“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 2: Navigating an Invitation, October 21, 2013 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #460)
[I will illustrate my story using my dream cast from the 2004 BBC production of “North & South”: Richard Armitage for John Thornton, Daniela Denby-Ashe for Margaret Hale, Lesley Manville for Mrs. Maria Hale and Tim Piggot-Smith for Mr. Richard Hale, etc]
[(1) story logo image]
Author’s Mature Content Note: “N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons” is a story with mature themes of love and relationships set within a period drama of the 1850’s and beyond. As such there will be heartfelt moments of love sensuality (S)–as well as other dramatic emotions (D)–and I will rate those chapters accordingly. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer.
Author’s Recap of the Previous Chapter: John Thornton was late to his Saturday Afternoon classics lesson with Mr. Hale at his residence in Crampton. Since they are of such a new acquaintance–a little over a month–John was particularly distressed to be late. However, Mr. Hale was not there and John was greeted by Mr. Hale’s daughter, Miss Margaret Hale. That distress was compounded because after she invited him into the Hale home, they both realized that they were alone and unchaperoned–but for the ladies maid and cook Dixon below stairs. However, Margaret offered John tea and as their fingers touched when she have him his cup and saucer, a feeling of mutual attraction was made aware to each of them in their own private thoughts. However, John acted upon his feelings and kissed her hand, then he invited Miss Hale to go for a carriage ride with him after church the next day. She agreed to accompany him on the carriage ride without giving it much thought. Then her parents arrived home and they all took tea together. The logistics of the invitation extended to Margaret from John yet need to be worked out for propriety’s sake.
“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 2: Navigating an Invitation
After the Hale’s Saturday Afternoon tea with Mr. Thornton concludes, John and Mr. Hale walk upstairs to Mr. Hale’s study to chat about the classics for an hour. And Margaret begins to collect the now forgotten tea cups and saucers spread throughout their small parlor. As yet, no mention of Mr. Thornton’s invitation for a carriage ride has been hinted at by either he or Margaret to her parents. And she feels uneasy about that. Margaret presumes that her parents will approve–her father certainly likes Mr. Thornton well enough judging by the eager way he looks forward to their chats. And afterall, Mr. Thornton is their landlord–a man of property and a manufacturer of cotton fabric. So though he works for a living–something Margaret admits that her father does, even though he is a gentleman–she believes that Mr. Thornton has gentlemanly manners.
But there are practicalities to be addressed with regard to the invitation of a carriage ride. Particularly, who will chaperone them? Will Margaret’s chaperone on this carriage ride be Mr. Thornton’s sister Fanny, or should Margaret arrange for her own chaperone? This weighs on Margaret’s mind [(2) right] as she distractedly moves about the room collecting the abandoned tea cups.
Sitting in a wing chair with a pillow behind her and a blanket over her legs for her comfort, Mrs. Hale notes her daughter Margaret’s faraway look and pursed mouth and asks.
Mrs. Hale: “Margaret dear, is something the matter?”
Margaret smiles as she lifts up Mr. Thornton’s cup and saucer from the side table near where he sat–remembering that his large hands grasped the tea cup edges rather than the tiny handle [(3) right]. It was not the way a gentleman would sip his tea, but still Margaret smiles at remembering Mr. Thornton’s boyish tea manners. Margaret then masks her thoughts and turns to her mother with a benign expression upon her face.
Margaret: “No. Why do you ask, Mother?”
Mrs. Hale: “Well dear, you have a hazy look about you, as if something is … unpleasant–or on your thoughts.” Then Mrs. Hale scrunches up her own nose in distaste to illustrate–as if she smelled something odiferous. Mrs. Hale kindheartedly stares at her daughter until she answers.
Margaret: “Mother, it is just that …” Margaret does not know quite how to broach the topic of her being invited to take a carriage ride with Mr. Thornton. She had accepted the invitation without considering the ramifications of it. Does Mr. Thornton’s invitation betoken him having a special regard for her? He did kiss her hand afterall. Or is he merely being polite, as their landlord and her father’s pupil?
Mrs. Hale: “ Yes?” She asks encouragingly.
Margaret sets the tea cup and saucer on the tray. Then she looks at the back of her hand where Mr. Thornton’s warm lips pressed to her skin–an echo of the tingles she felt still present.
Margaret: Then she blurts out in a rush. “Mr. Thornton invited me for a carriage ride after church tomorrow.” Margaret finds that she is breathing rather excitedly, though she cannot understand why. It will probably rain and then their outing will have to be postponed.
Mrs. Hale: Mrs. Hale narrows her eyes imperceptibly. “Oh. I suppose that was thoughtful of him–as your father’s pupil–to extend a social invitation to you.” Mrs. Hale says a bit disdainfully. She has not reconciled herself to moving to Milton, nor the town’s dirtiness and focus on industry–such as where Mr. Thornton is employed. The fact that Mr. Thornton is an employer seems to be lost on the delicate Mrs. Hale.
Margaret: Margaret’s eyes flash in recognition of her mother’s displeasure. “Should I have refused him, Mother? He asked very politely. And … and I found myself accepting his invitation.” Margaret feels uncertain about the proposed outing with Mr. Thornton. Margaret thinks that she might like to go–though she knows not why. But she does not want to upset her mother.
Mrs. Hale: “If you do go, you must be chaperoned, of course.” Mrs. Hale sighs. Due to her frail health, Mrs. Hale’s face usually seems to have a pinched expression of displeasure–as it does now [(4) right].
Margaret: “Yes of course, Mother. I do not know if his sister Fanny will join us, or if I might ask Bessie or Mary Higgins to accompany me.”
Mrs. Hale: “Miss Thornton would be most suitable.” She nods. “However, I do not think one of the Higgins girls would be appropriate.” Mrs. Hale intones derisively. As the former Miss Beresford, Mrs. Hale has distinct views about society and proper etiquette. “I would rather have you take Dixon with you.”
Margaret: Margaret’s eyes go wide with alarm. “Oh no, Mother! I do not want to take Dixon with us!” Margaret unconsciously uses the word us, rather than me.
Mrs. Hale: “Why ever not?” Mrs. Hale narrows her eyes suspiciously.
Margaret: “Well, I …” Margaret falters, trying to find a good reason that will neither insult Dixon, nor her mother. Then Margaret’s face brightens into a wide smile. “It is just that Sunday is Dixon’s only day of rest. I do not wish to impose upon her kind nature.”
Mrs. Hale: “I do not think Dixon would mind.” Mrs. Hale shakes her head knowingly. Dixon has been an ever present fixture in Mrs. Hale’s life since her childhood.
Margaret: “Still.” Margaret blanches hopefully.
Mrs. Hale: “Very well. We shall think upon it. When you finish clearing the tea items, I think I would like you to help me upstairs to my room for a nap before dinner. Then you may ask your Father what is his opinion upon the matter.”
Margaret: “Of course, Mother.” She gulps.
Margaret takes the tea tray below stairs where Dixon will clean them. But she says nothing about asking Dixon to chaperone her with Mr. Thornton on Sunday. Then Margaret helps her mother upstairs and gets her settled in her room for a nap.
Finishing his classics lessons with Mr. Hale in his study–a rousing discussion about the rhetorical attributes of men being an art versus a skill [(5)] is still fresh in his thoughts–John has quite forgotten about his invitation to Miss Hale for a carriage ride on the morrow. Then she enters her father’s study and both her father and John Thornton stand out of courtesy.
Mr. Hale: “Margaret, Dear. You have perfect timing. John and I were just finishing.” Mr. Hale smiles kindly at her and touches her cheek. Margaret smiles at her father, but she merely glances at Mr. Thornton–uncertain about whether his invitation for a carriage ride in the country is still in force.
John smiles [(6) right] at this small exchange of familial intimacy that he is privileged to witness. His own home is so much more austere and less prone to emotional displays.
John: “Miss Hale.” He nods at her respectfully, even has his perfect posture brings him to his full towering height over her.
Margaret: She nods politely at him in return. “Mr. Thornton.”
Both of them having returned to formal modes of address, there is an awkward silence as Margaret waits for John to broach the topic of the carriage ride with her father. Mr. Hale looks curiously at John who seems to be focused upon his daughter.
Mr. Hale: Then breaking the silence, Mr. Hale nudges John rhetorically. “Well John, we musn’t keep you. I look forward to seeing you again on Wednesday night if you can make it.” Mr. Hale asks hopefully.
John: Turning to smile benignly at Mr. Hale, he nods. “Yes, I hope that business does not prevent me from joining you.”
Still no mention of the carriage ride invitation.
Margaret: “Of course, Father.” She smiles kindly at her father. Then Margaret [(7) right] looks up pointedly at Mr. Thornton with questioning eyes.
John: “Is there something you wish to ask me, Miss Hale?” John asks with a benign smile.
Margaret: “I would ask the same of you, Mr. Thornton.” Margaret says a bit huffily, realizing that John has forgotten about his invitation to her.
Mr. Hale looks back and forth between his daughter and Mr. Hale. Then realization hits Mr. Thornton.
John: “Oh! I almost forgot! Mr. Hale, I do beg your pardon. The classics seem to have quite pushed it out of my mind.”
Margaret frowns. A gentleman does not forget his invitation to a lady. And Mr. Thornton should beg her pardon, not her father’s.
Mr. Hale: “What is it, John?”
John: John smiles nervously, then adopts a mask of civility–hiding his emotions. “Earlier, before you and Mrs. Hale had arrived home, I had inquired of Miss Hale if she would like to join me for a carriage ride in the country after church services tomorrow.”
Mr. Hale: Mr. Hale’s eyes go wide. “You did?” He turns to look at his daughter. She nods curtly in the affirmative. “Well, that is very nice of you, John.” Then it occurs to him to ask. “Margaret dear, did you wish to accept Mr. Thornton’s invitation?”
John: A bit eagerly, John interjects. “She has already accepted, Mr. Hale.”
Put out that John Thornton should deign to speak for her, she rolls her eyes and shakes her head.
Mr. Hale: “Oh! So you do not want to go with John afterall, Margaret?” Mr. Hale asks a tad confused with her head nods and head shakes seeming to be at odds with her intent.
John also looks rather confused. Margaret had said yes to him earlier–he did not misconstrue her acceptance of his invitation. It would be a breach of etiquette for her to back out now, he thinks perturbedly.
Margaret: Margaret explains her concerns. “Father, it is just that with the lateness of the hour now that Mr. Thornton has finally asked your permission, there is not time for me to arrange a suitable chaperone. Unless, of course, Miss Thornton will be accompanying us.” Margaret turns to look up at Mr. Thornton with curiosity.
John: “Ah!” He had not thought of a chaperone–so ill acquainted with courting rituals is he. “My apologies, Miss Hale. I do not know what Fanny’s plans are for Sunday.” He admits sheepishly. His invitation to Margaret had been a spur of the moment thing, without prior thought or planning on his part.
Mr. Hale: “You could always take Dixon, my Dear.” Mr. Hale smiles tenderly at his daughter.
Both Margaret and John have a look of horror on their faces in reacting to Mr. Hale’s suggestion. For Dixon is not impressed by Mr. Thornton–and he knows it by Dixon’s lack of proper respect shown to him when she answers the Hale’s door on his visits. And Dixon being an old family retainer, she often blurs the line of her boundaries with regard to telling Miss Margaret she may or may not do.
Margaret: She blanches. “Father, that is what Mother suggested when I mentioned Mr. Thornton’s invitation to her earlier.” Then she continues rather frostily–her body’s posture rigid, her countenance pinched, not unlike her mother’s. “But since Mr. Thornton has not sought to ask either you or Mother if I may join him on the carriage ride, I presumed that he had changed his mind and regretted asking me.” She purses her lips in a pout. Margaret challengingly looks John up and down, waiting for his response.
John: John interjects most strongly. “Oh no, Miss Hale! Regret of my invitation to you has no place in my thoughts, whatsoever. I do most earnestly wish to have you join me on a carriage ride in the country, Miss Hale–even if it must be Dixon who accompanies us.” Due to his bungled invitation to Margaret, John’s face has the expression as if he had eaten something unpleasant and is about to lose the contents of his stomach. “But I will ask Fanny if she will join us straight away when I get home tonight.” He smiles hopefully. “And I thought that I might ask cook to make a picnic lunch for us to enjoy.”
Mr. Hale: “Well, that’s settled then. We shall see you at church, John. And then you and Margaret may go for a carriage ride and picnic.”
Margaret nods her acquiescence. But she is uncertain about his expanding the invitation to include a picnic. What one wears on a picnic versus to church are very different–there being sitting on the ground with a picnic that one does not do with finer gowns, even if there are picnic blankets used. Margaret then walks Mr. Thornton out of the study and down stairs to see him out.
John: Receiving his hat from Margaret and placing it on his head, he smiles at her. “Until tomorrow then.” John holds out his hand to Margaret as a gesture of good will–and because he would very much like to kiss her hand again [(8) right].
Margaret: Stepping back away from Mr. Thornton while firmly clasping her hands in front of her skirt to prevent a repeat of him so forwardly kissing her hand again–which unsettled her all too pleasantly earlier–she replies courteously. “I look forward to it.” Margaret gives the standard polite response. Though, her smile does not quite reach her eyes due to her uncertainties about her own regard for Mr. Thornton.
John: John hesitantly retracts his offered hand, wondering why she is skittishly refusing him now when she did not do so earlier. But he responds courteously. “As do I.” John smiles warmly at Margaret–with his deep baritone voice further emphasizing that warmth–the combination of which quite dispossesses Margaret of coherent thought once more as her eyes widen at him in questioning wonder about her feelings toward him.
John nods politely to Margaret as he touches the brim of his top hat, then leaves the Hale home. As Margaret closes their front door, she wonders why she agreed to join Mr. Thornton for a carriage ride–and now a picnic? She barely knows the man–other than as her father’s pupil–and even less so as their landlord.
But Margaret realizes that she could not refuse John. And she does not know why. Something unbidden and unknown within her answered his kind invitation when she said yes. Perhaps tomorrow, she will learn more of Mr. Thornton as they share some private time together in conversation upon their carriage ride and picnic–albeit, under the watchful eye of Margaret’s chaperone, whomever that will be.
To be continued with Chapter 3
1)“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons” story logo: Richard Armitage as John Thornton and Daniela Denby-Ashe in North & South, 2004 was found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode3/ns3-110.jpg ; For more information about the wonderful 2004 BBC miniseries North & South, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_&_South_%28TV_serial%29
2) Margaret (crop) is Daniela Denby-Ashe in North & South (2004) 13h44m45s223 March 28, 2013 Gratiana Lovelace Cap
3) John drinking tea (crop) is Richard Armitage in North & South (2004) found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode1/ns1-106.jpg
4) Mrs. Maria Hale is portrayed by Lesley Manville in the BBC’s 2004 mini-series North& South April 02, 2012; the image may be found at http://s1.hubimg.com/u/2249784_f260.jpg
5) “Aristotle’s treatise on rhetoric is an attempt to systematically describe civic rhetoric as a human art or skill (techne).” More information may be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhetoric
6) John Thornton (center) is portrayed by Richard Armitage, with Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale (dress altered) and Tim Piggot-Smith as Mr. Richard Hale was found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode1/ns1-029.jpg; composited with a dress from episode 4.
7) Margaret (crop) is Daniela Denby-Ashe in North & South and pink flowers Apr0212wiki was found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/e/eb/Margaret_Hale00.jpg/220px-Margaret_Hale00.jpg
8) John reaching his hand out to Margaret image is of Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe in North & South (2004) found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode1/ns1-127.jpg