12. Butler [II]

With a post-war squint in one eye, Richards surveyed the brothers with a bit of concern; they had no reason to be down there, unless there was bad news to bring.

“Sirs? How may I help you?” Luckily, the butler had the cunning ability to conceal any worry from his voice.

“Richards…” Peter, lacking in much height compared with the butler’s lean size, tried to wrap his arm around Richards’ shoulder, a gesture that received a confused and unsure glance not from Phillip, but from Richards himself. The butler pulled away and, giving a swift look to Peter, led the men through the servants’ kitchen and various other dull rooms and corridors (which Phillip compared greatly with the wallpapered hallways upstairs, and was shocked at how plain the ones downstairs were), into a little room that Richards announced as his office. Phillip wouldn’t have said the same about the tiny, dark room, with one wooden desk and chair, an old-fashioned telephone, some hooks nailed unsteadily to the wall, in order to hang up coats next to the door, and the lack of any windows, so that the flickering bulb was the only source of light: an orange glow.

Once Phillip had stopped staring and been given the use of the chair by both his younger brother and his servant, Richards shut the door with a soft click, and shut out the busy outside world.

As with most of his movements, it was not slow, but it was deliberated and not a rushed movement; Richards tried to be gentle and unassuming as often as he could.

“So…gentlemen? May I ask to what I am owed the pleasure of a personal visit?” Richards turned his beady grey eyes onto Phillip and Peter.

“Well…” Peter spoke first, “As I started to say a minute ago…” He stopped. “And if you had let me finish, we wouldn’t have had to walk all the way over here.”

(Richards hung his head, but Phillip shot Peter an angry glance; the older brother may have been suffering so much at that moment, but he could still dish out the ‘rules of being polite’ when he wanted to).

“We need your help…” Peter continued.

“Of course. Whatever I can do, sir.”

“Well, to be honest, it is a bit of an…interesting matter-”

“Am I to understand, then, that this is a matter of delicacy?”

“Well, yes, frankly. And, I would prefer it if Dr and Mrs. Costello were kept in the dark about all of this.”
Phillip watched as Richards features twitched in the tangerine fade; the butler would not be happy keeping things from his main master and mistress, but he would not disobey a direct order either.

The End

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