“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 6: The Thorntons’ Engagement Responses, November 19, 2013 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #473)
Based on the Elizabeth Gaskell novel, North & South and its
2004 BBC adaptation; No copyright infringement intended)
[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, Tim Piggott-Smith for Mr. Richard Hale, Sinead Cusack for Mrs. Hannah Thornton, Jo Joyner for Fanny Thornton, and Brendan Coyle for Nicholas Higgins, 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 and sensuality–as well as other dramatic emotions–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 and Margaret returned from their Sunday afternoon picnic in the bliss of their first kiss with each other only to be met at the Hale home by the stern scolding of Mrs. Hale to her daughter Margaret. This put Margaret on edge for when she joined John in the parlor as they awaited her parents. The young lovebirds talked and John made his sincere intentions noting to Margaret. While upstairs, a bit more sanguine Mr. Hale tried to assuage his wife’s concerns about their daughter Margaret being kissed by Mr. Thornton–and that John’s intentions were honorable and involved marriage. Then the Hale family and Mr. Thornton began a slightly tense afternoon tea. That is, until, John and Margaret revealed their engagement–then Mr. and Mrs. Hale congratulated them warmly. Then John and Margaret sealed their announcement with a third kiss–right in front of her parents. Propriety be damned. Of course, the welcoming reception that the happy couple received in the Hale home has yet to be sought in the Thornton home.
“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 6: The Thorntons’ Engagement Responses
As Sunday afternoon grew later, Mrs. Thornton realizes that her son, John, will not be returning home for tea after his picnic with Miss Hale. And it unsettles her. In the past, John would have at least let her know that he would be late. But when their carriage driver returned to Marlborough Mills an hour ago after dropping off John and Miss Hale at the Hale’s home in Crampton–and then Mary Higgins as their chaperone near where she lived in the Princeton district–it was understood that John would walk home. It is just that John Thornton has not come home yet.
Mrs. Thornton and Fanny sit stiffly in the grandly furnished large parlor of Thornton Manor at Marlborough Mills. The tea tray is before them with cakes drying out and tea water that has gone cold by now.
Fanny: Flicking the lace engulfing her wrist, Fanny petulantly asks. “Mother, will John never come home for tea? It is nearly half past our usual time and I do not wish to wait any longer.”
Mother: “Fanny, Dear, it is only a quarter past the hour. Something must have detained your brother.” Mrs. Thornton [(2) right] mumbles to herself. Then she brightens. “Perhaps he had to stop at the mill to insure that all is in readiness for the work day tomorrow, and he lost track of the time.”
Fanny: “That is not likely. John would have stopped in to tell us so.” For John Thornton is exceedingly considerate–especially to his mother and sister. “Mother, please, may we not at least have some tea?” She whines like the spoilt younger sister she is.
Mother: “Oh very well, Fanny.” Mrs. Thornton relents in frustration and rolls her eyes, then looks out the window. And Fanny snatches a small biscuit from the tea tray and pops it into her mouth, trying to chew so her mother will not see that she has eaten something. Still looking out the window, wondering where her son is, Mrs. Thornton tells her daughter absentmindedly. “Fanny, ring for Jane to bring us a fresh pot of hot water for our tea and I will send the carriage driver to Crampton to see if John would like a ride home.” She worries that with all of the talk of a strike, that John might have been attacked.
Fanny nods while still chewing surreptitiously, and she pulls the chord for the maid even as Mrs. Thornton rises to attend to her task with the carriage driver.
With their engagement accepted by the Hales, John and Margaret are beaming as they finish taking tea with her parents Sunday afternoon.
Mrs. Hale: “Margaret, have you and Mr. Thornton discussed a wedding date? Three months is usual, but then it will be Christmas time–and there are so many other events and fetes that would distract from it.” She prattles on a bit. “Perhaps you should wait until the new year–or even Spring. April brides are so lovely.” She smiles.
John’s eyes widen as he contemplates Mrs. Hale’s proposed seven month engagement period. That long time frame is a non starter with John and he shoots a glance at Margaret.
Margaret: Seeing John’s perturbed look, Margaret smiles encouragingly at him. “Spring is a lovely time, Mother.” John tugs at Margaret’s elbow–as if he were a small boy wanting another biscuit. Then John looks at Margaret pleadingly when she turns to him. “But … John and I have not discussed it yet, Mother. John’s business schedule will be one consideration.”
John: John nods agreeably. “Yes, thank you, Margaret.” He intones deeply.
Mr. Hale: “Quite so. And I hear that the mills are under a great deal of stress at the moment–trying to meet orders before they have no workers to fill them. Are the rumors true about a strike, John?”
John’s head whips around to look at Mr. Hale. The one uncertainty in John Thornton’s life is how a workers’ strike from all the mills in Milton will impact his mill particularly. Though at Marlborough Mills, John believes he pays fair wages for fair work, the worker’s wages in all of the mills have never recovered from a recession a few years ago. And if all the workers go out on strike, John realizes that even his workers will strike in solidarity. However John has investigated some contingencies for securing a new workforce from Ireland, but doing so is not without risk. Everyone waits for John’s reply.
John: “They are rumors at this point, Mr. Hale. I hope that it will not come to that.” John says in a clipped, defensive manner. John knows that Mr. Hale has allowed the workers to meet in his assembly hall classroom recently. So John contemplates what Mr. Hale might know that he does not. Then John turns to Margaret and looks at her inquisitively.
Margaret: Discerning John’s look to be one of inquiry, she assures him. “John, I do not know anything about the workers wanting to strike. My friend Bessie Higgins has been quite ill of late–keeping mostly to her bed …” Margaret smiles understandingly at her mother whose health is also fragile. “… and I have only visited with her during daytime hours–when no one else is home.” Margaret flushes while alluding to Bessie’s father, Nicholas Higgins–a union organizer who works at a competing mill to John’s.
Mrs. Hale: “Well, a possible workers’ strike is all the more reason to wait to set your wedding date–to see how everything turns out.”
Mrs. Hale smiles benignly, but narrows her eyes a bit at Mr. Thornton. She had married Mr. Hale for love, and the vagaries of their living conditions–with them now reduced to living in Crampton with only one servant and no garden–still galls her, when they had been so comfortably situated in Helstone where her husband had been Rector, even if Helstone was a backwater town.
John’s face falls and he lowers his eyes–him feeling unworthy with the implication by Mrs. Hale that his business and his fortunes are unstable–though he masks his thoughts by keeping his head held high and a benign expression upon his face..
Mr. Hale: “Maria.” Mr. Hale chastisingly says and looks at his wife askance.
Margaret tightens her grip on John’s forearm.
Margaret: “Mother, I do not wish to wait to marry John.” She states boldly, firmly aligning herself with John. “Whatever happens with John and his business, I wish to be by his side, helping him.” Then Margaret turns to smile lovingly at John.
John’s head jerks up to gaze into the eyes of the young but resolute young woman to whom he has given his heart and to whom he pledges his life.
John: “Do you truly not wish to wait for us to be married, Margaret?” He asks in loving awe of the gift of her love.
Margaret: She smiles bashfully at John, then she says quietly but firmly. “I have said so. And I do not say what I do not believe in.” Then Margaret turns to her mother to mend her fences there. “However, Mother, I do agree with you about not choosing December. But early November would be nice. Then John and I may spend our first Christmas as husband and wife.” Margaret smiles pleased with herself–and she hopes that her mother will be, too.
Now John squeezes Margaret’s hand upon his arm to show his delighted concurrence with her earlier suggested wedding date. And John tries to hide a broad grin on his face, because it would not be seemly for him to display too much eagerness as a bridegroom to be. But, the corners of his mouth do uncontrollably curl up into a half smile.
Mrs. Hale: “But Margaret, Dear. It takes time–and money–to plan a wedding.” Then she tries to bring John in as an ally. “And Mr. Thornton, your mother will want your wedding to Margaret to reflect the esteemed position that you hold in Milton.”
John: “Hhhh! True.” He blanches.
Margaret: “Mother, I neither need nor do I want a big wedding. I have always said that the day I married, I would put on my favorite dress and walk to the church.” She smiles impishly at John. “Though I understand that Mrs. Thornton might wish for some conventions to be observed.” She leans in to John as if they are sharing a private joke.
John: “Indeed.” John smiles warmly at Margaret.
They hear a knock at the Hale’s front door and the heavy footsteps of Dixon that go to answer it. They turn their faces toward the closed parlor door, wondering who it could be? Then Dixon enters the Hale’s parlor.
Dixon: “There is a man here claiming to be Mr. Thornton’s carriage driver–says he was sent by Mrs. Thornton to bring her son home.” Dixon raises her eyebrow at John Thornton, thinking that he has taken up quite enough of the Hales’ time today–her not being clued into the engagement yet.
John grits his teeth, feeling as if his mother has sent for her errant schoolboy son to be fetched home.
Mr. Hale: “Ah! The time has gotten away from us, I fear. And we have kept you past your time, John.” Mr. Hale smiles warmly at him. “Please give your mother and sister our warmest regards.”
Mr. Hale stands, so John stands. Margaret looks up at John beseechingly as she continues to hold his large hand in her small hand. She had so wanted to spend more time with him today, perhaps to invite him to join them for dinner–Hale dinners being rather informal, and knowing that she would incur Dixon’s ire by requesting they stretch the meal to include a fourth person.
John: “Thank you, Mr. Hale, Mrs. Hale, Margaret.” John says Margaret’s name with such warmth and depth of feeling that it makes her tremble. “It has been a delightful afternoon. I wish that it would not end.”
Margaret: Margaret stands and tucks her arm into John’s arm. “It has been a lovely day, John. Can we not entice you to stay for dinner?” She asks demurely coquettishly.
Dixon: “There isn’t enough food to go around.” She blusters.
Mrs. Hale: “Dixon!” Mrs. Hale looks upon her servant with shock for her breach of gracious manners.
Dixon: “Well, there isn’t.” She sniffs apologetically.
John: “I perfectly understand. Additional mouths to feed must be planned.” Then an idea takes hold. “But Margaret, could join us for dinner tonight, perhaps? Mother’s cooks always make extra food still thinking that I am eating like a young boy growing up, rather than a man with restrained appetites.” John’s eyes linger smoulderingly as he gazes upon Margaret’s blushing upturned face. “Then we may share our news with Mother and Fanny?” Margaret nods and smiles shyly.
Mr. Hale: “That sounds like a capital idea, John! Best to tell your mother tonight before everyone in town hears about your news.”
Dixon: “What news?”
Mrs. Hale: “Never you mind, Dixon.” She dismisses her servant lightly. Then she turns her former debutante’s eye upon her daughter. “Margaret, you must change if you are to go to the Thornton’s for dinner tonight.”
John: “Mrs. Hale, there is no need. Much like you, we do not dressed formally for family dinners.”
Mrs. Hale: “Still, Margaret should look her best when she meets her future … your mother this evening.” The implication being that Margaret’s rather plain, two years out of fashion dress is not suitable, nor becoming to her. “Come along Margaret.”
Mrs. Hale motions to Margaret who walks over to her mother and helps her stand. Then they slowly walk toward the open parlor door.
Margaret: “I will be back down in ten minutes, John.” Margaret nods her head assuringly. Unlike some women–such as Fanny Thornton who spend hours in getting dressed–Margaret is stating her usual primping time.
John: Lifting her hand to his lips, he kisses it. “I await your return, Margaret.” Margaret leaves the room with her mother. Then John turns to Dixon. “Please ask my carriage driver to wait fifteen minutes and then he may drive Margaret and I home to Marlborough Mills.”
Dixon: “Well I never …” She sputters at being giving a command by someone who is not her master.
Mr. Hale: “Just do it, Dixon. Please?” Mr. Hale makes a hopeful face at their servant. Dixon preceded Mr. Hale, so he does not always hold sway with her.
Dixon huffily stomps out of the parlor and informs the carriage driver, before she returns to the kitchen. John Thornton and Mr. Hale wait quietly in the parlor without comment as they await Margaret’s return. There is no more to be said this night about the wedding until all of the ladies have weighed in on the matter. It is still light out–it being only 5 o’clock. But that will not be the case after dinner when Margaret returns home.
Mr. Hale: “It will be dark when you return Margaret to us after dinner.” Mr. Hale says portentously.
John: “Oh! Yes. I will ask my sister Fanny to accompany me in returning Margaret home to you this evening.” John assures Mr. Hale. Though if John could not get Fanny to accompany he and Margaret on their picnic today as a chaperone, one wonders how he thinks that he will convince her to join them tonight.
Mr. Hale: “Very good.” He smiles.
Then Margaret reappears–now attired in a lovely dusty rose satin gown with lace around the rounded color and a cream shawl against the brisk later afternoon weather. And John and Margaret clasp their arms together in solidarity–John uncertain how his mother with react and Margaret looking up at him trustingly [(3) right]. Then they nod to Mr. Hale before they leave the Hale home to go to Marlborough Mills to tell John’s mother and sister about their engagement.
Mrs. Thornton: “At last.” She sighs while standing looking out the window as the carriage pulls up to the Thornton Manor steps [(4) right].
Fanny has long since gone to her room to change for dinner–her always wanting to dress prettily for dinner. The sun has quickly begun to set and the courtyard is in shadows. So Mrs. Thornton cannot see out the window clearly to the courtyard below and she walks through the parlor door and into the hallway to greet her son. A Thornton maid opens the Thornton’s front door:
Maid Jane: She curtsies. “Mr. Thornton, Sir.” She takes his hat that he hands her. “Oh! Miss!” Jane startles as Margaret Hale also enters the Thornton home.
John: “Jane, please take Miss Hale’s shawl for her.” She does so. Then seeing his mother, John walks over to her and kisses her shocked cheek. “Mother, I have brought Miss Hale home to join us for dinner. I told her that you would not mind since cook always makes extra.”
Margaret stands mutely just inside the Thornton’s front door–feeling bereft without John’s strong presence by her side. She sees Mrs. Thornton’s quizzical frown.
Margaret: Margaret nods her head at Mrs. Thornton. “It was lovely of John to invite me on your behalf. Thank you, Mrs. Thornton.”
Mrs. Thornton: “Miss Hale.” Mrs. Thornton greets Margaret Hale in that clipped, disdainful way of hers after finally regains her powers of speech and she nods to the troublesome young woman. She wonders what her son is about, bringing this young woman home for dinner unannounced. Yet Mrs. Thornton imperiously confers her gracious courtesy upon Margaret. “Please come into the parlor. Dinner will be in half an hour.” Then Mrs. Thornton looks to the maid Jane. “Please inform cook that we will be four for dinner–and put another place setting on the table. The maid curtsies and leaves to attend to her tasks.
Mrs. Thornton walks into the much more spacious and more elegantly appointed Thornton front parlor–with its heavy brocaded drapes, highly polished wood furniture surfaces, and a plethora of china and glass decorations adorning the space artfully about the room. There is also a smaller parlor for Mrs. Thornton’s private use at the back of the house–the Thornton home has two parlors compared to the Hale’s single small parlor.
John returns to Margaret’s side as she stands near the now closed front door. He gazes down at her and smiles shyly–very much like a young man hoping to impress his lady love with entertaining her graciously in their fine home. He takes her hand and wraps it around his arm and they follow his mother into the parlor.
John: Looking around and seeing the parlor empty, John asks. “Mother, where is Fanny?”
Mrs. Thornton: “She has gone to change for dinner.” She rolls her eyes. Both she and John have spoiled her younger child–indulging her every whim. And consequently, Fanny has become rather spoilt in her manners and affectations.
Margaret looks meaningfully at John. To her thinking, it might be best to relay their engagement to his mother initially, then later to Fanny. But she does not feel that she can suggest that outright. They should have used their ride in the then enclosed Thornton carriage for more than just kisses. Margaret suddenly feels over warm, remembering John’s strong hands gently holding her face and stroking her cheek while they softly kissed each other. She would not have guessed that he would be so tender a suitor–well, now a fiancé–as he is. But she highly approves of his endearing manner.
John: “Margaret, Margaret.” John says gently, trying to penetrate the slightly wistful look on Margaret’s face. If he had to guess, he might think that she is remembering their lovely kisses on their carriage ride over. Even now, his lips burn to touch her lips again–her soft and supple lips that fit so perfectly with his lips.
Mrs. Thornton: “John, John.” Now it is Mrs. Thornton who tries to get her dreamy eyed son’s attention. “John!”
John: “Oh! Yes, Mother?” He turns to look at his mother sheepishly
Mrs. Thornton: “What ever is the matter with you?” She looks back and forth between her son and Miss Hale.
Then without lead up or ceremony, John blurts it out.
John: “Margaret has agreed to become my wife, we will wed in early November.” Then John smiles besottedly at Margaret as she gazes lovingly up at him.
Mrs. Thornton: “Engaged? This year?” She asks incredulously. John nods. “Next month?” He nods again. “In five weeks?” Her voice is cracking with the strain of shock coursing through her mind.
John: “Yes Mother. It is what we both wish.” Then he adds for emphasis. “Margaret is making me the happiest of men.”
Fanny: “Happiest of men? What do you mean, John? Oh! Miss Hale, I did not see you there.” Fanny is startled to see Miss Hale in her home unannounced [(5) right].
Margaret: She nods. “Miss Thornton. It is good to see you again. We missed you at our picnic earlier today. It was a beautiful day for a picnic.” Margaret smiles at Fanny and then up at John. John smiles down at Margaret.
Fanny: “Oh, well I …”
John: Interrupting his sister before she can launch into some inane babble, he requests of her. “Fanny, though you begged off our picnic, I will need you to accompany me when I escort Miss Hale home in our carriage after dinner.”
Fanny: Looking at Margaret Hale and her plain dusty rose dress–whereas Fanny’s gown is beribboned to within an inch of its life–she asks disdainfully. “Oh? Are you joining us for dinner? I was not informed.”
Mrs. Thornton: “Yes Fanny. Miss Hale is joining us for dinner.”
Fanny: “Why?” Fanny whines.
Mrs. Thornton looks to her son.
John: He sighs in exasperation for the women of his household to be so unwelcoming to his fiancé. “Hhhh! Because Fanny, Margaret will soon be having all of her meals here when we are wed next month.” Again, he blurts it out.
Fanny looks stunned–and she is blessedly mute. The minutes tick by.
Mrs. Thornton: “Yes, well, we can discuss it more over dinner.” Mrs. Thornton gestures to everyone to exit the parlor and then she walks toward the dining room–expecting the others to follow her.
John and Margaret walk toward the parlor door. When they reach Fanny, they stop.
John: “Fanny dear?” He offers her his other arm.
Fanny looks down at her brother’s arm as if it were a foreign thing. Then Fanny looks over at Margaret as she slowly takes her brother’s other arm.
Margaret: “Are you quite alright, Miss Thornton?” She asks, noticing how pale Fanny has become.
John: Leaning over to Margaret so only she can hear, he impishly whispers into her ear. “If I had known that news of my engagement to be wed would have so profound and silencing an effect upon Fanny, I would have done it much earlier. Ha ha ha ha ha!” He heartily laughs out loud.
Margaret: “Ha ha ha ha ha!” She giggles quietly.
Fanny: Pouting she whines. “Well, really John. Couldn’t you have given me a warning?”
John: “What? And miss you needling me for a new gown to wear for our wedding, Fanny?”
Fanny: “Oh!” She brightens. “I had not thought of that.” She smiles happily. Fanny is a simple creature of wants and desires–as long as hers are being met, she does not care what others do.
Margaret: “Miss Thornton, I will need both your and your mother’s guidance, if we are to arrange this wedding efficiently.” Margaret smiles conspiratorially at Fanny, who dimples with glee.
John: “Indeed!” He smiles having partially won over his sister, and at least mollified his mother–for now.
And John hopes that all of their wishes for a beautiful wedding will come to pass given the short planning time frame. However, events will unfold to vex and test the newly engaged couple.
To be continued with Chapter 7
JT Love Lessons, Ch.6 References, November 19, 2013
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) Hannah Thornton was portrayed by Sinead Cusack in North & South, 2004 found at http://perioddrama.com/FilmScripts/North_and_South_2004/Cast/Hannah%20Thornton.jpg
3) Cropped and masked image of John Thornton (as portrayed by Richard Armitage) from the BBC’s 2004 production of North & South, Promo pix 17 was found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/NandSPromo/album/slides/NandSPromo-17.html; composited with Composite image of Margaret Hale’s head (as portrayed by Daniela Denby-Ashe) from the North & South music soundtrack dvd cover found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/NandSPromo/album/slides/NandSPromo-12.html; and a pink Victorian dress found at http://fripperiesandfobs.tumblr.com/post/12025132525/dress-ca-late-1830s-from-the-centre-de; initial photo compositing done by Gratiana Lovelace, 3/25/12—for her story “North & South: Nurturing Love”. Update to composite photo by Grati Nov. 18, 2013– Dress colored darkened, image resized
4) Hannah Thornton was portrayed by Sinead Cusack in North & South, 2004, found at Film Web Poland at http://1.fwcdn.pl/ph/40/43/184043/282378.1.jpg
5) Fanny Thornton was portrayed by Jo Joyner in the BBC’s 2004 drama North & South found at http://northandsouth2004.com/images/cast/FannyThornton.jpg