After brief research into the history of the rollerskate, this is what I come up with. This is almost as daft as it gets, so definitely, definitely not to be taken seriously. No particular time frame, definitely a oneshot: just the staff being daft.
Gwen stared down at the package in her hands. She hadn't meant to open it, she really hadn't, but it had come off the mail-coach in such a state that the brown paper had all but disintegrated in her hands, the box battered almost beyond recognition. Anyway, it was addressed to Lady Sybil, she was nice; had it been any other member of the family she probably wouldn't have dared to discard the paper altogether but she hadn't thought that Lady Sybil would mind.
Now that she saw what was in it, she felt rather different. Why on earth had Lady Sybil ordered such an item? What on earth could she want with a pair of rollerskates? Gwen giggled to herself for a moment. In her head she could hear the Dowager Countess declaring that the youth of today had gone mad. Not so, she thought fleetingly to herself, we're just imaginative. Cautiously, she placed the battered card on the table and lifted the lid. They were shinier than any shoes she'd ever owned; gleaming white. Biting her lip, she placed the lid to one side and tremulously lifted one skate by the top of the boot, carefully disentangling the laces from those of the other and inspecting it in awe. Drawing her finger quickly over one of the wheels, as if leaving it there too long would burn it, she sent it spinning delightfully. She was briefly reminded of her own childhood and peddling like fury on the rusty tricycle that she shared with her brothers.
She heard the door close before she could drop the boot. Turning around slowly, she was incredibly thankful to find only Anna there, instead of Mrs Hughes or -worse still- Miss O'Brien.
"What've you got there?" Anna asked, curiously, "Not thinking of becoming a skater now, are you? You have thought you'd have enough on your hands learning to be a secretary."
"Don't be daft," she replied putting it back down on the table, but not into the box, "They came for Lady Sybil."
Anna looked at her in confusion.
"So you've nicked off with them because...?"
"The package got spoiled on the coach. They might as well have fallen out."
"Mrs Hughes'd call that a likely tale," Anna remarked, but not seriously.
She said no more and crossed to the table, examining the other roller skate. Gwen resumed looking at the one she had been previously playing with.
"What does she want with these?" she wondered aloud after a while.
"You know Lady Sybil," she told her, "Always one to do something different. I expect Lady Mary and Lady have been studiously trying to acquire themselves husbands so she went and acquired herself some rollerskates."
That certainly sounded like her. Gwen grinned again. The stone floors downstairs were very smooth, so much more suitable for skating than the panels upstairs. A brief mental image of Lady Sybil shooting around past antique vases while Mrs Hughes cursed at her for scratching the woodwork almost caused her to double over in hysterical laughter.
"Do you think she'd mind?"
Anna's question stopped her in her tracks for a second: she was wearing quite a wicked grin.
"Do you think she'd mind if we had a go?"
Half an hour later, Daisy shrieked as she was propelled- pushed by Gwen- by the little wheels under her feet across the room at quite an impressive speed. Thankfully, William had his wits about him enough to catch her before she went face first into the wall. Both giggling madly, he managed to turn her around to push her back towards Anna and Gwen. This was what was brilliant about service, Anna thought, despite all the Thomas's and O'Brien's you came across, there were the occasional moments like this that made your sides spilt with laughter. Daisy came flying back towards them so quickly, she and Gwen almost failed to stop her, but just about managed.
"Careful now," she told her, carefully steering her back round.
"I'm fine!" Daisy assured her giddily.
"I don't mean you! We have to keep those rollerskates looking as good as new," she reminded her with a smile.
Gwen pushed her back towards William and there was another great whooshing sound.
"Are you sure she won't mind that we've got her boots on?" Daisy asked as William sorted her out.
"What she doesn't know can't harm her," Gwen pointed out.
"What the blazes is going on in here? You do know the dressing gong'll be going any minute now?"
The four of them momentarily froze at the sound of Miss O'Brien's voice in the doorway. The lady's maid was, however, accompanied by Mr Bates who was watching quietly, which gave Anna some confidence.
"What's it look like?" she asked, then, trying not to sound too facetious "Do you want a go?
Miss O'Brien snorted.
"Do I 'eck!" she exclaimed, "Can you imagine me on a pair of them?"
Well, yes, Anna wanted to say, but the mental image was far too funny. She willed herself not to catch Mr Bates' eye.
"Be careful with Daisy," he told them, "Or else Mrs Patmore'll be without a kitchen maid."
Daisy looked decidedly unconcerned by the prospect of her death, sailing past them once more. The y each heard the sound of the back door opening. Mr Bates turned quickly, gesturing frantically with his hand for them to stop. It was too late, however; whoever had come in had been attracted to the noise and the appearance of people crowding in the doorway. He and Miss O'Brien had no option but to part and let whoever was there pass. Lady Sybil, pulling off her gloves, froze in the doorway as she beheld the scene before her. Anna frantically searched for something to say but found nothing. To her great surprise, a fiendish grin of understanding spread itself across Lady Sybil's face as the dressing gong rang in the background.
Lady Sybil sat in a chair to put on her rollerskates. There was time, she had concluded, for a quick spin before dinner. Assisted by William, she took her first tentative steps around the room, not exactly graceful but thoroughly enjoying herself. Anna smiled, the situation was surreal but oddly wonderful. She had always thought Lady Sybil different from her sisters- "a right card" Mrs Patmore had called her- but roller-skating around the servants' quarters was something else entirely. Mr Bates, ever the gentleman, took her hand as she reached him looking wobbly and helped her continue around the room. Miss O'Brien looked haughty as she did when other people showed signs of having too much fun.
Lady Sybil whooped just excitedly as Daisy had done as she flew past them all at her fastest speed yet.
"What on earth is going on here?"
Most of the party, even Lady Sybil, froze as Mrs Hughes appeared in the doorway; hands on hips and looking taller than usual, as she inconveniently did when she was angry. No one seemed to quite know how to answer.
"It's my fault, Mrs Hughes."
Anna was surprised, although she really should be learning to expect the unexpected when it came to the youngest Grantham daughter, to see that it was Lady Sybil speaking. Mrs Hughes looked equally so, evidently not having spotted her employer's daughter among the rabble.
"L-Lady Sybil," the housekeeper recovered from something of a double take, "Could... Could you tell me what's going on in here?"
It was lucky for them that Lady Sybil had turned up, Anna thought, or else they'd all be hanging from the washing line by their socks by now.
"I was wondering about how practical it would be to put the staff on roller skates on a permanent basis," Lady Sybil seconds before had worn the expression of someone who was trying to think very hard, very quickly, "It would speed up service, don't you think?"
Mrs Hughes' height extended itself once again.
"I hope, my Lady, that you do not feel the staff are performing up to scratch?"
"Oh, good heavens, no!" Lady Sybil back-tracked with remarkable speed, "I just thought it would make things easier for you, less hard on the legs and so on."
"Except when going up the stairs," Mrs Hughes pointed out shrewdly.
"Except when going up the stairs," Lady Sybil agreed.
Judging by her expression, she was well aware of just how much of the servants' time involved going up and down stairs. Unable to think of what she could possibly say next, she fell silent.
"Well, my Lady," Mrs Hughes told her, without audible mocking, "I am perfectly willing to consult Mr Carson about the idea, though what he will say I cannot imagine."
The thought of Mr Carson on rollerskates was almost enough to cause Anna to need to sit down and she ducked behind Mr Bates to disguise her mirth.
Please review if or if not you think I'm completely crackers.