Chapter 1: A Little Bad Weather
A/N: I'll be honest, I don't know much about the weather in Yorkshire, but I assume it snows there. And in the case of my little story, there could be enough snow to fall at once to get everyone snowed into Downton. If I'm wrong, well, just call this an AU then. There will be a little romance for a bunch of people in this fic. Not sure how many chapters there will be, but this isn't a novel or anything. And I made up all of the names of people related to the hospital.
A/N Part 2: I started this before 6x05 came out. This is a very different dinner party, I promise.
Thomas Barrow paused at a window on his way up to the dining room to stare outside. It had started snowing about an hour ago when the guests had begun to arrive, but now the weather outside could be considered a blizzard. Joseph Molesley nearly ran into him with the soup and exclaimed, "Really, Mr. Barrow, this is no time to be day dreaming."
"I'll leave the day dreaming to you, Mr. Molesley," Thomas scolded. "The weather is getting bad and I have a feeling tonight's dinner may last longer than anyone imagined if this keeps up."
Molesley glanced out the window and had to agree. He could hardly see beyond a few meters from the house, the rest of the yard was obscured by a swirling white mist. Every once in a while a strong gust would rattle the windows before the house fell still again. It had been a long time since Downton Abbey had seen a snow storm this bad.
"Come on," muttered Thomas. "Storm or no storm, Mr. Carson will be wanting to serve dinner."
The two hurried to the dining room where the conversation was focused on the future of the village hospital and it was quickly turning heated. The current Lady Grantham was backing her guests: Lord Beverly, the York Hospital Overseer, Dr. Rommel, the chief surgeon, and Mrs. Becker, a member of the board. Isobel Crawley and Lord Merton made up the rest of that side of the argument while the Dowager Countess, Lady Shackleton, and a begrudging Dr. Clarkson held steadfast on the other.
Apparently this wasn't the first time Lord Beverly and Violet Crawley had feuded over matters of the county and both were attempting to draw blood. The very petite and nervous Mrs. Becker had found refuge next to Lady Shackleton, who had taken pity on the woman and tried at least to keep her voice at a proper level. To everyone's great surprise, Dr. Rummel and Dr. Clarkson were getting along splendidly and were having their own discussion quietly at the end of the table. In Dr. Rummel's words, they were doctors, not politicians.
Lord Grantham exchanged a worried glance with Mr. Carson as voices and tempers continued to rise. Not that he was getting any help in mediating the situation; Edith was arguing both sides, Mary was purposefully playing the devil's advocate, and Tom was too amused by the situation to offer peace. Just as Robert was about to call for order, there was a loud crackling noise and suddenly the dining room plunged into darkness.
The sudden loss of light was first met with a shocked silence. There was a low glow from the candles on the table, so the lack of electrical light hadn't left the room in complete darkness. Robert took charge of the situation immediately.
"Well it seems the storm has gotten worse than we thought. While we figure out how bad it is, I'm sure Carson can arrange for some more candles to be brought in so we can finish our dinner."
"Of course, my Lord," replied Mr. Carson with a nod of his head. "Mr. Molesley, if you would inform Mrs. Hughes that more candles are needed, I'm sure the maids can find enough."
"It just started snowing not that long ago. Surely it hasn't gotten that bad already," commented Cora.
Thomas cleared his throat. "It's almost a blizzard out there, my lady. If this keeps up, we may get snowed in."
"If the snow has caused the electricity to go out, I hardly think our driver will be able to get through," said Lord Beverly with a frown.
"I'll be sure that our housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, prepares enough rooms for everyone just in case," assured Cora. At that moment, Andy and Molesley came back in pushing a cart of candelabras. "For now, let's enjoy this wonderful meal, even if it is an old fashioned evening."
"Nothing wrong with a little tradition, I say," muttered the Dowager.
Downstairs, the maids were scrambling to collect linens and candles. Mrs. Hughes stood in the middle of the chaos. "We're going to need eight extra rooms made up. We'll put Mrs. Crawley and Lady Grantham in their normal rooms and the others down the hall. Make sure that the fireplaces get lit in all the rooms, otherwise someone will catch their death. And for goodness sakes, Anna, put that box down!"
Anna Bates tried not to roll her eyes at the housekeeper's overbearing words. Ever since the Bates' had sat down the Carson's and told them of Anna's pregnancy, the two had been treating her as if she would break at any moment. She knew they had guessed of her difficulties getting pregnant and were just being protective, but she still had a job to do. "It's just some blankets, Mrs. Hughes. I'm taking them up to the drawing room in case it gets cold with some of the heating out."
Mrs. Hughes eyed her carefully before nodded stiffly. "Very well. But that's all you'll be carrying tonight."
"Yes, Mrs. Hughes," Anna replied, trying not to laugh at the woman's mothering nature. She had hardly taken two steps however, when another voice was chastising her.
"Give that to me, my dear. You shouldn't be lifting heavy boxes!" Mr. Bates was suddenly at her side.
Huffing at her husband, Anna snapped, "I am perfectly capable of taking some blankets upstairs. I'm pregnant, not an invalid!" With that, Anna proceeded upstairs with her box, leaving a bewildered Mr. Bates behind.
"She's not angry with you," Mrs. Hughes assured. "I just told her not to lift anything and she corrected me. Not to mention, pregnant women can be slightly more emotional. Don't take it to heart, Mr. Bates."
"I shan't. I just came down for some more matches. We're trying to light up the sitting room."
"There should be some in the kitchen. Ask Daisy."
Mr. Bates began to walk away, but stopped. "Are we being to over-protective?"
"Never, Mr. Bates. Never." And with a wink, Mrs. Hughes went back to sorting out her maids.
Upstairs in the dining room, the conversation was flowing once again, only this time there were no arguments. Instead, stories were being shared of infamous dinners being ruined by the unpredictable weather.
"I once attended a horse show and we were dining in a tent not far from the pasture so we could look at the thoroughbreds. There had been a light drizzle of rain, but since we were under the tent, it didn't matter much. That is until there was a loud crack of thunder that startled the herd and they bolted for the barn," told Lord Beverly to his captive audience. "One of the horses must have clipped the rope holding the tent in place, because next thing we knew, the canvas had come down on top of half the table and mud was slinging everywhere."
A great laugh waved through the table. Robert jumped in quickly with a story of his youth that had his mother up in arms by the end of it. Carson watched the dinner turn from a disastrous battlefield to a table of friends. The loss of electricity had not effected the food, as Mrs. Patmore had already finished preparing it. He took a deep sigh of relief. Sometimes, the old ways were just as good as the new.
The happy and full guests proceeded to the Drawing Room to continue their conversations. The storm outside was much more noticeable as the daunting wind rattled the windows and even with the fireplace roaring, there was a chill in the air.
"It may take a while for the room to completely warm up without the heater, but we've got some blankets around in case anyone needs one," said Mr. Carson.
The group spread out in the room to continue their chatting. Robert sidled over to his wife and whispered in her ear, "Well, this evening turned out better than I thought."
Cora smiled and shook her head, "Thank goodness for a little bad weather. But we still haven't settled the matter of the hospital."
"It appears we have all night and possibly breakfast to discuss that. For now, let's just enjoy a little candlelight." Until this moment, Robert hadn't realized how much he loved to watch the light of a candle dance across his beautiful wife's face. Electric light just did not give off the same glow. He didn't know if it was the wine at dinner or the excitement of the evening, but all he wanted was to have his wife alone. In fact, the snow storm outside had him thinking of another night so many years ago. "If I recall correctly, you and I have gotten snowed in together before, when Mary was little. That blizzard may have been responsible for Edith."
"Robert!" gasped Cora, looking around quickly to be sure no one had heard. Her husband had a smug look on his face and she could feel the heat rising in her cheeks.
"Do you remember?" Robert was lost in the memory and Cora's heart filled with love at the site of him basking in the memory of some rather fantastic love making, if she did so say so herself. Those few days, snowed into Downton, just the two of them and little Mary, she and Robert had found out what making love meant, and not just seeing sex as a wifely/husbandly duty.
"Of course I remember, but now isn't really the time, my dear."
He winked at her and murmured, "I guess we'd be terrible hosts if we just disappeared upstairs for a reenactment…"
"Stop it, you!" Cora gave him a half-hearted swat on the arm. "We are being terrible hosts, over here by ourselves. And now I'm going to rescue poor Mrs. Becker from Mama."
"Yes, the woman doesn't stand a chance." Robert watched his wife walk away and tried to keep his mind from drifting back to a little bad weather from so long ago.
***An error that may be in this fic is how dependent the Abbey is on electricity in the mid 20's. I'm assuming that the majority of lighting is done through electricity…which technically is practical as there was electricity in most households by this point. Although heating may have still been dependent on fireplaces…I'm sure that no one but me cares about stuff like that…***