|The Poor Lad
Author: MeerkatJo PM
The relationship between Mrs Hughes and Branson explored from the evening of the count, to the day he returns to Ireland with Sybil and maybe beyond!Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Friendship/Drama - E. Hughes & T. Branson - Chapters: 4 - Words: 7,334 - Reviews: 15 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 13 - Updated: 06-20-12 - Published: 03-11-12 - id: 7915431
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Yay! I'm back! Sorry for the delay, but exam overload meant that fanfiction was sadly down on my list of priorities. I'll try and update my other stories asap as I have just two exams left (both next wednesday) and a trombone exam on the 11th, but it might not be as quickly as I would like as I'm going away on the 28th and won't be back until the end of the sunday (because on the 29th I'm at WIMBLEDON YAY!) Sorry. Excitement over. Hope you enjoy this chapter!
What a crazy day, Elsie thought to herself. As Charles – Mr Carson, she corrected herself – had said earlier, they'd lost both Mr Bates and Lady Sybil in one morning. She pitied the heartbroken housemaid that solitarily sat in her bedroom, gazing off into the distance and wondering where her love was now. She had to admit, Elsie had always had a bit of a soft spot towards them. She'd come across "romance between the staff" at her previous house, all those years ago, and she'd tried to turn a blind eye. She couldn't bare to think about it when she was such a young woman; feeling blue about having no one to care for in that way. However, now that she was an old lass with a whole family surrounding her, and now that she had the close friendship of Charles Carson, she couldn't feel blue about her spinsterhood. She'd given her full support to the couple, but sadly, it didn't look like it was meant to be.
"I'd better go and clear out the cottage." She muttered to herself before looking at her fob watch and looking out the back door in the servants quarters to see if there was still enough light left in the sky. His Lordship had asked Mrs Hughes to prepare a cottage for Mr Bates and Anna to live in after they were married, but now it seemed she would have to go and clear out all the creature comforts that she had placed in there in her heightened sense of happiness and adoration for the pair. Letting out a disheartened sigh, she began to walk round the back of the stables and towards the garage and the road on which the cottage lay. She noticed the light on in the garage and thought best not to disturb the chauffeur after such an exhausting day, but just as she was about to turn the doorknob on the cottage door, she was alerted to the sound of glass smashing coming from the garage. She frowned in confusion as she made her way over to the garage, and was startled at the sight before her.
"Mr Branson!" She exclaimed as the chauffeur jumped up straight to attention from where he was sitting on the workbench. His right hand placed a barely drunk bottle of whisky back onto the workbench, as Elsie spotted the shattered bottle on the ground; it's content spread across the concrete floor.
"Mrs Hughes! Please, I'm not drunk!" He pleaded, trying to prove his innocence by picking up a spanner from the side, throwing it in the air and catching in again. "See?"
"You may not be drunk Mr Branson, but why on earth do you look it and why have you been throwing these bottles on the floor?"
"I…I mean, oh I just…" He tried to explain as Elsie sighed again.
"Go on, pass on here." She said as she moved to lean against the workbench. Tom's eyebrows rose in surprise and confusion. "Well, if you're going to drink, it's best to have someone with you to stop you going overboard now isn't it?"
"Touché." The young lad said as he passed the housekeeper a bottle and sat down on the bench again. They sat in silence as Mr Branson watched in utter amazement at the sight of Mrs Hughes pulling of the top of the bottle and taking a large gulp in one fell swoop. He opened his mouth to warn her to take it easy, but after quick consideration, thought it best not to. She was a grown woman who knew what she was doing, and he didn't want to sound patronising now did he? He shifted his gaze away from the woman to a point on the floor as he took another small sip.
"Now, if you don't mind my asking, but what on earth are we doing in the garage at dusk, drinking whiskey from the bottle? And why is there a broken bottle on the floor?" The chauffeur said nothing; his gaze remaining on the invisible spot. "Now, as you've proven Mr Branson, you are not drunk, and it's not like a grown man to accidently drop something unless something has made him drop something," she gave him a sterner look, "or if he threw it out of anger." At this, the man's face clenched up and turned away; looking deeper into the dingy garage. "Well, if you're not going to tell me, then I'm just going to have to prise it out of you one way or another." She gave a large sigh. "Are you angry because of what someone has said to you? O'Brien maybe?" No reaction. "No of course it's not O'Brien. She wouldn't dare try to humiliate someone like you, especially without Thomas around." The chauffeur remained dead still. "Now, what else have you done today? Nothing that would grant a reaction like this." She paused again, and the Branson could see the clogs turning in her mind as something finally clicked. "You dropped Lady Sybil off at York," he tensed up again as she witness a stray tear fall down his left cheek, "where she'll be staying for two months. Is that what this is? Not being able to see her for two months?" At that moment, the chauffeur closed his eyes before exclaiming,
"It's not just that!" and throwing his whiskey bottle on the floor.
"Easy there m'lad! Or you'll have none left to share with little old me!" She looked at him with sterner eyes again. "What happened at York that you're not telling me?" He began pacing about the garage, trying to hold back his anger and tears.
"I..I mean, I…"
"What did you do?"
"I told her how I felt! I proposed basically, and now I feel so stupid!" he shouted as he kicked the bumper of the Renault, before succumbing to the pain and falling down to sit on the ledge of the car; head in hands, as he usually found himself doing when contemplating Sybil. "IDIOT!"
Elsie felt taken aback by this startling display of emotion from the chauffeur. She'd always known him to be a passionate man, both in mind and in heart, but to see this sheer emotion was an entirely new experience for her.
"What did she say to you?" She looked at him with sympathetic eyes.
"She said that she was `terribly flattered´."
"Well, that's not an outright no."
"I know but…it's what they say isn't it? Posh people, when they mean no." Elsie sighed again before moving next to him; leaning against the Renault.
"If you want to know what I think…I think that you should just try and forget her, or at least try and see her as merely a friend rather than something…you want to spend the rest of your life with." That last bit hit her the hardest. Did he really? I mean, was it even possible for the chauffeur to feel that way about a daughter of an earl? He said he basically proposed; it must be true but, even so. To think if she'd said yes! Well, his lordship would be down here right now murdering the poor lad with his own bare hands. Elsie continued, "She may be a bit of a rebellious princess no doubt, but don't you think that maybe you were asking a bit too much of her? I mean, she was taking a big enough step as it was, training to be a nurse! I'm a firm believer in love can't grow or survive when there's no hope. Maybe she's never supposed it to be possible, and so she's never felt anything as strong as what you feel for her?"
"I guess, looking back, I never thought she would outright accept me there and then…but, but I just had to tell her!"
"I know, I know. Like I said the day the war began, go home and find some sweet Irish lass. A lad like you will find no difficulty in that. You'll soon forget her and it will all just be a time when you dared to dream the impossible, and reality tore your dream to shreds. We've all been heartbroken my boy, and I'm afraid to say that it's your turn now."
"Easier said than done." Branson muttered in a slightly lighter tone.
"Well, after half a bottle of that whiskey I'm not so sure!" She chuckled; Branson joining in a bit later. "Besides, if she did care for you in that way, she would beg you to stay wouldn't she?" His head shot up at the sound of those words.
"But she did!"
"I beg your pardon?"
"She, she…when I said that I would hand in my notice and I would be gone when she got back, she asked me to stay. Also, she said she wouldn't tell anyone what I'd said to her...or how I felt."
"Oh golly boy. You've really gotten the both of you in a right muddle haven't you! His lordship shouldn't have employed you in the first place!" She smiled a cheeky smile.
"What, what do you think she means?"
"I know that if she didn't care for you, she wouldn't have wanted to you stay anyway! When a girl rejects a man she doesn't love, even if they are friends, the thing she wants the most is to never have to find herself in that position again," she thought back to her dealings with Joe, "and that usually means never having to see him again, or carrying on their friendship from afar." She moved to stand opposite him and look him in the eye. "If she wants you to stay, then she's willing to risk this whole business coming out and ruining her relationship with her family, all for the sake of being able to see you again." With this, the chauffeur stood up with a bit of a spring.
"Are you saying that you think she does have feelings for me?"
"Possibly. I mean, If you hear from her by letter within these two months, then it's clear you're on her mind. Even if she doesn't mention what happened between you in that letter, it's clear that she's been thinking about you, and if she's been thinking about you then she's been thinking about what you said to her. In short, if she sends a letter, then she's probably been thinking about you and what happened. If she does, then it probably means there's something there."
"But, if she does feel the same, then why didn't she just say it?"
"Oh my boy, there's could be a million different reasons for that. Maybe she hadn't really been thinking about it? Maybe she doesn't know she feels the same way herself?"
"I mean, put yourself in her position for a moment. You're staying away from home and your parents for the first time in your life, for two months, to train to do work that will be ghastly and awful, you're young, your fairly naïve compared to most girls your age, and then your good friend the chauffeur tells you that he loves you and wants to marry you. How else would you expect her to reply other than no? Not forgetting that marrying you is no quick decision. She would be cast out from her family,"
"She might never see them again." He replied sullenly.
"Exactly! She would have to give up so much. You can't expect her to make that kind of decision on the spot, even if she did care for you!"
"So what do you advise I do?"
"Wait. Just wait and give her time. If she cares for you, she'll come around and knowing her…if she makes up her mind that she wants to marry you, then nothing will stand in her way my boy." A smile erupted on his numb face. "And I'll be here as always, picking up the pieces of the scandal and braving the storm!" She said with a giggle in her voice.
"If." He replied.
The staff were sitting, eating their breakfast a fortnight later, when Mr Carson came swaggering in with a pile of mail in his hands.
"One for Anna." The head housemaid's eyes lit up in hope of news from her beloved, but her face drooped again as she opened it to find a letter from her sister in Leeds.
"Three for O'Brien!"
"Er-thank you Mr Carson, but there's no need to comment on my personal mail!" The sour-faced woman stood up and accepted her letters.
"And that is no way to talk to a higher member of staff Miss O'Brien!" His anger evident in his voice as she sauntered off to the courtyard. "And a letter for Mr Branson." The chauffeur's eyes jumped up from the newspaper, to the letter, to Mrs Hughes, and back to the letter again.
"Thank you, Mr Carson." He accepted as he stood up and walked away from the table whilst faintly smiling to the housekeeper. She shook her head in disbelief. So it's happening is it? She'd better batter down the hatches before it's too late then.
So what do you think? Maybe Mrs Hughes was more of a catalyst than we think! :D Reviews are love!