Upstairs Downstairs: The Promise of an Exceptional Man
After her effective conversation with Blanche, whilst she was still clearly concerned Agnes knew she had to make positively sure her doubts about Hallam were quite mistaken, by looking for evidence to back up her husband. She simply couldn't rest her mind and soon was back downstairs with Johnny who was packing silver for the bank and placing other ironed and dried laundry on the table. "Can I help you, your ladyship?" Johnny asked politely, he wondered why she was back downstairs in the kitchen quarters, maybe she was just looking for something to do while Sir Hallam was out at work.
"No at all, I've come to see if I can help you" Agnes could see he had enough to sort through, which would take him at least an hour or two and really needed the help.
"I'm packing the silver for the bank, it's all in hand.." Johnny explained to her.
Agnes noticed a few of Hallam's shirts folded up. "This must be the laundry"
"Let me unpack it" Johnny wanted to help.
"There's no need, please I need to be of use, it's important that I am" Agnes claimed, wanting to take immediate charge of the batch of laundry. She helped carry a few of them.
While she ,managed to unpack some of Hallam's white and blue shirts, Johnny filled her in on news of his planned visit to see Rose. "Your ladyship I went to see Miss Buck the other day."
"Oh is she well?" Agnes asked him.
"Very well. At least well enough." Johnny replied, he expressed a sudden look of worry when he saw her holding a small piece of card, a written message to her husband, this worryingly confirmed her previous suspicions. Hallam had not been completely honest with her and was seeking company elsewhere, from another woman. Shockingly the handwriting seemed far too familiar as she recognized it from somewhere else. Her first thought was to investigate furthermore and eventually confront her husband with the proof that she had uncovered.
"Is something the matter with Sir Hallam's shirts, your ladyship?" Johnny asked, continuing to look concerned. Agnes didn't answer and ran into one of the other rooms, not wasting time as she rifled frantically through his other shirts, tailor made grey or black jackets and trousers. She threw most of them on the floor and prevented herself from flinging anymore out from the wardrobe. Her heart couldn't withstand preferable anymore of the overwhelming pain and sudden heartbreak that seemed to be engulfing her mind and body within that exact moment in time. She really just wanted it to stop altogether, glimpses of tears tingling in her eyes. Downstairs she heard the front doorbell ringing, believing it wasn't important she chose not to answer while she was about to make her way downstairs to check on Pamela. As she drew closer towards the front of the house Agnes looked at the door entrance and witnessed Pamela talking to the person who had rung the bell at least three times.
"I'm Miss Pamela Holland" She nervously said. She was talking to a returning Caspar Landry who had come to see in Agnes once again, he had bought something he knew she would like.
Agnes walked over to Pamela. "Pamela you're not a maid." she sighed expressively.
Caspar could tell Agnes didn't seem to have the considerable look of happiness nor contentment written across her face. Something important looked to be bothering, he didn't ask what it maybe and so believed instead he ought to help with a smile putting on her face even if his news he'd come to bring her, made her feel more saddened. "And I'm Caspar Landry, she's just thinking ahead. Like the poster says, Train While There's Time, so can I come in or talk to you here?" Agnes nodded a little and allowed him to enter, she called for Eunice to hang up his hat by the door.
A while later, Caspar was sitting upright, alongside Pamela who was pouring out a cup of tea for him. "Am I right in thinking this is Assam?"
"Yes it is." Agnes confirmed.
"When I first came to England, I thought tea was just tea, saying that I thought I'd pass as British just because I knew you put the milk in last. But now I can tell by just the clear smell of whether it's Lapsang or Broken Orange Pekoe . Whether it's from Kenya or India even Ceylon. The Empire runs like a river through these drawing rooms." Caspar described how well he different kinds of refreshments other than tea.
"Do you take sugar?" Pamela asked him.
"I'll take it from you sweetie" Caspar replied.
"I shall miss it when I'm gone" Caspar said, he was about to tell her he was moving back to America, more New York.
"Gone?" Agnes felt a little sad upon hearing him confirm this.
"Back to the States, I've more to go home for, than I have to keep me here. But if I'm honest I'm must admit England's taught me a lot, helped me to adapt more freely...like an eagle. Introduced to do me things and a lot of people, who I've made dear friends with who I'll never be forgetting in a hurry." Caspar knew she was definitely one of these people he was finding himself mentioning. Agnes sensed this too but believed it wasn't best to mention it herself just yet. For him he considered it was going to be hard to say goodbye to this woman he'd become so greatly fond of and had come to respect with honesty.
She turned to Pamela who was smiling at Caspar. She felt that she ought to talk to him privately and gave her something to do. "Pamela, darling I've just remembered that Mickey and Minnie haven't been given any crumbs today. Would you go and feed them a tiny piece of bread" Agnes explained to her that they had small stomachs and they mustn't get a shock. Pamela understood and did as she was asked to do, leaving Agnes alone with the American.
"I shouldn't have called, you have much to concern you." Caspar said.
"No it's all right, I'm actually glad you did come. I regretted saying goodbye to you at your factory, I shouldn't be saying this but I felt it was wrong. It wasn't proper enough.." Agnes admits, not properly finishing what she wanted to say, she was also hoping she wasn't saying too much to end up giving him a wrong impression. He was rather pleased to see that she seemed perfectly fine with him being there.
"These are testing times." Caspar added.
"Yes but if a servant had answered the door and you'd sent up your card on a salver" She said.
"Like a gentleman.." He said in return.
"I would have said I wasn't at home. Like a lady." She didn't want to let her emotions get the better of her as they were trying to at that moment.
"Agnes, Nobody's going to send us to hell...Open your present..I think it's certainly something you like" Caspar informed her, clarifying what he really thought. He changed the topic of conversation quickly and asked her to see what was inside the box he'd bought for her, his leaving gift he hoped she'd come to like very much.
"Nylons" Agnes murmured, she was happy to open them from their packaging.
"Landry Caresse. Fully Fashioned. 144 pairs. You're going to need it. It'll be a long war." Caspar advised her.
"is it going to last forever?" Agnes asked. "Your nylons are so astonishingly durable" She ran her right hand through the material of them, her eyes avoiding his. She couldn't look at him directly in the eyes, she was still hurting from the shock discovery she'd made moments before he rang the bell.
"Very few things last forever" She couldn't avoid him forever and so looked up to see his eyes sparkling so magically, however the hint of sadness and regret for what could have been between themselves seemingly looked so obvious. "And when they do, they're meant to be. If you run out, write me or just write me." He was struggling to hold back his feelings.
"Where?" She asked.
"Care of the Ritz." It wasn't an personal nor a illicit invitation for her, it was just to prove to her, he compellingly cared about her, the way she wished to be regarded for.
She considered his polite offer but simply couldn't accept. "I can't. I need to be the best person I can be. For a little while. I'm sorry Caspar" She moved hand away from his and nervously looked away from him again. It left him a little disappointed.
"I said it once before. You're good as well as beautiful. One of the things, I can't change and one of the things you shouldn't change yourself. I'd better leave" Caspar got up to leave, Agnes came up behind him. She put a hand on his shoulder, he turned back to face her, a look of surprise engraved across his lips and eyes.
She genuinely didn't particularly care whether Hallam would walk in on them and start angrily accusing the rich American of attempting to lure his loyal wife away from him. "You're right Caspar, quite right." Agnes said, her eyes were exchanging a look of admiration with his before gradually placing her arms around him and gave him a gentle and compassionate hug. For her, this goodbye hug felt so reasonable and right as she thought about her especially after he'd told her that he was leaving. "You're one of the most kindest and exceptional men I know, please phone me when you get to America let me know how you're settling down."
Caspar pulled away from her hug, rubbing a tear away from the corner of his right eye. "I'm not usually a cry baby...don't worry I will. I know our paths will surely cross once more Goodbye Agnes." He bid her a fond farewell for the time being at least. She watched him leaving from the front doorstep, as Blanche returned home she could see that her friend was looking teary eyed.
Later that day after the truth had finally emerged, Hallam had been unfaithful to Agnes while she'd been away from 165, it was made worse as she'd discovered her younger, unhappy & spoiled sister was sleeping with her husband. Agnes couldn't bear to be in the same house as them. Blanche believed Maud would have been disgusted by her son's horrible behaviour. As most of the servants were preparing for the evening meals they were shocked to hear the sound of something dropping over the bannister and Harry panicking and crying inside one of the rooms. Lady Persie had appeared to have thrown herself over after accidentally shooting Beryl in the shoulder.
Days later, as the house recovered. Blanche was advising her friend to move on from the tragic past few days that had haunted the house. "It's time to let her wretched soul out once and for all, because right now no matter how you feel about past regrets and grief, we have to move on Agnes dear." Agnes nodded,agreeing with her, she soon followed what her heart was telling her. Fight for her independence no matter how badly she felt pegged back by.
The following day, Agnes and Blanche were chatting on the steps of 165, both were preparing for their new jobs. Agnes had Mr Pritchard to thank after he'd happily passed on her name to the St John's Ambulance. Blanche spoke on her thoughts. "The time for all of us women is coming, throughout this upcoming war I believe we'll become the most important and respected women in Europe." She smiled in thought, as the air raids alerted the streets throughout that area. Pritchard suggested they took shelter in the kitchen quarters, both of the ladies agreed and went back into the house. Agnes looked in her pocket and found a lucky golden bracelet charm, engraved with her name on.
"Blanche how did this get here in my pocket?" She asked her friend.
"Came by last minute post yesterday from New York, Caspar left me instructions to leave it in your pocket. Told me you'll find the bracelet even if you don't choose to wear it." Blanche smiled. Agnes smiled as well and gave it a rub, making a secret wish with it.
End of Chapter
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