Charles vs. Mr Carson

Mrs Hughes watched sceptically as Mr Carson put on his coat and Mr Branson and Mr Bates chatted by the doorway whilst they waited for him.

"And what's that look for?" Mr Carson asked.

Mrs Hughes shrugged and held back a smile but the look of scepticism was still there. Mr Carson shook his head and mumbled something under his breath.

"It's not like I've never taken a night off before." He said.

"I know." She replied. "And the last time was…when? Do you even remember?" she smiled.

"Are you saying I shouldn't go? Is that it?" he asked and for a moment she was afraid he was going to change his mind.

"No!" she said quickly. "That's not it at all. You deserve a night out."

"But…?"

"No but. I'm sorry, I didn't mean anything by… I just…" a broad smile spread across her face. "You going for a night in the pub with Mr Bates and Mr Branson… It's just…" she was having to hold back a laugh now.

Carson rolled his eyes. "I really do wonder sometimes what kind of person you imagine me to be. I didn't spend all my life in a dress suit you know! I've been around Mrs Hughes!"

"Oh! Well, perhaps someday you'll tell me some of your pre-dress suit life!" Mrs Hughes said with a quick raise of her eyebrows.

"Perhaps." Carson replied in a low purr.

"Ready to go Mr Carson?" Mr Branson asked. "Or is Mrs Hughes not going to let you out?"

"I'm ready." Carson answered.

"And I'm not his mother to be telling him where he can and cannot go!" Mrs Hughes added.

"His mother no…" Branson grinned, "But sure if you don't keep him in line who will Mrs Hughes?"

"I am quite capable of keeping myself in line! Now are we going or not?" Carson said brusquely, heading for the door.

"We're going! We're going!" Branson laughed. "Don't wait up Mrs Hughes!"

"Good evening Mrs Hughes. I'm sure we won't be too late." Mr Bates told her quietly.

"You're all big enough and bold enough to sort yourselves out." Mrs Hughes said but to herself she hoped they wouldn't get up to anything foolish. Don't be silly, she told herself, whatever about Mr Branson, Mr Carson and Mr Bates were sensible men.

As they made their way through the village they came across Mr Moseley and invited him to join them. The more the merrier, as Mr Branson said. Carson held back a smile at the look of pure joy that swept across Moseley's face when they asked him to come along. Poor Mr Moseley always seemed so desperate to belong, Carson thought. Then again, he thought, aren't we all?

If Carson was quite honest, a night sitting on a barstool drinking beer and inhaling smoke was not his idea of a good night. One of the reasons, actually the only reason, he had accepted the invite from Mr Branson was because he had seen the look on Mrs Hughes's face when she heard him being asked to join Branson and Bates for a Christmas drink. She thought it preposterous that he would go to the pub with young Mr Branson. She had assumed he would decline, that he would rather follow his usual, sedate routine of a cup of tea in her pantry after dinner and then off to his bed to read a little before going to sleep. Although she said nothing, it annoyed him, that look on her face. Even if she was correct in a large part of her assumption. He would rather sit in her pantry with her and a cup of tea than in a pub with a bunch of raucous men.

Despite his reservations about the night however, he was surprised to find that he was quite enjoying himself. Branson was entertaining company and Mr Bates was always an interesting person to talk to. Moseley… the man was harmless but he obviously couldn't hold his drink! After three pints he began to slur his words and was now slumped silently in his chair, occasionally falling asleep.

"So, Mr Carson, where did you work before you came to Downton?" Branson asked.

"Oh, here and there." Carson replied vaguely. "Shall I get another round in?" The last thing he wanted was to discuss his past. He had to push his way through a group of men to get to the bar. "Same again Jim." He said to the barman.

"Righto Mr Carson." The barman replied cheerfully. "So how are things up at the big house? I saw your housekeeper walking through the village the other day. She's lookin' well."

Carson nodded. "Things are good. Busy of course. Mrs Hugh…"

The group of men started to shout and jeer amongst themselves and jostled Carson a little. Louts, he thought, what an undignified way to behave.

"Keep it down fellas!" the barman shouted. He turned to Carson. "I don't know," he said shaking his head, "is it me or can blokes not hold their ale anymore?"

Carson made it back to the table again to find Moseley had woken up and appeared to be getting romantic advice from Branson. Carson gave Bates a questioning look.

"I don't know," Bates said with a grin, "I went to the gents and came back to find the conversation had turned to women!"

"Not women," Branson corrected, "Romance!"

"Ah, my apologies, I stand corrected." Bates laughed. "And you seem to be quite the expert on the subject."

"I'm a Celt – passion is in my blood!" Branson said dramatically.

"Passion and romance are the same thing then are they?" Carson asked.

"No, but you can't have one without the other." Branson answered. Carson looked sceptical. "You start to love someone, it happens slowly, sometimes without you even realising. But it's passion that takes that and turns it into a romance! Passion is what makes you take action, to make your love known. Passion is what makes the world turn. If people didn't get passionate about anything there would be no progress, no new inventions, no…revolution!"

"Must you drag revolution into everything?" Carson asked wearily. "Passion can also cause things to go wrong. Cause people to make mistakes and act hastily."

"That's a risk that has to be taken if we want to achieve our dreams!" Branson said. Carson almost laughed. Whether it was his youth, his passion or his politics, Branson was the only person he'd ever known to speak with such conviction all the time! "You're not convinced." Branson said observing him. Before Carson could answer Branson continued. "You ask Mrs Hughes about passion. She's a fellow Celt – she knows how important it is! Now, where's the gents?" he got up and followed Mr Bates' directions.

"We were all passionate at his age." Bates said. Moseley had nodded off again.

"Hmm." Carson nodded but as he thought about it he wondered if he had been. As Butler he tried to avoid passion, he'd always equated passion with a loss of control and if there was one thing a good butler needed to have it was control. He thought about Mrs Hughes. Would he describe her as passionate? He could honestly say he had never seen her lose control. He had seen her lose her temper. He had seen her laugh until tears rolled down her cheeks. He could imagine her being passionate. Now that he thought about it, sometimes he fancied he saw a hint of something in her eyes that he couldn't quite pinpoint…

Suddenly the room erupted in shouting and there appeared to be a scuffle at the other side of the room.

"What's going on?" Bates asked, standing up to get a better view. "It's Branson!"

"What?" Carson jumped to his feet.

They strolled through the village. Branson was still clearly adrenalized from the altercation in the pub. Carson was appalled to have been drawn into such a situation, though he admitted it had not been entirely Branson's fault. The louts who had been causing a raucous all evening had noticed Branson's accent and, needing little excuse to start picking on someone, they had shouted insults at him as he returned from the gents. Branson being Branson of course was not one to turn the other cheek and quickly found himself in a scuffle. Bates and Carson had come to his rescue, Bates of course being limited in what he could do due to his incapacity.

"You know Mr Carson, I think you're a bit of a dark horse." Branson grinned at him. "You certainly know how to handle yourself. I'd say that wasn't your first pub brawl eh?"

"No, Mr Branson, it wasn't. But that's nothing to be proud of!" Carson told him grimly.

"And you're pretty quick on your feet when you have to be Mr Bates!" Branson continued.

"Everyone should be able to defend themselves." Bates replied.

"If someone had asked me a week ago who I'd like to have my back in a brawl, I'll be honest, I wouldn't have picked either of you two!" Branson laughed. He looked Carson up and down. "You know what? I don't think I'd like to have come up against you back in the day!"

Carson was tiring of this. Branson seemed to have no grasp of how inappropriate it was for the staff of Downton Abbey to be involved in an altercation in the village pub.

"Mr Branson, I realise you were not entirely to blame and that you were provoked. But you must realise that as a member of His Lordship's staff one should take every precaution to avoid being involved in such instances." Carson told him sternly.

"You said yourself I didn't start it Mr Carson." Branson protested.

"I realise that Mr Branson, however, as a representative of Downton Abbey one should realise when and how to remove oneself from such situations with the minimum of disruption." Carson continued.

"I'd say we did that. To be honest, things could have been a lot worse!" Branson said.

Carson sighed. There was no point in talking to the lad now, he was too drunk and too hyper.

"Can we just agree that it is not something to boast about and not discuss it again?" Carson asked. "In fact, how about we don't discuss anything for the rest of the walk home?"

"Agreed." Bates said nodding.

"Okay Mr Carson." Branson was quiet for a moment. "There's just one problem Mr Carson."

Carson sighed. "What's that Mr Branson?"

"We've left Mr Moseley behind at the pub."

Carson came to a standstill and looked around. True enough, no sign of Moseley.

"Oh for…!"