John Thornton’s Unfolding Dream – 13

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John Thornton’s Unfolding Dream

 

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Kindle’s carriage was arriving at the seasonal apartment of Lady Carter at its duly appointed time. He had sent a note around after his breakfast asking if he could speak with her. The reply that he received stated she would see him immediately. He was honorable and a gentleman, but he would be honest, as only a gentleman should, he told himself. The driver opened his coach door and he saw his guards dismount to wait by their horses.

Arriving in the vestibule, Lady Carter came to greet him and extended her hand for the proper kiss as nobility dictated. She was not noble but he was, so she expected him to honor his class.

“Baron, how lovely to see you. Please, let us go into the library.”

Kindle walked with her as he looked around her London apartment. He had never been here before. He was amazed. Was it women or Lady Carter that managed to decorate her two-month residence in equal splendor, as her estate must be? Everything was plush and velvet. The tables and glass cabinets were adorned with all and sundry china figurines from the most notable makers in all of Europe. It was very much to his disliking. Homes insufferably crammed with gleaming silver and brass, crystals tinkling somewhere in the distance and the invariable compliments that one must bestow when being shown the newest piece in the collection, were of very little interest to him. He loved his family’s historical relics, his weaponry collection, and his horses. That is all he wanted from life with the exception of Miss Hale and keeping his lands and its people bountiful and happy.

“This is a lovely room, Lady Carter. You have an exceptional collection of objects d’art.

“Thank you. Please have a seat,” she said, directing him to a settee but he managed to steer himself to the single chair next to it. “May I offer you some refreshment?” she asked. “Tea or is a different libation more to your taste?”

“You are most kind, but I have just risen from the morning table and could not put another drop down this gullet.”

“I am quite at odds, Baron, as to what you wish to discuss. Pray . . . began. What is it that you wanted to see me about?” she asked haughtily, knowing he was here for the scene she made to his cousin the evening before.

“Lady Carter, in speaking with Gilbert this morning, he told me of your concern in not seeing me in attendance at all the outings and balls. Did I understand him correctly?”

“Well, concern seems to be a little strong. You and I usually dance often together and I realized I was beginning to miss that. I had wondered if all was well with you.”

Kindle doubted she was speaking in earnest. He knew exactly what she wanted from him and it did not include dancing. Yes, he had bedded her and her passion was great but he was in no mood for her games any longer.

“Lady Carter, what do you expect of me . . . in truth?” Kindle asked, blurting out what would normally be skirted around for hours.

Taken aback by his forthrightness, Lady Carter started to fluster at the very idea of him being so direct. That she did not wish to answer but she must. His directness must come from his military grooming, she thought.

“Baron, I have been under the impression that we have been a little more to each other than mere acquaintances. You saw other women, I saw other men, but eventually we would circle around and find each other again. I thought perhaps we have been destined to be the other’s mate. That has been my dream for a long time. Surely, you have felt the same?”

“Lady Carter, it is my intention, when I asked to see you this morning, that I would be in complete candor with you and we would talk about how we feel for each other.”

Lady Carter showed signs of her spirits lifting off the floor and soaring. Maybe this was not going to be bad news after all, she thought to herself, presenting a charming smile once again.

“I want to be honest for both of us so we can get on with our lives from here. Lady Carter, you are a special woman and I have always enjoyed being with you.” Kindle almost hated himself for the boldfaced lies he was going to tell . . . but only ‘almost’. “We have good times whenever we are together and I was beginning to think as you do . . . maybe we were meant to be. That feeling held a long time. It was only a few weeks ago that I learned differently. I met another young lady. She is not as pretty as you. She has no money, property, or connections. She hates nobility. She is very wrong for me but I cannot divest myself of my feelings for her even though I have tried. We have no understanding; it has not even been discussed. I can only tell you how I feel at this moment. What will happen in the future is unknown. I may feel very differently about her at some point but as for now, I am only seeing her. I need to find the underlying cause of this inner turmoil that I am suffering. She is all wrong for me. I hope you can understand. There have been no promises made or understandings between you and me. If you felt there were some words unsaid but mistakenly expected, I am sorry for that. I have always been a man who was cautious with his words. In my career that is the only way one can be. I know I have never led you to believe that there was anything more to be expected. I still cannot say that those days will never come back because I do not know what I am in for with this new woman who has taken my heart. By all accounts, of what she says, she will not have me when she knows about my nobility. We will have a proper conversation when she returns from Milton in two days. I will be honest with her and we will see where it goes from there.”

Lady Carter rose and Kindle stood as well. She proceeded to the window, looked out, and pondered the words she wanted to say. She did not love him, she never did, but she did want to be a Baroness and wasn’t going to give up that easily. “Thank you, Baron, for being so candid and honest. It was not pleasant to hear but it was refreshing to have it laid before me and understood. I will certainly miss you Kindle. I wish you the best with your new lady but always know that I will wait for you . . . forever if I have to. If she rejects you, return to me.”

“Thank you, madam, for understanding. Your graciousness overwhelms me. You shall forever live in my thoughts,” Kindle said to the back of her, since she had not moved from facing the window. “Good day.” Kindle turned and walked out of the room. He thought he could hear the beginning of her crying act. He had expected it and she was right on queue.

Kindle walked directly to his carriage arriving almost before his driver could get to the door. He was relieved to get that over with but had unsettling feelings about it all. She was seething underneath that frock and retribution was not out of her realm of recompense. She would, again, be rumored to be turned down. A lady’s reputation could not abide much rejection. Nobility had severe unwritten actions regarding a man or woman who was deemed to have been rejected as often as twice. Lady Carter would invariably have to slip down to the next rung in society for the rest of her life. Kindle knew she would not take that without a fight.

****

John turned his back as he was asked to do. “Margaret, I will not promise to hold this sitting attitude for long. I may have to take you into my arms at any moment. I have been shaken to my boots being this near to you. My words are spilling out and I cannot seem to hold them in. Please, proceed before I embarrass myself.”

“Mr. Thornton, I think it’s a bit late for that, do you not?” She could not help but giggle once again. Margaret did not think she’d ever forget that moment when her eyes fell to his embarrassment standing directly in front of her while she sat and waited for her satchel to be retrieved overhead.

 

Hearts Adrift – Part Four

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Chapter Four

 

The company set off at dawn, as was agreed, in a cart drawn by a large horse, one that de Briers had purchased from a brewer. He had paid handsomely for the horse, as well as for the cart, and had asked the brewer and the landlady to keep quiet about himself and his charges. As a precaution, he had let slip that their destination was Le Havre, instead of Boulogne. It was an insurance that meant whoever followed them would take the wrong road, heading due west instead of north.

Jake and Manon sat on the bench, with Jake holding the reins, while Jéhan and de Briers were in the cart. The latter was dressed as drably as was possible, with a large cap shielding his face. Manon was extremely curious to see how he would behave if they encountered a checkpoint.

They crossed the Bois de Boulogne and reached the village of Suresnes where they crossed the river Seine. From there they followed the riverbank, travelling east for a while, until they reached the small village of Clichy. Travelling northwest, they next set off on the road to Calais. Eventually, the horse had to be rested and fed. That left the travellers time to have their luncheon.

As soon as the foursome sat down on the Seine’s grassy sloping bank, Jéhan chose de Briers’ company, barely glancing at his sister when she handed him a piece of bread and an apple.

“Uncle, tell me about England. I want to become an Englishman, like you,” the boy said in rapid French.

De Briers laughed, a sound so joyful it made Manon’s heart leap.

“Well, first of all, Jéhan, you must learn to speak English! Once you have mastered that, I can hire a private tutor for you so that you can be properly educated.”

“I do not speak English,” the boy moped. “Is it difficult to learn?”

“Not to me,” de Briers smiled, “and I am certain that a clever lad like you will learn it very quickly.”

Manon kept her mouth shut about her ability to speak the language. Up until now, the travellers had always spoken in French. Manon’s mother had insisted on Manon learning her tongue from a very tender age. Manon spoke it fluently, albeit with a slight accent. She was reluctant for de Briers to learn of this – it was convenient to be able to overhear conversations between the two men when they discussed matters they did not want her to hear.

After the meal, de Briers ordered Jéhan and Manon to take a nap, given the fact that their early rising had left the boy sleepy. Brother and sister stretched out on the cool grass, basking in the warm June sun. De Briers waited a quarter of an hour before he challenged Jake.

“What exactly were you blabbering about last night, Jake? I overheard your comment about the Dowager Baronetess, and I was displeased with it.”

“I apologize once again, master, but the girl was asking eager questions about you. I saw no harm in telling her facts that are common knowledge.”

“Enlighten me, Jake,” de Briers said, his tone becoming rather implacable. “What exactly was my niece asking after?”

“Well, she wanted to know …” Jake hesitated, then continued, “… about the women in your life.”

Manon felt heat flaring up her cheeks and neck. She pinched her eyes closed more  firmly, afraid that they might think her awake.

“Did she now?” de Briers drawled. “And have you managed to satisfy her curiosity?”

“No! What do I know about that subject, sir? I am merely your Parisian man of business.”

“Good,” de Briers grunted. “I would very much appreciate it, Jake, if you did not venture to proffer personal details of my life to anyone in the future.”

“No, master, I won’t. You have my word.”

 

They stayed at the riverside for two hours to make sure the horse was properly rested. Their survival might well depend on the animal’s ability to bring them all the way to Boulogne, which was one hundred and sixty miles from Paris. That distance was but a bit shorter than what they would have to travel once they reached England.

Eventually, Jake mounted the bench while de Briers lifted Jéhan into the cart. Manon hesitated.

“I … could you just wait a moment, Uncle?”

De Briers turned in surprise upon hearing the name she had given him. Finally, he reflected, his niece was letting her guard down. “What is it, Manon?”

“I … I have … to go,” she mumbled, and began to head off for a small copse some twenty yards from the road.

Of course, De Briers realised. She was female and did not have the luxury to go and do her business in the river, like the rest of their little band. Stupid of him, not to have anticipated that. However, he did not like the notion that she should stray into the woods all by herself and followed her. When she turned and saw him, Manon put her hands on her waist in the universal gesture of annoyance. “You do not need to come with me,” she challenged. “I will be only a moment.”

“No,” her uncle stated curtly, “times are too uncertain. There are lots of fugitives in France, nowadays, and desperate people do not shy away from violence. Let me take a look first.”

Manon had not thought about that, and she realised her uncle was not only intelligent and careful, but also sweet and caring.

“Thank you, Uncle,” she said, and waited patiently until he signalled her to come nearer.

“Here,” he said, “this is a safe place. I will be waiting just a few yards away. Be quick about it, Manon. I want us to reach Fraconville before nightfall. There is a decent auberge where we can spend the night. I do not like the look of those clouds in the west.”

 

Unfortunately, de Briers was right. The clouds became large, black, and ominous, and the group was soaked to the bone by a deluge right after they crossed the Seine outside Clichy. The river meandered through the countryside repeatedly on its way to the North Sea, so they would encounter it again and again before they reached Boulogne.

Fortunately, while the passengers of the cart sat hunched under their soaked cloaks, feeling miserable, the placid, sturdy horse kept on plodding along, oblivious to the pelting rain. There was one large benefit to the situation, de Briers mused. At least they would not encounter guards or checkpoints now.

Their progress through the lush countryside was slow but steady, and eventually, the rain subsided. The warm sun that followed the torrent was a welcome change to the bone-cold travellers, who basked in the warmth it provided. Yet, when they reached the Auberge du Coquelicot in the tiny village of Fraconville, clouds had come drifting in again.

“Remember,” de Briers warned, before they went in, “Jake is the head of our “family” and you, Manon are posing as his wife. I am a demented uncle and Jéhan is your son.”

“Actually,” Manon said, “that will not do. Jake and I, as man and wife, would be given one bedchamber. I will be his widowed sister and Jake can sleep with you. Jéhan sleeps in my room.”

“I want to be with the men,” Jéhan piped. “I am a man, too!”

But, as it turned out, there were no private rooms at the “Poppy Inn”. All guests had to sleep in the common room, but as times were uncertain, they were the only guests, that night.

Times were indeed uncertain, as Manon soon experienced. The landlord, a thickset, gloomy looking man with a head as bald as an egg, had little else to offer but a hard straw mattress and a thin blanket for a bed in the cold common room.

“I have no wood to burn, and besides, it is June,” he said sourly. “Be glad I have some rabbit stew ready for your supper. That and a tankard of wine will get you warm quickly enough.”

After their meal, Jéhan settled next to Jake, who spread his blanket over the both of them. The boy seemed to have formed a friendship with Jake, who welcomed him good-naturedly. De Briers put his pallet to Jéhan’s other side, almost automatically, and Manon envied the three males. She was banished to the far end of the room, where a curtain separated her from the rest.

 

Manon felt miserable. She was damp, cold and still hungry. She had not dared to drink wine, for fear she might be sick afterwards. Wine made by the common people could not always be trusted, her father had taught her. They added dubious extra ingredients to the mixture in order to increase the alcohol content more efficiently than was possible with grape fermentation alone, such as wood spirits, an alcohol produced by the distillation of wood and used as a diluent in cheap wines. It was poisonous and could kill or blind a person, if they were lucky enough to survive.

Her uncle, as it turned out, forbade all of them from drinking the drinking the landlord’s wine. Manon asked for a pitcher of hot water and made a mint tisane for them. She had the satisfaction of seeing her uncle’s eyes widen with surprise as she rummaged through her medicinal bag to retrieve the pouch with the dried mint leaves. She even produced a small pot of honey, which she used to sweeten the beverage. It was succulent but it did nothing to warm the body, especially hers, when she lay shivering on her lonely pallet. After a long time, she drifted into a fitful sleep, interrupted by her frequent coughs.

 

Richard de Briers listened to his niece’s coughs with growing unease. The girl had no spare clothing so she was forced to sleep in her damp dress, he knew. It must by sheer misery. He could barely get warm under the thin, mouldy blanket their host had provided, so he could only guess how Manon must feel. At least he had little Jéhan’s body to warm his back, while she had no one’s warmth to comfort her. Tired of wrestling with his worry for Manon, Richard rose and crept to the other end of the room.

His niece was sleeping like a child would do, one hand under her cheek and the other wrapped tightly over her small breasts. The blanket had slipped away to leave her trembling with cold. Without giving further thought to the matter, Richard curled up behind her and enveloped them both in his spare woollen cloak. This one was fairly dry since it had been stored inside his leather travel bag.

The moment he felt Manon’s soft, round body snuggle up against his, Richard realised his mistake. His treacherous male body immediately responded with the usual embarrassing reaction. He froze, not daring to move for fear Manon would wake. How was he, her uncle, to explain the very

non-avuncular behaviour he had just displayed by joining his virgin niece on her pallet?

However, with a sigh of well-being, Manon sank deeper into sleep, and was soon breathing, deeply and regularly. Gradually, Richard relaxed and his body with him. It felt … well, right, although he knew that it was not right, not at all. Manon was his niece – his ward, even. He was honour-bound to protect her, to offer her a home where she would feel loved and safe. His mind and heart knew her for what she was, his sister’s daughter, but his lascivious body only acknowledged her exquisite femininity.

Richard inwardly cursed himself for staying away from Madame Herodias’ London nunnery for far too long. Then, as their combined body heat started to relax him, he willed himself to rule out all inappropriate thoughts and go to sleep.

 

Manon woke as soon as de Briers gave the signal. She was surprised to see him already dressed and giving instructions, while Jéhan and Jake were still preparing, dizzy with sleep. She herself felt marvellously rested, which caused her to wonder, since she had had such a hard time falling asleep.

When they were on the road again, Manon reflected upon it. She had been cold and wet and shivering. Yet she must have fallen asleep sometime, and had a sound sleep as well, since she had not dreamt or tossed around on her pallet. She did, however, remember a wonderful warmth that had spread over her at some point. By that time, she had already been too soundly asleep to bother about trying to understand it.

 

The weather was bright and sunny again, and the group made excellent progress. Come nightfall, they had achieved their planned fifteen miles, and they reached the Abbaye Notre-Dame du Val.

The abbey had been sold to a draper from Paris a few years ago, when the Revolution dispersed the monks. It stood empty but people from the vicinity still worshipped our Lady in the ruined church, which was the only building that had been destroyed.

De Briers knew about the abbey because he had stayed there when accompanying his father to France during his boyhood. He was also acquainted with some of the farmers who lived nearby. His father had always showed an interest in how others gained their produce so that he could apply their methods at Bearsham Manor.

The four of them stopped at Thierry Dubois’ farmhouse and bought some food from him – at a very substantial price, of course. Afterwards, they took refuge inside the abbey for the night and restored themselves.

 

“First Proposal” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

First Proposal

“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

Elizabeth’s astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, coloured, doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement; and the avowal of all that he felt, and had long felt for her, immediately followed. He spoke well; but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed; and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority–of its being a degradation–of the family obstacles which had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.

In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man’s affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger. She tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with patience, when he should have done. He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand. As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He _spoke_ of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security. Such a circumstance could only exasperate farther, and, when he ceased, the colour rose into her cheeks, and she said:

“In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could _feel_ gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot–I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to anyone. It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short duration. The feelings which, you tell me, have long prevented the acknowledgment of your regard, can have little difficulty in overcoming it after this explanation.”

Mr. Darcy, who was leaning against the mantelpiece with his eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise. His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and would not open his lips till he believed himself to have attained it. The pause was to Elizabeth’s feelings dreadful. At length, with a voice of forced calmness, he said:

“And this is all the reply which I am to have the honour of expecting! I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little _endeavour_ at civility, I am thus rejected. But it is of small importance.”

“I might as well inquire,” replied she, “why with so evident a desire of offending and insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character? Was not this some excuse for incivility, if I _was_ uncivil? But I have other provocations. You know I have. Had not my feelings decided against you–had they been indifferent, or had they even been favourable, do you think that any consideration would tempt me to accept the man who has been the means of ruining, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister?”

As she pronounced these words, Mr. Darcy changed colour; but the emotion was short, and he listened without attempting to interrupt her while she continued:

“I have every reason in the world to think ill of you. No motive can excuse the unjust and ungenerous part you acted _there_. You dare not, you cannot deny, that you have been the principal, if not the only means of dividing them from each other–of exposing one to the censure of the world for caprice and instability, and the other to its derision for disappointed hopes, and involving them both in misery of the acutest kind.”

She paused, and saw with no slight indignation that he was listening with an air which proved him wholly unmoved by any feeling of remorse. He even looked at her with a smile of affected incredulity.

“Can you deny that you have done it?” she repeated.

With assumed tranquillity he then replied: “I have no wish of denying that I did everything in my power to separate my friend from your sister, or that I rejoice in my success. Towards _him_ I have been kinder than towards myself.”

Elizabeth disdained the appearance of noticing this civil reflection, but its meaning did not escape, nor was it likely to conciliate her.

“But it is not merely this affair,” she continued, “on which my dislike is founded. Long before it had taken place my opinion of you was decided. Your character was unfolded in the recital which I received many months ago from Mr. Wickham. On this subject, what can you have to say? In what imaginary act of friendship can you here defend yourself? or under what misrepresentation can you here impose upon others?”

“You take an eager interest in that gentleman’s concerns,” said Darcy, in a less tranquil tone, and with a heightened colour.

“Who that knows what his misfortunes have been, can help feeling an interest in him?”

“His misfortunes!” repeated Darcy contemptuously; “yes, his misfortunes have been great indeed.”

“And of your infliction,” cried Elizabeth with energy. “You have reduced him to his present state of poverty–comparative poverty. You have withheld the advantages which you must know to have been designed for him. You have deprived the best years of his life of that independence which was no less his due than his desert. You have done all this! and yet you can treat the mention of his misfortune with contempt and ridicule.”

“And this,” cried Darcy, as he walked with quick steps across the room, “is your opinion of me! This is the estimation in which you hold me! I thank you for explaining it so fully. My faults, according to this calculation, are heavy indeed! But perhaps,” added he, stopping in his walk, and turning towards her, “these offenses might have been overlooked, had not your pride been hurt by my honest confession of the scruples that had long prevented my forming any serious design. These bitter accusations might have been suppressed, had I, with greater policy, concealed my struggles, and flattered you into the belief of my being impelled by unqualified, unalloyed inclination; by reason, by reflection, by everything. But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence. Nor am I ashamed of the feelings I related. They were natural and just. Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections?–to congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?”

Elizabeth felt herself growing more angry every moment; yet she tried to the utmost to speak with composure when she said:

“You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner.”

She saw him start at this, but he said nothing, and she continued:

“You could not have made the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it.”

Again his astonishment was obvious; and he looked at her with an expression of mingled incredulity and mortification. She went on:

“From the very beginning–from the first moment, I may almost say–of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”

“You have said quite enough, madam. I perfectly comprehend your feelings, and have now only to be ashamed of what my own have been. Forgive me for having taken up so much of your time, and accept my best wishes for your health and happiness.”

And with these words he hastily left the room, and Elizabeth heard him the next moment open the front door and quit the house.

 

1940 Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier

 

 

1995 Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle

 

 

2005 Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen

“She is tolerable” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

"I would not be so fastidious as you are," cried Mr. Bingley, "for a
kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in
my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them you see
uncommonly pretty."

"_You_ are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room," said Mr.
Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.JaneAusten

"Oh! She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one
of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I
dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you."

"Which do you mean?" and turning round he looked for a moment at
Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said:
"She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt _me_; I am in no
humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted
by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her
smiles, for you are wasting your time with me."

Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth
remained with no very cordial feelings toward him. She told the story,
however, with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively,
playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous.

1940  Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier

 

 

1995  Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle

 

 

2005   Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen

“Original Trailers” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

clicking on the title above will expand it to full size screen

 

Original Trailers

Following the trailers, tomorrow will be scenes of  “She is tolerable”

Followed on the third day with the “First Proposal

1940  Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier

 

1995  Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle

 

2005   Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen

Houdini and Doyle

 

ony Pictures TV has sold the 10-episode series to Fox, the UK’s ITV Encore and Canada’s Shaw Media. The series will air on all three networks in the spring.

Harry Houdini: master magician, escape artist, born penniless and now the highest paid performer in the world and he wants everyone to know it. He refuses to believe in the paranormal. As a professional magician and master of illusion he knows there’s nothing supernatural about magic. To him, everything unexplained is a trick, a gimmick, or a fraud.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is the creator of the greatest detective of all time – Sherlock Holmes – but is also a passionate believer in the paranormal. Because, having lost someone very close to him, he desperately wants to find a way of communicating with them.

This fundamental difference between the two men leads to conflict… and humour… and competition. High-minded competition in the pursuit of the truth and ridiculous petty competition because they’re… guys. But despite all this, they need each other. Doyle needs Houdini because he is gullible. Houdini needs Doyle because he is wrong.

Houdini & Doyle will draw heavily on the rich history of the period. At the turn of the 20th century the Metropolitan Police, mired in the ways of the 19th century, were overwhelmed with bizarre and often inexplicable cases so they turned to outsiders including, believe it or not, Houdini and Doyle, who collaborated with New Scotland Yard on some unsolved and inexplicable crimes.

 

Houdini-Doyle

John Thornton’s Unfolding Dream – 12

Unfolding Dream 250x375

 

John Thornton’s Unfolding Dream

 

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Chapter 7

 

Kindle arrived back at his apartment, finding Gilbert sitting down to their late breakfast as was customary with their late nights.

“Where have you been Cousin?” asked an energetic Gilbert who appeared to Kindle to be in rare form for the hour. Many a morning had Kindle and Gilbert sat across from each other, reluctant to speak because neither was usually very sociable until noon. Gilbert was certainly different this morning.

“What has you so full of yourself this early?” asked Kindle. “Myself, I am up early because I wanted to escort Miss Hale to her train, but found I was too late. Some other gentleman from Milton, of all places, was taking her in his coach. From their manner, I am assuming they are new acquaintances. But enough of me, you seem like you have swallowed the proverbial canary?”

“Oh, I am having a grand time trying to imagine what you will say to Lady Carter when you two next meet. Eve was unavailable last night, so I popped over to court. I was immediately set upon by Lady Carter demanding to know why you have not been attending any of the ton’s parties. Ever since that woman got a whiff that you might be wife hunting, she must have put plans into motion to snare you. I am surprised she hasn’t landed on our doorstep looking for you,” Gilbert continued to laugh. “She did allude to something someone saw. She was told you were with another lady at the park.”

“Oh, dear God.” Kindle replied, shaking his head. “With Miss Hale, so firmly entrenched in my thoughts lately, Lady Carter has been absent from my mind. She has been a pest all season, like a bee buzzing around my head. She can be incessant sometimes.”

“I should warn you, Kindle,” Gilbert said, “I think she is about to impale you with her stinger. Moreover, you know you are dealing with a Queen bee, or so she sees herself. Every since her husband was knighted and she became a Lady, she became magnified in her own mind. It’s a shame he died as young as he was. I never did hear how he died.” Gilbert could not help finding a little humor in all of this as he had been placed in a similar position once. There was a serious, almost sinister, side to Lady Carter, if rumors were to be, believed. “Do you think she’s seeking title?” Gilbert went on.

“I think that is all it can be. She has plenty of money and I doubt she actually thinks she is in love with me. What else could it be? By the way, what other noble gentlemen are in or near a position of becoming wed? Do you know? Am I the only one out there this season? I have never paid attention to any detail such as that, but I am suspecting the ladies do, for this has been a difficult season for me.”

“Cousin, cousin, cousin, what little you see. There are other nobles out there, but none that hold anything other than a knighthood. Being a Baron, you are the pièce de résistance this season. It is a good thing the rumor of your seeking a wife only started a month ago. You could have had a very difficult or very enjoyable, long season,” Gilbert said with a wink.

“Stop doing that, will you? I have had a decade in sins of the flesh, like you. It seems we both are looking past that now, for something to complete our lives. In our hearts, I think we both know whom we want by our side, but we want our wife to have passion and that, dear cousin, is still an unknown. However, I do not seek that out with just anyone, now. I do not know if God plays a cruel joke on us or not. The thing we have thought we needed in our life to make it worth living is now taking second place in our hearts, minds, and bodies. These are strange waters that we navigate; the way is uncharted, and our anchors are weighed,” Kindle laughed at this last comment, trying to lighten the subject.

Gilbert broke into a big laugh. “No wonder you speak at the House of Lords so eloquently. That was nicely put, and I might add, precisely, hits the mark. I shall stop teasing you for I fear you have well and truly convinced me that you are falling in love. What about your honey bee?” Gilbert asked. “She’s got a side to her that is rumored to be dark.”

“How is it that you know this? What have you heard?”

“It’s been many months ago that a rumor circulating wondered wherever did a nobleman go that she was known to be interested in. People kiddingly said that she held him in her basement until he promised to marry her. Now, mind you, that was a rumor, but the gentleman did actually vanish. I also heard tell that a fine gentleman of means but not titled, courted her for some months and then turned away from her. No one ever knew what caused him to turn away. It was swift and decisive on his part, leaving her a laughing stock of the ton. It was said that he left the country eventually. One wondered if she wanted rid of her embarrassment and forced him out or he left on his own accord or maybe lies rotting somewhere. It just left an air of mystery for some time. Where have you been? I know you have bedded her and nothing of this has reached your ears?”

Kindle shook his head “No. I pay little attention to gossip, but now I think I am glad that you do.”

“I wasn’t worried for you at all until last night, when I saw the determination in her eyes, to find you.”

“You really think I am in danger . . . from Lady Carter? Surely, you are mad – but I cannot take that chance. I will go and see her and find out just what she is expecting of me. There has never been any intimation of anything more than a pleasurable night in each other’s company. Nothing more. To be safe though, write my homestead and have them send another guard.”

*     *     *

Megan Pinson (nee Winston) was scurrying around the house cooking and waiting patiently with little success for the arrival of her best friend. Daniel, Megan’s husband, had been wonderful in supporting the visit by his wife’s friend. He had done a little painting on the outside of the house where chips of paint had fallen. He had repaired and painted the spare bedroom and made several small improvements around the house using the little time they had since they knew she was coming. A lot of his pittance of a savings went into the house, but it did not matter as long as Megan was so happy. Daniel was not so sure his guest, however, would like being reminded that the facilities were outside or under the bed, but Margaret understood Megan’s circumstances. Love had conquered Megan. Even with his low paying job, she still accepted him because she loved him. She willingly left a fine home and family to come live in a poor neighborhood with him. He loved her more than he could say.

“Megan, I am about done all I can do. Do you need any help in the kitchen?” Daniel asked as he walked over to her standing by the stove. As Megan stirred the stew, Daniel swept his arms around her waist and kissed her neck as he lifted her in the air for a moment. Megan breaking out with a big smile, left the wooden spoon in the pot, and turned so his kisses would find her mouth.

“Husband, you must not wife me too much right now. You know I have things to do . . . and no . . . I do not mean that, before you say it,” Megan laughed. “I need my wits and you are lovingly and cleverly diverting them. I can hear it now. Margaret, excuse our mess in the house, but my husband was making love to me and you were never a thought.”

Daniel backed off, laughing. “All right . . . if I mustn’t. I am glad for you to see your friend but I am also glad that it is only for a day or two. I want to hear you howl to the moon. When is she due to arrive at the station?”

“It should be around 4:30 this afternoon. When do you pick up the buggy that Bart is lending us for two days?” asked Megan.

“I guess I will go around to his place about 2:00, and return here. We will leave for the station around 4:00.”

 

*     *     *

 

“Surely, you jest, John,” Margaret said with a stunned look on her face. We have never had any connection in our lives that I remember. Do you know of anything?”

“I do not,” said John, stoically.

“Aren’t the people in your vision supposed to mean something to you, like a friend or family member that is in danger?” Margaret asked, starting to feel helpless coming to the end of the little knowledge she had heard.

“I did get a bit of research in and what you say seems to be the most common happening.”

“Would I be too impertinent to ask about your visions where I was concerned?”

John noticed how frightened she was becoming. It was overwhelming her as it had done to him. However, he knew what his multiple visions of her meant – that she was his mate – and he was happy about that. He did not think he would go that far in telling her what the folklore said.

John took the next hour and explained every dream in the detail he could remember. He told her how he was keeping a diary on his visions and watching their progression in the likelihood there was some pattern. He told her how he had seen her with Kindle and with Mr. Bell at some churches, museums and a bookstore. He knew not the why of his visions as there was no impending danger. John explained, if she were real, that she must be in London, from some of the paintings on the wall behind her, he saw in the museum vision.

“Miss Hale . . . Margaret . . . my trip to the bookstore was specifically and only for research. When I noticed you and Mr. Bell, I was stunned, quite honestly. I wondered what it meant to walk into my own vision. I have found no answers, but no one has gone up in a puff of smoke yet, so I guess it’s safe,” he laughed.

Seeing his smile, Margaret relaxed, hardly believing his accurate visions. The one thing she did know is that she unquestionably never wanted to leave his side. She laughingly wondered if he was a spell-caster. She realized her feelings for him were astoundingly impossible, as she had only known him an hour, if that. His voice, the way he looked at her with those luscious eyes, his total presence was undoing her, and there was no real reason for it. Love, lust – whatever it was, just did not work that way or so she thought. She had felt it in the bookstore, too. Apparently, from their earlier encounter with the satchel overhead, he was experiencing the same feelings.

“John, did you happen to have any vision of me last night?”

“No. I could not sleep. I got up and read some of the research I have purchased.”

“Did you find anything in the books to explain these visions of me?”

John hesitated and stared straight at her. “Margaret, I have merely skimmed a couple pages in a few books. I have become more fascinated with the folklore books than the scientific or medical ones. Folklore being what it is, passed down hearsay, has a rather interesting way of looking at what is transpiring between you and me right now. Please do not ask me to reveal it. It is rather embarrassing but someday I will tell you.”

Margaret could physically feel what had him embarrassed. She had never felt such longing to be in someone’s arms the way she felt right now. It was not many more hours that they had together so she decided to start resolving what she could immediately. She hoped she would not alienate him or cause him to cringe under her directness. With so little time, she had to be direct and take a chance.

“John would you come sit by me. I want to say some things to you and I am afraid I can’t look into your eyes and still say them.”

He crossed the small aisle and sat next to her, almost touching knees. “Margaret, I know we do not know each other at all, but I must tell you that you can say anything to me and I will not be hurt or shy away.”

“That, Mr. Thornton, I hope to believe.”

John, towering over her, watching her hands twist together in her lap, was forming a wrinkled brow wondering what she meant by that statement.

“I am afraid I do not understand,” he said.

“As you said and I fully agree, I know no other way than to be honest and with the little time left to us, it will be blunt. I should be demure and coy about what I would never ever say any other time, but there is something coming into my life that is extraordinary. If you and I are to find any way through this vision or gift or whatever it is, we must be completely honest. I am sure you have been honest with what you have told me but I feel you have not told it all. You are going to be very surprised to know what I have been feeling and thinking. I would wager right now that you think that I think you are a bit peculiar. And I have to say you are, but what is happening to me is very peculiar and I can feel it and I know it’s coming from me, through you.”

John turned in his seat to face her. Where was she going with her preface, he wondered.

Margaret, feeling his eyes on her wanted to squirm in her seat a bit but knew the squirming would get far worse the further she got into her story. “First, let us agree to be very honest, no matter how upsetting, shocking, disgusting, or exalting the words may be. Is that agreeable?”

“If that is what you want then I agree. I can tell you now, what you might ask or hear from me would not be what a gentleman would say to a lady of such short acquaintance and it shall go against all the behavior I have ever known,” John said reluctantly.

“Then it is agreed. I will tell you, that the things I will say would certainly not be heard from a lady. I only do this because we are under some very strange circumstances. I will hold nothing against you and hope you have no ill feelings towards me by the time we reach Milton.”

John could hardly contain the feeling that he was going to be crushed under an avalanche. Above all, he was going to face this gift square on and that may be a good thing.

“No matter what comes from that pretty mouth of yours, I will not have any ill-feelings, I swear. Proceed.” John said.

Margaret smiled at his compliment, now assured that the truth would be spoken even under their one hour knowledge of the other. Nothing would be withheld or considered sacred.

“I must ask you, John. Are you a witch, can you create spells?”

John laughed, “No, I am not a witch and I cannot create spells.”

Margaret was almost hoping for a positive answer. It would at least explain what was happening in and around her, but no such luck.

“To your knowledge, John, do you know of any other gift whether acknowledged or even hinted at that would be in addition to your sighted gift?”

“I know of no such gift and research tells me that the strength in my visions, which may grow, is of a moderate nature. It is neither weak nor strong. I told you that this started after a head injury – very late in life compared to most people with this gift. I cannot say that my gift is identical to others that were born with it. I know no other that I can speak to about it, only these books that are up on the shelf in my satchel.” What was she getting at? He wondered. She seemed to have some unknown experience or knowledge of something of which she had not spoken.

“All right, John. Please face away from me and prepare to be startled at what I am about to say.”

Hearts Adrift – Part Three

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Chapter Three

 

The band of fugitives made its way to the quays aligning the river Seine without being spotted by members of the Garde Révolutionaire. A small boat was moored at the bottom of the steps. They got on board, Manon and Jéhan at the stern and Jake at the bow, while de Briers took the oars. He began rowing downstream in a steady rhythm, the heavy oaken shafts cutting the water in silence. They slid along the riverbank, and de Briers kept the boat as close to the quay wall as he could without crashing into it. Their progress was slow but steady and undisturbed in the moonless dark of the June night.

Manon had taken Jéhan onto her lap when the boy began showing signs of weariness, but the damp chill that always seemed to emanate from the water made them both shiver with cold. Jéhan could not settle. “I am so cold, Manon. I want my cloak,” he whimpered.

“Shh, mon chou,” Manon hushed, “you must not make a noise.” She was afraid de Briers would become angry with them. Moreover, heaven knew what would happen if they were caught by the guards patrolling the riverbanks.

“Here,” de Briers said, “take this.” He signalled for Jake to hold the oars, shed his coat and draped it over Manon’s shoulders. She stifled a gasp when the man’s body heat, still trapped in the rough woollen coat, engulfed her. His scent – clean, spicy and very male – attacked her senses. They were stirred in a way she had never experienced before in her life, creating odd little flames that tantalized her skin. Recovering from her thoughts, she pulled Jéhan into the coat with her.

Quickly, Manon lowered her gaze, shame welling up deep in her chest. What was this awkward sensation that so disturbed her? Could it be … desire? Could it? In the twenty years of her life in the French capital Manon had – of course – encountered young men. Manon knew she was beautiful, lively and witty, and some young men had been so besotted that they had tried to lure her into their beds, but none had succeeded. No man had ever stirred Manon’s heart so she always kept the upper hand. She also knew what damage could be done when giving oneself to a man. Damage, both physical and emotional, that could ruin a girl’s life and leave her with a babe to raise on her own. Manon could deal with a fatherless babe but she would have been mortified to put her dearest Papa through the ordeal of a daughter who betrayed his trust in her. Papa had always shouldered the scalding blame for her Mama’s forced flight from her family when she had eloped with him. He had instilled in his daughter a strong conviction that a girl should not give her virginity to a man unless he was her legal husband. A husband who would love and cherish her until death parted them.

Manon had kept to that belief until this day, and she meant to keep it that way. Moreover, this man, this Richard de Briers, was her uncle, according to his own words. A blood relative. Romantic feelings for him would be considered incest, even if she did not act physically on them. She needed to quell these sudden, immoral thoughts forthwith.

 

Richard de Briers focused on the job at hand, steering the small craft over the mirror-like surface of the river Seine. At the same time, he listened for unusual noises and scanned the riverbanks for lights. From the moment he had met his niece and nephew, they had become family.

The girl was indeed his niece; of that he had no doubts at all. She had the bright red hair and vivid green eyes of her mother, his beloved sister Lily. Richard had been five when his half-sister eloped with Thibaut Favier, and to him, it had felt as if a part of his soul had been ripped away. Lily, sweet and caring, had been more of a mother to him than the cold, self-centred woman who had given birth to him.

Mildred de Briers, née Thompson, was a commoner. An extremely wealthy one, no doubt, but a commoner nevertheless. Her vast dowry, the result of her father’s activities as a Manchester cotton mill owner, had been the principal motive of his father’s second marriage. Sir Robert was in dire financial circumstances and needed the blunt. The fact that Mildred had given him a son and heir had never stirred more than tepid affections for Mildred in Sir Robert. Mildred herself had not loved her husband either. She consented to the marriage to please her papa who wished to have a titled son-in-law. Because Mildred and her family were tradespeople, they had never been properly educated. They could read and write, of course, but they had no interests in Society’s intricate machinations. Therefore, they had not known until after the marriage that Sir Robert, being only a baronet, was no member of the peerage. That little piece of information had thoroughly severed the connections between Sir Robert and his in-laws.

With rising annoyance, Richard shook off the memories of his sour, grim-faced mother. He needed to keep his wits free to get his niece and nephew out of Paris safely. That was what he had promised his dying father and what Richard himself felt was an obligation to his dearest Lily’s memory. This girl and this boy were Lily’s children. He would protect them with his life.

 

They reached Auteuil unharmed and unnoticed. The small borough, just outside Paris, lay squeezed between the river in the east and the notorious Bois de Boulogne in the west. Richard’s lodgings were with a soldier’s widow called Madame Bernard. The house lay on the edge of these woods, a safe enough distance from the capital to keep them from being overly bothered by the revolutionary guards. The nasty reputation of the woods, where people were attacked and even murdered, where women were raped and children butchered, helped to keep Richard and Jake out of sight.

By the time they arrived at Madame Bernard’s house, Jéhan was fast asleep in Richard’s arms, exhausted by the long walk from the river to the woods’ edge. Manon looked ghastly, Richard noticed, even though she never uttered a complaint as she dragged her tired and sore feet. Her shoes were threadbare; their soles were too thin to walk the cobbled streets, let alone travel the dusty roads.

Once inside, Richard ordered a bath and a meal for his charges. Madame Bernard was instantly fussing over the boy and cooing over Manon. She led them to the kitchen and shooed the men into her parlour, instructing them to pour themselves a glass of liquor. Richard grimaced at the thought of the vile green beverage the French called crême de menthe, but Jake eagerly poured himself a generous dose. Finally, Richard chose a cognac and settled into a chair.

Faint noises from the kitchen reached his tired mind. Splashing and giggling, and Madame Bernard’s happy comments; she must have been bustling about and preparing their meal. Upon hearing Manon asking for the soap, an image of her naked body, luxuriating in the bath, ambushed Richard’s mind, utterly unbidden and thoroughly unwanted. In response, his body immediately reacted, leaving him stunned with the force of his desire. What the devil was going on and what the hell was he thinking? He jumped from his seat. “I will be in my room. Tell Madame Bernard to bring up my meal as soon as it is ready.”

Jake, startled by his master’s sudden exit, stared at the closing door in bewilderment.

 

Manon was famished by the time the landlady laid out their meal. At first, she was distracted by Jéhan, who, as ravenous as he was, gobbled up his food without even trying to chew it. A few minutes passed, in which she fed him little tidbits until he ate more slowly, before she actually noticed that her uncle had not come to Madame’s cosy kitchen. When she asked Jake about it, he shrugged.

“He is like that sometimes. I do not know why. Simply disappears. Reckon he had enough of us for tonight.”

“How well do you know my uncle, Jake?” Manon asked, eager to learn as much as she could.

“Not well, actually. I was employed by his father, the late baronet of Bearsham, who sent me to Paris. I know Sir Richard only slightly from my rare visits to Brighton in the past. He is all right, so to speak. Never treats one without respect, although he does not allow slovenliness or insubordination. He is thorough in his business dealings, and he is clever, I tell you.”

“Is he married, or engaged?” Manon did not know why she wanted to know the answer to that, but she did.

“How would I know whether he is betrothed?” Jake protested. “He is not likely to tell me, is he? I heard he was engaged once, but the lady married another.”

“Does he have a mistress, then?”

“Now, miss, you should not ask such questions. It is very unladylike!”

“Jake, this is Paris and I am no lady.” Manon eyed him with deliberate mischief.

“No, but you will become one soon. You are the master’s niece.” The young man returned a stern gaze.

“Maybe I will,” Manon chuckled, “but really, is there a woman in his life?”

Jake shook his head emphatically. “No, indeed. I think he is somewhat lonely, is the master.”

Manon digested this information for a while before asking, “What do you mean, lonely?”

They had spoken all of this in French, of course, and Manon now became aware of Madame Bernard staring at the two of them with avid eyes. Apparently, she was considering all this to be very interesting.

“Yes, I see what you mean,” Madame Bernard chimed in. “Monsieur has a certain … look about him, of being utterly alone in the world. As if he had not a living soul who cared for him. As if no one ever told him they loved him.”

“Exactly!” Jake acknowledged.

She knew not why, but Manon’s heart contracted with sheer compassion for de Briers.

“That cannot be true,” she said. “His mother is still alive, is she not? Mothers and sons – that is the oldest love story in the world!”

Jake knowingly shook his head. “Ah, but you clearly do not know the Dowager Baronettes of Bearsham! She is as cold as they come. Haughty, and ruthless. A veritable dragon, she is!”

Suddenly, a deep voice boomed from the doorway.

“I will thank you, Mr Davies, not to comment on my family, if you please!”

Jake nearly fell from his chair and began apologizing profusely to his master.

“Oh! I am so sorry, master … I …”

“Madame Bernard, we wish to depart from here at the first light of dawn,” de Briers said, cutting him off. “We will need several items for our journey, such as a food basket, blankets, and two decent woollen cloaks for the young lady and her brother. I wish to buy that wooden cart I saw in your yard. Just tell me your price and I will meet it.”

The landlady bobbed in silent answer. De Briers addressed Manon with a curt nod of his head. “Be sure to wear unobtrusive clothes, niece. We do not want to attract any unwanted attention. We will pose as a family of farmers. You and Jake as a couple with a young son. I will be an elderly relative who is weak of mind. Also, I will not speak because my accent would give me away as an Englishman.”

Manon was dumbstruck by his curtness and could only nod in agreement.

“Very well, then,” de Briers said, “we should all retire to our beds and have a good night’s sleep. We have a long journey ahead in the days to come.”

They all rose at once and left for their sleeping quarters.

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