15. Gossip

“I can’t do this anymore,” Phillip cried, running his hands through his hair.

Peter watched him and was almost afraid of his brother’s actions; Phillip tugged at his hair in a way so strongly that he was almost pulling it out.

“You’ve got to! Come on, Phillip, march in there and show them that you will carry on as normal.”

“That’s just the thing. I can’t. I cannot even look any of them in the eye.” Phillip sighed. “I can barely look at you…. The only thing that keeps me going is the support that you are giving me. Hah.”

“Of course. You’ll always have me on side. That’s what brothers are for.”

“Yes, you’d think that…”

It didn’t take Peter any brains to realise that Phillip was talking about Ryan’s betrayal. Peter didn’t understand Ryan himself, or why any man would do a trick like that.

Beth watched the brothers from afar. She hated to admit that seeing them so close gave her a feeling of jealously deep inside. She would have given a lot in that moment to join their embrace.

“Go and lie down. Things will be better in the morning.”
”Not if I can’t see Aidelle; things will never get better otherwise. I’m going up to the attic. Don’t think that I’ll be able to sleep, but I’ll be there if you want to talk.”

Peter sighed, knowing that his argument was lost.

“Okay, but try to cool down, please, brother.”

Phillip ignored him and dragged himself up the small staircase that was at the back of the mansion. He didn’t look back, merely studying his feet reaching up the stairs. Peter didn’t know for certain, but his brother was probably shedding a tear.

Beth stood awkwardly, until Phillip’s echoing footsteps were gone into the distant cloisters. She walked forward, out of the shadows, and placed a hand on Peter’s shoulder.

“Are you okay? I- I’m sorry about what happened back there. Your sister’s words surprised me.”

Peter smiled at the maid, albeit a bit sadly.

“She startled me too. How was I supposed to know that she was going to ask me about my relationships? Aimee can be very unpredictable like that.”

“It’s lovely about Mrs. Aimee’s news. Benjamin’s temperament will make him the perfect father again.”

Suddenly, Peter scowled.

“And how would you know?” He snapped.

Beth stepped back, shocked.

“I’ve lived here as long as you,” she gasped, “I watched Benjamin as he grew up, just as you did, and I can make my own judgements…sir.”

Beth took a step back, and instantly Peter was aware of how suspicious he had been. She’d never called him ‘sir’ when they were alone before.

“Oh, Beth, I’m sorry. I’m turning into one of my brothers…”

“Of course you aren’t, sir,” Beth whispered, “It’s just the stress…sir.”

She started to shake and turned away, preparing to head back to the servants’ kitchen. Peter ran to her and clutched an arm.

“Please wait, Beth! I’m sorry. What have I done?”

He turned her around and was surprised to see the tears glistening in her eyes.

“Beth…”
”I’m sorry, sir…” She wrenched her arm from his grip and started to walk away, but was quickly pulled back, once again, by Peter, who tried to embrace her.

Unbeknownst to them, one of the other scullery maids had exited the dining room, trying to skirt around the interrogation currently going on inside. She had picked up the discarded plates, inquired at whether the other two courses were going to be served, and, on receiving a sharp negative, made a hasty exit.

The old maid narrowed her eyes and watched as the scene between Peter and Beth unfolded.

The End

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