AN: I don't do love stories, anyone can tell you that, but I felt compelled to write this as I have only just discovered this beautiful story of love and Romance in Elizabeth Gaskell's Victorian story about the North and South divide.
A letter to Edith
My Dearest Edith
Please forgive me when I say that I am finding this letter hard to write, Words seem a feeble form of communication as I try to explain to you the events that have transpired over the past few days. But to you, who I have always felt as dear to me as any sister, I know I owe to you an explanation.
You may already know from Mr Henry Lennox what has transpired at the Outwood Station, but I feel compelled to explain in my own words, without hindrance or reproach from you or my dear aunt, my actions that have led to me writing this lengthy tome.
Being moved so ungracefully to the north has changed me, my dear Edith, in more ways then I have ever thought possible. It is, as we have always known, a harder way of life, and in some aspects a more curler one. One where masters rule and make their workers work hander then any southerner would ever know. But the north, despite its faults, also has its beauties. There is an underlying sense compassion here, its people are kind and brave and unafraid of toil, and despite all this, the north is not as deprived of its polite society as you may have previously been led to believe.
As you already know from my past letters and heard from my own lips while I stayed with you, one of Fathers dearest friends here at Milton was Mr John Thornton. A tradesman, as I thought of him then, but he is truly a Gentleman in all uses of that word. I admit to you now, my dearest friend, that I have not always felt towards him the affection that I now feel, but my understanding him more has grown this affection into the love that I now know I hold.
I hope you do not think less of me when I confide to you that the past five months in your house, where not entirely spent mourning the loss of my dear parents, Yes it is true that after Fathers passing I seemed to feel nothing, I allowed myself to wallow in self-pity but with my brother Fred now settled in Spain with no hope of ever returning, I felt more alone in the world then ever before. But my months in London could not erase my memories of the north, or those of the man that I had once refused. I'm sorry to pain you further in relating this to you, but my then southern sensibilities had kept me from realising the offer of such a remarkable man that I now know Mr Thornton to be.
Please do not misconstrue my words in thinking that I have always felt for Mr Thornton, the affection that I do now, I had once thought of him as cruel and uncaring as I had also once thought about the north. The circumstances that had lead to his initial proposal where strange indeed, even now I can not look back without feeling sorrowful of that time and the events that had led to my actions that had brought pain to this most worthy of men.
I believe that my rejection was hard from him, he was a man used to struggle and torment but the manner at which I spoke to him that day was one that was not pleasant. It was true that then I did not love him, but the loss of a dear friend that day and my mothers weakening health was too much for me to bear and the anger that I felt inside flooded from me and unfortunately, poor Mr Thornton bore the brunt of this anger that I had felt.
Our meetings afterwards where awkward, But the more I learned of Mr Thornton's true character the more I started to admire and care for him. He was indeed a good friend to my father during my mothers last few days, and even afterwards, when Fred secretly returned to us even though he was risking his own life, Mr Thornton shielded me from an enquiry that threatened to expose Fred's existence once more to the authorities. It was then that I began to realise the true nature of the man that I had so flippantly refused. But as my affection for him grew, Mr Thornton made me aware that anything that he had previously felt for me was now gone. And so I began to feel that this was my punishment.
Now I felt totally alone, and as my stay with you extended and my sprits slowly began to rise, my thoughts turned to more happier times, Back to the life I once had in my childhood home of Helstone, Of Fred and I as children, playing in the garden, of the yellow roses that my mother tended so lovingly and of the people that we had once counted as friends. But returning back to the place that I had once loved and had always called my home, made me realise that you can never go back, Once something has past, then it is gone forever, no mater how much we may clamour for it's return.
Mr Thornton had once told me that he was looking towards the future, and with Mr Bell, Farther oldest friend's help, I was able to do this as well. You are well aware of the sizable funds and property that Mr Bell relinquished to me as his Goddaughter, and with them I saw that I had a new chance, a way of moving forwards and a way to help those that I had wronged. You are also aware that Mr Thornton's way of life was in danger, that the strike that held Milton in a purgatory state for months had nearly broke all the mill owners, but Thornton's Mill was hit the hardest, it never managed to find it's feet as the others did. And knowing this and with Mr Bells permission I wanted so desperately to help, not just Mr Thornton, but all the workers of his Mill. Over one hundred lives depended on that Mill, Men, women and children. I knew that Mr Thornton would never take to money if offered directly to him, but his love of his small empire and the knowledge that he had others to care for besides his family would eventually make him except my offer.
You know of how Henry and I departed for Milton, purely on a business venture, but finding Thornton's Mills closed, an empty shell of a once thriving business I feared that I was too late. And I was; only one living soul remained in that empty pitiful place, Mr Thornton's mother, the matriarch of her family and even in this hardship she was a formidable sight. She believed that I was there to gloat on her son's hardship, that I come to congratulate myself in the escape that I had made upon refusing her son now that I was a wealthy heiress. But you, Edith, who knows me so well, should not think badly of this woman for her defence of her most beloved son. Appearances as I have long learned are deceiving and in her eyes, as a strong woman and loving and loyal mother, I was now everything that she despised.
Hope once more gone, I left that now quiet place, and Henry and I returned to the train. And now my beloved cousin, I reach the part that I am sure Henry has made you all very well versed in. As our London bound train pulled into Outwood Station to allow a north bound train to pass, I was compelled to stretch my legs and take count of what had been my day's events. Whatever the urge was that made me choose that moment to leave the carriage I do not rightly know, but I will always thank god for giving me that urged. If not, then I may not be sat here now writing this account to you, but the urge did come and I am now here writing. As the northern train pulled into the station I was dumbfounded, struck silent by the sight of the occupant of the carriage that had pulled up in front of me. At first I thought my eyes where deceived, I didn't wish to believe that the man sat there was the one that I had spend so many months thinking of, a cruel trick I thought but as our eyes met and he stepped forth onto the platform I knew that fate had indeed been kind.
Nerves made me fumble my words, I couldn't think. I had spent the whole of the previous day thinking about our encounter and the words to which I would use to persuade this wilful man to accept my proposition, but now, taken off guard I couldn't find to words to express myself, I had turned to call for Henry's assistance. I had believed, No, I had convinced myself that this arrangement was to be one that was purely a business one, and I needed Henry to put this point across. But Mr Thornton stopped me, His soft touch pulling at my sleeve begging me to tell him what I had to say in my own words. I couldn't help but hope that his feelings towards me had changed, that he had reverted back to his previous opinion, but still I would not allow myself to show such emotion. I had convinced myself that his feelings towards me had gone and as I once more tried to relate my business proposal, but he stopped me, and laid his hand on mine.
Edith, I know you will not think me foolish as I tell you that it was like a dream, his hand was soft and gentle and by placing it in my own it conveyed more then words could ever have done. He was telling me that he still loved me that he always had in spite of what had happened between us and as a silence grew that felt like an eternity, he waited for my reply.
And so, my dearest Edith, do not be shocked when I tell you that I am signing this account to you in the name of Mrs Margaret Thornton,
I know well of your plans that I should marry Henry and we all should take up house together and live happily forever, but life, as we both know very well, is not like that of a childish fairy tale. Life is full of sorrow and hardships. I have known the sorrow and John the hardships, and through these experiences I truly do believe that some how, some way we can both make each other happy.
Your loving friend