. And that man, it is certainly clear, is not him. She had been so keen too – so up for it, desperate for him, actually letting him touch her like that. Had it all meant nothing! He has to admit that he himself is far better looking than the real object of her affection, how blind – literally - could she be? Can't she see that they are made for each other? A woman like her, so passionate and fiery, needs a man like him with equal strength of character to sustain her. That lover of hers may have been nice to him to start with but now, well, now is a different matter completely. Why did she have to lie, to say that it was all over between them, convince him he was in with a chance, when all the while she felt nothing for him? To make it so cruelly plain to him in such a thoughtless and unnecessary way?
Hovering in front of the door he grits his teeth and clenches his fists for a moment – not because he is having second thoughts, far from it, but because once he has hold of the necessary item he isn't sure whether he can actually trust himself with it to only use it as part of his plan. What if he comes across HIM in the meantime, while it is in his possession, how could he be sure he won't feel compelled to use it? Shaking these thoughts from his head, he reaches for the door handle, slowly turning it before slipping silently inside.
Suddenly, the desperation takes over. For a moment, he can only stand and gape, his mind in a whirl and the sweat beginning to bead across his forehead and palms. With a deep breath, he dashes over to the painting of the first Earl of Taplow, lifting it carefully off the wall and placing it on the Earl's bed. He can't help but smile in the simple revelry of his local knowledge, he had served the Earl long enough in his room to know exactly where the safe is, and it would have taken a complete fool not to have memorised his combination code after so many times of having it opened in front of him. His Lordship must have not even considered for a moment any servant would have the brain capacity for remembering simple numbers if he ever wanted to, or even the safe's contents. And the Earl really had chosen the simplest of combinations – his bloody birthday, for Christ's sake! With a slight chuckle, he twists the combination lock to the six figures in question, and then……nothing. He tugs, his smile fading rapidly, cursing under his breath. Damn it, the stupid old toff has changed the code! What else could it be? Lady Caroline's birthday? No, that's not working either!
Don't panic, man, just keep calm, it can't be that difficult, surely not. But after trying various numbers, it becomes apparent that it will in fact be far more impossible than he could have imagined. He thumps the safe hard in frustration, almost wanting to cry with the hopelessness of the situation, but to his absolute horror he hears the Earl's voice echoing down the hallway, coming closer and closer. In panic, he replaces the picture the best he can in the small amount of time left to him and hurriedly dives under the bed, unable to think of another plan quick enough. Sure enough, His Lordship barges into his room, waving away his valet and grumbling something to himself. Once alone, the Earl pulls out a small box from his pocket, standing right next to the bed, only his feet visible to the hidden servant until he moves away and towards the painting and the safe! The desperate servant thinks quickly – maybe the Earl is going to use it?
With his heels visible now, obviously with his back to the bed, the Earl chuckles to himself as the servant shifts himself slightly from under the bed, eager to a clear view of him. Fortunately, the Earl's mirror is positioned just so he is in its reflection, and therefore his right side, and the painting, becoming clearly visible to anyone with their back to him. The servant strained his eyes so he could see, and to his intrigue to Earl opens the small box and smiles at its contents. He places it on the sideboard momentarily, then lifts off the painting, placing it on the bed then proceeding to unlock the safe using the combination which is so desperately needed by another. The servant, half leaning under the bed, watches the combination carefully, frantically making a mental note of it, his eyes quickly falling on the box with its shining contents – a beautiful diamond firmly encased in a gold ring. That couldn't be for? No, surely not! The combination securely locked in his memory, he waits as the Earl caresses the ring – almost as if it were a beautiful woman - then places it in the safe, locking it securely, replacing the painting. Swiftly, the servant rolls back under the bed and watches as the Earl's feet move from the safe and out of the door, roaring his orders as he goes.
Once safe in the knowledge that he has gone, his voice muffled down the hallway, he climbs out from under the bed, brushing himself down and wasting no time he practically rips the painting off the wall, throwing it onto the bed with little regard for it, and sets immediately to work on the safe, twisting the dial swiftly yet accurately until to his delight it springs open. He sucks in a whistle, his eyes widening in amazement. The safe is pretty much full to the top, and if he were going to rob it he wouldn't know where on earth to start. As he rifles through box after box he finds all manner of jewellery, including a stunning diamond necklace, quite obviously worth a fortune. Goodness knows why the Earl had never pawned it to try to rake back some of his fortune, but then again it may have been something the bailiffs would have had every right to take, so keeping it safely locked in the safe would have secured it in the Earl's possession
Here they are, the little beauties. Just what he had been looking for. At this point, he could very well have thrown his head back and cackled, but with a shaking hand he pulls out the highly polished oak box and lifting the metal catch opens it, the two French duelling pistols snug in their velvet holders, the round ammunition nestling next to them. He had been there when Admiral Dalrimple-Sykes had presented them to the Earl, and in his excitement had even shown him how it would have been loaded. He had told him that they were one of the prizes from a 'frog ship' taken during the battle of Copenhagen; he had only been 19 and a midshipman at the time but his captain had given them to him as a memento for fighting so gallantly. They are indeed elegant, fancy gold patterns threaded round the handles. They had never been used before according to the old Admiral, and it seems almost a shame to take one and use it, to desecrate it, destroy its innocence. The poetic justice of using such a feminine, slender and aesthetically pleasing thing against the woman of his dreams makes him want to burst into tears.
Shakily he snatches out the ammunition and unsteadily stuffs them into a small bag in his pocket, then wraps his jacket around one of the pistols, selected entirely at random. He replaces the box at the back of the safe, his hands so quivering so much he nearly drops the 'borrowed' pistol, and hurriedly shuts the safe, twisting the dial randomly. But for all his nerves, he is convinced that it is still the right thing to do. Well, if he can't have her, then no man can. And certainly NOT any other servant under the Taplows roof.
Later that evening and the senior staff were finally gathered around the dining table in Mrs Ryan's office for dinner, the housekeeper herself had arrived somewhat late and so was considerably behind everyone else. The butler who had of course missed breakfast, most of lunch and of course afternoon tea was tucking into his meal like a man who hadn't eaten in weeks. Across the table Emily and Felix exchanged exasperated glances at the butler's complete lack of table manners, but since Felix wasn't talking to him after the debacle with the cake and Emily had promised not to interfere both refrained from actually commenting. After quickly swiping at his mouth with his napkin, Jarvis returned to the second most pressing dinner table past time, that of gazing longingly at the housekeeper. He couldn't understand why she wasn't sitting by his side, after the night before surely they were back together? Perhaps her distance wasn't due to him but because of Bridgette, who had developed the habit of always sitting next to him and chatting pleasantly in French for most of the meal.
Perhaps that was it, he knew how jealous Flora could become and the fact that she couldn't understand what they were saying must also have troubled her; so maybe the solution was to offer to teach her some basic French, even have her sit in on the lessons so she could see for herself that nothing improper had passed between Bridgette and himself. Yes that was the solution; he'd make a point of asking her after dinner. That decision made Jarvis relaxed back into his chair a satisfied smile playing over his lips as he replayed in his mind their activities from the night before, oblivious whilst the rest of the other staff slowly drifted out.
Gazing at Flora now all prim and proper, delicately sipping at her soup no one would ever have guessed the wildly passionate woman that lay beneath, and no one ever would except him; that thought caused Jarvis to grin maniacally, she was all his. It was at this moment that Flora looked up at him and Jarvis simply couldn't resist gazing at her saucily his eyes openly raking over her body, leaving her in no doubt as to what he was thinking about. Seemingly unable to tear her eyes completely away, Jarvis had to resist the desire to giggle as he spotted that all familiar blush creep into her cheeks, delighting the butler more than any saucy wink. Determined to make the most of this the Butler leant into the middle of the table and seized a handful of grapes from the arrangement, he then proceeded to eat each one in the most sexually provocative of ways, his delight growing as he saw Flora's blush deepen and spread down her neck.
It was at this moment as Jarvis whilst was wondering whether he could get away with physically carrying Flora off upstairs for an early night, that Bridgette who was now the only other staff member left and who had been unusually quiet for her spoke up.
"Walter… Would you give me one now?…a lesson, I feel we have been neglecting them, there are so many area's, err ou do you say… on which I need your skilled guiding hands." Bridgette added, causing both the housekeeper to practically choke on her mouthful of soup, before glancing up and glaring at Bridgette in an unmistakable glower of fury.
"Urrr, well…" Jarvis began.
"Please, it needn't take to long, et apres we could give your French tongue a good going over, Je crois that despite your admirable abilite avec the basics et the excellent grasp you have that you would benefit from complete immersion, and there is no one better than moi to give that to you! Perhaps we should adjourn somewhere more private, where there can be no disturbances and we can get down to it without all these curious onlookers?"
"Alright, but are you sure you have time to fit me in?" Jarvis asked quite innocently, his nervousness exacerbating when on glancing over at Flora he could see her face becoming more and more furious, her bottom lip starting to quiver. "Perhaps Mrs Ryan you would care to join us?" He added.
This was the final straw for Flora it was bad enough having to listen to that woman proposition her Walter, and for him to seemingly accept but for him to even suggest she might want join them! Fuming slightly Flora got to her feet slamming down her napkin she began to gather the plates and bowls together, scooping them together with such force that Jarvis was surprised they hadn't shattered into a thousand pieces.
"Well Mrs Ryan," Bridgette added, "As I said earlier I would be more than delighted for you to join us, it would make us all closer, ne c'est pas?" She asked, raising her eyebrow saucily and smiling at the livid housekeeper.
Furious Flora began to physically shake, before suddenly an idea for revenge sparked in her brain. Walking towards Bridgette, Flora managed to quell her anger plastering a smile on her face, and then as soon as she was about a foot away Flora pretended to trip, sending the remainder of people's soup over the diminutive maid.
"Toi chienne!" Bridgette exclaimed jumping up from her chair and seizing her napkin trying to repair the damage, but it was too late the oxtail soup had succeeding in staining patches of her light blue dress.
Understanding what Bridgette had called Flora and not being prepared to let anyone talk about his darling like that Jarvis automatically stepped forward to defend her. "How dare you call…"
"Oh save it Walter!" Flora sneered. "Like you don't know what this whore has been up to?"
"Now Flora you know I don't like language like that…."
"Like what Walter? I only believe in calling something by its real name!"
Screaming, incensed by Flora's attack Bridgette seized her glass of water and threw the contents in the housekeeper's face. For a moment Flora stood stunned before launching herself forward at the maid, however before they could really start to scrap Mr Jarvis stepped in. Seizing Flora firmly round the waist he picked her up slightly, causing her to kick her suspended feet around in annoyance trying to break his grasp. Quickly he turned around and depositing her on the other side of him, so he stood like a referee in between the cursing pair.
"Now ladies let us sort out this misunderstanding like civilised adults."
"Misunderstanding? You think this is all some silly misunderstanding?" Flora retorted enraged.
"Yes of course, Flora you mustn't be so sensitive, I understand what some of Bridgette's phrases would imply if we took them literally, but that's because of her poor English, it is not her fault so please apologise!" Jarvis replied placatingly.
"Apologise to her? You have to be joking you may think she's all sweetness and light but I've seen what she can be like, she told me clear and blatantly that she interested in you, and I'm not talking curiosity, and then she had the nerve to suggest we might draw up some arrangements between the two of us, some sort of rota, and then perhaps on weekends all three of us might enjoy each other's company!"
Astounded Jarvis turned to Bridgette.
"It's not true! She's lying, she just jaloux that we have so much in common, elle ne comprendre pas que men and women can be only amis, et ainsi she wants to cut you off from everyone else by bullying them away! What I meant was partager your time, that your being amis avec moi wouldn't have to affect your relationship with her but she's so blind with jaloux she accuses me of being a whore."
"Oh I could think of a lot worse things to call you!" Flora exclaimed trying desperately to claw her way past Walter and show that trumped up little madam just who was the alpha female in this household.
Exasperated and confused by the accusations and counter accusations flying around him, and tired from having to physically prise two apart and keep them so. Jarvis turned to Flora his face red and his temper roused. "You will apologise, whatever misunderstandings and accusations, however correct or incorrect…" Jarvis cut Flora's protest off, raising a hand stallingly. "You are still the most senior female figure in the household and as such it is inappropriate for you to behave like a common fish wife!"
"How dare you talk to me like that! You can't make me apologise and although I may have gone about something's in the wrong way there is no way I am apologising to the strumpet!" Flora replied her attention and anger shifting from the maid to Walter.
"You will do so!" Jarvis replied seizing her firmly by the shoulders. "I am ordering you to apologise and then we will hear no more of this nonsense!"
"Never!" Flora hissed her jaw set in a determined lock. "You can't force me to do anything, unless you're threatening me with the sack?" She taunted.
"You know I wouldn't, but there are other ways…"
"How hypocritical, why don't you cast your mind back over your own record here at Taplows, just how many of the other male member's of staff have you fought with? Besides how would you go about punishing me, its not like public flogging is allowed anymore; of course you could always put me over your knee and spank me if I behave in a way you consider inappropriate!" Flora retorted her face now only inches from the butler's.
"Now that is the first sensible word I've heard you utter since you entered this room!" Jarvis retorted dragging the stunned struggling housekeeper over to his chair.
"Perhaps I should have done this months ago, then we might have avoided that childish nonsense of yours! Perhaps all the time what you needed, or wanted was someone to take control, to show you who was really in charge?" He added as he gave up on trying to pull her over his knee and settled for shaking her by the shoulders.
"Apologise!" He growled, but stubbornly Flora shook her head swearing under her breath at them both in Irish. "I mean it Flora!" Jarvis warned but still she remained unrepentant.
"How dare you!" Flora spat out, managing to break his hold on her and whirl round to face him. "How dare you believe her over me, and how dare you chastise me like this, I'm not a child, hell I might even be carrying one by now, carrying your child and still you think it right to carry on in this manner?" She asked breaking free from his iron grip.
"Well what you prefer?" Jarvis growled walking over to her, causing the housekeeper to back up against the table.
"To be treated like your equal for a change!" Flora snapped.
Jarvis harrumphed at that causing Flora's temper to get the better of her and lashing out she slapped him hard around the face. For a moment they both stood there in stunned silence, Jarvis raising a hand reflexively to his throbbing cheek, Flora backing away slightly afraid of his reaction, their eyes locked neither prepared to give an inch. For a second the tension in the room was palpable and Bridgette began to inch towards the door, vowing never again to get in between such a couple.
However instead of slapping her back as Flora had expected Walter still continued to stare at her, and for a second she saw his eyes drop from her eyes to her heaving chest and then back again; and this time when their eyes meant every trace of anger had been replaced by unadulterated lust. It only took a second longer before he lunged towards her, wrapping his arms round her waist and pulling her against him his mouth descending onto hers hungrily, possessively claiming her lips as his hands ran up her back and into her hair dragging the clips out of it before running his fingers through it wildly.
Gasping for breath when his lips moved to claim her neck Flora shuddered at the sensation, running her hands across his back and clawing at his jacket, she finally found her voice. "Shouldn't we go up…." But her words were cut off sharply when an impatient Jarvis leant down and scooping her up into his arms placed her gently down on the table before impulsively sweeping the remaining cutlery and crockery off it's surface and then pushing Flora down against it, he began to make love to her with all the pent up passion and desire that had been building during their months of separation.
- - -
Sitting on his bed in his quarters, he hangs his head and sighs. His cuts and bruises are still hurting, although he had found earlier in the day that lying on the floor actually helped the throbbing in his ribs, odd as it may seem. Since Flora had slapped him and told him that under no circumstances must they encounter physical relations again, yet alone embark on a lasting relationship, he had almost considered doing something stupid – very stupid indeed. But what would really be the point in that? Why give Adams the pleasure of being right about him all along? With a huge sigh, William Forest drags himself to his feet, his legs weary and his head throbbing after being slammed into the wall, and the chair, and wherever else the stupid Scotch idiot had decided to throw him.
Quickly he checks his hair in the mirror, examining the large bruise on his cheek, and thinking that maybe – just maybe – Flora would now be sobbing her heart out over him, realising that she had made a huge mistake and that she wants him right there, right now, on the upper servants' dining room table. With a slight chuckle at this naughty thought, Will throws open the door and steps out, almost walking straight into Frank who is storming down the corridor, his brow furrowed and deep in thought.
Frank looking up and glaring at Will, his eyes piercing: Oi, watch where you're going why don't you!
Will holding up his hands in surprise: Alright, alright, calm down, mate! What's the matter with you, woman trouble, eh?
Frank lunging at Will, stopping just inches away from him: None of your damn business, and I'm not your 'mate', go it!
With a deathly stare, Frank slowly passes Will, their eyes locked in battle, but eventually the footman blinks and looks away, the hint of something terrible in Frank's eyes sending a chill down his bruised spine. For some reason, Will can't help but be drawn to Frank's jacket – he seems to be holding himself slightly awkwardly, his jacket pulled around him rather than buttoned up, but as soon as Frank spots Will's suspicious gaze he sneers at him and hurries down the corridor, almost tripping over his own feet. For a moment, Will considers following him, but shakes his head, changing his mind at the last moment. Well, he has better things to be doing than spying on Frank Keneally, namely a certain woman to find. He would do anything rather than let her go, go back to HIM. Well, if he is quick about it maybe he could convince her this time that she would be making a huge mistake?
Frank's mind has gone blank. Completely. Temporarily he can't remember exactly why he's standing outside Adams' room. He hardly even knows the man. Ah, but of course, there IS a reason. He could have been good friends with Andrew. Good old rough and ready, Glaswegian Andrew Adams, always up for a bloody scam, they probably could have gone into business, conned the whole of Tappleton in the end, become rich and then he could have made a swift getaway with the whole lot, leaving Adams to face the music on his own. But, sadly, this little idyllic dream isn't meant to be. Such a shame, really it is. With a sly smile, he knocks on the door. He had heard Adams say to Lady Rebecca that he would come to her at 8 o'clock, and as it is ten minutes to it is a fairly safe bet he will be preening his ugly self in preparation, and that makes him sick to his stomach.
The door opens quickly and Adams appears in front of him, busily retying his neck tie and looking rather put-out at the intrusion, but when he sees that it is Frank he smiles falsely, waiting for him to talk. For a moment Frank just stands in front of him, his hand inside his jacket, a hollow look on his pale face, but sweat begins to form and trickle down his temples as his insides churn over in anticipation
Adams adjusting his collar and frowning: Frank? Anything wrong, laddie? You look like you've at least lost a guinea and found a sixpence!
Franks' eyes narrow and without warning his hand flies into view, clutching a pistol which he thrusts into Adams' chest, pushing him backwards into the room and causing him to stagger into his cupboard, forcefully banging his leg on the corner and yelping in pain and shock at the situation. Why the hell would Frank Keneally be threatening him with a pistol, without any provocation from him? Surely he can't be upset over bloody Will Forest, he doesn't even like him!
Frank hissing, slamming the door behind him and locking it, still waving the pistol at Adams: Get back! Into the chair! I'll use this if I have to, it's loaded and ready to blow ye brains out!
Adams gasping, unable to form a coherent sentence: B….but….I don't understand….put the gun…..Frank!
Frank clenching his teeth tightly, his nostrils flaring: I know where you're going, who you're going to! I've seen ye! Seen ye with her, touching her, kissing her, what gives you the Goddamn right, eh! EH!
Adams falling back into the chair, staring in disbelief and gaping: Who? Who do you mean!
Frank sniffing out a snide laugh and curling his lip
in disgust: Oh, you know damn well who! Lady Rebecca of
course! Told me you and her were finished, she did! Strung me along
like some eejit, flirting, laughing with me, telling me all ye
Adams his breath catching in his chest as he begins to comprehend him: She wouldn't…..why the hell….YOU!
Frank pulling back the catch on the gun and pressing it harder into the under-butler's aching chest: Yes me, something a bit young for her, unlike you, why she'd go for an old bloke like you I've no idea, the Earl I could probably understand, a bit of cash, but she must have a bloody screw loose to think you're a bit of alright, although she did say you have something going for you in the bedroom department. I'm going to show her what a bit of the old Frank Keneally touch can do for her, then she'll forget all about you!
Adams breathing heavily now, glaring at Frank helplessly: Don't you go near her, don't you dare! I'll have you strung up I will, don't you lay a finger on her!
Frank smiling broadly and leaning in: How does it feel to be at someone's mercy for a change? Oh, I know what you do to Will Forest. Can't stand the bloke meself but seems like you're getting a little too comfortable with your old Glaswegian ways around here. It's me Rebecca wants, I can see it in her eyes, she lusts after me, and if she's anything like her sister between the sheets then I'm in for a real treat!
Adams almost sick with revulsion: Lady Francesca! You never did!
Frank twisting the gun round and forcing it against Adams' head: Yes, not once but twice, gave her something to think about I did, she was desperate. Just like her attractive elder sister. She's shown me her little book of fun, all those positions, gagging to try them out with me, but all the while just holding back, only letting me caress her leg, peel off her stockings, nothing more…..
Adams diving out of his chair, but being forced back with a smack by the gun barrel: Lies! All lies! She loves me, not you, you're revolting, you're….sick! She wouldn't let you touch her, why would she? She's pregnant with MY baby, not yours!
Frank raising his eyebrows and snorting: Ah, there IS something the naughty minx didn't tell me! Well, well, Mr Adams, there's life in the old dog yet, eh? Not content with one illegitimate kid, you're now going for a whole brood! Ay, stay in that chair now Andrew, I don't want to have an accident with this.
Still pointing the pistol at Adams, Frank begins to rummage through his drawers, pulling them out with one hand and frantically searching. By now the under-butler is pale and panting, his chest tightening and that familiar pain beginning to build up, but no he can't get sick again now, he HAS to be strong, strong for the woman he loves.
Keep calm….everything will be fine……he can get help soon, just let Frank do what he needs to do. Maybe Jarvis would turn up, demanding to know his under-butler's whereabouts – yes, that was possible. Just.
The valet finds what he is looking for – a bunch of neck ties – then swiftly proceeds to grab Adams' wrists and bring his arms around the back of the chair, roughly but tightly tying the neck ties around his wrists and hands, binding them tightly against the chair
Frank his voice erratic and strained: Now, I know you were about to go to her, but ye see I can't let ye do that. I just can't. As it's my turn now. MY turn with her. Don't you agree that she's the most beautiful woman you've ever seen?
Adams gulping and wincing as the wrist binds dig into his bones: Yes, I do. You're right she is beautiful. So why would you want to hurt her, Frank? Shouldn't you let her be? If you care for her like you say you do, don't you think it's wrong to force yourself on her?
Frank pausing in front of Adams thoughtfully before snarling again: Oh, I see your game, MR ADAMS! Well, it won't work! She wants me, don't you understand! She wants ME! I'm not going to hurt her, I'm going to make her happy, give her all the bliss she deserves, just the two of us, in her room, while you sit here and keep quiet!
Adams dangerously quietly: Well, you know Frank, I just can't let you do that….
Suddenly, Adams swings his unbound leg round, ready to take the valet by surprise and knock him off his feet, but Frank's heightened nerves makes him more jumpy than ever and before Adams can use the full force of his leg Frank swings round and seizes it, twisting it painfully and jamming it against the chair leg. Quickly he snatches up one of the unused neck ties and pulls it so tightly around Adams' leg that he yelps in pain from the squeeze and burning sensation shooting up his calf and into his knee
Frank spitting in hatred and anger as he turns to tying the other leg: Don't you DARE try that again, Andrew, it's your last warning before I use this pistol, and don't think I won't!
Before Adams can try to reason with him, or even yell for help, Frank pulls off a pillowcase and roughly gathers it up, then gags Adams tightly with it. Good. So far, so good. The pleading in Adams' eyes still fails to move Frank, his emptiness consuming him so much that the love his rival feels for Rebecca doesn't interest him in the slightest. All he knows is that he is falling in love with Rebecca, that she must surely love him over Adams and that he needs to have her. Now. That night. With a hollow smirk, Frank slips the gun under his jacket again and unlocks the door, slipping out and shutting it behind him.
The only saving grace for Adams is that rather stupidly Frank, in all his planning, fails to lock the door behind him. And there, Andrew Adams is left alone, scared for his Lady, scared for their child, unable to bear the thought of another man with her, making her do things she doesn't want to do. Awful thoughts and images begin to race through Adams' tortured mind, how terrified she will be when he forces his way into her room, she'll probably be in her underwear, ready and waiting, thinking it is him who is tapping at her door not some crazed, sadistic Irishman with a pistol! She will call out for him, but there won't be a damn thing he can do! Oh, please PLEASE, won't somebody – anybody – find him before Frank finds Rebecca?
Rebecca smiles softly in the mirror, brushing her long hair over her shoulder, for the first time since finding out about her pregnancy and the diary feeling positively radiant and ready to welcome her lover with open arms into her bed. A small voice inside her tells her that everything will be fine, somehow she and her baby will be looked after, but nevertheless the worry about returning to Highlands and leaving Andrew fills her with dread, hardly wanting to think about the day she has to leave to marry Hugo. But for now, this night, things have to be perfect, and although all that Andrew has done haunts her, she knows that he never intended to hurt her, and she could forgive him the small indiscretion of Mrs Stanwick, after all she had been stringing Frank along something rotten.
She had sent Lizzie away for the evening, telling her
that she deserves an evening off, but the maid had raised her
eyebrows questioningly at this. But Lizzie decided is was best not to
ask Rebecca if she is about to see her father, besides, that is
hardly something she really wanted to think about, let alone put into
words to her. So she had hurried off to find Grace for a gossip,
leaving Rebecca to set out the candles in the room, change her corset
and stockings and spray on Andrew's favourite perfume. Glancing at
her clock, she notices that it is one minute to eight, and with one
through her little book, especially page 23 with the interesting left leg position, she moves onto her bed and lies back, resting her head on her hand and waits patiently. At one minute past eight, there is a tiny tap on the door – not Andrew's usual knock, but giving him the benefit of the doubt, thinking he is probably just being a little too eager to see her, she calls out to him to enter. The door slowly opens, Rebecca hardly able to conceal a naughty smile, until she sees to her shock who appears in the doorway.
Frank grinning slyly as his eyes rake over her semi-naked form: Hello, Rebecca. Surprise.
A few minutes later after she had managed to re-lace her corset and both fasten and smooth down her crumpled dress Flora Ryan knelt down on the floor and began to pick up the shattered remains of the dinner set. Sighing to herself she tried to concentrate on the task at hand and ignore the eyes of the butler as they bored into the back of her head.
"Why do you have to do that now?" Jarvis asked from his seat by the fire. "Why don't you leave it and come sit with me?" He added suggestively patting his knee.
"Oh for goodness sake Walter, don't be ridiculous, we've taken enough of a risk already this evening lets not push our luck!" Flora snapped back.
"Would it have been so terrible if we had been caught, in flagrante, as it where?" Jarvis asked teasingly getting up from his fireside chair and sauntering over to her, before kneeling down next to her and planting kisses on the exposed skin at the nape of her neck.
"You know perfectly well it would have been disastrous, imagine if it was your mother who had caught us, you'd never live it down, or worse if it had been Keneally, you know damn well we'd be up before the Earl and out on our ear faster than you can say Lord Julian Dalrimple-Sykes!"
"Hmmmm." Jarvis pondered thoughtfully
before seizing the housekeepers scrabbling hands and tugging her
round to face him. "Yes I know, but tell me…" He added leaning
in closer, his eye's locked with hers. "Didn't that make it all
the more exciting, the added danger, the sense of urgency and
immediate desire?" He asked cocking one eyebrow and seizing her
chin so she could not look away, smiling to himself at the tell tale
blush that immediately stained her cheeks giving him the
answer to his question. "I knew it, I mean I should have realised after last night, but you really are turning into a naughty minx!"
Swiping at his hands Flora released his hold on her and turned her attention once more to cleaning up the mess he had caused, shuddering slightly when Walter whispered in her ear. "Go on admit it Flora, you enjoyed the danger of it, you wouldn't say no if I wanted to do it again?"
"I might, unless next time you promise not to be so destructive; it was a wonderfully romantic gesture Walter but next time could you endeavour to find a table that wasn't full of expensive crockery and glassware?" Flora replied teasingly.
"Who said anything about a table next time?" Walter replied cheekily. "Je vous veux maintenant ; contre le mur, ou même sur le plancher." He added huskily causing Flora to shudder slightly with instinctive anticipation. "Somehow I don't think I need that translating!" She replied leaning forward and kissing Walter passionately.
A second later the butler got to his feet pulling the housekeeper up with him, he strode quickly over to her desk pulling open the drawers at random before selecting two pieces of paper, picking up a pen he quickly scribbled something but kept it hidden from Flora, he then quickly folded the paper up into four before thrusting the pen and the other piece of paper into the housekeeper's hand. Glancing up at the housekeeper's confused expression Walter smiled slightly before leaning forward and whispering softly in her ear, "write down where and how, then afterwards we mix them both up and pull one out at random, and that's the one we follow through!"
Blushing slightly, Flora ignored the little nagging worry over what on earth Walter had written, thinking for a moment, she smiled slightly having to resist the urge to chuckle at the complete irony of her selection before folding up her paper and handing it to the butler. "Alright I'm in!" She exclaimed playfully, tugging on the butler's waistcoat, "So who gets to pick?"
"Oh being the gentleman that I am I'd say ladies first!" He retorted mischievously wrapping his hands round her waist, before sliding them down her back to quickly squeeze her bottom.
Grudgingly releasing her Walter picked up the two papers, moving them behind his back and shuffling them out of her sight, once he was certain they were both mixed up he brought them back in front of her. For a second Flora pretended to be deciding, tapping her chin with her forefinger apparently deep in thought, causing Jarvis to raise an eyebrow in exasperation. Smiling softly at him Flora reached out and took the paper that lay in his right hand, bringing it slowly up to her face and opening it secretively, smiling in both surprise and delight, causing Jarvis to impatiently exclaim, "Well whose was it?"
"Mine!" She replied mysteriously before reaching down and seizing his hand practically dragging out the door, leaving the debris from dinner all over the floor.
"And where are we going!" Jarvis asked intrigued and delighted by her eager reaction.
"Wait and SEE!" Flora replied teasingly as they disappeared down the corridor and into the darkness.
Downstairs, and Adams' frantic mind is out of control, terrible thoughts of rape and death racing through his thoughts and causing him an horrific headache and a tightening chest which he refuses to succumb to. Approximately four minutes have passed since Frank had left him – he had watched the clock religiously in that time, while trying to think what to do on one hand and working out how long Frank would need to have his way with his Rebecca on the other. Nobody had passed his room in that time, NOBODY Goddamnit, and he feels more helpless than ever. He has managed to shuffle his way forward ever so slightly, but his entire body is aching and all it wants to do is give up and never move again. But no, he MUST reach someone.
His muffled grunts seem
to be doing no good whatsoever, they sounded more like he was having
far too much fun to be disturbed rather than anything. The only thing
he can think of to do is to cause such a loud crash that somebody in
the vicinity would have to hear him, think he has had an accident or
another heart attack. With all his strength, Adams jumps himself and
his chair over to the side of his chest of drawers and bangs himself
painfully into it. It rocks ever so slightly, but not enough to make
it topple, so again he uses his arm and shoulder to crash into it.
This time it sways a little more than the last, so with the little
energy left in him he throws himself at it one last time, and to his
relief it crashes to the ground, unlit candles, books and a large jug
smashing on the floor with such a ferocious clatter that he is most
Seconds earlier, George had been stood in the corridor, pondering what to do next, and exactly how to do it. Proposing to Grace, well, it would be a huge step, and he had seen how it had turned out with Frank, but of course he is nothing like that toe-rag so what has he got to loose?
THUD! CRASH! CLATTER!
What the hell was that! Glancing up the corridor, George pauses momentarily, working out where it had come from. It seemed like either the footman's room, or Mr Adams' room, he isn't quite sure, so after briefly glancing in the footman's bedroom and seeing nothing he stops outside Adams' room, listening carefully. There is no further noise for a moment, but suddenly a loud grunting began, and George's eyes can't help but widen in wonder. Unsure whether this was an exclamation of pleasure, the footman wonders whether to just walk away, but the grunting turns into more of a wail, or a sob, and he suddenly becomes concerned that Adams may be suffering another heart attack
With a light but impatient tap on the door, George calls his name timidly, and rapidly the noise gets louder, almost desperate, so George tries the door and finding it unlocked peers around it. On seeing Adams' predicament, George barges in, a look of panic on his face, and his eyes lock with the under-butler's
Cut back to Rebecca's room
Rebecca grabbing her covers and sliding under them to hide her modesty: F…Frank! You shouldn't be here, I didn't say I would see you now! Can't you come back tomorrow, when I'm a little more decent? I'm actually just off to bed.
Frank edging into the room, his eyes wide in anticipation: Aren't you dressed like that for me, Rebecca? You must be, because you wouldn't be wearing such provocative attire for anybody else, would you?
Rebecca clutching the covers right up to her neck and shivering: Frank, I'm sorry, but I'm afraid there's been a development, you see Andrew and I, well, we're back together, and………
Frank slamming the door, causing Rebecca to squeal slightly, his voice turning dangerous: You lie! It's not true, you're not back with him, and I'll tell you why, because you love ME! You did a good job earlier, kissing him, pretending everything was fine, but I KNOW, don't you get it!
Rebecca's heart begins to thump loudly in her chest, as panic sets in and she moves further down into the bed, Frank slowly stepping towards her, a look of psychotic obsession in his eyes. For a moment she cannot think of anything to say, or anywhere to run to get away from him, but suddenly Frank's expression softens and he smiles, the gun still concealed in the back of his trousers under his jacket. Rebecca's wide-eyed terror never leaves her face, but Frank sniffs out a chuckle and leans over the end of her bed, her picture-perfect body writhing under the silk sheets
Frank loosening his neck tie, his voice soft yet empty and cold as stone: Rebecca, my darling, why do you look so scared? I'm not going to hurt you, all I want to do is…..well, show you how much I admire you, how strong my affection is for you. Is that so wrong of me?
Rebecca her voice reduced to a panic-stricken squeak: B…but I don't feel for you in that way, Frank. You have been a good friend to me, but I love Andrew, and I'm expecting him any minute, so I think you should leave. I'll talk to you tomorrow, I promise, we can go for a ride, or a walk by the pond, we can discuss your feelings then, and………
Frank suddenly slamming his hand into the bed post and growling in fury: NO! That's NOT how it should be, Goddamnit! Andrew isn't coming to see you tonight! I'm here instead of him, and you will do my bidding and I will make you happy, make you feel like a real woman, DO YOU UNDERSTAND!
Cut back to Adams
George darting forward and untying Adams' hands: Mr Adams, don't hate him for this, he didn't know what he was doing, he was just upset………
Adams' frantic noises increase as he tries to tell George to ungag him first, but he just keeps wittering on to Adams' distress and frustration
George struggling with the knot: He's a good first footman you know, best there is, sometimes me and the other lads think you're a bit harsh, probably why he's been driven to this……oh sorry, you want me to ungag you? Just please spare him another beating, Andrew…..
Adams as George pulls off the gag with ease: For God's sake boy, it wasn't bloody Forest, it was Frank Keneally! Now get me untied!
George moving to the binds on Adams' feet: You been beating him up too, have you? Lord Julian won't like that, you know what a tell-tale he is too, after Mr Jarvis hit him he was straight up there, giving it all that, playing the innocent, sneaky little sod…..
Adams reaching down, frantically untying his other leg, his throat hoarse and dry: George, will you shut up! I didn't touch him, it's not me he's interested in, it's Rebecca! Lady Rebecca, he's gone to threaten her, he has a pistol, he needs to be stopped!
George dragging down the binds from Adams' leg: Frank? A gun! He's finally gone completely loony then! Doesn't surprise me really. Right, right, I'll get help, but why would he tie you up first? Did you catch him with the gun?
Adams jumping to his feet, now free, and dashing out of the door, wheezing: Stop asking questions, boy, and go fetch help, I must get there, must stop him!
George hurriedly following Adams down the corridor: What's his interest in Lady R then? Mate, you and her, are you together? Bloody hell, you are! Lady Rebecca, eh, very nice catch, don't tell Grace I said that though, mind. Don't worry, I won't go spouting it to Will, I have some sensitivity and tact sometimes y'know…….
Adams swinging round and grabbing George firmly by the arm: GEORGE, WILL YOU SHUT UP AND GO AND GET HELP!
At that moment, Will races up to them, his face like thunder, his eyes focused firmly on Adams' grip on George, but before he can start yelling in the under-butler's face about the treatment of his second footman, George jumps in and explains the situation. Will glances at Adams and can immediately see in his eyes his worry and urgency, and for a moment he can hardly believe what may be the truth about him and Lady Rebecca. Nah, that can't be true, he thinks, she'd have to be blind and deaf for that, must be a case of unrequited love or something. Well, for once he can sympathise with Adams, knowing exactly what it feels like, and if Frank is getting in his way, then woe betide him when Adams catches up with him.
Adams rubbing his chest as they approach the stairs, his breathing ragged: George, come with me, Will go and get help, find Mr Jarvis, and Mrs Ryan, Rebecca may need medical attention, oh if he uses that gun I'll kill him, no I'll kill him anyway! Cut to Rebecca's room
Rebecca nausea gripping her stomach: What have you done to him! What have you done!
Frank smirks, moving round from the post and slowly running his fingers up the sheets, skimming her shaking form as the cool silk ripples under his touch. He licks his lips as Rebecca whimpers, shuffling to the other side of the bed to get away from him, from that desperate gaze in his eyes, from the hand moving towards her. Frank removes his neck tie, gripping it in both hands and pulling it tightly in a threatening manner before tossing it aside and unbuttoning his collar, watching, emotionless, as the tears springing in Rebecca's eyes begin to roll down her soft, pale cheeks, heightening his arousal.
Rebecca her lip trembling in terror,her eyes anxious and frightened: W….what are you going to do? Frank, you're scaring me, please stop!
Frank sliding onto the bed, smiling, almost grimacing: Don't be scared, my sweet, sweet girl. There's nothing to be scared of. I just want to be with you, spend the night with you, is that too much to ask? You know you want me, you always have.
Rebecca begins to sob quietly, her pretty features contorted in alarm, but Frank reaches out and slips his arm around her shaking waist, sliding her firmly back down the bed and towards him. She struggles, snatching at his arms and hands to get him away, all she can think is that he may harm her baby and she needs to protect it, but he shifts his grip to her arms, pinning them down, never taking his eyes away from her face.
Rebecca turning her head away from him, the tears flowing freely: Frank, I beg you, don't do this! You don't want it to be like this, do you! If you love me then you will leave me be!
By now she can feel Frank's hot breath on her neck, the brush of his nose along her jaw bone as he reaches across her, and it makes her shudder to her very core, waves of nausea spreading up her stomach and into her throat. She can see an empty glass vase on the bedside table, if she could reach out she could grab it, hit him over the head with all the strength she could muster, knock him out and run for help, she just needs to distract him for one second, get him to loosen his grip. She knows what she has to do. Shutting her eyes for a moment, she prepares, letting him plant tiny kisses along her cheek and neck, his breathing becoming more erratic as he comes closer to the moment he has fantasised about for days
Frank whispering breathlessly as he moves his leg over hers: But you know you want this, deep down. You KNOW you do. You were all I thought about, your sister meant nothing to me.
Rebecca her voice reduced to a cracked, hoarse whimper: Francesca? What do you mean, Frank?
Frank giggling in childish glee, his kissing becoming more intense: When she invited me into her bed. And onto her chaise. I was with her physically but she was you, in my mind. Every inch of her, every touch of her naked body – it was all you, Rebecca. Don't you see?
Oh, you stupid, foolish girl, Rebecca scalds herself. How could you not see what this man is really like? How naïve! But she refuses to pay the price for her behaviour, so with a deep breath she turns her face towards Frank's, staring into his eyes. Yes, she had found him attractive and sexy, a bit of fun she could never really have, but now – now he is the most repulsive, unattractive man alive to her and she doesn't care what she has to do to get him away. Closing her eyes, not in pleasure but trying to focus in her mind's eye, pretend he is Andrew to get through it, and leans up and kisses him passionately, with such wild abandonment that Frank is momentarily stunned. But as the kiss intensifies, Rebecca can feel his grasp loosen ever so slightly, as she knows he is desperate to roam his hands over her. Slowly, so not to startle him and make him suspicious, she moans softly and pulls the important hand free, running it through his hair and pulling him down on top of her.
She knows she will only get a small window, one tiny chance, to put her plan into action, as Frank releases her lips and begins to slide down the sheets, tugging at her corset lace and kissing her collar bone. Now – do it now! Carefully, Rebecca reaches out, wrapping her hand firmly around the vase and lifting it, Frank's eyes distracted by the heavy rise and fall of her chest. As quick as a flash, Rebecca uses all the weight in her delicate arm to swing the vase crashing over Frank's head, but instead of falling on top of her unconscious, Frank rolls off her, blinking and crying out in pain and fury, his hands flying up to his head as blood trickles down his cheek and neck.
Seeing her chance, Rebecca leaps out of the bed and hurries to get out of the room, but in her haste she pulls the sheets off the bed with her and her feet become entangled, causing her to trip and tumble, the silk cushioning her fall. In his desperation to get up, she staggers forward and falls back onto her knees, the door seeming too far away as she begins to cry out for help. But Frank manages to recover himself in enough time to run around the bed, his vision slightly blurry and his head thumping heavily, and seizes a screaming and dishevelled Rebecca by her arms and drags her up, blazing fury spread across his face
Frank shaking her firmly, his voice a harsh whisper: Stop! Stop bloody yelling, will you! I don't mean to hurt you!
But Rebecca's struggles and continued screaming HAVE to stop, if he doesn't make her be quiet then Lord Julian may get the wrong idea and sack him, and he can't afford to loose his job. Before he can even comprehend himself, Frank smacks her firmly across the face, sending her flying back onto the bed from the force of it, and whips the pistol out, his hand shaking manically. Rebecca, in her shock, curls herself up and sobs uncontrollably, hiding her face away and hugging her stomach protectively. Oh, where is Andrew! And Hugo! Didn't anybody hear her at all!
Frank lunging forward and flinging Rebecca flat out on the bed, thrusting the pistol in her face: Now, that was just silly, wasn't it, eh! I didn't want to have to hurt you but you gave me no choice. Why are you doing this to me? Why are you trying to get away when all I want to do is make love to you? You've hurt me now, physically and emotionally, and I'm very disappointed!
Rebecca through her sobs, her voice jerky and uncontrolled: But Frank I've told you, I don't want to do anything like that with you, I don't love you!
Frank pressing himself further onto her, crushing her lungs: But then why were so you nice to me? Inviting me into your room, telling me all your secrets, showing me your naughty book, letting me take off your stockings and kiss your feet! Why? WHY!
Rebecca shutting her eyes tightly and gulping, tears soaking her chin neck: Because….because I knew, I knew that you were working for my sister, getting information from me and telling her everything, I wanted to throw her off the scent, make her think Andrew had broken it off…….
Frank: So you USED me! Made me think you found my attractive, when all the while you felt nothing!
Rebecca: I did find you attractive, you are, but not enough to make me want to…..I would have to love you for that, and I don't, there's no hope I will ever feel strongly for you. Andrew is everything to me……
Frank roughly shaking her and causing her to wail in fright: ANDREW! It's all about HIM! You may deny your feelings for me, but I'm sorry I can't deny what's in my heart!
Without warning, Frank suddenly begins to rip furiously at her underwear, his hand firmly over her mouth to stifle her cries as she struggles under him, but just as he begins to tug at his belt there is a thud at the door, and a muffled 'Rebecca!'. Frank's breathing increases and he grits his teeth, muttering 'no!' under his breath, but on hearing her name Rebecca increases her volume, wriggling and desperately trying to knee him in a sensitive area. The calls outside the door become more frantic, and the sound of the door being battered - yes it is Andrew's voice, thank God!
Meanwhile downstairs Jarvis was convinced Flora had dragged him round in circles all over the servants' quarters in order to wind him up, when finally she headed towards a specific door. Pushing it open she poked her head inside to make sure no one was lurking around before dragging the relieved butler in after her.
"Now I am intrigued! Why in the dairy room Flora, of all places?"
Pouting slightly at his question the housekeeper leant seductively back against the wall. "I'm both surprised and hurt you even need to ask that Walter, unless of course your memory is going?"
"My memory is as sharp as ever, but I can't recall this room having any particular significance!"
"Then your memory is playing tricks on you Walter dear, surely you remember? The day before you left for Cumberland?"
"Flora may I remind you, we did not get together until after I came back!" Jarvis replied confused, finally closing the distance between them. "However I now intend to make up for all that lost time!" He added leaning in to capture her parted lips.
However Flora wasn't going to let him get away with it that easily, placing her fingers softly over his lips she halted his advance. "Just because we didn't get up to anything in here doesn't mean it doesn't have a special significance…Well if you can't remember perhaps I should jog your memory. I was painting my white line and arguing with Mr Adams and then you turned up and ordered me to follow you. First you took me to the store room, patting a blanket suggestively and for a second I actually thought you were going to proposition me, but you didn't; then you dragged me off to the laundry and then finally we ended up in here! I remember it clearly you made a comment about being able to party in here all night without anyone else being the wiser, and I thought…." Flora trailed off smiling suggestively. "We should put your theory to the test!"
Chuckling at both her wit and inventiveness Walter leant in once more to kiss her passionately, a kiss, which this time she not only allowed but returned with enthusiasm. Breathlessly they broke apart, Walter's mouth moving the kiss his way down the pale skin of her throat, whilst Flora hurriedly began to loosen her dress just enough for him to slip his hands underneath and caress her already trembling body.
As soon as she had done this she slid her hands down in between them, unbuttoning Walter's trousers and sliding her hand inside, after a few moments Jarvis growled in her ear, "Flora Stop! Unless you want to be disappointed."
Giggling naughtily Flora gazed into his eyes but she still did not release him from her grasp. "Who said I wanted to wait!" She purred back at him. "Please Walter, don't you know it's rude to keep a lady waiting?"
- - -
Approximately twenty minutes later an out of breath William Forest ran blindly through the servants quarters, demanding from every servant he passed if they had seen the housekeeper, most just shook their heads and passed by the footman without a second glance. However William was finally in luck when he practically ran into Grace and Lizzie who were standing by the laundry gossiping away.
"Girls have you seen Mrs Ryan?" He managed to gasp.
"I may have William Forest. But give me one good reason why I should tell you?" Grace retorted, unable to believe the level of Will insensitivity asking after the housekeeper when poor Lizzie was right in front of him.
"Dear God Grace it's an emergency Mr Adams needs her upstairs like yesterday!" Will wheezed.
"Well I saw her go into the dairy but…." Grace trailed off, as Will didn't wait for her to finish before dashing off in the right direction. "But she's not alone…" She added softly, practically under her breath.
Meanwhile a giggling Flora Ryan and ecstatic Walter Corey were finally coming back to reality, after quickly fastening their clothes and making futile swipes to smooth down their ruffled hair, they headed to the door. Pushing it wide open Flora popped her head round into the corridor sighing in relief when she realised there were no horde of sniggering lower servants gathered outside. Letting out slowly the breath she had been holding she leant contentedly against the doorframe smiling softly at Walter as he walked over to her threading his arms around her waist and pulling her against him. Looking deeply into each other's eyes neither noticed the footman as he turned the corner, stopping dead in his tracks his heart jumping into his throat as he stood frozen unable to move or speak. He watched them as Flora swiped at the butler's wandering hands, her own moving to re-button his waistcoat correctly as he leant down placing tender kisses on her temple and then the tip of her nose. However this was not enough for Flora who chuckled slightly before wrapping her arms round Walter's neck pulling him down for a passionate kiss.
For Will their every shared loving look was like a knife in his heart, looking at them now it appeared as if they had never been apart, and that his brief interlude with Flora had meant nothing more to the housekeeper than a simple change of scenery, it was like a lone sandcastle trying to remain standing whilst been barraged by the full power of the North Sea in a storm. For a moment he considered turning and running back to his room, the purpose for his quest temporarily forgotten. However just as he was about to do so Jarvis leant back into the dairy, seizing their abandoned candle and began to escort the housekeeper along the corridor, and Will could just make out his muttered comment. "Well love your room or mine?"
However it was at that moment that the chuckling housekeeper glanced up and she caught sight of the furious footman standing in the shadows. For the second before Walter realised Flora stared into Will's devastated face, the young footman seemingly unable to tear his eye's away nor prevent the tears that sprung to his eyes; and in that second all her desire evaporated leaving her feeling cold and exposed. Suddenly realising Flora had stopped walking Jarvis looked up and caught sight of Forest standing and ignoring him but glaring at the housekeeper with such an expression of anger and despair that for the first time the depth of the boy's feelings for his Flora became obvious. Glancing over to Flora in order to discern if they were reciprocated, he was relieved to find only embarrassment on her face, and no indication of any deeper feeling.
However Will's angry stance still provoked an automatically defensive response from the Butler, and he slid an arm possessively around the housekeeper's waist tightening his hold on her. For a second Flora riled against this rather obvious gesture of ownership, however after glancing up at Walter's rapidly reddening face she realised the importance of reassuring him of her affection. Sliding her hand along his arm she threaded her fingers through his pulling them both further round her waist till they rested delicately on her stomach before squeezing his hand reassuringly. At this poignant gesture Walter glanced down at her, his eyes softening slightly as they locked with hers; reassured of her obvious affection for him he then turned his attention to the dumbstruck footman.
"Well Mr Forest, considering your urgency it must have been something important!" Jarvis barked.
For a moment Will stood still as if struck dumb, but then he managed to tear his eyes away from the housekeeper, looking at Jarvis for the first time, and the first thing the butler noticed was the complete absence of emotion as though the young man had suddenly gone into shock.
"Lady Rebecca, Keneally was hurting her, Mr Adams and George have gone to stop him but he sent me to find Mrs Ryan…" Will trailed off, ignoring the exclamations of shock from both Walter and Flora.
Immediately the lovers jumped in to action Jarvis moving to escort Flora to her office, however as they started down the corridor Will still didn't moved out the way. For a second Jarvis paused huffing slightly at the lad's lack of movement preparing to barge him gently out the way, however at the last minute Will moved out the way. Stepping back against the wall he slumped defeated against it, his eyes following the couple as they disappeared together into the darkness.
The banging on the door is getting louder, spurring Frank to grip Rebecca even harder, digging his fingers into her bare arm and causing deep bruising, but for Rebecca a few painful marks on her arm would be something to worry about only later. Somehow, knowing Andrew is outside the door and desperate to get in, she begins to find mammoth strength which she didn't even know she possessed in her delicate frame, pushing him with all her strength and the pistol looms in her face. She can hear 'Rebecca, I'm coming, don't worry!' from outside the door, but instead of making a dash for it out the window, Frank frantically unbuttons his trousers, determined to get his way with her before Adams could barge his way in and ruin it all. But Rebecca, noticing quickly that he is having trouble with his buttons, determines that his hold on the pistol must not be quite a firm due to the distraction, so risking the life of herself and her baby, she heaves her arm from under him and smacks a clenched fist hard into his lower arm, the pistol tumbling from his grip and down the side of the bed
Frank scrambling off her and leaning down the bed: You stupid, stupid cow!
Not willing to be the defenceless victim, Lady Rebecca clambers to her knees and with all her strength shoves him head-first off the bed before he can snatch back the pistol, quickly leaning down and clumsily picking it up and pointing it at him, still kneeling on the bed and shaking. Frank rolls onto his back, the blood from his head wound sticky and thick down his face and neck, and stares in absolute shock and fury.
Rebecca her voice steady and puffy red eyes full of fierce determination: Get back, Frank! Come near me and I will shoot you, to protect me and most of all my baby!
Frank laughing manically and shaking his head: You wouldn't dare! You'd face the noose for that!
Without a word, Rebecca slowly backs off the bed, Adams' yells becoming more desperate as he and George suddenly kick back the door, slamming it hard into the wall. They dash in, Adams first, and stop in their tracks when they see how the tables must have been turned. Rebecca, for the first time since obtaining the pistol, forces her eyes away from a grimacing Frank and locks eyes with Adams. Fresh tears spring into her tired, sorrowful eyes and Adams' love for his sweetheart feels so strong and the sense of relief so overwhelming he just wants to burst into tears himself. Looking back at Frank, Rebecca continues to point the pistol, as if lowering it would make her vulnerable again even though Andrew is there to save her, her soft face red from the vicious slap she had received and the constant crying.
Frank turning and laughing loudly at Adams: Oh, here he is, bloody lover-boy, come to rescue you, when all the while you were gagging for it from me, Rebecca! I know you like a bit of the rough stuff, a lot of slap and a bit of tickle, but really did you have to put on such a big act and cause such a noise when I was kissing you, running my hands over you!
George stares at Adams, wondering what on earth to do, but as he moves to restrain Frank, Adams lets out a roar of rage and flies at Frank, snatching him up by his open collar and dragging him over to the bed, Rebecca leaping backwards and shrieking. George can only stand, helpless and not wanting to stop Adams anyway, while the under-butler thumps Frank repeatedly in the face, the valet crying out in pain as his head lolls from side to side.
Rebecca backing towards the window, the gun still in her clutches: Andrew, don't, he's not worth it, please! He's sick, he's not well!
Adams kneeing him hard in the stomach and causing him to double over: Too bloody right he's sick! Sick and twisted!
George shutting the door and stepping forward: Yeah, maybe she's right, mate, you should stop, you'll only get yourself banged up.
Frank his speech slurred from his swollen, cut lip and painful jaw: You should listen to him, Andrew, you really should……
Adams his Scottish accent thickening as his anger increases: Don't you tell me what I should do, how dare you speak, you shouldn't even be breathing, showing a Lady no respect and holding me hostage!
Adams hauls Frank over
towards the window, knocking George out of the way as he drags him by
his arms, the valet struggling and bloody. The under-butler throws
open the window, a blast of cold air rushing in and billowing the
curtains, blowing out the candles around it and chilling Rebecca to
the bone as she hurriedly wraps her dressing gown tightly around
herself. With a growl, Adams roughly heaves Frank so he is half
hanging backwards out of the window, the window sill digging into his
spine as he gasps in the freezing night air, the stars twinkling
brightly above him as fresh
warm blood trickles from his new facial wounds.
Adams pressing hard on Frank, causing his back to crack and strain: Just one little accident is all it takes, Keneally! I could give you a helping hand out of this mess if you like, a little push perhaps, don't worry you wouldn't feel a thing. Well, not for long anyway. If you're unlucky though you'll probably die in agony from all those broken bones and a snapped neck!
Frank his voice choked and strained: You wouldn't get away with it, you know you wouldn't! Everyone would know it was you, you'd be taken away and spend miserable weeks being chewed on by rats behind bars before finally getting what you deserve with a bag over your head! Look, I'll do you a deal!
Adams spitting furiously in Frank's face: I don't do deals with the likes of you!
Frank smirking to hide the pain: Oh no? You sure, Mr Adams? I thought as long as there's some cash in it for you somewhere you don't care who you swindle, at least we have something in common there, ANDREW! I think you should listen to what I have to say – you know you can't kill me, not that I don't doubt your ability to do such a thing, but your cowardice will stop you! But at the same time, if you hit me one more time, and if you turn me in to the police, I won't be responsible for what I might say accidentally in front of the Earl, or any other aristocrat in the vicinity!
Adams shaking Frank in frustration: You little bd! After everything you've done, you expect me to just let you go? You expect Rebecca to not press charges against you!
Rebecca dropping the pistol to the floor: Andrew, don't let him ruin things between us, if people found out then……well I would be disgraced, as would our child, and most of all, I'd loose you. For good. You would be out of a job, and Hugo and I wouldn't be able to employ you for the shame, I couldn't do that to him. Listen to him, please, he's not lying when he says he will talk!
Frank feeling Adams' grip beginning to loosen: No I'm not, she's right. If you're going to ruin any chance of happiness I might have had with her, then I'm sure as hell going to ruin yours if I need to to save myself from dismissal and gaol!
Rebecca regaining her composure and turning to stare in emptiness at Frank: I don't know if I will let you go or not yet, I need to think. I will see what Mr Jarvis wants to do with you until I have decided. They will believe the word of a Lady over a troublemaker like you in a second, considering you left here without character last year. But if I decide to keep quiet - if you go anywhere near me again, ever, if you even so much as look at me funny, I will do the honourable thing, and don't think I won't, Mr Keneally. Don't for a minute think I won't.
That appears to be enough for Adams, and with a sigh he pulls Frank away from the window and mutters to George to restrain him until Jarvis arrives. Frank smirks and shakes his head as Adams turns to Rebecca for the first time, pulling her firmly into his embrace as she buries her face in his chest, the tears pooling her eyes while she cries softly in relief. He gently kisses the top of her head, stroking her knotted hair, George mumbling a barely audible 'bloody hell!' at this sight, having never seen Adams actually caring for anyone else before, especially in such an open and loving way. How on earth had he managed to get her? And get her up the duff! With a smile, Adams carefully sits her down on her chaise, placing himself next to her, and rocks her gently in his arms, determined to look after her and protect her forever
Once in her office the butler didn't mutter a word as the housekeeper quickly loaded him up with her medical box and all manner of blankets. Staggering slightly under the weight Jarvis called out to Flora to stop. "Dear god woman do we really need all this?" He exclaimed.
"We might if the worse has happened, I know what it's like!" Flora replied cryptically, and for a second Jarvis saw her turn deathly pale and shiver slightly, leaning against the table for support, and in that moment he realised what Flora was talking about. Placing the items down on her table he walked over to her and quickly pulled the trembling housekeeper into a firm embrace, holding her tightly to him and trying to transfer some of his strength to her. "Why didn't you tell me she was pregnant?" Jarvis whispered.
"It wasn't my secret to tell!" Flora mutely replied,
For a second longer Jarvis held her in his arms, before releasing her grudgingly and gathering up everything, as they headed out the door and up the stairs Jarvis kept his eyes locked on Flora, she looked so deathly pale that he was worried any second she might faint, but then he caught a glimpse of the determined fire that now burned in her eyes and was reassured. As they turned the corner to Rebecca's room, Flora paused for a moment, taking a deep breath; moving to stand beside her Walter muttered quietly, "I'll be here, if you need me, I won't leave your side unless you ask me too!"
Turning to him, tears of love springing into her eyes, Flora managed a weak smile, leaning forward she kissed him tenderly on the lips before retrieving her box and blankets from his arms. Then with one final reassuring glance from Walter she pushed open Rebecca's door and disappeared into the room. For a moment the butler went to follow her however at that moment he spotted doors further down the corridor open and several partial dressed aristocrats stumble out of them, still pulling on their clothes as there had been no maids or valets to help them. Taking a deep breath Jarvis tugged at his creased waistcoat, wishing in that instant he had the use of a mirror, blowing the gust of air out through his lips he walked towards them. He held his hands up stalling their comments. "Good Evening Your Lordships, Lady Hamilton-Hussey. I'm sorry for the disturbance, but there really is nothing to worry about!"
"Hmf!" Snorted Franny, pushing her long dark hair out of her face so she could glare at Jarvis down her nose without any interference. "It didn't sound like nothing, in fact it was distinctively my sisters voice!"
"Yes that is quite right madam. Apparently there is a large rat in your sisters room, and she was calling out for assistance, however she had inadvertently locked her door earlier and so some of my men got a little carried away breaking the door down! However everything is now under control, my men have managed to capture the rodent in question, and are dealing with it as we speak, I do not think it will be troubling anyone ever again!"
"Well if that's the case…"Monty began relief obvious on his face, but he was quickly cut off by his somewhat suspicious wife.
"A Rat?" She asked amusement clear on her face. "Is this is of the Scottish variety? Or one of your own Taplow's breed?"
"I am not sure madam, not being an expert on the species, however if you wish it I can find out?" Jarvis replied his face as deadly serious as if she had asked him over the brand of their whiskey.
Shaking her head Franny turned and seizing her bemused husband by the arm proceeded to drag him back to their room; Lord Hugo remained standing silently with the butler until the pair had returned to their room.
"Is she really alright?" Hugo asked insistently.
"I believe so, Mr Adams and Mr Cosmo have the matter in hand, and Mrs Ryan is attending to Lady Rebecca, and I will personally deal with the 'rat' in question in the severest and most expedient method available!"
"Excellent Mr Jarvis, please let me know if you require any further assistance, 'rat catching' can be a difficult business!" Hugo retorted turning and heading back to his room.
Taking a deep breath Jarvis pushed his hands into his pocket, pulling out the cigar and fingering it wistfully, smelling it quickly he turned and shoved it back in his pocket before heading towards Lady Rebecca's room he had a certain rat to deal with.
By the time Flora had gone into Rebecca's room, the blankets in her arms, is becomes quickly apparent to her that she had missed all the action, and that not just Rebecca had had an extremely lucky escape one way or another. She gasps in amazement at the sight of one of the Earl's French pistols lying on the rug by the bed, then her eyes dart from a snide-looking Frank, sitting on the floor with his arms clasped tightly behind his back by George, to a quietly sobbing Lady bundled up in Mr Adams' arms on her chaise. On hearing the swish of skirts walk across the room, Rebecca looks up tearfully and smiles happily on seeing her friend, shivering slightly from the strong breeze sweeping through the still open door.
Placing the blankets on the bed, Flora sighs, immediately jumping into efficient-but-sensitive mode to try to cope with the dreadfulness of the situation. She moves purposefully to the open window and pulls it firmly shut, muttering wisely that they will all catch their deaths like that, everyone watching her in silence as she then shakes out a blanket and stands staring sorrowfully at Rebecca, not sure whether to move in or continue to let Andrew comfort her. But, to her delight, Adams smiles at her and shakes his head, standing up and indicating to her to take over while he storms over to Frank and glares at him in deathly silence, his hateful look more threatening to Frank than any mouthful of abuse he could hurl at him.
Flora wraps the soft blanket around her shoulders, and taking Rebecca's cold, slightly tense hand she forces her to look at her by leaning in and catching her downcast eyes.
Flora her voice so low and quiet: Rebecca, how are you feeling? How is…..I mean, did he do anything? If you want to tell me anything – anything that you don't want to reveal to Andrew, then I'm here for you, but you should see the doctor, and you should tell the police everything, I'm sure Andrew's already told you that though….
Rebecca her voice small: I'm….I'm not going to the police. They're not going to know.
Flora jumping back slightly in surprise, glancing away from her to Andrew: But you must….she must! You can't let him get away with attacking you, if that is indeed what happened, you might never know who he will go for next, I mean, men who needlessly use violence against women – women carrying…..well, vulnerable women, must be dealt with most severely, and…….
Frank laughing bitterly and snorting: Ah, will yer put a bloody sock in it, for God's sake, woman! Listen to yer, all holier than thou, when all the time you've been on yer back getting to know old Jarvis in the most carnal of ways, hardly a paragon of Biblical virtue, are yer, Mrs Ryan?
The confused look on Flora's face is replaced by one of fury and hurt at such a comment – she doesn't care one jot what Frank thinks of her, but how dare he! Adams crunches his fists again, hardly bearing to restrain himself any longer, but then Rebecca suddenly jumps to her feet, glaring with an angry fire in her eyes
Rebecca shaking and pointing at Frank: How dare you speak to my friend like that, as a Lady and therefore your superior I demand you take it back! Remember your position Mr Keneally!
Frank smirking in amusement at his own joke: Which one would that be? You showed me so many of them, Becca!
But before Adams can smack his head in, damning the consequences, Jarvis clears his throat and everyone turns to see him hovering by the door, having obviously heard everything Frank had said to Flora, a heavy look of indignation on his face. Carefully and quietly he closes the door – a little too calmly for Flora's liking as this could only mean that very shortly he is very likely to suddenly explode with rage and fury, with most if not all of it directed straight at Frank. Adams tears himself away from the valet and moves over to Jarvis, ready to discuss what to do with Frank, but as he opens his mouth to speak Jarvis waves him away and scooping up the pistol walks up to Rebecca who had sat herself down again
Jarvis with only a cursory glance at Frank: Lady Rebecca, please accept my apologies for not being here sooner, Mr Forest only managed to find Flora and myself….we were discussing household matters, but I'm here now. I took the liberty of explaining to Lord and Lady Hamilton-Hussey that you were being troubled by a rodent, I hope you don't mind, but thought you might like a bit of privacy.
Rebecca smiling sadly and nodding: Yes, I am very grateful Mr Jarvis, you have been most helpful.
Jarvis briefly making eye-contact with Flora before shifting back to Rebecca: I must ask you, however, M'Lady, what you would like to do now?
Rebecca with a tearful chuckle: All I want to do is get a good night sleep, I'm so exhausted, all this excitement, but I feel that…..that Mr Keneally wasn't himself.
With a confused pause, Jarvis looks over at Adams, and suddenly all became perfectly clear, what Keneally must have said to Adams, the threats to be a tell-tale. No wonder he is still fully conscious and not a bloody pulp of flesh and bones, although he does look as if Adams certainly gave him a good hiding. Frank's cowardice only served to infuriate Jarvis further and inflame his hatred for the valet, but that wouldn't stop him giving Frank a very large piece of his mind once out of the room. He saunters up to Frank, gritting his teeth, towering above him and pushing his jacket back, placing his hand on his hips. Frank looks up from his sitting position, George standing behind him and watching him closely, and smirks at Jarvis. He has the upper hand, and there's not a damn thing the butler can do about it.
Jarvis raising an eyebrow and speaking thoughtfully and slowly: Not himself, eh? So the good Lady is going to be lenient, it seems, Mr Keneally. It's your lucky day….or is it? Hmmm. Well, it looks like Mr Adams here as tried to beat some sense into you, maybe you need to have a little discussion with me too? I think I'll let you sleep it off in the coal cellar tonight, however, I'll tell your master that you are a little, well, indisposed with a particularly bad case of the morning after the night before. He can interpret that how he sees fit! And as for this……
Jarvis closely examines the pistol in his grip then turns his attention back to Frank, snarling in disgust
Jarvis: As for this, I will have to get this back into the safe before the Earl notices its absence. Mr Adams, would you please search the little thief and see if he has stolen anything else from His Lordship? His quarters will also have to be searched.
Adams grunts obligingly, and roughly pushes back Frank onto the floor and rifles through his pockets. Frank huffs resentfully, glaring up from the floor at Rebecca who has hidden her face from him completely, Flora still firmly holding her hand while respectfully waiting silently as Walter asserts his authority over the wayward valet
Frank his voice loaded with cynical sarcasm: Oh, come on, Mr Jarvis, you know how it is, lusting after something you can't have, or should I say shouldn't have, for so long? Oh I know that you can go off and get all your physical pleasures from others, well if you've got a bit of cash to hand over anyway in certain cases, but it's just not the same somehow is it, sir?
Jarvis crouching down and pulling Frank towards him by his collar: The difference between you and me, Keneally, is that I know how to treat women with the respect they deserve!
Frank tutting and widening his eyes in mock realisation: Ahh, is THAT where I went wrong? So all you need is to give them a little respect and they're anybody's? Including yours? Are you sure about that, Mr Jarvis, or did you have to pay her a modest sum too, as isn't that a bit of a habit of yours? Or is she now out of your price range, hmm?
Before Frank can get another word out, Jarvis heaves him up and roughly forces him towards the door as Flora's angry voice reverberates around the room
Flora: Real men don't have to pay for it, Mr Keneally, that's the difference between you and Mr Jarvis!
Jarvis glances over his shoulder at Flora as he drags Frank from the room and catches her eye, but she can't only just see a look of love but also something else, regret perhaps, a tinge of wistfulness, a silent 'sorry' for something she can't fathom. Turning back to Rebecca once they had left after carefully collecting up the broken glass, Flora draws her friend into a hug, telling her that she should consider rethinking talking to the police, before Adams interrupts and stands protectively behind his lover
Adams clearing his throat, causing Flora to glance up at him: Yes, thank you, Mrs Ryan. You have been most helpful, but I would appreciate some time with Lady Rebecca, if that is alright with you.
Flora momentarily put-out before forcing out a reassuring smile at Rebecca: Of course, of course, how insensitive of me. If you need anything, my dear, just let me know, although I am sure Andrew will fetch you anything you need.
Rebecca quickly taking Flora gently by the arm: Thank you so much, Flora, you have been a great comfort. Everything is alright with the baby I think, he didn't manage to do anything and I'm not in any pain, I just need rest and Andrew with me. Please don't bother Lizzie, she doesn't need to know about this.
Flora nods and with another smile exits the room, leaving Adams to lead Rebecca over to the bed where they lay back, Adams pulling her next to him so her head lays gently on his chest. Without a word, he runs his fingers along her bare arms, noticing the bruising and protectively threading his hands around her back. Rebecca looks up lovingly at him and kisses him softly on the lips, then nuzzles her nose into his neck to help her keep warm and feel safe. Sighing she snuggles up to him further before quickly falling fast asleep, Adams still wide-awake and thinking hard about the future they still have failed to discuss. The incident with Frank has made him more determined than ever to do what is right for all three of them, which in his mind is together forever, but after trying desperately to think of a plan and failing he feels himself drift off, the woman he loves curled up blissfully in his arms.
Whilst upstairs everyone was heading to bed, in the maid's room one of the girls was staring at the ceiling all her attempts to lull herself to sleep had proved futile; so far she was on five hundred and sixty three sheep and she was no sleepier now than she had been an hour or so ago, but now she had a craving for lamb and mint sauce. Gripping her covers Lizzie threw them back, swinging her legs out of bed she grasped the edge of her shawl and wrapped it securely round her shoulders before carefully scurrying out the door. She knew why she couldn't sleep, there had been something going on tonight, something that concerned her father and Lady Rebecca, but as usual no one bothered to inform her about it. Well if no one saw fit to tell her then she was just going to have to go find out for herself, but not from her father he would never give her a straight answer; since his heart attack he hadn't so much as mentioned Rebecca at all, even though he had to know she knew! No if she wanted the truth then she was going to have to get it from a certain footman, even if she had to beat it out of him!
downstairs the footman in question was drowning his sorrows as he had
been for some time, and it caused him a small smile of satisfaction
knowing that the exquisite brandy he was downing by the swigful was
one Jarvis had been saving for a special occasion. Well it wouldn't
matter by the time the butler discovered it was missing he'd be
long gone, and besides Will suspected Jarvis would have a few more
things on his mind than a bottle of spirits once he was through with
him. Glancing down at the table, he squinted slightly at the letter
in front of him, taking one more swig form the bottle Will picked up
his abandoned pen and through his drunken haze signed his name to the
letter with a evil flourish. That'll teach her when Jarvis reads
this letter, then perhaps Flora will understands what it feels like
to have your heart
ripped out and stamped on.
Getting unsteadily to his feet Will stuffed the letter into the waiting envelope, then grabbing the half empty bottle he headed off to the butler's office to deposit his present where the butler couldn't fail to find it first thing tomorrow by which time Will would be off and running; or more like crawling, he mentally corrected himself as he fell sideways into the piano causing it to scream out discordantly. He'd show that Flora Ryan yet, that he was not some little toy she could pick up and put down whenever she chose, and if he couldn't have her then he going to make damn sure that bd Jarvis didn't get to live happily ever after with her either!
Scampering down the stairs Lizzie shivered in the cold
drafty air, Will hadn't been in his room although she had only
glanced round the door, it was obvious his bed hadn't been slept in
and so he hadn't just popped off to the bathroom. So that had left
only one possibility he still hadn't been to bed yet, heading down
the main corridor she was just about to turn towards the servants
hall when she heard the screech from the piano and hurried her steps.
It was at this point that she caught her first glimpse of Will; he
was staggering away from the hall seemingly heading towards the
however as she dashed after him it became obvious he was heading towards the senior servants offices. Slightly out of breath she finally caught up with him at the butler office; whispering in the silence, even her quiet voice carried down the corridor, and so she quickly entered Jarvis's domain shutting the door behind her. However Will hadn't shifted at her voice he seemed lost in his own thoughts and so jumped out of his skin when the paranoid maid shook his arm.
"Jesus Lizzie you trying to give me a heart attack?" He spluttered staggering slightly unable to keep his balance and so landing hard in Jarvis chair.
"I've no time for your nonsense William Forest!" Liz snorted. "I'm only here for one reason, and it's not what you think!" She added when she saw Will's face twist into a smirk. "Not all women fall for your charms you know!"
However at this comment she saw Will's face darken dangerously and his fist close tightly over the letter it enclosed. "What's happened?" She asked tentatively.
"What upstairs? That's the only reason why you're here isn't it? Come to pump me for information, not see how I am!" Will snapped, before Liz could respond. "Well I'll put you out of your misery and then perhaps you'll leave me be…Frank was trying it on with Lady Rebecca, your dad and George got to play the heroes and save the fair maiden, whereas yours truly was sent to fetch the reinforcements!"
"Mrs Ryan and Mr Jarvis?" Lizzie asked tentatively.
"Humph!" Will added scowling.
"Grace tried to warn you…" Liz began, but Will cut her off.
"Well she didn't try hard enough now did she!" Will snapped.
"Was she alright, what did they do with Frank?" Liz asked.
"Oh she's fine, and as for old Frank, Mr Jarvis has him kicking his heels in the coal cellar, some comment about that was the most appropriate place for caging rodents!" He replied trailing off as he gazed into the fire.
For a moment they sat in silent, Will waiting for the maid to leave so he could get on with his mission; Liz unwilling to leave him was worried about what he would do once she had left. Finally a frustrated Will broke the stalemate. "Look you got what you wanted why don't you go, just go and leave me!"
"Why what are you up to Will, I mean drinking sprits in Mr Jarvis's office, are you looking for the sack?" She retorted.
"Oh he'd love that!" Will huffed. "Well he's not going to get the satisfaction, no I'll have the last laugh in this affair, this letter will ensure that!" Will added, slamming it down on the table.
For a second Lizzie stood stunned, a part of her was yelling at her to simply turn and leave him to his course of self-destruction, but there was another side of her that made her stay put. "What's in the letter Will?" She asked softly.
"Oh a few home truths!" Will replied smugly, taking another sip from the brandy of bottle.
But Will didn't answer he continued to stare into the fire ignoring her question, exasperated Liz leapt forward and grabbed the letter from the table, and managed to read the first few lines her eyes widening in shock, before Will snatched it back. "Leave it be Lizzie, it's none of your business, it's between me and them!"
"How could you?" Liz exclaimed. "You and her, behind Mr Jarvis's back?"
"It wasn't like that!" Will replied. "They'd broken up and it just happened, we didn't plan it…And afterwards she didn't want to know she just discarded me like it…like I meant nothing!"
"So is this your idea of revenge?" Lizzie retorted. "You think this letter will be your way of paying her back for hurting you?"
"Well why not?" Will shouted back. "She used me, she took my feelings for granted and used me despite them!"
"Oh and you're so pure and innocent!" Lizzie added. "You've never pretended to feel more for a girl than you did in order to get what you want? Never told someone you loved them and not meant it?"
At this Will became strangely silent, his thoughts fleeing back to his treatment of a certain Esther Spicer, for once Liz had a point he had behaved the same way himself, but surely this was different after all it was expected for a man to play the field but not a woman.
"Not so cocky now are we Forest?" Liz retorted.
"So what? Why should I let them get away with it Scot free?" Will asked pleadingly.
"Because it's the right thing to do! You have the chance to be the better man, let her go. It was never going to work Will even you knew that! Why should you loose everything you've worked for, you'd have to leave without a character and you know you'd never get another position?"
Sighing Will slung himself back down into the chair passing the letter between his hands, his vision blurring as unbidden tears sprang to his eyes. "But I really do love her Liz, to have to see them together everyday, I don't know if I can stand it?"
"If you love her then do the right thing Will, burn that and let her get on with her life, be happy that she's happy, even if it is with Jarvis and not you." Liz replied softly, resting a hand gently on Will's arm.
Slowly Will got to his feet, moving over to the fireplace his gaze locked with Lizzie's and she smiled at him reassuringly as he took a deep breath dropping the letter into the fire, both of their eyes dropping as the paper was slowly consumed by the flames. When it had shrivelled to ash Liz walked over to Will, threading her arm through his she managed to drag him towards the door, leaving the letter and his relationship with Flora Ryan firmly behind him.