His breath left a white cloud against the window as he exhaled, making it even harder to see out, the snow and frost outside doing their own job to keep the view from his eyes.
Still, he could pick out the figure on the grounds, a speck of black against the colourless landscape.
The moon was bright, seemed to shine down on the Butler specifically as he made his way from the woodshed to the House and back. In daylight, Robert believed he would be able to pick out Carson’s footprints left in the snow, but it was too dark now to see more than his Butler and the wood he carried.
“What has you so fascinated tonight?” Cora stepped up beside him and he looped an arm around her waist, nodded towards the garden where Carson had just stepped back into sight, arms empty once again as he made his way out from the House.
“Goodness, is that Carson?” He nodded, pulled her closer to his side, the warmth of her body fighting off the chill the view had given him. “He must be frozen. Surely he could leave that for the morning?”
He smiled down at her for a moment, pressed a kiss to the top of her head. All these years and she never had become as cold and dismissive of the servants as the others of their ilk.
“That’s the wood for the morning fires, Cora. If he doesn’t bring it in now, the maids will have nothing to light.” He pointed to the fire in their grate, where the last bits of log were turning quickly to cinder as they burned themselves down for the night.
“Well, surely there’s someone else who can do it. One of the Hallboys, or Barrow even?”
With a huff, Robert returned to watching their Butler as he stepped towards the House again. “Perhaps.”
“Oh, is that Mrs Hughes? Good, surely she’ll talk some sense into him.”
Maybe, he thought as the Housekeeper approached Carson, holding something in her hands out to him. But he rather thought Mr Carson would be stubborn enough, Mrs Hughes aware enough, that the wood would continue to be collected tonight, it was after all, their job.
“If you won’t stay inside, at least wrap this around you, Mr Carson.” She held out the scarf, huffing and taking it back when his shaking hands could barely unfold it. “Oh, here take this, Mrs Patmore made it especially.” His fingers gripped the warm cup, brought it straight to his mouth for a sip. “Scotch,” she said at his raised brow, “from my own stores, it’ll warm you twice as much as the tea. Now, bend down a little.”
She wrapped the scarf around his neck, tried not to worry too much at the chill of his skin when her fingers brushed his cheek. “Stubborn man.” She whispered, hoped a second later that the wind swallowed it before he heard it.
She doubted it from the way his breath puffed sharply out against her face, the scent oaky with the spirit.
“I know for a fact Jimmy offered to do this.” She said as she pulled away from him, scarf tucked neatly into his coat.
“Because you told him to.” Mr Carson continued to drink the spiced tea and she was happy to see his shivering was lessening. Silly stubborn man.
“What does that matter? He still offered and you should have accepted.”
He tilted his head, either in dismissal of her argument or in agreement, she couldn’t tell. She supposed he did that on purpose; it was always hard to chide him further when she wasn’t sure if he had already conceded to her point.
"If you get ill again, Mr Carson I shall—”
“You shall nurse me back to health as you always do, Mrs Hughes. I have no doubt of that.”
She blinked, felt her own cheeks flush and chose to blame the cold. She narrowed her eyes at his smile. “Perhaps you should doubt it, maybe you wouldn’t be so quick to go about these things as though you were still a footman if you thought no one would bring you soup and medicine when the inevitable happens.”
“Ah, but you could never be so cruel, Mrs Hughes.” He winked at her, drained the last of his tea and handed her the cup. His gloved fingers slipping along hers as he pulled back.
“You don’t know me nearly so well as you think, Mr Carson. Carry on out here then, catch a cold. See what happens.”
Turning on her heel she made her way carefully back to the house.
“I’ll make this the last lot, Mrs Hughes. Have Jimmy bring more in in the morning.” He called out. She smiled, pulled the backdoor closed behind her. Silly stubborn man.
She’d make sure Mrs Patmore had ingredients for chicken soup anyway, just in case.