The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Seven

Chapter Five Ketteridge House, Leicestershire, England, December11 th, 1815  “Do you ride, Miss Drake?” Alex asked, a few days later. They were sitting next to each other in his carriage, a hot brick at their feet and a woollen blanket covering their legs. It had been Rowena’s idea to go visiting the more remote tenants on the estate. Now they were heading back to Ketteridge House. Rowena wondered how she came to be so comfortable with the earl, after what he had done. After what he had made her feel … He had not repeated his actions, though. Oh, they … Read more

John Thornton, Look Back at Me – pt 20

Chapter 20      A Dinner and a Rose   The following week, John visited Slickson to talk about the rumors of his retirement from the cotton business. “John, I admit that I’ve been giving it some thought and somehow a rumor has spread that I’m getting ready to sell.  That part is not exactly true because I’ve not made a firm decision.  However, my wife is in a state of health that will not allow us to travel for many more years. “I’m very sorry to hear that.”  John said. “Thank you, I know that you mean that, John.  Over … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Six

Chapter Four (continued) Alex could not have explained why he wanted to do this, not if his life depended on it. He just knew he had to do it, as if it was something so important that indeed his life would change if he refrained from it. He found himself besieged by the urging, vital need to learn what Rowena’s face looked like. To know what others saw when they looked at her. He needed to explore her features and store what he learned in his mind, so that he would be able to draw forth her image whenever he … Read more

John Thornton, Look Back at Me – pt 19

Warning: Adult Content, this chapter Chapter 19      More Then Joy   Finding John unwinding from the excitement of the day, lounging across the couch, Margaret curled up beside him. “Today was so wonderful.  I can’t think of any other day in my life that I have enjoyed more.  Sadly, I think I shall have to be going home tomorrow.  John, thank you for these past days; they’ve meant more than you could know.  They have been the loveliest and happiest days of my life, ever” “Do not thank me.  I need no thanks from the one I love.  I … Read more

John Thornton, Look Back at Me – pt 18

Chapter 18      The Gift   Hearing Dixon coming through the door downstairs, John and Margaret grabbed their clothes and scattered to their own rooms, laughing hilariously, like school children putting a frog in the teacher’s desk.  John quickly dressed and returned to the parlor, just as Dixon came up from the kitchen. “Hello Dixon, I didn’t think you would be back this early.  Did you have a nice time?” “Yes, I did.  Master, I don’t know if you noticed, but it’s snowing again, not nearly as hard as before, but I thought I’d better get back in case it … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Four

Chapter Three Ketteridge House, Leicestershire, England, December 4th, 1815 It had become urgently clear to Alex that he needed to find out all there was about Rowena Drake. She would, however, not be forthcoming; on the contrary, she was extremely reticent, as if there were a deep and dark secret in her past. She was also avoiding him, and taking extreme care not to be alone with him. “Porter, be so good as to search a tome for me from those shelves over there.” Alex and his batman were in the library, working on the ledgers. Or better, trying to … Read more

John Thornton, Look Back at Me – pt 17

     Christmas Eve Day and  Night   The first rays of the sun were glistening off of the re-frozen snow crust.  Christmas Eve day dawned brightly with no apologies or explanations or new edicts expected.  Coming out of her room, Margaret inhaled a wonderful pine scent, and found John standing in front of the tree.  He was looking at the cranberry strands, which now stood out as red swags, in the sunlit room.  She watched him as he leaned against the back of a chair, long legs crossed at the ankles, arms folded, looking at the tree without knowledge of … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part Three

Chapter Two Ketteridge House, Leicestershire, England, December 2, 1815 The next day, the weather was still extremely harsh. The snow had stopped, but the temperature had dropped considerably. The fields now lay buried under a blanket of solid ice. Alex readied himself for a meeting with his Leicester solicitor. Septimus Middlebridge was in his mid-sixties, and had been his father’s man for as long as Alex remembered. A tall, wiry man with a large beacon of a nose in a long, thin face, and piercing blue eyes, Middlebridge still wore a wig in the style of thirty years before, powdered … Read more

John Thornton, Look Back at Me – pt 16

Chapter 16      A Sensual Moment   Margaret woke with a start, suddenly conscious of the fact that she didn’t have a holiday gift for John.  She didn’t have anything for anyone.  She was sure it wasn’t expected of her this year, but she must talk to John to ensure he wasn’t going to purchase a gift for her. Finding him dressed for the day, already reading his paper, Margaret said, “John, I want to talk about gift exchanging.  I know there is a Thornton Proclamation, in effect, but I would have liked to have gotten you a small gift, … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat -Part Two

Chapter One (continued) When the strong, warm hands were taken from her marble-cold flesh, Rowena moaned in protest. She wrenched her eyes open, only to see the back of a tall, dark-haired man disappearing from her sight. An elderly, motherly looking woman with a shock of white curls escaping from under her mop cap immediately replaced him. “Oh, me dear little duck,” she crooned, “Wha’ were ye doin’ out on a hellish day like today? And you wi’ child and all! Come, me pet, let’s get you cleaned up and fed.” With an effort, Rowena shifted in the bath. The … Read more

John Thornton, Look Back at Me – pt 15

Chapter 15      Sacrificial Altar   As the evening grew late, they both said goodnight in the parlor and went their separate ways, with John striving to treat Margaret as a guest.  Morning was much the same; a casual conversation about Margaret’s plans for the day and John being her ride and guide.  A big part of her furniture was due today, and she had promised to visit the Professor’s staff with Dixon at her side.  John was starting to realize how difficult it was going to be to step back from Margaret.   This was my idea, and I’d … Read more

The Reclusive Aristocrat – Part One

Chapter One   Ketteridge, Leicestershire, England, December 1, 1815   She was going to die of sheer exposure. She was exhausted. Her limbs were shaking with the effort of simply putting one foot before the other. Her heart was pounding with exertion and weariness, but Rowena Drake doggedly kept trampling through the deserted copse. She had planned to escape the sting of the heavy snowstorm by leaving the road to find shelter in the undergrowth. The springy trees gave little protection, as they were now bare. The early winter dusk was quickly settling, and Rowena was desperate to find somewhere … Read more

John Thornton, Look Back at Me – pt 14

Chapter 14      A Gentleman’s  Agreement   Margaret strolled over and closed the door to his library, forbidding even the warmth in the room, while she read the letters.  “Why am I doing this?” she wondered.  “This would not have happened with the old Margaret,” she told herself. Sitting down, she pulled out the little pile of letters from the drawer, all addressed to her.  She noticed a mixture of dates and wondered why John had never sent them.  Two were before their London meeting on the veranda, and the rest were after that day.  None of them were finished.  … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Twenty

Twenty – A New Step Toward the Future   By the time the necessary explanations had been given, the long summer day was nearly over and Beth and Stephen had returned to The Queen’s Head with Oliver. The boy had consented to accompany them home but only because Mr Charles Thornton had convinced him of the necessity of a proper education. “You need to learn all about accounting and economics, young fellow!” Mr Thornton had lectured. “You must know how the machines operate, what techniques are used to make cotton, how to manage a factory like Marlborough Mills, if you … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Nineteen

Nineteen – A Lesson Gained the Hard Way   Having hired a horse from Burton, Stephen galloped into Manchester at breakneck speed. He was seething with rage at Oliver’s incredibly stupid decision of hiring himself out to a cotton manufacturer, just to taunt his father and prove his rebellion. As Stephen knew all too well, a cotton factory was a hellish place, especially for the small children the money-eager factory owners were so fond off. Employing a child was very profitable, their wages being very low. Their protests were non-existent, since often the child’s wages were the only source of … Read more

John Thornton, Look Back at Me – pt 12

Chapter 12      Welcome Home,  Margaret   The London station platform was filled with people, but at least she had missed the early surge of London workers.  Margaret had ensured that her baggage was properly stowed onto the huffing train and glanced down the long line of coaches on the track, recognizing that they led to paradise, to her destiny once left behind. Booker’s family said good-bye to her and had just left the station.  It was a sad time, for she liked them very much, and they loved her.  They promised to come visit her and asked her to … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Eighteen

Eighteen – Solutions   The following morning, Stephen and Beth set off for Manchester in the Brixton Abbey travelling coach, a comfortable and spacious carriage that easily accommodated eight people, if necessary. Each of them was lost in their own thoughts as they progressed through the luscious, green fields and hills of Leicestershire. Beth pondered over the account Stephen gave her of his conversation with Oliver. Because he had been raised as the heir to a title and an estate, Stephen behaved exactly as his father once had. He was firm and strict in dealing with his equals, yet stern … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Seventeen

Seventeen – Consequences   Pacing before the empty fireplace of their bedchamber, Beth failed to find solace in it. She came up here after a yet another day of fruitless searching, wanting to escape the chaos downstairs, where servants and family were going about their businesses in a dazed way, upset as they were with Oliver’s disappearance. She fervently hoped Stephen would come home with some good news about the boy, who was now missing for three whole days. Three days! Hundreds of horrors could have befallen Oliver as he wandered the dark country roads all by himself and without … Read more

John Thornton, Look Back at Me – pt 10

Chapter 10      The Cottage   They walked arm in arm down the tree-lined street, towards the cottage that John hoped someday would be Margaret’s.  He was thrust into the feeling of incredible contentment welling up inside of him.  He didn’t care to analyze it; he just wanted to hold this tender sensation inside him forever.  John noticed  the little house several times on his courthouse days.  He was still finding it hard to believe that they were strolling toward a possible residence for Margaret’s return to Milton.  John suspected she might like it.  Its appearance seemed to be well … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Sixteen

Sixteen – Looking For A Missing Boy   After it had become evident that the missing Oliver was not to be found on the Abbey grounds, a large party was assembled, consisting of all footmen and tenants, who were not immediately necessary to the estate’s adequate daily functioning. Their mission was to begin searching in an ever widening circle, starting from the Abbey grounds and through the fields and woodland surrounding the estate. Stephen explained this to the assembly in clear words. “Last night, my son went to bed at his usual hour of nine o’ clock, as the maid … Read more