A Sole Picture of Benedict Cumberbatch as Wet Mr. Darcy

Benedict Cumberbatch as Mr. Darcy (Pic: Jason Bell/Dundas Communications)

Let’s cut to the chase. Above and below these words is a photo that, if you have not already seen it, draws the eye in such a way that it really doesn’t matter what I’m saying right now. I could be describing a perfect ploughman’s lunch, describing one of the more arcane by-laws of cricket or listing the key ingredients in mulligatawny soup for all the good it will do.

What the eye is magnetically drawn towards is this photo of Benedict Cumberbatch in a lake, an image that has come to light as part of a campaign by Cancer Research UK and the clothing shop TKMaxx called Give Up Clothes For Good.

Now, before the mind becomes inexorably soiled by mental images, the thrust (stop it) of the campaign is not that people should bare all, but that they should donate unwanted clothing and accessories to raise money to tackle childhood cancer. Benedict is one of many celebrities—including Jerry Hall, Kate Winslet, Liam Neeson and Hugh Bonneville—who’ve been photographed by Jason Bell, in a variety of eyecatching situations.

And now his images are not just being used to draw attention to the campaign, they form part of an exhibition in London’s Pall Mall, to raise further funds.

So, here’s the Mr. Darcy shot. Sadly not part of a whole new production of Pride & Prejudice, but not to be sniffed at neverthele… HEY! I said NOT to be sniffed at!

The Homesman 2014

Directed by     Tommy Lee Jones
Produced by     Brian Kennedy
Luc Besson
Michael Fitzgerald
Peter M. Brant
Tommy Lee Jones
Richard Romero
Written by     Kieran Fitzgerald
Tommy Lee Jones
Wesley Oliver
Based on     The Homesman
by Glendon Swarthout
Starring

Tommy Lee Jones
Hilary Swank
Hailee Steinfeld
William Fichtner
Meryl Streep

The_Homesman_poster

Margaret With The Red Book pt 3

Margaret with the Red Book
Margaret with the Red Book

Download PDF of this book for $3.00 US – Paypal

Chapter 1 and beginning of Chapter 2

As Miss Leeds sat down at her desk, she was surprised to see a familiar but forgotten hand on a letter addressed to her.  She pulled that note first from the small stack of post that had been pitched onto her desk, scattering them about.  Opening the seal, she quickly looked at the signature and smiled.  It had been a long time since she’d heard from Margaret.  Her last letter to Margaret had been returned and Miss Leeds was at a loss as to where she was.  She hurriedly began to read after pausing a moment or two reflecting on those wonderful years with her young charge.

 

Dear Miss Kate,

I hope this post finds its way to you and that you are doing well and staying healthy.  I think we have both moved from where we once knew each other to be, for it took me some time to find where you were now. 

It is with disappointment and desperation that I write such a letter, you would never expect from me.  A year ago, within days of each other, I lost both my father and brother in separate circumstances.  Father died of a heart attack, leaving my care, dowry and allowance with my brother to dispense to me.  Somewhere in South Africa with the Navy, my brother had been battling malaria of which we knew nothing.  Due to his death and having no will in his young life, all of our family’s assets where bestowed to my Father’s sister which included my personal jewels and any allowance or dowry that had been set aside for me.  I know I will never see that dispensed to me from my aunt.  She, Penelope nee Hale, immediately sold our family home and insisted that I come to live with her and her husband, George.  Being without anything except my clothes, I accepted.  I have been treated as a servant, earning my keep, and now Uncle George wants to treat me with his own special care when my aunt is out of the house.  I am afraid I will be over taken, but in any event, I must leave this house.  It behooves me, the necessity of asking for your assistance until I can establish myself in some line of work where you live.  I hear that Milton is quite a growing city and I could possibly find an income there.  Hoping you have an answer to my plea as you have done all of my life,  Margaret Hale

 

Miss Katie Leeds took no time in answering Margaret, slipping in a few bills to get her to Milton on the next train if possible.

 

Chapter Two

 

John Thornton

As John walked into Lucia’s spacious and generously furnished room with expensive furniture and a roaring fire, he was once again, stymied over what was expected of him at this point.  He had been relieved although mystified why kissing was one of the forbidden rules.  He just stood there with his hat in his hand which he had decided to keep with him, while Lucie went to the fire and poked at the coal in the grate.  “Would you like me to do that, Miss?”  John asked, surprised at the stuttering he heard himself speak.

“Thank you, Mr. Thornton, but it is all done.  Wouldn’t you care to remove your coat and set it along with your hat here, behind the door?”

“Yes,” John thought to himself, “I would very much like to be doing anything except standing here like a fool.”  As John hung his coat on the peg and set his hat on a small table, he asked, “Do you mind if we sit and talk for a moment?”  As he turned around he was taken aback that Lucia had started to undress.  He didn’t know how he was going to manage a conversation with her dress off, standing in her petticoats and slips and all the paraphernalia that women wore.  “I’m sorry.  You seem to be way ahead of me, Lucia,” John said, walking over to a chair by the fire while she reclined seductively on the bed.

Lucia

“Mr. Thornton, how can I pleasure you?  I am here solely for you and your desires.  Miss Leeds says that this is your first time here and I will assume you have read her rules, have you not?”

“Yes, I have read them most carefully.  Not only have I not been here but never to a place such as this.  I am quite at a loss as to how to proceed or even what to expect,” he said, almost apologizing for his lack of worldly ways.  I was taken aback at a few of the rules and certainly not surprised at the more vulgar abuse of others.”

“Which of the non-vulgar rules surprised you, Mr. Thornton?”  Lucia asked, as she started to unhook her corset.

Stammering . . . why am I stammering?  I should think I was to marry tomorrow.  “Well . . . a . . . let me try to remember.  Oh yes, the ‘no kissing’ rule.  Personally, I am relieved but I would not have thought that to be forbidden.”

“The idea of not kissing is first for hygienic reasons – so neither of us can communicate a disease to the other.  Also, it has happened that kissing can lead to deeper involvement with clients and this is forbidden.  You do understand that on your first visit or at a time when you’ve not be a regular for a long time, that I must inspect your manhood for any . . . signs of sickness?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t seem to read that part, but I guess in your profession I can understand it on both sides.  No spirits and not arriving too inebriated is understandable, too.  I think I am ready to talk, now.  I must admit this takes some getting used to when you are new,” John smiled, trying to lighten his wavering resolve.  “Could you stop undressing for a few moments?  I don’t want to get too sidetracked.”

“Yes, Mr. Thornton.  Whatever pleases you,” Lucia replied in a lilting voice.  “Please, tell me your thoughts and desires.”

“I am sure you are going to find disappointment in me and that is by my own design.  Oh, before I go on, do I understand Miss Leeds instructions about the absolute knowledge on your conception days?”

“Yes, rest assured.  The women love it here but should we become pregnant we will have to leave Miss Leeds and never return even if we are still young and attractive and don’t have a child to raise.  It’s cut and dry.  All of us have schedules in her desk drawer and even she knows when bad days are for us.  If the worst should happen, we have signed an oath that no client shall be named as the father.  He will never know, but may figure it out when his regular girl is no longer here.  He still won’t know if it’s his child unless she is his only client.  Our working days are 3 clients a day for five days – rotating weekends.  That’s fifteen men a week so there is no way to be sure of the father.  And on top of that, we on occasion have a female client.  That is quite strange and there are only a few of us that don’t mind that.  Now, tell me your desires before we lose too much of your time.  I am so surprised to see you here and I am eager to please you.”

“Miss Lucia, I am confident about my personal abilities to perform sexual acts with women.  What I really would like to try now and again is something very slow and basic.  I would wish for you to lie still and not to speak.  Please speak no deception as to my merit or lack thereof.  Please only engage with me when I ask.  At least this first time.  Perhaps never, will I have your desire as my goal.  I have had a decade of that and I wish just to relieve my needs without the worry of performance for my partner’s sake.  That must sound shallow and far different from your other clients.  I want very little from you.  I just want to use you and I will be gentle.  Is that agreeable with you, Lucia?”

“Whatever you wish, Mr. Thornton.  Would you like me to undress you?”

“No, not this time.  However, I would prefer to watch you disrobe.”  With John’s waning appetite for this whole bloody plan, he started watching her disrobe.  Hopefully that would instill the lust he needed right now.  “When you are done, just lie on the bed.  I will undress and join you.  Can we not, dim these bright lamps in here?”

“Oh yes, that is standard procedure unless the client asked for the room to be well lit?”

Lucie lowered the lights, and slowly proceeded to disrobe while studying his reaction, hoping he saw no disappointments.  Lucia knew of his many years of being a single, sought-after male in Milton and she doubted there was very little in their standard lesson plan that he would not know.

John watched closely as she performed her erotic, almost dance, of undressing herself.  He was thankful that his arousal finally found its way there.  That had worried him most of all.  He had experienced great apprehension with some of his latter women and suffered the ultimate embarrassment.  Things did not go well and he had to invent some excuse about stresses at work that day to mask his own barrier that he seemed helpless to correct.  He knew those humiliating times were part of the reason he was here.

As his hour ended, John was thoroughly satisfied with the results.  He felt rested and although Lucie did not participate as he had asked, he warmed to a small bit of his assurance returning.  He had no worries, no pressures, just a pleasurable, satisfying physical feeling.  Lucie escorted John to a changing screen which held behind it, a pitcher and bowl set filled with room temperature water, soap, and a wash and trying cloth for both of them.  Lucie would do her infinitely long routine of cleansing after he left, but wrapped herself in a satin belted robe.

John found his clothing and dressed quickly.  “Miss Lucie, I am sure that was most boring for you, but it is what I wanted at this time and maybe for times further on.  I was pleased with you.  You did exactly as I asked.  You didn’t engage when you may have felt like I wanted you to and you didn’t gasp and moan as if I were treating you like a man should treat a woman.  I am waiting for the woman I will love, to know her real sounds of my pleasure to her.  At some point, I do intend to go through your lesson plan to make sure I haven’t missed anything,” John said smiling, while slipping on his coat and holding his hat.  “I shall see you again, if that is agreeable with you.  Possibly next week at the same time?”

“I would like that very much, Mr. Thornton.  I don’t feel like I’ve earned my fee this evening, but I will be most glad to see you again.  Please see Miss Leeds on your way out for an appointment.  Thank you for being the gentleman that you were.  Many men arrive as you did and turn into animals before they have left.  It was quite a delight to be at your service.  Until next week then . . .,” Lucia said while displaying that highly sated look.

John didn’t expect any performance from her, so the ‘look’ had no effect on him except it was just more deception – part of their training, no doubt.  Finding Miss Leeds office, he knocked lightly on the door.

She stood, smiling, “You seem in good spirits.  I hope Lucie was all that you had expected.”

“Everything went as I had wanted it to.  I was well pleased with her attention to my simple instructions.  If there is an opening, I would like an appointment again with Lucie next week.”

“I’ve already taken a look at that for you and it is free.  I will put you down for a week from tonight.  I am glad we met with your satisfaction.  Good evening, Mr. Thornton.”

“Good evening to you Miss Leeds.”  John turned and left tapping his hat on his head.  His last remaining hurdles were to take the questioning look that Branson was going to give him and tell Higgins what he had done.

Branson noticing his Master pulled the coach up to the front door and hopped down to attend him.  “Branson, tonight, I would like to go to the men’s club.  You know, the one called ‘The Falcon and Prey.”  John felt like a nightcap with some of his working Mill Master associates and Branson sensed the old Master was finding his self confidence again.

 

*     *     *

Margaret spotted Katie immediately as she stepped out of the train coach.  She worked her way through the crowd until Katie Leeds noticed her.  They hugged each other for a long time; Margaret felt that Katie was her only real family, now.  For most of her childhood, Katie had raised, taught, dressed, and fed her.  Margaret would see her parents at special times during the day, but for the most part, Katie was her mother.

“Oh Margaret, how wonderful to see you.  You’ve grown lovelier than when I left you as an anxious young woman in her teens.  I would have been angry if you had not thought of me for your rescue.  Of course, I heard of the deaths of your family, such a terrible and unfortunate event to happen to anyone, but I never knew all the rest.  I wish I had known at the beginning.  So . . . how did the aunt and uncle take to your leaving?”  Katie asked, walking her toward the area where Margaret’s baggage could be found.

“Honestly, I didn’t want a scene with them.  I wrote a long letter, leaving it on the dining room table as I tip-toed out of the house for the late train.  I was fortunate that their driver was willing to help me at that hour, but he didn’t know I was sneaking out.  I think I have burned my bridges there and, at this moment, it feels good to say so.  I can’t imagine what is waiting for me but it can’t be worse then what it has been.”

Helping Margaret with her several bags as she collected them, Katie said to her, “You are going to be surprised and may be disappointed in me when you see where I am going to take you.”

Margaret looked at her in wonder, “I can’t imagine I’d be disappointed wherever I was with you.  What can you mean?”

Tawl Peters (coach driver)

Katie nodded Margaret to follow her to the left, as that’s where her coach was parked.  “I’ll tell you when we’re settled in the carriage.  Margaret, I’d like you to meet Tawl Peters, my driver.  I told him I thought he made that name up, but he says no.  Peters this is Margaret Hale, to which I was once her governess.  She is a real lady, so please treat her accordingly.”

Peters tipped his hat, “Good afternoon, Miss Hale.  It is a pleasure to have you with us.”

“Hello, Peters.  I can’t say that I understand why your Mistress thinks your name is made up, but you are rather tall.  Thank you, it’s nice to be here in Milton with Katie.”

Peters just grinned, knowing she’d eventually find the humor in his name being affiliated with Miss Leeds’ Place.  “Please, set the bags down so I can hand you in.  Then I will pack the coach and we’ll be off.”

“He’s such a nice lad, Margaret.  He’s a great help to me in my business, of which I am about to tell you.”

Margaret and Katie settled into the comfortable bench seats in the coach. Katie hearing the “walk on” command that meant they were underway.

Madam Katie Leeds

“I should be pointing out a few interesting places as we ride, but I better get this part over with.  Margaret, after I was dismissed by your family as you left for more schooling, I found it difficult, like you, to keep a roof over my head and support myself.  Your family paid me well, but it surely was never meant to be enough to grow old on even with the most modest surroundings.  Through the years, I had kept in contact with women that I knew before coming to the Hales and well . . . I won’t go into the sorted and confusing decisions I found myself faced with, but I now own and manage a ‘Gentlemen’s Club’ called Miss Leeds Ladies.”  Katie paused.  “I see that look on your face – your frown, that look of not understanding when I had been a governess, but that’s how it turned out.  In the most basic words, it’s a brothel.  I’m sorry to bring you here to such a place but I never expected you to be a worker for me at all, but only to give you a downstairs room near mine and away from the action.  It’s a port in your storm until you can get on your feet.”  Katie paused allowing Margaret to take it all into her thoughts.

Margaret sat quietly looking into the face she once knew loved her more than her own mother.  She must have had a bitter life to have come to this.  Margaret wondered who was she, to make such ill judgments.  She had to work to live and Margaret could understand that now.  It wasn’t just a passing phrase one heard . . .  ‘She had to eat’ . . . as it once had been.  It was a serious, bottom of life situation.  “Katie, I admit I am surprised but not judgmental.  I have to learn to take what life gives me now as no doubt was your path.”

“Margaret, it isn’t as bad as you think, either.  You will be quite surprised.  I’ve retained my same values for the girls, my charges as I refer to them myself.  I ensure the utmost care and the establishment is run by strict rules and only the most affluent gentlemen can apply for membership.  I have taken this sow’s ear and turned it into a silk purse.  You will see.  I think I can use you around the house and for help in the office – but you will not be a worker and will not be a servant, so let’s don’t argue about that.”

“Katie, I will be whatever I have to be to survive.  I am just so grateful that I have an opportunity to make choices.”

“We’re just about here.  We’ll get you settled and rested and then I will introduce you to the girls when we sit down to an early dinner at five this afternoon.  Their evenings can start at six or seven and go to midnight on late customers.  That is at the option of the girl.  It’s not all bad; you’ll see.”

“Katie, if you’re the one running the establishment I am sure it couldn’t be done finer anywhere.  Are the girls friendly?”  Margaret laughed at how stupid that sounded.  “I mean, will they accept me not being like them?”

“As they come to know you, they will love you.  They will probably play around trying to convince you to join them.  Don’t listen to any of that talk.  You are a real lady.  They are pretend ladies.  When their looks or figures are gone with their age, they will have nothing in life.  They will be shunned and probably remain single forever . . . no friends.  Most of them don’t have families that want to know them anymore.  Of the six girls, only one is here by choice.  That’s Adrienne.  She gets all the men that like things very lively and slightly skewed.  The one thing I cannot prevent is the talk you will hear at times by the girls and maybe the clients if you’re nearby.  I am sure you still have your virginity so you won’t really understand the sounds that you will hear through the doors.  Nearly all of that is an act for the gentlemen, making them feel good about themselves.  Just try and turn a deft ear to it, if you can.”

“Katie, you are making it sound exciting and mysterious.  Sounds through the doors, words spoken in whispers, acts of skewed sensuality.  I’m in a mind to write a book about my experience here.  I shall certainly buy a diary and pen this forbidden world.”  Margaret said smiling broadly.

Ecritoire 2

Dearest, loveliest Meg – Part Twenty-Four

Margaret_001

 

Chapter Twenty-Four

 

Douglas spoke very little as we went for a ride on horseback through the midday countryside. Dragon seemed skittish and Douglas used the pressure of his thighs to control the stallion so that my placid mare could keep up with him. The sun was high and shined down on us with considerable heat. I wanted to know where we were going but I was reluctant to brake Douglas’ solemn silence. Soon I saw we were heading towards Watcombe Manor.

As always, the signs of extreme neglect as a result of Wilkinson’s indifference filled me with sorrow and yet, at the same time, with a determination to make repairs as soon as possible. I wanted Watcombe Manor restored to its original beauty, as was right and just. Therefore, I was glad to see a handful of gardeners busily occupied on the lawn and in the rose garden. No longer capable of keeping silent, I exclaimed.

“Oh, Douglas! You have people working already! How good of you! I will be so pleased when everything is put to rights again. Watcombe is such a beautiful place and it deserves to be in excellent shape!”

Again Douglas’ reaction surprised me. He did not reply, just nodded agreement. What was his meaning? Did he not wish to talk about Watcombe’s restoration?

We entered the stable yard and a young boy came running to take our horses. Douglas greeted him with a cheerful shout.

“Hey, young Richard! How are you settling in? Do you like working in the stables?”

“Yes, my lord, I do!” the boy answered eagerly and in a heavy Devonshire accent.

“Good! Give the pair of them some hay and water and unsaddle them, will you? We will not need them for a couple of hours,” Douglas commanded. He began walking towards the house in his long, easy strides and I hastened after him.

“Douglas, why have you brought me here? Have redecorations in the house also started? I had hoped you would consult me so that I might give my opinion about …”

“Meggie, will you please be silent?” my rake interrupted, taking me by the hand, so that he could pull me with him up the stairs to one of the first floor bedchambers. I gasped in awe when I entered!

It was a magnificent room with a high ceiling intricately worked out in beautiful pastel shades. Each high window had a balcony facing the rose garden. The walls were decorated with panels of flowered silk in a soft shade of pink framed  with gold. The floor was a rusty brown parquet that gleamed from extensive waxing. A thick Aubusson carpet of the finest mint green silk covered the fine wooden boards; it muffled the sounds of our footsteps. A large four-poster bed with matching curtains and silken bedspread occupied one of the walls. The rest of the room was furnished with small cupboards and cabinets in Empire style. A little settee with matching seats and coffee table was placed near one of the windows.

“Oh, how charming!” I exclaimed. “What an absolutely lovely room!”

“It will be ours, Margaret. It used to be my parents’ chamber and I know for a fact they have been very happy in here. After my mother’s death, my father had it sealed shut. He did not want to have anything changed from the time when my mother decorated it. Yesterday, I had it opened and cleaned again.”

“Yesterday? But, when? Did you not sleep at all, then, after we were rescued?”

“No. I considered this of the utmost importance, my darling, since I wanted it ready for you after we marry. Do you like it, then?”

I jumped into his outstretched arms. “Oh yes, Douglas! I adore it!”

“Good, I hoped you would because … well, this is where I will teach you about lovemaking, darling. It would be unpleasant for you if you disliked the room, would it not?”

“L … lovemaking …” I stammered, looking up at him. He was holding me in his embrace with mischief in his eyes yet smiled sweetly.

“Yes,” he said softly, “after we are married, of course. But first, I will give you a short yet well-needed lecture on the procedures of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, just by way of an explanation, mind.”

“N … now?” I squeaked, suddenly feeling equally excited and frightened.

“Now. Please go and lie down on top of the bedcovers for me, sweetheart.”

 

A lump formed in my throat and I was unable to swallow. The constriction became a flash of heat that rushed all the way down to the tip of my toes. My stomach muscles seemed to buckle and a fluttering of my pulse made my legs tremble. I held on to Douglas for support as my knees grew weak. My rake’s smile widened and he picked me up as if I were weightless. In two strides he reached the huge bed and gently laid me down.

Douglas stretched out beside me and cupped my face with one hand. Sparkles of mischief were dancing in his blue eyes, causing my pulse to speed up.

“Now, Meggie, I want you to listen very attentively because this is important for our future marital intercourse. How again did you describe the cows’ mating ritual?”

“Well … you know what I said … the female’s backside is presented to the male for him to insert his … apparatus and impregnate her with it … have I got that correct, Douglas?”

“Very correct, my sweet.” His mouth was twitching in an attempt to smother a laugh and his eyes were dancing with mirth. “We will do that too, one day. It can be very satisfying for the male, in this case, me. But not at the beginning, my love, not when you have yet to learn what is most pleasing for the lady.”

He tilted my face upwards so that I was forced to look deep into his eyes. His gaze was soft and somewhat unfocussed. The blue of his eyes was very dark and his breathing seemed harsher, his voice hoarse.

“For your first lesson, my love, I will teach you this …” His hand left my face, took one of mine and guided it downwards to the junction of his thighs. A shock hit me when I felt …

“Heavens …” I breathed as I probed the length of it, marvelling in its steel-like hardness. I felt its pulsing heath, even through the doeskin of his breeches. It was highly exciting and I stroked it harder, my body responding in thrilling arousal. Although I was careful and shy, I nevertheless seemed to cause pain to Douglas- he suddenly moaned and braced himself against my body. But his mouth was warm and firm and started roaming over my throat and neck.

“When I am like this, Margaret, you are my master and commander. All I want to do at such a time, is this …” he whispered

The skirt of my riding habit was shoved upwards and Douglas’ fingers were suddenly stroking my leg in its silk stocking, from my foot and all the way up to my thigh. The touch of his cool fingers on my bare flesh caused a bolt of lightning to blast through me. I felt the muscles of my womanly place clench in response. I arched up to close the distance between that place and his hand, inviting him to caress me again as he had done the night before.

“This is how I prepare you, my darling, so that you will be ready for me when I … insert my apparatus. To do that I must straddle you while I’m gazing into your beautiful eyes or kissing you senseless.”

I heard Douglas say those words but was not really listening to him. There were too many lovely sensations that threatened to overcome me and I welcomed them eagerly. His hand was stroking me through the silk of my drawers; he was driving me mad with desire! In a red haze of mounting pleasure I rubbed myself against the heel of his hand and shuddered when it touched me just where I wanted it the most.

“Please, Douglas, do not stop … please …”

“Is this what you want, my love? And this? Or this?”

“Yes … yes … please …”

Waves of molten lava drowned me as my body shuddered in ripples of pure delight! It seemed to last a lifetime and I could not breathe, nor did I want to! I just wanted to feel like this for the rest of my life!

Through the sound of my blood, thundering in my whole body, I heard Douglas whisper. “This, my lovely sweetheart, is what I mean to give you, every time we make love. You are made for this, my love.”

I could feel him shiver and asked. “Are you cold, darling? We can draw up the …”

He chuckled softly. “No, my love, I am definitively not cold. Come here …”

He drew me very close and held me. My cheek rested in the soft hollow of his neck and my eyes closed in utter well-being.

 

When I came out of the blessed state of drowsiness, I found myself alone on the bed. I must have fallen asleep, some time before. A door in the far corner of the room was open and noises of splashing water came out of it. It must be a dressing room, I thought. I was tempted to go and investigate when the sound of a gasp, followed by a muffled curse, reached my ears. It was Douglas! Was he in pain? Had he hurt himself, or worse, had I hurt him?

“Douglas? Are you in there, my love? What is happening?”

“Do not come in, Margaret! Stay there!”

His panicked voice rang very clearly; his words, so powerful, prompted me to  stay where I was. I did not understand, though. I was scared, too.

“Douglas, what is it? Can I help you?”

“No … no, all is well, my love. I will be with you in a few moments.”

When he finally emerged from the dressing room, I saw that his clothes were fully restored and Douglas looked rather composed, but also distant.

“There are some utensils in there, if you want to freshen yourself up,” he said. “I will be downstairs, waiting for you, my darling.”

With a smile, he left the room.

I was baffled! What I had wanted was that he would have stayed with me and talked more about marital intercourse. There were so many things I did not comprehend as yet.

The small dressing room had no windows and was upholstered in the same shades of green that were used in the main room. There was a large copper bath tub and a wash stand with a lovely basin and jar in delicate, flower-patterned china. A big bar of scented soap lay on a matching plate. I picked it up and found it was still wet from Douglas’ using it. Next to the wash stand was a wicker basket, meant for dirty linen. I opened its top and took out what was in it. It held a pair of doeskin breeches, the pair Douglas had been wearing when we went riding earlier this afternoon.

With trembling hands, I lifted the breeches and inhaled the sweet, enticing scent that emerged from it. Douglas’ scent, I realised, strong and masculine … To my surprise, I became aroused again. It was an exquisite feeling, deliciously powerful and intoxicating. My hands fondled the soft, cream-coloured material with relish. Then they encountered a most peculiar thing – a stain, still wet, and situated where the pants’ legs met.

My heart suddenly jumped with the awareness of what I was seeing and a bolt of pure, feminine joy shot through me! My dear rake lost control of himself, just by being intimate with me! Everything became very clear and all of a sudden! I had no need for further lessons in marital intercourse.

Recalling Douglas’ embarrassment of this, I solemnly swore I would never tell him that I knew of his embarrassment.

I cleaned myself up and righted my rumpled clothing. When I stepped into the bedchamber again, I noticed a large cheval mirror in one of the corners and was instantly drawn to it. Would I look different now, after having acquired this new insight on lovemaking? Would I even look changed if we had gone all the way, Douglas and I?

I stood in front of the mirror, straight as a measuring rod and utterly composed. I saw a not too tall, slender woman with a tiny waist, small breasts and slim limbs. The mirror reflected very small hands and feet and a heart-shaped face with enormous blue eyes, now the colour of a pale spring sky.

I took in my nose, short, straight and a bit upturned, which gave me the appearance of a young child. There were times when I hated looking like a child, especially when I was not feeling at all like one! My mouth was rather large but with nicely shaped lips, now slightly swollen from Douglas’ kisses. A surge of heath went down my spine at the recollection of his caresses – I suddenly felt absolutely, fabulously happy!

Samantha Bond & Francesca Annis In WWII Drama Series ‘Home Fires’

Category : News, UK News
Bond-Annis
ITV has secured the main cast for their World War II drama series Home Fires (formerly known as Jambusters).Downton Abbey alum Samantha Bond and veteran actress Francesca Annis have been set at the two leads in the six episode series, which is being produced by ITV Studios. They topline a cast which also includes Ruth Gemmell (Utopia), Mark Bonnar (Line of Duty), Claire Rushbrook (Collision), Mark Bazeley (The Suspicions of Mr Whicher), Frances Grey (The Widower) and Ed Stoppard (Cilla).Based on the book Jambusters by Julie Summers, Home Fires is set in rural Cheshire during World War II and follows a group of “inspirational women”. The war has separated these women from their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers. By banding together, the women will help maintain the nation’s fabric in its darkest hour, and they will discover inner resources that will forever change their lives.

The series, which was originally commissioned back in July, was written by Lewis scribe Simon Block. The ITV Studios produced drama was developed by Catherine Oldfield, who serves as an executive producer alongside ITV Studios’ Francis Hopkinson. Strike Back‘s Sue de Beauvoir is set to produce, while Bruce Goodison (Our War) and Robert Quinn (Death In Paradise) are attached to direct. Production is now underway in Cheshire and will continue through December.

Jambusters‘ author Julie Summers is set to cameo on the series as a WI county organiser. “My grandmother, a life-long WI member, would undoubtedly approve of me wearing a hat”, she said. In addition, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Leila Mimmack, Claire Price, Daniel Ryan, Will Attenborough, Clare Calbraits, Chris Coghill, Brian Fletcher, Fenella Woolgar, Leanne Best, Mike Noble, Jacqueline Pilton, Mark Umbers, Jodie Hamblet, Adam Long, Paul Barnhill, Anthony Calf, Nicola Sloane, Jim Whelan and Daisy Badger are set to guest star.

Margaret With The Red Book pt 2

Margaret with the Red Book
Margaret with the Red Book

Download PDF of this book for $3.00 US – Paypal

Chapter One
(pages 11 – 20 )

“I’ve lost my whole family this week,” Margaret mumbled through her sobs.  “And where was I?  I was off having a gay time.”

Her cries seemed to last forever.  She was nearing hysteria and Mr. Bell urged her to drink her brandy.

“Mr. Bell, how do I live through this guilt?”

“Margaret, there is no guilt anywhere.  As a clergyman’s daughter, you must know that God works in mysterious ways.  There was no fault by the Navy that your brother contracted the disease that took his life.  They did everything they could for him.  His body arrived in Helstone three days ago.  The disease and the long voyage inspired me to have him interred without haste.  Your father was getting up in age and news as he had received could take any strong man in his fifties.  The church is doing everything to make his final resting service as beautiful as possible.  That will be tomorrow.”

Mary entered the room and inquired about dinner since the hour was upon them.  Mr. Bell looked at Margaret, then turned to Mary and shook his head.  “Maybe a sandwich later, Mary.”

“Margaret do you want to lay down?”

“No, not just now.  I cannot shut down my mind.  I cannot grasp that they are both gone . . . my whole family, now gone.  I am alone in this world.”

“Margaret, I will tell you that you are not alone, but there is still one last piece of bad news to give you.”  Mr. Bell could see the brandy was beginning to take hold as Margaret’s trembling hands were beginning to settle.  He only had this last devastating life-changing news.  He felt as if he were pounding her into the ground and one final blow would set the post.

Margaret Hale

“What do you mean, I am not alone and the other news?”  Margaret whispered as she continued to stare into the hearth with all her thoughts adrift.

“As you know, you mother left to your father, the means for you to make your way in life.  She had left a dowry, living funds, and her jewels to you.  I don’t ever remember her wearing jewels being married to a clergyman.  They must be family heirlooms coming from a wealthy family such as she did.  Your father, rightfully, left all that came to you to be dispersed to you by your brother, the only son, when you reached twenty-one, should something having prevented him from doing it.  Frederick died without a will and the courts will rule that what your father had when he died would be left to his sister, your aunt, Penelope, who is of legal age.  It will be at her discretion to dole out your inheritance since no disbursement directions were written.  She will be here tomorrow for the funeral and it’s anyone’s guess what she’ll do with what should have rightfully come to you.  I remember your father mentioned her once or twice and he didn’t seem to have a high regard for her.”

“Yes, I remember the same.  So, what I am to come to understand is that, I have lost my father and my brother and most likely all my worldly possession and am penniless?”

Before Bell could answer, he quickly grabbed her as she slid to the floor.  He picked her up and carried her to the room that was ready for her.  “Mary,” he called out.

Mary appeared at the door.  “Yes, sir?”

“Would you see to her satchel and dress her for the night.  I think she will sleep until morning.”

“Yes, sir.  As quick as can be,” and Mary set to work.

 

 

As the weeks rolled on Margaret struggled to come to grips with the loss of her family.  Her aunt sold the family home and insisted that she come and live with them in Winsford.  She had no choice but to accept their charity.  It was never a thought in her aunt’s mind to bequeath some of the money or jewels to help Margaret make her way in life, even as a working woman.  Margaret was penniless.  During the following year Margaret found herself slowly cast into the role of a servant of the house, being expected to earn her room and board.  Margaret was tasked daily with menial jobs and although she would have wanted to help in the house, it was now an obligation.  She tried to explain that she was educated and could probably help them in other ways, but that wasn’t to their liking.

Margaret had secretly looked for work in the small town but there was nothing for her.  Her life had become grim and she hadn’t faced the worst.  Fright was now a daily worry.  It seemed that her aunt’s husband, George, was becoming bold in her presence when they found themselves alone.  Margaret did all that she could to avoid him when her aunt was out of the house.  He would call for Margaret, asking her for a cup of tea or just her opinion on something he’d written.  But he always managed to find a reason to be near and brush against her, apologizing afterwards.  As the weeks wore on, the apologies stopped.  His attentions grew bolder with him actually placing his hands on her, as if he was a doting Uncle.  Margaret knew it was otherwise.  She had to get out of the house before he could overpower her and take what he wanted.  Easily, he could hold over her head the fact that she could be escorted to the front door with her luggage, at any time.  Margaret felt hopeless and didn’t think she had anywhere to turn.

One night while reading a book, something reminded her of the woman who had been her governess for eight years.  From the age of six, Miss Leeds taught her to read and write, draw and sew, and much about life that wasn’t found in books for young girls to read.  She had loved Miss Leeds and Margaret felt she cared for her very much, too.  Somewhere in her personal effects were a couple of letters that they had exchanged over the years.  Miss Leeds was always interested in her charge as she went through higher education and finishing school.  Margaret hoped that one of those addresses would find her.

 

Madam Katie Leeds

 

*     *     *

 

John Thornton sat feeling very foolish and wondered at his sanity for waiting in the madam’s office of a high class brothel.  He was embarrassed even though his actions were respectfully extolled by most of his male friends who boasted about the lady’s at Miss Leeds.

By anyone’s definition they were whores, but John found out a lot about the establishment before visiting the place.  Miss Leeds took her job very seriously.  Each one of the women who worked for her was hand-picked.  If you met one of these women on the street, she would have been taken as a Lady.  They were respectable, professional, and lovely to look at.  They were proficiently skilled in the care of cleanliness of their person and their room and avoiding conception and the adhering to the rules of the house.  There was maid service to change the bedding with crisp ironed sheets after a customer had completed his one hour.  Miss Leeds treated all the girls as her daughters and had their interests at heart more than her clientele.  Her girls would work no more than three hours a day and they had their mornings to themselves.  They were paid well above the average worker and a small sum was put aside for when they decided to leave the business.

Miss Leeds was an intelligent woman.  She knew they didn’t have much of a life after this type of work.  They would forever be shunned and most likely unmarried for the rest of their life.  She ensured that they could provide for their advancing ages on a small scale.  Miss Leeds’ establishment was quite respectable.  Her services were expensive, but her attention to her girls didn’t end there with her mothering.  She interviewed every new client, being very critical of the male customer.  You were somebody if you passed Miss Leeds’ interview.  The following morning, she would have a conversation with the new client’s lady.  They would discuss the client’s wants and desires as Miss Leeds had rules there, too.  There were certain desires that would not be tolerated and if the gentlemen insisted himself on the lady, he would be banned.  Also, Miss Leeds would inspect her girl who had been with the new client the night before, for any sign of bruising or roughness.  The Leeds’ Ladies, having been in the new metropolis of Milton about two years had risen to the top bringing with it an air of decency.  Memberships were held in high regard and much sought after by the more lucrative gentlemen in Milton, whether married or single.  Miss Leeds taught the girls how to teach their client, if he was inclined, in the art of pleasing a woman.  She knew that women had lived in the dark ages long enough.  The embarrassment of not speaking up for what pleasured them was over.  Even though it meant some of her customers would find satisfaction with a pleasured wife and never return, she was glad of it.  A lesson was always offered during the interview process and the client knew the invitation always stood.

John Thornton was an unceasingly pursued gentlemen being on the top bachelor list in Milton.  He was a tall, young, dark haired, blue-eyed man with a lot wealth behind him.  He was the premiere Cotton Manufacturer, now owning three mills.  His life had been dedicated to his work and reaping the rewards had never been part of his routine, until lately.  He was never without a lady on his arm at the theater, dinners, or city events.  He was no stranger to intimacy with a woman but he was tiring of the women that he attracted.  When he needed to fulfill his sexual needs, he wasn’t interviewing for a wife.  All the women seemed to have designs on snaring him for a husband.  They assumed he could be captured through exhaustive marathons of sexual antics, or as he had heard rumored, through a conception entrapment, which he was most careful to avoid.  He tired of that game even though his male friends envied him.

“Good evening, Mr. Thornton,” Miss Leeds said, as she strolled into her tastefully decorated office, while John stood for her entrance.  There were no expenses spared anywhere in her establishment, John thought, as he looked around the room.  There was no bawdy look to be found anywhere.  He felt like he was in a lovely first class hotel.

“I’m very sorry to keep you waiting, but knowing of you, Mr. Thornton, your interview will be brief.  Here is a list of do’s and don’ts if you wish to be a member here.  Even though I don’t know you personally, I do not think you are the sort to have any difficulty following our house rules.

John started to glance down at the paper he was handed when Miss Leeds began with her few questions, asking mostly about his preference in the Lady.  Even though John was uncomfortable with this whole interview, he persevered.  “I am well aware of your reputation and how well you take care of your ladies and your gentlemen clients.  I have no particular woman in mind.  I will be happy with a pleasant quiet gentle woman.  Probably, unlike your other clients, I will be visiting here on occasions to unwind.  I do not want a woman that has anything to prove to me or any special performance.  It is that that I am wishing to avoid.”

“I see, Mr. Thornton.  Knowing your reputation, I was quite surprised to see you being escorted into my office.  You would be the last person I would expect to need our services here, but I think I begin to see what some of your difficulties are with the ladies that beg your favors.  You will certainly be a welcomed client to any of our women.  I have two girls that are very gentle and well spoken and are among the favored here.  Do you wish for an appointment this evening?”

“No, I would like two nights from tonight or a night when either of these lady’s you recommend are available,” John said as he folded the Rules paper and stuffed it in his inside pocket.

Miss Leeds looked through her appointment book while John peered at the long list of reservations, he presumed.  “Mr. Thornton, Miss Lucie will see you at nine o’clock on Thursday evening.  Will that suit you, sir?”

“Yes, that will be fine,” John, said, as he stood to leave.  He reached across the desk and shook the extended hand that Miss Leeds offered.

“Mr. Thornton, you will be a welcome client and I hope we pass your expectations, of which, I really have no doubt.”

“Thank you, Miss Leeds.  I shall return in two days.”  John turned and left the confidential office.  As he arrived on the sidewalk outside, he inhaled heavily, glad to be passed that ordeal.  He whistled for his coach as he could see Branson well down the line of parked carriages with drivers waiting out their master’s hour.  Being president of the Merchant Chamber of Commerce and a city Magistrate, he’d been in plenty of difficult situations but his past half hour had to match some of his most unforgettable times.  His difficulty wasn’t with the interview itself, the worry of rejection, or the embarrassment; it was himself.  “What is wrong with me, that I need a place like this?” he asked himself.

Miss Leed's House

Branson pulled his carriage near to where John was waiting, making that area in front of Miss Leeds Place, now double parked with coaches.  He saw Branson nod to the driver waiting next to the curb.  “They must know each other,” John thought.  He wondered what his friends would think and he knew Branson must be wild with questions.  His driver, Branson, had been with him several years and was as good and professional as they came.  He may have to give Branson a reason why he might need to be driven here now and then before he would burst with wonder.

With a questioning look on Branson’s face, he opened the door for his Master.  John, working on why he went there tonight, kept telling himself, he needed to relax and not always perform like he was on a stage.  He didn’t think there was anything new to learn in his execution as a sexual partner, but that was the point.  He was tired of complying to their demands.  Sometimes, he became so concerned about what the Lady expected or wanted, that his own satisfaction went unfulfilled or it turned into a marathon of stunts.  Where had his lustful youth gone?  He wondered.  He wanted someone to care about.  He knew finding a woman he loved would make a big difference in his maturing attitude but the idea was beginning to seem hopeless.  This had been his way of life for a decade.  He could already hear the guff that his partner and best friend, Nicholas Higgins, was going to give him when he found out what he had done tonight.  John did take some comfort that he knew a lot of the single Mill Masters were frequent guests at Miss Leeds’, albeit for probably different desires than he.

Branson reined his Master to his front door and hopped out of his box to open the coach door and lower the steps.  As John exited the coach he looked at the frown Branson was wearing.  “I guess you’re wondering why I went there, aren’t you?”  John asked, smugly.

“Well guv, I must say ‘yes’, I am wondering.  They only perform one service and it would seem to me they offer nothing of which you have to pay for, but it is none of my business, sir,” Branson said, leaving it hanging in the air, begging an answer.

“You are correct, Branson, it is none of your business.”  John paused, smiling.  “All I will say is that, occasionally, it will be nice and relaxing for me to do nothing that I am expected to do.  Women, who want to trap you for a husband, can be incredibly adventurous or downright deceitful.  This tires me.  I may be getting paranoid, but I have reason to believe that entrapment is being bandied about.  If I can give you any advice, always know where you place your seed.  Guard it.  Don’t leave the responsibility always to the lady.”  John turned and walked toward his front porch not expecting any response from Branson.  Branson probably considered himself a young lady’s man and thoughts of this nature may not have entered his mind, yet.  John knew he would have to mull over what he was just told.  At his young age, lust inevitably rears its uncontrollable passion and little thought is given at the moment of future consequences.

 

*     *     *

 

Miss Leeds watched as Miss Lucie awaited the arrival of John Thornton.  She was properly dressed in ladies newer fashions, her hair was perfect, and her scent was freesia.  Since Miss Leeds was standing in the hall when Mr. Thornton came through the door, which was opened by her butler-bouncer; she greeted him and showed him into the parlor.

“Good evening, sir.  I hope your stay will be what you expect.  Please do not hesitate to visit me in my office should you find something amiss or worrisome.  Mr. Thornton, this is Miss Lucie,” Miss Leeds said, then departed the room.

John Thornton

John felt awkward.  What did he do now?  Do they sit and speak for a few minutes?  Does he take her hand and kiss it, or shake it?  He finally started to open his mouth to greet her, when she took his hat from him.

“Good evening, Mr. Thornton.  Gentlemen usually leave their coat and hat here, on this coat rack.  But if you prefer to bring it with you, that will be fine, too.”

“And good evening to you, Miss Lucie.  It’s nice to meet you,” John said, extending his hand to lightly shake hers.  Lucie was very beautiful, he thought, with her jet black hair and green eyes.  She was quite short but nothing detracted from her lovely shape.  His breathing became heavier as his loins told him of his anxiety.

“Mr. Thornton, I hope it will always be your pleasure when you meet me,” Lucie said, coquettishly, smiling into his eyes.

John had seen that look before.  Many of the women he had escorted over the years wore that same sweet, almost innocent look, that, frankly, he had come to detest.  That smile and tone were all part of her act, he knew.  He didn’t know what to expect, but sincerity certainly shouldn’t have been expected.  She was a ‘professional’, after all.

“Mr. Thornton?  Would you care to follow me?”  Lucie asked as she felt waves of her real passion starting to well up, looking at this most handsome man.  This could be a rare night of enjoyment and no masquerade of her desire and creating a pretense that he was all man.

 

This book will contain some explicit sensual scenes later in the book. If that is offensive to you in a Romance novel, you may be well advised to not begin this book. – Loyal Wynyard

loyalwynyard.com

The Crucible starring Richard Armitage coming to cinemas

The Crucible starring Richard Armitage coming to cinemas later this year

The Old Vic production will also be available to download and watch online around the world

By Ben Hewis • 5 Sep 2014 • London, Off-West End
Richard Armitage in The Crucible
Richard Armitage in The Crucible
© Johan Persson

The Old Vic has announced that Digital Theatre are to film their critically acclaimed production of The Crucible, directed by Yaël Farber, starring Richard Armitage. The production will be broadcast to cinemas around the world and available as a download, with dates and territories to be announced later this year.

Set in the town of Salem, Massachusetts, where in 1692, 19 adults and two dogs were hanged for witchcraft, and one man was pressed to death for refusing to plead. The Crucible tells the story of one man’s fight to save his identity in a repressive Puritan community.

Arthur Miller‘s play was inspired by the actions of The House Committee on Un-American Activities of the McCarthy era, in front of which the playwright was invited to give evidence. It was most recently seen in London at the Open Air Theatre in 2010, with Patrick O’Kane as Proctor.

Armitage (Robin Hood, Spooks and The Hobbit) plays John Proctor and is joined by Anna Madeley (Earthquakes in London) as Elizabeth Proctor and newcomer Samantha Colley as Abigail Williams. The cast also includes Sarah Niles, Rebecca Saire and Zara White.

The Crucible is the third play in a new season of productions which are presented in-the-round at The Old Vic.

luceslines

Dearest, loveliest Meg – Part Twenty-Three

Margaret_001

 

Chapter Twenty-Three

Douglas’ kiss was not what I expected. Instead of hungrily invading my mouth with his tongue, he begged entrance in a shy, humble way, almost wooing my lips first by gently licking them. I was surprised and stopped trusting my own tongue into his mouth. Immediately he sweetly began sucking my upper lip, which caused my heart to leap violently within my chest. His mouth made love to my lower lip in slow, stroking movements. A ball of desire began growing in my belly, racing up and down my body like a fire. Dear Lord …

“My dearest, are you sure you want to do this? We could wait and …,” Douglas whispered. I cut him off and pleaded. “No, Douglas, please? I have been wanting you for so long … I love you, Douglas …”

“Margaret, my heart … you know I love you too, almost from the first moment we met but … this is huge, my love. This is definite. I do not want to force you into something you might not be ready for.”

“Douglas …” I stroked his face with both hands and to my astonishment I felt my eyes sting with unshed tears. “Do not reject me, Douglas, I beg of you. We are to be husband and wife soon so what difference does it make?”

In answer to this, Douglas wrapped his arms around me and kissed me to the full now. This time the kiss was hard and demanding, his lips bruising mine with his surge of arousal. My nightgown was shoved upwards and Douglas’ hands were on my bare flesh. I whimpered as he caressed the length of my thighs with skilful strokes. I instantly responded by tugging at his shirt; his magnificent chest glistened and showed the smooth hardness of his silk and steel-like muscles.

 

Douglas gave me no chance of exploring his body further. His hands wandered over my shoulders and freed them from my nightgown. His feathery kisses rained down on my face and neck and trailed down to my bosom’s edge. His lips traced the curve of my left breast, caressing it with his tongue, before taking the peak into his mouth. I gasped and lifted my hips against his in a violent need that threatened to drown me! He nibbled and sucked until my nipple was hard as a pebble. His hand slid under my bottom and lifted it. His mouth left my breast to travel down to my stomach, and then up again to my other breast.

“Douglas, please …” My ragged voice sounded loud in my ears; I had no breath left. With a start I realised he was now lifting my bottom with both hands! His mouth was – oh Heavens! – on my most secret place. I felt his mouth kissing, nibbling, nudging where no one had ever touched me.

It felt immensely good … I gave myself over to the sensations he was instigating in my body – deliciously intense sensations. I experienced an impression of being forced upwards into a ray of liquid sunshine and I was immensely eager to follow that heat wherever it would take me. The world was spinning and I was spinning along with it. I stopped breathing when I was suddenly cast into the heart of the sun; a myriad of stars exploded inside me in a huge ball of unmitigated and unending pleasure!

 

In the morning, I awoke in my own bedchamber with no recollection of how I ended up there. I was again wearing my nightgown and the bedcovers were tucked snugly around my body. I was alone and bitterly disappointed about it. Somehow, I had hoped to find Douglas beside me when I woke. What a lovely thing that would be – to open my eyes and see the face of my beloved rake next to mine on the pillow and to be able to ask him to repeat what he did last night.

I rose and shook away the morning drowsiness. Ten minutes later, I was dressed. When I left my bedchamber, the house, quiet and peaceful, seemed deserted. Halfway down the stairs I heard voices coming from Christopher’s study. I knew not what alerted me but, in a sudden impulse, I cautiously opened the door of the library, which was adjacent to the study and had a connecting door to it. I tiptoed to that connecting door and pressed my ear to it.

Three people were in there. One of them was Mother; there was no mistaking that shrill, slightly belligerent voice.

“My Lord Watcombe – for that is now the proper way to address you, I presume – you might well have retrieved your title and your estate but, from what you have just shared with me and Col. Brandon, I gather that your cousin has squandered away your fathers’ fortune. You, therefore, have no means to support Margaret, should she become your wife. How are you planning to remediate that?”

Christopher – kind soul that he was – came to Douglas’ defence.

“Mother-in-law, I fear that you are a trifle harsh in your judgement of His Lordship, who loves Margaret dearly. I am positively sure that he will do everything within his power to give her all the comfort she needs. Furthermore, dear Mama-in-law, might I remind you of the fact that Margaret is of age? You cannot prevent her from becoming Lady Watcombe if she has set her mind to it.”

Mother’s voice suddenly was serene and very determined. A cold shudder ran down my spine when I listened to what she was saying.

“My Lord Watcombe, dear Christopher, I know you are both deeply committed to Margaret’s welfare. Christopher, you – contrary to His Lordship – have known Margaret since she was a little girl of thirteen, at the time we came to Devonshire. Margaret has never left Devonshire since. She has not been presented at Court, nor has she ever had a London Season. Margaret does not know the world beyond this small corner of Devonshire. If she becomes your wife, My Lord Watcombe, she will be forever tied to this all too small part of England. She will be confined to the boundaries of your estate, My Lord. You know she will. Is that the kind of life you are prepared to give her? Margaret is a gentlewoman and she therefore needs to have knowledge of the world before she shackles herself to you for all eternity. If she is locked away in Devonshire for the rest of her life, she will wither and perish prematurely, cut-off from what is due to her according to her lineage. I cannot believe, My Lord, that this is what you want for her, not when you love her the way you say you do.”

 

A long, heavily laden silence ensued. I did not dare take a breath, anxious as I was to miss Douglas’ reply to that absurdly ridiculous remark of Mother’s. Yet to me, Douglas’s answer mattered. I desperately needed to hear what were his reflexions about all this.

Mother was liberally using emotional blackmail – with the purpose of instigating guilt on my betrothed, thinking he would deny me the life of a genuine well-bred society lady, albeit in her old-fashioned and outmoded notions of what such a life would look like.

 

The next moment, I could well understand why my Douglas was generally considered a rake.

He chuckled! He chuckled so impudently I could hear Mother’s sharp intake of breath. I, on the other hand, exhaled the air I had been subconsciously holding. In a cool, very detached voice, Douglas spoke.

“Mrs. Dashwood, it seems abundantly clear to me that you have not the slightest notion of your daughter’s character. If you had, you would comprehend, Ma’am, that Margaret does not care for such a life. Not only is Margaret the loveliest woman on this earth, with her fine figure, golden curls, gorgeous blue yes, and accented with her gracious elegance and sweet disposition, but she is also intelligent, courageous, astute and smart. Between the two of us we will have restored Watcombe Manor into its former wealth and appearance in no time at all. Of that, I am most sincerely convinced. Nothing will prove too much, too difficult or too unthinkable for my Margaret. She is invincible, Ma’am, and she is incredible and the light of my life. I would rather die than disappoint her.”

 

By now, I was no longer capable of standing on the side line. I threw open the door, which caused the three of them to start violently.

“Well said, my love!” I congratulated Douglas. “Dear sweet Mama, do not concern yourself any longer. Douglas is right; we will do whatever is necessary to make Watcombe Manor the thriving estate it was when his father died. We will make profit, I dare say, in the twinkle of an eye. And if we are fortunate enough to have some money left, next year, perhaps, we will go to London together and have a great season. Together, Mama, we will do everything together, Douglas and I.”

I took Douglas’ outstretched hand in mine and together we knelt before Mama.

“Mrs. Dashwood, Ma’am,” Douglas solemnly said, “will you please give us your blessing on our marriage? It would mean the world to us.”

“Very well, sir,” Mother answered, gesturing that we should rise. Her eyes were guarded but her smile was genuine. “However, I would like you to court my daughter properly from now on. You must leave Delaford Hall and go live somewhere other than where my daughter is staying. It is the proper thing to do. The reason I am asking this of you is that, a few days ago Mrs Jennings and I had a rather nasty  experience in Torquay. Several of the well-to-do merchant spouses approached us with comments of your nightly adventures. I am sure I did not know where to look out of sheer embarrassment!”

“So the gossip mongers are already at work, then? I wonder who gave them the information in the first place,” Douglas mused. “I am sorry, Ma’am, but I cannot be held accountable for what has happened to me and Margaret, at least not entirely. I could never have foreseen that my devious cousin would have had me captured and incarcerated, nor that Margaret would come searching for me.”

“True, sir, all too true. Yet, if you had known Margaret well enough, which you would have if you had taken the time to court her properly, you could have foreseen her coming to search you.”

“Mama, I am in the room! I can hear you!” I shouted. Indignation sounded in my voice but my mother was not to be deterred.

“You know I am right, Margaret! My Lord Watcombe’s behaviour towards you has been outrageous from the start. I cannot but shudder when I think of what your reputation must be like among the decent but narrow-minded merchant families of Torquay, with whom you will have to trade when selling the produce of your husband’s estate.”

“Enough, Mama!” I interrupted. I could see she was about to reproach us again with our behaviour. “Now, if you will excuse us, Douglas and I have some private matters to discuss.”

 

Douglas slid his arm around my waist as we left the library and steered me towards the garden. We walked for a while amongst the profuseness of flowers and bushes of the French garden. Nature was still lush, its the deep green plumage of late summer’s plants surrounded us. It was hard to imagine that all this would decline rapidly, once September came. Almost instinctively we retraced our steps to the spot where we had been the night before.

My cheeks flushed as I recalled what we had done there on the soft velvety grass.

“Douglas?” I ventured, somewhat shyly.

“Yes, my sweet?”

He guided me to a bench, well-hidden from the house, and drew me near.

“Why did you … not finish … last night? Was I too rigid? Did I not entice you enough? You must know I have no experience in matters of lovemaking but I will learn. I want to …”

His mouth closed mine swiftly but firmly and it made me wonder if I had been too outspoken. What did I know about men? They, or he, might well dislike forthrightness in women! I was still fretting about that, all the while answering Douglas’ kiss with alacrity when, to my surprise I felt him chuckle against my lips.

“What? What is it, Douglas?”

He took my face into his hands and peered into my eyes, his gaze sparkling and his mouth wide with a brilliant smile. Oh, how I loved his rare but beautiful smile! I vowed myself, then and there, that I would try to make him smile every day of our lives!

“My beautiful, darling Meg,” Douglas said, “it almost frightens me to death every time I realise how young you still are. And you are, my love! You are still so innocent and I feel terrified – and guilty – of being the one who has damaged that innocence.”

He drew me into the circle of his arms so that my head rested close to his heart. He continued.

“Have you any idea how a man makes love to a woman, sweetheart?”

 

Of course, I had not experienced lovemaking but I had done extensive reading about the animal world. Moreover, I had occasionally witnessed cattle in the fields of Devonshire, and once I came upon a pair of mating cats in the cottage garden. I must confess that, being so close a witness to the act, I was rattled a bit.

“Well, I do know that it is not done as you did last night, Douglas. With … with your fingers, I mean. It involves the use of a man’s … member, does it not?”

Douglas was still chuckling, his mouth buried in my hair. “Yes, my precious, you have that right … proceed with your explanations, if you please?”

I was somewhat puzzled because of his obvious mirth but continued.

“This is all very … embarrassing to explain, Douglas! I was a bit confused at first but when I saw with my own eyes how a cow presented her backside to the bull and …”

“Stop! Oh please, stop!” Douglas was shaking with laughter by now, tears streamed down his cheeks. I stayed silent, feeling even more confused and – I admit – a little hurt. What had I said that was so laughable?

My rake wiped his cheeks with a handkerchief he produced from his coat pocket and became serious again. He rose from the bench, took my hand and pulled me with him in the direction of the stables.

“Come,” he said, “we must go for a little ride. There is something you need to know.”

~ Remembering Times Forgotten through Period Drama ~