irish_radical: (falling)
She confided in him. She’d told him her plan and when he asked if he could see, she’d agreed.

He didn’t want to think about why that made him so very pleased. Or why it bothered him that it did.

She was a pretty girl, he told himself. A pretty girl who wanted him to see her in a new frock. That was all.

It shouldn’t matter that she was Lord Grantham’s daughter. He believed that very firmly. It shouldn’t matter.

But it did.

His convictions were strong though, and his beliefs overrode everything else. He had to live by what he professed or else what sort of man was he?

That’s what he told himself as he snuck his way around the house from the garage, hiding in the bushes outside the drawing room, hoping he wasn’t too late.

He was half-afraid she wouldn’t have gone through with it, but as he peeks his head in the window he sees her, and he can’t help but smile.

So much more than a pretty face.
irish_radical: (driving sybil)
He’s taking Lady Sybil to Ripon, and he knows he probably shouldn’t, but it’s only the two of them, so he calls back over the puttering of the engine, “Will you have your own way, do you think? With the frock?” He glances over his shoulder to see her clearly surprised expression and then explains himself. “Only, I couldn’t help overhearing you yesterday, and from what her ladyship said, it sounded as if you support women’s rights.”

He hadn’t expected to find someone like that in a family as old as the Lord Grantham’s.

“I suppose I do,” Lady Sybil answers, a cautious tone to her voice.

“Because I’m quite political,” Branson confesses. “In fact,” he reaches under the seat quickly, “I brought some pamphlets that I thought might interest you,” he says, handing them back to her. “About the vote.” It’s a risk, and it’s overstepping his bounds a bit, but from what he’s seen of her, she’s not the one to protest something like that or to mention it where someone might.

“Thank you,” she says, looking them over. “But…please don’t mention this to my father. Or my grandmother. One whiff of reform, and she hears the rattle of the guillotine.”

Branson smiles, relieved and pleased by her response.

“It seems rather unlikely,” she continues, “a revolutionary chauffeur.”

“Maybe,” Branson agrees. “But I’m a socialist, not a revolutionary. And I won’t always be a chauffeur.”

He can just see her thoughtful expression out of the corner of his eye.

Not just a pretty face, then.
irish_radical: (Default)
“You shouldn’t have eaten with us,” says O’Brien, her ladyship’s maid. “The chauffeur always eats in his own cottage.”

Branson looks up from his paper in surprise. He hadn’t thought anyone would mind.

“Steady on,” answers Bates, his lordship’s valet, from his seat next to Branson. “You can cut him a bit of slack on his second day.”

Perhaps he wasn’t finding his feet as well as he’d thought, but at least Bates seemed to think there was no harm in it.

“I’m waiting to take old Lady Grantham,” Branson explains. It seemed a waste to go all the way out to his cottage for dinner and then come back to wait again.

“Even then, Taylor never et with us,” O’Brien points out. “You’re taking advantage of Mrs. Hughes absence.”

Now that, he certainly wasn’t doing, and he was sure O’Brien knew it. He’d worked with her type before, trying to lord it over whoever she could, seeing herself as higher than them. So instead of answering, he looks over at Bates. “What are you doing?”

“I’m sewing the collars,” he says. “Removing the ones that have come to an end.”

“What happens to his lordship’s old clothes?” Branson asks, genuinely curious.

“What’s it to you?” O’Brien buts in. “Clothes are a valet’s perk, not a chauffeur’s.”

“I get some,” Bates says, a frustrated look on his face directed at O’Brien rather than Branson. “Most of it goes into the missionary barrel.”

Branson sighs. So like the nobility to think the best they can do for the poor is give them their discarded, unwanted belongings. “I know it’s meant to be kind,” he says. “But I can think of better ways of helping the needy than sending stiff collars to the equator.”

Bates smiles, friendly and amused, and looks up at O’Brien, who gives him a sour look in return.

Branson was starting to get his bearings here too. Family politics extended below stairs as well.
irish_radical: (Default)
It’s his second day, and while Branson has mostly found his feet, he’s still getting to know what the family is like. He’s taken the women of the house into town, all but Lady Mary, and he amuses himself listening to their conversation, attempting to sketch their characters.

“Why is Sybil having a new dress and not me?” That’ll be Edith, the middle girl. Branson gets the feeling she’s left out of it often, and he supposes it’s likely because she’s not as, well, pretty as the other two.

“Because it’s Sybil’s turn,” her ladyship answers. American. Branson wonders if she’s some of the reason Lord Grantham is the way he is. If her independent ideas have rubbed off on him. He hasn’t decided on that yet.

“Can it be my choice this time?” Lady Sybil that time. Youngest and quite pretty, though Branson’s sure he isn’t mean to notice.

“Of course, darling,” her mother answers. “As long as you choose what I choose. Branson,” she adds as they reach the car where he’s holding the door open for them, “you’ll be taking Lady Sybil to Ripon tomorrow. She’ll be leaving after lunch.”

“Certainly, your ladyship,” he answers, wondering if they even realize that he hears everything they say, or if he’s just that invisible to them.

“Poor old Madame Swan,” Sybil says as she settles into the seat. “I don’t know why we bother with fittings. She always makes the same frock.”

“What do you want her to make?” Edith asks, and Branson shuts the door after them.

“Something new and exciting,” Sybil answers, her voice as pleasing as her face. Branson moves to the front of the car to crank the car to life.

He misses the next few bits of the conversation in the hum of the engine.

“Granny’s invited herself to dinner,” Lady Grantham is saying as he gets in to the driver’s seat.

“Then she can jolly well wait,” comes Sybil’s reply.

“So women’s rights begin at home, I see,” says her ladyship as Branson shifts into gear. “Well, I’m all for that.”

Branson’s smiling as he starts off down the road.
irish_radical: (Default)
He’s hardly been installed in his new position a few hours before he’s called in to see Lord Grantham. He hasn’t even had time to unpack anything in the chauffeur’s cottage. The butler, a formidable man named Carson, comes to fetch him and brings him to his lordship’s library.

“You wanted to see the new chauffer, my lord,” Carson says from the doorway as Branson waits outside.

“Yes, indeed,” comes the reply. “Please send him in.”

At a gesture from the butler, Branson enters the room. The whole house is much grander than his last position, so he shouldn’t be surprised the library is just as impressive, but he still glances around a bit in a mixture of awe and envy.

“Come in!” says Lord Grantham from his seat at the desk, and Branson holds his hat in his hands as he approaches. “Come in. Good to see you again. Branson, isn’t it?”

Branson tucks his hat under one arm and puts the other behind his back. “That’s right, your lordship.”

“I hope they’ve shown you where everything is and we’ve delivered whatever it is we promised at the interview.”

“Certainly, my lord,” Branson agrees. The cottage was nice, after all, if a bit snug. More than enough to suit him.

“Won’t you miss Ireland?” Lord Grantham asks, standing and coming closer, and Branson has to credit him for asking.

“Ireland yes, but not the job,” Branson admits. “The mistress was a nice lady, but she only had one car, and she wouldn’t let me drive it over twenty miles an hour.” A crime, if you asked him. If that’s all the faster she wanted to go, she should’ve stuck to horses. “So it was a bit…well, boring, so to speak.”

Lord Grantham laughs politely, and Branson smiles, relaxing a bit. “You’ve got a wonderful library,” he says, voicing the thought that’s been running through his head since he stepped into the room.

His lordship looks a bit surprised, and it takes him a moment to answer. “You’re very welcome to borrow books, if you wish.”

“Really, my lord?” Branson asks, a bit surprised himself at the generosity, the trust.

“Well, there’s a ledger over there that I make everyone use, even my daughters. Carson and Mrs. Hughes sometimes take a novel or two. What are your interests?”

“History and politics mainly,” Branson says. It’s the truth, but it’s also a bit of a test, to see how he reacts to that.

There’s another brief pause. “Heavens,” he answers, looking again surprised but not shocked or concerned. Branson has to credit him for that as well.

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Tom Branson

September 2012

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