Happy New Year everyone. This chapter could easily be called the pieces are falling into place. It's setting up the fallout of a trip everyone is going to take in a few chapters. For now enjoy the pieces falling and developing things. And feed me some feedback. Also if you have a chance to read my other new story Remember that would be an awesome New Year's gift.

.~.~.~.~.

Mary discarded the letter flinging it in her sister's direction. The action was a favorite trick of hers and in her mind she performed it quite well. Her letter did not venture near the butter nor the honey, but landed daintily on the cloth nearest Sybil's plate.

"More bill collectors?" Matthew quipped seeing the gesture, and the accompanying frown on his wife's face.

"Is that my letter from the vegetarian society?" Sybil questioned scooping it up eagerly only to moan disappointedly, "Oh a letter from mama."

"What invective did your mama use to merit such a fling?" Matthew queried in a tone Mary thought altogether to bemused.

"The usual tosh about Edith and her pregnancy," Mary replied shaking her head clearly frustrated by the entire matter. "You would think the way Edith and Mamma and Pappa carried on that my sister was the first woman to carry a child."

"Aren't you excited about being an aunt?" Sybil asked curiously.

"Oh I suppose." Mary replied half-heartedly. "But there is something a little vulgar about having a baby so soon after you marry. It makes one wonder if you were loose before the event or overly eager afterwards."

Lifting his cup Matthew suppressed a smile but remained otherwise silent.

"Mama says twins run in the family…" Sybil continued scanning the letter interestedly.

Mary shook her head sadly, "Clearly the American side."

Matthew looked up interestedly, "What makes you say that?"

"Americans are the only sort who have the same number of births as farm animals."

"You know Mary," Matthew observed sounding amused and yet a trace sarcastic, "You really ought to commit these musing to paper. I would hate to think Sybil and I were the only ones privileged to share your great wisdom and insight."

Smiling as if pleased by the thought she declared, "I may well do that."

Sybil exchanged a grin with Matthew, before wiping her mouth declaring, "I am late," as she rose to her feet.

"Are you a student or a doctor today?" Mary queried reaching for her tea cup.

"Both," Sybil said gathering her books from a side table. "I am working with Dr. Garett today."

"Oh I can hardly wait for the dinner time discussion." Mary frowned at the thought.

"Well you shall have to," Sybil announced stating, "I have study group tonight."

Mary raised a single eyebrow inquiring, "What in the world is a study group?"

"It's a group from my anatomy class. We are going to review for our exam."

"I was in a study group during law school," Matthew shared brushing the napkin over his lips. "It was frightfully useful. A real help for exams." He said placing the napkin on the table, "Since we're both going to the hospital shall we ride together."

Even as he spoke, Edwards strode in stating, "Lady Edith says she will be waiting in the foyer."

Mary looked up from the letter she was reading, "You are leaving? I thought you had the day off?"

"I do." Matthew answered taking a last sip of tea. Returning the cup to the saucer he explained, "I am going with Edith to fetch Patrick home from the clinic."

"That requires you," Mary demanded angrily. "Can my sister manage nothing on her own? I swear pregnancy has rendered her a complete invalid." There was a perhaps unsurprising anger in her question. "I thought we could spend the morning together."

"Well we can afternoon together." He suggested backing his chair up and turning in the direction of the door.

"And what am I to do in the meanwhile?"

"Work on your book," Matthew suggested grinning as he rolled out of the room.

Mary frowned exclaiming, "Very funny!" She rolled her eyes and reached for a slice of toast which she ripped into two pieces placing one in the saucer and biting into the other with a certain savageness.

.~.~.~.~.

Handing the small boy a worn teddy bear, Lavinia wiped his mouth with her handkerchief. "Is that better Ralph?"

"Yes," He said in a raspy tone. "Will you come and visit me again next week?"

"Of course," She agreed gifting him with a small smile as she lifted the blanket pulling it just below his chin. "Sleep now," She urged giving his nose a final tweek before rising and crossing the room.

Removing her apron she handed it to the ward sister saying, "I think he's down for a nice nap." Offering her a warm smile she said, "I will see you next week." Taking her bag she walked out of the ward and turned toward the elevator and almost directly into Isobel Crawley.

"Lavinia," Isobel exclaimed in surprise. "Whatever are you doing here?"

"I volunteer here." Lavinia said matter of factly. "The children's ward."

"You volunteer in a hospital?" Isobel's words ill-disguised her obvious shock at this news. "You never mentioned…"

"I didn't..well not before.." Lavinia admitted uncomfortably lacing and unlacing her fingers as if wanting to relieve a certain pressure, "Not until after…after Matthew sent me away."

Isobel cleared her throat trying to fill up the silence that had fallen between them. "I see."

"I wanted him…myself to know that I could face what he feared I could not."

"I see," Isobel remarked sounding deeply uncomfortable, "Well that hardly matters now."

Lavinia frowned confused by her meaning countering, "Actually I believe it matters a great deal or rather will matter a great deal…in a short while."

Isobel studied Lavinia admitting, "I am afraid I do not take your meaning."

Seeming unsurprised by Isobel's words, Lavinia requested, "I was about to call for my regular cab, perhaps we could we go somewhere and talk?"

"I have a short errand to run here if you could wait 10 minutes."

Lavinia dipped her head in acquiesce agreeing, "I will wait on the bench in the lobby."

"Very well," Isobel agreed turning to complete her errand and wondering all the time about Lavinia's request and obscure comments.

.~.~.~.~.

As they crossed the streets of London, Edith fretted with her gloves. She pulled the soft gray gloves off her delicate hands. She folded the fabric and then unfolded it numerous times. She ran the fabric through her fingers, running the pads of her fingers over the fabric. Matthew watched her ministrations to the fabric through his steepled fingers for some time without comment. Only when Sybil climbed from the car, and entered the clinic did he speak, "You seem awfully nervous for a bride bringing her groom home?" He waved his fingers at Barrow indicating he wanted a moment alone with Edith.

Edith lifted her gaze to meet his admitting, "I suppose I left that girl behind in Italy." She said once he closed the door offering them some privacy.

Matthew studied her for a moment before turning to examine the street scenes through the window. "We all leave bits and pieces of ourselves in places." He mused thoughtfully continuing to stare out the window, "But it's the parts we carry with us that matter."

"I think you may have something of the poet in you."

Matthew appeared ready to speak, but seemed to think better of it, and when he spoke it was merely to suggest half-hopefully, "Perhaps once you two get settled at Downton things will be easier."

"Easier," Edith repeated the word sadly. "No one tells you do they how hard it is to love someone. How it's the hardest thing in the world."

She waited for Matthew to object, but he remained silent for a long moment before saying, "No they don't." And without further comment he opened the door, gesturing for Barrow to help him from the car.

.~.~.~.~.

After breakfast Mary retreated to the morning room to read and compose her mail. She did this each morning dragging the task out for as long as humanly possible. She was beginning to understand why her Mama laid abed much of the morning. With an efficient staff one really had to find things to fill up the day. Hearing the ringing of the bell she smiled, entertaining a guest would take up at least a good half hour of an otherwise dreary morning.

"The Dutchess of Crowborough, " Edwards intoned leading the petite blonde woman into the room.

"Good morning Mary," Sophie offered her greeting apologetically, "We have just returned from Berlin and heard about poor Patrick. I had to drop in straightaway." She said leaning over to take Mary's outstretched hand and clasping it within her own. "How is he?"

"Quiet well," Mary replied glancing over toward Edwards, "The Dutchess and I would like tea or," She said glancing over at Sophie, "Do you prefer coffee."

"Cocoa if it isn't too much trouble to American."

Mary smiled saying, "Cocoa for both of us then." Turning back to Sophie, Mary inquired with the frankest interest, "You must tell me about Berlin. Is it as…interesting there as people say."

"It was interesting but a little shocking even for an American like me. London is so tame by comparison." She punctuated her words with a high giggle, seemingly finding great mirth in her story.

"London is like a poky old housewife, I'm sure I would find Berlin a great deal more interesting." Mary said confidently.

Sophie smiled a little uncertainly confiding, "I'm not certain Mr. Crawley would venture into some of the places the Duke and I visited."

Mary nodded acknowledging, "He is a bit traditional." She could envision their journey across Berlin. He'd drag her to churches and she would offset the boredom by making pithy dismissive remarks, and they'd have a laugh over luncheon at a hotel. The idea made her smile and she very nearly missed Sophie's next words.

"But he seems a good husband."

Mary's smile was genuine as she agreed happily, "He is…"

.~.~.~.~.

"Your wounds looks to be clean of infection and healing nicely," Garrett stated stepping away from Patrick's draped face. He had poured alcohol and cleaned the wound, causing Patrick to want to scream out in pain. He swore that Scottish monstrosity found a way to ensure the rubbing alcohol slipped into every crevice on his wounded cheek. And the liquid alcohol caused his face to feel aflame. "You will need to return once a week for the next month to ensure no infection flares up."

"Of course," Edith agreed causing Patrick to turn his gaze toward her. She was standing awkwardly next to Matthew across the room, whereas he and Garrett were similarly positioned. It felt like some ghoulish perverted tale of two mismatched couples. "He can go home today?"

"Yes," Garrett agreed an atypical smile crossing his face.

The smile Edith gave him in return was so hopeful it was very nearly pathetic, Patrick decided. "I'm sure he will heal a great deal faster under our care."

"He will have to remain in London for a month, " Garrett informed her his Scottish brogue giving his words a burry but pleasant sound. "I want to watch for infection and keep the wound clean."

"Of course," Edith affirmed nodding her head.

"Very well then," Garrett agreed closing the chart and trotting toward the door. "I'll send a nurse in to get you properly discharged."

Matthew watched him leave before putting his hands on his wheels saying, "I am going to get a bit of air in the hall, give you both some privacy."

Edith watched as he too went out the door pulling it closed behind him. Once they were alone she looked up at her husband saying, "So I'll take you home."

"Yes." He said adding, "I'll be glad…being at home."

"Yes." She replied very softly.

Patrick glanced over at her thinking this was one of the few times they'd been alone since Italy. "Before we go home," He began awkwardly feeling a need to say something but not clear precisely how to put his thoughts into words. "Edith about what happened… I'm sorry…"

"Don't." She said firmly. "Don't say anything…. Let's just…. Let's try to make things better." She looked down at then forced herself to look up saying, "Let's try to make things better."

"Of course." He promised forcing a smile. She returned it and he noticed little conviction in her movements.

.~.~.~.~.

"Welcome," Isobel said flipping the switch and watching the room suddenly illuminated and a good deal more cheerful.

"This is very….cozy," Lavinia observed taking in the small room with a keen, interested gaze.

"I have a bedroom and a kitchen," Isobel said pleasantly. "I suppose it is a bit small," She admitted with a shy smile. "But I am serving my country. There is a perfectly pleasant home waiting in Manchester should I require a more spacious abode."

"Of course," Lavinia said quietly. "Only I supposed you lived with Matthew." She said adding, "You always did."

"Matthew is married now," Isobel said evenly. "He and Mary deserve a place to start out on their own."

"The Crawley's London address?"

Isobel turned in surprise answering, "Yes do you object to that?"

"Of course not," Lavinia said coolly. "Only it does keep Matthew in a kind of suspension… keeping him moored to a family and a title that is no longer his own."

"The Crawleys care for Matthew, they have made that very clear. Title or not," She said determinedly.

"No doubt." Lavinia agreed rather quickly. "Only I wonder how Matthew feels… forced to live on the charity of his wife's family."

"I do not believe Matthew sees it that way," Isobel asserted firmly. "I certainly do not."

"Perhaps not," Lavinia said adding, "Perhaps I would see it differently if I were within the family."

"Perhaps," Isobel agreed uneasily clearly uncertain where the conversation was headed. "Shall I prepare us some tea?" She said thinking she would prefer if this girl were to leave.

Smiling Lavinia answered happily, "That would be lovely."

.~.~.~.~.

Taking a sip of her cocoa Sophie sighed happily, "Very nice." Mary felt a bit confounded by the girl's euphoric response to a small thing like cocoa. However, Granny always said Americans overreacted to everything so perhaps that was the explanation. "Now you must tell me about dear Patrick how is he coming along?"

A voice rose up in Mary wondering if the girl had ever met much less had the sort of relationship that made him dear. Still, a she forced a smile saying, "Pretty well. Fortunately his wounds were not so very serious."

"Oh what a relief." Her countenance took on such a look of beatific happiness that Mary felt slightly envious of someone who could take such a pleasure out of such an unimportant thing as a relative stranger's health. "Will he and Edith be staying on in London."

"I'm sure," Mary said frowning at the certainty he would indeed be staying on which most likely meant she would be enduring Edith's presence for weeks and weeks more.

Lifting her cup eager for another sip Sophie said, "Now you must tell me about his treatment.

.~.~.~.~.

"Very refreshing," Lavinia said letting the last of her second sip of tea roll down her throat.

Isobel tapped her finger against her cup, a physical way of releasing her escalating frustration. "Thank you."

Smiling serenely Lavinia observed, "I am certain you would like to know why I invited myself."

"Of course not," Isobel replied falsely, but feeling almost instinctive regret she straightened stating, "Yes."

"I have always admired your forthrightness," Lavinia said adding, "It's not a quality I have ever possessed but I see it in you. I suppose I envy it." Isobel remained stubbornly silent determined to let Lavinia say as she pleased. "I often think if I had been more forthright…more forceful perhaps…Never mind."

Isobel thought it rather difficult to not mind what Lavinia had not said. Deciding to change tactics and use the forthrightness Lavinia claimed to envy Isobel began, "Perhaps you could tell me what is on your mind."

"Matthew," She admitted turning her gaze from Isobel.

Isobel for her part looked away as well giving Lavinia a moment of privacy. At last she spoke acknowledging , "I know how fond of him you were."

Lavinia turned her gaze fully on Isobel vowing, "I am not fond of Matthew. I love him."

"I am certain you must…on some level." Isobel said categorizing the type of feelings she believed the girl was experiencing. "But he is married."

Lavinia nodded enthusiastically. "That is what I came to speak to you about." Isobel felt her head jerk upwards and focused her full attention on Lavinia. For her part Lavinia continued speaking in lower tone as if confiding some secret, "Before Edith's wedding Cora took me aside and provided me with some insight into Matthew and Mary's relationship.

"Cora?" Isobel said laughing in relief. "She is hardly a fit judge of their marriage."

"She is Mary's mother and as such in her confidence."

Despite having private doubts about the veracity of this statement, Isobel kept her own counsel saying only, "And what did Cora say?"

"She says that Mary is very unhappy with Matthew."

Rolling her eyes Isobel snapped, "She would."

As if feeing threatened by Isobel's doubt Lavinia raised her voice saying, "She mentioned a separation, an annulment." Feeling thrown by the girl's words Isobel took a long and perhaps decidedly unfeminine gulp of her tea remaining silent. Truthfully it was the first time in her life that she felt her tongue paralyzed by shock. "So you see my feelings for Matthew matter a great deal."

.~.~.~.~.

"Lady Rosamund," Edwards said opening the door and ushering her into the foyer. "How very pleasant to see you. Is Lady Mary expecting you?"

"I doubt it," Rosamund answered sliding her gloves off and depositing them atop her bag. "I prefer to act with a certainstealthness, the element of surprise being my chief modus operati." She finished her statement by chuckling mirthfully.

"I see." Edwards agreed utterly and totally unclear of what she could mean. Women were a mystery to him and Lady Rosamund had always been a particularly tricky mystery. Recovering he said,"Lady Mary is speaking with the Dutchess of Crowborough but I am certain she will welcome your presence. I shall announce you…" The sudden sound of the telephone pierced the silent hall causing Edwards to look unsurely from the direction of the telephone to Rosamund.

"You may handle the call, I shall announce myself." Edwards looked slightly unsure causing Rosamund to smile saying convincingly. "There are no secrets among family." Edwards nodded and retreated down the hall and the clanging telephone.

As soon as he had disappeared from sight, Rosamund crept closer to the door. Being married to Marmaduke had taught her the value of stealth. Mamaduke had told her practically nothing of his occupation, and was forever having private conversations. In her young bridehood she had assumed this meant he had very exciting and important conversations, and so she had honed her skills on eavesdropping and snooping. Sadly she had soon learned his work was very, very dull and contained little to interest her. Still, she felt it best to maintain her skills. Houseguests were often nothing more than a façade for her gaining necessary practice in skullduggery and snooping.

As such she had little trouble quietly moving toward the morning room doors. And she soon caught her niece's voice as well as another voice which she could not quite place. Stepping closer she peered in through the crack in the doors and saw Mary seated talking to the Dutchess of Crowbourgh.

Just as she meant to speak and announce her presence she heard a voice, clearly the Dutchess proclaim sympathetically, "Of course," she agreed before asking, "And I imagine he requires a great deal of medical care."

"Naturally," Mary agreed sounding only tangentially engaged in the conversation. Clearly feeling a need to defend herself she added, "And of course I would not deny him the care he requires. But it is onerous to be expected to go on and on with the kind of care he will obviously require."

"Will it be ongoing?" Sophie asked reaching for her tea.

"Of course" Mary stated in a clipped tone. "The whole of his life span one presumes."

"It must be torturous on a marriage." Sophie said with obvious sympathy.

"Certainly." Mary agreed sighing, "One wonders how even the best of wives can face such a task." Mary admitted flippantly.

"You don't think… Certainly the marriage can endure."

Not waiting to hear her niece's response, Rosamund backed away almost bumping into the table in the front hall entry. Her face was one of stunned surprise, never in her life had she felt more shocked. Early in life she had decided it best to expect little of people. But to think her niece…. It was unimaginable and she hurried down the hall opening the door and hurrying outside the house and toward her car. "Poor Matthew," She muttered to herself, "Poor, poor Matthew."

.~.~.~.~.

"I noticed you were not present for Mr. Crawley's discharge." Garrett observed before saying perplexedly, "I found it odd seeing as he was a family member."

"Did you now?" She responded looking up from the chart Garrett had asked her to review. "How odd as you had me handling Captain Finch's bandages."

"Did I now?" He replied chuckling quietly. Leaning forward he confided, "It is a rough business…your brother-in-law. And I gather your sister is pregnant?"

"Yes." Sybil said adopting the overly pleased tone she had been using displaying whenever anyone asked about the baby. Recognizing an odd incongruity about his connection of Patrick's wounds and Edith's pregnancy Sybil queried determinedly, "You do believe he will recover."

Garrett reached for a cigarette answering, "I expect so. His sort does always seem to fall upon their feet."

"My sort you mean?" Sybil asked curiously.

Placing the flame of his lighter next to his cigarette Garrett watched it turn red and orange before bringing the cigarette to his lips; "If you like."

"You don't care for Patrick." She observed flatly.

"I have no opinion on Patrick." He insisted inhaling drawing the nicotine deep into his lungs then exhaling it. "But the situation strikes me as rather tricky."

"His wound healing?" Sybil replied deliberately searching for the option that best suited her view on the situation.

Garrett glanced over fixing her with a dubious expression. "How he was wounded…and not in the war," He said as if foreseeing her likely explanation.

"He told you he fell while inspecting the ruins."

"Yes," He agreed tapping his cigarette on the ash tray. "He told me that as well I just don't believe him. And I wonder why you do."

Sybil lifted another chart saying, "I'd like to review Captain Briggs case."

"Of course," He said smushing the cigarette in the tray.

.~.~.~.~.

Lavinia sat back resting against the cushion expecting Isobel to quickly dismiss her comments. Instead she watched Isobel remaining atypically silent, seemingly unwilling to voice an opinion.

"Surely you see I would make a daughter-in-law more suitable for Matthew's work." She waited a moment for Isobel to object, but finding her pointedly silent continued on with escalating passions. "You and I have always gotten on well. I could help you so much with your efforts."

Isobel continued to stride forward for but a moment before stopping and saying, "There is some truth in your words." She paused. "I have no question that you and I could make quite a powerful team and affect much good."

"Then must agree that my being with Matthew would be so right," She implored her eyes suddenly bright and cheerful.

Whatever her feelings, Isobel felt a certain pang at having to so tidily dismiss this girl's obvious hopes. "It simply would never do." Seeing Lavinia's face fall she quickly added. "You must understand Matthew is married."

"But if Mary is unhappy."

"I hope you don't believe any of the rubbish Lady Grantham told you."

"You think it rubbish?" Her voice seemed to deflate as if by speaking the question she realized its implausibility.

"I believe it to be wholly fiction, the makings of her own imagination and wishes."

Lavinia looked up insisting, "But Mary may have said."

"Has Mary ever seemed the sort to take Lady Grantham into her confidence?"

"But if they were to contemplate divorce," Lavinia prodded stubbornly, "Wouldn't it be better if I were there."

"I have no reason to believe they are considering any such thing." Isobel said trying to inject reason into the discussion.

"But they will," Lavinia said stubbornly. Standing she crossed the room arguing, "The will someday. You cannot imagine Mary will be happy to devote her whole life to half a man."

"I do not consider my son in any way half a man." Isobel declared coldly. "And I would never have assumed you to think so."

"Of course I don't," Lavinia said sounding suddenly tired as if he conversation had exhausted her. "It's only you know how Mary likes to flirt and how she attracts men… Can you imagine she'll enjoy the life of a childless nun?"

"I resent deeply that term."

"Oh its Matthew's term," She said conveying her frustration via the slightly raised tone of her voice. "But can you see Mary being satisfied?"

"Yes!" Isobel said atypically raising her voice. "I believe any girl would be so lucky and grateful to spend her life with my boy. Mary is a smart girl and she loves Matthew she always has and I have to believe she always will." Seeming determined to calm herself Isobel said, "But this is all nonsense because I do not believe for a moment Mary is contemplating anything of the kind."

"But if she is," Lavinia challenged pointedly, "Hadn't we better make plans for Matthew."

"I see no needs for plans," Isobel said coldly fixing the girl with a skeptical expression stating, "You believe me more modern than I am." Isobel announced continuing, "There are a great many modern things I believe in." She shared flatly. "I believe women should have the vote. I believe women should have the ability to control the size of their families. I believe and hope for a day when women will rightly be considered the equal of the male gender." She paused ensuring that Lavinia's attention was fully focused on her. "But the one thing I do not believe in is a divorce for a couple as right as my son and Mary."

Lavinia crossed the room reaching for her bag. Stopping at the door she put her hand on the handle and then turned facing Isobel suggesting, "When Mary makes her decision we can speak again." Then twisting the knob she walked from the room closing the door behind her, leaving Isobel alone feeling more deeply confused than she could ever recall feeling.

.~.~.~.~.

Patrick entered the foyer removing his hat. "It is good to be home." He turned toward the clicking sound he heard approaching him. "Cousin Mary." He said greeting her with a tentative friendliness .

"Good afternoon," She said offering him a half-hearted smile. "Luncheon will be served in a half hour. But we thought perhaps you might prefer a tray in your room."

He touched his cheek gingerly as if expecting to find pebble still embedded there, "Yes I think I would prefer that. I wonder though," He requested not bothering to disguise his fatigue, "Might I have something later. I feel in desperate need of a nap."

Mary nodded agreeing, "Of course."

Patrick turned toward the approaching stairs, Edith touched his sleeve saying,"I can help you undress."

He turned shaking his head, "That is not necessary. Barrow can assist me. After that I'd just like a good long rest." And without further comment he turned to climb the stairs.

Edith turned back seeing Mary and Matthew had moved into the drawing room, "Now how did you spend your morning?" He asked her interestedly.

"The Dutchess of Crowborough called," She relayed casually as she took a seat on the sofa near where he had parked his wheelchair. "We can discuss it later if you like. For now would you like to have a game of chess before luncheon."

Matthew smiled agreeing, "That sounds very nice. After luncheon how do you feel about a sit in the garden? I am aching for some sunshine."

"Wonderful," She said smiling happily at the idea. Edith closed her eyes against the pain as she crept further down the hall unable to bear the sight of such happiness.

.~.~.~.~.

Isobel rarely found herself at six and sevens. Her training as a nurse had perfectly suited her personality. She was a practical and pragmatic woman. Medicine was not suited for false dramatics or overt sentimentality. Isobel likewise had no sympathy for such women it was part of why she believed she and Cora had never really got on. Still the hour after Lavinia left her rooms Isobel found herself nervously pacing and wringing her hands indulging in the very behavior she disdained in other women.

Lavinia's words, her insinuations kept reverberating in Isobel's mind. As much as she wanted to dismiss the girl's words, she could not help worrying true or not Lavinia would use the words to justify continuing to interfere in her son's life. And the last thing, the absolute last thing, she wanted was Lavinia complicating Mary and Matthew's marriage.

The forthright, logical move would be to simply discuss her concerns with her son. And in another world that would work ideally. However, since his accident Matthew had separated himself from her. At first she had thought he was simply carving out a space for his marriage, and of course that was perfectly right. She understood Mary should and must be his chief confident. And at first she had been content in that notion. Now though she felt it was a great deal more than simply making a separate place. He was separating himself from her care and concern. And that worried her a very great deal. No one knew him better than she did and he was purposefully isolating himself from her company.

Indeed, as far as she could tell the only people Matthew had not separated himself from were his wife and his sister-in-law and apparently Patrick. As much as it pained her she realized she mustn't be selfish. She had to be grateful that he trusted these people, that he desired their company even as he rejected hers. And in that spirit she was utterly unwilling to allow Lavinia to muck around with one of the few people Matthew had not separated himself from…

Oh she had felt sorry for the girl. She could only imagine the pain, the shock of being cast out of your beloved's life. She had felt sympathy for the girl in that area. However, months had passed. Matthew had married another woman. He had built a new life. And Lavinia carried on and on trying to intrude to make her place in a role already filled. That was a thing Isobel could not forgive.

That said a small voice inside her wondered…. Could Lavinia be right? Could Mary be tiring of her boy? Oh the thought wounded her. Her darling had been through so much…. But Mary would not…Even as she tried to dismiss it…. Even then she wondered could it be true. Oh, she thought rising to her feet to once again pace the room. If only she could be sure…if only she knew… A sudden, ridiculous notion came to her head. Oh course she could not do it… She was hardly a reliable narrator. But then she might know... Deciding she would have to trust her judgment she crossed the room entered the hall leaning into the speaker providing the desired number.

"Sir Anthony," Isobel said when the call was at length connected. "This is Isobel Crawley." She listened anxiously through his greetings. However, once he finished speaking she was quick to say, "I do wonder if you could perform a great favor for me." He assented as she had been fully certain he would. "I am going to telephone the Dowager Countess. I'm going to invite her to London. Anthony," she beseeched plainly, "Without asking any questions or explanations… I wonder if you would be willing to escort her to London for me?"

.~.~.~.~.