|The Secret Mrs Carson
Author: Rocks-my-socks PM
AU. Based off season 3 and some spoilers so be warned. During an argument about the Bransons, Elsie breaks down in tears in front of Charles. Though they soon recoil, she remains distant from him. Something else is wrong. He just doesn't know what.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Hurt/Comfort - C. Carson & E. Hughes - Chapters: 10 - Words: 28,553 - Reviews: 54 - Favs: 25 - Follows: 21 - Updated: 10-16-12 - Published: 09-17-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8534022
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author Note: Thanks for reviewing everyone – and I hope you really enjoy this chapter. I had so much fun with it – four words: Daisy to the rescue!
The Secret Mrs Carson: Chapter 3
Arriving at Victoria Station: Daisy was the first person to admit how lost she felt. This was her very first trip to London – and she was suddenly struck by what a folly sending her had been. She should have stayed at home and Mrs. Patmore should have sent Anna. She had been to London with the family when the girls had been doing their seasons. She had been there with Mr Hughes as well. Anna knew more of the city. She had a vague memory she had gone with Mr Bates too once but she could be wrong. Plus, she was sure Anna could give Mr. Carson the news his wife was ill a lot more gently and sensibly than she was going to be able too.
But, of course, there was no way on earth that Anna would have left Mrs. Hughes – Mrs. Carson - at the moment (the kitchen maid was still getting used to the idea that the butler and the housekeeper were married). She felt she had to be there for her when she woke up. Daisy had an idea she was going to go back to the hospital even before Clarkson rang for her.
But she had to put that out of her mind. For now, all she had to worry about was finding her way to Grosvenor's Square.
"Oh bother," she said as she looked about her, trying to find a sign that said something helpful, along the lines of 'this way to Grantham House.'
But there was not a single one.
And then she remembered why she was there and what she doing. This was not about the fact she was a country bumpkin. It was about the fact Downton's housekeeper was fighting for her life and she needed the man she loved at her side.
All she needed was someone to point her on her way. And then she might follow her nose. She was a Yorkshire lass, after all.
Once a station worker had pointed her in the right direction, she headed off with a determined look in her eye. Yet as she came out of the station into the busy London Street, she heard a vaguely familiar voice.
"We can go back in the summer when the plumbing is sorted. Darling, please don't let this put a dampener on the past few weeks. They had been so very lovely."
"I wouldn't allow that. They have..." and then the women's voice, responding to the man's, went so quiet Daisy could not hear her response. Yet she had heard enough.
Daisy did not think there was ever going to be a day when she could put into words how much easier this made her life.
Thank you god!
"Lady Mary," she said as she spun around to the rather surprised new bride who stood by her rather handsome husband, even if Daisy think so herself. "Mr Matthew!"
"Daisy?" asked Lady Mary, a little unsure of the kitchen maids name.
The skinny girl nodded.
"Did you come to London with Lord and Lady Grantham?"
"No – I just came down this morning. I had to change at Kings Cross and everything to get the train here. It was so exciting!"
Mary smiled indulgently, the well travelled young lady that she was. Still, she remained a little bemused. "So what are you doing here?"
Her face fell as she remembered. Focus Daisy.
"Trying to find Mr Carson. We rang but he had gone out."
"And you could not wait to speak to him at Downton till he returned?" Matthew asked as Daisy solemnly shook her head.
"It's more complicated than that."
"How so?" Mary asked, ever worried about anything that involved her faithful and beloved protector.
"Mrs Hughes," Daisy begun as her voice strained a little. She had so little to do with the Crawley family that now the conversation had turned rather serious, she felt uncomfortable talking to Lady Mary. "She – she isn't well. Not at all."
"Carson shall be saddened."
"It's even more than that. You see, she didn't want him called back, but Mrs Patmore took charge and read the letter because Anna had thought there was something more to Mrs. Hughes' being upset when they went to the hospital this morning. She said something about Mr Bates: I think she is missing him very much. Anna that is – not Mrs Hughes. Any way, they left early this morning in the car. It's not the Mrs Hughes was taking liberties, it's just she couldn't have done the walk even if she tried and she wouldn't call Mr Carson back, even though it's pretty obvious now to all of us that she wanted him home."
"Daisy," said Mary exasperated and trying to get some thread of the rather jumbled narrative. "One sentence: tell me why it is so vital Carson returns."
Daisy didn't know if she was doing right – what if Carson lost his position? It was not her place to say! It was then she heard Mrs. Patmore's voice in her head.
Forget his position, fool girl. Consider him losing his wife!
"They're married. Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes and really Mr and Mrs Carson. And she is in hospital and she is very sick. She needs him home. Sorry, milady. That's more than one sentence."
Marys hand flew to her mouth as she tried to take in what she had been told. "It doesn't matter. Every one of them was necessary. Right, come on," Mary said with just as much determination as Daisy and twice as much knowledge of the geography of the city. "Let's go find Carson."
Robert and Cora could not decide who they were more surprised to see at Grantham House that day: Matthew, Mary or Daisy. They questioned their daughter and son in law over why they were there, panicking for a moment that they had fought. But Mary reassured them.
The villa they had been staying in had had some plumbing issues which rendered it inhabitable and though they had the choice of a B and B or some other accommodation, they had decided with the money trouble at Downton, it was better to return and then go away for a second honeymoon when they could afford it and thus enjoy it more.
Mary coyly told her mother they had got done what they needed to anyway.
Daisy's explanation for turning up though was more cagey. No matter for the housemaid though. Mary dealt with her parents for her.
"Did Carson really give you no indication to where he was going?" asked Mary once she had given an even briefer description of what Daisy had told her than the original.
"He was very distracted this morning and so we thought it was for the best if he took the time he needed to do," Robert explained to the housemaid and his daughter. "What is going on?"
"Mrs. Hughes is very unwell," Mary revealed. She was not sure what to tell her father – how much he should know. She was very good at keeping secrets. And she had loyalty her to Carson to consider.
"I am very sorry to hear that. How bad is it?"
"Bad enough for her to need her friends around her. Now think: if Carson was out of sorts, where would he go for comfort?"
Cora and Robert were both thoughtful for a moment, as were Matthew and Mary – but it was Daisy who came up with an answer first.
"The mall – to see the palace. He loves the king. He'd go to the mall."
Mary's eyes went wide in agreement. "Daisy, I have a feeling no one gives you enough credit."
"If you can tell that to Mrs Patmore that on our return, I would be most grateful."
The two shared a smile.
"Matthew, darling, have some tea and ask Thomas and Miss O'Brien to ensure the two of us have enough easy clothes for the next few days. Anna will be at Downton, but I don't want any fuss. And be ready to drive us home within the next two hours," Mary instructed. "Come Daisy, let's get the car round. We're off to Buckingham Palace."
Charles Carson had followed his feet wherever they had taken him – straight to where the girls had thought he would go.
He had to say he had been a bit ashamed when Lord Grantham had felt he needed a little time out. He regarded it as unprofessional and professional was the one thing he had always, always been. It had been his rock to cling too.
Well, he did feel as if he needed something to cling to, whatever it was. Normally, he would find that in his wife but she remained shut off from him as well as being hundreds of miles away. He had practically raced to meet the post man that day. And he had had no joy.
Coming to a standstill before the palace, he was glad he had put his gloves on. The day had begun bright but it had been deceiving. Not only was it still cold but now it was going over cast. He did not think he would be much surprised if it rained before the end of the day.
The last thing his wife would ever let him do if she was there with him was to wallow in self pity. She had no sympathy with that. He was able to hear her soft Scottish tones in his mind, telling him he was being a silly old beggar and that all would be well.
"Elsie," he sighed miserably, as if she would hear his voice and come to tease him. To cheer him up.
Why didn't he just go? Go to Kings Cross now, buy some flowers, get on a train and be back in time to enjoy a meal with his sweetheart before they retired to bed as man and wife? What was stopping him?
Yet that question seemed foolish in and of itself to him. He knew what was stopping him for it stood right before him.
Duty. That was what the monarchy and the palace represented to him. Being given a job and having to do it whether you liked it or not, uncomplainingly. No matter the personal cost and no matter how much your heart ached at the end of the day. He had said he was going to be butler for the Grantham's until he died. And so he would.
Vaguely, he was aware of a presence beside him to his right – and then his left.
But his misery did not lift.
"Do you know what always amazes me about this building? The curtains – they never ever look very clean."
"They are not like the windows at home, milady."
It took just a moment for Carson to realize he knew both of those voices. And neither one of them should be in London at that moment.
Once that he had regained himself, he kept his voice calm. "Lady Mary, why are you not in the south of France? And why are you not at Downton, Daisy?"
"She has my permission to be in London, Carson," Mary jumped it.
"Why? Lady Mary, this is most irregular."
"I know. We both know it is. But Daisy here has been sent on a mercy mission by Mrs Patmore. Come, let the three of us go and find a bench to sit on," Mary said with great authority as she took control and pulled rank over her father's employees. "We will explain everything, wont we?"
"Yes, milady," Daisy nodded.
The butler had very little choice in the manner.
Once that they had done so, Mary and Daisy took a seat either side of Carson. He could feel the nervous tension which was coming off both of the girls.
"What is it?"
Lady Mary felt as if she should continue, but Daisy turned to him first. Mary realised that it was time for the girl to take the lead. She had been the one sent to him. She should be the one to tell him.
Taking the opened envelope out of her bag, Daisy begun to shake with nerves. What if he was angry with Mrs Patmore? She had put her own note in with Mrs Hug – Carson's, but...
"Mr Carson," Daisy begun, telling herself to keep steady and slow. Just explain things gently and simply, that was what Anna's advice to her had been. "Mrs Hughes isn't very well."
"I – I saw her four days ago. She was fine – a little," Charles stopped talking. He had known she wasn't fine. Mary took his hand for support. His horrified face was all the proof she would ever need that a secret wedding had taken place.
"She's in hospital. She went in this morning and left this letter for you – she said it would explain things if you were confused."
And that, he very much was. "But that letter has been opened – did you-"
"No, Mr Carson, Mrs Patmore did. She put a note in too. Please just read. I dunno how much time we have, but I do know we have none for fighting among ourselves."
Daisy's eyes widened just as much as his did at the end of her statement. She did not think she had ever taken that tone with him, nor was she ever likely to again. Her eyes diverted to the floor.
"Daisy is right. Read the letters."
"You are both impudent in your own ways. I hope you know that."
"Yes Mr Carson," Daisy agreed quickly, not wishing to try his patience.
Mary shrugged. "Why, thank you."
Carson grimaced, but turned his attention to the two letters he had removed from the envelope.
The small, scruffy hand writing of the Cook caught his eye first and so he pulled it out – plus, he felt nervous about reading Elsie's letter. In hospital? How? Why? Why had he not been informed, why did she have to go in, why wasn't he at her side? Why?
I opened Mrs Hughes' letter to you when Anna brought it to my attention that the poor lady was even more uncomfortable than we already thought she was. I am not ashamed, I will not apologize: I feel no guilt whatsoever.
Mr Carson, I have sent Daisy with this message so that you would have someone who understood the situation with you. You have my sympathy and I will go to church this afternoon to pray that you and Mrs Carson may be granted the strength to get through this ordeal.
You are very much needed in Yorkshire.
Written in friendship and concern.
Mrs B. Patmore.
"She knows. Do you know?" he asked turning to Daisy.
She was a fool, but not fool enough to deny she understood what he was talking about.
"Lady Mary does as well," Daisy nodded.
"Very well," Carson nodded as he looked back at the palace for a moment, feeling sick as he contemplated the contents of his wife's letter. But he wouldn't know unless he read it. Not for sure.
"I'm here with you," Mary reminded him, squeezing his arm comfortingly.
"And selfishly, I am glad of it, my lady."
Shivering involuntarily, he unfolded his wife's letter to him and begun to read.
Two mornings ago, I sat at my desk and with all my might I tried write this letter. I failed. All I could summon from my pen were those two rather feeble sentences I gave you to read on the train. They did not convey my true meaning, or the depth of my love for you, though perhaps after reading this, nothing will be able to convince you of that anyway.
When I went to London with Anna, I found a lump, Charles – in my breast.
"Oh god," Carson muttered involuntarily as he understood so much more about her in that one instance. Wiping away the tears which had sprung it to his eyes, he realised he would never know how hard it was for her to write this letter.
Fear spread throughout his body.
She came to the hospital with me and we prayed it would be something of nothing. But it was not – and it has to be removed. The operation will take place in two days time, with Doctor Clarkson performing it. Yet the procedure he will perform is new and the chances of my survival are not all together promising.
Please believe me when I write I have tried to tell you, I have, my love. I always believed that there was no problem to great for us to deal with, as long as we remained united. It is my fault, entirely, that we are separated now. I beg you not to reproach yourself – we both know my behaviour has been erratic of late to say the least. But none of the blame can be attached to you. You were right to go: darling, I told you too.
Equally, I plead that you believe in my continued love for you, whether I am by your side or not. Charles, I didn't tell you, not because I don't love or trust you. But because I could not bear to hurt you – I wanted to protect you from this. It just turns out I can't.
Remember the days we spent in Margate this summer just past, my love. Remember when we were alone at night (I blush when I do!). Remember that ridiculous tandem we hired for the day.
Forget the last month, the past two weeks since my return – but never how much I love you. You have made me so happy – I hope, husband, I have done the same for you.
I am, till the very end, your very loving Elsie Carson.
'I'm half crazy over the love of you.'
Carson read over the letter three times before he could take in anything of what was written on it. He could only take away the gist of it as it was.
"She wrote this two days ago. Why have I only just got it now?"
"She left it on your desk," Daisy explained.
"So I'd find it on return if – oh Elsie, what were you thinking?" he grumbled allowed. "You say she went into hospital this morning Daisy?"
"Yes, Mr Carson."
"And when you left was there any word on her condition?"
"It were too soon – she were still in theatre."
"Ok – she hasn't... she isn't... Daisy, what I'm trying to say...ask is..."
"She's alive, as far as I know."
Charles took a deep breath. "Good – good, thank god."
"Please," the little kitchen maid begged. "Come home with me today."
"Of course I'm coming home with you, silly girl."
Mary cleared her throat. "She is many things, Carson, but I do not believe she is silly," she said gently and somehow sympathetically. She did not mean to reproach him. Yet she had a new found respect for the young girl who she felt compelled to protect for some reason. Maybe it was because she was about Sybil's age.
"No – perhaps you are quite right, milady. Sorry, Daisy. Now let us go. I have to tell your father everything, Lady Mary. I've no idea how he is going to take it – and then I have to make for Yorkshire with great haste," he said as he got up. The girls followed him.
"Well, we have got the car here now to take us back to Grantham House," Mary fell into step beside him. "We shall go and pick up Matthew and then we will go home, the four of us together. He'll drive. And we can ring for news of Mrs Carson before we leave."
"I just hope we're in time."
"We will be."
In the end, five people were in the car as Matthew drove away from Grantham House. The Earl of Grantham did not quite understand all that had been going on downstairs – but he did know his butler had wed his housekeeper. Between them and Anna and Bates, he was beginning to wonder if Mrs Patmore was really Mrs Patmore at all. Who had she snuck off to marry?
Nevertheless, he had felt compelled to go back with the others, to support the man who had always supported him, through the thin and the thick of life. The two of them would no doubt talk about what had really been going on later. All that mattered what that Mr Carson got home. Robert looked back into the cab of the car, having elected to ride up front with Matthew to allow Charles a little more comfort. Carson had of course protested, but Robert insisted protocol be put aside for the day and he had relented. The butler was flanked by the girls. Mary held his hand and continued to be the pillar of strength she had been for him throughout the day.
As for Daisy, she had been overcome by emotion and exhaustion after her train ride. Leaning her head on the butlers shoulder, she had fallen asleep about an hour after they had set off. Carson made no attempt to rouse her, but placed a paternal, grateful kiss on her forehead.
Young Mrs Mason had done well that day. Very well. He only prayed that as she faced her own task, Mrs Carson had the same luck and strength that Daisy had shown.