“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 79 (PG-13): Preparing for a 4th Birthday, September 02, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #628)
[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, 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: Margaret and Nanny Brigid had a heart to heart talk about the new sisters four year old Audrey Grace and their adopted daughter little two year old Catriona. For one so young herself at twenty-five, Brigid had some wise counsel on the matter of sibling rivalry. So Margaret managed to smooth over a dolly misunderstanding that erupted between the two little girls. But all was settled with Audrey Grace not having to give away her favorite dolly Susie, but being willing to share some of her dollies with her new little sister Caty. And one month old baby Douglas is oblivious to the fact that his sister Caty has dubbed him with a pet name, Duggles. All this new little family needs to bond together is time.
“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 79 (PG-13, D): Preparing for a 4th Birthday
In mid June 1855 two months later, John and Margaret Thornton are preparing for Audrey Grace’s fourth birthday party festivities. Their planning is made triply joyous by the relatively smooth integration to their family of their two younger adopted children–the now three month old baby Douglas and his slightly older sister, the now fully two year and one month old Catriona whom they call Caty. Little Catriona’s birthday party had been a quiet affair last month since little Caty was still quite shy about becoming acclimated to meeting new people.
And as Audrey Grace’s little shadow, her new little sister Caty tags along to whatever her older sister is doing. The little Thornton sisters are inseperable–playing together, beginning to attend the Marlborough Mill’s three and four year olds class together with their Mama as teacher (fudging because Caty is only two years old), and with the little girls still sharing the same bed chamber in Audrey Grace’s bed chamber.
Margaret briskly walks her daughters holding her hands to the first day of the Marlborough Mills School’s Summer session the morning of Monday June 16th before Audrey Grace’s Friday June 20th afternoon birthday party. It is the first day the girls will attend the Mill school since Audrey Grace’s governess is on holiday with her family in the East for a month and Margaret does not want Audrey Grace to miss lessons. Margaret also thinks that Audrey Grace mingling with the children of the Mill workers will be good for her. When Margaret was young, she would go with her vicar father to tend to the needy in Helstone.
Looking down at her new white sleeveless pinafore dress over her light blue linen half sleeved blouse and petticoat like she has seen on some of the mill children [(2) right], Audrey Grace asks her mother a question.
Audrey Grace: “Mama? Why are Caty and I wearing the same dress?” For Caty is also wearing a similar outfit.
Margaret: “Well, we make these dresses for the Mill children girls to wear to school and for playtime. Since you will be going to the school, you are also wearing this dress.”
Margaret does not want Audrey Grace to stand out as being wealthier than the other children by her wearing one of her finer dresses. Indeed, Margaret herself dresses in a simple white muslin dress [(3) right] with understated ornamentation for much the same reason–and due to the fact that the muslin dress is also cooler in the warmer Summer months.
Audrey Grace: “Oh!” She replies, satisfied with her Mama’s explanation. “I do like the pockets.” Audrey Grace plunges her free right hand into the right front pocket, pulling out her fine linen hankie.
Catriona: “Pockets.” Little Catriona parrots her sister and nods her head smilingly. Caty puts her free left hand into the near left pocket, but comes up empty. She pouts.
Audrey Grace: “Other pocket, Caty.” Audrey Grace smiles, having earlier seen her Mama put each of their hankies into their right hand pockets. It is just that their Mama is holding Caty’s right hand in hers as they walk. Caty finds her hankie in the other pocket and waves it at her sister Audrey Grace. Then Audrey Grace waves her hankie back at Caty.
As Margaret and her daughters walk into the Mill School room for three and four year olds, they are met with a sea of twenty or so little girls wearing the same light blue smocks and about ten little boys wearing dark grey trousers and light blue shirts. Their clothing made via courtesy of the Marlborough Mills Family Clothes Sewing project initiated by Hannah years ago. The Mill donates fabric from the ends of the bolts, dies it to various shades from light to dark of blue and grey. Then Mill families–mothers and daughters mostly–work together to make nicer clothes that their families can wear more inexpensively than store bought ready made pieces. And John had also installed a small knitting machine for socks and such. There are also ladies groups making quilts and other knitted or crocheted pieces. In fact, the older mill ladies had helped Margaret learn to knit and crochet better than she had done in the past–her making her family mittens one year for Christmas.
Caty clings to her Mama’s skirts, slightly fearful of seeing so many children in one place. Even at the Airlie Castle Orphanage, there were at most only eight children in the nursery bed chamber and play room at any time. And the few visits the Thornton’s have had from the Thornton’s friends’ children have also been in small numbers.
Margaret: Patting her littlest daughter’s back, Margaret soothes her. “There, there, Caty. You will soon get to know everyone and they will get to know you.”
But Caty still clings to Margaret. So Margaret lifts Caty into her arms so that she feels more protected and not so small compared to the other children. For Caty at two years old is a full year younger than most children in the school room. It is just that since she is Audrey Grace’s shadow, Margaret knew that Caty would not be parted from Audrey Grace for school–and vice versa.
Audrey Grace: Seeing all of the similarly dressed little girls, Audrey Grace also wonders aloud in a wary voice as she leans into her Mama. “Mama, you won’t lose us here amongst all the other children, will you? You will still know how to find us?”
Margaret: Embracing both of her daughters, Margaret assures them. “I could never lose you. And you can never lose me.”
The first half hour of the school day is spent with the children shyly introducing themselves–with some help from a few mothers who are taking their turns rotating into the school room as a morning volunteer once a month–with a substitute taking their place in the mill. Margaret and John instituted this rotation to allow the mill mothers–and fathers, if they so choose–to feel a greater part of their children’s schooling. And it helps Margaret and the other teachers keep the children organized so that their activities are productive. Little children don’t act out of turn quite so much when one of their parents or their friend’s parent is in the room.
That evening, Audrey Grace and little Catriona are agog to tell their Papa all about their first day at school when he arrives home from the Mill before dinner and they rush him .
Catriona: “Papa!” Little Caty slides down her Papa’s leg and lies prostrate on the floor while she holds only his ankle. She only reached as high as her tall father’s knee anyway. So the floor was not that far to go.
Falling to his knees, John embraces his two little daughters as his wife Margaret carries their baby Boy Douglas in her arms to greet him in the Thornton Manor foyer.
John: “Hold on! Hold on! Ha ha ha!” John laughs at their exuberance. “What has gotten you so excited?” John asks, though he knows that this was their first day of school and he waits patiently for them to tell him all of their news, big and small. Only John’s small indulgent smile betrays his delight in his daughters’ wanting to share their day with him. [(5) right].
Audrey Grace: “Oh Papa! Caty and I went to the Mill School today!” Audrey Grace turns to her little sister.
Caty: “School!” Little Catriona nods on queue.
Standing up and dusting off his trousers, John asks huskily of his lady fair who smiles lovingly at him with baby Douglas waving his arms at his Papa, and John gently clasps Douglas’ hand in his.
Margaret: “Indeed! The new Mill School Summer session started today. And though we are allowing for more play time in the nice weather, they are learning their alphabets and to write their names.”
Audrey: “I already know how to write my name, Papa.” Audrey Grace states a bit pridefully.
John: “Yes you do, My Sweetheart.” John having adopted Margaret’s pet name for their elder daughter, he caresses Audrey Grace’s cheek. “So what did you do instead?
Audrey: “Well?” She thinks for a moment. “I practiced the letters not in my name and I then helped the other children write their names.”
Catriona: “Names.” Little Caty claps her hands together.
John: Then John lifts little Catriona into his arms and asks. “And how about you? My Little Sweetheart?” The little appellation distinguishing her from their older daughter Audry Grace since Caty is two years younger. “Did you write your name, too?”
Caty: “Write!” Caty holds out her hand in a little fist–as if grasping a pencil like a fork–and she whirls her hand around in a circle.
John: “You must be very good at writing O’s.” He smiles bemusedly.
Margaret: “She is, John Dear.” Margaret smiles bemusedly.
Caty: “O’s.” Caty sighs happily and nods her head up and down and John sets her down on the floor and takes both the girls hands as they walk up the stairs to freshen up before dinner.
Audrey Grace: “It’s too bad Caty’s name doesn’t have an O in it.” Audrey Grace sighs forlornly.
Margaret: “But Audrey Grace, Caty’s full name of Catriona, does have an O in it.”
Audrey Grace: “But Caty is little, Mama. And Catriona is longer than my name.” Well it has one more syllable, thinks Margaret with a stifled smile. “How can you expect her to write it?”
Margaret: “In due time, she well. And, of course, baby Douglas has an O in his name.” Margaret smiles as she follows behind them up the stairs while carrying their son.
Caty: “Duggles! Ha ha ha!” Caty says gleefully as they reach the top of the stairs and Brigid greets them.
Audrey Grace: “Duggles! Ha ha ha ha ha!”
John: “Hmmm.” John groans at the unfortunate nickname that will not die. “Now girls, we want baby Douglas to get to know his real name as he grows up. So we should call him Douglas.” John tries to say gently, but firmly.
Caty: “Duggles?” Caty smiles cheerfully. Douglas and Duggles sound close enough for her two year old ears.
Margaret: Leaning in close to her husband, Margaret whispers. “Never mind, John. The girls will learn to call him Douglas in time.”
John: Replying in a whisper, John looks at his wife ruefully. “But that’s what you said two months ago.” John needs to switch to toddler learning timeframes–which are more glacial than he would like.
Nanny Brigid walks out of the nursery and Margaret hands baby Douglas to her.
Nanny Brigid: “Shall I see that the wee gerrrils hands and faces arrre washed for dinnerrr, Madam and Sirrr?” The question is rhetorical because the Thornton’s pre-dinner time routine follows a similar pattern each day of washing up before dinner.
Margaret: “Thank you Nanny Brigid.”
The little girls release their Papa’s hands and walk over to Nanny Brigid–who is like a second Mama to them because she is so caring. Margaret hooks her arm in her husband John’s arm and they start to turn toward their own bed chamber for freshening up.
Audrey Grace: “Oh Papa! I forgot to tell you the best part of school!”
John: John turns back to his daughter and smiles. “And what was that, Sweetheart?”
Caty: “Pockets!” Caty nods [(7) right].
John: “Ha ha ha ha ha! Very good! Now Audrey Grace, while you are getting changed for dinner, you must think about what you want for your birthday present. Your birthday party is at the end of the week on Friday.”
Audrey Grace: She thinks for a moment, then Audrey Grace says simply. “I know now, Papa. I want shoes.”
Margaret: “Shoes?” Margaret asks her daughter quizzically.
John: “Surely you would like something else. A new dolly, perhaps?” Her Papa asks enticingly.
Audrey Grace: She would like a new dolly. “Dollies are nice.” Audrey Grace fidgets with her hands in her pockets. “But I want shoes.” She bites her lip.
John: “Ah ha! Have you grown more and your shoes are too tight?” John thinks logically–for Audrey Grace outgrows her shoes at a prodigious pace, long before the shoes were worn out. And their little daughter Catriona is benefitting from those still in excellent condition shoes that they had kept for future children, just in case.
Audrey Grace: “No Mama and Papa.” She looks up at her parents shyly. Then she draws her little sister Caty to her in a hug.
Margaret: “But why do you want shoes, My Sweetheart?” Margaret caresses her daughter’s cheek.
Audrey Grace: Audrey Grace shakes her head and replies quietly. “Not for me–for the other children.” Audrey Grace points toward the stairs which lead down to the front door that eventually leads out to the Mill School. “Mama, you said that my school dress was the same as the other children’s. But my shoes are not worn and full of holes–like the other children’s shoes are [(8) right]–and my shoes fit me and don’t hurt.”
Margaret: “Ohhhh!” Margaret sighs with her hand upon her heart at her daughter’s poignant request. “That is a lovely thoughtful idea.” Margaret leans down and kisses her daughter Audrey Grace’s cheeks and forehead as she gathers her eldest daughter into her arms, embracing her. “My Sweetheart.” Then Margaret gazes up hopefully at her husband John.
What the almost four year old Audrey Grace does not realize is that her request for what amounts to over 50 pairs of Mill School children’s shoes will cost her parents more than the outlay for five expensive dollies. And though John and Margaret had earlier outfitted the Mill School Children with shoes initially, that was several years ago. And hand me down shoes to younger siblings have naturally become more worn over the years.
John: “That is a lovely thoughtful idea.” John nods in acknowledgement at his elder daughter Audrey Grace–and then he gazes meaningfully at his wife Margaret. “We will see to it, Audrey Grace. Though we will have to buy the over four dozen pairs of children’s shoes from several stores in several cities to find enough of them–and I do not know if the shoes can be shipped to Milton in time for your birthday party on Friday.”
Audrey Grace: “Oh please try, Papa.” Audrey Grace asks plaintively. She is not asking for herself, but for the children she has met at the Mill School.
John: “We will try.” John resolves. “Margaret, let me dash back to the Mill to see if I can catch Nicholas before he leaves for the night. I will need his help to gather the pertinent children’s shoe size information to place our order.”
Margaret jumps up, throws her arms around her husband’s neck, and kisses him gratefully. The two little girls also lean in and hug their parents’ legs. It is a Thornton Family hug.
Margaret: “Oh thank you, John! Giving the Mill School children new shoes will mean so much to Audrey Grace.”
John: “Well, she is her mother’s daughter and her Grandfather Hale’s granddaughter.” John smiles caringly at Margaret and then at little Audrey Grace.
Margaret: Margaret caringly places her palm on the side of her husband John’s face and looks at him with pride and admiration. “And she is her father’s daughter, too.” They smile at each other lovingly and kiss sweetly.
Then John dashes back downstairs–and he does manage to catch his Senior Overseer Nicholas Higgins before he was to leave the Mill for the day. Nicholas is tasked with telling the families with children in the Mill School–and all Marlborough Mills Families children aged 3 to 10years old go to the school, and the non shoe wearing infants through two year olds are cared for in the Marlborough Mills Nursery–to measure their children’s feet length from the tip of their big toe to their heel–using a string given to them by Nicholas that they knot where each child’s foot ends–and turn in that information before they start their Tuesday morning shifts at half past six o’clock in the morning.
It will be an extra burden this week to collect the children’s shoe size information, to order the shoes, and to see that all the shoes are received and distributed to the Mill School Children. But for John and Margaret, it is a labor of love for the kind heart of their eldest daughter Audrey Grace’s fourth birthday gift. So they will have to devise something extra special for Audrey Grace’s birthday party this week to make it even more memorable for her as a special treat.
To be continued with Chapter 80
“N&S: JT Love Lessons”, Ch. 79 References, September 02, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #628)
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) A pinafore dress, as they were called in England, is similar to what is referred to as sleeveless jumper in the U.S. For more information, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinafore and the image link is found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinafore#mediaviewer/File:Child_and_Doll.jpg
3) Margaret is Daniela Denby-Ashe in North & South epi1(14h52m44s152) Jan2714 Gratiana Lovelace Cap-Crop-sized-brt
4) Audrey Grace Thornton almost four year old image is Tete d’Etude l’Oiseau by William Adolphe Bouguereau found at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/William-Adolphe_Bouguereau#mediaviewer/File:William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_%281825-1905%29_-_T%C3%AAte_d%27Etude_l%27Oiseau_%281867%29.jpg
5) John Thornton is portrayed by Richard Amitage in the BBC’s 2004 drama North & South found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode1/ns1-045.jpg
6) John is Richard Armitage and Margaret is Daniela Denby-Ashe in North & South- Epi4 _17h54m34s7_Nov1013 Gratiana Lovelace cap.
7) Catriona Thornton image illustration is an 1860s child painting found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1860s_in_Western_fashion#mediaviewer/File:Joseph_Nitschner_Portrait_Francisca_Keban.jpg
8) Girl’s brown buckskin shoes worn 1845-1850 were found at http://museumcollections.wisconsinhistory.org/Detlobjps.cfm?ObjectID=28792