Thornton Hall part 2

. . . Continued. The final chapter of Thornton Hall.

The afternoon had gone beautifully. The gown Mrs. Thornton had chosen for Margaret was lovely and set off her features to John’s great delight. But now everyone was gone. John’s mother had retired to her suite of rooms and the newlyweds were alone.

John put his arms around Margaret and gently pull her into a light embrace. He kissed her eyes and her nose and then her lips. They broke apart laughing.

Margaret was excited, anticipating the rest of the evening and also a little frightened. She had no experience pleasing a man and she desperately wanted to please John. The object of her thoughts simply took his new wife’s hand and started upstairs. He had his own suite of rooms on the far side of the house. Their suite of rooms. Margaret smiled.

When they reach the bedroom, Margaret was amazed at the size. She hadn’t thought it would be so beautifully decorated. Something else she was learning about her husband, he had good taste.

John Thornton pulled his new bride into his arms.  He could feel her heart beating quickly. “I will be gentle my love.” Margaret Thornton drew back slightly, she raised her head, her voice catching in her throat. “I, I  want you to . . . I . . . “. She didn’t need to finish her sentence. John cupped her face in his hands and pulled her into a deep kiss. Passionate and longing and she returned it.

Much later she could hear John snoring ever so quietly, his body in complete repose.  Margaret lay awake, thinking.  She smiled; her body ached in all the right places. She glanced over at her husband and gently reached out to touch his shoulder. He was real.

Eventually the house moved into an easy routine. The original Mrs. Thornton still ran the household, John got up early most days and went into the Mill where he spent much of his time. Margaret discovered that she had a talent for organization so, with John’s blessing, she helped Mary organize their Communal Kitchen. A place where the workers could eat a decent meal together.  Fees needed to be collected from the workers and product needed to be ordered for the kitchen. Margaret came home to John every night with tales of the workers and satisfaction in her voice.  The Mill prospered. It was a good life. The kitchen was making money because John was taking none of it. It was for the workers and by the workers. They were doing so well they were able to buy a small farm that allowed them to provide their own meat.

And before long Margaret learned she was with child. His child. There was a new life breathed into the old home. Margaret would catch John watching her from across the room with such intensity, such longing. He always seemed to have a slight curve to his lips. A gentle smile that she found so incredibly sweet. As the weather became colder and it started to snow, John suggested that she no longer go to the Communal Kitchen but that the cook Mary come to her with any documentation that needed to be taken care of. John could be quite insistent when he was being protective.

Margaret felt blessed.  She didn’t feel ill or at least not often but as her weight increased, she did begin to feel awkward. Their lovemaking became more tender, more loving. Even Hannah Thornton seemed to smile more and often when looking at Margaret. She was content, mostly. She desperately wanted to see her brother Frederick but that was impossible, he lived so far away.  John thought that they might take some time and travel to Spain in the spring but with the baby, that was now impossible. So, she did the next best thing and wrote him a long and loving letter. She would see him again.

After several days of dismal clouds, the sun burst through the heavens and the air became warm with a hint of spring. Margaret thought it was a perfect day for a walk and she could mail her letter to Frederick. She knew John would not approve so she waited until he had gone to the Mill. With a new sense of energy Margaret tossed on her warm coat and headed out of Thornton Hall.

She carefully navigated the stonework underneath her feet. Keeping her head down also prevented anyone from seeing her face. She was sure that if she was seen, someone would tell John, the Master.  Once outside the gate Margaret lifted her face to the sun.  The warmth was intoxicating! Smiling she continued on her short walk and mailed her letter. As she turned to begin the walk back to the Hall her foot slipped. In different circumstances she might have been able to recover but her body was awkward with pregnancy and she fell, hard. Fortunately, a worker had seen her and recognized her. He sounded the alarm and several hands lifted her and brought her back to Thornton Hall. One man was sent at a run to inform the Master while another was sent to retrieve the doctor.

Only a few moments after Margaret had been laid on her own bed, the Master burst through the door. He no longer looked the part. He was a husband and father on the edge of panic. His mother quickly came to his side.

“The doctor has been called and for the moment she’s fine. She has not woken up. What was she doing outside?”

John couldn’t speak. He held the hand of his beloved and prayed.

Before too much time had passed, the doctor arrived and he proceeded to force John out of the room. With an intensity born from years of experience he examined his patient. Hannah Thornton looked on with concern. She hadn’t always liked the young woman in front of her but she had come to respect her.

Nicholas Higgins arrived on the scene and took charge of John.  “You cannot be here Master, come away. Come away with me.” As if he were leading a small child, Nicholas took his Master downstairs. He found him something alcoholic to drink and made him sit. Mrs. Thornton had summoned him with strict instructions to keep John away from the birthing room.

Having a child in the mid-1800s was never a sure thing. Many women died in childbirth as did many children. Hannah was not going to allow her son to witness such an event.  She rolled up her sleeves and assisted the doctor.

Several hours later Hannah entered the parlour with her arms wrapped around a small blanket. Without saying a word, she gently placed the blanket in her son’s arms. She glanced at Nicholas and shook her head. The ordeal was not over. John seemed to come awake as he looked into the eyes of his daughter. She in turn decided to howl at the indignity of being born. John was smitten. He raised this small child and kissed her forehead. Then he looked at Nicholas.

Several young women had been hired to care for the child. She would need constant care. Especially now. When John was no longer anchored by his small child, he stood up and began to pace again. Nicholas could do nothing to ease his Master’s pain. He could only stand by and watch. What John didn’t know was that Margaret had become important to the workers, the kitchen staff, the porters, all those people that worked at Marlborough Mills. Never before had the wife of a Master shown such concern for the people that worked for him. The Master had also shown a different side. It showed that he cared. So the people in the Mill prayed.

The once handsome face of John Thornton was drawn and haggard. He refused to eat or to drink, all he did was pace. Nicholas had stood his ground anytime John had tried to go to his wife. It wasn’t easy. The day had become night and then day again. John was perched on a chair with his head in his hands.

“She’s alive.” The voice broke through the fog that had encased John’s mind. It was the doctor, he leapt to his feet and brushed past Nicholas. The doctor put out his hand as John left the room, “It’s all right she’s going to be fine. She’s just very weak right now. Perhaps the best thing for her is to see her husband and then her child.”  He pointed to Nicholas, “ You should get some rest and something to eat. You look as bad as Mr. Thornton.”

The next few days were difficult. Margaret was very weak and John refused to leave her side until he was forced to by his mother. Nicholas took over the running of the Mill and while things were not normal, everything was getting done. There was an air of sombre anticipation as people waited for news of the Mistress. They prayed it would be good news.

And it was. Each day Margaret grew stronger. John became less haunted and the young child received her name.

“I would like her name to be Elizabeth but at home we will call her Bessie. Do you like that John?”

“Bessie was the name of Higgins daughter, the one that died. I remember her.”

“She was my first friend in Milton and she liked you. She thought I should like you too.”

John smiled. He was looking less like the panicked husband and more like the Master. He knew he had to get back to work. But it was difficult to leave. He was amazed at the transformation of his mother. She seemed to enjoy being a grandmother.  He was also quite sure that she had been instrumental in helping to save his wife. When questioned, the doctor had simply smiled.

Time seemed to fly by. Margaret was once again her old self and back in the Communal Kitchen. Tiny Elizabeth became the darling of the Mill. She was a precocious child and intensely curious. The millworkers loved her. They were happy.

As the years moved on, the Mill prospered even more. And with it the town of Milton. John and Margaret grew even more in love as the years went by. Their daughter grew up to be a lovely young woman with her mother’s spirit and her father’s tenacity. She married a lawyer and moved to London but she visited Milton often.  Hannah lived to see her grandchild grow but she grew tired and one day she didn’t wake up.

John too became tired and looked forward to relaxing with his beloved in a small cottage near the Mill. Nicholas Higgins had become his right hand man over the years and he turned the Mill over to him. Nicholas became the Master. His daughter Mary became a successful cook. She ran kitchens for several Mills and trained young girls to work in them.

In time the Mills evolved just as John said they would. But he had left a legacy of decency and integrity that was never forgotten.

 

 

 

Thornton Hall

My post this Sunday is going to be a little different. I recently wrote a short story that is significantly longer than I normally write. The reason is that it is based on a miniseries that I recently watched from the BBC. It was brilliant. And while the ending was touching, it left a few threads that needed to be pulled.

 

The original story is about the clash of two cultures through the embodiment of two individuals. One is a young lady from the south of England who is the daughter of a preacher and was raised in a very strict society. The other is a very successful cotton mill owner in an industrial town. His world leans more to hard work. It isn’t an easy life.

 

Margaret Hale and John Thornton may feel an attraction to each other but they are constantly at odds because of misunderstandings and societal dictates. But like all good love stories they do finally connect. I had no idea what to expect when I first started watching this miniseries and I honestly did not know it was a love story. But it touched me deeply. Which is why I could not leave the characters alone.

In the original story, the Mill is facing financial ruin due to a prolonged strike and Margaret has returned to London after the death of her parents. A wealthy friend of her father’s is also dying and he decides to leave his great wealth to his best friend’s daughter.

So, apologies to the BBC and I hope you enjoy my offering of Thornton Hall.

A continuation of the BBC miniseries North and South. (An unofficial version.)

 

Margaret watched the countryside pass by her window. She sighed. She was going home. She never thought she would ever consider Milton home but it was, now. And the man beside her was the reason. In time her eyes grew heavy, she rested her head on John’s shoulder and slept.

John was also watching the countryside pass by but his thoughts were more in keeping with his position. He was thinking about the Mill. He was thinking about what needed to be done first to get it up and running and his workers back. He smiled as he thought about the woman’s head resting on his shoulder. He had never experienced such overwhelming love. He had also never thought that she would accept him but she did. In time he too slept. It had been a very long day, both physically and emotionally.

As John helped his soon to be bride into his home, he could feel her exhaustion. Food and sleep he thought, that will put it right. But as he came into the parlor, he saw a formidable sight: Mrs. Thornton.

“John! Where have you been? Miss Hale was…”

It was at that moment that Mrs. Thornton saw Margaret Hale. For a moment she could not speak. And then she turned to John and could only ask one word:

“What?”

“Mother, I will explain everything. Right this moment we need food and Miss Hale will need a room to rest. A great deal has happened today. Tomorrow I will take Miss Hale in marriage and we will begin the reopening of the Mill.”

To her credit Mrs. Thornton did not hesitate. She called the servants and made the appropriate arrangements.  She then looked more closely at Margaret.  With a sideways glance at her son, she took charge of the young woman.  She helped her into a chair and poured her a glass of water. Margaret was exhausted.

After a bit of soup Margaret was taken to a bedroom. She had no trouble falling asleep. John, on the other hand, was pacing. There was so much to be done. He would start by contacting William, his Overseer and then Nicholas Higgins and then the Bank and a Pastor would have to be found that would marry them that day. He did not want to be parted from Margaret any longer.

Mrs. Thornton watched John. She knew he had to come to her with his plans. She could not risk losing him by trying to come between them.

“Where were you John?” The question was asked quietly, gently.

John stopped his pacing and smiled at his mother. “I went to Helstone. Miss Hale spoke so highly of it.  I wanted to see a place she loved.  Coming back, I saw her at the train station. She told me she had been to Milton with a business proposal. Mr. Bell left her his fortune and she now has the means to invest in Marlborough Mills. Mother, she offered this investment with no strings. I still love her. And she has admitted that she feels the same way. I will not be parted from her again.”  This last statement was said through clenched teeth. John Thornton would not be dissuaded.

The following morning Margaret awoke confused. It took her a minute to realize where she was and what had happened the previous day. She smiled.  Her new life stretched out in front of her and she was looking forward to it. But first she had to face Mrs. Thornton. A formidable woman but she did love John as did Margaret.

By the time she was dressed and presentable, a little difficult when she didn’t have all her usual toiletries, Thornton Hall was eerily quiet.  She had not planned to stay in Milton more than a day so she had not packed accordingly.  There was a steaming pot of tea on the dining room table but there was no John, no Mrs. Thornton, not even any servants. It was a little disconcerting. As she poured herself a cup of tea, a young girl came into the room with a few scones. At that point Margaret realized just how hungry she was. But she needed information.

“Where is your Master and your Mistress?”

The question was asked gently but the young girl seemed unsure of herself.

“The Master has gone to the Mill, Miss. And the Mistress has gone to the shops.

With these few words blurted out, the young servant fled the room. Margaret smiled. She couldn’t possibly see herself as being intimidating but she guessed that everyone now knew she was going to marry the Master. Things were going to change. She sat back and enjoyed her tea knowing the next few hours were going to be hectic. Probably the next few days and months as well. And then she remembered the first time she had laid eyes on John. He had been standing on the gantry above the Mill floor. He looked strong and in command, handsome.  A true Master. And then he had caught sight of someone smoking and he became, in her eyes, a bully. She eventually understood the danger and fear of fire in the Mill but at the time she was still a young woman from the South who did not understand the ways of the North. There was so much she had to learn and unlearn.

“Margaret? Margaret?”

She opened her eyes at the sound of her name and saw in front of her the eyes of the man she had been dreaming of. John Thornton took her face in his hands and kissed her with such restraint and such passion that it took her breath away.

“Are you well my love?”

“Yes! I, I was just thinking, well, I was thinking of you.”

Margaret quickly dropped her gaze. She was not used to being quite so forward. John simply smiled.

He sat himself properly at the table and grabbed a scone. Margaret poured him a cup of tea.

“My former Overseer Williams has moved on but I have spoken to Higgins and he will round up what people he can so we can at least get the Mill open. It will take time to get it running properly but at least we can start. There have been improvements since you’ve been gone. Higgins and I have been collaborating. I think you’ll approve. I have been to the bank and we have an appointment with Mr. Latimer this afternoon so we can finalize the accounts. Are you sure you want to do this Margaret? Are you sure you want to invest in Marlborough Mills?”

Margaret took John’s hands. “I have never been so sure of anything in my life. This is the right thing to do, the moral thing to do as my father would say.” They smiled at the memory of the man they both cared for.

With that there was a flurry at the door and Mrs. Thornton burst into the room followed by several young men carrying packages. Both John and Margaret looked up, startled.

Mrs. Thornton took the packages and dismissed the young men. She turned back to her son and soon to be daughter-in-law and grimaced. “You did not think I was going to let Miss Hale be married in her shift did you?”

“I have spoken to Father Edwards and he will be here promptly at five to perform the ceremony. I managed to get a dress for Margaret in one of the shops. It is not perfect but it is seemly and befitting of a Master’s wife. Cook will have a light supper prepared for those of us attending the ceremony and you will have to find a few witnesses for the documentation.”

John and Margaret looked stunned. They both tried to speak at the same time.

“Mother, this is wonderful!”

“Mrs. Thornton! How incredibly kind!”

Inwardly pleased, Hannah Thornton turned away to fuss with the packages. “You did not think I would let my son and his wife start their life together in anything below their station?”

*************

Margaret was nervous. She sat with her hands tightly clasped in her lap. John beside her. She knew this was right but banks intimidated her. She didn’t understand them. She didn’t understand money. Except that it was necessary. John stood as Mr. Latimer came into the room. They shook hands and Latimer began to speak only to John.

“This is a substantial amount of money Thornton. You will have no more financial issues.”

He offered the necessary documents to be signed. John took what was offered and handed them to Margaret.

“These are your documents Miss Hale, yours to sign. Are you sure you want to do this?”

Margaret could only nod, Eyes still cast down.  She signed where indicated and return the documents to John.

He then turned to Latimer. “Five thousand pounds will be deposited in the account for Marlborough Mills, our debt to be paid in full.  The other ten thousand pounds will be opened in a new account under the name of Margaret Thornton.”

Margaret looked up sharply but she recognized his expression and refrained from speaking. Latimer simply nodded his head and took the documents. Their business was concluded.

As soon as they exited the building Margaret spoke.  “Why John? That money was all to be used for the Mill.”

“I will not take your inheritance and I will pay back what I have borrowed. And I have borrowed it!  You will receive interest. It may take a while but I repay my debts. I am not marrying you for your money.”

With that John took the arm of his beloved in a manner that invited no discussion.  They walked slowly back to Thornton Hall, easy in their own company. They knew there was still a great deal to be done but they wanted these few moments together, alone.

As the day continued Margaret realize just what monumental tasks stilled remained. She missed Dixon. Mother’s faithful servant had been a part of her life for most of it and she wished she had her stoic presence today. But she had decided to remain in the south. A position was offered to her by Margaret’s Aunt.  She simply did not wish to return to Milton.

John’s sister Fanny had also been notified of the upcoming nuptials but she found the whole situation untenable and had refused to attend. Neither Margaret or John were terribly upset by her decision.

 

 

Their story will continue . . .

The Mirror

 

When you look in the mirror,

What do you see,

Do you see who you are?

Or perhaps who you could be.

 

The reflection looking back,

Is not all that you are.

There’s so much beneath,

So much there by far!

 

Your soul can’t be seen.

Your courage is concealed.

Kindness and love,

Are not yet revealed.

 

The image reflected,

Is merely a start.

The who that’s inside,

Is the really good part.

 

So, remember these words,

And take them to heart.

You are who you are,

And that’s pretty damn smart!

 

 

Thursday Doors Writing Challenge.

Our friend Dan has started The First Annual Thursday Doors Writing Challenge which began on April 27, 2021. The photograph is mine.  I hope you enjoy.

 

Little Doors

Little Doors

There are tales of little doors

And of creatures from the moors.

Fairies, leprechauns and trolls

In their hands their tiny bowls.

 

In dark of night when they do stir

You’ll never see more than a blur.

What’s for dinner? I don’t know.

They are hungry if they show.

 

Tiny heads and tiny feet

Do not laugh if chance you meet.

Stand so still and let them be.

Never fear what you can’t see.

 

Open wide that little door

Magic lives and it wants more.

Freedom such a pretty word

Deep within the heart it stirred.

 

Gently treat the magic folk

They may in you pure joy evoke.

Live together and at peace

And on life a brand-new lease.