Peter wanders the flat in his dressing-gown, inquiring, nearly concerned. It's rare he comes in here, the narrow kitchen, the square bare pantry, and he feels uninvited, unwelcome in this part of his small home. He's never considered it before, this strange cohabitation they have, his home - their home - divided.
His few rooms, on show, are all he thinks of when he speaks of his flat, but here, behind the front, is the heart.Peter knows it now as he penetrates the inner sanctum, Bunter's own spartan room. The neatly made bed as spare and correct as an army cot, the single armchair with a folded blanket on its seat. The boots which stand mute sentinel against the wall.
Bunter is not here. The emptiness chides Peter and he backs himself out, head bowed in apology to his man's boots, back into the square bare pantry and beyond, the narrow kitchen, a room he never sees. The cupboards watch him blankly and Peter knows himself an intruder, here without his guide.
He makes his exit graciously, bowing in cautious homage to the below-stairs gods, mitigating what offence his presence here has caused.
It's been long years since he's been alone, truly alone. Not since childhood and the summers at Duke's Denver, rambling in the woods, blessedly free of Gerald's pranks and Mary's whining. Slipping away from his father's impatient anger. He'd enjoyed it then, the solitude, the space to think, but now it's unwelcome, unusual.
He's grown used to Bunter in his life, in the space he calls his, and without him he feels strangely incomplete. Bunter points the way for him to lead, and lead he does.
The parlour greets him with derisive silence and Peter audaciously rings the bell, scattering the quiet, a summons to he who is not there.
"I beg your pardon, my lord." The measured tones are disproportionately sweet in Peter's ears. "I was endeavouring to deal with a Young Person who wished to supply us with lavender. I believe I have persuaded her we have no use for that commodity. I trust you have not been waiting long?"
Peter's eyes linger on the familiar features of his man. The world rights itself around him, the parlour settling back into its accustomed comfort, its mocking air put to flight. "Not above a moment, Bunter. I wonder, could you help me dress?"
"Of course, my lord."