Hearts Adrift – Part Three

Armitage_004

Chapter Three

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Does he have a mistress, then?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Exactly!” Jake acknowledged.

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

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

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

Suddenly, a deep voice boomed from the doorway.

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

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

“Oh! I am so sorry, master … I …”

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

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

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

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

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

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses (BBC)

RETURNING – The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses (BBC)

Part 2 premieres in Spring / Summer 2016 on PBS GREAT PERFORMANCES in the US and on BBC2 in the UK. Part 1 was released in 2012.

Following an outstanding critical and audience reaction to the BAFTA Award-winning The Hollow Crown television mini-series in 2012, Neal Street Productions and Carnival Films/NBCUniversal bring the concluding part of this ambitious cycle of Shakespeare’s History plays to the screen in three further filmed adaptations, Henry VI (in 2 parts) and Richard III. Together they comprise a tumultuous medieval spectacle, spanning rebellion in France, the rise and fall of Joan of Arc, the terror of England’s Civil War, and the deceitful dynastic murders culminating in the infamous reign of Richard III. Assembling some of the UK’s finest acting talent, the stellar cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Judi Dench, Sophie Okonedo, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Keeley Hawes and Tom Sturridge.
Richard-III
Richard-III

Courtesy of BBC

Henry VI part 1: Sophie Okonedo (Queen Margaret), Hugh Bonneville (Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester), Sally Hawkins (Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester), Tom Sturridge (Henry VI), Adrian Dunbar (Plantagenet), Stuart McQuarrie (Vernon), Lucy Robinson (Young Cecily), Samuel West (the Bishop of Winchester), Stanley Townsend (Warwick), Michael Gambon (Mortimer), Anton Lesser (Exeter), Ben Miles (Somerset), Jason Watkins (Suffolk) and Philip Glenister (Talbot).

Henry VI part 2: Benedict Cumberbatch (Richard III), Sophie Okonedo (Queen Margaret), Keeley Hawes (Queen Elizabeth), Tom Sturridge (Henry VI), Adrian Dunbar (Plantagenet), Geoffrey Streatfeild (Edward IV), Sam Troughton (George), Stuart McQuarrie (Vernon), Kyle Soller (Clifford), Lucy Robinson (Young Cecily), Stanley Townsend (Warwick), Anton Lesser (Exeter), Ben Daniels (Buckingham), Ben Miles (Somerset), Jason Watkins (Suffolk), Phoebe Fox (Anne), James Fleet (Hastings) and Andrew Scott (King Louis).

Richard III: Judi Dench (Cecily, Duchess of York), Benedict Cumberbatch (Richard III), Sophie Okonedo (Queen Margaret), Keeley Hawes (Queen Elizabeth), Geoffrey Streatfeild (Edward IV), Sam Troughton (George), Ben Daniels (Buckingham), James Fleet (Hastings) and Phoebe Fox (Anne).

Courtesy willowandthatch.com

X-Company – Season 2 Jan 27, 2016

 

X Company’ is a character-driven drama set in a world of espionage and covert operations. The show will be set in WWII, following the stories of five highly skilled young recruits – Canadian, American and British, who are taken from their everyday lives and are trained together in a ultra-secret training facility on the shores of Lake Ontario.

X Company (2015 -)  WWII

Tis Better to Star on Fox..

Tis Better to Star on Fox….. Than to Serve in Hell.

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, the pilot for ’Lucifer’ is out there if you want to find it. It premieres on Fox on January 25 at 8/7 central, but if you want to know what you might get into, here it is.

Lucifer has decided to take a vacation from Hell, having grown tired of punishing sinners and questioning his place in the Divine Plan. He starts up a bar in Los Angeles named Lux, and has the power to draw out the deepest desires in most humans that he meets. He’s also immortal, so things like bullets don’t bother him much.

Tom Ellis in Fox’s Lucifer

When a former client, a singer named Delilah, comes to see Lucifer, he assures her that most of her trouble since rising to success is her own. She gets gunned down on the street and Lucifer, irritated that the person responsible isn’t being punished, sets out to find them. Lucifer teams up with a cop, Chloe Dancer, who has enough baggage to fill an airport terminal. She doesn’t believe he’s Lucifer Morningstar, even though Lucifer isn’t shy about telling her or hiding what he can do.

Together Lucifer and Chloe find the person who ordered the hit on Delilah. Along the way Lucifer discovers that his charm power doesn’t work on Chloe. Intrigued, he decides to keep working with her and make sure that the guilty get punished. Along the way, the forces of both Heaven and Hell want Lucifer to go back to work because Hell isn’t functioning very well without him.

Tom Ellis and D.B. Woodside in Fox’s Lucifer
Conceptually, the show is a lot like last year’s ill-fated ‘Constantine’ show on NBC. Both have a charming bad-boy Brit in the title role. Both have an angel that has his own agenda and doesn’t really care much about our protagonist. Lucifer and Constantine both have perky female characters along with them who have their own dark pasts.Tom Ellis is Lucifer. Ellis appeared in the USA series ‘Rush’ a couple of years back, and has been in a lot of English stuff. Including ‘The Fades’ *sigh*. He even played Robin Hood briefly on ‘Once Upon a Time’ before they cast Sean Maguire in the part. He’s competent as Lucifer, bringing the charm and snark as well as the occasional hint of something darker

Tom Ellis in Fox’s Lucifer

Lauren German is Chloe, who has been a regular on a couple of shows like ‘Chicago Fire’ and the new ‘Hawaii Five-0’. She’s equally competent here.Rounding out the cast are Lesley-Ann Brandt and D.B. Woodside as the respective demon and angel that are there to get Lucifer back on-track. Rachael Harris as a therapist who ends up counseling Lucifer and having sex with him at the same time, and Scarlett Estevez as Trixie, Chloe’s daughter. Kevin Alejandro is set to play Dan, Chloe’s ex and a fellow police detective, but he’s played by Nicholas Gonzales in the pilot.The pilot is written by Tom Kapinos, who has done a lot of ‘Californation’ episode. The writing is the highlight of the show, but it… varies. There are the obvious riffs by Lucifer when someone says, “Oh God!”, and since he’s in LA, Lucifer tends to get mistaken for some kind of celebrity because of his name. He takes everything literally, such as Chloe talking about how large his cajones are, but it’s hard to determine if this is just mediocre writing, or Kapinos is trying to convey that Lucifer is so used to being king of his kingdom that he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks or does.

Lauren German in Fox’s Lucifer

Lucifer’s snark so far really isn’t up to the levels of the great TV Satans: John Glover in ‘Brimstone’ and Ray Wise in ‘Reaper’.Another problem with the show is that Chloe has almost too much baggage. Like Lucifer, the family scenes give me IBS. Chloe has a past as a teenage actress who did nudity (??). She’s a pariah on the force because of a bad call on an officer shooting years ago. She has a cute kid. She has an ex-husband. She has daddy issues. She has mommy issues. At the end of the pilot, Lucifer meets with his therapist, However, you’d think that Chloe is the one who needs decades of counseling.And finally… right now it’s a crime drama. Nobody can resist Lucifer’s power, and he’s immune to bullets. So presumably they’ll be dragging in some supernatural elements at some point. Because otherwise Lucifer makes a pretty overpowering private investigator. The case in the pilot isn’t any different than you’d find in a dozen other crime dramas. It’s not a bad crime drama, but it’s not a particularly exciting one, either.

Tom Ellis and John Pankow in Fox’s Lucifer

So if you hate supernatural stuff, you probably want them to stop with the angelic appearances and get on to crime fighting. If you’re here for the supernatural stuff, you’re probably bored with the procedural elements. Setting it in LA and involving actors and singers makes it a little more interesting. But not much.Of course, that’s all just going by the pilot. A large chunk of pilots are produced by different teams than the ones that end up producing the series duri

Source: Tis Better to Star on Fox..

Chariots of Fire 1981

https://youtu.be/PWle59ZHPIM

 

Won “Best Picture” in 1982 for an Oscar, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe.  Music won a 1983 Grammy.  Many more awards

Chariots of Fire (1981) c1919

Chariots of Fire is a 1981 British historical drama film. It tells the fact-based story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice.

ChariotsFireBenIan

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iancharleston

Theme Song Trailer
by Vangelis

John Thornton’s Unfolding Dream – 11

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John Thornton’s Unfolding Dream

 

Amazon Download   $3.99 US

 

 

Margaret had finished eating and packing, all the while thinking about seeing Megan again. Her pleasant thoughts of seeing her best friend were interrupted with other, more pleasant thoughts. She had very little sleep last night thinking of Mr. Brampton and his spontaneous farewell and the breathtaking Mr. Thornton, who would soon be picking her up. In the cold light of day, she could not help but chastise herself for accepting a ride from a stranger. Nevertheless, he did not feel like a stranger. She remembered the warm and peaceful spell he wove over her with that sultry voice.

Her aunt and cousin seemed to have finally come to the end of their tirade over her going with the stranger on a train. She hoped that Mr. Thornton could put them at some ease if he came inside. Margaret’s mind was whirling. If she were told that she had to choose between the two gentlemen right now or never breathe again, she would be hard pressed to do it.

Kindle was everything a woman could want: attractive, finely built, polite, protective, passionate, possessed of a career, although she did not know much about it, and by the looks of his carriage and horses he was probably well situated. If he were looking for a woman of wealth to aid his declining family’s historical castle or some such thing, he probably would not be controlling his behavior, which Margaret believed he was doing.

Mr. Thornton, on the other hand . . .

She knew nothing of the man except the city he lived in and the fact that he seemed like he would be well versed in the milling industry. That was all. He was mysterious. Margaret had heard of “love at first sight” but never thought it was real. It made interesting reading in her books, but surely, this was not what was happening to her, could it? There is just something about him, was an understatement. From the time she turned around in the bookstore aisle and blissfully sunk into his blue eyes, which looked like the sky at early twilight, she was almost lost. Still lost in the excitement of getting to know more about Mr. Thornton, she heard her cousin call to her from downstairs.

“There is a carriage outside, Margaret.”

Margaret thought Mr. Thornton was a bit early, but that was nice, too.

She heard Edith calling to her as she swept back the curtains.” It is your gentleman from last night. Come to say goodbye again, no doubt.”

“What!” Margaret whispered to herself as she rushed down the stairs to the door.” Kindle, what a surprise,” she said as she held the door open for him.

He peeked to see if anyone was watching them and quickly kissed her. “I thought I would come and take you to the station. I took a chance that you had not left yet.”

Still standing in the foyer, a worried Margaret said, “Oh, I wish you had said something about that last night. I have made plans. My ride should be here in a few moments.”

“Can’t you dismiss them?” Kindle asked, still smiling while trying to steal another kiss.

“I am afraid not. I am sorry you have come all this way to carry me to the station. Actually, I do not know where you live to know how far you have come. Where do you live?”

Knowing his address would give away his nobility, he said, “Margaret, when you return, we are going to talk about that and a lot of other things. There is much about me that you do not know, and I want that cleared up. My feelings for you are much more than I have felt for anyone, which is causing me to seek honesty in all we do together. That is not to say I have been dishonest about anything, but I have avoided some areas because I feared your reaction. That will be our priority when you return the day after tomorrow.”

“I do plan to be home in two days, on the four o’clock train. We will get to all you want to say as soon as I return. Oh, here is my . . . new acquaintance, who is taking me to the station, as he lives in the same city as my friend. It will be nice not to be alone for such a long journey, don’t you think?’ Margaret said, smiling, hoping to smooth over the frown now beginning to form on Kindle’s face. “Would you mind grabbing my bag, and I will walk out with you and introduce you.”

Kindle leaned down and collected Margaret’s satchel as Margaret shouted to her family that she was on her way. Both Edith and her aunt hurried to the front to say goodbye and saw Mr. Thornton heading toward the door. “What a mess this is,” said her cousin to her mother, “but Mr. Thornton sure is a fine-looking gentleman.”

“Poor Margaret. It looks like she might have two suitors who are colliding, right now.”

“Goodbye Margaret. Have a safe journey and a nice time with Megan,” called her aunt from behind the crowd that now seemed to be jammed at the front door.

Margaret stepped outside with Kindle behind her as Mr. Thornton was getting to the door, removing his hat. “Hello, Mr. Thornton. Thank you again for offering me a ride to the station. This is Mr. Kindle Brampton, a new friend. Kindle, this is Mr. John Thornton, a very new acquaintance.” The men shook hands politely, but the air was growing heavy with a primitive territorial mind game played by the male combatants. Margaret was sure she was exaggerating that in her mind, but that is exactly how if felt. It made her feel desired. How delicious and fancied she felt. She quickly dismissed her selfish and naive thoughts.

Margaret had not realized that she was on the mark with the men’s behavior.

“Hello, Miss Hale, Mr. Brampton.” John took the satchel from Kindle’s extended hand while wondering if this man was one of the men, he had seen with Margaret in his visions.

“A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Thornton. I have never been to Milton. They say it is a thriving city, now.”

“Yes. It is not London, but it has a lot of the same amenities, all new, but the people are much different there.”

“How do you mean, Mr. Thornton? How different are they?”

John had not missed the fact that Brampton’s coach and horses could only be afforded by the most affluent members of society.

“There are no highborn people. If you live in Milton, you are either poor or you manufacture. Even, the wealthy work. Everyone there works. It is a working town, a mill town, Mr. Brampton,” John said, holding his head high. He paused a moment. “Miss Hale, I believe we have need to leave now.” John noticed Brampton wrapping his hand around Margaret’s waistline at her back, assisting her toward the carriage while John walked behind with the satchel. John suddenly felt disheartened at their apparent closeness. He felt as if he had been punched in the stomach.

Kindle held her hand during the step up, and John stowed her satchel. “Good day, Mr. Brampton. It has been a pleasure to meet you,” John said as he climbed inside.

“The same, Mr. Thornton. Margaret, please have a nice time with your friend in Milton. I will see you upon your return, and we will talk.” Kindle closed the door and stepped back, nodding to the driver.

Margaret waved as the carriage pulled away. She felt that Kindle was playing a game when he said they would talk when she returned, clearly intimating some sort of relationship between them for Mr. Thornton’s benefit.

John and Margaret rode in silence for a few minutes. “It will be lovely to have someone to talk with on the long trip. What do you usually do on long trips, Mr. Thornton?”

“Most of my long trips are business related. I am usually giving a speech somewhere and have plenty of notes and diagrams to study during the hours,” John said.

“And this trip, Mr. Thornton, did you speak somewhere?”

“No, not this time, Miss Hale. I was just researching a subject.” John left his explanation hanging, hoping it would spark some curiosity in her.

The station stop had been close to Margaret’s home, so their journey was short. “Mr. Thornton,” she paused, “is your research something that you can speak about?”

The carriage pulled to a stop and John exited, handing his and Margaret’s satchels to a porter, then handed her out. “You, Miss Hale, seem to be the reason for my trip.”

The porter followed the pair to the ticket window, carrying their bags.

“Two tickets to Milton,” John requested. He turned to Margaret as she was beginning to speak, and said, “Please, allow me.” Leaning in to hear what the ticket master was asking, John responded, “One ticket is one way, and the second ticket is a return.”

No words were spoken while the two of them and the porter walked into the bustling crowd on the platform. John walked quite a long way down the platform until he found an empty coach. The porter entered the coach first and set their baggage on the overhead shelf. John handed him a coin. “Thank you.”

“Please, Miss Hale, have a seat.” Margaret sat next to the window as per her usual routine when it was available. “Miss Hale, would you feel more comfortable if I were to sit next to you or across from you?”

No one had ever asked that question of her before, but it did not take her long to think of the differences with the atmosphere that was now hovering around them. The peace and warmth were already settling through her body, but Margaret was selfish and wanted to look at his handsome face. “Would you mind sitting across from me? I do not know if it will make our conversations harder or easier. If we get a crowd in here, then we shall sit next to each other. When I am sleepy, though, I may borrow your shoulder if you do not mind.”

“I would not mind in the least,” John replied.

The train started its hissing of steam as the brakes were released. The loud chugging sound permeated the coach, and Margaret knew it would be several minutes before she could ask the question that was filling the coach. She could feel his eyes on her again, but he would deflect them when she looked his way. She looked at the overhead, forgetting that she had brought her Milton book. It would be a help when she was stuck for conversation. As she rose to reach for it, Mr. Thornton rose up instantly, too.

“Can I assist you, Miss Hale?” he asked.

The train was still lurching forward, causing Margaret to fall into his chest. John immediately had his arms around her to steady her. He took embarrassingly too long to ease his grip and hold her by her shoulders. Margaret did not want it to stop, either. Before he knew why, John pulled her tighter, leaned down, and kissed her long and hard. Embarrassed, John backed away, still holding her. “Please forgive me, Miss Hale. I do not know why I did that. I am sorry. You must think I am a rogue or a cad at the least. However, I am not. Maybe I will be able to explain myself before our trip is completed. Again, I am sorry.”

Looking down, Margaret pressed the back of her hand to her mouth. She said, “Please . . . do not be sorry, Mr. Thornton.”

Astonished over her comment, he glanced down at her again and said, “John.”

Margaret, stuttering, asked, “W-what did you say?”

“I said John. Please call me John, if your society permits that.”

“Mr. Thornton . . . John . . . I have no society. I, too, appreciate the casualness of first names. Please call me Margaret.”

“If you wish, but please accept my apology.”

“Accepted. If you do not mind, I was reaching for my satchel to retrieve my Milton book.”

John guided Margaret backward a step and encouraged her to sit while he collected her bag.

As he reached overhead, pulling his coat upwards from lifting his arms, Margaret’s eyes wandered shamelessly. She was aware that their kiss had meant a lot to him. Margaret started to wonder what type of woman she was turning out to be. Ideas of a more sensual nature were seeping into her consciousness more often. These new men in her life were spurring and stirring her inner passionate feelings, feelings she had only read about.

John had totally forgotten about his situation. He had been hard since he had put his arms around her. He was mortified to be standing almost directly in front of her as he reached to the overhead. He knew he could not say anything, could not apologize . . . could not do anything but be an idiot for the moment. He quickly gathered her bag and sat down on the same bench until he would return it. “Oh, God, she is blushing,” John thought. “At least, blushing is a good sign. She could have been frowning.” John calmed his nerves somewhat with that thinking. He could have thrown away everything in one absent-minded moment of lustful thinking.

Margaret wanted to burst out giggling when offering her thanks. She could not look at his face, not yet, anyway. Calming her knowledge of his desire for her, she said, “Thank you, John,” as she plundered her satchel. “Oh, here it is.” She buckled her bag. John took hold of the case, and she could see his hesitation on returning it to the top shelf. He did some type of contorted twist to swing it up, and Margaret could not hold it in any longer. With crimson rising from her throat to her cheeks, she burst out laughing. He had to know why she was laughing. It seemed suddenly the heaviness of the air lifted as they passed through the awkward new acquaintance stage in a highly unconventional manner. “I am sorry to laugh, John.”

“Why are you laughing, Margaret?” he asked, playing dumb as he returned to the seat opposite her, tugging his coat around him as he sat.

Sweat beaded on Margaret’s top lip and out came the giggles again. “Oh, it is nothing, really. Well . . . I do not really mean nothing. Not in that way, of course.” Margaret realized she was digging a hole and could not get out of the way of herself.

Now John joined in the laughter, duly relieved that she took this embarrassing event in the manner in which she did. “All right, have it your way, do not tell me.” John had to let her off this delicious hook for both their sakes.

John waited for the question to be asked. He had decided to be honest with her because he knew no other way. He folded his arms and looked at the passing scenes as the train rolled down the tracks.

 

Margaret did not know how to bring up the subject, opting instead for other conversation. “John, what is it that you do in Milton?”

John unfolded his arms and gave her all of his attention. “Margaret, I am a mill master. I, and a partner of mine own two cotton mills. Shortly, I believe he will allow me to buy his fifteen percent portion so both belong to me while he buys his own mill. We have been good friends for a long time.”

“Have you always lived in Milton?”

“Yes, I had rather humble beginnings there, but through diligence, I have made a good career for myself.”

“This career, does your wife mind it?” Margaret knew that would be seen as an obtuse way to find out if he was married, but she could think of no other way to find out.

“I am not married as yet,” John responded.

“That sounds like you soon will be. Do you have a lady picked out?”

“I think I would like to defer that question until a later time,” John said with a penetrating stare at her, as Margaret got closer to asking what he wanted her to know.

“You seem to be playing a game with me, so here it comes. As we exited the carriage, you said I seemed to be the reason you came to London. If I am to believe any of this, you must tell me why you assume to know me.”

“Let me preface my explanation by first saying that my original reason for coming to London was to do research on this strange phenomenon that has recently happened to me. Almost six months ago, I was involved in a rather serious accident that left me in a severe coma from a head injury that I sustained. After I was back on my feet, I started having visions that I could not explain and still cannot – that is why the research.”

“Oh, I think I have heard of such a thing. You have become gifted, is that right?”

Amazed at her knowledge, he said, “I guess you could say that. I am not at all sure that I like it, except for what has happened recently. My first real vision warned me, as I see it now, that my horse would be mildly injured. I dealt with the injury but feared this vision entity far more. There was a second vision that warned of a big personal mistake I could make and did not. Nevertheless, these past six weeks or so, the visions have been very pleasant. I still find them disturbing, as they interrupt my life the way I have always known it. But recently, my life has been pleasantly engaged in this chaos of unknown origin.”

“That is very interesting. I am most fascinated to hear your story. And what do I have to do with any of this?”

“You, Margaret Hale, have been the source of my latest and most agreeable visions.”