Excerpts from the Book

Mr. Thornton Comes to London

Margaret regarded him with loving appreciation, and threaded her arm once more through his as they continued their walk to the park. “I wished that father could have shared in our happiness,” she confided as they walked. “He was very fond of you. I think he would have been very glad to see our match,” she told him with a measure of sorrow in her voice.

“I am not certain he was aware of my interest in his daughter,” Mr. Thornton mused with a wry smile. Indeed, the Hales had not seemed to notice his attraction to Margaret.

“No, I don’t believe he was. But he did begin to wonder when you stopped coming so often to your lessons,” Margaret hesitated to tell him, uneasily recalling how she had refused his initial offer of marriage.

Mr. Thornton hung his head, remembering the terrible emptiness he had felt when he discovered she would not have him. “I could not bear to see you at times,” he admitted, “I wanted so much to have you in my life, and you would not have me,” he confessed, wincing at the memory of it.

They arrived at a bench in the park and sat down under the shade of a large oak tree. “I am sorry for it, John. You do not know how much I regret my words,” she ardently declared, her eyes pricking with tears to imagine how deeply she had hurt him. Why had she been so vehement? She had stunned herself that day with her impulsive and harsh defense. Why had she felt so threatened?

“Why did you…?” he began, his pain still evident in his questing eyes.

Margaret looked down at her hands, not knowing how she could explain the conflicting emotions that had consumed her that morning. “I…I don’t know. I was confused and a little frightened, I suppose. I did not expect that you should truly care for me,” she started to tell him. “I was embarrassed that others’ should misconstrue my motives in…in protecting you. I did not want you to feel it was your duty to rescue my honor,” she continued haltingly. She looked up to find he was patiently listening, his eyes studying her.

“Why did you protect me, Margaret?” he asked. “You braved the danger of an angry crowd for my sake.”

“I was the one who put you in danger,” she asserted with regret. “I could not bear to see any harm come to you, John,” she remembered.

“When I saw you lying lifeless at my feet, I knew I could not live without you,” he told her. “I asked you to marry me because I love you, Margaret. Did you not believe me?” he asked, yearning to plunge to the depths of her hidden, nascent feelings for him and bring them to the surface.

Margaret stared at her hands again, endeavoring to make sense of all she had experienced. “I don’t know. I was not prepared to hear it, I suppose. I did not understand…I was afraid to think I might have feelings for you,” she admitted, bringing her eyes up to meet his adoring gaze.

Mr. Thornton’s face illuminated to imagine that she had even then felt a stirring of affection for him, although she had fought mightily to repress it. Perhaps Higgins had been correct - she had tried to deny her feelings.

“When did you know that you might care for me?” he gently demanded, eager to know how long he had suffered in vain, thinking that his love was unrequited.

She hesitated, taking a few breaths before returning his searching gaze to guiltily confess. “When you left the room,” she answered quietly, with slight trepidation at how he might respond.

 

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