I did miss Marcellus. I would have been lying if I said otherwise and as I'd promised my master, I never told lies. I missed the easy relationship we'd come to share and I missed chatting with him while we went about our daily duties as butlers. I especially missed the time we'd spent together every evening, just talking and enjoying one another's company, but I knew that he couldn't stay with me forever. He had to eat, after all, and that meant a contract.
I didn't realize just how much everyone else would miss him, though. Bard seemed grouchy, Mey-Rin wandered about like a drooping flower, and Finny looked as if he'd lost his best friend. Agni and Soma were both unhappy at Marcellus' departure and the young master...well, he was in a foul mood. Usually, I found his foul moods amusing since they rarely lasted long and because the young master was rather adorable when he behaved petulantly, but the morning after Marcellus' departure I could tell that this mood was going to stick around for a while.
"Did Marcellus come back with you last night?" he asked as soon as I woke him.
"No, young master," I answered truthfully. "He has gone to fill a contract."
He dropped his head back into his pillows and looked rather depressed. "I see."
"He did say that he would be back at some point," I offered, hoping to cheer him up.
Vain hope. "Hmm."
He remained in the same mood while I got him up and dressed and he remained depressed all through breakfast. I'd even baked his favorite scones and I'd provided lemon curd, but he didn't touch it and only nibbled at one of the scones.
His mood did not improve over the next few days and I began to be worried. Had his happiness depended so much upon Marcellus' company? Should I try to find Marcellus and convince him to come back? I was trying everything I could think of to lighten my young master's mood: stories, interesting diversions, reading aloud, his favorite treats and teas, but none of it was working! I was beginning to wonder if I should invite Grell to stay at the manor again since he was good at providing a somewhat amusing distraction, but his office had recalled him and he left shortly after Marcellus' departure.
A visit from Lady Middleford, Lady Elizabeth, and Miss Villefort did not help matters in the least. They dropped by one afternoon and stayed clear through supper. I was stuck running to and fro trying to wait on them and supervise the meals at the same time and it took all of my abilities as a butler to manage everything that was going on. Thankfully, Agni came to my rescue and took over the supervision of dinner preparation, which left me to wait on the guests in the parlor.
Thank goodness for good friends who were wiling to help in a pinch. Agni's assistance certainly made my job easier as I had to deal with Lady Middleford's disapproving demeanor and her friend's...mishaps. Put kindly, Miss Villefort was a klutz, a lady who possessed not a modicum of grace. Unfortunate in the extreme, but true. Over the course of their visit I had to clean up after a knocked-over flower vase, three spilled teacups, two broken ones, a chipped sandwich plate, two toppled glasses of wine, a spilled glass of champagne, and an upset gravy boat. It was as if she'd declared war on our tableware!
She wasn't any better away from the table, either. On her way into the dining room she knocked into a chair in the hall, caught her foot on the carpet and stumbled, stubbed her toes on the dining room door jamb, stumbled again on the dining room rug, and nearly missed her seat altogether when she went to sit down at the table. By the time I had her seated, she'd managed to step on my toes no less than three times. If I'd been human I would have been crippled with pain.
Compared to Miss Villefort, Lady Elizabeth was a paragon of genteel behavior, and I had a strong feeling that she found Miss Villefort's clumsiness a bit embarrassing. She had the tact and grace, however, not to mention it. Miss Villefort was a grown woman; how could she allow herself and her hosts to suffer such behavior without attempting to remedy it? She was embarrassing not only herself but the people who had introduced her, as well.
My master was not the only one who breathed a sigh of relief when Lady Middleford, Lady Elizabeth, and Miss Villefort left us for the evening. Once their carriage had exited the manor gates I went to see what I could do about the havoc Miss Villefort had left behind her.
A few days after their visit my master received a letter. For the first time since Marcellus' departure I could see a glimmer of interest in his eyes. It was one of the queen's letters and I could tell that the young master and I would be investigating in London. His expression as he read it made me slightly uneasy.
"Children have been disappearing in London," he said.
"Really?" I said, hoping he would say more.
He nodded. "Over the past week Scotland Yard has been inundated with reports about missing children and as of last night the number's at two hundred and eighty five separate cases. It doesn't matter who they are or where they're from in London, they've come up missing. There have been cases reported from the worst neighborhoods in the East End to Mayfair. She wants us to find them."
I smiled and gave a bow. This would be rather interesting. "Yes, my lord."
Author's Note: You guys rock for all the reviews for my last chapter. I'm so glad you liked it! This is the final update for this story; the adventures of Ciel and Sebastian will continue in my next fic, so please let me know how you like it once I begin posting! Thanks again for all your encouragement!