“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 76 (PG-13): Arrivals and New Beginnings, August 24, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #623)
[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 Fiona/Fanny 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, Jeremy Northam as Dr. Miles Houghton, Gerard Butler as Lord Jamie Ogilvy, Juliette Lewis as Lady Thistle Ogilvy, and Helena Bonham Carter as Brigid Gordon, 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. As such there will be heartfelt moments of love and sensuality (S)–as well as other dramatic emotions (D), 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: John and Margaret meet the little baby boy and girl that they hoped to adopt from Cameron and Hannah’s Airlie Castle orphanage. Uncertain at first about each other, John and little Caty warm to each other–well, thaw. Then the newly expanded Thornton Family spends the next few days at Airlie Castle getting even better acquainted in familiar surroundings for Caty before they all return home to Milton. Caty is less fearful and shy around John now that she sees him interact with other children. And in partially renaming their newly adopted children, John and Margaret want a way for their baby boy and toddler daughter to retain part of their Scottish heritage, while also embracing their new family. So it is a newly expanded Thornton family that returns to Milton the following Sunday–John and Margaret, Audrey Grace, Catriona “Caty” Maria Thornton, and baby Douglas John Thornton.
“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 76 (PG-13): Arrivals and New Beginnings
The train ride from Angus, Scotland to their new home in Milton, England this mid April 1855 is the first for little two year old newly named Catriona Caty Maria Thornton and her one month old baby brother now named Douglas John Thornton. And the wonders of train travel–with everything moving so fast past their train compartment window fascinates little Catriona. However John and Margaret Thornton’s almost four year old daughter Audrey Grace takes the homecoming with a new baby brother and new little sister in her stride–afterall, she is her usually unflappable parents’ child.
And the Thornton’s are not alone. Since baby Douglas is only one month old, the Thornton family is also accompanied by his Scottish wet nurse [(2)] the widowed Brigid Gordon and her own almost weaned seven month old baby boy Arthur Gordon who will also seek a new life for themselves in Milton after her disappointment. John and Margaret are only slightly aware of Brigid not having a father for her child–though they were spared the details from their stepfather/father-in-law Cameron. Of course, the baby had a father or it wouldn’t be in the world. It is just that the father was already spoken for–by his wife. But Brigid is a plucky Scottish lass of twenty-five–practically ancient for having only her first child from the Scottish village where she comes from.
The scene at the Milton Train Station platform on Monday is a bit chaotic to say the least. The incoming passenger train with the Thornton’s on it had to wait a quarter hour before it could arrive–it sitting on a siding track, waiting for the goods train [(3)] to off load and pick up supplies at Milton and then continue on its way West. So when the Thornton’s passenger train finally arrives at Milton Station, the platform is piled high with goods yet to be picked up or stored until they can be loaded onto a different train bound for another city.
John gives his luggage tickets to a train station porter–whom he is familiar with due to their frequent traveling to Scotland–so the porter will collect them from the freight car for him. Then John [(4) right] stands just outside his open train compartment door and spies a familiar face of a man striding toward him.
John: “Higgins! Good to see you man! But why are you not at Marlborough Mills?” John asks in a concerned tone.
Higgins: Crossing his arms across his chest, Higgins replies in mock anger. “And would yo have anyone but me see the Mill shipment off to its destination this fine day?”
John: Breaking into a smile, John shakes his Senior Overseer’s hand. “No! Of course! I had not realized that we were that close to finishing the Cheltenham order.”
Higgins: He looks at the master slyly. “Well, I canvassed the mill workers to see who would welcome extra pence in their pockets for working double shifts the four days you were in Scotland. Not surprisingly, nary a one turned down the offer.”
John: “Hmmm. I trust that you checked with our payroll clerk Dunn that the Mill can stand the extra pounds this overtime will cost?” John raises a business sharpened eyebrow.
Higgins: “Not to worry. The incentive from the buyer for early delivery of the shipment of cotton more than covers the extra pay to the workers–you could buy a new carriage with the profit.” Higgins boasts.
John: “Well then, I am delighted! And with my expanding family, I will need a larger carriage.” John smiles and reaches in to his private train compartment and pulls little Catriona into his arms, situating her on his forearm.
Catriona looks with wide eyes upon Higgins–almost meeting him eye to eye from her perch on her new papa’s arm. These days, Higgins clothes are neat and tidy–him being the Marlborough Mills Senior Overseer–a position of distinction that few simple folk like him can attain. Nicholas [(5) right] is dressed in a plain white shirt and jacket with a vest and a small cravat–he is even wearing a bowler with his over coat, making him look even more dapper. Higgins’ shoes are like new–well made hand me downs from John Thornton, who is Higgins same shoe size, though Higgins is quite a bit shorter in height than the Master of Marlborough Mills. And Higgins’ ready smile disarms the still quite shy Catriona,who smiles at him then quickly buries her face into her new father’s neck for comfort. John pats her back and sways his torso a bit as if to rock her comfortingly. John is making progress in his relationship with his new daughter.
Higgins: “What’s this? Miss Audrey Grace has not shrunk during her stay in Scotland.” Higgins smiles jovially at the small child in John’s arms.
Audrey Grace: Exiting the compartment clutching her small reticule containing her linen handkerchief and a pence given to her by her grandparents Nana Hannah and Grandpa Cameron for candies, Audrey Grace chirps. “I’m still big, Mr. Higgins! See?” Audrey Grace twirls around and smiles at him.
Higgins: “And so you are.” Higgins looks with confusion between the small child in John Thornton’s arms and Thornton’s daughter standing before him. “I thought you were going to see about a baby boy?”
John: “We did.” John states cryptically with a knowing smile.
Then Margaret alights from the compartment carrying the said baby boy.
Margaret: “Hello, Nicholas! I see that you have met Audrey Grace’s new little sister, Catriona, known as Caty. And here is their baby brother, Douglas.”
Margaret smiles joyfully holding the sleeping baby in her arms. John puffs up pridefully. Audrey Grace scrunches up her nose and lifts her shoulders in a gleeful way.
Audrey Grace: “I’m a big sister!”
Higgins: “As I see!” Then Higgins taps Thornton’s other arm with the back of his fingers. “Thornton! You have outdone me! I had but two girls–now one with my Bessie’s passing.” Margaret’s face saddens at the mention of her late friend Bessie. “And now you have a son, too!”
John smiles at Margaret and their baby boy Douglas [(6) right], then at Audrey Grace, and finally at little Catriona in his arms.
John: “We are blessed!”
Then the last of their party exits the compartment, when Brigid Gordon steps onto the Milton Train Station platform with her seven month old baby son Arthur in her arms.
Brigid: “Ooh! I was neverrr so glad to be frrreed frrrom sitting down in me whole life!” She huffs out gratefully as she smooths out the skirt of her brown traveling dress of a servant that she some how manages to make look sultry. Though not of a station where her innate beauty would be appreciated fully, Brigid [(7) right] is womanly curvy and she has a cordial way about her which people find affable–which in turn, makes people find her pleasing.
Baby Arthur: “Mmm naaaa wollll!” Baby Arthur flails his arms about as he sees the bustling train station platform scene before him.
Higgins eyes go wider. Then a pleasantly surprised smile creeps onto his face as he appreciatively gazes at the petite buxom woman before him. He is transfixed.
John: “Higgins, this is Mrs. Brigid Gordon. She is … she is …” John finds that he can’t say the words wet nurse as he pinkens up.
Margaret: “Oh John!” She smiles amusingly at her husband. “Nicholas, Brigid will help me look after the younger children now that we have three times as many as before.”
Higgins: “Aye!” Then thinking someone is missing, he asks delicately under his breath to Margaret. “Will yo be needing Dr. Houghton to suggest a wet nurse for the baby?”
Having overheard Higgins, the ever forthright Brigid speaks up.
Brigid: “That’ll be me, Sirrr. Me baby Arrrthurrr is almost weaned, but I still have plenty of milk forrr the wee one therrre.” Brigid casts her eye over to baby Douglas as she tilts her head.
With the mention of wet nursing, Higgins attention is thus drawn to the Brigid Gordon’s full bosom encased in her traveling suit that is anything but demure, he nods slowly as he unconsciously wets his lips.
Higgins: “Ah! How fortunate, Mrs. Gordon.”
Nicholas smiles and goes to shake Brigid’s free hand. But Brigid just stares at him. Women of Scotland are even less inclined to shake hands–let alone touch–a man who is not of their acquaintance. There is an uncomfortable silence as Brigid looks slightly askance at Mr. and Mrs. Thornton. Simple folk she may be, but some courtesies should still be observed.
John: “Oh! Pardon me! Mrs. Gordon, This is Nicholas Higgins. He is my Senior Overseer at Marlborough Mills. He is my right hand man.”
Higgins: “Ma’am.” Higgins nods his head respectfully as his hand pinches the brim of his hat at his forehead through courteous habit. Brigid’s head tips down imperceptibly in acknowledgement.
Margaret: “And how are Mary and the children, Nicholas?”
Higgins: “They are fine, growing like weeds.” He beams proudly. “Only the littlest two are still at home with Mary now. The rest have all gone to school or work. And of course, Thomas is at college.”
John: “Thomas has a fine mind.” John nods–him fondly remembering the young boy whom he helped read the word animal when the boy was waiting for Nicholas to get off work at the mill one night–and the young man that Thomas has become who now enjoys one of the first Marlborough Mills college sponsorships.
Brigid looks at Higgins impassively, but with a frown threatening to erupt. At first, she had thought that Higgins looked promising–with his kind face and his connection to Mr. Thornton speaking well of him. But that notion is squelched when she hears a Mary mentioned–no more married men for her.
Noticing her good friend Nicholas’ interest in Brigid–and Brigid’s questioning glance at Nicholas–Margaret kindly relays some pertinent information to them both.
Margaret: “The cottage must seem lonely with your daughter Mary moving away with her new husband and taking the little ones with her.” Nicholas nods. Then Margaret turns to Brigid. “You see, five years ago, Nicholas and Mary had taken in six children whose parents had died. Now that Mary is wed herself, she brought the children to her new home since she is, in essence, their mother now. And like you, Brigid, Nicholas is widowed.”
Brigid stiffens, which everyone interprets as sorrow. But in reality, Brigid is not a widow and she feels uncomfortable with the lie. But she must lie to protect her son’s future–so he is not thought of as a bastard child. However, Brigid feels that her little baby son Arthur is her very greatest blessing–as she is to him.
Higgins: “Oh! My sympathies to you Mrs. Gordon. Losing one’s spouse is difficult–and you with a little one. My Sharon has been gone these past ten years.” He winces sentimentally.
Brigid: “Thank you. And you have my sympathies, Mrrr. Higgins.” Brigid smiles kindly at him.
John: “Well! We had best get back home to Thornton Manor to lay the little ones down to their rest for their naps.” He pats the sleeping Catriona in his arms.
Audrey Grace: “But I’m not tired, Papa.” Audrey Grace whines a bit–a certain indicator to her parents that she is tired.
Margaret: “But you will be.” Margaret caresses her daughter’s cheek with a knowing smile.
Higgins: “I have brought the carriage with me to take you home in.” He smiles warmly at the Thornton’s. Then he motions to the porter waiting with the Thornton luggage. “I will see to loading your luggage.” Then he walks ahead of them to attend to that.
John: “Then let us away to home.” John gestures with his free arm, collecting the assemblage of weary family travelers with him.
So the expanded Thornton family plus three–Brigid and her baby son Arthur, and Higgins–head back to Thornton Manor from the Milton Train Station. All are glad to be home, with little Catriona and Baby Douglas in their new home. After a few days of settling in–with little Catriona sleeping in Audrey Grace’s bedroom at her insistence so that Caty won’t be scared at night all alone by herself in a bed chamber, and Brigid tending to both her seven month old son Arthur and one month old baby Douglas as his wet nurse–Thornton Manor begins to settle into its new expanded family routine.
To be continued with Chapter 77
“N&S: JT Love Lessons”, Ch. 76 References, August 24, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #623)
1) “N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons” story logo: Richard Armitage as 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) Babies whose mother does not breast feed them herself, needed what were called “wet nurses” in the time before there were baby formulas; for more information, please visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wet_nurse
3) For information about the British railway system, please visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rail_freight_in_Great_Britain
4) Cropped and masked image of John Thornton (as portrayed by Richard Armitage) from the BBC’s 2004 production of North & South, Promo pix 18 was found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/NandSPromo/album/NandSPromo-18.jpg
5) Higgins image is Brendan Coyle portraying John Bates in Downton Abbey found at http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/09/16/article-0-0DE5482C00000578-348_306x423.jpg
6) Image representing one month old baby boy Douglas sleeping is an MS Office Clip Art stock image.
7) Image representing the Scottish Brigid Gordon is that of actress Helena Bonham Carter found at http://userserve-ak.last.fm/serve/500/34779527/Helena+Bonham+Carter+helena.jpg
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