Hearts Adrift – Part Sixteen

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Chapter Sixteen

 

In the two weeks that followed the ball, Manon was swept into a flurry of activity attending balls and soirées and enjoying outings to the park and riding journeys. Lucian was her attentive groom when she went riding while Marcus Lascombe, a charming fair-haired giant with dreamy blue eyes was Manon’s usual companion for the theatre. His brother Joseph, considerably shorter than Marcus, was a slender, handsome and amiable man who loved to take her out for poetry evenings. Then there were a number of other young bucks, scarcely older than Manon who endeavoured to ask her to a ball or a soirée with the enthusiasm only the young possess. They made Manon smile, yet she did not respond to their pleas, because she had no interests in beguiling innocent boys still engaged in their studies at university.

However, none of Manon’s suitors had proposed to her, not even Lucian Blackthorne, a fact that left Manon nonplussed. Since she was unable to accept Richard, she was determined to say yes to Lucian if he asked her to be his wife. She liked Lucian. He was an earl’s son; that was true. He was wealthy as well, but that was not what made him attractive. It was his high-spirited, humorous manner and his boyish charm that drew Manon to him. She knew that life with Lucian would be anything but dull. They were certain to have fun together, and even joy, and perhaps love would blossom one day if they let it grow between them. Manon was prepared to give love a chance again, with Lucian. Yet he had not said a word so far.

 

As Manon had expected, her uncle wished to be informed about the situation. He questioned her on one of the rare nights that she was not engaged. The four of them, with Pru and Jake Davies being of the company, were dining en petit comité.

“Manon, have you received any offers of marriage as yet?”

“No, Uncle. So far, no one has ‘come up to scratch’ yet.”

She smiled at him, seeing that her words somehow seemed to upset him. “I apologize, Uncle. I know a lady should not speak in such terms.”

He did not reply but quickly lowered his gaze and continued eating.

Pru, however, knew she could not have misjudged the look of pure sorrow she saw in the baronet’s eyes when the proposal was mentioned. Oh, it had only been there for a second. Sir Richard was too well bred to allow feelings to show on his face for longer than that. But it had been there, nevertheless. Manon, she knew, had seen it too; it was what had compelled the young woman to quickly apologize. Sir Richard had become utterly distressed when Manon joked about Sir Lucian’s proposal, or the lack thereof, Pru registered. That, or Pru was no longer able to read people’s gazes as she had been doing all her life.

Unobtrusively, from the corner of an eye, Pru observed the two. At any given moment, they were either avoiding each other’s gaze or throwing furtive looks at each other especially when they thought the other would not see them. A tension most definitively hovered between the baronet and his niece.

Allowing Pritchard to remove his empty plate, Richard de Briers cleared his throat and thus claimed the attention of the other diners.

“Estate matters claim me back to Bearsham Manor, as I was informed today by a letter from my steward, Trevor Waldham. There is no need to accompany me, niece, if you wish to stay in Brighton. Jake, I trust you will prepare young Jéhan for the journey and instruct his nanny that she is to pack his belongings.”

“Yes, of course, sir. Will…”

“I beg your pardon!” Manon’s voice rang with sudden alarm when she abruptly stood, drawing all attention to her.

Richard looked at her wearily and said, “Yes, Manon?”

“Are you taking my brother away from me?” Her green eyes blazed with sudden fury, Richard saw. He drew a breath to keep his composure before patiently explaining, “That goes without saying, Manon. Jéhan is my heir. He will accompany me wherever I go.”

“Then, Uncle, I must also prepare myself for travelling.”

Manon addressed Pritchard in a polite voice and asked him if he would kindly inform her maid Bessie to start packing.

“Yes, of course, Miss Favier,” the butler answered. He gestured to a footman to take his place at the table before he left the dining room.

“Manon…”

Her uncle’s quiet voice was laden with authority. He was fixing her with his most unwavering gaze. Pru Butterworth watched in amazement at how Manon’s chin went up in defiance and how her eyes and her whole expression focussed on her uncle.

“Yes, Uncle?”

“Please, sit down and listen to me.”

Richard gave his niece a stern look in the hope that she would listen to reason. He thoroughly regretted not having spoken to her of this before and cursed his omission, because he had known full well how firmly the two siblings’ lives were intertwined. Manon might never trust him again if he did not present this correctly to her. He kept his voice as soothing as was possible.

“As I said before, dearest Manon, there is no need to accompany me to Bearsham Manor. Jéhan will be safely under my protection and properly looked after by his nanny and his tutor. The boy is no longer your concern, Manon and besides, you have several events that claim your presence in the days to come. I suggest you stay here with Miss Butterworth and honour the invitations you have received.”

“But … Jéhan has always been with me, from the day he was born! We have never been separated, not even for a day! Please, Uncle, let me come with you! I cannot stand to be without my brother! I promised our father I would protect him with my life, and I will!”

She shoved her chair backwards and swiftly crossed over to her uncle’s place at the head of the table. To Richard’s utter shock, Manon threw her arms around him.

“Please, dearest Richard! I beg you, do not take my little brother from me!”

Pru and Jake exchanged surprised glances upon Manon’s use of a romantic endearment instead of the usual title of ‘Uncle’ that she always employed. Yet they could barely keep their jaws from dropping at the reaction of their employer.

Richard de Briers had risen and he put his arms around Manon. He was gently stroking her now shaking shoulders. “I am not taking him from you, sweetling. Please, do not weep so. I … I cannot stand it.”

His gaze went to Pru, a plea in his eyes. Pru rose and came to take Manon from him. The girl went quietly with her companion – to Richard’s immense relief. It had cost him a formidable amount of willpower not to kiss the tears from her cheeks and make her smile again. His heart went with her when he saw Manon and Miss Butterworth leave the room.

Sighing deeply, Richard gestured to the footman to serve the next course, which was dessert. He then turned to Jake Davies.

“Jake, will you join me in the library after dinner? I have some matters to discuss with you concerning the young master.”

“Certainly, sir,” Jake replied, still stunned by the whole performance and its implications. His master could not … would not … No!

 

Half an hour later, Manon had been bathed by Bessie and put to bed.  A cup of hot cocoa had been served to help Manon sleep. Pru came to sit next to her bed and took her hand.

“Dearest Manon, I think you have something to tell me,” she said quietly and looked comfortingly at her companion. Manon turned her face away, but Pru had seen the silent tears that ran down her cheeks. Poor little mite, she thought. Poor sweet child.

“Is your uncle the one you lost your heart to, Manon? You can tell me; it will ease your mind to tell someone, dearest. Such a burden should not be borne alone.”

Still Manon did not answer and she tore her hand from Pru’s and covered her face. Her slender shoulders shook with violent sobs.

“Manon, we do not choose whom we love. Love chooses us, just like that. It is no crime to fall in love with one’s uncle but it would be if you gave in to temptation and acted upon that love. I cannot believe that your uncle would commit such a dishonourable act, Manon. Richard de Briers is a gentleman of the first water.”

“He has not done anything. He has always behaved impeccably. We never … touched each other again, not even after …”

Manon’s voice faltered, and she burst out in tears again.

“After what, dearest? Tell Pru all; it will relieve you.”

“After I confessed my love to him. He … he was the kindest of souls and he tried to comfort me. He also begged me to stop loving him and to search for a husband, but … oh, Pru! I cannot! I cannot, not ever! I love him so much, Pru! Oh, why must he be my uncle? What have I done to the Heavens to deserve such a torture?”

“There, there,” Pru soothed, anxious because Manon was so thoroughly distressed and because Pru could not seem to offer her comfort. “You must be strong, my darling, and pull yourself together. Sir Richard is right. You must be married and find a new happiness with your husband. The love you feel for Sir Richard can never be allowed to grow. You know that, do you not?”

Manon nodded, unable to speak. She valiantly tried to dry her tears, but they kept streaming down her cheeks. She fumbled for a handkerchief. Pru offered her a clean one so that Manon could blow her congested nose. Finally, she was able to speak again without sobbing.

“Yes, Pru, I do know all that. However, how do you think it feels when I am forced to meet him every day and eat at his table and sleep under his roof and never be allowed to tell him that I love him? How torturous it is to be confronted with him, day after day, and to see how magnificent he is? When he is all dressed up in his fine clothes with his splendid figure, his fine, broad shoulders, and his handsome countenance, he is temptation come alive, Pru. Yet I can never touch him or caress him. I am only allowed to peck him on the cheek and never truly kiss him on the mouth. It is slowly killing me, Pru.”

She was only eight years Manon’s senior, Pru mused, yet at that same time, she was feeling as if she were trice as old as the girl. Love could be such a cruel sentiment. Manon should be happy and joyous at this moment, enjoying her youth. Above all, she should be experiencing the love of a good, kind man instead of being ripped apart by her forbidden feelings for her attractive uncle. But that was just how life was, sometimes. Nothing, no unfair setback, was ever to be excluded.

“Darling Manon,” she said in an infinitely gentle voice, “life has treated you terribly unkindly. You lost your parents and you had to flee your native country. Now these unbidden feelings assault you. It is indeed cruel, my darling, but you must find the courage to fight against all this. I know you can fight, Manon. You are a brave, clever, strong young woman, and you can do it. Of that I am most thoroughly convinced. You are not alone in this, dearest. I am with you and I will support you. For now, I think Sir Richard is right. You should remain here with me and create a distance between you and him. That will be the first step towards peace of mind, Manon. Only when you are not in his presence will your love for your uncle return to a more appropriate level.”

 

The next morning, Manon said goodbye to her little brother as he mounted their uncle’s splendid carriage. Jéhan was excited and happy, whereas she felt as if her heart were being ripped apart.

“We will see each other again soon, mon chou,” Manon said, biting back tears and squaring her shoulders against the sorrow that was lurking nearby. “I will follow you to our uncle’s estate in a few weeks. Now, you will be a good boy, won’t you?”

“Yes, yes, Manon! Hurry, let go of me! We are about to leave!”

Manon smiled when she saw Jéhan’s enthusiasm. At least he was cheerful enough for the both of them.

The company – Jéhan, Jake and Maisie – climbed into the carriage, on the back of which one of the grooms was finishing the strapping of the luggage. Richard de Briers, who had been watching the proceedings from the front porch of the house, stepped forward.

“Well, niece, I will see you on the first of August, then. I asked Lucian Blackthorne to accompany my carriage when it carries you to Bearsham Manor. I hope you will have a pleasant time in Brighton until we see you at the estate.”

He took her hand and placed a kiss on its back, then pulled on his gloves and swung himself onto his big chestnut stallion.

Manon hastily retreated when Spartacus stepped aside, lest the animal tread on her foot. Mere seconds later, the horse and carriage disappeared round the bend and from Manon’s sight. She felt like she had lost a limb.

Climbing the stairs to her room, Manon had the distinct impression that, with Richard gone, the house had lost its very soul. It was definitively missing all joy now that Jéhan no longer filled its corridors and rooms with his cheerful babbling and light footsteps. When she entered her large, well-lit bedroom, she lowered herself onto her bed, lying on her back and resting her head upon her arms.

She needed to think, and to take her life into her hands again. Since coming to Brighton, she had had the impression that her life was being led for her instead of the other way around. Now that she was alone with Pru, without Richard’s constant supervision, Manon knew she could make plans of her own.

 

 

The Last Days in the Desert

The Last Days in the Desert 2016

Last Days in the Desert follows Jesus in an imagined chapter from His 40 days of fasting and praying in the desert. On His way out of the wilderness, He struggles with the Devil over the fate of an ordinary family in crisis, setting for himself a dramatic test with distinctly human conflicts.

Last Days in the Desert is an American drama film about the temptation of Christ, directed and written by Rodrigo García. It stars Ewan McGregor, Tye Sheridan, Ciarán Hinds and Ayelet Zurer. The film premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2015. The limited release date is set for May 13, 2016.

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Hearts Adrift – Part Fifteen

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Chapter Fifteen

 

When the cotillion ended, Richard led Blanche to a seat. He then bid her leave to go and see to his many other guests, whom he had been neglecting somewhat. She graciously released him and turned to a girl whom she knew from childhood but had not seen since. Richard hastened after his niece – he had forgotten all else, after he noticed the paleness of her face when she left the dance floor.

But where was Manon? Standing in the doorway to the entrance hall, he scanned the crowd gathered there, which was easy because of his height. He was about to return to the ballroom when he glimpsed her small form disappearing onto the terrace. When he noticed that Miss Butterworth was with her, Richard felt slightly less concerned.

Before going after the girls, he again looked into the ballroom for his friend Blackthorne. Lucian was dancing with the well-endowed daughter of a Brighton merchant and seemed to be having a fabulous time, judging from the expression of satisfaction on his face.

Stepping onto the terrace, Richard saw the two girls heading for the maze in the garden. He realised something must indeed be wrong, because Miss Butterworth had her arm around Manon’s waist in support. Manon herself seemed unsteady on her feet. What the deuce had happened? Was Manon ailing, or injured? Surely, Miss Butterworth would have taken her to her room and called for a physician if that were the case. With growing concern, Richard accessed the maze through a different entrance than the one the girls had taken. He wished to hear why his niece seemed so perturbed, even though he resented being forced to eavesdrop.

“Dearest Manon, what is it?” Miss Butterworth asked. “We should return to the house, and put you to bed. You look terrible; you are white as a sheet!”

“No, no, I will recover in a while, Pru. Just let us sit for a few moments.”

“But … you are clearly unwell, dearest. Shall I find your uncle and …”

“No!”

The word came out like a cry of despair.

“Oh, Manon!” Miss Butterworth said in anguish,  “You look truly ill.  You are trembling all over, dearest!”

“It will pass, Pru; just stay with me and hold me.”

Richard gritted his teeth in powerless frustration. What had befallen his sweet niece that she should be so disturbed? If Lucian had made any improper advances, he would demand satisfaction.

Her voice barely more than a whisper, as if talking were difficult for her, Manon pleaded, “Not my uncle. He must not know about this. I … I will … be … right as rain …”

Manon got to her feet, swaying lightly, but she managed to make a step in the direction of the house. She then collapsed without a word. Pru uttered a small scream and bent over to her. To Pru’s utter bewilderment, Manon burst into heartbreaking sobs.

Richard  clenched his fists in an effort to keep himself from bursting through the yew hedge to see what was wrong with Manon. He heard Miss Butterworth’s shushing noises as she endeavoured to comfort his niece. Manon was crying her heart out in a most inconsolable and desolate manner.

“There, there, dearie! Tell me what is grieving you so, please. Pru will help you and make it right.”

Nothing was forthcoming from Manon but wracking sobs, as she was weeping like a child would do, forlornly and heart-wrenchingly.

Eventually, Manon’s crying subsided and Miss Butterworth coaxed her once again to confide in her.

“I cannot tell you, Pru,” Manon whispered, so quietly that Richard could barely understand.

“Why not, my sweetling? I am certain I can help you.”

“No, dear Pru, even you cannot help me, no one can. I am doomed!”

 

 

 

Miss Prudence Butterworth recognised the raw sentiment Manon displayed as the oversimplified despair of youth. After all, Pru had six sisters, and all were younger than she. Especially the two youngest, Mariah and Venetia, had a tendency to blot out every ounce of reason when thwarted in love. Mariah had once tried to drown herself when one of her beaux chose another girl over her. Unfortunately for her – or, from the family’s viewpoint, fortunately – Mariah had chosen the gently babbling brook at the back of their garden as the stage for her melodramatic act. The water was shallow and extremely muddy, and Mariah had sunk into the black sludge up to her armpits. By the time their father and their male servant managed to pull her out, Mariah’s despair was gone. Instead, she was bewailing the ruin she had made of her best muslin morning gown.

Manon, Pru realised, was in the same mood Mariah had been just minutes before she jumped into the brook. She was blind to everything else but her own deep despair.

Pru knew she had two sensible options. She could try and comfort Manon with conventional, empty phrases, or she could refuse to follow her into despair and instead chide Manon back into reason. Pru chose the latter.

“Pish and nonsense, Manon! Are you listening to yourself? Doomed, no less! You must recover yourself and act like the sensible young woman that I know you are. You are a de Briers, a member of an old and proud family, and you owe it to yourself to act as such. Quit your waterfall of tears and tell me what is wrong, now! Otherwise, I am taking you to your uncle, and you can explain to him why you are snivelling and wailing like a babe whose toy has been taken away!”

 

Manon startled at Pru’s stern tone but at the same time acknowledged her words as wise.

“You are right, and I apologize, Pru. I guess I was just overwhelmed. The ball is so grand, and I am still learning how to behave.”

“Weeping will not help when you need to use your head, Manon. You are too melodramatic by far. Has someone offended you or hurt you? Was it Mr Blackthorne?”

“Lucian? No, he has been the soul of kindness to me.” She shook her head before continuing, “You must promise never to tell a soul of what I am about to entrust to you, Pru. Promise me, please?”

Puzzled to the extreme, Pru promised.

Manon continued, eyes downcast and hands clenching in her lap.

“I have allowed myself to lose my heart to someone I cannot have for a husband, Pru. It was foolishly indulgent and terribly unfortunate. Now I am condemned to push that love away and hide it forever.”

Pru studied Manon for a while, asking herself how much the girl was affected by her self-declared impossible love, and she found that Manon seemed deeply hurt. How could this have come about? It could not have occurred that same night, Pru realised. No, this was something that must have happened earlier. Manon’s sorrow was painful and real, and it must have been festering for some time, for the girl had been downcast for days. Pru recalled how even the most exquisite gowns, bonnets ,and slippers had not elicited more than a sad, fleeting smile from Manon. Come to think of it, Pru mused, Manon had had an air of melancholy over her lately that was uncharacteristic for the sensible and lively girl that Pru had come to know. For now, Pru would desist prying into Manon’s heart, but she resolved to find out what was troubling her young friend in the days to come.

 

Richard watched the pair return to the house arm in arm. Conflicting thoughts assailed his mind. On the one hand, he was pleased that Manon had found a friend in Miss Butterworth, who seemed to have the right approach to Manon’s impulsiveness. On the other hand, he realised that Miss Butterworth was shrewd and tenacious and that she would try to find out who Manon’s impossible love was in order to protect her adequately.

Hearing Manon’s confession to her friend, he had foolishly rejoiced, even though he knew he had no right to do so. Blast it all! He needed Manon to marry, and fast, too. It would be the best thing that could happen, for both of them.

 

While he wandered back to the house, Richard had to fight against his own black mood. This was becoming ridiculous, he thought. Manon’s tears over the heartache that their mutual love had brought them affected him in the same way. He had always considered a broken heart a mere invention of romantic novel writers, and something that Sir Richard de Briers, an established gentleman with a comfortable position in life, would never have to endure. He was a respected and well-to-do member of England’s country gentry, and the master of his own prosperous estate. Misfortune was not something he was likely to experience, and should a setback come his way, Richard had always assumed he would be able to rectify it.

How wrong he had been, and how foolishly conceited!

 

 

 

The Collection – Sept 01, 2016

PREMIUM SPOTLIGHT ON POST WW2 SET FASHION HOUSE TV SERIES ‘THE COLLECTION’ WITH TOM RILEY AND RICHARD COYLE!’THE COLLECTION’ WW2 SET FASHION SERIES WITH TOM RILEY AND RICHARD COYLE

tumblr_o4qwrpeZ4S1qc4070o1_r1_1280Here’s something we are definitely looking forward to in the future: lavish new period set drama series, the first one ever from UK Amazon, THE COLLECTION set in a post WW2 fashion house with cast lead by our beloved Tom Riley and Richard Coyle! Written and executive produced by Oliver Goldstick (Desperate Housewives, Lipstick Jungle) the series has already been sold to national televisions around Europe and today you can enjoy some of the gorgeous new photos which have arrived to us recently! As you can expect the drama will be filled with stylish and luxurious fashion of the 1947 French capital!

IT’S NOT WHAT THEY’RE WEARING BUT WHAT THEY’RE COVERING UP

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The eight part series is the story of an illustrious Paris fashion house, emerging from the dark days of the Nazi Occupation, now ushering in a new golden age of design and business. Centred on two very different brothers, the drama exposes the grit behind the glamour and the treachery beneath the trappings of this empire, and all who work there.RICHARD COYLE IS THE BOSS

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Our dear British star Richard Coyle is returning again to historical genre after the godawful ‘Crossbones’ two years ago playing Paul Sabine, the couturier with a romantic vision that he hopes will resuscitate a beleaguered, post war Paris. Ambitious, dashing and street savvy, he is a beguiling figure who’s climbed a long way from his scrappy beginnings.

 

TOM RILEY IS GAY GENIUS

That irresistibly handsome devil Tom Riley tumblr_o4urbuw4x61qc4070o1_540(from ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ whose almost entire crew is working on this series as well) takes on the role of Paul’s brother Claude Sabine, the true but hidden genius behind the Paul Sabine label. He is a rebellious, romantic spirit, forced to hide his homosexuality during the Occupation, who’s traded a public face for personal freedom.FRANCES DE LA TOUR STARS

The-Collection1

Their formidable mother, the scheming matriarch Yvette Sabine, is played by Frances De la Tour (who was wonderful in ITV’s sitcom ‘Vicious’) — a woman who will stop at nothing to use her sons to help achieve her own thwarted ambitions. Meryl Streep’s daughter Mamie Gummer is Helen Sabine, Paul’s American wife, an ex-pat who’s called Paris home for over a decade. Jenna Thiam is Nina, the working class daughter of the Maison’s chief seamstress and the unexpected beauty who becomes the iconic face of the label. James Cosmo is Jules Trouvier, the silent partner who bankrolls the Sabine.

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The-Collection2

Episode 1×01; Sep 1, 2016   Amazon Prime

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Source: HOLLYWOOD SPY: PREMIUM SPOTLIGHT ON POST WW2 SET FASHION HOUSE TV SERIES ‘THE COLLECTION’ WITH TOM RILEY AND RICHARD COYLE!