Mr Thornton Takes a Wife – Part Fifty-Seven

Chapter Fifty-Seven – Torn Between Fear and Joy

Near the half of June 1853, Margaret found herself growing more and more restless every day.

She was now huge and experienced great discomfort from her pregnancy, although the babies seemed healthy enough. They were very active, especially when she tried to rest or sleep. Even John marvelled about the force of his unborn children when he laid his hand on Margaret’s stomach.

“My poor darling,” he said, one night when he helped Margaret to go to the bathroom for the fourth time that night, “how I wish I could relieve your suffering! I cannot imagine how the weight of the children must burden you.”

He plumped up her pillows and helped her back into bed. “Now, how many weeks to go?”

Margaret gave a deep, heartfelt sigh. “Theoretically three and a half weeks. But I fervently wish it to be less!”

“You know what the doctor said, darling. The longer you carry them, the stronger they will be.”

“Yes, you are right, John. It was very selfish of me to wish for the birth to begin.”

“Come, my love. Close your eyes and sleep now. You need to rest.”

Her head resting upon John’s breast, while lying on her side with one leg drawn up and the other stretched out – a position she found very comfortable – Margaret soon found sleep.

John, on the other hand, worried, as usual. He watched Margaret grow more tired every day and of lower spirits. Lord, but to have to carry two babies, large, heavy babies, for that matter, must be torture for his fragile, slender wife.

John Thornton had always been a fighter. Problems might arouse but they had to be dealt with. He was going to make absolutely sure Margaret was being taken care of as completely as could be.

Therefore he wrote a letter to Dr Mortimer Chelmsford, obstetrician in London, and invited him to come and live at the Thornton home so as to be ready at hand when Margaret would go into labour.

Dr Chelmsford , who was a busy man with a blooming practice, promised to come to Milton during the last week of June or, should labour start sooner, travel post haste to be with her. For now, he sent his most skilled midwife to cover for him until he would arrive.

Mrs Eliza Goodyear arrived duly on the 20th of June from London. She was a widow whose husband died of pneumonia ten years ago, leaving her without money. Dr Chelmsford, who was looking for a housekeeper took her on and discovered very soon that Mrs Goodyear was better suited to care for the sick than for sweeping and cooking. He provided her with the money to take a proper training so that she could go and offer her services wherever they were needed.

Margaret was immediately drawn to the lively and cheerful woman of thirty-five.

Eliza Goodyear had soon organized Margaret’s days into long periods of rest and short intervals of sitting up on the parlour couch. C & J, Margaret’s faithful chair bearers were banned from the house, at least as far the wheelchair was concerned. No more outings, Eliza said, no more tiring distractions.

That was a good thing for one night at the dinner table where she was taking her evening meal in the company of John, Margaret suddenly felt a gnawing pain in her lower back. She gasped, startling John into action.

“Love, what is the matter? Are you unwell? Talk to me, Margaret, please?”

At that moment the pain was expanding, circling her waist like a belt and growing stronger by the second. Margaret clasped John’s hand with closed eyes, unable to breathe.

“Dixon! Mrs Goodyear! Somebody, help!,” John bellowed in helpless rage.

It was Dixon who was first on the spot but this was so clearly beyond her usual skills that John was relieved when Eliza Goodyear entered the room. She took matters in hand with a comforting  confidence.

“Mr Thornton, sir, help her up. Come on, Mrs Thornton, we must get you to your bed.”

John, in his usual brisk manner, shoved her aside and scooped up his wife as if she weighed nothing. Eliza Goodyear’s eyes widened in admiring surprise seeing how strong he was. Between the two of them, they soon had Margaret in bed.

“Mrs Thornton, I want you to lie on your side in, as I told you, was the position of relax. Very well, that is it. Now, breathe, exactly the way I taught you to, deep long intakes that go all the way down to your stomach. Then, hold your breath for ten seconds and release it very slowly. Yes, that is good.”

She turned towards John. “Mr Thornton, you must see that she does this every time the pain starts. It is her body preparing for birth. The womb, which is in fact no more than a very strong muscle, is in great need of oxygen. That is the reason for the elaborated breathing process. You, sir, must help her to breathe instead of clamping up, like she did just now. Can I trust you with this? Can you do this?”

John shot the nurse a very grim but determined look. “Of course I can! Do you think me a weakling?” He turned to Margaret, kneeled by the bed and started working on her breathing along with her.

Eliza Goodyear smiled in satisfaction and left the room, feeling reassured about John Thornton’s utter commitment and cooperation.

Mr Thornton Takes a Wife – Part Fifty-Five

Chapter Fifty-Five – Most Cherished List Item: the Babies

“If I do not survive this, then you must not grieve me forever, John.”

John, on hearing those soft-spoken words, found himself prey to many different feelings, of which rage was the most powerful. “Margaret, no! I forbid you to speak like that!”

The cheer vibrant fury in John’s voice startled Margaret. Her eyes grew moist and she pressed his hand strongly.

“John, John, forgive me, I did not mean …”

But John turned her so that she now faced him.

“Margaret Hale Thornton, do not ever say such a thing again or I … I … oh, I do not know what I will do but … Lord, Margaret! We cannot even think of you not being here to raise our children together with me!”

“John, I’m sorry. I … I had a moment of weakness and it will never occur again, my darling. I am sure that I can succeed in this with you by my side.”

“Exactly, you are not alone, my darling. I will be there every step of the way. Now, you must rest. Come, let me help you to get comfortable.”

Long after her husband had fallen asleep, Margaret lay awake, staring at the silver rectangle of the window. She was really afraid of the ordeal awaiting her. The pregnancy was beginning to wear her down, more so than she would have liked and not only physically.

 

“Margaret?”

John came bursting through the parlour door, a huge grin on his handsome face and blue eyes shining with pleasure. Behind him, Margaret could see the figure of another man, a tradesman by the look of it.

“Darling, this is Mr Topplewaite. He runs a furniture shop in one of Milton’s finest neighbourhoods. I asked him to come and show you some of the drawings of the furniture he has in the shop. Nursery furniture, that is!”

“Oh!” Margaret’s face flushed with pleasure. She had been worrying about the nursery for some time now.  Hannah showed her the room when Margaret’s pregnancy was certain and the mother-to-be hadn’t been happy with it. Situated on the top floor of the house, it was a gloomy, oppressive place and too far away from their own bedroom, to Margaret’s taste. Thus, she was relieved to see John take this problem out of her hands.

“Now,” John said, “Crispin, Justin, take your places. Come, darling, fasten your seatbelt. Here, let me help you.”

Margaret had to fight herself not to ruffle her husband’s black hair while he kneeled before her to help with the belt. Dear, sweet John …

C & J wheeled her chair, not toward the stairs, but to their bedroom door and then beyond, to the room John occupied before their marriage.

“John, what is this? I don’t understand …”

“This,” John said as he threw open the door, “is to be the nursery. Look what I have done with the place.”

Margaret’s chair rolled into the room and she gasped with surprise. The whole space had been cleared, the wallpaper had been stripped, the carpets removed, the curtains unhooked. What had been John’s former bachelor room, upholstered with the appropriate subdued browns and dark greens, was now a spacious, light and airy children’s room. The wall were a soft sky blue, the ceiling pure white and the floor had been decked with new boards, painted in dove grey and polished to a gleam. The windows were hung with dark blue velvet curtains from top to bottom.

“Mr Topplewaite, do your magic, if you please? Margaret, you are to assist Mr Topplewaite and choose the right furnishings. When you are ready, Mr Topplewaite, I would be obliged to you if you would step into my office, later? Thank you.”

With that the Master left the room, still grinning with delight.

Margaret spent the next two hours choosing two cots, two small wardrobes, a large chest-of-drawers with a marble top, destined for the babies’ toilette, and a comfortable rocking chair. She picked out a small bath tub and a few stuffed animals and toys. Also needed was a bed, wardrobe and dressing table for the nursery maid – and, Good Lord, she had yet to find one!

This pleasant chore finished, the four of them were sipping at a much needed cup of tea, when Hanna and Nicholas came in. They had been overseeing the work going on in their new house and were glad to drink a cup too.

“What do you say, chaps?”, he grinned at the men present, “How about something a bit stronger to accompany the tea? I myself could stomach a brandy!”

The other three eagerly nodded in agreement and Hannah pointed at the sherry bottle.

Margaret and Mr Topplewaite then began explaining what they had been up to and the newcomers examined and approved of it all.

After tea, Mr Topplewaite and the two men excused themselves and Margaret told Hannah and Nicholas about her wanting to find a nursemaid.

“You know, Margaret,” Nicholas said, “I might have just the lass for you.”

“Oh?”, Margaret asked, smiling at him.

“Yes, her name is Letty Monroe and she is Mary’s cousin. Her father is my late wife’s brother.

Letty is … well, she had an accident when she was ten, lost a foot at Henderson’s mill. As a result, she cannot work in a shed any more. When she has to stand on that leg, despite the wooden foot, she tires easily. But, Margaret, she is a bright girl, taught herself to read and write and she is awfully good at drawing. You should see her drawings.”

Margaret kept her face bland but she was having doubts about Letty Monroe. A poor girl from the worker’s class was not what she had in mind as a nanny for her children. Yet, she agreed to receive the girl the next day and talk to her.

 

 

“So, you have found yourself a nanny, then?,” John asked, that night. He had just helped his wife into bed and was now undressing himself.

“I don’t know, John, I have to see her first. I confess I am a bit apprehensive. She is an uneducated girl, John, and she has a wooden foot, Nicholas said. She lost a foot in an accident at Henderson’s, as a child.”

John retrieved his shirt and asked. “When was this? I seem to recall something of the kind, five or six years ago.”

“I do not know. Nicholas is sending her here tomorrow.”

Hearing the sound of doubt in Margaret’s voice, her husband was surprised.

“Margaret, what is this? You seem … somehow prejudiced against this girl! That is not like you! Normally, you have no qualms about members of the working class.”

Margaret bowed her head in a sudden consternation. “Oh, I’m sorry, John, it’s just that …”

She looked up at him, tears in her beautiful eyes. Her voice was very small when she whispered. “I’m so afraid, John, I’m terrified …”

With a grunt of deep concern, John took his wife into his arms and hugged her.

“Margaret, my love, do not lose heart? I’ll move heaven and earth to help and protect you. I promise you that everything will be alright. I will not leave your side, Margaret! You and I, we will bring this baby business to a good end.”

But, Margaret was softly sobbing, her face hidden into his shoulder and, not for the first time, John Thornton, strong man that he was, had dire forebodings about the weeks to come.

 

 

Mr Thornton Takes a Wife – Part Fifty-One

Chapter Fifty-One – Taking Care of Margaret

“Concern? Margaret, sweetheart, are you alright? Is something amiss with the baby?”

Blue eyes full of alarm, John dropped onto his knees in front of Margaret. Since the beginning of her pregnancy, he had doubts and fears about it, although he had recently begun to relax because she seemed fine and healthy. Margaret hastened to reassure him.

“No, no, do not panic, John! I’m fine, really, I am. It’s just …”

She took his face into her hands and brushed the tumbled black locks back from his furrowed brow.

“I’m carrying twins, John. That is why I’m so heavy and so easily tired.”

Dumbfounded and aghast, John stared at his wife. He felt like he had just received a kick in the stomach and a feeling of absolute terror began rising in his chest.

“Oh, Margaret,” he whispered hoarsely, “I do not know what to say. This is … this cannot be true?”

He placed his hand on Margaret’s heavily swollen belly which immediately caused a reaction from his offspring. John startled, realising in overwhelming fear that there were now two of them inside his wife’s delicate body.

“John, my darling John, look at me. It is true and we must deal with it. I went to see Dr Chelmsford when I was in London. He told me the pregnancy would only grow more difficult but I have a fairly good chance of carrying the babies closer to full term if I were to take enough rest. I will probably go into premature labour so I must try and hold on as long as I can.” She smiled at him, a very wavering little smile which pierced John’s heart.

“But … but what about the delivery, sweetheart? Won’t it be … dangerous? Will the babies survive? Margaret … will you? Oh, Margaret!”

He couldn’t help himself but buried his face into her lap. Strong man though he was, he couldn’t suppress the huge wave of crushing fear raging through his heart and soul. It lasted only a few seconds and then John raised his head again and stood.

“Come, my love,” he said,” let’s get you to bed.”

When Margaret was safely settled against the pillows, John prepared himself for bed and joined her. Letting her body rest against his own, he gently stroked her hair.

“My brave, beautiful Margaret,” he said solemnly, “I promise you I will do everything that is in my power to assist and comfort you. We will weather this, my darling, together we will prevail.”

 

By the evening of the next day, all the rest of Milton and Marlborough Mills seemed to know that young Mrs Thornton was expecting twins and the Master himself was in a fit state of raging fear about it.

Everywhere he so much as showed his face, people were grinning knowingly at him or clapping him on the back with a well-meant word of congratulation. John stomped into the parlour of his house around eight pm to find his mother, Nicholas, Mary, Dixon and even Donaldson there but not his wife. They were all fixing him with a determined gaze.

Hannah rose swiftly to lay a soothing hand upon his arm.

“Before you ask, John, Margaret is resting and absolutely fine. Now, come and sit down. We have things to discuss.”

Nicholas pressed a whisky into his hands and pushed him gently on one of the settees.

“John,” he said in a efficient tone, “we need a plan, a strategy to bring this baby business to a good end. If I know your Margaret – and I think I do – she is not going to sit still and wait for the birth just like that. Besides, it will just make her unhappy and nervous and that cannot be good for the babies. It is therefore of vital importance that we keep her happy and relaxed.”

John took a large swig of his whisky and replied wearily, “And how the devil are you going to pull this off? She’ll want to do her work at the infirmary and she’ll be running around helping strays and … Oh, God, she’ll drive me over the edge!”

“John Thornton!”, his mother said sternly, “Stop this at once! This panicking will bring you nowhere and it is very bad for Margaret too. Listen to what Nicholas has to say.”

They were right, of course. It was just that whenever he thought of Margaret and the babies – oh, God, the babies! – his mind seemed to go haywire and he found himself unable to think clearly. He took a deep, steadying breath and concentrated upon Nicholas.

“From now on,” Higgins began, “we are all on a mission. It is called ‘Operation Twins’.”

He drew a paper out of the breast pocket of his rumpled suit. Nicholas still had not grown accustomed to fine and fancy clothes, John thought, inwardly smiling. On the paper was a list which contained the following items:

 

Operation Twins – Presumed Achievement Date: July 2, 1853

 

  1. Adjustment of Time: the children’s birth can occur in the weeks preceding this date.

Measurements To Be Taken: to keep a vigilant eye on Margaret from this day on.

 

  1. Handling the next months of pregnancy:

Most Important Issue: to force Margaret to rest.

Measurements To Be Taken: make sure all her points of interest are being taken care of.

 

  1. Margaret’s Points of Interest:

– John

– The Housekeeping

– The Infirmary

– The Wedding of Hannah and Nicholas

– The Delivery of the Babies

– The Care of the Babies

 

  1. Division of Tasks and Responsibilities:

 

The Housekeeping – Miss Adelaide Dixon

From now on, Miss Dixon will take over the general management of the Thornton’s housekeeping and keep at this until Margaret is well again after the babies’ birth.

 

The Infirmary – Miss Mary Higgins

From now on, Miss Higgins will take over the total responsibility over the working of the Infirmary in close consultation with Dr Donaldson and his staff. The next primary goal here is to establish a proper hospital ward in the vicinity of Marlborough Mills. An additional planning meeting about this issue is to be held in the near future in the presence of Margaret.

 

The Wedding of Hannah and Nicholas – the two individuals concerned

Wedding date: June, 2d 1853.

No one else is allowed to have a say in this matter but the two people who are directly concerned.

 

The Delivery of the Babies – Dr Abraham Donaldson

Due to the special difficulties of twin sibling birth, Dr Donaldson will ask for the assistance of Dr Mortimer Chelmsford of Harley Street, London. In his capacity of experienced obstetrician this gentleman is best placed to bring the matter to success. Mr John Thornton will therefore officially request the London doctor to come and stay in Milton as soon as possible.

 

The Care of the Babies – General Supervision: Mrs Hannah (soon to be Higgins) Thornton

The former will urgently proceed in hiring a nurse, for the care of Margaret during and after the delivery, and a nanny, for the care of the babies. She will also assist Margaret in establishing a proper nursery.

She will also go in search of a wet nurse to help Margaret with the feeding of the babies once they are born.

 

John – himself

 

               John did not know whether to burst into helpless laughter or into a righteous rage over this preposterous bit of paper. He turned to his friend with the most dark scowl he could muster and asked in a cold, accusing tone.

              “And what, Mr Nicholas Higgins, is there on this list that you want ME to do?”

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