Channel 4 has released a trailer for the second series of historical drama The Mill.The new six-part series covers the period between 1838-1842, focusing on the lives of the mill workers against a backdrop of turbulent social, political and industrial change.Series 2 begins at 8pm on Sunday 20 July on Channel 4. UK
This is a time of the great Chartist rallies and the birth of modern democracy with the movement for the right for working class men to vote sweeping the country. The drama is driven by a spirited young cast who depict a moment in history when the working classes were beginning to demand a say in their own lives. Just four years have passed since the end of first series but now the effects of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which made a distinction between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor, are starting to take hold and desperate economic migrants from the South of England are beginning to arrive at the mill in search of work.
BBC Two has announced a new adaptation of Sharpe creator Bernard Cornwell’s best-selling series of books, The Saxon Stories.
Adapted by Stephen Butchard (Good Cop, House Of Saddam), the eight-part historical drama series is described by the BBC as “a show full of heroic deeds and epic battles but with a thematic depth that embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love, loyalty and our universal search for identity”.
The Last Kingdom is a co-production with BBC America and Downton Abbey makers Carnival Films.
The official synopsis reads: “Set in the year 872, when many of the separate kingdoms of what we now know as England have fallen to the invading Vikings, the great kingdom of Wessex has been left standing alone and defiant under the command of King Alfred the Great.
“Against this turbulent backdrop lives our hero, Uhtred. Born the son of a Saxon nobleman, he is orphaned by the Vikings and then kidnapped 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 Viking? On a quest to claim 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, seek to recapture his ancestral lands.”
The Last Kingdom begins filming this autumn.
Executive producer Gareth Neame commented: “Cornwell’s Saxon novels combine historical figures and events with fiction in an utterly compelling way.”
He added: “In the hands of Stephen Butchard we believe it will make original and engrossing television drama. In part the epic quest of our hero Uhtred, it is also a fascinating re-telling of the tale of King Alfred the Great and how he united the many separate kingdoms on this island into what would become England.”
Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning, said: “I hope The Last Kingdom will expand BBC Two’s distinctive portfolio of drama. It’s an epic narrative with an extraordinary creative team. It will feel like nothing else on television, with all of the scale and intrigue of the best fantasy stories but the reality of fact.”
Download for electronic reader in pdf format
$3.00 Loyal Wynyard Books
Chapter Twenty Eight
Over the next two days, Margaret helped John with his knee bends, and taking a few stair steps several times a day. While there, she summoned Thane to Marlborough Mills so John could teach them about international shipping. It took most of the afternoon but John felt sure they understood the whole concept. To create a few positions, he suggested they use several people to work in her new ‘shipping and receiving’ department. One or two people would learn the shipping international operations plus handle all the incoming invoices, ensuring they were charged for exactly what they received. John told them many times he would find his incoming goods were a little lighter than what he was paying for. It didn’t stop until John started sending the payments for his actual goods received and not his billing invoice. John calculated the shipping shortages over time more than paid the wages for the person in charge.
Thane asked, “Mr. Thornton, what are your thoughts of Lady Mills challenging the other Masters?”
“I think it’s incredibly brave, but I have to wonder if you are ready to lay Margaret and your new reputations out there so quickly,” John offered. “I know what your Mistress wants to do. What do you think about it yourself?”
Needing no time to think, Thane responded, “It’s not only me, it’s the whole mill. Our long time workers really want the challenge. They want to feel proud for once in their life even though they do not expect to win. They are certain they will have a good showing. The new workers are so happy to be working fulltime that they have become caught up in the spirit. They know they are working for a very unique Mistress and mill. I think by the end of this month we will have most of the issues worked out. Next month, we will be more attuned to working in harmony throughout the mill and will start our international end of the business. The month after that, we’re ready to lay it all on the line. I can tell a lot of Masters are anxious to meet Miss Margaret and know her mill better. Oh, one other thing. We are getting another accountant in, along with keeping that clerical young man, Robbie. Could they visit your accountants in order to learn how to run international through the books? The tariffs are new to us.”
“Certainly,” John was further intrigued by Margaret’s endeavors. “See them before you leave here and set up a day this coming week. As for the challenge, it will be brought up at the next Chamber meeting and placed in the Chamber newsletter, giving everyone two months to apply for the challenge. At the end, we will have a celebration meeting to announce the winner, but also introduce you and your Mistress to the other Masters. I would suggest you plan an open house sometime within a week after the competition. I know they’ll all be interested in the dye which I do not think many know of yet. If your challenge turns in some impressive numbers, I know they’ll want to stick their noses in your mill and see what might be different. I am most anxious to visit out there myself, probably later this coming week.”
“Thank you Mr. Thornton, extremely helpful as always, and it’s good to see up and around again.” Thane said, standing and extending his hand to John.
“You are most welcome. Any time I can help. Good day to you, Thane.”
Margaret walked Thane to the front door of John’s home, speaking to him about a meeting they needed to schedule. “Do you have any reservations about putting Carlton in charge of shipping and receiving?” John heard her ask Thane as they opened the downstairs door. John hoped one day to know all of her mill people as well as his own.
As Margaret returned to his parlor, John spread his arms wide for her to come to him. She walked up to him and flung her own arms around John, just at his mid rib cage. She remembered to be careful of his injuries. John hugged her shoulder to shoulder and rested his chin on top of her head.
“I want to love you, soon,” John said in a hushed voice, while swaying her side to side with his eyes closed.
“I thought you loved me, now,” Margaret jested.
“You are such a little imp. Cannot you ever be serious?” John said as he poked lightly at her nose tip.
Margaret stretched up on her toes and pulled John to her lips. She licked his lips, indicating her desire for him to part his. She then entered his mouth first seeking to feed from him. He swirled her tongue, suckled it, returned the favor, as both hummed moans to each other. He was creating a passionate cresting. Margaret pulled his one hand from around her and placed it on the swell of her breast, encouraging him to explore as far as he wanted. She wanted it, too. He pulled her to the couch where they could both be comfortable and John picked up where Margaret had guided him. He took one of Margaret’s hands and laid it upon his rigid arousal, encouraging her to clutch him as he did her. John released a loud moan as he covered her mouth. “I love you Margaret Hale,” he said in a soft whisper after the kiss.
“As I do you, John Thornton.”
“You are going to marry me after the Mill Challenge, did you know that?”
“You think so? I am thinking I will marry you only if I win the contest,” she challenged. “We have things . . .to . . . to . . . settle . . .” Margaret began to swoon, “and learn about each other,” Margaret said in a sultry voice as John stroked her cleavage with his tongue.
John responded through his wet licking tongue that dove between her mounds of flesh, “I know all I want to know about you, I only need to feel and taste the rest. I think we need to do repeat your hospital visit,” John said, devouring all he could reach.”
Margaret pulled away, blushing bemusedly. “I think I’d better sit over here so we can talk,” she said as she rose from his lap and walked to John’s fireside chair. His face glistened with moisture around his lips. “First . . . we’re both dominant people. Who will be the head of the family?”
“Well, I will, of course,” said John grinning, but bracing for the argument.
“All right. I was hoping you would say that. I know that surprised you, but after a day’s work, I do not want to make all the decisions. You can do that. Just do not try too hard to dominate me.”
“As if I ever could,” he smiled. “Next?”
“What do we do about our mills? Keep them separate – join them? Do I become Mistress at your mills and you Master at mine?” John was pleased to hear she had been thinking of serious questions that should be discussed.
“Honestly, I have not given that much thought. I think anyway that we or you want to do that, will by fine by me. We will be partners for life. Do not forget. I do not think either of us has family who would care to share in our wills, to make any difference. Next?”
“Do you want children?”
“Yes, but only if you want them, too. And if I can place my order now, I would like a daughter first.”
“I do not know much about your family. Do you have any?”
“Only my sister, that you’ve met. Next?”
Margaret was struggling to get around to the real question or perhaps it was more of a worry, but she had come to the end of the other questions.
“Margaret, you seem to be hesitating. What is left out there? You know about my past life with other women where their importance to me was merely superficial. It has to be in the realm of love or passion for you to become uncertain of what else to ask.”
“Well . . . Is it possible that we could not . . . fit . . . be compatible together? I know you know what I mean.”
“No. There is no possibility of that being a problem,” he said.
“But . . . when I was touching you before . . . I . . . started thinking and . . .”
John came off the couch and across the room to Margaret about as quickly as he could move. “Hugging her tightly, he said, “Let me do the thinking there. Do not worry about that at all. We will talk about that when the time comes, hopefully very soon,” he slipped in.
“Soon, is it?” Margaret said, looking into his brilliant blue eyes.
“I seem to recall you crawling into my bed in Helstone in the middle of the night. You didn’t care a wit that I slept with no clothes. Didn’t you have a request of me that night?” John chuckled, while holding her tightly, riveted to her eyes.
Margaret reddened. “I thought I was losing you and I wanted you to be the one –– the first and only one.”
“Do not worry yourself, my love, that is still in the planning stages.” John smiled. “I must say that the planning of this is so new and so sweet. I am thrilled with expectations. I have never actually planned to make love before. This being your first time, well, it means it’s extra special for us both, never to be repeated exactly. But soon I will make love to you – I will not have sex with you – and the anticipation is killing me. I wish this cursed leg was better. You would understand what lying four weeks in a hospital, no longer in a coma, waiting for you, has caused me to plan my loving you and our life together.
* * *
The following week was quite busy and exhausting for John. He knew he was doing too much getting back into his routine. But he could not find a resting point. He visited his mills to the accolades of his workers. They were overcome with their display of happiness to have him returned. Each session found John praising Nicholas for his great works and personal assistance. “He is an excellent partner and a valued friend.” He would tell them.
John attended the next Chamber meeting and was met with a hail of “welcome back” chants. Many sincere sentiments were expressed about his recovery – coming back from the dead as they called it. Most of the members commented about his hair and the visible scars.
He took the stage for a small presentation, still using his cane. But he now sported a limp rather than a hobble. “There is something that has come up that has me standing here tonight. First, I will tell you that this is my first week back to work and I am still very tired. I will leave for home after I have spoken with you and, at another time, I will go more in-depth about my accident. I just won’t do that tonight. I am going to save a an introduction for a future meeting to introduce the future by welcoming our first woman mill Mistress, Miss Margaret Hale into our industry and our city. I have yet to see her running a mill myself, and am most anxious as I am sure you all are, about how she runs her business. What I am doing here tonight is to inform you that Miss Hale has offered an official challenge to any masters that wish to compete against her for one month on the calculation of Percent to Sales Increases.” John knew he would hear the rumble of voices roll toward him from the attendees. He was sure they thought it was silly for her to offer such a challenge. Surely a woman could not compete with them.
A gentleman in the audience rose to speak. “I am sure we have all been taken aback about her, but surely she cannot compete against any man here. Is she crazy?”
“Like I said before, I do not know her operation, but I do think you should not underestimate her. To be fair to all that register to compete you should know that she has taken on an additional 100 people from her former mill, but as we all know, that will not impact Percent to Sales. However, as many of us have expanded our own mills over the past year, you should know that Miss Hale is just now starting to receive a few international orders. This will be new to her and will impact her volume. That may impact her Percent to Sales slightly. As I said, they are just starting that as they recover from their move. Lady Mills will have had three months to sort out all of her back orders, so that will not be an issue either. Nicholas and I and Mr. Latimer, our town banker, cannot see any unfairness anywhere. There will be no grand prize, but perhaps something small to proclaim your victory, but this is mainly for Miss Hale, who wants to establish herself in your mind that she is a viable Mill Mistress. Her workers also want to prove themselves to you. I believe they are the catalyst behind this. We should all have such dedicated workers.”
“What about them clothes she wears?” someone hollered out.
“I do happen to know the answer to that, and it will be explained at the Winner’s meeting, where we will introduce her. I must say, you will be surprised. She is not like any lady you have ever met. She is a gentleman’s daughter, but has no nobility in her lineage. She actually abhors that social status and wants very little to do with the “airs” of the gentry. I’d say she is come to the right city to get away from that. So, there you are gentlemen. Oh . . . since this is the end of May, the contest will run from September 1, through September 30th. There will be a registration form coming soon, leaving June and July to register. The accountants at Mr. Latimer’s bank have offered to tally the final results upon inspection of your books. They will do a small audit to ensure that all figures presented are correctly stated. Thank you, gentleman, and good night.” John left the podium walking to the door while the crowd applauded his speech and his return as their leader.
During the month of June, John and Margaret hardly saw each other. John had much to catch up on, and Margaret was burning the midnight oil training and teaching her people’s responsibility for the work they did. She wanted to instill the pride in her new people that her senior workers had had for many years. She had many meetings with staff and hourly workers over the month, hammering out misunderstandings, her expectations, and lecturing those who didn’t seem to work up to her level of responsibility. Margaret was pacing herself. In July, she knew she would form the strategies she felt necessary to win while still honing the newer workers and introducing the international orders. International orders meant nothing really to any worker with the exception of her shipping and receiving crew, now headed by Carlton. By August, she figured she could be sailing along with few problems. This position left September for the best operational month. She would ensure all equipment was inspected, repaired and the normal maintenance done. Nothing would hold her down for even half a day in September. She encouraged anyone who needed time off, other than an emergency, to do so before September. She selected people who could be ready at a moment’s notice to go to an overnight shift if the orders were strong – she wanted all orders filled, and she would hire more people to have them trained and at the ready, to take over the slots where the day workers went to nights. She would be overstaffed, but she didn’t want one order to go unfilled past September 30th. All of her plans were in place which she kept from other inquisitive Masters, wanting to ferret out her strategy. She knew no man wanted to lose to a woman.
* * *
The end of July found that 46 mills were going to participate and Marlborough Mills was one of them. John invited Margaret to his home for dinner, wanting to discuss the challenge. The fact he would be running against her and talk about her own mill operation that he had finally seen first-hand, but hadn’t had a chance to speak with her about it.
Nigel drove a very pretty Miss Hale to Marlborough Mills. Arriving there, he jumped down to lower the steps and hand her out. He escorted her to John’s front door. Before John could open the door, she whispered to Nigel,” Do not worry about picking me up this evening. Mr. Thornton will see that I get home, when I am ready to leave. I might not be home at all this evening,” she finally said with a wink.
“I understand, Miss”
“Please do not say that you understand, because I am not sure I understand these things yet.”
Nigel just smiled at her. “It’s good to get these understandings sorted, Miss.”
“Whose side are you on? I think you’re sassing me.”
“Yes, Miss. Grayson is a most apt teacher,” Nigel laughed.
John came to the door and offered his arm. Nigel told her to have a nice evening and reined himself home.
John pulled her into his arms as soon as they had stepped through his door. “I have missed you terribly. He leaned down and took her breath into him as he kissed her. John savored every area on her face as she pulled him as close to her as she could. “Margaret, how I love you,” John said as he squeezed her gently into his arms.
Margaret’s eyes were misting now. It had been so long since feeling the heat of his embrace and the pressure of his body against her breasts. She returned the sentiment. “I love you, John Thornton, more than anyone or anything ever in my life or ever will be in my life. You are my dearest treasure.”
Again, John kissed her passionately. Pulling back and wrapping one arm about her shoulders to escort her upstairs, he said, “You look stunning tonight in your frock.” As he was looking over her dress he was studying the bindings. Tonight he hoped she would allow him to love her. For their first time, he desperately wanted to properly pleasure her.
Margaret thought it best to settle in a chair for the beginning of the evening. She had a feeling tonight would mean something very special to her; she didn’t want to know how wonderful her anticipation would be. As she looked at John move about the room getting their drinks, she found it hard to believe that such a handsome, intelligent man could love her like she had never dreamed possible. If she wasn’t seriously contending with the mill’s challenge, she had be an emotional puddle waiting for John to take her. John always had women chasing him, but she wanted to be different. Coping with her new internal emotions around him, she doubted she had be very successful. But that didn’t bother her because she already had him. He loved her. “He loves me,” she repeated in her mind when he looked at her.
John handed Margaret a brandy he thought she would like, and sat across from her in his fireside chair with his scotch glass. “You may be happy to hear this. The registrations have closed and you have 45 challengers, many more than I anticipated. It’s interesting to hear some of the conversation out there about you. You have them all scratching their heads to begin with and now it seems you have the effrontery in making this challenge,” John smiles, breaking out in a proud grin. “They’re all dying to meet you, so keep yourself tucked away one more month. Besides, I do not want anyone proposing to you behind my back. You have remembered you are to marry me when the challenge ends?”
“The way I remember it, I would marry you if I win the challenge.”
“You must realize there are 45 seasoned Masters running against you,” John said, as he swirled the scotch in his glass. “The law of averages is not in our favor for marriage then.”
“What? You have no confidence in me? Are you like the other men?”
“Yes, of course, I do. I also think you’re brave, but one must play the odds when the stakes are high.”
“Well, we will just see about that Mr. Thornton. Tsk.”
“So, tell me, what have you done so different to prepare you for this challenge? You won’t hold August orders to be filled in September, will you?”
“That, sir, would be cheating! How dare you think I could be that underhanded,” she beamed with her most haughty smile. “Did you happen to enter the challenge?”
Looking a bit smug, John told her he had. “Do not forget, I am the current President of the Chamber; it is expected of me. But fair warning for Lady Mills –– we will not hold back for her.”
“As I would hope to expect, Mr. Marlborough Mills.”
“Since I will be a challenger, I won’t ask you how your numbers have been running since you arrived and started your iron, but what kind of increases were you looking at in Helstone?” John asked in all seriousness.
“Do you happen to know the average increases for cotton mills and all mill types combined? “ she countered. “I have been meaning to ask you, so I know what I am up against.”
Yes, I always know those figures. What do you want to know?”
“What was the average sales gain for cotton masters in March? That was my last full month of sales I had.”
“That would be 6% over last year. For all mills combined, it would be 9%. Most of the non cotton mills are just coming around to their first anniversaries, and their increases will rise consistently higher in the first five years. Does that make you nervous, hearing those numbers? Of course, you’re only competing against the cotton Masters. So, you’re probably looking at an average, overall, of 6%-8%, but the challengers know this, too, and feel they can best those numbers.” John studied Margaret for any signs of dejection. She should have asked these questions before she made her challenge. He could not tell by her posture or expressive face whether she was affected by those increase amounts. Her mill had been in existence for a long time and it’s very hard for older mills to consistently show increases. He felt a little sorry for her.”
“John, would you tell me what your increases were in March?”
“No, I do not mind telling you; we usually pull in close to 9% every month.”
“Oh . . . really? Now I understand the smug face earlier,” Margaret laughed.
“And what about Helstone Mills? Would you care to share numbers with me right now?”
“I do not think so, after hearing your numbers. Near the end of the contest, I will tell you. I am a little embarrassed, but at least I am higher than the average.” Margaret knew her current sales increases had been running over 14% for about nine months. Now rolling out of July and into August, she was tending toward a 16% increase. It looked, perhaps, that she would be married soon, after all.
“Margaret, I wish you all the luck. I won’t hold back. In fact, I am doing nothing different since I am confident in my numbers as they are, but I sure hope I do not beat you. You’ll never marry me then,” he said smiling. “I think our dinner is ready.”
After a very tasty dinner, Margaret and John settled on the couch and conversed. “So, you didn’t tell me what you were doing to win this race. Have you done anything out of your normal pattern of work?” John asked.
“Yes, I have. I feel prepared but That is about all I will reveal. Again, that is something I will tell you about near the end of September.”
“Margaret, you already amaze me and every man in the mill area. I am not sure I can handle any more of your showing off. I am so proud of you and proud that you are mine. We will make a wonderful and truly compatible couple, you know, even if you embarrass yourself in the challenge – I will love you regardless.”
“Will I embarrass you to your friends if I do poorly? You know word is getting around that we are a couple?”
“I could never be embarrassed with anything you did, ever. I want everyone to know how I love you. But where is this talk coming from, do you think?”
“Oh, I am sure it’s from my own people as they get to know others. I think they are tired of hearing me talk about you all the time.” Margaret’s smile faded as warm feelings began swirling inside her, while John stared and listened.
John pulled her to him and kissed her lips. He slowly worked his way down her neck to the top of her breasts. Then he heard Cook coming up the steps.
Quickly, they sat properly in their places. John said, “Cook, thank you for a fine meal. Margaret was just telling me how much she enjoyed it.” He saw that Margaret was nodding her head in agreement with him.
“Thank you, Master and Miss. I have just come to say I am going home. You will have to fend for yourselves now. Good night.”
“Good night, Cook,” John replied as he turned back to Margaret. “Did you hear what she said?
“What do you mean,” asked Margaret.
“You’ll have to fend for yourself. Did I tell you that my leg is back to normal,” John asked with a wink and a smile.
“Please, Miss Dashwood, I can’t let yer do that! Ye said the colonel was lookin’ into the guv’nor’s family. ‘E might find the solution and I’m thinkin’ we ought to wait for ‘im to come back! Ye can’t go runnin’ off to that Wilkinson bloke on yer own!”
“Jack, I can and I will! I must learn what Wilkinson is hiding and if he has done harm to Douglas. Are you coming with me or not? I will go alone, if I must! Now come along, I have to find Johnny the groom.”
Muttering under his breath, Jack followed me to the Delaford stables and went to wake Johnny. The boy appeared soon thereafter his wake-up, yawning and complaining of his being waken in the middle of the night.
“Johnny, listen to me. You are my friend, are you not?”
The boy nodded but was still sulking in aversion.
“I need your help, Johnny. Jack and I are going to Watcombe Manor now, while it is still dark. We fear that Jack’s employer, Mr Spencer, has come to some mishap at that place and we want to investigate. If we are not back by morning, say ten o’clock, you must go to Mrs Ferrars, my eldest sister, or to Colonel Brandon, if he is back. Tell them where we have gone. The colonel will know what to do as will Mrs Ferrars. Do you understand all this?”
“Yes, miss. I’ll do as you ask, miss but I don’t like it. I don’t like it a bit!”
“Johnny, please, just do as I ask. All will go well since Jack is with me. Now, can I count on you?”
“Yes, miss, you can.”
“Good,” I replied, “Oh, and Johnny, can you lend me a pair of breeches and a coat?”
Johnny’s jaw – and that of Jack – dropped in sheer consternation.
As we sped over the dark roads of Devonshire, my thoughts kept circling around the latest events in the case. Of course, I was fully aware that I was rash in my behaviour by going after Wilkinson on my own, all the more, that I was acting without the slightest hint of a plan as to how I was to do this. I could not just knock on the front door and ask to see Mr Wilkinson in the middle of the night and without a convincing story. Moreover, how would I find out if he really was the one behind all this and how would I be able to prove it? Yet, there was but one thing I could do in my present state of anxiety for Douglas – I had to find out for myself.
It would be impossible to enter the Watcombe estate by the front gate which would surely be closed for the night. The fence and wall were at least twelve feet high and therefore insurmountable. Yet I had fled the estate on foot, through the woods, without encountering any walls the night I ended up on the terrace of Douglas’ house. Jack and I first went to the country house where they had stayed. It was also better to leave the horses there and proceed on foot, which we did.
“Jack, let us make a deal. If we were to be caught, and one of us has a chance to run away, then do so. Do not look back, even if I am the one that is caught. I will do the same. Go straight to Delaford immediately and come back with help. Promise me, Jack.”
“Miss, please, what is it that yer afraid of? D’ ye think the guv’nor ‘s being held there? I don’t ‘ave a good feelin’ about this. We can stop right ‘ere, Miss, and leave it all to the Colonel.”
“No, Jack, I cannot. I must know about Douglas and I need you to help me discovering if he is held there.”
By now we were almost out of the Watcombe Home Wood and approached the back of house. The beautiful rose garden was closest to the terrace so we crept through it and crouched behind one of the fragrant rose hedges to observe the house. The distance to it was approximately fifteen feet and we could clearly see what was happening in the elegant room with the French windows; it was the same room I found so exquisite when I first visited.
Although it was long past two in the morning, the lights in that room were ablaze and Phineas Wilkinson was pacing the floor like a caged animal. Another man was with him, a giant of a man with a rough, forbidding face and a body as powerful as a bull’s – all muscles and weight. He appeared to be a common man, for his clothes were of drab homespun brown and he was holding his cap in his hands, a gesture of deference. Wilkinson was furiously arguing with this man, throwing up his arms in agitation and stomping his feet on the floor in his rage. We could not hear their conversation but we saw the other man pleading and debating with Wilkinson who became even more outraged by what the man was telling him.
“What’s goin’ on in there?” Jack whispered.
I shook my head but did not take my eyes from the scene.
“I can sneak around the ‘ouse and see if I can get in, somewhere, Miss. We ‘ave to get in and go look for the guv’nor.”
“Yes, I know but not yet. I do not think that he would be kept in the house if he was a captive since that would be far too dangerous. The servants would gossip about it and Wilkinson will not risk that. Besides, Jack, we do not even know for certain that Douglas is even here.”
“Aye, yer dead right, Miss, we could be making fools of ourselves an’ then where ‘d we be?”
All of a sudden the French window doors were thrown open and the two men came striding over the terrace, straight in our direction, which made Jack and me duck deeper behind the hedge. They passed us, Wilkinson still muttering under his breath, and headed for the Home Wood.
“What now, Miss? I daren’t follow them ‘cause that big bloke seems pretty strong to me! ‘E could break me like a twig wi’ those shovels for ‘ands of ‘is!”
“We must see where they are going, Jack! Come with me!”
There were obvious signs of poor grooming all over the gardens; weeds grew and paths were not kept. The same could be said for the Home Wood where the undergrowth was thick and lush. That was in our favour since we could hide ourselves well while we crept after the two men.
They led us to what looked like a grassy mound at the edge of the wood but was in fact an icehouse. Only the stout wrought iron door indicated that there was a room beneath the small, man-made hill. Wilkinson opened the door with his set of keys and he and his companion disappeared inside. Even from a twenty foot distance, Jack and I could understand each word they said, or rather shouted, inside. It was not only Wilkinson’s voice we heard but also that of an extremely angry Douglas!
“For the love of God, Phineas, will you not listen to reason?” he yelled. “We can make a financial arrangement between us. I am prepared to let you have all the money and take the estate off your hands. Let me run it for your benefit. I do not even need to have the title since I do not care about it! Keeping me here is pointless, Phineas!”
Wilkinson’s joyless laughter sounded hollow.
“It is your own fault, Douglas. You should have stayed overseas instead of returning to good old England trying to rob me of my rightful inheritance. No, cousin, this is the best way to ensure that you are in no position to thwart me. I am keeping you here until your birthday and then you will sign over the estate and the money to me. Maybe then I will let you go free.”
“Hell and damnation! If I ever get my hands on you …”
Douglas broke off when the sound of a blow whipped through the still night air.
“There! He really is a nuisance, this cousin of mine. He never learns. Check him, Dobson! I do not want him dead, at least not yet.”
With the blood pounding in my ears, I found myself trembling with fear. Had Jack not kept a hold of me I would have burst through the iron door and … and do what? Tears of powerless rage were rolling down my face but there was nothing I could do.
When the two men emerged from the icehouse, my mind was already searching for a way to get Douglas out of there. Jack must have guessed what I had in mind because he clapped his hand over my mouth and held me even harder so that I could no longer move. Who would have thought this slender youth to be so strong? I tried to struggle free but to no avail. It must be his fear that gave Jack extra strength.
“For God’s sake, miss, keep quiet!” he adamantly whispered into my ear. “Yer not helping the guv’nor by being caught!”
He was right, of course. As the two men walked back to the house, I put up a conciliatory hand and Jack released me.
“We must try and get him out of there, Jack!”
“Well, miss, we can’t! ‘Ow yer gone break down that door, I ask ye? Come on, we’re ou’ o’ ‘ere!”
“No, no, you go, Jack. I want to keep watch. Wilkinson might move him to some other place and then we would never find him. I will be careful, I promise.”
‘Alright, miss, but don’t do anything stupid. We won’t ‘ave you a prisoner too, you know!”
A voice froze my blood. “Too late, my young friend! Dobson, grab the boy!”
Wilkinson quickly had me in a stronghold and I screamed as loudly as I could. Dobson reached for Jack but he had clearly underestimated the former London street urchin. Jack kicked him in a delicate place between the legs and bolted. Within seconds the darkness had swallowed him up.
“Confound it, Dobson!” Wilkinson’s voice boomed.
Dobson lay writhing and moaning, his hands between his legs; Wilkinson fumed and swore. His hold on me slackened a little and I took the opportunity I was presented. I bit his hand as hard as I could, deeply sinking my teeth into the soft flesh of the palm until I tasted blood. A hard blow on my temple ended this and darkness engulfed me.
Ian McKellen has tweeted the first photograph of himself starring as a nonagenarian Sherlock Holmes in the Bill Condon mystery Mr Holmes.
The new film, which will hit cinemas next year, centres on an aged Holmes who becomes obsessed with one final case. It is based not on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original 19th century stories about the famous English sleuth, but the 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin.
Tweeted McKellen, 75: “Over 70 actors have previously played Sherlock Holmes. Now he’s 93 years old and it’s my turn.”
A Slight Trick of the Mind features Holmes as an elderly man unable to walk without a cane and with a failing memory. He lives with a housekeeper and her son, and makes an effort to talk with the son about his life before he forgets it entirely. Laura Linney will co-star in the film version, for which principal photography began last week on location in the United Kingdom.
Condon is the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Gods and Monsters, which he also directed, and the Golden Globe-winning director of period musical Dreamgirls. He also wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning musical Chicago and directed sex drama Kinsey. Condon’s most recent film is last year’s Julian Assange biopic The Fifth Estate.
Lucy Honeychurch, a young Englishwoman, makes her first visit to Florence, Italy in the early 1900′s. There, she meets a quiet yet eccentric young man named George Emerson. Upon her return to England, Lucy must decide whether to follow through with her marriage to her stotic fiance, Cecil, or follow her heart and her growing attraction to George.
Helena Bonham Carter
Daniel Day Lewis
Jennie Wade was a civilian
Hometown: Gettysburg, PA
Category: Jennie was the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg
Before Gettysburg: Born May 21, 1843, Jennie Wade and her brother lived in their family home in Gettysburg, where she worked as a seamstress with her mother. To make ends meet, they also took care of a 6-year-old boy named Isaac.
July 1, 1863: On the morning of July 1, fighting at Gettysburg erupted and the family fled to the nearby home of Jennie’s sister, Georgia McClellan and her newborn son, on Baltimore Street. Jennie spent most of the rest of the day distributing bread to Union soldiers and filling their canteens with water. It was hazardous work and would soon become even more so. The Union retreat to Cemetery Hill soon placed Jennie and the rest of the household in the direct path of danger.
July 2, 1863: By late afternoon on July 2, Jennie’s bread supply dwindled and it became apparent that more would be needed the next day or the energy level of the troops would diminish drastically. Jennie and her mother prepared more that evening, leaving the yeast to rise until the morning of the third day of battle.
July 3, 1863: At about 7 a.m. on the morning of the July 3, Confederate sharpshooters began firing through the north windows of their house. At 8 a.m., amidst the pings and ricochets of bullets flying through the house, Jennie set about preparing biscuits. At about 8:30 a.m., while Jennie stood in the kitchen kneading dough, she was struck in the back by a Confederate bullet that had traveled through a wooden door, killing her instantly.
Sadly, Jennie’s tragic story does not end there. Jennie was engaged to a Union soldier from Gettysburg named Corporal Johnston “Jack” Skelly who, unknown to her, had been mortally wounded two weeks earlier in the Battle of Winchester. Private Wesley Culp, a Gettysburg native fighting for the Confederacy, who had gone to school with both Skelly and Jennie, came across Skelly at a field hospital where the wounded soldier gave him a note to pass on to his fiance, Jennie.
Unfortunately, the note never made it back to Jennie. On the same day she was killed, Culp, still carrying the message, died during fighting on his family farm at Culp’s Hill. Skelly lost his battle to live on July 12, just nine days after Jennie Wade and Wesley Culp were killed. Today Jack Skelly and Jennie Wade lie in rest close to each other in the Evergreen Cemetery at Gettysburg, together again.
After Gettysburg: Known as Gin or Ginnie to friends, her name was incorrectly reported in a newspaper as Jennie and she has been referred to as Jennie ever since. After her death, Jennie was buried in her sister’s yard for about six months, then disinterred and moved to a nearby cemetery adjoining the German Reformed Church, until her third and final resting place in November 1865, in the Evergreen Cemetery. The Jennie Wade Monument was erected in 1900 and is one of the most popular and most visited gravesites in the cemetery. An executive order was issued to allow a flag to fly 24 hours a day at her gravesite. The only other woman in the United States that this executive order applies to is the gravesite of Betsy Ross, at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
An actor whose sad eyes and brooding presence often get him cast as moody, tragic figures, John Lynch first lent his haunted charm to the title role of Pat O’Connor’s Cal (1984). Cast as a young IRA recruit who falls in love with the widow (Helen Mirren) of a man he has killed, Lynch earned wide praise for his sensitive, complex performance, and more than held his own opposite the more seasoned Mirren.
Born in Corrinshego, Newry, Northern Ireland, on December 26, 1961, Lynch was raised as the eldest of five children (his sister, Susan Lynch, also went into acting). He got his first break during his second year at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, when he was picked to star in Cal. Following his work on the film, Lynch dropped out of the movies for almost a decade, preferring to work on the stage in England and Ireland. When he resurfaced in front of the cameras in the mid-’90s, he began working steadily, appearing in films ranging from Agneiszka Holland’s celebrated 1993 adaptation of The Secret Garden, to Jim Sheridan’s acclaimed political drama In the Name of the Father (1993), to John Sayles’ similarly feted family fantasy The Secret of Roan Inish (1994), which also featured Lynch’s sister, Susan.
In addition to In the Name of the Father, Lynch did starring work in subsequent dramas that focused on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Among them were Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s Nothing Personal (1995), in which the actor portrayed an apolitical but conflicted Catholic; and Terry George’s Some Mother’s Son (1996), an account of the 1981 Belfast prisoner’s hunger strike that, in addition to casting Lynch as IRA prisoner and strike leader Bobby Sands, reunited him with Cal co-star Mirren. In 1998, he appeared in the little-seen This Is the Sea, a romantic drama about the relationship between a Protestant woman and a Catholic man living in post-1994 cease-fire Northern Ireland.
Lynch has also worked in films that have taken him out of the geographical and topical boundaries of Northern Ireland. Peter Howitt’s Sliding Doors (1998) saw him play Gwyneth Paltrow’s hapless, two-timing boyfriend, while Best (2000), which Lynch co-wrote with his wife, Mary McGuckian, who also directed, cast him as the title figure of real-life football legend George Best. And, like many actors hailing from that section of the world, Lynch has also put in time in various period dramas, including the 1996 TV adaptation of Moll Flanders. ~
Here is a clip of John Lynch in “The Secret Garden”
I have been watching Bleak House once again and wondered how many films he was in with the same hair style . . . long. LOL
Here are a few and they way I always think of the man.
Download for electronic reader in pdf format
$3.00 Loyal Wynyard Books
Chapter Twenty Seven
Arriving home about two hours after she had departed, Grayson met her at the door as always while Nigel reined the coach for the stables. Margaret’s face was bursting with smiles; she could not help herself, until she saw Grayson in the light of the parlor. He handed her another port, replacing the one he had removed from under her nose at dinner. Margaret thought he looked like a cherub. He was ecstatic and struggling to keep his stoic composure for which he was so famous. Margaret knew that he smelled victory for his gentleman.
“You have a very smug look about you tonight.”
“Yes, smug. You know . . . self-satisfied. That smug.”
“If M’lady says so.”
“Do you smell victory?” Margaret asked.
“Mr. Thornton said that he was going to ask me to marry him, when I have accomplished what I want to do.”
“I am well pleased, M’lady.”
“That is it? Well pleased? My greatest happiness is on the horizon and all you can say is that you are ‘well pleased’?”
Margaret threw up her hands, downed her port and headed to her room. She could not wait to be in the tranquility of her bed and return to the memory of her new found sensuality. She undressed, slipped on her thin nightshift and went to her mirror. “Certainly, I have changed. I am a woman now, or almost. Why cannot I stop smiling?” Margaret stared at herself for a long time. Aside from the unbreakable smile, she looked the same but knew a woman had matured within her being this night. Margaret flung herself into bed, ready to dream about her ecstasy with John. She hardly remembered what happened after he had lifted her buttocks and pulled her snuggly against his hard ridge. She remembered being swept away by his closeness, his intimacy and then his fever which ignited her, turning her into pliable dough. Her bones melted as the flame raged in the folds of her womanhood. Once the passion unfurled she was hopelessly lost in him; whatever he wanted, whatever he did to her, she could not get enough of him. Margaret remembered with embarrassment how she had clamped her legs around his waist. It seemed to have been a good thing to do. John responded to her needs from that moment and took her to a place she had never been to. Even though it felt more sexual than sensual, the look in his eyes and the feeling in her heart, said it was love. John was an experienced sexually mature man but even he was surprised at what transpired. Margaret laughed at his looking forward to experimenting. An overwhelming feeling settled on her that she was desirous and she wasn’t going to be an old cold maid. She drifted to sleep with dreams of what was to come.
John had a difficult few hours finding sleep. He didn’t think he knew himself now. Or was it he had to learn how to handle love. In the moment of uncontrolled passion, John had to sate himself with just the touching of her body to his. The fear of losing her was great and he needed to quell his anxiety. He found himself going from an animal to a man overcome by the wholly unexpected response he was receiving from his lady love. John smiled thinking, “She may be a lady, but she is tortuously a woman in all aspects.” All he could think about before falling asleep was how he had to gain his strength back. He wanted strength to love her like he needed to love her.
* * *
With Higgins on one side, Margaret on the other, and John with his cane in hand, made their way to the back of the hospital. The word had circulated that John Thornton was being released this day and every newspaperman and trade publication journalist was outside, waiting for interviews or just some statement from the man, himself. Branson was waiting outside the hospital’s front entrance, intending to keep the journalists decoyed into expecting him there. Margaret had Nigel waiting out the back door with her coach. John had finally told Margaret that her horses, wagons, and coaches needed to travel over land to get to Milton. She could train load the horses but the wagons and coaches would be left behind . . . so That is what she had done. It took her caravan of horses and wheels almost four days to make the entire trip. She did not want them to rush.
Arriving at John’s Marlborough Mills home, Nicholas took most of John’s weight on his shoulder to help him up his front steps, and ultimately up the high stairs. The mill workers that saw John exit the coach had to come over to say welcome back, and other greetings. They were truly glad to see him alive and well and home. John’s hair had a long way to grow before being back to his normal length. It was easily seen by those close the terrible scars that ran down his head like two white snaking rivers where the hair follicles were still too short to cover over the jagged lines. There were gasps among some of the workers but John still smiled and waved to them as best he could.
Nicholas turned to his friend and said, “John, you know we’re going to have to plan a meeting with our people soon, at each of the mills. They’ve been very worried about you.”
“As soon as I am able, Nicholas, I want to do just that. I am extremely tired of all this bed rest. I will take a few days to get around the house and then I will spend a week in the office before I start back in fine fettle. I am feeling very well, except I tire on this leg and have an occasional headache. I know how Margaret felt when she arrived here and had to stay in bed but would not.”
“Did I hear my name?” Margaret asked, coming into the parlor behind them, carrying John’s coat over her arm and Nigel carrying his bag. “In here, Nigel . . . I think. This looks like his bed chamber. I thought I was going to live here awhile but it didn’t work out that way.” Margaret marveled at the austereness of the room. It was clean of course, but devoid of any type of ornamentation. She smiled, sensing he was much as herself. Buy only what you need and use. Figurines and the like were of no interest to Margaret, even though she had inherited a rather large collection of various objects d’art. She loved the wall hangings but the dust catchers she could do without. There could be a fortune in those little china treasures but she would never know it. To her, it gave the appearance of ‘putting on airs’. In fact, she had carefully walked her new home and had many of them packed away on the fourth floor.
Jane and Cook appeared at the top of the steps and cheerfully welcomed their master home. Once John had regained most of his memory, he told Nicholas to keep them on, pay them, allow them to come in a few days a week, until the last couple days before he returned. Cook had prepared his favorite meal today.
John ambled over to the couch and sat down with his leg propped up on the length of it. “Ah . . . ‘tis great to be home. Thank you Nigel for bringing my bags. I hear you and Branson have become good friends. Branson says that you know all about the mischief that is going on in this city. You must have had a very interesting job. Are you sure you want to be domesticated in a service position?” John asked, smiling.
“Quite so, Master Thornton. Mistress Hale is such a handful to work for. She keeps everything interesting, but you never know from one moment to the next what she is going to need you to do. Being her driver is not as traditional as I thought it would be. I am finding it very much to my liking. That entire house staff have great attitudes and Grayson is wickedly funny to work under. We scheme all the time.” Nigel finished in a lowered voice.
“Has he taught you properly how to take care of a top hat?” John asked.
“Yes, he has, Mr. Thornton. How did you know that?”
“I have absolutely no idea, but it just came to me. I guess he appears that sort of man in his own right, very proper. I do not know of any homes with butlers in Milton, as yet.”
“What is that you’re saying Nigel?” Margaret asked, returning to the room from sorting John’s bag of clothes.
“I was just telling Master Thornton how nice it is to work for you and Grayson. Life is never dull. Miss, if there is nothing further, I will be at the coach.”
“Nigel, I will be here a while. Either visit with Branson or come back in an hour or so for further directions.”
“Very good, Miss.” Nigel tipped his cap and left, going down the backstairs toward the Thornton stable.
Nicholas Higgins walked to the bar. “I think a small celebration is in order, do not you?” he asked, raising a brandy bottle to Margaret and John.
“I have been waiting for a celebration,” said John.
Margaret finding a seat said, “Yes, me, too.”
“Thank you, Nicholas,” John said. “I will have a scotch and Margaret will have a peach brandy, I will bet.”
“Is there any peach brandy?” Margaret asked, surprised that John should suggest something they had never discussed.
“There should be, Nicholas,” John offered.
Nicholas did the honors, handing them around and then poured himself a different brandy. Peach just wasn’t to his liking.
They all sat and toasted the miracle in the room. John had beaten the odds that he would be sitting there today. The doctors had well documented his every stat, reaction, and outside influence – Margaret being most of that chapter.
“Margaret, I am so sorry that I have missed documenting your tremendous burden in this brave act of moving a working mill. I know being asked to remain in the hospital still longer after the cast was removed, forced my missing your final push into Milton. Where are you now with everything?” Although he was very interested, John wanted her there for as long as he could hold her talking, afraid she had soon leave.
“All the iron is in the buildings and most is running. There is a clean-up and refurbishing at the old building before placing it in the hands of a Property Agent. We have got a ways to go in Lady Mills, as we’re still hiring and training but that is working more smoothly than I anticipated. Several of the looms must have slid in their crates and need minor repairs. Orders are now being filled since Thane has figured out the national shipping procedures from here. We’re still holding onto the international orders, waiting for your help. I think we will be running full bore by the end of the month. Oh, and by the way, I have had a clerical fellow do all the documentation of the move, to the best of his ability, not being a mill man. With the increase in workers, I am going to have to gather some accounting people soon, I see, and maybe he will stay on. I would like to have one smooth month under my belt, and then I would like to challenge all other Masters to a little wager.”
“Thank you for the documentation. It will be most appreciated by those that would like some information. Are you serious about a challenge?” John could not help but gawk at the sincerity on her face and the realization that she meant what she said. “Do not you think you need more time?”
“I could surely use it, but I want to find my own ground here and make a stand. I may not win but I think I will not embarrass myself. I’d like to quell any of the rumors that have started. There are many doubts which my staff are hearing out there amongst the mill workers. My people want to prove themselves so they can hold their heads up high. Do you think this is foolish?” Margaret questioned John with the wisdom of it.
“What type of challenge are you thinking about? Surely, it cannot be about volume output.” John made it clear.
“No, I am going for the big one. The one we all gauge our business on. Whoever has increased their ‘percent to sales’ over last year, same month. What is the percentage of improvement over a year ago.” She stated.
“Will you include your new international sales figures in that?”
“Why should I not? We have had the orders in hand for months. It’s just that I hope we can start filling them next month. I am already feeling a second shift coming on. Would not many of the Masters have expanded their business in some way, over the last year?”
“Yes, I am sure of it. I can see no unfairness there,” Nicholas said.
“Nor, I,” John spoke up adding his insight. “I know that will keep a lot of masters out of the challenge as their increases are probably modest, but everyone will enjoy the contest, regardless. We will make it clear that the sales can be counted when the goods are shipped. We will not count orders in hand or worry about when the payment is made.”
John looked at her with a proud smile, saying, “Miss Margaret Hale of Lady Mills, we have an accord. I will work to set the contest up three months from now. At the culmination of the challenge, we will have a Milton Mills party meeting, where I will also introduce you to everyone as well as declaring a winner. It would probably be wise for Mr. Latimer to track the figures, since he is a banker and not a Mill Master. I am anxious to speak with the other masters, just to hear what the word around the mills is about you.”
Nicholas laughed lightly and said, “There is a lot of head scratching and plenty of doubts floating around out there. They’re all stymied by a woman to start with. They do not know exactly how to understand it. There is no dissension anywhere, though, which is the good news. And she is had no trouble hiring.” Turning from John to Margaret, Nicholas added, “I can see where you will eventually weed out some of your early hires, unless they’ve changed their lazy habits because of your management.”
“Yes, we are documenting those workers, almost daily. If someone is slow because they are confused, we will train further, but a few of these people are lay-abouts and most likely drunks come nightfall. Aside from the long days and hard work, I have enjoyed the feeling of working among my peers. I feel I could travel to any mill and speak to any master about any problem I was having, if I wished. The two of you do not know how good it’s been for you to have others of which to ask your questions. I know we’re the ‘all knowing heads’ of the factory, but what do we do when we cannot facilitate the proper answer? I have had no one. Being in Milton is like being in a library with information and experience all around you. Most of all, though, I love seeing the coaches slow as they pass Lady Mills. They must think they’re going to see something different at my mill. Right now, the Masters must look upon me as a spoiled child, wanting to act like a grown up. Wait until the challenge. I will show them a serious contender in the business,” Margaret said smiling, but pounding her fist lightly on the side table for emphasis.
“Margaret, I can hardly wait to visit your mill. How about your home? You have sold it, have you not?” John asked, sipping his scotch.
“It sold almost as the last pieces of furniture were packed but I never told you it was sold. How did you know that?” Margaret asked, wondering where John got his information, but continued. “There were several offers of interest and I was fortunate to be able to pick my buyer and feel like it will be well taken care of. It was sad driving away that last day, watching it grow smaller in my vision. I know Grayson felt it even more than I. That has been my home for longer than I have actually owned it. I know my uncle would be proud of me, though. Another very nice delight is that there is interest in the Helstone Mills buildings. Well, I guess I should say there have been some inquiries. From what I understand there is a coach builder that is wishing to locate to Helstone. He will need a large place to store and display his coaches, plus, of course, the building of them. But through all this, the most important thing to me is that you are home and recovering nicely.”
Nicholas rose and walked to the bar to set down his empty glass. “I think I will take that as a hint and get back to work. John, just send Jane if you need anything. If you want papers or reports to look over, just let me know. How will you make out this evening with no one here?”
As John was about to dismiss needing anyone, Margaret spoke up. “I think I will be here, Nicholas. I know John wasn’t expecting that as you can tell by that wicked smile he is now wearing. I want to feel good that he can get around at night. He should not need anything from below stairs during the dark hours but we will experiment a couple nights anyway. Since he is still totally incapacitated for a while longer, I think my virtue is safe.”
John laughed, saying, “I wish I could be as sure as you are. Could it be my chaperone needs a chaperone?”
“Mr. Thornton, that sounds rather almighty of you. Could it be you’re the one needing a chaperone?”
“Is that a promise?” John said chuckling out loud.
“Now, I know I am leaving.” Nicholas smiled at both as he walked to the door. “John, I will see you in the morning if not before. I hope you have a good night’s sleep — finally. I know that hospital bed was too short for you. All right then, until tomorrow.”
“Good bye, Nicholas and thank you for everything. I have had many hours to reflect on what I have put on you these last seven weeks and how you managed to work with Miss Rose Bud.”
“John,” Nicholas said, pointing to Margaret, “there is your solution. She attacked the Rose Bud nightmare and resolved it all within 48 hours. That was her main reason for coming to Milton. She had no idea what had happened to you when she arrived but she was determined to see if Miss Rose was being an underhanded scheming woman. She can explain it to you. Good night, again.” With that Nicholas disappeared down the steps.
John waited to hear the front door close and then crooked his finger at Margaret, indicating for her to come to him.
Although both feeling anxious for the privacy, Margaret was not about to let him get away with such a playful hand gesture and a curving finger wagged in her direction. “And just what is that? Do you have hand therapy, too? Certainly, that is not directed towards me, like I am a pet waiting for his master’s signal.” She could not help but laugh, so she turned her back on him. “I think I will go downstairs and talk to cook. I should not be long.”
John could just feel the wonderful need to dominate, albeit moderately, in their budding relationship. He was a man not used to being deprived of the leadership role in anything he did, but he knew all too well that she had never taken directions from anyone either. Eventually, she would walk all over him and he would love every step she took.
It was several hours later when John was awakened by a gentle shoulder nudging from Margaret. “John, wake up. Your feast is waiting. I must say your cook has really outdone herself.”
John slowly opened his eyes, happy again to see that he was at home resting on his own couch. “I am sorry, Margaret. I must have dozed off. How long have I slept?”
“I think it’s nearly three hours, now. You had a rather exhausting early afternoon getting home and up those steps. Can you sit up, or do you need some help?”
“I could use a little help to sit up.” As Margaret put her arm under his neck to help him, he pulled her to him for a very firm kiss. Margaret molded into him, but knew the table was being set for dinner and Cook and Jane were up and down the stairs. She pulled away from John explaining her reasoning. He smiled at her.
“I tend to think you were jesting with me when you said you needed help,” Margaret said with seductive banter.
“Maybe help isn’t what I really needed but I needed that.” With the aid of his cane, John rose to a standing position with little difficulty. “I will be fine when I can gain some strength back in these legs and get this knee bent. Maybe you would like to give me some therapy this evening and force my knee to bend. That is where my greatest challenge lies, from what a doctor told me.”
“Of course, I will help you. Once you’ve changed into your nightwear later, we will get started on that. Can you sit at the dining table with your problem knee?”
“I have only tried that a couple of times at the hospital. It certainly does not bend like it should, but I can sit. What I have not accomplished is getting a sock and boot on that foot, yet. I cannot reach it.” John was swiftly struck with head pain and grimaced as he was making his way to the table.
“What is it, John, your leg?”
“No, it’s my head. The doctor said I will have bouts of headaches for another half year. I am to expect them to slowly ease as time goes on, but since I woke from the coma, they nearly stop me in my tracks. I have passed through the dizzy stage, at least. That was one of the reasons for an additional week in the hospital. Somewhere in my bags are some powders to take but I think I will try to work through this one. The food looks wonderful. I shall enjoy this second only to you.” John thought about the sumptuous meal before him, and this equally sumptuous lady dining with him. He felt he was in heaven.
John found a comfortable position in his dining chair, leaving his leg sticking straight out, under the table. As the cook set the final tureen on the table, John layered her with praise and expressions of ‘thank you’ many times over as he cast his eyes from one festive dish to another. There was enough food on the table to feed six people. They were small portions but a huge variety to choose from; he didn’t know where to start. “Thank you again, Cook, but I see you forgot to bring the trifle dessert. You have significantly outdone yourself. Please, you and Jane partake of all that will be left over,” John said reaching for the meat platter of beef and lamb. Margaret assisted in the items he could not reach. “A king could not dine better,” John said to Margaret and Cook.
“Master,” asked Cook, “the trifle was supposed to be a surprise,” she said, casting a weary glance at Margaret.
Margaret caught that look from Cook, and said, “I didn’t say a word, honestly. John, how did you know about the trifle?”
“I do not really know, but all my favorites are here with the exception of that. Surely, it has to be somewhere in this feast,” John said as he eyed the banquet spread out before him.
That was the third time that John had spoken about something he should not have known about. Margaret watched as he struggled to remain the gentlemen with proper eating etiquette and told him to stop holding back. “Dig in with his fingers if you want to.” Margaret told him. She watched as he smiled as he ate and then grimaced from the ache.
An hour later, with licked fingers and bellies about to burst, Margaret served them each a port to top off the banquet as they took to their seating in the parlor. “Outstanding,” John muttered.
“How long has Cook been with your home?”
“I do not really know, probably over ten years . . . ever since the mill first started showing a profit. So . . . tell me about you and my thorn, Miss Hawthorn. If it wasn’t for you, things could have been horribly different.”
“John you cannot know how different it would have been had you married her and discovered her scam. I know the gentlemen that you are and you would have been taken in by that awful woman. Someday, you must tell me how that all came about. I do not know you well enough but I just cannot see you being involved with her.”
“Margaret, I may tell you all if you ask, but I will say it was the lowest point in my life. All I can say is that, against my own better judgment, I was weak of the flesh and could not fight off the forced seduction. I literally nauseated myself and begged for it to be over just to get her out of my house and my life. I am sure my abrupt and rude attitude throughout the performance was what may have prompted her evenge against me. I think it very strange, but several days out of my coma, after you walked away, those words that you told me about how you unmasked her scheme came back to me. Even though I didn’t understand what you said while I was under, your words returned to me, with great relief. All I can think is that it was the last thing on my mind before the accident and it was one of the first things I thought about when I became fairly stable with my memories. Now, enough talk. Please come over and sit by me. I have been waiting almost two months for this time alone with you.”
Margaret smiled at John’s request and walked towards him. John was lying on the couch, with both legs stretched out as he had had to sit in his hospital bed. As Margaret approached, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her down on his lap. He wrapped her to his chest feeling her warmth and then pulled back to kiss her passionately. Margaret held him tightly around the neck as she accepted his warm moist tongue into her mouth. For many minutes, they could not get enough of one another. Passions were rising and John knew he would not be at his best, and slowed the fervor. He gently set Margaret away from him, still on his lap. Beaming, he said, “Margaret, I want to talk to you about your visit to me in the hospital.”
Margaret’s cheeks flushed red, more so than the fever John had ignited, moments ago.