Two weeks passed in relative peace, so that Manon was able to go to Greenhaven to check on how Mrs Lynver fared. Pru who had gone there a few days before Manon, told her that she had secured the services of a young Cornish physician, Dr Trevellyan. Together with the staff of nurses they managed to stem the constant daily tide of sufferers to a reasonable amount.
Manon returned to Bearsham Manor on the tenth of August. She found her uncle much improved in strength and in spirits, although he was still in need of rest. After a thorough examination, she left Richard to his sleep.
Conscious of her still unabated feelings for her uncle, Manon sighed with sorrow as she closed the door of her uncle’s bedchamber behind her. It had not grown easier, this constant confrontation they were both subjected to. She had hoped it would, though. Yet after a few days away from Richard, days in which she deeply missed him, the joy of seeing him again overwhelmed Manon. Her heart had leapt with love when she saw the answering sparkle in Richard’s eyes, just moments ago. His smile had warmed her to the core, even when she recognized the pain of having to suppress their mutual forbidden feelings in his hungry gaze. How were they to bear this, she had no inkling.
On the second floor, Manon passed a large oak door which was polished to a shine in certain places by the touch of many hands. Curious to the point of excitement, she pushed against it; she had not entered this room before.
The solemn silence of a chapel met her when Manon stepped over the threshold. Her upbringing had been Roman-Catholic. The chapel’s perfectly quiet atmosphere, combined with the exquisite decoration, instantly touched her very soul.
She reverently curtsied while dipping her hand into the elegant marble shell near the door. It was filled with holy water. She made a slow sign of the cross and glanced around to admire the beautiful upholstery.
Richard woke from a short nap when the door to his room opened. His niece rushed in, and he was struck by the somewhat dishevelled state she was in. Manon’s fiery hair was coming down from its pins, and she had a smudge of dirt crossing her nose and cheeks.
“Oh, I am truly sorry, Uncle, to have woken you. Parbleu! Tête de mule, que je suis!”
She turned to leave the room, but Richard, fully awake now and intrigued, called her back.
“When you are swearing in French and calling yourself a dunderhead, then something truly upsetting must have happened, my dear. Out with it, please.”
“I wanted to show you something, but I forgot that you might be asleep. It can wait, Uncle.”
“No, it cannot. Wait for me outside, and I will call Bright to help me get dressed.”
Manon left the room with a smile on her face. So her uncle had taken her advice and allowed Bright to help him while he was convalescing.
Ten minutes later, Richard let Manon take him to the second floor chapel, but was surprised that she did so.
“The family has not used this chapel for years, Manon. The servants have their services here whenever they lack the time to go down to Bearsham Village and St Wulfram’s Church. The vicar, Mr Merryweather, has always graciously obliged me in this. I did not know you had adopted it as your own, small place of worship.”
“Mrs Briskley told me about it, but I had not found the time to visit and pray. There is something here. Come.”
Manon impetuously grabbed his hand rather and pulled him with her. Richard winced as a sharp tug reminded him of his injured ribs yet he quickly swallowed his gasp of pain.
His niece led him to the small, intricately decorated altar at the chapel’s front. It was an example of exquisite baroque craftsmanship in white, pink, and dark blue marble. Its front and upper part bore bas-reliefs, representing angels, demons, saints, and cherubs in all sizes and postures, yet the overall effect was charming and not as overly loaded as is usually the case in baroque pieces. The upper part had also a small, gilded door which concealed the tabernacle. On both sides of this door, there were two paintings, both about the size of a square foot.
“Look closely at the painting on the left, Uncle,” Manon said quietly.
Richard furrowed his brow and looked at her in complete bewilderment.
“I have known these paintings to be here as long as I can remember, Manon. The one on the right is “The Steps to Elysium” or the depiction of souls ascending into Heaven, and the other is “The Vale of Tears” or…” And suddenly, Richard grasped what his niece had wanted him to see.
He darted forward, ignoring the fiery arrow of pain piercing his back. Dizziness forced him onto his knees, and he heard Manon’s distressed cry only dimly, as if he were under water.
“I am well,” he hastened to reassure her. “It is only a passing faintness. Help me up, please.”
Once he was on his feet again, Richard acted with greater caution, grimly recalling that he had not yet his strength back. Pushing back his infuriated thoughts about his condition, he bent forward to examine the small painting to the left of the tabernacle.
It all came back to him like a high wave, breaking onto the shore. This chapel had been his father’s retreat when his wife’s harassments became too overburdening. Richard remembered that his father had often worked in here as well, seated at a small table at the back. It stood to reason that Robert de Briers must have had a place in here that was destined to hide confidential documents.
Richard’s hand went up to the gilded tabernacle door, then stopped. It must be locked, he remembered, and the key would be … where, for heaven’s sake? He abruptly realised he had no notion of its whereabouts.
“Blast!” He tried to mutter the curse under his breath, but Manon’s keen ears picked it up anyway.
“What? What is it?” she demanded, her voice rising to a pitch with frustration. “Why do you not pull the painting from its place and examine what is behind?”
“Because, my impetuous niece,” Richard patiently explained, “that is not the way to find out what is ‘behind the vale’. Which, if I may say so, is exceedingly astute of you to have figured out.”
Manon blushed so becomingly that Richard’s heart leapt with a sudden desire. Damn! When would he learn to suppress his unruly feelings for his lovely niece?
“It was not solely my doing,” she answered. “Jake and Jéhan helped me. Oh, I am so extremely curious! How will we know, then? What is this secret?”
She was almost jumping with excitement, and Richard laughed aloud at the pretty sight she presented. Hair tumbling, face flushed, and sea-green gown wrinkled and stained from her search – it made her look truly adorable.
“Well,” he replied, “I need to locate the tabernacle key, because without it, our search is over. It may very well be amongst the keys in my father’s desk. I have not yet found the time to go through all his possessions, since I had to set out for France right after his death.”
“Tabernacle keys are usually found in the vestry,” Manon said, matter-of-factly. “In a French church, there would be a special cabinet for them.”
“Let us go find out, then,” Richard replied, and preceded her to the room in question, a small, cupboard-like extension at the far left side of the chapel. It had no windows, and its sturdy door was concealed in the wall panelling. Fortunately, it was unlocked.
Richard took a candle from a holder on the altar and lighted it from the thick wax candle in the corridor which was always kept burning by Thompson. They stepped inside. Manon immediately pointed at a small wooden box fixed to the back wall.
“There! That is what I mean!”
She was right. The small but robust iron tabernacle key was easily spotted, hanging from its hook amidst its fellows, which were used to open the cabinets for books and religious garments.
“Was the chapel a Roman Catholic one?” Manon asked, a bit bemused. “All those items certainly point toward that conclusion.”
“As a matter of fact, it was,” Richard confirmed. “After Henry VIII established the Church of England, all chapels, even the private ones, had to be refurbished. My ancestor at the time instantly swore loyalty to the new religion but could not find the heart to destroy the lovely late Gothic paintings the altar had been decorated with a century earlier. He had a false front installed, with reproductions of Renaissance works. Unfortunately, a later baronet had it pulled down to replace it with that baroque-styled monstrosity. The family must have kept all the other items concealed behind the vestry door.”
“I rather love the baroque style,” Manon retorted a bit of a reproach in her tone. “It is elegant and refined, and in my country, the nobility has used it in many exquisite chateaux, townhouses and churches.”
Richard kept silent, and instead went back to the chapel to try the key. He was unexpectedly stung by Manon’s referring to France as “her country” when he had believed all along that she was beginning to feel quite at home in England. How could one not feel at home at Bearsham Manor? Even with his cold-hearted mother around when he was little, Richard had always been fond of the large barn of a house. He knew why; his father had loved and cherished him and had made him feel at home. His father had instilled pride and reverence in him, for his name, his title, and his estate. Concern and care for people who depended on him for their livelihood.
“Never forget that you are first and foremost a de Briers, Richard. A baronet who was given a community to protect, along with his title. People and families, beasts and crops, and this estate and house – they all depend on you, my son, for their well-being.” Those were words he had often heard from Robert, his father.
Manon’s little cry ripped Richard back into reality, and he hastened to put the key in the lock.
The tabernacle door opened easily on well-oiled hinges, which surprised Richard until he realised his father must have used it frequently for documents he needed to keep safe. Papers that had to be kept private and out of his mother’s sight, no doubt. Richard had no doubt that the dowager would have gotten hold of the combination to his father’s vault, even if she were not supposed to have acquired that knowledge.
“Oh! It is empty!” Manon exclaimed.
“No, wait,” Richard said and put his hand inside the small cupboard. He tapped lightly on the left side wall although he had no recollection as to how he knew to do so.
A hidden panel swung inward, and Manon held her breath when Richard extracted an item out of the secret compartment behind “The Vale of Tears”. It was a parcel, the size of a book, and wrapped in brown paper and fastened with a string.
In a bold, precise hand, the words “To my son Richard de Briers” could be read.
Poldark and its dreamy star Aidan Turner are on their way back to the BBC, and now we now the exact date series two of the show begins.
The upcoming ten-episode run of the romantic, Cornwall-set period drama, which previously drew in 9.5million viewers, begins on September 4. Cancel everything and dump your real-life boyfriend NOW.
Aidan is currently in line to become the next Bond, but seeing as there is also a third series of the popular programme planned, we doubt he’ll be running off to battle Blofeld just yet.
The story looks set to run and run, and Elizabeth Kilgarriff, the executive producer of Poldark, previously told The Guardian: ‘Series two promises to take the audience on another fantastic roller coaster ride and we’re thrilled to know that the story won’t end there.’
We’ve already learned that John Nettles, Gabriella Wilde and Hugh Skinner are joining the cast, and we’ve seen the first official picture from the second series, which shows Ross Poldark proudly posing on a horse – fully-clothed.
Indeed, Poldark’s writer Debbie Horsfield previously revealed Ross won’t be getting his kit off in this new series, or at least that we won’t be seeing him doing much topless scything. Sigh.
Whether this will dent the popularity of the 18th-century-set drama, also starring Eleanor Tomlinson as Poldark’s former maid and new wife Demelza, remains to be seen.
Two cloistered, married English women (Josie Lawrence, Miranda Richardson) impulsively rent an Italian villa and embark upon a vacation without their spouses. They are joined by two other ladies: the high-flown aging widow Joan Plowright, and elegant upper-crust beauty Polly Walker) whom they’ve never met. Under the spell of an exotic new location, the foursome are in for quite a few life-altering experiences, many of them amusing, and not a few very surprising. Impeccably accurate in its recreation of European manners and mores in the 1920s, Enchanted April is sheer bliss from fade-in to fade-out.
I think the dragons from Avatar should have held a place in this line-up.
Kindle handed Margaret into an empty coach. How long they would be alone, no one knew. He took her into his arms as soon as the driver was underway. Two guards rode in front of the carriage and two in the rear. He could feel her hesitate slightly and that worried him as it had for many days.” Margaret, is anything wrong, you’re shying away from me.”
“Kindle, it isn’t you,” she lied. I am just so exhausted. The tension I have been under for days and then fearing I would drown and then lost in the woods – it is all just pushing me down right now. Until Branson found us last night, I did not know if I would live or die.”
“This may be very impertinent but as a gentleman, I must know. Was Mr. Thornton a gentleman while you two were together? I will take actions if you tell me, no.”
“Kindle, put your mind at rest there. Mr. Thornton treated me with much regard. He was quite concerned about my comfort and me. He did everything he could to accommodate me. I guess you did not know I fainted onboard ship from the stress. I bumped my head and was unconscious for a while. He was very worried over that. Kindle, I think I know what you are really asking and let me be as fair with you as I was with him. You know how I felt about you before I left. Nothing there has changed. Mr. Thornton has asked for my hand in marriage but I have given him no answer because I have not been able to know you equally as well and I want to do that. He understands the way I feel, but he is not happy. He is very much in love with me and told me that many times over these past two days. Because of you, I would not commit to him in his offer of marriage. I think you may be in love with me and I am extremely fond of you but I want to know you as well. I want to give you the same time with me that John had. I am sorry to be so blunt but there it is. I know it must hurt you as it does me and I know it does John. Somewhere along my road, I will be hurt by having to decide one good man over another good man and either you or John will be hurt terribly, too. It is a predicament that I never could have imagined in all of my life. I could not blame you if you wanted to back out now. I do not know how this all happened. I do not understand how I can feel so strongly about two completely different men. Although, Mr. Thornton never mentioned anything, I know there is more of you that I do not know. You alluded to that fact before I left for Milton. I am more than anxious to start there but I do not think I can do it today or even tomorrow. I need to find myself again. After almost losing my life, my priorities in life have changed. I see life differently. What was important before seems trivial now. I wonder if one can have both love and happiness. Do they always go hand in hand? Can two people love equally, or will one always be the dominant partner? Being a soldier, you must have faced death many times. Can you understand any of my newer deeper thoughts and concerns? I am a woman with a woman’s thoughts and desires.”
“I will be honest with you as you have been with me which is one of the reasons I love you. I would like to say I would wait forever if I could. I would want to but I must produce an heir and that is what we will talk about when you are ready. I can only wait for you while you are still in a childbearing age. I know that sounds harsh and it truly is harsh but I hope to explain that soon. Please, let us say no more now. Just lean back against my shoulder and sleep your way home.”
Margaret noticed a lot more accoutrements on his uniform this time but still leaned back against Kindle as he had asked. She could not get John out of her mind. What did she say that he misunderstood? He became almost violent when she had said the word indebtedness. He must have thought that she felt indebted to him for saving her life. What she was meaning was the time that she promised herself to give to Kindle, so her final decision was based on equal moments shared. John or Kindle had no idea of the agony she was going through being fair. Which was the road to her greatest happiness? Down deep, she knew it was with John, but now she wondered what he was thinking of her. He had bewitched her, body and soul. As the exquisite memories lingered, she recognized that it was not his lust and passion she loved most about him, it was his tenderness.
John finally spoke to Nicholas about the conversation with Margaret but he was not able to hide the hurt. He spoke of no specifics but Nicholas became aware that they had been together romantically and how John had left with a good feeling about it all until her last words.
“John, did not you hear her holler ‘You do not understand’ or something to that effect?”
“I am not sure what I was hearing at the time. I was so deep inside myself that everything else was a haze of pure heartbreak wanting to lash out. After my reaction, I would have expected her to say that.” John had his elbows resting on his knees holding his head, looking at the floor. He was in total denial. She was not in love with him. She was confusing love for being grateful . . . thankful for her life. John was glad he had saved her life; nothing there would ever change, even if he had not loved her. Except now, his life seemed to have come to a staggering dead end. “Nicholas, I do not think she knows what love is. I think she is confusing it with gratitude. I have been a fool letting myself become so obsessed with her.” John spread out on the empty bench placing his arm over his eyes. He found it hard to look at the pity in his best friends face.
“I think you’re wrong about her, John. She seemed truly interested in you at your dinner and you hadn’t saved her from anything.” You had only known her hours, I think you’d said. She even talked about you casting a spell over her. As far-fetched as it sounded then, she was in love with you, I am sure of it. She would be a hard woman if she did not feel grateful for you saving her life but I do not think she is confusing the two. I did not hear much of the conversation until you got loud but did you ever let her finish what she was saying?”
Still with his eyes covered, “No, at least I do not think so.”
“I imagine this has to be devastating for you because it hurts me for you but hold it together until you do understand what she said that you did not hear completely or understand correctly. I am sure you will get a letter soon, explaining what she was trying to say before you exploded on her. I get it, that you are very deeply in love with her and there is competition out there that you fear, and that you cannot fight. You are anxious. Your whole life depends on her eventual choice. I do not know how any man gets through that. Nevertheless, you have to believe in what you two shared and hold it within. Do you have any doubts that the emotional bonding did not come from her heart?”
“No, I do not.”
“Then give her the benefit of the doubt right now, at least until something is made perfectly and unmistakably clear to you. I will only give you three days to sulk and then I will go find her and get to the bottom of this,” Nicholas said, trying to lift the mood. “I think the next move is yours, my friend. You should apologize for your outburst. Whether you are right or wrong that is no way that John Thornton, the gentleman and my friend has ever acted or spoken to a woman.”
John sat up, sliding his legs off the bench and rubbing his face with his hands. “I know you are right on that anyway. I do need to apologize for my behavior.”
Margaret was welcomed home with a lot of crying and hugging. Tea was served and she was sent straight to bed. Nevertheless, Margaret could not sleep for the way that she and John had parted. She wanted to get on a train and go find him, but she knew she would not. She would get a brief note off to him in the early post. During her ride home with Kindle and his attentive actions, she knew deep down that she would never have the love for him that she did for John. She vowed to see him several more times to insure she kept her promise but she fought the idea, knowing it would be hard to hide her sentiments and the lack thereof. She hoped that whatever he had been hiding about himself would be something he’d understand that she did not find unto her liking. The business about producing an heir had to mean he came from a very highborn family with a long history and that was enough to scare her off already. Having a child was quite normal for a married couple but the words produce an heir had a positively different meaning. It meant an heir, and heir to what . . . God, it must be a Title. The longer Margaret thought about that, the more she thought she was wrong. She could not see any way that he would have even looked in her circle of society. Margaret eventually fell asleep but her sleep was fitful.
Unknowingly, Margaret woke to the most important day of her life. She would experience devout sadness and elated happiness.
She came down to the breakfast room and served her plate from the buffet as all the upper English people did. Her aunt and cousin were sitting there with all smiles waiting to talk with Margaret as they had barely begun last night, seeing her weariness. That sat there for a long time while Margaret imparted everything from when she left on the train for London until her return yesterday.
Her safety had been the tantamount concern but Edith was interested in Margaret’s reaction to Kindle being a Baron. Margaret never mentioned it but her Aunt soon could not hold in her own excitement.” So, have your feelings for Baron Brampton changed through all this? Aunt Shaw asked.
Margaret, looking at the food on her plate, slowly put down her fork, placed her hands in her lap and without looking up, said, “Baron?”
The room fell into dead silence. Edith looked at her mother with disappointment. They had promised the Baron to let him tell her. Her mother shrugged off her attitude.
“Yes, Margaret. Your gentleman suitor is Baron Brampton, a family close to the sovereigns for, I should think, many centuries. He is also held in very high regard in the Military. That is his family’s heritage. They have served and protected the realm forever. Every son born into the family name distinguishes himself in service to his country. Kindle, as you call him, is a Baron and I would not be surprised if he becomes a Viscount soon. Most people call him Sir Kindle, Your Lordship, or Baron. To have listened to you call him Kindle made me cringe. I knew the name Brampton was familiar but could not place it until we found out you had been abducted off the train and Maxwell told us who he was, although Edith thought it might be so. He is in the daily paper often for his voice in House of Lords.
As Margaret listened, she wanted to jump for joy. She wanted to run to John because now she did not have to pretend any longer. She would find her happiness in his loving arms. How badly she yearned for him to look down at her with those sapphire blue eyes.
“What are you smiling about, child?” asked her aunt.
Margaret looked up at the two of them sitting across from her at the table.” I am smiling because I am truly and most definitely deeply in love. No more having to pretend. I can openly show him my love.”
“Finally, girl you have come to your senses. I think the Baron will make a generous husband.”
Edith sensed it first and put her hand lightly on her mother’s wrist waiting for the truth to come out.
“Aunt Shaw, I am sorry to tell you, it’s not the Baron, it is John Thornton.”
“You mean that working man from up north?” Her aunt said with disgust in her voice.
“Yes, I mean that working man from up north.”
“You mean you’d give up a Baron for him? Are you confusing gratitude with love? Surely, you can’t be serious.”
“I have never been more serious in my life. I am afraid I left him with a very unpleasant mistaken idea and I have to correct it immediately.” Margaret did not know whether to write or pack when a knock came to the door.
“The house maid admitted the Baron. While Aunt Shaw and Edith curtsied, Margaret did not.”
“I am sorry to intrude so early but I have urgent news for Miss Hale.”
“Of course, Kindle. Let us go out back, if that is all right with you.”
“Wherever you prefer Miss Hale, as long as it’s private.”
The Baron followed Margaret out to the veranda where the dew had not touched the chaise. They both sat and faced each other.
“Before you begin, Kindle or should I say Baron. I know of your nobility and I must confess I am quite surprised. How . . .” Margaret was interrupted.
“If you would let me speak first, I think it will save a lot of words whether hurtful or endearing about our relationship.” Kindle replied, looking quite saddened about being there.
“First I must tell you that I have loved you since I met you. When marriage to you seemed like it might be a possibility, I decided to damn the family tradition and marry the woman I loved, who had nothing to bring to the marriage except for her feelings for me. I knew there would be some scandal among the nobles that I had married well below my class, but I did not care. However, I did need to talk about that which you could expect and be expected as a Baroness. In other words, I was going to walk through fire to make you mine, I love you that much.”
Margaret did not know where to look. It seemed like she was being highly esteemed on one hand and insulted by the classes she abhorred with the other hand.” Baron . . . do not feel so . . . ,” she was interrupted again.
“Miss Hale some news came to me this morning of a grave nature for you and your family which would absolutely dismiss any marriage between you and I.”
“What is it? Please do not spare my feelings. Tell me at once.”
“Miss Hale is seems your brother Fredric is now a wanted man. He and part of the crew mutinied against the Captain of his ship. They set him, a few other officers, and small crew off in a small boat at sea. I do not know any more of the details, but I can say it is a very serious situation for him, punishable by hanging. Nothing can help him now but I must say that I know of that Captain and he is a mean tyrant, absolutely ruthless with his crewmembers. He likes to take the whip to them all. Your brother probably did a brave act at the cost of his life. At this moment, the mutineers have escaped. It is possible we, speaking for the realm, may never find him unless he returns to England.”
Margaret was hysterical with tears and loud sobs, all for her brother. Now, she really had no one – but she did.
“I am so sorry Margaret for your brother and us. I cannot be as disappointed as you are now, but I can tell you that my heart is breaking. I wish it had been otherwise. When I read the missive about the mutiny, I asked to deliver it to you personally instead of reading it in the paper. I am sure it will have no reflection on your Aunt and cousin or you either, really. In addition, I am sorry, that my family heritage of serving our sovereigns for centuries could never withstand such a scandal being associated with it. And for that, I am truly sorry. I do not think anything else could have dissuaded me from marrying you. Going against the Queen’s rules is a path our family has never crossed.” Kindle pulled her into his embrace and allowed her a long cry on his shoulder.
“Kindle . . . Baron . . . I have no words. After my past five days of terror and now, losing you and my brother is more than I can bear. I thank you for you being the one to come and tell us. And how do you thank someone for the love you felt from them and for them but now will be no more? I do not know how to do this.”
Patting her head against his shoulder, “Do you not think I know that, too? If you have feelings for Mr. Thornton as you have admitted and think you could be happy with him, go to him now and let him soothe you in your hour of need. I am just sorry it isn’t going to be me.”
Margaret rose up and looked into his eyes. They were tear-filled. Here sat a brave soldier and noble Baron being moved to tears for having to leave me, she thought. She knew he could never replace John in her heart but he would have been a close second. “I have never thanked you for the tremendous effort you and your men put forth on my rescue. Please thank Gilbert for me. I will see Maxwell.”
“Oh, Gilbert will get his knighthood out of this. He has his thanks, but I will tell him. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Yes, kiss me goodbye.”
Baron Brampton took Margaret into his arms and gave her a most delicious kiss. It was a proper kiss, not a sensual one like she shared with John, and Margaret thought that was a fitting goodbye.
“Thank you for all the time I spent with you. I will truly miss it.”
They stood and Margaret curled her arm into his and walked him to the front door. He said his goodbyes as he left. As he got to his coach with his guards looking on, he turned back and gave her one long look before finally stepping into his carriage.
Margaret, with tears rolling down her face, waved a gentle goodbye.
“Oh, Margaret, what disaster has been heaped on you in the past few days is beyond belief. I am sorry for you, child. In addition, Fredrick, we do not even have to assume that he did this act to prevent cruelty to his crew – there is no doubt there. It is just inconceivable that such acts only result in hangings. I know trials are given but I do not think a hanging verdict has ever been overturned. What are you going to do Margaret?”
“That question was answered in my head about three days ago. I am going to marry John Thornton and I am sorry that you do not approve. I owe him a long letter right now, but I think I will go tell him in person. I cannot do anything for Fred and if I could, I could do it from Milton. Do not be surprised if you get a note from me soon that I am married. I intend to do it immediately . . . I love him that much. I am going upstairs to pack. Tell our driver, I will be ready in half an hour.” Margaret disappeared up the steps not caring what they said.