Dearest, loveliest Meg – Part Eighteen

Margaret_001

 

Chapter Eighteen

 

“Dobson,” Wilkinson howled, “go back to the crypt! They are still in the passage!”

Meanwhile, I had reached the obstruction resulting from the first cave-in, about twelve to fifteen yards from the outer entrance.

“Douglas, hurry,” I shouted, “they are coming!”

It had the desired effect, for the moonlight was blotted out from the passage entrance when Wilkinson crawled in.

“Where are you, Spencer? You did not think I would forget about your father’s signet ring, I hope? Without it, the documents are no use to me. Come! Surely, by now you will understand it is a useless cause! I am the stronger man, cousin!”

“Hurry, Douglas! Hurry!” I cried again.

Although I knew all too well my ruse would be found out as soon as Wilkinson saw I was alone, it would give Douglas enough head start to flee from his devilish cousin. Wilkinson must have been taken in by my deceit because he proceeded farther into the passage.

 

A yellow light flared up which made me realise he had just lit a torch. The light did not reach the place where I was, yet it forced me to cringe against the earthen wall like a frightened rabbit in a sudden spell of terror. I bit my lips because I did not want to cry out when I beheld Wilkinson, who had a torch in one hand and a firearm in the other. He crouched forward with a lot of moaning and swearing, looked up and took in the sorry situation I was in. An evil grin spread across his plump face.

“Alone, my dear? So he left you to pick up the pieces, did he not? Never mind, you will do very nicely luring him to me.”

That part of the tunnel was particularly low since it was there that I had been buried earlier on. Wilkinson had to duck so low his chin almost touched the ground. He groaned as he put forth his effort to move forward. Was that what made him lose control over his ability to move? Completely unexpectedly, his gun went off.

The sound of the firearm’s shot was deafening and shuddering sound waves rolled through the passage’s confined space. Ears ringing, I closed my eyes and mouth as a cloud of dust from the collapsing ceiling washed over me. This surely must be the end; once again I resolved myself to die.

 

When the ringing in my ears subsided, I discovered I was still able to breathe. I forced open my stinging eyes and rubbed them. The torch, still burning, lay on the left side of the cubbyhole formed by the cave-in. On the right side, protruding from a heap of dirt, lay Wilkinson’s hand. He was still holding the gun. The rest of him was buried under the earthen debris.

I must have been in a sort of shock, for I could not move. Shaking like a leaf and cold to the bone, I was only able to press myself against a wall, my end of some open space, as far away as possible from my attacker.  After a while, pinpricks of my thoughts began to trickle deep into my numbed mind. Was he still alive under the rubbish? Should I try and dig him out? I recoiled violently from that thought!

Faced with imminent death of suffocation as the oxygen ran out, I wanted to take Wilkinson with me so that he would no longer be a threat to Douglas. Eventually, they would search and find our bodies and then Douglas could destroy the documents he signed in order to save me. It was a fair trade – a life for a life. Douglas deserved to be the master of Watcombe Manor; it was his birth right.

When the torch stopped burning, I closed my eyes again – a useless gesture since I was in total darkness.

 

When I heard voices from somewhere above my head, I was convinced I was dreaming. A heavy pressure on my chest told me that I was still in the underground passage and that the air in my small grave was running dangerously low. It was also unbearably hot, and perspiration was running down my face. Or was I weeping? Realising I must have been unconscious for some time, I did not know how much time had passed since I had been cooped up.

Voices again! One voice in particular was Douglas’ deep baritone, calling my name from above!

“Margaret, carry on, my love! Meggie, are you well? Answer me, Meggie!”

“Douglas …” I mouthed his name but it seemed my voice had disappeared. My attempt to speak was instantly punished by a pain in my chest; my lungs, deprived too long for air, started protesting.

I tried to lift my arms and push against the ceiling because, apparently, it was from there that rescue was to come. But it was to no avail, for I had no strength left in my body. Yet, when the shower of dirt that continued to fall on me finally stopped, I was able to open my gritty eyes and behold the terrified face of my beloved rake. I even managed a shaky smile but speech would not come, even though I longed to say his name. He reached down for me and grabbed my upper arms, then slid his hands under them and pulled me up in one strong gesture.

“There, there … I have you, dearest, you are safe,” he said, his voice gruff with emotion. Burying my face against his chest, I wept uncontrollably until other hands freed my limp body from his affectionate grasp.

 

“Monsieur, laissez-moi examiner Mademoiselle Dashwood! Il se peut qu’elle soit blessée gravement.”

“Yes, Madame, you are right. She might be injured,” Douglas replied in French.

Petite-Maman! Thank God, I was in the gypsy’s capable hands now! Those hands were probing my body and limbs with expert fingers. She then did something very unusual. She pushed me down, straightened my body and, grabbing my arms with considerable force, threw them high above my head, causing me to cough rather violently.

“Qu’est-ce que vous faites, bon sang!” Douglas exclaimed. He was ready to throw himself upon the woman, had not Jack Twinkler withheld him. “What in the devil’s name are you doing, woman?”

“Don’t fret yerself, Guv’nor!” Jack piped. “She’s only tryin’ ter free ‘er lungs from dust and dirt! Ye should be grateful, ye know? The gypsy woman only does ‘er job!”

 

“Jack, dear Jack,” I thought. He had come to our rescue after all. I saw other familiar faces around me. Col. Brandon and Edward Ferrars were looking rather worried and the former, after he witnessed a long talk between Petite-Maman and Douglas, asked, “Spencer, Margaret will be well, I hope? I cannot imagine what Mrs Dashwood would say if her baby daughter would have come to harm?”

“The gypsy says she sustained no broken bones or serious injuries. We must get her into bed as soon as possible, Brandon!”

Douglas, after glancing at Petite-Maman who nodded to affirm that I was not seriously hurt, gently picked me up and carried me to Col. Brandon’s carriage where he installed me on the bench and covered me with a blanket. He seated himself beside me for support. As the carriage began moving, I leaned back against him, marvelling in the warmth of his body as his arms encircled me. For a few moments, we let ourselves be lulled by the movements of the carriage, revelling in each other’s company.

“Is he … is he?” I tried but I could not make myself saying it.

“He died of suffocation,” Douglas said quietly. “The gypsy woman attempted to revive him to no avail.”

“I could not … I know I should have tried but … I could not …”

“Hush, my heart. Do not trouble yourself. There was nothing you could have done to save him.”

His hold tightened around me and his next words were uttered in a husky voice.

“My darling Margaret, can you ever forgive me for letting him go after you in that passage? I have been such a fool, I should have known he would search for us until the end.”

“I am to blame for that, Douglas, I lured him to me. I wanted you to escape.”

“You little fool … you could have died! Meggie, dearest, loveliest Meg, why do you always act so very rashly? I swear you will be the death of me, someday …”

 

By now, dawn had broken and Delaford’s driveway was golden with reflecting sunlight. A large company of people were waiting for us and at the head of them stood my mother, her arms crossed in a very determined way. Angry, no doubt.

“Listen,” I urged, “you must carry me in your arms, Douglas! I will act as if I have fainted!”

“Why, Margaret, surely …”

“Mother will try to separate us. She does not approve of you so you must appear to have come to my rescue! That is the very truth, after all!”

“We will do no such thing, Margaret,” Douglas said firmly.

When the carriage came to a stop, he alighted and offered me his hand which I reluctantly took; I threw him a furious glance. Douglas guided me toward the waiting group of servants and family, and bowed deeply to Mother. She was now clutching Elinor’s arm.

“Mrs Dashwood, allow me to present myself. Douglas Alexander Spencer, son of the late baron Sir Matthew Watcombe. I must ask your forgiveness for appearing before you in a less than formal attire but Miss Dashwood and I have been in a spot of misfortune.”

My mother darted her eyes from me to Douglas and back. She was speechless but no longer angry. When my charming rake flashed her a dashing smile, she actually smiled back!

“Mr Spencer, I am pleased to make your acquaintance. Do not, sir, concern yourself about your attire. Col. Dashwood already informed us about the past events. Margaret, my child, come with me.”

Before Douglas released my hand, he gave it a little squeeze for encouragement.

 

Poirot: Dead Man’s Folly

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Dead Man’s Folly

Wealthy financier George Stubbs contacts the famous mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver, in hopes of creating the ultimate “murder hunt”. However, she begins to suspect foul play and calls on her old friend Hercule Poirot to help solve a crime that only exists in Oliver’s imagination – for now. A web of secrets and lies, all centered around a boathouse strangling, a vanishing, and an ancestral estate; serve to create an intriguing murder mystery within a murder mystery.

Airdate: Sunday August 03rd, 2014

 

 

Wolf Hall Costumes

Damian Lewis sports vibrant Tudor costume as he get into character as King Henry VIII for highly anticipated BBC drama Wolf Hall

 

There have been several famous on-screen portrayals of King Henry VIII.

And Damian Lewis is sure to give another memorable performance as the infamous British royal in the new BBC series, Wolf Hall.

The Homeland actor was pictured in his full period costume on Friday as he filmed scenes for the anticipated new drama at Gloucester Cathedral.

Royal style: Damian Lewis is sure to give another memorable performance as the infamous British royal in the new BBC series, Wolf Hall

Royal style: Damian Lewis is sure to give another memorable performance as the infamous British royal in the new BBC series, Wolf Hall

The 43-year-old certainly looked regal in his attire as he got into character for the show which is based on the award-winning historical novel of the same name.

 Damian looked fit for a throne in a mustard ensemble teamed with black knee length boots.

Inspired by the fictional biography written by Hilary Mantel, the story is centred more on the rapid rise to power of Sir Thomas Cromwell in King Henry’s court.

Period set: The Homeland actor was pictured in his full period costume on Friday as he filmed scenes for the anticipated new drama at Gloucester Cathedral

Period set: The Homeland actor was pictured in his full period costume on Friday as he filmed scenes for the anticipated new drama at Gloucester Cathedral

 

His royal highness: Damain joins the many actors who have portrayed King Henry VIII on screen

His royal highness: Damian joins the many actors who have portrayed King Henry VIII on screen

His royal highness: Damian joins the many actors who have portrayed King Henry VIII on screen

 

Cromwell had been the right-hand man of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, special adviser to the King, but soon Sir Thomas took his place to become the most powerful of Henry’s ministers.

Thomas played a key part in overseeing Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, and the English reformation whereby the country went from Catholic to Protestant.

Playing the role of Cromwell is the award-winning stage actor Mark Rylance, who recently won the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a play for his role in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Not so mellow yellow: The 43-year-old certainly looked regal in his attire as he got into character for the show which is based on the award-winning historical novel of the same name

Not so mellow yellow: The 43-year-old certainly looked regal in his attire as he got into character for the show which is based on the award-winning historical novel of the same name

Not so mellow yellow: The 43-year-old certainly looked regal in his attire as he got into character for the show which is based on the award-winning historical novel of the same name

 

Details: Inspired by the fictional biography written by Hilary Mantel, the story is centred more on the rapid rise to power of Sir Thomas Cromwell in King Henry's court

Details: Inspired by the fictional biography written by Hilary Mantel, the story is centred more on the rapid rise to power of Sir Thomas Cromwell in King Henry’s court

 

Drama: Cromwell had been the right-hand man of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, special adviser to the King, but soon Sir Thomas took his place to become the most powerful of Henry's ministers

Drama: Cromwell had been the right-hand man of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, special adviser to the King, but soon Sir Thomas took his place to become the most powerful of Henry’s ministers

 

Jonathan Pryce is to play Cardinal Wolsey, Anton Lesser as Sir Thomas More, with Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn.

Mark Gatiss, Edward Holcroft, Ed Speeler, Elaine Caulfield, Jessica Raine and David Hobb make up the ensemble cast for the drama which will air later this year.

The title of both the series and book comes from the name of the Seymour family seat at Wolf Hall or Wulfhall in Wiltshire, though none of the action occurs there.

Vibrant: Thomas played a key part in overseeing Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, and the English reformation whereby the country went from Catholic to Protestant

 

Vibrant: Thomas played a key part in overseeing Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, and the English reformation whereby the country went from Catholic to Protestant

 

Accuracy: Playing the role of Cromwell is the award-winning stage actor Mark Rylance, who recently won the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a play for his role in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

Accuracy: Playing the role of Cromwell is the award-winning stage actor Mark Rylance, who recently won the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a play for his role in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

 

It also alludes to the old Latin saying ‘Man is wolf to man’ in that Cromwell’s navigation’s are dangerous and opportunistic in nature.

The novel was previously adapted into a successful stage production by the Royal Shakespeare Company earlier this year.

In good company: Jonathan Pryce is to play Cardinal Wolsey, Anton Lesser as Sir Thomas More, with Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn

In good company: Jonathan Pryce is to play Cardinal Wolsey, Anton Lesser as Sir Thomas More, with Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn

 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2706270/Damian-Lewis-sports-vibrant-Tudor-costume-character-King-Henry-VII-highly-anticipated-BBC-drama-Wolf-Hall.html#ixzz38cn6VXr4
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Dearest, loveliest Meg – Part Seventeen

Margaret_001

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

We were completely out of breath, Douglas and I, by the time we managed to pull the massive stone block aside. It showed a small entrance to a dug-out passage, shored-up by wooden planking which did not seem at all sturdy.

“By Jove!” Douglas wheezed, “It seemed much larger when I was ten!”

I do not know how but I found some breath and laughed weakly.

Soon we were crawling through a pipe that was so low and narrow we were forced to go single file. Douglas went first and I followed.

“Mind you stay close to me, Miss Dashwood,” he said. “This torch is not going to last much longer and we do not want to lose each other. Here, hold this.” He removed his belt, trusted one end into my hand and took the other himself.

The going was difficult as the passageway floor was bumpy and littered with cave-in debris. At least the passage was straight. Soon our progress came to an end when we reached a solid wall of earth where the tunnel roof and walls had collapsed.

“Damnation!” Douglas hissed and tried to sit up but could not because the ceiling was barely three feet high. He only managed to lay on his side and I noticed his face was grey under the torch light. He was covered in streaks of dirt and perspiration and undoubtedly  I  looked the same. I realised we were both too exhausted to continue our laborious journey. Although I was aching to touch him and have him touch me, I did not dare to move toward him; I was no longer sure of Douglas’ feelings for me, after he was forced into signing those dreadfully final estate documents. However, my mind was in such turmoil about the recent revelations about Wilkinson that I could not stay silent.

“Mr Spencer, would you please consent in telling me what has transpired this past week? I … we have been seriously concerned about you when we learnt that you had disappeared.”

“I might as well tell you, Miss Dashwood, since I know all too well you will not stop harassing me about it! It must have certainly occurred to you that my cousin is not, to say the least, an agreeable man. We never got along well but the difference in our ages could have been the cause for that, since Phineas was already a grown man of twenty-two by the time I was born. Although I cannot recall having done him any wrong, he always showed an aversion to my person and has forever treated me with contempt. Yet never had I imagined that he hated me so much that he wants me dead all these years .”

“Oh, no, you are mistaken!” I said vehemently. “It does not signify whether you are dead or alive, Mr Spencer. All he wants is your property, your title and your money! Surely you must see this clearly now your premature return to England is what urged him into action. He never expected you to turn up before your thirtieth birthday, the day on which he would become the legal owner of your father’s wealth, unless you married. He has been plotting to kill you since that moment and nearly succeeded when he shot you on the moors.”

“Yes,” Douglas replied, raking a hand through his hair and mussing it even more. “I think that is sufficiently clear, although I fail to see why he had to go to such lengths to accomplish his goal. He would have gotten his wish soon enough, since I had no prospects of marrying before August 22nd.”

“There are a number of unexplained parameters in this case, Mr Spencer. Col. Brandon, who suspects financial difficulties are at the base of them, has gone to Liverpool to sort them out. We might be able to find prove of Wilkinson’s premeditation to your downfall and death.”

“Ah … well, my dear Miss Dashwood, if we do not succeed in getting out of here, that would be of no use, would it?”

He rose onto his knees but wavered and shook his head to dispel some dizziness.

“We should go back,” I urged. “You do not look well at all, Mr Spencer.”

“No, confound it! We will dug ourselves out of this rat hole or die trying!”

 

With that, he started digging with the help of a piece of wood he picked up from the floor. I followed his example by shoving the earth he had removed behind me. We managed to proceed for about ten feet when it happened – the ceiling came crashing down on my head and dirt filled my mouth and nose.

Strangely enough, I felt no fear at all. It was like a warm blanket covering me on a cold winter night, except that there was no air to breathe. I would soon be gasping for air so I abandoned myself to the warm darkness of death in which I had fallen.

 

Suddenly I felt a forceful slapping on my  back which caused me to cough hard.

“Excellent! Keep coughing and do not forget to breathe!” I heard a voice say and found myself lying on my side, draped over Douglas’ arm while he was trying to make me spit out the dirt I had swallowed. I threw up violently and then gasped for air, wheezing like an old woman and feeling nauseated. After a few moments, just as I began feeling better, I realised Douglas was caressing my neck and shoulders with gentle, soothing strokes.

“There, there, my darling … better now?”

“Yes,” I croaked, “how did I get here? I thought I was buried for good.”

Since I was much shorter than Douglas, I managed to sit and was able to lean my back against the passage wall. Only then I saw we were still buried, more or less, for we were in a kind of cubbyhole between two barriers of earth. Fortunately our makeshift torch was still burning.

“You were still clutching my belt,” Douglas replied, “so I was able to pull you out. Are you well, Meggie?”

“Ah, we are back on first name terms, I see. That is a true relief, since I have been living under the impression that we were no longer friends because of your return to formality.”

“Margaret?”

“Yes?”

“Will you do me the honour of becoming my wife?”

 

The situation was ridiculously hopeless. I was half lying, half sitting, against the wall. Douglas lay propped up on his elbow, his head half a foot from mine. For the first in a long time, I looked Douglas in the face, but was at a loss for words. He tried to flash me a smile but it was a shaky one at best.

“Well, Meg, that is what you wanted, is it not? You needed me to say it aloud so I graciously obliged.”

“And here, here of all places, you are actually asking me to leg-shackle you? Me half choked and you half starved?”

His arm went up and he drew me to him, hard and swift. His mouth was equally hard and so demanding I was aroused in two seconds. I pressed against his iron chest; my body crushed against his – I was lost! Suddenly I remembered I wore no corset under my breeches and shirt, just a thin chemise, which caused our bodies to touch more intimately. Douglas must have noticed it too for his hands stroked me in various places. A devastating desire for him threatened to overwhelm me. When, finally, we had to come apart to draw breath, we were in a black, stifling darkness because the torch had gone out.

“My God, my loveliest Meggie! Will you give me an answer before we both perish here? I love you, for God’s sake, as I always have since the first moment I set eyes on you.”

“If you can free us from this hell, Douglas Spencer, I will be your wife. You have my answer. Now let us get digging again before the air runs out in this confined space.”

 

With desperate tenacity we tried to dig through one side of the cubbyhole. I could feel my hands bleeding from the effort but in the darkness could not see them. In my recollection this was the worst experience that had ever happened to me in my whole life and the whole time I was terrified the ceiling would collapse and bury us both alive. The only way to bring this off with success was to shut our mind off from the horrible consequences and keep shoving and passing the earth from the front to the back of this impossibly small space we crawled into. We were forced into coughing and wheezing from the lack of oxygen, while we performed in deep suffocating darkness.

I was becoming dizzy and light-headed and so worn out that I was working like an automaton, no longer capable of doing anything except shoving the earth behind me as Douglas passed it to me. Then with a jolt, the wall of earth collapsed and cool, fresh air rushed into what could have been our temporary grave. Douglas burst through the hole and dragged me with him. Gasping for air, I lay on top of him and did nothing more than just gulp in that wonderful, clean night air.

After a while I became aware of Douglas’ hands caressing my derrière, chuckling as he did so. “You know, Miss Dashwood, I find the image of you in breeches and coat a very thrilling one. To my delight, I found out you are not wearing your corset. It is a most wonderful feeling, your body beneath those breeches.” His wonderful smile had returned, causing my heart to stutter. I brushed the hair from his dirty face and kissed him, an act which seemed to please him very much, judging by the reaction of his body.

“Why have you tortured me for so long, Douglas Spencer? Why did it take you almost to the point of death before you fully accepted me?”

With a sigh, Douglas sat up and embraced me while I was still sitting on his lap.

“My dear heart, in that dreadful moment when I realised I could lose you forever, only one thing seemed to be the right one to do. I had to have you in my life, forever, for as long as we both shall live.”

“So if I had been buried alive sooner, you would have asked me sooner?”

I started to laugh but stopped when I saw his earnest face.

“No, my love, you are mistaken. I have said it many times already but I will say it many times again until you realise it – I have loved you since the moment I saw you. I ultimately resigned myself to have you for my wife when Dobson’s blade was on your throat. That was when I gave in, Margaret, when I was on the verge of losing you.”

He took my face between his hands and, in the light of the full moon, his eyes shone dark and deep.

“My darling Meggie, here I am, with no fortune or property. I have no idea how we are going to make a living but I promise you I will find a solution.”

We will find a solution together, Douglas. We will be together and that signifies it all.” Tears welled up in my eyes and I had no desire to stop their flow.

 

Lost in our kiss, we did not immediately hear the voices until they were upon us. Douglas, whose hearing was keener than mine, suddenly pulled me down beside him.  An angry, all too well-known voice rang nearby.

“Search, you stupid oaf! They must be here somewhere! I must find them and kill them!”

It was Wilkinson and his accomplice! I could see them clearly now, firearm in hand, only twenty yards away. For some reason, they must have gone back to the crypt. Douglas’ voice was a breathless whisper in my ear.

“Hide yourself in the passage, my love. I will try and distract them and then you must go for help.”

“Douglas, no …”

“Please, my darling, do as I ask. Run from here as quick as you can. I could not bear to have you killed, my love. Promise me you will run?”

“Very well, I promise.”

 

Douglas waited until I had crawled backward into the hole so that I would be able to come out swiftly when the time was right. He then began stealing to the left in the opposite direction of our attackers, on hand and feet and keeping low to the ground. I watched him disappear into the thick undergrowth and my heart inexorably sank. To my right I could now see Wilkinson, shoving tree branches aside, but where was Dobson? Slowly it dawned on me that I might have a good chance of luring Wilkinson away from Douglas if I could make him believe that we were still in the passage. I had to do it! I could not bear that Douglas might be caught again and most certainly killed.

When Wilkinson was almost upon me, I rose from the hole, screamed, and threw myself back into the tunnel’s gaping darkness.