I've had this story going around my head for a while. It's a M/M story, but for this chapter, I'm afraid Matthew's not in it yet, but I hope you understand why. Obviously, I ship M/M, but my Richard Carlisle's not a villain - he's not perfect, but he's not evil either. I hope you enjoy and I'd really love to hear your thoughts. Fingers crossed, this doesn't actually happen in Downton :)
25th October, 1929.
Mary smiled gratefully and slid out of the car as Roberts held open the car door, her Mary Janes clicking on the pavement. She glanced up at their house – mansion, really, - and sighed at how dreadfully American it looked. Upper East Side, a few doors down from the Rockafellars, it was perfect apparently. She didn't like it. She'd only just got used to Boston and now he'd upped and moved them to New York for business again. For business, if she never heard those words again, it wouldn't be too soon. He'd promised a great country house – American is so big, dear, we can have acres for your horses, it'll be lovely – and, instead, he'd moved her to another continent to live out her life in another city. She preferred London. Walking up the steps, she nodded to Martin, the butler, as he stood by the front door, ready to take her coat, hat and gloves. She asked for him to bring tea before pausing before the mirror in the hall and checking her hair. She wasn't the vainest woman in the world by any means, but Mary took pride in her appearance and she was pleased that still, at thirty-six, she was standing the test of time, as her mother did. The wide use of make-up certainly helped a little. She hadn't gone for the A-line bob though, with its unforgiving fringe. That had certainly been a disaster for some women, she thought wryly. She'd embraced the wavy bob, more youthful. Yes, in her two-piece sweater and skirt set and long strands of pearls, she could objectively say she scrubbed up well.
Perhaps, that's why the Americans seemed to like her so much. That, and the title. It wasn't often one could say they'd had a lady, the daughter of an Earl, to dine. Her days seemed to be filled with lunches and invitations for this and that with the crème de la crème of New Yorker high society. It could be terribly dull, but she knew she should do her bit. Richard had worked like a dog to get the American papers up off the ground, the least she could do was help smooth the way with the lenders and well-known readers and, of course – and arguably, more importantly – their wives. In fact ,Richard and she could easily go a day without seeing each other. Mary wasn't too bothered by that, but, as she smiled wistfully at the girlish giggles coming from the drawing room, she knew that spending time away from her children was something she was not indifferent to. Creeping in, she grinned at the sight before her. Her daughter lay on the Persian rug, legs crossed, feet in the air and her chin in her hands as she read a clearly amusing book. America was definitely a little less bleak with her two angels by her side.
Christened Emily Violet Carlisle and Peter Carson Carlisle, aged eight and five respectively, Mary decided that she'd never really know herself before becoming a mother. And, no matter the ups and downs in her marriage, both she and Richard were agreed on the fact that their children were of the highest importance and were the very best children in the world. Emily – Emmie, as she was often affectionately known – was a very clever little girl. Hence, her love of reading. She was honest, sometimes brutally so, stubborn and didn't like to share her feelings nor suffer fools gladly. She didn't like being told what to do; despite Helen's protests that she keep to the nursery, Emily played downstairs exclusively. Clearly – apart from the grey eyes and light chestnut hair, inherited both from her father - she was her mother's daughter in every way. So, unsurprisingly, the two tended to butt heads now and then. Finally giving in to the urge, Mary stepped forward and stroked her daughter's hair.
"Emmie darling, how has your day been?"
Mary sat down into her arm chair and waited patiently for her daughter to tell her all about her day. She smiled as Martin came in with the tea, more brightly when she saw her daughter's eyes light up at the cakes on offer. Closing her book, Emmie blew up tiredly at her fringe - she suited the long bob very well – and came to sit opposite her mother, cross-legged on her chair. Mary thought to correct her, but was disinclined to start their evening together with an argument over how to sit properly. "Very well Mama, we read the Gospel of Luke before lunch and then Mrs. Turner took us to the park this afternoon."
"The Gospel of Luke?"
"Uh-huh. 'Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God': chapter six, verse twenty."
Mary sighed inwardly, as she poured her tea and watched her daughter proceed to get sugar powder all over her face. She hadn't thought to ask whether Mrs. Turner had been fanatically religious during the interview, but, then again, she'd never hired a governess before. "Well," Mary started, aware that she should not undermine Mrs. Turner, "I suppose that's true, money doesn't amount to much in heaven."
"Perhaps, but you're hardly blessed if you're poor, don't you think? Given the choice between being poor or rich, I think everyone would choose to be rich."
Her daughter had a point there. But money and status wasn't everything, despite her life now, and that Mary had had to learn the hard way. "...perhaps, but...I don't believe Jesus would agree with that, do you?"
"He didn't know any different!" Emmie insisted, licking her fingers, her legs now dangling from the chair and swinging contently. "If he was still alive today and saw how good it all is now, I doubt he'd be happy with being born in a stable!" Mary tried not to grin at her daughter's sincerity. "So, I told Mrs. Turner that she was ridiculous and that she must read some other books and borden her mind-"
"Broaden her mind-"
"Then, she told me I was a wicked child and shouldn't talk back to my betters."
"You are not wicked, my darling," her mother insisted, firmly, before shaking her head, "but you really shouldn't speak to Mrs. Turner like-"
"Which I agreed with!" Emmie wasn't listening, she was too busy being bitter as she recalled what happened. Playing with the sugar on her plate, she suddenly sighed unhappily. Emily, like her mother, was quick to change. Only pleased for a little while and never down for long. "I told her that it was alright because she was by no means my better! Silly old bat."
"Emily, you should be kinder to Mrs. Turner! She's a widow who lost her only son in the Great War who loves you very much, so don't be rude."
"Oh, well...I'm sorry her son died. I didn't know that." Emmie said quietly. Knowing when she was in the wrong, she took her mother's rebuke without complaint. "I shall try to be nicer, Mama."
"That's better." Her eyes softened and let her daughter have another cake. "Where's Rabbit?"
Rabbit, as so called by only his parents, Peter Rabbit or rather Peter Carlisle was Mary's darling little boy. Polite and generous, but very shy amongst those he didn't know and often anxious, Peter was usually happiest when hiding behind his Mama's legs. Apart from being pale like his sister, the differences between the two siblings couldn't be more apparent. He had his mother's dark chocolate hair and soulful eyes, but – according to a confession from the now late Mark Carlisle – was as his father had been as a child. It seemed that Richard had been a timid boy, too. Mary's father-in-law believed Richard's shyness had led him to concentrate on his studies and become a very hard-worker and, as a young man, he'd overcome his lack of confidence by overcompensating and thus often coming off as obnoxious and brash. The hallmarks of an insecure man, apparently. Perhaps, that was why Richard and Peter seemed to have a rather strained relationship at times; Mary thought that it might be that Richard didn't like being confronted with a daily reminder of how nervous he had once been. Emmie was her Father's little princess – a result of a strict middle class background, Richard preferred that the children only call him Father – but Peter and Richard had struggled to find common ground. What was a fifty five-year old businessman to do with a little boy who wished to spend all his time talking about his imaginary adventures with his best friend, Nicholas: a rather sorry looking brown bear with only one eye wearing only a tie? Mary hadn't been too concerned, there was always Papa – who doted on the boy as his only grandson – and Carson – who had been a quite tearful butler when she'd christened him Peter Carson – but that was before Richard had whisked them off across the pond. Rabbit needed a father figure in his life, preferably his father.
"Peter's off playing. He won't talk to me."
Mary looked up at the ceiling, exasperated at Emmie's matter-of-factness about it. She really wished her children wouldn't bicker so much. Although, when she thought back to some of the things Edith and she had said and done to each other as children – and even as adults – Mary realised she was quite fortunate. There was no real spitefulness behind it. Emily thought Peter cried too much, took up too much of Mama's time and wasn't very clever, whilst Peter thought his sister to be bossy and moody and mean. Of course, only they could say that about each other. They'd defend each other if the need called for it and, at this age, Mary realised it was probably the best she could hope for. "Why? What did you do?"
Emmie had the good grace to look affronted at that. "Why does everyone always assume I've done something?" One look from her mother forced her to change her tune. "...I hid his bear this morning."
"You hid Nicholas again? You know that drives your brother mad!"
"I only hid it once today! And I don't know why you call it that, it's not real!" She leant forward as if about to impart a great secret. "It's stuffed!"
"It's real enough to your brother!" Her daughter's face so close, she couldn't help but wipe away the sugar from her face, despite her struggles to get away. "Honestly, Emily!"
"Mama, you're back!"
Mary had barely the time to prepare herself as her son flung himself at her, demanding a hug. Giving it gladly, she settled him on her lap, allowing him to reach for a cake.
"Rabbit, my darling, where have you been?"
"Nicholas and I went to France." Mary glanced down fondly at the old bear, who remained – as always – clutched to her son's side.
"You did, did you?" She grinned at his excitement. "How thrilling, whatever for?"
"To fight in the war."
"Ah," She wasn't quite sure she liked the idea of him imagining that, but she was soon distracted. "Hence, the muddy trousers?" Peter stopped chewing to briefly look at his mother guiltily. "Wonderful, Rabbit. Go and clean yourself up before your father gets home."
"Rabbit?" Peter shook his head, mouth still full. "No, Mama, I'm in the army now! I'm Captain Peter!"
Emmie rolled her eyes. "It would be Captain Carlisle, stupid!"
"Enough, please." Mary sighed as Peter stuck his tongue out at his sister and reached for another cake. Batting his hand away, she forced him to get up. "Rabbit, go find Helen and change."
"But Captain Nicholas and I aren't finished!" He pouted at her. "We need to-"
"You gave yourself the same rank as your bear?" His sister asked, incredulous and still, years later, baffled by her brother's attachment to that toy.
"Emily!" Mary scolded. "Go and wash up." Her son remained unmoved. She raised her eyebrows expectantly and crossed her arms. "Now, Captain, that's an order."
"Ah, my two lovely ladies."
Seated at her desk, Mary glanced up, smiling at her daughter's grin, as Richard walked into the room. He'd managed to make it back before dinner. "Father!"
"Hello dearest, what a pretty picture!" He leant down to pat his daughter's head, as she sat kneeling at the coffee table, scribbling away. "The drawing's very nice too." He winked at her. "And how is Mama?" He asked, tiredly, making his way over to his wife.
He hadn't changed much, during the last ten years, a little rounder around the middle, his hair a little thinner and greyer, but he was still considered quite handsome for a man of his age. After they'd married, Richard had certainly softened towards Mary. Perhaps, marriage agreed with him, but she knew it more a matter of his relief at having got her past the point of no return. He hadn't demanded much of her and let her run their houses as she wished. She'd been happy to fulfil most wifely duties; parties, dinners, charity events – they had given her something to do. Even the most intimate wifely duties hadn't been a chore and Richard could be quite tender when he wanted. He'd been most pleased when she'd given him a daughter and then a son. Once upon a time, she hadn't thought he could ever bring her any kind of happiness, but she'd grown used to it over the years. Used to the family life, having someone to tell her day to, and it comforted her greatly. That was not to say that they didn't have their disagreements. When he'd announced that he wanted them all to move to America, there had been many shouting matches. She was stubborn and he had a short temper; often, it didn't make the best mix. In recent years, most of their arguments had concerned the children. He felt that she wasn't firm enough with them and she berated him for not spending enough time at home. But, if things really turned nasty – once in a blue moon, he might even raise a hand to her – he'd be sure to utter the two syllables which had become taboo within their marriage: Matthew.
"Very well, thank you." She leant up, allowing him to kiss her on the cheek. "Mrs Franklin would like me to be the patron to some City arts' foundation that apparently the Mayor is putting together."
"You don't sound enthused."
"Oh, well, what do I know about the arts?" She shrugged, finishing penning something in her diary. "I can only just about hold a tune, play chopsticks on the piano and all I can say about a painting is whether I like it or not," He smiled at her modesty and collapsed tiredly in his armchair. "I'm hardly de Vinci. Oh, and I received a letter from my mother, she says Carson's settled back well, although why she's telling me this almost ten months after the fact I have no idea..."
"Our butler, dear." She frowned at him, as she went to the drinks cabinet. "Remember, at Hacksby Park."
"Yes, thank you." He sighed at her condescension. He wasn't that old, he remembered, he was just exhausted. "Why, did we dismiss him?"
"No, he asked to return to Downton," She replied, exasperated. "We discussed this. In the last three years, we've spent less than four months in England, the majority of which we were in London."
"So, what was the problem? He was getting paid well for barely lifting up a finger, most would be pleased at the prospect."
"For a self-made man who proudly works all the hours that God gives him, would it be too difficult to believe that Carson found his work not entirely satisfying?" His silence gave her all the reply she needed. "Anyway, Downton is his home, it's only right that he's back there."
"Hmm," Richard offered, noncommittally, his mouth twitching with thanks as his wife gave him a glass of brandy. "Anything else of interest?"
"...She's asked again that we and the children spend the summer at Downton."
He glanced up at her tone, confused. "You sound pleased at that, you don't usually sound pleased at the idea of going back to Downton."
Mary shrugged, her hand resting on the back of his chair. "Well, my parents need to spend some time with their grandchildren and Granny won't be around for much longer."
Richard frowned, sipping his drink, pensively. "...This wouldn't have anything to do with a certain someone being on a tour of Europe this summer, would it?"
She sighed inwardly, but stopped herself from making a quick retort. Matthew would be in Europe during the summer, according to her Mama. Now and then, Cora mentioned him in her letters, but Richard didn't need to know about that. It was same old, same old, really. After mourning Lavinia, Matthew went back to his law firm and putting most of his energy into helping Papa around the estate. The fact that her father didn't mention Matthew around Richard – on the rare occasions that they actually saw her parents – was a real practise of self-control. At Downton, in the village, even in the county, Matthew really was the golden boy. With both Sybil and Edith married, Cora now seemed to focus on finding Matthew a wife, still a bachelor. Although why she insisted on telling Mary all this, Mary really didn't know. Well, he had proposed to her fifteen years ago, her family had assumed she'd moved past it. Fifteen years, by God, that was a long time. Since her marriage, she'd only seen Matthew here and there. He went to her wedding, of course, there was no getting out of that and he'd briefly seen Emily as a baby, but that was about it. All meetings with her family had taken place in London and Matthew never went there and, whilst she'd received birthday cards and Christmas cards for herself and the children from him, they'd all been written with Isobel's hand. It was time they put it all to rest, she supposed. Squeezing her husband's shoulder in reassurance, she eased his worries."...No, really Richard, that was all so many years ago."
He stared at her for a moment, but seemed to find whatever he was looking for. "Good, well, by all means then, tell your mother that we'd be delighted." He glanced about the room, noticing their family was incomplete. "Where's Rabbit? Off attempting to climb Mount Everest, no doubt!"
Mary opened her mouth to reply, but Emmie beat her to it, still happily colouring in. "Peter's pretending to kill Germans." Richard blinked at that. "But, anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. John, chapter three, verse fourteen." Richard blinked again. Emmie shrugged, casually. "What? God's words, not mine!"
Sighing, he turned to his wife, irritated. "Have you told Mrs. Turner that I'm not paying her to teach my daughter to quote the Bible?"
"Yes, already twice this week." She assured him. Whilst a governess had been fine for her, Mary was less inclined to subject her daughter to it. Sybil would rejoice at the thought; Mary wanted to send Emily to school, to receive a proper education and, in New York, there were many schools to choose from. Richard, meanwhile, still clung on to whatever idea he had about how upper class girls grew up. There was no point in arguing about it now though. "And Rabbit's decided that he doesn't want to be an explorer anymore, he wants to join the army."
"Our own Private Carlisle?"
"Please, when Rabbit dreams, he dreams big." She smiled, sitting down on the sofa. "He's an officer, a Captain!"
"Of course he is, I suppose I'll hear all about it over dinner."
"So, you will be joining us for dinner?" She tried to keep the surprise out of her tone.
"I hope so. I just need to finish some correspondence." That was more like it, Mary thought bitterly, he'd end up taking a tray in his room, no doubt. Seemingly reading her mind, Richard threw back the last of his drink and stood up. "Please spare me your lectures, the markets have been all over the place these last few days, I need to reassure my investors."
"Is it really that bad? The newspapers sound very ominous, but I confess that I don't really understand it all."
"There's nothing for you to understand." He waved his hand dismissively in an attempt to reassure her, but her eyes flickered with annoyance. "Try not to worry, it'll sort itself out over the weekend. Come Monday all will be well."
28th October 1929.
"No Peter, if we're to play, then we must play properly." Emmie clenched her jaw as Peter insisted putting, what she thought to be, his grubby little hands all over her dollhouse.
"But why can't Nicholas play? He can be their pet bear!" He insisted, as he had done for the last ten minutes. Mary sighed, as she took her breakfast, praying that they could play together for just a few minutes whilst she finished reading the newspaper. She bit her lip, trying to wrap her head around it all; every article seemed to be about what was going on with the Stock Exchange.
"No one keeps bears for pets! Your bear doesn't fit in a single room! It's too silly for words!"
She went to chastise them, but was stopped as Martin came into the breakfast room. "Pardon, my lady, but there's a Mr. Tibbet on the telephone?"
"I believe he's one of Sir Richard's associates, my lady. He's called a few times in the hopes that Sir Richard was here, but now he wants to speak to you."
"Oh, very well." She was never going to read the bloody paper. "I don't see how I can help. Oh, and I'll be lunching here today, Martin, and you can give Helen the afternoon off, we'll be a happy little threesome, won't we?" She looked over at her children in the hopes of stopping their bickering and was rewarded with smiles. "We'll go to the park or something!"
Walking out into the hall, heels clicking against the marble, she picked up the receiver. "Hello?" She groaned inwardly, she hated the echo in this house.
"Good morning, Lady Mary, it's Harry Tibbet."
"Of course it is." He was American, that much was clear, but apart from that, she hadn't the faintest idea who he was. "How are you? I'm afraid Sir Richard's still at the office. It is the middle of the morning, after all."
"As well enough as can be expected. This whole business with the company's shares has been...just as you might imagine."
"I don't..." She trailed off, she couldn't imagine. With matters of business, Richard never told her anything, but the papers had her concerned. "Is there a problem?" The pause on the other end of the line confirmed that there was. "Please, Mr. Tibbet."
"Alright, I'm sure he plans on telling you this evening – I'd hate to tread on anyone's toes – but, if he's not at the office and hasn't heard already, someone better tell him. You see, they've all pulled out."
"They? You'll have to put it simply for me, I'm afraid." She played with the cord of the telephone, adopting her best 'I'm but a woman' tone that men never failed to give in to.
"We've gone the same way as the rest of the Stock Exchange, my lady. I'd hoped the markets would level, but they've lost billions. It's mayhem! No one can scarcely believe it!...and Carlisle Ltd. has lost nearly everything. There's no getting out of this hole without a hell of a lot of money, my lady, and some are saying this could last some time, years even...It's over, the last investors are pulling out."
"Oh my God." Mary whispered. How had they lost everything? It wasn't possible, surely? He'd told her not to worry about! She swallowed nervously and tried to cling on to something. "But Richard's in newspapers, everyone buys newspapers, after all that's how we're finding out about this business on Wall Street!"
"That's true, but, well, all our investors are private investors and they've put their money in other less forgiving ventures. The timing of this is all so horrible! I know how much Sir Richard borrowed in order to expand into America."
She stopped herself just in time from scoffing at that. Harry Tibbet might know how much her husband had borrowed, but, it seemed, his wife was to be kept in the dark. "I see."
"Well...if you hear from him, please do let me know."
"Mary! Have Jennings pack your things, we're leaving, we're leaving now!" Mary jumped, as her husband came breathlessly through the front door, looking panicked, almost wild in fact.
"Is that him?"
"I'll...I'll have to call you back, Mr. Tibbet." She murmured, as her eyes locked with Richard's. Not waiting to hear his response, Mary put the phone down.
"Tibbet?" Richard frowned. Dismissing Martin with a wave of his hand, he proceeded to hastily take off his hat and coat himself. "What the hell did he want? Don't answer that, I already know the answer."
"Is it true?" Whilst Richard was clearly agitated and couldn't keep still, she was rooted to the spot. "Are we ruined?"
"Not if I have anything to say about." He muttered, scrubbing a hand over his face. "But any business I have in this country is at an end. I must go to London and speak to my investors, face to face!" He began to pace in front of her, seeming to talk more to himself than to her. "The newspapers here were only just starting to pick up, they won't survive...but in England, I might...I'll leave you and the children at Downton, and go on from there, I've managed to get us on a ship to Liverpool this evening."
A ship? This evening? To Downton? It was too much for Mary to process. Her eyes flickered as she thought back to the telephone call. "But Tibbet says your last investors are pulling out."
He looked up at her, then, displeased. "That man! Can Americans be discreet about anything? What has he told you?" He demanded of her.
His demands were enough to rile her from her catatonic state. How dare he act as if she didn't have a right to know? Her eyes flashed with anger. "I'm not really sure, seeing as this is the first I've heard of it! You said all would be well! How could you keep this from me?"
"Let us talk of how I failed you as a husband another time, hmm?" He shot back, wryly, sarcastically. All too well aware of how he'd failed her and their family. "Have Jennings pack...for winter, for summer, everything, the house will have to be shut up, I'll need to speak to Huddlesford about the children's trust funds, I might be able to..." He trailed off into his own thoughts again, and was surprised to see his wife still stood before him when he looked up again. "Why are you standing there, Mary? Please! We leave today! We leave for good! Do you understand?"
Her lips formed a thin line, her eyes like steel. "Those trust funds were set up by my father and are not to be touched, do you understand?" She warned him, quietly. "...We will go, as a family, you'll get no arguments from me. After all, it was your idea to drag us across the Atlantic, not mine." He swallowed, as she turned away from him and began to ascend the stairs. She paused and looked over her shoulder, sighing sadly. "...If I find out that you've built our lives on sinking sands, Richard...I'll never forgive you."
"Well, we would have that in common, then," he smiled bitterly up at his wife. "For I would never forgive myself."
Let me know what you think!