Archive for October, 2012

Henry could not sleep after he stumbled into his bed at the regiment’s quarters.  Throughout the next day he felt lost.  He dreaded his parents’ return.  Looking for Eugene in the late afternoon, he found out that he had not yet returned to his quarters.  Henry’s anger was rekindled, but Timothy persuaded him to wait for his parents at Lord Stambury’s residence and prepare himself to inform them instead of laying in wait for Eugene.  

On his way to Lord Stambury’s residence Henry rode past the looming doors of a cathedral.  He turned the two horses around, dismounted and tied the animals to a lamppost near the side of the building’s front door.  Angry and ashamed he felt a need to enter the church and bare his soul.  Slowly he entered through the huge front door and stopped once scarcely inside.  Hesitating for a moment, he finally walked to the step at the front altar like one going to the gallows. His eyes swept along the width of the front of the church, past the stained glass windows to the large cross in the center alcove.  He shivered.  At the front he sank to his knees and tried to pray, but no words came to him.  It seemed as if there was no forgiveness for him, no release from his troubled mind.  More troubled than when he entered, he left the church with his fists clenched.

Lord and Lady Stambury welcomed Henry.  To their inquiry about his brother he only said that Benjamin thanked them for the use of the horse, and that he has gone on a journey and would not need the mount any longer.  Feeling the need to be alone, he excused himself from his hosts, after they had dined together.  Silently he retired to the room that had been prepared for him for the night.  He tossed and turned most of the night until he had finally determined what he would tell his parents.  When the night fought with the dawn he fell into a fitful sleep.

Late the next afternoon his parents’ carriage arrived.  Henry watched his mother and Melissa enter the house.  He chose not to look at his father.  Slowly he made his way downstairs.  Meredith saw her son descent the stairs, after she had greeted the Stamburys.  “Henry, how nice it is for you to welcome us,” she said.  Melissa and Samuel came to her side and also greeted him.  “Is Benjamin coming down?” Meredith asked her son and smiled at him.  Henry stopped at the last step with his head downcast and his hand clinging to the banister upon hearing her question.

“Is Benjamin well?” Melissa queried, thinking Henry’s conduct and the absence of her younger brother strange. Her question affected her parents.  They quickly grew worried.

With a wondering look in her eyes Meredith turned from Henry to her husband.  Samuel suddenly was alarmed. “Henry where is Benjamin?” he demanded.  “You are too quiet for all to be well.”

“I have something to tell you.”  Henry spoke slowly and softly.  “Mother, Melissa it may be best for you to seat yourselves.”

“Henry!” his mother shouted in panic.  “Where is Benjamin?”

“He is not here,” Henry began.  “He has taken a journey and shall be gone for some time, I sadly fear.”

“Henry, you are not making sense.”  His father came to his side.  He demanded, “Why would Benjamin have gone on a journey?”

“Benjamin boarded a ship late Friday night and is sailing to Boston as we speak.  I begged him not to go, to think of all of us, but he had celebrated too much with sherry.  He became quite disagreeable.”  Henry watched his mother first and then Melissa drop weeping into a chair.  He licked his dry lips and continued.  “When he heard of the Fortune Four sailing that very night,  he said he had to do what Andrew meant to do.  We thought it was the drink in him speaking.  You know how quick at foot he is.  He jumped on board as the gangplank was being raised and shouted back, once he was on deck, to bid you all farewell.”   

“It cannot be!” Samuel insisted.  “Benjamin has too much regard for us to wander off without our blessing.  Nor could he have been equipped to go on such a long journey.  The Fortune Four you say?  It is a Packet ship and may take as many as forty days to reach her destination.  It cannot be!” 

“Henry, say it isn’t so!” Melissa shouted.  “How long shall it be before I shall see his sweet face again?”

“You must not torment us, my son,” Meredith pleaded.  She had collected herself a little.  “Put an end to the game you two are playing with us.  We cannot bear to hear of Benjamin’s absence.”

Henry looked to the floor and shook his head slowly.  “I wish it was a game, dear Mother.  How I would love to see my brother come down these same stairs smiling sweet mischief at us.  Hearing him say a welcome to all of you, and laughing at the sport we might have had together would be balm indeed.”

Lady Stambury walked to Meredith to comfort her.  Her husband pulled Samuel aside. “Let us hurry to High Street and inquire what other vessels are ready to plough these same waters this day.  If, per chance, one of the new Clipper ships should be anchored there, we might persuade the master of the ship to sail after the Fortune.  The Clippers, it is said, have marvelous speed and would catch the Fortune Four long before a week is out.” The two older men hurried from the house with Henry following close behind.  They returned a few hours later unsuccessful in their search.

Upon their return to the Stambury residence Samuel asked Henry to relate the details of Benjamin’s leaving once again.  Henry carefully retold the story as he had reported it to his family at first.  It seemed easier to him to make the report this time.  His heart beat with less apprehension.  Soon after that Henry set out to return to his regiment laden heavily with guilt.  He promised to see his family at Hawking Manor at his first opportunity.  Before he left he wanted to throw his arms around his mother and father to beg them for forgiveness, but he only looked to the ground when he embraced them lightly and whispered, “I pray all is well with Benjamin.”  (more…)

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Coming soon

It is certain, the new snow we can now see  in the mountains will pay us a visit before long.  I’m just as certain to post the next excerpt of “Secrets of Hawking Manor” soon.  I’ll do my best to do so in the next day or two.  Meanwhile, please enjoy the view.

On another note, I’ve started previewing the book, “Think of a Number” by John Verdon.  The story’s main characters, Dave Gurney and his wife Madeleine appear to have lost some of their love’s spark.  Dave, an extremely successful detective, has retired.   Both of the Gurneys are trying to get used to Dave being around the house much of the time.

To please his wife he agrees to go with her to an art appreciation course.  It’s the last thing he wants to do, but he enjoys the course.  He is also impressed with Sonya who teaches the course.  Unexpectedly, a former classmate surfaces and announces he needs Dave’s assistance with a unique problem.  With the arrival of Mark Mellery, the former classmate, the reader begins to realize that a sense of uncertainty and possible danger has entered the casual tone of the story.  I’m looking forward to finish reading the preview.  This may well be a book I want to purchase for my Kobo Reader.

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Henry’s furlough ended before Benjamin returned from Eagleridge.  A few days later his mother and Melissa accompanied Benjamin to the school where he was to study until the Christmas holidays.  Meredith, as always had packed for him twice more than he would have taken himself.  Melissa also added some goodies into his baggage that he would find in due time.  She also wrote a note to him. She stuffed into a bag of cookies she had baked just for him.  Melissa’s note spoke of her love for him and encouraged him to find enjoyment in all his studies.  “Love you always.  Please forget me not,” she wrote to end her note.

On their way to the school they stopped for a night at Holbrook Hall.  Lady Lydia greeted them with gladness.  The captain, her husband, was away on business.  Lydia had hoped that Meredith would make the small detour to the Holbrook Estate on their way to the school and visit with her.  Rebecca and Victoria, the Dranton’s daughters, were happy to see them all too.  Soon after their arrival Rebecca asked Benjamin to watch her ride her pony.  Victoria occupied Melissa for an hour.  Later in the evening, seated comfortably in the sitting room by the fireplace with a book written by a fur trader who had spent years in North America, Benjamin’s interest peaked when the author described  his dealings with three Blackfoot tribes.

Lady Lydia had gone to kiss her daughters good night and say a prayer with them.  For the moment only the crackling of the fire was heard in the room.  Benjamin’s thoughts turned to Sweet Hummingbird, his uncle’s daughter and his own cousin.  “How I long to find her one day,” he whispered, and in his mind he tried to sort out how he might go about searching for her.

He was deep in thought when Lady Lydia returned.  As usual, the lady in her bubbly way had many stories to relate and much news to report.  “What do you think of the marriages of

George Wickendew’s daughters, Meredith?” Benjamin heard her say.

“The girls were getting on in age, Lydia.  They are nearly thirty, are they not?” his mother replied.  “It was past their time to marry.  I only thought the nuptials, both on the same day and announced less than a month before the weddings, were arranged too quickly.  We were away from home and did not receive the invitations until we returned to Hawking Manor, after the wedding day.”

“I missed you there, my friend,” Lady Lydia said.  “It was a small affair.  The brides seemed much too bashful, and I fear the grooms drank too much wine.  But our good mayor was in fine form.  How he carried on about his exploits and strange philosophies.  Now I hear it said that the good mayor landed both husbands for his daughters with a net of trickery and guile.”

“Lydia, no, George Wickendew cannot lack so much virtue as to trick a man out of his freedom to gain his daughter,” Meredith laughed.

“How could Mr. Wickendew deceive two men on such consequential business, Aunt Lydia?” Melissa who had listened with great interest wanted to know.

“It’s shameful what I hear reported,” Lady Lydia explained.  “I hear the Lord Mayor had invited both men some time ago to fish with him on his property.  Having caught only small fry, the mayor busied himself to catch much bigger fish.  He begged the men to stay the night and be at ease with him.  They ate and drank until they were much too full.  All but the good mayor and his frail wife succumbed to the sweet wine.  Late the next morning when the men awoke with heads pained greatly from the excess of the wine, they found themselves in bed, each man with one of our corpulent George’s daughters.  They say the mayor roared much like a wounded lion when he, pretending to look after the men’s health in their own chambers, is said to have found them instead passed out in his daughters’ rooms with their breeches on the floor and the women scurrying from the rooms weeping like wine bottles out of their elements.  The men both swore that they had no recollection of how they came to be in the women’s chambers.  Both insisted they went to bed in the rooms assigned to them by the mayor himself who had assisted them there the night before while his daughters lay sound asleep.  The men begged the mayor to confirm with his daughters that they had not propositioned them.

Their pleadings were of no avail.  The two women could not recall all that had happened to them.  That very day George extracted a promissory note from both men binding them to marry his girls should they come down with the malady of child.  With child they were our good mayor was to have told the unfortunates some time later.  He gave them each a nag and a few sheep for a dowry and saw them married a month later.”  Lady Lydia giggled and laughed before she continued.  “Now it is said, and I believe it to be so, because the girls for too long showed nothing of a child, that the babies will not see the light of day until the blokes have been married eleven full months to the now expectant mothers.”  The lady began to laugh again and Benjamin could see a smile on his mother’s face.  But there were only sober looks on Melissa’s face.  “It is a shameful story, is it not?” Lady Lydia roared concluding her report.

Melissa was not amused.  She reflected on what she had heard and wondered within herself whether the women or the men suffered the greatest wrong.  “Can any good come of such trickery?” she asked.  The question brought a sober look upon the older women’s faces.  Instead of answering Lydia began to praise Benjamin for his kindness to Rebecca.  (more…)

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With each season the view changes.  One of the changes that autumn brings to the view from our house is the absence of the cruise ships.  There must be a lesson, maybe even a story in that occurrence.

Enjoy the things that are fleeting, but it is futile to hang on to them.

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For several years after Hannah left Hawking Manor the days in the land were stormy unlike the way they had passed in the previous decade.  The sun rose and the sun set, it seemed, each day to new inventions and the working out of previously unimaginable ideas.

Henry completed his first two years with Sir Walford’s regiment and signed on for two more.  Melissa came home.  For three years she became Benjamin’s tutor.  Hannah and Sidney married and a year later christened their first child.  Anthony Holbrook, Lady Lydia’s husband, passed away.  It was not quite a year after the bells had tolled for him that Lady Lydia and Captain Dranton were married, and eight short months after that a second daughter was born to the lady.

The Tories rose to power.  Their man, Sir Robert Peel, became the new Prime Minister. The queen married Prince Albert.  In the country the Penny Post was instituted.  The first British census recording the names of the populace was undertaken, and the Chartists continued to be a menace in the minds of many.  Railway mania swept the country.  To the shaking of many citizens’ heads 5000 miles of railway track was laid down across the country.

Samuel made the Carstairs a partner in a steamship company.  Meredith co-hosted a reading of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Merlin I and Merlin II with Lady Lydia, and Melissa met the man of her dreams.

A fancy horseless carriage. The first motorized vehicles similar to this one were seen for the first time in England in the times described.  This one I saw in Nuernberg in 2008.

Life for Benjamin also changed.  While he continued to spent time in the spring, summer, and autumn at Eagleridge, after his fourteenth birthday his parents enrolled him in a prestigious boys’ school more than 200 miles away from home.  His friendships with Albert and Christopher continued to grow, but the number of carefree days together was fewer by far.  On those occasions when he was at home he continued to avoid visits with the Penningtons to escape Louisa’s kisses, but Lady Lydia with her new husband and her two daughters and the Carstairs made frequent visits to each other’s homes which Benjamin enjoyed a great deal.

It was on one of those visits that he made a gift of a pony to eight-year-old Rebecca who feared large animals.  Benjamin found that Rebecca, who had always been a beautiful little girl, had grown tall.  She was very pretty, Benjamin thought, but much too timid.  He encouraged her to do little things like petting a calf.  And each time, once she conquered her initial fear, he found her to enjoy the activity and grow in confidence.  One morning, as he was preparing to ride to Eagleridge, Rebecca came to bid him goodbye.  She asked him after he mounted his horse, “Are you not afraid to fall off this big animal, Benjamin?”  (more…)

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Early yesterday morning I read two preview chapters of Stieg Larsson’s novel, “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest”.  If the preview is an indication of the rest of the novel, it will be an excellent read with lots of drama.

A young woman is found shot.  Three bullets, one in her head, make it difficult to think she could pull through the operation in progress.  But if she does, will a fate in prison await her?  She is wrongfully (I think) accused of the murder of three people.  I plan to buy it for my Kobo Touch.  I got to find out what happens.

I also managed to do a little writing yesterday.  My current project is a sequel to “Secrets of Hawking Manor”.  I’m calling this novel “Storms Over Hawking Manor”.  It will tell the story of the Carstairs and their friends from 1860 onward, when I ended “Secrets of Hawking Manor”.  Benjamin and Rebecca, Henry and Louisa, Martin and Victoria, Clarissa and Albert and many others of the former cast will play major roles again.  And yes, Eugene will make his presence felt once more.  I’m thinking he should have a significant part in the major climax of the story.

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Thank you Rhea Corbett and Ron Molinga for offering to help me with downloading pictures.  I wanted to struggle on and try to get the hang of it that way thinking that if I worked it out by trial and error I would not soon forget how it works.  Doing it by struggling along I found I learned a couple other things as well.

But if you can give me a clue of how to wrap the picture and text so it will suit my fancy I’d appreciate it.  Thanks!


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