Adam arrived at the hospital only to find John and Margaret in a conference with the doctor. He heard words in regards to a nurse coming to the house for a week, so Adam went back to the waiting area. While sitting with the newspaper that he had recently shown John, he saw Mrs. Shaw and Edith walk over to the information desk. It appeared they left quite early. Adam sighed. This seemed like it was going to be a long day.
As the Shaw’s were directed towards Margaret’s room, Adam caught their attention and they stopped at his urging.
“Good day to you both. I hope you had a pleasant trip,” Adam said glibly, gesturing to two chairs for them to take.
“We’re on our way to see Margaret. We can’t sit and talk,” Mrs. Shaw, huffed.
“I was just at her room. Apparently she is in conference with her doctor. Please sit with me and I will give you the latest news.”
Sitting, Edith asked, “How is Margaret? We’ve been so worried.”
“She is doing well. I hardly know where to start; there is so much to say. I am sure she will go into the detail for you, but it seems that Captain Hartford was mistreating Margaret quite badly. She was being held hostage as his bride, we think, because of my endowment to her. He held over her head the fact that he knows all about Frederick and where he is. There has been no proof of that, though. The doctor has discovered multiple beatings with the last one, a few days ago, resulting in a cracked rib and black eye. Margaret ran for her life. She ran to the only person she felt safe with and that is John Thornton. She still loves him, you know?”
“Dear God,” said Aunt Shaw. Edith started to weep. “And you say she is doing well?”
“Yes, she appears to be, although, we fear there is still some residual emotional trauma that may come to light.”
“What can we do? We can’t take her back where that maniac is,” said Edith looking bewildered and worried. “I look for Maxwell to find us here. He’s been looking into Captain Hartford. He says he doesn’t have a good feeling about the man, and he doesn’t know what’s happened to Margaret yet. He said that days ago, when he and I went looking for her. Her handbag was seen on Captain Hartford’s sofa, but we kept quiet that we saw it, except to the police. The Met is now involved.”
“I am sure we will welcome any news that Maxwell can bring us. There will be no need to take Margaret anywhere. As I said, she ran to the man she knew she loved. John Thornton has loved her since he’s known her. Now, I know by London standards, John Thornton does not equal your society standards, but he is almost Milton’s favorite son. He holds great esteem here. He’s a Magistrate and he is now Margaret’s husband, as of yesterday.” Adam waited for the news to seep in. He didn’t have to wait long.
Although, Edith smiled, her mother exclaimed, “He’s what?”
Adam noticed John was passing through the hall to the outer doors and shouted for him. John turned, expressionless, and walked their way.
“John, you remember Mrs. Shaw and this is her daughter, Edith, Margaret’s cousin. They have just now arrived. I’m afraid I am failing miserably in catching them up. If Margaret is available, they would like to see her right away.”
“Hello, Ladies. These are unusual circumstances to meet you, but I think Margaret will be pleased to see you. I will escort you to her room. I was just on my way out to situate some accommodations for Margaret’s release from this hospital, tomorrow. Before we go into her room, I have a few words that I would like to say to you.”
“Go on,” said an exasperated Aunt Shaw.
“Mrs. Shaw, I want it known to you that I love your niece more than anything in this world, I will protect her from all harm. She loves me, as well. We belong to each other, now. We were married yesterday. You are absolved of all responsibility for her. That now belongs to me. I do not wish to hear your thoughts on what you think is best for her. We see where that has gotten her, haven’t we? I am beside myself with grief over her abuse. I shall take no advice from you. I hope we understand each other, and I think you will hear the same from Margaret. Should I find Margaret despondent after any of your visits to her, I will bar you from seeing her. She is coming to our home tomorrow. If you can act like a loving aunt, you will be welcomed there. Margaret is holding up well, but that is on the surface. Please don’t dig into all the details. Let her speak them as she feels comfortable in doing. Have I made myself clear?” John said, wearing his stern face.
Edith smiled. “Quite clear, Mr. Thornton. Please excuse my mother; she is speechless, never having been spoken to in such a manner. I, for one, am happy she has found her way back to you. Come, Mother; let’s go see Margaret.”
Adam followed behind, smiling to himself and so proud of his friend John. The new John, he remembered.
“John.” Adam called.
“I have some very important news we need to discuss at your very earliest convenience.”
John turned, barely acknowledging Adam’s request, as he opened the door to Margaret’s room.
Margaret was sitting up in her bed, spooning something liquid into her mouth. She dropped her spoon and held out her arms, shouting, “Edith, Aunt!”
John stood back with Adam and watched as the women looked at Margaret in horror and then wondered how to hug her. Margaret seemed pleased to see them. John found a second chair and pulled it to her bedside. He decided to wait a few minutes to see how Margaret would react to their doting.
“Margaret, can’t they feed you anything better than that?” Mrs. Shaw said, and then quickly looked over her shoulder at John.
John waved his finger at her, like a small child.
Adam wanted to laugh out loud. John had surely put her in her place.
John kept his eye on Margaret. Eventually, she looked up at him and nodded. He knew that was a signal to him that she would be all right. He turned to Adam.
“What is so urgent, Adam?”
“When you are ready, we will talk away from this room.”
John walked over and squeezed between the women to give Margaret a tender kiss. “I will be back shortly, my love,” he said, leaving her side.
Mrs. Shaw was last seen by Adam with her mouth hanging open.
As the two men walked down the hall, Adam began to relate the details of the note from Fred. John hung his head listening as headed for the front door.
John stopped, remembering his buggy was around back.
“Adam, we need to talk about this now. Can you round up Nicholas and Branson, while I run some errands for Margaret’s coming home. I will meet all of you at the house within the hour. It seems like you can begin your part of the plan for his fiancé, but there’s a lot more to discuss. I’ll be with you, soon.”
John left by a back entrance and climbed into his buggy. He’d never met her brother, was anxious to do it, but if Frederick had a mind to take care of Captain Hartford, he had another think coming. John was so lost in thought he momentarily forgot what his errands were.
First John stopped on a side street at a small building that he never knew existed. This was where he would ensure that a nurse had been notified by the doctor to be at his home. He was there to see what her requirements were and to purchase them.
The meeting was brief and he found he needed nothing if Margaret had some sleeping gowns to wear before being strapped into clothes. Margaret would rest in their big bed, and he would find a cot to sleep near her in the same room. That was a supply that was offered to rent by this medical service. Apparently, the nurses had to use them when staying with patients but this nurse would use Cook’s room. The woman he met was nearing fifty years and seemed solidly built to lift patients in and out of bed. He hoped she brought a book because she would be excused from the room, often.
That settled, he headed for home to ensure other provisions were purchased by his household staff. He was given a list and wasn’t sure exactly what some of these feminine items were, but would learn quickly. He wanted to tend to Margaret in every way she would let him. He could tell that she would probably draw a line at some aspects of her femininity, but he hoped not. Jane and Cook could use Branson later today, if they hadn’t already purchased what was needed.
Entering the kitchen, he spoke with Cook. He handed her the list, and watched as she smiled.
“So, I see there are some things the mighty Master does not know about women. My, don’t let that get around,” she laughed – and so did John.
“Yes, that is a secret I am forced to admit, but you are fired if I hear you have told anyone,” he smiled. “I would like to go with you to learn, if you can wait an hour or two.”
“I won’t be embarrassed if you come along. I’m right proud of you.” Cook offered.
“Well, let this be our secret. Although, I care not for my reputation among the women, I do have my peers who have envied the knowledge they only thought I had.”
“Oh, you have a lot of knowledge and you know it. This is just the finer details, the inner sanctum, if you will; the embarrassing part of being a woman.”
“Embarrassing? Why embarrassing? Margaret will not be embarrassed with me. I love everything about her that makes her a woman, and my wife and my lover.”
“Master, you’re one in a million.”
John walked up the back stairs to find the three men talking at the table. Cook had prepared some sandwiches for all of them. John walked to the cabinet, poured himself a scotch, and returned to the table for a bite to eat.
Before John could ask any questions, Adam slid Frederick’s note over for John to read himself. After reading it, John set it back in the center of the table. Adam picked it up and folded it into his pocket.
“What have you men been thinking?” John asked.
Nicholas spoke first. “I will be the one to get Frederick’s fiancé settled outside of Paris. We feel he can move on from there should Frederick want to. Adam will stay and help with the Aunt and cousin. Branson will stay, also, since he does not have the experience of finding a residence for Frederick and his bride-to-be. I could probably pass as her father if not an older brother. I certainly don’t look like Frederick, so if anyone thinks they know who she is, my face will tell them they must be mistaken. I will leave tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Nicholas. Just be careful of yourself. Don’t put yourself in danger.”
“It doesn’t appear that will be necessary.”
“By reading that note, I hope you’re right. It would seem so. All right, that part is settled. Now, unexpectedly, we have Margaret’s brother going to risk his life getting into England. I wish there was some way we could stop him.”
“John,” said Adam, “he’s risked it twice before and wasn’t caught. Certainly, you well remember him being here when their mother died.”
“Yes, now that you say that, I even remember what he looks like. I, am willing to and I’m sure Margaret will agree that he can stay here, in this house, until we can send him back home.”
“Guv, from the sound of this letter he won’t be heading home from here.”
“He and I will discuss that. What else?”
“There is still the worry of Captain Hartford, coming after Margaret.” Bell put forward.
“Yes, that is a concern. Do we have any thoughts of him knowing where she is? Does he know he’s lost his advantage, if indeed, he ever had one?”
“John, there is a good chance that Edith’s fiancé, Captain Maxwell Lenox, will find his way here, too. The Met is now involved. Edith confided that Maxwell and she went to Hartford’s home looking for Margaret. They spotted her handbag on the sofa.”
John stood quickly and walked away from the table, turning his back, but still listening.
Adam turned in his direction and continued. “Maxwell has been looking into this man. They are both Captains, unknown to each other before Margaret, but with their training and his information gathering, he may have some insight into what Hartford would do.”
“I will welcome his findings. It seems like we will have a full house in Milton before the week is over. Only one person in the ‘cast of characters’ will be missing.”
“Can we sum this up since we seemed to have agreed on several things here,” asked Nicholas.
“Our priority is to save Margaret and save her brother. John has happily taken care of half of this. That leaves Frederick and this Lisa. I will take care of Lisa beginning tomorrow. I should be gone about four days. Frederick could be here at any time, looking for Adam before going on to London to . . . ah . . . dispatch – that must be a military phrase – this other Captain. Now, where does that leave us?”
John sat back down at the table. “Her brother will be here; he’s former military. This Maxwell will be here and he is military. Both will have good views and ideas about the possibility of this Hartford’s thinking, feeling the net closing in, and how he might seek out Margaret. That is a decision we will look into in the next day or two. I just want to stay close to her until I can get her home tomorrow. Since we now think Hartford may know that Frederick has escaped, he has only one other alternative to free himself of this entanglement and blackmail. I would think he’ll come looking for Margaret to silence her, however he can. I don’t think he has too many choices in accomplishing that.”
“Good God, John, you don’t mean . . .?” Adam said in astonishment.
“I am taking no chances. I’ve said that from the beginning. My anxiety is becoming more acute. I hope I am wrong.”
Adam felt like he would be sick. It had not occurred to him that Margaret could still be in imminent danger. Margaret had no idea, that all of this plotting and revenge planning was whirling around her. And that was a good thing. Maybe her aunt and cousin would be a blessing to keep her mind occupied.
Still sipping whiskey in the Officer’s club, Captain Grant Hartford spotted an article on the third page of the London paper.
Miss Margaret Hale, London, has wed Mill Master John Thornton of Milton……
Grant closed the paper and left for his quarters, feeling he had just loaded his pistol. New plans would be made tonight. There was no doubt in his mind what needed to be done.