The Counterfeit Governess – Part Six

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Six – Severe Complications

 

All around Beth was instantly forgotten and she had only eyes for Fenton’s  prostrated form. He had fallen onto his side and one arm was trapped under his body. Wanting to do something – at least, to help him – she knelt down beside him. To make him more comfortable, she carefully turned him onto his back – and gasped at the sight of the long, ragged scar that crossed his abdomen. It was of an ugly red and marred the beautiful muscles of his stomach, slicing across the fine spray of dark hair that covered his chest. She put out a trembling hand and touched it. Fenton’s stomach muscles rippled in response, causing a knot of fire to pop up, low in her stomach. Oh, sweet Lord!

There were many burns on his arms and shoulders, some of them bleeding, and he was trembling rather badly. He was in shock, she knew, and needed care but somehow, all she could do, was take his head onto her lap and caress his face.

“Stephen …”  Was that her voice, so shaking and full of despair?

“You there, boy!” Granny Bradley’s voice sounded. “Run to Brixton Abbey and fetch help! Mary, bring on some blankets! Ben, Tom, Jack, I need him to be transported into my house, now!”

Then Granny touched Beth’s arm and spoke softly to her. “Come, my child. You must leave it to me.”

Blinking back tears, Beth realised she was compromising herself immensely, sitting in this very close position to a man in full sight of everyone. When the men and Mary came toward them with the items requested by Granny Bradley, she slowly rose and took up her position again with her charges. She waited, however, until they finished carrying Fenton inside before she rode back to Brixton Abbey with the children.

 

~~~~

 

“Stephen …”

The soft, wavering voice pulled at his very heart as his awareness slowly came back. He could not quite believe his ears, though. Nobody ever had spoken to him that way, so full of concern, of caring, of – dare he think it – love?

When Fenton finally managed to open his eyes, he found himself lying on a board that was carried away by four men, but what he saw most clearly, was the retreating figure of Beth Williams. Beth? Beth, speaking his name so lovingly that his heart was still singing with joy from the memory? Impossible!

“Well, my lord,” an old woman’s voice drew his attention. “I certainly never dreamed of letting you into my home!”

“Mrs Bradley!” Fenton exclaimed, recognizing Molly’s mother.

“Yes, and I should let you rot in hell for what you did to my angel.”

She said it in a controlled voice, however. Fenton found himself breathing again, although he never knew he had stopped doing so.

“I am trying to repair the damage by taking the children into my home, Mrs Bradley. They have an excellent governess to see to their education.”

The old woman’s face was impassive when she neither thanked him nor cursed him for taking her charges from her.

“I will see to your injuries now, my lord,” Mrs Bradley said, matter-of-factly. “You have quite the number of them. So, as we are clear about this, I am only doing this because you rescued little Johnny. Is that understood, my lord?”

“Quite so,” he replied curtly, then continued in a softer voice. “Is the baby alright? He was so quiet when I took him out of his cradle.”

“Yes, he is fine, thank you. Ruby is already nursing him at her parent’s house and his appetite was as good as ever.”

Without further ado, she began examining him, causing him to curse under his breath when she applied some sort of ointment onto his burns.

 

~~~~

 

For the rest of the day, Beth kept her charges inside, asking them to make a drawing about what they had been subjected to, that afternoon. Lily and Oliver applied themselves to it with an unexpected zeal, allowing Beth to sit quietly with them and give herself a break. She badly needed to recover from the appalling emotions that hit her on seeing Stephen Fenton pass out and getting hurt.

What struck her the most had been the realisation that he was concerned enough about his people to risk his own life to save them. She never suspected that of him, nor would she have thought him that brave. He must possess a great deal of courage, judged by the seriousness of the injuries he suffered during the Peninsular War. That scar was horrible and it was little wonder it had cost him months to recover from it.

As the hours passed by, Beth found she could not concentrate on the book in her lap. Her scattered thoughts kept wandering to Stephen Fenton, a man she thought she knew but in fact, did not know at all. A man she was undoubtedly attracted to, which made her panic a little. How could that be? Was it because, today, for the first time, he had shown a genuine interest in his children? He had been patient with their efforts on horse riding, had even praised them.

Their rooms on the fourth floor overlooked the stable yard, and the rattle of the Brixton carriage wheels on the cobbles drew her to the window. Stephen Fenton alighted from the vehicle, a blanket thrown over his shoulders. Denying the help of his valet, he strode toward the house, apparently strong enough, after his ordeal.

Beth resumed her seat again, imagining Fenton’s progress through the house. He would first go to his chambers to bathe and change. By then it would be dinner time, and Beth fervently prayed she would not be required to dine with him and his mother. She would be unable to bear it.

A knock on the classroom’s door startled Beth but it was only Trixie who came in.

“Beg yer pardon, miss, master asks you to come down ter dinner with the children. Says they’re ter dine wi’ the family, ternight.”

 

~~~~

 

As she walked into the dining room, preceded by her two very nervous charges, Beth hoped they would remember what she taught them. Lily was wearing a light blue muslin dress which gave her grey eyes a hint of blue, and her honey-coloured curls were brushed into a neat ponytail. For Oliver, Beth had chosen white knee breeches and stockings, a white linen shirt, grey waistcoat and a jacket of dark grey wool. His unruly curls had been cut shorter so that they were easier to handle. Beth wore her usual black bombazine dress because she was still in mourning for her father.

The Dowager Baroness stood near one of the windows when the children came to stand before her, just like Beth taught them. Lily made a reasonably acceptable curtsy while Oliver executed a nearly perfect bow to their paternal grandmother. Beth saw the surprised look in the dowager’s eyes and was secretly satisfied with her charges.

“Good evening, my lady,” she said, as she made her own curtsy.

“Good evening, mademoiselle,” the dowager replied, but curtly and without warmth. The proud elderly woman had only managed the briefest of acknowledgements on the children’s greetings.

The Baron’s reply to his children was genuinely warmer than it had ever been before. He bowed back to Oliver, then took Lily’s small hand in his and kissed it. The little girl’s eyes widened and her mouth gaped open, which got her a jab in the ribs from her brother. Lily snapped her mouth shut but sent a furious glance to Oliver. That made the baron laugh so spontaneously that Beth felt her heart warm in response. When the children went to sit down on a settee and wait for the butler to announce dinner, Beth addressed the baron.

“I trust, my lord, that you were not seriously injured, this afternoon? It showed of great courage to rescue Ruby’s baby, and I thank you for it from the bottom of my heart.”

Stephen Fenton’s eyes narrowed and he drew in his breath sharply.

“You know that woman? How come?”

Beth bit her lip when she realised she was close to betraying herself if she could not turn this around.

“I must confess to a subterfuge, my lord. I have taken the children to see their grandmother for several times, since I have been in your employ. I beg your forgiveness for it.”

The baron’s cool grey eyes raked over Beth’s figure like a cold north wind, sending shivers all over her spine. His voice was equally cool when he spoke.

“Why do I have the feeling, Mademoiselle Guillaume, that you have many other ‘subterfuges’ to confess? Rest assured that I will find them all out, in due time, ma belle!”

Film Struck Streaming – Launching in November

Time Warner’s Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection  are creating a new streaming service called, FilmStruck, which launches in November 2016.

FilmStruck is dedicated to film and film discovery, so we’ve made it easier to enjoy your favorite films while exploring new titles. We created themes to shake the typical genre classification and group movies in a more specific and meaningful way, all to provide you with a better streaming experience. FilmStruck’s constantly refreshed and curated themes incorporate the best titles across libraries, so you can submerse yourself in the types of films you love — whether they’re Neo-Noir, Serious Woody or Kubrick’s early work. – FilmStruck

film-struck

You can get a sense of the period dramas in the Criterion Collection from the post 100 Period Dramas Streaming on Hulu. After the launch of FilmStruck, Hulu will no longer be the home for the Criterion Collection. ~ Courtesy Willow and Thatch

 

How much does FilmStruck cost?

There are three FilmStruck subscription plans to choose from:

  • FilmStruck Monthly Subscription for $6.99 / month
  • FilmStruck + Criterion Channel Monthly Subscription for $10.99 / month
  • FilmStruck + Criterion Channel Annual Subscription for $99.00/ year

 

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Here’s How Jeff Goldblum Is Getting Ready For Thor: Ragnarok

Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok practically became one of the most exciting Phase 3 movies overnight after it announced a cast that included Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, and Jeff Goldblum. With Taika Watiti at the helm, Thor’s third outing looks to be a memorable one. Jeff Goldblum will be playing a villainous character called the Grandmaster, whose got some pretty wild comic backstory. As such, Goldblum is doing his homework and took the courtesy to share his reading material on Instagram.

 jeff-goldblum-thor-grandmaster

Goldblum posted a picture of himself to Instagram, showing that he’s reading a particular Thor comic book in order to get ready for the role of the Grandmaster. After all, Goldblum is, in his own words, “nothing if not conscientious.” This pic is either Goldblum’s attempt to show that he’s really diving deep into the world of Thor or he’s throwing fans a bone and teasing a possible storyline for the movie.

The actual comic he’s reading is The Mighty Thor #374. The issue has absolutely nothing to do with the Grandmaster, but it does feature Hela, Cate Blanchett‘s main villain. In the issue, Hela cursed Thor with brittle bones that will never heal once broken and unending life – meaning that the always battle-ready Thor has to think twice about leaping into combat or he’ll spend eternity as a broken mess. This could be a hint that Thor will be cursed by Hela in some manner in Ragnarok. Or that Goldblum is simply reading an issue that features both characters. X-Factor (a sub-team of the X-Men) also guest star in that issue, so maybe it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Goldblum does have a bit of research ahead of him for his role as the Grandmaster, who’s one of the more “out there” Marvel characters. The Grandmaster is a cosmic being known as an Elder of the Universe (like the Collector from Guardians of the Galaxy) and is super intelligent and powerful. One of the oldest beings in the universe, the Grandmaster is a master of games of skill and chance. His favorite pastime is taking two teams and pitting them against each other. If there’s anybody who can put Hulk in space and make him fight Thor, it’s this guy.

In addition to Goldblum and the other new cast members, Thor: Ragnarok will also feature plenty of older characters. Idris Elba and Anthony Hopkins return, as well as Tumblr’s favorite person, Tom Hiddleston. Of course, Chris Hemsworth is reprising his role as Thor and he’ll be joined by Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk. The film’s plot is still being kept under wraps but set photos of Thor and Loki in New York and the Hulk’s gladiator armor do provide some interesting clues.

Thor: Ragnarok is scheduled to hit theaters on November 3, 2017.

 

 

 

 

https://youtu.be/J4P1SXLac2k

 

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The Counterfeit Governess – Part Five

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Five – An Unexpected Hitch

 

After luncheon, Beth prepared for the children’s riding lessons by providing them with clothes suitable for the activity. She planned to take them to Granny Bradley on horseback, thus providing them with an occasion to test their skills. Michael, the youngest groom, helped Lily onto Pearl, the pony he had chosen for her, while Thompson, the head groom, assisted Oliver onto his gelding Rainstorm. Beth mounted on her own; she was very fond of her placid mare Sparkle. That was a badly chosen name, for there was not a quieter animal in the Brixton Stables. Thompson had chosen well for her.

They were just getting ready to leave when the master’s deep baritone sounded through the stable yard.

“Just a minute, lads! Michael, go saddle Parsifal. I am accompanying Mademoiselle and the children.”

Beth felt the colour drain from her face when Fenton addressed her.

“I want to see the children’s progress first, mademoiselle. Perhaps you had better dismount until I deem it appropriate for us to leave?”

So she watched from a bench in the yard while Fenton judged Lily and Oliver’s riding in the paddock. The children looked nervous but they nevertheless seemed to manage quite well. Their father was satisfied and gave his praise whereupon the small group departed for the village.

 

~~~~

 

She rode extremely well, Stephen Fenton admitted to himself. He had not even known Beth could ride at all. Ten years ago, she blundered about the country side on that ridiculous pony of hers, and had not had the slightest notion how to handle the beast but now … now she was an excellent horsewoman, her seat easy and graceful.

The first sight of her on horseback had him baffled and shocked at the same time. Dressed in a peculiar sort of riding habit, the colour of green olives, Beth rode astride instead of sideways. The full skirt of her habit was divided and the legs of the trouser-like garment were broad and flowing, allowing her to ride without violating the rules of propriety. They were also shorter than a normal skirt would have been, showing her lower legs in their long chestnut boots. It was so attractive Fenton felt his groin tightening in a rush of pure, unmitigated lust. Sweet Lucifer! He needed to keep a tight rein on his rampaging emotions, now and without delay.

It was not the first time he had lusted after Beth Williams, he remembered. Years ago, even before his affair with Molly Bradley, Fenton had been visiting Vicar Williams with some errand on his father’s behalf when Beth returned from a ride after a sudden rainstorm. The sight of her young, slender body in the soaked clothes, the budding breasts peaking through the clinging fabric of her dress, had fired him up so violently he had needed to retreat in haste before the vicar – or Beth herself – would witness his embarrassment. For a few days, he had toyed with the thought of accosting her and try kissing her, but some strange feeling of reserve had held him back. In a sudden surge of conscience, he had shied away from defiling her, somehow. He had not had the same reservations with her friend Molly, though, with the well-known consequences.

While the two children rode ahead, holding a race between them, Fenton kept his black stallion apace with Sparkle.

“What a strange cut your riding habit has, Mademoiselle Guillaume! Is this the latest Parisian fashion for ladies, fond of riding?” he attempted to start a conversation.

“No, my lord, not at all,” Beth chuckled. “I got this as a present from some American relatives who claim it is rapidly becoming fashion in the United States. When a woman is forced to cover the vast distances over there on horseback, she needs something much more comfortable than a side saddle and, accordingly, must adjust her clothing.”

Fenton caught her gaze in his and smiled languidly into her brown eyes.

“It is unusual,” he drawled, “but very attractive. It emphasizes a lady’s … lower limbs to perfection.”

The sudden glow of Beth’s cheeks gave him a wicked satisfaction. He loved to get her fired up, had always loved to! God! She was irresistibly beautiful! When her mare took an unexpected side step, Fenton’s hand reached for the bridle but instead, caught Beth’s hand. Even through the leather of their gloves, he could feel the heat of their skins. Panic darkened her eyes, and he instantly released her.

“I am sorry, mademoiselle, but for a moment, I feared Sparkle would stumble.”

She nodded, and they continued in silence.

 

~~~~

 

Inwardly Beth blazed with suppressed fury!  Damn him! It was so typical of Fenton to turn on the charm on a woman he had only just gotten acquainted with and one who was in his employ and all! She was raking her brain for some retaliation when she heard his alarmed cry.

“By Jove! There must be a fire!”

He dug his heels in Parsifal’s flanks and galloped toward the village. He was right! A black plume of smoke rose from between the thatched roofs of the village and a crowd of people was gathering and running toward it.

Beth suddenly saw Lily and Oliver go after Fenton and she spurred on Sparkle to follow them. When she drew nearer, for a split second she thought it was Granny Bradley’s cottage that was on fire! Panicking, she hurried on, just in time to see Fenton jump off his horse and toss the reins into some farmer boy’s hands.

“Lily! Oliver! Take care!” she shouted, suddenly afraid they would fall off their mounts. Then she reached the children, hastily got off Sparkle and helped first Oliver, then Lily down.

“Stay here!” she ordered. “Do not go near the cottage.”

“But it is Ruby’s house!” Lily screamed.

“Yes, I can see that but look, there is Ruby and Ben, her husband!”

Ruby, however, stood wringing her hands in despair and panic.

“Oh, my lord, help us! My little Johnny is still inside!”

The baby! Beth ran toward Ruby and took her hands in hers.

“Ruby, where is he? In which room?”

“The ground floor room, at the back! Oh God! Oh dear Lord!”

People were running to and fro with buckets of water, throwing it into the fire without result until Fenton quickly organized them into a line, so that the buckets could be passed on in a chain. He then tore off his riding jacket and emptied one of the buckets over his head. Dripping with water, his shirt clinging to his chest, he shook himself vigorously. Beth found herself staring at the outlines of that broad torso, the long muscles rippling. Her mouth went dry and breathing became difficult. Fenton snatched a shawl from the shoulders of one of the women, dipped it in water and threw it over his head.

Before Beth’ horrified eyes, he then disappeared into the burning cottage. Beth’s heart stopped beating that same moment, as she realised he was putting his life at risk to rescue Ruby’s baby. Ruby, who was hysteric with fear … Beth went to put her arms around the slim figure of the young women.

Ben, Ruby’s husband, had put himself at the head of the chain and was desperately throwing water onto the flames.

Interminable seconds lengthened into minutes, slowly killing Beth with every beat of her terrified heart. Stephen – for the love of God, Stephen was in that hell fire! Pacing up and down in front of the cottage, now roaring with huge flames, she bit her knuckles in sheer agony! When would he come out? Soon – it would have to be soon! This was not happening, she could not lose Stephen!

Abruptly she stopped and realised what she had just been experiencing – a huge, heart-wrenching feeling of panic, because Stephen Fenton could actually be in mortal danger and perish. Stephen Fenton, the murderer of her family – the man who destroyed her life. Yet, she was so anxious about him, about facing a life without him, that her heart was aching with a tremendous pain, right then and there.

To calm herself and get out of her strange mood, she went back to Lily and Oliver and was relieved to see that their grandmother had joined them.

“I never thought to see the day when a Fenton would risk his life to save someone else’s,” Granny Bradley said in surprise.

“No, me neither,” Beth murmured in return.

A cry from the crowd drew her gaze back to the burning cottage. Covered with soot, Stephen Fenton came staggering out, a small bundle clutched against his bare chest. He seemed to have wrapped the baby in his own shirt. Hands reached out for little Johnny but his mother was first and took him from the baron.

Beth gave a sudden cry of alarm when she saw Fenton collapse onto his knees, blood running down his face and torso.