Chapter Eleven – Learning and Coping
John finished his story at that same moment, and Dylan clapped his hands in delight.
“Another one, another one!”
“No, Dylan,” his big sister scolded, “John already told you three stories and …”
Margaret saw how the girl’s eyes suddenly opened wide and how the boy followed his sister’s gaze.
“Daddy!” Both children jumped from their seats and ran toward a man who opened his arms to gather them into his embrace.
A sweet smile lit John’s face when he saw the man’s relieved happiness at seeing his children unharmed. Earlier on, the nurse who’d attended their mother, had reassured them of her welfare. She was only mildly injured and was now being treated for a broken forearm so the children would be allowed to see her soon. John stood and turned to see Margaret watching him with bright eyes and a certain look in them he had not seen before. It sent his pulse racing as a rush of sheer desire went straight through him.
“Good day, my love. I did not know you were here too?”
“I came with Marjorie. John, were those children involved in the accident?”
“Yes … their mum was but she is well now. The little boy was so frightened, Margaret, and his sister, God! I have never seen so much pent-up anxiety in someone’s eyes before. And so much … forlornness! Yet she kept herself strong for her little brother’s sake. I am glad their father has come, and that their mother is going to be alright.”
“Have you been here long, darling?”
“I have no idea, Margaret, I came here with Jowan when chaos broke out. There is not much I can do to relieve physical pain but I saw that the relatives of the injured people were left on their own. I took pity on the children and I wanted to help.”
“John,” Margaret said, “you have so thoroughly changed, my love. When I first met you, you did not see other people’s misery.”
John smiled a little sadly, hurt by the memories of his past life that Margaret was conjuring up. It was not something he liked to remember. He had been such a harsh man, only interested in making profit and keeping his mill running.
“Little Tom Boucher has … I don’t know, I cannot really put it into words, but that child has somehow opened my eyes.”
“He has touched your heart, my darling.”
His hand came up to cup her face.
“No, my love, that was your doing, only yours.”
They stood amidst the still packed emergency room, and it was like if they were alone, just the two of them. Gazing at each other, smiling into each other’s eyes, drowning in each other’s expression of pure love, John and his Margaret felt simply happy and strong.
The day at the hospital just flew by, and evening approached almost imperceptibly. Jowan and Marjorie were absolutely worn out by the time they were being relieved by the next team of nurses. During the car drive home, they were quiet, and so were John and Margaret, still very impressed by all they had seen.
Betty took one look at her daughter and knew Marjorie was at the end of her tether, but it was Margaret who led her to her room.
“I will help you undress and bathe, Marjorie,” she said softly, “and I will bring you your supper on a tray afterwards. You need to rest. This cannot be good for the baby.”
Marjorie smiled weakly and sank into a chair.
“It’s because of the baby I feel so knackered, Margaret. Pregnancy will do that for you, although today was so hectic that I’m sure everybody on that ward will be completely exhausted tonight.”
She extended her hand to Margaret, who kneeled beside her and looked up at her.
“Margaret, I watched you with the children and you were marvellous. You could be a nurse yourself, you have the right attitude and a kind heart. Maybe you should consider taking a proper training?”
“Oh, but … can one train as a nurse just like that?”
“Well, you’d have to pass a test before entering medical school, but I’m sure the education you enjoyed back in 1852 will be more than adequate. I’ll rummage through my books, later on, and we can find out what would be required, okay?”
“Erm … okay …” Margaret answered, still uneasy with the twentieth-century wording.
Jowan poured them both a stiff whisky, when he and John settled in the study to unwind. They had been ushered out of the kitchen by Betty, who was preparing supper. The first moments were spent in silence while they sat enjoying the excellent single malt Jowan had chosen.
“This is exquisite,” John praised, “I do not know this brand. Where have you purchased it, Jowan?”
“I have an uncle and a cousin, back in Scotland, who both work at a brewery and send me supplies, now and then,” Jowan replied, “I’ll bet the whisky breweries you knew, back in 1852, are still in place nowadays. We should go and find out, and you’ll see that Scotland too has changed very much in a hundred and sixty years.”
John nodded, shrugging and grinning.
“Yes, that would be so, I guess. After what I saw today, I have a hard time figuring out where Margaret and I belong to in this era. We might have to think about it, though. Last night, when I was wandering through the fields, I discovered that the train carriage is no longer there so we have no means to go back to our time. I have no money, and we cannot live off you and Marjorie and Betty indefinitely so I will have to seek employment and a place to live.”
“Wow, wow, mate!” Jowan raised a steadying hand and looked somewhat alarmed.
“John, what kind of work would you be doing? You’re an employer yourself, a manufacturer! You’re not used to being bossed around, and ordered what to do, and how to behave! You’ll go bonkers within a week!”
John straightened himself in his chair, feeling slightly annoyed with Jowan’s critique of his character.
“I know it will be hard and unfamiliar, and that there will be a great deal for me to learn anew, but I also know myself, Jowan. I work hard and I always was a quick study. Being an employer of men is the best training school there is to adapt yourself to any situation that might arise. Adapting to the unforeseen is what I do day after day in my mill, Jowan.”
“Yes,” Jowan said, a look of surprise in his eyes at the calm strength this nineteenth-century manufacturer displayed. “Yes, I think I understand, John. There is something about you that might do the trick in many a circumstance.”
“Anyway,” John stated, rising from his chair in a determined way, “I have to speak with Margaret first. I am not alone in this situation, and from what I have seen so far, in this era, women do have a say in all kinds of situations. I am not sure I will get used to that, ever!”
Soon thereafter, Betty called them all to supper, and they enjoyed it in blessed silence. Marjorie had come to table too, though she still looked a bit pale. After the meal, Margaret insisted that the young woman should go to bed and rest, while she herself would help Betty clean up the dishes. She was pleasantly surprised to see Jowan and John doing their share, and again she marvelled how the latter had changed. To be honest, they had not seen each other for months before they met at the train station, yet Margaret had instantly sensed that John had changed, both in manners and also in character. He was – what was the word she was looking for – he was milder, more tolerant of people and their behaviour. He had learned to control his temper, and this was reflected in his dealings with people. He was kinder, much less conceited, and ready to do whatever was needed.
Margaret liked this John very much.
When all but Marjorie retreated to the terrace, there was a call on Jowan’s mobile, which he took inside the house. The look of sorrow on his face was enough to get Margaret on her feet. She quietly asked him what was going on.