Disclaimer: An elaboration on a scene from the BBC series and as an extension, Elizabeth Gaskell's novel. I own nothing, really.
AN/: So here is my next fic. Its currently intended as a one shot (I may develop it by another chapter or so but not any time too soon as I have a few other N&S one shots running around in my head). I know the title indicates this should be from Hannah Thornton's perspective but Mr Thornton can never stop blabbing on in my brain! This may seem slightly OOC for Mr Thornton, but I feel that's mostly because we don't get to see this happy lovey side of him really until the end of the novel/movie. Side note: I've finally read the novel (amazing) and although my fics are predominately based on the miniseries, I HIGHLY recommend you read the novel! It's a quick read!
(constructive) reviews of all kind are welcomed and encouraged!
Thanks to my buddy Chris for beta-ing!
Your Sorrow Is Mine. And If You Won't Hate Her Then I Must!
John Thornton stood before the old beaten door of his house on the east side of the mill yard. The porch was swept and the knocker polished. He studied his brass-tinged and rounded reflection in the thick metal. His hair was tousled and his lips swollen and red. The muscles in his face ached with strain and he looked altogether quite unlike himself. He wrapped his cravat back around his neck and took a confident breath into his lungs, puffing out his cheeks as he released it. He could do this; in fact, he wasn't quite certain why he felt apprehensive of the task ahead. Surely his mother would see reason! She was an understanding woman and had always supported John in his decisions. His hesitation was ridiculous, really.
With one last encouraging breath, he pushed open the door and entered the dark foyer.
"Mother!" John called out.
"John!" she returned. "Thank the heavens!" he heard her exclaim to herself. "I'm in the drawing room!"
In his anticipation of the news he had to share, John ascended the staircase two steps at once, nearly ploughing their servant, Jane, right over when he'd reached the top.
"My apologies Jane," he offered hurriedly, raking his hands through his hair – the only dishevelled part of his appearance he could attend to in seconds –before facing his mother.
"Beggin' yo' pardon, Sir," replied Jane meekly, head bent as she curtsied and scurried off.
John stopped outside the drawing room to hastily retie his cravat and right his collar. Striding into the room he spotted his mother by the window. How often had he found her in this very place, overlooking the mill yard – "his empire" as she called it? He could do no wrong in her eyes; he reminded himself of that detail. She turned when she heard him enter, but must have seen something in his appearance that troubled her. A relieved smile that was pulling at her lips quickly dropped into a frown and she lowered herself resolutely to the chair next to her.
"You've come home?" she stated unnecessarily, turning to face the window without waiting for an answer. John crossed the room as quickly as he'd taken the stairs and stopped by his mother. She had her hands clasped tightly in her lap.
"Mother, I bring news," John knelt next to her straight and stiff form. She shifted her head a fraction of an inch towards him but did not comfort him with an attentive attitude.
"News?" she scoffed, her brow raised and continued on in a mixed tone of sarcasm and offence. "No doubt to explain where you've gone off to this day, without word to set your mother's mind at ease. Oh, how I've suffered with presumptions as to your well-being!"
John's mother turned her body suddenly to face him and leaning down, took his face into her hands.
"I felt as if I'd woken up to find myself sixteen years in the past and all the worse for it! Speak, son, and relieve my anxious heart!" Her wide eyes searched his face worriedly, but silence drew out between them.
John was shamed by his carelessness. Of course his mother had been crippled by memories and sorrows of the last Mr. Thornton who had brought the family to such a state! He mentally cursed himself for not having the courtesy to at the very least confide in his mother of his intensions of flight earlier this day. But even this indignity could not derail him from confessing the words that seemed impatient to burst forth from his very heart if he did not say them at once.
"Mother, I…had not thought, that is…I hadn't hoped when I rose this morning that it would end in such a glorious way!" His mother frowned with confusion. "Margaret," he released an amused sigh and shook his head at his own impropriety, already too comfortable with the intimacy of her name on his lips. "Miss Hale…has finally consented… to be my wife!"
John's mother sat up suddenly and dropped her hands from his cheeks. He was taken aback by her reaction, although in retrospect, he should not have been. It was no secret between them that she harboured less than indifferent feelings for Miss Hale. Only, John had hoped that with this announcement his mother would recognize in him the absence of regret and sadness that had beset his person these past months.
"Mother," he prodded. "Say something!"
As the silence persisted, John anxiously reached for his mother's hands. She stood then and he was forced back on his heals as she pushed passed him. He bent his head and let her go, knowing she needed space – he hoped just to allow the idea of Margaret as a daughter to sink in.
After an agonizing moment, or perhaps longer, she spoke: "This is the truth?" It was but a whisper.
"Am I to understand you've renewed your sentiments to Miss Hale?"
"That I have, mother. And she's graciously accepted."
"'Graciously'? Upon my word, John! It is not her right to be 'graciously' accepting you! Have you forgotten her conduct here in Milton last she was here? I dare say the servants still speak of it. A young lady casting aside sense and propriety to meet with a gentleman after dark…and alone! Such indecency!" John's mother scoffed and turned her head away.
"Tell me this isn't so, John. I know not if I can endure it."
John approached his mother slowly this time and took her hands into his, willing her to meet his eyes. She did.
"Mother, Miss Hale is a fine young woman and I urge you to see reason. I asked you once, under a different intent, not to take heed of the gossip surrounding her. I'd hoped I would not have to remind you of this." Although his tone was gentle, his words were firm. He did not like opposing his mother, but he could not deny she was in the wrong and as it concerned his beloved Margaret, he would not let it lie.
"John! You cannot expect me to welcome the crassness of her impropriety into my home. To allow you to attach yourself to such an offensive thing! It is ludicrous!"
"Enough!" he exclaimed in a raised voice, one he did not enjoy taking in his mother's presence, let alone direct at her. She jumped and parted her lips in surprise. "Margaret has been unjustly spoken of and I'll reveal the whole circumstance to set her reputation straight in your eyes if I must; if my word and opinion is not enough for you."
His mother's eyes flared but she set her lips into a thin line and did not speak a word. She scarcely moved an inch, but for the heavy rise and fall of her chest as she fumed.
"Mother," John continued in a softer, almost pleading voice. "You are more important to me than I can adequately express. I owe you my life for all you've done! I could not bear it if you and Margaret…" He heaved a sigh and dropped his head. Looking back into his mother's scrutinizing gaze, he asked, "How could I choose? Don't ask it of me mother. I know not which side my heart would lie, only that it would no longer be whole. Would you forsake me to such misery?"
John grasped his mother by the shoulders and watched her closely, searching for her resolve. Her eyes held his and he saw how the emotions ran through her: anger, confidence, doubt, jealousy, defeat, sadness. Her whole body seemed to shake in his hands. "Then it is done? She's taken you from me as I always knew she would?" Defeat and sadness.
"I cannot profess to know who I could decide on living without, but I'm praying you'll not charge me to such a trial." Pleading and hopefulness.
At John's tone she dropped her head and he felt her shoulders slacken under his grip. He pulled her to him as much as she'd fallen into his arms.
"You ask how I could demand you to choose? Well, I cannot and I could never deny you your desires. You so rarely display a selfish bone. How can I go on calling myself your mother and professing to love you as I do if I were to deny you that which your heart of hearts longs for most?" John exhaled and squeezed her tighter.
"I'll not say I am content, for I hate the sight of her! However, there was a time when I felt I could learn to find affection for her, for your sake."
John pressed his lips to his mother's course hair and whispered, "Thank you mother! You'll see…she's not at all what you've painted her. She's mended her way of thought, though I cannot presume to take credit, for I believe it is our beloved Milton that has brought on such a reformation of self." John pulled her out of his arms and smiled down to her.
"You once praised certain qualities in her and I thought then that perhaps you were quite the same in character. I know you can love her!"
"Don't rush me, son! For I must take my time to grieve the loss of position in your affections and I cannot be held responsible for the envy she invokes in me!"
Becoming serious, John turned his mother's chin to face him. "I'll never love another as I love you. Be assured of that. You've sacrificed everything for me and I could not call myself your son or claim to love you as I do," he echoed her words, "if I did not prove that to you each day."
She cupped his cheek with her hand and smiled tenderly at him. "I'll try John. For no one else could I willingly change my regard for her."
John closed his eyes and smiled.
"Now then, when am I to begin my change of heart?" John could hear the forced enthusiasm in her voice, but contented himself with being grateful for her effort.
"Tonight, if it is agreeable. I have asked Miss Hale to dine with us and I hope you'll not force me to rescind the invitation," he teased.
"Tonight?" asked his mother, surprise and apprehension evident in her eyes. "Miss Hale is in Milton then?" She took a few steps away from John and placed her hand to her mouth. "But of course, it was only this very morning I saw her here at the mill. Seems like an age ago," she said more to herself than John.
"She's due any moment. I dropped her at the inn on the way here to freshen up and rest a short while." John laughed to himself. "No doubt she's anxious for the…interrogation ahead." His mother shot him a reproving stare.
As if on cue, Jane knocked, entered and curtsied to the both of them and announced, "Pard'n the interruption, sir, but there's a young lady jus' arrive. Says she'll not move from the foyer till she sees you." Jane looked from John to his mother and then back again. "She look an awful lot like that Miss Hale who were here not but a year 'go…"
"Yes, Jane, that will be all!" John's mother replied shortly, dismissing Jane and looking back to John. "Well my son, fetch your…" she found she could not yet bring herself to refer to Margaret with any kind of endearment, "fetch Miss Hale so that I may have a look at her and a word or two. There's no need for you to get that look in your eye! I said I'd be polite and so I shall!" she reproached shortly.
John nodded and left the room.
He stopped at the top of the grand staircase to collect himself, suddenly overpowered with such dizzying anticipation of seeing his dearest Margaret again. He unnecessarily smoothed out his jacket and ran a hand through his hair once more. Finally settling on descending the stairs, he breathed deeply and grabbed the ornate wooden rail for support.
As he reached the bottom and turned into the grand foyer, his breath caught in his throat and he placed a hand against the passageway frame to keep from stumbling.
Margaret stood under the glow of yellow light raining down from the grand chandelier, examining one of the many paintings that adorned the wall; paintings that John had passed a hundred times a day and had not given another thought. Though not completely enraptured, Margaret seemed intrigued and consequently did not hear John's less than graceful entrance. This allowed him a moment to study her discreetly.
Her head was, tilted back slightly to look up at the canvas, her pale white neck curved outward and exposed. That little bit of soft skin seemed to glow in the warm light. John itched to trace his fingers along it. He flexed his hand that hung at his side and gripped the wall tighter with the other. She was dressed still in her travel outfit, but John cared not. She could have arrived in a paper bag and he would have been just as enchanted. Just as the very first day he'd set his eyes on her, she was the most gorgeous woman he'd ever seen or knew he would ever mere fact that she now returned his adoration made her only that much more stunning to him.
He released a shaky breath - one he was not aware he'd been holding - and startled Margaret from her study. She turned to him with a surprised look, which instantly broke into a glorious smile. Her eyes sparkled and crinkled at the corners; her teeth gleamed and her cheeks flushed.
"John!" she burst out, taking a quick step forward and then realizing her own similar slip, bent her head as her cheeks flamed. "Mr. Thornton," she corrected herself.
John, forgetting his own weakness of the knees, smiled to himself and rushed forward to her. He stopped not a foot in front of her and placed his hooked index finger under her chin, lifting her face to his. She kept her eyes downcast a beat longer before her lashes fluttered up and their eyes finally met. A shy smile pulled at the corners of her lips and John's eyes dropped to her mouth. He yearned for the soft touch of her lips against his – a sensation he'd experienced for the first time only this very day, one he could not, would not live without. He thought back to his words to his mother about choosing one woman or the other. He could not go on in life knowing Margaret was his in this very moment but not in the next. It was absurd to think he could ever live another day without her.
John ran his fingers along her cheek and around the back of her neck, guiding her gently to him. He watched in agonizing anticipation as her lashes fluttered shut once more and her lips parted slightly. In the last second before their lips met, he closed his eyes and felt a soft tickle over his mouth as she inhaled lightly. And then stars burst behind his eyes and she was kissing him again, her hands resting lightly against his chest, her body pressed up against him.
He kept the pressure light and broke away after only a few seconds. After all, his mother was just upstairs and he need not temp his wicked thoughts of whisking Margaret away to some private hideaway. That would hardly encourage progress between his mother and fiancé.
Wrapping his arms around her shoulders he whispered, "Margaret! My dearest, sweetest Margaret. How long it has felt since I've held you last!"
Her shoulders shook with light laughter and she replied, "honestly Mr. Thornton, you seem uncertain that I would have kept our engagement this evening. You know as well as I how imperative this dinner is where your mother is concerned."
Although she sounded amused, John heard the undertone of anxiety in her voice. He squeezed her to him gently and then releasing her, stepped back and took her small hand in his.
"Fear not Margaret, she is not a lost cause. She'll come around before the night is through. I'm certain of that." He felt Margaret press his hand between both of hers and turned back to her mid step. Keeping both her hands wrapped around his, he brushed the thumb of his free hand across her cheekbone and smiled.
"I love you Margaret." He lowered his face to hers, their lips just barely touching and speaking into hers he continued in just a breath of words. "Nothing can take you from me now that I have you." Her uneven breath puffed out over his face and he swallowed heavily.
With one last intake of breath, John stepped back from Margaret and led her towards the stairs that would deliver her into the hands of his mother. He sent up a silent prayer to the heavens and squeezed the small soft hand that was encased in his.
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