A/N: Here is the next and final chapter. Thank you to everyone who read and reviewed! :D
Margaret's Journal, Part 3
Regaining her composure, Margaret looked down at the entry she'd just written and reread part of it: I can still recall how he called his feelings for me a "foolish passion." And the look on his face! He surely must hate me now. A few more tears slipped down Margaret's cheek and fell on the page as she sniffled a few times, her surroundings completely forgotten.
"Miss Margaret?" It was Dixon calling for her. Pushing aside her journal and drying her eyes, she walked from the library to see what Dixon wanted, shivering as the cold air hit her forcefully. Having become desperate for distraction, she silently blessed Dixon for her good timing.
"Do you still have time to help with the ironing, Miss Margaret?" Dixon asked her when she reached the kitchen, where Dixon was currently stationed.
"Of course," Margaret replied. "You know I'm always happy to help you," she added as she began preparing to iron.
Mr. Hale and Mr. Thornton walked into the house. "Could you please wait for me here in the library, John? I'll be right back."
Mr. Thornton nodded his acquiescence as he headed toward the library. The room was warm and cozy from the fire burning in the grate, a welcome contrast to the colder hallway. He made himself comfortable, absentmindedly picking up a book lying open on the table.
On perceiving that it was a journal, he was about to put it down when the sight of his name caught his eye. Who was writing about him? Turning to the front, he saw the name: Margaret Hale. Instantly setting the diary back down, his felt his cheeks become hot as he thought of what he had held. No, he told himself, I will not read it. I will be a gentleman. Sighing, he added to himself, She probably only wrote poorly of me anyway. I do not think I could bear to read it.
His eyes drifted back to the journal after a few seconds, his curiosity increasing. I do wonder what she wrote about me. No, no, I cannot read it. I will be a gentleman.
But as he waited, his curiosity grew in him. He recalled how enchanting his name had looked in her handwriting and he thought to look at it just one more time.
Once he had looked, he couldn't help but read. He smiled at her evaluation of Miss Latimer's knowledge of topics that would interest him. How well she knows me, he thought with a sad smile. He nearly dropped the journal in surprise as he read that the thought that he might court another woman filled her with despair.
But he had to sit down when he read that she loved him. She loves me! he told himself after he recovered from his shock. She loves me! He silently rejoiced as he continued to read. Oh, my dear, lovely Margaret. You never lost my good opinion. I was jealous. What is this? he asked himself as he noticed the tear stains on the page. Tears? My Margaret, there is hope, do not despair! He lightly touched each dried tear drop on the page as he read and then paused. She has a brother? Was he the man she was with at the station? It must be. She said that the secret was another person's. I shall have to ask her about it.
He continued reading, unable to check his joy.
At that moment, the library door opened.
Mr. Hale had made his way to the kitchen and had requested that Margaret take a tea tray up to Mr. Thornton, who was waiting in the library. "I'm just going to fetch a book for him. I left it on my bedside table last night."
Margaret put down the iron she was using and began to prepare a tea tray. Then she paused. Oh, no! I left my journal in the library! Did I leave it open? No, I don't think I did. Oh, I do hope he does not pick it up to read it! Margaret hurried to finish preparing the tea tray, eager to whisk her journal back to the safety of her room.
Once she had finished her preparations, she picked up the tray and carried it to the library, shivering from chill and anxiety. She opened the door and panicked when she saw her journal open in Mr. Thornton's hands as he hastily stood. There's no doubt about it, she thought to herself. I'm too late—he's read my journal. The tea tray shook slightly in her hands as she tried to keep her anxiety from showing.
Meanwhile, Mr. Thornton was silently scolding himself as he hastily placed the journal back on the table, hoping that Margaret had not noticed. What an idiot I am! I should have realized the possibility of someone walking in on me! She is right, I am no gentleman. She will surely hate me now! Watching her as she entered the room, he noticed the tea tray shake slightly. Instinctively, he reached forward to help her, relieving the tray from her hands and setting it on the table beside the journal.
Unfortunately, Margaret saw his help as an indication that he did not wish for her to be there, which only increased her anxiety. "My...my f-father asked me to bring tea up to you," she stuttered, unable to meet his eyes. As she turned to leave, she added, "And now, Mr. Thornton, I really must—"
"Wait, Margaret, please don't leave!" Mr. Thornton pleaded, unconsciously using her Christian name, causing Margaret to gasp and her heart to beat a little faster.
Feeling suddenly nervous, he blurted out, "I - I noticed your journal and would not have read it had I not noticed my name written there. I tried not to, but my curiosity got the better of me. I'm sorry, I know I ought not to have read it; I am sure that a gentleman would not have done so once he realized that it was a journal, but I could not stop myself. I'm sorry."
Margaret looked up at him sharply. "You read my journal?" she asked, a note of despair in her voice. He nodded, flushing with embarrassment. I've ruined my chances with her again, he thought in despair. She looked away out of embarrassment, tears blurring her vision. "Then you know—" she choked out, "you know that...that..."
Mr. Thornton looked at her sharply, surprised that she was not lecturing him about proper behaviour. He could not bear to see his Margaret in such pain. "Margaret," he pleaded, "please look at me." His use of her Christian name gave her hope and the courage to look at him. "Please tell me that it is true. Do you really love me?" he asked earnestly, taking her hands in his. Margaret nodded, looking up at him shyly and was amazed to see his face light up with joy!
Letting go of her hands, he instead took hold of her face, tilting it upward so that she was looking directly at him. Leaning closer, he kissed her, tentatively at first and then with ever-increasing passion. Breaking away he asked, "Dare I ask a second time? Have I any right to hope for a positive answer?" Margaret's breath caught in her throat, but she managed to give him an encouraging, watery smile as she pressed her lips together in an attempt to keep from weeping with joy.
Getting down on one knee, he began, "I have loved you for so long. Almost from the moment we first met. And I have never stopped loving you. Even when I saw you at the train station. Even when I told you that any foolish passion for you on my part was over. Margaret, will you marry me?"
"Yes," she whispered, overcome by his declaration. Hesitantly placing her hand on his cheek, as she was still becoming accustomed to her feelings for him, she added, "I love you, too, Mr. Thornton. I may not have always known it, but it was there all the same."
"Might I hope to hear you call me by my Christian name?" he asked hopefully as he stood back up.
Blushing, Margaret replied, "Yes...John." How odd it felt to call him that and yet how thrilling!
At that moment, the door opened and Mr. Hale walked in. "I'm sorry that it took me so long to find this, but it wasn't where I remembered it to be." He held out the book to Mr. Thornton, who took it with a shaking hand.
Glancing at Margaret, he cleared his throat, hoping it would help him sound composed, instead of overcome with happiness. "Mr. Hale, I have a request to make of you."
A half hour later Mr. Hale, bursting with happiness, had given his blessing.
Mrs. Thornton was more reluctant to accept the match. But after learning the circumstances surrounding Frederick's visit and, more importantly, observing the looks of love that passed between the couple, she was finally won over.
The reactions of their friends varied. While Higgins and Mary were overjoyed, Edith and Aunt Shaw took longer to accept the match. Dixon loved and respected Margaret enough to make an effort to like Mr. Thornton, an endeavour in which she was soon successful.
After all the chaos had calmed, the two lovers found some time alone.
"Margaret?" Mr. Thornton asked as he wrapped his arms around her.
"Tell me you do not want a long engagement."
"No! Of course not!" she exclaimed, then added shyly, "You've had to wait long enough. Besides, I can think of no greater pleasure than that of becoming your wife."
Mr. Thornton's eyes filled with tears. Although she did not realize it, Margaret was healing the wounds she had previously inflicted upon him, with the words she was speaking now. Hesitantly, she added, "Would a month be too soon, do you think?"
Mr. Thornton's arms tightened around her. "Too soon?" he choked out. "Not at all." Then he began kissing her again with all the longing and love he felt for her.
A/N: So, how'd you like the ending? :D