Twilight was falling, and so were Margaret’s eyelids. John could see her fighting sleep and knew he should leave. It was difficult to pull himself away. He wanted to lie beside her. He lifted her hand, kissing her palm and bent over to kiss her slightly parted lips. He could feel her breath as she slept. His emotions were becoming undone. He would seek out the doctor and see when she could come home with him.
John inquired at the registration desk as he neared the hospital doors.
“Mr. Thornton, I will check for you. He may have left by now. Please wait while I look for him.”
As John was waiting, he noticed journalists out front, still waiting after five hours. They were a determined lot, he thought.
A few moments later, Dr. Wagner came strolling into view without his white coat. “Congratulations, Mr. Thornton.”
“Thank you. I wanted to ask when I can take my bride home.”
“She is doing well. No doubt she has had incentive,” he said smiling. I think one more day should do it, but you and I will have to have a talk about this before she leaves.”
“I understand and had expected such. I surely understand there will be physical limitations if that is what the talk is mostly about.”
“I felt like I would not have needed to go over that with you. Your love shows strongly for her. I know you would do nothing to cause her the least bit of pain. No, there are a few other issues to discuss. See me tomorrow afternoon, anytime before five in the evening. And I think we can let her go the following day.”
“Very good then. I shall speak with you tomorrow.” John said.
As John walked out of the hospital doors and began his descent of the stairs; the journalists rushed him. Knowing this was inevitable, he said, “Today, at two this afternoon, I happily married the former Miss Margaret Hale, once a resident of Milton. That’s all I have to say.”
As he looked out, he saw Branson bringing the coach to the center front. He waded through all the journalists as Branson came to move them out of his way. Questions were being shouted at him, but he looked straight ahead in his normal stoic manner ignoring them all. Reaching his coach, he removed his top hat and stepped inside. Branson scampered into his box and whipped the team to a fast start before the reporters could run alongside.
Adam Bell was waiting in his sitting room when he arrived home. John hardly remembered getting home; his mind had been more agreeably engaged.
“Good evening, Adam. I think I need a drink too,” he smiled. “I’ve never had a better day in my life. My wait has been rewarded. All the heartbreak and loneliness has reversed itself. I feel whole for the first time in many years.” John poured his scotch and sat in his favorite chair.
“Cheers, my friend,” said Adam. It’s a bit of a sad time for me as I have had to hand her away from me. I did so in great confidence knowing she is where she wants to be and will be well loved and cared for.”
“Yes, she will. You know me well enough to have no doubts there. I spoke with the doctor before facing the journalists outside. He says Margaret will be able to come home the day after tomorrow.”
“That’s good news, John. She looked the happiest I’ve ever seen her, today. I must admit we were all taken aback at her injuries. I noticed the finger marks on her neck and upper arms. She may be mentally delicate for a long time.”
“I am prepared for that. I am prepared to see her through whatever it takes. There is no sacrifice I will not make.”
“Are you still resolute in your actions against the man who did this?” asked Adam, worried. “She’s going to heal. Isn’t that the most important issue?”
“Yes, of course, it is, but it is not the only one. I will have some redress to her abuse. Adam, maybe you can’t understand this, but if Margaret walked away from me tomorrow, I would still do what I am planning. I cannot be the man that I want to be for her if I let this pass. I do it for myself. She will not know.”
“And if you get caught?”
The coachman carried the Shaw bags to the platform and handed them to a porter. Edith and her mother walked to the ticket counter and bought their fare to Milton. Captain Lenox still had made no appearance, but Edith was assured he’d know where they were when he could not find them at home. Edith could only wonder what he was doing. Maxwell, she knew, had taken a great interest in this other Captain and the mysteries that surrounded him.
Maxwell had traveled to a small hamlet that rumors alluded to having been a part in Hartford’s abandonment of a woman he begat with child. Thinking ahead, he left his uniform home for fear that the townsfolk would shun him. He talked with the constabulary, but with little reason to know the facts, was told nothing. However, he did know the name of the young woman involved.
It took him half a day to locate the family. They lived a little way out of town. Several years ago, Ellen had worked in the local tavern but was now raising a two year old, while living with her parents.
Knocking on the door, he asked to speak with Ellen’s father in private. The two men walked away from the small cottage while Maxwell pled his case against Captain Hartford, and the father believed him. Everyone in town knew the circumstances, so the father had little compunction to hide anything.
The two men sat under a tree and talked for two hours. Maxwell learned that his daughter had been raped but it was her word against the Captain’s and nothing was done about it. Her betrothed went mad and eventually sought out Captain Hartford, and whether it was a fair fight or not, was killed. He had been left for dead, without witnesses and it had always been assumed that Hartford had murdered him. Being a young man, only carrying a knife against a trained military man with a gun, it couldn’t be seen in any other light, as the father told it. Again, that seemed to be common knowledge in the small town but who could go up against the Army.
The father went on to tell Maxwell that a detective from London had been there the day before asking the same questions. He said he was happy to see that the man may not get away with what he did.
Maxwell was surprised. He thanked the man for being so candid and apologized for the intrusion in bringing this up, but promised that he would see that something was done about it. He never spoke of his fiancé’s cousin. It was almost a day’s ride home, and he slept under a tree that night. He was determined to see that justice was carried out. He would contact Detective Boyle at the Met on his way home.
That morning, John had breakfast with Adam in the hotel. Adam told John that he hoped to hear from Frederick today and would find him at the hospital if it arrived.
“John, also, be prepared for the Shaw’s to arrive a little after midday. I am sure they will go to the hospital from the train and send the bags along to the hotel. I cannot say that I envy you their visit. Mrs. Shaw will hover and insist this, that and the other.”
“I have anticipated that. It shall not last long.”
“If you are a gentleman, I’m not so sure how well that will work.”
“I do not intend to be a gentleman. I intend to be a husband, and they will see it that way.”
“You’ve become a study to me, John,” Bell admitted.
“In what way?”
“You are almost a different person. The changes that have taken place in your countenance, over the last five days, have been nothing short of extraordinary. You are still John Thornton, but one I’ve never seen.”
“You have never been in love and cannot know the feeling a man gets when his love has been tortured at the hands of another man. I have usually lived in what I’m now calling ‘middle ground.’ I have been torn to shreds these past days. Middle ground is gone; the John that most people know is gone, for now. I am living either in euphoric happiness or finding the depths of a black soul that must reside in me, right now. I am totally at its mercy.”
“John, you’ve always been able to control yourself. I am sure you will find that with Margaret in your life. Why can’t you control this other half?”
“Because I don’t want to. I can’t explain it. I’ll be glad when it has past.”
“And when might that happen?”
John picked up his fork and ignored the question.
Changing the subject, Adam asked, “Have you seen today’s paper this morning?”
“No, why?” John asked, dabbing his mouth with his napkin while accepting the offered newspaper.
The headline was bold.
Mill Master John Thornton of Marlborough Mills Weds Miss Margaret Hale.
John Thornton stated for this paper, that he and a Miss Margaret Hale, formerly of Milton were happily wed yesterday at 2:00 pm. When asked to comment further, he declined as he left the hospital steps where he’s been seen frequenting of late. The hospital spokesman has declined to speak. It is unknown if Miss Hale, now, Mrs. Thornton, works or is a patient at The Greater Milton Hospital.
Mr. Thornton, a Magistrate and Mill Master of two Mills, is best known for his leadership in the burgeoning age of the Machine . . .
John set the paper down and continued his breakfast.
“No comment, Mr. Thornton,” Adam smarmed.
“I would rather have been left alone,” John replied in a serious tone.
Captain Grant Hartford picked up his personal post from the first delivery. The only note was from his man in Paris. He anxiously snapped the seal and sat in his chair.
I have had it with watching this man. He has disappeared, and so did the woman he was living with. I told you it would take two of us to watch him all the time. Now, he is gone. I’ve spent two days watching the postal station, and he has not returned for any letters. Asking questions has led nowhere. You do not pay enough for this boring work. I quit. If you want him so bad, you come find him. I gave you his address in previous note. Good luck.
“Bloody hell!” Grant shouted, drawing attention from the other officers. He crumpled the note and threw it into the fire.
“What’s wrong, Grant?” Someone laughingly shouted. “Did your woman leave you?” There was general laughter throughout the room.
Grant ignored them and they went back to whatever they had been doing.
He’d lost his prey, his only means to keep Margaret Hale fearful. She didn’t know that, but he didn’t know where she was or if she was alive. With the detective sniffing around, Grant decided he’d have to rethink his tactics because his game was about to fall to pieces. Maybe she didn’t need to marry him, he could just blackmail her for the money – or – maybe she just needed to be gone so he could wipe his slate clean and start with someone else.
John took the small buggy and pulled to the rear of the hospital. As he approached Margaret’s room, there seemed to be a disturbance in front of her closed door. He ran down the hall.
Arriving, the reporters noticed him and turned to fling questions at him from all angles.
“I will answer two questions. This is my private life, and I mean to keep it that way. I will bring my whole mill down here to remove all of you if I have to. I can, also, call out the guards, if you want to spend some time in jail. This room is off limits to all of you. You will eventually know my wife when she has recovered.
“Mr. Thornton, why is your wife here?”
“Mrs. Thornton has unfortunately been the victim of an attack, which happened in London.
“Is there any reason why you rushed a wedding instead of waiting for her recovery? Another journalist asked.
“Quite simply, I love her and have for a long time. That’s all for the foreseeable future until she is well. Good day.”
John walked to the door and stood with his back to it until the crowd had dispersed.
Dr. Wagner came and thanked him for his intervention. You have a lot of power, Mr. Thornton, I’ve never known a whole lot about you, but I am significantly impressed that you have that much clout. Do you often make threats like that?”
“Only one other time when there was a riot at my mill, years ago. It does not please me to bring all I can bear to a situation, but I will not have Margaret harassed.
“I do believe you accomplished your mission.”
“The door is closed. May I go in?” John asked.
“As of yesterday, Mr. Thornton, you have full privileges in the room anytime. But under the circumstances, Miss Hale may have reservations that she will slowly have to work into. I think I’d knock.”
John knocked. “Mrs. Thornton?”
“Who is it?” Margaret called out knowing well it was John.
“Mrs. Thornton, I hope you know my voice by now.”
“Oh come in John. I knew it was you. I’m having oatmeal this morning. Care to join me?”
“I just had breakfast with Adam but a few moments ago. How was your night? As pleasant as mine, I hope.” John went over and kissed her good morning.
“John you would turn red if I told you about my dreams. These dreams are so new to me. You, for being a man of the world, would probably find them quite dull. I’m too embarrassed to even talk about them with you.”
John broke out in a smile. Margaret, my thoughts, dreams, and plans have never included love, and they no longer reflect the opportunity to assuage my needs. My needs are your pleasure now, not my own.”
“I’m embarrassed to say that I have been remembering my romance novels, the rumors, the learning at school, and the women that talk. If half of them are true, I’m afraid I will be a letdown. I don’t know how to do any of those lustful things. I have no experience.”
“Margaret, your innocence is what I look forward to most. We will create our own world, just for the two of us.”
‘You will not compare me to others of more daring adventures?”
“No. Never. I want us to find our way. That doesn’t mean it’s everything that you have ever heard of. I will love pleasuring you every way that you will allow. I am going to be grateful for whatever you give. Our love will grow. Do not dwell on that.”
Margaret looked into his lap and noticed his trousers were tight. “Am I causing that?” she pointed.
“I’m afraid so. You will have to get used to it, for that will happen for many years. I will never have enough of you.”
“Does that hurt?”
“John laughed. I am not going to answer that question. You will answer it for yourself one day soon. Which reminds me, I talked with Dr. Wagner last night as I left. With some training for you and I, today, I can take you home tomorrow. He wants to talk with me about what to expect, sometime later this afternoon. I doubt I will be able to talk with you about it much since your cousin and aunt should be here by then. Margaret, I am going to tell them how it is with you and I, now. You are mine. I am your husband and guardian in a sense. They are resolved of all duties except loving you. Should your aunt try to tell you what is best,,, I am going to speak up. Will you mind that?”
“No, John. I place myself into your hands. You and only you can rule me but only to a certain extent. I will reserve a few of my own rites, you know.”
“Oh, you will, will you. Hmm… We’ll have to discuss that. And to be fair, I expect you to dominate me almost completely. I hesitate in admitting that, but I cannot deny you anything.”
“Do you think we could get the doctor here this morning before my aunt gets here. I am so anxious to leave here.”
“When the nurse comes in, we shall ask.”
Adam Bell checked at the registration desk for the first post and was surprised to see a note from Fred. He thought it would be another day. He tucked it into his pocket and strolled towards the guest lounge. This is what they had been waiting for. Perhaps, during the Shaw visits today, he could meet with John and the other men and solidify plans that had already begun on paper. As soon as they could get Frederick out of Paris, or France, the Captain could have no hold over Margaret. She was now married, but he still had Frederick within his grasp. Adam had to wonder what this Captain thought about Margaret’s disappearance. Would he be glad of it, knowing what he did or would he come after her to keep her quiet? Officers in uniform did not take their commissions for granted. He would go far to preserve what he had.
Adam found a comfortable chair and opened the rather long note.
Received your note and acted immediately. Still in Paris with friend. I have brought my fiancé with me. We will need accommodations for two. Cannot sleep rough on move. I will be indebted for your help in getting Lisa moved out of Paris.
These past few weeks, I have felt the presence of someone around the periphery of my life. If he was there, I have now lost him. Send help for Lisa at the address below. I am coming to Milton on my way to London to find my sister and this man. If in his coercion of my Margaret, he has harmed her in any way, he will be dispatched. Do whatever needs to done to keep her from marrying him in the next few days until I can arrive.
I will find you or Thornton. Don’t look for me.
My sister is too dear to me, and it is like her to do what she is doing. I will not let that happen.
I am leaving Lisa in the care of my friend Nathan. Any correspondence to her or me should be addressed at… Randall
Adam had not expected Frederick to take such actions as entering England again but then realized that Frederick didn’t know John Thornton or the trust he could feel with him watching over Margaret. What would he do when seeing his sister and learning of her injuries? Finding a new place for his fiancé seemed an easy task since Frederick was taking all the risks, but there was good news to know that he had lost his shadow. That pretty much left this Captain out in the cold; it would seem. This situation, with Margaret, seemed to be growing and growing with revenge being the only issue at hand, of which Margaret knew nothing. What would she think when hearing of Frederick coming to her rescue? It was starting to look like a family reunion in Milton with everyone missing the wedding.
Adam felt there was no way that he could stop Frederick from coming now so their plans to move his Lisa could be done quickly and with only one or two of them leaving.
Frederick was going to need a place to stay while everything was sorted out, and that place had to be somewhere on Marlboro Mills property. He’d better find John immediately. It was likely that Frederick left after posting his letter and could soon be here.
Six – Severe Complications
All around Beth was instantly forgotten and she had only eyes for Fenton’s prostrated form. He had fallen onto his side and one arm was trapped under his body. Wanting to do something – at least, to help him – she knelt down beside him. To make him more comfortable, she carefully turned him onto his back – and gasped at the sight of the long, ragged scar that crossed his abdomen. It was of an ugly red and marred the beautiful muscles of his stomach, slicing across the fine spray of dark hair that covered his chest. She put out a trembling hand and touched it. Fenton’s stomach muscles rippled in response, causing a knot of fire to pop up, low in her stomach. Oh, sweet Lord!
There were many burns on his arms and shoulders, some of them bleeding, and he was trembling rather badly. He was in shock, she knew, and needed care but somehow, all she could do, was take his head onto her lap and caress his face.
“Stephen …” Was that her voice, so shaking and full of despair?
“You there, boy!” Granny Bradley’s voice sounded. “Run to Brixton Abbey and fetch help! Mary, bring on some blankets! Ben, Tom, Jack, I need him to be transported into my house, now!”
Then Granny touched Beth’s arm and spoke softly to her. “Come, my child. You must leave it to me.”
Blinking back tears, Beth realised she was compromising herself immensely, sitting in this very close position to a man in full sight of everyone. When the men and Mary came toward them with the items requested by Granny Bradley, she slowly rose and took up her position again with her charges. She waited, however, until they finished carrying Fenton inside before she rode back to Brixton Abbey with the children.
The soft, wavering voice pulled at his very heart as his awareness slowly came back. He could not quite believe his ears, though. Nobody ever had spoken to him that way, so full of concern, of caring, of – dare he think it – love?
When Fenton finally managed to open his eyes, he found himself lying on a board that was carried away by four men, but what he saw most clearly, was the retreating figure of Beth Williams. Beth? Beth, speaking his name so lovingly that his heart was still singing with joy from the memory? Impossible!
“Well, my lord,” an old woman’s voice drew his attention. “I certainly never dreamed of letting you into my home!”
“Mrs Bradley!” Fenton exclaimed, recognizing Molly’s mother.
“Yes, and I should let you rot in hell for what you did to my angel.”
She said it in a controlled voice, however. Fenton found himself breathing again, although he never knew he had stopped doing so.
“I am trying to repair the damage by taking the children into my home, Mrs Bradley. They have an excellent governess to see to their education.”
The old woman’s face was impassive when she neither thanked him nor cursed him for taking her charges from her.
“I will see to your injuries now, my lord,” Mrs Bradley said, matter-of-factly. “You have quite the number of them. So, as we are clear about this, I am only doing this because you rescued little Johnny. Is that understood, my lord?”
“Quite so,” he replied curtly, then continued in a softer voice. “Is the baby alright? He was so quiet when I took him out of his cradle.”
“Yes, he is fine, thank you. Ruby is already nursing him at her parent’s house and his appetite was as good as ever.”
Without further ado, she began examining him, causing him to curse under his breath when she applied some sort of ointment onto his burns.
For the rest of the day, Beth kept her charges inside, asking them to make a drawing about what they had been subjected to, that afternoon. Lily and Oliver applied themselves to it with an unexpected zeal, allowing Beth to sit quietly with them and give herself a break. She badly needed to recover from the appalling emotions that hit her on seeing Stephen Fenton pass out and getting hurt.
What struck her the most had been the realisation that he was concerned enough about his people to risk his own life to save them. She never suspected that of him, nor would she have thought him that brave. He must possess a great deal of courage, judged by the seriousness of the injuries he suffered during the Peninsular War. That scar was horrible and it was little wonder it had cost him months to recover from it.
As the hours passed by, Beth found she could not concentrate on the book in her lap. Her scattered thoughts kept wandering to Stephen Fenton, a man she thought she knew but in fact, did not know at all. A man she was undoubtedly attracted to, which made her panic a little. How could that be? Was it because, today, for the first time, he had shown a genuine interest in his children? He had been patient with their efforts on horse riding, had even praised them.
Their rooms on the fourth floor overlooked the stable yard, and the rattle of the Brixton carriage wheels on the cobbles drew her to the window. Stephen Fenton alighted from the vehicle, a blanket thrown over his shoulders. Denying the help of his valet, he strode toward the house, apparently strong enough, after his ordeal.
Beth resumed her seat again, imagining Fenton’s progress through the house. He would first go to his chambers to bathe and change. By then it would be dinner time, and Beth fervently prayed she would not be required to dine with him and his mother. She would be unable to bear it.
A knock on the classroom’s door startled Beth but it was only Trixie who came in.
“Beg yer pardon, miss, master asks you to come down ter dinner with the children. Says they’re ter dine wi’ the family, ternight.”
As she walked into the dining room, preceded by her two very nervous charges, Beth hoped they would remember what she taught them. Lily was wearing a light blue muslin dress which gave her grey eyes a hint of blue, and her honey-coloured curls were brushed into a neat ponytail. For Oliver, Beth had chosen white knee breeches and stockings, a white linen shirt, grey waistcoat and a jacket of dark grey wool. His unruly curls had been cut shorter so that they were easier to handle. Beth wore her usual black bombazine dress because she was still in mourning for her father.
The Dowager Baroness stood near one of the windows when the children came to stand before her, just like Beth taught them. Lily made a reasonably acceptable curtsy while Oliver executed a nearly perfect bow to their paternal grandmother. Beth saw the surprised look in the dowager’s eyes and was secretly satisfied with her charges.
“Good evening, my lady,” she said, as she made her own curtsy.
“Good evening, mademoiselle,” the dowager replied, but curtly and without warmth. The proud elderly woman had only managed the briefest of acknowledgements on the children’s greetings.
The Baron’s reply to his children was genuinely warmer than it had ever been before. He bowed back to Oliver, then took Lily’s small hand in his and kissed it. The little girl’s eyes widened and her mouth gaped open, which got her a jab in the ribs from her brother. Lily snapped her mouth shut but sent a furious glance to Oliver. That made the baron laugh so spontaneously that Beth felt her heart warm in response. When the children went to sit down on a settee and wait for the butler to announce dinner, Beth addressed the baron.
“I trust, my lord, that you were not seriously injured, this afternoon? It showed of great courage to rescue Ruby’s baby, and I thank you for it from the bottom of my heart.”
Stephen Fenton’s eyes narrowed and he drew in his breath sharply.
“You know that woman? How come?”
Beth bit her lip when she realised she was close to betraying herself if she could not turn this around.
“I must confess to a subterfuge, my lord. I have taken the children to see their grandmother for several times, since I have been in your employ. I beg your forgiveness for it.”
The baron’s cool grey eyes raked over Beth’s figure like a cold north wind, sending shivers all over her spine. His voice was equally cool when he spoke.
“Why do I have the feeling, Mademoiselle Guillaume, that you have many other ‘subterfuges’ to confess? Rest assured that I will find them all out, in due time, ma belle!”
Time Warner’s Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection are creating a new streaming service called, FilmStruck, which launches in November 2016.
FilmStruck is dedicated to film and film discovery, so we’ve made it easier to enjoy your favorite films while exploring new titles. We created themes to shake the typical genre classification and group movies in a more specific and meaningful way, all to provide you with a better streaming experience. FilmStruck’s constantly refreshed and curated themes incorporate the best titles across libraries, so you can submerse yourself in the types of films you love — whether they’re Neo-Noir, Serious Woody or Kubrick’s early work. – FilmStruck
You can get a sense of the period dramas in the Criterion Collection from the post 100 Period Dramas Streaming on Hulu. After the launch of FilmStruck, Hulu will no longer be the home for the Criterion Collection. ~ Courtesy Willow and Thatch
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Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok practically became one of the most exciting Phase 3 movies overnight after it announced a cast that included Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, and Jeff Goldblum. With Taika Watiti at the helm, Thor’s third outing looks to be a memorable one. Jeff Goldblum will be playing a villainous character called the Grandmaster, whose got some pretty wild comic backstory. As such, Goldblum is doing his homework and took the courtesy to share his reading material on Instagram.
Goldblum posted a picture of himself to Instagram, showing that he’s reading a particular Thor comic book in order to get ready for the role of the Grandmaster. After all, Goldblum is, in his own words, “nothing if not conscientious.” This pic is either Goldblum’s attempt to show that he’s really diving deep into the world of Thor or he’s throwing fans a bone and teasing a possible storyline for the movie.
The actual comic he’s reading is The Mighty Thor #374. The issue has absolutely nothing to do with the Grandmaster, but it does feature Hela, Cate Blanchett‘s main villain. In the issue, Hela cursed Thor with brittle bones that will never heal once broken and unending life – meaning that the always battle-ready Thor has to think twice about leaping into combat or he’ll spend eternity as a broken mess. This could be a hint that Thor will be cursed by Hela in some manner in Ragnarok. Or that Goldblum is simply reading an issue that features both characters. X-Factor (a sub-team of the X-Men) also guest star in that issue, so maybe it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
Goldblum does have a bit of research ahead of him for his role as the Grandmaster, who’s one of the more “out there” Marvel characters. The Grandmaster is a cosmic being known as an Elder of the Universe (like the Collector from Guardians of the Galaxy) and is super intelligent and powerful. One of the oldest beings in the universe, the Grandmaster is a master of games of skill and chance. His favorite pastime is taking two teams and pitting them against each other. If there’s anybody who can put Hulk in space and make him fight Thor, it’s this guy.
In addition to Goldblum and the other new cast members, Thor: Ragnarok will also feature plenty of older characters. Idris Elba and Anthony Hopkins return, as well as Tumblr’s favorite person, Tom Hiddleston. Of course, Chris Hemsworth is reprising his role as Thor and he’ll be joined by Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk. The film’s plot is still being kept under wraps but set photos of Thor and Loki in New York and the Hulk’s gladiator armor do provide some interesting clues.
Thor: Ragnarok is scheduled to hit theaters on November 3, 2017.
If Margaret thought she had been in a weakened state before, it was now officially confirmed when John walked through the door in his exquisite evening attire. He had a yellow rose in his lapel and a yellow rose nosegay for Margaret. He handed Nicholas and Adam yellow roses for their apparel and went directly to Margaret. Peggy moved away and everyone walked out of the room to give them privacy. Nicholas even closed the door behind them.
John knelt at Margaret’s feet.
“I love you more this minute than any time before. Are you ready to be Mrs. John Thornton?”
“You know I am. John, you are so handsome, you make me want to cry.”
“All for you, my love. Only and forever for you, Margaret. Where is that stunning hospital gown I was expecting? I even wore a white cravat to match you,” he smiled. You look positively stunning. And what are you doing sitting on the side of the bed? Shouldn’t you be sitting up with pillows behind you?”
“I convinced the doctor that there was nothing wrong with me legs. I want to stand beside you for as long as I can. When you kiss me at the end of the vows, just don’t squeeze me too hard. I’ll take a lot of pain for that kiss I want so badly, though.”
“Oh, how I want to squeeze you now. I cannot wait to get you home so that I can serve you and hold you and stroke your forehead and kiss your neck. I am going to stop there, or you will know me better than you should right now.”
Margaret smiled and grimaced once again.
John leaned in and parting her lips gave her a sensual kiss. “I won’t be able to do that with everyone watching. Are you ready?”
“I’ve been ready for two years. I am eagerly waiting to give you my vows. I do so love you, John Thornton.”
John kissed her once again and then helped her to her feet. Do you have a preference where you want stand?”
“I think at the end of the bed. I can lean back on the footboard if I need to.”
“If you need to lean, you lean on me. I want you to lean on me always, Miss Hale. And say goodbye to Miss Hale, now.”
John placed Margaret at the end of the bed and opened the door for the others to take their places.
Margaret was surprised that Adam stood next to her and not John. She realized he was giving her away. She looked up into his eyes, and both had tears welling.
The minister stood facing Adam and Margaret and asked who gives this woman away.
Adam said, “I do.” Adam turned to shake John’s hand and then placed Margaret’s hand into John’s. Adam and John exchanged places.
Peggy collected the flowers Margaret had been holding and Margaret could feel John looking down on her. She peeped up and saw an almost reverent benevolent smile. His eyes were speaking his love to her heart.
Staff from the hospital had drifted in, including Nurse Pickering and Dr. Wagner.
The minister continued into the vows and then Nicholas had to fish out the emerald ring for Margaret’s finger, to hand John. Margaret gasped at its loveliness as John looked into her face and slowly slid it onto her finger, then squeezed her hand. Margaret felt her knees trembling, and John felt that happening, too. He gently folded his arm around her waist and held her up until the final words of Man and Wife were spoken. He had wanted to kiss her tenderly in front of the crowd but found no success there. He kissed her for long moments, to the applause of everyone in the room. John, the passionate man and lover, was finally revealed to all who watched.
As soon as he gave her breath, he escorted her to the chair, where she received all the well wishes and kisses.
The doctor was in and out of Margaret’s room until he thought the festivities had gone on long enough. He could see his patient tiring and spoke to Mr. Thornton. John went to his friends and told them of Margaret’s fatigue. To Adam, he said he would seem him later this evening at his home. Branson carried the minister back to the church and John said he would get a cabby to take him home.
“No, sir. I will be back for you. I will be outside starting at 7:00 pm.
John walked his friends to the hospital entrance while Nurse Pickering changed Margaret back into a fresh cotton gown and got her comfortably settled into her bed.
“Mrs. Thornton, you can’t seem to stop smiling.”
Margaret paused, hearing that phrase for the first time from someone other than John. Her face flushed as the smile grew larger.
“Mrs. Thornton,” she sighed out loud.
“Yes, Mrs. Thornton,” John repeated coming back through the door.
The nurse disappeared knowing that Margaret was settled, perhaps in the best situation of her life.
John quietly pushed the door closed when she had left, not latching it, but hiding them from onlookers. He walked back to Margaret’s bedside and took the chair pulling it close to his new wife.
“Margaret, you have made me the happiest man on this earth today. Even up until you said, ‘I do’, I feared something might interrupt us for what I have waited for since meeting you. I want to make you as happy as I am.”
“You already have. You’ve taken on a woman of reduced circumstances, who treated you poorly, and then left you heartbroken. I am a woman who returns to you when everything in her life has failed her and asks for sanctuary, and you took me in. You give me love and not just abidance.”
“Margaret, stop that. You sound like you are making yourself self out to be a charity case. Had I known there was any regard for me, I would have sought you out long ago. I have done nothing but think about you. I tried to carry on; I saw very few women since you left, but no one could compare to you, my love. Under any condition imaginable, I wanted you, everyday in every way. For the past few months, I have even thought of selling the mills. I had to make some change in my life to get past you or give up living. I could no longer face the world with you somewhere that I couldn’t touch. Don’t ever think there is gratitude in my love for you. You don’t think that I could ever entertain the idea that you returned because I just happen to be a little better than the last man seeking you. Do you? No, I know that you love me and today was something we both wanted. This wedding was not a rescue for either of us. We’re married because we should have done this, two years ago. I know I rushed you into this, perhaps much faster than is proper. Here you lay in a hospital bed, delirious on laudanum and saying you will be my wife. I hope you never come to regret that. I was terribly selfish in gaining your hand while you were willing.”
“John, now you stop talking that way. I was not delirious when I accepted your offer of marriage. It wasn’t long after I was taken from Milton that I knew I had left my heart behind. I felt trapped between the two men I love most in this world. I knew I broke your heart as mine had already done, but my brother’s life could have been at stake and that weighed a bit heavier than my happiness.”
“Margaret, let’s not dwell on the past and the why’s. We have finally reached each other for all time and that’s all that matters, now. We just need you to concentrate on getting you well, so that you can come home with me. You cannot imagine how my mind is carrying me too far off places I’ve never thought of before. You will be loved like no other woman.”
“I hope can live up to your expectations.” Margaret said softly.
“Margaret, you far exceeded my expectations long long ago. I guess I am too anxious to know all of you and I have told you not to think of me being anxious. There is love driving me, not lust. It feels quite different, you know? My desire lies more with me wanting to please you than the other way around. It is a most exhilarating fantasy, waiting to come true. You’re blushing! Black eye, red cheeks, what more could a man ask for?” John laughed.
“I loved our little wedding. Everyone here wanted this for us, too. I am glad it is behind us now, so when I face my aunt, she will have no advice to give me.”
“Yes, I am afraid you have a couple more days of discomfort with visitors. Your aunt and cousin will want to know what happened, why you are here, and why you are married. It will be up to you what you say to them. I will not tell them what I know.” John moved towards Margaret’s lips. It was their first kiss since the ceremony. Margaret was able to manage one arm around John’s neck. John put one arm behind her, anchoring his hand under her bottom and pulled her to him. The other hand stroked her face and neck. He tenderly made love to her with his tongue and hers intertwining. They eventually pulled apart and John withdrew his hand from underneath her. That had been their most intimate contact.
“Yes, my love. What is it?”
“This medicine hasn’t dulled all my feelings.”
“I don’t understand. What are you telling me?”
Margaret blushed and smiled causing John to kiss her again, as before.