“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 55 (PG): Domestic Bliss?, May 09, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #561)
[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 Ogilvy, Jo Joyner for Fanny/Fiona Thornton Ogilvy, Brendan Coyle for Nicholas Higgins, 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: Little Lady Blythe Ogilvy and Lissa Dillard were grief stricken at the prospect of having to part when Blythe returned to Scotland the Monday after Fanny/Fiona Thornton’s wedding to Baird Ogilvy. But fate intervened when John Thornton found a solution that benefitted everyone in offering the new Scottish Mills Assistant Under Overseer position to Lissa’s father, Mr. Dillard, and he accepted it–planning to move his family to Scotland in two weeks. Eventually, everyone will have to return to their homes–or their new home in London in the case of Fiona and Baird Ogilvy.
“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 55 (PG): Domestic Bliss?
After enjoying two more days of Thornton-Ogilvy family togetherness in Milton, it is time for Cameron’s daughter Angharad MacIntosh and her family to return home to London, and for Baird and Fiona to travel to London on Wednesday May 7th to begin their lives together. It is a bittersweet parting as the four couples spread to the four winds–since Hannah and Cameron are also traveling, to their castle in Scotland again. But John and Margaret will join them in two weeks time when they also travel to Scotland as John reviews the progress made in refurbishing the old Scottish Mill’s buildings to get them ready for new machinery and training of the workers. For now, each of the four couple’s has a brief week’s respite of privacy in their own homes.
Margaret will be resting more as her pregnancy advances–and new school teachers take over from her at the Mill school. But Margaret also manages to visit her ailing parents in Crampton on Thursday–with another promised visit after church on Sunday. John wishes that he could spend more time with Margaret, but with running Marlborough Mills while also helping to shepherd the new mill project in Scotland, John is taxed beyond most people’s limits–working until 9 o’clock in the evening most nights, finding Margaret asleep in their bed when he arrives home.
After John removes his clothing, washes up, and slides into bed wearing only his night pants, he sees the charming site of his beloved wife Margaret sound asleep. Margaret’s long auburn hair lies uncoiled in soft curls about her shoulders. Her hands lying over her growing fully six months pregnant belly hold a small book about the subversive notion of anti-authoritarian parenting style so prevalent in the Victorian era [(2)].
John smiles at his wife’s unconventional parenting perspectives. He had what many would call an authoritarian mother in Hannah, yet he turned out alright. But for all of Hannah’s sternness–her demeanor now blessedly softened with her happy marriage to Cameron Ogilvy–she loved her son, John, dearly [(3) right]. And Hannah’s love and support made John Thornton the man who would one day fall in love with and later marry Margaret Hale.
So that he does not waken his slumbering wife, John gently removes the slim volume of parenting advice from Margaret’s grasp. Margaret’s rosebud mouth is only slightly open, her breathing steady–even as John gently caresses her face, she does not waken from slumbers’ hold upon her [(4) right].
And what John has come to appreciate as Margaret’s musical nose hums softly as air rushes through it with each whispering exhale. She does not snore, per se. But rather, Margaret’s nose wafts a pleasing tone of contentment as she sleeps.
John turns onto his left side and lays his head on the pillow [(5) right] next to Margaret’s head. Her face turns slightly toward him in unconscious answering accord and she snuggles into his cheek–and he kisses her cheek. Then clasping her near right hand in his right hand–carefully bending her arm up toward her face, as his elbow also bends–John interlaces his fingers with his wife Margaret’s fingers and he drifts off to sleep.
For all of her guidance of her son John, Hannah tended to pamper her daughter Fanny/Fiona. And Hannah fears that she has not served her daughter Fiona well, by her completely controlling the running of Thornton Manor and not inviting her daughter to participate. Even when Margaret began to assert her role as new lady of the manor, Margaret did not include Fiona because Margaret was trying to develop her own household management style apart from her mother-in-law Hannah. As a result, Fiona has received little training in running and managing a household beyond what she observed with her own eyes.
So it will fall to Baird’s sister Angharad–whom Baird and Fiona are staying with for a week or so while their London townhouse renovations are completed–to instruct Fiona in becoming the lady of the manor. Angharad is an accomplished lady of her manor–her having been married for five years and a mother for four of those years. She runs her home with precision and with an eye to comfort and ease. Fiona has especially appreciated Angharad’s staff’s kind coddling of her wishes–for freshly laundered sheets weekly, steaming hot tea and other food preferences, and her linen underthings neatly pressed (but without starch).
Angharad as mentor can both impart the insights that she has gained in home management, while also putting a youthful twenty-four year old spin on creating a happy home live. There are three pieces of marital advice often given to newlyweds that Angharad shared with Fiona one late morning breakfast after their men had gone off to their respective offices. The first admonition was that the harmonious blending of two lives and their daily living arrangements is accomplished with negotiation, compromise, and tact. The second guideline was that having a properly trained household staff prevents a multitude of mishaps. And the third suggestion was that when all else fails, make love–this is the youthful viewpoint coming out. Fiona listens and nods dutifully. But Angharad wonders if Fiona understood her–especially about the staff management aspect of creating a happy home.
So one day in the second week of Baird’s and Fiona’s stay with the MacIntosh’s, a Friday May 9th, Angharad decides to leave the household arrangements for the day up to Fiona–from meal planning to task delegation to various kinds of household cleaning. And Angharad secretly instructs her staff to do a few things wrong–billowing dust everywhere with their feather dusters, not buying enough meat for dinner when guests are expected, and sitting on the job when they should be working–to purposely see if Fiona will notice and correct them. Angharad has basically given her staff the license to behave contrary to their usual excellent professional service that they provide to her family on a daily basis–and have a little fun with Fiona.
Fiona’s day as Lady of the Manor this Friday begins as usual with Fiona having breakfast with Angharad and the children in the nursery. The children’s food is prepared and served as expected–warm porridge with cinnamon sugar, and such for toddler Andrew and mother’s milk for baby Amanda. But then Fiona notices that something is amiss. When she and Angharad lift the covers from their plated breakfast meals, they find unbuttered toast (with the crust still on them), no jam, and tepid eggs–not to mention, weak and cold tea. Angharad tries not to smile because she is supposed to be upset with the poor meal.
Fiona: “Angharad? Is your toast buttered and do you have any jam?”
Angharad: “No, I do not. So you had expected our breakfasts to be as they usually are?”
Fiona: “Yes.” Fiona sheepishly looks at Angharad.
Angharad: “What did you order for breakfast?” Angharad asks benignly [(6) right], knowing the answer even before Fiona voices it.
Fiona: “Wellll. I didn’t actually place a breakfast order with cook. I assumed that they knew what they were doing.”
Anghard: “Ah.” Is all Angharad says, but it is the way she says it that gives Fiona pause–as if in censure.
Fiona: “Let me ring for a server to attend us.” Fiona stands and rings the pull cord in the children’s nursery. And after a very long five minute wait, a petite kitchen maid appears in the nursery.
Maid: She curtsies briefly.”You rang, Madam?” She looks wide eyed and innocent–as an act.
Fiona: “Yes. The children’s breakfasts are fine. But Lady MacIntosh and my meals were unbuttered, lacking jam, and barely warm–not to mention the tea being only slightly above clear water and cold.” Fiona says curtly [(7) right].
Maid: “Oh! I’m ever so sorry!” And the maid bursts into tears and quickly leaves the room. Once down the hallway, the maid lets out a giggle and returns to the kitchen to eat her nicely warm breakfast–with buttered toast and jam.
Fiona: Fiona sits down at the table next to Angharad, looking dumbfounded. “What did I say, Angharad? Was I not correct in stating what was wrong with our meals?”
Angharad: “Yes, technically, Fiona. But servants are people, too. So perhaps, a less confrontational approach would work better next time.”
Fiona: “Alright. I’ll try.” Fiona looks down at her unappetizing breakfast. And she is still hungry. Fiona stands again and reaches for the pull cord, just as the cook bursts in.
Cook: “Madam.” Cook bows respectfully to Lady Macintosh, who nods back at her. “Children.” Cook smiles and Andrew waves at her. Then Cook looks at Fiona. “Did princess not find her breakfast to her liking?” She asks sarcastically, as only a respected cook can.
Fiona looks stunned–with a little girl pout on her face. Angharad tries her best to hide her smile at the comical scene. Then she enters the farce and intones soberly.
Angharad: “Fiona, I do not wish to expose the children to unpleasantness, please take your discussion with Cook into the hallway.”
Fiona: “Oh! Of course, Angharad.” Fiona nods nervously. Then she stands for a third time and waves to the cook to follow her into the hallway.
Cook: “So what is your complaint, princess?” She challenges.
Opening her mouth to tell the cook her complaint, Fiona stops and remembers what Angharad told her–servants are people, too.
Fiona: “With respect, I am merely a Lady, not a princess. Though I did meet the queen when my husband and I rendered her a service.” Fiona says tartly. “And as I told the maid, the children’s meals were just as I had hoped. But that Lady MacIntosh’s and my meals were lacking butter and jam for our toast, among other things.” Fiona purposely left out the cold eggs and the unflavorful tea.
Cook: “Well, you did not say what you wanted, so we guessed.”
Fiona: “True, that is partly my fault.” Fiona admits culpability. “But you run such an efficient kitchen that I quite didn’t think you would wish me to make suggestions.” Fiona tries flattery. And Fiona thinks, who wants cold eggs?
Cook: “We await your direction, princess.” Cook says derisively. She is quite having fun with this exercise.
Fiona: Fiona ignores the princess comment. “Well, is all in readiness for tonight’s dinner party for the Shaw-Lennox’s?”
Cook: “I was not made aware that there would be more for dinner. We do not have enough food.”
Fiona: “Oh dear!” Fiona frets. “It is only three more people–two of them are women. Can we not make do? I am happy to eat less.”
Cook: “I am making Cornish game hens for the fowl course. And it would be quite obvious if you and Lady MacIntosh each only had half a carcass.” Fiona frowns. “So! You must come with me to the market to purchase more food!”
Then before Fiona can object, she is whisked down to the kitchen for Cook to fetch her cap. And then Cook drags Fiona to each market for the meats and vegetables–making Fiona pay for the food out of her reticule.
That evening, after the dinner went well and Fiona and Baird prepare for bed in their guest suite. Angharad and her husband Alistair have their master bedroom suite at the back of the house, with their children’s bed chambers nearby. So Baird and Fiona are given the guest bedroom suite at the front of the MacIntosh London townhouse–which affords them some measure of privacy, away from the family quarters. Fiona crumples in exhaustion from the day’s stress as she sits at her vanity and rests her head in her hands as she stares at herself in the mirror while in a most unladylike way leaning her elbows upon the vanity table surface.
Baird: Touching his wife’s shoulders, he finds her tense. “Fiona, what is it My Love? Tonight was a lovely evening. And you did well as ourr hostess.” He kisses the top of her head.
Fiona: “Thank you. I’m just glad that it’s over!” She sighs. “There is so much to consider just to get people fed. I don’t know how Angharad does it–and she has the children to tend to as well.”
Baird: Baird smiles slightly in wry bemusement [(8) right]–him having been clued into the nature of Fiona’s household management lesson today. “I am cerrrtain that the staff help Angharad a grrreat deal.”
Fiona: “Oh, they do! That is, when they want to. For me, they were belligerent, disrespectful, and … and …” She searches for the perfect descriptor.
Baird: Baird’s eyebrow raises. “And?”
Fiona: “And more knowledgeable about everything than I will ever possess.” She pouts and shakes her head. “I didn’t even know how much food costs. I gave cook the five pound note you gave me for spending money–to use to buy more food. And she told me that if I spent my money so lavishly all the time that we would soon end up in a poor house.”
Baird: “Now, now, ye will rrrise to the occasion when we arrre in ourrr own home.” He caresses her shoulders hoping to put her in a better mood–a still on their wedding trip kind of mood.
Fiona: “I’m not so sure. I wonder if Mama and Cameron would consent to live in London, and we could live with them? Mama ran our home, Thornton Manor, so efficiently.”
Baird blanches in horror at the idea of living with this father and stepmother who is also his mother-in-law.
Baird: “Do ye na want us to be on ourrr own?” His voice smoulders with desire.
Fiona: “Not if it means we starve or are forced to eat cold eggs and toast with no jam.” She whines.
Baird: “Ha ha ha ha ha! All will be well, My Dearrr.” He soothes. “Now what household management skill will Angharad teach you about tomorrow?”
Fiona: “Cleaning.” Fiona looks at her husband with a pickled expression–as if she ate something sour.
Baird: “Hmmm.” He nods. “Until then My Love, might I coax you to step away from yourrr lady of the manorrrr duties and urrrge you to tend to yourrr husband?” Baird holds out his hand and assists his wife Fiona in rising. “As I will tend to you.” He says huskily as he pulls her flush against him in a tender embrace.
Fiona: “That will be lovely.” Fiona smiles prettily as a blush pinkens her cheeks and she closes her eyes in anticipation of her husband’s kiss.
Then a smiling Baird kisses his Fiona so thoroughly that she quite forgets about her stressful day.
And somewhere in Milton, Hannah and Cameron are having a similarly lovely evening.
To be continued with Chapter 56
“N&S: JT Love Lessons”, Ch. 55 References, May 09, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #561)
“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) Victorian Parenting advice: “Nonetheless, researchers have found that in some cultures and ethnic groups, aspects of authoritarian style may be associated with more positive child outcomes than Baumrind expects. “Aspects of traditional Asian child-rearing practices are often continued by Asian American families. In some cases, these practices have been described as authoritarian.”
This was common in Victorian times, and was used by teachers in schools. One of the earliest critics was Charles Dickens with characters such as Mr Murdstone in David Copperfield, and Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist and the negative emotional effects on the main character of the story. This style of parenting decreased during the late 20th century and is now unpopular in Western society.” This excerpt on parenting in the Victorian Era was found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parenting_styles
3) John Thornton (portrayed by Richard Armitage) being consoled by his stern but loving Mother Hannah (portrayed by Sinead Cusack) in the 2004 BBC period drama North & South was found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode3/ns3-035.jpg
4) Margaret Hale image (mask) is Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage as John Thornton in the BBC’s 2004 miniseries North & South found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode4/ns4-333.jpg
5) John Thornton image (crop to oval, clr), flip is a 2013 Richard Armitage portrait by Sarah Dunn for TotalFilmArticleDec0313mrpuddingstontumblrcom-RAFranceFB-croptooval-hi-res
6) Image representing Angharad Ogilvy MacIntosh is Holliday Grainger found at http://img.moviepilot.com/assets/tarantulaV2/people_images/1370946799_Holliday-Grainger.jpg
7) Fanny was portrayed by Jo Joyner in the 2004 BBC drama North & South (22h45m45s28) Dec2813 Gratiana Lovelace Cap-crop-sized-plain-mask
8) Baird Ogilvy image (aspect, sized, crop, drkn) is Simon Woods as Charles Bingley in the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice found at myscarlettlady.onsugar.com http://media.onsugar.com/files/ons1/530/5303518/40_2009/image_0.jpg