Charles, forehead in his hand, stared down at the letter Beryl had brought. “Why, Beryl?” he asked as he finally looked up at her. “Why would she do this?”
“Can’t you see the answer in the letter?” Beryl asked him.
“She says she loved me. I don’t understand why she never told me.”
“Why did you never tell her?”
“I,” he started then shook his head.
“Exactly. She knew you would never leave the family.”
“But I did.”
“Yes, you did. The fact that the family believed Barrow’s story,” she rolled her eyes. “Well, it doesn’t say much for their intelligence.”
“But Lady Edith didn’t.”
“No, she didn’t. Elsie knew that the young lady didn’t believe her.”
“Lady Mary never believed it, either.”
Beryl swallowed at the pain she heard in the man’s voice. “No, she didn’t.”
“She’s gone now.”
“Yes, she is. Both of the women that loved you are gone, but one of them you can bring back.”
“How? I don’t even know where Elsie is.”
Beryl leaned across the table and rested her hand on Charles’ arm. “Do you still love her?” she asked, already knowing the answer.
“I’ll always love her.”
“Then find her. You know how to start.” Beryl pointed to the address on the envelope. “When you receive an answer to your inquiry, go to the only other person that can help you. You know that she will. You’ve always been her favorite.”
“She’s been very good to me.”
“And she’ll do everything she can to help you find our Elsie. Take her the letter, Charles. Let her read it. Let her see what truly happened that day.”
“I can’t bother her. You know she’s been ill.”
“I do, but I also know, she’d want you to come to her. She’s stood behind you through all of it, Charles. You know that she was very angry with her son over what happened. Their relationship has never been the same since.”
“No one’s relationship has been the same.”
“Ours has remained.”
Charles smiled tiredly as he nodded at Beryl. “Yes, it has, but at what cost to you?”
“It’s never mattered to me. I was never afraid of what would happen to me.”
“No. Daisy promised me a place to live.”
“Our sweet Daisy. Is she happy?”
“She’s very happy. Mr. Mason made sure she was well looked after before he passed. Besides all of that, you know that Lord Grantham would never let me go, no matter how angry he might be that I supported you.”
Charles nodded. “Never would have found someone as good as you to be your replacement, and it would have been foolishness to let another house hire you away.”
“Exactly right. It would have caused talk that they couldn’t afford so soon after their butler left. That caused enough talk.”
Charles huffed. “Of course it did. First the housekeeper leaves unexpectedly without much explanation, then the butler. People would have been even more suspicious if the only other senior servant left, suddenly retired.”
“I wanted to leave, but Daisy needed me to stay. I’ve always felt like I betrayed my friends by staying.”
Reaching out a shaky hand, Charles rested it over Beryl’s. “No, Beryl. You were right to stay. She wouldn’t have wanted you to leave Daisy.”
Beryl nodded. “Now that Daisy’s gone, I’m thinking it’s my time to go.”
“Will you go to Daisy?”
“I will but only after you’ve found our Elsie. I’ll be telling Lord Grantham of my intent to retire and when I do, I’ll stay here to watch over your home while you’re looking for Elsie. When you return, I’ll go to Daisy.”
“Thank you, Beryl.”
“No need for thanks, Charles. I want her home as much as you do.”
“I know you do.”
“Take the letter to the Dowager today, Charles. Don’t waste one second more.”
“I thought you said I should send a letter to Elsie’s family first.” Charles raised an eyebrow as he studied his friend.
“I did, but,” Beryl bit her lip. “I’ve changed my mind. I’m afraid for her.”
Violet Crawley had never been one to show emotions openly, but the few times in the past that she had, it had been when in the presence of Charles Carson. The last time it had been pain over Sybil’s death, this time – this time it was over what had happened to Downton’s former housekeeper.
“Carson, I,” she started then cleared her throat. “I don’t know what to say. What do you need? I assume you’re going to look for our Mrs. Hughes.”
Charles blinked at the Dowager’s use of our. She and Elsie had never really gotten on. “I am going to look for her,” he finally answered.
“Then whatever you need is yours, Carson.”
“I don’t need anything at the moment, My Lady, but if I do, I shall know who to trust.”
“I’ll do what I can, Carson. My son was wrong, I’ve made my thoughts on that abundantly clear. I know how Mr. Barrow was, how he coveted your position. I always knew he’d been trying to have you sacked.”
Charles nodded and looked down at the letter. “She didn’t have to do this. I just don’t understand.”
“She did what she had to do to protect you, Carson. I’m sure she knew that, while you might not have been sacked, you surely would have lost favor and respect if the whole mess had gone on. Barrow was very good at manipulation.”
“And yet so many have left because I did.”
“Yes, that’s true. And Mrs. Patmore has born the brunt of my son’s anger more times than I care to admit because of her support.”
“She said she didn’t care, she’s sure in her job.”
“Of course she is. My son is many things, but he isn’t stupid enough to let go of one of the most coveted cooks in the area.”
“She’s going to retire.”
Violet nodded. “I’m not surprised. Things have changed, Carson. Our world has changed and Downton can not survive much longer.”
Charles sighed as he folded the letter. “Not unless His Lordship changes to the new ways.”
“Something I’m afraid will never happen with Mary gone. Tom can’t fight him on his own.”
“Mr. Branson has been telling me he thinks he’ll go to America.”
“I will hate to see my great granddaughter go, and I’ve grown quite fond of Tom, but maybe it’s for the best. He’s not been very happy here since Matthew was taken from us.”
“And he lost the person he always turned to when Elsie left.” Charles didn’t even realize he’d called the former housekeeper by her first name.
Violet sighed, “You’ll find her, Carson, and you’ll bring her home.”
“But is this home?” he asked.
“I don’t know, Carson. Only she can answer that question.”