Thomas Payne, 28, is Lord Clearwater’s butler. We first meet him in book one, Deviant Desire, when he is still a footman working under the evil Mr Tripp. Thomas is also Archer’s best friend, having first come to Clearwater House and Larkspur Hall as a hall boy at the age of eight. He is 5’ 9” tall, slender, has auburn hair and green eyes.
What is your full name? Do you have a nickname?
Thomas Arthur Payne. I am currently called ‘Bolshoydick’ by Mr Andrej, our Ukrainian coachman. It rather embarrassingly translates, he tells me, as ‘huge penis’, but he’s one to talk, apparently. These pet names are only used within the company of Lord Clearwater’s closest circle of friends.
Where and when were you born?
I was born on the family farm near Brenzett in Kent, in the south of England, on May 5th 1861.
Tell us a little about your parents?
My father is a dairy farmer, and my mother, a farmer’s wife. They were both born in the local area, my father on the farm which has been owned by my family for generations. My mother is the daughter of a sheep farmer from Ivychurch, a mile distant from our farm.
What is your occupation?
I am currently employed as butler to Viscount Clearwater. I live and work in his houses, and travel with him between the two. Currently, he is using his London home, Clearwater House as his principal residence. When he stays at his country house, Larkspur Hall, near Bodmin in Cornwall, I am his butler there.
Do you have a motto?
Stop, take stock and start again. The three Ss of buttlering which apply before entering any room, knocking at a door and attending to any duty.
What is your hair colour and eye colour?
I have dark-red, auburn hair, and my eyes are green. Some call them jade, others emerald. To me, they are simply green.
Looking back to your past, how would you describe your childhood?
Brief. Until the age of eight, I lived at home on the farm and worked there from the age of five. At age eight, I was sent to the employ of the late Viscount Clearwater as junior hall boy. At this point I was uneducated, of course, but was lucky enough to be nurtured by the housekeeper, Mrs Baker, and allowed to be in the company of Master Riddington (Master Archer), the current viscount. My education, therefore, was varied and vague, and I would call myself self-taught.
Where did you learn most of your skills and other abilities?
My hall boy duties, later my footman duties and finally my butlering duties were instilled in me by Mrs Baker, other hall boys and senior footman and ultimately, Mr Tripp, my butler for nearly 20 years.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
As soon as I entered service and met Master Archer, I wanted to be his butler. Better would be his steward, but that post was made defunct in the households many years ago. His Lordship’s butler is all I ever wanted to be for as long as I can remember.
Now for something a little more personal, do you have a significant other?
If it were acceptable to say so, I would consider myself partnered with James Wright. When one looks at relationships between men and women, I would put us on the same par, except, in our case, we are able to live together without being married. We cannot be married, of course, and even if we were, I would insist we waited before considering such an option. Meanwhile, thanks to the society that despises men like us, no-one asks questions when two men share living quarters, and no-one suspects what goes on behind the closed doors of James’ suite of rooms, which is where I usually live.
James is loyal, intelligent, intuitive and caring. He can, however, be headstrong, argumentative and bullish. He is two years younger than me, but knows a great deal more about the world beyond service. He is blond, physically fit, and has the boyish looks and charms of a public-school boy, but can also employ his lower-middle-class tongue when necessary.
Who is the most important person in your life, why?
There are two of equal importance. Viscount Clearwater, and not because he is my employer, but because he is my best friend, and James because despite his faults, I am deeply in love with him.
Who is the person you respect the most?
Obviously, Lord Clearwater. He demonstrated all the qualities a decent man should posses: calm authority, breeding and intellect. On top of those, he is compassionate, cares for the worse off, encourages the best in others, has talent and loyalty, and is the most honest man I know.
Do you believe in the existence of soul mates and/or true love?
Yes, and I have proved their existence in two individuals, Archer (Lord Clearwater), and James Joseph Wright.
Who would you die for, or otherwise go to extremes for?
Lord Clearwater, for sure, and likewise, James, Andrej (though it is unlikely I would need to), and to a lesser extent, Silas Hawkins.
Are you able to kill?
One of my earliest memories is of death, that of animals on the farm. My father killed chickens and calves when necessary, not to mention rats and other vermin. As for people, I have been involved in death, and once set fire to a man who was trying to kill my companions. He died. I had no compunction as it was in the defence of all of us, Lord Clearwater in particular.
Let’s turn to your working life, describe the routine of a normal day for you. How do you feel when this routine is disrupted?
A butler’s day runs to the routine of the house he commands. I rise early, wash, dress and present myself for duty at exactly at seven o’clock, unless His Lordship’s needs dictate otherwise. The routine of a day depends on His Lordship’s activities, whether he is receiving or making calls, whether he is at the House of Lords, or travelling. Below stairs, we are driven by mealtimes; when there is a lunch, who is attending, and the time His Lordship requires dinner, for example. My weekly routine includes specific days for turning wine, inspecting the cellar inventory, ordering the wine, answering the bell, winding clocks, and ensuring my male staff keep to their routines. I occasionally act as His Lordship’s valet so that we may have private time together.
The household routine is rarely subject to disruption, but since his elevation to viscount, Lord Clearwater’s activities have caused much distraction in which I play my part, and I have learnt to become ‘flexible.
What makes you happy?
An orderly house, a well-turned-out staff, and punctuality. After I have wound the house clocks on a Sunday, my moment of greatest satisfaction comes when they chime the hour in unison.
Are you spontaneous, or do you always need to have a plan?
I am able to think on my feet, as they say. Even then, I employ my rule of stop, take stock and start again, even in the most fleeting of moments. However, logic is the key to any situation, and thus, I prefer to plan whenever possible.
In your spare time, do you like to read?
I read at every opportunity, which, in my line of work, is not that often. I read The Times for news so I may keep abreast of matters that interest His Lordship, and (here I blush) romance novels which Lucy, the cook, passes on to me. However, I also delve into the classics from time to time, as a way of continually bettering my education.
And now to your personality, if you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Being totally honest, I would like to have more control over my pedantry. I cannot help myself pointing out errors in the statements, behaviour and even grammar of others. It is not so much a failing, I think, but a habit which others, if they took my comments in the manner they are made, would find educational rather than belittling. I only wish I had the wherewithal to make others understand this. (By the way, I notice you employ the use of Americanised spelling in your questions. I have resisted the temptation to correct this oversight.)
Are you generally organized or messy?
Organised. (with an S.)
Name three things you consider yourself to be good at, and three things you consider yourself to be bad at.
- Good: My job. Logical thinking. Making decisions.
- Bad: Holding my tongue. Tolerating bad manners. Sex. (I just asked James about that last one, and he disagrees.)
What three words would others probably use to describe you?
Supercilious, pedantic, loyal.
Looking to the future, what goal do you most want to accomplish in your life?
To serve Lord Clearwater as his butler and friend to the end.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Serving His Lordship as his butler and friend, obviously.
What is the one thing for which you would most like to be remembered after your death?
My loyalty to my master and friends.
And to finish, a few fun details. What do you have in your pockets?
Always the key to the ‘cage’ in the wine cellar where the rarest of wines are kept, and a handkerchief. Nothing else.
What is on your nightstand?
Currently, a novel, a new electric lamp, and a glass James has left there and which I will remove to its proper place immediately.
What smells do you associate with your childhood, and why?
The cowshed, muckspreading, my mother’s baking. Later, polish, coal and cold winters below stairs.