It's been a while since I ventured to Downton, but I thought I'd pay the Crawleys another visit - and bring Martha along for the ride. In this little tale, set a day or two after Mary and Matthew left for their honeymoon, Martha is showing off a present of hers to Robert and Cora - and it's not long before Violet gets in on it and a fight ensues. Put quite simply, this is the result of watching the Duck Dynasty episode "Si-amese Twins" and the I Love Lucy episode "The Handcuffs," both of which were my inspiration.
"Mother, what are you going to do with those?"
"You never know when some creep may break in. After all, nobody can do anything when their hands are tied."
"Or cuffed, in this instance."
Martha Levinson chuckled at her son-in-law's dry observance. "See, Cora? Robert understands the method behind my madness."
"The method I understand perfectly, Mother; the madness, I cannot even begin to fathom," Robert quipped, easing himself down on the settee in the library, where he, his wife, and his mother-in-law were all gathered.
Rather than take umbrage, Martha cackled heartily. "Let's pray you never do. You would be absolutely terrified at some of the goings-on in my mind."
"Right now, I'm terrified of what you may be planning to do with those things," Cora said, casting a wary eye upon the gleaming silver handcuffs dangling from her mother's hands. "Where did you find them, anyway?"
"I stole them from the warden on my last jailbreak." Martha laughed when Cora buried her face in her hands. "I'm only kidding; these were a gift from my friend Anthony DeSilva. He's a lieutenant in the New York Police Department."
Cora peered between her fingers. "Mother, please tell me you weren't arrested for anything," she pleaded.
"Sweetheart, please. The last time I was under arrest, your brother Harold and I were playing cowboys and Indians when he was four years old. Little pint-sized sheriff that he was, he grabbed my wrist and said, 'You're under awwest, you bad Indian!' That was my first and only run-in with the law."
"Then why did a New York police officer give you a pair of handcuffs?"
"He probably mistook her for a streetwalker. Though given the way she dresses, it's no small wonder."
All heads turned just in time to see Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, sweep in, her purple gown billowing about her as she moved. "Mama, please!" Robert said, tossing his mother a slight glare. "Apologize."
"Very well." Violet took a seat beside her son and, fixing her eyes on her American opposite, said, "I'm sorry you dress like a streetwalker."
Ignoring Robert's hissed "Mama!", Martha smiled coolly at Violet. "Not as sorry as I am that you still use that corset to hold in the extra weight, Violet."
"Why not," Robert cut in, before Violet could spit a nasty barb in return, "tell us about your gentleman friend, if he is indeed that."
This was a surprise to Cora. "Mother, are you… involved with Lieutenant DeSilva?"
Martha held up a hand. "Take a deep breath, my dear. It's not what you think. He's a perfectly lovely man, but aside from the occasional drink, we're just good friends. We met outside of Macy's, when some idiot tried to mug me of the mink coat I'd just bought. Fortunately, Tony was right across the street and came dashing over to help when he saw the fracas. Once I'd given that thief a good whack with my purse, Tony cuffed him and ordered his partner to take him away. I insisted on buying Tony a drink to thank him for his help, and he gave me the handcuffs in return. 'So you can catch a thief in style,' he told me."
Violet smirked. "Style, indeed. Undoubtedly, he thought it cheaper than purchasing a pair of silver bracelets from the nearest jeweler's shop."
"It's called prison silver, Violet," Martha said, shaking the cuffs in the Dowager Countess's direction. "Don't knock it 'til you've tried it."
"And why would I want to try it? If, heaven forbid, I had an admirer, I would expect him to gift me with a diamond ring at the very least."
"Sure, to go with the silver spoon in your mouth. Violet, just admit it; you're afraid of looking ridiculous."
Violet narrowed her eyes. "I am not afraid of looking ridiculous, I simply take great pains to avoid it. And I fail to see the connection to silver and jewelry."
Martha shook her head, a grin slowly splitting her face. "That's not the point. You came in here armed with insults because you knew I'd look ridiculous if I ever dared to snap these things on my own wrists, or if I was chained to someone else. Fine, I'd look ridiculous. I know how to laugh at myself. But if the same thing happened to you, you would be throwing a fit because everyone would laugh at you."
"And if I did? Unlike some people in this room, I don't enjoy being the butt of jokes."
"That's a shame, considering you've got enough butt for the job," Martha wisecracked.
Robert and Cora each sucked in a breath. Whatever was about to come was definitely not going to be pretty, as Violet loathed any kind of remark about that particular part of her body. Sure enough, the Dowager Countess rose from the settee and took a menacing step forward, her blue eyes blazing. "Take that back!"
Martha raised her chin, a smile teasing her scarlet-rouged lips. "I'd love to see you make me."
"Be careful, Mrs. Levinson," Violet warned, advancing even further on her rival. "I just might."
"Ooh, what are you going to do? Call in one of the footmen to beat me up because you're too prissy to do it yourself?" Martha's aquamarine eyes glittered as she hissed the next word. "Chicken."
That tore it. One moment, Violet was a respectable aristocrat in purple silk; the next, she was a wildcat launching herself at her adversary. Cora gasped and threw her hands over her mouth and Robert cried out in outrage as their mothers threw themselves down onto the floor and, in the barest of layman's terms, began beating the tar out of each other, rolling around in a tangle of arms, legs, and emerald and amethyst silk. Curses and insults cracked the air as the fists continued to fly.
"Mother! Mama!" Cora cried, leaping up from the couch, but not daring to approach the brawling women on the floor for fear she might be next.
"STOP THIS AT ONCE!" Robert shouted, unleashing his earl's authority and bravely stepping toward the whirl of fabrics and limbs. "Both of you, break it up, NOW!" He put his hands between the two of them and attempted to pull them apart – but not before a loud click rent the air and called silence better than any command. The Earl and Countess of Grantham, as well as Carson, who had come rushing in upon hearing the racket, stopped dead and stared at the women with their jaws dangling, hardly daring to believe what was before their eyes.
Martha Levinson had handcuffed herself to Violet Crawley.