Daniel Deronda Starring Hugh Dancy, Ramola Garai, Hugh Bonneville, Jodhi May, Gretta Scacchi, Edward Fox. Screen Writing by Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice 1995) from a novel by George Eliot
Daniel Deronda contains two main strains of plot, united by the title character. The novel begins in late August 1865 with the meeting of Daniel Deronda and Gwendolen Harleth in Leubronn, Germany. Daniel finds himself at once attracted to but wary of the beautiful, stubborn, and selfish Gwendolen, whom he sees lose all her winnings in a game of roulette. The next day, Gwendolen receives a letter from her mother telling her that the family is financially ruined and asking her to go home. In despair that she has lost all her money, Gwendolen decides to pawn a necklace and debates gambling again in order to make her fortune. In a fateful moment, however, her necklace is returned to her by a porter, and she realizes that somehow Daniel saw her pawn the necklace and redeemed it for her. From this point, the plot breaks off into two separate flashbacks, one which gives us the history of Gwendolen Harleth and one of Daniel Deronda.
In October 1864, soon after the death of Gwendolen’s stepfather, Gwendolen and her family move to a new neighborhood. It is here that she meets Henleigh Mallinger Grandcourt, a taciturn and calculating man, who proposes marriage shortly after their first meeting. At first open to his advances, she eventually flees from him (to the German town in which she meets Deronda) upon discovering that he has several children with his mistress, Lydia Glasher. This portion of the novel sets Gwendolen up as a haughty, selfish, yet affectionate daughter, admired for her beauty but suspected by many in society because of her satirical observations and somewhat manipulative behavior. She is also prone to fits of terror that shake her otherwise calm and controlling exterior.
Deronda has been raised by a wealthy gentleman, Sir Hugo Mallinger. Deronda’s relationship to Sir Hugo is ambiguous and it is widely believed, even by Deronda, that he is Sir Hugo’s illegitimate son, though no one is certain. Deronda is a light-hearted and compassionate young man who cannot quite decide what to do with his life, and this is a sore point between him and Sir Hugo, who wants him to go into politics. One day in late July 1864, as he is boating on the Thames, Deronda rescues a woman, Mirah Lapidoth, from attempting to drown herself. He takes her to the home of friends of his, and it is discovered that Mirah is a singer. She has come to London to search for her mother and brother after running away from her father, who kidnapped her when she was a child and forced her into an acting troupe. She ran away from him finally because she feared he was planning to sell her into a dubious marriage with a friend of his. Moved by her tale, Deronda undertakes to help her find her mother and brother, and through this he is introduced to London’s Jewish community. Mirah and Daniel grow closer and Daniel, anxious about his growing affection for her, leaves for a short time to join Sir Hugo in Leubronn, where he and Gwendolen first meet.
From here the story picks up in “real time,” and Gwendolen returns home from Germany in early September 1865 because her family has lost its fortune in an economic downturn. Gwendolen, having an antipathy to marriage, the only respectable way in which a woman could achieve financial security, attempts to avoid working as a governess by pursuing a career in singing or on the stage, but a prominent musician tells her she does not have the talent. In order to save herself and her family from relative poverty, she marries the wealthy Grandcourt, whom she believes she can manipulate to maintain her freedom to do what she likes, despite having promised Mrs. Glasher she would not do so and fearing that it is a mistake.
Deronda continues his search for Mirah’s family, meets a consumptive visionary named Mordecai. Mordecai passionately proclaims his wish that the Jewish people retain their national identity and one day be restored to their “Promised Land.” Because he is dying, he wants Daniel to become his intellectual heir and continue to pursue his dream and be an advocate for the Jewish people. In spite of being strongly drawn to Mordecai, Deronda hesitates to commit himself to a cause that seems to have no connection to his own identity. Deronda’s desire to embrace Mordecai’s vision becomes stronger when they discover Mordecai is the brother Mirah has been seeking. Still, Deronda is not a Jew and cannot reconcile this fact with his affection and respect for Mordecai, which would be necessary for him to pursue a life of Jewish advocacy.
Gwendolen, meanwhile, has been emotionally crushed by her cruel, manipulative husband. She is consumed with guilt for her disinheriting of Lydia Glasher’s children by marrying their father. On Gwendolen’s wedding day, Mrs. Glasher cursed her and told her she would suffer for her treachery, which only exacerbates Gwendolen’s feelings of dread and terror. During this time, Gwendolen and Deronda meet regularly, and Gwendolen pours out her troubles to him whenever they meet. During a trip to Italy, Grandcourt is knocked from his boat into the water and drowns. Gwendolen, who was present, is consumed with guilt because she had long wished he would die and she hesitated to help him. Deronda, who was also in Italy at the time to meet his mother (whose identity Sir Hugo has finally revealed), comforts Gwendolen and advises her. In love with Deronda, Gwendolen hopes for a future with him, but he urges her onto a path of righteousness in which she will help others in order to alleviate her suffering.
Deronda meets his mother and learns that he is the legitimate son of a famous opera singer with whom Sir Hugo was once in love. She tells him that she was the daughter of a Rabbi who forced her to marry another Jew, whom she did not love, despite her resentment of the rigid piety of her childhood. Daniel was the only child of that union, and on her husband’s death, she asked the devoted Sir Hugo to raise her son as an English gentleman, never to know that he is Jewish. Upon learning of his true origins, Deronda finally feels comfortable with his love for Mirah, and on his return to England in October 1866, he tells Mirah of his love for her. Daniel commits himself to be Mordecai’s disciple, and shortly after Deronda’s marriage, Mordecai dies with Daniel and Mirah at his side. Before Daniel marries Mirah, he goes to Gwendolen to tell her about his origins, his decision to go to Palestine (per Mordecai’s wish), and that he is betrothed to Mirah. Gwendolen is devastated by the news, but it becomes a turning point in her life, inspiring her to finally say, “I shall live.” She sends him a letter on his wedding day, telling him not to think of her with sadness but to know that she will be a better person for having known him. The married couple then begin a journey to Palestine to investigate what they can do to restore the Jewish nation.
Margaret had agreed to let Tawl take her for a walk in the park after she had concluded a few errands in town. She was to pick up new business cards that Katie had drafted for the printer a month ago. Tawl had to order some horse feed from the grain store. Margaret thought she would introduce him to a library and let him enjoy what could open before him that was printed on a page.
The library being there last stop Margaret took the time to show Tawl all of the sections. He followed her down aisles as she stopped and pulled out a book and told him about it. “Tawl, this one shall help you if you need to know how to help with the birth of your first child.”
Tawl slammed that one shut and put it back. Margaret laughed, deciding to find something of interest for him. She wandered over to where stories and informational books about horses could be found. Tawl thumbed the pictures, enjoying those, and stopped now and again to try and read the page out loud.
“Tawl, you are coming along nicely. That was very good. As you learn to sound out the word you shall remember hearing and knowing what the word meant. Then you have also learned to read it. Here, what is this word? Sound it out,” she said encouragingly.
Tawl looked at the word. It was not a long one and those were the ones he thought most difficult to sound out. Not enough clues, he thought. “But . . . since Miss Hale is standing on her tiptoes, I better try,” he said to himself. “Stt . . . able.”
“Good. Now say it fast altogether.”
“St .able . . . sta . . .ble . . . stable! Of course, stable!” Tawl beamed.
“Tawl, even I, with my education, still have to sound out words. One can never know them all. Did you know there is a big book of words, how they are pronounced, and their meanings? Many words have more than one meaning.”
“What do you mean by many meanings?” he asked.
“Well, how about stable? You know it is a place that you house your horses; you live on the second floor of one. Does not stable have any other meaning?”
“I know I can stable my horses, is that the same?”
“Excellent, Tawl that is still another use for the word stable. One is a building, which is a thing and that is called a noun, but we shall not venture there, yet. Also, to stable your horse is an action, not a thing, and that’s called a verb. Any other thoughts on stable?” Margaret turned away so she let a little pressure off of him.
“Oh, yes! Of course. When you build something you want to make sure it is stable and balanced. Is that spelled the same way?”
“Yes, Tawl. Different meanings for the same word is very common. It is all the other words around it that tell you which stable it is.
Tawl sighed, “And to think I am learning just one language and there must be dozens out there.”
“Oh, quite a few more then dozens, I am afraid, but it would be rare for you ever to need to know them.” Margaret started to blush when she thought about how her French lessons were coming in very handy. Pick a book and we’ll take it home and work on it. Then I’d like to go to the park, since we are alone, and you tell me your story about Miss Leeds Ladies.”
“Right you are Miss. I have been waiting for my turn. First, I think I shall choose this book about horses. It seems to have many pictures of combs and feeds and tending to their hooves. It seems a good learning book. I am ready to go.”
Tawl handed Margaret into the coach and then reined them toward the small square in front of the courthouse. It had shade and benches and it was a safe place for Miss Hale. He jumped down to hand her out. “Is this all right, Miss Hale?”
“Oh, tis a lovely little park. What building is that?” she asked pointing to the big building in front of her with the huge clock. “A courthouse! I see it now. This place shall do fine. I shouldn’t think we shall be interrupted here with noisy children.”
It was a warm day and they saw some shade under the huge trees that the original builder had left in place. “Over here, Miss Hale.”
Margaret reached back into the coach for her notepad and pencil. She would have to use the small paper since this was not planned. She walked behind Tawl to the bench he had pointed out and sat on the side which most favored her for her writing arm.
“Are you ready?”
“I am ready. Am I allowed to decline?”
“Of course. We are not in that courthouse with you being under oath,” Margaret laughed with Tawl joining in. “I only want to write what you are willing to tell me. You shall have an anonymous . . . now that’s a hard word to sound out . . . name. Do you have a clever name you wished to be called in my book?”
Margaret could see the grin on his face and tried to prepare herself for what he was going to say. She looked questioningly at him waiting for the words to come forth.
“I want to be Harden Swell,” he sputtered out the last word because he broke into such laughter.
Margaret started to laugh at him laughing but she had not heard what he said. “What . . . you started laughing and I did not hear it all.”
Tawl composed himself and tried to rein in his humor. “Call me, Harden Swell.”
Margaret looked at him wondering where the jest was. Finally staring at his big grin, she understood. She blurted out a laugh, so hard that spittle went spraying out of her mouth right down on a nice pair of black boots. She immediately knew that someone had come upon them. She covered her mouth and looked up to see who it was.
“Miss Margaret, it seems like you are having a merry time with this nice young man. Would you introduce us?” John Thornton replied with his own grin even though he was aware of a small pang somewhere in his stomach.
Tawl had already risen to his feet waiting to be introduced. Margaret looked up still sporting her silly grin that she could not pull in. “John Thornton, this is,” . . . Oh God, am I going to have to say his name . . .?
“Hello, Mr. Thornton. I am Tawl Peters. I am Miss Leeds driver.”
“What was your name again, I do not think I caught it.” John frowned.
“Mr. Thornton, I get that reaction a lot. I think you heard me say Tawl – that’s T-A-W-L Peters. Everyone thinks it is a wickedly appropriate name for who I work for.”
“I cannot argue that. I must say it does lend an air of mystery to you,” John started to laugh and Margaret started all over again, then Tawl joined in. All of them were laughing because the other was laughing. It was infectious.
John could not help but notice how marvelous Margaret looked when she smiled and laughed. She was almost a dream. His heart started to hammer a bit.
“I am sorry if I interrupted you,” he said.
“No, Mr. Thornton. No interruption. We had just arrived and were getting ready for a reading lesson,” she said, feeling sure Tawl got the point about not mentioning the book.
“It is nice to see you out and about,” John said. “I am a Magistrate and come to this building several days a month and preside over the smaller cases that do not require a jury. I happened to notice you as I was leaving.”
“Oh, really? A magistrate? I was not told that.” Immediately Margaret knew what that sounded like. She blushed badly and Tawl was about to laugh again.
“Told about?” John’s brows rose slightly. “I hope whoever is telling you about me is a friend of mine,” he smiled. He was very intrigued now. With her blushing face, he assumed that maybe she had been asking about him. Coming from her, that made him feel complimented. He was sure it was coming from Miss Leeds, though, and that was all right with him. There was not anything discretionary about being a public servant. This Margaret looked more like the Margaret that Miss Leeds had mentioned than who he met only days ago, Margaret with the red book.
“I am sorry, Mr. Thornton, that isn’t the way it sounded. I . . .”
“Miss Margaret, do not explain. I think my imagination shall be better served than your answer, which I probably shall wish not to believe anyway,” he said almost smugly.
Margaret looked up into those blue eyes, covering her forehead with her hand trying to stay the sun from her vision. She could see he was smiling broadly. “I think I shall soon swoon if he doesn’t stop smiling at me,” she thought to herself.
“Miss Margaret, it is fortunate indeed to find you here. I was headed over to Miss Leeds to cancel my appointment next week. An old friend has come into town and we shall dine out that evening. Can I leave that with you, or should I call at the house?”
“Mr. Thornton, I shall be glad to take care of that for you,” Margaret said in a business-like manner finally finding her self control.”
“Then I shall take up no more of your time. Thank you, Miss Margaret. It was nice to meet you, Mr. Tawl T-A-W-L Peters,” John said as he shook hands with the still standing Tawl. “Good day, to you both.” John turned and headed back to the main walkway towards his waiting coach. He could not quite understand the lightness he felt in his step. “I think that conversation lifted my spirits,” he told himself. He had found a new side to Margaret with the red book. He wondered what she would think if he sent her a new ‘red book’. The one she had been reading was quite close to falling apart. He had noticed loose pages while it sat on her desk. She might not even have a full copy. The only problem with doing that was finding the name of the red book. Maybe Nicholas could remember it.
After John was a good distance away, Tawl turned to Margaret, “Miss Hale, you blushed for John Thornton! I see you do have a romantic streak still left; I have worried about you.”
Margaret started laughing and could not stop blushing over what Tawl had said.
“I thought for a minute you were going to kneel down and kiss his boots like all the other single women in Milton,” Tawl stated, holding his stomach from laughing so hard.
Margaret batted him with her reticule. “Stop it, Tawl. I was blushing at your new alias.”
“Yeah, at first you were. I wish you could have seen your face. You know the only time I have seen that face was when my mother attended church and thought God was talking to her.” Tawl was rolling and could not stop.
Margaret batted him again and started gagging from the laughter and the glorious fun time she had not felt in a long time. Whether Tawl was right or wrong, it was funny.
“I was standing beside him, and did you notice I was almost as tall, but I was watching you. I thought you would slide off that bench and surrender at any moment. I never think to have a white flag when I need one.”
“One more word, Tawl, and no more reading lessons,” she said through a very big grin.
“It is so good to see you laugh,” Tawl said, feeling proud about finally getting her to smile. “You know, when the day comes that you marry that gentleman, please let me give you away.”
Margaret looked at him and then did a double-take. He was serious. “Tawl, please . . . the chances of that happening are nil. He’s a gentleman and far out of my realm. Besides, who said I wanted him, anyway?”
“Your face said it. And I have to admit, he looked you over pretty good. He was studying you, you know?”
“Now, what are you about with that nonsense?” Margaret turned to ask.
“Look, I am a man like he is. Being a driver too, I have seen looks and I can read people.”
“Well, I must admit when he met me a few days ago, I was much more timid and not at all like today. I was a spectacle today. He must have been confused about which person I am, she said.
“I think it might be more than that but I shall leave it there. Let us get back to my alias.”
A little shaken by Mr. Thornton seeing her so unladylike she asked Tawl to take her home where they were guaranteed of a more private setting in his loft or the garden benches. Also, she wanted to get Kat’s cancelation into the book and let Miss Leeds know what had transpired.
Later that day Katie brought Margaret a letter. Handing it over, Margaret took it from Katie’s hand with a look of bewilderment. “It comes from London, but I do not recognize the hand.” She handed it back to Katie. “Here, you open it, please. I do not think I want to hear any more from his Lordship.”
Katie opened the letter and looked down at the signature. It is from a Grace Bellamy,” she said.
“Really? Oh my. Grace was a very close friend at school. I have missed talking with her. We lost contact in my rapid descent to leaving for my aunts and I did not know where she was going after school. I wonder how she found me.”
Margaret slowly walked to her room to read her friends words in private.
Dearest Friend, Margaret,
It has been too long since we last spoke and I miss you terribly. I had heard you arrived home and found the most dreadful news possible but it seemed like you disappeared after that. I recently went to one of the big balls in London and was spotted by Lord Robert, the bastard, and he came to tell me he had spoken with you. As much as I detested his presence I was able to find out where you were. I had no interest in whatever else he may have been telling me, but at least I have found you. Next week, I shall be traveling north to meet my betrothed at his family’s home. I shall be passing through Milton and thought I would exit the train there for a couple of hours and have a small meal and tea with you somewhere. How does that sound? It shall be next Wednesday. The train should arrive around 1:00 p.m. Can you accommodate me for two hours between trains? I think that not nearly enough for ‘catching up’ but it shall be a start since I know where you are. Advise me as soon as you can. Do not feel committed as we can visit each other now and then. Ladies Forever, Hurrah! (remember our motto?)
Margaret held the note to her breast walking the room being heavy with mixed emotions. How she longed for Grace; someone she could open up with, someone her own age and very much like herself. Yet, she knew she would feel embarrassed about her current circumstances in life. But she determined to set that aside and welcome Grace with open arms. Margaret sat and penned a reply telling her she would meet her at the station. She left to find Katie and tell her the news.
As Wentworth walked back to Queen’s Square, where his sister and the Admiral had lodgings, he was acutely aware of several matters upsetting him.
Anne’s uppity family, with their stiff, unbending behaviour, was the most disturbing of them. How would her father treat her for the remaining time his middle daughter would stay under his roof? Wentworth understood only now what his beloved Anne had gone through these past eight years. He felt ashamed for letting his wounded feelings guide him at the time of their break-up.
Then there was his own family to be informed.
His sister Sophie would be most astonished when she heard of his engagement to Anne. What would be her reaction if he asked her to take Anne into her home until their wedding? He would have to find some hotel to stay, of course. It would be most improper to live in the same house as his betrothed before they were married.
Furthermore, there was Kellynch Hall.
Wentworth wanted to buy it as a wedding present for Anne. It was high-prized but not a challenge to his substantial fortune, which was well invested and secure. He intended to administer the estate himself and restore it to its rightful prosperity. To that purpose he would have to start from the bottom up; Sir Walter’s extravaganzas had drained Kellynch to an inch of bankruptcy.
Tomorrow would prove to be a busy day; he needed to procure a wedding licence and to purchase an estate.
When the footman announced a visitor, Anne was puzzled as to whom it might be. It was almost ten in the evening! If she had planned to attend a soiree or a dance, Anne would be about to leave now. If, on the contrary, she had planned to stay in, then the hour for visits was a trifle late. She quickly checked her appearance in her mirror and chuckled at herself by doing so. Since Frederick’s kiss that morning, her attitude towards herself had changed; she wanted to look beautiful and perfect, not only for him, but also for all the rest of the world.
In excited anticipation she entered the drawing room. In front of the sofa stood Lady Russell. Anne froze in dismay. This was the last person she wanted to see, let alone speak to. However, while she made her curtsy, Anne realised that Lady Russell did not yet know of her betrothal to Frederick nor that she was aware of Anne’s changed feelings towards her.
Lady Russell stepped forward and grabbed Anne’s hands in hers.
“My dear Anne,” she said, in an urging voice, “please tell me if the rumours are true and you have accepted the proposal of Captain Wentworth?”
“I have, indeed,” Anne beamed.
Lady Russell’s face showed utmost disapproval.
“But, my dear child, you cannot do that! You are about to throw yourself into a hasty and most unsatisfactory marriage to a man who is not your equal! Anne, you are a baronet’s daughter and Captain Wentworth has no breeding at all! You must break up with him immediately and remove yourself from him once again. We could go on a journey to the Continent, Italy perhaps, to smoothen the parting.”
Anne tore her hands free and drew herself up. This woman still had the power to make her feel like a little girl!
“I’m afraid you are mistaken, Lady Russell,” she said, in a respectful but firm tone of voice.
She saw the woman’s brows go up in astonishment and hastened to continue.
“On the contrary, I am very determined to marry my dear Frederick. We have been separated for far too long a time and will lose no more precious years of happiness.”
The flash of fury was undeniable in Lady Russell’s eyes and her thin lips stiffened in dismay.
“Anne, you are acting very foolishly! Do you wish to be shunned by Society? No one that is of any importance will be inviting you at their home in the future. You will become an outcast. Is that what you wish for you and that man, and, God forbid, for your future children?”
Anne had the greatest trouble in keeping her face serious. What unimportant and petty matters did upset this stupid woman! In a gesture of pity she laid her hand on Lady Russell’s arm and said gently, “Dear Lady Russell, I know you were my mother’s best friend and you have been mine for countless years but in this, you are wrong. You don’t know Frederick and are therefore not in a position to criticize him. We will do as we planned, and if Society does not approve, we will ignore it. Happiness does not depend on what people think of you.”
In a tone that could have frozen lava, the now truly enraged gentlewoman all of spat at Anne.
“I never could have dreamed, Anne Elliot, of you turning into a hussy! For that is what you will be called soon! Have you even considered what your brainless action will do to your poor father? He is a baronet, Anne! His very reputation will be destroyed and so will that of your poor sisters! I beg of you, come to your senses!”
Suddenly Anne had heard enough. She rushed to the door of her bedchamber, grabbed it and tore it open.
“I would be obliged to you if you would step outside, Madam! No more will be said about this affair, and I will do as I see fit!”
Gathering her skirts in a gesture fit to tear them, Lady Russell swept out and finally, Anne was able to breathe a sigh of relief. She was not allowed much peace because the door burst open again and Sir Walter stalked into the room. Anne gasped! Never had she seen her father’s face so contorted with rage!
“Madam! You will leave my house this instant without taking so much as a pair of stockings or a comb! You are no longer a daughter of mine and I do not ever wish to see to again!”
The baronet grabbed Anne’s arm and literally dragged her downstairs, through the hall and out of the front door which slammed shut behind her with a deafening boom.
Anne was on the streets without a coat, bonnet or reticule. She had nothing, not even her intimate belongings and what was even worse, she had not the slightest inkling to what she was to do next.
This isn’t a period drama, but it could be a fun movie.
From Lionsgate comes these new TV spots for David Koepp’s ‘Mortdecai,’ which is set to land in cinemas on January 23rd. Based on the popular three-novel anthology by Kyril Bonfiglioli, the action-comedy crime film stars Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany, Olivia Munn, Oliver Platt, Aubrey Plaza and Jeff Goldblum. ‘Mortdecai’ is described as follows: “Juggling some angry Russians, the British Mi5, his impossibly leggy wife and an international terrorist, debonair art dealer and part time rogue Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) must traverse the globe armed only with his good looks and special charm in a race to recover a stolen painting rumored to contain the code to a lost bank account filled with Nazi gold.”
If you thought our post on British celebs wearing kilts was sexy, then check out these gents decked out in cravats. The cravat, a type of men’s neckwear, became popular in England during the 17th century. The trend didn’t stop there: Sherlock‘s Martin Freeman has been seen out-and-about wearing modern day cravats on the red carpet. It’s not clear why this piece of clothing is so appealing. Perhaps it’s because it’s so tempting to take one off.
Check out 12 British actors rocking a cravat in character:
Upon John hearing that, he stepped outside. He did not want to hear anymore private words like that. It was a side of Craig that he had never seen. Maybe he wanted to play the overbearing Master, as John had once been accused of many years ago at his first mill.
Branson was double parked outside waiting on his master. “I shall get the door Branson, do not bother.” John slid into the leather padded bench seat of his fine coach. He removed his top hat, propped his feat across the small aisle onto the opposite bench and folded his arms in front of himself. He immediately started thinking about Margaret. Most likely Margaret Hale . . . the Miss Hale from the headlines. He went over what he knew and what he thought he knew. Miss Leeds had been a governess to Margaret. Miss Leeds ran a very successful and clean brothel. She had visited the noble after he had placed an ad looking for a Miss Hale. A new woman in town named Margaret now lived with Miss Leeds trying to get back on her feet from apparently more than one tragic circumstance that brought her low. John assumed that Margaret was Miss Hale which meant the noble was looking for her and Miss Leeds interceded. Could she have had an unfortunate experience due to the noble? If Miss Leeds was interceding for Miss Hale, it sounded like Margaret did not want anyone to know about it or he was an unwelcome guest. John rolled all that around in his mind and came to absolutely no conclusions. If the noble had nothing to do with Margaret being brought so low, what else could cause a fall as she seemed to have experienced. Could she be wanted by the law? He knew he could easily find that out, but Miss Leeds knowing he was also a Magistrate would not have been eager to introduce her to him. He did know that Margaret seemed very nervous around him but that could have been for many reasons. He was getting a headache. He had to talk with Nicholas. Maybe he would know more before his dinner with Nicholas since he was going back next week. Also, Master Steen could possibly have some inside information from his girl.
Finally Branson pulled up to the front of his dark home. He would be glad to get upstairs and pour himself a large scotch.
The next morning John was enjoying his morning tea over his paper as was his usual routine when he heard a carriage come through his big gates. He knew it was not one of their work horses drawing a flat cart of cotton bales because this was definitely a two horse coach. He pulled out his pocket watch finding it was going on 9:00 a.m. It had surprised him that he had lost track of time. He must have puzzled over his new mystery of Miss Hale longer than he thought.
“Who can this be,” he asked himself, waiting to see if they went to the office or came to his front door.
The carriage pulled up to his front door and he could only see a piece of a dress but he was not expecting anyone. He started down his steps when he heard a firm knocking by, most likely, the driver. Opening the door he instantly recalled the face.
“Well, John Thornton, it has been a long time,” said the woman John now remembered as someone he once thought of marrying when he was a much younger man.
“Miss . . . or is it Mrs., now? Miss Amber Haddon! This is quite a nice surprise. Please, come in.” John said smiling, remembering her quite fondly. He had lost his innocence with her before she was sent abroad to school. She had been about sixteen at the time and he was nearing twenty one.
“It has been many years. Please, come upstairs and join me in a cup of tea.”
Amber could see that her first love was more handsome if that were possible. John had filled out and was not the tall lanky young man that she once remember lying on top of her.
As John took her wrap, he called for Jane.
Jane was close by and entered the room quickly. “Jane, this is an old friend, Miss Haddon.”
Jane curtseyed. “Please to meet you, Miss,” Jane said and then turned to her Master.
“Jane, please bring us a tray of tea.” He turned to Amber and asked, “Have you eaten? Would care for anything?”
Pulling off her gloves, Amber replied that tea would be sufficient.
John looked at Jane and just nodded.
“Looks like you have done well for yourself,” she said.
“I haven’t done too bad,” John said with all humility. “Please sit down.”
John found his own chair and seated himself after Amber. “What has been your life since you went abroad?” he asked anxiously. As she began to speak, John realized she was still beautiful. He felt a flutter as he could not suppress his thoughts of those early lustful days of his youth spent with her. It was a brief relationship but the memories had remained with him for many years. They had written back and forth for a year before the letters seemed to stop coming from her.
“As you may remember, Mother insisted that I attend my final fours years of education in France before going on to finishing school.”
“Yes, I remember that quite well. I remember how she detested the fact that you were seeing a working boy, I believe is how she referred to me,” John laughed.
Amber sensed that he still held some fond memories for her even though she had found another and had quit writing to him with a vague explanation as to why.
“Yes, I believe if I had stayed on here, it would have become more difficult for us. That is hindsight of course. But she would think differently now if she could see how well you prosper. Unfortunately, I lost her but a little more than a year ago. She did not get to see me graduate from finishing school before contracting consumption. Father is still plying his trade in law and remains in London as a QC.
“So, all this time you have been at school?”
“Well, I did lose a year because of having to learn the language to continue my education. I left finishing school over a year ago and married immediately after that. We were both, young, foolish, and headstrong. We could not be talked out of our wedding by either parent but we eventually talked ourselves out of it and had it annulled. By that time, London was in full swing of the season. All the young and single gentry and nobles were in from their estates. Coming from hither and yon of the countryside for three months of parties. I had never had ‘a season’, was never presented or had a ‘coming out’ so I decided to stay and see for myself what I had always heard about. I looked forward to it. It was a very fanciful time in my life. My father made sure I had the nicest clothes to wear. There were several of my school mates who remained in London, so I was never unattended at the balls when they began. It only took several balls before I was being asked out to every function the ton could throw at you. It was a whirlwind but I was glad when it ended. That style of life is exhausting and there are many haughty people. I am sure you can understand that a Milton person could not live comfortably there for very long.”
“I would know it would be that way for me, Amber,” John said, “but you coming from a finishing school were prepared for that. Isn’t that what they do at those schools?”
Jane brought in the tray of tea and John rose to pour. “Thank you, Jane. Could you please run over to the office and tell them I have company and shall be in when I can? Thank you.”
He turned to Amber. “Do you still drink it with light cream only?”
“How nice of you to remember,” she said. Yes. Still the same.”
“So what brought you back to Milton?” John asked, handing her the tea cup.
“Once I had returned to London to finish, I heard all about what was happening in Milton. Mills were going up before I left for France, but I hardly know the place now. It is quite incredible. I believe you were just starting a job in a mill when I left. You were much infatuated with the machinery, as I recall. And here you are, a Master of your own Mill.”
“Three actually,” John said, sitting down with his own cup.
“Three? That sounds like it is a tremendous undertaking. Are there many Masters that have three mills?”
“No, I am the only fool out there still trying to work himself into a grave. You still did not answer why you are here.”
“I found myself with little to do and thought a trip back here to see old friends would be a nice way to spend the season. At the moment I am at the Milton Grand but shall be finding an apartment very soon. I happened to see your name in the paper. It seems you have a considerable reputation. You have used your time wisely. And I am probably one of the few that know the struggles you must have endured.”
John was slowly sensing something in her tone or words. He did not think that was the only reason she returned.
“Do I understand that you have never married, John? Amber asked boldly. That was her most important question that she needed answered. If I am misinformed I am profoundly sorry for showing up on your doorstep unannounced.”
“No, you have not been misinformed and you are most welcome any time. I am really only at a point in my life where I feel my financial situation is assured. I have seen many women but as of yet have not found the one to be my wife. But this now is becoming a priority in my life.”
Amber smiled at that remark a little too flagrantly and John felt a bit uneasy but quickly dismissed it. She was more than just an old friend. He would see how things developed before forming a suspicion too quickly.
They talked about her coming week full of errands for finding an apartment and reacquainting herself with other friends from her childhood and teen years.
“You seem like you have a full week ahead of you. I would enjoy escorting you to a new restaurant that just opened if you have an open night next week,” John asked as he was feeling inspired. He felt his loins might be guiding his thoughts right now.
“That’s very kind of you. I think I have next Tuesday evening open. Would that suit you?
John remembered his appointment at Miss Leeds but would gladly decline that to spend an evening with Amber again. In his youth, he once imagined she would be the woman he married. Maybe he would find that same love again. He was willing to see what remained. He laughed inwardly, looking at her, feeling somewhat embarrassed as she was in his life before the red book. What a blundering idiot he must have been then but he suspected most untried males started out the same way. He would have to visit Miss Leeds again and cancel his appointment.