A/N I know, I know, I promised I would go and sit quietly after my previous epic. Unfortunately my muse didn't get the memo and would insist on poking me with a large pointy stick. Therefore in order to avoid permanent damage and unsightly bruising, I was forced (at stick point if you like) to write this. It is based on something said to me by TheOneAndOnlyALouse so in some ways she should shoulder much of the blame. :)
Please insert normal disclaimer here: I own nothing, know nothing and am getting paid for nothing!
The premise is we have borrowed Mr Wells' time machine and have whizzed forward approximately five years. That's all I am going to say.
The unmistakeable sound of running feet caused Charles Carson to look up from his ledger. He couldn't imagine it would be any of the staff. He stepped out of his pantry and immediately collided with a small dark haired boy. A tousled head looked upwards into the stern face of the butler.
"Now Master George, where would you be going in such a hurry?" Carson asked. "And why, I wonder, are you in the company of Miss Florence?"
The stolen doll was quickly hidden behind his back, but the child resolutely decided to say nothing.
"Master George Robert Crawley! You come back here this instant!" The cry came from the upper part of Downton Abbey. Nanny clearly was not pleased. The boy glanced over his shoulder nervously.
Carson raised his eyebrows in question, but George simply stared back defiantly. The corners of the butler lips twitched, he was so like his mother it was frightening.
With a wink, Carson nodded to indicate his pantry and the boy gratefully darted inside. Just as Nanny Stevens came down the stairs, he quietly closed the door.
The woman looked exasperated. "Mr Carson, have you seen Master George? He and Miss Elizabeth had a disagreement and he's taken her favourite doll."
"I don't believe I have Miss Stevens. He has probably run out into the gardens. I would try there."
The woman patted her prim bun. Everything about her was sharp, her nose, her chin, her eyesight… The woman had barely been here five minutes and Carson already knew how the children felt about Miss Stevens, and their feelings were not warm. She tutted crossly before heading out into the grounds.
The coast now clear, Carson returned to his sanctuary to find George sitting behind his desk.
"Now then young Sir, would you care to tell me what is going on?" Carson asked.
George climbed down from the chair. He was four but big for his age, and very fast, especially where contraband was concerned.
"Lily-beth was horrid to me, so I took Miss Florence and now I am going to bury her in the garden and Lily-beth will never see her again and she will be sorry because she's horrid and I hate her." The words came out in a rush.
"I see." Carson said, nodding. "And what was it Miss Lily-beth said?"
Elizabeth Violet Crawley was George Crawley's twin. As soon as she began to speak, she could not quite say Elizabeth, only Lily-beth, and this had become her pet name ever since. She was the complete opposite of her brother, with blonde hair in ringlets and piercing blue eyes. People often said of the twins that they were the epitome of the poem about little boys and girls, she was sugar and spice and he was frogs and snails. If Lily-beth was an angel, her brother was the devil himself.
"She said that she was a Lady and very important and I was just a… stupid boy. So I said that when I grew up I was going to be a great man and a soldier like Papa and she would have to do whatever I told her to, then she hit me over the head with Miss Florence so I grabbed her and ran down here."
"I see." Carson said again, seeming to give the matter some thought. "How would it be if you gave Miss Florence to me and I gave you a sixpence?"
The boy seemed to consider the exchange. "Are you going to give her back to Lily-beth?" He asked suspiciously.
"I am not sure his lordship would look very kindly on dolls being buried in his flowerbeds, even those belonging to horrid sisters."
George nodded in resignation and gave up the doll with one hand whilst holding out the other for his sixpence.
In the sitting room at Crawley House, Lady Mary Crawley was entertaining her grandmother.
"So what is the opinion on your new maid? I hear she comes highly recommended." The Dowager Countess asked.
Mary sighed. "She seems nice enough, young and keen, but I have been used to Anna for so long, it will be hard to adjust."
"Well you did let the girl get married and that inevitably leads to children, which leads to losing ones maid…" Violet said primly as if it was Mary's own fault.
"I know, and I am happy for Anna, but… finding someone to replace her has been a trial."
The two sipped their tea as Nanny Stevens knocked on the door.
"Excuse me my lady, but I wonder if I could talk to you about Master George?" The woman said coldly.
The Dowager Countess and her granddaughter exchanged a look. "Speaking of trials…" The younger said under her breath.
"Very well Stevens." Mary said out loud as she put down her teacup, "What are we saying he has done this time?"
Folding her hands in front of her apron, the nanny began to recount the events of the day.
"… and now he had hidden somewhere in the Abbey and simply refuses to come to me when he is called." She ended bitterly.
"And who could blame him?" Violet said with a sly smile, which earned her a warning look from Mary.
"So what you are telling me Stevens is that, on a simple visit to his grandparents, you have lost my son… again?" Mary fixed the woman with a steady gaze.
"No, your ladyship." The nanny squirmed uncomfortably, "Master George has chosen to hide to avoid reprimand."
"But you do not know where he is?" Lady Mary asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Not at the moment. No."
"So technically we could say that you have lost him." She paused for a moment. "That comes as something of a surprise given your excellent references. I was lead to believe that there was nothing you couldn't handle, especially a four year old boy?"
"Well… I…" The unfortunate Stevens stuttered.
"My suggestion would be that first you find him, and then we can discuss the matter. I assume you at least know the whereabouts of my daughter?"
There was a squeal of delight from outside the sitting room. "Papa!"
"Does that answer your question?" The Dowager said with a smirk as she drank her tea.
Anna Bates had finished showing Sarah Smith around the house and they were now enjoying their own cup of tea in the kitchen. The new Lady's maid was petite with auburn hair curled up under her cap, her pale skin dotted with pretty freckles. She even played with her cup delicately.
"We are a small household here, but a very friendly one…"
"You came from the big house though didn't you?" Smith asked.
"Yes, I came with Lady Mary when she married."
"Why would you want to?"
"I am very attached to her ladyship, so it was only natural to move with her. I don't live in, we have a cottage on the estate. My husband, Mr Bates, is Lord Grantham's valet." Anna said proudly.
"Isn't he the one who was in prison for murdering his first wife?" The girl asked wide eyed.
Anna stiffened. "He was wrongfully accused and acquitted." She replied icily. "Something for which I am very thankful to Lady Mary and her family, they never lost faith in his innocence."
Smith looked suitably embarrassed.
"Anyway," Anna continued, "You should find yourself happy here." She smoothed her apron over her growing bump. "I shall be staying on for the next few weeks to show you the way we do things."
"I'm sure I can manage…" Smith began.
"It is at Lady Mary's request." Anna said a little sharply.
"Papa!" The squeal was enough to pierce the eardrums.
A little blur of golden hair and white lace charged along the hallway towards the front door, to be caught in the arms of a man in a dark three piece suite. There was no doubt that this was indeed her Papa. He sported the same blonde hair and striking blue eyes.
Hanging up his hat, he carried the child into the house as she chattered excitedly.
"… and then George kidnapped Miss Florence and ran away and Miss Stevens was so angry that her ears went completely pink and now she is going to tell Mama and George is going to be in so much trouble, Miss Stevens said that he was a monkey and should be sold to a circus… I heard her!"
"Did you indeed?" The man was saying, obviously trying not to laugh. "And what did I say about telling tales on your brother and Miss Stevens?"
The little girl looked down guiltily.
"More to the point, what did you do to George to make him act that way?"
"Nothing…" She murmured as she played with the lapel of his jacket, still not looking at her father.
"Are you sure?" He asked tickling her stomach.
She giggled and squirmed.
"Elizabeth Violet…?" He said. This only produced more chuckles from the little girl.
He placed her on the floor as Anna and Smith appeared in the hallway to see what all the commotion was about.
"Ah Anna," Matthew Crawley said with a smile as he watched his daughter run up the stairs, still giggling. "I assume Lady Mary is at home?"
"Yes Sir, she is taking tea with the Dowager Countess."
Matthew made a face. "Crickey. Is there a council of war I should be aware of?"
Anna couldn't help her own wry grin. "I don't believe so Sir. May I introduce Miss Sarah Smith? She will be looking after Lady Mary when my time comes." She unconsciously stroked her apron.
Those piercing blue eyes were now focussed on the new lady's maid, and they almost turned her to stone.
"It's good to meet you… Smith. Of course, Anna will be sorely missed," He said affectionately, "but I am sure you will be very capable and I know both Lady Mary and I want you to be happy here."
Sarah Smith could do nothing but gape. She finally managed to avert her eyes long enough for a little bob of acknowledgement.
"Still," Matthew said with a sigh. "I suppose I had better face the music, it seems George has been up to his old tricks again." With that, he turned and headed towards the drawing room.
Smith watched him disappear through the door. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest, it was as if there was nothing and no-one else in the world except for Mr Crawley, even saying his name in her head made her stomach flip.
Anna touched her arm. "Are you all right?" She asked.
"Y… yes." Smith replied.
"You don't need to worry about Mr Crawley, he is really very nice." Anna said kindly, imagining the girl to have been intimidated by the master of the house.
Smith managed a watery smile and followed Anna back towards the kitchen.
Nice? Sarah thought, Nice didn't even come close! He was totally perfect! Suddenly her new position had just gotten a whole lot more interesting.