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Don't Shoot the Butler

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It felt good to be out of the office. Normally, Lady Mary loved her work. There was a surprising sense of satisfaction to be found sitting at her desk, looking over records and plans, trying to anticipate whatever the future might throw her way. In the month since the birth of her second son, however, sitting too long in the still silence made her edgy. It wasn't so bad if Henry or Tom were there, but when they were in York with their own work, which was the case on this particular day, it got to be intolerable. So it was with a feeling of profound relief that she left the office behind and headed back toward Downton Abbey.

It was a lovely day. Perhaps, she thought, she would arrange for an outdoor picnic for the children when Sybbie got home from school. Her mother should be home from the hospital by then, so if her father were willing to come along, they'd have the two mobile children outnumbered. George and Sybbie were largely well behaved, but she tended to err on the side of caution when it came to play dates.

She was only marginally surprised to find her father sitting outside, on the shaded bench, reading. He normally was indoors at this time of day, still seeing to the budget, which was all she would let him oversee these days. Still, the weather was lovely and she was ready for a break herself, so rather than puzzling over the deviation in his behavior, she simply walked over to him, smiling. "Hello, Papa. Taking a break? I thought you were determined to keep working until you were in your grave."

Robert glanced up at her, grimaced, and returned his eyes to his book. "There was too much racket to work," he informed her, turning the page.

"Racket?" The very concept confused Mary. She couldn't think of a single household activity, at least upstairs, that could constitute as 'racket', and she doubted even Mrs. Patmore could yell loudly enough to be heard in the library from the kitchen. Even if the children had convinced nanny and Barrow to let them out of the nursery for a bit, there shouldn't have been 'racket'. The only thing she could possibly think of was that something had set off the puppy. "What, did Tiaa find something to chase?"

"Tiaa is a little four legged saint who would never disturb my work," her father informed her primly, marking his place and closing his book in favor of looking up at her. It was complete balderdash, of course, but he said it solemnly. "No, Barrow has hurt himself somehow. Doctor Clarkson is up to look at it, of course, but apparently George is inconsolable for some reason. He, in turn, was upsetting Edward, so Nanny brought Eddie down to the drawing room, meaning if I want to get anything done, I have to do it over a crying infant and a screaming five year old."

Mary rolled her eyes and decided this was not the best time to bring up a possible picnic. "Is Barrow alright at least?"

"I have no idea. The coroner hasn't shown up, so I'll take that as a good sign."

"Really, Papa! You might show a bit more concern." Mary wasn't entirely certain when she'd grown protective of Downton's resident trouble maker. It certainly wasn't when he'd rescued her sister from a fire. She suspected it was about the time her son had added "favorite toy" to Barrow's list of duties. Either way, she was not pleased by the idea of his being injured, if only because it upset the children.

Robert gave her an unimpressed look. "Mary, if it were anything serious, they'd have told me rather than simply driving me out of my house with noise."

Admittedly, he had a point. If anything Nanny was known for exaggerating problems, not the other way around. Still, if her son was upset, Mary was going to look into it. "Well I'm going to see how things are going. Shall I send Tiaa to fetch you if it's quiet?"

"No, send one of the staff. It's what we pay them for."

"You just don't want to be chasing your precious saint of a puppy around the estate for the next hour and a half." With one last arch look, Mary headed for the house. With Barrow indisposed and Andrew probably running ten different directions at once as a result, she let herself through the door.

It was immediately apparent why her father (who loved his grandchildren, but was entirely unsuited to dealing with them when they were upset) had left the house. The drawing room was quiet, which meant Nanny had managed to get Edward settled, but she could hear George's sobbing from the entry. Admittedly, sound carried very well in the stone halls and vaulted ceilings of Downton's gallery and hall, but to be heard from the nursery the boy had to be making quite a fuss.

By the time she had rushed (in a proper, lady-like manner, of course) up the gallery stairs and down the hall to the nursery, she was exceedingly glad she'd run into her father before entering the house. If she hadn't, she'd have been in a state of panic, convinced that someone was out-and-out murdering her son. The door to the nursery stood open, which at least partially explained the noise level. When she reached it, Mary found the most mystifying tableau.

Barrow sat in one of the nursery chairs. The butler had one shoe on and one shoe, along with it's sock, off, but otherwise looked completely normal. George was in his lap clinging to him as if his life depended on it, absolutely howling with anguish, tear streaming down his cheeks and his nose all over snot, despite Barrow's patting him on the back and dabbing his face with a handkerchief. Doctor Clarkson stood against the far wall, bag in hand, giving them plenty of room and looking completely lost.

If she'd been told George had been injured, or if there had been any sight of it, things would have made sense to Mary. As it was, she felt as lost as the doctor looked. "Georgie?" Since only Doctor Clarkson seemed to hear her, she took several steps into the room and tried again, raising her voice in an effort to be heard over the din. "Georgie, darling, what's wrong?"

That at least got Barrow's attention (bless the man's good hearing, for once) and he managed to coax George into looking her direction. The second he saw his mother, the five-year-old slid out of Barrow's lap and came running. Mary knelt down and stretched her arms to him, pulling him close as he reached her and trying not to wince as he cried into her ear. "Georgie, please, calm down. Mommy's here." She pulled back enough to smooth her hand over his hair, making little shushing noises at him. "Won't you tell me what's wrong?"

It was difficult to sound soothing at an audible volume under the circumstances, but apparently she'd managed, because George's sobbing took the form of words. Shuddering, gasping, barely decipherable words, but words none-the-less. "He...he's going to sh...shoot Mr....Mr. Barrow!" One chubby finger pointed to Doctor Clarkson.

From the expressions on their faces, this was more than either of the men had managed to get out of the boy. Also, they had no idea what he was talking about.

Progress, at least, was progress, so Mary tried again. "Why would anyone shoot Mr. Barrow?" she asked, keeping her voice completely reasonable. She hoped that when he saw she wasn't concerned, George would become less concerned himself. "Why don't you start from the beginning and tell me what's happened?"

While George was distracted, Doctor Clarkson edged his way over and knelt down to examine Barrow's exposed ankle. The butler winced a bit, but didn't seem to be in excruciating pain.

"We...we were on a hunt," Geroge explained. He was still crying, but at least having to concentrate on whole sentences brought his volume down a bit. "And Mr. Barrow hurt his...his leg...just like Legionnaire..." The sniffles increased again, almost obliterating the soft conversation between doctor and patient.

"Legionnaire?"

"One of the horses."

The pieces started to fall into place in Mary's head. From the expression on his face, they were doing the same for Barrow. This was, over all, a good thing, because George was becoming more garbled again as he finished. "And so...so now they're going to have to...to shoot Mr....Mr....." The boy dissolved once more into noisy, messy sobbing and buried his face against his mother's shoulder, rendering the rest of his sentence incomprehensible.

Sighing, torn between sympathy for her son's distress and strained amusement, Mary pulled him against her and patted his back. "There, there, Georgie, it's all right. I promise, Mr. Barrow will be perfectly all right. You don't shoot butlers with broken legs."