Male/Male
Thomas Barrow, Andy Parker, Daisy Mason/Parker, Original Characters, Downton Abbey AU
Title: Christmas at Yew Tree Farm
Length: 5 Chapters


Chapter Three

Thomas woke early the next morning to the muffled sounds of conversation floating up the stairs from the kitchen, but by the time he got ready and went down the only person he found was Daisy.

"Tea or coffee?" she asked over her shoulder from the stove. "There's both."

"Coffee I think," he answered as he picked up the pot that sat on the stove beside her. "The boys out with the animals?"

"They eat first," she laughed, "then us. Cow needs milked too."

Thomas sat down at the table and stirred some sugar into his coffee.

"The place keeps them busy. And you want more?"

"Andy does. He says it's the only way forward. I agree, still I worry like he does that it will be all too much. Both of them work hard, but there are only so many hours in the day."

"You'll need help if you get the other properties."

"I can't see how we won't. More than tripling the land; growing crops, more livestock. Andy knows it too. At least a full time man."

"But you're still going to do it."

Daisy moved the frying pan to one side and turned to him.

"It's security, Thomas. For us, but more for Ronnie. A farm this size can struggle, particularly now that we own it and aren't just tenants. We don't have money like the Crawleys do to fall back on to take any loss."

"But you need money to get them?"

"Yes, a down payment on the one we're buying, but the new pigs will cost the most up front. Andy has gone to the bank; we put together a plan showing how we can easily pay it back. Now we're just waiting. One good thing is that we were told that no one but us has shown any interest and the land agent said he would let us know if that changed. We may be the only ones, but that still doesn't mean they will be ours if we don't have that money."

"Are there buildings on them?"

"A good house and a decent barn on one, just some old sheds on the other that we plan on using for crops."

"So you could rent the house out."

"I said we should use it for the hired man. Free rent, less wages."

"Smart."

"Why, thank you. Not just Daisy the kitchen maid anymore."

Thomas smiled as she turned back to the stove.

He was just finishing his coffee when Andy and Ronnie returned. While they cleaned up, Daisy put the food on the plates and set them on the table as they sat down.

Thomas looked around at them all.

"Happy Christmas everyone. And thank you for inviting me once again."

Andy grinned as he reached over to clap him on the shoulder. "Seems like it wouldn't really be Christmas without you."
Their plates were cleared, dishes done - this time Thomas had insisted on drying - and the presents opened before 9 o'clock. They all sat in front of the fire once again, but this time they had sherry and not mulled cider. Daisy's Christmas cake - Mrs. Patmore's recipe - was cut in pieces on a plate that they passed around.

"So, Andy, do you feel like a drive?" Thomas asked as he drank the last of his sherry. "Want to show me these farms you're looking at? I think I know the ones but it's been a while."

"I can show you, Uncle Thomas."

"Thanks, Ronnie, but I think I would like Andy to. As long as he has the time."

"Of course I'll take you. We could just walk to the one, but it's a bit cold for that. It's not that far to either of them so we should only be a half hour or so. There's nothing pressing with the animals anyway. Grab your coat and put on those boots again while I get the truck started."

As Thomas settled into the seat beside Andy he realised that what he was going to do might seem like betraying Robbie's confidence, but he had sensed last night both that Robbie knew this conversation was going to take place and that Andy wouldn't be too surprised.

"I talked to Ronnie last night," he said, trying to sound as casual as he could.

"I figured you would."

"He's going to need your support."

"So it's what I thought then."

Thomas noted that he hadn't said feared.

"In the end he'll have to find his own way. All you can do is help where you can. If it eventually means talking, unlikely as I think that will be for a while, then be prepared; if it's silence then you need to accept that."

"We just want him to be happy. Can he be?"

"You're asking the wrong person, Andy, but Ronnie isn't me. I'd like to think he'll have the chance, but he doesn't believe that, not yet anyway."

They pulled into the laneway of the first farm and came to a stop in front of the house.

"It's hard, Thomas. You want to protect them, even when they're grown up like Ronnie. You try your best to ensure that they get every opportunity you can give them."

"And that's what these farms are about, right?"

"Yes. It would have been for the both of them, but now it's only for him."

"Daisy says you've gone to the bank."

"Does she now. Oh well, if she can't tell you then who. Yes, we need £200 for the down payment and for the pigs. I'd like some extra for odds and ends, but that's a nice round number. It's still a lot of money for people like us. The Crawleys will let us pay the rest out of the earnings and the tenancy is just rent, but at first all that will have to come from the earnings of our own farm. We could manage it without too much difficulty for about a year and by then this farm will be making money."

"But none of it really matters now." He sighed and shrugged. "I haven't told Daisy, but the bank already said no."

"What? Why keep it from her?"

"It's Christmas, Thomas. Her first one without Danny; that's bad enough. I'll tell her later this week."

As they got out of the truck, Thomas looked around.

"This is old Reilly's place, isn't it?"

"That's right. Not much to see at the other property so I thought we would just come here. This was a pig farm too until he had his stroke last year. His sister sold off everything and moved him to a home, but I can get enough pigs to more than make a go of it, they're good breeding stock too. It would have been ideal.

"Use me as your bank."

"What?"

"We'll write up an agreement. I'll charge you whatever the bank would have."

"I couldn't do that."

"Why not."

"It's your money."

"Same terms as the bank, you give me the same guarantee. And I get interest. I donít see a problem."

"But if it all goes wrong before we pay it off, we'll lose you as a friend. I don't want that."

"Do you put a price on friendship, Andy? I definitely don't. Do you really believe that I would look at you and Daisy and the boys and ask how much you're worth to me? What would I say to myself? 'Oh, I guess £200 on a good day sounds about right. I could throw that away on them, not a penny more though.' You mustn't think very much of me if you believe that I would let the possibility of losing money come between us."

"I didn't mean it that way, Thomas."

"That's really how it sounded."

"But do you have that to spare right now?"

"Would I offer it if I didn't?"

"I need to talk to Daisy," Andy said quietly.

"Of course." Thomas got the impression that he had begun to consider the idea seriously.

"Let's go inside. I still have a key. Daisy used to check on Mr. Reilly every day before his stroke, just to make sure he was all right, sometimes she would bring him dinner. She didn't like him living alone. And now we help keep an eye on the place for the land agent."

Andy lit a portable lamp and they spent a few minutes going through the house. It needed a good cleaning, lots of paint, a few panes of glass and some wall patching, but Daisy was right that it was liveable.

"Daisy says you would give this to the hired man."

"She told you that as well did she. Quite talkative when she wants to be. Yes, and it has the barn so it makes sense."

"When will you hire?"

"As soon as we can after we get the properties. There's a lot of work to do so we can get running as soon as possible. Idle farms only lose money; the longer they're idle, the more they lose and we can't afford that.

"We'll have to pay him of course and that will come out of our own farm as well until this one starts earning. But he'll live free and Daisy will make sure that he gets all his meals with us - she cooks like Danny's still here anyway - so we'll end up with a good but fair deal."

"So you should be looking."

"We don't have the farms yet."

"But you will and soon. Don't wait to tell Daisy next week, do it tonight after dinner and explain what I'm offering. At the same time tell her that I'm not taking no for an answer."

He paused then sat down on the corner of an old table that had been abandoned in the corner of the room.

"No, don't say that. Tell her I just want to talk to her before she says no. But you and Ronnie need to be somewhere else so we can be alone."

When they left the house they spent a few minutes looking around the barn before climbing back into the truck and heading down the laneway back to Yew Tree.
£200 may not sound like a lot, but with a bit of research I found one estimate that £1 in the early 50's would be equivalent to about £22 today. And from an article in The Telegraph, which is probably more relatable, "This has, of course, been reflected in average wages. In 1952 men earned an average £9 a week, and women received just £5."