A/N: Gentle Reader we come again to a parting of the ways. Your companionship has been greatly appreciated on these cold winter nights. And a special thanks if you have 'followed' this story, or more flattering yet, 'favoured' it. To know that there is someone looking forward to the next instalment warms the ancient bones of an old hack.
And what to say to you Gentle Reviewers. Few in number but so prolific in output. If only Carson would sound the dinner gong and you could be escorted into dinner. After a sumptuous feast prepared by Mrs. Patmore the Earl of Grantham would lead us DA fanfiction writers in a toast in your honour. Then the gentlemen would forgo their port and cigars, the gramophone would be cranked up, and there would be dancing until the early hours. Sigh.
Anyway back to business. We may meet again if the much delayed, and way over budget, "Curse of the Broken Entail' ever clears post production. To tide you over, and in response to the hints of some reviewers that they would like to see a child, even though they must know by now that this is fluff free story ...
A/N: The version of the chapter title song by Danny Schmidt is recommended.
Buckets of Rain
The Inland Revenue and Sir Richard's creditors put his estate into bankruptcy. The Trustee could not sell Haxby Park as a whole and so he offered it piecemeal. The Strallens bought the farm land south of the house, and the Crawleys bought the farm land to the north, the land that abutted the lands of Downton Abbey. The house and surrounding one hundred acres were sold to a Mr. Thompson, reputed to be a retired American gangster. Be that as it may he proved to be a good neighbour.
In 1926 the bones of Sir Richard's body and the attendant chains were dredged up as part of the regular dredging of the Thames' shipping channel and dumped in the North Sea.
No one ever did ask Matthew where he was the night Sir Richard Carlisle disappeared.
In 1958 a fisherman caught a carp in the lower Thames and found a ruby earring in it. He gave it to his wife. She hung it on a gold chain and wore it as a necklace. Neither the actual necklace nor the other earring were ever found.
The Crawleys of Downton Abbey prospered even onto the fifth generation and therein lie stories to be told another time.
Although Gentle Reader, if you insist, we can take one little peek:
Saturday, August 1, 1936
"Excuse me my Lady"
Mary looked up "Yes Barrow?"
"Your Ladyship may wish to see this."
Mary sighed. "One of the children?"
"I believe so" Barrow smiled at her.
"You can't tell?"
"You really have to see for yourself Ma'am."
"Very well" Mary got up and followed Barrow. She did not have time for this. Matthew thought he could just wave his hand and say 'make it so' and it happened. Someone had to take care of logistics. Her.
Over the years, as the children had multiplied, the August garden party had metamorphosed from a sedate society function for adults to a raucous Jamboree for children. Between the Crawleys, Strallens, Bransons, Bates, Napiers, Harpers, Silverfishes, Marxes and Dearharts/Sparks plus her mother, the Flashmans and Mr. Thompson there were twenty two adults and forty five children plus Matthew had also invited the village's Scouts, Girl Guides, Wolf Cubs and Brownies. It was going to be a mad house this afternoon; and later tonight, after Silverfish set off his fireworks, well she was going to need a large, stiff drink. Maybe two.
They went through the kitchen. The tables were stacked high with boxes of hot dog buns and there were tubs of hot dogs / wieners / frankfurters (her mother used these terms interchangeably although it had taken Mary some time to catch on that they were the same thing) cooling on ice. Her mother, a Dowager Countess not at all like Mary's Grannie had been, her brood of grandchildren and Mrs. Harper had spent one summer developing what her mother judged to be a tolerable imitation of a hot dog and bun, although she complained they could not come up with an American type mustard that was yellow enough. So supper tonight was taken care of, they were having a wiener roast. Mary thought hot dogs were ghastly, especially charred black the way Matthew always roasted hers, but what was she to do, she loved him so, and he was always so proud of his culinary achievements.
Barrow held the door to the kitchen courtyard for her. She walked out and beheld a urchin covered head to toes in mud. The only things not coloured in black swamp mud were two bright blue eyes staring at her.
"Well?" She said as fiercely as she could without giving in to the laughter bubbling up inside her. She had been cast as the family's disciplinarian, Matthew early on having adopted the attitude that childhood was meant to be fun and as long as no stitches were required well, what's the problem. A role she might have been able properly to fulfil had she not been cursed with a sense of the ridiculous. And after three sets of twins, she wished Isobel had warned her twins ran in the family, she would have had Matthew fixed, she was inured to the ridiculousness of motherhood. This was not the first time she had stood in this courtyard having this conversation with one of her swamp covered spawn. Still she had to play out her role as it was written.
"Papa sent me to get changed."
Delivered with no fear of the consequences; clearly even her youngest was not afraid of her wrath, at least not today, the day of the Jamboree, when apparently no child could do any wrong..
"Into what Nod? A good little boy?"
"I'm not Nod! I'm Cottontail!"
Mary laughed "Well it's a little hard to tell right now". Especially since the events of this past Easter when someone, no one had ever confessed, had convinced Cottontail to glue felt bunny ears onto her hair; then when it was pointed out that Mother would not be at all happy, that someone had helped her cut the bunny ears out of her hair. The inevitable attempt to even out her hair on both sides had resulted in her having shorter hair than Grandpa Harry's bulldog, Haig. "Come stand under the pump and we'll get the worst of the mud off, then it's a bath for you. And so there's no mistaking that you're a girl I think it's a dress for you this afternoon."
Cottontail stuck out her lip. "I'm not wearing a dress! No one else will be, not even you"
Mary laughed again. "You've got me there. If not a dress, how about that pink cowgirl blouse Grannie brought you back from America? It will go nicely with your blue dungarees."
"OK. But I'm starting to itch and I'm cold" Cottontail held out her mud caked arms to Mary.
Realizing she was going to need a bath as well Mary reached down for her Cottontail, thinking 'this is going to be the last summer I can pick her so I might as well enjoy it, mud and all'.
She warned her "The pump water will be cold but the bath will nice and warm".
Just like life and family.