Hands in his pockets, Peter stomped in. He froze when he slumbering Phillip, leaning against the wall as dark as the evening outside, with his head on his chest.
Sighing with relief, Peter gazed at his brother, safe and almost calm in his sleep. He smiled and turned away, beginning to climb out of the attic via the narrow steps. Peter also began to wonder what he should do next; would he be caught if he ventured to find Beth in the servants’ quarters of the house?
“Peter. A word.”
Peter jolted back to his surroundings. Having walked half-way down the stairs, he could see Benjamin on the bottom steps, hands on his hips. Ryan and Dr. Costello entered the room (from the dining hall), surprised to see the other boys also taking the back route across the mansion.
Each man glared at another; suspicion lay like a mine-field. Benjamin theatrically lifted his right hand up gesturing to Peter, who was frozen, like a rabbit in headlights, half-way up the lesser stairwell.
“Come down, Peter. I gather Phillip is up there?” He shot Ryan a nervous glance, “I need to speak to you about him. And to speak to him myself, if that’s alright.”
Hesitantly, Peter continued walking downstairs, but he stopped with a couple of steps to go. Peter knew of the bombardment that was going to come.
“So, Peter,” Benjamin continued, hanging onto the banister, “Where did Phillip disappear for two full hours? Were you with him then?”
“I’ll tell you all where they were,” interrupted Ryan, “In the servants’ quarters.”
“Be quiet. Anyway- wait- what?”
Ryan basked in the silence that he had created, pulling it out for as long as he dared to aggravate them.
“That’s right. They went down through the pantry, and let Butler Richards take them off somewhere secretive.”
Benjamin turned his head, shocked.
“Is this true, Peter?”
“It wasn’t anything ‘secretive’,” Peter objected.
“So…you admit that you went down to talk with the servants?”
Peter hesitated, knowing that he was gridlocked.
“And you dragged poor Phillip down with you?”
“I- no, of course not. I, just- I didn’t-”
“Two hours with the servants. Imagine that, father,” Ryan pretended to be shocked.
Dr. Costello scowled.
“Peter, how could you do something so stupid? After all we have taught you about...” He flapped his arms around, trying to think of the missing word.
“Fraternising.” Ryan pointed out.
“Thank you. After all we have taught you about fraternising with the servants. You just want to throw my teaching back in my face, and ruin our family further!”
“Father… It was necessary…”
“Nothing is necessary! Except lavish survival.”
“You’ve been listening to him too much,” Peter bitterly snapped.
Dr. Costello bubbled with anger. He pointed a large finger up at his youngest son.
“You- What would need with the servants anyway? Just for that you’re grounded.”
“Grounded? But- Phillip- I…”
“You’ll stay in the main part of the house; stay away from the servants’ quarters, and you’ll remain indoors or in the grounds.”
“Yes, because where would he go anyway?” Ryan sneered, “Out at night?”
Peter scowled down at him, but then he turned his attentions to his restricting father.
“But, father, there are things that I need to do.”
“Not down in the servants’ quarters there isn’t. We all saw that young maid; they’re making you soft.”
“Don’t argue, Peter,” Dr. Costello and Ryan chastised at the same time. They looked at each other and smiled, before Dr. Costello turned and led his ‘favourite son’ back through the dining room.