Chapter Twenty Two
That sat together in silence. Margaret knew beyond all doubt that pleading with John would be hopeless. She would do the same thing if she were in his place. Actually, she realized she could do the same thing in her own place. She knew that she could lose John for the sake of herself. Margaret couldn’t live with that. She had to find a way to keep him from possibly being hurt or worse. He could be killed. He could be hung. Begging, pleading, crying, groveling, sulking, threatening to commit suicide, may all have to come into play, if she felt he was on the verge of committing such an act, in her name.
Margaret was eventually trotted off for her exercises. John said that he would ride over to the Milton Grand and see if could find Bell, who could lead him to Frederick.
Branson would normally have the horses harnessed by now, and today was no different. John didn’t bother calling him to the front, he just found Branson at the stable.
“Guv, I’ve wanted to ask you, and I feel stupid in a way doing this, but now that you are married, does the Mistress have control over me as you have these past years?”
“She may ask to be driven anywhere at any time. If it comes to a decision about the stables or the horses, I would like to confer with her, and we may make a joint decision.”
“Can she let me go?”
“No. I can’t ever see that happening, but should that unlikely event come up, then, come to me. I am the only one to discuss that, and I will tell her so. She will have a say with her own maid. Although I do not believe you met Dixon the last time, Miss Hale lived here, she had been with the family before Margaret was born. Staff, with service longevity, are extended extra courtesies for being faithful and discreet regarding the family.”
“Suppose she asks me to keep a confidence from you?”
John paused with that question. “Right now, I am asking you to keep my confidence on what our plans are for Hartford. I hope she hasn’t asked, has she?”
“Keep her confidences as you do to me, unless either one of us could be severely injured. Understand?”
“Yes, Guv. Where to?”
“The Grand, Branson, the Grand.”
Margaret was reflecting on having no shoes when she was reminded of Bennington, the cabby that aided in her rescue. She would ask Branson first if private service paid more than a London cabby. If the answer was yes, Margaret would ask John if he knew of a Master that needed a good driver. If Branson said no, he would ask John to reward him, which would mean a trip to London. It was very likely that he had saved her life that night and he should not be forgotten. Margaret always saw Nicholas with a small buggy and wondered if he had a driver. Could the Thornton household find a use for a second driver? A second driver could give Branson some relief from always being on duty. It may enable him to propose to the woman that he loved. According to John, Branson may not allow anyone to rein his horses. Perhaps, he could be persuaded to enjoy his lady and let another experienced driver pull the coach.
If John had no news about Frederick when he arrived home, she would like to try a short drive into the country or more likely a place to buy dancing slippers. She wanted out and in the sun away from the smoke.
The porter rapped lightly on the door of Mr. Bell’s room. After several moments and no answer, he repeated the knock. Still, no one came to the door. He returned to the reception area.
“Mr. Thornton, no one is answering the door.”
“Thank you, I will try the dining room” John walked in and saw Bell with the Shaw’s and Lenox, enjoying a leisurely late breakfast. Walking over, he decided not to join them but just have a word with Adam Bell.
“Good morning, everyone,” John said in a pleasant voice.
“Good morning, Mr. Thornton. How is Margaret this morning?” asked Mrs. Shaw.
“Quite honestly, it’s a bit rough for her today,” John spoke in earnest. “I would like to find Frederick if anyone here knows where he can be located.”
“Is anything wrong, John?” asked Bell.
“Could I speak with your for a moment? Excuse us,” John said, as Adam stood and walked a few paces away from the table.
“Margaret has begun to fear retribution by her brother or myself, against Hartford. Naturally, she worries for our safety. She asked me directly about my possible involvement in revenge. I could only tell her I would protect her if the man came here. I’m afraid that has set her back. I’d like Frederick to talk with her since I cannot speak for him.”
“John, I do not know where he is, but I know he had plans to find me here or Marlborough Mills, sometime this morning.”
“Higgins is back with good news about moving Lisa, and I am sure he’s anxious to hear that. Send him my way, if you see him. I hope he’s not out hunting. If I do not see you before then, I will see you at the police station at four. I have some ideas that we can discuss in an empty courtroom after we’ve heard what Boyle has to say.”
Adam, trying to smile for those that looked on, said, “I will see you later . . . before Boyle, and I will certainly send Frederick over when I see him.”
“Thank you, Adam.”
John turned to the table. “Mrs. Shaw, I hope you have a pleasant trip home. Your niece is strong, and we will get through this together. She would like to see her brother this morning. Please excuse my interruption. Good day, everyone.” John turned and left.
Except for Margaret’s brother, he wished she could be left alone. She had much turmoil to work through, both good and bad. Until she was alone, she couldn’t settle into a comfortable state of being. She wasn’t even able to set priorities in her life as yet. John was confident that before Margaret was healed physically, the other problem would have been eliminated.
John was anxious to return home. He did not like leaving her alone, ever, but especially now.
“No news from Frederick?” Margaret asked as John came into the room.
“No, but Adam seems to feel he will come forward sometime this morning. How are you doing?” John asked as he went to sit next to Margaret on the sofa.
John looked over at her lovingly, wishing the night would hurry so the house was quiet.
“I’m starting to feel like I am getting well. I have not taken the pain medication, yet. I want to see how I am really feeling. It’s a bit uncomfortable but bearable. John, I know Frederick might arrive, but could we take a ride in the coach.”
“Whatever you wish, my love. Where do you wish to go? Any place in particular. I will not take you over the old roads, just yet.”
Margaret stretched out her feet and wiggled her toes.
John grinned. “Oh! I’ve been so wrapped up with other things on my mind, I completely forgot. Let me tell Branson to bring the coach to the front, and I will carry you down the steps.” John laughed, “I could give you a pair of my boots until we go somewhere to purchase a pair of shoes for my waif.”
“Yes, I will wear your shoes.”
“You will? Are you serious about this?” John asked in bewildered fashion.
“I think anything is better than bare feet, don’t you?”
“I am not so sure you will be able to lift your feet with my boots on,” he smiled. “But I will get a pair.”
Returning, he placed his lightest pair of shoes on the floor in front of Margaret. He helped Margaret stand and held her hands while she slid her small feet into his big shoes. He couldn’t help but grin as it seemed her foot would never find the toe of the shoe.
He lifted her out of the boots, and swept her gently into his arms and carried her to the stable.
Branson surprised to see his new mistress shoeless, rushed to the coach door.
“Sir, does the Mistress know she doesn’t have her shoes on?”
“Branson, I am here. You can talk to me, you understand. I am not that ill.” She laughed.
“Branson, my wife has no shoes. I’m starting out to be a very poor husband, it would seem.”
“Do you want to go to the cobbler?”
“No, Branson,” Margaret said. “There must be a fancy dress shop in town. They should have some soft dance slippers. I hope your master doesn’t know of any lady’s dress shops, but possibly you do.”
“I do, indeed, Miss.” Branson opened the door.
John carried her inside and once again placed her on his lap. It wasn’t long before Margaret noticed his lap had stiffened.
“John?” Margaret said, shyly.
“I can’t help it,” John said before she teased him.
“I wasn’t going to mention that, exactly,” Margaret said.
“What do you mean by exactly? You have my undivided attention.” John beamed.
“No, I would say it’s divided.”
John pulled her lips to his, fiercely. Margaret eased her arms around his neck. John parted her lush lips and fed from her. He slowly searched the recesses of her mouth, allowing her tongue to engage with his. He moaned. Margaret pulled back momentarily to breathe, and then she resumed the passion that had ignited.
Margaret pulled John’s hand gently to her breast for him to soothe the ache she felt beginning. Without stopping his kiss, John tenderly, controlling his eagerness, cupped her heavy bosom and rubbed his thumb across her nipple. A light soft moan escaped through their kiss from her. John felt the coach come to a stop and set her away, knowing Branson would be at the door. He did it for her. Branson, being a man, would not be surprised at him.
“I guess we will talk later,” she said breathlessly.
Branson opened the door so John could carry his new bride into a Lady’s accessory shop.
Later, having found two pairs he wanted her to have, they returned to the coach. Both were surprised to see Frederick waiting in the coach.
“Good day, sis, John. I hear there is news of Lisa. What can you tell me,” he asked.
The ride that John was hoping to have going home would have to wait. John began to tell Frederick all that he knew. He withdrew the bit of paper that Nicholas had handed him and gave it to Margaret’s brother.
Frederick, anxious for the information, hardly took notice that his sister was sitting on her husband’s lap. When he finally looked up from the letter, he asked John with his eyes, why this seating arrangement?
John had anticipated the question immediately. “Your sister sits on my lap so that I can absorb the bumps in the road for her.” John, not wanting to look into Frederick’s eyes, looked out the window, knowing what any normal man would be thinking.
Frederick smiled and wanted to ask him about his bumps. His sister really had come of age, he thought. He was happy for Margaret. She would be well taken care of while he could not be with her. He liked John, too.
“I have something very important to discuss with you when we get home,” spoke Margaret.
Frederick caught a glimpse of John’s face and had a feeling of what was coming.
“Of course, sis. Do you think I just stop by to say ‘hello.’”
“I will have an appointment to keep at four this afternoon.”
“Yes. For the few days that Detective Boyle will be in Milton, he would like to have a meeting with all concerned about any further news on Hartford. We all are interested in the progress to apprehend him so he will inform us daily on what they know.”
“John, will you go?” Margaret asked, assured of the answer on her own.
“Yes. I will go. We had this talk this morning. I have nothing further to add.” John didn’t like being this firm with her especially in front of her brother, but Frederick was soon to be the same way.
“I want to go,” demanded Margaret.
“I would not let you go,” John stated sternly. “He will be captured and punished. You need to start putting that behind you. I’ve been thinking of talking with Donaldson about that. There are doctor’s, well . . . I don’t know if they are doctors or not, but are trained to help people through exceedingly tough times, such as a death and other misfortunes.”
“And you think I need some help?” Margaret looked down into her lap, feeling like a slight failure to her husband. “I’m sorry . . .”
John was embarrassed with this conversation while her brother was there. “Don’t say that word. Margaret, I love you so much that I am too close to help you properly. I cannot see my way through your feelings as my own intermingle. I think our marriage has put pressures on you that may cause you to feel guilty and I cannot have that. I cannot say ‘I understand’ strong enough for you to believe me.
“John, I do think one of us needs to see a doctor of the mind. I just think it might be you.” Margaret said, surprising John. “I think you are the one who has to put this behind you.”
“Can we continue this discussion another time?”
Branson stopped the coach. John lifted Margaret out and up to the porch. “Did you want to try the steps with your new shoes, or can I carry you.” John couldn’t help but wonder what her brother was thinking of his sister’s husband and that rather personal conversation.
“I would like to try.”
Frederick, would you mind walking in front of your sister, while I stay behind her?”
Frederick bounded in front of Margaret and stepped backward up the steps. “You’re doing fine, sis.”
Í am going to make it . . . and without help,” replied a cheerful Margaret. “I’ve accomplished one of my goals.”
“I think we need to practice that a few more times before I will let you do it on your own,” John stated.
Frederick could easily see the love for his sister from John Thornton.
John hadn’t realized it was nearing 1:00 in the afternoon. He saw the table set for the midday meal and hurried to the kitchen to have Jane set a third place at the table.
Arriving back in the parlor, he saw Frederick pouring two glasses of scotch. Handing one to him, Frederick turned to Margaret. “Sis?”
“Not now, thank you.”
“I guess it is my turn to hear your words of admonishment. No doubt you have had this conversation with your husband, too.” Frederick began.
“Yes, I have!”
“He will not listen to me.”
“I am your brother. I love you, too. I will not listen either. Do not worry about me, sis. I have a lovely woman somewhere in France waiting for me. I will not be frivolous with my life.”
“Somehow, you are not saying what I want to hear,” Margaret looked her brother in the eye. “Tell me you won’t go to London to seek him out.”
“I won’t go to London to seek him out.”
Margaret thought back if her brother had ever lied to her for her own good. She couldn’t remember such a time.
“I’m relieved to hear that. How long can you stay?”
“Oh, a few days. I am not sure.” Frederick hedged.
“I think you both are hiding something from me. You two are going to some meeting with the detective. Frederick, you are staying longer than I would have expected. Who else is going to this meeting?” Margaret looked toward John.
“I believe Maxwell is interested before he may face him in London when he returns, “John skirted. “And you know that Adam would be interested, too. Now that Nicholas has returned, I do not think I can keep him away from the rest of us.”
“Frederick, are you still worried about being watched by those men . . . not the Navy.” Margaret was starting to look pitiful, John thought, with her worries for the two of them.
“Margaret . . . sis, Hartford has lost you. He does not need me any further. I have no worries there.”
“Could he come and find me here,” asked Margaret, eliciting the question that neither, John or her brother wanted to answer.
John cleared his throat. “Margaret, it would seem he has no reason to seek you out, now. He cannot marry you. He’s lost track of Frederick, so just pure blackmail seems a lost cause if he has any sense at all. There has been no mention of your attack anywhere, in any paper. He must feel that you are keeping it a secret, still fearing for your brother’s life. That’s really to our benefit, while we wait for him to be apprehended by the police.
“That sounds good when you say it fast, but I’ll have to do more thinking on this. Things do not feel right with your actions. You will tell me what the detective says tonight.”
“No, I will not. You are going to have no more talk of this. We will get on with our new life together and let the police do their job. We will be notified when he is caught.”
Margaret did not have any more of an argument and knew it to be futile if she had. She would have to work things out on her own.
“Dinner is served,” announced Jane.
After dinner had been consumed, Margaret was glad to see John and Frederick talking together about each other’s lives. Frederick seemed interested in walking through the mills to see the process. John invited him, and they left the house, but not the grounds. John told Frederick that he could easily live in Milton under his assumed name. The local officials had no interest in him, and the Navy was never here. Frederick didn’t know if he was ready to risk capture with a wife coming along. However, the feeling of being with family felt very satisfying.
In the next hour when they returned, Maxwell, Edith, and Adam were comfortable in the parlor. Edith was admiring Margaret’s new shoes when they entered. John felt a rush come over him, anticipating a repeat of the questions Margaret had talked about earlier, only this time with Adam and Maxwell. But it did not happen. It appeared to John that Margaret had uncharacteristically abandoned those thoughts for now.
One last round of drinks was served before the men headed to the police station. Nicholas had arrived too, looking clean and gentlemanly. He had words with Frederick. Margaret saw her brother vigorously shake his hand.