Reserve and Reticence – Part One

One – A Fine and Unforgettable Day   On one of those rare, sunny days in March 1820, the village of Woolworth, near the estate of Brixton Abbey in Leicestershire, was teeming with people wearing their best clothes. They were celebrating the opening of St Mary’s Primary School for children – girls as well as boys. This joyful event was due to the indefatigable exertions of Miss Elizabeth – Beth – Williams, daughter of Woolworth’s former vicar and previously, governess to Lily and Oliver Bradley. It had been a lifelong dream of Beth’s, to teach children – and especially girls … Read more

Reserve and Reticense – Part Two

  Two – A Visitor from Abroad   The following weeks, Beth and Mr Sage organized the school to the best of their abilities by applying a strict routine of learning and playing. Alternating lessons with physical exercise and periods of relaxing did wonders for the children’s concentration. There were twelve pupils at the school, six of each gender, ranging in ages from six to twelve. Mr Sage, the assistant curate, was in charge of the boys of whom there were two farmer’s boys, Mattie Benson, ten, and Peter Rathcliff, twelve. They had French and Latin together with Oliver Fenton, … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Three

Three – A Curse Came Upon Us   On April 3th 1820, little Josie Robinson stayed home from school. Her eight year old brother, Crispin, the eldest of the two, came to inform Beth about it. Mr Robinson, Brixton Abbey’s steward, thought his daughter’s fever was way too high to leave her bed. Two days later, all the children were home and in bed, with a high fever, a cough and an ache in every muscle and limb of their small bodies. Stephen Fenton came to Beth’s cottage to tell her Lily and Oliver were also ill and that she … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Four

Four – Besieged   Life settled into a strange pattern in the quiet village of Woolworth on the Brixton Abbey estate in Leicestershire. Every activity plied itself to the routine of St Mary’s Primary School, yet the school was no longer a school, it had become a hospital. Nevertheless, there was a strict schedule to its activities. First tasks every day were the ablutions and breakfast, which took a part of the morning. The children were not so ill that they could not take care of their personal hygiene nor help Beth preparing bacon and eggs. At least, not all … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Five

Five – Fighting Side By Side   For the next three days, Beth and the baron worked side by side in never-desisting labour. There was much to be done during the day and the night. The children’s fever had risen a bit, making them very tired. They were asleep most of the day and had to be spoon-fed because of their weakness. The baron – as Beth was prone to notice – was very good at this. This fact baffled her, to be honest. She had never known him to be patient or simply kind to small children. By God, … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Six

Six – Priorities   At that moment, someone banged on the kitchen door, and Beth heard a voice, shrill with horror and panic, calling out her name. Ruby’s voice …  In a frenzy, Beth tore open the door, pelted down the stairs, past an astonished Stephen and snapped open the kitchen door. “Oh, Beth! I think little Johnny has caught the disease! Look! He is burning up with fever and he won’t suckle!” She dumped a bundle into Beth’s arms and threw herself in the arms of her husband, who was as horrified as she. For a few moments, Beth … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Seven

Seven – Rectification   The next day, Beth was to find out that His Lordship had left the house. She had gone to bed right away the previous night, after the baron and Ben Merton had stepped outside. Ruby insisted on that since Beth’s face still showed a tinge of grey. The smallpox situation had changed for the better in more than one way. All patients were recovering nicely, their fever gone and their rash reduced to mere pimples. The children were up and playing again. Little Johnny was suckling his mother’s breasts with enthusiasm again, to his parents’ delight. … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Eight

Eight – Persuasion   Looking up into Stephen’s face, Beth suddenly saw him through a haze of tears. He was toying with her, he could not be serious. “L … love? You speak of love when … all you wanted before was …” She could not speak those hideous words aloud, she simply could not. “To bed you?” Stephen completed for her, then smiled sadly before he continued. “Dear Lord, but I have made a blithering mess of it, haven’t I? Forgive me, my love, for hurting you with my haughty ways.” And he took her in his arms where … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Nine

Nine – Lull Before the Storm   “Thank you, Hawkins. I won’t be needing you anymore tonight,” Stephen said as his valet finished dressing him for his wedding night. “Very well, my lord.” Something in his valet’s tone made Stephen raise an eyebrow at him but his long-term servant – close as a friend – showed him a face as impassive as a statue’s. “Out with it, Hawkins! What is it?” “I do not know what you mean, my lord! I just wanted to wish you good luck.” Now, there was a grin on Hawkins’ face as he hurriedly left … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Ten

Ten – Savour the Moment   Stephen woke to the sound of voices coming from the connecting dressing room, where Hawkins was admonishing Trixie, now Beth’s lady’s maid, to be quiet. He smiled and turned his head toward his wife whose naked body lay beside him. She was lying flat on her stomach and her delicious little derriere stuck up like that of a child. The sight of those perfectly shaped pink peaches gave him a sudden jolt of desire so strong he wanted to grab her, turn her onto her back and yet again take her on the spot! … Read more