I Killed Him – pt 25

 

 

Chapter Twenty Five

“John, I cannot possibly pull that over your head.”

“Here. You sit on the edge of the bed. Part your legs a little bit so I can get close enough for you to pull it over my head.”

Margaret did as she was told, ensuring her nightdress was pulled down properly.

John snuggled between her knees and lifted the bottom of his shirt to give her a start. As he felt it being pulled from his body, he was exhilarated. No one had done that for him before tonight. When the shirt was removed, Margaret was staring into his eyes. He watched her drop it to the floor without taking her eyes off of him. She was hypnotic to him. She put her small hands on the sides of his face and pulled him to her mouth. John gradually slipped his arms around her waist as he pressed her lips hard.

Margaret moved her hands to his hair, eliciting a moan from John. In another moment she was trying to rub down his back.

John lowered his head to her lap. He snuggled into the wedge between her parted legs. He thought how he would gladly die right there.

Margaret couldn’t stop feeling his skin under her hands or John’s hot breath where there were already flames.

Finally, she lifted his head. He hugged her tighter, not wanting to part from where he was.

Margaret had to reach down to raise his chin.

“John, you’re drooling on me.”

“I’m not sure if that is you or me,” he looked at her with such joy in his heart.

“Me? Never mind. I do not want to hear your explanation just now. I want to feel the hair on your chest. You cannot imagine how many times I’ve dreamt of doing that.”

“This is a bit awkward. I will lie on the bed next to you. I hope you are not too attached to this side closest to the door. A man always takes that protective post.”

“I love you, John Thornton.”

John stood, almost heady with his own dreams after being where he was. Lying right there had been the best moments of his life, and still, they were only at the beginning of their lovemaking to come.

“You’re not going to remove everything, are you? Margaret asked hesitatingly.

“I think it is best that I do not do that just yet. I will leave on my undergarment. Will that be all right with you?”

“Yes.”

John moved into the shadows and disrobed to his last cotton garment. He slid into bed before the light could fall on him and startle her. The night had brought so much to him that was not expected. He was walking on air.

“We’ll meet in the middle,” laughed Margaret.

“Could I try something, love?” John asked.

“Depends.”

John laughed, realizing what she might be thinking. “I want to test several areas where I can lay my arm across you. I want your head lying in my neck, but I will need some guidance from you of where the other arm will not hurt you.”

John and Margaret began the testing of the situation. He found that it was her bottom rib that was the painful area. Anywhere other than that, seemed to be tolerable to her.

“Can you lay on your side at all,” he asked.

“I can only roll towards you and lay on that side.”

“That will do just fine for kissing you all night long.”

Margaret asked John to lay on his back for her. She was able to roll over on her good side and place her hand on his chest. Before she could even start to feel the magic, John lifted her hand and kissed her palm.

She began her quest in earnest and swept him from his neck to his garment. All the way down, it tickled her hand. She giggled. Upon hearing that, John reached for her hand again and kissed it once more.

Once it was returned to her control, she initiated her wish slowly. Moment after moment went by as she ran her fingers everywhere. Occasionally, she would stop to circle his nipple because that seemed to produce a shiver in him and she loved that.

“Margaret?”

“Yes. John.”

“This has been the greatest night of my life. You have brought me such joy tonight. I could never form strong enough words to tell you how wonderful it all is. I feel at one with you. You are my other half. Without you, I know I could not live.”

“Shh… You’re going to make me cry. I feel the same way. I am uneasy that I could lose you, though. You don’t have that to contend with that as I do.”

“What do you mean, love? I will never leave you, you know that.” John said with conviction.

Margaret didn’t say anything. She stopped the pleasure of his chest and laid back down. Why did she have to go a spoil her most beautiful evening, too? She knew why. She was deeply feeling his love and to lose what she had experienced tonight would shatter her world, now. Margaret began to weep.

John threw his arm over his eyes, wanting to weep himself. He realized what she was talking about and there was little he could say and not lie.

He rolled so he as facing her. He placed his hand on her cheek and stroked her face.

“Margaret, you know how much I love, don’t you?”

“Yes. As much as I love you.”

“Margaret, I will never do anything to ruin what we have. I am not going off to London to play hero. As much as I would want to avenge you, I cannot chance losing what we have now. You do believe me, don’t you?”

Margaret could hear the tears in his voice. She felt tired of making John sad and come to his own defence every time she alluded to her imagination. She would desist talking with him about it.

“John, I promise never to bring that up again. Just hold me.”

John moved as close as he could to her and rested his hand on her hip.

“Something’s wiggling down there,” Margaret said in amusement. Are there three of us in this bed.”

Chuckling, John said, “I am afraid so. When you married me, he came along for the ride.”

“Does he need a driver?”

John broke out in a bout of laughter. Margaret felt the bed shaking.

“No, sweetheart. He has his own driver.”

“Maybe tomorrow night, I will be brave enough to meet him.”

“We have an accord, Mrs. Thornton.”

John stayed awake several hours, just holding his life in his arms. He wished the light would never come.

 

Frederick left the night lodging house and found a distant surveillance spot. He felt good that his practice of running from the Navy was now going to pay dividends. As much as he would like to shoot that man where he lay, he would be arrested and then the Navy would come after him. He liked his sister’s husband and knew that he needed to be in on the annihilation of this man as much as he did.

Since there was no definite plan yet, Frederick decided to follow Hartford and see where he would lay low for the day. He could not be sure if Hartford knew what he looked like, so he had to keep out of sight from the man.

Frederick did not have to wait long. Hartford emerged pulling his brim low and proceeded to an ale house four streets over. There were a lot of people moving about at this time of the morning, allowing Frederick to blend in well enough. Frederick was staying three building lengths to the rear of him and behind other walking workers.

Hartford entered the tavern and sat in a booth. A bar wench came to his table and asked what he would like.

“You got bangers?”

“Yeah, honey. You want that?”

“Give me the bangers and whatever comes with ‘em and a pint, Miss.”

The waitress turned and left the table. He was surprised at all the workers eating in there. He thought there must be a lot of single men in town. From what he’d overheard last night, he expected these men to head for their mills in about thirty minutes. That would give him enough time for the privy and eating his food. When he found Marlborough Mills, he could walk straight through the gate and look around.

Frederick waited patiently for Hartford to come out. He only hoped the man was not spotted by the bobbies and arrested before his revenge party could get to him, themselves.

 

As Margaret opened her eyes, squinting at the light coming through the window, she noticed John watching her.

“Good morning, husband,” she said, yawning.

“Good morning, wife of mine. Do you feel any soreness around your rib?”

“What did you do? Have your way with me while I slept?” Margaret said smiling.

John grinned and leaned over to kiss her fully awake. He must have kissed her a hundred times during the night and still was unquenched.

“Since you don’t know the answer to that, I will have to practice more.”

Margaret attempted a laugh and then held her rib.

John thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Her hair was scattered all around her face and across his own pillow. As she slept, he noticed how her lashes swept her cheeks and saw the movement of her eyes behind the closed lips. Her full mouth would part sometimes, and he lightly traced his finger over each one. She had soft, smooth, lovely skin. To John, it seemed like she would take the sun when it was available in London. It had a luster to it, unlike strikingly white porcelain. Would it be that she would stroll the parks and then sit to read a book – perhaps, about randy men? That made him laugh quietly which must have brought Margaret awake.

Margaret rolled to face him, and John felt relieved that he could hold her more firmly, circling her back.

She tilted her head up to look into his eyes, placing her palm on his unshaven face. Again, he reached for her hand, kissed her palm, and returned it to his face.

That moment . . . that very instant, with her looking up into his eyes as they lie in bed together, her hand on his cheek, pressed in on John like an epiphany. He was startled at the awareness of that very moment in time as if he were endowed with that vision forever. The moment was being branded into his memory. Her eyes were filled with love for him; the spell was sweet utopia, and he recognized it for what it was . . . the pure look of love. He bent down and kissed her like he had never kissed her before.

Margaret had noticed it was a moment for John and his kiss verified her feelings.

“John, you went somewhere in your thoughts. Where is that world?”

He was surprised at her perception, but she was coming to know him in ways he did not know himself. “I cannot explain it. The look you gave to me is now tucked away forever in a special place. I will be able to take it out and relive it anytime that I want to. It’s inscribed for eternity. He kissed her again. And they laid there in silence for a while.

“Mrs. Thornton, please know this is not a normal morning that you will experience.”

“I suppose you will have risen, dressed, and left for work?”

“Dressed . . . eventually, risen, most definitely. You shall be thoroughly ravished before breakfast each morning.”

“Is that when we do it . . . mornings, I mean?

John was about to laugh loudly when he saw her smile. John continued the play.

“Is there a better time for you, my love?”

“How can I know yet? I have heard some lady’s don’t like it and some love it. How do I know which one I will be?”

John sensed this was a real question. “I am of the opinion that all women have the capability to enjoy that side of their life if – and only if – they have a caring and experienced partner.”

“And that would be you?”

“That would be me, indeed, my love. I have practiced enough during my youth and years until now. You, my love, are my grand performance.” John beamed. “I will admit there will be a first for me, here and there. I have reserved those pleasures for the woman that I married.”

Still looking into his eyes, Margaret pulled a few strands of chest hair.

“Ouch! You are lucky, Mrs. Thornton, that you are in a delicate way or that would have resulted in luscious punishment.

“So, I can do that without having to ask the words?

John smiled at her. “I seriously doubt you will ever have to ask.”

“Now,” John continued, “how do we start this morning process of me pretending not to peek? Ouch!”

Figuring out the procedure was indeed a challenge. John insisted that she use the pitcher with water and the bowl first. Margaret headed that way and then declined, knowing she washed more than her face, but could not tell him that, yet. John using the water in the same way; could not tell her that, either. He could not walk half naked, carrying his clothes to the privy and he did not trust Margaret going down the stairs carrying anything. They stood and stared at each other and burst out laughing finally realizing both had the same thoughts. Margaret was about to wet herself, and the situation worsened. She put one hand over her mouth to stop laughing and one hand between her legs, like a little girl, to stem the tide that was coming out as the case seemed to be. She started jiggling, and it got worse as John was laughing so hard at her. She finally just pee’d where she stood, still holding herself. The most shameful look came over her face as John saw what she was doing. He fell on the bed holding his stomach as the use of his laughing muscles were so new, it hurt.

“Stop laughing. I am a disgrace,” she said.

John continued to roll around on the bed enjoying this new first and maybe only adventure like this in their life.

“I actually don’t think it will leak through to the downstairs, Margaret. I guess no one told you about the chamber pot under the bed. That’s for emergencies such as this.” He beamed.

“John!”

“Did I just hear you say something like ‘ooh-ooh’?” John asked in all seriousness, as he rose to find a towel.

“No, I didn’t say that.”

“I am sure you did, my sweet.”

Margaret started to laugh again.

“What does ooh-ooh mean? John asked. “It sounds like a child’s word.

Margaret blushed quite badly.

“You are really piquing my interest now,” John smiled, as he bent down to dry the floor. Ooh-ooh, Mrs. Thornton, if you please.”

“John, stop saying that. It’s vulgar.”

“Margaret, you could hardly ever say anything vulgar. I shall walk around all day saying that word unless you tell me.”

“I’m not telling.”

“Fine, I shall ask your brother.”

“He will laugh at you.” Margaret smiled.

“Let him. It shall be worth it.”

“I’m not sure he knows,” Margaret replied.

“I shall see. And that is my final word on the subject. Now . . . what do we do about you?

[serialposts]

Audio CD Mansfield Park

Once … very much “out of stock”

The 2003 BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park featuring, David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch as brothers Tom and Edmund Bertrum, is available on audiobook.

Joining them is Felicity Jones, known to Archers fans as the original Emma Carter, Tim Piggott-Smith (The Bletchley Circle) and Julia McKenzie (Miss Marple).

Mansfield Park is the classic 19th century novel and the third by Jane Austen written between 1811 and 1813. The tale centres on young Fanny Price the second eldest of nine children sent to Mansfield Park to live with her aunts. She is sensitive, shy, intelligent, and virtuous, with a good sense of morals. She has been in love with her cousin Edmund since she was young and when they both realise their feelings, they marry. But Fanny is also pursued by Mr. Henry Crawford a charming, persuasive and eligible bachelor.

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Nineteen

books

Nineteen – The Lures of Temptation

 

As soon as his right arm encircled her lower back, Beth found herself yielding to Stephen’s enticing, as if it were the most natural thing to do. He took her right hand into his left one, inducing her to place her other hand on his shoulder. When he started moving in a circular way, she felt the muscles in that shoulder shift and flex in a most agreeable manner. He was strong and well-built and … very male, with the faint scent of cologne and tobacco assaulting her senses, making her body respond in a strange way. Her breasts suddenly seemed too large for her dress but the tingling feeling was very pleasant and exciting. Her lower stomach developed a life of its own, aching all of a sudden with a spiralling, throbbing wave of … what only could be named ‘desire’!

As they circled the room, enchanted by the lovely tones of the waltz, Beth raised her head and met Stephen’s gaze. His very blue eyes were glowing softly and with an expression she never beheld before. His mouth, finely chiselled and smiling, opened slightly to reveal his perfect white teeth.

“May I express my admiration on the lovely attire you chose to wear tonight, Miss Williams? You are looking exactly how I knew you would as soon as you abandoned that gloomy black you usually prefer.”

Beth felt her cheeks go hot, not as usual in anger, but in genuine pleasure, for his voice had not been mocking. Instead he had spoken in a gentle tone as if he had been admiring her in truth. She had donned a gown of burgundy coloured taffeta, with only the shortest of puffed sleeves so that the neckline, not that low at all, still gave the impression of revealing more of her bosom than it truly did. The loose, flowing skirt, worn without a crinoline, swirled becomingly as they circulated the room.

Light as a feather – that was how Beth felt. Being in Stephen’s arms, close to him as she had never been with a dance partner, did not frighten her as she would have thought it would. Instead, a strong notion of unmistakeable safety warmed her whole person.

Yet, as pleasant as it was, it was not enough to dispel her experiences of what Stephen was, nor her suspicions of what his intensions were towards her. She was acutely aware of one thing; she did not truly know the Master of Brixton Abbey.

Between the disastrous dealings with him during her youth and the present time, their lives had been led separately in different places. Beth had been tucked away in Provence with her father and her aunt, safely guarded and blissfully protected from the evils of the world, while Stephen had come into his title and position as the master of his family’s estate. He had married Florence, and it had been a love match. True, he had taken care over his illegitimate offspring, but only when his marriage had proved barren and after his wife had died.

“You seem preoccupied, Miss Williams. Are you displeased with the way I am conducting this waltz? I would hate to think myself responsible for preventing you of enjoying it.”

Beth did not know what troubled her most, the very words he had spoken or the sweet concern ringing through them.

“No, no, my lord! You have nothing to reproach yourself for and certainly not your dancing! It is excellent. Please, forgive my loss of concentration. I confess to feeling an extreme weariness over the events of the past few days, what with Mrs Bradley’s passing and the children’s grief.”

Stephen did not reply but gently tightened his hold. Beth found herself with sudden tears in her eyes when she realised he was offering her a quiet comfort when she needed it. When the music ended soon thereafter, Stephen raised her hand to his lips, turned it upward and kissed her wrist, just above the cuff of her glove.

“I very much would like to speak with you, Miss Williams. There still are some matters we must discuss about my children’s future. Does ten o’clock tomorrow morning suits you?”

“Very well, my lord.”

Beth curtsied when Stephen brought her back to her chair. She sat down next to the children who were playing on the carpet with the toys they found under the Christmas tree and watched her employer move around the room and speak to several of his neighbours and senior staff members.

With a pang of unexpected sadness, she noticed how several of the young and unmarried ladies had their eyes glued on Stephen’s tall, elegant frame in black evening coat, golden waistcoat, buff coloured breeches and shiny black Hessian boots. His fine white shirt was of the finest linen and his snowy-white cravat accentuated the strength of his firm jaw.

He was elegant and so very, very male, and amiable to every young lady present. Whenever he addressed them, albeit polite and distant, the girls would batter their eyelashes at him and flush becomingly. Their mamas would show a great deal of teeth and put an affectionate hand on his sleeve to convince him of their approval. Stephen was, Beth realised, a much-coveted widower, still young and handsome and, more to the point extremely wealthy.

To these well-bread members of society, the presence of a young, unattached governess at Brixton Abbey must constitute a genuine thread. Surely, that was the reason why Beth herself had been most pointedly snubbed by all the female guests of the Dowager’s Christmas party.

 

~~~~

 

Mrs Bradley’s death had not solely affected her grandchildren, Lily and Oliver. Beth too had been shaken and hurt when Granny Bradley died because she had always been fond of her father’s former housekeeper. After the tragic death of her mother and her brother Julian, Beth’s father was in sore need of a housekeeper and a female presence in the house for fourteen-year-old Beth. Granny Bradley, who needed the meagre salary Vicar Williams offered her to raise the twins, gladly and thankfully took on the task. It had been only natural that Beth renewed the bonds of affection with Granny and the children after she came back from France. She had always felt very safe and loved in Granny’s presence.

That was only one of the reasons why Beth had finally decided she would return to England, besides the fact she wanted the master of Brixton Abbey to atone for the death of her relatives. She had been struck by a wave of homesickness when both her father and her aunt passed away. Who better than to turn to than Granny Bradley and go back to her childhood village?

During her stay at Brixton Abbey, Beth had become acutely aware of one notion; she had developed a great love for Lily and Oliver. So deep an affection that she forced herself to come back – even after Stephen wounded her with his caddish behaviour – and make sure the children were taken care of.

Now, that request had been fulfilled. Lily and Oliver bore the Fenton name and would have a share of their father’s fortune.

Beth was free from the promise she made to Granny Bradley. She was free to leave Brixton Abbey and start another life. A life away from Stephen Fenton.

Z: The Beginning of Everything – (tv series) Amazon Prime – Released January 27th

Z is a biography series based on the life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, the brilliant, beautiful and talented Southern Belle who becomes the original flapper and icon of the wild, flamboyant Jazz Age in the 20s. Starring Christina Ricci (Monster) as Zelda Fitzgerald, Z starts before she meets the unpublished writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (Gavin Stenhouse, Allegiance), and moves through their passionate, turbulent love affair and their marriage-made in heaven, lived out in hell as the celebrity couple of their time. The series travels through the wild parties, the wicked jazz, the dissolute artists of the era, as well as the alcoholism, adultery and struggle with dashed dreams and mental illness that characterizes their later years.

https://youtu.be/op5hWLbxQGY

 

Who is Jack Lowden ?

Rising star Jack Lowden grew up in the Scottish Borders. He graduated from the prestigious Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 2011. He has had enormous success on stage in leading roles, including his performance as Oswald in Ibsen’s “Ghosts”, for which he won both the Ian Charleson Award and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2014; the play was filmed and is available to view online. After an assortment of television and film appearances, his breakout international screen role has been as Nikolai Rostov (Natasha’s brother) in the six-hour BBC miniseries War & Peace (2016), leading to an array of leading roles in films.  Born June 2, 1990 – IMDb Mini Biography By: angelofvic

Jack Lowden

 

Coming in April – True Story

 

 

I Killed Him – pt 24

Chapter Twenty Four

Grant Hartford was nearing Milton after giving his horse to a young lad along the road, a mile or two from the third station from London. From there, he walked to the nearest station and boarded the train. He had hired a coach to take him from the train station three stops before Milton. He knew his training, and should the Army be now warned about him, he knew how they would think and react. He paid the driver good money to keep his mouth shut should he be asked about him. Grant had the driver drop him off two miles outside of Milton. He would walk the rest of the way in. Thinking his disguise would be plenty, he soon saw that he would stand out in his hunting clothes. He would have to rectify that.

Grant walked the perimeter of Milton until he saw what he’d been looking for. There was an ageing man about his size that would not give him much trouble as he strangled him. Any other form of death would have resulted in the clothes being unusable. He laid the body in high grass and began his hike into town.

As he neared the edge of Milton, he could see a newer more affluent end of town being built, but he was drawn to the puffing smoke mill area. There the poor labourers would be living and perhaps John Thornton as well. He pulled his worn threadbare cap low over his eyes and walked through the winding back disgusting filth of the streets. He listened to the accents around him. There were many, but all were uneducated speech. It was apparent that a lot of people had migrated to where there was work. He would have to alter his own speech to match.

Finally seeing a beaten down shed of a building with a pub sign over the top, he entered. The smell was atrocious. Apparently, they only mopped the vomit soaked floors once in a while. He took a seat at the bar and looked around him.

“I’ll ‘ave a pint,” he ordered. Neither patron beside him struck up a conversation which allowed him to listen to the conversations he could hear.

“Got any stew?” He asked as his drink was slid to him.

“Aye. Want a bowl and bread,” he was asked.

“Right you are, guv,” Grant responded.

Hartford listened to the grumblings going on around him. Workers from differing mills were bickering about their wages or treatment. He listened for John Thornton’s name but never heard it.

The bartender brought his bowl. “Why don’t you sit over there in that booth?”

“I’ll be doin’ that for sure. I’m here to find work and a bed for the night. Got any ideas?”

“You can probably find a cot or floor pallet, if you don’t mind that, about four blocks over. We get a lot of people looking for work, so’s I can’t say if there’s room. As for where to look for work, ya see that feller over there talking with that other man?”

“Aye.”

“He’s been at the mills a long time. He should know anything you want to know.”

“Thanks, chap.” Grant slapped a few coins on the bar top for his food and ale. If he’d left a tip, he might stand out, so he didn’t do that. He picked up his bowl and pint and walked over to the empty booth. No one around him seemed to be talking about Margaret Hale or Margaret Thornton. Grant wanted to find a paper to buy.

A woman with cheap bangles and scarves around her, accentuating her very full bosom slid into his booth.

“You new here?”

“Nope, just new to this joint. I don’t ‘ave time for what you’re sellin’. How long you been here, anyway?”

“I’ve been plying my trade for a couple years, in Milton. The pay ain’t so good, here, though. Do I see some interest comin’ into those pretty eyes of yours? My name is Mable.”

“How much Mable?”

There was a bartering on price since Grant felt it was expected.

“I don’t want no stand in the corner thing. I want a room.” Grant insisted.

“That’ll be extra.”

“Bloody hell. All right.” Grant moaned.

“I’ve finished my dinner, and it’s gettin’ late. Where to wench?”

“Just up those stairs, ducky.” Mable winked.

Grant trudged along behind her. He was hoping for some information from her, more than satisfaction.

Entering the room, Grant felt like vomiting himself. He was going to have to crawl into a used bed. Not being able to stand the thought of that, he went to a chair and removed his trousers.

“You kneel in front of me, Mable.”

“Do you want me to remove my clothes since that’s what you’re wantin’?”

“Blast! Of course, I do woman. I haven’t seen a naked lass for several months.”

Mable removed her clothes as Grant looked on. Her face was painted profusely to hid her age, but her body underneath was still in good shape. As he took in her curves, breasts and the V at her upper thighs, his erection came to attention. It was almost painful. He’d forgotten about his injury.

Mable knelt down and inspected him for disease.

“Oh my, what’s happened to this big boy,” Mable said with concern.

“It is an injury. It’s none of your concern; just do what I’m paying you for.”

Grant relaxed back in the chair enjoying this effortless pleasure on his part.

“You ever hear of John Thornton?”

Mable stopped her administrations to answer. “You are new here if you don’t know Thornton.”

“Why’s that?”

“He’s a very prominent citizen in Milton. He heads up the committee of mill owners. Do you want me to talk or work?”

“Go back to working. We’ll talk later.”

 

The night was drawing late, and Greta came up the stairs, making a noise, so the new couple were aware of her entering the room.

“Mrs Thornton, Would you like to prepare for bed?”

Margaret paused and looked at John, who was purposely looking away.

“Greta, I think just help in the privy this evening. I will attempt the other myself.” Margaret looked over at John, expecting to see a beaming face, but he was calm and collected. He had picked up the day’s paper to appear to be reading. His heart had started to pound. If the room was quiet, he was sure he could hear it. He anticipated exquisite torture ahead. He could look but touch very little. If he ever needed strength of will, it would be now.

Margaret and Greta returned from the back room. Before John could notice, Margaret had sat down on the side of the couch, holding her weight against the arm rest.

“John, I told Greta, she could go tomorrow. I’m going to be a burden on you.”

“I hope so.”

“That doesn’t mean that I am ready . . .”

“I know sweetheart. You are going to tell me, remember?”

“I may want to, but I don’t think the words will come out of my mouth when I want.” Margaret displayed a playful, yet serious, pout. Perhaps, you should take that back over, as it’s easier for me to say no, than the other.”

John smiled at her. Her innocence was undoing him. Of all the women that he had been with over his lifetime, they made the initial move. He was not used to shyness and innocence. He thought Margaret was too endearing for words.

“I will look forward to the honor,” John said.

“Would you like a drink, Margaret?”

“I thought we were going to bed?”

“Only if you wish it. Because your nurse thinks it’s bedtime, doesn’t mean you must think the same.” John needed a little assurance that Margaret meant what she said.

“It is late.”

“Yes, to some, I would imagine,” John teased, still maintaining his uninterested look.

“Would you help me undress?”

“I would like nothing better.”

“In the dark? Added Margaret.

John rolled his fist and held it in front of his mouth to keep from grinning at her charms. “Whatever you are comfortable with, my love.”

“Let me light the bedchamber light until we get there. Then I will come down here, turn these lights off and watch you climb the steps.”

Margaret was a ball of nerves. She was rubbing her hands together. Her legs felt weak, too weak to climb the stairs. “Oh, I’m going to be a fright. What will he think of me?” Margaret said to herself.

John was back in no time. He turned down the lights and came to her.

“I have a confession.”

“And that is?” John asked.

“My legs have weakened. I think I am . . . no, I know I am nervous. Could you carry me?”

John kissed her and picked her up. He had waited a long time for this, whatever this turned out to be.

 

Entering the bedchamber, Margaret saw that the bed had been turned down. She wasn’t sure if John did that or Jane before she left. The lights were low but not out. A thin gown lie at the foot of the bed.

“How would you like to begin, my love?”

“Umm . . . first, turn out the light.”

John went to one light and turned down the gas. That left a single candle lit in the room. Margaret looked at it and decided to leave it alone.

“Next.”

“If you will undo my buttons in the back of my dress, please.”

John could see his own hands shaking. What in the world was wrong with him? This had never happened. He struggled with the task as his hands were large and there was very little light. Finally, it was done. He didn’t ask but gently slid the sleeves off of her shoulders. He could see she had a slip on, in fact, one full and one-half one. Margaret didn’t object. As he started to slide it down, he felt foolish. He should be standing in front of her so she could balance herself on his shoulders when she stepped out of it.

As the gown began to fall in his hands, he kissed the back of her neck and continued softly around to the front. The weight of the garment took it down into a pool and John knelt in front of her so he could remove it while she held his shoulders.

“John, I think you are shaking worse than I am.”

“I’ve never felt this way before. I cannot seem to stop it.”

“If I say no, are you still able to stop?”

“Yes.”

John carried the dress and hung it next to his own clothes in the wardrobe. Turning to Margaret, his inhale was audible.

“I suppose this big piece just slides down the same way?” he asked.

“Yes. I thought you knew about these things.” Margaret laughed, breaking the tension for him.

“It’s all lost forever. It’s only you now.”

“John, don’t tease me. This is hard enough.”

“I am not teasing. I am more nervous than you. You are like that special gift under the tree that I have waited for a long time. I want to slowly unwrap it.”

John began to repeat the same procedure as the dress. He knelt until it was at her feet. She steadied her hands on his shoulders and stepped out.

“Does this get hung up or go in a drawer.”

Margaret couldn’t help but laugh at John’s nervousness and his unexpected naiveté.

With great embarrassment and beyond all wonder, Margaret blurted out, “Am I to show you where to put it, too?” Margaret was thinking far ahead in their relationship, but John was still looking at her crinoline, which had not been her intention with that statement. Margaret started a hysterical laugh, throwing her hands over her mouth.

“Yes, where do I put it?” John asked becoming amused himself.

“I didn’t mean the crinoline,” she barely gasped out.

John stood there with the garment in his hands, looking at it when he finally realized what she had meant.

John slowly raised his head to look at her. His grin was easy to see even in the dim light. He was stuck for a reply. He continued to stare at her as he fondled her half slip. “I have no answer for your question. We will just have to wait and see,” he said, dropping the slip onto a chair nearby and walking back to her. The long slip was sheer, and in the faint glow, he could see her breasts through the gauzy material. Also, the rib harness was visible, too and her undergarment.

“John, will you be disappointed if I do not make it all the way to naked this time?”

What was he going to say? Yes, he would be disappointed as a lustful man, but not has a loving husband. He was beginning to wonder which one he was.

“Whatever makes you comfortable. You want to put on the nightdress and do not know how to go about it, is that it?”

Margaret looked down at it and then herself, and said, “Yes.”

“I know how to work this.”

“Finally,” Margaret laughed.

“If you did not have a break in your body, you would not be getting away with that talk, wife of mine.”

“How do we go about this?” she said, pulling herself together. She was afraid she’d be crying if she wasn’t laughing.

“You turn your back to me, like so.” John turned her.

He reached down and grabbed the hem of the full slip and pulled it over her head.

Margaret pulled her arms to cover herself, instinctively.

John gently embraced her from behind, folding his arms across hers and held her. He began kissing her neck which he loved doing and thought she felt the same. Margaret leaned her head slightly to the side, giving him more access. While kissing her neck and shoulders, he slowly unfolded her arms in front of her. He placed them at her sides, and she did not move them.

“Margaret, I love you,” he said has he held a breast in each hand. John laid his head on top of hers and swam in the soft heaviness of his wife’s feminity. He was gentle and did not want to arouse her any further. It would be so easy to do.

“Will you turn around for me?” he whispered in her ear.

Margaret paused. She looked down to see John’s long fingers massaging her bosom. She could feel him move to look over her shoulder to see his own hands filled with her. She turned to him, facing the candlelight. Margaret looked into his eyes for his reaction. His face was radiant, and her knees grew weak.

“Margaret, . . .”

“John, I cannot stand any longer. Help me.”

John let go of his precious treasure and held her under her arms. He lifted her off the floor and walked her to the bed; sitting her there. He knelt in front of her.

“Thank you, my love, for being so beautiful.”

Margaret reached for his hair and began to run her fingers through it, which pulled his face to her breasts. Although he had not anticipated this, he filled his mouth with her. She moaned softly. John gave equal pleasure to each. It quickly came to an end.

“John, stop.”

And he did. He looked for an explanation, but he didn’t think one was forthcoming. He knew what was happening to him and it must be happening to her, and someone had to stop it.

He placed her on her back and began to unhook the rib corset. His hands were much steadier now. As it fell away, the evidence of her attacker hit him like a thunderbolt, once again. The blotches of bruises were starting to fade, but it would be another week or two for them to be completely gone. He sat her back up and slipped the nightdress over her.

“Can you stand once more, for just a moment, and I will slip off your undergarment?”

Margaret nodded, and John helped her stand. Once again he knelt. He could kneel before her all night if she let him. He lightly raised his hands under her night dress and found the ribbon that was tied in a bow. The garment fell lose, and he pulled it down, coaxing her to hold onto to him once again. He tossed it to the side and placed his hands on the side of her legs. He felt the primal animal rear its presence at the scent of her. He stood quickly.

“John those will be washed. For future reference, I will not wear those a second day.”

John laid them where he put his clothes for the washerwoman that came in twice a week. As he walked back, Margaret was beginning to pull the pins from her hair.

“Let me do that.”

John stared at her face in the candlelight and wished he could love her more than infinity. Slipping into her blue eyes, he ran his fingers through her hair, feeling for the pins. First one tress fell and then another, and another. Her hair unfurled over her shoulder and down to her breasts. Finding the last pin, he raked his hands through all of it, pulling it across his face and under his nose.

“Would you like me to brush it for you?”

“I think I would like you to remove your blouse,” Margaret said, glad that John could not see her blush.

“No. I will let you do that.”

 

Grant left the room with more information than when he entered. Now he would take a stroll in the dark to look at what he could see in the direction of Marlborough Mills before finding a place to lay his head.

Grant nodded and tipped his hat now and again. He’d look down whenever a bobby was passing him, but he’d say, “Good evenin’, Guv.”

He imagined this was a high crime rate as there were a lot of police in this poor district. Everyone must be stealing from their neighbour down here.

Once he got into the actual mill area, there were fewer people on the road, but men were coming and going in the yards, he could see. It was almost impossible to read the signs to know which mill he was looking for. But it looked like night would be his best opportunity to hit and run. Once he found the mill, he would have to plot his escape route. Depending on how he managed it, would depend on the time it would take to discover her body, thus his escape time, as well. Grant had passed about twenty mills before he gave up. This reconnaissance would have to take place at either dawn or twilight. Both times seemed sensible to have a shift change, which would be ideal for him. He could probably easily stroll onto the property unnoticed. He turned and headed back to the place he’d been told about earlier. A cot or a floor pallet, they would have to do. Finally, he found his way back to the inn. From there, he was told to walk four streets over, and he did.

There was a dim lantern burning near the window. He knocked on the door. He heard the door being unlocked and a large man asked him if he needed a bed.

“Yes, Guv. You got anything?” Grant felt good that he had a couple days growth of beard on his face.

“I think I can find you a floor pallet at this hour,” said the night man. “Will that do ya?”

“Anything. I want to be up early to go looking for work tomorrow.”

The night man could care less. “Second floor, pallet number thirty-six.”

Grant handed over a few bob and went on his way.

As he fumbled his way in the near total darkness, he kicked a few feet and was cursed for it.

Little did he know that one of the men he woke was Frederick Hale.

Frederick laid back down with a sense of something he could not put his finger on. It had to have been that vagrant that tripped over him. He couldn’t sleep. After a few hours, as dawn was filtering through the windows, he got up, as some others were and passed the sleeping man. He felt rewarded for sleeping where he had been. He had hoped someone on the run might look for a place like this to sleep. He took a second look to be sure. It was Captain Grant Hartford. He could only see the man’s profile, but he looked a lot like the drawn picture. His hat had slipped off and that haircut was military, Frederick was sure of it.