Disclaimer: As is the protocol on these sites, I do not own these characters and I make no profit from my writing.
A/N: This will be a collection of one-shots as I am too inexperienced in writing fiction and have too short an attention span to put together a complete story. Chapter 1 has been swimming in my head since I first saw the BBC mini series. After reading nearly every fan fiction available on this board, I decided it was time to put my little scene in writing.
Mr. John Thornton of Milton, manufacturer and magistrate, stood on the catwalk overlooking the floor in Marlborough Mills. Cotton fibers floated around the room settling on his strong shoulders and in his dark hair. He had a stern look on his face and his jaw was set in a straight line but, the clanging of the looms and the chattering of the workers was a comfort to Mr. Thornton. The mill was doing well. New orders were coming in every day as finished product was being prepared to ship in the mill yard. The hot summer caused an increase in orders for cotton fabric. The mill was turning a profit less than one year after its reopening. Marlborough Mills was once again a success by any standards.
Mr. Thornton had spent the first hours of his morning closed up in his office analyzing the books. He was now taking a break from the figures. The tall, slender man stepped down to the mill floor and weaved his way to the entrance, greeting his workers with a straight face and a nod of the head as he went. He must maintain his authoritative persona in the mill, but the workers could see the sparkle in his eye. The employees of Marlborough mills are aware of the strides he has taken to make his mill the best place to work in Milton.
As Thornton stepped out into the open air for the first time since arriving at the mill that morning, he took a deep breath. The hot September air was thick with smoke. One must walk to the very outskirts of town to escape it. But, Mr. Thornton drank it in. The smoke was another sign of success and he could not get enough of it. After being forced to close his mill one year ago, Mr. Thornton learned to appreciate these trivial moments even more.
Mr. Thornton smiled as he thought of the reason he was able to enjoy these pleasures once again: his wife, Margaret. Even if they had not married, she believed in him enough to invest her inheritance in Marlborough Mills. But they did marry. After refusing his first proposal, which was made in haste and as reaction to a significant event, she accepted his second. This proposal was made in understanding and love and passion, the very core of their marriage.
In the midst of these thoughts, Mr. Thornton looked across the mill yard to the house where his wife was spending the hours of the day when they must be separated. A carriage sat outside the grand front steps. It was Mr. Thornton's carriage. He idly wondered who the carriage had been sent for when Dr. Donaldson stepped out of the front door placing his top hat on his head. Mr. Thornton's heart skipped a beat and he was momentarily frozen. What had happened that had caused Dr. Donaldson to be sent for?
As soon as his legs would move Mr. Thornton was running across the mill yard, the authoritative persona had disappeared he was now a concerned, even frightened man. He reached the carriage just as Dr. Donaldson was about to step into it.
"Why, Mr. Thornton! I thought you were at work in the mill today!" Dr. Donaldson exclaimed surprised at the sudden appearance of the man.
"Dr. Donaldson, is everything all right?" Mr. Thornton said quietly almost breathless more from his frightened heart than his sprint across the yard.
"It is exactly as is to be expected with this condition, Thornton. She is doing well and maintaining her strength, but you must send for me if her symptoms worsen. I shall return in a few weeks to check on her. I must be on my way. Good day, Thornton." Dr. Donaldson said calmly as he reached out to grasp Mr. Thornton's hand with a firm shake.
Mr. Thornton did not reply, but accepted the handshake and stepped back as the carriage drove off. He turned and looked up at the massive house. Suddenly, he leapt up the staircase taking two steps at a time and burst through the front door.
"Margaret! Mother!" Mr. Thornton shouted as he ran into the entry way.
"She is upstairs John." Mrs. Thornton said matter-of-factly as she stepped out of the drawing room into the entry way, her face straight and serious. It wasn't until Mr. Thornton sprinted past her, again taking the stairs two at a time, that she allowed a smirk to touch her lips. She turned and retreated back to her sewing in the drawing room.
Mr. Thornton reached the door of the bedchamber he shared with his wife in record time. His heart was racing and his breath came in quick gasps. He stopped outside the door determined to be calm and to listen to his wife's explanation. His wife, who had not told him that she was feeling ill, who had not mentioned the need to send for the doctor as they breakfasted this morning. His precious wife, who had a condition that the doctor expected to worsen, was being too strong to tell her husband of her feelings. He would not startle her by entering unannounced.
Mr. Thornton reached up and knocked on the bedchamber door as gently and controlled as he could. He then slowly twisted the door handle and entered silently. Margaret sat at the mirror in the far corner of the room her back to the door. She looked deep in thought, her brow creased and her lips pursed like she was unsure of her own thoughts.
"Margaret," Mr. Thornton said quietly startling his wife out of her reverie.
She turned quickly, her pensive expression fading into a worried and questioning look as she took in her husband in his disheveled state.
"John! Are you all right? What is the matter?"
"I saw Dr. Donaldson in the yard," John exclaimed as he crossed the room to his now standing wife. "You are ill?" He said it so quietly he hardly heard the words himself.
"No!" Margaret responded immediately surprised, "No, John. I'm not ill."
Relief crossed Mr. Thornton's face and his body visibly relaxed. He reached out for his wife's hand and pulled her into his embrace. Suddenly John pulled back holding Margaret at arm's length as he asked, "Why did you send for Dr. Donaldson? He told me you had a condition and to send for him if you worsened. What did he mean? Why would he tell me this?"
"Oh, John, I wasn't sure how I would tell you," Margaret's worried look returned and then she smiled determinedly and took Mr. Thornton's face between her small, soft hands. "You're going to be a father John."
Mr. Thornton's eyes flashed first with fright and then a lightness broke over him as he took in his wife's words. "Are you sure?" he said unable to contain his smile.
Margaret laughed, "Yes. I've had my suspicions for a few weeks now. I sent for Dr. Donaldson this morning to be sure. There's no question. You will be a father come this winter."
John Thornton's smile broke from ear to ear as he pulled his wife back into his body and held her tightly against him. He gently reached for her chin and tilted her head up. Tears had formed in the corners of her eyes mirroring his own. He leaned down and pressed a chaste kiss on her lips as his hands reached around her waist. Then he lifted her up and began spinning her as they laughed together and kissed passionately.
Mr. John Thornton of Milton, husband, manufacturer and magistrate, was going to add father to his list of accomplishments. Being a good father would be his greatest accomplishment of all.