Carrie was on tenterhooks as she waited, pacing the floor of their home. Those around her were already in the party mood and drinking quite happily, regardless of the outcome. They showed none of her worry. She couldn’t drink yet though, for she was so nervous that she wasn’t sure she could keep it down.
Finally Margaret approached her and Carrie smiled, for Margaret was an old hand at these.
“Relax,” Margaret smiled sweetly. “I am sure he was successful.”
“That’s easy for you to say, you’ve done this before. How do you stand it?” Carrie asked. “What if he doesn’t get in? He will be crushed.”
“He will survive,” Margaret assured her friend. “If there is one thing that I have learned about Milton men, and women for that matter, it is that they are survivors. John will simply pick himself up, dust himself off and continue on as normal. In another five years he will try again, having learned from any mistakes made this time.”
“You are right, of course,” Carrie gave a deep sigh.
“But this is beside the point, John is a, what it is you say, a shoo-in?”
“Yes.” Carrie smiled, she loved hearing her modern slang on Margaret’s lips. “So, how is Bernard doing?”
“He is well, I am sure. And this is his fourth election so he is an old hand at it now.”
“I wish they would let us go with them.”
“I am sure that they want time to compose themselves should they lose, not to mention time to celebrate with cigars and brandy if they should they win.”
“I wouldn’t mind cigars and brandy,” Carrie said with a wry smile.
“Carrie, you have always worked, even when you were with with child, you have virtually taken over this mill during the campaign and I don’t see you giving way to a manager once John is elected. You must allow them to keep some traditional male practices to themselves.”
Carrie smiled, conceding the point.
“You know, I could give in much more gracefully were I certain of the result,” she teased.
Carrie turned to see her daughter coming into the room. She looked beautiful, dressed up as the adults were, ready to celebrate with her parents should fortune favour her father.
Carrie could see a few of the guests casting their wary eyes at her children all evening, for having children at an adult gathering was very unseemly.
“Laura, darling,” she bent to kiss her daughters cheek and wrapped her arms around the girl, taking comfort in the quick hug. “Where is your brother?”
“He’s in the kitchen,” she answered. “Cook is making us some warm milk.”
“Are you getting tired?” Carrie asked, for though the children had pleaded to be allowed to wait up for their father and had risen late this morning, they were only seven and nine and the time was nearing midnight.
“Well why don’t you have your milk,” Carrie suggested, “get changed-”
“But I want to see daddy!” she protested.
“If you let me finish!” Carrie chided gently. “Get changed then go and sleep in our bed. That way we’ll have to wake you and let you know the result when we come to bed.”
Laura thought about that for a moment then nodded. Facially she was the spitting image of her mother, only with her fathers colouring; dark, almost black hair and piercing blue eyes. She would break many a heart as she grew older. Her younger brother, Daniel, could almost be John’s twin rather than his son, and had very little of his mother in his features. He did however have a lot of her in his personality. He was a shy and somewhat timid boy, but he had a huge heart and showed much courage when overcoming his fears.
It helped that his elder sister was always around and very protective of her little brother. Carrie thought that he would be destined for a scholarly life rather than one working in the mills, though she knew that was hypocritical of her.
Carrie was not destined for a life working in a mill, she found the noise, the workers and the activity intimidating but her desire to be independent, to work and contribute to their family and their business had helped her to overcome those fears. It was quite possible Daniel would also find that strength.
Laura on the other hand was a born leader. With all her fathers charisma and forceful personality, it wouldn’t surprise Carrie if Laura should end up the first female MP, especially given how interested she had been in her fathers campaign. Still, both children were young and Carrie had no intention of forcing any profession on them. They would always have her support no matter what path they chose in life.
Laura went off to the kitchen and Carrie was just about to speak to Margaret again when she heard hooves on the cobblestones in the courtyard. Her heart skipped a beat and unconsciously both women reached for the others hand, equally fearful of hearing bad news.
Carrie swallowed down her fears as best she could and squeezed Margaret’s hand, both giving and receiving strength from the gesture.
John and Bernard entered the room together, both looking glum. Carrie’s heart sank for John would be devastated if he had lost. She felt Margaret grip her hand harder, almost to the point of pain but she didn’t complain.
John raised his voice and called for quiet, for having already imbibed much alcohol, many of the party goers had not even noticed their entrance. A hush quickly fell over the room since most were sensible enough to understand what his dour expressions must mean.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you have had a good evening so far,” John began. “But I fear we are about to eclipse that.” Suddenly he broke out in a broad smile. “I give you the Right Honourable Bernard Southard, the returning member of parliament for Lampton,” he raised Bernard’s hand and the guests clapped and cheered.
“And I,” Bernard interrupted the cheers. “Would like to present to you the Right Honourable John Thornton, the new member of parliament for Milton!”
Carrie actually screamed a little as she launched herself at her husband, wrapping her arms around his neck and holding him tightly.
“You evil man!” she chided though she was laughing. “You had me worried there.”
“You doubted me?” he teased.
Carrie pulled back and cupped his face.
“You? Never. Those charged with voting for you? I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them.”
John laughed and hugged her again.
“You realise that this means you will have to take on more responsibility at the mill,” he said.
“I think I’m up to the challenge,” she answered.
“Are you certain?”
“Of course, I have had a very good teacher.”
She pulled away and smiled at him but pretty soon he was swept sway from her by the other party goers who wished to congratulate him. Carrie used the opportunity to go in search of her children, who she found sitting at the kitchen table with cook.
Both children looked up eagerly as she entered and her smile told them all they needed to know.
“Cook wouldn’t let us go until we finished our milk,” Laura pouted.
“She is right, you shouldn’t be wasteful. Now drink up then we can go and see Daddy for a short while, then it is time for bed.”
“But I’m not tired,” both children wailed in unison.
“Then you can stay up until I see a yawn, at which point you will both be whisked off to bed, agreed?”
“I’m so pleased,” cook said. “I was hopeful when we heard the ruckus upstairs but it’s nice to know for certain.”
Carrie smiled at her and gave a relieved sigh.
“I think I would have gone mad if I’d had to wait much longer.”
“Would you like a tipple, ma’am, to calm your nerves?”
“Oh, I don’t think I can face alcohol right now, but I’d love a mug of warm milk if there’s any left. My stomach has been turning somersaults for hours and that might help settle it.”
“Or at least help you make butter if it doesn’t,” cook joked as she poured another mug of milk from the pan still on the stove. Her mistress had some unusual ideas but she was very affable and cook was inclined to like her.
When the children were finished, cook escorted them upstairs so that Carrie could enjoy a few minutes of silence by the fire to calm her frayed nerves as she sipped her milk.
It had been a long few weeks of campaigning and worry and though she was pleased by John’s victory, the fatigue had finally caught up with her, as she had no doubt it would also catch up with John in the next few hours.
She heard his dulcet tone and turned towards the doorway where he was standing.
“That’s your party up there,” she reminded him.
“And I can leave it if I want to,” he countered. “Especially when the only person I want to celebrate with is right here.”
“Where are the children?” she asked.
“The last I saw them, they were practising giving speeches to anyone who would listen.”
“It was Daniel’s idea.”
“I’d be careful if I were you,” she teased. “In a few years he might give you some competition.”
John took the other seat by the fire and reached out to take her hand. Though he was clearly feeling tired, his smile was still bright and never completely left his face.
“Can you believe it?” he asked. “Me, an M.P.?”
“I can believe it. You are a magistrate after all, and even though you have a wild and uncouth wife, you are still well respected by the local business men.”
“Wild and uncouth?” he questioned knowing that it was not a phrase she would usually use and that she had obviously overheard it being spoken in reference to her. Her futuristic ways did often invite scorn from many of her peers but they also invited respect from a few forward thinking men and women.
As though to show him just how wild and uncouth she could be, she left her seat and settled herself on his lap. John was used to her forward behaviour now and even quite enjoyed it. She was usually very careful to keep such displays relatively private, though she wasn’t above giving him a quick kiss in public. Most women privately ridiculed her for such forward behaviour but most men of his acquaintance envied him a wife who expressed her affection so freely.
John’s arms found their way around her waist to hold her to him and she kissed him deeply, a display of affection what would make any servant who happened upon them blush a deep shade of crimson! John found he wasn’t in the mood to care though. To his surprise, she then offered him some of her drink, holding the mug to his lips for him as though he were a child. Again, this behaviour was very inappropriate but over the years, instead of educating her on the proper decorum of this time, he had instead been educated in the ways of Carrie’s world and had discovered that in many arenas, he much preferred her way of doing things.
“Milk?” he said, having drunk a sip without knowing what was in the mug. “This is supposed to be a party, woman!”
“My stomach wasn’t up to anything stronger,” she confessed.
She finished her drink and then kissed him again.
“Better?” he asked.
“I think I might be able to raise a glass of champagne in your honour now,” she smiled. “How long do you think until we can kick everyone out and have our own celebration?”
“I fear we will have to accommodate them for a while longer, given that many of them have supported me during the campaign.”
“Very well.” Carrie pouted. “But I feel it only right to warn you that you will not be setting a foot out of this house tomorrow. I want you all to myself for a day.”
John smiled. Very little would be expected of him tomorrow since almost everyone here tonight would be nursing a sore head. John wasn’t much given to excessive drinking since it upset his ability to made decisions. Tomorrow he would have no hangover (as Carrie called the after effects of excessive drinking) but for once he found himself grateful for the excesses of others since it meant few, if any demands would be made of him.
“I think I can oblige you there,” he smiled wickedly at her.
Carrie laughed and got off his lap. She held her hand out to him and he allowed her to pull him to his feet.
“I’m proud of you,” she said, wrapping her arms around his waist, not quite ready to return to the party yet. “And your mother would have been proud too, you know.”
“Thank you,” he said, kissing the top of her head and holding her tightly.
There were many important people upstairs, more powerful, wealthier and more respected than his wife but now that his mother was gone, it was only Carrie’s good opinion that he cared about keeping. He sought her advice on almost everything and if he hadn’t had her full support, he would not have even considered running for parliament.
Hannah Thornton had lived to see both of their children born, as well as three of Fanny’s five children, before she finally succumbed to a nasty bout of pneumonia. If she could be here now though, Carrie was in little doubt that she would be the proudest woman in all of England at this moment. John missed her dearly and though their relationship had never been exactly easy, even Carrie missed her, for anyone so wholly on John’s side couldn’t be all bad.
“I could always throw a fainting spell,” Carrie said, her voice slightly muffled by his jacket. “Then you would be obliged to care for me and leave the party.”
“Oh, do not tempt me, you wicked woman,” he smiled and removed his arms from about her. “Come on, let’s get it over with.”
He took her hand and they headed back up to the party. She stayed at his side for most of the evening and was every inch the elegant hostess, making conversation with even the most boorish people there. She excused herself for a few minutes to tuck the children into bed then returned to his side and made what would otherwise have been a tedious evening bearable, even pleasant for him.
Finally at around 2 o’clock the party began to break up. Carrie and John congratulated Margaret and Bernard once again and thanked them for all their help with the campaign, then finally they closed the door behind the last guest and headed upstairs to their bedroom.
Carrie undressed, took her hair down and climbed under the covers to wait for John to join her. He slid under the covers a few moments later and Carrie curled into him, resting her head on his chest.
“I do hope you’re not expecting anything from me tonight,” he said, only half joking.
Carrie raised her head and looked up at him.
“Why do you think you’re under house arrest tomorrow?” she asked, a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
“Have a told you lately that I love you?” he asked, smiling at her words.
“I believe you have, but frequent reminders are always welcome,” she teased. “I love you too, you know?”
“I do,” he assured her. He put his hand on her head and gently pressed down, encouraging to lie back against him. “Now sleep,” he urged her. “You can have your wicked way with me until your hearts content tomorrow.”
“Mm,” she agreed as she snuggled against him. “I’ll hold you to that,” she assured him, a playful smile still on her lips when she drifted off to sleep a few moments later.