A Difference Of Opinion

North & South

Chapter Two: "The Job."

A/N: I didn't get all the dialogue right because I haven't seen North & South in a long time but please forgive me my little mistakes. This is not a John/Margaret fan fiction, it's a John/OC fic. If you don't like it don't read it, and don't review complaining about it. I've had it up to here with people complaining about my OC fics because I'm not using original pairings. I don't like Margaret, she's wishy-washy and that's that. Katie is played by Bryce Dallas Howard as she looked in Eclipse. I hope you enjoy my story. Please review. It makes the hard work worth it. Oh, and Katie's singing voice is played by Lisa Kelly from Celtic Woman.

John Thornton walked up Rose Hill to Rose Cottage a week later. He had inquired about Ms. Adair and found that she lived in a cottage on a hill just outside of Milton. It was quite a walk. He didn't know how she did it every day. She was quite remarkable.

The cottage was in ill repair but it was obvious that someone had been mending it. There was a hammer and a bucket of nails next to a ladder that led up to the roof, which was being thatched. It was late afternoon, around four o'clock, and he would have to be at home within the hour to dress for dinner. His business wouldn't take long.

He used the knocker, an old, rusted piece of metal. The door opened and a little girl of about eight stood before him, her gold hair shining in the light of the afternoon. She curtseyed. John smiled and bowed, removing his hat.

"I've come to call on Ms. Katherine Adair on a matter of business," he said formally.

"Please come this way, sir," the little girl said, stepping aside. "May I take your hat and cane?"

He handed her both, surprised by the little girl's elegance of manner.

""The parlor is here, sir," she said, leading him into a small, comfortable room.

The furniture was old and worn but not torn. It had been mended in several places but the mending was done skillfully and you could hardly tell. It was altogether a light, comfortable room, the room of a gentleman's house. It confirmed his suspicion that Ms. Adair was truly a lady in reduced circumstances.

"My sister will be with you in a moment," the little girl said.

She curtseyed and left, closing the door. He heard her run through the house and smiled. What a well-mannered child she was. Like her sister.

A moment later the door opened and Ms. Adair entered the room. Her eyes widened but she covered it quickly with a welcoming smile.

"Mr. Thornton," she said, holding her hand out to him. He took it and she smiled wider. "I did not expect you. I beg you to forgive the state of the house. We've been making repairs, as I'm sure you can see. May I ask why you have called? I did not imagine that I would see you again."

"I have come with a business proposition, Ms. Adair," he said, shaking her hand. Her skin was soft and warm, smooth and white like cream. She wore a dark green dress, a lady's dress, that looked well on her. Her hair curled wildly in a way that looked quite deliberate. He knew Fanny would give her eyeteeth for such curls. She was a breathtaking creature, he'd give her that.

"Oh?" Ms. Adair said curiously. "Will you have a seat, Mr. Thornton?"

"Yes, thank you," he said, taking a seat.

She followed his example and sat on a chair.

"May I offer you some tea, Mr. Thornton?" she asked pleasantly.

"No, thank you, I will not stay long," he said. "I have come to offer you work, Ms. Adair."

"I believe we discussed that, Mr. Thornton," she said gently. "I believe we agreed to leave things as they are."

"We had, but I have done a great deal of thinking since you left my office four days ago," he said. "I have come to the conclusion that mill work does not suit you."

She frowned.

"Why is that, Mr. Thornton?" she asked calmly.

"You will forgive my boldness when I say that I believe you were not born to the working class, Ms. Adair," he said with equal calm. "I believe that you are a gentleman's daughter in reduced circumstances, and I believe it is my duty to help you in whatever way I can."

"Whatever my history, I cannot see how it is your duty to help me," she said firmly.

"But you are a lady?" he asked.

She got up and went to the window, looking out on Milton. She could see Marlborough Mills from there. She sighed as it began to rain.

"I am," she said finally. "My father was a gentleman of considerable means, titled even, but women cannot inherit titles."

"What of your brother?" he asked, rising from his seat.

"He found himself on the wrong side of the law some years ago after my father sent him to sea to make a man of him," she said, staring out the window intently. "He inherited my father's title but as he was gone and not of age anyway, someone needed to run the estate. My uncle, my father's younger brother, came to the estate while my mother was ill with the sickness that took my father. When she died he threw us out with only a few possessions of no value and fifty pounds from him. He wanted nothing more to do with us. I suppose I should start from the beginning though. I'm getting ahead of myself.

"My father was the son of a rich gentleman," she continued. "He and my uncle lived on the family estate in Caledonia, Ireland. When my father came home from school when he was nineteen, he met my mother, an Irish undermaid not yet sixteen. They married in secret and ran away. My grandfather was furious. He wanted to disinherit my father but wouldn't separate the money from the title, which would inevitably go to my father. So when my grandfather died of influenza, my father immediately came back, bringing our family with him. My brother, John, named for my grandfather, and I were the only children at the time. For years we knew great happiness and more children came.

"My father taught me all a man could ever wish to know. I was his favorite. My brother was spoiled and selfish, which is why my father sent him to sea when he was fifteen. He thought it would make a man out of him, and it did, but it took him getting on the wrong side of the Navy for it to happen. There was a mutiny aboard his ship, and he was forced to choose a side. He chose the side of the mutineers because the captain was mad and evil and cruel. My parents were devastated when it happened. He wrote to us and told us he was going to Spain with the leader of the mutiny. I haven't seen him since, though he writes often. I can tell from his letters that he's changed.

"When I was sixteen, my father took ill, and my mother soon after. My father died and then my uncle came and threw us out," she said, her hands laid neatly on the window sill. "There was only me and my two sisters at the time, Lucy and Mina. We met my three brothers at an inn in Caledonia. They were starving. We took them in and sailed to England, looking for a new start. We heard about the new cotton mills looking for workers in the North. We travelled here and found this house. The rent is very cheap for a house like this and we are able to make the rent every month. The owner provides us with materials and we make the repairs ourselves. I do it mostly myself, though I couldn't hammer a nail in straight at first. I learned quickly though and we're doing well now.

"And that is my story," she said, turning and smiling at him. "What do you think? Shall I write a book about it? Would it sell?"

She was teasing him. He smiled and looked down before looking up at her again.

"You must allow me to help you," he said earnestly.

"I'm afraid my pride will not allow it," she said, still smiling. "I know that pride is a sin but I'm afraid I have it in spades."

"You have not found work yet though?" he asked.

"No, I have not," she said. "But I am hopeful. I'm confident with as stubborn as I am that someone will hire me."

"I have a job for you, a lady's position," he said. "I have been actively looking for a companion for my sister, Fanny. She needs a friend, someone to chatter to constantly. I have no patience for it, and my mother has only a little more than I. She will need someone with the patience of a saint. It will not be an easy job, but it will pay far better than a mill job. You'll be able to support yourself the way a lady ought to. You'll be able to pay someone to make the repairs on the house for you."

"I'm afraid that I don't have the patience of a saint, and besides that, I'm opinionated," she said. "I like having my own way about things. And I have heard that your sister is a silly, ridiculous fool. Is that true?"

"She just needs a friend who won't always give in to her every whim," John said earnestly. "She needs companionship from someone who won't tolerate her little fits. I know you would be perfect for the position. Please, take it. Allow me to help you."

"Mr. Thornton-" she began uncertainly.

"Please, Ms. Adair, as a favor to me," he said pleadingly. "Will you take work with me?"

She considered for a long moment.

"Your kindness… means a great deal to me, Mr. Thornton," she said, tears in her eyes. "It has been a long time since anyone has been kind to me and mine. I will not forget it. Yes, I will take work with you. You had better prepare your sister though, for I have five children to take care of and no patience for fits of temper."

She smiled brilliantly at him and he smiled back.

"Will you come by the house tomorrow so we can sort out the details?" he asked, extending his hand to her. She took it and held it firmly in her own.

"Yes, that would be lovely," she said.

"Thank you, Ms. Adair," he said sincerely. "I will allow you to get back to your brothers and sisters now. I did not mean to take up so much of your time."

"Thank you, Mr. Thornton," she said. "And please come again any time you wish. You will always be welcome in our home. If you will come this way…"

She led him out into the hall and he followed her to the door. She got his hat and walking stick and handed them to him, her movements graceful and elegant. She was a true lady.

"Good afternoon, Ms. Adair," he said, tipping his hat to her.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Thornton," she said with a friendly smile.

He walked out the door but couldn't help looking back halfway down the hill. She was still standing at the door.