June 22, 2011

Thornton for Tea Thursday - Chapter X North and South + American Apples Were in Attendance:) + Past Posts

'We are the trees whom shaking fastens more.'....GEORGE HERBERT.

Mr. Thornton left the house without coming into the dining-room

again. He was rather late, and walked rapidly out to Crampton. He

was anxious not to slight his new friend by any disrespectful

unpunctuality. The church-clock struck half-past seven as he

stood at the door awaiting Dixon's slow movements; always doubly

tardy when she had to degrade herself by answering the door-bell.

He was ushered into the little drawing-room, and kindly greeted

by Mr. Hale, who led him up to his wife, whose pale face, and

shawl-draped figure made a silent excuse for the cold languor of

her greeting. Margaret was lighting the lamp when he entered, for

the darkness was coming on. The lamp threw a pretty light into

the centre of the dusky room, from which, with country habits,

they did not exclude the night-skies, and the outer darkness of

air. Somehow, that room contrasted itself with the one he had

lately left; handsome, ponderous, with no sign of feminine

habitation, except in the one spot where his mother sat...
Here were no mirrors, not even a scrap of glass to

reflect the light,...Behind

the door was another table, decked out for tea, with a white

tablecloth, on which flourished the cocoa-nut cakes, and a basket

piled with oranges and ruddy American apples, heaped on leaves.

It appeared to Mr. Thornton that all these graceful cares were

habitual to the family; and especially of a piece with Margaret.

She stood by the tea-table in a light-coloured muslin gown, which

had a good deal of pink about it. She looked as if she was not

attending to the conversation, but solely busy with the tea-cups,

among which her round ivory hands moved with pretty, noiseless,

daintiness. She had a bracelet on one taper arm, which would fall

down over her round wrist. Mr. Thornton watched the replacing of

this troublesome ornament with far more attention than he

listened to her father. It seemed as if it fascinated him to see

her push it up impatiently, until it tightened her soft flesh;

and then to mark the loosening--the fall. He could almost have

exclaimed--'There it goes, again!' There was so little left to be

done after he arrived at the preparation for tea, that he was

almost sorry the obligation of eating and drinking came so soon

to prevent his watching Margaret. She handed him his cup of tea

with the proud air of an unwilling slave; but her eye caught the

moment when he was ready for another cup; and he almost longed to

ask her to do for him what he saw her compelled to do for her

father, who took her little finger and thumb in his masculine

hand, and made them serve as sugar-tongs. Mr. Thornton saw her

beautiful eyes lifted to her father, full of light, half-laughter

and half-love, as this bit of pantomime went on between the two,

unobserved, as they fancied, by any. Margaret's head still ached,

as the paleness of her complexion, and her silence might have

testified; but she was resolved to throw herself into the breach,

if there was any long untoward pause, rather than that her

father's friend, pupil, and guest should have cause to think

himself in any way neglected. But the conversation went on; and

Margaret drew into a corner, near her mother, with her work,

after the tea-things were taken away; and felt that she might let

her thoughts roam, without fear of being suddenly wanted to fill

up a gap.

(Margaret compares her father's appearance with Mr Thornton's)
Her father was of slight figure, which made him appear taller than he really was, when not

contrasted, as at this time, with the tall, massive frame of

another. The lines in her father's face were soft and waving,

with a frequent undulating kind of trembling movement passing

over them, showing every fluctuating emotion; the eyelids were

large and arched, giving to the eyes a peculiar languid beauty

which was almost feminine. The brows were finely arched, but

were, by the very size of the dreamy lids, raised to a

considerable distance from the eyes. Now, in Mr. Thornton's face

the straight brows fell low over the clear, deep-set earnest

eyes, which, without being unpleasantly sharp, seemed intent

enough to penetrate into the very heart and core of what he was

looking at. The lines in the face were few but firm, as if they

were carved in marble, and lay principally about the lips, which

were slightly compressed over a set of teeth so faultless and

beautiful as to give the effect of sudden sunlight when the rare

bright smile, coming in an instant and shining out of the eyes,

changed the whole look from the severe and resolved expression of

a man ready to do and dare everything, to the keen honest

enjoyment of the moment, which is seldom shown so fearlessly and

instantaneously except by children. Margaret liked this smile; it

was the first thing she had admired in this new friend of her

father's; and the opposition of character, shown in all these

details of appearance she had just been noticing, seemed to

explain the attraction they evidently felt towards each other.

She rearranged her mother's worsted-work, and fell back into her

own thoughts--as completely forgotten by Mr. Thornton as if she

had not been in the room,....

'You are mistaken,' said Margaret, roused by the aspersion on her

beloved South to a fond vehemence of defence, that brought the

colour into her cheeks and the angry tears into her eyes. 'You do

not know anything about the South. If there is less adventure or

less progress--I suppose I must not say less excitement--from the

gambling spirit of trade, which seems requisite to force out

these wonderful inventions, there is less suffering also. I see

men h ere going about in the streets who look ground down by some

pinching sorrow or care--who are not only sufferers but haters.

Now, in the South we have our poor, but there is not that

terrible expression in their countenances of a sullen sense of

injustice which I see here. You do not know the South, Mr.

Thornton,' she concluded, collapsing into a determined silence,

and angry with herself for having said so much.

'And may I say you do not know the North?' asked he, with an

inexpressible gentleness in his tone, as he saw that he had

really hurt her. She continued resolutely silent; yearning after

the lovely haunts she had left far away in Hampshire, with a

passionate longing that made her feel her voice would be unsteady

and trembling if she spoke......
I had such a mother as few are blest with; a woman of strong power, and

firm resolve. We went into a small country town, where living was

cheaper than in Milton, and where I got employment in a draper's

shop (a capital place, by the way, for obtaining a knowledge of

goods). Week by week our income came to fifteen shillings, out of

which three people had to be kept. My mother managed so that I

put by three out of these fifteen shillings regularly. This made

the beginning; this taught me self-denial. Now that I am able to

afford my mother such comforts as her age, rather than her own

wish, requires, I thank her silently on each occasion for the

early training she gave me. Now when I feel that in my own case

it is no good luck, nor merit, nor talent,--but simply the habits

of life which taught me to despise indulgences not thoroughly

earned,--indeed, never to think twice about them,--I believe that

this suffering, which Miss Hale says is impressed on the

countenances of the people of Milton, is but the natural

punishment of dishonestly-enjoyed pleasure, at some former period

of their lives. I do not look on self-indulgent, sensual people

as worthy of my hatred; I simply look upon them with contempt for

their poorness of character.'

'But you have had the rudiments of a good education,' remarked

Mr. Hale. 'The quick zest with which you are now reading Homer,

shows me that you do not come to it as an unknown book; you have

read it before, and are only recalling your old knowledge.'

'That is true,--I had blundered along it at school; I dare say, I

was even considered a pretty fair classic in those days, though

my Latin and Greek have slipt away from me since. But I ask you,

what preparation they were for such a life as I had to lead? None

at all. Utterly none at all. On the point of education, any man

who can read and write starts fair with me in the amount of

really useful knowledge that I had at that time.'

'Well! I don't agree with you. But there I am perhaps somewhat of

a pedant. Did not the recollection of the heroic simplicity of

the Homeric life nerve you up?'

'Not one bit!' exclaimed Mr. Thornton, laughing. 'I was too busy

to think about any dead people, with the living pressing

alongside of me, neck to neck, in the struggle for bread. Now

that I have my mother safe in the quiet peace that becomes her

age, and duly rewards her former exertions, I can turn to all

that old narration and thoroughly enjoy it.'

When Mr. Thornton rose up to go away, after shaking hands with

Mr. and Mrs. Hale, he made an advance to Margaret to wish her

good-bye in a similar manner. It was the frank familiar custom of

the place; but Margaret was not prepared for it. She simply bowed

her farewell; although the instant she saw the hand, half put

out, quickly drawn back, she was sorry she had not been aware of

the intention. Mr. Thornton, however, knew nothing of her sorrow,

and, drawing himself up to his full height, walked off, muttering

as he left the house--

'A more proud, disagreeable girl I never saw. Even her great

beauty is blotted out of one's memory by her scornful ways.'


PV said...

Thank you for this, i somehow needed it today :) JT always makes me feel good, calms me down. Long long day at work. Was about to go to bed and decided to check your blog and now i will go to bed smiling :)

MsG said...

Excellent! Still on a N&S phase....watched train scene again last night! Yum yum...

Musa said...

Wonderful to read the N&S passages you selected Ricrar, and think how perfect RA is for the role. Wish he would do an audiobook of N&S.

RiCrAr said...

Hope it helped you have a good night's sleep, PV:)

MsG, isn't it interesting that there were 2 trainstation scenes in N&S but the first one that leaps to mind is always the one that includes the best on-screen kiss in the history of films:)

Ooooh, Musa, an RA narration of N&S would be absolutely delicious.
Of course the entire chapter could not be included or the post would've filled this entire homepage. It wasn't difficult to choose what remained - if Margaret was focusing on JT or he on her...it stayed. Before even finishing my initial viewing of the N&S dvds, I sprinted to amazon website and ordered the novel. It was so enjoyable reading the many descriptive passages about John Thornton that never made it to the screen. A memory of that blissful experience prompted the idea to post some passages of Mrs Gaskell's actual words.

IMO, RA fell in love with her memory when he read the novel. He spoke about her so lovingly in the interview extra included with the dvd set. He said he believed she had an understanding of the male psyche that was extrememly rare in a female writer at that time.