Martha gives that an intrigued grunt, but the Dowager Countess cautions her that they won't see him again that night, as it's bad luck. I wouldn't have thought that superstition to be unknown in America even at this time, but it gives Martha ammunition to observe that for "you people," nothing ever changes. "Revolutions erupt and monarchies crash to the ground, and the groom still cannot see the bride before the wedding." The Dowager Countess professorially replies that Americans never understand the importance of tradition, but Martha's ready to deflect that volley right back: "Yes, we do. We just don't give it power over us. History and tradition took Europe into a world war. Maybe you should think about letting go of its hand." I'm not saying this is the most theme-driven show on television, but I think this statement is worth paying attention to. Martha walks off, but lest you think the British writers are going to break tradition by letting dialogue other than the Dowager Countess' end a scene, here she is to tell the just-appeared Edith how it went: "She is like a homing pigeon. She finds our underbelly every time." I realize we're still getting to know her, but I daresay Martha would find that description flattering, despite the Dowager Countess adding, "Dreadful."
Ah, the question of who sent Sybil and "Tom" (Lord Grantham apparently is making the slow dismount off his high horse) the money has arisen, and while Sybil says it doesn't really matter who it was, she does wish it had been Lord Grantham... although she's not angry with him. Lady Cora also denies the credit and Lord Grantham speculates that it was Isobel (who I guess is staying away to keep Matthew company, especially given that he probably told her what happened with Mary), but when Sybil declares her intention to ask her, the Dowager Countess pipes up that it was she. Not, of course, for the first time this episode, Lord Grantham's eyes bug out as far as is allowed by the Earl's playbook, and everyone exchanges stunned looks before Sybil notes that the accompanying note wasn't in the Dowager Countess' hand. She confesses that she had "Smithers" do it: "Like all lady's maids, she lives for intrigue." Hard to argue, when even the most saintly among them took up with a married man whose wife apparently then pulled the original ending of Fatal Attraction. Branson, who really can't take this in -- he looks as shocked as if he learned England just granted all of Ireland its independence -- asks if the Dowager Countess wanted him to come and she replies that she wanted Sybil "and her husband" there for Mary's wedding. Sybil asks why she kept it to herself and the Dowager Countess replies that it was probably silly, to which Branson sincerely says he's very touched. Of course, Martha has to have her say -- God love her for it -- and she pronounces the Dowager Countess' actions "very democratic. It makes me think maybe I've been mistaken in you." I believe she's being completely sincere, but I'm sure she's also aware that the comment is going to chafe the Dowager Countess, so hee. The Dowager Countess replies that she's a woman of many parts and keeps Branson's jaw firmly on the table by addressing him as "Tom" and decreeing that he's a member of the family now. "You'll find we Crawleys stick together." Excuse the expression, but the Dowager Countess has put her money where her mouth is on that point on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, this remark causes the rain cloud that's been hanging over Mary's head to open, as she says that's not always true before bursting into tears and leaving the room without excuse. Everyone looks around in concern, as well they might, and I do wonder if her parents think she's having a delayed reaction to the financial news. Just as well they don't know in what specific way that's kind of true.