A/N I couldn't resist I'm afraid. Nine months until the next series and I was having serious withdrawals after the Christmas episode. So, here is my first foray into the world of Downton. I am sure you will tell me if characters or things don't ring true. Something was bothering me about the Christmas episode. We all know that Mary confessed to Matthew, but I'm not sure any of the other characters are aware of it. From small acorns fanfictions do grow.
Please insert usual disclaimer here. I own nothing, know nothing, getting paid for nothing.
Thank you for reading.
There was something of the swan about Lady Mary Crawley this morning. Outwardly she glided into the breakfast room, the picture of calm and serenity. Inside she was paddling madly to prevent herself leaping up onto the table, stamping her feet and squealing with sheer excitement. Everything was going to be all right. Better than all right, utterly, utterly perfect. She no longer had the prospect of a comfortable, but miserable life at Haxby hanging over her, and now her real dreams had come true, she was going to be Mrs Matthew Crawley. An involuntary smile crossed her lips as she thought of him, kneeling in the snow at her insistence. Even after everything they'd been through, she'd still had the audacity to demand he did things properly, and he had indulged her. It was enough to make a person positively giddy. She glanced up to see Edith looking at her curiously.
"What?" She snapped. It was more to keep up appearances than real annoyance; even her younger sister couldn't needle her today.
"I was just wondering how you manage to look so happy considering the chaos you've caused."
Mary bit back her retort as their father appeared, his glance taking in both girls and the obvious atmosphere between them.
"Do you think we could start a day without the two of you trying to knock spots off each other?" He asked wearily before taking his seat and unfolding his newspaper.
"Yes Papa." They replied automatically.
Never had a meal seemed to take so long. It was just the three of them. Mama and Aunt Rosamond would be taking their breakfast in bed, a perk of the married woman, one that Mary would soon enjoy. She felt the excitement bubbling again. She had never thought of herself as a silly woman, some would even call her cold and unfeeling, but she wouldn't be able to manage much longer without bursting!
There came a discreet tap on the door followed by the equally discreet Carson.
"Mr Crawley to see you my lord."
"Matthew? This early?" He looked at his pocket watch. "Well send him in please Carson."
The butler coughed. "Mr Crawley asked to see you privately my lord."
The Earl of Grantham looked from one daughter to the other. There was a slight eagerness about the elder. She was trying to hide it, and was very nearly succeeding, but it was there all the same. He wondered if he even dare hope what this early morning visit might mean.
"Take Mr Crawley through to the library Carson, and bring us some coffee. I will attend shortly."
As the door shut quietly, Robert kept his gaze on Mary.
"Is there something I should know?" He asked.
For once Mary was speechless. Matthew had made her promise. If she wanted this done properly, then he was going to ask her father's permission before anyone else was to be told. As if Papa would say no, he loved Matthew almost as much as she did herself! If she'd had her way she would have been jumping up and down on her parent's bed last night. Even this morning, even as Anna had asked her several times if she was quite alright, she had kept her promise. Now her father was asking her directly.
She had caused her dear father such pain and disappointment, and what had Matthew endured at her hand and yet they both still loved her? She had promised to give them this moment; it was the very least they both deserved.
Robert raised an eyebrow in amusement at his normally articulate daughter's apparent inability to speak. "I had better go and find out for myself then hadn't I?"
He made a great play of folding his paper and tucking it under his arm. Mary had lowered her eyes, but there was a definite blush playing over her cheeks. The Earl of Grantham smiled to himself as he left the breakfast table. Perhaps things had not been so final for Matthew after all.
Mary continued to stare into her plate.
"What is going on?" Edith brought her out of her reverie.
Mary smiled at her sister, a genuine smile. It seemed to irritate her sibling even more.
"I really don't know what you mean." She replied as she took the napkin from her lap and, as gracefully as she could, left the room.
"What is she doing?" Mrs Hughes asked. She and Carson were standing out of sight at the other end of the hall. "Anna said she was behaving very strangely this morning."
"I would say that we will find out in due course." The butler replied with a knowing glint in his eye.
Before the housekeeper could press him further he was approaching the lady in question.
How long should she leave it? Lady Mary was barely aware that she was wringing her hands as she paced up and down outside the library. What was taking so long? Surely Matthew would dispense with small talk. If they were in there discussing estate matters first…
"M'lady?" Carson asked.
Mary took a moment to register that she had been addressed.
"Carson, this is ridiculous." She said as though she had come to a sudden decision.
The butler inclined his head in a half nod.
Taking a deep breath, she gave him a measured smile before turning the handle and stepping inside.
She could hear her father gushing with enthusiasm.
"My dear chap! I can not say how absolutely delighted I am. Cora will be as well, and Mama… all of us. It is something that we all wished for. My dear boy!"
"Obviously I wanted to talk to you first, before we made things public. It may be as well to be done sooner rather than later, with the trial and Mary breaking with Carlisle…"
"Indeed." Robert replied, his tone now less buoyant. The thought had suddenly occurred to him. Mary had been most insistent that Matthew did not know about the Pamuk incident. She had looked horrified at the very idea that Matthew would ever be aware of her shame. He supposed he could understand it. But still, what would his heir say when news of his fiancés indiscretion hit the newspapers? He did not want to see her heart broken again.
"Matthew, I wonder if you have spoken to Mary about…" He began gently.
Robert may as well have been speaking to the bookcase. Matthew was transfixed as his bride-to-be crossed the room.
"I know it isn't entirely proper, but it has been so long I was afraid that you may have forgotten what you came in here to talk about." She said by way of explanation.
"Was there something we were supposed to be talking about?" Matthew said with a mischievous glance at the earl.
Mary rolled her eyes.
"My darling girl!" Robert held out his arms for his daughter's embrace. They held each other as he kissed her cheek.
"So, do you think he will do?" She asked smiling as her father finally released her.
"Do? I think he will do very well!" Robert replied, his voice once again full of exuberance. "Your mother must be told. She will never forgive me if she is denied one moment of this happy news." Clapping Matthew on the shoulder, the earl strode out of the room.
Matthew moved towards Mary and took her hands in his. She felt the breath catch in her throat, she wasn't sure if it was his touch or the small velvet box he had placed in her outstretched palm. It was open to reveal a diamond ring that would fit her delicate hand perfectly.
"You're not going to make me kneel down again are you?" He asked.
She smiled up at him. How on earth had she been so blessed with the love of such a man?
For the second time that day she found she could not speak. She shook her head as she felt tears of joy pricking her eyes.
Taking the ring from the box, he placed it on her finger before bringing her hand up to his lips. Mary wound her arms about his neck as those same lips now dipped to find hers.
They separated reluctantly.
Carson stood barely in the room, his eyes averted.
"Her Ladyship is asking for you Lady Mary." He said.
"Thank you Carson." She replied and, with a final smile at Matthew, headed out of the room to her mother.
Matthew felt himself grinning like a fool.
"May I offer my sincere congratulations Sir?" Carson said.
"Thank you Carson. I expect now all hell will be broken loose?"
The butler smiled a tight smile.
"Indeed Sir, I expect it will."