The Counterfeit Governess – Part Seventeen

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Seventeen – A Great Sorrow

 

“Oh, Miss Williams, Granny Bradley is so very ill! The fever will not abate, and I am at the end of my tether!” Ruby wrung her hands in despair and sobbed inconsolably. Beth quickly ran past her and entered the cottage.

Mrs Bradley’s body on the bed seemed to have shrunken so much that Beth was instantly in a panic. Ruby had covered her with a cotton sheet but Beth could see the ravishing effects of the fever all too well. The old lady’s face was ashen but her cheeks bore bright red spots as if someone had touched them with rouge. Her breathing was laboured and seemed to drain away the last vestiges of her energy with every intake of air. Beth knelt beside the bed and took one of Mrs Bradley’s gnarled hands in hers.

“Granny … oh, Granny …” She choked on the words and attempted to swallow the big lump in her throat. Her eyes misted over when Mrs Bradley looked at her.

“Beth, my child …” There was not much strength left in those whispered words. “Beth, promise me … you will watch over my sweethearts … promise me, please?”

“Of course, I will! I love them! I will do whatever is necessary to keep them from harm or hurt! I swear it!”

Mrs Bradley made an attempt to cough but failed. Instead, she weakly wheezed and her lips turned blue. Hastily, Beth dipped her clean handkerchief into a bowl of eucalyptus water and held it under the old lady’s nose. It brought only a little relief, she saw, and not nearly enough.

“You must … marry him …” Mrs Bradley croaked and grabbed Beth’s hand with sudden vigour. “It is … the only way to guard them. That way, you will become a mother to them.”

“I cannot do that, Granny, but surely there are other …”

Mrs Bradley squeezed her hand in a painful way and drew a deep breath.

“It will ensure you happiness, my child. You love him, Beth … “ She coughed and gasped.

At that same moment, Fenton entered and paled visibly when he saw the condition Mrs Bradley was in. Yet, he controlled himself and knelt at the opposite side of the bed.

“Mrs Bradley, I took the liberty of sending for my personal physician, Dr Forrester. He will be here shortly and …”

“My lord …” rasped Mrs Bradley. “Please … take care of  … my darlings … promise me … you will … protect and love them?”

Stephen laid his hand on top of hers and softly said, “Mrs Bradley, you have my gentleman’s word I will do everything in my power to take care of Lily and Oliver. I do love them, you know that.”

The old lady nodded faintly yet urged on.

“You must also … look after … my dearest Beth! Promise me! She has … no one …” A violent fit of coughs raked her frail body and Beth, in alarm, tried to make her drink a bit of water. Mrs Bradley pushed her hand aside and grabbed Fenton’s hand in a hard grip.

“Promise me, my lord! Promise me …”

She gasped one last time and then, her eyes lost all sparkle of life. Her head fell back on the pillow and she lay still and unmoving.

Slowly Stephen’s hand went up and closed the dead woman’s eyes before he solemnly said what she so fervently had wanted to hear during her last moments.

“I promise, Mrs Bradley, I do.”

Stephen knew beyond a single doubt that he would do as he promised. He simply had no choice but to fulfil that promise to the dying grandmother of his twins. His gaze wandered to Beth. She had her eyes closed but a single tear ran down her cheek and Stephen realised she must be very distressed. He wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and soothe her yet he knew she would not permit it. His ghastly behaviour of a few weeks ago had caused Beth to distrust and maybe even hate him.

“Come, Miss Williams,” he said softly, “we cannot help her anymore and must lay her to rest. I will see to it that Mrs Bradley receives all respect and dignity she is entitled to.”

 

~~~~

 

The days following Mrs Bradley’s demise were bleak and laden with sorrow. Stephen took it upon himself to take care of the necessary arrangements, so that Beth could devote herself entirely to Lily and Oliver. How she would be able to comfort the children, Stephen did not know. He had broken the news to them the following morning as gently as he could and asked his mother and Beth to be present when he did so. It had been one of the hardest things he had ever done in his life yet he must have accomplished it fairly good because the children – after the first outbursts of grief, of course – seemed to recover themselves a bit.

Lily had even asked in a timid little voice if they would be living at Brixton Abbey from now on, which caused his mother to forget her usual dignity and gather the two of them in her embrace. It was she who had assured the twins that, of course, the Abbey was now their home. When Beth took them away, they looked rather composed, to Stephen’s relief.

Yet, he again felt a pang of concern when Raleigh informed him that the children and Miss Williams would be dining in their rooms that night. They were too tired and too upset to come down. His mother too did not come down so Stephen dined alone downstairs, feeling like an outcast in his own home.

Afterwards, he hastened to the first floor where his children now occupied a suite of rooms. Beth’s bedchamber was adjacent to that of the children. Stephen knocked on the sitting room door but received no answer. Upon entering, he found his mother reading in the chaise-longue.

“My lady, how come I find you here instead of asleep in your chambers?”

Henrietta put down her book and sighed.

“I could not find sleep, Stephen. Poor Lily cried herself to sleep and Oliver tried comforting her with tears running down his cheeks, although he manfully swallowed them back. Miss Williams finally succeeded to calm them down. She is resting now and I volunteered to watch the children while she sleeps.”

“Let me relieve you, mother. You need to rest.”

“Stephen, I do not think …”

But her son helped Henrietta to her feet and soothed her.

“Do not concern yourself about propriety, mother. I trust you know me well enough to assume I would never break its rules.”

Henrietta relinquished and retreated to her rooms. Stephen opened the door to the children’s room.

Lily and Oliver were in their beds, sound asleep, and in a chair next to Lily’s bed sat Beth. At one point she must have been in her own bed for she had donned her nightgown. It was a plain, white cotton one without any frills or laces. It was the most fetching one Stephen had seen in his whole life.

Beth was sitting upright in what must be a very uncomfortable position. Her head had fallen aside and was resting against the chair’s high back. Her hands were still clutching her shawl of lavender blue wool against the night’s cold.

Poor sweet darling, Stephen thought. She must be exhausted and yet, she chose to stay at his children’s bedside, to be there, should they need her. Her fine, beautiful face was very pale in the light of the bedside table lamp. A few shallow lines showed next to her pert little nose, and the sight of them clutched at his very heart. He loved her … he simply did. He would court her and woe her until she loved him back and then, he would ask her to be his wife. It would be difficult because he had to gain her trust which he himself had destroyed with his rudeness. It did not signify. He would do it, slowly and gently.

But for now, she needed to rest in a thorough, soothing way. So Stephen carefully lifted her into his arms and carried her to her bed where he gently laid her down and tucked her in. She did not even stir.

He returned to the children’s room and took his place beside their bed. He had all night to think about how he would conduct his courtship.

 

The Top Films in the era of the Renaissance 1454 – 1700

Films set in the Renaissance period – the magic of the bygone era is enhanced thanks to famous historical figures like William Shakespeare, Sir Isaac Newton, Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth. Films set in the Renaissance period often celebrate the era by showcasing sumptuous costumes, beautiful settings and romantic storylines. These are the best of the best but in no specific order. This is a difficult film era to pick the best as there are so many favored.

Wolf Hall 2015

This release contains a six-hour historical miniseries about Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII and the Tudor court. Set in the period from 1500 to 1535, Wolf Hall is a sympathetic fictionalised biography documenting the rapid rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII through to the death of Sir Thomas More

Medici: Masters of Florence 2016-tv series

Medici: Masters of Florence is a television drama series about the Medici dynasty, set in 15th century Florence, starring Dustin Hoffman as Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici, Richard Madden as Cosimo de’ Medici, and Stuart Martin as Lorenzo de’ Medici (The Elder). The series was co-created by Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files and Man in the High Castle) and Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (The Pillars of the Earth) is set to direct all eight episodes. Episodes 1 and 2 aired on Rai 1 (Italian TV) on 18 October 2016. According to Italian ratings compiler Auditel, it attracted a record 7.6 million viewers.[2] The first season consists of 8 episodes.

The Borgias 2011-2013

Historical drama about the infamous Renaissance-era Italian family, one of whom became head of the Catholic Church as Pope Alexander VI. His son Cesare was the subject of Machiavelli’s classic The Prince.

The Tudors 2007-2010

Synopsis by Cammila Collar
Power, politics, love, religion, and blasphemy – the tale of this historical family would sound impossible if it weren’t true. The Tudors were one of the most controversial royal lines ever to sit on the throne of England, and their story is told through this opulent and suspenseful series produced by Showtime. The show stars Jonathan Rhys Myers as King Henry VIII, a charismatic and notoriously amorous figure with a lust for life, and for the beautiful women at court. His dutiful wife Katherine has served him lovingly for more than a decade, but the wife of a king in 1520 must do more than serve – she must produce an heir. As the young monarch contends with each advisor playing their own interest in the threat of war with France, fear over the security of the Tudor line grows steadily in his mind, so much so that when he becomes involved with the bewitching and ambitious Anne Boelyn, he sets off a chain of events that will change history – igniting an onslaught of tumult and intrigue that would rage on for years, serving as the catalyst for political divide, religious war, and romantic betrayal.

The White Queen 2013

The series is set against the backdrop of the Wars of the Roses and presents the story of the women involved in the protracted conflict for the throne of England. It starts in 1464; the nation has been at war for nine years fighting over who is the rightful King of England, as two sides of the same family, the House of York and the House of Lancaster, are in violent conflict over the throne. The story focuses on three women in their quest for power, as they manipulate events behind the scenes of history: Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, and Anne Neville.[8] Elizabeth Woodville is the central character in the novel The White Queen, while Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville are the focus of the novels The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter, respectively. However, all three characters appear in all three novels that went to make up the television series.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age 2007

Actress Cate Blanchett returns to her Oscar-nominated role and director Shekhar Kapur steps back into the director’s chair for this belated sequel to the critically acclaimed 1998 biopic Elizabeth that explores the 16th century romance between the “Virgin Queen” and noted adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen). Michael Hirst teams with William Nicholson to pen the screenplay, and actor Geoffrey Rush returns to the role of Sir Francis Walsingham.

Game of Thrones 2011 – 2016 –

Long ago, in a distant land where summers span decades, and winters reach into infinity, the cold winds begin to blow through the kingdom of Winterfell. In the cold seasons of past, the Starks of Winterfell relied on their fierce resiliency to survive the harsh conditions. But this winter, supernatural forces are preparing to launch a devastating attack. A great battle is brewing, and whoever emerges the victor will ascend the throne.

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot 2004 BBC

A 2004 BBC miniseries loosely based upon the lives of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her son James VI of Scotland. The writer Jimmy McGovern tells the story behind the Gunpowder Plot in two parts, each centred on one of the monarchs.

Directed by Gillies MacKinnon and filmed in Romania with a key Scottish crew, the first film dramatizes the relationship between Mary, Queen of Scots, played by French actress Clémence Poésy, and her third husband, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell played by Kevin McKidd. Scottish actor Robert Carlyle stars as James VI in the second part of the series, which concentrates on the Gunpowder Plot, planned by Guy Fawkes, to blow up the Houses of Parliament in order to rid the nation of a Protestant monarch to be replaced by a Catholic one. McGovern had previously covered the Plot in the one-hour play Traitors for BBC2’s Screenplay strand, transmitted on 5 November 1990.

Shakespeare in Love 1998

Synopsis by Merle Bertrand – William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is on a cold streak. Not only is he writing for Philip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush), owner of “The Rose,” a theatre whose doors are about to be closed by sadistic creditors, but he’s got a nasty case of writer’s block. Shakespeare hasn’t written a hit in years. In fact, he hasn’t written much of anything recently. Thus, the Bard finds himself in quite a bind when Henslowe, desperate to stave off another round of hot-coals-to-feet application, stakes The Rose’s solvency on Shakespeare’s new comedy, “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter.” The problem is, “Romeo” is safely “locked away” in Shakespeare’s head, which is to say that not a word of it is written. Meanwhile, the lovely Lady Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow) is an ardent theatre-goer — scandalous for a woman of her breeding — who especially admires Shakespeare’s plays and, not incidentally, Bill himself. Alas, she’s about to be sold as property into a loveless marriage by her mercenary father and shipped off to a Virginia tobacco plantation. But not before dressing up as a young man and winning the part of Romeo in the embryonic play. Shakespeare soon discovers the deception and goes along with it, using the blossoming love affair to ignite his muse. As William and Viola’s romance grows in intensity and spirals towards its inevitable culmination, so, too, does the farcical comedy about Romeo and pirates transform into the timeless tragedy that is Romeo and Juliet.

 

Luther 2003

Synopsis by Mark Deming – The life of one of the controversial figures in the history of modern religion is brought to the screen in this historical biography. Born in 1483, Martin Luther (Joseph Fiennes) was an intelligent and principled young man who was studying law in early 16th century Germany when a close brush with death led him to follow a spiritual path and join a Catholic monastery. Under the guidance of Johann von Staupitz (Bruno Ganz), Luther became a valued member of the monastery’s hierarchy, and as a sign of his trust, von Staupitz asked Luther to join him for a voyage to Rome as part of church business. Luther was appalled by the corrupt practices of the leading church officials, in particular the sale of “indulgences,” in which the wealthy could purchase forgiveness for a wide variety of sins. Luther left the monastery to study theology in Wittenberg; a keen student, he later became a professor and won the support of Frederick the Wise (Peter Ustinov), who also recognized the potential controversy of Luther’s iron principles. When a new pope, Leo X, assumes the throne at the Vatican, he orders the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica. To pay the costs, an ambitious monk, Johann Tetzel (Alfred Molina), was sent out to sell indulgences to both the wealthy and the poor, leaving his audiences with little doubt of the eternal consequences that awaited those who did not empty their purses. An infuriated Luther wrote an angry essay on the corruption of the church entitled “95 Theses,” and thanks to the recent invention of the printing press, Luther’s words were soon circulated throughout Europe, leading to an angry conflict with Catholic officials which threatened to tear the church in two. Luther also features supporting performances from Claire Cox as Katharina von Bora and Jonathan Firth as Girolamo Aleandro.

 

 

Folder Gallery Error: Unable to find the directory Era/Renaissance 1400-1600.

I Killed Him – pt 22

Chapter Twenty Two

 

That sat together in silence. Margaret knew beyond all doubt that pleading with John would be hopeless. She would do the same thing if she were in his place. Actually, she realized she could do the same thing in her own place. She knew that she could lose John for the sake of herself. Margaret couldn’t live with that. She had to find a way to keep him from possibly being hurt or worse. He could be killed. He could be hung. Begging, pleading, crying, groveling, sulking, threatening to commit suicide, may all have to come into play, if she felt he was on the verge of committing such an act, in her name.

 

Margaret was eventually trotted off for her exercises. John said that he would ride over to the Milton Grand and see if could find Bell, who could lead him to Frederick.

Branson would normally have the horses harnessed by now, and today was no different. John didn’t bother calling him to the front, he just found Branson at the stable.

“Guv, I’ve wanted to ask you, and I feel stupid in a way doing this, but now that you are married, does the Mistress have control over me as you have these past years?”

“She may ask to be driven anywhere at any time. If it comes to a decision about the stables or the horses, I would like to confer with her, and we may make a joint decision.”

“Can she let me go?”

“No. I can’t ever see that happening, but should that unlikely event come up, then, come to me. I am the only one to discuss that, and I will tell her so. She will have a say with her own maid. Although I do not believe you met Dixon the last time, Miss Hale lived here, she had been with the family before Margaret was born. Staff, with service longevity, are extended extra courtesies for being faithful and discreet regarding the family.”

“Suppose she asks me to keep a confidence from you?”

John paused with that question. “Right now, I am asking you to keep my confidence on what our plans are for Hartford. I hope she hasn’t asked, has she?”

“No, Guv.”

“Keep her confidences as you do to me, unless either one of us could be severely injured. Understand?”

“Yes, Guv. Where to?”

“The Grand, Branson, the Grand.”

 

Margaret was reflecting on having no shoes when she was reminded of Bennington, the cabby that aided in her rescue. She would ask Branson first if private service paid more than a London cabby. If the answer was yes, Margaret would ask John if he knew of a Master that needed a good driver. If Branson said no, he would ask John to reward him, which would mean a trip to London. It was very likely that he had saved her life that night and he should not be forgotten. Margaret always saw Nicholas with a small buggy and wondered if he had a driver. Could the Thornton household find a use for a second driver? A second driver could give Branson some relief from always being on duty. It may enable him to propose to the woman that he loved. According to John, Branson may not allow anyone to rein his horses. Perhaps, he could be persuaded to enjoy his lady and let another experienced driver pull the coach.

If John had no news about Frederick when he arrived home, she would like to try a short drive into the country or more likely a place to buy dancing slippers. She wanted out and in the sun away from the smoke.

 

The porter rapped lightly on the door of Mr. Bell’s room. After several moments and no answer, he repeated the knock. Still, no one came to the door. He returned to the reception area.

“Mr. Thornton, no one is answering the door.”

“Thank you, I will try the dining room” John walked in and saw Bell with the Shaw’s and Lenox, enjoying a leisurely late breakfast. Walking over, he decided not to join them but just have a word with Adam Bell.

“Good morning, everyone,” John said in a pleasant voice.

“Good morning, Mr. Thornton. How is Margaret this morning?” asked Mrs. Shaw.

“Quite honestly, it’s a bit rough for her today,” John spoke in earnest. “I would like to find Frederick if anyone here knows where he can be located.”

“Is anything wrong, John?” asked Bell.

“Could I speak with your for a moment? Excuse us,” John said, as Adam stood and walked a few paces away from the table.

“Margaret has begun to fear retribution by her brother or myself, against Hartford. Naturally, she worries for our safety. She asked me directly about my possible involvement in revenge. I could only tell her I would protect her if the man came here. I’m afraid that has set her back. I’d like Frederick to talk with her since I cannot speak for him.”

“John, I do not know where he is, but I know he had plans to find me here or Marlborough Mills, sometime this morning.”

“Higgins is back with good news about moving Lisa, and I am sure he’s anxious to hear that. Send him my way, if you see him. I hope he’s not out hunting. If I do not see you before then, I will see you at the police station at four. I have some ideas that we can discuss in an empty courtroom after we’ve heard what Boyle has to say.”

Adam, trying to smile for those that looked on, said, “I will see you later . . . before Boyle, and I will certainly send Frederick over when I see him.”

“Thank you, Adam.”

John turned to the table. “Mrs. Shaw, I hope you have a pleasant trip home. Your niece is strong, and we will get through this together. She would like to see her brother this morning. Please excuse my interruption. Good day, everyone.” John turned and left.

Except for Margaret’s brother, he wished she could be left alone. She had much turmoil to work through, both good and bad. Until she was alone, she couldn’t settle into a comfortable state of being. She wasn’t even able to set priorities in her life as yet. John was confident that before Margaret was healed physically, the other problem would have been eliminated.

 

John was anxious to return home. He did not like leaving her alone, ever, but especially now.

“No news from Frederick?” Margaret asked as John came into the room.

“No, but Adam seems to feel he will come forward sometime this morning. How are you doing?” John asked as he went to sit next to Margaret on the sofa.

John looked over at her lovingly, wishing the night would hurry so the house was quiet.

“I’m starting to feel like I am getting well. I have not taken the pain medication, yet. I want to see how I am really feeling. It’s a bit uncomfortable but bearable. John, I know Frederick might arrive, but could we take a ride in the coach.”

“Whatever you wish, my love. Where do you wish to go? Any place in particular. I will not take you over the old roads, just yet.”

Margaret stretched out her feet and wiggled her toes.

John grinned. “Oh! I’ve been so wrapped up with other things on my mind, I completely forgot. Let me tell Branson to bring the coach to the front, and I will carry you down the steps.” John laughed, “I could give you a pair of my boots until we go somewhere to purchase a pair of shoes for my waif.”

“Yes, I will wear your shoes.”

“You will? Are you serious about this?” John asked in bewildered fashion.

“I think anything is better than bare feet, don’t you?”

“I am not so sure you will be able to lift your feet with my boots on,” he smiled. “But I will get a pair.”

Returning, he placed his lightest pair of shoes on the floor in front of Margaret. He helped Margaret stand and held her hands while she slid her small feet into his big shoes. He couldn’t help but grin as it seemed her foot would never find the toe of the shoe.

He lifted her out of the boots, and swept her gently into his arms and carried her to the stable.

Branson surprised to see his new mistress shoeless, rushed to the coach door.

“Sir, does the Mistress know she doesn’t have her shoes on?”

“Branson, I am here. You can talk to me, you understand. I am not that ill.” She laughed.

“Branson, my wife has no shoes. I’m starting out to be a very poor husband, it would seem.”

“Do you want to go to the cobbler?”

“No, Branson,” Margaret said. “There must be a fancy dress shop in town. They should have some soft dance slippers. I hope your master doesn’t know of any lady’s dress shops, but possibly you do.”

“I do, indeed, Miss.” Branson opened the door.

John carried her inside and once again placed her on his lap. It wasn’t long before Margaret noticed his lap had stiffened.

“John?” Margaret said, shyly.

“I can’t help it,” John said before she teased him.

“I wasn’t going to mention that, exactly,” Margaret said.

“What do you mean by exactly? You have my undivided attention.” John beamed.

“No, I would say it’s divided.”

John pulled her lips to his, fiercely. Margaret eased her arms around his neck. John parted her lush lips and fed from her. He slowly searched the recesses of her mouth, allowing her tongue to engage with his. He moaned. Margaret pulled back momentarily to breathe, and then she resumed the passion that had ignited.

Margaret pulled John’s hand gently to her breast for him to soothe the ache she felt beginning. Without stopping his kiss, John tenderly, controlling his eagerness, cupped her heavy bosom and rubbed his thumb across her nipple. A light soft moan escaped through their kiss from her. John felt the coach come to a stop and set her away, knowing Branson would be at the door. He did it for her. Branson, being a man, would not be surprised at him.

“I guess we will talk later,” she said breathlessly.

Branson opened the door so John could carry his new bride into a Lady’s accessory shop.

Later, having found two pairs he wanted her to have, they returned to the coach. Both were surprised to see Frederick waiting in the coach.

“Good day, sis, John. I hear there is news of Lisa. What can you tell me,” he asked.

The ride that John was hoping to have going home would have to wait. John began to tell Frederick all that he knew. He withdrew the bit of paper that Nicholas had handed him and gave it to Margaret’s brother.

Frederick, anxious for the information, hardly took notice that his sister was sitting on her husband’s lap. When he finally looked up from the letter, he asked John with his eyes, why this seating arrangement?

John had anticipated the question immediately. “Your sister sits on my lap so that I can absorb the bumps in the road for her.” John, not wanting to look into Frederick’s eyes, looked out the window, knowing what any normal man would be thinking.

Frederick smiled and wanted to ask him about his bumps. His sister really had come of age, he thought. He was happy for Margaret. She would be well taken care of while he could not be with her. He liked John, too.

“I have something very important to discuss with you when we get home,” spoke Margaret.

Frederick caught a glimpse of John’s face and had a feeling of what was coming.

“Of course, sis. Do you think I just stop by to say ‘hello.’”

“I will have an appointment to keep at four this afternoon.”

“An appointment?”

“Yes. For the few days that Detective Boyle will be in Milton, he would like to have a meeting with all concerned about any further news on Hartford. We all are interested in the progress to apprehend him so he will inform us daily on what they know.”

“John, will you go?” Margaret asked, assured of the answer on her own.

“Yes. I will go. We had this talk this morning. I have nothing further to add.” John didn’t like being this firm with her especially in front of her brother, but Frederick was soon to be the same way.

“I want to go,” demanded Margaret.

“I would not let you go,” John stated sternly. “He will be captured and punished. You need to start putting that behind you. I’ve been thinking of talking with Donaldson about that. There are doctor’s, well . . . I don’t know if they are doctors or not, but are trained to help people through exceedingly tough times, such as a death and other misfortunes.”

“And you think I need some help?” Margaret looked down into her lap, feeling like a slight failure to her husband. “I’m sorry . . .”

John was embarrassed with this conversation while her brother was there. “Don’t say that word. Margaret, I love you so much that I am too close to help you properly. I cannot see my way through your feelings as my own intermingle. I think our marriage has put pressures on you that may cause you to feel guilty and I cannot have that. I cannot say ‘I understand’ strong enough for you to believe me.

“John, I do think one of us needs to see a doctor of the mind. I just think it might be you.” Margaret said, surprising John. “I think you are the one who has to put this behind you.”

“Can we continue this discussion another time?”

Branson stopped the coach. John lifted Margaret out and up to the porch. “Did you want to try the steps with your new shoes, or can I carry you.” John couldn’t help but wonder what her brother was thinking of his sister’s husband and that rather personal conversation.

“I would like to try.”

Frederick, would you mind walking in front of your sister, while I stay behind her?”

Frederick bounded in front of Margaret and stepped backward up the steps. “You’re doing fine, sis.”

Í am going to make it . . . and without help,” replied a cheerful Margaret. “I’ve accomplished one of my goals.”

“I think we need to practice that a few more times before I will let you do it on your own,” John stated.

Frederick could easily see the love for his sister from John Thornton.

 

John hadn’t realized it was nearing 1:00 in the afternoon. He saw the table set for the midday meal and hurried to the kitchen to have Jane set a third place at the table.

Arriving back in the parlor, he saw Frederick pouring two glasses of scotch. Handing one to him, Frederick turned to Margaret. “Sis?”

“Not now, thank you.”

“I guess it is my turn to hear your words of admonishment. No doubt you have had this conversation with your husband, too.” Frederick began.

“Yes, I have!”

“And?”

“He will not listen to me.”

“I am your brother. I love you, too. I will not listen either. Do not worry about me, sis. I have a lovely woman somewhere in France waiting for me. I will not be frivolous with my life.”

“Somehow, you are not saying what I want to hear,” Margaret looked her brother in the eye. “Tell me you won’t go to London to seek him out.”

“I won’t go to London to seek him out.”

Margaret thought back if her brother had ever lied to her for her own good. She couldn’t remember such a time.

“I’m relieved to hear that. How long can you stay?”

“Oh, a few days. I am not sure.” Frederick hedged.

“I think you both are hiding something from me. You two are going to some meeting with the detective. Frederick, you are staying longer than I would have expected. Who else is going to this meeting?” Margaret looked toward John.

“I believe Maxwell is interested before he may face him in London when he returns, “John skirted. “And you know that Adam would be interested, too. Now that Nicholas has returned, I do not think I can keep him away from the rest of us.”

“Frederick, are you still worried about being watched by those men . . . not the Navy.” Margaret was starting to look pitiful, John thought, with her worries for the two of them.

“Margaret . . . sis, Hartford has lost you. He does not need me any further. I have no worries there.”

“Could he come and find me here,” asked Margaret, eliciting the question that neither, John or her brother wanted to answer.

John cleared his throat. “Margaret, it would seem he has no reason to seek you out, now. He cannot marry you. He’s lost track of Frederick, so just pure blackmail seems a lost cause if he has any sense at all. There has been no mention of your attack anywhere, in any paper. He must feel that you are keeping it a secret, still fearing for your brother’s life. That’s really to our benefit, while we wait for him to be apprehended by the police.

“That sounds good when you say it fast, but I’ll have to do more thinking on this. Things do not feel right with your actions. You will tell me what the detective says tonight.”

“No, I will not. You are going to have no more talk of this. We will get on with our new life together and let the police do their job. We will be notified when he is caught.”

Margaret did not have any more of an argument and knew it to be futile if she had. She would have to work things out on her own.

“Dinner is served,” announced Jane.

 

After dinner had been consumed, Margaret was glad to see John and Frederick talking together about each other’s lives. Frederick seemed interested in walking through the mills to see the process. John invited him, and they left the house, but not the grounds. John told Frederick that he could easily live in Milton under his assumed name. The local officials had no interest in him, and the Navy was never here. Frederick didn’t know if he was ready to risk capture with a wife coming along. However, the feeling of being with family felt very satisfying.

In the next hour when they returned, Maxwell, Edith, and Adam were comfortable in the parlor. Edith was admiring Margaret’s new shoes when they entered. John felt a rush come over him, anticipating a repeat of the questions Margaret had talked about earlier, only this time with Adam and Maxwell. But it did not happen. It appeared to John that Margaret had uncharacteristically abandoned those thoughts for now.

One last round of drinks was served before the men headed to the police station. Nicholas had arrived too, looking clean and gentlemanly. He had words with Frederick. Margaret saw her brother vigorously shake his hand.

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Sixteen

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Sixteen – Coming Closer

 

Struggling for balance, Beth gripped the edge of the desk and prayed her legs would not buckle beneath her. All the blood seemed to drain from her face and the air from her lungs. It should be declared a crime to be so overwhelmingly handsome as Stephen was looking just now, she thought. His proud bearings, his powerful body, his beloved face, eyes as blue as ice on a sunny winter day, eyes scorching hers.

No, she was wrong. Eyes softening suddenly as if … no, that could not be!

Before her incredulous gaze, he bowed deeply to her, taking off his hat, and spoke in a very respectful tone.

“Miss Williams, ma’am. Forgive me for intruding on your privacy unannounced but there was no one about and the outer door stood ajar.”

Somehow she managed to curtsy and allow some sound to escape from her frozen lips.

“My Lord Brixton …”

Her voice broke suddenly when speaking his name, and all air seemed to be lacking in the entire room. His eyes grew darker with concern and he took a step toward her, taking her arm to offer her some support.

“I daresay you need to sit down, ma’am. Here, let me guide you to …”

“No!” In sudden panic, Beth tore herself loose and leaned back against the desk. She could not bear the softness of his tone nor the concern in his voice. It could not be genuine, surely? No, she would not delude herself in thinking he somehow might care for her.

“What are you doing here, my lord?” she said, her voice wavering.  “Why have you come? If it is your intention to take away the children, it will only be over my dead body!”

Fenton’s face grew grim, and his mouth became a thin line of disapproval, but he did not move.

“Miss Williams,” he said, his voice rigid with suppressed emotion. “I have no such intention, I assure you. I have no right to take Lily and Oliver away from their legal guardian and I am extremely sorry to have done just that, a few months ago. I will apologize to Mrs Bradley if she will grant me to visit her.”

Beth watched him as he closed his eyes and she heard the distress in his voice when he went on.

“The truth of the matter is, Miss Williams, that I miss them. I have come to love them over the past few months and so has my mother, the dowager baroness. I beg you to listen to what I have come to ask you. Please, hear me out.”

Her heart made a sudden somersault when his gaze bore into hers with burning intensity, all unexpectedly! All Beth could do, was to make a small hand gesture, permitting him to continue.

“My proposition is that you and Mrs Bradley and the children all come to celebrate Christmas at Brixton Abbey – as our guests, that is. My mother has a habit of hosting a small dinner party on Christmas Day for our neighbours and for a few of our estate employees, such as Mr Robinson, my steward and his wife, Mr Tremayne and his wife who run the Home Farm and Mr Darton, my game keeper. After Boxing Day, you will be free to do whatever you like, Miss Williams. So are the children. If they choose to go and live with their grandmother, I will not be opposed to it. If – on the other hand – they prefer to stay at Brixton Abbey, I will ask Mrs Bradley permission to have them be declared my offspring. I fervently wish to give them my name and be their father, Miss Williams.”

 

~~~~

 

She must have heard wrongly, Beth thought. Stephen Fenton, Baron Brixton, was humbly asking them to come and spend Christmas at the Abbey. He was prepared to give his name to his bastard children and make them legally his. He was even prepared to let their grandmother have the final word.

“My lord,” she croaked, all confusion, “if that is your wish, then I suggest I take you up to see Mrs Bradley. As for myself, I must decline your kind invitation. I cannot, in all honesty, be a guest at Brixton Abbey since I was your employee and left your employment without giving notice. People would talk, and I do not want that. It would be very bad for the children.”

“You did not leave my employment, Miss Williams. On the contrary, it was I who drove you away through my outrageous behaviour, all for which I humbly beg your forgiveness. You too are free to act as you wish, Miss Williams. You can either come back as their governess, should Mrs Bradley deem it suitable that Lily and Oliver were to stay at the Abbey, or you can stay with us during the Christmas festivities as my esteemed guest and friend. After the holy days, you can do as you please. If you wish to find some other employment, I would gladly and wholeheartedly give you the best of references. However, Miss Williams, I would hate to see you disappear from my life forever.”

Beth stared at him, her mind reeling under what she had just heard.

“I … I do not understand you, my lord,” she stammered. “Your … guest? Your … friend? How can that be since I was a mere governess in your house?”

He smiled so sweetly that her heart once again did that strange flip-flop inside her chest.

“Miss Williams, I do not wish to explain anything. I do not want to influence you in any way. Think about my proposition and act accordingly to your conscience.”

He bowed again and left the room, leaving Beth in utter confusion and turmoil.

 

~~~~

 

Stephen watched from his library window as his carriage rolled over the Abbey’s driveway towards the front of the house. While it performed a perfect half circle to round up before the main entrance and came to a standstill exactly on the right spot, he felt a thrill of something stir his heart. His footman opened the door and lowered the steps while extending a hand which was taken by a slender black-gloved hand. And there she was, Beth, his wayward governess, looking up to the windows behind which he was standing. Stephen raised a hand and smiled. She did not respond to either gesture, he noticed. Instead, she followed Raleigh inside. Lily and Oliver jumped from the carriage, all laughter and merriment. They saw him and their voices rang with joy as they waved and shouted.

“Papa! Papa! Oh, Papa, how we missed you!”

That did it. Stephen was suddenly running down the stairs toward the hall where the twins jumped into his arms, and he clasped them close and kissed them! His heart almost burst with joy and happiness. He had missed them so badly … oh, how he had missed them …

“Oh, my dear darlings!” he said in a choked voice, swallowing at the lump in his throat.

 

~~~~

 

Beth had not wanted to come back to the Abbey. It had been Mrs Bradley who convinced her it was best for the children that she did, and Beth knew she had been perfectly right, of course. Lord Brixton’s protection was vital to Lily and Oliver. Nevertheless, Beth had been frightfully worried when she witnessed Mrs Bradley signing the agreement with the baron, in which he granted the children recognition and gave them his name. It was such a final step. Lily and Oliver were not solely family to Mrs Bradley anymore.

However, it was a solid agreement in which Lily and Oliver were established as the baron’s heirs and officially proclaimed his offspring. Fenton had not even demanded that the children live at the Abbey yet expressed the fervent wish that would be allowed to do so by Mrs Bradley if they wanted it. He even offered that Mrs Bradley come and live at the Abbey, should the children wish it. But the old lady had refused, and secretly, Beth felt very relieved. There still would be a place of refuge in case she needed one.

Now, Beth was horribly shaken by what she had just witnessed. Lily and Oliver seemed very fond of Fenton and he of them. She certainly had not been prepared for this and she did not know how to deal with it. Yet, she had another surprise coming when the dowager hurried into the hall and embraced the children with equal fondness and what seemed to be happiness!

While his mother took the children upstairs, Fenton bowed and extended a hand to Beth.

“Miss Williams, allow me to express my joy on seeing you here with my twins. I am so glad you have accepted my invitation. How is Mrs Bradley? Is she settled in her cottage again?”

“Indeed, my lord, she is but she is not well. She caught a nasty cold, a few days ago, and I will need to go and see her. Ruby Merton offered to take care of her but I feel it is my duty to be at Mrs Bradley’s side, just now.”

Fenton nodded, an earnest expression on his face.

“Allow me to escort you there, Miss Williams. We will call on Dr Forrester, who is my personal physician. I insist that he examine Mrs Bradley so that she may receive the best of treatments.”

Beth had never seen him so concerned nor so generous and she hesitated, not sure how to deal with this new attitude of his.

“Please, Miss Williams, give me some credit. Do not look as if I were to have mischief on my mind. Mrs Bradley is not that young anymore and colds can be serious at her age.”

Beth bowed her head in acquiescence and they both left for the village.

When they arrived at Mrs Bradley’s cottage, Ruby Merton could only offer them sad news.