Chapter Twenty One
It was well past dark when Greta assisted Margaret to the parlor. “Mrs. Thornton, you have had your evening pill, correct?”
“Yes, Greta, before my bath. You are excused for the evening. Should something come up that my husband cannot assist me in, or I prefer to have your help, I will ring, but don’t look for it.”
“Goodnight, then, to the both of you.”
John and Margaret said their goodnights to Greta. He turned off the gaslights and banked the evening fire. Even though it was nearing fall, northern England was cool and damp in the evenings.
John proceeded over to Margaret on the couch and picked her up and carried her upstairs.
“Aren’t you going to dry my hair?” Margaret asked.
“Yes, but I will do it in the privacy of our room. I’ve lit a fire in there tonight. I would just like to be comfortable with you. We, both, have had a very demanding day.”
John entered the room and set Margaret on her feet while he closed the door.
“Margaret, I found out something today that I think you don’t know about yourself?”
John immediately felt bad that he was about to bring back bad memories.
“What is that, John?”
“You have no shoes at all. I shall buy you a pair tomorrow. Then when you have something for your feet, we will go to a cobbler and have several nice pairs made for you when you feel you are ready.”
“I guess my other’s one were never found?”
John hesitated. “Yes, but not in Milton.” He had done it again. But, their conversation earlier had been to not worry about words. He hoped she would let it pass. She did.
“Come here by the fire. I will sit you down and then dry your hair from behind you. How did the bath feel without the rib brace?”
“I was uncomfortable at first, but the ability to breathe felt good. I am going to try and go without it tonight. Oh, I guess it is in the bathing room with the copper tub next to the kitchen, still. What do you call that room? It is rather unique with the drain in the floor that carries out the water from the bathing tub. I see that laundry is done in there, and it has a commode. It’s quite a handy room for the house.”
“We simply call it the washroom. Clothes get washed, and people get washed in there; that seemed the only words we ever used. I had seen a drawing of it in a journal and designed the room myself. Everyone one and there are very few, who have seen the house, marvel at that room. I can take very little credit for it.”
“Do you bath in there when your staff is here? Margaret asked.
“Cook will fill it with water after dinner before she leaves. I am alone then, so no. No staff here when I bath there.”
“I miss Dixon. For the first time in our lives, we became separated shortly after we arrived in London. Aunt Shaw was able to find her a situation immediately. We visited from time to time. I wonder what she must be thinking now. Could I get her back, John? Would that be too many staff members? I can help pay?”
John smiled. “Margaret, do not ever worry about money, whether yours or mine – it is all ours and I have enough for whatever your heart desires. Of course, you may have Dixon back. She can take Cook’s room that isn’t used. If I remember, she cooks, too?”
“She’s never been the main cook, but she can fill in if Cook needs to be away.”
“That sounds like it would work very well. Jane is young and could marry any time and leave. She must not hover over you all the time, though. That is my place, now.”
John walked the room looking for something to comb her hair. “Have you seen a comb about? Did Cook or Jane purchase that for you?”
“I did not want to clutter your room, so I put it in the top drawer over there.”
John went to Margaret and stooped down in front of her, placing his hands on her shoulders. “This is our room, not my room, my love. I want to live amidst your female trinkets. We shall have a nice vanity, with a big mirror, made for you. I have lived within these four dull walls since my father died many years ago. I’ve been waiting for my wife, you Margaret, to bring it to life.”
John looked into her eyes. “Why do you weep, my love. I do not remember this about you.”
“I weep because I am happy, not sad.”
“How do we men ever understand the difference?” he asked smiling.
“You will have to come to understand your woman, I guess.”
“I yearn to know you, Margaret, in all the ways I have yet to explore, and that includes your feelings, emotions, and desires.” He kissed her.
John brought the brush and comb with him and sat behind Margaret on the floor in front of the warm glow of the fire. He set them off to the side for a moment and wrapped his arms lightly around her from the back. Her arms were caught under his, protecting her rib. He started to kiss the back of her neck where her long hair was not covering. He inhaled her feminine fragrance and nuzzled into her wet tresses with a light moan of delight.
“You shouldn’t wear a perfume while you’re healing, my dear,” he said softly.
“I’m not wearing any perfume.”
John pulled back and began to brush her hair. He was too close to getting into trouble. He found he had to slip back a little further in order to stroke the length of her soft strands of silken ribbons.
“John, is it hard?”
Surprised, he asked, “Is what hard?” If she was talking about his manhood, that had been hard for a week.
“Getting all the knots and tangles out.”
“I’ll just say that I wish it would take longer to do.”
John set down the brush and picked up the comb. “Do you normally braid it every night before sleeping?”
“Why do you do that? That would seem uncomfortable to sleep with.”
“I was raised that way. Leaving it down . . . well, it might appear . . .”
“Too alluring to a man, like your husband?”
“Yes, I’ve always thought that was the reason. It was never discussed. I just did it as taught.”
“Would you leave it down for me?”
“Yes, if you wish it.”
“I wish it. I wish it very much.” John smiled broadly behind her back.
He set the comb aside and slid back, nestling her between his legs as he wrapped her in his arms.
“Tell me if I hurt you,” he said. He pulled on her gently, laid his chin on her shoulder, and closed his eyes.
“You feel and smell wonderful. I am lost in this favor you give to me.
Margaret pulled her arms from underneath his, allowing his arms to lie against her chest and ribs, holding up her breasts. She covered his arms with her own and titled her head back to his shoulder. She wanted to feel his kisses again on her neck.
Feeling the weight of her luscious bosom settling onto his arms made him want to reach for them and cup them in his hands through her thin nightdress. There was warmth there, and he knew there was a fire within.
John nibbled her neck and suckled her ear lobes, all the while straining not to hug her as tightly as he wished. He snuggled her bottom into his groin. John felt he should subtly start to introduce himself to her.
Margaret let out a soft moan, she had been restraining. The feel of his strength surrounding her, his male smell, his overpowering size, and his tenderness was sending her off to forbidden places in her mind, as her body wanted to ignite.
“Margaret,” John whispered. “You shouldn’t moan like that while you’re not well. It moves me too much. But if you stop, I will make you do it again and again.
Suddenly Margaret pulled John’s arms from around her. “Could you please sit back?”
“Margaret, what is it? I’m sorry.” John stood and walked to the other side of the room, giving Margaret plenty of space. He felt he knew what had happened but until she told him, he couldn’t be sure. She needed to find confidence in him. If she’d say, stop . . . he would stop.
Margaret sat there, staring down at the floor – not even looking into the fire. She threw her hands over her face and began to cry.
John did not know whether to go to her or not. “Margaret, do not hide anything from me, or from us, meaning yourself, too. Talk to me. Something bothered you, and I believe I know what it is, but you must speak it.”
“I don’t know what it is?”
“Do you want me to tell you?”
“I think so,” Margaret said, slowing her sobs. “I just had to stop.”
“No, Margaret. You had to stop me. Isn’t that it? You were feeling closed in. You had to know, since I am bigger and much stronger than you, that I would stop when you asked. I don’t think it was a premeditated test or thought. It was a protective reaction. Margaret, I understand. I am prepared for this behavior. I’ve been surprised that you have been as receptive towards me as you have. We’re only a few mere days away from the trauma you suffered. Because I am now your husband, does not give me liberties with you at my whim. Let’s get you into bed. Can I lift you up?”
Margaret shook her head yes, the words still stuck in her throat. Was he right? Why would a man she loved and married suddenly become untrustworthy to her? Margaret knew she didn’t know much at all about men.
As John lifted her from the floor, he could feel her shaking. She was afraid. Everyone had thought she was taking this too well. He knew she was beginning to come face to face with that night. Essentially, the scene was the same. She was in a house that she didn’t know. She was alone with a man.
John lowered her to the bed and pulled the covers up to her waist.
“Can we talk about this?” John asked.
With tears in her eyes, she looked up at John who was sitting beside her on the bed. “I told you that you could ask me about that night.”
“I know about that night. I know all I want to know about that night. I have wondered if there had been any other personal advances on you.”
John didn’t know how to ask this in a polite way. He sighed, “Did Hartford ever ask, infer, or try any other sexual actions with you?”
“No, only his horrid kisses. That night he wanted to be pleasured by his bride. I refused. He unbuttoned his trousers and . . .”
“Margaret stop! No more. Can’t you see that this is almost as much of a trauma for me as it was for you?”
“I’m beginning to doubt that. I think it is worse for you.”
John leaned in to kiss her and watched for any fear as he slowly showed her what is was about to do. Margaret threw her arms around his neck.
“I’m sorry, John. I’m going to drive you away before I have you.”
“Margaret if you know one thing, know that I will never leave you for any reason. You will never drive me away, even if this takes a long time to put behind us, I love you. I will wait.”
“There is no question of my love for you or your love for me,” Margaret swallowed hard. “I knew he was a bad man and that should mean a lot because I did know I could not trust him. After the first beating, I knew what he was like. You are the only other man that has been close to me and I know you are nothing like him. I will spend my life with you knowing I will never be afraid of you. I am sorry for what just happened. I don’t know why. You must think I don’t trust you, but I do. And I feel terrible for making you wait for me to come to my senses.”
John moved close again, and she allowed the tender kiss.
“Love, please do not tell me you are sorry. Those words don’t ever have to be uttered between us. I know how you feel, I know what you feel, and I understand. I am not weak in mind or pride or even compassion. I will follow you through these times. You are my love, my whole life; there is no rush for any of this, as long as you still love me.”
Margaret reached for John, again. He bent over and laid his head on her chest, letting her hold him. He had to find a way to give her the courage to reach out first.
Finally, Margaret lifted his head with her hands on the sides of his face and looked into his blue eyes. She pulled him to her for another kiss.
“I think I want to sleep, now,” she told him.
John turned out the gas lights in the room. He stripped to his undergarment and climbed onto the short cot that had been placed in the room.
Margaret had a decent night for the first time since arriving in Milton. As morning came, she looked for John but only saw the mussed cot where he had slept. She wondered if he could sleep at all in something that was more than a foot shorter than he was.
She laid in bed and looked around the room, finally stopping to stare at the ceiling letting her mind wander. Again the marvel of John Thornton swept over her. Were other normal men as wonderful as he when they were in love? She didn’t think so. She thought back almost two years ago and remembered the respect that he had garnered from his peers. She thought about last night and his words about her trauma being as bad for him as it was for her. Margaret knew it was worse for him. Thinking what it would be like if something similar happened, only to him instead of her, how would she feel? Just because he was a man did not mean he couldn’t be accosted himself. The thought was unbearable. And here she was pushing him away as if because he was a man, he held some fault in her attack. Being alone in the room and the light of day brought a different perspective to everything. She was hurting and unconsciously, somewhere in her mind, she must make him hurt along with her. She was succeeding, to her own horror.
Without her rib harness, she was able to roll to the side of the bed, close enough to ring the bell. She heard Jane shout to Greta that she heard the bell.
Moments later, Greta was there with her rib padding. “Good morning, Mrs. Thornton.”
Margaret loved hearing her being called Mrs. Thornton. It still wasn’t real to her yet.
“Good morning, Greta. Where is my husband this morning?”
“I believe he is over at his office. His partner, a Mr. Higgins, arrived early this morning from wherever he has been. He’s talking with him. It appears your eye is starting to go purple. The black is leaving. Do you want to dress or use the commode?”
“Can you put the rib corset back on and then help me up. I guess I will use the commode in here if John is not in the house. You will see to it, won’t you?”
Greta laughed. “Right away, Mrs. Thornton. I understand you are just married?”
“Yes. I believe this is the third day.”
“It must be difficult,” Greta said in passing as she began the hooks and eyes on the rib corset.
“What do you mean, difficult?”
Greta nodded toward the unkempt cot on the other side of her bed.
“Oh. Yes, it is and I am making it worse.” Margaret admitted to the medically trained woman.
“Now, how is that possible? There is much romance to be had without the consummation.” Greta offered.
“I know very little about such things.”
“Well, I would imagine your husband does.”
“I would be pleased if you didn’t imagine,” Margaret said, feeling a bit ruffled over the woman’s perceived reputation of John.
Using the fresh wash bowl and water, Margaret was able to prepare herself for the day. Greta helped her into her clothes and began looking for her shoes.
“I have no shoes,” Margaret declared embarrassingly.
“Yes, they were lost during my stay at the hospital,” she lied. “John has promised to buy me something until I can have some properly made for me.”
“All right. Let us get you downstairs to eat. You will have your pill, your prune juice and we will do a few exercises. How does that harness feel?”
“It was nice without it last night, but moving around now, I am glad for its restrictive protection. It’s been a week today if I have my days correct. It must be well on its way to healing.”
Margaret had just sat down to the table when John and Nicholas came through the door. John walked over to Margaret and kissed her.
“Good morning, wife,” he said.
“Good morning, Miss Margaret,” said Nicholas.
“And a good morning to you two gentlemen. How was your trip, Nicholas?” Margaret asked with anxiety.
“Could not have gone better. Miss Lisa is set in a nice little town near the border of Spain; just across from Barcelona. Your brother will have easy access if he wishes to travel either county. John thinks your brother may be over in the inn in the Princeton area. I’d go looking for him, but I should ask Adam first. He knows the name he’s going under.”
“I’m happy that went well. I guess he’ll be leaving soon, then.”
John looked at Nicholas, knowing that Frederick was going nowhere until he had other issues resolved.
“Margaret, I feel sure he will stay another day or so to visit. Nicholas can put his mind at ease, which may take the edge off of hurrying back.”
“I almost wish he would hurry back,” Margaret said, looking down into her plate. “I am afraid he’ll head to London. I can’t have that. It would be unbearable if anything happened to him or he was saddled with more guilt to bear.”
John had to let that pass. He couldn’t damn or commend Frederick for actions, he, himself, was ready to execute. Nicholas was told about the plans that John was beginning to frame. John insisted that Nicholas would take no part in the hanging party, which he was starting to call it. Nicholas still offered to help with anything except putting the rope around the man’s neck. He wanted to be included in their planning talks, too.
At four in the afternoon, there would be a meeting with Boyle at the police station. John contemplated that they would leave there, go up one flight of stairs, and use an empty courtroom to plot their revenge.
Nicholas excused himself so he could get home and see his wife and sleep. He had put in many wakeful hours during his mission. Calculating that he could arrive back before the mail could reach anyone, he traveled back as soon as he could. He told John he would see him later, and John knew that he meant for the meeting later in the day.
John had in his pocket, all the information to give to Margaret’s brother. He would go find Bell after having his morning meal with Margaret, hoping Bell had some knowledge of Frederick’s whereabouts.
When the room was quiet, John was interrupted before he could speak.
“John, I am sorry about last night,” Margaret said quietly. She did not know the routine of the staff and didn’t know where Jane and Greta were.
“I believe we discussed not using that word in our marriage, Margaret Thornton. I understood then, and I still understand.”
“Yes, I know you understand, said Margaret. “I know I have your understanding, I guess I want your forgiveness.”
“Wait!” she paused.
John gave her his full attention.
“I’m not looking for your forgiveness that I am not well enough to be a woman to you, yet. I know you understand that. I understand that. Last night . . . it wasn’t the worry that I would succumb, to your loving ways, and then you would have to fight for control for both of us, that I pushed you away.”
John stood and led Margaret to the couch and sat her down next to him. Sitting at the table was not the place to say what she wanted him to know.
“Last night, it was like I wanted to punish all men for being men and the things they do. I know, John, I know that is extraordinarily unfair. I just had a weak moment, and unfortunately, you were caught in it. When the day dawned, and I went over it in my mind, I could see how foolish I had been and hurtful to you and to me. To me, you are the epitome of a man. I can’t imagine a male out there more of man then you are. I love you for that, as you love me for being a woman.”
John wrapped his arm around her and held her close, allowing her to purge her feelings. He wanted to interrupt, but he didn’t.
“I felt lonely in that big bed. I could hear you twisting and turning on that squeaky small cot all night, but I couldn’t get to you. I was afraid I would roll off the bed in trying to reach you. Somehow, I want to be close to you tonight, if there is away.” Can we try?
“I will stay up all night to be close to you and to ensure I do not constantly pull you to me in the night, by throwing my arm over you. Yes, we will try, my love. As for the other . . . I more than understand about being punished for being a male. Not even experiencing the attack, just knowing about it, causes extreme behavior swings within myself. But our love for each other is strong and will prevail.”
“You don’t think Frederick will do anything rash, do you?” Margaret asked, tentatively.
“I cannot say. He seems like an intelligent man. I have only known him for a few hours. I cannot answer you.” John prayed she wouldn’t ask him.
“You wouldn’t go seeking that man in London, would you?”
But she did.
John was quiet for a moment, unsure how to answer that. He never wanted to lie to her but now would be the one time that he should.
“John!” Margaret almost shouted at his refusal to answer. “John, promise me that you won’t go after that man.”
“I love you, Margaret. I cannot make that promise in all good conscience. If he finds his way here, I will protect you at all costs. I said you would be safe and I meant that.”
Margaret turned into his chest and began weeping. As bad as it felt to tell her, he had been honest. He kissed the top of her head and worried for her worry. He had just added to her concern for her brother, by adding himself, too.