“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 83 (PG-13): On Bended Knee, September 19, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #637)
[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: With John and Margaret Thornton playing matchmakers, the weekend following Audrey Grace Thornton’s fourth birthday, Nicholas Higgins begins his courtship of Nanny Brigid Gordon with a picnic after giving her and the Thornton’s a tour of his overseer cottage home on Saturday, June 28th, 1855. And Brigid and Nicholas share their first kiss, chastely, on her cheek and they hold hands. A good beginning.
“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 83 (PG-13): On Bended Knee
What began as shy courtship on Nicholas Higgins and Brigid Gordon’s parts in late June 1855, develops into a blossoming friendship over the July and August Summer months with picnics and concerts and other outings–most including Brigid’s baby boy Arthur. Now a strapping eleven month old, Arthur has quite taken to Nicholas–as Nicholas has taken to Arthur as the son he never had, but now Nicholas has the chance to parent when he and Brigid are married. Marriage is the goal of courtship. Nicholas just has to work up the courage to ask Brigid for her hand in marriage.
John Thornton sits reviewing some figures in his Marlborough Mills office [(2) right] this blustery and overcast midday of Saturday, August 30, 1855 after everyone has left for the half work day. Nicholas Higgins approaches Thornton’s Mill open office door, twisting his cap in his hand. Nicholas pauses at the doorway.
John: Without looking up to see who approaches him–the footfalls on the wooden floor timbers gave Higgins away–and John observes. “Nicholas, if you twist your cap once more it might disintegrate in your hands.” John smiles and looks up to see a sheepish Nicholas still his hands.
Nicholas: “Well, John.”
Nicholas still feels foreign in addressing the Master of Marlborough Mills by his Christian name. But when they are alone–as they are now–John has requested that they address one another familiarly, as friends do.
John: Leaning back in his chair and observing his friend and Overseer, he prods with a small smile. “Yes?”
Nicholas: “You might have guessed what I wish to ask of you?”
John: A smile creeps further across John’s face. “Perhaps. But I thought that you might never get around to it. Sit.” John gestures to the chair in front of his desk and Nicholas sits.
John does not reveal that he and Margaret have a little side bet going as to whether or not Nicholas would propose to Brigid Gordon before or after her three months of serving as baby Douglas’ wet nurse are up. John thought after, Margaret the opposite.
Nicholas: “I will ask Brigid to marry me. And, I want yo to know that if she accepts me, we will wait to get married until Miss Margaret feels that baby Douglas no longer has need of Mrs. Gordon for his ….” But like John, Nicholas cannot quite finish his thought of Nanny Brigid being wet nurse to the baby.
John: “Quite.” John raises his eyebrows in amusement. “Of course, Mrs. Gordon being of age and a widow, she has the right to command her own future. But as her employer, I do feel a certain obligation to act on her behalf, in her parents’ stead, as it were.”
Nicholas: “That is right proper and fitting of you, John.” Nicholas winces and asks nervously. “Do you think that she will accept me?”
John: Shaking his head, John shrugs his shoulders. “Mrs. Gordon has not taken me into her confidence about the matter.” Nicholas looks at John plaintively. “And if she has said anything to Margaret, Margaret is not divulging it to me.”
Nicholas: “Hhhhh!” Nicholas sighs nervously. “I had hoped to have some small insight into her inclination.”
John: “Nicholas, you’re going to have to take the direct approach.” John intones as he stands and walks around his desk. Nicholas also stands out of courtesy.
Nicholas: “And what is that?”
Clapping Nicholas on his back, propelling him forward through his office door, John smiles broadly.
John: “Come, come, man. You will have to pose your question to Mrs. Gordon herself–perhaps during a garden stroll.” John gazes out of the Mill Office window and rethinks his suggestion. “And you had best do it before much longer this afternoon, or I fear that the skies will open their flood gates and you will not have a private garden strolling opportunity again until tomorrow.”
Nicholas nods and quickly heads toward Thornton Manor, whilst John closes his ledgers, dons his coat and heads home.
Nicholas is ushered into Thornton Manor by their footman who asks him to wait in the small parlor. The size of the room is by no means an indicator of Higgins lesser station than that Thornton’s. It is quite the opposite. This smaller parlor is used for family and close friends. And Higgins as a regular weekly guest of Thornton Manor when he courts Nanny Brigid Gordon, is very familiar with this room as their usual meeting place before walking outside in the garden.
After being informed that Mr. Higgins awaits her in the small parlor–when today was not arranged for them to meet since Brigid is to go into town with Margaret Thornton this afternoon–Brigid is uncertain why Nicholas Higgins has come to call. Brigid smoothes her hair, checking her hairpins as she gracefully walks down the main Thornton Manor staircase. Brigid pauses at the closed small parlor door before turning the door knob and entering the room. Nicholas turns toward the opening door with a hopeful expression upon his face, then smiles when he sees his lovely Brigid.
Brigid: “Nicholas! I was not expecting you today.” She smiles, letting him know that though his visit is unexpected, it is still welcome.
Nicholas: “Hello, Brigid.” He smiles, but does not move toward her. Nicholas is trying to work up his courage for what he hopes to ask of her. The moments tick by as they gaze at each other.
Brigid: Then she ponders. “Is everything alright?”
Nicholas: “Yes. At least, I hope so. You will have to tell me.” Nicholas says a bit confusingly as he takes a step closer to her.
Well, it is confusing to Brigid, at first. Then a thought comes to her mind.
But there is a quick double knock at the open parlor door and Maid Sarah pops her head in.
Maid Sarah: “Begging your pardon, Nanny Brigid. Mrs. Thornton asks if you will be ready to go with her into Milton at 2 o’clock? Or should she delay ordering the carriage?”
Both Nicholas and Brigid look to the mantel place clock. It is now a half past one o’clock. That does not give Nicholas much time.
Brigid: “I don’t know…”
Nicholas: “She’ll be ready.” He nods at the maid.
Then Nicholas unceremoniously clasps Brigid’s hand in his and leads her out of the Thornton Manor–to the astonishment of both Brigid and Maid Sarah–and into the lovely Thornton garden behind the manor. But the clouds look even more ominous as it starts to sprinkle.
Brigid: “Oh no!” She exclaims as the first droplets dampen her dress.
Nicholas: “Let’s make a dash for the gazebo out yonder there.” The gazebo will afford he and Brigid some privacy for their interactions.
And Nicholas starts running, still holding Brigid’s hand. So the only thing she can do is to run as well. The small Thornton Manor gazebo is about ten yards beyond the Thornton Manor fountain now made into a raised garden of flower plantings out of safety concerns for the children at the Manor–ever since little Caty Thornton fell into the then water fountain and was fished out by Nicholas.
However, the rain clouds burst forth and deluge both Nicholas and Brigid only moments before they reach the dry environs of the gazebo. Once inside the lattice sided gazebo–that allows air flow while insuring some privacy–they assess the damage to their clothing.
Brigid: “I will have to change dresses now beforrre the Mrrrs. and I can go to town.” She smiles wryly at him. “Was there a reason that ye saw fit to have me rrrained upon today?” Brigid tries to reign in her annoyance as she wipes the rainwater from her face.
For his part, Nicholas removes his soaked outer coat and tie and stands in his rolled up shirt sleeves. He is worried that he might have botched his planned proposal even before he is half begun. Then again, there is no time like the present.
Nicholas: “I’m sorry, Brigid.” Nicholas winces at her apologetically, then he drops to his knee to her amazement. “But … I want to marry you!” He blurts out, jumps up again, and takes her into his arms, gazing at her with an adoring smile. “Please say yes.”
Brigid: “Oh!” Brigid startles at his sudden vehemence and his impromptu proposal and now his embracing closeness. Her arms are not pushing him away, but neither is she embracing him–with her hands resting on his forearms.
Nicholas: “Well?” He asks eagerly towering over her.
Brigid: “May I ask ye why ye wish to marrry me?” Nicholas’ lack of preamble to his proposal has caught her off guard.
Nicholas looks at Brigid in confusion, him taking a firm posture and stance with his shirt collar open and his hair mussed that has the effect of making him appear–at least to Brigid–quite smouldering [(4) right]. So Brigid continues delicately, and feeling a heightened sense of Nicholas’ manly presence before her.
Brigid: “Yes. Though we have been enjoying garrrden strrrolls and having picnics and such togetherrr weekly, ye have not seemed to … favorrr me in any parrrticularr way.”
Brigid feels that if she has to tell him what she wants to hear from him, she doesn’t feel that he will express those sentiments genuinely to her. She doesn’t feel that she should have to prompt him. Their outings thus far have been proper and chaste–frustratingly so–to each of them.
Nicholas: He blinks. “But I have spent all of my free time with you and little Arthur.” Nicholas pouts, looking hurt.
Brigid: “Yes, and that has been lovely. But … Hhhhh!” Brigid looks away from him. “Nicholas, Though ye arrre a good man–and Arrrthurrr adorrres ye–I had hoped that you and I might develop some tenderrr feelings forrr each otherrr overrr time.”
Nicholas: “But I do feel tenderly toward you! I love you!” He finally asserts, drawing her into his embrace–but no more. Nicholas is so afraid of doing the wrong thing, that he is failing to do the right thing.
Brigid: “Well then?”
Brigid looks up sheepishly into Nicholas’s eyes as she bats her eyelashes at him with a small smile. He just stares at her–albeit adoringly. Brigid thinks that Nicholas can be so infuriatingly dense sometimes. She wonders if that is because he is a man or because he is English. She thinks that the answer is probably yes. So Brigid moves her arms from lying lightly upon Nicholas’ partially exposed muscular forearms to around his neck and shoulders. The next move is his.
Nicholas: Nicholas smiles broadly and sighs. “Oh Brigid!”
Then Nicholas Higgins leans down and kisses Brigid Gordon on her mouth for the first time. It is a tentative kiss at first–their lips just lightly grazing each other. Nicholas has not kissed anyone in over ten years–and his shyness is quite evident in his hesitation. But Brigid finds Nicholas’ shyness charming and she helps him out by pressing her little rosebud mouth to his lips and she kisses him back. It has been nearly twenty months since she has kissed anyone–since Arthur’s father refused to acknowledge his coming child and abandoned her. And by kissing Nicholas, Brigid hopes to banish her hurtful past forever.
Nicholas pulls Brigid flush against him as he thoroughly encompasses her in his arms’ embrace. His hands do not stray indecorously, but they firmly hold her around her hips and Brigid lets her fingers run through the hair at the back of Nicholas’s head. With encouragement such as this, Nicholas feels emboldened to tear his lips away from hers and begin a slow adoring descent of kisses down her creamy neck.
Brigid: “Hhhhh!” Brigid gasps at this seduction.
Nicholas: “Marry me, my sweet adorable Brigid?”
Brigid thinks upon that for only a millisecond. For there are few men who would countenance the feisty Brigid Gordon–let alone, think her forthrightness is sweet.
Nicholas lifts Brigid up on the air and swings her around with joy in his heart. Then Nicholas returns to her lips and covers her mouth with his in jubilant exultation–entangling their tongues for several heated moments, and then for a few moments more.
Meanwhile, John Thornton stealthily walks up behind his wife Margaret on the second floor landing of their bed chamber hallway looking out at their back garden through the rain splattered second floor window, as he wraps his arms around her and kisses her cheek.
Margaret: “John!” She sighs welcomingly.
John: “Margaret, My Love.” He kisses her on her lips most heartily, then he returns to have her snuggling into him. Then looking out the window at the rain, John has to ask with a knowing smile. “Are we looking for something?”
Margaret: “Our probably engaged friends, Nicholas and Brigid.” She smiles up at him cheerfully, feeling very smug about her matchmaking skills.
John: “If they’re out in this rain, they will get soaked!” John looks aghast.
Margaret: “My guess is that they are in the gazebo.”
John: “Ah! Rather drafty that gazebo. And the benches are not at all comfortable.”
Margaret: Margaret playfully swats at her husband John. “They will not be using the benches.” She states primly.
John: “Ow! I confess that I had not thought of that. But you certainly did.” He teases. “Well, well, Nicholas actually plucked up the courage to ask for Brigid’s hand.” Then John gazes out at the rain again. “Margaret, if this rain doesn’t let up, maybe I should take an umbrella out to the gazebo and lead Brigid and Nicholas back into the warm and dry manor.”
Margaret: “You will do no such thing, John Thornton. They will return to the manor in their own good time.”
John: “Well anything more than ten more minutes and we must insist that they marry upon the morrow.”
Margaret: “Oh no! Brigid and I must arrange for her wedding clothes and trousseau and we will need several weeks for that.”
John: “Woman! Hhhh! Is there no end to your compassionate expressions for others?”
Margaret: “No!” She smiles cheekily.
John: “At least temper the expression of how deeply you incur said compassionate expenses.” Though John admonishes his wife Margaret with a jovial smile, he knows that she will be prudent in her spending for Nanny Brigid’s wedding clothes and trousseau.
Margaret: “Oh look! Nicholas and Brigid are emerging from the gazebo!” Margaret points out the window as she sees Nicholas and Brigid hurrying toward Thornton Manor hand in hand.
John: “Excellent! Now let us arrange for them to be warmed, dryed, and plied with some tea to fortify them.”
Margaret and John congratulated the happily engaged couple of Nicholas Higgins and Brigid Gordon that Saturday. However, the rain prevented Margaret and Brigid going in to town to begin wedding clothing shopping. So that excursion will be delayed until the following week. But Nicholas and Brigid at least convey their intention to marry to the parson on Sunday and the first of three banns are read to everyone’s delight. Nicholas and Brigid are a very happy pair contemplating their wedding to take place in the coming weeks at the conclusion of her serving as wet nurse to baby Douglas Thornton.
But just as the rain deluged Nicholas’ and Brigid’s engagement proposal, a development will arise to cloud their hoped for happiness.
To be continued with Chapter 84
“N&S: JT Love Lessons”, Ch. 83 References, September 19, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #637)
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) 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
3) Brigid Gordon image is Helena Bonham Carter found at
4) Higgins image is Brendan Coyle in a Pinter Play found at http://babyskins.wordpress.com/tag/brandon-coyle/#jp-carousel-1013
5) John is Richard Armitage and Margaret is Daniela Denby-Ashe in North & South- Epi4 _17h54m34s7_Nov1013 Gratiana Lovelace cap.