God's Country Chapter One

God's Country Chapter One

Status: Finished

Genre: Literary Fiction

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Literary Fiction

Summary

God's Country is the first part of a saga spanning some 50 years in the immediate future. It begins in 2019 and chronicles how a new Christian political force starts the UK on a modern renaissance. With strong characters and challenging themes it is intended to be thought-provoking and entertaining.

Summary

God's Country is the first part of a saga spanning some 50 years in the immediate future. It begins in 2019 and chronicles how a new Christian political force starts the UK on a modern renaissance. With strong characters and challenging themes it is intended to be thought-provoking and entertaining.

Chapter1 (v.1) - God's Country Chapter One

Author Chapter Note

God's Country is the first part of a saga spanning some 50 years in the immediate future. It begins in 2019 and chronicles how a new Christian political force starts the UK on a modern renaissance. With strong characters and challenging themes it is intended to be thought-provoking and entertaining.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: September 26, 2014

Reads: 490

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: September 26, 2014

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~~Part One

The Winds of Change


June 2019

Harry Trevor laughed at his father’s graveside. Not out of any real malice. Not even out of relief at the old man’s death, although he was relieved in many ways. He was rich; although in reality he always had been, of course. His father had controlled the supply of funds in order to bend his only son to his will, but those days were over. So Harry was laughing at the thought of freedom, he decided, as he stood there, collecting his thoughts. He had never been free before. He always had a path to follow, something to live up to and aspire to, whether he wanted to or not, but that had all died with Jonathon Trevor. He could finally do what he wanted with his life, without paternal disapproval or interference.
He did not have to live a lie anymore either. Despite his background, he was not going to pretend that he was happy with the status quo, anymore, or be a part of a class who lived only to maintain the decaying edifice, anymore. Harry wanted to make a difference. He turned away from the grave and stared at the old church, the solid Norman spire and the colours of the stained glass windows. No one else was there. His mother and his sister were comforting each other at home, in London, but he had stayed in Sussex to see their solicitor. He was free of his father, and of his father’s expectations, but he still had his responsibilities. But a man could cope with most things if he had ten million pounds in the bank, plus two properties and a healthy portfolio of shares. He was lucky. Luckier than most, because he knew where his next meal was coming from and had no need to worry about the future.
Heading inside the church he sat down at the end of a pew and prayed, because it brought him some peace. Sebastian Osborne was right, it helped to talk to someone. Maybe God did have a plan for everyone. Maybe God had set Harry free from his father’s shadow for some sort of higher purpose. He had never wanted to be a corporate lawyer. He had never wanted to work in the city and chase the big bonus. Instead, he wanted to change things. For the better, of course. Maybe Sebastian was right about that, too. He took the folder out of his jacket pocket and flicked through it again, fascinated by the objective. Ironically, if he could have explained it to his father, the stiff old man might have approved of some of it, because Jonathon Trevor had always mistrusted progress.
??  ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Elizabeth Buckingham followed her two companions into the old-fashioned haberdashery just in front of Miss Daphne Scott, who held the door open for them, ever mindful of the insanely wide skirts of her ridiculous gown, trying so damned hard not to bump into anything or to knock something over. She really had to concentrate. She could just about see, although her peripheral vision was limited to say the least, but not well enough to move with any real confidence. Henrietta and Georgina Harrington actually seemed to float before her, gliding gracefully across the swept floorboards, the heavy weighted hems of their gowns and cloaks brushing the surface. She tried to copy them, well aware that it was expected of her, but she still felt clumsy and awkward, almost stumbling as they came to a halt in front of the long counter displaying the strange little shop’s wares. Not that anyone else seemed to take much notice of her lumbering performance. She could see at least four other customers and a sales woman behind the till, but she supposed they were all quite used to Reformists in and around Meadvale. Not to mention the simple fact that it was rude to stare. Even if one of the three maidens in their bizarre little coffle did seem to be incapable of putting one foot reliably in front of the other.
Henrietta Harrington, only recognisable to Beth because she was just a little taller than her sister, had stopped in front of a display of coloured ribbons and threads, and she turned to face Miss Scott, her devoted guardian, briskly nodding her head as if trying to communicate with her. Miss Scott nodded back, a little less effusively, her own coal-scuttle bonnet hardly moving at all, and floated across to the counter. She obviously knew that her three charges were muzzled and could not make any sounds, and she would certainly not speak, unless she considered it unavoidable. Henrietta turned back to the display and pointed at something with her mittened hand, although Beth could not see what, and Miss Scott moved closer, holding her list in her gloved hand, close to her veiled face so that she could read it in the rather dim light. Like all three girls, Miss Scott was wearing a mantle, a veil pinned to the stiff brims of their bonnets, but she did not have the fine lace eye veils too, like Elizabeth, Henrietta and Georgina. Beth could quite clearly see her dark, demanding eyes in the gloom, because apparently the strict rules were entirely different for guardians, and servants. Beth did not really know how or why they were different, because her knowledge of Reformism was rudimentary at best, but Miss Scott had to look after her charges, and she needed to be able to see, speak and touch, because they could not, in God’s love. She would certainly adhere to the strict Reformist doctrine wherever possible, but that responsibility was not optional for the three girls in her care.
“Cerise...a pretty colour Henrietta...I think you would like this one, dear?” Miss Scott suggested, holding up some silk thread for Henrietta to examine. Henrietta nodded again, and the guardian placed the item in the basket she held in the crook of her left arm without further comment, before turning back to choose some more.
“Good afternoon ladies...can I be of any assistance?” Beth automatically turned towards the voice, something that required her to turn her entire body because of her bonnet, to find the shop assistant moving towards her. She was a heathen, of course. Beth was becoming more familiar with the terminology of her hosts, and in Meadvale only a non-believer would wear a prim tweed skirt and a white blouse, with her hands, face and even lower legs exposed, but she obviously understood her customers. “Such a lovely day for a walk?”
“Good afternoon Mrs Harper...I just need to choose a few more bits and pieces. I have the girls all working on a rather ambitious frame for the harvest festival...and they are eager for some vivid, unusual colours.” Miss Scott replied, apparently well acquainted with Mrs Harper. “Girls, pay your respects, please.”
Beth glanced at her companions, just in time to copy them, although her obeisance was not as steady or as deep, struggling to hold herself balanced for what seemed like an eternity. It was so hard, not just because her attire was so heavy and cumbersome but because she was further hampered by her corset, a ludicrous instrument of torture Miss Scott had laced her into before she was allowed to leave the privacy of the nursery at Broomwaters, let alone the house itself. However, she had practised the act of curtseying quite a lot, along with walking across a room, or indeed a shop, and she thought she made a reasonable fist of it in the circumstances. It felt so strange. She had never curtseyed to anyone before. One of the many things she hated about Deepdene College, the boarding school she was imprisoned in for two thirds of every year, was the irritating tradition about standing up whenever a teacher or any other adult entered the room anyone was in, but the curtsey was much worse. It was all such an anachronism, an unnecessary exhibition of respect, and although it might well have been because she was also very hot, she was blushing quite furiously behind her veil and the thick mantle. She was not a religious fanatic like her freakish hosts, and she hated pretending that she was, just because her beloved father wanted to punish her for inconveniencing him, and she resented it all, as any sixteen year old would, because everyone was being so bloody unreasonable.
It was all her father’s fault, of course. He was going over the top, as always. But she had to suck it up, if she wanted him to let her leave Deepdene and go to an ordinary school, or sixth form college, near home. He was not going to like the idea, especially as she was quite likely to need to retake some of her GCSE’s, but she was personally finished with Deepdene. Her early departure, deemed a formal suspension by her headmistress, was not exactly serious in the great scheme of things. Some of her friends had gone straight home after they finished their exams, as the rest of term would not involve much meaningful work, but her father had said he was too busy for Beth to come home. So she got involved in a midnight feast, which was just as much of a tradition at Deepdene as standing up for teachers, but the rather bored remainder of year eleven had added a distinctly modern twist, smuggling in some vodka and some extremely strong cider. She did not think it was such a big deal, but the school did, and her father was inexplicably furious. He was due to spend several weeks in Meadvale with some people even he had described as fanatics, doing some sort of report for them, and rather than cancelling it or delaying it for her, he had arranged for her to come with him, like it or not, and told her, amongst other things, to use the time to think about what an irresponsible idiot she was turning into.
Not that his anger surprised her. No father was going to be pleased by her performance over the last year. She had been in a lot of trouble by Deepdene standards and she knew that she had not done very well in her exams. In normal circumstances, he might have shouted a bit, or a lot, and she would have expected to be grounded at home in London, but eventually they would talk it through and she would explain what she wanted to do. She was not a kid anymore. She loathed Deepdene. She wanted to spend more time at home with him, like a proper family, and she was old enough not to be a burden anymore. She could help him, cook for him and just be with him, and she could have some sort of ordinary life. Unfortunately the Meadvale trip had intervened, and his anger had dragged her into the back of beyond on the Surrey/Hampshire border, before abruptly depositing her into a whole family of Christian extremists, something her father seemed to think ought to teach her a much needed lesson in life.
Initially, once she had got over the shock of his furious determination, Beth had thought it would be easy enough, if a little tedious, but it had turned out to be anything but easy. She had not reckoned on being handed over to someone like Miss Scott for a start, and she had most certainly never imagined that the people her father had described as fanatics could ever be as totally weird as the Harrington’s were. She had sort of expected a lot of praying and a fairly dour routine, as her father made it crystal clear that she would be fitting in with her hosts for the duration of their stay, but the reality was far worse. And yet, she had agreed to her father’s conditions, during a tense and argumentative drive down from Suffolk, because he had solemnly promised that, if she kept her side of the bargain, they would talk when they got home. She knew how stubborn he was, and that he really was a busy man, and in many ways being with strangers might actually stop him getting as angry with her as he might have done alone at home.
“Such perfect manners...as always Miss Scott...but you do seem to have gained another charge?” Mrs Harper smiled, moving around them all to slip back behind her counter.
“Oh...this is Miss Elizabeth Buckingham, Mrs Harper...a friend of the family. Elizabeth is spending her summer holidays with us at Broomwaters, as is her dear father.” Miss Scott explained, typically fussing over the girls as she spoke, brushing at a speck of something off Beth’s shoulder. “She is something of a neophyte, but a good girl nevertheless, and she shows real promise.” Beth copied the two other girls again, as she had been advised to do, bowing her head to show due deference to the adults, although it rather annoyed her, because she was not a child anymore. She was not a girl, good or otherwise. She was sixteen, and she was not a Christian; she had to say prayers and attend chapel at Deepdene, like everyone else, but she did not believe in any God and she already thought that the Reformists were insane. She was muzzled for goodness sake. She had what amounted to an oversized gum shield stuffed in her mouth, which Miss Scott had somehow tightened around her teeth, and it had a plastic lip, for want of a better word, which held her tongue down, making it impossible for her to speak, as she was told that there was no need for a maiden to speak to anyone outside the home. Her hands were buckled into impossibly thick mittens, because she had no need for her hands either. Both were restrictions designed to prevent her from sinning or some such fanatical nonsense. She did not really understand what she had been told, but she was supposedly a Daughter of Eve, a fragile and impressionable creature with an innate propensity to sin against the word of almighty God, and her mittens and muzzle would help her to resist any temptations.
However, whilst quite horrific, her mittens and muzzle were actually easier to bear than her attire. Her gown, just like the other two girls, was thick velvet, lined with silk, and worn with enveloping matching cloaks and the huge, over- elaborate bonnets, in some sort of bizarre caricature of Dickensian fashions. It was so completely inappropriate for the temperature, let alone two thousand and nineteen, although the British summer had typically started cloudy and cool, and it made her feel like some sort of ludicrous extra in a crazy costume drama; but she had already discovered that Henrietta and Georgina thought of their clothes in exactly the same way as she coveted the latest high street fashions. Reformists seemed to subscribe to all kinds of Victorian values as part of their impossibly severe doctrine in her limited experience with endless rules covering modesty, decency and piety, but the Harrington’s still seemed to delight in showing off their finery to their friends and neighbours. Not their faces or features of course, just the clothes. Beth gathered that no respectable Reformist woman would ever show so much as an inch of skin in public. But she had been assured that her emerald green gown, borrowed from Georgina, was the very latest style. Beneath it, she was strapped into a flexible plastic frame, a modern interpretation of the crinoline, because the bell shape was considered modest, hiding any hint of her real figure. Henrietta and Georgina considered it wonderfully elegant, and before they were all given their muzzles they assured their new friend that she looked beautiful, but Beth just felt foolish and uncomfortable. She did not know exactly what her father expected her to learn from such torture, but she would have been quite happy to be back in her hated Deepdene uniform again, at that particular moment in time.
“Oh how nice,” Mrs Harper gushed as she started to ring up their purchases on her cash register.
“She is going to have a wonderful summer with us all here in Meadvale.” Miss Scott continued, handing over some more reels of thread, before checking her list once more. Beth disagreed, of course. She was sure she would detest most of it, and she was not going to be there all summer. Her father had said three weeks and she would survive it, just to spite him if nothing else. But not all summer. She had endured one night, one morning and the first half of an afternoon, and she thought she could cope with three weeks. It was a bit like suffering half a term at Deepdene before going home, and that was always six weeks, not three. She had to wear the stupid uniform and do as she was told, or she would be punished, or they would contact her father and tell him what a disgrace she was, and he would moan about her wasting the expensive education he worked so damned hard to give her. It really seemed as if Meadvale would be just the same. Except that she would not give him the satisfaction of failing again, because she planned to show him that she had grown up. He had accused her of being immature at Deepdene, but she had to show him that exactly the opposite was true. She had quite simply outgrown Deepdene. Meadvale was an irritation, an unavoidable and rather weird punishment handed to him by coincidence, but she intended to suffer it, to prove her point, and to make sure that she got what she wanted in the end. Reformists, in her not so humble opinion, were just sad religious freaks, and her father knew that as well as she did from the little he had said to her during half term, when he was offered the job, but it paid well and he had told her that he needed the money. When he was calmer, he would see that her plan would save him money. But if she caved in and begged him to forgive her, or even worse, embarrassed him in front of the Harrington’s, she would make things harder for herself. So she had to put up and shut up until he had finished his report, or whatever he was doing there, and then they could go home and actually talk about things, like adults.
Before she had even arrived, she knew about the clothes. She had Googled Meadvale and the Church of Christian Reform when he told her who he would be working for, so the retro fashions of their hosts did not come as a complete surprise. But none of her lazy research mentioned corsets, let alone muzzles and mittens. And Miss Scott was not exactly justifying her imposition of such monstrous restrictions on her two regular charges, let alone Elizabeth herself. However, from what the other girls said, Beth gathered that the corset was all about the desirable ‘bell’ body shape. Henrietta had actually gushed about how small Elizabeth’s waist was without artificial restriction, because she was naturally petite, and the sisters told her that she would look wonderful in her borrowed clothes throughout her stay. But it was painful, even if Miss Scott informed her that she had only been laced down an inch, making each step torturous, and she could not walk at a normal pace without actually struggling to breathe. But she had a point to prove, something she had realised in the car driving down, and regardless of the shock of what she was expected to do in Meadvale, she had largely focussed on her main objective.
Beth was sure that Miss Scott, who seemed to be a glorified nanny to the two Harrington girls, for want of a better description, would be reporting back to her father at some stage. So she surrendered herself to the guardian’s care with the intention of impressing her, but even so her introduction to the muzzle almost made her fall at the first hurdle. It was, she was brusquely told, necessary for a traditional maiden and any pious Daughter of Eve, which seemed to translate as an extremely fanatical one, because the Harrington’s believed that a ‘lady’ should never speak outside the house. Men were the creation of God, and women came from man, so no one wanted to hear what a woman had to say for herself, except perhaps her father or husband, who clearly had to tolerate such abominable wittering in the privacy of their own houses. It was outrageous, of course. Even to say such things was probably illegal under equality laws and Beth was sure that forcing a lump of plastic into her mouth against her will was some sort of crime, but somehow she managed not to argue. Henrietta and Georgina, keen to help, assured her that their muzzles were really quite comfortable to wear once you got used to them, and she ended up opening her mouth as Miss Scott requested so that the guardian could push it into place. It fitted over her teeth with the hinge plate or whatever it was reaching into her mouth and pinning down her tongue, with some sort of tube in the middle. It did not feel too bad at first, no worse than the protective shield she used to wear when she played lacrosse, but then Miss Scott inserted a tiny key and started to tighten the wretched thing like a vice.
“Quite a good fit really Elizabeth, but this is just Georgina’s spare. We are taking you for a proper fitting this afternoon dear as we are going into town...you will find that your own properly fitted muzzle is so much more comfortable.” Miss Scott had said as Beth felt her teeth being clamped together. It really was quite barbaric. It seemed incredible that Reformist women, even girls like Henrietta and Georgina, chose to wear such awful things, even for the love of God, but she watched the other two girls accept their muzzles as if their guardian was putting a chocolate in their mouth, both striving to set her a good example. And she tried to forget about it, tried to ignore the indignation inside of her, but as she stood there listening to Miss Scott and Mrs Harper calmly discussing what a wonderful summer she was going to have, her jaw was aching and she longed to be able to swallow properly again, let alone make a noise. Maybe her own would be better, she told herself, still in a bit of a daze, but also still determined to make her father see that she was old enough to make her own decisions in life after suffering such indignities for the chance. He probably had no idea what she was really going through, but she was not going to embarrass him in front of his lunatic friends. She was going to suffer his impromptu and ingenious punishment and earn her right to a say in her own future.
??  ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Charles Buckingham sat beside the River Mead, deep in thought, with David Harrington’s short document open on his lap. He had already read it three times and his scribbled notes filled almost every inch of white space. He had expected to disagree with more of it, if he was honest, but there was something about the overall message he identified with and he was starting to question his own motives. He was desperate. His career was in total ruins and his personal life was a mess. So as soon as someone tossed him a chance to start again, he was sorely tempted to grab it regardless of the details. He was surely fooling himself, clutching at straws. But the offer was still tempting purely in financial terms. He was ignoring issues like his personal credibility for the sake of a ridiculous salary and the slimmest of chances to get back to where he still believed he belonged.
However, his instincts were telling him that there was something there. He tried to tell himself that it was just the offer of a huge salary and the safety that would bring playing games with his mind, but he kept on going back to the underlying message. It was extreme in many ways. Harrington’s document was certainly not fit for publication outside of the Church elders in its current form, but there was something there. He was not just saying that to cover himself against the feeling that he was selling his soul. If not to the devil then to something else he could not quite fathom, and nothing in the slow moving water offered him any comfort or answers.


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