“North & South: Nurturing Love” (Fan Fiction), Ch. 0-4 ,
3/19/12 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #151)
(Author’s Note: A few quote excerpts from the 2004 BBC drama North & South appear in “italicized quotations” in some of these initial chapters.)
Author’s Note: When I first watched the BBC’s North & South (2004) on dvd in February 2010, it was a revelation to me. Not only was the original author Elizabeth Gaskell brilliant in creating a romantic story of star crossed lovers, but her story also conveyed the complexities of socio-cultural issues of the mid 19th century. The British Empire was at its zenith of influence and power around the world as evidenced by the Great Exhibition of 1850. But, the industrial revolution and boom was not without its human cost–further distancing the social classes between the haves and the have nots–and the BBC’s adaptation was faithful to that context.
However, North & South is ultimately a human story of how two people from differing social classes and backgrounds–John Thornton and Margaret Hale–can come to understand, appreciate, and love one another. And one aspect of the telling of the romance was Margaret’s stubbornness in the proposal scene when she did not to see the heartfelt and sincere love that John had for her. But John was also remiss because he surprised Margaret with his feelings by proposing out of the blue. He couldn’t have worked up to it after several personal interactions with her, such as strolls in the surrounding landscape? I decided that these two characters needed some matchmaking help.
So, I began writing this sequel–which I had earlier dubbed a midquel–to address Margaret’s stupidly refusing John’s marriage proposal and John’s ineptitude in proposing to her, thereby bringing them together sooner, as well as what happens after that. I am returning to my story to serialize it here on my blog after a long hiatus of being away from it. I have been writing 50 plus other fan fic and original stories, and have delved into social media. And I also found and fell in love with Trudy Brasure’s wonderful North and South fan fiction “A Heart for Milton” last Summer on Wattpad–and her book is now being published. But my readers have been asking me to share my North & South Fan fiction. So, now I will begin serializing all 160 plus pages of it. Yikes! As is my usual habit, I will typically serialize about 7 to 10 pages at a time–twice a week on Mondays and Fridays. So, it will still take us a while to get through my fan fiction story here. And for that reason–and because we all know the characters so well–I will have fewer illustrations throughout than I normally include. I hope that you find this story enjoyable.
And since I had earlier grouped the action by scenes–now labeled chapters that are numbered consecutively from the beginning to the end–I have also segmented this story into what might be considered four 2 hour episodes, were they to be filmed for television. Hey, a girl can dream can’t I? Ha!
Cheers! Gratiana Lovelace
Episode I–“North & South: Nurturing Love”, the Proposal Scene with a New Outcome and New Following Scenes
“N&S: Nurturing Love”, Ch. 1: Reimagining John’s Proposal to Margaret, She makes Amends
Author’s Note: A few quote excerpts from the 2004 BBC drama North & South appear in “italicized quotations.”
The Hale’s parlor is small to begin with—and the tension between Margaret and John seems to make the room even smaller and more closed in. John has just shared his tender feelings for Margaret and proposed to her–and she rejected him. Margaret had heard the tattle tale gossip about her behavior at the mill riots—about when she tried to jump into John’s arms to shield him from the rioters throwing rocks. And she is embarrassed by the gossip as well as by her own behavior. She does not understand why she felt so compelled to protect him–beyond her stated reasons of having been the one to urge him to meet the rioters head on.
John and Margaret move about the room keeping a distance between each other–with Margaret mostly turned away from him and looking out the window [(2) right], but she is not really looking at anything. At John’s further declarations of his love for Margaret and his wish to marry her, Margaret instantly regrets what she said just now and how she said it. She turns–seeing John’s pained look on his face–and she tries to stop John from leaving.
Margaret: Pleadingly. “Mr. Thornton, please.” He keeps walking toward the parlor door. Then in a quiet voice, almost a whisper, she says “John … please don’t leave.”
The softening in Margaret’s tone and the change in her form of address to him—using his Christian name–stops John from leaving. He slowly turns his body a quarter turn toward Margaret. But John does not turn his head further to look at Margaret–he does not trust himself to do so without betraying his hopeful wish of her having feelings for him. John is a handsome man. But frowning—as John does now, and often—gives him the appearance of always being out of sorts. His scowl is a mask that he wears to shield himself from revealing his true feelings to others. As a counterpoint to John’s scowl, Margaret hides behind her traditional and outdated rules of etiquette–and her feigned disdain—that act as her ‘mask and shield’. Neither John nor Margaret let their guard down willingly nor easily out of habit–and stubbornness.
John: Somewhat sharply, but also hopefully, he asks her. “Why not?” John glances in Margaret’s direction out of the corner of his eye, but still he does not look at her directly. Perhaps John feels that if he looks at Margaret, he will betray his tender feelings for her that she so decidedly dashed just a moment ago. He does not want to risk rejection again. And yet… John’s thoughts do not finish that hopeful wish.
Margaret: Trying to make amends and looking up at him pleadingly. “I’m ashamed of what I said just now. I didn’t mean it. Of course, I know that you’re a gentleman. You’ve been so kind and thoughtful to us, and father so appreciates your friendship. … You’re one of the best men I know.” John looks searingly at her, as if he doesn’t believe her statement just now. Margaret hesitates under his piercing gaze, then she continues. “I’m not sure what I feel. …. May I explain myself?” John looks at her directly now, but he does not move nor speak. He is holding his breath. Margaret feels desperate to make him understand. “Will you be seated?”
John hesitates, still stung from Margaret’s adamant refusal of his proposal. Yet, he cannot seem to move from the spot and stays standing–but John turns his body to look at her fully now, faintly hoping for, yet not expecting, a change in Margaret’s feelings toward him.
Margaret: Margaret sits on the sette and looks at her hands. Then she begins to speak to break the awkward silence between them. “That was false bravado when I spoke to you shamefully just now. I know I may seem confident sometimes, …” Though Margaret does not look confident at all just now. “… I try to act so. But, I make so many mistakes–not shaking your hand when you offered it before, and just now, not responding courteously to you as I should have.”
John: Pointedly and with the hurt of rejection still in his voice, though try as he might to conceal it, he says forcefully. “It is not out of courtesy nor because I am your father’s friend that I offered you my heart.”
Margaret: In a whispered voice again and looking up at John, Margaret says “No, of course. “
John: I love you.” He says these words despairingly, almost as an epithet, not as the tender lover he wishes to be.
Margaret: She gathers her thoughts, then she continues. “I am just a clergyman’s daughter. I have lived a sheltered life—even living mostly in London rather than in the countryside in Helstone. And, I realize I am young.” Then saying as it was filmed “I’ve not learnt how to refuse …” After pausing, she continues in a smaller voice. “… how to respond when a man talks to me … as you have just now.”
John: John looks at her disbelievingly–hurt still stinging his voice. “Oh, there are others? You must have to disappoint so many men who offer you their heart.” John [(3) right] sounds bitter and he has clearly misconstrued what Margaret is saying and she tries to correct him.
Margaret: “No. ….. None. That is, well in truth, an acquaintance by marriage had proposed to me unexpectedly before when I was in Helstone and I refused him.”
John listens to her intently, wondering about the import of her words–that she had rejected another. Might she love him–or at least, learn to love him?
Margaret: Then she continues more softly. “But, no one else has told me of their regard for me … and seemed to be sincere–until you.” Margaret looks at John, trying to speak plainly and clearly to avoid further misunderstanding. “And,… I did not feel … the pain of regret in refusing ‘him’ … as I feel with you.” Margaret looks yearningly at John, wanting so much for him to understand her–even though she does not fully understand her feelings herself.
John: “Regret?” John softens his voice– and softens his gaze– toward Margaret as he lets his heart hope for the first time.
Margaret: “Yes, … I’ve not … felt like this before, nor been in this situation before.” This is a statement that John had also made earlier when he tried to declare his love for Margaret, before she stopped him. “Honestly, I had not thought you had taken any notice of me beyond my being the daughter of your friend, my father. So, your …” Margaret searches for the right word. “… declaration …just now somewhat startled and, … well, obviously, unsettled me. I am sorry for the way I reacted. My Mother has filled my head with how she and my father had courted. And then he sent her a letter with his feelings in it when he proposed. I know it’s old fashioned—another mistake of mine—I just didn’t know of another way.”
John: “I see.” John looks at Margaret a bit quizzically–still uncertain as to where she might be going with her explanation, still not daring to hope.
Margaret: “Do you?” She senses his uncertainty and she shifts position on the settee to turn more towards him. Then, she continues by being open and honest with him. “I don’t know why I’m so nervous around you today. I’m usually not.” Could it be, Margaret wonders, that she has not let herself think of John in that way before, but in her secret heart of hearts she really likes him—maybe she even loves him? Yet, not wanting to reveal her wavering thoughts about him she continues. “I’m sure that it’s partly due to my being embarrassed by my unladylike behavior at Marlborough Mills yesterday—and the talk that it engendered. I came to borrow the water mattress that Miss Thornton, that is Mrs. Watson, had so kindly offered for my Mother. And, then when the rioters broke through, I shouldn’t have urged you to put yourself in danger. I was so worried for your safety.” Margaret shakes her head ruefully–because she really means it. “And, because of the position that I had placed you in, I stupidly tried to act as a shield. Please know that I am not usually as … forward as that.”
John: Walking toward Margaret, saying somewhat hopefully. “Or as brave as that?” John now sits next to but apart from Margaret on the small sette. Margaret saved his life–John knows it, but does she? And he does not merely mean her actions to shield him during the riot.
Margaret: “Brave? Fool hardy and stupid is more like it. She says trying to use humor to lighten their mood. “Another example of me making mistakes.” Margaret wonders if John, or any man, could forgive her blunders. “It was naïve of me to think that the angry mob could be placated with logic and reasoning.”
John: Gazing at her directly, and saying earnestly, but with restraint. “I, too, was concerned for your safety and worried about you after your injury. I should have said that straight away when I came in. I wanted to come directly to see you yesterday after I had learned from Mother that you had gone home with the doctor, but …” John does not want to admit to her that his mother had asked him not to see Margaret–and that he had bowed to his mother’s wishes. “…I had to contend with the situation at the mill.” John stiffens as he says this. Though the heavy fabric of his suit and his tightly knotted cravat at his neck leave him little room to do anything but sit up straight.
Margaret: Margaret feels a bit more comfortable in speaking with John, now that they are not directly speaking about their feelings—which she hasn’t allowed herself to admit to. “I understand. In any case, you wouldn’t have found me at home had you come to see me, because almost as soon as I returned home and changed out of my bloo…soiled clothes, I was called to my friend Bessie’s bedside. …” Then she says softly as she tears up. “… My friend Bessie is dying, …as is Mother.”
Then, Margaret, slowly loses her composure as she reveals her fears to John, tears gently falling down her cheeks.
Margaret: “I’m … going to lose them both … Mother and Bessie.”
Margaret weeps a bit more, but still quietly, while looking at her hands. John leans toward her on the small sette. He notices her flowery scent. She feels the warmth of his presence. John, in turn, looks at Margaret closely–noticing the swirling pattern in the fabric on the fitted bodice of her dress. When she had spoken to him before—standing in the window light—John could not help but notice her pleasing womanly form. He colors at the thought. Then after a long pause, Margaret wipes away her tears, she straightens up a bit and looks up at John, whom she now sees is leaning towards her.
Margaret: “I’m sorry, I’m not myself today.”
John realizes that Margaret has started to share ‘her’ feelings with him—and that sharing, perhaps, reflects a new level of intimacy between them. Actually, it betokens any level of intimacy between them. John feels that he is in completely new territory for himself. He has never been a suitor, nor experienced the tender feelings before that he has for Margaret. He has been too busy with his work. John feels slightly unsettled with these new experiences. As the Mill owner, he is ‘in charge’ of everything. Yet, here, now, with Margaret, John realizes that to have a relationship—and maybe a life—with Margaret, he will need to bend, to give and take. This is something John will need to learn how to do.
John gently takes Margaret’s small hand in his—and she lets him do so, despite the fact that propriety would have them refrain from touching each other. And this lingering touch quickens both of their heart beats and breaths.
John: “Margaret …” This is the first time that John has addressed Margaret this familiarly, this intimately, in using her Christian name. “… you have had a more difficult time than I was aware of. I came here today hoping …” He does not finish his sentence, but continues with earnest sincerity. “But, I see now that what you need is a friend at this difficult time. And, I hope that I could be that person for you, someone for you to turn to for support. You’ve been so brave. Would you let me help you, to be your friend, and to be a support for you?”
Margaret: Margaret looks down at John’s strong hand gently holding her hand–his long manly fingers encircling hers. At first tentatively, then calmly clasping his hand with her other hand as well, she gazes up at John. “Thank you, John.” This is only the second time that she has said his Christian name –and this time, not to get his attention in hope that he’ll stay, but using his name familiarly, intimately–and they both know it. “You’re so … I don’t deserve your kindness. …” She continues even more softly. “But, I would like to have you as a … friend.” Margaret’s voice lingers on the word friend, then she looks up at John. “Thank you, I would like that.”
Margaret and John gaze warmly at each other while holding hands. In this quiet moment, Margaret realizes fully that she does have feelings for John. She has a quick little intake of breath and her face colors and she lowers her eyes demurely. Then as she regains her composure from her worry for her mother and her friend Bessie, she wipes the last tears away from her eyes as a peacefulness begins to settle over her.
Margaret: “John, thank you for your understanding. I feel a bit better now.” Margaret looks again at their clasped hands. John squeezes her hand tenderly and she returns his touch. Margaret turns to look up at John hopefully. “John, … could we… begin again? ….as friends?” She asks warmly. “… and see where that leads us?” Margaret smiles sweetly, hopefully, as she gazes up at John.
John: Returning her smile with his now own more hopeful gaze–with their hands still clasping–he says. “Yes, Margaret, … I would like that very much.” John hesitates to press his suit, but Margaret’s softened manner toward him newly emboldens him to ask tenderly, and with hope, as he continues to slightly lean in towards her. “Margaret, … do you think that … in time, well, … that you might learn to care for me?”
Margaret: Gazing at John while they are still holding hands, with a new realization about her own feelings for him, she says. “Yes, John, … I do.”
John and Margaret smilingly gaze at each other again for a bit. The gentleness of this moment is in sharp contrast to how their exchange began awkwardly and fitfully when he first walked into the parlor. They are leaning in slightly toward each other, but no further–perhaps an unrealized yearning to kiss each other passes between them. And time seems to stand still for a moment for each of them.
John: Then John stands slowly, still holding Margaret’s hand. “Margaret, I will leave you briefly now to go home and retrieve the water mattress for your mother. Do you think that she will still benefit from using it?”
Margaret: Margaret stands, still holding John’s hand. “Yes John, I think that she will. Thank you, that’s very kind of you.” Margaret doesn’t really want John to go, but she is glad that he plans to come back soon. “When you return, … we … can have tea together.” This is Margaret’s first personal invitation to John and they smile at each other once more, an understanding is now developing between them. Then they slowly unclasp their hands, their fingers trailing away from each other.
To be continued with Chapter 2
“N&S: Nurturing Love”, Ch. 2: Mr. Hale realizes that a connection is forming between Margaret and John
At that moment, Mr. Hale walks into the parlor, not having overheard nor seen the recent exchange between Margaret and John.
Mr. Hale: “Well John!” He says somewhat startled, but also warmly—since he likes John very much. “I didn’t know you were here. How are you after the riot yesterday?”
John and Margaret move a bit apart from each other at seeing Mr. Hale, realizing that they had been standing closer than mere acquaintances might. But then, they are no longer ‘mere’ acquaintances.
John: “I am well. Thank you for asking. I came to inquire after Margaret, ahem Miss Hale, to see how she is feeling.
Mr. Hale: “How, Margaret is feeling? Are you unwell, my dear?” Mr. Hale is now concerned for Margaret, but not focusing on the fact that John had used his daughter’s Christian name.
Margaret: She glances at her father and then at John. “Mr. Thornton, …” Then seeing John furrow his brow at her return to formalities, she softens and says more familiarly. “John, I did not tell father or mother that I was the woman hit by the rock yesterday during the riot at the mill. I did not want to worry them.” Then turning to her father she says. “Father, I’m sorry.”
Mr. Hale: Very concerned, he puts his hand on her shoulder. “Margaret, my dear, are you alright?” He now sees the mark on her left temple from where the rock had hit her. He hadn’t noticed it before because his focus has been almost solely on his wife and her ill health, and not his daughter.
Margaret: “Yes, Father. I’m quite alright. John and Mrs. Thornton made sure that the doctor saw me. …. In fact, John just offered to retrieve the water mattress that Miss Thornton, I mean Mrs. Watson, had offered to loan us for Mother. That was why I was at the Marlborough Mills yesterday.” Seeing her father take in the details, she continues. “Then, I thought we all could all have tea together upon John’s return.”
Mr. Hale now realizes that both Margaret and John have addressed and referred to each other by their Christian names—indicating to him that Margaret has softened toward John and he is pleased.
Mr. Hale: “Yes Margaret, my dear that will be very nice. John, that is very thoughtful of you to loan us the water mattress for Mrs. Hale. We look forward to seeing you when you return in a little while. However, we understand if the mill business must take you away from us for a time. We still look forward to seeing you later today — no matter how late you might return to us this evening.”
Margaret smiles at her father and then at John. John smiles at Margaret and then he nods to Mr. Hale.
Margaret: “Yes, John, please come back to us when you can.” John and Margaret pause briefly as they gaze at one another once more. Then remembering her ‘manners’–and wanting to be alone with him again, however briefly–she motions toward the hallway beyond the parlor entryway. “John, let me walk you out.”
Margaret and John walk through the front entry hall and she shows John to the door—while Mr. Hale remains in the parlor absentmindedly looking over a stack of books that he had left there. John and Margaret pause and clasp hands once more at the front door before John departs. When they reach the front door, John risks a further intimacy–he raises Margaret’s hand to his lips and kisses it. The skin of her hand feels soft against his lips. Margaret feels the warmth of his lips on her hand and she gives a little sigh. John bows, smiles, and then gracefully exits the Hale home.
Margaret stands at her open front door, holding on to and slightly leaning against the door frame while watching John walk away. She feels a pang at his leaving. For his part, John also did not want to leave Margaret but he looks forward to his coming back to her later in the day—and he quickens his pace to speed himself back to her. Before he is out of sight, John turns back to Margaret—noticing that she is still looking at him–and he smiles as he tips his hat to her. He believes that her lingeringly watching him leave as a good sign of the progress in the feelings between them. And, Margaret smiles and nods her head and slightly raises her hand in a half wave to John before shutting her front door when John has walked out of sight.
Mr. Hale had walked into the front entry hall and seen Margaret’s wave and her smiles to John. Margaret turns around to see her father looking at her a bit quizzically—since she had previously expressed a dislike for Mr. Thornton.
Margaret: “Father, I…”
Mr. Hale: “Margaret, my dear. Is there something that you want to tell me?”
Margaret: She hesitates. “Yes, Father. … John … that is … Mr. Thornton and I are … to be … friends.” She smiles sweetly, but not wanting to share too much of the private understanding that she and John reached today.
Mr. Hale: He smiles at Margaret in understanding. “I’m glad, Margaret my dear. John is a good man.”
Margaret: “Yes, Father … I know. I will ask Dixon to prepare for tea for all of us for later.” Margaret heads to the kitchen to speak to their servant Dixon as Mr. Hale heads back up to his wife’s bedside.
To be continued with Chapter 3
“N&S: Nurturing Love”, Ch. 3: John returns to his and his Mother’s home after speaking with Margaret
Author’s Note: A few quote excerpts from the 2004 BBC drama North & South appear in “italicized quotations.”
The Thornton parlor is a much grander affair than the Hale’s parlor to be sure—it being larger and more finely furnished. The room reflects their position in the town—and their wealth. Mrs. Thornton focuses on her needlework and she hears John come in. John crosses to the window, not knowing quite how to tell his mother about something so personal as his growing relationship with Margaret Hale. But he must tell her, or risk her hearing about it from servant gossip–which is never entirely accurate. He turns to face her.
John: “By the way Mother, I spoke to Miss Hale.” He says shyly. “She and I are to be … friends.”
Mrs. Thornton: “But, I thought that you went to propose to her? Would she not have you?” Mrs. Thornton his indignant. “Who is she to refuse you?” She watches John with a mother’s keen eye, trying to glimpse in his face what he might not be telling her directly.
John: “Mother, … we did not. Hhhhh. Margaret and I had a long talk and we have come to an understanding that we will begin as friends…and see where that takes us.”
Mrs. Thornton: “Margaret” is it?” Recognizing John’s use of Miss Hale’s Christian name.
John: “Yes, Mother. In fact, I promised to return this afternoon with the water mattress that Margaret came to borrow for her mother yesterday. Then Margaret and I will have tea together at her house.”
Mrs. Thornton: “It sounds like she’s playing the grand lady and has you fetching for her.”
John: “No, Mother. It is not like that. I offered to bring them the mattress.” Then searching for what he can tell his mother that will paint Margaret in a positive light—though embellishing the truth a little–he continues. “Margaret even pointed out to Mr. Hale how kind you had been to go for the doctor when she was injured by the rioters.” Pausing, and kissing his Mother on her forehead he says “I’ll be back after dinner later, but please don’t wait up for me.”
Mrs. Thornton: John’s mother pulls him down to her so he is kneeling and taking his face in her hands [(4) right], says as filmed. “A mother’s love holds fast and forever. A girl’s love is like a puff of smoke. It changes with every wind.” Hannah Thornton knows that she is truly losing her boy–now a man–to another woman. She knew that she would one day have to accept him having a wife, but she did not think that it would happen so soon. With her husband’s death 16 years ago, Mrs. Thornton has depended on her son John, perhaps too much she fears. And now, she will have to somehow…let him go—if she truly wants for his happiness, as any mother would. And yet.
John: “Mother, though ‘I did not think that I was good enough for her,’ it was she who told me that she did not feel she deserved me. She thought that my only notice of her was as the daughter of her father, Mr. Hale, my friend. So, my declaration of love to her was…unexpected by her.” John continues, wanting to make sure that his mother understands that there was no guile or intent on Margaret’s part to ensnare him as his meddlesome sister Fanny had suggested. “There was no intention on Margaret’s part at the riots to make me feel grateful to her. Mother, ‘I think of her now more than ever.’ If I have to wait until she grows to care for me—as I care for her—I will.”
Mrs. Thornton nods at her son in acquiescence. John stands and goes to retrieve the water mattress and begins to walk back to the Hale home. He leaves his mother to ruminate about her own thoughts and feelings regarding the day’s events. But he can not focus on his mother, he has to focus on Margaret—what she wants, what she means to him, and the future life that they might be able to create together.
To be continued with Chapter 4
“N&S: Nurturing Love”, Ch. 4: John is Back at the Hale Home for Tea
Author’s Note: A few quote excerpts from the 2004 BBC drama North & South appear in “italicized quotations.”
John quickens his pace as he walks toward the Hale home–despite carrying the weight of the empty water mattress, it does not slow him down in returning to Margaret, to ‘her’. John sighs as he thinks of her and see’s the Hale’s front door as he turns into their lane. Margaret opens their front door almost before John climbs their front door stoop steps. In fact, Margaret has been waiting and watching for John—hoping that he would be able to come sooner. And now, he is here. They smile at each other shyly as she shows him to the parlor. In entering the Hale parlor, John finds that his mill property landlord, Mr. Bell, has also invited himself for tea with Mr. and Mrs. Hale and Margaret.
Mr. Bell: “Thornton, I haven’t seen you here before for tea. You’re not in our usual party. I saw you in the area earlier this afternoon and thought that you might have been visiting then. But, here you are now.”
John winces at Bell’s attempt to get a rise out of him—as Bell usually tries to do.
Margaret: She interjects, trying to smooth over the tense moment. “Yes, Mr. Bell. Mr. Thornton has graciously agreed to join our little tea party today after kindly bringing Mother a water mattress to borrow from Miss Thornton, Mrs. Watson I should say.” Margaret purposely does not use John’s Christian name in front of Mr. Bell, or her Mother, because she, too, is well aware of Mr. Bell’s taunting humor.
Mr. Hale: Also trying to make John feel welcome—and pointedly so in front of his old Oxford friend, Mr. Bell, he says. “John, it is good to see you again so soon. I hope that your Mother is well. Perhaps she can join us next time.”
Mr. Bell realizes that an expanding connection is occurring—perhaps between Margaret and John–but certainly between the Hales’ and the Thornton’s. And he looks back and forth between John, Margaret, and Mr. and Mrs. Hale.
Mr. Bell: Yet, he opens a new conversation thread—almost to the relief of everyone in the room) “I say, that fruit looks like “the finest in the county, I should imagine”.
Mrs. Hale: Having quietly stayed out of the conversation so far—more due to conserving her strength, rather than anything else, she offers. “Yes, Margaret, you must visit Mrs. Thornton to thank her and Mr. Thornton. Gesturing to John. “… for this “gracious gift” of fruit and the loan of the water mattress.” Mrs. Hale is obviously frail, but she is dressed to ‘preside’ over tea as any lady of her station should be.
Margaret: “I will Mother. Mr. Thornton, let me show you where you can set the water mattress down.” Margaret says with quiet poise despite her brimming enthusiasm for John being in her presence again.
Both John and Margaret head into the entry hall and then down the hall to the kitchen in the back of the Hale’s home.
John: As they get closer to the kitchen John says rather practically—but also wanting to open a moment of private conversation with Margaret. “Margaret, it would be better for you to take this water mattress to your Mother’s room empty as it is now and then fill it with water. Rather than trying to take it upstairs already filled—it would be too heavy to carry.”
Margaret nods her agreement as she and John reach the Hale’s kitchen. Again, the Hale kitchen is much smaller than the Thornton’s kitchen and there is not much room to walk around due to a large table in the middle of the room, upon which John places the water mattress. There is barely an aisle wide enough for one person between the table and the wall of cabinets or stove and icebox.
Margaret: “Yes, John, thank you. We will do as you suggest.” Then apologizing for the humble surroundings—the kitchen certainly isn’t a romantic place for a couple to meet, she says. “I am so sorry to bring you to … the kitchen, but I wanted to speak to you privately to let you know that Father and I thought it best that Mother not know that it was I who was hit by the rock at the mill riot. We fear that the shock and worry might damage her already frail health further.”
John: “Of course, Margaret. I will follow your wishes. … By the way, I spoke to my Mother when I went home to fetch …” He winces at his poor word choice–given what his mother had said to him–and he rephrases. “… to retrieve the water mattress for your mother to borrow.”
Margaret: “John, … did you tell her about…” She searches for the right word to use, and then says tentatively. “… well, … about us?” Margaret is tentative because she is not certain of Mrs. Thornton’s reaction. Indeed, Margaret is certain that Mrs. Thornton does not approve of her at all.
John: John smiles at Margaret’s referring to the two of them as an ‘us’. “I did, Margaret.” John relishes using her Christian name in private with her and his face betrays a small smile [(5) right]. “Though, I did not go in to details, I told her that you and I had a long talk and reached an understanding about us …” He also relishes using that word, us. “ … starting out as friends.” Then frankly and honestly he continues saying. “Though, Mother knew that my intention was to propose to you, I think I was able to smooth over any … well… any concerns that she might have about …” Not wanting to say ‘being rejected’. “… our being friends first.”
Margaret: “John, I am sorry that I’ve put you in an awkward position with your Mother. I didn’t mean to. But, I appreciate your understanding. It is one of the qualities that I like best about you.”
John: He leans slightly toward Margaret, then says somewhat humorously and fixes her with a mischievous look. “Well, Margaret, my dear…” John consciously uses Mr. Hale’s form of endearment for Margaret. “… considering what you had said to me when I first revealed my feelings—and then I proposed …” John wants to emphasize that he had then–and still has now–the intention of a proposal to her on his mind. “ …I have it on good authority that you “didn’t like me and never have.” John’s eyebrows raise and he smiles at her mischievously again.
Margaret: Feeling scolded. “Oh John, please don’t remind me of what I said.” Then realizing that he is teasing her, she teases him back. “Now, John, I thought you agreed, that we were going to start over again.” She looks up expectantly at John–and a tad coquettishly–and smiles.
John: A little sheepishly. “I am sorry Margaret. You are quite right. I just couldn’t resist teasing you a bit. Hhhhh. I think that I’ve been around Mr. Bell too much. Speaking of whom, we should probably return to the parlor before Mr. Bell starts making up stories about ‘us’.” He says pointedly and with a smile.
Margaret: She smiles, too. Yes, I will bring the tea tray if you will please hold the door for me, John.”
John: “Certainly, my dear.” And opens the kitchen door for her.
Margaret: “Thank you, John.”
Margaret and John walk through the entry hall back to the parlor. John notices the soft swish of her skirt as she passes by the kitchen table, the kitchen entryway, and him.
In Margaret and John’s absence, Mr. Hale and Mr. Bell have been having a little tete-a-tete about the two of them. Their conversation ends when John and Margaret reenter the room.
Mr. Bell: “Well, there the two of you are.” Then saying teasingly. “We were going to send out for a scouting party to find you.”
Margaret and John exchange knowing looks at Mr. Bell’s teasing. But, unfortunately, Mr. Bell’s teasing tone continues as Margaret sets the tea tray down and John stands next to her.
Mr. Bell: “You know, actually, … you two look quite–what is the word?—domestic.”
Mrs. Hale: Having been oblivious to John and Margaret ’s change in status—to ‘friends’—since Mr. Hale had not informed her, Mrs. Hale now looks at Margaret and John with fresh eyes and queries. “Margaret?”
Margaret: “Yes, Mother.” Glancing at John knowingly, about Mr. Bell’s teasing, and wanting to deflect it a bit. “Mr. Thornton has been kind enough to hold the door for me.” Margaret turns to Mr. Thornton, and smiling since only John can see her face, and says. “Thank you Mr. Thornton.” Then, changing the subject, and addressing everyone, Margaret says. “Shall I pour? Please let me know how each of you would like to take your tea.” Then turning to John and smiling, Margaret says. “Perhaps, since Mr. Thornton is our newest guest for tea, he will let me know how he likes his tea first.”
John: John smiles warmly to Margaret, his love and esteem for her growing with her every kindness toward him. “With one sugar, please.” Margaret hands John his saucer and tea cup and their fingers slightly touch [(6) right]. The contact seems electric to each of them, but they have to maintain their composure in front of the others in the room. “Thank you Miss Hale.” He says warmly, although not as warmly as he would like since Mr. Bell is here and being annoyingly inquisitive.
Margaret: “You are welcome Mr. Thornton. Please have some cakes and cookies, too.”
Mr. Hale: “Oh, you will like the cakes especially, John. Margaret made them fresh this morning.”
Margaret: “Now Father, please.” She chides him. “You will put Mr. Thornton on the spot because he’ll feel that he has to say that he likes the cake out of politeness, rather than telling us what he really likes.”
John: John takes a bite of cake, then swallows before speaking. “Miss Hale, your father is quite right–the cake is delicious. If I had thought otherwise, I would have been honest with you—although, as politely as I could. Mrs. Hale, is this cake a favorite recipe of yours and Margaret’s, uh Miss Hale’s?”
Everyone catches John’s slip of the tongue–or was it intentional?–in referring to Margaret by her Christian name. Mrs. Hale and Mr. Bell look at Margaret, and then look at John wonderingly–though Mr. Hale had been informed by Margaret of their friendship earlier today. Margaret’s cheeks blush slightly as she continues to pour tea for everyone. John feels and looks a bit discomfited as well–his face coloring also since his and Margaret’s ‘friendship’ is so new, barely two hours old. It has not been ‘announced’—though, he wants it to be. To attempt to distract the attention away from John’s familiarity, Margaret follows it with her own familiarity.
Margaret: “Yes, John, Mother and I used to make this cake when I was a child.” She looks at him encouragingly. “It is one of my favorites.”
Mrs. Hale: Slowly and taking Margaret’s and her husband’s lead. “Yes. And, John, it is so nice to have you part of our little tea party today. So, often you and Margaret’s father meet at odd times—although, surely when it’s convenient for you both—but, it’s nice to have you join us at tea time. Do you have a favorite cake that your Mother gave to you as a child, or perhaps, when she has at tea with you currently?”
Margaret is a little shocked, and amused, that her mother has so adeptly helped her navigate the little bridge between John being her father’s friend, to him being a friend to the whole family—and treated so familiarly. But, then, her mother was the Miss Beresford, the most sought after belle of the county that she grew up in—and more experienced in delicate social situations than Margaret.
John: Noticing and appreciating Mrs. Hale’s gesture, too, John replies. “Yes, Mrs. Hale. You’re kind, as always, to inquire after my Mother. Though Margaret’s white cake here is quite delicious as I said before, I am partial to my Mother’s lemon cake.” Then he turns to Margaret and smiles. “You see, I promised that I would be honest.”
Margaret: “Well, John, my mother also likes lemon cake.” She turns to look at her mother. “Don’t you, Mother?”
Mrs. Hale: “Yes, Margaret dear.” Then speaking to John, Mrs. Hale asks. “Perhaps, Mrs. Thornton will be so kind as to share her lemon cake recipe with us so that we can make it for you also when you come to tea?”
John: Teasingly speaking to Mrs. Hale, he says with a chuckle. “Ha ha ha. Although I don’t know if you and Margaret guard your recipes as closely as my Mother does, I will see if she might agree to share it with you.” Then looking at Margaret, with love, he says. “Perhaps Margaret and you will be willing to share your white cake recipe in exchange for Mother’s lemon cake recipe.”
Mr. Bell: “A trade, Thornton?” He asks amusingly and pointedly. Trust Mr. Bell to make a play on words.
Margaret and John share a look at the mention of the word trade since Margaret had so unfortunately chastised John about his line of work when John had proposed earlier. But, she shrugs her shoulders and smiles at John.
John: A bit annoyed, but with good humor, John corrects him. “Mr. Bell, the mutual exchange of small gifts and favors between friends is natural in the course of that friendship.”
Mr. Hale: Chiming in to support John’s side of it, he says. “Quite right, John. Well, with everyone talking so much our tea is getting cold. So, we’ll need a warm up. Margaret?”
Margaret: “Yes, father. Though our teapot needs to be refilled.” She says looking inside the tea pot. With one more at tea—she means Mr. Bell, not John–their little teapot has been exhausted of its contents. “So, you’ll excuse me as I refill it.” As Margaret moves to the door, holding the teapot on the tray since the teapot will be hot when she returns with it refilled.
John: John holds the door open for her again. “Let me help you, Margaret… you will also need the kitchen door opened for you.” And he follows her back to the kitchen.
After John and Margaret leave for the kitchen, Mr. Bell observes teasingly once again.
Mr. Bell: “Very domestic.” Then Mr. Bell says to Mr. Hale–slightly revised as originally filmed. “I say Hale, have you ever wondered if there might be something between Thornton and your daughter?”
Mr. Hale: Playing it close to the vest, and a bit mischievously he says. “No, I haven’t wondered.”
Mrs. Hale smiles and sips her tea, knowing that she and Margaret will have a long talk this evening.
To be continued with Chapter 5
(1) North & South: Nurturing Love story logo is a composite of three images, with text that I added:
(a) John Thornton (as portrayed by Richard Armitage) having just kissed his love Margaret Hale (as portrayed by Daniella Denby-Ashe) and them gazing lovingly at each other in the North & South (BBC 2004), episode 4 (pix 346) train station kissing scene, the image was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode4/slides/ns4-346.html;
(b) a cropped image of the brambled tree branches in the Milton cemetery as John Thornton walks through it in North & South, episode 3 (pix 15), the image was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode3/slides/ns3-015.html;
(c) a masked image of the yellow rose John Thornton picked in Helstone in North & South, episode 4 (pix 271), the image was found at
(2) John Thornton (as portrayed by Richard Armitage) and Margaret Hale (as portrayed by Daniella Denby-Ashe) in the North & South (BBC 2004) proposal scene, episode 2 (pix 275), the image (brightened) was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode2/slides/ns2-275.html
(3) John Thornton (as portrayed by Richard Armitage) hurt at Margaret’s rejection of him in the North and South (BBC 2004) proposal scene, episode 2 (pix 287), the image (cropped and brightened) was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode2/slides/ns2-290.html
(4) John Thornton (as portrayed by Richard Armitage) revealing the outcome of his proposal to his mother Mrs. Thornton (as portrayed by Sinead Cusack him in the North and South (BBC 2004) after the proposal scene, episode 3 (pix 41), the image (brightened) was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode3/slides/ns3-041.html
(5) John Thornton (as portrayed by Richard Armitage) in the North and South (BBC 2004) tea scene, episode 1 (pix 105), the image (cropped and brightened) was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode1/slides/ns1-105.html
(6) John Thornton (as portrayed by Richard Armitage) and Margaret Hale (as portrayed by Daniella Denby-Ashe) in the North and South (BBC 2004) tea scene, episode 1 (pix 96), the image (brightened) was found at