Daisy and Molesley: A Romantic Interlude
A valet's job is never done, Molesley inwardly sighed on his way down to the servant's hall one afternoon. And neither, apparently, is a kitchen maid's, he amended, quirking an eyebrow and holding his tongue as he came into full view of two imposing cooks bearing down on one trembling Daisy.
Not quite a fair match, he considered, Mrs. Patmore brandishing a meat cleaver dangerously close to the quivering girl's forehead.
"No, Daisy! You put the garnish on after it's finished cooking!" she bellowed, throwing her arms up in the air in defeat.
"We don't have anyone nearly so dozy down at Crawley House, I can assure you!" Mrs. Bird added, unable to resist throwing in a comment about her own superiority in kitchen management.
The garden party was almost upon them, Mrs. Bird had been requested to stay on to help smooth the transition back to Mrs. Patmore's capable hands, and Molesley and the rest of the Crawley House staff were still spending the better part of their days at the great house. Mr. Crawley had just busted a button on his favorite coat, and Molesley had thought it a nice idea to do his mending with company rather than in solitude. Now he was starting to regret the social inclination that had brought him down to the servant's hall and within throwing range of the two exasperated cooks.
They continued their harangue, while Daisy continued her cowering. Molesley watched quietly from the sidelines till the older ladies were called away by the housekeeper to check over the supplies in the storeroom. Left alone to her ineptitude and hopelessness, Daisy collapsed weak kneed into a nearby chair, and cradled her burdened head in her hands.
"You all right, Daisy?" he gingerly asked.
Her hands dropped from her head to rest on the table, and she proffered a weak smile. Perhaps meant to be brave, the meekly upturned corners of her small, quivering mouth only served to highlight her pitiable state.
"Don't let them get to you," he encouraged, reaching out a hand to place over hers. "I know they're rough, but it's only because they know you can handle it. They can see you have promise, and want to push you in the right direction."
"Do you think so?" she asked in earnest.
He looked down at his hand and was surprised to find it entwined with hers. When had it gone from platonic resting to tender grasping? Molesley was a bit surprised at the situation he'd found himself in. Alone in the servant's hall, save but a young, impressionable kitchen maid, speaking softly words of encouragement and hope, their hands clasped naturally together.
Why, it was almost romantic!
He seems nice, Daisy admitted to herself. I suppose he is a bit old. And of course he could have never been a sportsman!
Mr. Molesley had yet to answer her question. He'd become suddenly silent and still, and was gazing pensively at their clasped hands. Daisy was surprised how much composure she retained at the gesture. Her normal responses to such overtures usually included furious blushing and intelligible stammering, but for some reason Molesley made her feel comfortable, secure; and the only blip in the calm of her heart was a slightly elevated pulse, which was really more pleasant than anything.
"I do think so," he finally answered. "I've seen you about the kitchens. You've got a knack for cooking, and even with those old birds aiming at you like a firing squad, I've never seen you give up, not once." Her smile warmed through his speech. Daisy felt his other hand come to rest on one of her pinked cheeks, which were now glowing brightly with the rare praise.
"I believe you'll be a great cook some day, Daisy."
Even when his thumb started to stroke her cheek, tracing the freckled contours, she didn't feel awkward in the slightest, and returned his affection by giving his hand a small squeeze. She was slightly taken aback at how natural this moment, this interlude with the older valet felt.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again: I've never in me life not ordered my own supplies or managed my own store room. We're the ones who cook it, we should be the ones to order it!"
Mrs. Bird's angry voice preceded her entrance, and gave Daisy and Molesley enough time to arrange themselves into a more innocent looking position. Act natural! Daisy told herself, hoping her eyes conveyed the same message to the valet. The embarrassment that hitherto had been absent reared forcefully with the appearance of an audience, and Daisy and Molesley suddenly found they could look anywhere except at each other. Neither of the cooks raised an eyebrow or cast them a knowing look, and before long Daisy was summoned again to Mrs. Patmore's side and left to accompany her back to the kitchen.
As Daisy made her way through the door she tossed her head around for a quick peek back. Molesley was watching her, a smile playing on his lips, and a twinkle in his eyes that she could only call romantic.