Who Knows When You're Old And Grey, Who You're Gonna Grow Up To Be
"Here you are, a little tea." She says while he's still organising his books onto the shelf in the Butler's— his pantry.
He clears the table with hasty movements so she can settle the tray there, brushes a handkerchief over the chairs and gestures for her to sit.
"Thank you Miss Patmore." He says while she pours.
"Oh it's like that is it." She says, unsurprised. "What happened to 'Beryl'?"
"Well, it wouldn't be appropriate now, Miss Patmore." He tells her and she adds two sugars to his cup, a splash of cream for them both.
"Some of the important things in life come from moments of inappropriateness, Mr Carson." She says, sips at the tea and looks at him, takes in the changes already coming over him as he settles into his new position.
"I'll have to disagree with you there, Miss Patmore."
"You'll see, Mr Carson. You'll see."
She finds him outside, standing with his shoulders slumped, his head bowed. She wonders that he can put such weight on inconsequential, fleeting things that when they falter, they have the power to crush him.
"Come now Mr Carson, it was only a little spill." She says sidling up to him, stopping by his left.
He sighs, gravelly and deep. "There shouldn't have been a spill at all Miss Patmore. I knew Jonathon wasn't ready and I let his…his arrogance sway me. What if it had hit the Dowager?"
"The way I heard it, it was your quick reflexes that caught it before a drop of it could spill on any dress, the Dowager's or otherwise."
"But what if—"
She stops him, cuts him off. "You'll work some more on young Johnny, Mr Carson, let him serve when you're sure he can manage. What ifs do no one any good to think on."
"No more, Mr Carson. Now come in with you and have a quick cuppa, you'll be no help to anyone if you catch a cold lollygagging out here like this."
She turns away, heads for the house. Hears his tread behind her a few moments later.
"Congratulations, Mrs Patmore. A well-earned promotion."
"Lord, that'll take some getting used to; Mrs. And I don't know that it's all that big a promotion, Mr Carson, I've been doing the duties unnoticed for a while now."
"Unremarked upon perhaps Mrs Patmore, but not unnoticed."
"Yes, now. Drink up, we've the dinner to prepare and we haven't much time."
"Don't start Mr Carson, I'm enjoying this sherry now, and we've got enough time for me to have a little drop more."
"This isn't the first maid to have left us to marry, Mr Carson and it won't be the last. You can't take on like this at every servant that leaves us."
She says to his hunched form, his hand frantically writing and rewriting the advertisement; usually the Housekeeper's duty of course, but for some reason known only to Mr Carson he had asked to write it himself.
"I don't have time this afternoon, Mrs Patmore." She allows him one grumpy sentence per conversation and that one'll do quite enough for today.
She pulls up his other chair close to the desk, at the side so she can read what he's writing.
"Well, you can't say that." She says, pointing to the paper. "Or that. And don't mention the hours, Mr Carson, that's enough to put off the most dedicated maid if they really think about it."
"Whilst I appreciate the help, Mrs Patmore—"
"Not yet you don't, but you will. Now, shift over a bit, let me."
She ignores the glare he gives her, shuffles her chair closer to him so that she can reach the paper properly. "Now then, what is it you want to say?"
It takes only a minute at most for him to give in, to relinquish his pen and lean back in his chair, fingers laced across his stomach.
"Dedicated." He says, "Hard working. Experienced, well presented." She adds 'approachable' and 'understanding' because she knows he won't and doesn't think he'll remove them once she leaves the room. "A respectful disciplinarian." He adds, "and able to take orders."
"All good servants can take orders, Mr Carson and you've only a few words left now." She goes over them, counts them up.
"Then let us only attract the good ones, Mrs Patmore. If you're ready?"
She nods with a sigh of her own and then continues to write what he tells her.
"The new maid is settling in well then?" She asks, leaning over his shoulder to place the plate of chicken on the table. Careful to keep her voice low so Mrs White will have to strain to hear them.
"Yes, Miss Hughes does seem to be fitting in nicely." He smiles and she catches it, hides a grin of her own. Looks down the table at the Head Housemaid in question.
"So it's like that then."
"Like what, Mrs Patmore?" He asks, glares at her.
Oh, what a telling overreaction, she thinks. "I meant only that you like her, Mr Carson."
He looks flustered as he turns away from her. "Why do you say that?"
She leans forward over his shoulder again. "Because you're showing her respect, Mr Carson, not using her first name like the others. You do that for those of us lucky enough to be deemed friends." She steps back, rethinks and leans back in. "And you've hardly looked away from her this evening." She adds, hurries away and back to the kitchens before she lets herself laugh at the look on his face.
"It's a lovely piece, Mr Carson." She says, smiles at his nervousness, the vigorous tugging of his jacket, the annoying hovering at her shoulder like he thinks she might take the ring and run off with it and he might have to give chase.
"But do you think she'll like it?" He asks again and she tries to smile, tries not to roll her eyes; this is after all, what she has been gently prodding him towards for the last few years.
"I think any woman would be very pleased to receive such a thing from you, Mr Carson."
"But Mrs Hughes isn't just any woman Mrs Patmore." She does roll her eyes now. "What if—"
"Mr Carson, she has already accepted you; without a ring in sight and only a business venture to read between the lines of, remember that."
"Yes, yes, of course. But—"
"Good grief! Charles Carson just give her the blasted ring!" Honestly, she is this close to wiping her hands of him. He can try the patience of a saint some days, he can.