Moments stretched on until he at last heard movement from above. He watched her gradual appearance as she gracefully descended the stairs, the rustling of her skirts the only sound in the room.
All power of speech evaporated as he stared in rapt adoration at the woman who would soon become his wife. Her hair was swept up elegantly upon her head, giving full view of the ivory skin of her bare neck and shoulders that appeared above a dark colored ruffle of gauzy fabric. Her bodice molded tightly to her body, revealing and amplifying the shapely curves of her feminine form. When she finally reached before him and lifted her luminous eyes to his, he felt something deep within clench in pain at the force of emotion that came over him. “You look…enchanting,” he was able to mutter, struggling to gather his proper sensibilities.
She dipped her head demurely at his appraisal and duly flushed. The fluttering in her stomach had not abated but intensified from being in such close proximity to him once more.
He took measured breaths as he helped her drape a lace shawl about her shoulders. The sight of her silken skin and the scent of rosewater that emanated from her neck and hair intoxicated his senses so that he very nearly cast aside all decorum in the impulse to take her in his arms and show her his strong feelings.
The cooler outside air helped to steady his resolve to behave in a gentlemanlike manner, and he assisted her into the carriage with a renewed determination to restrain his ardor while enjoying the privilege of her company on this distinctive occasion.
“Fanny was not yet ready when I departed, so we are constrained to return first to Marlborough Mills to collect her,” he explained with some annoyance once they were settled in the coach and moving forward through the streets.
Margaret responded with some light remark pertaining to Fanny’s diligence in her preparations, and as Mr. Thornton happily held her gloved hand in his, the couple soon fell into comfortable conversation concerning the events of the week.
A burst of energy pierced the pleasantly calm atmosphere of the coach upon Fanny’s arrival. Exclamations, questions, and gossiped tidbits readily poured forth from Miss Thornton, leaving Margaret little to say as they traveled the cobbled streets toward their destination.
A calm din of genteel conversation suffused the opulent Green Room of the Lord Maryor's mansion. Mr. Thornton listened patiently to the distinguished Member of the House of Lords query a small circle of Milton’s wealthiest investors and bankers about the cotton trade. The Master of Marlborough Mills cast a restless sidelong glance toward the back of the great room where his future bride stood engaged in conversation with a gathering of ladies and a few gentlemen all dressed in their finest attire.
She was spellbinding in a shimmering gown of deep maroon that hung just off her shoulders, clung to her shapely form, and cascaded from her slender waist in full-fashioned elegance to the floor. Inclining her head to the person addressing her, she gave her genuine attention to the speaker even as her whole bearing emanated an easy grace, reinforcing to Mr. Thornton what he had known from the day he had first laid his eyes upon her -- that she was a superior being who walked among them.
Mr. Thornton had thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of entering the mansion with Margaret on his arm, relishing every opportunity to introduce her as his intended. How they had slowly been separated in the social whirl, he remembered not; he only knew he wished desperately to return to her side.
He let out a low sigh and renewed his outward attention to the surrounding milieu. He dared not continue to stare at the object of his affection, lest he hurl himself in her direction without compunction.
When at last he deftly wrested himself from the conversation about financial interest in the northern trade, he headed straightaway to rejoin the company of the most glorious woman in attendance.
Undetected by those surrounding her, Margaret watched as Mr. Thornton approached. She took a long, deep breath as she drank in the sight of his commanding frame. Dressed in black coattails with a formal white waistcoat that dipped low to reveal the broad expanse of his starched shirt, he looked magnificent. She thought him more admirable and regal than anyone in the room. Her pulse pattered uncontrollably as she caught the warm gleam in his eye, amazed to recognize the strong bond between them. How much had changed since the formal dinner at his home just a few weeks ago!
|Daniela Denby-Ashe||as Margaret Hale|
|Richard Armitage||as John Thornton|