Chapter 1: To Keep Downton
Matthew returned home from work early and hurried to the bedroom he now shared with Mary in hopes of spending an hour or so with her before the dressing gong rang. He felt a smile tug at his lips when he quietly opened the door to their room to see her bent over the small writing desk in the corner of the room.
"No tea today Anna" Mary said without looking up from the paper she was scribbling away at.
"And what has you so busy that you don't have time for tea?" he whispered in her ear after sneaking up behind her.
"Your home early darling."
"Indeed. Knowing you will be here waiting for me has given me a marvelous incentive to complete my work as quickly possible. I can only hope that whatever it is that you are writing that would keep you from taking tea is not so important that it will prevent me from enjoying the pleasure of your company."
"If I tell you, I doubt you will find my company very pleasurable."
Matthew sighed, folded his arms and leaned against the wall. "If this is about Reggie Swire's money again, you know my decision has already been made. Please try to understand as much as a love you, I cannot do what you want me to do. You know, you must know, that my heart aches for the sorrow I know you feel. I would do anything for you Mary, give anything that was rightfully mine to secure your happiness, but my conscience cannot allow me to accept blood money."
"You won't save Downton and Gradmama cannot it, but I am not willing to give up."
"What new plan have you hatched this time?"
Biting her lower lip, she rose and silently hand him the paper she had been working on all afternoon. She waited in silence as he read he read it.
"Mary, you cannot be seriously considering this!" He could not believe she would actually consider selling the story of Mr. Pamuk, a story that they had been lucky Carlisle had thus far refrained from publishing.
"I'm not considering it - I have already decided to do it. It is not something I want to do, but it is something I am prepared to do. Besides everyone who matters already knows," she replied as she walked over and sat on the bed.
"No, Mary you cannot do this. Any money you might receive from this would merely delay the inevitable. It might buy Downton a month, two at most. Why would you throw away so much for so little?"
"Because it is not little to me. Maybe you are right and it will only buy a month or two but in that time, circumstances may change or I may come up with another plan, but anytime I can buy to stay in Downton is worth whatever price I may pay. I am willing to bear the shame and brave the storm."
"No it not Mary. It is just a house."
"No, it is not just a house. You have been here for eight years, but I have lived here my entire life. It is not that I am scared of change - I'm not. Or that I think you cannot provide me with a home somewhere else because I know you can. But losing Downton would be like losing a piece of myself so I must fight to keep it."
"I am trying to understand you - I truly am, but God Mary to tell the world and risk or much for one more month in house, no matter how grand ….."
"It has nothing to do with how grand the house is. If you will let me, I will try to show you. Please, let me show you Downton as I see it"
"Mary I've seen the house a thousand times."
Standing, she took his hand and looked straight into blue eyes she loves so much. "Please Matthew, just let me try show you. It may not change your mind, but at least you will get to know me a little better and isn't that something you said you wanted to do?"
"You win my darling, lead the way"
Hand in hand, she led him down the hall. She reached for the handle of a door he had never been through.
"Mary, we can't go in there. That is your mother's room."
"Yes we can. Mama is visiting granny at Dower House and Papa went to the village" she said as she pushed the door open and led him in. "This is the room I was born in. This is the room I was brought to to meet each of my sisters on the day each was born. I was too young to remember the first time I saw Edith and I somehow doubt she would have made much of an impression on me, but I remember the first time I laid eyes on Sybil. She was so pretty, prettier than any doll I owned. She had so much dark hair that Papa let me touch after I promised to be gentle. He even let me hold her, but only if I was sitting down."
Matthew couldn't help but smile at the image of a young Mary holding her baby sister. It wasn't often that she let her guard down and showed her softer side so he cherished her openness all the more. "As beautiful a baby as Sybil must have been, I am certain she couldn't hold a candle to you."
After giving his hand a quick squeeze, she dropped it and walked over to the bed. "This isn't really just mama's room. Papa sleeps here every night although he keeps a bed in the dressing room for form's sake. You know, I once told my parents that really smart married people sleep in separate bedrooms. I never imagined I would want to share a bed with my husband anymore than was absolutely necessary, but then again I never imagined I would get to marry a man of my choosing." She felt him behind her, his arm circling her waist as he placed a soft kiss on her neck before she continued. He smiled remembering their wedding night when he shifted slightly as she was falling asleep causing her to whisper softly "you aren't planning on moving to the other room are you?" Of course he had no intention of leaving and couldn't resist teasing that seeing as how it took eight year to find his way into her bed, he had no plans of leaving it anytime soon.
"When you proposed the first time, I came to mama in this very room that night. It was the first time I ever admitted out loud, much less to myself, that I loved you, that I had loved you much longer than I had known. You see, even this room that you had never seen before, holds not only a piece of my story, but a piece of our story. It is not only this room, it is every room, every hallway, every bench. Come, let me show you another."
"What is the next stop on this tour of yours?"
Smiling, she let him to a room he was very familiar with, the small library. "This was my sanctuary and refuge since I was a young girl. I would hide under that couch whenever I had done something wrong and was not yet ready to face papa. One day, I hid their so long, Carson actually brought me tea and cake and talked me out of hiding. This was also the room that papa brought me to when I was twelve to explain the entail and the fact that to keep Downton in the family, I would need to marry Cousin Patrick who I had no affection for. It was in this room years later that I learned the new heir was a distant cousin who was a solicitor from Manchester. There is really no way to explain how I felt. I'm the eldest daughter of the Earl of Grantham but some unknown cousin takes all simply because I was born a say that I was resentful and predisposed to dislike you would be an understatement."
"My darling, I have always understood how unfair the entail was to you."
Walking to one of the bookcases, she retrieved a book and return to Matthew's side. "The Greek Myths?"
"Yes, you see it was on that day when I first learned that you would be the new heir, I locked myself in here for several hours and that was the book I happened to pick up. That day I discovered the story of Andromeda."
"And the sea monster"
"I did think you a sea monster in the beginning, but years later in this very room, you proved to be Perseus and saved me from the real sea monster I was going to marry"
"So I'm Perseus now?"
"Perhaps not always, but more often than not. Now come, I want to show you something else."
Following her up the stairs and down the hall, she lead him into another room he had never seen before. "This was the nursery that my sisters and I grew up in. This was where Edith torn my favorite dress because it was prettier than hers and where I cut her hair in retaliation when she was sleeping. I don't think I have ever seen my mama so angry." Matthew laughed at the the smile that tugged at Mary's lips as she confessed her youthful misdeed. His eyes followed her as she walked over to a large window with a view of Downton's entrance. "This is where I used to wait for Papa The second I saw him ride up, I would go running for the door no matter how unladylike my nanny thought it was to run. This is where I want my children to grow up. I want to sit in front of this window reading to them or playing with them as we wait for you to come home and then race them down the stairs to meet you. I want to teach them to ride and hunt here. I want them to learn their family's proud history and Downton is an integral part of it. You see I don't want to keep Downton just for me, I want to keep it for our children."
"I can't imagine the very proper Lady Mary racing children down the stairs," he teased, although his smile gave away the fact that he was indeed pleased that she had considered their future children.
"Can't you? I can. Perhaps I've imagined it too often and long before I had any right to."
He walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her back flush against his chest. "I must confess, I too imagined you with our children long before I ought to have done so," he whispered as he placed a soft kiss on her neck. She turned in his arms and kissed his quickly before telling him she wanted to take him to one more place. He allowed her to lead him to their final stop, her bedroom which had only recently become their bedroom.
"Now this is a room I am quickly becoming well acquainted with."
"But even so, I think there are somethings you don't know about this room. She walked over to the side of the bed and opened a drawer of the nightstand, pulling out an old, well loved picture of him. "This was the location of my nightly ritual every night of the war until you returned. I would take this picture from its hiding place, kneel down right here, and pray for your safe return. Edith actually caught be one time, but I was too embarrassed to admit that I was praying, let alone who I was praying for."
Words could not express what he felt so he did the only thing he could, and took her in his arms. "I do love you Mary. More than I ever thought I could."
She freed herself from his arms and walked to her bedroom door. "At our wedding, you said you weren't entirely sure I would show up. To be honest, the night before, I wasn't sure either, at least until you came to me that night. This is the spot I stood when I knew I would meet you at the alter. This is the spot where you kissed me so sweetly and kept your eyes closed just as you promised"
"So you cheated and opened yours?" He has suspected before that she probably had peaked.
"I guess I am simply not as good as you. But I knew then that I would never be happy with anyone else as long as you walked the Earth and I wouldn't be happy with Downton unless I had you beside me. I do love you and I am not punishing you. If I wanted to punish you, I would have denied you access to my bed until you gave me what I wanted. If I was punishing you, I would have told the family about the Swire inheritance, but I didn't because I did not want anyone to resent you if you decided not to save us. I'm not punishing you, but I do hope that you will reconsider."
He took her in his arms again and kissed the top of her head. "Darling, I love you and I know how hard it was for you say all these things, but …" Mary brought her hand to his mouth to silence him.
"I know this is your decision, but I am asking you to please consider something beyond yourself - think of me, our family, and our children that are sure to come. I want to share this house with you. I want to smile when a room calls to mind a special memory and share that with you. You say you want to get to know me and there is no better place to do that then here."
"No please let me finish. I will love you no matter what you choose. I will be angry and terribly sad if you give your inheritance away, but I will try to and eventually will be able to accept it. All I want you to do is reconsider. Please, just promise me you will think about it"
"Of course I will think about it."
"Now come and kiss me before I start to cry"