There was a slightly stunned silence after Charles finished his speech. The assembled household staff and family members, blinking slowly at Charles, as he told them the news that Smythes would be departing his service at the house and partaking in a tour of the empire, paid for by the estate as his retirement gift.

Charles sensed the change.

“So please join me in wishing Smythes a long and happy retirement, with a round of applause.”

It took three claps before anyone else began clapping along and even then it was a subdued effort. Slowly the staff left with Smythes, to have their own celebration in the kitchen below stairs, leaving Charles alone with his siblings.

“For god’s sake why, dear brother, have you let Smythes go?” Kate said between pursed lips. “He is the only one that knows how this house runs.”

“It is my house and I don’t trust him. He was my father’s man, not mine, we are in the 20th century now, it is time for this house to get a new man, for this century. It is my choice and I will make sure we get a good replacement. That is the end of it.”

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