“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 80 (PG-13, D): Birthday Festivities, and Then Some, September 05, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #630)
[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: Almost four year old Audrey Grace Thornton and her little sister two year old Catriona nicknamed Caty enjoyed their first day of Summer school on the Monday before Audrey Grace’s fourth birthday to be held on Friday, June 20th. And enjoying her school day and meeting the mill school children so much, Audrey Grace asked for shoes for her birthday–not for herself, but for the Marlborough Mills School children she met who are wearing worn hand me down shoes from an earlier Thornton Family shoe give away. So John and Margaret will move heaven and Earth to meet their daughter’s wishes in time for her birthday–scouring the nearby towns for fifty children’s shoes–with Nicholas Higgins’ able help. And making Audrey Grace’s fourth birthday party extra special for her will have some unexpected results.
“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 80 (PG-13, D): Birthday Festivities, and Then Some
It had been a monumental task for John Thornton–with the able help of his Marlborough Mills Senior Overseer and friend Nicholas Higgins–to find fifty pairs of children’s shoes in all of the right sizes in only four days time. It required Nicholas to travel to two other large towns to collect the shoes purchased by John and then bring the shoes to the Mills School in time for their Friday morning classes. The children were so agog with their new shoes, that the morning was spent in matching shoes and children together–with their impromptu lessons revolving around the numbers representing the different shoe sizes for their little feet.
Then after all the children were newly shod with simple and sturdy yet supple suede over hard leather bottom everyday school/play shoes–including a delighted Audrey Grace–some party games are played, such as Blind Man’s Bluff [(2)]. Being the birthday girl, Audrey Grace is it first, donning a blindfold and then feeling around the room as the children tease her with their voices as she tries to locate them. When she reaches out and touches/tags someone, her time as the blind man ends and the child tagged is it. They go through several blind men until the children are tired. Then an early luncheon with birthday cake is served for Audrey Grace to enjoy with her classmates.
Margaret had to leave the Mill School the early part of the morning shoe matching to her able teacher helpers around half past nine o’clock so that she could put the finishing touches on Audrey Grace’s planned outdoor birthday garden party for after lunch this same afternoon. But Margaret returned for the children’s game, cake, and lunch–as well as to usher Audrey Grace and Caty home for a short nap before the outdoor fourth birthday party festivities begin.
Nanny Brigid is tasked with keeping Audrey Grace and Caty out of trouble and out of the way after their naps while the party is being set up. That is not an easy charge since little two year old Catriona has begun to explore her new home at Thornton Manor more on her own of late. But these house navigating excursions are always under the watchful eye of her new Mama Margaret or Nanny Brigid, so that Caty does not become lost in the bowels of the house, nor hurt herself by falling down the stairs, nor pulling something heavy off a table and having it fall on top of her. Caty possesses a curiosity that is admirable, but one that could get her into trouble. Margaret does try to lessen those dangers by removing enticing looking objects from tables–as she did when Audrey Grace was little. But one can’t think of everything. However John thinks Margaret’s worrying is a bit excessive. Afterall, they have parented Audrey Grace with no accidents to blight their memories. But John will discover that each child is different, and that they will very much need to carefully watch over little Catriona today.
The Thornton’s birthday garden party in Thornton Manors lush and verdant formal garden landscapes welcomes about two dozen children of the other mill owner families–including Clarence and Carlotta Watson’s children Clementina, Henry, and baby Charlotte–and other business and church friends’ children along with their parents, such as Dr. Miles and Ann Houghton and their two girls three year oldAnnalise and two year old Janette. And Ann is delighted to be just a little bit pregnant, but not showing yet, with their third child–with Miles hoping for a boy this time. Audrey Grace’s fourth birthday party is quite the affair for the well to do toddler set in Milton.
After family and invited guests gather in the large formal garden at the back of Thornton Manor–Audrey Grace having dutifully welcomed everyone as they arrived in a short toddler sized receiving line–the birthday fun begins with a treasure hunt for a stash of imported chocolate candies [(3)] for everyone to enjoy. A side goal is to have the children run through the garden and tire themselves out a bit–to off set the energy boosts they will get from the sugar they will consume this day. And thanks are due to the Thornton’s guest Mr. Bell for safely conveying the Swiss confectioner’s chocolate treats safely to Thornton Manor.
The children are paired up for the treasure hunt, with little Catriona clinging to her sister Audrey Grace’s hand–Caty is a little nervous with so many children present, and their tall parents. Acting as master of ceremonies, John Thornton explains the treasure hunt while standing at the top of the steps of the terraced patio that leads down into the formal garden–his focused gaze looking similar to when he is standing on the catwalk overlooking the looms operating in the weaving room [(4) right]. The children ranging in age from two years to 8 years old are standing at the bottom of the steps at his feet.
John smiles warmly at the children before him–especially at his daughter Audrey Grace who waves at him and mouths the words.
Audrey Grace: “Hi Papa.”
John sheepishly waves back at his daughter. The other parents in attendance smile too.
John: “Children. You will have three clues to help you find the chocolate treasure treats for everyone to enjoy.”
Children: At the mention of chocolate, the children gasp.“Oooooh!” Then the little children’s mouths begin to salivate and they lick their lips. Chocolate is a new treat that not all of them have experienced yet.
John: “Then each clue will help you find the next clue. The first clue is, I am as tall as I am wide and I provide shade from the sun as my arms bend with the breeze.” John gracefully flaps his arms out a bit to help the children visualize the clue. The children’s brows furrow in thinking about the clue for several moments. However Audrey Grace’s eyes bulge with excitement–she knows what the answer is. “Ready?”
The children’s little heads nod several times, eager to go on their treasure hunt–especially Audrey Grace who firmly clasps Caty’s hand in hers.
Sitting in a chair on the terraced patio at the front of the garden, Margaret holding baby Douglas leans over to Nanny Brigid holding her son Arthur on her lap as she sits next to her and whispers to her.
Margaret: “I think John missed his calling. He should have been a …” She pauses with a smile.
Nanny Brigid: “A teacherrr, Mrrrs?”
Margaret: “No. A circus Ring Master! Ha ha ha ha ha!” Margaret titters with laughter at her jest.
The little children start to run pell mell through the garden as John follows leisurely after them to guide them to the clues and keep stragglers from lagging too far behind. Audrey Grace and Caty are making a beeline for the tall willow tree at the back of the garden, some one hundred yards away.
Nanny Brigid: “Ha!” Nanny Brigid politely stifles her amusement so as not to seem to be making fun of her employer. Then she focuses on enjoying watching the running children.
Nicholas Higgins having seen Mrs. Gordon from across the garden walks over to she and Margaret while his daughter Mary’s children play in the treasure hunt. Margaret smiles seeing him approach–guessing of his interest in Nanny Brigid.
Nicholas: “What do you ladies find so amusing?”
Nanny Brigid: Nanny Brigid startles and jerks her head toward the deep male voice over her right shoulder, her not being aware that Nicholas Higgins was near. “Saints Prrreserrrve us!”
Nicholas: “Let us hope so.” He smiles bemusedly.
Margaret: “Nicholas!” Margaret extends her hand and Nicholas shake hands. “Please sit and join us.”
Nicholas: “Thank yo, Miss Margaret.” He bows his head to her and sits on the other side of Margaret. “Yo have a fine day for Audrey Grace’s party.” He smiles, then steals a glance at Nanny Brigid. “Is that not so, Mrs. Gordon?”
Nanny Brigid: “It is, Mrrr. Higgins.” Nanny Brigid states blandly. She knows that in addition to being Senior Overseer of Marlborough Mills, that Mr. Higgins is a particular friend of the Thornton family.
Margaret: Margaret smiles at the exchange between her Nanny/Wet Nurse and Nicholas Higgins. “We’re so glad that Mary and the children were able to join us today.” Margaret remarks graciously.
Nicholas: “They were right proud to be included.” Nicholas bows again to Margaret. Then he steals a glance at Nanny Brigid and he winks at her.
Nanny Brigid says nothing, but slightly raises her eyebrow at the cheek of Mr. Higgins winking at her while she studies this friend of the Thorntons. She knows that he is not married–something in his favor. But Brigid Gordon will not enter into an assignation with any man every again. She has her son Arthur to think about–and she is only interested in matrimony.
Margaret: Pointing to the large willow tree at the back of the garden some one hundred yards away, Margaret exclaims excitedly. “Oh look! They have found the second clue!”
Audrey Grace: “I found it!”
Audrey Grace waves the beribboned paper second clue for all the children to see. Her little sister Caty stands breathless at her side–she has shorter legs for running than Audrey Grace has. Of course, Audrey Grace knows her family’s garden very well. So it is not unusual for her to guess this first clue’s destination. All the children gather round looking at the second clue.
John: “Well done!” He claps and the children clap, too. Audrey Grace hands him the paper clue, because at just four years old she cannot read sentences yet. “Thank you, my Sweetheart!” John pats his elder daughter’s cheek. “You know, children, this is one of the oldest willow trees in Milton–it was half this height nearly fifteen years ago when my family moved here.” John smiles at his captive audience. There is nothing for the children to do but indulge Audrey Grace’s Papa while he talks about the tree.
Nicholas: “Not a cloud in the sky today.” Nicholas gazes up at the light blue canopy above him, then he returns his attention to Brigid Gordon with a shy smile [(5) right].
Nanny Brigid thinks, we have already established that the weather is fine today, and nods.
Margaret: “Indeed.” Then clutching her reticule, Margaret remembers something. “I think that I will take baby Douglas over to the butterfly garden by the fountain. He might find that amusing.” Margaret stands and so do Nanny Brigid and Nicholas.
Nanny Brigid: “Yes Mrrrs. I will join you.” Brigid starts to follow Margaret down the patio terrace steps.
Nicholas’ face falls as both women leave the patio and walk down the four steps to the formal garden entrance.
Margaret: Margaret turns back to Nicholas. “Oh Nicholas? Aren’t you coming, too?” She smiles knowingly.
Nicholas: “Yes! Thank yo!” Nicholas scrambles after them to the butterfly garden in the center of the garden.
At the back of the garden, John moves the treasure hunt along after giving what he considers to be a fascinating willow tree nature talk. But only the promise of chocolate made the children mind their manners and patiently wait for the treasure hunt to continue. But still, some of them can’t help but fidget as they lose interest and look around for something that looks like fun.
John: John waves the second clue in his hand. The children look interested and eager again–thinking of the promise of chocolate treats. “Now! This second clue will be harder. So it will require you to think carefully.” Their little heads nod up and down several times. John smiles, reveling in having more than two dozen children waiting eagerly for the next clue. “Here is the second clue. I am lighter than air as I fly among the pretty flowers. My wings are thinner than paper and very colorful. And I can be found near water.” John looks pointedly at the children.
Audrey Grace: “Water, Papa?” Audrey Grace asks him quizzically, not able to think where water is in the garden.
As a baby proofing measure years ago, John and Margaret had drained their shallow fountain of all of its water. And they have only just filled it part way today for the party so that it doesn’t look so barren and neglected.
Henry: “To the water fountain everyone!” Carlotta and Clarence Watson’s also four year old son points the way and grabs Audrey Grace’s hand, tugging her along as the children follow him.
John walks behind the children, catching up the stragglers–including his two year old daughter Catriona, whom he scoops up in his arms and carries into his arms as she leans in to him.
John: “Come with me, Caty Sweetheart. You don’t want to miss out on the chocolate. Do you?”
Caty: Lying her head upon her Papa’s shoulder, Caty says tiredly. “No, Papa.”
Treasure hunts are tiring for little two year old legs–and the party is during her usual nap time. John smiles and rubs his daughter’s back as they quickly progress to the water fountain.
The children rush to the fountain and see some butterflies flying around. But being children–albeit, well brought up children–they can’t help splashing some water on each other. Ann Houghton is just about to remove her daughters from the rabble rousers when her husband Dr. Miles steps in and convinces his wiffe to allow their daughters to have some fun. She relents, but grudgingly.
Henry: “Here are the butterflies, but where is the third clue?” Henry asks rather impatiently. Henry Watson is his father’s son.
The children all look around. John smiles at Margaret standing by the butterfly garden and he sets little Catriona on the ground next to him. Handing her three month old baby son Douglas to their good friend Nicholas who cradles the little fella like a pro–which Brigid acknowledges respectfully with a small nod–Margaret slips her hand into her reticule and pulls out the third clue. She had walked to the butterfly garden by prior arrangement with her husband. Margaret hands the clue to John.
John: “Thank you, my dear.” John states lovingly as he kisses his wife Margaret’s hand. John walks back to the children and walks them to the base of the patio steps. Then he holds the clue aloft. “I have here the third and final clue to where our chocolate treats may be found.” He pauses for effect. Then he teases them. “Oh! Maybe you don’t like chocolate?” John walks through the crowd of children such that he is now facing the back of Thornton Manor and they have turned to look at him–with their backs to the manor.
Children in unison: “NO! We want chocolate!”
John: “Are you sure?”
Margaret: “Oh John! Please just give them a clue before you have another riot on your hands.” She joshes him.
John: “Kkkhh!” He coughs. “Well! We wouldn’t want that. Very well! Here is what the clue says.”
So with the children not looking in the direction of the terraced patio, Thornton Manor servants stealthily bring out trays of hard milk chocolate candies first introduced to the Thornton’s by their old family friend Mr. Bell after a trip he took to Zurich.
Nicholas carefully transfers baby Douglas back to his Mama Margaret’s arms as they stand between the butterfly garden and the water fountain.
Nanny Brigid: Being able to remain silent no longer, she observes. “Ye have a way with bairrrns, Sirrr.” She smiles serenely. She will give no hint of her interest in finding out more about him, as of yet.
Nicholas: “I do. And I am no gentleman. I work for a living. So yo need not address me as sir.” He smiles twinklingly at her.
Brigid: “Hmmm.” Is all she replies with a small nod.
John: “Here is our third and final clue.”
The children are agog to find out where the chocolate is and they lean toward him. That is, all but little Catriona lean toward him. She takes a few steps backward and leans against the fountain rim, dipping her hand into the cool shallow water. The water level is only six inches deep. But even at that depth, it can be a danger for little children left unattended.
Margaret spies little Catriona standing not four feet from her, with her daughter seemingly mesmerized by the water. But Margaret is holding baby Douglas in her arms or she would dash over there and pull her daughter to safety.
Margaret cries out as little Catriona plunges both her arms into the water, with her head following. John hears Margaret’s cry and sees Catriona falling into the fountain. John moves forward quickly, but he is several yards away. Fast thinking Nicholas Higgins runs the four feet over and lifts the little Caty Thornton out of the fountain as she coughs out the water she had inadvertently gulped in. Margaret rushes over still carrying baby Douglas
Catriona: “Kkkhh! Kkkhhh! Mama!” Caty wails
Nicholas: “She’s alright, Miss Margaret. Merely got herself and her pretty dress wet.”
Margaret: “Oh Thank you Nicholas! We are so grateful!” Margaret expresses appreciatively for Nicholas saving little Caty.
John quickly reaches the three of them and reaches for baby Douglas so that Margaret can comfort two year old Catriona.
John: “I’ll take Douglas, Margaret. You tend to Caty.” Margaret quickly transfers their baby son to John and then she snatches up little Catriona into her arms. “There you go little fellow.”
Catriona: “Mama! Mama!” Thankfully, Catriona is more startled than hurt. And she is worried about her Mama’s reaction to her getting her pretty dress wet.
Margaret: “Oh Caty, my little Sweetheart.” Margaret rocks Caty in her arms as she kisses her, not caring that she is getting the front of her own lovely dress all wet.
Catriona: “Mama.” Caty pouts.
Margaret: “You’ll be fine.”
Catriona: “I’m wet.” Caty pouts some more. “I sorry.”
Margaret: “That’s alright, Caty. We’ll get you into a dry dress in no time.” Margaret turns toward the house.
John: John leans over to Margaret and whispers. “No arguments, Margaret. But I am having the gardener drain that fountain tonight and plant flowers in it tomorrow.” John says tersely. Caty falling into the fountain today was too close a call–despite plenty of adults such as the Thornton’s good friend Nicholas on hand to save the day.
Margaret: “I agree.” Margaret nods solemnly and walks toward the manor to change little Catriona into a dry dress. Brigid starts to walk with her to help, but Margaret stops her. “That’s alright, Nanny Brigid. I can handle changing Caty. Please enjoy the party and we’ll be back in a few moments.”
Now that the crisis is over, the guests heave a collective sigh of relief.
Audrey Grace: “Papa? Is Caty alright? Is my party over?” Audrey Grace hands her Papa the third clue that he had dropped when he raced to little Catriona at the fountain.
John: “Caty is fine. Your party over? Not in the least!” John looks at the clue, which says Take several steps to find your chocolate treats. Then John dispenses with the Treasure Hunt game. “Children and other guests, the chocolate treats are on the tables up on the patio.” John gestures amiably in that direction as children eagerly–and their parents more sedately–move toward their chocolate prize.
John: Thrusting out his hand and shaking Nicholas’ hand. “Thank you for rescuing Caty! I am in your debt again, Nicholas!”
Nicholas: Returning the firm handshake, Nicholas replies. “My pleasure! Glad that your little one will be alright. And I would say that debts beween friends are never a burden. I have been in your debt since you took me on at the Mill and gave me the means to shelter and feed the six orphaned Boucher children five years ago. No one would hire a union organizer like me. But you did.” Nicholas looks at John with grateful admiration.
John: “Margaret had faith in you, and that was good enough for me.” John says simply. “Thank you.”
Nicholas: “Thank you.”
John and Nicholas smile once more at each other, then John heads onto the terrace for their guests. Between men, sentimental words are not usually needed, nor wanted. Their respective thanks and acknowledgement of the other is sufficient.
Nanny Brigid has watched the exchanges that Nicholas Higgins has had with the Thornton’s for much of the afternoon. And Brigid looks at Nicholas with new eyes. She deems him … a possible part of her future. She rocks her dozing nine month old son Arthur in her arms as she strokes his back with his little hand lying on her shoulder. Nicholas turns back to gaze at the lovely Mrs. Gordon [(7) right]. He sees her watching him and not averting her eyes. He takes that as an invitation of sorts to approach her and he walks over to her.
Nicholas: “Mrs. Gordon.”
He nods, she does as well. There is a palpable silence as they gaze at each other. Then Brigid Gordon begins graciously.
Nanny Brigid: “Mr. Higgins, we arrre grrrateful for yourrr rrrescuing little Caty today.”
Nicholas: Nicholas stars to humbly protest, “It twer …” But Brigid silences him with a swish of her free hand.
Brigid: “Nay! I will say me peace and state me terrrms–the rrrest is up to you.” She says determinedly with a bravado that she has not had before.
Nicholas: Impressed with her forthrightness, he nods slowly–not guessing what she might have to say. “Alright.”
Brigid: “I believe that ye arrre interrrested in me?” She waits for Nicholas’ response. He shyly nods his head. “Well then, I am five and twenty years old. My son Arthur is nine months old. You are perhaps older than I might have considered …”
Nicholas: “I am but eight and thirty–one year older than Thornton.”
Brigid: “Hmmm.” Her eyes narrow as she thinks about his age. “That is na so old as I thought ye were.” Brigid shakes her head. Nicholas sheepishly shrugs his shoulders. “But what did I say about na interrupting me?” She chastises him with a flirting smile that catches him off guard and he smiles back at her. “Now! I have me son’s welfarre and futurrre to think of. I will only allow yourrr presence in ourrr lives, if ye have honorrrable intentions towarrrd me and my son. I need a husband and Arrrthurrr needs a fatherrr. I expect the man I marrry to trrreat my son as if he werrre his own and to give Arthurrr his name. The Thorntons view you as a trrrusted friend, which speaks well forrr you. We can get to know each otherrr overrr the next thrrree months that I am still Wet Nurrrse to Baby Douglas Thorrrnton–with prrroperrr chaperrrones, of course–to see if you might be suitable to be me husband and to be Arthurrr’s fatherrr.” Nicholas blanches. Then Brigid softens. “And, of courrrse, to see if I might be suitable to you.” Brigid smiles shyly for the first time since their conversation started. “If your thoughts do not tend to matrimony, then I request ye to leave me son and I alone. What say you, Mr. Higgins?” She finishes with a flourish. It is up to Nicholas Higgins now.
Nicholas Higgins’ eyes go wide with the proposition by the audacious and intrepid Brigid Gordon. He feels that this Scottish Lass is a force to be reckoned with. He is right.
Nicholas: “Mrs. Gordon, I accept your terms for developing our acquaintanceship.” He nods respectfully. And she smiles pleasantly. “I, too, wish to marry after being widowed for ten years–especially now that my youngest child has married and is on her own. I am still a young man and feel that I have much to offer as a husband.” Nicholas puffs up his chest pridefully, trying to appear more vigorous–with his broad middle betokening his sturdiness. “My job as Senior Overseer at Marlborough Mills pays me well and also provides me with a small cottage and plot of land that can be used for a kitchen garden or play area for the little one.” Nicholas gestures to baby Arthur. Brigid nods. “I am decent, hard working, and agreeable. I am also fiercely protective of my family and their well being–which I would extend to you and your son were we to marry. I have no son and heir, so I would welcome adopting your boy Arthur to fulfill that role. What say you?”
So far, neither Brigid nor Nicholas has mentioned love. But then, they do not know each other–yet.
Brigid: “We shall see.” Brigid smiles pleasantly, open to the possibility of exploring whether a union with this former union leader will be a promising one.
To be continued with Chapter 81
“N&S: JT Love Lessons”, Ch. 80 References, September 05, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #630)
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) Information about the game Blind Man’s Blufff can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_man%27s_buff
3) Richard Armitage portraying John Thornton in episode 1 of the 2004 BBC perioddrama North & South was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode1/ns1-002.jpg
4) Image of Nicholas Higgins is that of Brendan Coyle in his role of John Bates in Downton Abbey and was found at : http://i100.photobucket.com/albums/m23/mrbateslegal/DA1/bates-and-anna_zpsef78673f.jpg
6) Image of chocolate candies was found at http://candies456.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/3/0/13309642/3348693_orig.jpg
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