For those of you who have read my previous fics, you'll know about the brooch that is described here. If not, then you might want to go back and read "The Last Will & Testament of Charles Carson", although I think it can be understood on its own. This story is just a few chapters to look at the journey that brooch takes. This chapter features Charles' mother, who is housekeeper of Downton, and her own butler. They are my own invention set in the world Julian Fellowes created. I confess that I have fallen in love with them just a little, so please indulge me in this chapter.
Downton Abbey, August, 1869
Grace Carson was having some difficulty finishing getting dressed. Her difficulty was not a physical one, but a mental or rather an emotional one. She was trying to decide whether to wear a particular item. It was a brooch, specifically her luckenbooth. She'd never thought about wearing it before, simply putting it on nearly every day for the past eighteen years, except when it had been pinned to little Charles' blankets, of course. Grimacing, sometimes now she just wished she'd let the fairies have him, she wasn't completely convinced that they'd not stolen his brains at least. Silly boy! Leaving at the age of 16 proudly declaring he'd rather starve than be at another man's beck and call. If he was ever actually starving, she was sure he'd feel differently.
Shaking her head a little, she realized this wasn't going to solve her problem of whether to wear the brooch or not. She remembered her joy when Edward had presented it to her the day he asked her to marry him. Wearing it even after his death six years ago had made it seem that they were still connected somehow. Now, though that sad conversation from a few weeks ago replayed itself in her mind. Samuel Jerkyns, frustratingly kind and a little sad, had asked her if perhaps she might be continuing to wear it because she was afraid of letting go of the past, of beginning again. She wondered if perhaps she dared to move on, to possibly care for someone again. Thoughts of a pair of kind gray eyes over a gentle smile filled her mind. Laying the brooch back on her dresser, she decided that today was the time to stop wearing it.
Making her morning rounds to see that the fires were lit and all was tidy to start the day, she felt the lack of the luckenbooth acutely. She found herself touching its customary place on the left side of her chest frequently. Going down the steps to breakfast, she wondered if those kind, sharp, gray eyes would notice the lack, and her heart quickened a little at the thought. If he asked, she promised herself that she would tell him why she had left it off. There would be no more dissembling between them.
Standing as Mrs. Carson entered; Mr. Jerkyns greeted her and quickly moved to pull out her chair. Glancing down the table, he ensured that all the other men were doing the same for the girls closest to them. Once she was settled, he sat down himself at the head of the table and indicated that it was time to eat. He glanced over at her as he started on his porridge, and his spoon stopped halfway to his mouth. Catching himself, he realized that he was staring at her chest and quickly fixed his attention on his bowl so that he could finish eating. While he ate all his breakfast, he tasted nothing. His mind was focused on only one thought. She wasn't wearing it, specifically her brooch. Heart soaring, he believed this could only mean one thing. She was ready. Trying to rein in his racing thoughts, he told himself that she could merely have forgotten it this morning as unlikely as that might be. He would wait and watch until the end of the day. She might yet return to her room and put it on.
Smiling to herself, Mrs. Carson knew that he'd noticed the moment he'd looked over at her. It was rather gratifying at her age to think that a man still looked first at her chest. She noticed the pause in his eating and wondered what he was thinking. With a small smile, she finished her own breakfast and looked forward to the discussion that she was sure would come quickly. She was disappointed when the morning passed and he did not seek her out. A little downcast, she went into luncheon and her spirits lifted when she noticed his quick downward glance and small smile. Surely, he would find her this afternoon to ask her about the missing brooch. Again, she was disappointed when the afternoon passed with no appearance by her butler. That night was unfortunately a very busy one. There were three other couples to dine with Lord and Lady Grantham. Mrs. Carson found herself a little grateful because it kept Mr. Jerkyns busy upstairs. She was also glad to have the work to keep her mind off of him. She saw him only briefly at their dinner before he was back upstairs to see to the Lord and Lady and their guests.
After she had supervised the clearing up and made sure the china was safely stored away, she went to her parlor. Trying to read a book she found herself sitting for a quarter of an hour without turning the page. Giving up in disgust, she decided to forgo her custom of waiting until her butler came down and started off to bed. She was halfway to the ground floor when she heard the upper door open softly and saw him starting downstairs wearily with a tray of wine glasses in hand. Seeing her he stopped and smiled hesitantly, "Are you off to bed, Mrs. Carson? I had hoped to talk to you for a moment, but I won't keep you if you're tired."
Her heart lifted, "Not at all, Mr. Jerkyns. I'd be happy to join you." She turned and went back down the stairs. Turning at the bottom, she took the tray from him, "Let me take that to the scullery while you lock up."
He nodded appreciatively and went to do just that. Coming to the door of his pantry, she found him placing the last items of silver in the cabinet and closing the doors, key in hand to lock them. When he'd finished, he turned and again looked quickly down at her chest. Looking back into her eyes with a smile, he took a step toward her, "Mrs. Carson, I couldn't help noticing that something was missing from your customary attire this morning."
She didn't want to make this too easy for him after the disappointing day she'd had. Biting back her own smile, she took a small step toward him, "And what would that be, Mr. Jerkyns?"
Smile deepening he took another step toward her, "A small brooch that you generally wear about here," he indicated the left side of her chest, "Did you forget it?"
She took another step forward, no longer biting back her smile, "No, I thought about it quite a bit. I left it off quite deliberately."
One more step brought him just a few inches from her. His kind, gray eyes searched her face, and he asked quietly, "Why?"
She was disconcerted at having him so close and looking at her so intently. He was only perhaps an inch taller than her, so she found that she was looking directly into his eyes. She answered a little breathlessly, "To begin again."
Taking her elbow in his hand, he asked one last hopeful question, "With me?"
Mouth suddenly dry, she nodded as she watched those gray eyes, seeing them close as he moved quickly to kiss her.
After several blissful moments he broke the kiss and drew her to him. "I'm glad, Grace, very glad," he whispered against her cheek.
Much later after a long discussion, well, a little discussion and a lot of kissing, with Samuel as she now could call him in their private moments, she returned to her room. Seeing the luckenbooth lying on her dresser she smiled. She had been so happy when she had put it on for the first time. Now, she was just as happy that she had left it off today. Taking a small piece of tissue, she wrapped it carefully and placed it in an envelope, sitting down to write a short note to Charles so he could understand how important that it was.