Dearest, loveliest Meg – Part Four

Margaret_001

 

 

Chapter Four

 

Mr Twinkler appeared in the doorway accompanied by a short, stocky woman of some fifty odd years old. She was wearing a frilly skirt of brightly coloured cotton, a white cotton shirt and a shawl of scarlet coloured wool. Over her long, curly brown hair she had knotted a scarf in the way that is custom with the gypsies. Her ears were pierced with thick golden rings and her arms jingled with a lot of golden bracelets from which many charm pendants hung.

“This ‘ere is Petite-Maman,” Mr Twinkler announced, mangling the name frightfully. “She don’t speak English ‘cos she’s a Frenchie. I ‘ad all the trouble in the world explaining what was goin’ on!”

Bonjour, Madame Petite-Maman,” I smiled, “je suis Margaret Dashwood. Voici Monsieur Spencer. Il a été blessé par une balle à l’épaule. Il va falloir l’extraire. Pourriez-vous prendre soin de tout ça?”

Bien sûr, Mademoiselle. Pourriez-vous me donner un coup de main, s’il-vous-plaît?”

Mr Twinkler’s eyes were round as teacups and he exclaimed in admiration.

“Blimey! Yer a lady for real, then, if ye speak that filthy jargon so well! Where d’ye learn that?”

“From reading and having conversations with my two sisters, Mr Twinkler, where else? Now, if you please, stand by. Petite-Maman might need you to assist her in caring for your master.”

Petite-Maman told me what she wanted to be done and I translated it for Mr Twinkler.

She asked for hot water and fresh towels and bandages. Mr Twinkler supplied two out of three, apologizing for the fact that bandages were not available in the house. I cut two towels into strips.

Mr Spencer had not interfered with any of this but his eyes had never left me while I was bustling about. When the gypsy woman began making preparations by laying out various, nasty looking instruments on a towel, his face took a slight expression of alarm.

“Miss Dashwood, what is this? Are you going to let her butcher me?”

His eyes were dancing with mischief and I could not help myself and laughed.

“Oh, come on, sir! You know as well as I do that the bullet must be removed. This woman claims she can do it so …”

“Yes, I heard her. You do understand French well, I presume?”

“Well enough, my lord. As do you.”

“I learned it on Jamaica where I spent the last ten years.”

Petite-Maman was now ready to begin her administrations and told me to tell the patient to lie very still while she worked.

Oui, Madame, je comprends,” Mr Spencer said as he positioned himself on the bed.

 

The next ten minutes were very unpleasant and I had to take over Mr Twinkler’s task of holding his master down while Petite-Maman extracted the bullet from the wound. The young man suddenly turned white and fled to one of the room’s corners. At one point Mr Spencer grabbed hold of my hand and squeezed it rather forcefully as the gypsy pulled out the projectile by means of a long pincer. I could literally hear him grinding his teeth. I was feeling a bit queasy myself watching the procedure.

He nearly broke my hand a few seconds later, when Petite-Maman poured a dash of medicinal alcohol into the wound. A small rivulet of blood ran down his lips where he bit himself. I wiped the blood away.

“Miss Dashwood”, my patient said through clenched teeth as Petite-Maman bandaged the wound, “Mr Twinkler will bring you home in the curricle. Please accept my sincere thanks for your help.” His tone did not sound sincere, just hurtful.

I was stunned and also a trifle put out by the harshness of his tone because I had not expected him to dismiss me like he would have a servant! Nevertheless, I knew what prompted the remark. I had seen him weak and in pain and from what I observed of the marriages of my two sisters, it was not something a man would want a woman to witness.

Dites-moi comment prendre soin de lui, s’il vous plait, Petite-Maman? Que dois-je faire en cas de fièvre?”

“What do you mean …? Miss Dashwood, curse it! Listen to me!”

I ignored Mister Spencer’s fervent interruptions and instead listened to the gypsy’s instructions. She said she did not think he would get feverish because he was young and strong but in case it did indeed happen, I was to call her. I thanked her and pressed a few coins into her hand; they were all the money I had in my purse. Petite-Maman seemed content with it.

“Twinkler!” a booming voice rang out.

Poor Jack nearly jumped out of his skin with his master’s outraged cry.

“Yes, sir?”

“Go harness the curricle and escort Miss Dashwood to Barton Cottage. Now!”

I nodded at Jack and his countenance cleared significantly.

“I will be with you in a minute,” I said to him and he and Petite-Maman left.

With as sweet a smile as I could muster – because I certainly was not in a sweet mood – I seated myself next to the bed again.

“Miss Dashwood, I must insist that you leave this house forthwith! For Heaven’s sake, why are you so cursed headstrong!”

I laid my hand on his arm to calm him when I noticed how he was working himself into a state of nervous rage.

“Mr Spencer, I will do as you requested but not before you answer this; why is it that you will not come into your title before the 22th of August? It is, after all, a very uncommon thing. You should have inherited the title right after your father’s death.”

To my surprise, he fell back onto his pillow with a hearty sigh and turned away his face. He seemed to be struggling with himself but eventually he yielded.

“Ten years ago …,” he began, then stopped.

“Yes?” I encouraged but to no avail.

“No, Miss Dashwood!”

He faced me once again, very sternly and brought forth all his defences.

“Please, leave. It is for the best.”

I had no choice but to obey.

 

As we were drove towards Barton Cottage, I interrogated Mr Twinkler about him and his master. Where had they been before coming back to England? These were the things I wanted to ask.

“Oh, I ‘aven’t bin anywhere but Lonnun, ma’am. Master found me starvin’ in a porch some months ago. Took me to ‘is ‘otel and fed me, then took me on as ‘is servant. Not that he’s paid me a single penny yet. I don’t mind! ‘E’s a good master and ‘e’s also fair and friendly. As long as ‘e feeds me, I’ll stay with ‘im.”

“But where has Mr Spencer been, do you know?”

“I think it was the Caribbean, ma’am. Dunno what he’s been doin’ there. Master doesn’t talk to me about ‘is personal affairs. Suits me fine. I’ll stay wi’im for the rest o’ me life, I am!”

“So you have no knowledge of what happened to him, ten years ago?”

“No, ma’am, not an inkling. Master’s from these parts of the country, that I do know. Watcombe Manor, that’s ‘is estate but ‘e ain’t no right of living there, that’s all I know.”

Watcombe Manor was unknown to me but I vowed to find out where it was. I had become very interested in Mr Spencer’s story.

“Do you not miss London, then, Mr Twinkler?”

“No, ma’am, why should I? I ‘ave no family left, they all died. I’m fifteen now and I’ve been on me own since I was ten. No, I’m stayin’ wi’ the master.”

“He calls you ‘his friend’, Mr Twinkler?”

Jack Twinkler’s narrow face lit with merriment.

“That’s why I’m stayin’ wi’ ‘im and always will, Ma’am, no matter what ‘appens.”

 

By that time we had reached Barton Cottage and I bid farewell to Mr Twinkler, who turned the curricle and rode away. Deep in thoughts, I climbed the shallow slope. I was deeply aware of some inner uproar in, even though I would not allow it to show outwardly. Douglas Spencer had indeed intrigued me from the very first moment because of a duality in his behaviour; a ravisher, he may have called himself but why then had he wished me away for fear about my reputation?

I was not allowed to dwell upon these disturbing reflections for my mother’s shrill voice greeted me from the sitting room as soon as I entered the cottage.

“Meg? Is that you? Where have you been, girl? Not only is it not suitable for a young lady to go dashing about the countryside on her own but it is also very ruinous for her complexion! Do you want to have the looks of a peasant girl? Do you want to look all weathered and knocked about, your beautiful skin all red or spotted with freckles?”

“Mama, Mama, calm yourself. Nothing of the sort has happened. I just took a long walk and got lost. That is why I am so late and I beg you to understand that it was not my intention when I set off this morning. Lord, but I am hungry! Is breakfast ready?”

With those last remarks I hoped to distract my mother from the fact that I was quite dishevelled and a little dirty. Yet my heart lurched within me as I suddenly discovered a large spot of red on the bodice of my dress!

“I am coming, Mama! I must wash first!”

Then I dashed up the stairs to my small bedroom under the eaves of the attic and closed the door behind me. That had been close! My mother would have had a fit if she had seen that blood!

Spencer’s blood … immediately his handsome face sprang to my mind … those fierce blue eyes, those sensual lips … Oh, stop it! Margaret Dashwood, you are being silly and shallow! Put that man out of your thoughts. He is not for you. My thoughts raced. Not for me? Why not? Because he is not suitable and way too old for you. I battled with propriety  and my desires – point, counterpoint. He is also poor and you know very well how that affects one’s life, don’t you, Margaret? He is also a rake as he proclaimed himself so very well to you.

Do you not remember what that rascal Willoughby did to poor Marianne? He nearly destroyed her and that is exactly what Spencer will do if you let him come too near!

All that was true. The sensible, realistic part of me acknowledged it all too well but my foolish, romantic heart did not. My poor, love-starved heart only remembered the feeling of his warm, hard body against mine when he clung to me, so wounded and helpless.

 

 

 

BBC Period Series ‘Taboo’

Tom Hardy, Steven Knight, Ridley Scott Team With BBC For Period Series ‘Taboo’

tom hardyTom Hardy is reuniting with his Locke director and screenwriter Steven Knight, and his Child 44 producer Ridley Scott for eight-part period series Taboo. Knight created the drama based on an original story by Hardy and his father, Chips Hardy. Tom Hardy will star as an early 19th century adventurer battling the East India Company during a time in British history “when the rising power of the Empire seeped into every dark corner,” says exec producer Scott. This is the actor’s latest foray into British television after recently coming on board the second season of BBC Two drama Peaky Blinders, which Knight also created. Scott Free London and Hardy Son & Baker are producing Taboo for BBC One and Sonar Entertainment. Shooting will start in the UK in January 2015.

Set in 1813, Taboo follows Hardy’s James Keziah Delaney who returns from Africa with 14 ill-gotten diamonds and seeking to avenge his father’s death. Refusing to sell the family business to the East India Company, he sets out to build his own trade and shipping empire and finds himself playing a dangerous game with two warring nations, Britain and America.

Tom Hardy calls it a “flagship British drama for this generation.” It’s a “hybrid of orthodox and unconventional storytelling, packed with darkness and spirited characters.” Knight adds that the lead character is “a deeply flawed and deeply troubled human being. His greatest struggle will be against the East India Company which, throughout the nineteenth century, was the equivalent of the CIA, the NSA and the biggest, baddest multi-national corporation on Earth, all rolled into one self-righteous, religiously motivated monolith.”

Sonar is distributing outside the UK. Executive producers are Scott, Liza Marshall and Kate Crowe for Scott Free, Tom Hardy and Dean Baker for Hardy Baker, and Knight. Chips Hardy is serving as consulting producer. Tom Hardy is repped by Jack Whigham and Mick Sullivan at CAA and Lindy King at United Agents.

 

Actor Tom Hardy is joining forces with Sir Ridley Scott for a BBC One period drama about the East India Company.

The eight-part series, Taboo, will star Hardy as a rogue adventurer who sets out to build a shipping empire, pitting him against the East India Company.

Inception star Hardy, who wrote the original story with his father Chips, called it “a flagship British drama for this generation”.

Gladiator director Sir Ridley said Hardy’s character “will become iconic”.

“This is a period in British history where the rising power of the Empire seeped into every dark corner,” said Sir Ridley, best known for cult films such as Alien and Blade Runner, who will produce the drama.

Sir Ridley Scott Sir Ridley’s previous film The Counsellor failed to excite the critics

The drama, set in 1813, will reunite Hardy with screenwriter Steven Knight, with whom he worked on the forthcoming film Locke.

Knight is also the writer of BBC gangster drama Peaky Blinders, which Hardy is joining for its second series this autumn.

Knight described the lead character, James Delaney, as “a deeply flawed and deeply troubled human being”.

“His greatest struggle will be against the East India Company which, throughout the 19th Century, was the equivalent of the CIA, the NSA and the biggest, baddest multinational corporation on earth, all rolled into one self-righteous, religiously motivated monolith.”

Ben Stephenson, controller of BBC drama commissioning, said he was “thrilled” to see Hardy and Knight reunited on the series.

“This is a major and ambitious undertaking for the BBC, reinforcing our commitment to be the best home for creative talent.”

Villainous

Tom Hardy’s company, Hardy Son & Baker, will co-produce the series with Scott’s Scott Free London. Shooting will begin in early 2015.

Hardy, who became a well-known name following his villainous turn as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, can shortly be seen in James Gandolfini’s final film The Drop.

He is also lined up to play the lead in the forthcoming Mad Max reboot, as well as playing Elton John in the Rocketman biopic.

The actor is reported to be starring in the National Theatre’s film adaptation of London Road, alongside Broadchurch star Olivia Colman.

London Road was inspired by the murders committed by Ipswich serial killer Steve Wright, who was found guilty in February 2008 of murdering five women working as prostitutes.

Shooting starts January 2015

Newcomer: Jason Patrick Smith

Jordan Smith (actor)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jordan Smith
Born     Jordan Patrick Smith
1989 (age 24–25)
Fife, Scotland
Occupation     Actor

Jordan Smith 2Jordan Patrick Smith (born 1989) is a Scottish-Australian actor best known for playing Andrew Robinson in the Australian soap opera Neighbours.

Personal life

Smith was born in Fife, Scotland and moved with his family to Australia in 2003 when he was 14. The family holidayed in Australia in 2001 and fell in love with the country and so decided to emigrate. Whilst in Year 12 at his high school, Carmel Catholic College, drama became one of Smith’s favourite subjects. Smith currently resides with fellow Neighbours cast-member Chris Milligan, who plays Kyle Canning.
Career

After finishing school, Smith took a number of acting courses and appeared in a few commercials. He has previously appeared in H2O: Just Add Water, in which he played a surfer. Smith has also had roles in Mortified and Home and Away.

Jordan Smith 4 Jordan Smith 3
Whilst between jobs, Smith worked as a labourer. In 2009, he was offered the role of Andrew Robinson in the hit soap opera Neighbours, but nearly had to turn it down because he was in hospital. He says, “I’d been doing some work as a labourer and I’d been lifting up concrete floors when some of the concrete flew up and smashed into my face. My nose got all swollen and became infected, so I was kept on a drip of antibiotics for a week. I got the call to say I got the part while I still in hospital on the Sunday night (in Queensland) and I had to be in Melbourne by 7am the next day.”

Jordan Smith 1

Smith has admitted that Neighbours had to change his character’s background story because of his Scottish accent. Andrew was initially meant to have been brought up in Brazil, but the strength of Smith’s accent meant that this had to be changed. He has also stated that he had to “refine” his accent in order to be understood by other cast members and the audience. Smith has admitted that if he was not playing the role of Andrew Robinson he would have liked to play the role of fellow Neighbours character Lucas Fitzgerald, played by his co-star Scott Major, instead.

unbroken
On 26 November 2012, it was announced that Smith would be leaving Neighbours. He made his final screen appearance as Andrew on 29 March 2013. In October 2013, it was announced that Smith was in final talks to join the cast of Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken as Cliff, an Australian prisoner who is taken to a Japanese POW camp in World War II.

The Knick

The setting: downtown New York in 1900, a tumultuous time of massive change and great progress. The series centers around the groundbreaking surgeons, nurses and staff at Knickerbocker Hospital, who are pushing the bounds of medicine in a time of astonishingly high mortality rates and zero antibiotics. (Source: CineMax)

No start date yet, but it must be soon, as there are a lot of teaser trailers.

Dearest, loveliest Meg – Part Three

Margaret_001

Chapter Three

 

I was surprised when a hint of undisguised sorrow shadowed Mr Spencer’s eyes yet his mouth stretched in a wicked grin.

“I am not in the habit of confessing my crimes to innocent young ladies, Miss Dashwood. You will soon be hearing all the gossip there is about me. Now, help me into the saddle. I must return home and not keep you any longer.”

Suppressing my heartfelt anger, I took hold of his arm with both hands.

“And I am not in the habit of listening to gossip, Mr Spencer! Please do me the favour of answering my question! What is this reputation of yours?” Despite a feeling of tension I looked directly into his eyes. I got my answer right then and there, when he pulled free his arm and used it to grab me in the waist. The same wicked grin was still on his face as he drew me very close, his mouth only inches from mine.

“I am a ravisher, my dainty damsel, and you are very close to being ravished …” His eyes burned into me. My reaction was instinctive. I shoved him hard and he fell full force against Dragon’s tall frame. The horse, however, did not budge, and Spencer’s injured shoulder took the full brunt of the blow. I saw his face grow white, and he slid to the ground gasping in pain.

What had I done? Reproaching myself I knelt beside him.

“Oh, I am sorry! Please, forgive me, Mr Spencer! Come, let me help you up again!” I put my arms around him in a futile attempt to lift him.

“No, Miss Dashwood, it is I who must beg you to forgive me. That was very rude of me and you were right to defend yourself.” For the first time he did look remorseful.

“We have to get you safe, Mr Spencer. Here, step onto this boulder. I will help and put you into the saddle.”

We failed several times but, eventually, we managed to get Mr Spencer back in the saddle. His face was ashen. I could see he was in no state to ride Dragon on his own so I swung myself up on Dragon’s back and situated myself in front of him.

“Sir, hold on to my waist with your uninjured arm. I will take you to Barton Cottage,” I said, turning to look back at him.

“No … please, no! That would be … most unwise. Just … get moving to the north and … I will tell you where to go …” he urged in a voice hoarse with pain.

I kicked Dragon into a walk, and for half an hour we kept going north.

“I fear, my dainty damsel, you must keep me entertained or otherwise, I shall not remain conscious. Pray, tell me somewhat more about you. I find you very interesting,” Mr Spencer’s voice croaked and I grew anxious, so I obliged.

“Very well, sir. Our Marianne is the wife of Colonel Christopher Brandon. She lives at Delaford with her family and her youngest daughter Emily is my goddaughter. She is two and her sister Amelia is five. Marianne is expecting her third child in early fall. My eldest sister, Elinor, married Edward Ferrars, who is now parson at the Delaford parish. They do not have children yet.”

We came onto a narrow country path, which led us over the rim of a hill. We must be nearing Torquay, I thought, but this part of the shire was unknown to me. To my growing dismay Mr Spencer’s health seemed to become worse, and it dawned on me that he had not spoken a word for a long time. His head was lying heavily on my shoulder and his breathing was ragged.

“Sir! Mr Spencer, say something!” I gently nudged him a few times to prevent him from fainting.

“Sir, do not lose consciousness! We are not yet there. Are we going into the right direction?” I asked urgently.

“Yes …” His breath was shallow, laboured.

“Breathe, sir! Do you want me to stop for a while so that you can rest?”

I grew more anxious by the minute! If he was to fall off the horse again, it might well kill him.

To my infinite relief, he replied in a hoarse voice, “No … go on, you are doing very nicely … we are almost there, give Dragon the free rein …”

I clung to the saddle’s pommel for dear life when Mr Spencer’s arm pressed harder around my waist.  The moor had given way to a small wood, and our path was winding through it. Just as I despaired on ever getting to Spencer’s house, Dragon rounded a bend in the road. A clearing appeared to our front, and I saw a small house set against the gentle slope of the hill. Dragon walked through an open gate and into a tiny courtyard, left untidy with overgrowing weeds.

The house itself was in the same state of disrepair but it was nevertheless very charming with its light red brick facade, small, shutter-framed windows and dark brown tiled roof. The woodwork, however, was in sore need of painting, though.

Suddenly the front door was flung open and a tall, gangly youth of some fifteen years came running out.

“Blimey! ‘Ere now, what’s ‘appened to the guvnor? ‘Oo are you?” he shouted in a strong cockney accent.

I dismounted with dignity and faced him with a stern stare. “I am Miss Dashwood of Barton Cottage. Be so good as to help your master, sir! He is injured, and I think it best if you would send for a physician.”

Spencer chose this moment to slide down from the horse and, between the young chap and myself, we barely managed to prevent him from crashing down onto the gravel.

“We must put him to bed,” I urged. “Call for a footman!”

“A what? We don’t ‘ave any of ‘em out ‘ere, lady! It’s just me! You ‘elp me, seems yer doin’ a great job already!”

The youth – he said his name was Twinkler – did not waste anymore time but shoved a shoulder under one of his master’s and clamped a firm hand around Mr Spencer’s waist. I helped him by supporting the man, who was now unconscious, as best as I could. We made our way to the master’s bedroom, which was located on the house’s ground floor. I was greatly thankful for that. There we let our patient down onto his bed, whereupon Mr Twinkler got him out of his boots and coat while I loosened his collar.

“Ye said yer wanted a physician, miss, but I don’t know of one ‘ere abouts. There’s a gypsy woman that dwells not far from ‘ere an’ ‘as knowledge of ‘erbs an’ sicknesses the like. Shall I fetch her?”

“Yes, Mr Twinkler, that is fine. I will stay with Mr Spencer.” I turned and looked at the injured man; he seemed to rest comfortably, despite the bullet wound.

Thus I was left alone with my new acquaintance. The impropriety of it all was staring me in the face but there was nothing I could do about it. Mr Spencer’s condition seemed too precarious to leave him unguarded. His shoulder bandage was soaked with blood and drops of perspiration formed on his ashen face. The only thing I could do was wipe them away with a clean cloth I found upon inspecting the chest of drawers beside the bed. My patient opened his eyes, they were moist which indicated the beginning of fever.

“Miss Dashwood … you are still here? You should not be … you must go home. You are compromising yourself if you stay without being no longer needed.”

With his low, raspy voice he tried to emphasize his plea yet the plea in his eyes belied the curtness of his tone.

“You must leave that decision to me, sir. I am old and wise enough to make it for myself.” Again I felt defiant. A naughty grin curved the large mouth as Mr Spencer scoffed, “Is that so? How old are you, then?”

“Twenty-one, since last May.”

“Remarkable … I would not have given you more than sixteen …”

“You are teasing me, sir. Now, lie still. All that bustling about has opened your wound. Let me see what I can do.”

Gently I loosened the blood-soaked bandage but, despite my cautious gestures, I inflicted pain on Mr Spencer. Yet not a word of reproach nor a cry of pain passed his lips. He lay there with closed eyes while I examined the wound.

I had read quite a number of books on medicine so I knew the bullet would have to be removed, the damaged blood vessel had to be cauterized, and the wound sewed shut. The patient could not properly heal otherwise. Of course, I had neither the skills nor the proper instruments for such a task, but I could attempt to reduce the bleeding until the servant returned with the healing woman.

“I am very curious about Mr Twinkler, sir. He could not have been in your service for long, he seems so young,” I said in a casual tone while I worked on him.

“Twinkler is my friend, Miss Dashwood, not my servant. He followed me from London of his own free will. His real name is Jack but I named him Twinkler because of his bright green eyes. They remind me of stars.”

“Just Jack? No surname?”

“No. Jack was one of the many orphans London is crowded with. His mother was a …”

He stopped himself and turned his head away.

“A prostitute? You need not be embarrassed, sir. I have done my share of reading and I know of the existence of such unfortunate women.”

My patient stared at me with stunned eyes.

“Extraordinary …”, he murmured, “Miss Dashwood, you do know, I hope, that it is very improper for a young woman of your class to have this sort of conversation with me?”

“Mr Spencer, who is ever to know we had such a conversation? If you do not tell, I will not either. La, your wound has stopped bleeding. I will bandage it.”

Mr Spencer watched me with curious interest and it made me feel a trifle uneasy.

“Do you not care about your reputation, Miss Dashwood? So far, you have violated every rule of propriety. You have been alone with an unmarried man and you have touched him, intimately, to say the least. You have even entered his home without being chaperoned and at the moment, you are at his bed site. If this becomes public, you will be ruined beyond repair, my dainty damsel.” A slight but intimidating smile broke on his lips.

The words had come out in a very impudent, taunting tone, but that was not what disturbed me. It was his smile that did – a wicked, almost cruel smile – that infuriated me most. I could feel my cheeks burn with anger, yet I checked myself, although with difficulty. Giving Spencer the satisfaction of seeing me lose my temper would only prove the veracity of his words.

“Mr Spencer,” I retaliated, but with dignity, “I thank you for your concern but I would like you to understand to the fullest that I am an independent woman, with a mind of my own. If you should know the circumstances I am faced with, you would find me well suited in dealing with any difficulty that arises.”

His black eyebrows rose with what looked like appreciation.

“Well said, Miss Dashwood! Pray, enlighten me about those circumstances, if you do not deem it too impudent of me.”

“It is impudent but I do not care. After my father died, we were left in dire financial circumstances. My mother was forced to leave the estate to my half-brother John and his family, and it was a cruel blow to her already weak health. She was used to the opulence of Norwood Park and has been in low spirits since then. We had to resign ourselves to being very frugal, though this proved to be hard on Mother. After my sisters married, seven years ago in the summer of 1811, Mother and I got the full benefit of the 500 pounds from Fathers’ will on which we lived. But, as you will be well aware of, my lord, that is not at all a substantial sum. My task is to keep Mother from spending it on frivolous items in order to have something left for food and coal.”

Mr Spencer chuckled, his eyes sparkling.

“Frugal, hey? I know that feeling well enough, my dainty damsel. It is how I have been living for the past ten years. It seems we are both poor as church mice, then. I lost my baronetcy of Watcombe to my cousin after I made some bad mistakes in my ill-spent youth.”

“Oh, dear!”

It was my turn to chuckle.

“Poor and titled! That is even worse, My Lord Watcombe!”

“No, Miss Dashwood, you have it wrong. I might not even come into the title before August 22th of this year …”

At that moment we were interrupted by the opening of the bed room door.