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

John Thornton, Look Back at Me – pt 9

Chapter 9      John and Margaret’s Reunion   Maxwell and Edith Lennox took Margaret to the train station to meet the Professor for their visit to Milton. “You know, Margaret,” Edith teased her, “it is quite scandalous of you to take off to Milton so early in your bereavement, but I must say that I envy your courage.  We’re very happy to see you settle into something that you really will enjoy.  You’ve been unhappy for so long.  I think you have found a very agreeable place working alongside the Professor.  I’ll miss you so when you move to Milton … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Fifteen

Fifteen – Troubles Anew   During the following days, Beth mostly devoted herself to her husband’s recovery. It was greatly needed. Stephen, whose fever caused him to lose a full stone, still felt fairly weak, and was greatly irritated by it. He could only manage half of the work he had set his goal to, an experience that was utterly new to him. It was Beth’s task to watch over her beloved husband and see that he did not overdo it.   ~~~~   It was the end of May, and the weather granted mild, sunny days, crisp mornings and … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Fourteen

Fourteen – Regaining Dignity   Poor Dr Forrester almost fled from the baron’s bedchamber, his face flushed like that of a little boy who just got caught with his hand in a biscuit tin. Beth shook her head in mild disapproval. “You should not have done that, my lord. The good doctor has worked himself into exhaustion to save you.” “I know, my love, and I will express my gratitude to him in due time. But now, I have other plans.” He grinned mischievously at her and held out a hand. “Come here …”, he breathed and Beth obeyed, suddenly … Read more

John Thornton, Look Back at Me – pt 7

Chapter 7        She’s Not the Margret, We Once Knew   As the large crowd milled outside, talking, John made his way through to the chapel steps and entered the church.  He seated himself near the front, across from where Margaret was likely to be.  The organist began to play and the assembly filed inside, quickly filling the pews, until there was standing room only.  Searching through the mass of people, John finally noticed Margaret, walking down the aisle.  She was accompanied by a man and woman, who could only have been her husband’s brother and sister. John thought.  … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Thirteen

Thirteen – A Glimpse of Heaven   Consciousness lurked at the edges of his mind but proved too hard to grasp. Extreme weakness prevented him from doing what he most wanted; to open his leaden eyelids, to move his granite limbs, to let words past his cracked lips. It was as if he were immersed in a tepid sea of slowness yet it seemed of vital importance to him that he should fight this drowsy state and become awake. His body itched something terrible, he realised suddenly. His body … he became fully aware of it, when the itch plagued … Read more

Reserve and Reticence – Part Twelve

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

Reserve and Reticence – Part Eleven

Eleven – A Struggle For Life   Now that she had managed to negotiate a truce with her mother-in-law, Beth was able to concentrate on Stephen to the full. She certainly needed to do just that. Stephen was getting sicker by the hour, his fever rising to an incredible pitch. After a couple of hours, he became completely oblivious to his surroundings, suffering from long spells of heat, which left him soaked in sweat. Shivers of cold raked his body, breaking even more perspiration. After a few hours, the rash broke out, and it was worse than any Beth had … Read more

John Thornton, Look Back at Me – pt 4

Chapter 4      Maybe Someday   It had been two years since he’d heard that soft, lovely voice, now, depressingly fading to a whisper in his heart.  Hardly believing the moment, he slowly turned around, and she was there, standing off to the side on the veranda.  Margaret was pulling all the air from his lungs. John audibly inhaled as he took in Margaret’s vision which had been captured in his mind since he first met her.  Was there any beauty on earth to match hers?  . . .  He didn’t think so.  Margaret, once his entire future, stood before … 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

John Thornton, Look Back at Me – pt 3

  A Visit with Dixon 1853 summer Upon discovering that Margaret had married, John spent the next few weeks trying not to sink through the hole in his heart, until he could visit Dixon and discuss the content of her letter.  Still determined to understand the meaning of her statement about why Margaret married, he wrote, requesting a few moments of her time on the day he planned to be in London. In addition to losing the greatest love of his life, John now feared the loss of his mother.  She was growing weaker and more staid, appearing increasingly deficient … 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