(Set between 3.05 and 3.06. I’ve never written Mrs. Hughes before, so hopefully it’s alright. :)
Elsie Hughes sighed wearily as she forced her heavy feet to carry her towards the stairs, the tray of dinner that Lord Granthom most likely wouldn’t touch balanced carefully in her hands. It had been a sad time for everyone under Downton’s roof. The loss of Lady Sybil had left not a signle soul unaffected. As for herself, Elsie was sure she hadn’t had a proper hour’s rest since hearing the awful news. After three days of working constantly on preparations for the funeral luncheon with a heavy heart and far too little sleep, she felt nearly dead on her feet.
Another sigh escaped her as Lady Mary approached her, appearing as regal and composed as ever. As cold and undeserving as she had always thought the earl’s eldest daughter to be, Elsie couldn’t overlook the deep sadness in those wide brown eyes. She supposed some credit could be given for that, at least. Lady Mary might not be the most deserving of the Crawley girls - that honor fell squarely on the shoulders of the one who was now with the Lord - but she wasn’t completely without emotion.
"Mrs. Hughes," Lady Mary greeted her politely. "How is everyone downstairs holding up? I know it’s been a great shock to all."
Elsie’s eyebrows shot up at the unexpected kindness, and answered with more openness than she might otherwise have used with Lady Mary. “We’re all heartbroken, milady. But, there’s much to be done. Lady Sybil deserves the best farewell we can give her.”
"Thank you for that," Lady Mary responded genuinely, earning a small smile from the
housekeeper. “Is that for his lordship?” the younger woman asked, gesturing to the tray in Elsie’s hands.
"It is, Lady Mary, though I haven’t much faith that he’ll touch a bite. His breakfast and tea trays came back without so much as a crumb out of place."
"I’ll take it to him. You have your hands full with plans for the luncheon, and I’d like to see him. Perhaps I can encourage him to take some nourishment."
Surprised and deeply touched by the lady’s evident concern for her father, Elsie responded, “I think your company would do him a world of good, Lady Mary, if you don’t mind my saying so. I’ll just carry this up for you.”
"Oh, there’s no need for that. I don’t mind taking it." Lady Mary put out her hands, gently taking the tray from Elsie. "You have enough to manage as it is."
"Thank you, milady." Elsie smiled genuinely up at the young woman before her, feeling more charitable towards her than she ever had. "It’s too good of you. And, might I say again how very, very much Lady Sybil will be missed."
"Thank you, Mrs. Hughes. That means a great deal…to all of us."
Elsie watched as Lady Mary turned to go, a smile that was almost fond tugging at her wrinkled cheeks. She turned to acknowledge Mr. Carson as he stepped up beside her, his face full of the usual affection as he too watched Lady Mary disappear up the stairs.
"I’ve never understood what you saw in that young lady, Mr. Carson," she whispered, her voice thick with emotion, "but I may have just seen a glimpse of it."