Hearts Adrift – Part Three

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

Hearts Adrift – Part Two

  Chapter Two   “Are you certain, sir, that you want to pursue this matter? The streets are extremely dangerous in Paris right now.” The young man’s pleasant countenance grew serious, causing Richard de Briers to turn a sharp eye on him. “What is it that you are saying, Jake? Are the streets barred? Bridges over the Seine destroyed, maybe?” Jake Davies had been acting as Richard’s business man in Paris for the last four years. He had begun his life as a London street urchin and Robert de Briers had caught the boy trying to steal his handkerchief one … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part One

Chapter One   At Bearsham Manor, Hampshire, England, Sir Robert de Briers, baronet, lay dying. His ragged breathing was shallow and fast, indicating that the end was near. This last apoplexy had proved too much of a strain on Sir Robert’s heavyset, gout-infected body, even though his mind was as sharp as ever. With considerable effort, he opened his pale blue, bloodshot eyes and searched for the tall figure of his son and heir, Richard. Sir Robert had one last, yet most urgent request for him. “Come, my son, come closer…” Richard de Briers obeyed readily and bent down on … Read more

The Reform of John Thornton – Part Sixteen

Chapter Sixteen   Soon thereafter, I took my leave of the sanctimonious couple. They had infuriated me more than I could stomach. I would have had a row if I had stayed any longer. How dared they criticize Mr Hale’s honest doubts in his faith when the poor man had been tried the way he had been? His son was banished from England’s shores, for heaven’s sake! And then the manner in which they treated their children! They were nothing but unpaid servants, no, they were treated like slaves! At least, the children in my mill had been paid for … Read more

John Thornton Meets Fitzwilliam Darcy … or How Everything Is Possible in a Period Drama Christmas Story

Milton, Lancashire – December 24th, 1850 Tomorrow was Christmas, and it should have been a merry time. Another year was over, and Marlborough Mills had done reasonably well, despite the strike. Or should I say, it had been doing well before the strike? Ah … Men would seek to better themselves, and strive to bring down mill masters who stood in their way. I, John Thornton, was in their black book even more, because I brought in Irish workers to do their jobs while the strike lasted. Yet who could blame me for trying to save my business, no matter … Read more

The Reform of John Thornton – Part Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen For the next three months, I fought tooth and nail to keep my business afloat. I travelled to Birmingham, Leeds and even London to find some new investors, but alas, to no avail. Latimer would not see me again when I applied for an interview about a new loan. Needless to say I did not pursue Ann Latimer further. I was relieved about that, at least. On one day in late spring, I received a visit from Mr Bell, my landlord. He was an Oxford academic from a wealthy family, who had invested and still was investing money … Read more

The Reform of John Thornton – Part Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen   I rose from my chair behind my desk, all my limbs stiff with fatigue. It was late, I guessed. Just then the whistle blew, indicating the end of the evening shift. Ten o’ clock. I went to the window. Little Tom Boucher sat on the rough wooden planks of the loading bank, his feet in their scuffed boots dangling from it. He was reading aloud from a book. That was a most intelligent lad, I mused, while I donned my coat. I went to stand beside him, reading over his shoulder. He was spelling the words diligently, … Read more

The Reform of John Thornton – Part Twelve

Chapter  Twelve   One day in early October, I was in the courtyard, when I witnessed my overseer Williams, who was chasing away from the mill an individual who I had come to loathe most assiduously. Nicholas Higgins seemed to have mustered the effrontery – and the courage, I must admit – to come and ask for work. I knew he had been dismissed from Hamper’s mill after the strike, and also, why. The firebrand and his abominable union wanted the workers to pay contributions to keep up a fund that would sustain them when there was a prolonged strike. … Read more

The Reform of John Thornton – Part Eleven

Chapter Eleven   I came home in a state of shock and disbelief. To find myself betrayed by the first woman I had ever loved, was a cruel blow. Granted, she had never been mine to begin with, but I had professed my devotion to her with an honesty that she must have never experienced in the jaded drawing rooms of London. I knew I was not a gentleman in her eyes, but surely that was to be preferred over the sly, equivocal pretences of London, where no one ever spoke the truth. Apparently, Margaret thought otherwise. And, moreover, she … Read more

The Reform of John Thornton – Part Ten

Chapter Ten   I walked the streets in a state of numbness, not seeing or hearing a thing. Barely was I able to comprehend what had just happened to me. The pain, however, was already fully in attendance. It was a wound I would carry with me for the rest of my life. I know not how, but eventually I reached Marlborough Mills, and the house, where I ascended the stairs to the parlour, feeling drained and utterly cast down. I noticed Mother was not sitting on her usual sofa, but in a smaller chair, close to the hearth. She … Read more