Previously on The Duchess of Duke Street: Louisa almost worked herself to death trying to pay off Gus’s debts and was rescued by the very timely re-introduction of Charlie Tyrell, erstwhile seducer of maids and rescuer of red-headed damsels in distress. He bought out the lease on The Bentink, filled it with fancy stuff, and proudly stood by with champagne as Louisa relaunched.
Charlie’s helping Louisa vet inquiries for rooms as she fusses around with some flowers and comments that there have been lots of inquiries but nobody’s actually checked in yet. Charlie easily says it’ll take time and she shouldn’t worry. Particularly since he’s talking the place up with all his high-class buddies.
Louisa changes the subject to a dinner party Charlie’s going to be hosting and hands over the rather rich-sounding menu (just what the heck is quail pudding?). Charlie only has one request: no garlic in anything. Uh huh. I guess we know what kind of dinner party this is. And Louisa knows too. Charlie starts talking about his guest—she’s married to an officer in the army and dances divinely. It’s kind of cute how they can talk about these things without any real judgment or anything on her part. They really do have a nice best friends vibe now.
Charlie takes off to buy a new waistcoat for the evening, and Mary comes hurrying in to tell Louisa that there’s a guest out in the hall. Louisa glances through the drapes at an older, distinguished-looking man accepting a letter from Starr. Starr himself reports to Louisa that the man is Major Smith-Barton who seems like a gentleman. Plus, there was a coronet on the envelope of the letter he received at the hotel, which means he knows some people who are pretty high up there. Louisa tells Starr to show the Major in, and Starr does so. The guests have to go through a whole interview process? No wonder nobody’s come to stay yet—who wants that kind of stress on their vacation?
The Major wins Louisa over by complimenting her cooking, namedropping an aristocratic cousin, and not being demanding at all. Louisa shows him back out to the foyer and tells Starr the Major will be in Room 11. As she shows the Major up to his room, he keeps buttering her up, praising the staff. Merriman joins Starr in the foyer and they talk a little about the new guest. Merriman comments on the Major’s request to have all his meals in his room, which Merriman thinks isn’t gentlemanly (apparently, in his world, a gentleman wouldn’t have his lunch at the hotel).
Later, Louisa and Merriman are finishing setting up for Charlie’s dinner party. She fires off a few last-minute instructions, finishing with an order for Merriman not to hang around after they’re done eating.
Downstairs, Starr and the Major are reading a racing newspaper and talking about the odds for a race the following day. Their discussion is interrupted by the arrival of a lovely young lady who says she’s Mrs. Travers, and she’s there to eat with Charlie. Mary shows the young woman upstairs. Starr and the Major make some crude racing-related remarks regarding the young woman as soon as she’s gone.
Mrs. T arrives at Charlie’s room, where she accepts a glass of champagne and chats about how nice the hotel is. The two of them have a really annoying almost baby-talk way of speaking with one another that grates on my nerves like you wouldn’t believe. Charlie rings for dinner, and when Merriman opens the doors to the private dining room, she suddenly realizes that this is a dinner party for only two, something she’d failed to note earlier. She firmly tells Charlie that this simply won’t do and that her husband would shoot Charlie if he knew. Charlie apologizes, and she accepts, but leaves immediately. Merriman instantly starts snuffing the candles. Heh.
In the kitchen, Louisa and Mrs. Wilkin are working on pies (guess she still has that deal with the grocer, then) when Merriman comes down. Louisa demands to know what he’s doing there, when he’s supposed to be serving dinner upstairs.
He evidently spills the whole story, because she’s soon upstairs with Charlie, crowing a bit about his failure. Louisa’s proud of the girl for turning him down, and to be honest, so am I. They joke about the whole thing for a few minutes, and then Charlie urges Louisa to join him for dinner instead. She tries to turn him down, but even she can’t resist the clarion call of her own cooking, so she goes to “tart herself up” as Charlie asks Merriman for a couple more bottles of wine.
With Mary, Louisa gets herself really dressed up, and even puts on the necklace Charlie gave her ages ago, even though it totally doesn’t match the dress.
Back in Charlie’s rooms, the pair sits down to dinner, after enjoying a glass of pink champagne. Louisa asks Charlie what he’d talk about, if she were his real date. He prefers to start off with the weather, because it could give him an excuse to hold her hand, if she were cold. Louisa giggles.
In the kitchen, Mrs. Wellkin bitches about Louisa leaving her to cook the whole dinner and figures she’ll complain about everything.
Doubtful, because when we go back upstairs, Louisa’s sounding a bit tipsy. She and Charlie have moved on to making fun of Mrs. T’s annoying baby talk. Louisa excuses herself for a moment and returns with an immense meringue-type dessert crowned with a marzipan swan and surrounded by flaming fruit.
Later, Louisa and Charlie are clearly deep into the wine, loudly singing together as Charlie plays his piano (hey, he learned! Well done, Charlie!) Louisa has quite a nice voice, I must say. They finish the song and Louisa flops onto a sofa and says she should probably be on her way. Charlie starts to flirt with her, in an adorably exaggerated way, but then things start to get a bit serious, and when Charlie mentions that his charms don’t always work; that sometimes his lady-love says her carriage is waiting, Louisa meaningfully whispers that she doesn’t have a carriage. The camera lingers on their hands, clasped in Louisa’s lap, for a while.
The following day, Merriman heads into the kitchen, where he gets an earful from Mrs. Wellkin, who’s pissed because Louisa now wants her to cover the work for some big dinner party that night.
Later, Merriman’s in some sort of staff dining room when Starr comes in and reports that Louisa’s in a terrible mood. Ohhh, was Charlie, uh, lacking? Merriman reports that Louisa spent the night in a bed not her own, wink wink, but the gossip session ends abruptly when Mary enters and tells Starr the Major was telling her all about how he fought the “pythons” in India. Starr corrects that to “patans,” I think, and then makes a crack about the Welsh that I think is pretty unnecessary.
Upstairs, Louisa’s at work in her office when Charlie comes swirling in. Oh dear. She shortly greets him and bites his head off when he invites her to lunch. Poor Charlie backs off and looks hurt, like a frightened puppy. Awww. Merriman enters with tea and she screams at him for a while too. Once he goes, though, she crumbles a little and starts to freak out about possibly getting a reputation for sleeping with her customers. Well, Louisa, that would require two things: Charlie talking (which we know he wouldn’t do) and you actually sleeping with other customers. I don’t think Charlie counts as a customer; he’s the hotel’s owner. Charlie comforts her, but she tells him this can’t continue. He asks her if she really wants to stop, and she admits she doesn’t, but we can’t always have what we want, can we? She sends him on his way so she can get to work and he leaves, still sad puppy.
Late that night, Louisa returns from the dinner just as Starr’s locking up. When she goes into her office, she finds a bouquet of roses and a note from, presumably, Charlie that just says “I love you.” She looks touched.
Charlie’s still up, smoking in his room in a dressing gown and pajamas. He tosses the cigarette into the fire, and then starts when he sees Louisa standing in the doorway, hair down, in her nightie. She comes in without a word, and they kiss.
Hey, the hotel’s got guests now! A middle-aged pair is just coming down the stairs as Louisa comes into the foyer, trailed by Charlie, who’s carrying a bunch of bags and boxes from a recent shopping trip. Louisa hands a box to Starr—“something for Fred”—and then sends Charlie upstairs with the purchases while she goes to deal with a request for a dinner from the German embassy. She tells Merriman she can’t do it, because she’s going to the theater that night to see The Country Girl. Heh. She says Mrs. Wellkin can do it instead. I’m sure she’ll be delighted.
Out in the foyer, Starr unwraps Fred’s gift—chocolate cake, Fred’s favorite! Chocolate cake? Is Louisa trying to kill this dog?
In the kitchen, Mrs. Wellkin is, predictably, screeching about having to do the embassy dinner. She’s also not keen on this relationship between Louisa and Charlie, since it’s saddling her with a lot more work. Fair enough.
In Charlie’s room, Louisa tries on a new hat and dances around the room. She’s practically giddy—we’ve never seen her this way. It’s pretty sweet, actually. Charlie watches her, pleased and amused. They flirt and kiss and then Louisa manages to scandalize him by suggesting an afternooner.
In the staff dining room or pantry or whatever it is, Mary gossips with Merriman about Louisa’s new amour. Merriman thinks it’s bad for the hotel, because it’ll distract Louisa. He’s not wrong—we’ve already seen it start.
In the foyer, Starr greets an incoming guest who demands a room. Starr tells the man he’ll have to meet with Louisa first, but she’s not there. The man gets snippy and hands over his card, which reveals that he was a lord whom Louisa would have been happy to have, and informs Starr he won’t be staying there ever. Starr apologizes profusely as the man leaves. The Major, who witnessed the whole thing, tells him not to sweat it, it’s not his fault Louisa’s so damn particular and isn’t around much.
That evening, the Major pays Charlie a visit, and after some chatter about some kid he went to school with who bullied the Major and, later, his company in the army, he gets to why he’s really there: he’s worried that Louisa’s too distracted to run the hotel right. He tells Charlie that the servants are complaining, and Starr and Mrs. Wellkin might leave, along with the Major himself. He’s definitely got Charlie’s attention; Charlie seems sorry to hear this. The Major moves on to ask about Charlie’s father and learns the man hasn’t been well since falling from his horse a couple of months back. Charlie mentions his father’s heading to New York soon, to see another doctor. His point made, the Major finishes his port and bids Charlie good night.
Some time later, Louisa and Mary are in Louisa’s office, and she’s giving Mary instructions about some incoming guests. Louisa also mentions that Charlie’s going away with his family and will be gone indefinitely. Mary leaves, and Louisa sits down at her desk, where her face collapses a bit as she gazes at a framed photograph of Charlie.
Presumably later that day, Louisa emerges from her office just as Charlie’s leaving. He bids everyone but her farewell, which seems strange, and she returns to her office and starts to cry brokenheartedly once she’s alone.
Things are calmer at the hotel. The Major comes down and chats about Fred with Starr for a while, then asks Starr to place a bet for him. Tellingly, he asks Starr to advance him the money for the bet, which is a red flag if ever I heard one. In return, the Major promises Starr 50% of the winnings. Starr agrees, because what else is he going to do?
The Major leaves him and goes in to have a word with Louisa. He needs to ask her a favor. She immediately guesses it’s about money, because he hasn’t paid his bill, and he reassures her he’ll get things sorted out as quickly as he can, and he understands if she wants to kick him out. Louisa’s in one of her nice moods and tells him he’s welcome to stay, because they’ve got plenty of other guests who are paying, so his one unpaid bill won’t ruin them or anything. Besides, the place wouldn’t be the same without him. He thanks her sweetly and accepts her offer of a glass of wine. As she prepares to pour it, he asks if she’s heard from Charlie. She’s gotten a postcard, which explains her good mood
In the pantry, Starr’s grooming Fred and telling Mary the Major’s short of cash, he’s seen this scenario before. Mary asks Merriman if this is true and Merriman says it probably is. There are some people who just never seem to have any cash available, and the Major’s one of them.
Louisa’s depression soon returns, and she finds herself in Charlie’s room, playing with the piano. Mary interrupts her, and Louisa decides she’s the girl to spill to. Louisa’s pregnant (and thankfully, they didn’t draw this out or beat around the bush with it, like they do in most TV shows and movies. She just says it flat out, which is so her.) Mary’s shocked and asks her what she plans to do. Louisa plans to have it secretly and give it up. She makes Mary swear not to tell anyone and informs her she’ll be running the hotel while Louisa’s gone. Mary doesn’t think she can do it, but Louisa’s made up her mind, and Mary will just have to learn. To that end, Louisa starts her on an immediate crash course that includes paying bills, doing the books, and sorting the right sort of guests out from the wrong sort.
Some months later, the hotel is buzzing along, and Charlie returns, sweeping through the front door like he never left. The Major greets him and gives condolences on the loss of Charlie’s father. Charlie accepts, and says hello to Merriman, who welcomes him back. Charlie asks Merriman to bring a bottle of wine to Louisa’s room, and Merriman informs him that Louisa’s not around. She’s been gone for a while, and Mary’s in charge.
Charlie heads into the office, where Mary’s hard at work. Charlie asks her what the deal is with Louisa and Mary lies that the doctor had Louisa go to the coast for her health. Charlie gets intense and demands to know where Louisa is, but Mary won’t give up the info. Charlie moves a ledger aside on the table, revealing a pile of letters addressed to Louisa.
He goes right down to the coast, where she’s relaxing a bit. He scares her half to death when he appears, since she wasn’t exactly expecting him. He asks about the baby—yes, that’s right, he knows. He’s smarter than he looks; he figured it out all on his own. It was a girl, for those interested. He asks her why she didn’t tell him about it and she says it was her problem and she was the one who needed to deal with it. He asks what she plans to do with the baby and she admits she doesn’t have a plan all worked out yet, but the baby’ll be looked after properly, that much she’s sure of. Her daughter won’t lack for anything. Except a mother and father, Charlie points out. Kind of a low blow, Charlie. He sits beside her and asks her to marry him. He’s not just doing it because of the kid, either, he means it. He tells Louisa he’s in love with her, but she still turns him down. Not because she doesn’t love him, but because she’s not really cut out to be a wife and mother. She didn’t even feel all that fond of the kid, after it was born. Charlie accepts this pretty gracefully. Louisa gently says that they had a good thing, but it’s done now. All she wants is to get back to London and her hotel. Charlie proposes taking the baby under his charge—one of the grooms on his estate just lost a child and would be an ideal parent, along with his wife. This seems like something Charlie might want to discuss with the groom first, but I guess this was the thinking back then. They work for me, they’ll be cool with it. Charlie asks to go see the baby and Louisa gives him leave to do so. He hurries off eagerly and her face falls as she watches him go.
Back at the hotel, the Major joins Mary and Starr in the pantry, where they exposit that Louisa’s back, and she wants to speak to the Major, because apparently his bill is still unpaid. The Major heads into her office, where he gets an earful from Louisa and apologizes profusely. He claims he’s expecting some cash to come in any time, but Louisa’s no fool. She knows any money he gets goes straight onto the ponies. He sadly says he knows he can’t stay and wishes he could think of a way of paying her back. Louisa smirks and says she can think of something.
Cut to the Major sitting in the foyer, reading a paper as two new guests arrive. Starr calls the Major to attention, and the Major looks up and greets the new guests by name—seems they’re old friends. He chats with them as he collects their bags and shows them up to their room. So, he’s the porter now. Isn’t that Starr’s job? Eh, whatever keeps the Major around, I was getting to like him. Charlie comes in on the couple’s heels and goes into Louisa’s office, where he greets her with a warm kiss on the cheek. She’s happy to have him back, and he smiles and tells her The Bentink is his home. Aww.