Interview Subject: Maclaren Sanford, Butler, Merriton Manor, NYC
AUTHOR: Welcome, Mr. Sanford! We’re so glad that you took the time to join us here.
MS: I’m not used to be addressed as “Mr.”. Simply say “Sanford”.
AUTHOR: Of course.
MS: This idea of an interview is foreign to me as such. Why would anyone want to hear a servant’s opinion?
AUTHOR: Well, times are different in 2016. We don’t think of you as lower. We think of you as a professional man.
MS: Rubbish! Why did the world tamper with a system that worked? We all knew our place and lived our lives accordingly!
AUTHOR: Times change, Sanford. You surely see that.
MS: (looking around the room) That they do, madam. And not always for the better I’ll warrant.
AUTJOR: Some of what you see is actually improved. Such as communication and travel. We can talk to each other any time using one of these (holding up a smart phone) and there are airplanes that take us across the country in just hours.
MS: (squinting to look at the smart phone) Really? Why? There is no one I need to speak to in such a hurry and certainly no place I need to go in such a rush. It seems that the future is not better after all. Faster, perhaps, but not otherwise improved. However proud you may be of it.
AUTHOR: Tell me, Sanford, where did you grow up?
MS: In England. Liverpool. I went to college in Leeds and then accepted my first placement as a valet for a gentleman who resided in Montreal. It was there that I met Mr. Merriton and was offered the position as his butler and head of his household staff. Of course I was very fortunate in receiving that proposal.
AUTHOR: What is it like? Being a servant?
MS: What an odd question! Do people in this time always ask such things?
AUTHOR: (nodding) Oh yes! We always want to know about people. It’s fascinating. And we learn so much from each other.
MS: I can’t find the logic in that. It seems that others live and go about their business without bothering about me and so I should do the same. (he rubbed his chin) However, to answer that most unusual question, I will tell you what it’s like being a butler in my time. Understanding of course that you have little knowledge of my time.
AUTHOR: (smiling) That’s right. And it’s your time that I want to know about, Sanford.
MS: (nodding) Very well. I am in charge of the Merriton Manor household, including the management of the serving staff and arrangement of social affairs. Since the senior Mr. Merriton passed away some time ago, my employer is Mrs. Gertrude Rossman-Merriton. I answer only to her and receive instructions only from her. Next to The Lady herself, I have the most say in the running of the house and am privvy to rather intimate details.
AUTHOR: It sounds like a modern day Head Of Security, Sanford. I believe that if you lived in 2016 that is what you would be.
MS: Security? I have never been a military man or a constable! You mistake me, madam.
AUTHOR: My apologies. Tell me, Sanford, what was your reaction to Richard Merriton’s return to New York?
MS: I was of course overjoyed to see him again. It had been many years since his departure to Mexico.
AUTHOR: And he brought his wife, Connie, with him as well. What did you think about that?
MS: (snorting) Whatever you may feel is appropriate to ask in this time and place, madam, I can assure you that in 1840 it is was not. Asking a servant about his master’s choce of wife is totally unheard of and no one would in my day would ever ask such a thing.
AUTHOR: One again, I am sorry to shock you. I assure you that you can speak freely here, Sanford. My readers would be glad to hear your answer to my question – even if you feel it’s not a topic fit for discussion.
MS: You put that very well, I must say. You’re an intelligent woman and I respect that.
AUTHOR: So you’ll answer then?
MS: (pausing) Yes. To a degree, mind you. This whole concept of free-opinions and voicing one’s feelings is nonsense to me. However in the spirit of fairness and good manners, I will answer the question you asked. But, first, tell me why you want to know.
AUTHOR: You may become more important to Connie Merriton than you now realize. Let’s leave it at that.
MS: I see. You’re planning to paint me as a hero! Jolly good! Although, my first impression of Mrs. Richard Merriton was a poor one, I admit that I found more to admire in the woman that I ever believed I would. She’s well-educated and speaks perfect English. Better than some Americans I’ll say! She’s also quite devoted to her husband and daughter and displayed a good amount of forebearance and grace. Not what I expected, I have to say.
AUTHOR: So she surprised you in a good way?
MS: Yes. She did.
AUTHOR: And what of Cynthia Palmer and Richard Merriton?
MS: (raising an eyebrow) The Palmers and Merritons are both social giants of their day. Both Miss Palmer And Mr. Merriton enjoyed each other’s company for years. It was widely believed that the two would marry upon his return from assignment in Mexico.
AUTHOR: It must’ve been a shock then to see him arrive with a wife!
MS: It was at that.
AUTHOR: What did Richard’s mother, Gertrude, make of it?
MS: (chuckling) She fussed and fumed for weeks! What do you think she did?
AUTHOR: I bet she did. But did she also soften toward Connie, as you did?
MS: (shaking his head) No! Madam Gertrude would never soften toward any woman she hated!
AUTHOR: (leaning closer to him) And she did hate Connie?
MS: Yes. That’s exactly right. Pure hatred. (Sanford thought for a moment) But that’s all I’ll say on the topic. I’ve already said too much.
AUTHOR: Not at all! You were very discreet, Sanford.
MS: (sitting up all the straighter) Indeed.
AUTHOR: If you please, one last question. (he waited for me to ask) Do you believe the rumors that Richard and Connie will divorce?
MS: Madam, perhaps that particular word is used in everyday language in your time, but I assure you that in my day it was not. To answer you, I have to say though that, yes, I do believe the marriage will be dissolved. And for the sake of your reader’s interest, I will add that Mrs. Connie is completely justified in that action, should it take place.
AUTHOR: Thank you, Sanford. You’re a true gentleman and you’ve been a pleasure to interview.
MS: (smiling for the first time) You are quite welcome, madam. And might I add that all social graces are not dead after all. That was very well said.
This interview is with a fictional character from CounterClockwise: A Blast From The Past Love Story