The Lost Northbound Train – Part Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen – Taking Stock

 

Around three in the morning, John, Margaret and Jowan finally returned to Betty’s cottage, all of them weary to the bone. Yet, all pressing and disturbing issues had been brought to a satisfactory end.

Jowan’s father was recuperating from his stroke which in the end, was not that severe. The doctors had every confidence of him leaving the hospital as soon as his vitals were back to normal. Mrs Thorn was back in her home and her sister, living nearby in a Leicestershire village had come to keep her company, whilst Mr Thorn was still in hospital.

Jowan now faced the problem of his father’s pub and he wasn’t happy about it.

“How am I going to do this?” he asked John when they all sat in the cottage’s kitchen where Betty, roused from a fitful dose on the settee, had provided them with tea and cookies to set them straight again.

John, who had problems of his own to deal with, hazarded a proposition.

“Well, you saw what I did in the pub, didn’t you? What would you say if I was to return there in the morning and in the days to follow and run it for you? I like Robert Duvalier. He deserves to be supported and therefore needs hands. The pub is seriously understaffed, Jowan. I gathered that there’s a large clientele at noon, and on Sundays, and also, on nights when they show sports on television. If you could hire an extra kitchen help and a man behind the counter, I could set them to work efficiently.”

“You would do that for me? That would be … well, splendid! I can’t get away from my duties at the hospital, and nor can Marjorie. Thanks, John! I agree on the staff issue and will see to it first thing tomorrow.”

The two men toasted their tea cups when a quiet voice interrupted them.

“And what about me? What am I to do with my time?”

Two pair of astonished male eyes turned in Margaret’s direction.

“I think I have the answer to that, dear,” Betty’s calm voice came. “You must accompany me when I do my voluntary work at the old people’s home in Leicester. There’s a great need of helping hands in every aspect of the caring for them, especially feeding them, an activity for which there’s a serious understaffing.”

“I would be allowed to do that?” Margaret asked, with bright eyes.

“Yes, of course. No financial compensation, I’m afraid. The home is in serious need of funds, although the National Health Service is doing what they can. But you, my dear, have the right skills and temperament for such a task, being compassionate and patient as you are.”

Margaret blushed at Betty’s appraisal and met John’s fond gaze when she raised her eyes again.

“I would like that very much, Betty. Thank you for your kindness.”

“Well,” Jowan said, rising and yawning, “I don’t know about you, guys, but I’m turning in. I’m absolutely knackered! Goodnight!”

They all stood and went for their rooms. Margaret laid a hesitating hand on John’s arm.

“John, we must talk,” she said softly because she didn’t want the others to hear.

“What is it, my love?”

“Come with me to my room,” she urged and then coloured a fierce red as she realised what she just said and implied but John did not seem to notice. He nodded, curled an arm around her waist and steered her to the room she was using as her bed chamber.

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Once inside, John could not contain himself any longer and did what he had wanted to do all day long, and a blasted eternally long day it had been! He drew his Margaret into his arms and kissed her as hard as he could.

Welcoming the violent stir of desire deep inside him, he deepened their kiss as soon as he registered Margaret’s own, fierce reaction. She hugged her body close to his and, through the thin fabric of the cotton blouse she was wearing, he suddenly felt the peaks of her breasts against his chest. Dear Lord  in heaven …

While he was plundering her lush mouth with his tongue, his body was screaming with need as a reaction to the little, needy moans Margaret was uttering between gasps of breath. He tore himself away from her before his own need would drive him to act upon it.

“My dearest love,” he breathed, “are we not so lost in this madness that we do not know anymore what is right and what to do? I know I am. Without you, my Margaret, I should go insane out of sheer confusion. Thank God that I can at least hold you in my arms and restore my inner peace.”

Margaret raised her face upwards and suddenly his heart stopped at the sight of her beautiful eyes overflowing with tears. The desolation in her look tugged at him with violent sorrow.

“Margaret, sweetest, what is the matter? You are weeping! Is it my doing? Tell me, for heaven’s sake!”

Margaret freed herself from his anxious grasp and wiped her cheeks clean with hasty hands.

“Forgive me, John, it is nothing. Only my stupid weakness of character that turns me into a puddle every time something arises that I cannot handle. It will not happen again, my love.”

She laid her hand against John’s cheek and peered into his eyes, shyly smiling.

“And, John, I too am immensely happy that you are with me. I too would not have born the strength to endure all this. But, meanwhile, we are indeed caught in the middle of it and must deal with it.”

She drew him with her to the bed and made him sit down beside her.

“Now, tell me. Something is worrying you, John. I saw it all too clear, during this long, long day.”

“You are right, sweetest. When I walked through the countryside, last night, I noticed the train carriage had disappeared. We no longer have a portal to go back to our own time.”

Margaret raised startled eyes to him.

“Oh, John! What will we do? How is this even possible?”

“I don’t know, my darling, but I do know we are trapped here, in this century. We have to make the best of it, which means I have to make a living. We cannot keep living off Jowan, Marjorie and Betty forever.”

Margaret nodded in agreement and asked, “What profession will you take on, John? And I, should I also try and earn some money? In this century, women stand on their own two feet. I like that, John, and I would welcome an income of my own. Do you suppose we could still make use of the money I inherited from Mr Bell?”

“No, Margaret, that is impossible. We even have no real identity any more. I spoke with Jowan, earlier, and it seems that you must have a way to prove who you are, if asked for by the authorities. Jowan uses his driver’s license, which is needed if you want to drive the motored vehicles of this era, or his British passport, which is needed if you want to go abroad.”

“Can we get one of these, John? We must if we want to blend in with the rest.”

John chuckled and shook his head.

“For the driver’s license, you have to pass a test, and I must learn to drive a motor car first. Jowan tells me it needs a lot of practicing. To obtain a passport, I must prove myself a British citizen, which I could do by proving that I was born in England or have lived in England for ten years.”

“Oh! That is fine, then!” Margaret exclaimed. “We  have lived in England all our lives!”

“Yes, but how are we going to prove that, darling? I was under the assumption that I was living in Milton and now, Jowan tells me Milton does not really exists! That Milton and Helstone are products of a writer’s imagination, that we are characters in a novel. It is utterly confusing and inexplicable, Margaret. Yet, we have to make the best of it, so I am going to run “The Green Huntsman” for a living. Jowan and I will work out a suitable compensation.”

He drew her closer and kissed her brow.

“We will weather this, Margaret. It is a promise I make to you, here and now.”

 

 

Who is Matthias Schoenaerts ?

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Matthias Schoenaerts; born 8 December 1977 in Antwerp) is a Belgian actor. He is the son of actor Julien Schoenaerts. He first starred in Daens. He is widely known for his roles in Loft, Bullhead and Rust and Bone, for the last film he won the César Award for Most Promising Actor.

2014 will see him playing the part of Gabriel Oaks on BBC’s FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

IMDB

The Lost Northbound Train – Part Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen –  Human Sorrow Will Not Alter Over Time 

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Margaret watched Jowan’s mother as the older woman sat next to her in the silent waiting area at Leicester UH. Mrs Thorn was clasping her hands in worry; and her fingers kept plucking at the back of her hands. With a shock Margaret recognised that gesture; it was one that her own mother used to have whenever she was in serious concern about something. Poor Mama was forever concerned about something or other, Margaret recalled. The despair of the gesture tugged at her heart, and she covered Mrs Thorn’s hands with one of her own for comfort.

 

“Please, Mrs Thorn, Ma’am, keep heart. I am positively sure the doctors of this hospital will do their utmost best for your husband. I had the privilege of observing them today when a major motorcar accident brought in many injured people. They were perfectly up to the task, I assure you.”

“Thank you, dear, I’ll try but … but …”

The tears, kept at bay for too long, spilled from the poor woman’s eyes, and Margaret laid her arms around the slender shoulders.

“Shhh … there, there …”

A sharp vision of the past shot through her head; her mother, weeping inconsolably on the settee, when she knew she must die in a short time. It had been the night of Mrs Thornton’s dinner party and Margaret, despite an earlier sweet interlude with John, had violently quarrelled with him over the dinner table. The look of contempt in his eyes had haunted her for days. All that had been supplanted by the huge anxiety over her mother’s health.

“I’m sorry, Miss Margaret, I lost control for just a while.”

“You may drop the “miss”, Mrs Thorn, and please, it is only too natural to feel concern about the ones we love. There is nothing wrong with allowing ourselves to show it.”

“You’re a sweet girl, Margaret. I very much appreciate that you’re staying here with me. My name is Maria.”

“Oh!” Margaret exclaimed in surprise, “Maria, that was my mother’s name!”

“Was? Does that mean your mother passed away?”

“Yes, only half a year ago … my father followed her three months after.”

“You had your own part of sorrow, then, my dear. Life can be cruel, can’t it?”

Margaret nodded. The two women held each other for support and comfort.

 

In the kitchen of “The Green Huntsman” in Leicester’s town centre, Monsieur Robert Duvalier, cook and Frenchman, eyed the tall, lean man in front of him with suspicion. The newcomer was clad in dark jeans, white shirt and black leather jacket, all of these not quite fitting his broad shoulders as if they belonged to someone slighter. Yet the man didn’t seem ridiculed by them. On the contrary, the tight-fitting leather jacket only emphasized the strength of muscle of chest and arms, and the snug jeans showed the strong thighs to perfection. The man’s stance and bearing spoke of a quiet, masterful authority and his lean, strong-boned face bore an expression of cool serenity.

When the man addressed him in a pleasant deep baritone voice, Monsieur Duvalier found himself jump to attention as if he were the merest schoolboy.

“Monsieur Duvalier, my name is John Thornton and I am a friend of Mr Jowan Thorn. No doubt, the sad news about Mr Thorn senior has already reached you?

“Mais oui, bien sûr!,” the cook exclaimed, suddenly eager to please this man. No, he thought, make it this “gentleman”. During his five year stay in the United Kingdom, Robert Duvalier hadn’t found much to make him think good of the country and its inhabitants, especially with respect to the fine French cuisine. These people didn’t like the refined dishes he created for this cheap version of a “bistro” he was working for. The customers differed from midday working people, in need for a hasty lunch, over five o’clock regulars, enjoying their after-work pint of ale, to the motley sort of hangers-on that stayed until closing time and drank far too much. Only on Sunday did people come to lunch who really appreciated his cooking so they were the only reason he’d stayed in the UK so far.

“So, Monsieur Duvalier,” John Thornton said in a casual tone, “how did you end up in this country? I should think your talents would go to waste in the vast amount of foreign cuisines that are to be found here?”

Duvalier was a bit surprised by this man’s odd manner of speech as he was more accustomed to the gentle Mid-England accent of Leicester. He shrugged.

“A need to look farther than France’s borders, I guess. European Union and all that. You’re right about my talents going down the drain, Mr Thornton.”

“John, please. May I call you Robert?”

John pronounced the name the French way, with the stress on the last syllable, and received a smile and a nod from the Frenchman.

“So, Robert, tell me what you usually put on the menu in this cosy little pub of Mr Thorn’s?”

“The usual fish and chips, jacked potatoes and Sunday roast, of course, but also salmon, lamb or beef, cooked and dressed up the French way, although that doesn’t always have the success I wish it to have.”

“Sounds nice to me,” John murmured, but aloud he said, “You seem to be a proud sort of chap, Robert. Proud of your knowledge and skill, that is. Am I wrong?”

The Frenchman drew himself up to his full height of 5’8.

Bien sûr! What do you take me for, John?”

“Good! I thought as much! Then, let’s make this kitchen the way it suits a proper French cook, right? I will send you some hands to help you clean it up in no time.”

John ignored Robert’s stunned stare and headed for the bar where the three customers were still lingering over their pints. Kylie, he saw, was fidgeting behind the counter and threw him an uncertain glance as he strode in.

“Hey, gentlemen!” he greeted the three, mentally ranging them under the working class material, which he knew so well from Marlborough Mills. “Would you like to make a little extra profit by lending a hand to my cook? The cleaning staff seems to have deserted him tonight, and he is in sore need of help. There’s a hundred pounds in it for each of you plus free drinks after and no charge for what you already had.”

 

Jowan returned to the hospital to find his mother safely in the care of Margaret’s gentle comfort. Mum looked better, he thought, much less agitated. She was smiling again and she had lost that look of fear in her eyes. When the attending doctor came to them and explained that his father was out of danger for the moment, they all heaved a sigh of relief. His mother and Jowan were then allowed to go and see him and Margaret waited patiently for their return.

She was, however, only thinking of John, now that she finally had the leisure to relax after the strain of Mr Thorn’s illness. With a small knot of apprehension in her stomach, Margaret realised that they were in great uncertainty about their future.