Reserve and Reticence – Part Twelve

Twelve – An Unexpected Approach

 

It was yet another night when Beth and Henrietta were keeping watch next to Stephen’s bed, unable to find rest and sleep. Henrietta lay stretched out on the sofa, covered by a blanket against the chilly dawn of May. She had finally given up the fight against exhaustion and dozed off. Beth sat in her chair beside Stephen’s bed and held his hand in hers. That hand was yet again hot and damp because her husband was drenched and shivering with high fever.

With a sigh of utter wretchedness, Beth reached for the leather bag, filled with ice, and gently tamped Stephen’s face with it.

“There, my love,” she whispered. “Do not worry, my darling, everything will be alright.”

Would it? Did Stephen even hear her? Did he know she was there, tending him?

“Stephen? Can you hear me? Stephen, it is me, Beth …”

He did not even stir. In fact, if Beth would not have noticed the faint but rapid exhaling of his breath, she would have thought her husband deceased.

“Oh, my dearest … please, get better … I cannot bear to lose you …”

And then the tears came and uncontrollably rolled down her face. All the pent-up misery was released at last, and she let her head down onto Stephen’s chest, sobbing frantically. It was so unjust! They had not even had one carefree week of marriage! In sheer frustration, Beth pounced her fist on the mattress.

 

~~~~

 

“Beth, you must not despair. He is going to live. You must believe that, you simply must. That is what I am trying to do because the thought of losing him cannot exist in my heart.”

The warmth of Henrietta’s arm, more than the tone of her voice, was what rose Beth out of her deep despair. That tone had been meant comforting, but Henrietta had failed to put comfort into it. Instead, her carefully masked sorrow had shown through.

Beth raised her eyes to those of her mother-in-law and saw Henrietta for the lonely elderly woman she was. The baroness had no longer any real purpose in life, since the day Stephen became the next baron. As if she had read Beth’s mind, Henrietta began to speak.

“You see, Beth, I was completely at peace with my son becoming the next baron after my husband died. It is the natural order of things that a female member of the English nobility withdraws from her duties as the lady of the house, especially when there is a young wife in attendance. I liked Florence from the start. She was a ray of sunshine in mine and Stephen’s life, lively and beautiful, witty and intelligent. She was also endearingly sweet to me. I always thought a daughter-in-law to just tolerate her husband’s widowed mother and handle her as some tedious but unavoidable person, who came with the marriage. Instead, Florence was a warm and lovable woman, who included me in her life. I was looking forward to a quiet life in the dowager house, when her sudden death disrupted Stephen’s life. Despite my own grief, I had to be strong in order to help Stephen overcome his misery. He was utterly devastated by Florence’s death, Beth. There were days when I feared he would buckle under the weight of his sorrow.”

In an impulse, Beth took Henrietta’s hands in hers.

“My lady … there is so little I know about Stephen’s life, and it frightens me. I hope you will share some of these stories with me in the future.”

Henrietta smiled and sat down on the bed.

“Beth, I have done you so very wrong and I apologize. I had not seen your great love for Stephen, I thought you were eager to bring harm to our house and later, that you were a mere fortune hunter who would cause Stephen sorrow and misery. I deeply regret my actions, my dear. Can you forgive me?”

Beth embraced the older woman warmly.

“Yes, my lady, all is forgiven. I am so very grateful for your support during Stephen’s illness. Pray God that we will not …”

Stephen unexpectedly gasped, startling both women. Beth rose and put her finger against her husband’s throat to feel for a pulse. It was still there but it felt weak and shallow.

“Stephen?! Is he …”, whispered Henrietta.

“No, no! Do not upset yourself, he still lives.”

Henrietta’s breath came out in relief.

“Then, my dear, You ought to go to bed and sleep. I will stay with him.”

However, as it was obvious that Henrietta too was at the end of her tether, Beth coaxed her to retire to her own rooms and have a proper night’s rest.

“Stephen won’t wake soon,” she said, matter-of-factly, “and I shall be sleeping on this cot, as I did so for this whole past week. I have grown accustomed to it, I fear.”

As soon as the dowager left, Beth tried feeding some weak tea to her husband, who swallowed it instinctively without waking up. She felt his brow and found it rather cool, much more cooler in fact,than it had been for a week. Earlier that day, Dr Forrester told her that Stephen was on a turning point – either his fever abated, in which case he would survive and, possibly, grow better, or he would enter another fever spell, which would deal the fatal blow to his weakened body. The coming night would be decisive, one way or the other.

With a sigh, Beth sat down in the chair beside the bed and folded her hands in prayer. It was all that was left for her to do, she realised. Only the Good Lord would have the power to save Stephen now, so she would plead his life with the Maker of all things. All night long, if necessary.

Stephen seemed to be asleep rather than lethargic, his pale, somewhat emaciated face relaxed and smooth, except for the blisters which were finally beginning to subside. His breathing, though still shallow, had become less rattling. Oh, how she loved him …

 

~~~~

 

During the long hours of the night, Beth relived all aspects of her relationship with her husband. How she admired him, when she had still been a child, and she saw him in the village with his father. He had been a thin, clumsy boy in his early teens, at that time, his movements woodenly and exaggerated. Yet, he already had that handsome face with the sparkling blue eyes, filled with joy and gentleness. She had been secretly in love with him, admiring him from afar, hoping for a sign that he noticed her. Of course, he had not. He was the young heir of Brixton Abbey, the future baron.

Her dreams of love and hope had been savagely destroyed the day of the accident, that killed her relatives. From then on, she had only room for revenge in her thoughts and heart.

All those long years of exile in France had only strengthened the need for revenge, especially when she was forced to bury her father in a godforsaken little graveyard in Provence, rather than next to her mother and brother in Woolworth.

Yet, when she set her eyes on Stephen, in those first days as a governess to Lily and Oliver, Beth had instantly known she had never stopped loving him, even when her mind battled with her heart and told her to keep him at bay. To no avail, for she never stood a chance, once she gazed into those lovely blue eyes of him.

And now, after they had joined their hearts and lives, she stood on the brink of losing him …

 

Coming to Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, and Hulu in May

The Best Movies and TV Shows Coming to Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, and Hulu in May

Stills by Dimension Films, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), and A24.
Scary Movie 2, Don’t Think Twice, The Wizard of Oz, and Moonlight are just a few of the great movies coming to streaming in May.

Photo illustration by Slate. Stills by Dimension Films, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), and A24.

Every month, tons of new movies and TV shows become available to stream for free for subscribers to Netflix Instant, Hulu, HBO NOW, and Amazon Prime. With so many different streaming services, it can be hard to keep track of them all—especially if you belong to more than one service. Below, we present to you the ultimate streaming guide. We’ll let you decide which service has the best new titles. (All titles arrive May 1 unless otherwise specified.)

Netflix

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The Place Beyond the Pines.

Focus Features

Good Watch

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008)
Doctor Strange
(2016) (May 30)
Don’t Think Twice
(2016)
I Am Jane Doe (2017) (May 26)
Inglourious Basterds (2009) (May 22)
Lovesong (2016) (May 15)
The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) (May 16)

Family Watch

Happy Feet (2006)

Binge Watch

The Fosters Season 4 (May 11)
Riverdale Season 1 (May 18)
Sherlock
Season 4 (May 15)
Switched at Birth Season 5 (May 11)

If You’re Bored

American Experience: The Big Burn (2014)
American Experience: The Boys of ’36 (2017)
Blood on the Mountain (2016)
Chaahat (1996)
Chocolat (2000)
Decanted (2016)
Drifter (2017)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Love (2015)
Losing Sight of Shore (2017)
Malibu’s Most Wanted (2003)
Nerdland (2016)
Raja Hindustani (1996)
Richard Pryor: Icon (2014)
Under Arrest Season 5
Bodyguards: Secret Lives from the Watchtower (2016) (May 2)
Hija De La Laguna (2015) (May 2)
Two Lovers and a Bear (2016) (May 2)
Cold War 2 (2016) (May 6)
When the Bough Breaks (2017) (May 6)
LoveTrue (2016) (May 7)
Stake Land II (2016) (May 7)
The Host (2013) (May 7)
Beyond the Gates (2016) (May 8)
Hunter Gatherer (2016) (May 8)
Queen of the South Season 1 (May 9)
All We Had (2016) (May 9)
El apóstata (2015) (May 10)
The Adventure Club (2016) (May 10)
Command and Control (2016) (May 15)
Cave (2016) (May 15)
The Intent (2016) (May 15)
The Break-Up (2006) (May 16)
Royal Pains Season 8 (May 18)
What’s With Wheat (2017) (May 21)
They Call Us Monsters (2017) (May 22)
Dig Two Graves (2014) (May 23)
Southpaw (2015) (May 24)
Believe (2016) (May 26)
Bunk’d Season 2 (May 28)
Forever Pure (2016) (May 29)
A New High (2015) (May 29)
Masterminds (2016) (May 30)

New Original Programming and Exclusive Premieres

In the Shadow of Iris
Maria Bamford: Old Baby
(May 2)
Chelsea Season 2 premiere (May 5)
Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie (May 5)
Kazoops! Season 3 (May 5)
Sense8 Season 2 (May 5)
Simplemente Manu NNa (May 5)
Spirit: Riding Free Season 1 (May 5)
The Last Kingdom Season 2 (May 5)
The Mars Generation (May 5)
Norm Macdonald: Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery (May 9)
All Hail King Julien: Exiled Season 1 (May 12)
Anne With an E Season 1 (May 12)
Get Me Roger Stone (May 12)
Master of None Season 2 (May 12)
Mindhorn (May 12)
Sahara (May 12)
Tracy Morgan: Staying Alive (May 16)
BLAME! (May 19)
Laerte-se (May 19)
The Keepers Season 1 (May 19)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 3 (May 19)
Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King (May 23)
Bloodline Season 3 (May 26)
Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower (May 26)
War Machine (May 26)
F is for Family Season 2 (May 30)
House of Cards Season 5 (May 30)
Sarah Silverman A Speck of Dust (May 30)

HBO

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Good Will Hunting.

Miramax

Good Watch

The Beguiled (1971)
The Bourne Ultimatum
(2007)
Good Will Hunting
(1997)
High Plains Drifter (1973)
Quick Change (1990)
Scream 2 (1997)

Watch Out for Geese

Sully (2016) (May 6)

If You’re Bored

15 Minutes (2001)
Aliens in the Attic (2009)
Appaloosa (2008)
Babylon A.D. (2008)
Caught in the Crossfire (2010)
Dying Young (1991)
The Eiger Sanction (1975)
Frank Miller’s Sin City (2005)
Inventing the Abbotts (1997)
Joe Kidd (1972)
Macarthur (1977)
The Man with Two Brains (1983)
Nothing But Trouble (1991)
Notorious (2009)
On Deadly Ground (1994)
Scream 3 (2000)
The Sweetest Thing (2002)
Tender Mercies (1983)
Legend (2015) (May 3)
Jason Bourne (2016) (May 13)
Storks (2016) (May 27)

New Original Programming

Warning: This Drug May Kill You
Chris Gethard: Career Suicide (May 6)
Mommy Dead and Dearest (May 15)
Animals Season 2 finale (May 19)
Juanes Concert Film (May 19)
The Wizard of Lies (May 20)

“Estrenos en Español”

2500KM (2016)
El Corredor (aka The Runner) (2009)
Entonces Nosotros (aka About Us) (2016) (May 12)
La Luz Incidente (aka Incident Light) (2015) (May 26)

Amazon

jackie_brownpam_grier
Jackie Brown.

Miramax

Must Watch

A Fistful of Dollars (1967) (May 4)
Gone With the Wind
(1939)
Jackie Brown (1997) (May 7)
Manchester by the Sea (2016) (May 5)
Moonlight
(2016) (May 21)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Good Watch

Chuck & Buck (2000)
Naked Gun from the Files of Police Squad (1988)
No Way Out (1987)
Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000) (May 21)
Winter’s Bone (2010)

Binge Watch

Boardwalk Empire Season 5 (May 21)

Nostalgia Watch

A Christmas Story (1983)
The Bad News Bears (1976)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Bond Watch

A View to a Kill (1985)
Dr. No (1963)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
From Russia with Love (1964)
Goldeneye (1995)
License to Kill (1989)
Moonraker (1979)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Thunderball (1965)
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Sucker Watch

Sucker Punch (2008)

If You’re Bored

Aamhi Jaato Amuchya Gava (1968)
Anolkhi (1973)
Arrowhead (1952)
Asha Jaoar Majhe (2014)
Bad Influence (1990)
Bait Shop (2008)
Bala Gau Kashi Angai (1977)
Cabin Fever (2003)
Cabin Fever 2 (2009)
Catacombs (2007)
Cecil B. Demented (2000)
Daagdi Chaawl (2015)
Dark Blue (2003)
Devta (1978)
Fatal Instinct (1993)
Jyotibacha Navas (1975)
Khichdi (2010)
Law of the Lawless (1964)
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
Maximum Security (1990)
Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear (1988)
Mumbai Pune Mumbai 2 (2015)
Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991)
Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994)
Nick of Time (1995)
Pride (2014)
Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977)
Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
School Ties (1992)
Siddharth (2013)
Small Soldiers (1998)
Star Kid (1998)
Teenkahon (2014)
The Doors (1991)
WellieWishers Season 1
Vikings Season 4B (May 2)
Denial (2016) (May 3)
Youth in Oregon (2016) (May 4)
The Ardennes (2015) (May 6)
A Hologram for the King (2016) (May 12)
Me Before You (2016) (May 19)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016) (May 20)
Seasons (2015) (May 24)
Tomake Chai (2017) (May 24)
Poldark Season 2 (May 27)
The Duel (2016) (May 28)

Amazon Original Series

I Love Dick Season 1 (May 12)
Dino Dana Season 1 (May 26)

Hulu

wintersbone2010bluray720pmkv_snapshot_000912_20101129_234850
Winter’s Bone.

Roadside Attractions

Must Watch

A Fistful of Dollars (1967) (May 4)

Good Watch

Barbershop (2002)
Big Fish (2003)
Chuck & Buck (2000)
Clue (1985)
Coming to America (1988)
Gladiator (2000)
He Got Game (1998) (May 15)
Naked Gun from the Files of Police Squad (1988)
No Way Out (1987)
Winter’s Bone (2010)
What About Bob? (1991) (May 5)

Nostalgia Watch

The Bad News Bears (1976)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
(1987)

Bond Watch

A View to a Kill (1985)
Dr. No (1963)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
From Russia with Love (1964)
Goldeneye (1995)
License to Kill (1989)
Moonraker (1979)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Thunderball (1965)
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

If You’re Bored

Line of Duty Season 4
South Park en Español Season 20
48 Hrs. (1982)
Another 48 Hrs. (1990)
Arrowhead (1952)
Bad Influence (1990)
Bait Shop (2008)
Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004)
Beauty Shop (2005)
Cabin Fever (2003)
Cabin Fever 2 (2009)
Catacombs (2007)
Cecil B. Demented (2000)
Dark Blue (2003)
The Doors (1991)
Fatal Instinct (1993)
Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home (1995)
Free Willy 3: The Rescue (1997)
Law of the Lawless (1964)
Life is Beautiful (1997)
Maximum Security (1990)
Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear (1988)
Naked Gun 22½: The Smell of Fear (1991)
Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994)
Nick of Time (1995)
Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977)
Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
School Ties (1992)
Small Soldiers (1998)
Star Kid (1998)
Sucker Punch (2008)
Vikings Season 4B (May 2)
Bodyguards: Secret Lives of the Watchtower Men (2016) (May 2)
Outsiders Season 2 (May 3)
Flubber (1997) (May 5)
The Recruit (2003) (May 5)
The Red Pill (2016) (May 6)
All We Had (2016) (May 9)
A Hologram for the King (2016) (May 12)
Extraterrestrial (2014) (May 12)
Me Before You (2016) (May 13)
The Next Step Seasons 3-4 (May 15)
Underground Season 2 (May 18)
The Last Ship Season 3 (May 19)
Before I Disappear (2014) (May 19)
Bakery in Brooklyn (2016) (May 20)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016) (May 20)
Firestorm (2013) (May 21)
American Muscle (2014) (May 28)
A Perfect Man (2013) (May 28)
The Duel (2016) (May 28)
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll Season 2 (May 30)

TV Premieres

Downward Dog series premiere (May 18)

Original Programming

Batman & Bill (May 6)
Becoming Bond (May 20)
Casual Season 3 premiere (May 23)

Will – Releases UK on July 10

Laurie Davidson in ‘Will’

TNT has finally revealed the airing date for their fun new series WILL which mixes historical setting and story with modern music. The ten episode series, starring Laurie Davidson as young William Shakespeare, will start airing July 10! Shekhar Kapur directs with the cast also including Olivia DeJonge, Ewen Bremner, Colm Meaney, Mattias Inwood, William Houston, Lukas Rolfe, Max Bennett!
WILL tells the wild story of young William Shakespeare’s arrival onto the punk rock theatre scene in 16th century London, the seductive, violent world where his raw talent faced rioting audiences, religious fanatics and raucous side shows. It’s a contemporary version of Shakespeare’s life, played to a modern soundtrack that exposes all his recklessness, lustful temptations and brilliance.

 

 

 

Graduated LAMDA 2016

 

 

Reserve and Reticence – Part Eleven

Eleven – A Struggle For Life

 

Now that she had managed to negotiate a truce with her mother-in-law, Beth was able to concentrate on Stephen to the full. She certainly needed to do just that. Stephen was getting sicker by the hour, his fever rising to an incredible pitch. After a couple of hours, he became completely oblivious to his surroundings, suffering from long spells of heat, which left him soaked in sweat. Shivers of cold raked his body, breaking even more perspiration. After a few hours, the rash broke out, and it was worse than any Beth had seen on the children. It literally covered every square inch of his body, especially his face, and the pimps quickly turned into blisters.

Beth got really worried after Dr Forrester made an appearance and told her the situation was in fact desperate.

“My dear lady Brixton, I have to point out to you that His Lordship could very possibly die if we do not succeed in bringing down the fever. If it rises any higher, irreparable damage will ensue. So, at all cost, we must try and cool him.”

Consequently, the master bedroom was quickly transformed into a war zone and became a world apart. Stephen was carried to his dressing room by two footmen, who let him down into his bath tub, filled with cold water. The state of complete lethargy he was in, tore at Beth’s very heart. There was no reaction or cooperation coming from Stephen, which made it very hard for the footmen to handle him. Beth sponged his entire body while she supported his head with a hand, numb from the icy water. It brought down the fever only slightly. After a quarter of an hour, Dr Forrester ordered the baron to be put back into bed again.

Beth treated the blisters on his skin with talcum powder laced with lavender oil and dressed Stephen in a clean nightshirt. She made sure Trixie and the other maids had changed the sheets on the bed beforehand. She then tried to feed him some infusion of meadowsweet and lavender, sweetened with honey, but he would not swallow. Half an hour later, the fever was back in full force yet again, and the whole process had to be done over.

After a night of trying to lower Stephen’s fever to no avail, Beth had no strength left yet she did not give up. Dr Forrester had fallen asleep on one of the sofas, and the maids and footmen had been twice replaced by fresh ones, except for Trixie who had stayed by Beth’s side. The little maid meticulously looked after her mistress, making sure Beth took an occasional nap, when Stephen’s fever had diminished between baths. She also forced some food on her though she was not very successful there. Beth was hanging onto her fear that Stephen was in mortal danger, as long as the fever would not be broken. Her strength came from the love they shared and the fact that she could simply not abide the thought that she might lose her husband. Stephen simply could, would not die. She would rather die herself trying to prevent that!

 

~~~~

 

Henrietta, dowager baroness Brixton, was in sheer agony over her son’s fate yet she would prefer dying first rather than going to see how he was. But, how she longed to do just that! Stephen was her son, after all. The gift she received thirty years ago from her darling Septimus, and would she now lose him? The thought was unbearable!

So Henrietta finely cut the knot and marched into the sickroom after half a week of misery and waiting … and stopped right away in her tracks. The room was a mess! On every sofa and seat, there were people sprawled as if they had died there. One of them was her son’s physician, Dr Forrester. Henrietta had never seen him in such a deplorable state of dishabille, without a coat and with his shirt sleeves rolled up over his scrawny arms. A couple of bath tubs must have been added, and they were surrounded by huge copper jars, used for carrying hot water from the kitchens. Then, finally, her gaze was drawn to the large four poster bed, and her heart stopped with overwhelming fear!

The figure in the bed could have been a stranger she failed to recognize and surely not her beloved Stephen. The man was lying absolutely still, bony hands above the covers, face an ugly shade of grey and cheeks sunken so that the bones stood out like those of a skull. Stephen’s thin nose was like a blade jutting out of his face, and his lips were colourless and cracked. His eyes were closed and ugly dark pouches showed beneath them. His body showed a greyish white sheen that Henrietta recognized as a layer of talcum powder, through which the ugly blisters of the rash shone in a horrible way.

Henrietta became aware of something else – someone else, to be precise. Her hated daughter-in-law was sitting next to Stephen and was trying to make him drink something. She was holding Stephen’s head with one hand, and with the other, she was raising a cup to his lips, coaxing and enticing him to drink in a voice barely audible with hoarseness.

“Please, my love, drink this? Come, my darling, you must drink it. It will make you better, I promise you. Dearest, please, do not leave me. Please, Stephen, I love you so, do not die on me.”

This woman must indeed care a great deal about her son, Henrietta realised as she swallowed at the lump in her throat. She must have been at Stephen’s side the whole time, judging by the extreme state of sloppiness she was in. Her hair was like that of a scare crow, coming down from its pins, and it was obvious it had not seen a brush or comb for several days. Her clothes were filthy and wet, she wore shoes nor stockings and her face was ghastly and tear-stained. It was clear to the dowager that Beth was near complete exhaustion. How had she managed to hold up until now?

Beth’s monotone voice, coaxing her husband to drink, tore Henrietta back to reality. She resolutely stepped toward the bed, gently took the cup from Beth’s hand and spoke in a sweet voice.

“Come away, child. I will take over so that you can rest a while. You do not need to leave his side. I will order a cot to be placed here, next to Stephen’s bed, so that you can watch him while you rest.”

Dr Forrester, who had woken shortly after Henrietta came in, agreed whole-heartedly with these arguments.

“My lady dowager is right, Lady Brixton. You are wearing yourself out, and it would not help your husband at all, should you collapse.”

Beth seemed in a state of shock, and it was not until the cot was brought in and Henrietta gently led her to it, that she finally looked at her mother-in-law.

“He is dying, Mama-in-law,” she croaked, “ I did all I could but I will … lose him … nevertheless.”

The last words came out in bits and pieces, as if Beth had no breath left. Tears were running down her face now and heart-rendering sobs were raking her chest. Without thinking, Henrietta took the trembling girl into her arms and hugged her.

“Now, now, child, do not despair yet. He is still breathing, but we must join forces to make him better again. I have left you on your own far too long to deal with this wretched disease. Now, go and lie down.” With gentle but firm gestures, she pushed Beth onto the cot and tucked her in herself.

 

~~~~

 

The rest of that week – the second of Beth’s only-too-fresh marriage to Stephen – passed in a haze of misery and hard labour. Trice the Reverend Carter, who had come over as soon as he learnt about the Baron’s dire condition, administered the last rites to Stephen, so convinced as the minister was of his lordship’s imminent demise.

Henrietta and Beth, too exhausted to cry, had equally been certain they would lose Stephen. His colour was deathly pale, the skin of his face parched and dry, and his crackled lips revealed his teeth as they parted to fight for air. In his state of extreme fatigue, Stephen’s chest heaved as he laboured for breath, making Beth cringe every time he managed the effort.

Yet Stephen kept clinging to life, hour after hour and day after day. Dr Forrester professed he had never had a patient so strong and tenacious as to resist death for so long. Yet, although Stephen was still alive after seven days of high fever, his health was rapidly failing since his nurses did not get much sustenance into him. He was too weak to swallow so Beth and Henrietta took turns in trying to get fluids past his dry lips. It failed – most of the time – yet the two women stubbornly held on, refusing all defeat.

One day, Raleigh asked Beth to come down with him to the great entrance hall, which – to her astonishment – was crowding with people. Stephen’s tenants and their families and the entire population of Woolworth had come to pay their respects to their master and his lady. The Reverend Carter and Mr Sage had been chosen to convey the assembly’s support. Beth was near to tears yet she did not give in to weakness. Her voice but slightly trembling, she thanked them all on behalf of her husband, her mother-in-law and herself. Knowing she was not alone in her suffering meant the world to her.

The lovely drawing I used in my story is by Mrs Joyce Mould.