A/N Have we all recovered from yesterdays cliff hanger moment? Everybody taken their medication, had a deep cleansing breath, thought about nice things like puppies and kittens and flowers? Good. Because here we are finally at our last chapter. Yes boys and girls, we have reached the end of our little epic adventure.
I want to thank you all once again for those who took the time and trouble to review, watch and contribute to this story. Thank you so much. So for the final time.
Inside the sitting room all was still, a terrifying tableau where Mary and Cecily stared in horror at the deranged figure of Richard Carlisle.
Well there had certainly been a reaction... but Mary had to concede this was a little more extreme than she expected. The whole idea was to tip Richard over the edge. According to Cecily, who professed to be an expert on psychology, Richard could not begin to get over his obsession until he had been forced to face it. His wife hoped that confronted with Mary and forced to see her marriage for what it really was, happy and fulfilled, the delusion he had constructed for himself would fall apart. It had to be completely destroyed before he could move on. Cecily, of course, would be there to help pick up the pieces and in doing so Richards affections would transfer to her.
For Mary's part, it had been purely a case of discrediting her former fiancé. She wanted him to admit that he had in fact been the one responsible for the false account in his newspaper. In reciprocation for Mary's help, Cecily had reluctantly agreed to print the whole story, with Richards part in it the main feature. Mary had always believed the best way to fight fire was indeed with fire.
However, had she known that the man was carrying a firearm she certainly would have considered this a most foolish endeavour. She wasn't even sure she believed in all the mumbo jumbo which Cecily had quoted. Several pamphlets had been thrust under her nose, which Mary had declined to read, but Cecily's passion had been such that the woman would have agreed to anything as long as Mary helped her with Richards 'cure'.
Now both women were trapped in really the most dangerous situation. In his current state, Mary would not have been surprised if Richard were not a more suitable candidate for Bedlam.
Outside, the rest of the household was in complete uproar. Lady Rosamund had been unable to resist listening. If there was going to be a drama unfolding in her very home, she fully intended to know exactly what was happening. Therefore she had heard everything that had taken place. Summoning the butler, her first instinct was to have him summon the constabulary. Then she immediately rescinded the order. Consider the scandal? A madman loose in her house. The same madman who was known to be a companion of hers, who now held her niece hostage. The papers would have a field day.
"Milady, need I remind you that the purveyors of the press are in fact on the other side of the door already." The butler said patiently as if he had read her thoughts.
"And it is the Ladies' well being we must consider."
Rosamund's eyes narrowed. The man really was overstepping his boundaries.
"I know that." She snapped. "I just wonder if half a dozen constables charging into my sitting room may do more harm than good." She added in an irritated whisper. "You have to think of the bigger picture."
The butler nodded in ascent. "I apologise my lady."
"I should think so." She hissed as she pressed her ear back against the door.
"Richard... there is no need to do anything hasty." Cecily said, her voice hardly betraying her own panic.
"Hasty?" Richard laughed, his eyes never leaving his target.
"This is not the way Richard, you don't want to hurt Lady Mary." Cecily continued.
"How would you know what I do or do not want to do." Richard growled. "Always snooping around and trying to make us into some kind of romantic entanglement. That is not who we are Cecily, you and I are just two people who happen to occupy the same cage. Our marriage was purely convenient. You agreed to that."
The woman gasped at his venom.
"But you cannot control feelings Richard no matter how desperately you may want to, you of all people should appreciate that." Mary said practically.
"Yes." He said, waving the pistol slightly to indicate his wife. "But I have kept to my side of the bargain. She has a home and a position... everything she could possibly want."
"Is it so ridiculous that your wife should actually care for you?" Cecily said, her voice breaking a little.
"Listen to her Mary." Richard scoffed. "She does not really understand how these things work. You and I, we understand. We know that you marry for position, for a name, for an alliance. We play the game."
"Except I didn't play the game Richard did I?" Mary said as gently as she could manage.
"You? You are the mistress of the game. It was a simple choice, I could see that. Downton Abbey, that was your real goal, the one prize I could never offer you."
Mary shook her head. "You still believe that? After all this time... what will it take for you to really see that purely and simply I fell in love."
"No... no..." Richard shook his head as though to banish her words, "you see, you want to imagine that, because you're proud, too proud. You don't want to admit that you made a mistake."
"I have made many mistakes in my life. Many things that I could and should have done differently... but marrying Matthew Crawley was not one of them."
The same Matthew Crawley was having no luck at Richard's offices. Despite several demands, pleas and recriminations, no-one was prepared to say where Sir Richard Carlisle could be located. It was only through sheer persistence that eventually his secretary let slip that the mogul had left the office for the day. It was of course completely possible that the man just wanted to get rid of him. Still there was nothing to be gained by further badgering.
Standing on fleet street, Matthew was an agony of indecision. His stomach felt like it was tied up in knots. Somewhere in this city Mary was very likely face to face with Carlisle, and he had absolutely no idea where to start looking.
"Lady Mary doesn't mean that Richard." Cecily said.
It was obvious that Mary's repeated insistence that she had married Crawley for love was only managing to enrage Richard further. Mary however was becoming just a little bit angry about the whole situation. Would this ridiculous man ever be out of her life?
"Yes I do." Mary said folding her arms and facing the other woman. " I mean every word of it. And might I point out this whole thing is completely your fault. You were the one who said Richard had to face his demons. Well here I am..." She flung her arms wide and turned her attention to her captor. "Here I am Richard... your demon... your wife wants you to exorcise me... I want you to exorcise me... but you can't can you?"
Richard waved the pistol in warning.
"Mary..." Cecily said, her eyes wide with panic.
"Do you want to know why he can't do it?" She took a step towards him which caused the newspaper mogul to take a step back.
"Mary!" Cecily cried out as Richard aimed the weapon ready to fire.
The room was suddenly engulfed in an explosion of sound as the door exploded inwards. Richard instinctively whirled around to face the incomer, only to crumple immediately to the floor as Matthew's fist came into contact with his nemesis' jaw.
The former Captain, picked up the revolver as Mary ran to him. She threw her arms around his neck in relief. He immediately returned her embrace.
As they separated, Matthew held her at arms length. "What the hell were you thinking?" He said angrily.
"I..." Mary managed to say, for once cowed by his obvious fury.
"It isn't just you in danger, but the baby..."
"I did it for the baby." She countered. "I do not want our son or daughter to be the one Crawley to have a question mark in history or their parentage."
"They might not have had any parentage at all if I hadn't decided to call in on Lady Rosamund to see if she had any idea of this scheme of yours."
Mary managed to look a little shame faced.
"And you." Matthew turned upon Cecily. "This amateur psychology... playing around with people's minds and emotions. Carlisle needs professional medical assistance and if you really care for him I would suggest you ensure that he gets it before he seriously does some damage! The constabulary are on their way, and I have no doubt that Carlisle will be charged."
Lady Carlisle opened her mouth to protest.
"Please." Matthew said firmly as he held up his hand. "This has gone on long enough. It is time for it to end, and I am ending it, not with a scheme or a plan but with the law. It is time for him to face the consequences of his actions."
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.
"Mr Michael, I am not entirely sure you should be down here." Carson said kindly.
"I was looking for you Mr Carson." The boy said politely. He had his mother's earnestness.
"Indeed." The butler said, amused. "And am I to imagine I am more interesting than your usual playmates?"
The boy seemed to be considering the idea before shaking his head vigorously. "No." He drew a deep breath as if remembering a speech. "Nanny asked me to say she realises that you are busy and about to serve dinner, and she is very sorry but would you mind very much sending us up some bicarbonate of soda."
The butler raised an eyebrow.
"We were making some decoupage and Lily-beth accidentally poured some glue into George's hair." The boy tried to stifle a giggle.
"And Nanny believes that this is something that can be solved with bicarbonate of soda?"
The little boy shrugged his shoulders.
"I suppose anything is worth a try." He sighed.
In the last few months life had settled down at the Abbey. Lady Sybil and Mr Branson now occupied a small property on the estate, with the former enjoying a very lucrative career writing for Lady Carlisle's newspaper.
The Lady had taken over the empire following the dreadful scandal with Sir Richard. It was understood the gentleman in question now resided under the close eye of the finest Harley Street could offer.
So young Mr Branson enjoyed the benefit of sharing the new Nanny Bates with his cousins. Clearly their entertainment whilst the adults prepared to dine had gotten out of hand, but he had no doubt Anna would be able to deal with it. A good thing too as she would soon find herself with an extra charge under her capable care. Lady Mary had been growing steadily by the week and there had been some speculation that twins may once again be in the offing. Sarah Smith fussed around her mistress as though she were made of the finest bone china. It endeared the girl to Carson who could entire concur with the concept.
Ruffling the boys hair, Carson indicated he should wait here while he fetched the soda.
One day Mr Matthew and Lady Mary would be in residence at Downton, and Carson could not imagine a finer couple to take hold of the reins. One only had to look at them to see how much they still loved each other and if stories from Mrs Bird were to be believed... but that was quite enough of that. For now Downton's butler was just happy that order had been restored. For the moment at least.