Margaret and Thane, stretching their arms and legs, departed the train in Helstone at 6:30 in the early evening. She suggested that Thane catch a carriage home and she would stop at the mill but he wanted to go with her to see what had been accomplished during his absence. He would not sleep until he knew what he would be walking into tomorrow.
As their carriage pulled into the yard, Mark and Sam hurriedly headed their way asking question after question, not waiting for answers.
“Lads . . . lads, let us catch our breath. Meeting in my office at 7:00. See to the end of your shifts and then we will talk. Let me just say that things went well. See you shortly,” Margaret smiled.
The weary travelers strode over to the office. Thane turned on the gas heater and immediately went to the stack of mail piled on his desk. Margaret, too fatigued to remove her coat, walked around her desk and plopped down in her chair. “How can sitting for six hours make someone so tired? I have never understood that.”
“Hmm?” Thane said nonchalantly, more interested in the post than conversation. “We have two international inquiries, one from France . . . and . . . where is it . . . one from Italy. How do businesses from so far away find us?” Margaret didn’t answer.
“We will be glad of it in the not too distant future. I would suggest that you and I sit down tomorrow and set out timelines for our goals; they’ll have to be somewhat flexible, of course.
A quick knock at the door was heard, followed by it opening. Neither Sam nor Mark waited to be told to come inside. Margaret could tell they were very excited as they took their seats in a hurry. She noticed this time there was no leg crossing. Sam had his elbows planted on his knees as if he was leaning in and Mark was jiggling his legs like someone who needed to relieve their bladder. On the verge of laughing and not being able to tell them why, Margaret asked Thane to relate the news of their visit. Thane sat on the edge of his desk with his arms folded and for the next hour told them all that had happened. Margaret watched the expression on their faces and knew they would have thrown their caps in the air with excitement if they had the opportunity.
“So, lads, it looks like we have had a better than expected start and our move will come much sooner since we won’t need to build. Will that be a problem for either of you?” Margaret asked. She could only foresee that if Mark and his wife were expecting, that could be a potential delay for him. All heads nodded ‘no’. “Tomorrow we will have a . . . what we shall we call it . . . a Milton meeting at 10:00,” Margaret continued. “Thane, you will gather all of the other workers who will go with us and have a meeting to explain to them what is about to happen. Do that first thing in the morning. Then you and I will sit down and plan our next two weeks, before Sam and Mark arrive. All right that should take care of things for now. Oh, how did you lads handle your work assignments?”
The proud expressions on their faces told her all she needed to know before they said a word. Listening intently and asking questions so they knew she was paying attention, Margaret felt very satisfied with what she was told. “That is splendid work, lads. Let us all go home for the day. What do you say?” She asked not expecting a reply.
Sam spoke up. “What about the mill name contest?”
Margaret remembered Thane telling her that Sam was the one who had come up with a name that everyone liked. Sitting behind her desk, swiveling back and forth in her chair like a child, Margaret came to a halt. “Sam, I understand from Thane that you have contributed a name that everyone seems to want; is that still true?”
“I think it’s fairly agreed on by most of us. That just leaves you to approve or deny,” Sam said, looking at her questioningly.
“What if I am not in agreement?” Margaret replied.
“We do not think that will happen but if it does we will understand,” Mark responded. “There are several other names being offered. If I could make a suggestion . . . you could settle it at tomorrow’s meeting that Thane is giving with the other movers. We’d like to be there, too.”
Not wanting to show indecisiveness even though this had her worried, Margaret replied, “All right. Tomorrow morning, first thing. Now go home everyone.”
Sam and Mark left. Margaret turned to Thane, “That went well. So . . . you’re not going to give me any clue as to this Mill name?”
“My lips are sealed. I will only reveal it if I am ordered by my boss to do so.” Thane said smiling at her.
“Traitor . . . let us go home,” she said laughing.
Pulling up to the front of her home in the rented carriage, Margaret saw standing there, her Guardian of the Realm looking quite like Grayson. Seeing him standing there, ready to wait on her, was a comfortable feeling that she never took for granted. Someday she must ask him how he knew to expect her. It was uncanny. She was sure she could arrive home on foot at 3:00 in the morning and he would be there, dressed in his butler coat and tails uniform, ready to open the door for her.
“Good evening, Miss. I hope our travel was pleasant and fruitful.”
“That it was, Grayson. How would you like to come with me on my next visit and help me select a home that you and the staff could manage?” Margaret asked, wearing her own straight face.
“Very good, M’lady.”
Margaret knew then if that question didn’t wrinkle his composure, nothing could. “You’re serious? You’ll come along?”
“Whatever M’lady wishes.”
“Really? You would leave the household running unattended while you went away for a few days?”
“If M’lady deems that I can be of use, I will gladly accept. Will I get to pick the residence?”
“Well, although I would have full confidence in your choice, I think I will send you out on your own with a driver and property agent and start narrowing down some prospective places. Would that be agreeable?” Margaret said, trying to keep her smile at bay. She just could not quite emulate her butler in that regard.
“Yes, very agreeable, Miss. Could I ask if my hat served its purpose and is it somewhere among your traveling bags?”
Margaret looked down, hurt showing on her face. “Grayson, I am sorry. With it being too big for my head, I am afraid the wind took into a lake. There was no possibility of retrieving it. AH HA!! You are not made of stone after all. I think I saw you twitch an eyebrow on that one.”
“I am sorry, M’lady. You are mistaken. I do not twitch anything.” Grayson said as he removed her coat.
“Well . . . I thought I saw one,” Margaret said as she strolled off toward the kitchen. Margaret had Cook find her anything cold and leftover that she could eat. She sat at the kitchen table and talked with her cook while she ate her beef sandwich and drank her milk.
“Cook, sometime over the next few days I want you to talk with Grayson about the essentials that you need to run a kitchen. I am not talking about utensils and such but the room layout, sink, cook stove, prep areas. You know what I mean. It seems we will be moving to Milton and faster than we thought as we bought a mill this week. I am going to take Grayson with me on the next visit. My visits up north will come often now. He will help me look for a residence for all of us.”
“Thank you, M’lady, for considering the kitchen,” Cook answered. “That is most gracious of you.”
An hour later after sitting at her desk in the den, she thought she had better have a serious talk with Grayson. After all, he would be in charge of moving the household and staff. It would be quite an undertaking Margaret knew but she also knew that he would do it most efficiently. She yanked on the bellpull to summon him.
“Grayson, take a seat.”
“I would prefer to stand, M’lady.”
“I am going to insist this time. We need to have a serious discussion about moving this household to Northwest England.”
* * *
Margaret reined her buggy and horse to a stop in the mill yard, telling her stable lad to leave it harnessed. Within the next half hour she would learn the anticipated name of her new mill and then head to her banker. Although she was afraid of what might be offered, she knew she would accept whatever they came up with. She cherished each and every one of them like family and if they were making a sacrifice to move with her at least she could let them name the mill.
She stopped by the office briefly to see if any notes had been left on her desk. There was none. She sought out Thane who was no doubt pulling the attendees together. She would ask that the naming of the mill be first so she could go on to other things, like her bank. It had only taken 15 minutes for Thane to gather everyone.
“I guess you know what I am going to talk about and that is the Mill move,” Thane began. “But, I also know we have all been waiting for the selection of the new mill name. Well, that time is now.” Both Thane and Margaret were standing in front of the workers with Mark and Sam seated front and center. “Mistress, we have a unanimous decision.” Thane handed Margaret a folded piece of paper.
Margaret was watching the workers, who were all smiling with anticipation as she accepted the paper. “I will tell you that I am nervous over this. There have been days I wished I had not done this but that is not today.” Margaret slowly unfolded the paper building the suspense or dread; she wasn’t sure which. Totally elated, Margaret’s face exploded with glee as she put both hands up to her cheeks. “Lady Mills! I LOVE IT!! . . . I am sorry. I think I am going to cry.” And she did. Thane handed her his handkerchief. Recovering slightly, holding back sobs, she said, “Lady Mills, it is. And I think I have Sam to thank for the original suggestion. Thank you, Sam. You’ve outdone yourself. You all know the struggle that this mill has been through because of me at its head. I have been pleased more than you could know. You stuck by me and I am honored that you want to follow on with me and continue our unique history. This name . . . this name,” she broke down into a whisper as more tears flowed, “shows me that we are going to march into a mill city with our heads held high and show those male Masters that we are not afraid, we are tough and we are proud. Thank you all for this showing of confidence in me and the courage to go with me.” Margaret stood tall in front of her standing workers as they clapped as hard as they could. She stood there allowing the tears to flow freely without trying to hide them. She looked down at the note again. “This will be framed and be the first thing on the walls in our new mill. Thank you, again.” She blew a kiss to her people and left the room, not only feeling relief but pure pride. Their confidence in her far surpassed anything she had ever felt. It was a gutsy name and she loved it. Instantly surprised, she wondered what Mr. Thornton would make of the name. She dismissed the thought and headed off to her bank with her accountant.
Riding to her bank, she discussed with James, her accountant, the expenses she would be incurring, including the down-payment on the property and mill. As of today, James would have to start a new set of ledgers. Both Helstone Mills and Lady Mills would have to be balanced according to their impending cash outlay. Margaret was sure she would have to loan the company some of her personal money until her old mill could be sold. They entered the bank and asked for the Bank Manager.
* * *
Early Monday morning, John Thornton rolled out of his large bed thinking of Miss Hale, the mill owner. Owner of a mill with no name, that brought an inward chuckle. He thought she seemed oblivious to what she would bring to Milton. Yes, she knew she was unique in the industry but she had not comprehended the full weight of herself. There were many women business owners in the world but how many of them oversaw more than a dozen workers? John would bet there were few indeed. With full scale manufacturing blossoming and businesses now managing hundreds of people, he was sure there was not one woman in any manufactured product except for Miss Hale. He thought she didn’t know that she would be setting a precedent for the machine industry as a whole, and for women everywhere. John smiled at the thought that perhaps she could travel with him when he was invited to speak at other burgeoning commerce areas.
John checked in with Nicholas that morning, telling him about his lunch on Friday. They had worked separate mills on Saturday so this was the first chance that John had to talk with him. “Nicholas, she is a legitimate mill owner, of this I am certain. She calls the clothes she wears her working blacks. Someday, I will tell you what Mr. Bradley told me about why she wears them. In fact, I will save that for her introduction at one of the Mill Meetings. Everything we have heard them say is true. If you hear odd rumors starting, try to get them sorted out. She is going to have a hard enough time beginning here without having to put out fires. Actually, she probably would not do that. She has enough confidence in her own ability. She is not certain about accepting the fact that Milton will accept her as an owner so readily. It sounds like she is had a very difficult life choosing this career path. We take our work for granted. It will be interesting to hear her experiences from the female perspective. I am off to get proceedings started for admitting a new mill to the town and find Miss Hale a carpentry team to begin work next week. Unless you want to do that.
“Yes, I will take care of that John. Any team in particular?” Nicholas asked.
“Hmm . . . try Wilson Construction first, and then Flannery Brothers. I will have to think more if neither of them is available. I’d like them to be able to talk with the Unknown Mill Name people a week from today. I believe Miss Hale will be back to take care of her financing, and that cannot be until Monday.
* * *
As the week began, Margaret and her team started into action. Thane’s task was to promote and train the replacements for Mark and Sam. Fortunately they had some long time workers who appeared to have the people skills necessary as they already had the knowledge. Being a leader is not an easily taught lesson. One must have it within themselves, the confidence to lead, and the ability to make quick and decisive decisions. These are attributes one must possess of themselves. Thane would work with them a few days. He would then have them spend a week training alongside Sam and then a week with Mark.
While Mark was working with the new men, Hodge and William, Sam was to talk with the railroad people about crating and transporting large machinery. He set off for the local lumber mill and ordered the wood necessary to pack the big iron when the time came.
The Big Iron Looms
It would take several weeks just to build the frames, which meant people would immediately start to be pulled off-line.
Margaret spent the week going over her financial obligations. She and her accountant were shifting monies into new accounts and Margaret had to pull from her own finances to advance a loan to Lady Mills. She would arrive in Milton with her entire debt ready to be settled in full. Selling of the Helstone Mill would eventually repay her loan, plus interest. If everything went according to plan, the old mill would sell within six months and the business would be easily solvent. Margaret had decided to wait and see what residence she would buy before seriously considering putting her mansion up for sale.
Grayson was having staff meetings to talk about their concerns and needs as he was to look for certain amenities that they could not do without. He was seeing to the gathering of trunks and crates to be readied for packing. His mistress had told him he could begin to pack the non-essentials first, then the paintings could come off the wall, followed by the various decorating collections of china figurines, books, brass and other metals formed into statuary and such. He also prepared for his visit to Milton and held his responsibility in high regard and considered it an honor that his mistress had placed that much confidence in him.
After Thane had introduced Hodge and William to most of the essentials of managing, he took his place among the workers, primarily taking Mark’s place. Mark instructed the new managers in their roles. Thane and Sam were running the mill that first week. Sam met very little resistance from the town. He found combing Helstone businesses for possible future workforce positions of those left behind easier than expected. He could feel the air of difference towards him as the community seemed to be secretly rejoicing that Helstone Mills with its female owner would soon be out of their town. The citizens were friendlier now and met Sam’s inquiries with zeal.
Margaret had concluded her banking business and was busy working with her two new temporary clerical gentlemen who would start notifying her customers and writing commendation letters for workers needing to find new work in Helstone. Margaret and her lads would meet twice daily . . . at morning and end of shift meeting. The talks were of plans, timelines, what did and didn’t get accomplished that day, and scheduling new tasks and goals for the following days and weeks. The main goal was to take the machines off-line at the last possible time. There would be almost a month of zero income from the down time as wages were still being paid, thus making it her biggest liability.
Margaret realized that she would need a strong person to go to the mill permanently, almost immediately — even before Sam or Mark could take up their weeks of rotation. Margaret could not afford to stop the ordering of new raw materials from flowing in. Someone would have to be at the mill to receive goods and all manner of small tasks that didn’t take a manager to complete. She discussed this with her lads and Thane said he knew just the man. Carlton was a long time worker in his mid forties who was moving with them and had been one in the top group as a candidate for a new management position. He had no ties to Helstone and could be available to move immediately. He only needed to pack a bag and would travel with Margaret and her group to Milton on the next trip and stay there. He would need one final visit back to Helstone to finalize his life there but that could wait for some future time.
The first week was coming to a successful conclusion with Margaret’s team being very pleased with all they had accomplished. Mark, Carlton, Grayson, and Margaret would head out late Sunday morning for Milton. Thane would remain behind this trip and continue the training of Hodge and Williams and work with the clerical staff. He had had long talks with his Mistress, Mark, and Carlton as to the proposed carpentry work that would begin almost immediately on their arrival. With Mark being the first shift manager to go, he could instruct the carpenters in their necessary but odd system for storing the hundreds of dry dyes, leaving room for future expansion, plus setting up the research area. The first Milton team was to meet at the station on Sunday morning bringing with them any important documentation that they felt would be needed for their tasks ahead.
Every day Margaret would return home late in the evening to a waiting Grayson who never had a hair out of place but Margaret could see changes taking place within the house, however.
As Margaret entered her home late on Friday evening, she asked Grayson, “So, how has it gone this week?”
“Gone, M’lady? In what regard are you using the word gone?”
“Grayson, What have you achieved in your progress of moving this household to another place?” Margaret was so used to her ‘shop talk’ at the mill that she sometimes forgot she was a lady. Grayson took great pleasure in keeping her reminded of her station in life, at least to some modicum of degree.
“M’lady, we have identified and gathered the non-essentials. We have placed them in a spare room. We are moving packing material there and preparing to wrap. However, we will need additional crates. What would you have me do in that regard?” Grayson asked.
“I will have some of my men build some large crates at the mill and bring them here,” she responded. “Keep me informed of whatever you need as we go forward. Are you packed for your trip on Sunday?”
“Yes, M’lady . . . top hat and all accoutrements. Staff orders have been given and I have engaged the footman as charge in my stead.”
“Good. We have been moving along smoothly at the mill, also. It’s been incredible so far. Within two weeks, I can see that we will be at 75% output as the machines start slowly coming offline. Could you bring me a hot toddy tonight? I seemed to have gotten the sniffles,” Margaret asked. “And have Cook just make something light for me to eat in here.”
“Very good, M’lady,” Grayson said, leaving the room.
* * *
The Milton team was waiting on the platform Sunday morning, carrying large travel bags packed with their life, it seemed to Margaret. She could understand Carlton, as he was bringing most of his worldly possessions but wondered what goods Mark had tucked away.
Grayson had become reticent about his Mistress leaving with her health having drastically deteriorated over the last 48 hours. His Lady would not be deterred. He knew she had a financial deadline of some sort but still worried because she was so pale. The others noticed her weakness, and flushed cheeks and encouraged her to let Thane take her place but she was insistent upon going. She promised to see a doctor in Milton once her banking was completed.
Having passed through London, the coaches emptied out and Mark and Carlton took another carriage allowing Margaret to lie down across one of the benches while Grayson stayed vigil. Margaret was sleeping a lot and Grayson could see sweat beading at her hairline. He eventually worked up the nerve to touch her brow and knew instantly she was running a very high fever. He called for the porter to see if there was a doctor on board but there was none. He asked that he be brought a container of cool water and a cloth of some type.
The porter gathered the provisions being requested and told Grayson that he would see that a doctor was called immediately upon arrival at Milton. Mark and Carlton, full of concern, were in and out of her coach. Margaret would rouse herself every now and then and manage to give instructions if she became incapacitated during their visit. She asked that Mr. Thornton be quickly located as he could probably suggest a good doctor. She would need proper accommodations for her recovery but most importantly, he may be able to fulfill her financial obligations. As the hours passed Margaret started to worry about her own health, something she never did. She reminded herself that she had never made out a will and wondered what would happen to everyone if she passed on unexpectedly. That, she thought, would receive a lot of her attention in the future.
Finally, the train pulled into Milton where the platform was filled with waiting passengers to embark. Mark ran to the front of the station and hailed a cab while Carlton carried an unconscious Margaret out of the coach to the staring eyes of a multitude of Milton men. Grayson placed all the carpetbags onto the platform and asked a station porter to watch them until they could be collected. He carried Margaret’s bag with him to the coach. The coach driver was instructed to take Margaret and Grayson to the nearest surgery, while Carlton and Mark collected the baggage and set out to find Mr. Thornton before registering them all at the Milton Grand.