Thanks for the generous reviews, I decided to add a chapter. This one has a bit of Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes.
"What's he doing in there?" O'Brien snarled.
"It isn't right." Thomas agreed.
But there he was, anyway, just out of sight of them, whisking on of Mrs Patmore's sauces, while she carefully arranged food in platters and set them on the trays for the family's luncheon. It had started shortly after breakfast.
Mrs Patmore stood in the entrance to the servants' hall, a cloth in one hand, "Daisy's down with the flu, I've been running my feet off since before dawn, I don't know how I'm going to get the lunch served in time, and dinner will be -"
"Can I help, Mrs Patmore?" Mr Bates asked. He stood up, walking over towards the kitchen. He stopped at the large table where bowls of ingredients were lined up for her late morning's work, and hung his cane on a chair back.
"I don't see how."
"It looks as though Peter," he waved at the hall boy, "has the cleaning up in hand, but I could start by peeling and dicing these." He gestured at the pile of vegetables on the table for the servants' evening stew.
"Well," Mrs Patmore said, still not sure.
Mr Bates picked up a paring knife and an apron. "There's nothing on my plate that I can't put off for a few minutes." He pulled an empty bowl in front of him to catch the peelings, donned the apron, and started working on a turnip.
Mrs Patmore surrendered. "If you're sure? Mind you don't turn the whole thing into peelings."
Bates smiled. "Yes, Mrs Patmore." He said, in a clear imitation of Daisy's tone.
She waved a spoon in his direction. "And none of your cheek, either!" She chuckled, turning to stir a saucepan.
When she turned to notice him again, he had a larger knife in hand, a pile of peeled vegetables, and was chopping them efficiently into evenly sized pieces. She leaned in and peered at his work. "Yes, that'll do." She picked up the bowl of peelings for her broth. "You've worked in a kitchen before, haven't you, Mr Bates?"
"I have. Years ago, of course, but one remembers."
"Daresay you do."
"Shall I loaf up your bread, then?" He gestured at a large bowl on the counter, with dough puffing over the rim.
"Oh, fine, then, if it makes you happy. Ten loaves, mind. The tins are in the cupboard, and the lard is on the shelf, there. Then the pie crusts will need to get rolled out."
At lunch, he sat in his usual place, and Anna slid in next to him. "I hear you're putting Daisy out of a job," she joked.
"Not at all. I just helped Mrs Patmore with one or two chores."
"T'ain't right," Thomas muttered for across the table. "Men don't work in kitchens."
"That's odd, Thomas. Peter and Joe were there most of the morning, if my memory serves," Bates shot back.
"They're just hall boys."
"And do you want to tell us all what is proper and not proper for a man to do?" Bates asked.
Mr Carson glared in his direction.
"I just don't think it's right," Thomas insisted, ducking the other question.
"Well, no one asked for your opinion, or for your help in the kitchen."
From further down the table, William spoke up. "I think it was kind of you, Mr Bates, to help Mrs Patmore. Does anyone know how Daisy is getting on?" He directed his question at Mrs Hughes, but Gwen answered.
"She's still a little pale, William, but much improved from last night. I took her up a bit of toast an hour ago."
The conversation shifted, and the topic was dropped, until the staff cleared out at the end of the meal. Watching Mr Bates heading upstairs to catch up on his accustomed tasks, Mr Carson lowered his eyebrows at his companion.
"I think Thomas has a point, Mrs Hughes. It isn't right for a valet to work in the kitchens. I'll have a word with him this evening, and make sure it doesn't happen again."
"Well, Mr Carson, I suppose you must do what is right, but I don't see the harm in it, myself. When you needed a hand last week, you had no problem with him helping. Why should it be any different when it's Mrs Patmore who's in a bit of a fix?"
"It's not proper," he repeated, but with a shade less conviction. Mrs Hughes gave him a look. "Well, it's one thing for him to help with the Thomas or William, but-"
"But if Mrs Patmore or I need a bit of assistance, we can whistle for it, is that it?" She said, challenging him.
"Well, but when do you ever need help?"
"You never know, Mr Carson. It is kind of him to help you and Mrs Patmore, though, and if he offered to give Anna and Gwen a hand beating the carpets one day, I'd not turn him away."
Carson's eyebrows did their dance as he considered her words.
"He's not trying to change how you do things, or cause any sort of a problem, you know, he's just trying to make up for those few things he can't do. Don't you think we should accept his help in the spirit it's given?"
He sighed. "Perhaps you have a point, Mrs Hughes. I won't say anything just yet. If it appears that he is not performing his duties, however.."
Mrs Hughes gave out a small laugh. "Now, really, Mr Carson. When have you ever seen Mr Bates fail in his duties? He'd make sure his lordship was taken care of if it killed him, and you know it."
Mr Carson made a rumbling noise in his throat, and went upstairs to check on William.