All Dead Hearts to You
“Do you believe in ghosts, Mrs Crawley?”
Isobel resisted the urge to turn and look over her shoulder, following the Dowager Countess's line of sight; tea with Cousin Violet was always something of an ordeal. There was no need to make it worse by letting the woman infect her with nerves. Not, of course, that Isobel was the sort of woman to have nerves in the first place.
“Why, does Downton have many?”
Violet sniffed and set down her teacup. “Of course, though they were never impolite enough to show themselves when I resided here. I was always a trifle surprised my mother-in-law never returned to haunt me. Dreadful woman, no taste in furnishings at all. I took great glee in putting her things up in the attics the moment she was settled in the dower house.”
“Really?” Isobel smiled. “I'm surprised, as I've always thought the house rather tasteful. But then, I suppose Cousin Cora must have made her own alterations.” Ignoring the force of the withering glare she was now being subjected to, Isobel blithely continued on. “To answer your question, no, I most certainly do not believe in ghosts. It's nothing more than superstition and has no place in a scientific world. Why do you ask?”
“I was quite certain I could see a shadowy figure hovering behind your chair. Robert's father always did claim some of the monks had remained behind here, though heaven knows why they would bother. But,” Violet said, hiding a little smile in her teacup as Isobel visibly twitched with the effort not to glance around, “since the esteemed Mrs Crawley does not believe in ghosts, surely they cannot exist, and my eyes are merely playing tricks.”
“Perhaps you are in need of spectacles.” Isobel smiled, and kept her eyes resolutely forward, no matter the chill running up her spine.
Stop Haunting Me
Sometimes in her dreams, Sarah O'Brien saw her dead brother, blown to bits on some battlefield far from home, frightened and wide-eyed and needing her help.
She always looked at Thomas differently after those dreams, with a bit of hate and a bit of love that was all the fiercer for it; Thomas with his dark hair and light eyes in his handsome face; Thomas who so resembled her brother she would have to turn away as they went out to smoke, pressing her lips together and staring dry-eyed at the dull grey sky.
The Devil that You Know
Most women, Gwen later thought, would have screamed if they'd bumped into a ghost while backing out of a darkened bedroom into an even darker corridor.
Then again, most ghosts wouldn't be likely to grunt when run into, and in a voice she knew at that.
Thinking fast, she set a toe on the edge of the 'ghost's' trailing sheet, causing most of it to fall away as the figure stumbled, catching its balance.
“Hello, Thomas,” she said, watching him as he blinked rapidly and clutched the sheet at best he could to his chest. “What do you think you're doing out here?”
Bending swiftly, Thomas grabbed something off the floor that glinted in the faint candlelight, casting a wary glance down the corridor behind them, towards the distant bachelor's wing.
“I don't know,” he said, sliding his hand into his pocket, his face settling from shock into his usual edged smile. “What are you doing coming out of Lady Sybil's room this time of night?”
Gwen stiffened. “She needed my help with something, that's all.”
“Oh, I'll just bet she did.” His smile grew wider, and Gwen hoped that Sybil wouldn't hear them and come to investigate. “I'm sure the two of you are very helpful to each other, indeed,” he said, pointedly looking her over from head to toe, taking in her disheveled hair and clothing.
“You're completely vile, Thomas.”
He grinned outright then, taking his hands from his pockets and holding them up, palms out, in a rare gesture of peace. “Look, how about you ask no questions of me, and I'll ask none of you. And we can all carry on happily. Seems like a fair enough deal to me.”
A deal with the devil, Gwen thought sourly, slipping into her room a few moments later, relieved to see that Anna was sleeping peacefully. She'd rather have run into an actual ghost.
You've Left Your Ghost
Edith had never considered herself a terribly self-possessed woman – yet another way in which she was not at all like Mary – yet when a man materialized out of the shadows in her bedroom, she neither screamed nor fainted, instead raising a haughty eyebrow at the long dark hair, olive skin, sensual mouth, and curiously insubstantial edges of the former Mr Pamuk.
“Bugger off,” she said (one learns a lot from soldiers, even if they are officers and trying to be gentlemen), tossing a bolster through him and going back to her interrupted reading. “You have the wrong bedroom.”
They Make Me Feel I'm Falling Down
“Don't you believe me then?” Daisy asked, risking a glance up at Mrs Patmore instead of watching what she was stirring.
“That you've seen a ghost?” Mrs Patmore snorted. “Not likely. And if you paid more attention to what's in front of your face and less to what's in your head, it'd be all the better for you – mind what you're doing with that!”
“I didn't see him, exactly,” Daisy said, scraping cake batter carefully from the sides of the bowl. “More like I felt him, you know? I just know it's William, come back to haunt me. He knows I didn't really love him.”
There was a jingling sound behind her then, and Daisy jumped, nearly upsetting the bowl.
“Good heavens, it's only me, girl.” Mrs Hughes laid a hand on her shoulder. “And that's enough of this nonsense about William. You loved him enough to make his last hours happy ones, and that's all that counts.”
“But what if it's not? What if I've done something so awful it'll follow me for the rest of my days now?”
Mrs Patmore only sighed and shook her head, and Mrs Hughes glanced over her shoulder at Daisy as she rifled through a cupboard. “All right then, let's have this story of yours, if it'll make you feel better.”
“Well, it was when I was coming down the stairs this morning, with all the buckets and such, right? And I must've slipped a bit coming round one of the corners, 'cause I dropped one of them and almost fell on my face. But then there was this sort of cold wind, and it felt like hands grabbing at my shoulders.”
“I'm surprised you didn't raise the whole house screaming, knowing you,” Mrs Patmore said, peering into the bowl and nodding with approval.
“I couldn't! I was that scared, I didn't have the breath.”
“Well, you've certainly got it back now. More stirring, less talking.”
“Daisy,” said Mrs Hughes, watching her carefully, “you said you almost fell. What stopped you?”
Daisy shrugged. “Don't know, Mrs Hughes. Just lucky, I suppose.”
I Will Carry You Forever
It was cruel, Mary knew, to let Lavinia carry the conversation, as she was hardly a natural chatterbox, but Mary's attention was focused elsewhere, her gaze locked beyond the window on Matthew's back as he paced and talked with her father.
A discreet cough from Sybil pulled her back into the room, just in time to take in the end of Lavinia's interminable story.
“So I promised Miss Grey I'd ask about it when I was here next. Are there any?” Lavinia looked to Mary, clearly expecting some sort of reply; fortunately she had more than enough breeding to prompt Mary after a moment of silence. “Ghosts here at Downton, that is.”
“I daresay there must be, though I've never seen any,” Mary replied. “You ought to ask Edith, she was always claiming to see some specter or another when we were children.”
“You don't believe in ghosts yourself, then?” Lavinia's face bore its usual tremulous smile, the expression of a woman forever unsure of her place. Watching her, Mary felt ancient and imposing as the house, though she supposed neither of them could help it; they were all what their lives had made of them.
“Only the ghosts our feelings create, Miss Swire,” she answered, the glint of gold hair flashing in the corner of her eye.