Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C25

Chapter Twenty-Five

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“Good morning, John. I can only wonder what it must be like at your home this morning. Busy are they?”

“My ears are still ringing from the clanking of pots and pans. At least, most of the commotion is limited to the kitchen now. I can tell it is exhausting mother. She will have help next year, but it won’t be me as she hopes. I will hire someone who prepares events like this.”

“How do you think Miss Hale got along yesterday?”

“I’m not sure we spoke much after we had our personal apology session. I really don’t know.”

“I did get those journals for her. I would be interested to see if she can repeat back what we said in the morning yesterday. Wouldn’t you? That gibberish she wrote is some kind of code. She could be spying for another Master that she spoke to early this week,” Nicholas laughed.

“I do believe her. She spoke to me of her dedication to the mill. Perhaps next week, we will ask her what we talked about today, so take some notes after our meeting. Here she comes. Oh, do call her, Margaret.”

A knock came to the door. Nicholas answered the door. “Good morning, Margaret. Forthwith, just come through the door. You are an official of this room.”

“Good morning, gentleman.” She walked directly to her room, found her pen and paper and returned. Her chair was still where it was left yesterday, aside John’s desk. She decided to leave it over there and work on the edge of his desk since she was right-handed. “Do you mind me sitting here, Mr. . . . ah . . . John?”

“Please, help yourself.”

“Have you begun?”

“No. We were wondering how your day went yesterday. Could we have a report from you? This is something we may include every day.”

“Yes. Agreed.” Nicholas added.

“If you wish. This first week may find me with some discussion but little once I am settled. I wasn’t prepared for any report, but I too think it is a good idea. Once the document room is organized, my first priority will be what? Nicholas gave me a list, but I am not sure it is organized as to the importance.”

“Your main job is to find ways to help us save or make money. Your first priority will be the biggest, and that is redesigning our budgeting layout.” John stated.

“And your accountants?”

“Will do as we say, if we agree with you.”

“Do you have all you will need?”

“I don’t believe so, but I am making a list. I don’t think anything expensive is required. You have seen to that. So, please proceed with your meeting.”

While Nicholas and John were talking about what was and wasn’t completed the day before, John would periodically peep at the scribble on the paper. He’d look back at Nicholas, who would smile at his confused look. They both wanted to laugh at each other for not understanding.

Hearing a pause and sensing that John was looking at her paperwork, Margaret had to smile, too. It was turning out to be fun, keeping them wondering.

“Margaret, I believe I saw your basket was still full when you left yesterday. Did you not bring your lunch?” John inquired.

“I did, I lost track of time.”

“You shall come to the canteen today with Nicholas and me, around 1:00 this afternoon.”

“I will be ready.”

“I will be at Mill2 until that time and Nicholas shall be on this property.”

“How do I contact whoever is on the property should someone come to speak with either of you?”

“You may walk into the first shed, don’t go through the rolling doors, but ask anyone you meet to get the foreman for you. He will know which master is where.”

“If you are at Mill2 and someone comes looking specifically for you, do I contact Higgins or let them know where you are?”

John thought for a moment. “I would prefer that you not have to bear that decision. All contacts must go through this mill first.”

“Very good.”

“Oh, one last thing, Nicholas and I will be leaving early today. There will be a foreman in charge at both mills. I guess that is all for now.”

Margaret picked up her papers and returned to her room. John and Nicholas walked out together. Margaret quickly  returned to the front windows and watched them go their separate ways. Nicholas headed to the first shed while John disappeared around the back of his home. Margaret went back to her work.

 

A note came to the Hale house for Fred. It was from Bessie saying that yes she could see him, but could it be at his home since his father was there.

Fred quickly scribbled his answer and gave it to the waiting driver. He went to tell his father that he was having company this evening. Although not spoken sharply, he did emphasize that the company was his. He wanted to give leave to his father not to feel indebted to remain when he became tired.

 

Margaret had her desk tidied by 12:45 p.m. and sat waiting for her lunch appointment. John arrived a few minutes early, so they waited on Nicholas.

“How is your morning so far, Margaret?”

“I do have a question.”

“And that would be?”

“Do you have ledgers per mill or is it all consolidated?”

“Consolidated.”

There was silence.

“Does that mean you have one Profit and Loss statement combined for both mills?”

“Yes.”

Nicholas came through the door. “Are we ready?”

“I am. Should I bring some money?” Margaret inquired.

“No, Margaret. Our guest. You will get to meet Bessie’s sister, Mary.”

“I have met Mary but only briefly.”

The three walked into the canteen, and Margaret was immediately aware that getting down the isles with her smock would be difficult.

“I think I will return to the office if you don’t mind,” she said.

“Do you not care to eat with the workers?”

“Oh, no. I just don’t think I can fit. I will have to dress more sensibly in the future.”

“We will make room for you.”

Overhearing part of the conversation two men at the head of the table moved to another location, carrying their plates with them. Margaret thanked them.

Mary came to the table carrying three bowls of soup and a plate of bread.

“Margaret, I hope you don’t mind this meager meal.”

“Not at all. I prefer it really. Hello, Mary. This smells nice. Pea soup, is it?”

“Yes, miss.”

“One of my favorites. Do you have this on specific days?”

“No.”

“What do you think a slate board and a menu for the week would do for you? It would draw workers to come in only to eat certain items. It may even save some grumbling workers who arrive and don’t care for that day’s choice. What do you think?”

Mary looked at her father. He gave her no indication how to answer. “I think it may save a little more money because we would have less waste. I will think about it and ask some of the workers. Most of them eat here no matter what is served.”

“Mary, Miss Hale is working in our office now.”

“Yes, Father said that may happen. Welcome, Miss Hale. If you need anything or questions answered, you know where to find me.”

“Thank you. I appreciate that.”

Most of the conversation were men asking John or Nicholas questions.

Margaret set her spoon down and walked over to Mary near the kitchen. “Mary, why are there so few women in here, do you know?”

“There are some men in here that . . . that grab at the women. They talk rudely to them, too.”

“All the men?”

“No, it’s only about four or five.”

“Are they in here now?”

“Two are. All the workers that eat here come in shifts. There are two in here now. The other three were here before you.”

“Do they bother you?”

“They did before they knew who my father is.”

“So, when Mr. Thornton and your father are in here, they are on their best behavior.”

“Yes. The women eat outside in sun or cold. Some don’t even bring a lunch because they can only afford one meal a day.”

“Have you told your father?”

“No, I am afraid of them. They have threatened me.”

“Thank you, Mary.”

 

John came up behind Margaret as they headed outside.

“Was there anything wrong with the meal, Margaret.”

“Not exactly. Before we leave, take a look at your workers in this room.”

“I will.”

John escorted Margaret outside to Nicholas and asked them to wait. He walked back inside, casting an eye around the room. Everyone was eating, there was laughter and not too overcrowded. He left.

“I believe you see something I don’t. Nicholas, go back in there and just look at the workers eating. Look around the room, that’s all I ask.”

Nicholas was gone a minute or so. When he came out, he said, “Was I supposed to see something wrong? If anything was wrong, Mary would have told me.”

As the three walked back to the office in silence, Margaret asked if she was to lock the office somehow when she left at 5:00 p.m.

“I will be on the property for the rest of the day, Margaret. I will take care of it.”

“Are you going to tell us what you saw in there?”

“Not yet.”

“Margaret, I do not wish you to play games with our business.”

“I am not playing a game. I just want to look further into what I saw.”

“Very well. Margaret, I will say goodnight and see you tomorrow, although I may be in and out of here later.”

“Good day to you, John.”

 

John walked around back and talked with Branson about the spirits and wines. Branson said he had taken care of everything.

John found his mother sitting on the sofa when he entered by the back stairs. She had no needlework in her hands. “Mother is all going according to plan? Are you worried about anything?”

“I had forgotten just how exhausting these dinners were. I am taking it easy and resting often. I’ve just been sitting here thinking about that woman.”

“Would that be Lenore Smithers?”

“Yes. I just don’t know where to seat her. I’ve been thinking between Adam Bell and Nicholas. Both of those men would not do anything to excite her into a disruption. Would she be better off near you? She will want to talk with you tonight. She may try to do that across the table.”

“Mother, I do not know what to expect from her. Perhaps she should be seated next to me. There should be no other person that she knows except Slickson, and I doubt she would converse with him. Do we have six and six?”

“No. We will have six and seven. You, Bell, Watson, Latimer, Higgins and Slickson. Each of those will have a partner, and then there is me. With the pairing not even, I think I will sit her next to you and have a woman on the other side of her.”

“That is most likely the soundest idea.”

 

It was nearing 5:00 p.m. when John went to his den and watched out his window for Margaret to leave. Her brother was already waiting for her. He tethered his horse and waited at the bottom step for her. After the wait of a few minutes, Fred walked up to check on her. He entered the office, John saw, wondering what was holding her up. Eventually, Fred opened the door, and they walked to the buggy. Before getting in, they had a conversation which resulted in Margaret taking the reins.

John smiled as he saw her start the horse a bit too quickly causing both of them to lurch in their seats. Fred took the reins from her and pulled the buggy to a stop. John could see Margaret bent over in her lap. Fred was beginning to rub her back. She had hurt herself somehow. John hurried down the steps and trotted over to the pair sitting at a standstill.

“Margaret, are you injured?”

“Thank you, John, I am fine. I have a bit of discomfort in my neck it seems.”

Fred moved his rubbing hand towards her neck, and she winced.

“Can Branson take you to Dr. Donaldson?”

“Thank you, John. We will make it home with no problem.”

“Are you sure, sis?”

“Yes, please Fred, carry on.”

John was worried as Fred pulled away slowly. There were a lot of workers in the yard, leaving for home, which may have spooked the horse he thought. He decided to follow them. John saddled one of his horses and followed at a modest distance. Turning a corner near their home, John could see Margaret still had her head in her lap. He stopped when Fred pulled the buggy to the front of the house. Fred came around to her side and lifted her out. He carried her to the door, where he stood her up and opened the door. John turned around and rode over to Dr. Donaldson’s office.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Thornton. I shall tell the doctor you are here.”

“Please tell him, I just want a discussion with him.”

“Very well.”

John was too restless to be seated. The waiting room was vacant, no doubt near their closing time.

“Come on back, John. Haven’t seen you for a while.”

“I’m not here for myself. I just witnessed a possible injury to one of my workers who insists she is fine. But I am in doubt.”

“Tell me about it.”

John relayed what he had seen.

“It sounds like you are describing whiplash. Most of the time it is painful but not seriously harmful. She refused to come here?”

“Yes, do you think she should?”

“If you saw her move, the chances are great that she did not break her neck. Perhaps you will see her tomorrow?”

“Yes, I will.”

“You will if she can make it to work.”

“I would feel better if you could stop by her house on your way home.” John wrote down the address for Donaldson and returned home. It was time to take his bath and begin his grooming.

 

Fred and Mr. Hale were hovering over Margaret lying on the couch when a knock came to the door. Dixon answered it.

“Hello, my name is Dr. Donaldson. John Thornton reported to me that a woman may have injured her neck and asked me to see to her.”

Fred rushed into the hall and introduced himself. “Thank you for coming. My sister, Margaret, is in here.” Fred led him to the parlor. “This is my father, Mr. Hale.”

“Yes, I know your family. I tended to your mother. John didn’t give me a name only this address.”

Donaldson sat beside the patient and spoke with her while prodding her neck. He helped her sit up and felt all the way down her spine. As he continued his examination, he asked, “Mr. Thornton led me to believe you are a worker at Marlborough Mills. Could that be correct?”

Donaldson could judge by the frown how much it hurt Margaret. “Dr. Donaldson, I only began yesterday as an accountant assistant. We don’t really have a name for what I will be doing.”

“I see. So, you will be sitting for most of your job?”

“Yes.”

“I am going to make a brace for your neck, and I recommend you stay home through the weekend.”

“I have the Thornton dinner tonight and it is most important to me.”

“Margaret,” Richard Haled sighed.

“Well, it is. Fred knows it.”

Dr. Donaldson shook his head but gave her some instructions and strong headache powders. “I must insist you do not attend work tomorrow. You need to lay flat or sit in a chair that supports the back of your head. You must do that for two days. Swivel your head as slowly as possible when you can but come to see me if the pain becomes any worse. The problem with these injuries is that they feel worse the next day and perhaps another day before they begin to ease off the pain. I am giving you a strong medication, but I have stronger if you need it. Just use common sense and be most careful tonight. Do you have someone to dress you?”

“Yes.”

“Well, then, here is the instructions for making a stiff thick collar around your neck. Wear that as long as you feel you must. I would like to see you Monday, if not before. Have a nice time tonight. I hear Mrs. Thornton spares little expense in her annual dinners. Good evening.” Donaldson closed his bag, found his hat and Fred escorted him to the door.

Expecting Margaret home, Dixon had prepared her bath in the kitchen. She could see there would be difficulty in drying and braiding her hair.