"Show me someone who doesn't dream about the future and I'll show you someone who doesn't know where they are going." - William Shakespeare
Matthew and Mary had not been waiting long in the Ripon City Counsel office. However, Matthew's trained eye when focused on his wife could see that she was apprehensive. This was rather astounding to him and yet he did know the ramifications of their meeting. The wheels of her plan were in motion. After his wife had sighed yet again, however, he knew it was time to speak.
"Darling," he said quietly, "You can't be nervous," Matthew said with encouragement. "You've been graceful and elegant with everyone in the Peerage, including being presented to the Prince of Wales at Cheswick."
"Matthew," Mary said honestly, "You try to understand, and I love you for it but this, what we are doing right now is akin to treason."
"This is a legal matter, a contract with the Mayor for when I am the Earl of Grantham."
Mary rolled her eyes at her husband but a small smile still stubbornly forced its way onto her face.
"I've never met the Mayor of Ripon," Mary said continued. "I've lived so close to this city my entire life and yet I've never made any effort for this community. It borders on impertinence for me to demand an audience now. And besides this is more important than when I have been requested to perform a curtsy."
"But, your curtsy is magnificent," Matthew said coyly.
"Be serious," Mary reprimanded his playful tone. "I know this is an essential move, a preventive and forward-thinking venture. But, I can't help thinking of my father and the legacy of the Earl of Grantham as we sneak around behind his back."
"You share a passion for protecting your home with your father," Matthew said calmly. "And this venture of yours puts the good of our family and the good of the village first while also preserving Downton. There is no way for progress without putting a few noses out of joint. But, as my father used to say, a knock to your pride will always knit back together with the help of common sense."
However, before their conversation could continue, Matthew could see through the glass door that a man was approaching. He did not have the same pomp and ceremony of the diplomats that Matthew knew in London, so that was a relief. This man had a confident stride, but a humble countenance and they looked to be contemporaries in age.
"Mr. Crawley," the man said as he extended his hand with a polite and yet curious expression on his face.
"Mayor Carter," Matthew replied. "This is my wife, Lady Mary," he said.
"Lady Mary," Mayor Carter said politely. "I know your father Lord Grantham well as he always attends any manner of civil activities in our city. But, from your intriguing note, I know we have business to discuss so let's not delay."
"Thank you, Mayor Carter," Mary said graciously.
"I would offer you a seat, but I don't think our discussion will take long," Mayor Carter continued.
Matthew for the first time felt apprehensive and wished he could discreetly turn his gaze to his wife, but didn't dare break eye contact with the Mayor just yet.
"Whether it is Flemish immigrants or Methodists, Ripon welcomes the world. We try to keep an open mind."
"Yes," Mary said with a smile, "I've read that plans were once drawn up by Lord Burgley and Archbishop Sandys during the Elizabethian era to make Ripon a centre of education. It would have meant a University of the North to rival Oxford and Cambridge."
Mayor Carter's smile was immense.
"Exactly," he said heartily. "Ripon can't stand to miss another opportunity, as it did in the past."
The meeting would not take long indeed, and Matthew could see the sparkle in Mary's eye combined with the successful outlook in Mayor Carter's gaze. They were fitting partners indeed.
When Mary returned to Downton, it was a quixotic feeling. She relished sitting in the library or strolling on the grounds. The ornate walls and the lavish green lawns thrilled her to a surreal extent knowing the pact that Matthew had helped her secure with the Mayor of Ripon.
"So, tell us, Mary," Edith said as she sat with her sisters at tea. "How was Cheswick?"
"Oh yes," Sybil exclaimed. "Cheswick! If only we didn't have to leave London to plan this wretched summer picnic."
"There now," Mary said fondly to her youngest sister, "You've always loved the summer. What's got into you?"
"She's worried about Papa, but she won't admit it," Edith said quickly. Although she seemed to take no pleasure in tattling on her sister, which was a relief to Mary; perhaps they all were growing up.
"What's wrong with Papa?" Mary asked evenly. A part of her mind was scampering with panic at this mention. She did harbor certain fears about her father's temper if he found out about her dealings behind his back. It was simply unheard of to mettle in estate business. And yet another part of her mind fought back against this assumption. She sipped her tea and waited for her sister's answer.
"Nothing that anyone will admit," Edith continued. "But, Mama is lying that it's only a need to recover from the foul London weather that has made Papa retire early each night."
Sybil had fidgeted before she spoke.
"I think Mama does believe that excuse," she said quietly. "That is what has me worried."
"Well I can't alleviate any worries or comment on Papa's odd behavior," Mary said returning her cup to its saucer. "But, I can tell you my highlight of visiting Cheswick."
"Did you meet the Prince of Wales and the Grenadier Guards?" Sybil asked eagerly.
"No," Mary said, "But I did meet the Earl of Walthym."
"Papa loathes him," Edith said automatically. She set her teacup down and leaned forward. "Why would you talk to his nemesis?"
"He is from Manchester," Sybil said quietly. "Does Matthew know him?"
Mary smiled at her sisters and their reactions.
"No," she said, "Matthew did not know him prior to this meeting; he is old enough to be his grandfather after all. Still he is a much-revered figure in Manchester and his charisma can not be denied."
"Is it true his father was an associate of Gilbert and Sullivan?" Edith asked.
"I heard he is descended from a vassal of William the Conqueror," Sybil contributed.
"Both are correct to my knowledge," Mary offered. "If Papa gave him a chance I think he would find his radical ideas entirely practical. He never stopped talking about his commitment to his ancestral home of Heaton Estate."
"But, Papa has contempt for him because it is unheard of for an Earl to relinquish control of his estate," Edith questioned her sister suspiciously. "He sold his land to the city of Manchester! Even in times of Civil War and Economic Depression, a country estate must never change hands."
"What does this mean Mary?" Sybil asked with a smile. She felt invigorated, and she could see that begrudgingly Edith was also intrigued.
But, before Mary could answer, Matthew entered the library. Edith and Sybil exchanged a knowing look as they watched Mary; she never took her eyes off her husband. Matthew poured himself a cup of tea and sat across from his wife, next to Edith.
"We know what we are, but know not what we may be," Mary finally said in answer to Sybil's question.
"Hamlet," Matthew said with a smirk as he stared at Mary. "But, enough Shakespearean tragedy."
"What do you suggest?" Mary asked forcefully. Her folded hands unconsciously unwrapped to touch her expectant stomach. She almost blushed at the way her husband's heart seemed to be on his sleeve. Matthew returned his teacup to the saucer. He stood up and offered his hand.
"Perhaps we could be of assistance preparing for the picnic. My mother and your mother may need chaperones as they work together after all."
Mary took Matthew's arm and Sybil and Edith followed behind them as they walked out of the library and into the glorious sunshine.
Just before dinner, Violet knocked on her son's dressing room door. Bates answered, and she was ushered in, much to the chagrin of her son. Robert offered her a seat but made no effort to speak and so silence filled the room. Violet was in no hurry, so she simply stared at her son with a blank expression on her face.
"Please say your peace Mama," Robert finally urged her.
Violet almost smiled at the battle of wills that she had just won.
"We need to address your martyr complex," she said practically. "This rouse has got to end."
"Mama," Robert tried to interrupt, but Violet held thumped her walking stick on the ground.
"It started with James," Violet says sternly, "You didn't like it when he visited. But, you learned it was easier to pretend than rebuke. Since then you enjoy the seemingly uncomfortable positions, making it look as though you didn't orchestrate it all from the beginning, but instead merely acquiesced to the circumstances."
"I'm not play acting Mama," Robert said, his back turned to his mother while he stared into the mirror to adjust his cufflinks. "You make it sound as though I don't care when I've given my life to Downton."
"Fooling the world makes me proud of you, trying to fool me; however, is another matter entirely," Violet continued. "Which is why I don't believe you are against Mary's wishes for Downton."
"You've never minded before," Robert said casually. He turned around and made eye contact with his mother.
"Mary is different from your father, from James or even Cora. Mary is my granddaughter, and it is a grandmother's duty to interfere."
"You always say I am my father's son," Robert answers. "But, that takes away the credit you deserve. It obscures your contribution as my oldest accomplice and, therefore, makes you a martyr too."
"Nonsense," Violet said dismissing his remark entirely and returning the conversation to her line of inquiry. "So, you've convinced your daughter once again to rebel against you. First it was disapproval of Matthew and now this scheme."
"This makes me my mother's son."
"I do not often speak of matters of the heart," Violet says softly. "Nor do you," she continues. "But, for the record it should be exceedingly clear just how I feel about you."
"Which is?" Robert prompts.
"I shouldn't have to say it, nothing worth saying is as important as what is already felt," Violet smiled and Robert returned the expression.
"Defiance, a grand gesture, a last bow," Violet said, "Whatever this is your doing, being succinct would be appreciated."
"I may be dying, but I still have my duty to preserving Downton from the ridiculous taxation laws of late. And a part of that is avoiding the death duty tax."
Violet hissed a sudden, unexpected breath as she reached for her handkerchief.
"It's very clever," she said her voice now subdued as she fully comprehended his scheme as she had called it. "But, don't you think it's time to tell Mary?"
"After the summer picnic," Robert conceded. "Then I will take her into the fold for my plans. Hopefully, I will live long enough to meet my grandson."
Violet dabbed at her eyes but quickly composed herself. She could feel her son's eyes on her, and so she finally returned her gaze to him.
"I have a cold," she said stubbornly as her voice cracked slightly.
The summer picnic was going off without a hitch. Everything about it was a success. Mary raised her glass at her husband as he strolled along the grass in his handsome white suit. And she watched with pleasure as Matthew nodded in her direction with a sly smile on his face before he stopped to speak with his mother. However, quickly the mood of the picnic was changed when the Earl of Grantham asked for attention. The family, the servants and all the guests looked around at each other in astonishment at the frantic tone of voice that urged them. Matthew looked across the yard at his father-in-law with a mix of emotions. War had been declared on Germany.