Actions

Work Header

Halo Effect

Chapter Text

Thomas felt queasy as he led the Turkish gentleman through the darkened house.  What he was doing now was no better than what Mr. Pamuk had threatened to expose him for.   Perhaps even worse.  Carson would surely sack him if he had proof in hand of what he’d always suspected about Thomas—but for this, he might very well murder him. 

Besides that, there was the question of whether Lady Mary was, in fact, expecting the gentleman.  If she were, wouldn’t she have told him herself where her bedroom was?   Lady Mary thought she was tough—and he reckoned she could hold her own against any other gently-reared young lady, if it came to scratching and pulling hair—but would she be able to against a grown man? 

That is, if she weren’t perfectly thrilled by this nocturnal visit, as perhaps she might be. 

Two or three times, as they crept the length of the house, it was on the tip of his tongue to say no, he wouldn’t do this, but each time he talked himself out of it.  At last, he silently pointed to the door in question, then retreated out of any possibility of her seeing him, even if she flung the door open to eject her visitor. 

But he lingered.  If she screamed, he would dash in and rescue her, that was all.  More likely than not, in that case, no one would listen to what Pamuk had to say—though Thomas would have a bit of explaining to do about why he was anywhere near the young ladies’ bedrooms in the middle of the night.  But he could come up with something, by the time anyone got around to thinking of that. 

For what seemed a very long time, there was no sound from within the bedroom, and Thomas was getting ready to slip away, as silently as he’d come, when he heard a gasp, followed by a hissed, “What are you doing?  Get off me!”

He crashed into the door, shoulder first.  Pamuk was lying across the bed, on top of Lady Mary.  Time seemed to freeze for a moment, and then she screamed, “Help!  Someone, please, help!” 

Some distant part of Thomas’s mind registered that her tone was a bit theatrical, but he nevertheless dove toward the pair on the bed, grabbing Mr. Pamuk by the collar of his pyjamas and dragging him off.  Keeping hold of the strangely-unresisting Pamuk with one hand, he grabbed his wrist with the other, and twisted his arm up behind his back, demanding, “What do you think you’re doing?”

Likely, a disinterested observer would find his delivery no more convincing than Lady Mary’s, but she didn’t seem to be paying him much mind, sitting up and clasping her hands in front of her, mouth open in shock.   Nor was Pamuk in any position to notice; he suddenly—abruptly—went limp. 

At that moment, Lord Grantham arrived, followed closely by her ladyship.  “What is going on here?”  Noticing Thomas, he added, “What are you—who is—”

“Papa,” Lady Mary said, her voice trembling.  “Mr. Pamuk, he just burst in here.  Then Thomas came and saved me, and—what have you done to him?”

At that moment, Thomas realized that Pamuk hadn’t simply given up at the sight of his paramour’s—victim’s?—outraged father; he had collapsed.   Thinking quickly, he said, “I think he’s ill, my lady.  I saw him wandering about.  I’m sorry I didn’t catch up to him sooner.”

“Mary, are you quite all right?” Lady Grantham asked sharply, going to her side. 

“Yes,” she said quickly.  “Yes, I am.  He didn’t touch me.”  She gave Thomas a significant look. 

“I was just behind him,” Thomas confirmed. 

From the corridor, he heard doors opening and the other young ladies asking was the matter, and Lord Grantham telling them that everything was well in hand and to go back to bed.  Lady Mary buried her face in her mother’s shoulder and made sounds of distress.  Mr. Pamuk remained in a heap on the floor. 

Lord Grantham came back.  “Is she all right?” he asked her ladyship, quietly. 

She nodded.  “I’ll handle this.  You—”  She gestured towards Pamuk.

“Right,” he said.  To Thomas, “Let’s get him back where he belongs, before we send for Dr. Clarkson.  The fewer who know he was in here, the better.” 

Thomas quite agreed, and took charge of Pamuk’s upper half, while his lordship handled his feet.  They were at the top of the main staircase when Mr. Carson appeared, apparently having sensed somehow that something was amiss.  He was in his dressing gown, a sight Thomas could have done without.  “My lord!  What….”

“Mr. Pamuk’s been taken ill,” he said, handing Pamuk’s feet off to Mr. Carson. 

Pamuk took no notice whatsoever of this.  “Mr. Carson,” Thomas said hesitantly.  He’d helped haul drunks home from the pub before, and this didn’t feel like that.  Not like handling an unconscious body. 

What?” Carson snarled. 

He held his peace until they were at the door to Pamuk’s bedroom.  His lordship opened the door for them. 

“Mr. Carson, only I think he’s dead.”  Humiliatingly, his voice broke on the last word.  If Pamuk was dead, there’d be an investigation, and how would he keep everything from coming out? 

“Don’t be foolish,” Carson snapped.  “Begging your pardon, your lordship.”

Lord Grantham shook his head, and once Thomas and Carson had deposited Mr. Pamuk on the bed, went over and prodded at his face and chest for a moment.  “I’m afraid he may be right.” 

He went on talking, but Thomas couldn’t hear him over the pounding of blood in his ears.  He was shaking uncontrollably, his thoughts racing.  The story coming out was the least of his worries, if the gentleman really had dropped over dead, because he’d died after Thomas had laid hands on him. 

“—fetch Dr. Clarkson,” Carson was saying.  “Thomas, are you listening to me?”

“What?” he said stupidly. 

Carson huffed.  “Pull yourself together.  Even if he is dead, he can’t harm you.”

“Only see me hanged,” Thomas said.   “They’ll think I killed him!  Maybe I did—hit his head, or, I don’t know.  What is it they do to you in Turkey, if you’ve killed someone?”

Keep your voice down,” Carson commanded in a harsh undertone. 

“Sorry,” Thomas whispered.    

“Thomas,” his lordship said.  Then, “Carson, send someone else for the doctor; Thomas has had a shock.   Thomas, I don’t see how you can have killed him—there isn’t a mark on him.  And even if you did, you were protecting my daughter’s virtue.  Nobody’s going to be hanged; I won’t allow it.”

Oh, yes, there was that, wasn’t it?  And if Pamuk was dead, there was nobody to point out that the matter had begun with Thomas doing the precise opposite of safeguarding Lady Mary’s virtue.  “Yes, my lord.  Thank you, my lord.”

“I should be thanking you,” Lord Grantham said.  “But right now, I must be getting back to the ladies.  Carson, look after him.”

Thomas wasn’t sure what his lordship had meant by “look after him,” but he didn’t think it was “interrogate him”; however, that’s precisely what Mr. Carson did, once they were safely behind the green baize door and on their way down to the servants’ hall.  “What was that about Lady Mary?” he demanded.

“Pamuk—Mr. Pamuk—barged into her bedroom.  I went to get him out, and that’s when he collapsed.”

Why did he— never mind.  What was he doing roaming about the house at this hour?  For that matter, why were you?”

“I was trying to sort out why he was,” Thomas explained.  Since he’d already said that, he’d better stick with it.  He went on to embroider the story.  “At first I thought he was after, I don’t know, cigarettes or a drink or something, so I thought I’d catch up with him quietly and point him in the right direction without waking the house, and then I lost sight of him for a moment, and then Lady Mary screamed.”  Carson went stiff at that, and he added quickly, “She’s all right.  I got there before he’d touched her.”

Carson paused on the stairs to glare at him.  “Are you suggesting that he intended to touch her?”

“No, Mr. Carson.  I mean, I don’t know.  My first thought was that he intended something nefarious, but since it seems he was ill, perhaps he was just wandering about in a confused state, and didn’t know where he was.” 

Carson harrumphed.  “Don’t share your speculations on the matter with anyone.”

“No, Mr. Carson.”

Downstairs, Mr. Carson woke a hall-boy to send for Dr. Clarkson, and Thomas smoked a cigarette to settle his nerves, mentally reviewing his story.  It hung together fairly well; the only part that any living person could put the lie to was the amount of time that had passed between Mr. Pamuk’s entering the room and Thomas’s, but Lady Mary was hardly likely to volunteer that information to anyone.  Even if she did, he could say he must have lost sight of Pamuk for longer than he’d thought. 

Though at some point, it would probably occur to them all to wonder why Thomas had been in the bachelor corridor to see the Turkish gentleman wandering around in the first place, when he was supposed to be in bed up in the servants’ quarters.   Wouldn’t it just be a turn-up for the books if they decided he must have been making an illicit nocturnal visit of his own?

If he said that he’d been doing something for Mr. Pamuk—which, after all, he had—that would only invite further questions:  what precisely it had been, had Pamuk given any sign of nefarious intentions, had he seemed ill….no, best to leave him out of it until the moment Thomas spotted him on his mysterious wandering. 

In the end, the best he could come up with was that he was walking around to check that everything was as it should be.  Not a terribly convincing story—that was Mr. Carson’s job, and he wouldn’t thank Thomas for doing it for him—but perhaps he could say he’d forgotten something he was supposed to do, and was going to do it before he got in trouble.  They’d believe that, for certain. 

Except Carson might well ask what it was he’d neglected to do.  Well, perhaps he could say he wasn’t sure; he’d just had a nagging feeling he’d forgotten something.  It was a little thin, but he supposed it would have to do. 

#

“Yes, she’s all right,” Cora said, when Robert returned to their bedroom.  “Very shaken, of course, but before he left Doctor Clarkson gave her something to let her rest.”

“Best thing for her.  And you’re sure the fellow didn’t….”

“I’m sure.”

“Good.”  He paused.  “You said Dr. Clarkson’s left?  I meant to ask him to look in on Thomas while he was here.”

“What happened to Thomas?”

“He had some hysterics of his own, when he realized Pamuk was dead.  Convinced himself he was going to the gallows for murder.”  He huffed.  “I’m not certain he wasn’t playing it up for attention, but even if he was, I suppose he’s entitled to some.  I’d better look in on him myself.”

“Won’t Carson have him in hand?”

“Carson doesn’t approve of him.”  Not that Robert precisely did, either, but if the previous night’s events didn’t prove he was solid, what would?  “I’ll try to see him before church.  Why don’t you give it a miss today?  I’ll see Napier off.”

“Won’t that just invite questions?  I’ll rest after he’s gone.”

“Whatever you think best.”

Robert rang for Bates early, and after deflecting his questions about the previous night’s excitement—“The less said about it, the better”—he made his way to the breakfast room while it was still being set up.  Thomas was present and accounted for, but looked pale and shaken—Robert was quite sure that if it was anyone else, Carson would have sent him to bed.  “Thomas, let me speak to you a moment.”

Silently, Thomas followed him to the small library. 

“I expect you’ve heard that Mr. Pamuk is, indeed, dead.”

“I did, my lord,” he said warily. 

“I explained the true circumstances to Dr. Clarkson, in confidence, but he quite understands that we do not wish to put Lady Mary through an inquest if it can be avoided—which will spare you, as well.  Once he’s made his examination and assured himself that it was a case of natural causes, he’ll make out the certificate as though Mr. Pamuk had died in his sleep.”

“I see, my lord.  That’s quite a relief.”

“A scandal will do none of us any good.  I trust I don’t need to tell you that this matter is not to be spoken of.”

“Of course.”

“And you’re bearing up all right?”

“My lord?”

“You’ve gotten over your fright?”

“Oh.  Yes.  I was a little shaken up; that’s all.” 

Thank goodness he wasn’t indulging in hysterics; it was bad enough when the housemaids did it.  “Why don’t you go and have a rest?”

“Thank you, my lord.  I’ll do that, if you’re sure it’s all right.”

He nodded.  “Send Mr. Carson in on your way up.”

When Carson came in, Robert provided him with a similar summary of Doctor Clarkson’s findings and intentions, and informed him that he’d given Thomas the day off.  “I’m surprised you didn’t think of it.   I can’t imagine he’d slept.”

Carson ignored the implied rebuke and said, “Very good, my lord.  Though I had thought to ask him what, precisely, he was doing in the bachelor corridor at that hour.”

Robert gave him a look.  “Let’s not look that particular gift horse in the mouth.  It turned out to be quite fortunate he was there.”

Carson opened his mouth, then closed it again.  “You know my feelings on the subject, my lord.”

“I do, but now I’m asking you to let it lie.  After last night, we owe him a debt of gratitude.  If he were to do anything obvious, that would be a different matter, but don’t try to catch him out.”

“….As you wish, my lord.”

#

By the time Thomas woke, he was groggy from too much sleep, and had to hurry to make himself presentable if he didn’t want to miss his tea. 

They were already sitting down when he got to the servants’ hall, and as he slipped into his place, Mr. Carson greeted him with a sarcastic, “So nice of you to join us, Thomas.”

“Yes, Mr. Carson.  Someone could have woken me,” he pointed out. 

“How nice of you to give your permission, now it’s too late.”

Stung, Thomas tried to explain, “I slept longer than I meant to, is all.”

“Don’t answer back.” 

He gave up, and ate his tea in silence. 

Afterwards, he escaped out into the courtyard for a smoke, joined a moment later by Miss O’Brien.  “So what was it that had both you and Lady Mary sleeping the day away?”

He’d have liked to tell her of the adventure—the semi-public version of it, at least, emphasizing his heroic role—but given that both his lordship and Mr. Carson had made such a point about it, he supposed he really couldn’t.  “No idea about Lady Mary,” he lied.  “But I was up quite early dealing with the matter of the Turkish gentleman, and they said I could go back to bed.  Wasn’t about to turn that down, was I?”

He’d thought that was a straightforward enough explanation to invite no questions, but O’Brien asked, “Why were you up early?”

“You know I was looking after him.”

“But I thought he died in his sleep.  How would anyone have noticed before it was time for him to get up?”

Damn.  He hadn’t thought of that.  Unable to think of a reason, he finally said, “It was a bit more complicated than that, but his lordship doesn’t want it spoken of.” 

“More complicated how?”  She assumed an expression of shock.  “You weren’t there when it happened?”

“I told you, I’m not supposed to talk about it.”

“What if I ask her ladyship?”

Her tone suggested that Thomas should want to avoid that, but he couldn’t think why.  “What if you do?” 

“I think I will.”

He shrugged.  “As long as it’s she who tells you, and not me, then there’s no harm in us talking about it betwixt ourselves afterward.” 

Only, he realized, he would have to be sure she really knew, before he opened his mouth—in her place, he’d not be above trying to get the story by pretending he already knew it. 

#

Mary was sitting in a chair by her window, paging idly through a book, when Anna tapped at the door and came in.  “I hope you’re feeling better, my lady,” she said.  “I came to ask if you’re going down to dinner.”

Laying the book aside, she said, “I suppose I had better.”  It was getting rather dull, staying in her room by herself all day.  “It’s just the family, isn’t it?  Everyone else has gone?”  She wasn’t sure she wanted to face Evelyn Napier. 

“They have.  Dr. Clarkson took away poor Mr. Pamuk,” Anna added, opening the wardrobe. 

“Just something simple,” Mary said.  “What are the servants saying about all that?”  She was worried about what that footman, Thomas, might have said.  Her memories of the night before were rather jumbled, but she thought he had corroborated her story about Pamuk’s precise position in the room at the time of his arrival.  Surely, having done so, he wouldn’t change his story—would he?

“Only that it’s such a shame, him being so young.”

“Is that all?”

“And so handsome,” Anna admitted.  “But Mr. Carson glowers whenever anyone mentions it, so there hasn’t been much talk, really.  Except for people wondering why he’s so keen to suppress the subject.” 

They must have hushed the whole thing up, Mary realized—not just where in her room he’d been, but that he’d been there at all.  “Anything about how he died?”

Anna gave her a curious look.  “In his sleep, Mr. Carson said.  You don’t think it was anything else, do you, my lady?”

She hesitated.  “Anna, if I tell you something, can you promise not to tell a soul?”  Anna would know if there was anything to worry about, vis-à-vis Thomas keeping his mouth shut. 

But Anna hesitated.  “As long as it’s not something Lord and Lady Grantham ought to know, my lady.”

“They already do.”  She’d stick to the parts they knew.  “The thing is, he burst in here, last night, just as I was about to go to sleep.”

“My lady!  Are you—did he—”

“No, he didn’t have time to do anything.  I cried out, and one of the footmen came right away.”

“Thomas, my lady?” Anna asked.

“Yes.  Why?  Has he said anything?”

“No—and that’s a surprise.  But he was excused from church and from serving at luncheon and tea today, and no one heard why.  We didn’t think he could be ill, as when he is, he makes sure everyone knows it.” 

“The truth is,” or nearly was, in any case, “that Mr. Pamuk had a sort of collapse, just as Thomas started to drag him—away.”  She’d very nearly said “off”; she must be more careful.  “It’s entirely possible he died right then.”

“How awful!” 

“It gave me quite a scare,” Mary admitted, raising her arms so that Anna could put on her corset, and instructing,  “Fasten it on the outer hooks tonight; I’m in no mood to suffer for the sake of beauty.  I hope we can rely on his discretion.”

Anna tsked, fastening the corset.  “He wouldn’t be my first choice, my lady, to keep a secret.  He likes to make himself seem important.  But I expect his lordship will have put the fear of God into him.”  Circling around to her front, Anna added, “Would you like me to say something to him, as well?”

“If you think it’ll help.”  Except what if it was Anna’s raising the subject that prompted him to reveal the part she’d so far managed to keep secret?  “No, I’ll make a point of thanking him, next opportunity I get.  Do you think that’ll be important enough for him?”  If it wasn’t, perhaps she could say something about owing him a favor, in thanks for both his rescue and his discretion—that ought to get the point across, shouldn’t it?

“I expect he’d appreciate that, my lady.”

“Then that’s what I’ll do.”

#

Thomas wished he could be surprised when Anna cornered him while he was changing his jacket after the upstairs dinner.   Everyone knew the young ladies told her things. 

“I hope you’re planning to keep your mouth shut,” she told him.

“About what?” he asked innocently. 

She gave him a withering look.  “You know what.  I’ll put this for you in terms you’ll understand.  Right now, Lady Mary is thankful for what you’ve done—and I imagine Lord and Lady Grantham are, too.  But if I know you, you’ve already thought up half a dozen clever ways to spoil it for yourself.  For your own good, don’t.”

“Spoil it how?”

“I don’t know—by dropping sly remarks and then hinting you’d like a rise in pay, or however it is your mind works.”

As a matter of fact, he hadn’t thought of that, but it didn’t seem a bad idea.  “Maybe I deserve one.  A raise, I mean.”

“They will see right through you, and nobody wants an extortionist in the house,” Anna said firmly.  “If you’re determined to get something out of it, wait until the next time you get in trouble, and I’ll get Lady Mary to put in a good word for you.”

“What makes you think I’m going to get in trouble?”

“Because you always do.”

“Only because Mr. Carson picks on me,” he muttered under his breath, childishly.

“What was that?”

“I said, only because Mr. Carson’s determined to see everything I do in the worst light.”  That was at least a more grown-up way of putting it. 

She sighed.  “I’m not saying he doesn’t, but the best thing for you to do now, is nothing.  D’you think you can manage that?”

“I think I can manage not to stand here and be insulted.”  He brushed past her.  Absolutely bloody typical—all he’d done was save Lady Mary from a fate worse than death, and all anybody could do about it was accuse him of things.  It would serve them all right if he wrote to the papers. 

Except, he realized halfway through smoking an angry cigarette in the courtyard, any scrutiny he invited on the matter could end up revealing the less-than-heroic portion of his role in the matter.  He wasn’t sure how—there was nobody alive to tell—but the way his luck went, Pamuk would return from the grave to accuse him, or something. 

No, Anna was right, if for the wrong reason.  He knew better than to think she cared one bit what was for his good, but in this case, what was good for Lady Mary was good for him, as well. 

#

The next day, shortly after the upstairs breakfast, Thomas was summoned to the small library.  He went up with some trepidation—he figured the best he could hope for was to be accused once again of plotting to slander Lady Mary’s good name all the way to John O’Groats, and this time he’d have to stand there and take it—but once he arrived, he found Lord Grantham talking to Dr. Clarkson, and a stab of real fear cut through his ordinary resentment.  What if they’d brought him up here to tell him he really had killed the Turk?

“—yes, I do think that’s for the best,” his lordship was saying.  “Thomas.”  He beckoned him over.  “Dr. Clarkson’s just delivered his findings, and as you were worried, I asked him to explain it to you.”

Slightly off-balance, Thomas said, “Thank you, my lord.” 

“I’ll leave you to it,” he told Clarkson, and left. 

“Well,” Dr. Clarkson said with a smile, “I’m pleased to say that you definitely did not kill Mr. Pamuk.” 

Did he think it was funny, that Thomas had thought—just for a moment—that he had?  “Yes, sir.  I realized once I’d had time to think about it that there wasn’t much of a chance I had.  What did happen to him?”

“A blood vessel burst, in his brain.”

“Does that just happen, on its own?” Thomas wondered.

“It can—and in this case, apparently did.  Bleeding into the brain is often caused by a blow to the head, but there’s no sign of that.”

“So it just…happened to burst right then?”

“That part is hard to say.  It may have been what you could call a slow leak, in which the blood began gradually to seep out of the blood vessel.  In that event, Mr. Pamuk would have grown increasingly impaired, as the pressure built up in the surrounding tissue.   He may, in that case, have left his bedroom in search of aid, and simply blundered into the family quarters as his confusion mounted.”

That, Thomas thought, was extremely unlikely, since he had been perfectly sensible when Thomas turned up to show him the way.  But he asked, “Could anything have been done, sir?  If I—or anyone—had found him sooner?”

“I’m afraid not,” said Mr. Clarkson.  “We might have been able to make his final moments more comfortable, but that’s all.” 

“I see.”

“And the other possibility is that the blood vessel may have burst quite suddenly, in which case he would have known nothing after that moment, even if his heart may have continued to beat for a few minutes more.  In that case, the immediate cause may have been a moment of stress.”

“What sort of stress?” Thomas wondered. 

 “Physical or emotional—that is, fighting against your grip, or the surprise of being caught—or even the excitement of being, er, where he was—could have contributed to it happening just then.  However, the ultimate cause in such cases—where there isn’t an external injury—is a weakness in the blood vessel itself.  It could just as easily have given out while he was hunting that afternoon, or if he hurried to catch the train the next day.  But it would have happened soon no matter what anyone did or didn’t do.  Do you understand?”

“I do.”  He nodded.  “Thank you, for taking the time to explain it.” 

“Of course.” 

Thomas saw him out, and then headed back downstairs, feeling somewhat better about the world.  Not that he’d really been worried, not anymore, but it was good of his lordship to remember that he had been.  Even if it had only been for a moment. 

He didn’t have long to enjoy the novel pleasure of someone sparing a thought for his feelings.  No sooner did his foot hit the bottom of the stairs than Mr. Carson was interrogating him about what Dr. Clarkson had wanted with him, and not believing the answer when Thomas told him.

“Why would the results of his examination be any of your business?”

“His lordship asked him to tell me,” Thomas said, as patiently as he could.

“Why would he do that?”

“So I would know I hadn’t killed him.  And very kind of him, I thought.”

A series of pained expressions passed over Carson’s face.  “You aren’t still worried about that, are you?”

“Not anymore.” 

He escaped, and was out in the courtyard having a smoke when Miss O’Brien joined him.  “What were you doing following the Turk around the corridors in the middle of the night?” she demanded, without preamble.

“Yes, I am bearing up all right, thank you for asking,” he said pointedly.  Honestly, what good was it having her for a friend if she wasn’t going to treat him any better than anyone else did?

“Only I don’t think it’s occurred to her ladyship to wonder about that, yet, but you might do well to have an answer ready.”

“I do,” Thomas answered.

“What is it?”

In a better mood, Thomas might have told her, but instead retorted, “I imagine if her ladyship ever asks, you can winkle it out of her.”   

“I was only trying to help,” O’Brien said, in an injured tone.  “In case you wanted to rehearse your story.”

“Doesn’t take much rehearsal to tell the truth,” he pointed out. 

“From you, I’d think that would take more rehearsal than anything else.”

Thomas had just enough self-possession to realize that, in the mood she was in, anything he said might well make its way to Mr. Carson.  In lieu of a response, he dropped his cigarette, half-smoked, stamped it out, and strode off. 

A short while later, he was up in the library replacing the decanters—recently refilled by Mr. Carson—when Lady Mary came in.  He was about to slip away, but she said, “Oh, good.  I was hoping to run into you.”

Keeping the entirely-justified wariness out of his tone, he said, “My lady?”

“I just wanted to make sure you know how grateful I am for your intervention, the other night.”

Oh.  “Of course.  I only wish I could have stopped him a bit sooner.” 

“Perhaps then the poor man would still be alive,” she mused.

“Dr. Clarkson thinks not, my lady.” 

“Oh?  What did he say?”

Thomas hesitated. 

“I suppose they think I’m too delicate for any details, but I’d feel better knowing.”

Abruptly, it occurred to him that she might have had the same fear he had—that she’d inadvertently done something to kill Mr. Pamuk.  But she wouldn’t be able to say it, because she’d claimed he never touched her.  “Ah, he said that it was a weakened blood vessel in his brain, which was bound to burst sooner or later.” 

“It would be better for us all if it had been either sooner or later,” Lady Mary said.  “Anywhere but at Downton.”

“Yes, my lady.”

“Still, if it was bound to happen, there’s no reason anyone needs to know where he was or what he was doing at the fated moment.” 

“None at all,” Thomas agreed.  “In fact, Dr. Clarkson suggested it might well have happened some minutes earlier—enough time for him to have realized something was wrong, and left his room to look for help, but he’d have quickly become too confused to know where he was.”  Lady Mary would know as well as he did that that wasn’t what had happened, but surely that was the most convenient explanation for both of them.  

“That does explain rather a lot,” she said.  “I can’t imagine why else he’d have turned up in my room.”

“No, my lady.”

“Well,” she said, with a condescending smile, “You didn’t know at the time that he was at death’s door—and nor did I—so I still appreciate it.  As well as your discretion.  You must let me know if there’s any way I can repay the favor.” 

Did she think him an extortionist, as Anna had said?  “You’re very kind, but I was happy to do it.” 

“I’ll let you get back to your work.”

Finally.   He stood stiffly until she’d gone, then escaped downstairs.