The Counterfeit Governess – Part Fifteen

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Fifteen – Struggling

 

“Confound it, man!” Fenton glared at Ben Merton in frustration and raked his hand through his hair in sudden misery. “Does it not occur to you that I might be worried about my children? That I am concerned if they are safe, fed, clothed, cared for?” He realized with a shock that it was true! He did worry about his children, even though he had never done so before. But now, at this very moment, he needed to know how they fared.

Merton, however,  stood his ground, an expression of profound stubbornness upon his ruddy face.

“They’re with their granny and with Miss Beth, melord. Nothing will ‘appen to ‘em. They’ll be cared for because Miss Beth loves ‘em like they’d be her own.”

And she does love them, indeed, Stephen thought. If he witnessed anything at all in the past months, it was Beth’s genuine love for Lily and Oliver. But how was he going to put proof of his own love for them into this man’s thick skull?

“Mr Merton,” his mother’s soft voice sounded behind him. “Please, Mr Merton, if you know where they are, tell us. I am their grandmother and I miss them dearly.” Yet another stunning realisation hit Stephen in the guts! His mother was pleading a commoner for help? Never had he thought to behold that!

Henrietta, her eyes glistening in a pale face, turned toward Ruby and took her hand. “Mrs Merton, you are a mother yourself. Surely, you understand how much I am suffering for the loss of them?”

Ruby Merton glanced at her husband who stood there like a rock, his brawny arms crossed over his chest, his face impassive. Yet Stephen could see a softening in the man’s eyes when his wife spoke his name. “Ben?” Merton looked at her and then, finally nodded.

“My lord,” Ruby said, “you saved our little boy from the fire and I will be forever in your debt for that. My husband made a promise to Mrs Bradley but I did not. For my Johnny’s sake, I will tell you. Mrs Bradley is in Manchester.”

 

~~~~

 

Stephen Fenton arrived in Oxford Street, Manchester three weeks before Christmas 1819 around tea time. The snow had been falling steadily during his journey and now it clung to his black greatcoat in lumps of ice because the temperature had dropped considerably as soon as dust had set in. Grateful to have found a suitable inn that bore the not too original name of “The Queen’s Head”, he assured himself that his horse was taken care of properly before entering the tap room for a pint of ale. Behind the counter, a short, burly innkeeper was serving a few patrons, all sturdy workers in drab dark blue clothes, lounging around the room or indulging in a game of cards. The man welcomed him cheerfully.

“Good evenin’, sir! Bet you’re frozen to the bones, ain’ it? What can I serve ya with?”

“A pint of your best ale, sir, and a room for the night, if you please!”

The innkeeper drew him a tankard of ale and shoved a ledger his way.

“I am Wat Burton, sir, you host for tonight. Would you kindly write down your name and the town you’re from?”

“Stephen Fenton, Baron Brixton of Brixton Abbey in Derbyshire.” They shook hands and Stephen signed the ledger before taking a good swig of his ale. He then bent over the counter and lowered his voice before speaking.

“I wish to know the whereabouts of a Mrs Oakham who, I am told, lives here in Manchester. Can you help me in finding out where exactly I could find her?”

“Mrs Oakham? Dr Oakham’s widow? Well, yes, me lord, she lives here, in Oxford Street, at number 17. Everyone could point out her house to ya! She’s very well known, here about!”

“How is that so?”

“Well, me lord, she’s kindness in person! She helps people with all kinds of sufferin’, as well as she can! From miles around, people come to ‘er with their sicknesses and injuries. I daresay she’d had hard enough times helping ‘em all before her sister arrived with Miss Beth and the children. They all help her, ya know, especially Miss Beth! That is one angel, if I ever saw one!”

There was a general approval coming from the rest of the patrons in the room.

“Miss Beth ‘elped me poor mother when she suffered a bout of rheumatism!” one of the men said, nodding emphatically in the process.

“And she delivered me son, just a few days ago!” another one exclaimed. “And made a dashed good job with it, when old Lizzie, the midwife, was out of ‘er wits, not knowin’ what to do!”

“I’m sure she did save my little Mary’s life when she used her own medicine to cure that nasty cough of hers!” a third man shouted, his eyes gleaming with tears.

Stephen felt a strange tug at his heart as he realised what he was witnessing here; a bunch of unwashed, unshaven workmen in drab clothes, singing the praise of his wayward governess who seemed to work here as some sort of nurse. Of his Beth … but why should he be surprised by that? Did she not win the heart of just everyone that had the good fortune of being smiled upon by her? Did she not always made her way to whatever she set her mind to … or her heart?

All of a sudden, Stephen was not sure anymore that he would be able to bring her back with him to Brixton Abbey. And, oh … how he wanted to do just that …

 

~~~~

 

Beth stretched her painful lower back and sighed. Another very busy morning at the infirmary had kept her on her feet almost from after breakfast until now. It must be near luncheon, she thought, and began ranging the room and readying it for the afternoon rush that would soon begin.

She had been extremely thankful that Mrs Oakham had asked her to help out with the patients. Most of the day, Beth had no time to even think about Brixton Abbey and its despicable master. No, that was unfair. Stephen Fenton was just like any other man of his social class and upbringing. He assumed that he had a right to do as he pleased and to take what he liked. Beth knew she had been too rash when she took Lily and Oliver with her, that night six weeks ago, but she could not bear the thought of leaving the two innocent children under Fenton’s roof without her. Fenton would most certainly try again to lure her into his bed. Beth could not, under any circumstances, risk them to witness or even glimpse something of the ongoing.

So, she had fled to Mrs Bradley and told her, in private, what had transpired. Sensible as she was, Mrs Bradley immediately sent for Ben Merton and Ruby and explained that the four of them would go in hiding from the baron.

Since then they all lived under Mrs Oakham’s roof in Manchester, in the big, old house that she had shared with her husband when he had been alive. Beth had been instantly drawn into Mrs Oakham’s charity work for the poorest of the workers and their families, all undernourished and suffering from lung diseases, due to the cotton fluff that filled their workrooms. There was a great deal of misery in Manchester, especially after the riots earlier in the year, that had cost so many lives and left so many women widows.

Yes, Beth reflected, she had been devastated after fleeing Brixton Abbey. She had begun to fall in love with Stephen and she had thought he was beginning to fall in love with her, too. Oh, how she had been wrong, so terribly wrong! Stephen was planning to make her his mistress, instead, and that, she could not bear to be. She could not even bear the thought of giving herself to him when he did not love her. Never, never, would she give herself to him without love, mutual love, shared love. How else would she be happy again? How else would she be able to make him happy again?

Oh, she was so tired. The morning had been hectic, with loads of very young children, all in need of relief for their coughs and running noses and fevers. Beth was glad she had sent Mrs Oakham upstairs for a much needed rest.

Behind her, the door of the surgery opened suddenly. There had been no knock. Due to her exhaustion, Beth was irritated when she turned around to see who had been so bold as to enter without waiting for an answer.

In the doorway, looking extremely attractive in his black greatcoat and black beaver hat, stood Stephen Fenton, a rakish smile on his handsome face.

 

Happy New Year!

The Best Medieval Period Drama Films and Series

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Medieval Era Films 500 AD to 1500 AD

The one nice thing about liking Period Drama is that the older it gets doesn’t matter. Because I have been viewing and collecting period drama films for over 40 years, I know I just love them all. I do not consider myself a good reviewer (I’m too biased) and believe I find something good in all of them. The following list is in no particular order. In essence, this is the bucket list of medieval films for you to see. I will add to this list as I find or view them. Here, at least, are the Top Medieval Films and Television. These are not necessarily the best for pure historical value but entertainment, with a dash of truth or legend. Courtesy Period Drama .com

 

Best Medieval Films or Series

Last Knights 2015

Synopsis by Daniel Gelb
A corrupt medieval emperor exploits his citizens and rules his kingdom with impunity. When the nobleman and mentor Bartok (Morgan Freeman) refuses to pay a bribe to one of the emperor’s cronies, a death sentence is placed upon him. Bartok’s loyal followers are lead by Raiden (Clive Owen), a highly skilled warrior who is deeply affected by Bartok’s murder. Raiden and his clan band together to fight back against the oppressive emperor in this medieval action thriller.

This series wasn’t rated very highly by the critics, but I found it entertaining, and great story and cast. It was a “buy” for me. *** Violence “R”

Braveheart 1995

Synopsis by Jeremy Beday
Mel Gibson, long-time heartthrob of the silver screen, came into his own as a director with Braveheart, an account of the life and times of medieval Scottish patriot William Wallace and, to a lesser degree, Robert the Bruce’s struggle to unify his nation against its English oppressors. The story begins with young Wallace, whose father and brother have been killed fighting the English, being taken into the custody of his uncle, a nationalist and pre-Renaissance renaissance man. He returns twenty years later, a man educated both in the classics and in the art of war. There he finds his childhood sweetheart Murron (Catherine McCormack), and the two quickly fall in love. There are murmurs of revolt against the English throughout the village, but Wallace remains aloof, wishing simply to tend to his crops and live in peace. However, when his love is killed by English soldiers the day after their secret marriage (held secretly so as to prevent the local English lord from exercising the repulsive right of prima noctae, the privilege of sleeping with the bride on the first night of the marriage), he springs into action and single-handedly slays an entire platoon of foot soldiers. The other villagers join him in destroying the English garrison, and thus begins the revolt against the English in what will eventually become a full-fledged war. Wallace eventually leads his fellow Scots in a series of bloody battles that prove a serious threat to English domination and, along the way, has a hushed affair with the Princess of Wales (the breathtaking Sophie Marceau) before his imminent demise. For his efforts, Gibson won the honor of Best Director from the Academy; the movie also took home statuettes for Best Picture, Cinematography, Makeup, and Sound Effects.

*** freedom, Scotland, English [nationality], king, rebel, hero, princess, war, Brief Nudity, Graphic Violence, War Violence Rated “R”

Excalibur 1981

Genie: Although it’s old and cheesy, it is still a cult favorite and primer film for most of us. This is surely a “bucket-list” film. “R”. Reading the trivia and goofs on this film is whimsy

Synopsis by Robert Firsching
John Boorman directed this gloriously savage interpretation of Arthurian legend loosely based on Thomas Malory’s novel Le Morte d’Arthur. By turns gleaming and filthy, tender and bloody, the film is a visually stunning epic which is never less than compelling. Nigel Terry is perfectly cast as Arthur, whose unwavering trust and faith are shown to be both quietly heroic and achingly naïve. Interestingly, the quest for the Grail is the least effective part of the film, despite bold cinematography by Alex Thomson (who was nominated for an Oscar) and a fine performance by Paul Geoffrey as Perceval, whose greatest desire is attained in his dying sight. It is the scenes of Camelot in which Boorman is at his most effective, as Arthur is betrayed by the burning passions of Guenevere (Cherie Lunghi) and Lancelot (Nicholas Clay), whose boiling internal forces cannot be denied, whatever the cost. The wicked Mordred (Robert Addie) and Morgana (Helen Mirren) are commanding when onscreen, and Nicol Williamson’s performance as the grandiosely self-sacrificing Merlin is outstanding. Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart also appear in this dense, passionate, and stirring triumph featuring a marvelous Trevor Jones score. The gruesome effects by Peter Hutchinson and Alan Whibley, however, and sights such as a knight having sex in full body armor make this a fairy tale strictly for adults.

House of Flying Daggers 2004

Genie: This has been one of my favorites of all time. A beautiful love story, that needs to be on your bucket list.
Synopsis by Mark Deming
Chinese director Zhang Yimou fuses a martial arts action-drama with a tragic romance in this elegant period piece. In the year 859 A.D., as the Tang dynasty is beset by rebellion, Leo (Andy Lau) and Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) are a pair of lawmen who have been given the task of ferreting out the leaders of a revolutionary faction known as the Flying Daggers. Working on a tip that members of the group are working out of a brothel called the Peony Pavilion, Jin arrives there in disguise and is introduced to a beautiful blind dancer named Mei (Zhang Ziyi). After watching Mei’s performance following several drinks, Jin drunkenly attempts to have his way with her, and Leo is forced to intervene. After gaining Mei’s trust in a game of skill, Leo arrests her and informs her that she’ll be tortured if she doesn’t tell all she knows about the Flying Daggers. Jin responds by helping Mei break out of prison, but he has an ulterior motive — by following her, Leo and Jin are certain she’ll lead them to the Flying Daggers. However, as he helps the blind girl find her way back home, Jin finds himself falling in love with Mei, and isn’t certain if he’s willing to betray her again. PG-13 | | Action, Adventure, Drama

Kingdom of Heaven 2005

Synopsis by Mark Deming
Ridley Scott directed this epic-scale historical drama inspired by the events of the Crusades of the 12th century. Balian (Orlando Bloom) is a humble French blacksmith who is searching for a reason to go on after the death of his wife and children. Balian is approached by Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson), a fabled knight who has briefly returned home after serving in the East. Godfrey informs Balian that he is his true father, and urges the blacksmith to join him as he and his forces journey to Jerusalem to help defend the holy city. Balian accepts, and he and Godfrey arrive during the lull between the Second and Third Crusades, in which the city is enjoying a fragile peace. Both Christian and Muslim forces are temporarily in retreat, thanks to the wisdom of the Christian monarch King Baldwin IV (Edward Norton), his second-in-command Tiberias (Jeremy Irons), and Muslim potentate Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). Violent agitators on both sides are foolishly eager to end the peace in a bid for greater power, and Saladin bows to pressures from Muslim factions; Godfrey is one of a handful of brave knights who has thrown his allegiance behind Baldwin IV and his community of diversity, and Balian joins him as they use their skills as warriors in a bid to build a lasting peace. Kingdom of Heaven also stars Eva Green as the princess Sibylla, David Thewlis as Hospitaler the priest, and Brendan Gleeson as Reynald.

Robin Hood 2010

Synopsis by Jason Buchanan
Director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe reunite for their fifth big-screen outing, a retelling of the Robin Hood legend featuring the Gladiator star in the titular role. A bowman in the army of Richard Coeur de Lion, virtuous rogue Robin Hood rises from an unlikely background to become a hero to the impoverished people of Nottingham and lover to the beautiful Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett)

Lion in Winter 1968

Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The year is 1183. Like many a modern-day politician, Britain’s King Henry II (Peter O’Toole) finds it occasionally useful to take his wife out of mothballs and parade her before the public. Henry’s Queen Eleanor (Katharine Hepburn), long exiled to a faraway castle, is “invited” to join Henry and their three sons for a family reunion. In this way, Henry hopes to maintain a stronghold on his empire and prevent the balance of power from shifting to Eleanor or one of his sons: Richard the Lion-Hearted (Anthony Hopkins in his movie debut), Prince Geoffrey (John Castle), or Prince John (Nigel Terry). Also on hand for the get-together is Henry’s mistress Princess Alais (Jane Merrow) — who covets the King’s influence — and the Princess’ brother, King Philip of France (Timothy Dalton). Despite Henry’s efforts to keep his wife and offspring at arms’ length (and away from the throne), Eleanor successfully reunites the brood, assuring that her power will not only be restored but will last long after her death.

Merlin 2009-2012Merlin 2008-2012 (completed series)

Genie: Although this is a cheaply made fanciful series, it stood the test of time in five seasons. The interaction between Merlin (Colin Morgan) and Arthur (Bradley James) is infectious. You almost embarrass yourself realizing how addicted you are to the series. There are a lot of heavy-hitters in the Small Screen category, but this is enjoyable.

This family-oriented retelling of the popular King Arthur legend finds Merlin arriving in Camelot, where magic is banned. There, he secretly hones his sorcery skills with the help of his uncle, the court physician.

The Last Kingdom 2015 – (active series)

The year is 872, and many of the separate kingdoms of what we now know as England have fallen to the invading Danes, leaving the great kingdom of Wessex standing alone and defiant under the command of King Alfred. Against this turbulent backdrop lives our hero, Uhtred. Born the son of a Saxon nobleman, he is captured by the Danes and raised as one of their own. Forced to choose between the country of his birth and the people of his upbringing, his loyalties are ever tested. What is he? Saxon or Dane? On a quest to reclaim his birthright, Uhtred must tread a dangerous path between both sides if he is to play his part in the birth of a new nation and, ultimately, recapture his ancestral lands.

Vikings 2013 – current

The series is inspired by the tales of the raiding, trading, and exploring Norsemen of early medieval Scandinavia. It follows the exploits of the legendary Viking chieftain Ragnar Lothbrok and his crew and family, as notably laid down in the 13th century sagas Ragnars saga Loðbrókar and Ragnarssona þáttr, as well as in Saxo Grammaticus’s 12th century work Gesta Danorum. Norse legendary sagas were partially fictional tales based in Norse oral tradition, written down about 200 to 400 years after the events they describe. Further inspiration is taken from historical sources of the period, such as records of the Viking raid on Lindisfarne depicted in the second episode, or Ahmad ibn Fadlan’s 10th-century account of the Volga Vikings. The series is set at the beginning of the Viking Age, marked by the Lindisfarne raid in 793.Vikings Period Drama TV series - Medieval

The White Queen 2013

The White Queen is a British television drama series in ten parts, based on Philippa Gregory’s historical novel series The Cousins’ War (The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Kingmaker’s Daughter). The first episode was premiered on BBC One on 16 June 2013 in the United Kingdom.It was first broadcast in the United States on Starz on 9 August 2013.
The series is set against the backdrop of the Wars of the Roses and presents the story of the women involved in the protracted conflict for the throne of England. It starts in 1464; the nation has been at war for nine years fighting over who is the rightful King of England, as two sides of the same family, the House of York and the House of Lancaster, are in violent conflict over the throne. The story focuses on three women in their quest for power, as they manipulate events behind the scenes of history: Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, and Anne Neville.[8] Elizabeth Woodville is the central character in the novel The White Queen, while Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville are the focus of the novels The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter, respectively. However, all three characters appear in all three novels that went to make up the television series.

The Borgias 2013-2015

The series follows the rise of the Borgia family to the pinnacle of the Roman Catholic Church and their struggles to maintain their grip on power. The beginning of the first season depicts the election of Rodrigo Borgia to the papacy through simony and bribery, with the help of his sons, Cesare and Juan. Upon winning the election, Rodrigo Borgia becomes Pope Alexander VI, which then thrusts him and his family deep into the murky heart of politics in fifteenth-century Europe: from shifting loyalties within the College of Cardinals to the ambitions of the kings of Europe to the venomous rivalries between the noble families of Italy at the time. Meanwhile, enraged by his loss of the election to Borgia, Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere travels across Italy and France, seeking allies to depose or kill Alexander: this would force another papal conclave and race for Pope which della Rovere is convinced he would win without Borgia to oppose him.

The Tudors 2011-2015 (medieval)

Season 1

Chronicles the period of Henry VIII’s reign in which his effectiveness as King is tested by international conflicts as well as political intrigue in his own court. Cardinal Wolsey plays a major part in the series, acting as Henry’s trusted advisor.

In Episode 1, Wolsey persuades his King to keep the peace with France and the two Kings meet at Calais to agree a pact of friendship, while the pressure of fathering a male heir compels him to question his marriage to his Queen, Katherine of Aragon.[10] He also has a string of affairs and, in Episode 2, fathers an illegitimate son with his mistress, Elizabeth “Bessie” Blount, who is also one of Queen Katherine’s ladies-in-waiting (the son, Henry FitzRoy, later dies).

Anne Boleyn catches Henry’s eye — she has been attending the French court — and she is encouraged by her father and uncle to seduce the King, though she also falls in love with Henry as the season unfolds. Her shrewd refusal to his open invitation to become his mistress unless he will marry her pushes him to use Cardinal Wolsey to take action against the Queen, the King instructing his trusted advisor to get papal dispensation for his divorce on the grounds that his wife did indeed consummate her marriage to his brother, Arthur. In Episode 6, Wolsey’s increasingly desperate efforts to persuade the Catholic Church to grant a royal divorce, primarily as a result of Emperor Charles V’s influence over the Pope as Katherine’s nephew, starts to weaken his position.

BBC and ITV launch ‘BritBox’ streaming service in the US in 2017

Source: BBC and ITV launch ‘BritBox’ streaming service in the US

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The two major broadcast networks in the UK are jointly launching a streaming service under the name BritBox. The BBC and ITV are backing a Netflix-esque service that’ll showcase the best of the two firm’s output. Users will be able to watch a wide range of the pair’s programming, including premium dramas and sitcoms. In addition, Anglophiles will be able to view some of the country’s most popular soap operas, including EastEnders and Emmerdale, a day after they air in the UK.

The service will also offer a host of archive material including classic premium BBC dramas like State of Play and Pride and Prejudice. ITV, which is more traditionally downmarket than the publicly-owned broadcaster, will offer up detective shows like Inspector Morse and Rosemary and Thyme. In addition, classic sitcoms like Fawlty Towers and Keeping up Appearances will help explain Britain’s obsession with class and gardening. In total, there will be “thousands of hours” worth of material for people hungry for new content to binge.

We are curious what this will mean for BBC America in the long run, since that has been the home of so much British TV content. AMC Networks invests in the channel and has taken a minority stake in BritBox, so it’s likely that one won’t attempt to hurt the other. Instead, the service may pull together the otherwise piecemeal distribution of British TV in the US, which is scattered around several different broadcasters. It’s likely that flagship shows like Doctor Who and Top Gear will remain available on cable rather than behind a paywall.

BritBox will launch at some point at the start of 2017 for an as-yet undisclosed price, but we can expect it to be around the ten dollar mark. The platform will be available online, as well as on iOS and Android devices — not to mention on the Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast TV gear. It’s about damn time too, given that the international version of the iPlayer never made it to the US and was shuttered back in 2015.

I Killed Him – pt 20

Chapter Twenty

 

“Margaret, how did you sleep my love? Was the bed comfortable?”

“It was comfortable but a bit lonely.”

John kissed her. “There are two people downstairs waiting to see you. One is your nurse. I think her name is Greta. The other person is a surprise.”

“Now, you know Mr. Bell isn’t going to be a surprise. Has the detective left?” Margaret asked?

“Yes, everyone has left except your guest. Should I carry you or would you like to try the steps.”

“I’m feeling good after my sleep. With your help, I’d like to try a few steps; if you’ll just help me out of this massive bed, please. Are you sure you will find me in the middle of the night?” Margaret smiled. “I feel like a child who’s crawled into her parent’s bed because of a nightmare.

“You will be in arms, so I’ll know where you are. Now, don’t get used to this?”

“What, your help?”

“My help getting you out of this bed.” John smiled.

“Does the nurse look mean?” Margaret asked.

“Quite honestly, I only met her at the service building. I didn’t speak with her much. I wouldn’t say she looks mean.”

“I would rather not start using that chair over there, like in the hospital. If I can make it down the stairs, I’ll use that room.”

“Whatever you wish, love. Just don’t overdo. I think you should be having your second pill soon. There is some food left on the table from when everyone was here while you slept. Are you hungry?”

“Does the list say anything about what I should eat?” Margaret asked.

“Let us go ask your nurse, shall we?”

After getting to her feet from the big bed, Margaret easily walked to the steps. John went in front of her and stepped down backward, watching her the whole time. “Hold onto the banister with your one hand and if need be, my shoulder with the other. Tell me immediately if you feel weak in the legs.

Margaret began the descent slowly.

Frederick could hear the conversation and wanted to run to her but stayed where he was. It sounded like an important task for her to accomplish.

“I made it,” she said as she stepped onto the landing. Where’s my visitor?”

Frederick smartly had moved out of her line of sight until she could be seated. Remembering his sister, she tended to swoon easily.

“Where is Adam,” Margaret asked as John helped her down onto the couch.

“Will I do, sis? Margaret heard from the dining room?

Margaret couldn’t turn to look, but Frederick was at her side in a second.

“Frederick! Oh, Frederick!”

“Sis!” Tears welled in both of their eyes.

John was overjoyed to see his wife so happy. He walked into his study to give them a few moments of private time, but he would leave his door slightly ajar, so he could listen. Her brother would have to hear the story for himself, and she would struggle to tell it without letting him know how involved his life was in it. Finally, he decided he would not imagine her torture once again, so soon. He decided to go to his office and talk with the foreman in charge. Except for meeting Margaret’s brother there today, he hadn’t been in the office for five days . . . or was it six.

No one was in the office section when he arrived. It appeared his foreman was most likely walking the sheds for second shift. John was glad for the silence. He needed time to think about all he had heard. He was becoming more helpless in his cause to champion his wife, it seemed. A distinct impression had arisen that no one would be held accountable if this murderer was found dead, whether murdered by himself or not. The detective would not have been so casual in telling all of them the entire circumstances with Hartford’s past as he had. Although, John had found some relief in that, in fact, a lot of relief, as it would mean he and Margaret would still have a life. However, he still had to contend with the other men who wanted to escort this man to hell.

Never in his life had he contemplated so heinous a crime. He was a Magistrate, for God’s sake, but neither had he been in a situation, whereas a man, he faced the raw, primitive pride of protecting what was his and slaying anyone who had worked against that.

If he were honest, he knew Margaret’s brother had the same deep instinct. They had grown together. As an older brother he had protected her as she grew. Perhaps at their young ages, he never realized it, but it was ingrained from his birth. They had to be very close for Margaret to go to such lengths as she did.

Adam Bell, although an older man, was known to have wanted more than to protect Margaret as she achieved adulthood, but soon saw the ridiculousness of their age difference. Still in his ailing months, before death would take him, he may feel he had one final redeeming heroic task to offer her, in place of the love he would leave behind. He could give her his legacy, worth more of a gift to her than his fortune.

Lenox, on the other hand, had slightly different motives. He was a man, a gallant man, with pride in his duty as a soldier plus the fact that Margaret would be a relation of his. Being a trained warrior, he most likely would feel he could offer his skills, as he had already appeared to have done.

Branson was really the odd man out. John knew his interest really sprung from his devotion to his master, he, himself. If he were involved, Branson would insist himself in there somewhere, even if he was not included in any plan.

The longer John thought about all of the male egos around that table, if they didn’t make a joint pact, surely one would steal the satisfaction from all of the others. As much as this meant everything to him, he could not cheat the other men out of something so important in all their lives.

A plan would have to be devised outside of the confines of police procedures. Frederick, Maxwell, Adam, Branson and mostly himself, were ready to step past the line of no return and live with what they would do.

He thought of Margaret and the deep impact she had made on so many lives. Aside from Branson, four men were ready to sacrifice all for her. She had once asked how she was so lucky to have been selected to be his wife. John knew it was definitely the other way around.

 

Grant Hartford had donned his civilian clothes and walked his horse outside the rear of the fort. There were pastures behind the stables for all of the mounted infantry. He easily threaded the compound, pastures, and the horse gate in leaving the fort unseen. He could dispatch Miss Hale and even return without much notice by his commander – but he would have reasons, just in case. He would ride his horse north for three train stations and catch a train for most of the ride to Milton, exiting several stations before. However, if he felt his plan would prove impossible, he was prepared to move on and leave his commission behind. In case all went right for him, he had told Lt. Gathers that he had received an urgent telegram from his father, in regards to his mother meeting the critical part of her illness. That should gain him a week or two without suspicion.

No one had approached him about his actions against Miss Hale. He was certain she was getting on with her life and keeping silent because she thought her brother was still under watch. It had been almost a full week, with no interest in him other than her disappearance and there he did have no connection.

 

During John’s absence of an hour from his wife and her brother, he worked on developing a strategy that all men could participate as a group, a hanging party as Boyle had called it. Maxwell would be the one to tell him how workable it could be. None of the five men would be excluded, and all would stand or fall together.

 

Returning to his home, John found Frederick alone in the parlor.

“Margaret?” he immediately asked.

“She’s with the nurse in a room down the hall, I believe.”

“How was she with your visit?” John asked.

“Needless to say, there were a lot of tears. I wanted to hug her and couldn’t and I wanted to shout at her for being so foolhardy but couldn’t do that either. Do you have any sisters, John?”

“One.”

“Then you probably know how they are,” Frederick replied.

“My sister is nothing at all like I feel Margaret is to you. If I walked off this planet, she might wonder where I went around next year. She’s silly and self-centered. Everything in her life is a drama. I’ve been with Margaret for six days. I’ve been married to her for two of those days. I haven’t even bothered to tell my sister, and she lives in the same town. I’m sure she read about my marrying Margaret in the paper, and I have not heard a word from her.”

“I’m not leaving town, but I’m going to leave when Margaret returns. I’ll be back to see her many times before I leave but tonight, I want to be out of this house so the two of you can have some time together. She really does love you quite a lot, and that’s good enough for me. I don’t know how to thank you for marrying her so quickly and removing half of her problem.”

“Frederick, I’ve wanted to marry her for two years. She never could tell me about you. I didn’t know you existed until a few days ago. I remember seeing her in your arms at the station late that night and began to lose all hope. If we had only trusted one another, we wouldn’t be where we are now. She didn’t know she could trust me and tell me about you. I didn’t trust her when I questioned her behavior that night, and she refused to tell me anything. If your father hadn’t have died when he did, and he was a good friend to me, Margaret and I may have seen our way back to one another.”

Both men were aware of female voices heading their way.

“Frederick, you are welcome to stay.”

“Not tonight, but soon.”

“I have a plan to discuss with everyone, so don’t go hunting anyone tonight. I think we can satisfy all of us who have the same desire.”

“Hello Mr. Thornton,” said Greta. “Your wife is doing very well with that rib. She will be used to her own movements in the next day or two.”

“Excellent.”

Greta went below stairs until she was needed. The service had brought small bells for the main rooms where Margaret would reside, such as the bedchamber, bathing area, and parlor.

Margaret walked to the couch, anxious to the see the two men in her life finding interest in each other. “Frederick, I am so happy you can stay for a few days.” Margaret extolled, clearly oblivious of all the plans going on around her.”

“I’m going to be leaving in a few moments, though,” Frederick replied.

“Why? Where are you going? Where will you sleep? Please, promise me you will not go to London.”

“Don’t worry, sis. I’m staying in Milton. I already have a room for tonight over in the poor district. I’ll be here, in and out, visiting with you and John, for a few days yet.”

“Well, what takes you away from us?”

“Sis, this is your first night with your new husband in your new home. I think you need some time alone. I bet you haven’t had that since you arrived here. This has been a busy day for you. I want you to rest. Besides, I want to visit with Adam Bell this evening. I am waiting for word on Lisa, and he may have heard something.”

“I am sure I can understand that. All right. I hope you and John become better acquainted before you return to wherever you are living. You know Mr. Bell is ill. We will eventually have to determine a new way to communicate.”

“Yes, I’m thinking about that. I am leaving now and will see you tomorrow. I promise.” Frederick came over to his sister and kissed her on the forehead. He whispered he loved her in her ear and turned to John. Frederick extended his hand, as in thanks, and shook it. “I will see you, tomorrow, as well, John. Good evening to you both. I believe I will leave through the back door.”

“Can Branson take you anywhere?”

“Yes, if you don’t mind. I could use him to get into town. Thank you.”

“He will be in the stables or up in his loft, out back.”

“Thank you, John. Goodbye, sis.”

 

“I cannot believe we are alone, essentially,” John said as he came over to sit next to Margaret. “I think I will put a sign on the door. It will say, “Quarantine: Love Sickness, Do Not Enter.”

Margaret started laughing at that and held her rib. “The laughing is becoming easier if I can hold my rib at the same time.”

“So, how are you and Greta getting along?” John asked. “How did you manage in the water closet?”

“Honestly, it was more fun with you,” she smiled. “I think we’ll do fine. She wants me to do a bit of exercising with my arms since they will be used more to help me sit and rise. I cannot use my stomach muscles easily. She will bath and wash my hair tonight.”

“And I had been looking forward to that duty, myself.”

“You would be too randy!”

“Margaret Thornton! Where did you learn that word? That isn’t a gentleman’s word.”

“Do you mean gentleman are never randy or never say the word randy?” Margaret quizzed.

“Margaret, stop saying that. It’s crude. It borders on vulgar. You imp. Who taught you such a word?”

“So, you will never be randy with me?” Margaret continued to tease him.

John let out an exasperated sound, throwing his hands in the air. “How do I explain this?” John thought for a moment. “It . . . it means sexually eager or lustful by a man. It’s bawdy talk.”

“Oh, so you are saying since you are a gentleman, you are never randy?”

John finally realized he was being played. He still wanted to know how she learned that word. “I will ask you again, where did you learn that word? It wasn’t your brother, was it?”

“No, of course not. He is a gentleman. It’s in the book I am reading that Edith gave to me.”

“And that book talks about randy men?”

“How else am I to learn?” Margaret immediately hugged her rib because the laugh was about to surge forward.

John’s lips thinned with a mocking hurtful pride look.

“Mrs. Thornton, there is someone here to teach you. You need not read such vulgarities from a book?”

“Sexually eager is vulgar? Being lustful is vulgar? What kind of man did I marry?” She held her ribs again.

“One more word like that, Margaret, and you shall have two cracked ribs by morning.” Now it was John’s turn to laugh. He sat back and watched her humorous expression. Hopefully, the worst for her was passing by right now. In her mind, all of her fears were gone. She was away from the wickedness, and her brother was safe.

“I demand to dry your hair, though,” John insisted. “After you bathe, the nurse can be excused for the night. I want to assist you for the rest of the evening.

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Fourteen

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Fourteen – Organizing the Search

 

The first days of December brought snow and frost in a most severe manner, keeping man and beast inside with gusts of Northeast winds. The small village of Brixton buried itself indoors to await better times and to prepare Christmas.

There was still no word of Mademoiselle Guillaume and her charges. Stephen Fenton and his mother had grown quite a bit dispirited over the whole affair. Not, that the Baron had not done everything he could about it.

He had been to London to consult his lawyers about his legal rights in the affair. After all, Lily and Oliver had been living under his roof when they were – and he could not mince words here – abducted by their governess.

It all came to nothing. He had no rights at all to warrant an official search for them since he was not their legal guardian. The fact that he had fathered them did not signify since he had failed to grant the children official recognition. Mrs Bradley, their grandmother and guardian, had exactly done that after their mother Molly died in childbirth.

Appealing to the magistrates and asking for an officially conducted search on the entire British soil, had also proved impossible, due to him having no legal rights. Besides, Stephen guessed they might not be inclined to hear him out, should they learn he used his authority as a baron to take the children away against their grandmother’s will.

So Stephen had used the ultimate remedy in appointing a private detective to search for the missing children. The fact that the poor man had virtually no clues at all to start his investigation did not count in Stephen’s eyes.

Now, after five weeks of excruciating concern for Lily and Oliver, Stephen was none the wiser as to their whereabouts and he felt almost ready for Bedlam with fretting over them!

 

~~~~

 

“I never thought I would miss them so dreadfully,” Henrietta said softly when she and Stephen were dining in the much too quiet dining room. Her son looked up from pushing his food around on his plate and cast weary eyes on her.

“Yes … I know, mother. I too had grown fond of sweet little Lily and valiant little Oliver.”

He said nothing further but inwardly, his heart sighed deeply with the memory of Beth Williams. He missed her so dearly that he sometimes wondered why he had not realized it before, while she was still under his roof. He yearned for her laughter, her bickering, her lovely smile, her beautiful face and her exquisite figure far more than he could ever have imagined! He felt as is a part of him had been ripped out, a vital part, like his heart or his very soul!

“Why do I have the distinct feeling that the children’s fate is not the only thing troubling you, my son?”

She had taken him completely by surprise, and he lifted a gaze so deeply pained at her that Henrietta felt her heart clench in sympathy. She narrowed her eyes in sheer dismay and spoke angrily.

“What does that little wench possess to make you ache for her like a love-besotted schoolboy, my lord?”

Stephen abruptly stood and went to the sideboard to pour himself a stiff brandy. This, Henrietta thought in panic, was totally uncalled for! Brandy, when dinner was still going on! But her son downed the liquid in one swift motion and instantly refilled his glass.

“My lord! I beg, do not indulge yourself like that!”

Her son whirled around and his fierce blue eyes bore into hers.

“And since when, my lady mother, do I need your permission to do whatever I wish in my own home?” Whereupon he gulped back his second brandy in a blink of the eye.

Henrietta stood and left the room in indignant silence.

 

~~~~

 

Stephen put down the brandy bottle he had taken with him to his bedroom and shoved it aside. He was not again going to drink himself senseless over the disappearance of a wayward governess! Instead, he was going to use his brains in a proper way to discover where she was hiding. For in hiding she had gone, for sure, by Jove!

First of all, she had removed herself from Brixton Abbey in a hurry, with all her belongings and with two children and their belongings in tow! She would have needed transport of some kind. A cart and horses and a driver, for instance. And that, she would only have found in Woolworth where she had friends and acquaintances galore.

So, all he needed to find was the villager who drove the three of them to a hitherto unknown destination. And Stephen Fenton had a pretty good idea who that might be.

 

~~~~

 

The next day, Stephen had Parsifal saddled despite Thompson’s protests. The head groom wisely pointed out that the weather was far too inclement for such a ride, ice and snow making the roads treacherously dangerous, yet his master had no ears for his serious words. Instead the baron took his steed into a brisk canter over the frost-hardened country road.

The village seemed to sleep under a ten-inches blanket of pure, white snow, and only the plumes of smokes from the chimneys indicate that there were people living under those roofs. Stephen first went to the vicarage where the Reverend Carter had taken up residence after Vicar Williams left.

“Ah, vicar!” Stephen greeted him jovially when the housekeeper let him into the study.

“My lord,” Mr Carter replied, standing up from behind his desk and extending a hand to his sponsor. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary, vicar! Just that, with this inclement weather, I thought it best to hand out the Christmas baskets early, this year. Would you inform the congregation that the event will take place in the Assembly Rooms above “The King’s Head” on Sunday next after Mass?”

“My lord, that would be very welcome! The harsh and early winter has been hard on some of the villagers. They will be very much relieved if they were to have extra food.”

“Then it is settled! I will make the necessary arrangements.”

 

~~~~

 

While dozens of families were queuing to receive their Christmas baskets from the hands of the Dowager Baroness Brixton, her son kept watch for the one family he thought might have something to do with Beth’s flight. He did not have to wait long. Ben and Ruby Merton soon made an appearance, their son Johnny cradled in his mother’s arms. Stephen waited until they had received their parcel before he approached them, a warm smile on his face as not to scare them.

“Mr and Mrs Merton, might I have a word with you in private?” he addressed them and made a gesture towards the vestibule to have some privacy. They followed him in there, concern clearly written on their ruddy faces.

“Mr Merton,” Stephen began, his tone of voice level. Yet immediately, he was checked by the implacable expression on the man’s face! Only for a second, though.

“I have the unwavering certainty, Mr Merton, that you are able to tell me where I might find my wayward children and their governess. They have been missing for six weeks now and Her Ladyship and I are most concerned about their well-being. I pray you will enlighten me.”

While he looked Merton straight in the eye, Stephen was aware of Mrs Merton’s growing discomfort. The woman had given a surprised gasp when he spoke of Beth and the children, and she was now fidgeting with the baby’s frilled shawl, not looking at him directly. Merton himself, a big, sturdily built man with hands like coal shovels, had paled visibly but he had not altered his facial expression, though.

After a long, uneasy silence, Merton drew himself up to his full and considerable height.

“I promised Granny Bradley I’d never tell, a’ least not to you, melord. Me word is as good as anybody’s and I’ll no’ break it and that’s the end to it!”

A very happy Christmas to all of you. May joy and friendship be your companions the whole year long.

9987f616-f90d-3220-9e9b-590159418001Luce Fleming