Image of the Week – A Special Victorian Sherlock – Coming Soon

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  •  THE long-awaited Sherlock Holmes special will air on New Year’s Day, it has been confirmed.

Stars Benedict Cumberbatch, 39, and Martin Freeman,44, will resume their roles as Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson for the one-off episode titled The Abominable Bride.

The 90-minute show will be set in the Victorian era and had been shrouded in mystery until the announcement was made at London’s ComicCon event on Saturday.

The show’s co-creator Mark Gatiss said: “I can exclusively reveal that the long wait for Sherlock will begin again in the late evening of January 1.”

While he joked it was New Year’s Day 2024, producer Sue Vertue was quick to confirm it would be 2016 and would air on the same day in both the UK and the USA.

British fans can watch it on BBC One while their American counterparts can catch it on PBS.

 

 

 

The Reform of John Thornton – Part Twelve

TheReformofJohnThornton

Chapter  Twelve

 

One day in early October, I was in the courtyard, when I witnessed my overseer Williams, who was chasing away from the mill an individual who I had come to loathe most assiduously. Nicholas Higgins seemed to have mustered the effrontery – and the courage, I must admit – to come and ask for work.

I knew he had been dismissed from Hamper’s mill after the strike, and also, why. The firebrand and his abominable union wanted the workers to pay contributions to keep up a fund that would sustain them when there was a prolonged strike.

I had once lectured to Margaret about the Northern traditions, I recalled. About every man or woman to do as they pleased with their wages, but this time, I could not condone the union’s scheme. Paying in order to sit out a strike was disastrous for us, masters. Add to this the ignorance  of most of the working class members as how to spend their funds wisely, and one knew for certain families would grow hungry once again and starve.

There was nothing I could do to prevent such a thing from happening, so I concentrated on my work. In a few days’ time, I had a meeting with Latimer about the latest figures, and I wanted to be certain of what I would do if the results were not satisfactory. It was also my intention to ask Latimer to be permitted to court his daughter Ann. A burden on my conscience, that last fact. I was uncertain if I could ever marry Ann.  If my financial situation was not adequate enough in Latimer’s eyes, he would rightly refuse me.

I asked myself the very urgent question that was nagging me for days, now. Even if I were permitted to marry Ann Latimer, could I summon up the strength I would need to try and love her?

 

Higgins had the incredible audacity to accost me, a few days later, when I was on my way to Latimer. I had spotted him right away, when I left the house and had no intention of acknowledging him. My stride was purposeful enough to deter even the most assiduous encounter, but Higgins stepped forward nonetheless, cap in hand.

“I need to talk to you, sir,” he said, in a subdued and polite tone.

I planted my hat on my head and strode past him. “I can’t stop now,” I barked.

In truth, I had no time. Latimer wanted to see me on urgent business. I went first to the building that housed the bank, but Mr Latimer, the clerk said to me, was at his club. Musing over how it was possible for a working man to spend time at a club, I walked the short distance from the bank.

I found Latimer leisurely playing billiards.

Unbelievable. Unheard of, too. I swallowed my irritation when he asked, “You’ve seen the new figures?”

It was all I ever did lately, damn it! Yet I replied evenly, “I’d hoped to reduce the bank loan by now.”

“Eh, it’s a pity so much is tied up in the new machinery.”

This man, I firmly told myself, does not know the first thing about running a mill.

“I needed the machinery because we were doing well,” I said calmly. “We had large orders.  And I needed to buy the cotton in bulk.  Obviously I wasn’t expecting not to be able to fulfil the contracts.”

Without looking up from his billiard cue, Latimer continued, “But you’ve been back to work for a good while now.”

I took a deep breath. “But we’re still behind with the orders and we’ll not catch up for … It’s not looking like we will catch up.”

Latimer was now purposefully not looking at me.

“Well, the bank can extend the loan.  Temporarily.  But we’ll have to be careful.”

Damn the man! What was he implying? “I don’t think anyone has ever accused me of being careless!  Or frivolous!”

My tone must have irked him, because he looked up, irritation written all over his face. I hastened to correct my behaviour. “Forgive me.  I don’t know how I could have prevented this or what to do next.”

“Well, there are more … modern financial procedures.  Investments.”

He bent down and started playing once again. “ I could let you know when I hear of any such schemes.”

Confound it and damn it all to hell! I all but barked out, “Speculation? I’ll not risk everything on some idiot money scheme.”

Now he looked me straight in the face, and his gaze was hostile. “Well, if matters carry on like this, you might not have anything left to risk.”

I went all cold. I knew my figures were bad, but to hear my banker say it aloud was devastating.

I took my leave, since there was nothing left to discuss with Latimer. I walked home in a state of numbness and despair. My mill was in danger of bankruptcy, and I seemed unable to rectify the situation. Black thoughts were milling through my head when I reached Marlborough Mills’ gate, only to see that Nicholas Higgins was still there. The man must be in serious trouble, I realised with a start.

“Good Lord!  Are you still here?”

“Yes, sir.  I want to speak to you.

“You’d better come in then.”

I preceded him to the office. Higgins was turning his cap around and around in his calloused hands. I pretended to rearrange some papers, only to see what he was up to. He stood there, silent and subdued, so I addressed him, none too friendly, though.

“Well, so what do you want with me?”

“My name is Higgins…”

I cut him short. “I know who you are.  What do you want?”

“I want work.”

 

Just like that. He, of all people, was asking for work? Impossible!

“Work?  You’ve got a nerve,” I challenged him. He stayed calm, though. “Hamper ’ll tell you I’m a good worker.”

“I’m not sure you’d like to hear all of what Hamper would have to say about you,” I scoffed.  “I’ve had to turn away 100 of my best hands for following you and your union.  And you think that I should take you on?  Might as well set fire to the cotton waste and have done with it.”

He made a turn as if to go away, then looked back at me. “I promise you, I’d not speak against you.  If I found anything wrong I’d give you fair warning before taking action.  I’m a steady man. I work hard.”

“How do I know you’re not just planning mischief,” I sneered. ”Or maybe you’re just interested in saving up money against another strike.”

“I need work, for the family of a man who were driven mad,” he said, urgently. “He had his job taken by one of those Irishmen you hired.  Didn’t know one end of a loom from another.”

The bloody nerve! I barked, “Your union forced me into hiring those Irish.  Much good it did me!  Most of them have gone home.”

I continued with my paperwork, and was getting up to get something and then was sitting down again. “If I were to believe your reason … I can’t say that I’m inclined to.  I’d advise you to try some other work and leave Milton.”

“If it were warmer, I’d take Paddy’s work and never come back again.  But come winter, those children will starve.  If you knew any place away from mills … I’d take any wage they thought I was worth for the sake of those children.”

I could not believe my ears! “Oh, you’d take wages less than others?  They have no union of course.  Your union ’d be down like a ton of bricks on my Irish for trying to feed their families, and yet you’d do this for these children?  I’ll not give you work.  You’re wasting your time.”

I took up my papers and began reading.

“And yours,” he said, a smile in his words. I deliberately did not look at him. He continued, “ I was told to ask you by a woman.  Thought you had a kindness about you.  She was mistaken.  But I’m not the first to be misled by a woman.”

Impertinent bugger! “Tell her to mind her own business next time and stop wasting your time and mine.”

He left then, but I was brooding, suddenly. What woman? Margaret? Yes, it must be her.

I left my office, went to find Williams in the sorting room and asked, “How long has that man Higgins been waiting to speak to me?”

“He was outside the gate when I arrived, sir, and it’s four now,” my diligent overseer replied.

So Higgins had been prepared to wait for me all day? He must indeed be desperate. I decided to see into the matter, later that day.

It had started snowing. Never had it been that early for winter to set in.

 

There was now a thin blanket of frosty snow covering the mill yard and the rest of Milton.

People were beginning to wrap up warmly, although some of my workers only had rags to do so. Something should be done to help people through rough times, I mused.

One overcast and dark afternoon, I was doing the accounts in the parlour, having fled my stone cold office. No use in lighting the stove and spend money on coals when there was a good fire inside the house.

Fanny entered, and I instantly noticed that she was in a fine uproar. I ignored her. Fanny is always in an uproar about something. But it was not to be.

“Honestly!  Miss Hale could do with having just a little humility about her position.  She was at Green’s and stopped to congratulate me.  She seemed surprised when I told her of my wedding plans.  She’s so grave and disapproving, as if we couldn’t afford it. I soon put her right.  It’s not as if she will ever get a husband. She’s much older than me.  And so severe!  I told her about Watson’s business proposition and she really turned up her nose at me!  She as much as said you wouldn’t be interested, as if she knew you better than me.  So superior.”

I listened to this litany with growing fury. Then I caught Mother’s cautioning glance at Fanny’s sneer of Margaret, and I forced myself to be calm. Yet I could not help myself from berating my hare-brained sister. “I’ll thank you not to discuss my business affairs in the street. What do you know about anything anyway, Fanny, except how to spend money?”

Now she looked positively insulted. “I know that if you were to take up Watson’s offer and join him in the speculation, you would be certain to profit. Tenfold….,” she said smugly.

Was she stupid, or what? “There is nothing certain about speculation. I will not risk the livelihoods of my men by joining Watson’s tomfool schemes.  If I lose money, how will I be expected to pay off the expense of your wedding?”

“You’ll be sorry,” she barked at me, and stalked off.

I suddenly bowed my head, resting it on my fist. A headache had been lurking all day, choosing that moment to burst out in full.

Mother came to stand beside me. “Is the speculation so risky?” she asked quietly.

“Do you need to ask me that, Mother?,” I wearily replied. “It’s very risky.  If it succeeds, all our financial problems will be over and no one will ever know how bad things are.”

She took a deep breath.  “If it fails?”

“At the moment, the payroll is safe.  Would you advise me to risk it?”

“If you succeeded, they’d never know.

“And if it fails, I would have injured others.  Would you ask me to risk that?”

She shook her head and put her hand lovingly on my shoulder. “Tell me what to do.”

Dearest Mother. “Pray for a good summer,” I said in as light a tone as I could muster. “People will buy cotton clothes.  Pray that some of our buyers pay their bills on time … and pray that Fanny doesn’t have time to order any more from the draper’s.”

Mother’s rare and very sweet smile brightened her face and she stroked the top of my head.

Ah, Mother. Would I be able to talk in that manner to Margaret, if she were my wife? I seriously doubted that.

 

That same week, I went to the Princeton district on my way back from Milton Outwood station, where had gone there to check on a cotton delivery I was expecting. In vain, unfortunately. Supplies from Liverpool were slow, these days, due to the inclement weather.

I descended the dark, filthy alley that went down to a cluster of dismal hovels housing workers and their families. I was appalled, as I beheld the grimy, desperate misery these people were living in. Of course I had always known how poor the workers and their families truly were, but what I saw now surpassed every imaginable picture I had in my mind.

The day was cold, with a constant, icy wind from the north, yet people were huddling before their doors, clad in filthy rags. Mothers with eyes devoid of hope were clutching grizzling infants, or groping at grubby, thin children hiding in their skirts. One little slip of a girl held up her dirty, tiny hand. I gave her a ha’penny, smiling at her. She looked back at me without doing so, and her mother averted shameful eyes.

Ah, even in the despair of abject poverty, these Northerners still held up their heads high.

Higgins’ house – if one could call it that – was at one end of a blind alley. I knocked briskly on the rough wooden door. He opened it, looked brazenly at me, and stepped aside. I entered a small room that served as a kitchen and bedroom at the same time. On the bed in the alcove were five children, ranging from babyhood to toddler. One small boy – six or seven years old – was sitting near the hearth with Higgins’ surviving daughter. She was holding a book from which the boy was reading aloud. I took off my hat and gestured to the two.

“Are these your children?”

“No, but they’re mine now.”

“Did your daughter teach them to read?”

“I think they are teaching her.

I looked at the ones on the bed. “And these are the children you mentioned yesterday?”

Higgins’ brow rose. “You didn’t believe me?”

I walked farther into the room, then turned towards Higgins. “I spoke to you in a way that I had no business to.  I did not believe you.  I couldn’t have taken care of a man such as Boucher’s children.  I have made enquiries and I know now that you spoke the truth.  I beg your pardon.”

Higgins shrugged. “Well, Boucher’s dead and I am sorry.  But that’s the end of it.”

“Will you take work with me?  That’s what I came here to ask.”

 

Nicholas Higgins was thinking for a moment, then said in a tone that betrayed his dissatisfaction, “You’ve called me impudent, a liar, a mischief-maker.  But for the sake of these children, do you think we could get along?”

“Well, it’s not my proposal that we get on well together,” I said, as neutral a tone as I could muster at his impertinence.

He seemed to desist. “Work is work.  I’ll come.  And what’s more, I’ll thank you.  And that’s a good deal from me.

I held out my hand. “And this is a good deal from me.”

We shook hands, Higgins’ grasp was firm and unyielding. “Now, mind you come sharp to your time.  What times we have, we keep sharp.”

I looked him in the eye sternly. “And the first time I catch you using that brain of yours to make trouble, off you go.  Now you know where you are.”

Mischief sparkled in the man’s eyes. “Reckon I’ll leave my brains at home, then.”

I walked to the door to leave, then stopped as a thought struck me. “ Was Miss Hale the woman that told you to come to me?  You might have said.”

“And you’d have been a bit more civil?” Higgins challenged, triumph in his eyes.

I left. On my way home, I realised Higgins must know of my dealings with Margaret. How utterly abhorrent!

 

When next I went to the Hales’ house to read, I could not help mentioning to Margaret that I had taken Higgins on.

She bowed her head with a sad little smile that tugged at my heart. “I’m glad of it,” she said quietly.

“I didn’t know that it was you who urged him to come to me,” I said, but I did not know why I did so. She answered in a small voice, “Would it have made you more or less likely to give him a job?”

Ah, she was taunting me again now. ““I don’t know.  I’ll not withdraw it though, if that’s what worries you.”

She looked down again, as if she could not bear to look at me. “I wouldn’t think you capable of that.  I have a better opinion of you than you do of me at the moment, I feel.”

 

Later, when I was seeking sleep in vain, her words came back to my mind.

The meekness with which they had been spoken was uncharacteristic for Margaret. Dared I hope that she had changed her opinion of me, then? She certainly seemed to care for my own assessment of her. Or … was I deluding myself yet again?

 

 

 

 

Sunset Song 2015

Released on Dec 04, 2015 in UK and Ireland

 

I am not frightened of you!” The official UK trailer has debuted for Terence Davis’ new period romantic drama Sunset Song, about a daughter of a Scottish farmer coming of age during the early 1900s. Agyness Deyn stars as Chris Guthrie, and it’s told as a sort of a triptych, with one segment focusing on her abusive father, the next when she meets and falls in love and eventually marries Ewan, played by Kevin Guthrie; finally, he goes off to fight in World War I and comes back shellshocked and violent, resembling her father. The cast includes Peter Mullan, Jack Greenlees, Niall Greig Fulton and Ian Pirie. This looks very powerful.

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Sunset Song 2015 - pic 03

 

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The Reform of John Thornton – Part Eleven

TheReformofJohnThornton

Chapter Eleven

 

I came home in a state of shock and disbelief. To find myself betrayed by the first woman I had ever loved, was a cruel blow. Granted, she had never been mine to begin with, but I had professed my devotion to her with an honesty that she must have never experienced in the jaded drawing rooms of London.

I knew I was not a gentleman in her eyes, but surely that was to be preferred over the sly, equivocal pretences of London, where no one ever spoke the truth. Apparently, Margaret thought otherwise.

And, moreover, she had been honest to me, when she said she had never known how to behave when a man spoke of love to her. She had indeed had many men who offered her their heart. There must have been that Lennox fellow and now, this new young buck, whom she loved so dearly that she threw away propriety to embrace him at night at the station.

I had never known her. She still remained a complete stranger to me.

 

The news of Mrs Hale’s passing reached us the next morning.

I could only wonder as to how Margaret and her father must feel. I had stopped going to Mr Hale for our readings. Yet I had an inkling as to what kind of marriage they must have had. It was very obvious that Mrs hale had been disappointed when her husband brought her to Milton. That brought on a new question; why had Mr Hale left his parsonage in rural Hampshire t come bury himself and his family in a northern industrial town?

And Margaret? How had she felt when she had to leave her childhood home? A stab of pity stung in my heart for the misery she must have had to deal with. Not only had she had to fight her own melancholy, but also had to master all the consequences of her mother’s declining health. From what I had seen, the mother and daughter had shared a deep affection.

I dearly hoped they both would have some consolation. Maybe that was why her suitor had come from London, to comfort her in her hour of great sorrow. I could forgive her that, could I not? When one loses his most beloved parent, one is entitled to some comfort. I was not the one allowed to give it to her, unfortunately. My initial, rather infantile burst of jealousy at seeing her with another man had turned into some other, darker feeling of despair. Margaret would never be mine.

I still spent time with Miss Latimer as frequently as I was granted by her father. Latimer had only one child of whom he was extremely protective. I could not blame him. I knew if I had a daughter of my own, I would feel exactly the same. Mr Hale, it seemed, had not looked after his daughter as best as he could. Margaret had no guidance at all, and never had. She had been allowed to go as she pleased and do as she wished. Her mother had been sickly, and her father indifferent. Maybe that was what she was looking for in the young man she so loved, support and comfort, and commitment, and protection from indifference.

Ah, Margaret, dearest one …

 

Mother, Fanny and I attended the funeral service in Crampton Chapel that was empty but for Margaret’s family and mine. Mr Bell was there, of course, but also, Higgins and his daughter. I recognized her as the girl who had come to the Hales’ house, when Margaret’s suitor had been present.

Why, I asked myself, would Higgins be there? How well did he know the Hales? And the daughter, was she now employed at their house? How was Mr Hale? How was Margaret? Again my heart went out to my dear girl. I would love her always, no matter how she behaved.

I took the opportunity of speaking with Mr Bell, after the service, and he told me they were well looked after, and that I was not needed. But I knew that already for a long time.

 

I cast a last look at Margaret, who was supporting her father. Mr Hale seemed truly devastated, and I felt suddenly guilty for not standing by him in his darkest hour.

“Mr. Thornton?”

I startled and turned, to see a constable addressing me. “Yes? Mason, isn’t it? How do you do?”

I knew the man from when the constabulary had come to my mill during the rioting. A most thorough civil servant, I knew. A man of slender build and several inches shorter than me, and quite young. He could not be more than five-and-twenty, yet he had made his way in the constabulary already. He touched his hat in deference.

“Sorry to disturb you, sir, but with your being the local magistrate …”

“What is it?”

“I must ask you to accompany me to the morgue, sir. We have a suspicious death on our hands.”

We took a cab and at once went to the mortuary room, where the bodies of the unknown dead were usually laid out. On a marble table lay a figure covered by a white sheet. Mason folded the sheet back to reveal the face of a man that was vaguely familiar to me. He was thin, with drab blond hair and bulging pale blue eyes not yet closed. His body was slightly but firmly muscled.

“This fellow was found along the station embankment two days ago,” Mason continued.  “Died in hospital this morning.  He’s not from these parts.  We’re trying to identify him.  Find out who killed him.”

“He did not die a natural death, then?”

“The coroner still has to do his examination, sir, but we found a severe blow at the back of his head. I am only starting my own investigation as if today, but I will keep you informed about what I find.”

“Thanks, Mason, I’d appreciate that.”

Then it came back to me who he was. “Mason, I know that man. He was dating one of our maids. You are free to come to the house and interrogate her.”

“I will, sir! Would now be convenient?”

“Of course, come along.”

 

I was present, when Mason told Jane that her friend was dead. She burst out in tears, but Mother soon got her calmed down, urging her to confide in the inspector about the man. His name was Jed Leonards, Jane sobbed, and he was from Helstone in Hampshire.

I swallowed. Margaret’s former home? I said nothing, because it had nothing to do with this man’s death.

Jane insisted that he was going to marry her, but that he had to gain some money first. And yes, the foolish girl had been giving the fellow some money of her own. Now she suspected Leonards might have spent it in the tavern, the night he died. No, she did not know where he went for his ale, but she thought it might be near Milton Outwood station.

When Mason had gone, Mother called me from the parlour where she was doing the household accounts. I was impatient to get back to the mill, but was waylaid on the landing when I heard Jane sobbing disconsolately as a result of the interview.

“Can’t we give Jane the week off? Better off without that scoundrel Leonards, you know,” I said, sighing with frustration.

“You know what the servants are saying about Margaret. Out after dark with a gentleman,” Mother replied, clearly bent on a different path.

I had enough of the whole sorry business. “I do not know or care what they say, Mother. And nor should you.” I knew my reply was a bit rude, but I could no longer concert myself with the events I witnessed.

 

When I encountered Mason again, a few days later, he asked me some disturbing things.

“Am I right in thinking you are acquainted with a Mr. Hale, sir?”

“Yes, indeed. What of it?” I replied, concern beginning to grow inside me.

“It’s just that that this man Leonards death is mixed up with Miss Hale, sir. I have a very secure chain of evidence that a gentleman walking out with Miss Hale at the station was the same that fought with Leonards and may well have caused his death. But the young lady denies she was there at the time.”

“Are you sure the man she was with is connected to the death? What evening was this? What time?”

“Between eleven and twelve. Thursday the 26th.”

I went cold. The 26th was the day I had seen Margaret with her lover at the station.

“Sir?” Mason’s voice was insistent. I tried to compose myself.

“Miss Hale denies she was there?” I asked.

He nodded. “So … Well, you can see my problem, sir. I have a witness who’s pretty positive he saw Miss Hale, even though I’ve told him of her denial. There’ll be a coroner’s inquest. Disputed identifications are very awkward. One doesn’t like to doubt the word of a respectable young woman.”

Margaret, Margaret, what have you been involving yourself in?

My mouth dry, I asked again, “She denies she was at the station?”

“Twice. Very emphatic about it. I did tell her I’d have to ask her again. I thought if you were a friend of the family…”

I had to do something. I had to save Margaret from being interrogated at an inquest. She was only saying goodbye to her lover, she could not have been involved in Leonards’ death. Not my dear girl …

“Quite right. Don’t do anything until you see me again. I will look into it.”

 

I did see into the matter, and most thoroughly so. I supervised the physicians who did the post mortem on Leonards, because I wanted to be fully prepared if there was to be a coroner’s inquiry. Their findings were, I daresay, inconclusive. The fellow was a drunkard, and a hoodlum. His body was covered with scars from earlier fisticuffs and even knife fights. When I pressed the head physician, he told me that the man could have just fallen and hit his head. There was no true evidence of foul play, yet his head injury could also have come from a blow.

So I took the decision to give Margaret the benefit of the doubt. I knew, of course, that she could not have done anything so foul as to club a man over the head, but I had no such generous thoughts about her lover.

Remorse plagued me for some days, afterwards. What if I had protected a murderer?

But no, Margaret must be safe at all costs, so I truly had no choice.

 

Now I had more time to dedicate myself more thoroughly to my mill. We were still struggling to catch up with the orders. The strike had truly disrupted the good functioning of the factory. I would soon be forced to dismiss even more workers in order to secure my pay role.

The fact that my sister Fanny wished to marry Albert Watson the month after this one, thus forcing me to provide for her dowry, was another nail in my coffin. They had been seeing each other frequently since Mother’s last dinner party. Of course, Watson was a very good match for Fanny. He was the wealthiest manufacturer in Milton, although he derived much of his fortune from bank speculations brought on by Latimer. I could not understand why anyone would risk money on such tomfool schemes. With the disaster Father’s speculating had brought us, I had vowed myself never to be part of it. Nevertheless, I was in sore need of incoming funds, so I worked almost around the clock. I am a very healthy man. I am never ill and I can go on working all hours without the need for sustenance.

I was just getting ready to start working, when Mother burst into my office. This was not new. She did that quite often, because she is concerned over the workings of the mill and the welfare of its master. This time, however, she seemed in a state of extreme vexation. She drew up a chair and sat upon it heavily, although she is by no means a heavy person. I laid down my pen, folded my hands before me and looked at her.

“John,” she began, “you won’t be pleased by what I have to tell you.”

“What is it, Mother?” I was growing extremely weary because I knew this would be about Margaret. Mother always adopted that accusing tone where Margaret was concerned.

“ I’ve just come from the Hales. You know I promised Mrs Hale to keep an eye on her daughter.”

I had never quite understood that, I must confess. Mother is not a woman to make such promises. She always keeps her feelings to herself, yet Mrs Hale must have seen past her inscrutable façade.

“Yes, what of it?”

“She refused any explanation about her nightly behaviour at the station, John! She threw my generous offer of guidance back into my face and she left the room before I had even finished my sentence! Oh, she is such a headstrong, arrogant woman! I am glad she will never be your wife, John. She would have overruled you in everything you planned!”

She stood, because I offered no reply. What could one say? “Don’t stay here too late, John. You work too hard, these days.” Whereupon she left me to brood over what she had just said.

What could that dreadful secret be that was so ferociously guarded by Margaret?

 

I tried again to discover just that, when I went for my reading. When I entered the house, after Margaret let me in, she spoke to me quietly.

She seemed very subdued, even downcast. I fought hard to keep my emotion in check and not let her see my dismay. But she spoke quietly.

“Father is waiting in the sitting room.”

I nodded and hastened towards the stairs. As always, seeing her brought back the humiliation of rejection.

“Mr. Thornton?” She was speaking in a pleading tone, now, so I turned to face her.

“I have to thank you.”

It was my rage talking now. “No. No thanks. I did not do anything for you.”

I stepped closer, allowing my fury to show. She lowered her eyes, and my heart ached. I could not let her see what she did to me, damn! I went on. “Do you not realize the risk that you take in being so indiscreet? Have you no explanation for your behaviour that night at the station? You must imagine what I must think.”

“Mr. Thornton, please… ” She besieged me with luminous eyes. “I’m aware of what you must think of me. I know how it must have appeared, being with a stranger so late at night. The man you saw me with, he…the…the secret is another person’s and I cannot explain it without doing him harm.”

I was wavering under her gaze. I tried to grasp what she was telling me, when suddenly Mr Hale’s voice rang from above. “Is that you, John? Come on up.”

I was saved from replying, yet I could not help myself putting matters straight between us.

“I have not the slightest wish to pry into the gentleman’s secrets. I’m only concerned as your father’s friend. I hope you realize that any foolish passion for you on my part is entirely over. I’m looking to the future.”

It was what I firmly hoped for myself, at that time.