Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C31

Available at Amazon – Copyrighted

Thirty-One

 

 

John sat holding Margaret’s hand in the carriage.

“We are nearing your home. There are no words which can describe what you have brought to me this day and for the rest of my life. I think we are both beyond overwhelmed and should make time to breathe in, our words declared. You may have had two weeks, I much less, but I feel as if I have been dropped into another world, and I am wandering in a fog.”

Looking down at her hand in his, “John, I am there with you in this fog of love. It is swirling around me. Moments ago, this fog wrapped me in its arms, pressed me to its bosom and whispered, he is here for you.” Margaret teared up halfway through her mind song and watched as John’s eyes watered.

“Margaret, that was beautiful.” John turned towards her. He placed his long fingers at the back of her neck, holding her cheeks with this thumbs and moved his face close to hers. He was cautious of any apprehension on her part, as she could be in no doubt that he was about to kiss her. Gently, slowly and with purpose, John pressed his lips to hers. He sensed the pleasant reception from her supple lips. He withdrew and kissed her again and again. Margaret placed her hands against his sides showing acceptance, which elicited a reaction from him. It was like he had been holding his breath and her touch allowed him to breathe.

They felt the carriage come to a stop.

“Will you speak of us with your family?” John inquired.

“John, it is hard for me to accept what has happened between us within the last two hours. I cannot expect anyone to understand unless it is you. My family will think I am delusional, and I’m not so sure that I’m not, but I wish to begin from yesterday – your apology. For the sake of your professional reputation and all the broken hearts that you will leave in your wake, can we step back and capture all we have missed?”

“Margaret, I care not for my professional reputation when it comes to my feelings for you, and I certainly owe no woman an explanation or warning. However, I do see a potential dilemma for you, but aside from that, I would enjoy the chance to woo you. I am unskilled in that area. I can wait until you feel an ease of separating from your family.

“Separating from my family, you say? If that is some contorted backhanded proposal, you need to work on your presentation. If I ever needed proof that you have never been in love, you just gave it to me,” Margaret smiled, and John laughed.

“If a woman is true to herself, she waits her entire life for those words. She has fantasized how it would happen a hundred times. I will admit that my dreams have been a little more untraditional but not quite to the point where I had to read between the lines.” She laughed at John’s red face.

“I consider myself rightly chastised and will work on a passionate style of offering for your hand.” John laughed. “That is one reason why I knew I loved you because you don’t mess about with a flourish of false compliments or complaints, as in this case.”

“I am going to find it hard to leave your coach.” Margaret stuttered in soft sounds.

“You will have dinner with me, tomorrow evening, at a nice restaurant?

“Yes, I will. That will be three times in a row. People may begin to talk.”

“I hope so.”

“Ask your mother if she would receive me for a visit. Never mind, I will send her a note. I did enjoy my visit with her and would like to visit with her again.”

“I’m sure she would like that, too.”

The coach stopped. John did not kiss her again, as there may be onlookers. He walked her to the door and reminded her that he will pick her up a 7:00 tomorrow evening. “Thank you for a very special afternoon.” He tipped his hat and returned to the coach.

 

“Margaret, I see you went for a ride with Thornton.”

“Yes, father. He had said he wanted to take me to lunch for my performance at the lessons, and so he did.”

“May I ask about his attitude toward you?”

“First, I think he came here to apologize to you and Fred, but neither of you was here. His attitude seemed appealing and friendly.”

“This is good, I think.”

“I think so, too.”

“You are very flushed in the face. Perhaps, you overextended yourself going out with your neck as it is.”

“I took the feel of the good wind in my face from the window. It’s lovely outside.”

Richard Hale walked to the window to look out. “That’s strange, to me it seems like rain my come.”

“Is Fred still out?”

“Yes. He’s probably plying a driver trade in town,” Richard laughed.

“He can’t be. He doesn’t know the town, Margaret laughed. She was in a mood that she just wanted to share with herself. When bedtime came, she would be alone with her memories from the day. She would pen them in her journal, never wanting to forget a single moment of the most significant day in all the days she had lived. Margaret untied her neck collar with no trouble this time.

 

“Mr. Higgins, I know Bessie is of age, but I would still ask for permission to see her. By that, I mean on a continual basis.”

Fred and Nicholas were wandering around the stable as Nicholas was tending to his buggy and horse upon returning from work.

“I am not asking for her hand, but I hope to someday. I find that I am very fond of her. She will be treated by a respectful gentleman.”

“Not as seaman home from a long voyage?”

“No, sir. That is a different life that is behind me.”

“And what does she think of this?”

“I believe her to be receptive to the idea, but I will hope you speak with her.”

“There is one thing I would like to know.”

“Please, sir.”

“What is your goal in life after your service to the Queen?”

“That may depend on Bessie. Should she reject my attention, I may try driving, but not as a lifelong living. I am educated, and should Bessie find favor with me, I will seek to find employment that would befit a husband with a family.”

“Have you ever thought about working at the mills?”

“As I am coming to know them, I cannot see me in such poverty. I believe I am quite competent to be easily and quickly trained. I would not shy from that, but I know what Bessie has been through with your long hours away from home. We would have to discuss that. We are not near that point, sir.”

“I will give you my blessing as you don’t need my permission. Bessie will decide.”

“Thank you, sir. I will treat her as my own sister.”

“I’m not sure she’s expecting just that, son.”

Fred finally understood what he was saying, showing a slight blush.

“I will treat her as she wishes to be treated.”

“Fine. You are dismissed. My dinner is ready.” Nicholas smiled. He knew the day was coming and his question and answer were prepared.

 

Margaret was sitting on the back stoop, reliving her day when Fred pulled into the back area. She continued to day-dream as Fred unharnessed Max, fed him and pulled the buggy into the shed. He came to her side and sat.

“Margaret, I have had the most amazing day in my life.”

“I have, too.”

“Really, I mean the life-changing type of day.”

“Me, too.”

“I spoke honestly, man-to-man with Nicholas Higgins about Bessie. I laid out my intentions, which did not include marriage. Although I am sure she’s the one, I didn’t want to spring that on him too quickly.”

“What a coincidence.” Margaret was starting to find it funny that her brother wasn’t hearing anything she was saying.

“We began to speak words of love of the most innocent kind.” Fred rambled on.

“Yes, innocent but meaningful, right?”

“Yesss . . . right.” Fred was twiddling with a piece of straw, looking far into a distance that wasn’t visible to her.

“And you think this is serious?” Margaret smiled, on the verge of laughing at him.

“More than you know.”

“I think I know the feeling.”

Fred chuckled, “Margaret, you know nothing yet. But someday you will, and it will bring a beauty into your life which people rarely talk about.”

“I can see it now.”

“Puppet, I know you are mimicking me, but I want you to be happy for me.”

“Oh, Fred. I truly am. For you and for Bessie. Now, just hear me out as I have learned this from you, dear brother.”

“Fire away.”

“Bessie, as I, don’t know or understand men yet. You are most likely the first man in her life. She blooms. Life’s mysteries are beginning to unravel. She feels like a woman, and she may no longer fear finding someone to love. Strange vibrations are awakening in her body.”

“Oh, I hope you are right.”

“Now, you . . . you are a rather randy seaman home from the high seas. Bessie is the first woman that you see. Like you said, you’re always on the hunt, and there she stands before you. Innocent. That is surely appealing. You catch her complimenting you to me, and voila, the path is now open to be receptive . . .”

“Stop right there! It isn’t like that with me.”

“I am sure all men say that at some point. How do you know it’s love and not some lustful fantasy in your mind?”

“Because it’s, different. That’s all.”

“What? Because it’s different? That hardly seems to be much of a reason to call it love and speak with her father. Poor Bessie – because it’s different,” Margaret sarcastically muttered just loud enough for him to hear. “So help me, Fredrick Hale, if you do anything to ruin a new best friend, I will never speak to you again.”

Fred took Margaret’s shoulders in his hands and stared into her face.

“Listen to me,” he almost shook her. “Listen, I know in my heart of the deep feelings I have for her. As far as randy, it’s the farthest thing from my mind. And yes, that is after being months away from any port. I am looking far past that. I am looking into her heart, her soul. Yes, I want to possess her in that way and brand her as mine, but not now. I will admit, I have found far greater feelings than that.”

“Do you admit that not all men are on the hunt?”

“I will acquiesce and say that not all men are on the hunt, consciously.”

“I think I’ll take that as a win.”

Dixon called them in for dinner.

 

“How was your ride today, Fred?”

“Fine, father.”

“Did you see, Miss Higgins at all?”

“I did spend a lot of the afternoon talking with her.”

“Your sister had a nice afternoon, too.”

“Oh yeah? Another exciting day at the library, Puppet?” Fred smiled broadly.

Margaret started to answer, but her father filled it in. “She had a luncheon with Mr. Thornton.”

“Did you, now?” Fred seemed stunned as he looked at her with wide eyes.

“Yes, Mr. Thornton came to apologize to you and father, but you were gone, and father was resting. He reminded me that he had promised me a luncheon as a thank you for my lessons.”

“So you went with him in his coach to a place that serves foods?”

“Where else? Fred, honestly! Tsk.”

Margaret laughed inside when she saw Fred start to stare into his soup bowl. He would look up at her and go back to his soup.

“Margaret . . .”

“Please, no questions about my afternoon. Suffice it to say, John was an amiable luncheon companion. Can I have a biscuit, please?”

 

After Richard Hale had retired for the evening, Margaret went to her room. She sat at her desk, pulled out her journal, and inked her pen. Where did she begin to summarize this day? There was a knock at the door. She knew Fred would would want to talk this evening.

“Come in, Fred. You’ve got me so excited about yours and Bessie’s happiness. I hardly had her as a friend, and now you will take up her time.”

Fred gave her a big smile. “She’s changed my life.”

“What happens now? You’ve had words. Is it a continuation of the same to intensify and secure the relationship?”

Fred laid back on Margaret’s pillow with his hands behind his head. He stared at the ceiling. “I honestly don’t know, sis. I mean, it’s not that I don’t know, but I will put her in control of me. I can’t accidently offend her in any way. I want more than anything to make her happy.”

“How is she to know that you are putting her in control? Control of what exactly?”

“I’m so nervous around her. I fear speaking out of place. The pace has to be hers, I can wait forever.”

“It is quite strange to hear my brother, who is lost in how to treat his woman. I thought you were well acquainted with all things woman.”

“Physically, I am.”

“Oh . . . emotionally, you are not?”

Fred sat up. “Margaret, I am drifting. There is a mild overcast of panic. She means so much to me, I dare not make a move for concern of her misunderstanding me.”

“I do think she is a smart woman. If she feels for you the way you say she does, there isn’t much you can do to displease her . . . except for inaction.”

“Inaction? What do you take that to mean?”

“Women are brought up to be shy and look away, remember. We have had to suppress the longings we feel out of worry for our reputations. It may become a stalemate between the two of you. You’re waiting for a sign from her, and she’s waiting for you to advance the relationship forward.”

“I understand what you are saying, but I don’t believe it. She hasn’t spoken to you about me, has she?”

“Only what you heard her whisper to me. We’ve had very little time together. You’ve been with her more than I have.”

“So what you are trying to teach me about women, or the one woman in my life, is that, after an appropriate amount of time, I should endeavor to . . . bloody hell, how do I say this, I should . . . enhance . . . her desire . . . for me?”

Margaret felt sorry for her brother just then. His eyes were pleading for an answer.

“Fred, you are a man like most others and have been brought up with standards that all men think they know. Men really don’t have much sense when it comes to loving us. I mean love, not bedding. The desires men have are worn on their sleeve, in their mannerisms, in smoke filled rooms at the private clubs. Women have those desires too, but we’ve been forced to repress them, which keeps us in good stead. But when a woman finally meets the man she will love all her life, and he promises the same, she wants to express them, but will not unless coaxed.”

“I don’t believe you. I can’t see how you would even know this.”

“Have you kissed her, yet?”

“Yes, lightly.”

“No signs of complacency or shock. No slap in the face or talk of not doing that?” Margaret asked.

“Quite the contrary.”

“Have you tasted her?”

“Tasted? I’m not sure I want to go into that with you.”

“Have you licked her lips or neck, tasted her tongue, kissed her eyes, long kisses down her neck?”

“No, but I sure want to do that. I see that long naked neck, and it beckons and teases me.”

“I would say that is your next step if you feel she is in a receptive mood.”

“I wish you would hurry and garner Thornton’s attentions. I’d like to know how he handles this.”

“Oh, I see. You want me to move my mission up to gain his favors, so that what he may give to me, I can tell you for Bessie’s sake?”

“Well . . . yeah. Why not? We’re brother and sister. Brotherly love and all that.”

Margaret snorted so loud, she had to grab a hanky out of her drawer.”

“For Queen and Country, is it? I will try to persuade Mr. Thornton to give lessons at the Lyceum.” Margaret laughed. “Realistically, Adam may have an ounce of advice that he’s willing to part with. Father said he was and still is, quite the lady’s man in London.”

“Yes, I know.”

“How do you know that, Fred?”

“One man can tell a lot about another man. He’s a gentleman, Oxford educated, a man of means, nice looking for his age and very private. All the ingredients to make an irresistible partner. Like Thornton, who is self-taught.”

“I don’t know about one man knowing another and his ways, but I do think you may be correct about Adam.”

“Margaret, the one thing a gentleman will never do is ask another gentleman how to handle the woman he is coming to love. We’re just supposed to know how to do that somehow.”

“No, you’re not. Your primitive instincts are born within you. You will always succumb to those whims. However, with the woman you want as your wife, you will govern yourself to match what she wants. I’d say it’s almost done for you. You have a part of you that drives you in that direction. I am having dinner with Mr. Thornton tomorrow night. I will ask if he can throw a tidbit your way.”

“Don’t you dare. You must learn it first hand?” Fred declared with a smile.

“One day you embarrass me in front of Adam and my father when talking about my virtue, now you want me to go out and learn how to give it away? I’ve already told you how to treat Bessie. Just be slow and gentle and watch for signs of excitement and reception. She’ll step back when she feels she needs to.”

“I look at Thornton, and I see the charm. How does a fellow learn charm? What is charm and how does it attract women?”

“I only know this. He immediately puts you at ease, which means he smiles and listens. He listens. His responses are honest. You know he actually listened, therefore, found interest in your words. If he compliments, you know he means it. He treats women as equals, and that is important. He is always well-groomed, and his dress is perfect. He has the knowledge of how to please someone, be it male or female. He projects an image one cannot lightly forget. Women will stare at that! He is humble. That may be the ultimate draw. He never seeks favors. He is his own man. With a nice haircut, you could be too. You don’t have to look prosperous, but you can look nice. You’re handsome. You have that on your side.”

“I’m not sure I can fit all this into my head. With the words that Bessie and I shared and this talk with you, I am overwhelmed.”

“You should be because we are worth it.”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.