“How is she doing?” Violet asked Isobel as they sat sipping tea in the Dower House sitting room.
Isobel smiled as she placed her cup back in its saucer. “She’s doing much better than she was even a few days ago. Once she got over the upset of Anna’s visit, she’s enjoyed having her and Elsie May about. I must admit, the little girl is a bright spot in my day as well. She’s a happy tot and loves Elsie.”
“Why would she be upset at seeing Anna?”
Isobel had been told by Richard just why Elsie had been upset, and didn’t feel it was her place to tell Violet, so she went with, “Because she cares for Anna and didn’t want her to see her this way,” instead of the truth.
“Carson seems to be a bit,” Violet frowned, not sure of the word she was looking for.
“Guilty, though he shouldn’t feel that way.” Isobel supplied.
Violet looked down into her tea. “Yes, well, several of us feel that way,” she admitted quietly.
Isobel tilted her head and studied her cousin. “Surely you don’t think any of this is your fault? You had nothing to do with the mess.”
Violet raised her head, an eyebrow arched as she stared across at Isobel. “Didn’t I? I helped raise Robert to be the man he is, the man that only thinks of his family and no one else. I also seemed to raise a fool. He’s too much like his father at times.”
“Violet, you can’t possible take any blame in this. Robert’s being a fool,” Isobel shrugged. “As mothers we can only take so much responsibility for the actions of our children. Robert is old enough that his actions are his own, and no one but he himself is responsible for them. He was a massive fool for listening to Thomas Barrow and letting the man manipulate him. Thomas wanted Mr. Carson’s position, everyone in the house could see that it seems, everyone but Robert. Matthew even saw it, and he hadn’t been in the house that long.”
Isobel shook her head. “No. If you had been there when Thomas made his accusations, if you had sat there and said nothing, then I would blame you as would Mr. Carson. You weren’t, you knew nothing of it until it was too late.”
Violet sighed, “You’re being far too kind.”
“I’m only stating the truth.” Isobel shrugged. “Besides, you were the one that took care of the ungrateful,” she stopped and shook her head, unwilling to use the only word that came to mind.
Violet raised an eyebrow and gave her cousin a knowing look. “You’ve spent too many years among men. You’ve picked up their filthy habits.”
Isobel smirked. “Says the woman who actually said the word out loud.”
Violet huffed and looked down to inspect her nails as if she were bored. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Uh hum.” Isobel murmured, her eyes twinkling.
“Elsie, would you like to go for a walk?” Charles asked as he watched her fussing with her hair.
Elsie bit her lip as she stopped fussing and looked up at him. “Through the village?” she asked quietly.
“Wherever you feel comfortable. We could simply walk around the garden if that’s all you think you can handle.” He smiled at her then chuckled a bit when she scowled at her hair again. “Why are you frowning so?”
Elsie looked up at him, and squinted as she studied his face. “Charles Carson, are you laughing at me?”
Charles shook his head, his face a mask of innocence. “Absolutely not.”
Narrowing her eyes even more, she shook her brush at him. “You’re a terrible liar, Charles Carson.”
Charles grinned which earned him a hard glare. He shrugged. He couldn’t help it. This was some of his Elsie coming back.
“What are you grinning like a, like a,” she stopped and scowled then chucked her brush at him when he laughed. “Charles Carson!”
Charles burst out laughing, his face nearly split with the wide grin that turned up his mouth. Picking her brush up off the settee where it had landed, he handed it back to her. “Do it again,” he whispered.
Elsie frowned. “You want me to throw my brush at you again? Have you gone daft, Charles?”
Charles shook his head then sat on the foot stool in front of her chair. “No, Elsie. Not daft, just very happy.”
“You’re happy because I threw my brush at you? You aren’t making sense, Charles.”
Looking down, he gently covered her hand with his. “I am happy because it means my fiery Scottish lass is coming back to me.”
Elsie felt her eyes well with tears as she turned her hand over and clasped his. “Oh Charles,” she whispered.
Charles looked up and shook his head. “Don’t cry, Lass.”
“I can’t help it. I’m so very grateful to you, to everyone that has helped me. You’ve done so much, all of you. I never thought I would see the day that Charles Carson would be happy to have me scowling at him.”
Charles laughed at that. “I did often find myself trying to escape that scowl. I think this might be the first time you’ve thrown something at me, though.”
Elsie shook her head. “Don’t you remember the tea cup?”
Charles frowned as he thought back over their years together then he grinned. “Oh yes. Now I remember.”
“How dare you!” Elsie yelled as she balled her hands into fists.
Charles raised an eyebrow as he stared down at her. “I dare because I am the butler of this house.”
Elsie’s eyes narrowed, which should have told Charles to turn tail and run, except it didn’t. The next thing he knew a tea cup was whizzing passed his ear, shattering on the door behind him.
“That does happen to be my name!” Elsie shouted back and picked up the saucer. “Get out or so help me,”
Charles wasn’t sure where that little saucer was going to land so he turned and hurried out of her sitting room, the sound of shattering glass blending with the closing of the door.
“What in the world were we fitting so fiercely about?” Charles asked.
Elsie shook her head. “I don’t remember. I only remember how mortified I was with myself after I calmed down. Do you remember dinner that evening?”
“The apple tart?”
Elsie nodded. “I made sure Beryl fixed that especially for you as a way to make up for what I’d done.”
“Well this time you can make it up to me by going for a walk.” He winked at her when she smiled. “That smile is beautiful, Lass. Beautiful just as you are.”
“Oh Charlie,” she blushed. “I’m not.”
Charles sighed and tenderly squeezed her hand. “Yes, Lass. To these eyes you’re the most beautiful woman in the world.”