Cora smiled graciously, turning in her seat as someone finally discovered her, and better Mrs Hughes than a maid or footman who would most likely turn and run in the opposite direction. Even the housekeeper looked nervous at her presence in the kitchen, but Cora had fully expected some trepidation. It was no usual occurrence, after all, for the servants to dine with both the lady of the house and her children, but the idea of the poor maids hauling the soup tureens up the stairs on a nightly basis was swiftly becoming ridiculous. She had been hoping that O'Brien would find them, rather than Mrs Hughes - she, in Cora's opinion, was the woman most likely to take her presence in stride, whereas O'Brien would most likely enter and, after a moment of hesitation, offer her some soup. But if it had to be someone other than O'Brien, Mrs Hughes would do.
"Dear Mrs Hughes, I hope that you don't mind," of course she had no choice, but it paid to be polite, "but the girls and I would like to have dinner with the staff tonight. It really does make far more sense than holding two separate dinners with such limited numbers. Don't you agree?"
Did she have any choice but to agree? Besides, Elsie thought, after Lord Grantham's telegram and the effect it had had on the house, the staff could do with a distraction, and dining with her ladyship was certainly that! And Lady Grantham only ever meant well.
"Well, if your ladyship wishes to dine with us then I'm sure we can be accommodating? I'll inform the rest of the staff before the girls arrive." Mrs Hughes smiled slightly, with her professional friendliness. "Miss O'Brien will have to mind her tongue for the evening."
"I'm sure that won't be a problem, Mrs Hughes. I've never heard an unkind word from O'Brien in ten years of admirable service." That wasn't strictly true, but Cora had always appreciated her maid's honesty, even when she'd had to scold her.2/21/2011 . Edited 2/21/2011 #1
O'Brien approached the servant's dining room with some trepidation. It was usually her safe haven from upstairs but she could hear her ladyship's low tones and rolled her eyes before she was seen. The last bloody thing she needed...she stopped herself and pushed away the uncharitable thoughts. Since the men had left she'd been making such an effort to be kinder to everyone, Lady Grantham included. Although her ladyship probably hadn't noticed her behaviour change that much, as far as she was aware her maid had always been like this, but O'Brien made a conscious effort to keep her worse thoughts from influencing her attitude.
She heard her name being bandied around and sighed - as she expected Mrs Hughes was blackening it again but she felt a swell of affection for her employer at her defence. She drew a deep breath and tried not to wonder too much about why her ladyship was in the dining room at this time, no doubt she was about to find out.
She remained unperturbed as she entered the dining room, something she was sure Mrs Hughes had done too, really Cora must think her staff were expecting her sometimes, the complete and utter lack of surprise they always displayed. Although no one else had yet to enter the room - O'Brien imagined some of the younger girls might take it less in their stride than she and the housekeeper had. Nothing like experience she supposed.
"Good evening m'lady. Were you looking for me?"2/21/2011 . Edited 2/27/2011 #2
"O'Brien!" Cora exclaimed, smiling brightly as she twisted in her seat. As she'd anticipated, her lady's maid had reacted to her presence with even less surprise than Mrs Hughes had. Sometimes she wondered whether the staff simply expected her! But the truth was, particularly with the advent of war, she and O'Brien had gone beyond being uncomfortable in the other's presence. All of the women had become much closer already in fact.
"I was just informing Mrs Hughes that the girls and myself will be joining you all for dinner tonight, if that alright with you all? It really does seem silly for you all to continue carrying tray after tray upstairs, when we could just come down here." Cora finished with a smile, looking entirely comfortable in the chair she knew was Mrs Hughes' usual spot. She knew there to be a seating plan, of course, thought it was not strictly official. Cora was sure that the housekeeper would not mind a little variation on the arrangement with their numbers so obviously lacking. In fact, whether Mrs Hughes minded or not, she believed it to be essential for improving bonds between the men and women left behind.
"Dear O'Brien," she patted the chair next to her, the one that probably belonged to Mr Carson. "Come and sit by me. It's so rare that we get to talk just as friends."2/21/2011 #3
Daisy hurried to the kitchen. She knew Mrs. Patmore was going to scold her for being late. Daisy hadn't meant to be late, she had just been lingering around until the letters arrived. She had been hoping to receive a letter from William, but so far no such letter had arrived. So, she tried to hide her disappointment and focus on what she was going to say to Mrs. Patmore.
But all thoughts of being scolded vanished when she saw her ladyship. Did she want something? She hoped Mrs. Patmore wasn't complaining about Daisy's laziness. Her surprise turned to confusion when she realized that her ladyship actually intended to eat dinner with the staff! Daisy timidly got her food and sat down in her usual spot. She kept her eyes on her dinner and hoped no one would notice how red her eyes were.2/21/2011 #4
Anna entered the servant's quarters with a large amount of trepidation. She'd heard a very odd rumour that Lady Grantham was intending on eating downstairs with the staff – surely not? However since the telegram from his Lordship, the whole atmosphere within the house had changed, although he'd not said it in so many words it was clear they were off to fight!
She peered around the corner of the Servant's hall and her eyes goggled to see Lady Grantham sitting next to O'Brien. Poor Mrs Hughes looked as though she was about to foam at the mouth and as for poor Daisy sitting as far away from her Ladyship as she could she looked positively terrified.
Anna opened her mouth, and then closed it again. She ought to say something, but what do you say? Nobody ever trains a servant for this sort of situation! Opening her mouth she decided that polite subservience was the best option,
"Good evening your Ladyship." She said with a little curtsey. Keeping her eyes down, she dithered briefly in the doorway before scurrying around the table to her usual seat.2/21/2011 #5
Gwen sighed wearily as she made her way down the corridor. The workload had grown quickly since the men had left, and while she'd been told not to take the soup up to the dining room yet, she couldn't imagine that things were going to get any easier. At least she could take a short break and relax during dinner. // She stepped into the servants' hall and stopped dead in her tracks. Well, that put a stop to any thoughts of relaxing this evening.2/21/2011 #6
O'Brien observed the new arrivals and tried to smoother her usual disdain. Gwen and Daisy had been alright lately, she'd never had any particular grievance with them to begin with so being kind to them hadn't been a hardship. Anna was quite another matter - she'd not quite forgiven the girl for tricking her yet, all in the name of her beloved Bates.
The three young girls were clearly shaken by the presence of Lady Grantham - god if they were this bad now, how would they be once the girls had arrived and they had to deal with the whole family? - did they think her ladyship was going to breathe fire on them? Surely she hadn't given them that bad an impression of Cora over the years?
"Gwen, 're you comin' in or not? You'll be 'ard pressed to eat in the doorway."
She watched Mrs Hughes sit, grudgingly into her own usual chair and suppressed a smirk. Oh, she was going to enjoy this!2/21/2011 #7
Louis sauntered into the kitchen, faltering only for a second when he saw Cora. He automatically did up his top button and adjusted his waistcoat and mentally reminded himself not to swear.
He smiled politely and sat down opposite O'Brien, shooting her a questioning glance. This could turn out quite interestingly. Whatever was she doing down here?
Sybil walked quietly into the kitchen smiling slightly at everyone around her. She smoothed the skirt of her plain blue dress self conciously, worried about what the others must think of them imposing upon them like this. She knew that she probably wouldn't be happy if a group of people just invited themselves down for dinner (though Granny did do this on a regular basis nowadays.) She sat down in the chair next to Louis, and looked up at Mrs Hughes.
"I do hope we aren't being a nusiance."2/21/2011 #8
Lady Sybil's presence was somehow comforting to Gwen - despite Mr. Branson, she was almost a friend, and hadn't really done anything deliberately against her. She stepped into the room and took her usual seat beside Anna - not Lady Sybil, they weren't friends enough for that and she wasn't quite forgiven for attracting Mr. Branson so. Something made Gwen feel certain that she would be in silence for the rest of the evening, but at least it would be the sort of silence that she liked, with everyone keeping themselves to themselves. // Perhaps that was rather wishful thinking, but still Gwen hoped it might be so.2/21/2011 #9
The variety of different reactions to her presence simultaneously amused and dismayed Cora. Anna had managed a friendly hello, but then she had helped to carry the body of Kamal Pamuk, so she expected nothing else. And the new footman - Louis? - had greeted her too, despite his relative inexperience and lack of interaction with the family since his arrival. Cora would make a point of getting to know him a little better this evening. But the others had barely managed to make eye contact! Was she that terrible, that they all feared her so? Besides O'Brien, of course, but then Cora had always thought the maid fearless. Although there had been a rather strange incident at a garden party once - Cora to this day had no idea what had spooked her maid so but she had refused to remain in the garden for the duration of the afternoon.
As the servants continued to arrive, Cora sat up straighter and offered them all a dazzling smile to put them at ease. She directed the smile in particular to the poor little kitchen maid in the corner - was it normal for the girl to eat with the rest of the more senior staff? - who seemed the most in need of reassurance.
"I hope my presence is not too much of a bother, but I was eager to join you all for dinner. The girls will be along shortly, I'm sure."
Answered with a mixture of blank stares and deliberate refusal to even meet her eyes, Cora tried a different tack, grateful for O'Brien's comforting presence beside her and relieved by Sybil's perfectly timed arrival.
"So, have you heard from..." she plucked a name at random "...Thomas?" She looked round questioningly and patiently waited for a response to break the ice. Cora watched, growing ever more amused by the second as each pair of eyes drifted to the O'Brien.2/27/2011 . Edited 2/27/2011 #10
Sarah was half tempted to get out of her seat and have a go at each other them in turn. Annoyingly only Anna had treated Cora with the respect she deserved, so that avenue was closed but honestly, she'd expected more from Gwen at the very least. Gwen who had worked here for years now, had grown up with Cora's presence and yet was still too scared to so much as smile at her!
And now, the poor bloody woman was forced to start the conversation herself. O'Brien felt every eye fall on her and rolled her eyes.
"Yes, I've 'eard from Thomas m'lady, 'e's quite alright an' I'll be sure to tell 'im you asked after 'im."
Her eyes drifted to Lady Sybil briefly but they soon snapped over to Gwen, biding her time, trying not to make things too obvious. As far as Lady Grantham was concerned Gwen could write to the chauffeur as much as she pleased - she'd probably find it quite sweet actually.
"An' Mr Branson's been writin' too, as 'as William, although 'e's not been well, 'as he Daisy?"
The young girl all but squeaked and barely looked up from her food, causing O'Brien to roll her eyes and half-wish Mrs Patmore would arrive and put the wind up the girl enough to re-enliven her. She turned her critical gaze to Anna.
"I suppose Mr Bates 'as been writin' to you an' all?"2/27/2011 . Edited 2/27/2011 #11
Mrs Patmore was being driven half mad! Where is that idiotic Daisy? She thought to herself as she hurried along the corridor to the dining room. She needed to get the biscuits ready for evening tea!
"Never in all me born days 'ave I 'ad such a useless scullery maid!" She kept on muttering to herself as she almost ran into the dining room. She spotted the perpetrator straight away, opened her mouth and let out an almighty grudge. "Daisy you daft mammoth!! What do you think you're doin' sat down 'aving your dinner when there's evenin' tea to be prepared! If you don't get it ready this instant then I'll_" Mrs Patmore paused for a moment as she realised her ladyship and the girls sat down eating dinner with the rest of the staff. What on earth is goin' on 'ere? she mused to herself as she got down on her knees and bowed in reverence.
"Your Ladyship! What brings you to our 'umble dwelling this evenin'? We are indeed 'onoured by your presence!"2/28/2011 . Edited 2/28/2011 #12
"Dear Mrs Patmore!" Cora fought the urge to laugh at the older woman's greeting, suspecting it might be somewhat unkind to do so. Cora was definitely no Queen, and deserved little of the exaggerated reverence the dear woman had demonstrated, but Mrs Patmore spent the majority of her time kitchen bound with little contact with the family, so how was she supposed to know it was somewhat ... unorthodox to kneel before one's employer? "There's really no need to kneel."
Cora's eyes flickered to Daisy and she felt briefly sorry for the young girl. But this was certainly not the first time Cora had witnessed Mrs Patmore's rather unique management style, and trusted that Mrs Hughes had it firmly under control.
"We're joining you all for one of your lovely meals, Mrs Patmore," Cora explained, silently hoping this would be the last time she had to explain their presence, and gave the cook a warm smile. "It's time the poor housemaids had a break from carrying trays up the kitchen stairs."
Cora knew that it was not normal procedure, and she certainly knew that Mrs Hughes might not like it, but Mrs Patmore was just a part of Downton as the rest of them, cook or not, and she gestured invitingly to a seat. "Why don't you join us once you're finished?" She saw the woman's eyes boggle at the notion and smiled, before adding, "I'd very much like for Daisy to stay too."2/28/2011 #13
"Oh, well, whatever your ladyship says!" She garbled as she picked up her food and calmly sat down next to Daisy, before giving the poor girl an evil look. A look that clearly shouted, Don't think I'll forget this!
She started gobbling up her potatoes and gravy with the elegance of a toad before almost spitting out, " 'as anyone 'ad any news from the front? I imagin' the lads 'ave done a fair bit of fightin' since they got there!" She didn't want to seem unsociable after all! She gave everyone on the table a quick smile before turning to Daisy next to her. "Daisy, you've been writin' to young William 'aven't you?" She launched another potato into her mouth. " 'ows 'e doin'?"
Mrs Patmore began chewing as if her life depended on it when she heard those words come out of her mouth in an undignified manner. Goodness knows what her ladyship must think of her!2/28/2011 #14
Daisy nearly jumped out of her chair, startled as Mrs. Patmore entered the room and began yelling at her before she noticed the presence of her ladyship. Daisy watched amused as Mrs. Patmore took a set next to her, then recoiled at the glare she received. She was relieved, however, when Mrs. Patmore asked her a question.
"Oh, well...he was sick for a while, but he's much better now." She turned to O'Brien and gave her a quick smile. "He likes the scarf you sent him and he's very grateful for it."
She stared down at her food and daintily took a bite. She was not entirely sure how to behave with her ladyship present.2/28/2011 #15
"You sent William a scarf?"
Cora looked to O'Brien, observing the sudden blush on her cheeks and the thin, set line of her mouth. It was clearly something she had wanted to keep relatively quiet, and Cora couldn't help but smirk softly. The woman really did have a terribly good heart, no matter what Robert said.
"That was awfully kind of you, O'Brien."
She turned back to Daisy, grateful for Mrs Patmore's contribution to the conversation – but not her rather indelicate manner of eating – and glad to hear the kitchen-maid finally speak. Cora felt the mood of the room begin to shift from painfully uncomfortable to something a little less awkward, but not much.
"I'm glad to hear he's feeling better, Daisy. Please send him my regards. I'll be sure to ask Lord Grantham to check in on him in my next letter."2/28/2011 #16
Mary had sat about in the cold dining room for almost ten minutes before she gave up. So much for helping her mother run the house, she thought sourly. She did not even know how to get her supper and she was very hungry. Mama had mentioned earlier going to eat dinner with the servants but Mary had been sure she was joking. It was utterly inconcievable that she was not. Yes?
Giving the bell one last yank for good measure she stormed down to the kitchen where the sound of voices in conversation only made her feel more fed-up.
Opening the door she cried, "I wish to know why supper has been so - Mama! Sybil!" She paused on the threshold, amazed and shocked at the sight before her. That Sybil would sit down with the servants was eye-rollingly predictable, but her mother! This was astonishing!
((Sorry for totally ruining the improving atmosphere. ;) ))2/28/2011 . Edited 2/28/2011 #17
Sybil was rather enjoying herself. She was seated next to Louis, the new footman, and he was much friendlier toward her than she had anticipated. She had quickly demanded that he, nor anybody else, called her 'Lady' Sybil while she was in their home, eating their food. He was telling her about life downstairs, and in turn she was telling him about the womans right to vote. It was really quite interesting, learning about the things that happened in her house without her even knowing.
Sybil looked up from her quiet conversation with Louis, smiling at Mary as she stood in the doorway.
"Mary! Come and sit down."
She gestured to the empty seat beside her.
"We're having dinner."2/28/2011 #18
Daisy's discomfort subsided when her ladyship addressed her. She suddenly felt as if the ladies have dinner with the staff was the most natural thing in the world. She even managed to smile. If only William and the other men were here, it would have been perfect.
Daisy looked up as Lady Mary entered the room. She hoped she would join them. "Yes, please." she said timidly. "Please, join us."3/1/2011 #19
Mrs Hughes' eyes widened as she looked to O'Brien. She had sent William a scarf? The steel nerved, seemingly emotionless and at times just plain rude Sarah O'Brien had sent soft, daft William a scarf?
"You..you sent William a scarf?"
She smiled slightly, looking down at her lap then back up again.
"That was very kind of you Miss O'Brien. I don't suppose we'll be seeing more of this new benevolent nature here any time soon?"
As she spoke, Lady Mary entered the room, and Elsie stood as was expected.
"Lady Mary. Will you be joining us this evening?"3/5/2011 #20
Christ, if she'd known her knitting would become such a point of contention she'd have kept it for herself! Her ladyship's bemused interest was one thing, she thought Sarah was a good woman and had only really seen her more personable side, but Mrs Hughes' evident disbelief was bloody annoying at the very least!
Before she could answer she shot to her feet moments after the other woman at Lady Mary's entrance and twitched slightly towards her still seated neighbour, instinctively trying to tell them that they best bloody stand up, before remembering that Lady Grantham hardly needed to show deference to her own daughter...he was too used to hustling Thomas into place it seemed.
Secretly she rather hoped Lady Mary would decide she wasn't hungry after all and leave them to it. Lady Sybil was perfectly pleasant to have around and, despite the youngsters being a bit intimidated, Cora was a welcome presence to, but Mary would undoubtedly bring the tone down considerably. Why couldn't it have been Lady Edith?3/5/2011 . Edited 3/6/2011 #21
Mary looked round at everyone inviting her to join them. It went against everything she stood for but she was very hungry and, though she did not like to admit it, lonely. She slid into an empty place next to O'Brien (of all people! but it was the nearest) and sighed in a long suffering way. Sybil looked too much at home here. It almost made her envious.
"I should like some dinner please then," she said, eyeing her fork and wondering if it was fully clean though really, she thought with a twinge of amusement, where was a fork more likely to be clean than in a kitchen?
She looked round at the servants and realised she did not even know all their names. Feeling embarrassed, she manifested it as even greater pride and aloofness.3/6/2011 #22
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