Dearest, loveliest Meg – Part Seven

 

Margaret_001

Chapter Seven

 

I plunged through the rose garden of Watcombe Manor and I did not have the slightest notion where I was running to nor had I time to reflect upon it. I just ran as fast as I could. The most urgent thing was to create a great distance between me and that horrible man. It was not before I twisted my ankle and rolled headlong down a slope that I wondered where I was.

I was in a wood and my body ached all over. I saw that my bodice was ripped open and that one of my breasts had escaped my chemise. Flushed with shame I hastily restored my appearance. A violent wave of nausea churned my stomach as I recalled the touch of that beast’s fat hand on my breast. Thank God no one witnessed my shame and humiliation!

Wiping away the foolish tears on my face, I strove to restore my shattered wits.

Where was I? I forced myself onto my feet and winced as a sharp pain shot through my right ankle. I would have to endure the pain because I had to try and return to Barton Cottage without delay; I would inform my hellish half-brother I would not, under any circumstances, marry his disgusting friend! I started hobbling down the slope and deeper into the woods.

 

I do not know how many minutes I doggedly ploughed on but I just persevered with stubborn determination, although I had become hungry and tired. Eventually the trees thinned and I came out of the woods and onto a gently sloping pasture. To my immense joy there was a house at the bottom of it, a house I knew! I ignored my fatigued state and quickly ran towards it. My injured ankle gave way again and once more I found myself rolling down the slope, unable to stop myself.

It was a weird experience for, as I was sliding and rolling into the direction of the house, I could see the French terrace windows had been thrown open. A man stepped out onto the terrace and shouted something, but I was screaming with fright and could not hear him. Had he not hastened up the slope towards me, I would have crashed into the garden wall and more than likely badly hurt myself. The man caught me and slowed my downhill descent by flinging his arms around my body and holding me tightly. My rush was stopped. I was dizzy with pain. I rested my head against a warm, solid chest, inhaling an all too familiar scent of leather and woody soap. I looked up at my rescuer and found I was in the arms of my beloved rake …

“Well, Miss Dashwood, it seems that we are again destined to meet each other under unusual  circumstances, does it not? What in the devil’s name are you doing here, all alone and at nightfall?”

I hastily sat upright, my cheeks burning with embarrassment. Douglas’ eyes, blue fire in the sun’s dying light, widened suddenly and his mouth curved into his wicked grin. I followed his gaze down my body and gasped! My breast … !

As I raised my head, unable to move in my height of shame, Spencer’s hand slowly came up. With only the slightest of touches, he gingerly took my chemise and gently drew it up to cover me. I held my breath and gave a small, shuddering sob. With the back of his fingers he brushed my cheek and smiled at me so sweetly I felt my heart melt.

“What has happened to you, my dainty damsel ?”, he asked softly. “That was no ordinary walk in the woods, was it?”

I fiercely shook my head, lacking the courage, as well as the breath, to speak. By now, I was weeping and I was furious at myself for doing it! Yet, I could not stop …

Douglas did not move at all nor did he touch me. I was in a half lying, half sitting position and felt like a ragdoll. I looked like one too. After a while I stopped crying, finally recapturing my composure again. Douglas then rose, offered me his hand and drew me to my feet.

“Come, Miss Dashwood,” he said, “let me offer you some refreshment. You are looking very much  like you could use it.”

I was very grateful Douglas did not try to comfort me but, instead, led me into his study and indicated that I should sit down on the worn leather couch. My shame continued to burn and I did not wish to indulge myself further or melt far too readily into his arms, but that was precisely what I wished to do – most fervently.

When Twinkler was summoned, Douglas told him to show me to an upstairs room and give me some fresh clothing so that I could tidy myself a bit.  Twinkler brought me to a bedroom and opened the large cupboard it contained.

“ ‘Ere, miss, this should do very well,” he said with a friendly grin on his face as he handed me a long, dark red woollen coat. I thanked him and he left.

A little while later I entered the study again, feeling much better now that I regained some fragment of decency. Douglas was standing in front of the French windows and turned when he heard me. He waited until I was sitting on the edge of a sofa before he sank into a chair on the opposite side of a low table. He then crossed his fingers under his chin and rested his elbows on his knees. I opened my mouth to speak but he silenced me with a slight shake of the head.

“No, my dainty damsel, do not say a thing. You need to compose yourself. You are distressed. We will wait for Twinkler to bring us some tea and then you will tell me what has happened.”

As I looked at him from across the table, I saw him as the image of strength, composure and compassion. I loved him for that. No, I just loved him, without the merest hint of a doubt. He was a rake, dangerous and seductive, but I loved him because he showed me no unnecessary pity. He just made me feel strong again.

Half an hour later, I was done telling Douglas about my unpleasantness with Wilkinson. I felt drained and giddy with exhaustion but also very relieved. The fragrant Indian tea was most welcome.  My rake listened to me without interruption; he was  outwardly calm but his eyes burned with mounting fury as my tale unwound. When I was done talking, he took a deep breath and leaned back in his seat.

His voice was a level monotone when he spoke.

“It seems very clear to me, my dear Miss Dashwood, that there is only one vitally important thing I can do for you. I must get you back at Barton Cottage as soon as possible without anyone knowing you were here.”

I stared at him in consternation for a few moments, hurt by the remote expression on his face and the coolness of his tone. It suddenly dawned on me that I must not let him notice my distress. All at once something was very clear to me; Douglas Spencer would not tolerate a new stain on his already ruined reputation.  Should people hear of my short stay at Douglas’ house without a chaperon, he would have to fully take the blame and marry me. On the other hand, I would be brand as damaged goods and we would be banned from society, even after our marriage.

I rose and was relieved to find my voice steady.

“Very well, Mr Spencer, I would be very obliged if you would instruct Mr Twinkler to bring me home. I thank you for your help and I must ask for your forgiveness for inconveniencing you with my troubles. Goodnight, sir.”

He did not stop me when I walked out of the room, still limping slightly on my injured ankle.

 

Barton Cottage was in a downright uproar when I limped in, dirty and dishevelled, but not wearing Douglas’ coat anymore; I did not want anyone to know about my acquaintance with him.

Mother gave a shrill cry when she saw me.

“Margaret, for the love of God, what has happened to you, child? Where have you been ? What …”

Elinor, who was supporting Mother’s limp form on the settee, gently interrupted her.

“Now, Mama, give Margaret a bit of time to recover herself.”

Several things seemed to happen all at once. Marianne hastened towards me and put her arm around me while Edward pushed a chair forward for me. Once I was duly seated, Colonel Brandon knelt beside me and pressed a glass of sherry into my hand.

“Here, Miss Margaret, take a sip of this, a small one, mind! We would not want you to choke on it.”

After I had done what he asked, I looked around.

“Where is John? Is he still here?”

Colonel Brandon was the one who answered.

“He seems to have left in a hurry, Miss Margaret, after he received a message from a livered footman. Your maid did not asked from whence he came but can I presume it has a connection with what happened to you?”

“Yes, Colonel, I think this footman was from Watcombe Manor and the message must have concerned me. I was obliged to leave it rather precipitously, I am afraid.”

Mother startled everyone by yet another wailing cry while throwing up her arms.

“But Margaret, why? For once, could you not behave like the well-bred young lady that you are? This is not to be endured and Mr Wilkinson will be most vexed! Colonel Brandon, we must go without delay and apologize to him!”

“No, Mother!” I had forced my voice into a normal but very firm speech and it had the desired result; everybody was staring at me in shock. I was on my feet, faced everyone and straightened my back in an attempt to show a resolution I heartily felt.

“I will not accept an offer from Mr Wilkinson. I left his house on my own accord and free will, refusing to be driven in his curricle. My walk home just took me longer than foreseen and I am very tired so I will take myself off to bed at once.”

Offering no further explanation I took my leave and no one acted against it.

The next day Colonel Brandon took us all in at his estate of Delaford and stated that Marianne was concerned about Mother.  Poor Mama was indeed in uproar and could not stop complaining. I was thankful for that since I was not feeling at all well myself. My ankle still hurt, though I attempted not to show discomfort for fear Mother would want me to explain how I had gotten it hurt. A few days of pampering and rest should see me right, I reckoned.

 

By the time July was half, I was completely recovered and ready to make new plans.

Indeed, a new and daring scheme had formed in my mind, which would, I hoped, solve the most of my problems. They were clear, those troubles of mine. I must contract a marriage with a gentleman of fortune. I knew of such a candidate, though he seemed reluctant to commit himself.

Therefore it was of the utmost importance that I contrived to win Douglas over.

One morning at breakfast, I asked Colonel Brandon if I might borrow a horse from his stables and go for a ride. Mother was not with us for she was not well enough to leave her room. The rest of my family looked at me with guarded glances.

“Dearest,” Elinor began, “is it wise to make such an outing on your own? I wish you to take a groom, lest you come into trouble.”

I readily acquiesced and she said no more. Of course, I had no intention of doing exactly what they were proposing. The presence of a groom did not suit me at all on the journey I bore in my mind. However, at least, I took the precaution of asking Johnny, the youngest groom, to accompany me on a part of my journey. I left the boy in the woods near Douglas’ house with the two horses, but not so close that he could actually see the house. Pressing a few coins into his hand, I explained I had an errand to do and would be back in half an hour.

 

Breathless *August 2014

It’s official: Splashy-looking British period drama Breathless is set to premiere on Masterpiece this summer.

The drama follows the lives of a group of doctors and nurses in a 1960s London hospital, a world in which everything and everyone has their place. But underneath this veneer simmers a cauldron of lies, deceptions and guilty secrets, driven by love, ambition and sex. To be honest, it sounds (and even looks!) a bit like a medical drama version of AMC’s critical darling Mad Men.

breathless

The series stars Jack Davenport – an actor whom many of you will recognize from his roles in Smash and the Pirates of the Carribean films and, is, let’s face it a worthy heir apparent to Gregory Fitoussi’s title of Reigning Masterpiece Dreamboat. He plays Otto Power, a brilliant and charismatic surgeon who passionately believes he can make a difference in women’s lives, and is willing to risk everything for those beliefs.

Davenport will be joined by Downton Abbey alums Iain Glen and Zoe Boyle (who played Sir Richard Carlisle and the ill-fated Lavinia Swire, respectively), as well as Mistresses’ Natasha Little, Gavin and Stacey’s Joanna Paige, The Tudors’ Catherine Steadman, Green Wing’s Oliver Chris and more.

Period Drama Ringtones

ringtoneDownload a Period Drama Ringtone.

Play the song and a “download” link will be presented to you.  All are mp3 format.

Outlander Series * August 9th

Outlander-Key-Art

Starz’s new 16 episode drama series Outlander will premiere on Saturday August 9th at 9/8c, the network announced today. In addition, Starz has released the key art for the series (see below) which is based on the novels by Diana Gabaldon and was developed for television by Battlestar Galactica‘s Ron Moore.

Outlander spans the genres of romance, science fiction, history, and adventure in one grandiose tale. It follows the story of Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743, where she is immediately thrown into an unknown world where her life is threatened. When she is forced to marry Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), a chivalrous and romantic young Scottish warrior, a passionate affair is ignited that tears Claire’s heart between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. Tobias Menzes, Graham McTavish, Gary Lewis, Duncan Lacroix, Annette Badland, Lotte Verbeek and Stephen Walters also star. The drama series is being produced by Tall Ship Productions, Story Mining & Supply Company and Left Bank Pictures in association with Sony Pictures Television. The executive producers are Ronald D. Moore and Jim Kohlberg. Sony Pictures Television is handling global distribution.

Dearest, loveliest Meg – Part Six

Margaret_001

 

Chapter Six

 

Next morning, all three of us set off for the estate of John’s acquaintance.

I was very curious to know where it was and what it was called. He had not even told me the name of the man, stating it would not mean nothing to me since I had never seen him.

Imagine my surprise when the carriage took us to the small village of Watcombe, near Torquay. We passed through the village and rode into a curved, upward-going track. We turned several bends, which lead us up a gentle slope and between impossibly green pastures, strewn with granite boulders. After one last turn, the most captivating sight unrolled before my eyes.

Set in the palm of what looked like a giant hand of green was an elegant manor house in Elizabethan style, not too large but exquisitely proportioned. The facade’s buff coloured stone appeared golden in rays of the morning sun; the lawn spread to its front in shades of emerald.

I may not yet have met the owner but, for certain, I loved his house already. Hope sprang in my heart that it might not be that bad after all. A man in possession of such loveliness could never be anything but kind and pleasant. Yes, I am ashamed to confess that those were the thoughts I harboured, although I know now how immature and childishly naive my thoughts were.

We alighted from our carriage and were led into a splendid hall of royal proportions, all white and gold, and the floor a chest board of white and black marble.

A few moments later the lord of the manor entered the hall and my spirits plummeted in disappointment. He was a man of middle height, sturdily built and with a puffed, bleak face. He was at least fifty years old!

While I struggled to keep calm, John pressed the outstretched hand of the man and turned toward us.

“Stepmama, Margaret, allow me to present my good friend, Mr Phineas Wilkinson of Watcombe Manor. Phineas, old boy, this is Mrs Dashwood and her daughter Margaret.”

I extended my hand to the man, all the while attempting to still the uproar of thoughts in my shocked mind.

This man was Douglas Spencer’s cousin and he would inherit my new-found friend’s money, title and estate if the latter did not manage to marry within the month. Watcombe Manor was Spencer’s house and home! No wonder I loved it instantly …

We were invited to take tea in one of the magnificent parlours. I had to force myself to answer Wilkinson when he spoke to me but only then, as John had insisted. Young ladies were not supposed to have an opinion, let alone express them. I hated to be subdued and shy because that is not who I am. Yet I decided to play the game John had proposed so that I could learn more about the man he was trying to force on me. We did not stay long but agreed that Wilkinson would collect me next week to take me for a drive.

July had come in a blaze of hot, airless days and oppressively sultry nights.

Our stuffy little cottage seemed even more joyless than ever so it was with all the more delight that I took my early morning daily walks. However, my steps did not take me to the moors and my circle of stones anymore. Instead, I found myself wandering towards Mr Spencer’s house, keeping well out of sight, of course, as it behoved a well-bred young lady.

The trees surrounding the dwelling provided me with enough protection so as not to be seen, and also as a well-craved-for shade from the blazing sun. I was working on a sketch of the house, which I found very pleasant, despite its shabby appearance. While I was drawing, my thoughts wandered.

Eight years ago, Elinor and Marianne had been in the same situation I now found myself in. Marianne entangled herself in a hopeless love affair with John Willoughby, a careless, selfish young man, who abandoned her for a wealthy heiress at the first occasion, leaving Marianne broken-hearted. It was Colonel Brandon who saved her, not only by rescuing her from the moors on a nightly rainstorm but also by healing her emotions through the sheer force of his genuine love.

Elinor and Edward had fallen in love at first sight, but Edward’s arrogant and cold mother tried to separate them by using his former attachment to Lucy Steele as a means to drive a wedge between them. Edward, who had loathed himself for falling out of love with Lucy, had stayed away from Elinor in shame. My strong eldest sister hid her broken heart well and devoted herself to us, caring for us with all her heart. Edward had not come back before he had been certain of Lucy’s new attachment to his brother Robert whom she married soon thereafter. I am sure I have never seen a woman so happy as Elinor when Edward proposed to her.

When the pencil in my hand stilled, I was looking at Douglas’ home with sudden longing. That was, of course, very foolish but I could not help myself. I would give my life, right then, if I could have been there with him. Reminiscing over my sisters’ romances had made it all too clear for me – I was in love with Douglas.

It was – and I coolly acknowledged this – foolish to the extreme for I had no hope of gaining anything but heartbreak. Douglas was a rake, a ravisher and an outcast of decent society. These facts were generally known yet much about him still remained uncovered.

Why had Douglas returned to England? If he meant to find a bride and recover his estate, why had he waited so long? According to Jack Twinkler, Douglas rented the house in late April after a two-month stay in London.

Then there was the disturbing fact that he had acquired a gunshot wound, which was not at all a common event. People did not get shot unless they had a sworn enemy or were attacked by highwaymen. Douglas had never offered me an explanation for his injury. But then, we had not really had one single serious conversation, had we? He had been too busy charming me and I had been a willing subject of his attractive charm.

On top of that, I suddenly realised something that unsettled me by the sheer plausibility of it; he might have attempted to attract me on purpose, to catch a naive, unsuspecting girl into marrying him. This would fulfil the conditions of his father’s will and would reclaim his title and fortune. The blood in my veins ran cold with the vileness of my own thoughts, but there it was. I had to face reality because, as a girl without any financial aspirations to speak of, I knew I must make my own future.

It was all good, solid reasoning except for one small bit – Douglas had not acted a rake when we met. Apart from the one time on the moor when he clutched me into his grasp, he had been adamant about my reputation remaining unscathed. He had all but chased me from his house.

Then there was Jack Twinkler. Saving a street urchin from starvation was a charitable deed, unless one did it to make ill use of a child afterwards. Yet Jack, who owned not a single penny while staying with Douglas, albeit receiving food and shelter, did not want to leave him and spoke in friendly tones about him.

 

All these thoughts troubled me during the week, before Mr Wilkinson was due to take me out. Yet I had to rid myself of these thoughts if I was to be in a fit state of mind for my outing. It would not do at all to show distress. Mr Wilkinson seemed kind and, although I did not find him in the least attractive, I knew I must force myself to know him a little better.

So when he drew up before the cottage I seated myself demurely next to the man on the curricle’s couch. I took care not to touch him. Nevertheless, I could not avoid the pressure of his fat thigh against my own, nor his hand on mine. I tried to free myself but he only gripped me harder.

“Ah, my dear, I find modesty is such a fine quality in a young lady. Do not be afraid of me, Margaret. It will all turn out splendidly, my dear.”

I was beginning to feel uneasy by this familiar behaviour, yet I braced myself to go through this day. That way I would give Mr Wilkinson his chance to show me what kind of man he was. Somewhere in the back of my mind I repeated over and over that this was Douglas’ cousin. He must have some merits.

 

We drove over narrow country roads in the direction of Torquay for ten minutes. I suddenly saw a familiar side road which branched off the one we were taking. That stretch of sandy track led to Douglas’ house, I was sure of it! Longing struck me like a bolt of lightning and I was aching to jump off the curricle and run to the house and to him. I had so much to ask him, to tell him, even though he rejected me. I believed we could still be friends, couldn’t we?

But, of course, I did not jump out. I remained the prudent and demure lady.

I let myself be driven to Watcombe Manor, some three miles ahead, and allowed Mr Wilkinson to hand me down.

“My dear,” he said in a suave voice, “let me show you the house. It is very grand, as you can see.”

I did not want him to do that but could not in truth find a reason to refuse. We walked through the downstairs parlours, the library, the ball room, and the drawing and morning rooms. They were all equally lovely.

“Did you design the decorations yourself, sir?” I asked, not that I was really interested but I had to find something to distract my host’s attention from my figure and face. He was literally undressing me with his lascivious stares, which unnerved me greatly. Was this the ‘gentleman’ my half-brother had chosen for me?

“Oh no, my dear, that must have been the work of the previous Lady Watcombe, some thirty years ago. She barely had the time to finish the furnishings before she died in childbirth. Her husband, Lord Matthew, was very devoted to her and forbade that anything should be changed in the house. Now that I am in possession of the manor, I will start making new arrangements. I was hoping that you would advise me in this.”

Not in a million years, I thought. I shuddered at the idea of doing away with the lovely, bright colours and the elegant furniture. So Douglas’ mother died giving birth to him. How sad …

We were now in an exquisite little room with French windows, leading to the rose garden. It was absolutely divine … its walls were a soft pink and the floor was a very pale parquet. A bookcase occupied one wall and I wandered to it. The shelves were laden with all my favourite books and poetry anthologies. This could have been my dream room …

My reveries were abruptly disturbed when Mr Wilkinson’s arm grabbed me around the waist!

I startled and tried to free myself but it was no good. He pressed me against his bulging stomach and began kissing my neck and face with his thick, slobbery lips.

“Mr Wilkinson,” I cried, pushing to back him off but to no avail, “I do not care for such behaviour, sir! Be so good as to unhand me this instant!”

He only sneered in a very unpleasant way.

“Cannot a man kiss his betrothed then, my lovely? You will become my wife soon and I do not intend to make do without the physical pleasures of our union.”

I gave him a great shove and managed to push him onto a settee where he lay sprawled panting and coughing like a beached whale.

“I will never be your wife, sir, let this be very clear! I loathe your despicable manners and do not care to be manhandled against my will! Now, be so kind as to drive me back to Barton Cottage at once!”

With a swiftness I had not thought possible for such a rotund man, Wilkinson was on his feet and the next moment I was again imprisoned in his disgusting embrace.

“Well, my dear, I have many ways to convince you otherwise …”

Suddenly his drooling mouth was upon mine and I gagged in drowning nausea. Then his hand was in my bodice, gripping my breast and squeezing it. I struggled and fought but it was utterly futile! He was too strong for me. When the sound of ripping cloth pierced through the haze of horror surrounding me, I reacted. I raised my knee and kicked him in a very vulnerable place.

Wilkinson yelped, let go of me and sank onto his knees. I did not waste precious time but lunged for the French windows, threw them open, leaped out and fled.

 

 

 

Genres: far east (recommend)

The Orient / Martial ArtsMartial Arts

House of Flying Daggers 2004My personal favorite

House of Flying Daggers 2004

Near the end of the Tang Dynasty, police deputies Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Leo (Andy Lau) tangle with Mei (Ziyi Zhang), a dancer suspected of having ties to a revolutionary faction known as the House of Flying Daggers, which steals from the rich and gives to the poor. But the deputies, bowled over by Mei’s alluring beauty, concoct a plan to save her from capture, leading her north on a perilous journey into the unknown.


 

 

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2000Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2000

Potent performances from Yun-Fat Chow, Michelle Yeoh and newcomer Zhang Ziyi give heft to this story about a young woman in ancient China who longs for an adventurous life rather than a dull arranged marriage. Ang Lee’s articulate direction, coupled with Woo-Ping Yuen’s (The Matrix) balletic martial arts choreography, makes for a devastating one-two punch — and the treetop fight scene is not to be missed.


 

 

1911 (2011)

1911 (2011)

Dexterous martial-arts legend Jackie Chan reaches his 100th-film milestone with this historical drama set in the year 1911, as the Chinese public begins to revolt against the Qing dynasty that has ruled the country for 250 years. As the child emperor takes the throne and his mother, Empress Dowager Longyu (Joan Chen), clings to power, famine sweeps the land and warring factions clash in battle. Meanwhile, the army beings targeting rebels, and the desperate leaders of the Qing dynasty begin putting the country’s future at risk through rampant trading with foreign countries. When Huang Xing (Jackie Chan) returns home from studying modern warfare in Japan, he finds his homeland consumed by strife. Realizing that the only hope for the future is for China to take up arms and topple the Qing dynasty, Huang enters into an epic battle that threatens devastating consequences for the common people. Lee Bing Bing, Jaycee Chan, and Winston Chao co-star

 


Hero 2002HERO 2002

Hero is two-time Academy Award nominee Zhang Yimou’s directorial attempt at exploring the concept of a Chinese hero. During the peak of their Warring States period, China was divided into seven kingdoms all fighting for supremacy. Most determined to dominate China was the kingdom of Qin, whose king (Chen Daoming) was wholly obsessed with becoming the first emperor of China. Though he was an assassination target for many, none of his would-be killers inspired as much fear as the legendary assassins Broken Sword (Tony Leung), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung), and Sky (Donnie Yen). In hopes of thwarting his death, the king has promised endless wealth and power to anyone who defeats his would-be murderers. No results come until ten years later, when a man called Nameless (Jet Li) brings the weapons of the three assassins to the Qin king’s palace. Nameless claims to be an expert swordsman who had defeated Sky and destroyed the famed duo of Flying Snow and Broken Sword by using their love for one another against them. Once Nameless comes face to face with the king, however, it looks as if the situation is more complicated than he had thought. Also featured in Hero is actress Zhang Ziyi (The Road Home, Crouching Tiger, Hiden Dragon) as Broken Sword’s devoted servant, Moon.