“North & South: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 38 (PG): Dr. Houghton is Very Attentive, March 17, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #531)
[I will illustrate my story using my dream cast from the 2004 BBC production of “North & South” and other actors for additional characters: Richard Armitage for John Thornton, Daniela Denby-Ashe for Margaret Hale, Lesley Manville for Mrs. Maria Hale, Tim Pigott-Smith for Mr. Richard Hale, Sinead Cusack for Mrs. Hannah Thornton, Jo Joyner for Fanny Thornton, Brendan Coyle for Nicholas Higgins, and Graham McTavish as Dr. Cameron Ogilvy, Holliday Grainger for Angharad Ogilvy MacIntosh, Simon Woods for Baird Ogilvy, and Emma Ashton as Mrs. Dillard, John Light as Henry Lennox, Tim Faraday as Watson, Gillian Anderson at Carlotta Quint Watson, and Jeremy Northam as Dr. Miles Houghton, etc] [(1) story logo]
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 (S)–as well as other dramatic emotions, including some violence (V)–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 from the previous chapter: Margaret has a pregnancy health scare. Fanny is distraught over Baird, but she finds distraction in helping Margaret and watching the mill nursery little ones. But Fanny still needs her big brother John’s comforting.
“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 38 (PG): Dr. Houghton is Very Attentive
Fanny spends the next few days home in Milton, helping at the mill school and nursery for lunchtime and in the afternoons, quietly embroidering while sitting with Margaret, or visiting Mrs. Hale who has become more ill. With Margaret on bed chamber rest with her pregnancy and not able to visit her mother, Fanny’s filling that need by visiting Mrs. Hale in the mornings is a great comfort to Margaret. And Fanny as an unacknowledged former hypochrondriac has a sense of fellow feeling with Mrs. Hale’s fragile condition. And since Fanny’s own mother is still in Scotland, she appreciates Mrs. Hale’s motherly influence. So Fanny reads to Mrs. Hale, or they talk about the times they had together during their extended visit in London previously.
But Fanny still cannot forget Baird Ogilvy. Even when the youngish thirty year old Dr. Miles Houghton comes to call on Margaret Thornton Monday afternoon to assess her progress, Fanny does not notice his particular interest in her.
Closing his medical bag after examining Margaret Thornton with Fanny present in the room as propriety dictates, he gives his assessment.
Dr. Houghton: “I think you seem a bit improved, Mrs. Thornton. Your heart rate is lowering to normal levels for a pregnant lady. And you said that you feel less faint. Good, good.” He smiles cordially.
Margaret: Margaret is eager to resume her active life and she asks with a hopeful smile. “So may I stop being on bed chamber rest now? I miss the children at the mill.” Margaret wistfully gazes up [(2) right] at the doctor.
Fanny: “Oh Margaret, I wouldn’t over extend yourself, if I were you.” Fanny squeezes Margaret’s hand caringly. “I can still help out at lunchtime and in the afternoons when the second little ones helper isn’t able to come.” Fanny delightedly moves to the bed to fuss over Margaret as she adjusts and fluffs Margaret’s pillow for her. Then she smiles. “Besides, I’m enjoying it. Children are so dear.” Fanny sighs–and she thinks, children are not judgemental like some adults, Baird Ogilvy in particlar.
Dr. Houghton: Smiling at Miss Fanny Thornton’s kindness to her sister-in-law, he responds. “Mrs. Thornton, I agree with Miss Thornton. You cannot be too careful in my estimation. Some robust women have more delicate pregnancies than could be suspected, and I think that you are among them. I suggest that you allow yourself a few more days or a week of rest to fully recover.”
Fanny: “See, Margaret? Let us pamper you and enjoy it while you can.” Fanny smiles warmly at her sister-in-law.
Dr. Houghton: “Your request will be taken under advisement.” The thirty year old young doctor intones bemusedly [(3) right].
After watching his examination and discussion with Margaret, Fanny thinks that the doctor seems to be about her brother’s age–he is actually a few years younger than John. Perhaps it is the doctor’s serious tone when talking to his patients that make him seem older, she wonders. He is tall, she will grant him that. And he has a not unpleasant face. But, of course, he is not Baird, and Fanny lowers her eyes and looks away to hide her sadness.
Margaret: “Thank you Dr. Houghton.” She nods her thanks.
Dr. Houghton: “You’re most welcome!” He says effusively, then he rubs his hands together. “Now! If Miss Thornton will show me out, I will visit Mr. Thornton at his office with my report of your progress to him.” He smiles hopefully at the lovely Fanny Thornton as he picks up his medical bag.
Fanny: “Of course, Dr. Houghton. This way, if you please.” Fanny nods graciously and gestures toward the door. As she and the doctor walk out of Margaret’s bed chamber, Fanny smiles over her shoulder to Margaret. “I will be back in a few minutes with our tea, Margaret.”
Margaret: “Thank you, Fanny.” She smiles at her doting sister-in-law. Then Margaret ponders while shaking her head bemusedly, who would have ever thought that Fanny would become so selflessly caring?
Fanny and Dr. Houghton walk in polite silence through the third floor bed chamber hallway and down the stairs to Thornton Manor’s front door that leads out to the busy mill yard.
Fanny: Fanny turns to Dr. Houghton as she opens her front door and hands him his hat. “Thank you for tending to my sister-in-law, Margaret, Dr. Houghton.” Though she thinks that Dr. Houghton seems rather taciturn and awkward around her–she knows not the source of his behavior, she is being polite and courteous. But his care of Margaret has been fine so far, so Fanny gives him the benefit of the doubt.
Dr. Houghton: “It is my pleasure, Miss Thornton.” He smiles at her, wanting to say more but feeling tongue tied in her lovely presence.
Fanny: Fanny’s brow wrinkles [(4) right], wondering why the doctor is not leaving. She has to get Margaret her tea. So she points to the building where her brother’s office is located. “You will find my brother John, on the second floor of that building. Once you enter the building, ask the floor supervisor and they can direct you.” She smiles politely at him.
Dr. Houghton: He nods his head. “Thank you most kindly, Miss Thornton. I shall dicuss his wife’s progress with Mr. Thornton directly.” The doctor tips his hat to her and leaves Thornton Manor, intending to speak with Mr. Thornton about his wife’s health–among other things.
After being directed to Mr. John Thornton’s office by the floor supervisor, Dr. Houghton removes his hat and smooths his hair down. He has naturally wavy hair, so he is fighting a losing battle. Dr. Houghton knocks twice on the opaque glass of the office door.
John: “Yes? Who is it?” John calls out a tad impatiently without looking up from his ledger page [(5) right]. John is trying to get a bit more work done so he can go take tea with his ailing wife, Margaret.
Dr. Houghton: Opening the door ajar and peeking his head in, Dr. Houghton smiles cordially. “It is I, Mr. Thornton, come to report about my examination of your wife this afternoon.”
John stands up quickly and moves around his desk, right arm outstretched, and shakes the doctor’s hand.
John: “Of course. Please come in and sit down, Dr. Houghton.” John is alert and anxious for what the doctor has to say.
Dr. Houghton: “Thank you.” He nods and sits in the suggested chair in front of Mr. Thornton’s desk. John leans upon the front of his desk, slightly towering over the middle height–but now seated–Dr. Houghton.
John: John crosses his arms in front of himself and asks hopefully. “How are Margaret and the baby doing?”
Dr. Houghton: “She looks much better today. Rest is doing her a world of good. Though my guess is you are aware of her wish to return to the school.”
John: He nods his head, then shakes it. “My wife is an unstoppable force of nature. There isn’t anything she won’t do, once she puts her mind to it.
Dr. Houghton: “Ah! But the women of our generation are blessed with this spirit. I doubt that there are few men of my acquaintance who wouldn’t want a wife whose intellect, compassion, and beauty are without compare.” He gushes a little.
John: “Excuse me?” John wonders why Dr. Houghton is waxing so poetic. Has his wife, Margaret, charmed the good doctor without knowing it? Once again, John’s guess has erred in the wrong direction.
Dr. Houghton: “Oh! Well! What I mean to say …” He flusters. “I suggested to Mrs. Thornton that she rest a few more days–or even the rest of the week–at home.”
John: “And did Margaret agree to that?” John knows his wife’s wish to be useful, and sitting or lying around is not in her nature.
Dr. Houghton: “She did. And your sister, Miss Thornton, graciously offered to continue assisting with the little ones at the Mill School during your wife’s absence.” Dr. Houghton smiles warmly and a bit wistfully.
John: John looks at the good doctor strangely. “Yes, well, Fanny likes to keep busy as much as Margaret.” A silence ensues between John and the doctor. And this worries John. “Dr. Houghton, is there something that you’re not telling me about my wife’s health?”
Dr. Houghton: “What? Oh! No, not at all. Mrs. Thornton is recovering nicely. I’m just being overly cautious in seeking for her to continue to rest. Ladies must not overdo when they are in this delicate condition.”
John: Standing up to his full height of six foot four inches tall, John asks. “Then what is it, man? Is there something else?” John worries that he will soon receive a prohibition from loving his wife until after the baby is born.
Dr. Houghton: “Well. Hhhh.” He sighs nervously. “As you know Mr. Thornton, I am relatively new to Milton–my just having moved my medical practice here three months ago at Dr. Ogilvy’s invitation.”
John: “Yes.” John nods and waits for the now seemingly nervous doctor to proceed.
Dr. Houghton: “I, as of yet, am not married.”
John: “I see.” John nods, he did not know this–wondering why the doctor is mentioning his single status.
Dr. Houghton: “My work is so all consuming that my acquaintanceship is Milton has up to this point been confined to my patients and their families–and I have met few other residents of town.”
John: “Of course. But perhaps the coming warm Spring weather will have people in greater health and allow you time to meet some of Milton’s other residents then.” John smiles at the younger man, recognizing his own previous awkwardness when contemplating courting his now wife Margaret.
Dr. Houghton: “Perhaps. But there is one lady whom I would like to become acquainted with. That is, if you will permit me.” Dr. Houghton looks at John Thornton hopefully.
John: “Oh! Then you wish to become acquainted with my …” John’s face has a look of utter astonishment.
Dr. Houghton: “Your sister, Miss Thornton.” He gulps. “If that would not be objectionable to you.”
John shakes his head at Fanny’s growing list of suitors–Watson, Henry Lennox, Baird Ogilvy, and now, Dr. Houghton. It seems like only yesterday to John, that his sister Fanny was a cute litte girl practicing her piano lessons. Now it seems, that Fanny is a twenty year old much sought after debutante.
John: “No.” John says half heartedly. John could not have predicted this turn of events–and he is still perplexed by it all. Not so long ago, Fanny was his sometimes annoyingly spoilt younger sister. Now, she is a much admired young lady. But it amuses John greatly to think that now four men have come under Fanny’s unintentional spell. “Ha ha ha! I do not know you well enough to object.”
John’s seeming jest startles Dr. Houghton. For he has never had a brother or father of a woman he was interested in, find humor in it. Not that he has been at odds with the families of other ladies–or rather, the only other lady that he had spent time with, since his medical studies and starting his practice consumed most of his time. It is just that with becoming established in Milton, Dr. Houghton’s thoughts can now turn to his matrimonial future. And as of yet, Fanny is the only young marriageable age woman he has met–the slightly two years older Ann Lattimer’s family not being ill and requiring his medical services yet.
Dr. Houghton: “Mr. Thornton, I assure you that I come from a good family and I have excellent prospects in growing my medical practice–in addition to our family holdings which supplement my income. With Dr. Donaldson being almost retired–and Dr. Ogilvy moving to his estates in Scotland in the Autumn with Mrs. Ogilvy–I will be the sole medical practicioner for Milton, until I can find a partner to help me cover all of the needs of the community.”
John: “No, no! You are a fine man. Cameron would not have hired you if your skill as a physician and personal reputation were not impeccable. Doctors deal with such intimate issues with families, that a doctor’s honor and discretion must be above reproach.”
Dr. Houghton: “Indeed!” He nods. “So? I hear that Miss Thornton is musical. Might I ask Miss Thornton to attend an upcoming musical concert with me?” He asks hopefully.
Not wanting to reveal his sister, Fanny’s, private pain regarding her uncertain relationship with Baird Ogilvy, John dissembles.
John: “I cannot speak for my sister, Fanny, as to whether she would accept your kind invitation at present. But I do not object to your making the invitation to her.”
Dr. Houghton: “Excellent! Thank you!” Dr. Houghton sighs relievedly.
John: “But first …” Dr. Houghton looks up at John questioningly. “Let Margaret and I invite you to dine with us Tuesday night–you will fill out our numbers since Mother and Cameron are away. Besides, you will have a chance to chat with my sister Fanny informally. And you might be able to gauge if she would be amenable to your invitation to a musical concert or not.”
Dr. Houghton: “That sounds most agreeable. Thank you for the kind invitation. I look forward to dining with you and your family tomorrow evening.” The doctor leaves and heads to his medical office in town. Dr. Houghton smiles and has a spring in his step with feeling that his marital prospects are brightening.
John returns to the business at hand and sits down at his desk again to complete his current business quotation estimate for a potential buyer. Finally, a quarter hour later, John is done and walks over to Thornton Manor to take tea with his wife and sister, before returning to work for a few hours before dinner. Since Margaret’s illness, John prefers to be home with her in the evening–him not wanting to miss any precious moments with her. However, John will find that his private time with his beloved wife Margaret will be limited in the coming days.
To be continued with Chapter 39
“N&S: JT Love Lessons”, Ch. 38 References, March 17, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #531)
1) “N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons” story logo: Richard Armitageas John Thornton and Daniela Denby-Ashe in the 2004 BBC period drama North & South, was found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode3/ns3-110.jpg ; For more information about this wonderful 2004 BBC miniseries adaptation of Elizabeth’s Gaskell’s story North & South, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_&_South_%28TV_serial%29
2) Margaret Hale is Daniela Denby-Ashe in the 2004 BBC Drama “North & South”, episode 2 found at richardarmitagecentral.co.uk/main.php?g2_itemId=78469&
3) Dr. Miles Houghton image is Jeremy Northam as George Knightley in 1995’s Emma found at http://images2.fanpop.com/image/photos/9100000/JAH_Mr-Knightley-Jeremy-Northam-jane-austens-heroes-9172974-1024-567.jpg
4) Fanny was portrayed by Jo Joyner in the 2004 BBC drama North & South (22h45m45s28) Dec2813 Gratiana Lovelace Cap-crop-sized-plain-mask in the BBC’s 2004 drama North & South found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode4/ns4-340.jpg
5) John Thornton sitting at his mill office desk is portrayed by Richard Armitage in the 2004 BBC drama North & South, epi4, pix 216 found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode4/ns4-216.jpg
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