Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C14

Chapter Fourteen

On the drive home, John had to wonder if he had an aversion to marriage or not. Several times women had assumed he would be proposing soon and he had to extricate himself from that thinking. He may have wished to continue seeing that lady but clearing the misconception always lead to a complete break-up. His confidence seemed to plummet every time that happened, but he held fast to his pride so it would never show. He seemed to be wanted only for what he had, not who he was inside. He’d known many men that had pursued their intended with more vigor than he had ever imagined. Could he really have a fear of marriage or had he not met the woman that would own his soul? Perhaps, he’d read too many books, and true love wasn’t as consuming as the stories told, although true history books painted the experience of falling or being in love as magnificent.

 

The Hale house was passing around the wine and scotch glasses when they arrived home. Dixon was cheerful hearing all the comments about Miss Margaret.

“Margaret, I think your visual demonstration with the coins was the most impressive,” said Adam.

Richard Hale and Fred agreed.

“I remembered that from class and the impact it made on me at the time. Many things seem to become clear once I saw the merchant do that. Math isn’t visual, there is nothing to excite the learner and some people never take to math in their entire life. But everyone seemed to understand that. I’m glad I thought about it.”

“So, Margaret, where do you go from here?”

Margaret sighed a deep breath. “I don’t know. Bessie made a list of Masters and their mill names. I suppose I should write and see if they really do want more from me.”

“You should charge for this, sis,” said Fred.

“I can’t do that. I wouldn’t do that. It was a teaching session, Fred.”

“Well . . . the biggest visual demonstration tonight was not the coins so much as the teacher. You’ve opened up the world for yourself, sis. I think that retired Captain is first in line, too.”

“Don’t be daft, Fred. There was nothing social about the lesson.”

“Think that if you will.”

“Margaret, I do feel Fred makes a good point,” replied Adam. “I believe that to be your practice ‘coming out’ event. That’s more than Milton usually offers young ladies. I had hoped that I would introduce you at the ball, which I still shall, but I imagine there are rumors circulating as we speak.” Bell smiled.

“Father, could that be true what they say?”

“I think you should prepare yourself for events in your life that you have missed for several years.”

“Sis, you know how you and I have spoken about a certain gentleman, well now, you will have many to entertain you and maybe one or two to fight off.”

“Fight off?”

“I will cover that with you when we are alone.”

“Now, you’re scaring me, Fred.”

“I mean to. This time of life looms larger in a woman’s life than in a man’s. Unfortunately, young women are not only innocent but ignorant of men and their . . .”

“Ahem,” was heard quite loudly from Richard Hale.

“. . . their ways,” Fred concluded. “I will teach you. I just hope I can do it in time.”

“Now Fred, have more confidence in Margaret then that,” proclaimed Adam.

“I do. I do. She’s just physically weak, that’s all.”

“Fred, are you talking about …eh…mm…femininity?”

“Actually, I’m talking about masculinity.”

Margaret blushed badly. Fred laughed, Richard worried, and Adam thought it was endearing.

“I’ve had schooling, Fred!” Margaret spat back.

Fred doubled over with laughter. “I am sure you never learned what I will warn you about.”

Margaret did not want to raise her eyes to three men watching her reaction. She stood and turned to the kitchen. “I have to see Dixon, who has disappeared.”

“On that fine note, I shall leave you fellows to sort out the wheat from the chaff on this adventure Margaret will be embarking on. I will return later this week, but please remind Margaret of the Saturday evening Master’s Ball, which is only four days away.”

 

The house was quiet when John returned. He removed his coat, cravat, and waistcoat. He poured himself an evening scotch, found his newspaper and sat in his chair. There was another reminder for the ball in the paper. He would have to work on some small welcoming speech, introduce the orchestra and the caterers. His mind drifted back to Kit Waverly’s statement about being interested in anyone that Adeline was stepping out with.

“I guess that was a natural reaction or comment by a brother,” he thought. “It just seemed . . . seemed heavier than that, as if she had embellished their relationship or perhaps a warning given if read between the lines.”

 

It was nearing 11:00 p.m. when Bessie tip-toed out and saw her father sitting in the darkened parlor room, staring into the fire.

“Is something troubling you, Father,” Bessie asked.

“No, not really. I always knew there would come a time when you were not my little girl anymore. I seemed quite conscious of it tonight when that horde of Masters surrounded you and Margaret. I know I have promised to take you both to the ball and I guess it is time for you to enter the arena of life and men.”

“And that bothers you? Peggy and I have had long talks about being out with men.”

Nicholas sighed. “I’m glad to hear that. I won’t have to begin at the beginning.”

“Father, Peggy was candid with me and the way it is with males of all ages, but especially the younger ones. For all their life, they will have the physical desire to . . . mate. I heard things when I worked the looms, but it wasn’t until Peggy talked with me that I believed what I had been hearing.”

“I hope she told you to save yourself for marriage.”

“No, she didn’t. But I knew that is the proper way. I also know about a woman’s heart which is more of a factor than men realize.”

“I’m not sure what that means exactly.”

“I know, Father. You are not alone. Just have faith in me that I may not be schooled, but I am intelligent enough to handle myself in situations that I feel sure will arise. I know men are not always true to their hearts when they speak of love. They may think they are at that moment in time, but the woman ultimately has to take the risk. Take Mr. Thornton and Miss Waverly. I would imagine there has been some intimacy in their relationship by now. And I can tell you that she thinks he’ll marry her, but I know he’s not going to. He is not in love with her.”

“Bessie! How can you know such a thing?”

“Because I am a woman. When I met her tonight, it would be apparent to another woman what she wants. John is no fool when all is said and done. He may think he could or is in love with her, but he isn’t and will never marry her.”

“Honestly, you cannot know that. I am close with the man every day. I know how often they see each other.”

Bessie laughed. “Do me a favor over the next couple of weeks. Take note of how many times he speaks about her other than a date of stepping out. Watch him look at her at the Ball. Watch him with her at Mrs. Thornton’s dinner. He will not look lovingly into her face as you once did with Peggy.”

“That’s understandable. A gentleman does not wear his emotions on his sleeve, especially John.”

“He would if he loved her. He would smile more in her presence for one thing. He would not be able to help it, just as you couldn’t. Time will tell, Father. You’ll see that I am right. He may not even know that he won’t marry her, regardless of what his mother might be telling him. I don’t think the poor man has ever been in real love. Every woman would or should be suspect to him, by now. He’s living a fairy-tale. He would like to slip from the castle and go where he is not known and find someone that loves him for himself and not what he can offer. The problem is, John has to run the castle and cannot get away for that to happen. I’ve worked on the mill floors for a few years, and you should have heard how the women talked about him. The man is perfect in every way as a husband.”

“I know the adoration by the females for him. And I can tell you he does not like it. He tries to stay as private as he can. He does miss the joys of life because he’s been in hiding for so long. Now this Miss Waverly seems to be making it around the bend with him.”

“If that’s true, it’s because he’s running out of new women to meet. Father, men, are so dense when it comes to women. The only excuse you have is that you are all the same. We think of it as a birth defect.” Bessie laughed.

“Now listen here, Bessie. That door swings both ways.”

“Before you start on a litany of why women do what they do, I’ll grant you some leverage there. Another time you must tell me where we are faulty. Good night, father.” Bessie smiled and went to the stairs.

 

John rose from his seat and went to collect his writing box. Situating it on his lap, he pulled out a sheaf of paper and began a note to Miss Hale.

 

Dear Miss Hale,

 

I wish to thank you for an illuminating and valued lesson that you presented at the Lyceum over the past two Tuesdays. After a rough start,  which amused me by the way, you launched into your mission with vigor and aplomb instilling in your audience a sense of importance to your words. Someday I wish to tell you about my first few public speaking engagements. It was none the easier for me.

Unfortunately, there had been unexpected guests that required my attention, impairing me from joining the other masters waiting to speak with you. I do wish to speak again soon and perhaps offer you a small employment at our mills. I will factor your salary into my wage budget. I will create a line item for “Budgeteer.”

Perhaps a light lunch at a local eatery would be convenient for you.

Again, a job well down and an apology for telling you this through  a note.

  1. Thornton

 

John sealed the note and prepared it for Branson to deliver the next morning.

 

Dawn was breaking as John was dressing for the day. His thoughts wandered back to Miss Hale and her nervous ordeal of public speaking. He started laughing when he thought of her being drunk last week. She took her embarrassment well. She seemed quite friendly. Why were all the women he saw so serious? With the exception of Higgins wife, he had no women friends. Inwardly, he was admitting to himself that he would be interested to see how she fared in public.

 

“Good morning, John. How was the lesson last night? Did Miss Hale astound the masters?”

“She was quite impressive and did open our eyes to some avenues we’ve never pursued. She had a bit of a hard start as I saw her begin to tilt on her first few words, but I brought a chair for her to sit in. After that, she took off like a shot.”

“I’ve never known a woman like that, have you?”

“How do you mean, mother?”

“It’s not like she’s a suffragette and pleading a cause. She was standing in front of men that are forerunners and history makers and telling them how they can improve. Is she the new woman of today? I don’t know where she got the backbone to do that.”

“Mother, she was trying to save her father from embarrassment. She really didn’t choose to do that.”

“But she did. The nerve had to come from somewhere. She will never be anyone’s common wife.”

“What are you saying? Stay away from her?”

“I’m not saying anything like that. Her husband won’t be telling her what to do very often.”

“Mother, I don’t think you’re very fair to her.”

“You don’t see it, do you, John? I am complementing her. It’s too bad there weren’t any women there to witness what women can do.”

“When I have time, Mother, I will reflect on your words. You are making it sound like a historical event that was hardly worthy of us men of business.” John smiled.

“Oh, stop it, John. You have Miss Waverly. Let some other man try to pull Miss Hale in line.” Hannah asked for the teapot.

John picked up his newspaper and began to scan the headers. His conversation reminded him of his note to Miss Hale. He would have Branson handle that early this morning.

 

Margaret was late coming down to breakfast. She apologized, admitting that the past evening event had been fatiguing. Her father was already in his study with some lesson plans, and she didn’t see Fred.

Settling into the kitchen area, “Dixon, where is Fred?”

“Miss, I will have your tea and breakfast in a moment. I think master Fredrick is outside working on the shed. Yes, I see him. That’s what he’s doing, Miss Margaret.”

“I’ll pop out while you serve the food. Just put it here on the kitchen work table.”

“Yes, Miss.”

Margaret almost had a skip in her step as she bid Fred a good morning. “How is it coming along, your fine stable, that is?” Margaret laughed.

“Sis, my dear, your are looking at a soon-to-be master of horses. I will have to add on to his stable to allow for a second horse, you see.” Fred continued to hammer nails into the rotting wood.

“There was so much talk about me last night, I never found out what you and Branson have accomplished.”

“We should be set with a carriage and horse by the end of the week. I want to buy a saddle today. I believe the buggy assembly has all it needs. I guess I should find out what they eat. Oh, I guess we get straw. I’ll see Branson again in a day or two. I can drive you to the ball to meet Bessie and her father or take you over there.”

“I am sure I will have a ride in Adam’s coach. I am going back inside to eat something.”

“I haven’t checked the front page of the paper to see if you made headlines,” he snickered.

“Stop it, Fred,” Margaret smiled.

 

As Margaret entered the back of the house, she passed Branson on his way out back.

“Good morning, Miss Hale. I have brought a note to you from my master. Miss Dixon has it.”

“Thank you, Branson.”

Knowing in her mind that Mr. Thornton was a taken man, she none-the-less scurried to read his words.

 

 

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C11

Chapter Eleven

 

 

“Margaret, tell me that note was lesson-related.”

“Fred this is lesson-related. I think a walk through a mill will give me a better understanding. I can see all I should know from the current Profit and Loss statements, but being all men, there could be more.”

“That makes no sense at all, you understand,” stated Fred.

Margaret had a twinkle in her eye.

“I think I should go with you.”

“No Fred. Unless Branson sends you a note, then you will stay home.”

 

Higgins unfolded the note that had been left with the gateman. He smiled. “So, she wants to see the mill, does she?” He put the note aside and waited for John to read it. It was Nicholas’s turn for the half day Sunday shift, and he did not mind showing her around. Apparently, this was something to do with her lesson.

John arrived an hour later from mill 2 for their end of daily shift meeting. He hung up his coat and went to his desk where he found Miss Hale’s note.

“Why do you think Miss Hale wants a walk-through of the mill, Nicholas?”

“I think it’s for her next lesson.”

“What could she tell from looking around?”

“Oh, she may be looking for wasted man-hours. She’s probably hoping to find one-quarter of one percent to be saved.” Nicholas laughed. “It’s my shift tomorrow. I don’t mind if you don’t.”

“No, I don’t mind either. Who knows? Maybe she will see something. I’m not busy tomorrow. Branson has found a horse and trap that may be of interest to the Hales. I told him he could have the day off.”

“I’ll take my turn. You just relax for a day.”

“Write your reply. Branson is headed over to the Hales about tomorrow, himself. He can deliver it at the same time. John was handed Nicholas’s folded paper and walked to the back of his house. “Branson!” He shouted.

Branson opened the door to his rooms over the stable and clamored down the steps while buttoning his shirt. “Yes, Guv?”

“Would you see that Miss Hale gets this note when you talk to her brother?”

“Aye, sir.”

 

Branson left immediately, riding one saddled horse.

Fred answered the knock at the door. “Branson, come in.”

Branson stepped inside but no further. “I’ve come to deliver this note to your sister. Also, I think I have found just what you want. A mill master passed away. He had a second small buggy and horse that the family will want to leave behind. They will take the large coach and horses. I could take you there tomorrow.”

“That sounds grand. Wait here.”

Fred went looking for Margaret, who was sitting on the couch flipping through her books.

“Margaret, here’s a note for you. No doubt a reply to your request to seduce Mr. Thornton again.”

Margaret snapped it out of his hands. “Shush. Branson may hear you. He doesn’t know your humor. Wait, Fred, it needs an answer.” Margaret read it once again. Tell the driver that 11:00 a.m. will be fine.”

“Nice sis. And don’t be fooled that anything can get past Branson when it comes to his master.” Fred smirked.

Fred returned to Branson and told him Margaret’s response and asked if that time would be agreeable to him, as well?”

“Most agreeable, Fred. I will see you two then.”

Branson left as Dixon was calling everyone to the dinner table.

When Fred returned, he noticed his sister was off in dreamland. She was unaware that he had walked into the room. “Practicing a new seduction tactic, are we?” Still no reaction from her, not even a head node to placate him. She was either in Thornton land or working on her lesson plans. She did have the books open on her lap. Fred decided to sit down and study her for a moment. At least she blinked once in a while to moisten her eyes. She seemed to be sucking on her finger or chewing her fingernail. After half a minute, she removed her finger from her mouth and licked her lips. Fred had never seen a woman so deep in thought. He finally walked over to her and waved his hand in front of her face.

“Hello. Anyone home?” He called out.

“Oh, Fred. What is it?”

“Where were you just now?”

“Here, on the sofa. I haven’t moved. You know that.”

Fred scoffed. “Margaret, you were miles away in your mind.”

“So? Am I no longer allowed to think for myself?”

“It was like you fell down the rabbit hole. Gone, gone from this room. Tell me, what were you thinking?”

Margaret felt a book start to slide from her lap. “I was planning a lesson.”

“Oh, that was it? I see. I guess you didn’t hear us called for dinner.”

 

Cutting his piece of mutton, Richard Hale said, “Margaret, it was nice of you to accept Adam’s invitation to the Thornton dinner.”

“Thank you, father. Adam Bell is my friend as he is yours. I am glad I can help him be more comfortable at the dinner. I will be happy to talk with him.”

“Have you given any thought to the Master’s Ball,” asked Fred.

“I have. It would be very nice to attend with a gentleman and not a kindness to a wallflower. Adam being seen with a young woman twice may not be proper for him or me.”

“Margaret, I know you are not known here in Milton, but Adam is. I am sure people know of his close acquaintanceship with this family, by now. You still have a couple days to decide that, I suppose.”

“Yes, father. That is right. It’s difficult however I look at it.”

“Sis, perhaps another will invite you.”

“Yes, Margaret. After your next lesson, you may have one or two offers. If that happens, we can surely ask Mr. Thornton for an endorsement of the gentleman.”

“I can’t see a complete stranger, even if he is a gentleman, ask me to a ball.”

“Margaret, it seems I will have to be telling you this often in the days to come. You don’t know your own allure to the opposite sex. Any man would be proud to escort you out.”

“Fred, what is it that I offer? I can see nothing in myself. Other ladies will have gone to a school and finished as a lady. I never took all those courses.”

“Father, can you help with this.”

“Don’t put our father on the burner. He is totally biased, where you have experience with the women. I think your real observations will mean more . . . something more up-to-date. You certainly can see what I am doing wrong. What do I have that is right?”

“After dinner, we will talk.”

“I will be doing my lesson planning tonight.”

“Well then, I will start slow. No sense giving you airs where there could be; and I do know you wouldn’t do that. I am going to picture an average well-bred lady who has finished.”

“All right.”

“Do not make anything of the order in which I say them, because I will not do that. Ready?”

“Yes.”

“Just in the short time I have been home, I can tell that you are more intelligent than anyone I have ever walked out with. Some men may not like that. To hell with them.”

“Fred! Must you?” Mr. Hale said in a stern voice.

“Sorry, father.”

“Margaret, I do not believe you are the type to play games with a man’s feelings. I don’t mean your staring at Mr. Thornton. That is innocence, and it is an attribute that all men sincerely love to see, but it won’t last long. When I was talking about games, I wanted to say do not hide your intellect or your great sense of humor. From the beginning, a man should know the woman he is with. He finds it extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing to later extricate himself from the lady who is no longer the person that he met. Do you understand?”

“I would never pretend with feelings, I know that about myself, at least. I may not want to show an intellectual mind, though. And a sense of humor… Don’t men find that unattractive in their lady?”

“Again, some men might. We are not all the same. But the ones that are worth investing your time will want to know the real you.”

The room became quiet.

“Fred, how about my appearance?”

“That will be for another night.”

Fred saw Margaret’s eyes begin to tear up.

“Please excuse me,” Margaret squeaked out as she left the room.

“Son, it looks like you made a mistake there.”

“I believe I did. She thinks because I wasn’t ready to talk about it that she must not be the beauty that she is.”

“For a man of the navy, experienced in the ways of women, I can’t believe you didn’t think that is what is most important to them.”

“Well…I found that vain in a way and didn’t think of Margaret placing such emphasis on that.”

“You’re wrong, Fred. All young women are raised thinking they must find a husband or they’re lost. They know that their features…face and figure, play a heavy hand in that quest. You and I know that isn’t so. Men aren’t very good at compliments, but we’re not that shallow. She doesn’t know that. She’s upstairs, thinking she has nothing to recommend herself to a gentleman but intelligence and humor.”

Fred pushed away from the table and headed upstairs.

He knocked on Margaret’s door. “I’m sorry. I need to clarify something. Let me in.”

“Go away.”

“I hope you are dressed because I am about to open this door.”

“Don’t you dare, Fred.”

“Cover yourself if you are undressing because I am turning the doorknob now.”

Margaret was sitting on the bed with a pillow to her face. Although hiding her wet eyes, Fred could tell she was still crying.

 

Breakfast around the table the following morning was quiet.

“Margaret, I never finished what I wanted to talk to you about last night.”

“I know, Fred. You were going to convince me that I am pretty.”

“No, sis. You are a beauty.”

“Thank you, Fred,” she said sarcastically.

“Father?” Fred pleaded.

“Margaret, I know you don’t want to hear from me because I am biased. And you are correct there, but I do have the where-with-all to be able to be unbiased when it is important. Your brother is right. Your mother and I often spoke of the loveliness you carry both inside and out. Until moving to Milton, I never worried about the men that may approach you in your life. It was a small town, I knew everyone, but here! I have been put off guard this past year with you staying in. Now, I really feel I am a father to a graceful, handsome woman. I can fear that like any other father.”

Once again, Margaret left the table and ran to her room.

“Father, why do they do that? I think she’s going to be crying because she’s happy. Does that make any sense to you?”

“Fred, with age comes wisdom. It’s hard for younger men to understand. They have never realized the impact that society puts on young women. You went through puberty, more of a delight and an awakening. For women, it is far from that. Yes, they go through their pubertal years but with that comes their biggest stress of life. This has been ingrained in them since birth. Are they strong enough, pretty enough, smart enough to engage in marriage? Can they bear a child? Can they marry for love or will there be another reason? You see they have no rights unto themselves. They are totally dependent on the man that owns them. It’s quite barbaric, I think. Can you understand that at all?”

“I’m beginning to, I think. It may impact the way I treat women in the future.”

“When you find the ‘right’ woman for you, you will treat her as you should. That will come naturally. But how many men really find their soul mate? For years, their manly needs overshadow their heart.”

“I think Margaret has found hers, but it isn’t being reciprocated.”

“She is still young. She may not know what she wants, yet. This is the time when she learns and molds the image of a man she wants to be with. She is beginning to sketch her life.”

 

Branson pulled the coach into Marlborough Mills for Miss Hale to disembark.

Fred assisted her out.

It only took a minute for Nicholas Higgins to appear from one of the sheds. John Thornton looked on from his parlor room window.

As Nicholas pointed the way to lead Margaret, Fred climbed onto the jump seat with Branson, who turned the coach and the two of them were off.

“Mr. Higgins, I am grateful for your time in showing me the workings of a mill. I did a lot of studying last night, which I am sure nothing new was revealed to me that I won’t see here today.”

As Margaret was escorted to the first shed of looms, she removed pencil and paper from her handbag.

 

An hour and a half later, there was a knock on Thornton’s kitchen door. Cook opened the door to Fred.

“Hello. Do you know if my sister is ready to go home? He asked.

“She has not returned from her tour to my knowledge. I’ve been waiting for a call for tea, but no one is ringing for it.”

“If you could tell her when she appears, that her brother is waiting for her at the stable area?

“Yes, laddie I will.”

Fred turned to walk down the steps wondering how long it had been since he had been called a lad.

 

“John, you keep pacing over there by the window. Are you waiting for something to happen? You seem restless,” spoke Hannah.

“Not really. Nicholas is showing Miss Hale the mill structure to help with her next class, but I cannot imagine why it is taking this long.”

“She seems like an intelligent woman. She must be trying in earnest to find ways to work smarter.”

“That is probably impossible. With 200 mill masters having years to think of the same thing, there should be very little she can surprise us with.”

“Well, I for one, give her credit for trying. You know John, women don’t always see things the same way a man does.”

“Yes, that is a hard lesson for a man to learn. Learning it is one thing, understanding and agreeing is entirely another matter.”

Hannah laughed.

 

Finally, John thought. The shift crew whistle had blown. He went back to his window, this time from his study. He waited. He watched all the workers leave the yard and still no Nicholas or Margaret. He saw Margaret’s brother walk to the front of the house looking for her, assuming the same thing he had. This was too much. He donned his coat and went to look for them.

 

“Mr. Thornton. Mr. Thornton!”

“Yes, what is it, Fred?”

“Do you know where my sister is?”

“No, but I am about to find out.”

Fred followed as John entered the quiet, empty shed. No one. They walked on to the second shed, still no one. The third shed, checking all floors lead to no one again. Finally, John headed for the canteen and could hear voices. Nicholas, Miss Hale, and Mary Higgins were sitting at a table talking. Miss Hale seemed interested in what Mary was saying.

Nicholas caught Margaret’s attention. “Looks like we’ve been caught out,” he smiled.

Although tired, Margaret perked up as Mr. Thornton and her brother neared them. There was a greeting, but Fred noticed she never looked toward John after the greeting, not even when he was speaking.

“Women!” Fred whispered loudly under his breath.

“I’m sorry, Fred. I didn’t catch that,” remarked John.

“Sorry. Nothing of importance.”

“Miss Hale,” John called out. “You have been busy here today. I do hope you will not go about giving away our trade secrets.”

“Good day, Mr. Thornton. Mr. Higgins did not especially tell me which were your trade secrets and which were not.”

John caught a glimpse of Nicholas nodding his ‘no.’

“Mr. Thornton, do you expect your 600 employees to keep your secrets?”

Fred was astounded at her impetuous statement.

John was frankly taken aback by the question. “Miss Hale, I do tease you. Forgive me. We hide nothing here. It is for all to see.”

Margaret turned to Nicholas and Mary, thanking them for their time. “Mr. Thornton my thanks to you, as well. I shall leave now. I have been here much too long. I believe I know the way out.”

“I’ll walk out with you.”

John and Margaret walked ahead of Nicholas, Mary, and Fred.

“So, Miss Hale, have we been of any help in your lesson?”

“Yes, I am reminded that budgeting goes hand and hand with profiting.”

“That has always been my understanding,” John smiled.

Margaret said no more, walking quietly beside the tall man who made her legs weak.

As they all emerged into the mill yard, John was surprised seeing another coach pull in.

Adam Bell’s side of the coach was opened for his exit.

“My how fortunate to see all of you here. Margaret, I hadn’t thought to find you. Planning your lessons, no doubt.”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Bell. Yes, you are correct.”

“Miss Hale and her brother were just leaving. How can I help you?” John remarked.

“I am here to accept the dinner invitation. Should I seek Mrs. Thornton or yourself?”

“Please take the stairs into the house. I shall be with you in a moment.”

As Margaret walked to Branson’s coach in the stable area, John noticed she had gone pale. She hadn’t tried staring at him this time, to which he found a modicum of relief. But the paleness was a bit disconcerting.

“Miss Hale, are you feeling well?”

“I am quite fine, thank you. And again, thank you for your time for allowing me to see the operations of a great mill from all I hear.”

“You are quite right. Marlborough Mills, to which there are two, is held in high regard by the workers. I am fortunate in that.”

“Yes, there was little to learn here when talking with some of the workers.”

“That is good news. I will bid you a good day and see you on Tuesday evening.”

“Perhaps the wives or ladies of the masters would care to listen to the discussion. They may learn all that you are responsible for. They would, of course, sit away from the men, so as not to distract them.”

“I shall let that be known. Interesting thought. Some may find fascination in that. Thank you. Good day.”

 

 

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C9 & C10

Chapter Nine

 

 

John was looking at his Profit and Loss statement when Nicholas came into the office. “Good morning, John.”

“I think it will be,” John answered without looking up.

“What have you there?” Nicholas hung his coat.

“I am just looking over our profit sheet and comparing it to the few notes that I took at our lesson last week.”

“Such as?”

“When she spoke about being prepared for meeting our business needs for the next year is a considerable factor to budget. I want to start increasing our purchases by 10 percent. We will steadily increase that during the year. We shall get with the foremen on that. It is probable that we may need another warehouse. We may be looking at a third mill, too.”

“You think she’s fairly accurate on that forecast of the years following the exhibition.”

“I do. I can’t understand why our accountant or we didn’t see that. Check our three-year budget and see what we did. It may be prudent in another five years for one of us to sail to the Americas and collect some facts so we don’t speculate on the assumption we can always buy cotton from there. What do you think about hiring her?”

“Doing what?”

“Working with our accountants one or two days a week.”

“They will surely love that,” Nicholas said sarcastically.

“Not with our accountants, but looking over their work and our planning. I think I will ask her before some other Master does.”

“Where would she work?”

“There’s that desk over there. Didn’t she say something about taking that class to enable her to support herself?”

“Yes, I think so. I’m not sure where I heard that. It could have been from Bessie.”

“What about her brother. He’s educated?”

“Branson seemed to think he was finding a real interest in driving a coach. I cannot see it myself. He may have money in his own right by now. Perhaps, driving sounds appealing to him. Should he need work, I am sure we could train him up quickly.”

“You may want to drop a hint about that when you see him next before another Master claims him,” Nicholas said in a condescending humorous manner.

 

Margaret gently returned the poised fork to her plate. “I know I was listening, but what I heard makes little sense.”

“Margaret, Mr. Bell is inviting you out to dinner. How hard is that to understand,” said Fred.

“Margaret, your brother is right. I believe you are now old enough and free of responsibilities to be out in public with a gentleman. Perhaps, I am too old, and that’s what doesn’t make sense.” Spoke Adam.

“No. No, that’s not it at all.”

“Mr. Bell,” began Fred, but was interrupted.

“I wish you both to begin calling me Adam, please.”

“If you wish. I believe Margaret is in awe that she may have another chance to stare at Mr. Thornton,” Fred laughed.

“Fred, stop that. It’s not true. Mr. Bell, Adam, I do not know of your social life, but I cannot believe you would ask me to such an important setting.”

“Margaret, I go every year. I am the only gentleman without a lady in attendance. I would like to escort you to that dinner.”

Fred was laughing inside watching his sister pretending not to be too excited about being in Mr. T’s presence again.

Dixon carried in the fresh teapot, and the conversation was quiet while she poured. Margaret needed that moment to form an answer.

“Margaret, please do not think that I am doing you a kindness. You would be doing a kindness for me. I’ve grown tired of talking to the same masters every year. Invariably, I am placed at the table like a stepchild. I believe Mrs. Thornton purposely places me between the two dullest wives or one that doesn’t have a brain. You would be my salvation.”

“Are you sure I would be welcomed? I am not part of the world of milling.”

“I dare say there will be much talk on that subject. I believe that is why I am situated between two talkative women. I will be told about their latest needlepoint and grandchildren. Heavens, please save me from that.”

Everyone laughed.

“What was this conversation you spoke to father about when you entered the room?”

“Over the years, your father and I have corresponded about everything in our lives. He often spoke about his children and I was eager to hear it. In these last few years, I think we both worried about your social life. You had none. The daughter of a clergyman rarely is introduced to the world outside of the parishioners. As I know, you took a difficult route through your finishing school after which you came home to responsibilities as a caregiver. Past that, you had a bereavement period. I have waited a long time to escort you out and introduce you to the finer amenities that a woman your age should be exposed to. At my age, I think of it as an inoculation, if you will.” Bell laughed. “It’s time to broaden your horizons. And I am harmless.”

Everyone laughed.

“Adam, you and I must have a small conversation regarding my sister. I think she has started off in a manner not befitting a lady.” Fred smiled.

“Adam, don’t listen to him or at least, hear my side later.”

“Now, I am quite intrigued. Yes, Fred, we shall talk. As for dinner, do we have an agreement?”

All eyes once again fell on Margaret.

Holding the tension a moment, she said, “Yes.”

“Just so I am clear, dear Margaret, yes, to what exactly?”

“Yes, I will attend the dinner on one condition.”

“And that is . . . ?”

“That Mrs. Thornton knows that you are engaging me.”

“That is expected of everyone who is invited. She does like to know the names of everyone around the table. Don’t worry about that. Fine. It is settled then!”

Fred tipped back in his chair and clapped his hands at his sister.

“Now, at the risk of your reputation, Margaret, I want to ask if you have been invited to the Master’s Ball?” Adam asked with a grin.

Margaret sighed. “Could I finish my breakfast? I am starting to get too nervous to eat.”

 

Branson had received permission from his master, to saddle a horse and leave to check on a horse and buggy for the Hales. John, having nothing planned, gave him several hours off. While his master had his lady friend at the house, the evening before, Branson visited with people who gave him a few leads to follow up. He didn’t exactly know what they had to spend, but with Fred’s interest, he figured he would want an exceptional horse.

 

Bessie was settling on her gown for the ball. She had a reticule which she had received as a gift from her stepmother, Peggy. She had ribbons and flowers for her hair, but when she looked for the long gloves, she had nothing to match. She would have to shop. Telling herself she was not that interested in Margaret’s brother, she felt she needed to visit with her today. Instead of rudely popping in, she sent a note with their driver.

 

Adam Bell and the Hales had completed their breakfast and moved into the sitting room.

“Margaret, I am serious about the ball. I do go every year but go alone. Don’t answer me now, but should you not be invited by another gentleman more your age, I would like you to attend it with me.”

“Adam, it seems one of us will gain a reputation if seen in both places,” Margaret smiled.

“I am sure it will be me. They will wonder what old man Bell is doing with such a beautiful young woman.”

“Adam, if you really feel that way, I will decline. I should hate for people to think you daft.”

“Au contraire, milady. They shall not think me daft, but they will be envious. Think about it.”

“Bessie Higgins is going with her father due to her mother’s illness and I have been invited to go with them. It’s a first for her and me. I cannot leave her alone. I think we have a pact.”

“A pact, have you?” Bell laughed. “I see. Two young ladies on the prowl, eh?”

“What … on the prowl?

“Adam,” interjected Fred, “she is prowling now but does not recognize it as such. She was with me when I went to Marlboro Mills yesterday. She stared at Mr. Thornton unabashedly.”

“Adam, that doesn’t mean I was trying to seduce him, does it? That’s what Fred said I was doing. He can’t be right about that.”

Richard Hale was chuckling over the spot Adam was being placed in. Adam certainly knew about the whims of women, where he didn’t.

Fred and Margaret waited for an answer.

“I’m sorry. Am I supposed to be some type of referee in this,” Adam asked. He glimpsed at Richard, who was smiling while reading his paper.

“Father Hale,” asked Adam, “has there not been a reckoning for this young woman?”

“Adam, you don’t have to ask that of my father. I went to finishing school, you know. They said nothing about looking directly at someone.”

“She said that Mr.Thornton is a good-looking man … her words. Sis found it hard to pull her gaze from him. She doesn’t know her own power over men yet. One or both of us have to teach her.”

There was a knock at the door.

Margaret jumped to her feet, “Power over men? Fred, you are getting more ridiculous.”

Dixon handed the note to Margaret. “Miss, the driver is waiting for an answer.”

Margaret read the note from Bessie. “Dixon, tell the driver ‘I will be most happy to be of help,’”

Dixon left the room and again all eyes were on Margaret.

“It seems Mr. Thornton is asking if I can take a look at his profit statement. Excuse my while I get ready.”

Margaret walked into the hall near the stairway and started to laugh. She couldn’t help but enjoy these conversations of impending social skills with men. It had been more than a year ago when she learned proper manners but had not had an occasion to use anything past day-to-day politeness. For a little while, the men were going to think she was to face Mr. Thornton alone. “Whatever will they say next?” She wondered.

 

Margaret was waiting by the door and saw the coach arrive. She walked out immediately before Bessie, or her driver came to the door.

“I don’t believe it. She is getting into the coach,” Fred gasped.

“Fred, do not worry. She thinks she is fooling us. That is not Mr. Thornton’s coach by any means.”

“So who is she with?”

“I know that coach but cannot remember who it belongs to. Has she made any friends?”

“Just Bessie Higgins.”

“That’s whose coach it is. Nicholas Higgins. Now that we have that cleared tell me about her behavior.”

Fred began the short tale of Margaret and the Man. Richard Hale mentioned about her nervousness when Thornton had asked her a question in the classroom. The men spent two hours talking about Margaret’s introduction to men and what she needed to know. Also, Adam learned of her teaching skill about budgeting. Tea was served several times.

 

Bessie and Margaret were strolling along the store fronts. The driver was pacing the coach behind them. Margaret stopped at a store window.

“Bessie look at these beautiful crocheted table covers. Oh, and here is a bedcovering. Do you think there might be a nice shawl in here.”

“Let’s look.”

Both ladies entered the small room, hearing the bell clang as the door opened. A woman rocking in the back of the room with her handwork in her lap asked if she could help. Neither Margaret or Bessie could see where the voice came from.

“Here, I am,” she said, standing.

“Miss, we noticed your lovely work in the window and came in to ask perchance you make ladies shawls?” Bessie inquired.

“Yes, miss. I have two over here.”

They were directed to a shelf on the back wall. The owner unfolded each one to show size and pattern.

“They are truly lovely,” Bessie said.

“What do you think Margaret?”

“Exquisite work. Perhaps I should have taken needlework in school,” she grinned.

Both women looked at the intricate work. Margaret had Bessie try on both. The shop owner pointed to a full mirror so she could see herself.

“Oh Margaret, I can’t seem to choose. What do you think?

Margaret walked around Bessie several times with each shawl seeing what it looked like if someone was walking behind her.

“Bessie, they are both grand. If I had to purchase one, it would be the one you have on now.”

“I think so, too.”

The shop owner helped remove the shawl and waited for an affirmative answer.

“I will take this one.” Bessie pointed to the one just removed from her shoulders. “My father is one of the Masters at Marlborough Mills. Can you bill us?”

“I am sorry madam, I cannot afford to do that. However, I can set it aside for a week until you can return to it. Once it’s purchased, then I will open an account for you on any other purchases in the future.”

“Thank you. I’m not sure if my father has this much money on him today, but we shall go ask.”

“Please, miss, your name?”

“Bessie Higgins.”

“It is set aside for you.”

“Thank you. I will go see father now. Otherwise, I will return early in the coming week.”

“Very good, miss.”

They said their goodbyes and hurried to the carriage waiting outside. “Take us to the mill, please..”

“Margaret, I am so glad you noticed that.” Bessie looked at Margaret. There was something strange about the look on her face. “Is anything wrong, Margaret? You look strange. Should I take you home first?”

“No. I will be glad to go with you.”

“Is it Mr. Thornton?”

“Why do you ask that? Of course, it isn’t. It isn’t anything. I guess I was just thinking of something when you looked over at me. I believe I was wondering about my own shawl.”

“All right. We’re here anyway.”

Bessie asked a worker where her father might be and was told the partners were in the office upstairs.

“Oh thank you. Let’s go, Margaret. What is wrong with you, c’mon.”

Margaret promised herself all the way up the steps she would not stare.

Bessie knocked on the door and entered without waiting.

“Well, I see my young lady and her friend have come for money, I would wager.”

John looked up from his profit worksheet.

“Good morning Bessie, Miss Hale.”

Margaret nodded her head and stood next to Bessie in front of her father’s desk while she pled her case for the shawl.

Margeret peeked sideways and saw Mr. Thornton watching her, listening to the conversation.

She quickly snapped her head forward as if mortified being caught looking at him.

He grinned at the thought.

Nicholas pulled some paper money from his pocket and gave it to his daughter.

“Thank you, father. I wanted to look nice for my first ball.”

Margaret looked over again at Mr. Thornton. She noticed he was looking at his profit statement. She hadn’t said a word except for good morning.

“Well, Margaret shall we go?”

“Of course. Good day, Mr. Higgins, Mr. Thornton.”

“Before you leave, Miss Hale, I was wondering how you are coming along for our next lesson,” John asked. “There is more, isn’t there? I’ve had some very complimentary words on your lesson. Please have some water with you this time,” he smiled.

“Thank you, Mr. Thornton. Fairly well, yes, I’m delighted, I will.” Margaret answered all four questions in succession as they were asked and then opened the door and walked out.

Bessie turned to Mr. Thornton and shrugged her shoulders and then followed after Margaret.

John and Nicholas looked at each other in surprise and then started laughing.

“Did you catch all that, John,” Higgins asked laughingly.

“I think so. It was rude of me not to let her answer each question, and she threw it back at me.” John gushed with laughter and rocked back in his chair with his hands behind his head.

After climbing into the carriage, Bessie asked, “What was that all about?”

“What was what?”

“Mr. Thornton asked you a few questions.”

“I know. I answered them, didn’t I?”

“Yes, but …”

“But what?”

“You answered them all in one sentence. You gave four answers in a row.”

“No, I didn’t do that.”

“You surely did, Miss Hale. You left Mr. Thornton and my father laughing as we left. They were surprised. I think you were nervous.”

“Nervous?”

“Yes, seeing Mr. Thornton. You’re doing that parrot thing again. You didn’t know you would be seeing him today. Now, I know why you looked like you did in the coach coming here. It was either fear or excitement.”

“I assure you, neither is the case.”

“Margaret, he makes you nervous. I remember you feeling that way at the lesson and just now. He’s taken you know?”

“I know.”

“Then I was right, it was Mr. Thornton exciting you. Admit it. You are falling for the man.”

“I am sure you are quite wrong, and as you say, he is taken.”

Chapter Ten

 

 

Margaret asked to be let off at the library which was on the way to Bessie’s shawl shop. She had put that off too long. She only had three more days to accumulate all she wanted to say.

 

She was left in front of the library and watched as she entered, but Bessie didn’t like leaving her there alone. She decided to get Margaret’s brother so he could walk her home.

Fred answered the door to Bessie.

“Did you happen to forget to bring my sister home?” He grinned. “Come in.”

“That’s why I am here, Fred. She asked to be taken to the library, saying she would walk home. I do not feel comfortable with that. If you or your father would like a ride to the library before I go home, I would feel relieved about leaving her.”

“Wait here. I will tell father, and get my coat.”

Fred was only a minute, and Bessie had the thought that she now felt how Margaret must have felt going to see Mr. Thornton.

“I’m ready.” Fred opened the door for Bessie. “After you, milady,” he jested. “Bessie, I know no one from here. I would like to ask you to have dinner out with me some evening. Do you have to get permission?”

Bessie was caught off guard, but pleasantly. “I didn’t expect that. I’m sorry I look so surprised.”

“You shouldn’t, you know. You’re a lovely young lady. I would be honored to have you on my arm.”

Bessie started to blush. That took Fred aback. The women he had seen in the past few years weren’t the type to blush.

“Fred, you do me honor in asking. I must say that I haven’t been out with a gentleman before. I am sure I will embarrass you in some way.”

“I think it’s impossible to embarrass me and nothing you could do would make me feel that way. I won’t ask for an answer now. But be prepared in the near future. I will say this. I am young, intelligent, a gentleman, who is a bit rough around the corners, headstrong on some points. I love my sister with all my heart. I would like to know you better.”

Fred noticed Bessie’s face was flush with color. She looked away.

“Fred, please.”

“Please, what?” He knew he was close to wooing her. Whether she realized or not, didn’t matter.

“We are at the library. I will think about it. I will give Margaret a note the night of her lesson class.”

“No need for a note. I will be there, too. I have an appointment to talk with Branson.”

“I see.” Fumbling for words, “give me some time to think about this. I’m not sure I would be chaperoned or not.”

“That would be cumbersome. I should think not, considering I am almost part of the family.” Fred laughed.

“You shall have an answer soon.”

“I can wait.” Fred kissed the back of her hand and exited the coach.

 

As Bessie walked out of the shop with her purchase, there was a nice gentleman standing outside waiting for her.

The man knew her driver was watching intently.

“Excuse me, miss. I am sure you do not recognize me, and perhaps I should wait for a proper introduction. My name is Colby Hunt. I saw you at the Master’s lesson class last week, is that not correct?”

Bessie looked at her driver who jumped down from his seat and stood behind her like a guard.

“Yes, I was there. Are you a mill master?”

“I am. Am I right in assuming you are the daughter of Mr. Higgins of Marlborough Mills?”

“You know my father?”

“Yes, for several years now. I wanted to introduce myself that night, but you and Miss Hale left in a hurry with her condition.”

“How can I help you?”

“Please tell your father that I have introduced myself. Here is my card. I would like to ask him if I may ask you to have tea with me in that small café in town. That is if you are willing.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t even know you.”

“That’s the point of having tea.”

“I’m at a loss for words today. I will talk with father, but I do not think that I will be interested.”

“I see. I am disappointed but understand. I come out of nowhere and ask you out. Perhaps you will reconsider one day. Please excuse me for taking your time. Good day, Miss Higgins.” Mr. Hunt turned and left.

Bessie’s driver opened the door for her and held her package until she was situated. “Home please.”

“Very good, miss.”

Bessie felt like she had just dreamed that.

 

“Fred, what are you doing here?”

“Miss Bessie didn’t like leaving you to walk home alone, and I am against it, too. You should have more sense.”

“I do this often, Fred.”

“Well, now that I am here, you will have a coachman or me to accompany you. Perhaps mid-town you could walk with little fear, but not the way you have to come and go from here to home. Too many back streets for a young lady to weave her way through.”

“Shush! We don’t talk in here. People are trying to read.”

“What are you looking for?”

“Books on milling accountability?”

“Let me see. I’ll look through the first thousand and you can look through the rest.”

“Stop it, Fred. You’re here to walk me home not to assist me in my lesson planning. Now, go sit down or look through books on … horse and buggies.”

“Not a bad idea.” Fred went strolling off looking for books about horse ownership.”

Margaret let out a sigh and headed toward the milling section, which was exceptionally large. There were books for the twine used to bundle the end bolts to books on “Taxes and Tariffs” when shipping to other ports. She knew little of that and decided to bring that one book home. Estimating building structures, machines, and start-up costs were a good find. The ledger accounting was all the same, but she was looking for specific line-items they could massage or improve from one month to the next. There were few if any books on businesses the size of a cotton mill. Margaret couldn’t find any type of business that hired as many as a mill. She would like to walk a mill so she could visualize changes that could be made if a master had a mind to. Did she dare go to Marlborough Mills again?

Margaret went to the front desk and asked for a piece of paper. She was going to send Marlborough Mills a note and ask for a guided tour.

When they left the library, she had the driver take them to John Thornton’s mill yard. When the coach stopped outside the yard, the gateman walked her way.

“Please sir, could you see that one of the masters receives this today?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He thumbed his cap as a polite gesture and backed away as the driver turned their coach around.

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C8

Chapter Eight

“Mother, I would like to introduce Miss Margaret Hale.”

“Welcome, Miss Hale. I have heard much about your teachings this past week.”

“I will leave you two to your tea. I must return to work.”

It wasn’t missed by John or his mother the look of disappointment on Margaret’s face. He’s leaving?

“Miss Hale, is anything wrong? Hannah asked. John looked on waiting for an answer.

“No. No, nothing is wrong.”

“For a moment, you looked stricken.”

“Miss Hale, do you wish me to remain?” asked John.

“Oh, no. Please go on about your business. Thank you for your kind hospitality in meeting your mother and letting my brother speak with your driver.” Margaret struggled to regain her poise.

“I will go then. Please feel free to come here for any help. I know you know very few people in Milton.”

“Thank you, Mr. Thornton.

“Perhaps, you will allow me to take you to dinner in the future so that we can remedy that lack of proper introductions.”

“I shall look forward to it.” Margaret brightened. It was known by then that Miss Hale had an interest in John Thornton. For John and Hannah, this was a common occurrence. Hannah felt sorry for her immediately.

“John, do remember your dinner engagement with Miss Waverly this evening. Don’t be late.”

“Am I ever late, mother? Good day, Miss Hale.” John turned and left with no ceremony. Hannah was eyeing Margaret.

“Miss Hale, you seem disappointed that my son left.”

Margaret did not know how to reply to that. She was caught out.

“I am embarrassed to admit, he is a handsome man. I find it difficult to look away.”

“Nice to hear someone actually admit that. Don’t be ashamed of your acute observations. Many a woman has suffered the same fate. He is favored by far too many women in Milton. Won’t you have a seat? Tea, Jane, if you don’t mind,” Hannah instructed when Jane came into the room.

Margaret took a seat, crushed beyond words. “There seems to be a rumor circulating that he may soon be engaged?”

“You are quite right. That is a rumor. I must admit though that he has been seeing Miss Adeline Waverly for some time. I will not be surprised when he announces it to me.”

“You like her then?”

“She has her own money, which always worries me about John’s lady friends. At least, she is not interested in him for that. She’s polite and interesting. I think she would suit him for a wife.”

“I see. I do wish him happiness. It must be hard for such a man to find a woman that is interested in him for himself and not his wealth, fame or appearance. All those qualities in one gentleman are very hard to find, I would imagine.”

“Do you have a gentleman, yourself?”

“Oh, no. I have only been out two times while at school.”

“Yes, John told me about how impressed he was with your education. Apparently, you learned more of the non-traditional studies.”

“Although I have an aunt in high society in London, who paid for my education, I am smart enough to see my life ahead. I had to study in areas which could bring me a living.”

“Would not your aunt help you?”

“Oh yes. She begs me to allow her, but I do not care for the social strata of London society. I grew up under the influence of a gentleman clergy. We lived in a small town where people worked hard, and there were no barriers. I do not wish to step into a sophisticated world, even though I could. I think my mother was disappointed in me. She, of course, was from the same circles in London, but met my father and married for love. That is what I hope happens to me. She gave up all of her life’s luxuries for my father.”

“And you would do the same?”

“Without hesitation. I saw, although seen in a clerical light, their love was great for one another. My father is struggling with her loss.”

“I am sorry to hear that. Has she been gone long?”

“Almost a year now.”

“And what have you done this past year?”

“When I left school, I came home to tend to my mother and father. He was destroyed. I believe he is just now beginning to recover.”

“So you have seen no gentlemen while here?”

“No, none really, until the other night in the lesson room. I have recently become friends with Miss Bessie Higgins, and she is asking that I go to the Master’s Ball with her and her father. I am looking forward to that, but also very afraid.”

“Do you know why Mrs. Higgins is not attending?”

“She is recovering from an illness. She is feeling much better, but her weakness will still be an issue by the time of the ball. I’m sorry to say her misfortune will be a big adventure for me.”

“How old are you Miss Hale?”

“I shall be twenty-three in two months.”

“Yes, it is getting late for you to get out and be seen. I am sure all the available men will find you and Miss Higgins impossible to resist.”

“I do hope it is not as you say.”

“Why, Miss Hale. Most young women want men falling at their feet.”

“I believe Bessie to be as I am. We are both shy, at least now that this is all new to each of us. How do you tell a gentleman no when you don’t care to dance? Won’t that offend them?”

“I can see you have been quite sheltered in your life. And I suppose you do not have another woman to guide you along after your mother passed.”

“My mother never guided me along. Those things were never spoken about. My brother has just come home from serving in Her Majesties Navy. We have been talking. He told me I was trying to seduce your son, with my eyes, earlier today. I don’t even know what that means. He hasn’t explained it to me yet. I admit I must have stared at your son’s beauty, but I didn’t know I was seducing him. I’m not even sure he’s not teasing me. If it was something that I did, I don’t know how to apologize.”

Hannah finally broke into a smile. She felt Miss Hale was as innocent as she seemed to be. In past visits, she’d had women trying to impress her so that she would compliment them to her son. Miss Hale was not like that. “Miss Hale, I am sure your brother will be quite capable of explaining the male’s thinking. You may get a better education from him than you could ever have hoped for from another woman.”

Margaret giggled. “I hope you’re right. He sure is working on me about my staring. I hope I didn’t embarrass Mr. Thonron today.”

“I am sure you have not. He is quite used to it and does a fine job of ignoring it. He hasn’t let all these women beguile him. I think he must have seen it all. Other single gentlemen are quite enamored with the way he is. He does not care to stand out in any way other than in his business. He is proud of what he has achieved from nothing. I am proud of him too.

“From nothing?”

“Some day you must visit again, and I shall tell you of the hardships he has endured to get where he is.”

“I would very much like to hear it.”

The backdoor was heard being opened and then footsteps on the back stairs.

“Excuse me,” announced Fred as he entered the room.

“Mrs. Thornton, I would like you to meet my brother, Frederick Hale.”

“How do you do, Mr. Hale?”

“Please call me Fred. There is a Mr. Hale ahead of me,” he smiled.

“Was Branson able to help you?”

“Very much so. I think we have a lot in common. I shall enjoy learning from him. He has ideas on where to start. When he is allowed, he and I will begin our quest for a horse and trap or buggy.

“Mrs. Thornton, I really enjoyed our chat. I will look forward to speaking with you again. I suppose we must go. Tell Mr. Thornton, thank you.”

“I will, Miss Hale. Do have a lovely time on the ball.”

“I will hope for the best. Good day.”

Fred said his goodbye and escorted his sister down the front steps.

Margaret cast a glance around the yard and did not see Mr. Thornton. It was disappointing, but she held her composure.

John watched from his office window as Fred helped his sister into the rented coach.

 

“Nicholas, what do you think of Miss Hale’s brother?” John asked smiling.

“First of all, I didn’t know she had a brother. I am not sure I have formed any opinion as of yet. Why do you ask?”

“She apologized for her brother’s comment about Bessie’s appearance. Although complimentary, Miss Hale felt it was too early to state such a remark in front of you. She explained saying that he has just returned from the Navy. I think there is going to be something brewing between him and Bessie. I get the impression that Miss Hale thinks there might be.”

“She may fall in love with whoever she wants to as long as she has my permission.”

They both laughed.

“What do you think of Miss Hale?” John asked.

John was still standing in front of the office window with his arms crossed when Nicholas spun his chair around and asked, “In what regard are you meaning?”

“No particular regard.”

“Well, I was certainly astounded at the last lesson. Aside from knowing our accountability, she actually selected it as a study in school. Highly unlikely if you ask me. Perhaps she wishes she were a man.” Nicholas purposely said that for a reaction from John.

“Now, in what regard do you mean that?” John countered.

“Is there more than one way?”

“Yes, of course, there is. You seem to think she may have a preference for other women.” John became stern.

“Hold on, John. I was saying that for a response from you and you sure gave it.” Nicholas laughed. “The thought of that seems it would be upsetting to you.”

“I’ve never given any thought to an idea such as that. You brought it up.”

“I apologize. I didn’t mean anything by it, and I don’t think it to be so. I was only looking for your response. I was gauging your interest.”

“Please do not draw any inference from my question. I have no interest in her beyond the classroom. I think I’ll go see Branson for a moment and then bathe for my night out. See you tomorrow.”

 

“Margaret, how did your tea chat go with Mrs. Thornton,” Fred asked entering the rented coach.

“Fine, I suppose.”

“Did you discuss Mr. Thornton with her? He already has a lady friend. Right?”

“How do you know?”

“It’s written all over your face.”

“You do seem to take too much interest in my face. Yes, he has a lady friend.”

“Are they engaged?”

“No.”

“You’re not giving up on him, are you?”

“Fred! I stared at the man’s beauty once, just once. You would have me marrying him tomorrow.”

“I can give you pointers.”

“Pointers? What are pointers?”

“I can give you clues on how to turn his head.”

“No, thank you. I don’t think I’d like your pointers.”

“So you are giving up.”

Margaret had no answer. Fred didn’t badger her any further.

“How did the horse conversation turn out?”

“I think we are in fine shape. Branson is going to ask around. I will come to the next lesson that you teach and speak with Branson while he waits for Mr. T.”

“Fred, that will be so nice to have transportation when we want it. Thank you for doing this for us.”

 

Arriving home, Margaret returned to her room with a much different feeling than this morning. She remembered some of the words from Mrs. Thornton about his popularity, but she thought more about her brother asking if she was giving up. She knew what a proper woman would do, but she didn’t like that choice. Something would come to her soon enough.

Fred sat down with his father while dinner was being prepared.

“Father, I think I did well in talking to Mr. Thornton’s driver, Branson. He certainly knows all there is to ever learn. For a driver in-service, he is well acquainted with the rented coaches and their horses and drivers, too.”

“Understand Fred, that a driver waits for his master. Often he gathers with other drivers, be they hired or in-service. I imagine there is a whole unknown community structure among them all.”

“Yes, I suppose you are right. Should Margaret be invited somewhere, I could probably ask Branson about the gentleman. He would most likely know of his reputation or could find out. Also, it seems our Margaret enjoyed Mrs. Thornton this afternoon, the honorable Mr.T did not stay. She seems a little down.”

“It is a good learning experience for her. She couldn’t be in love with the man, so it is not as if she is suffering from a broken heart. I think there’s little worry there.”

 

Ladling his soup into a bowl, Richard Hale asked, “Margaret, have you begun to plan the next lesson section.

“No, I haven’t, father and it’s time I returned to that. I will need one more turn at the library. Perhaps Fred will be able to drive me in a day or two.”

“Margaret, I do believe we will start with something small enough for you to handle yourself. I can teach you to drive a small buggy. Branson will teach me to harness it. Tomorrow, I shall begin to make repairs in the stable,” Fred said beaming. “I always wanted to say I had a stable,” he laughed.

“Can I tell people that you are my driver. That’s something I’ve always wanted to say. ‘’’ Please sir, can you fetch my driver?’”

Richard Hale laughed. “Margaret do you expect your brother to transport you somewhere and then wait upon you?”

“No, because he’ll expect me to pay him,” she giggled.

“Sis, I will do anything within reason for you. I will play the driver to your ladyship if you need that some evening. I will need a proper livery, though. Perhaps, I should begin to design the Hale crest for the door.”

Now everyone was laughing, even Dixon, who could overhear the conversation.

“Father, do we come from any nobility?” Fred asked.

“Of course, you do, but it is not from the Hale side of the family. It was far back in your mother’s ancestry. I doubt the owners of that crest would allow its usage by people such as us.”

“Then we’ll just have to make our own. It’ll be a laugh. Should we have any crossed swords or lions rearing up? Perhaps a hero standing at the large foot of a slain dragon. It will read ‘Hale, Mighty Warrior.’”

Margaret couldn’t remember having such fun in her life. Her brother had grown into a fine man with a sense of humor that matched her own.

“Fred,” Richard Hale admonished, “ even the simple letter “H” will be presumptuous.”

“I shall save that for when we have a real driver, father. We will encircle the “H” in a wreath.”

“Fred, with you being my brother, I can only expect a “For Hire” painted on the door.”

“I did have a good education. I was, for a while, an officer in Her Majesty’s service, which means I should be able to find decent work. But I must admit, hearing Branson sounded far more interesting than sitting behind some desk.”

“Fred, you should know that no one in Milton sits behind a desk as a job. This is a working town. Are you still planning on visiting a tavern tonight?”

Richard Hale looked down at the linen in his lap. Picking it up and wiping his mouth, he said, “If you two will excuse me, I think I shall retire early. Margaret, we should get started on your lesson tomorrow. We will go over what you have taught and find a place to pick up again.” Richard Hale rose.

“Goodnight, father,” both Fred and Margaret said in unison.

 

John, Adeline, and Hannah sat down to a pleasant dinner.

“How are your plans coming along for your big dinner party, Mrs. Thornton?”

“They are satisfactory at this point. I have been working on them daily for almost a week and still have more to go.”

“That is a task to undertake, I can imagine.”

“Yes. I’ve told John that he must handle it next year. I am getting too old, but the Thornton annual dinner with the Masters should continue. I am making notes, so he has them for next time. Perhaps, he will have someone to help him by then.”

Adeline grinned as she sipped at her soup.

John didn’t feel comfortable with his mother stating it that way. It felt to him like she wanted to force a conversation between him and Adeline. He had made no firm decisions in his mind about a wife. He thought that his mother’s doctor visit today reinforced her advancing age and she wanted to see him settled.”

“You say, Masters, Mrs. Thornton, but there are hundreds. How do you pick and choose who to invite?”

“John picks them, but they are the same every year. It usually is a few of the original masters. The ones that have been here the longest.” Hannah looked at John.

“John, have you heard anything from Adam Bell. I wonder if he plans on bringing someone this year. Every year I think he’s going to and every year he doesn’t.”

“I have not had a letter from him in some time. He should be in town in a day or two. If I see him, I will remind him that you would like an answer.”

“I am so looking forward to meeting all of your friends, John. Mrs. Thornton, may I be of any help? It would be nice to learn what is expected.”

“No, my dear. That is a gracious offer, but I need no help as yet, except staff.”

“Could I lend you mine?”

“I tend to select a particular service and its staff that are well accustomed to my ways but thank you.”

“Do remember to call on me, if I can be of any help.”

“You are most kind.”

“If you ladies would like to continue your conversation, I will be in my library for a few minutes.” John excused himself and left the dinner table. How many years he had heard the same conversation? He enjoyed the dinner, the friendship and allowing his mother to bask in her own glory, but the talk of it seemed to be repeated for a month. He was bored with it.

“John I will fetch you for tea or brandy when we’re done here.”

“Thank you, Adeline.”

Hannah thought she detected an underlying feeling in that thank you. Something seemed to be bothering him. She would ask later or tomorrow.

 

John walked into his library and picked up his rolled up profit and loss statement that he had forgotten to take to his last class, but it was the one that Miss Hale had asked to see earlier on that lesson day. With it unfurled and the corners anchored under some small heavy object, he began to peruse what he had learned. Realizing he had left his notes in his mill office. He left to go get them.

As he passed the dining room, the women were still talking. Adeline was smiling with her bright eyes, and he thought his mother looked less interested than she did moments ago. John knew he should rejoin his guest and his mother when he returned. In his mind, he had a fleeting  realization that he had called Adeline a guest instead of by her name.

 

On his return, the women were sitting in the parlor waiting on brandy. He passed around the goblets, and the discussions commenced.

“If you two do not mind, I will excuse myself for the night. It was a pleasure seeing you again, Miss Waverly.”

John stood and took the glass from his mother as she rose. He had taken to being near her when it required some effort for her to rise or use the steps.

“Thank you, Mrs. Thornton, for a lovely meal and conversation. I hope to see you again, soon.”

 

John and Adeline eventually sat together on the sofa.

Laying back in the crook of John’s shoulder, Adeline asked, “What’s the ball going to be like John?”

“I never really know how to answer that. I think some daughters or other women find it a bit disappointing if they have gone to a finishing school. It is our biggest social event. We do dress in our finest. There will be a dinner, a few short speeches and then an orchestra for the rest of the evening. From a man’s point of view, that’s about all I see.”

“Do you sit with others at large tables?”

“Yes, there is seating for eight or ten people. There is a bar at the end of the hall, too.”

“Will others ask me to dance, or does everyone bring a dance partner?”

“It is mainly couples, but there are many masters that are single and come alone. They may ask a woman who is with another gentleman if she wishes to dance. Nicholas’s wife will still be too weak from her illness although she is recovering. He’s going to bring Bessie, his daughter. Every master is counted on to bring at least one guest. It’s not a rigid rule. They just want to ensure there are enough seating and meals. There will also be people associated with the mills but not masters, who will attend. People such as bankers, perhaps the telegraph and railroad executives and others that we do business with.”

“Would you allow someone to dance with me?”

“Yes, I believe so. The acceptance though is entirely up to you.”

“Might you ask another woman?”

“Being the head of the Master’s Association, I may seek out someone who I have noticed has been sitting all night.”

“So I should be prepared to be jealous, is that what you’re saying?”

“I don’t believe I said any such words. You should have no need to feel jealousy … for any reason.”

“And why is that? Do you love me beyond words, and I should know in my heart of your feelings for me, or we have made no commitment to each other and are free to choose?”

John swirled the brandy in his snifter watching it coat the glass sides.

“Adeline, I must be fair. I am enjoying your company and still coming to know you. I admit, there are thoughts in my mind that you would find complimentary. I believe I have spoken most of those. However, I have made no commitment to you or myself in regards to a permanent future together.”

In a huff, Adeline jumped to her feet and folded her arms in front of her. “Are you trying to say you don’t love me?”

“Have I ever told you that I did love you? I think not. I am most careful with those words and know they have never been uttered by me. That doesn’t mean I don’t have strong feelings for you. Perhaps, the longer we see each other, the more convinced in your mind you feel you have heard me say that. I want to clear that up.”

“So what do you suppose we do about this situation?”

“Nothing. I need to be sure. I am not quite there yet, and I cannot tell you when I will be. If you cannot wait for me, you are free to carry on with your life with someone else. I would truly understand and feel quite saddened that I cannot give you complete surety yet. I have seen you longer than most women I have known. And due to that, many have expectations, and rumors are beginning. That is unfortunate for both of us.”

“I was hoping for more, but I will wait.”

“I want you to understand, Adeline that waiting for me may not result in your expectations. I can’t be any more honest than that.”

“Is there someone else you are finding an interest in?” Inquired Adeline.

“Not to the extent of my interest in you. And I have no reason  to explore any possibilities.”

“I see.”

“I hope you mean that,” replied John. “Nothing has changed between us.”

 

Hannah couldn’t help overhearing the conversation. She didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but she had sensed a burgeoning unease in John, this evening. She did not understand where it was coming from. But hearing these doubts from her son was a new revelation in this relationship. Hannah had thought that he was getting close to settling down. He apparently was not ready.

 

Fred rose from the breakfast buffet to answer the door, shouting to Dixon that he would get it. It was early, but Branson may have news.

“What a surprise, Mr. Bell. It has been a long time in seeing you.” They shook hands vigorously. Fred stood out of the way so he could enter. “Come in and have some tea with us. And thank you for the advice that you gave me for my future trial with the Navy.”

“You’re looking well Fred. Are you happy to be home, here in Milton?”

Dixon had arrived and took his coat, hat, and walking stick.

“Hello, Miss Dixon.”

“Good morning, sir. Tea will be right up.”

Richard Hale kept his seat, but Margaret rushed into the hall to greet Adam Bell. “You are early this time. Early by time and early by a day or so. I hope nothing is wrong.”

Adam wrapped Margaret’s arm over his and escorted her back to the dining room. “Margaret, if anything were wrong it is now past, seeing you. Good morning, Richard.”

Richard Hale stood, and they shook hands. “Please join us, Adam. Take a seat.”

“I believe you remember our last conversation Richard, so I am here early to ask if Margaret would be my dinner companion at Thornton’s dinner party.”

Margaret’s fork stopped halfway to her mouth when all eyes looked her way for an answer.

 

 

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C7

Chapter Seven

 

 

Margaret climbed the steps to her bedchamber. Entering, she neared the bed and flopped backward with her arms spread wide. After a moment, she realized she was smiling to herself as she stared at the ceiling. She was lost in the tingly feeling she had in her body. There was a feeling of headiness and a perpetual grin which she seemed unable to contain.

He was so tall and handsome.

Margaret started to wonder if this was what her brother was referring to. She thought back about her first meeting with him. She found him loud and harsh in manner. How could she not have noticed the stately man that she has recently been reacquainted with?

Margaret had no idea what Fred meant when he mentioned she was seducing the man. What did that entail? How could she not do it again? As much as her interest in John Thornton seemed to be a little more obliging than a few days ago, it didn’t mean she could display unintended attentions if that was what she was doing. That would be very improper.

Her brother was right about one thing, she was counting the time until they returned.

 

“Father, can I have a word with you about Margaret?”

“Of course, my son. What questions could you have about your sister?”

“Has she been invited out by any gentlemen since she’s been here?”

Mr. Hale reflected on that question for a moment. “I don’t believe so, Fred. In fact, I am sure of it. I do not remember hearing about anyone while she was at school. What are you trying to say?”

“Because I am nearer her age and her big brother, I think it will be my responsibility to teach her about men and how to behave. I wish you could have seen how she was bewitched by Mr. Thornton when we visited there to talk with his driver. I accused her of trying to seduce the man with her eyes, which she wasn’t, but she didn’t know what she was doing.”

“What was this, that she was doing,” Richard Hale, now showing some concern. He folded his newspaper and laid it on the side table. “You have my full attention.”

“Mr. Thornton seemed to show a little more than a vague interest in her. I believe he purposely positioned himself so that he could glance at her seated inside the coach while we talked.”

“We can discuss Mr. Thornton after you tell me about Margaret.”

“She seemed transfixed by his glances to her. Now, that may be all well and good when people first find an interest in each other, but Margaret didn’t realize she was staring back. She didn’t look away or cast her eyes downward. She sat there, beamed and absorbed his admiring gaze like a withering garden welcomes the rain. Thornton did nothing untoward except glance at her once in a while, but Margaret took it as being complimentary.”

“It could also be that Mr. Thornton was polite including her in the conversation. Now unless I understand this incorrectly, I have heard nothing wrong, yet. Yes, it does sound as if Margaret needs some guidance for which I will depend on you. Fred, she has never known men. She is at the age where they should become interesting, and they will find interest in her. She has been at home nearly all her life, except for school. I have not been much of a father in that regard. I should have been more involved with her learning of men. Your mother, I wish she was here. Don’t fault her for desires that are beginning. That is natural and right. She won’t understand it very much, I should think. They will be nothing compared to young men as yourself. I am sure you cannot believe me speaking of sins of the flesh, but once I was a young, vibrant man before college and meeting your mother. Finding a love of someone changes all of your attitudes. Yes, you being a man, will have to be her “teacher of men.”

“She’s not going to like my interfering. Perhaps, we should sit down and discuss that as a family, this evening.”

“Getting back to Mr. Thornton, he is a very popular man with the single ladies of Milton, and I dare say there are some married ones that would stray should he allow it. He’s quite the gentleman, growing wealthy, and has many leadership responsibilities. He is highly regarded. If he falls in love with our Margaret, I will welcome him into the family. But, and I say this with some hesitation for I am not sure, but I believe he has a lady he has seen for some time. There is a rumor of a pending announcement. We cannot allow him to tamper with Margaret’s affections if they are not sincere. You must discover if the rumor is true. However, I would never expect him to act ungentlemanly or purposely create false hopes.”

“Margaret and I are expecting to return this afternoon because his driver was out with Mrs. Thornton. I shall hope to see more of Mr. Thornton’s attentions at that time. He invited Margaret to tea with his mother while I talk to his driver.”

 

Margaret heard a light knock on her door. It certainly wasn’t Dixon tapping that gently. She went to the door to find that Bessie had stopped by.

“Oh, how good of you to visit. Come sit on my bed the way we did as young girls.”

Bessie removed her bonnet and slipped off her shoes. I’ve been wondering if you are getting excited about the Master’s Ball. It’s not far away. Saturday night. Have you planned all of your clothing? Do we need to buy anything?”

“Bessie slow down. You are making me breathless, and that’s the second time today.”

“Second? Bessie broke out in a smile and clapped her hands. Tell me. Tell me.”

“Fred and I went horse and buggy hunting. After a poor start, our coachman said that Mr. Thornton’s driver is the one we should seek. We drove over there. I was in old clothes because I thought I would be near horses and stables, so I stayed in the coach. Fred went looking for someone to talk with, and Mr. Thornton came to the coach. I think he stared at me.” Margaret’s cheeks popped out with her big smile.”

“And?”

“And what? He stared at me.”

“And this is what made you breathless?” Bessie looked at her with incredulity. Bessie realized she had worked around many men for a lot of years. Margaret was new to this.

Margaret promptly folded her arms and sulked.

“I’m sorry Margaret,” she said with a grin. “I know he is very handsome with his wavy black hair and those blue eyes and that tall, slender body. Perhaps, I felt that way the first time I say him, but he never made me breathless. He didn’t notice you struggling to breathe, did he?”

“I don’t know,” Margaret now whined, disappointed that her new friend couldn’t enjoy her moment today. “I can only remember me smiling, and he looked at me several times. He even came up to my window. Fred was rude to me on the way home. He said I was seducing him with my eyes. Now, is that not ridiculous?”

“Were you?”

“I have no idea what he means by that.”

“Oh, I am sure he’s just having fun with you. So, Fred is home, now?” Bessie smiled.

“Yes. He and I will be returning to see Mr. Thornton’s driver at 2:00 p.m. because he was not home earlier. I take it we should go down and have a cup of tea?”

“I would like that.”

“Alright. Come on. I shall watch and see if you seduce my brother with your eyes. He isn’t spoken for you know. I think I should warn you.”

“About . . . ?”

“He hasn’t taken a woman out for a long time. He’s talking about men stuff.”

“Men stuff? Stuff? Margaret, can you be more specific?”

“He said he needs to go to the tavern tonight. I asked him why. He as much as said it wasn’t any of my business.”

“Oh, you mean like going to a pub and having a few pints with the lads.”

“Maybe that’s all I do mean.”

“Margaret?” Bessie inhaled loudly. “You don’t mean that he . . . he  . .,” she was interrupted.

“I think I might. He as much as told me he isn’t chaste. He said he’d be a laughing stock in the Navy if he was. And furthermore, he told me with my seductive eyes, if I weren’t his sister, he would have swept me off my feet. Oh, this should be fun. Let’s go.”

Margaret grabbed Bessie’s hand and pulled her along. She didn’t even allow her to pick up her shoes on the way. Margaret rushed her down the stairwell, making little sound being shoeless. As Margaret came to an abrupt stop just before the parlor, Bessie ran into the back of her, knocking them both into the room and onto the floor. Margaret was pushed forward and then Bessie tripped over her feet.

Both Richard Hale and Fredrick jumped to their feet to assist. Both looked concerned  but then Fred started laughing at the two silly girls.

Margaret! What happened,” asked her father.

“I was hurrying Bessie along behind me, down the stairs. As I reached this doorway, I slowed down.”

“You stopped,” insisted Bessie., folding her arms.

“Are you sure?”

Bessie was embarrassingly red in the face, especially since it was Fred who helped her to stand.

“No, I am not sure, but we’re both fine. Just fine. Foolish, but fine.” Bessie was making sure her dress was laying as it should, and no hair had come out of place. She could tell Margaret’s brother thought the whole miserable display was amusing.

“Well, what’s done is done,” Margaret announced as she brushed her hands together as if they were dusty. We were coming down for a cup of tea.”

“Running, were you? Fred questioned.

“Racing. Yes, we were racing.”

“Did you both lose your shoes on the way?”

“No. We took those off, so we didn’t make much noise as we …ah… raced.”

“I’d say it was all evidence to the contrary.”

Richard Hale finally felt the amusement, picked up his paper but enjoyed the long-forgotten sounds of children at play.

“Bessie let’s go to the kitchen. Anyone else for tea?”

“I’ll have a cup, sis.”

“Not for me,” stated Richard Hale. “I think I shall go up and have a laydown. I do hope the festive noises are over.”

“I can promise for Bessie and I but not Fred.”

Fred stood and followed the girls into the kitchen.

 

John noticed his mother was home and walked across the yard to inform her of a tea guest this afternoon.

Hannah was already at work on her dinner party menu and figuring the extra staff that would be needed.

John came up the stairs, checking to see if her bedchamber door was closed.

“Hello, mother. How was your visit with Dr. Donaldson?”

“Nothing new to report John. These old bones will just  continue to give me aches and pains. He gave me powders for when it becomes bad.”

“Do you have much more on your dinner party planning?”

“I am more than half way through. I need to get the few extra staff members and get the food ordered.”

“Do you think this should be your last year of this?” John asked.

“John, you will have to pick up the expectation. I may slow down, but I will help plan. You will have to do some of the work next year.”

“Whatever you want, Mother. I stopped over to tell you that Miss Hale and her brother came earlier looking for Branson. I guess with her brother now home, he feels the family needs a small buggy and horse. He will be able to handle the rigging and such. With you being out, I invited them back to visit. I asked Miss Hale if she would care to take tea with you while her brother speaks to Branson.”

“I will be delighted to meet this teacher of yours. You’ve spoken of her enough.”

“No, I don’t believe I have done such as you say.”

“Yes, you have. Perhaps you didn’t realize it. You started to repeat yourself. Maybe those all seem like one conversation. I didn’t know the Hale’s had a son.”

“I didn’t either until today. It seems he’s been away in the Navy.”

“I should like to meet them. You haven’t forgotten you invited Adeline for dinner, did you?”

“No, of course not. I’ll go talk with Branson next. I will escort Miss Hale to the parlor. I’ll tell Cook on my way out the back.”

 

“Margaret, while we were having our cups of tea, did you notice how Bessie did not stare at me? She looked down or away when I glanced at her.”

“And because she was polite as you say, she’s supposed to be interested in you?”

“A man can tell these things.”

Margaret doubled over in a laughing fit. “That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. My brother just says those words so it must be true.

“Well . . . isn’t she interested in me?”

“ Get thee to a tavern and be quick about it.” Margaret felt so alive with her brother home to argue with and pounce upon. He was making her laugh as she hadn’t for years. He did more than come home, he brought her back with him.

‘What does a man know exactly?” Margaret asked, with a broad smile.

“I can’t give away our secrets, sis! It’s for men only.” Fred started to laugh to himself. He was stuck for an answer.

“Are you changed for your next cup of tea today? Don’t move around while at Mrs. Thornton’s house. She’s liable to hear you slosh.”

“Fred, do I look like I’ve changed? You are supposed to know that Bessie is interested in you because she looked away from you and you can’t even notice if I changed. It will only take a few minutes to get out of these stable clothes and shoes,” Margaret said, as she walked out of the room with airs.

“Well, do hurry, sis. Mr. Thornton may be replacing you in his mind right now.” Fred flopped on the couch laughing.

 

Fred was watching his sister as their rented coach pulled into the mill yard. He noticed Mr. Thornton standing outside talking to another man. Looking at his sister, he saw she was beaming.

“Fred, that is Mr. Thornton’s friend, his partner, and Bessie’s father. Do be on your best behavior. Imagine asking that gentleman for her hand in marriage.” Margaret began the giggles again.

As the coach slowed, John Thornton opened the door to hand out Margaret. She was smiling broadly. “You seem amused Miss Hale?”

Margaret had gone speechless with feeling his large warm hand caressing hers. She looked down and saw her four fingers lying in his palm, and he had placed his thumb over the top to secure her hold.

There was a moment, once Margaret stepped out when John noticed her staring at their hands. He thought his hands must be dirty and quickly checked them himself. “Miss Hale, I am sorry. Are my hands unclean?” He didn’t know what else to say.”

A sound of repressed laughter came from the other side of the coach as Fred imagined what must be happening.

“It is I who am sorry. With your grip, I felt very safe in stepping out. Some gentlemen make you hold onto them. I didn’t mean to stare.”

“I am surprised that you are surprised. I shall take that as a compliment if I may.” He saw Miss Hale light up again with smiles.

“Yes, it was a compliment.”

By then Fred was next to her. John introduced Fred to Nicholas Higgins.

“Mr. Higgins.” Fred shook his extended hand. “I have had the very great pleasure of meeting your daughter.”

“I hope that went well. She’s been quite shy most of her life, but she seems to be coming into her own finally.”

“She is quite a handsome woman.”

John, Nicholas, and Margaret, all stared at Fred.

Fred felt the light elbow to his arm from his sister.

“Just go see Mr. Thornton’s driver. Take your time. I will be enjoying Mrs. Thornton and a nice cup of tea. Is that not so, Mr. Thornton?”

“Indeed, it is so. She is looking forward to meeting you.”

Nichlos excused himself with his polite goodbyes.

“Fred, Branson’s quarters are behind the house. I shall escort your sister inside. Just knock on the back door when you are finished.”

“Thank you, sir.” Fred walked off, leaving Margaret and Mr. Thornton in the middle of the yard.

As they walked toward the Thornton front door, John had his hands clamped together behind his back. “You say your brother has completed some military service?”

Margaret turned to him and asked, “Does it show?”

“I’m sorry, does what show?”

“I don’t think he should have remarked on Bessie like that in front of her father at his first meeting.”

John smiled. “I’m not sure a gentleman would have done that quite this quickly, but he’s been away as you said the other day. Living with only men for a long time might tend to slant his etiquette a bit. I am sure it will return in little time.” John was still chuckling over the scene.

Nearing the door, Margaret asked, “Do men know when a woman is interested in them? My brother says that a man knows. I shouldn’t think he can tell that fast. What do you think?”

Looking heavenward, wanting to laugh, “Miss Hale, I believe I am at a disadvantage. I have not had that insight. Perhaps, men at sea tell tales to the younger lads.”

“That must be it. I think he’s taken to bragging since he’s been home.”

“Don’t be too quick to discredit what he says. Was he an officer.”

“Yes, for a while. He argued with his captain on the treatment of the crew. They disciplined him by putting him in jail and then released him not long ago.”

“I see.”

“Please, don’t see anything. It doesn’t reflect on me,” Margaret became worried at what she had said.

Smiling broadly, John looked at her. “Miss Hale, please have no concern there. I hardly know you. I hope we can remedy that in the future.”

Margaret’s cheeks were going to pop. “I wish for that as well. I’ve been a year annoyed about my lack of understanding at our initial meeting.”

“Let’s put that behind us, forever. Shall we? I was in a state that is not me.” John opened the door to the house.

“I appreciate that.”

 

 

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C5

Chapter Five

 

Bessie and Margaret were looking through her wardrobe when they heard a commotion at the door. Both ran down the stairs fearing what was going on.

“Fredrick! Margaret ran into his arms as he let go from shaking his father’s hand.

“Sis, you have become more beautiful. How are you?” He lifted her and twirled her around.

“We shall talk about that later. I would like to introduce you to Miss Bessie Higgins. She is a new friend of mine.”

Fredrick bowed, sweeping his Regimental hat to the floor.

Bessie laughed quietly, not knowing if he was serious in his manners or just happy to be home. “Very nice to meet you…I’m sorry, I don’t know your rank.”

“Just call me Fredrick, if you please. May I call you Bessie?”

“Yes, you may,” Bessie said, beaming with smiles. “I shall leave and let all of you talk. I will be in touch Margaret, hopefully before your next lecture.”

“We must talk before then. Yes, come by tomorrow if you have a coach.”

“I will try. Good day, Fredrick, Mr. Hale. I shall see you soon.”

Fredrick bowed again. Margaret was a bit taken aback seeing her brother with such manners.

“Please someone, find me a drink. I am dying of thirst,” uttered Fredrick as he entered the drawing-room with his father.

Margaret and Dixon went off to the kitchen.

Margaret saw to it that cook fixed him a plate. She knew his journey had been far with probably little to eat.

 

“Good evening, Mr. Thornton. Please come in,” said Adeline’s doorman.

John handed him his hat, walked into the drawing room and poured himself a drink. There would be a small wait. John wasn’t sure if Adeline was of the opinion that she should be late all the time as if it was some social rule written somewhere or she was a tardy woman. He had taken to fixing himself a drink, which would be finished by the time she came into the room. So, he waited.

“Good evening, John.”

John stood and walked towards her, giving her a light kiss since they were alone in the room. “You look lovely as ever, my dear,” he commented.

They sat together on the couch for a few minutes before leaving for dinner.

“I had some good news today,” Adeline announced.

“And what was that?”

“My brother, Captain Waverly is now retired from Her Majesty’s Service, at his young age, and is returning to live with us while he decides what he wants to do. He’s very well situated now. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds interest in the mills. He shall be here early next week.”

“You seem very happy about this. I take it you two are close?”

“Yes, all of our lives. I’ve missed him these eight years. I would think he is your age or a year or two older.”

“What is his name?”

“His name is Christopher, but we call him Kit. Is it hard for a gentleman to meet young ladies in this town?”

“I met you, didn’t I?”

“Yes, but I was introduced to you at a restaurant. I have no idea where single ladies and gentlemen meet.”

“Well, I know one single woman he could meet. If he would care to come to the ball as my guest, I can introduce him to my partner’s daughter. And if I was paying half attention to him this morning, he is going to bring Miss Hale, who taught our class the other night. I have yet to tell you that story.”

“You think we could bring him with us. He may want to dance with me until he meets people. He’s still in uniform, too.”

“That will draw the lady’s attention, I shouldn’t wonder. Those naval dress uniforms are most handsome indeed. This is our annual Mill Master’s social event where proper men and women can meet without fear or expectations.”

“Are we a proper couple, John?”

John stood, pulling Adeline toward him. He placed his arms around her waist and kissed her again. “I think we are a proper couple for the time that we have seen each other.”

Adeline laughed. “So, I am proper?”

“You couldn’t be anything else. Shall we go?”

 

Dixon was invited to the family table to eat that evening. They left an empty chair in honor of Mrs. Hale. Fredrick hadn’t made it home for her service. He felt ill during dinner as the impact of her not being there took over him. Eventually, as the hours rolled on, it was just Margaret and her brother talking until midnight.

“Margaret, are you seeing a gentleman at the moment?” Fred asked.

She blushed. “I should think that is not your business,” she giggled.

“I see. Well, I will take that as a yes then. I am your older brother, and one of my duties is to protect my sister from the men that are out there. I hope he treats you well and is good for you. If he ever puts pressure on you too, well . . . you know, tell me. I’ll handle him.”

“Fredrick, I am sure I do not know what you mean,” Margaret turned away. She was playing with him.

“You have, haven’t you? He had better marry you. Who is he? I will talk with him since father probably doesn’t know.”

Margaret finally faced him laughing hysterically.

“I hope that laugh means that you were jesting. You are still virtuous … aren’t you?” Fred asked tentatively.

“Fred, you leave us for four years, and you expect nothing to have changed when you return. Are you still virtuous?” She smiled.

“Of course not. I’d be a laughing stock. But, different from you, the Navy is never in one place long enough to form close acquaintanceships. Then I was jailed for eight months. You do know that we men, all men, have far more physical needs than a woman, or so I am told. Most of the time, we have to purchase our requirements.” He chuckled.

“How old are you? Twenty-six?”

“About that.”

“And penniless, I would imagine. Has that need lessened any as you’ve matured?”

“You sure seem to be interested,” he paused. “I know. I know. I am the only one you can ask. The need has not lessened and maybe never will, but the control improves.”

“Control?”

“Do you have a gentleman or not? I should be asking you questions and then telling you what’s happening,” he smiled at his sister.

“I believe I am on the verge of meeting nice gentlemen. I have no idea what to expect or how to act. I just recently met Bessie, and she is the same as I. We’re going to begin being seen in public. Next, we are going to attend the yearly Master’s Ball. However, we are going with her father.”

“How did you get an invitation?”

“Bessie’s mother is temporarily ill at the moment, so Bessie is taking her place and has gotten permission to bring me with her to keep her company as her father walks the tables. It is an affair only for Masters, their foremen, and guests.”

“I might like to get to know this Bessie a little better. No promises and don’t go singing my praises or boast about things that are not true. I have never slain any dragons and don’t own a white horse any longer.” Fred laughed.

“If I have her over more often you won’t pressure her in any way, will you? She will make up her own mind. But remember we are novices that can be easily swept away.”

“I am still an officer and a gentleman. Any pressure as you call it will come from her and there will be a discussion beforehand. I certainly do not want to ruin her reputation.”

“I trust you, my brother. Remember when you were going to catch me as I jumped from that tree limb. You stepped back and laughed as I splatted in the mud.”

“Will I never live that down?”

“Perhaps, but I have a list of those trusting moments when my big brother was my protector. How long are you here for?”

“Indefinitely. I will return in three months to be officially pardoned and relieved of my commission. I’m here to help with the chores and may even find work until something changes my mind.”

“I guess that is a discussion for tomorrow. Father would be interested in it, too. I think it’s time for bed.”

“You go on. I want a quiet, reflective time to walk the house.”

“I understand.”

“See you for breakfast at 8:00 a.m.”

“Goodnight, sis.”

 

It was 8:00 a.m. and the three Hales were seated at a proper English breakfast. The food was laid on the buffet, and they served themselves. It wasn’t a normal routine, but because Fredrick was home, they wanted a treat.

“Father, are you still lecturing? I see all those papers piled up over there.”

“Well, I have been until your sister took over a class a few days back. But I am also teaching the poor how to read and write.”

“What’s this?” Fred turned to his sister.

Margaret started at the beginning and told him everything. She began with how she looked at father’s notes all the way to coming home unconscious.”

“And you still have another lesson to give,” Margaret was asked.

“Yes, at least one. It could be two. Like father says, those masters can go off in another direction and use all of the class time. I had just met Bessie the day before. She was such a dear to come and give me support. Her father was in the class.”

“Perhaps I could attend the next one and see my little sister brave the elements of public leadership.”

“Oh, it’s nothing like leadership. It’s teaching.”

“But you still have to stand in front of a crowd and talk about difficult things.”

“Stop it, Fred. You’re going to make me nervous again.”

“I’ll stand in the back and do things to make you laugh.”

“Father, tell Fred he cannot attend.”

Mr. Hale smiled and shifted his shoulders, which meant he was staying out of it.

“I bet you want to attend so you can sit next to Bessie.”

“Would she sit with me; do you think?”

“She will sit away from the masters, which I imagine you will, too.”

“I think I will go out today and look for a horse and small trap so we may get around this growing city. How have you managed in the past?

“We’ve rented when we had to, son. Our finances are not what they were before you left.”

“Well, I have money saved, regardless of my sister saying I am penniless.

“How about you coming with me, Margaret. I have no idea where I am in this city. Perhaps our coachman can recommend an honest tradesman for a trap and horse.”

“I shall be delighted, Frederick. Father, are you interested in going?”

“No, you two young people have your day at it. I would suggest though that you look over that old building in the back. I know it’s for a small horse and carriage, at least that’s what the landlord said. But having no use for it, I do not know if it is sound. We didn’t bother inspecting it when leasing here.”

“Very well,” said Frederick. “I shall look over the building while my sister prepares herself.”

“Do I not look prepared, brother?” Margaret feigned embarrassment.

“You look lovely as always, but do know we may be traipsing around where horses are stored. I don’t think you want that frock brushing the ground.”

“Oh!” Margaret glanced down at what she was wearing. “I see. Maybe I shall put on an older frock.”

“And don’t forget some old shoes.”

“Yes, and those, too, I would imagine.”

“What shall you do father?” Margaret asked.

“I shall have plenty to do. I believe your lecture should only take one more lesson so I believe I may get an early start on the lecture after that one.”

 

Margaret and Fred excused themselves from the table and headed toward their current chores.

Fred went out the back door and looked around. He thought to himself that Dixon was probably the only person to see this part of the property. There was an old dilapidated privy that should be torn down. Around the perimeter stood brick walls separating each dwelling from the next but open to the back road. He headed towards the apparent stable if that was what one called a building for a city horse and trap.

Meanwhile, Margaret found her old smock that she kept for such occasions. In Helstone, she wore it to work in the flower garden. She had no use for it since moving to Milton.

“Shoes, shoes, where are some old shoes,” Margaret asked herself. Most of her mother’s clothing was still in the house. “Perhaps mother had an old pair of shoes.” Looking into the wardrobe in her mother’s old room, which would now be Fred’s, she did find some lace-up lady’s boots. They were very old indeed. Margaret had never remembered seeing her mother wearing them. She thought they may be 50 years old. They would do nicely. Back to her room, she went to change.

Looking like a vendor merchant that hawked their wares in front of their apartment, Margaret descended the stairs. She thought how she must look, especially after she put on her fine bonnet. She knew her father would never say anything, so she walked to the back where Fred was still working.

“Fred,” she shouted. She didn’t see him.

“I’m up here – checking the roof. I don’t think I am taking you anywhere looking like that. I have a reputation to uphold.” He started laughing, almost dislodging himself from the roof slant he was so precariously perched upon.

“Frederick Hale! You told me to wear old clothes,” Margaret said as she stamped her foot in a mock childish manner.

“It’s that bonnet, sis.” Fred laughed even louder. “How about no bonnet at all. At least, you will complete an image that doesn’t stand out to people around you. You look like a peasant whose wealthy aunt felt sorry for her and bought her a church bonnet.” Fred slid down a ways and then jumped to the ground. Catching up with his sister, he saw she was laughing.

“Alright, brother – no bonnet. How does the shed look?”

“Shed, is it? Wasn’t sure if it was supposed to resemble a stable.”

“Well, we’ve always called it a shed. If you put a live horse in there, perhaps we can call it a stable.”

“A nail here and there should keep it from collapsing on the horse and killing it.”

Margaret, as she remembered being teased, pushed Fred away from her side. “Fred don’t talk like that. You’re not in the Navy anymore. There will be people about that don’t know you as I do.”

“Dear sis, after being in the Navy, you don’t know me at all, now, either. My soft round schoolboy edges have been chiseled into a hard fighting man.” Fred laughed at himself.

“Wasn’t there supposed to be some gentlemanly conduct taught to you?”

“Yes, but the jail quarters drains that from you.” He paused when he saw his sister’s face become saddened.

“Sis, I am only kidding with you. I have been molded as an officer with intelligence and learned the conduct of a gentleman. I just like to unburden myself to you and make you laugh. Do you know how rare that has been for me these last four years?”

“I was worried there for a moment, but now feel better. Please no more talk about killing a horse, though. Did . . . did you see death while away, I mean in the Navy.”

“Yes, I saw some – more from being at sea too long and shipmen becoming ill. There was the occasional pirate ship that had to be stopped. Now, that was scary. Luckily, my defensive skills kept me alive.”

“Defensive skills?”

“Yes, I was excellent at hiding in my bunk.”

Margaret started to push him away with a laugh, but Fred put his hands up to stave her attack. “Now, I didn’t say anything about a killing a horse.”

They both laughed and returned to the house.

 

Fred went to his father and discussed what he’d found outside while Margaret went back to her room.

She sadly put away her nice bonnet. She hadn’t worn that since coming to Milton. Finding her flat-brimmed brown straw hat, the one that reminded her of a serving platter, she popped that on her head and was ready to leave.

Fred and Margaret walked up the walkway to where rental cabs and coaches could be more readily found.

While waiting for one to pass by, Margaret asked, “Where will you ask the coachman to take us?”

“To the Horse and Buggy shop. Where else?”

“I’m not so sure I have seen such a place, but a coachman would know if there was.”

Finally, a fare was attained after many a cabby had passed them.

“You do know why it took us this long to catch a ride, don’t you, sis?”

“I was surprised. It usually doesn’t take us that long. What is wrong with this time?”

“It’s your manner of dress and that hat. They are not sure they’ll get paid.”

“Oh Fred, stop it,” Margaret said giggling.

“I’m serious this time.”

“You are not.”

“Yes, miss, I am serious. Fetching, you are not.” Fred laughed.

 

Finding little of offerings where they were driven, Fred asked to go to the next place.

The coach driver told him in all seriousness, “Sir, we just don’t have places that sell both. They are purchased, horse first and then buggy. However, I do know of a private coachman that knows every horse and buggy and what’s for sale, in this town.”

“Can you take us there?”

“I have no idea if he is out with his master, but I can take you there.”

“If you would be so kind, thank you.”

 

Before she knew it, Margaret noticed they were entering Marlborough Mills property.

 

 

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C4

$3.99 Kindle Edition

Chapter Four

“Father, I still think you are jesting with me that Miss Hale will be giving the lecture.”

Nicholas chuckled. “She said she was. John and I think she’s bluffing. As we’ve talked through the day about tonight, we have had quite a laugh and wonder what is really in store for us. It’s not like Mr. Hale to play games. We think he doesn’t even know that she came to see us. John feels she came to us with this story to revenge herself when she was removed from his building on their first and only meet.”

“I’ve only known her for a couple of hours, but she didn’t seem the revenge type.”

“Well, what else can it be, Bessie? She doesn’t know our business.”

“Does she have to know your business or just budgeting and accounting?”

“The two work together. We are nearing there now. I see John standing outside talking with the other masters.”

“Is he telling them about Miss Hale, do you think?”

“I believe not. Since he doesn’t believe her, I doubt he’s warning his peers. It’s not like he’s responsible for any of these lectures.”

“I’ll be there to give her support. This is going to be like a young woman standing against a wolf pack. Don’t let them slaughter her, father. I just found a friend.” Bessie smiled.

 

When the coach arrived at the steps, Bessie ran ahead into the hall, leaving her father to mingle with the men. Several had taken seats inside, and Margaret was speaking with her father in a corner. Bessie rushed up to her.

Margaret saw her, squealed softly and threw her arms around Bessie.

“Margaret, it isn’t true that you are teaching tonight, is it? My father and Mr. Thornton think you jested with them this morning.”

“It’s true, Bessie.” Margaret walked Bessie away from her father’s hearing and explained how this all came about.”

“I can hardly believe you doing this, though. I will be here for moral support. I know you can do it. I just feel it.”

“I wish I did. I have a bucket in the next room in case I need to be sick. Oh dear, they’re coming in. I’m sorry, I didn’t introduce you to my father. I will do it later. Don’t let me forget.”

Bessie found a seat in the front row but away from the quickly filling room. She was nervous for Margaret. When Margaret looked her way, she gave her a “thumbs-up.”

Mr. Hale was front and center, waiting for all to settle in, but Margaret felt the eyes of a thousand wolves bearing down on her with their teeth snarled. Before her father could open his mouth, Margaret walked into the next room and threw-up. Bessie quickly followed her.

“Oh, my dear. What can I do for you?”

“You could give the lecture,” Margaret sniffled as she wiped the water from her eyes. She laughed. I am fine. I can do this.”

“Of course, you can. You met my father today. He is a nice man. Just pretend you are talking to only him.”

“I will. I will.”

Margaret heard her name being called. She wanted to pick up the bucket and hold it to her chest for the duration.

“Here we go,” Margaret said to Bessie.

Bessie made her way back to her seat. Margaret noticed that John Thornton was pulling a podium to the center so that she had something to hide behind. He saw how pale she was looking and almost laughed out loud, and he caught a glimpse of Nicholas, who was trying to hold it in.

The large crowd that had attended this evening were beginning to grow loud. Mr. Hale was sure it was from disappointment.

Mr. Hale raised his hand. “Masters of Milton, may I have your attention, please. It is with some regret that I must admit to taking on this budgeting lecture with less knowledge than I thought I knew. But all is not lost, in fact, I feel you will enjoy this better with our guest lecturer, my daughter, Miss Margaret Hale.”

“Well, John, she wasn’t kidding. I feel sorry for her. She will embarrass herself.”

“Nicholas, no one really knows her here. It will be forgotten.” Being quite acquainted with public speaking, John knew she was feeling sick. He didn’t like the rumbling through the audience. At least, they could respect her for trying.

Margaret walked towards the center carrying her papers where her father awaited her. There was a smattering of light applause, but still, the men talked among themselves.

John, being the President of the Masters Association, walked up to the podium and stood in front of it with Margaret behind him. That seemed to quiet down the room.

“Please, let’s be gentlemen and give Miss Hale an opportunity to impress us. Thank you.” John went back to his seat, leaving Margaret staring out at what now seemed like a million eyes. She mouthed the words “thank you” to Mr. Thornton, took a deep breath, and looked at Bessie and then Bessie’s father.

She started. Everyone could hear the tremor in her voice. Twice she cleared her throat.

“I was asked by a master today what credentials did I have to feel I could step into my father’s place this evening.” She cleared her voice again.

“It has been about one year since I graduated from the London’s College for Women’s studies. In place of taking a class on being a good hostess for a gentleman husband, I took a business math course. During the last season, not only were we taught budgeting, which includes, trending and forecasting, but we learned how to diagnose a business to see why he was losing profit when his numbers looked good. I will admit, there were only two other women in the class and we were transported to the men’s college nearby for this one class.”

Margaret saw Nicholas Higgins smile at John. Bessie gave her another “thumbs-up. Another breath.

“May I ask if any masters brought their profit statements with them tonight?”

Two men raised their hands.

“Would you permit me to see them? I have seen one statement today. I am only curious as to how differently or closely you calculate your profit.”

One gentleman walked his up to Margaret and laid it on the podium. The second man followed. Margaret took her time and studied the line items of each while the attendees talked to each other.

“Thank you,” she quietly told the two men. They returned to their seats.

She finally broke a smile.

“Here we go, Nicholas. Hang on to your seat.”

John had a question about should they have all brought their statements tonight, so he raised his hand.

Seeing a question coming from Mr. Thornton, Margaret ran to the next room and threw up again. “I can do this. I can do this.”

She wiped her mouth and forehead and returned.

“I am sorry, I do not know names, but I have met you once, Mr. Thornton. Do you have a question?”

“I think we can all see how nervous you are and I promise you none of us will bite.”

Someone shouted, “Maybe a nice nibble.” That elicited a smattering of laughter. Margaret felt the ice had been broken.

Margaret ignored the rather male-boast. “Yes, Mr. Thornton?”

“I may have missed it, but were we suppose to bring our statements with us?”

“No.”

“Between the three documents that I have seen today, there is little difference except for the numbers. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about.”

“By a show of hands, only, I have a few questions for everyone here. If you have accountants that do your books and you don’t know the answer, do not worry.”

“Father, can you keep count for me?”

He nodded and found a pencil.

“Who, in here, looks at your business using percentages rather than pounds?”

About two-thirds used percentages. Marlborough Mills being one of them.

“You will all want to get used to doing that. Take the extra calculation to convert it to percentages. How many of you calculate your business sales a year in advance?”

Nearly all raised their hands.

“Three years in advance?” Margaret asked.

Less than ten men did that?

“How about five years in advance? Hmm… I see no one does that. It’s a bit soon to be figuring world events into your business, but I assume you have all been hearing rumblings about the slave trade. There will come a time when the slaves are released or paid. That will be a huge impact on your supplies for several years. It may be prudent for you since your city is the industry leader, to begin to drift up your profit a full percent a year. Year after year. You will want to be in a good financial position when that time comes. It bears thinking now. It should be calculated into your budget within five years.

“You all create one budget a year, is that correct?”

Many head nods and agreements.

John raised his hand.

“Mr. Thornton?”

“We make a budget for each quarter. If we see that there are major unexpected changes, we can make adjustments in the following quarter, in hopes of meeting our year in numbers.”

“Excellent, Mr. Thornton. You may want to give your members a lesson on that.”

“But they are my competitors,” he said jokingly. Everyone laughed even Margaret and her father.

“I know you men are intelligent risk-taking leaders. Milton is so thick with brick buildings, it’s a wonder the earth doesn’t sink in. And you have these huge iron machines inside. Noisy iron machines inside,” Margaret laughed.

“If you could stand at the North Pole and be able to see down to the equator and all around the globe, Milton would be seen as a red glow. The activity, the manpower, the work output, the ships, and trains coming and going … this is a breeding ground for innovations and new discoveries, for the world. You are world leaders. All of you. You’re Britain’s pride and joy. I’m surprised you haven’t been knighted,” she laughed. She’d gotten carried away. She learned so much from the newer books in the library today that she suddenly felt emboldened. She peeked at Bessie, who had two thumbs up.

There was an applause and Margaret grew red.

“Please, do not do that. I got carried away. I do not deserve accolades for something I so recently learned.

Nicholas raised his hand.

“Yes, Mr. Higgins?”

“Have you even been inside a mill,” he smiled. The room chuckled.

“Yes. Yes, I have. I wandered into one of those rooms with all the iron machines.” She saw John cross his arms and legs in anticipation of what she would say next. That signaled her to return to her lecture.

“I’m sorry. I have strayed from the reason you are here.

“Do any of you know the real profit on a hundred yard bolt of woven cotton? Let me ask it another way. You double your money on that bolt. You make one hundred percent. Is that correct?”

Everyone seemed to be in agreement.

“You are in the wrong gentleman. How do you count how much is 100 yards as it is spooled onto the bolt?”

“We count the folds,” someone shouted.

“Yes, you count the folds.”

“You are not going to tell us there is another way, Miss Hale,” said Nicholas. That is the only cost effective way to do it.”

“Yes, you are right. There is no other way to do it. But did you know by counting the rings around the bolt, you are cheating your customer out of about 3 yards? We can discuss that later. Just wanted you to know that.”

“Have any of you budgeted the Exhibition next year?”

Many raised their hands.

“Raise your hands if you budgeted the enormous increase in sales from the world seeing your products and buying it, the following year after the exhibition? How about the added sales after the exhibition itself.”

Everyone put their hands down.

“You have just lost a great advantage because you will not be prepared for the increased orders. You should be buying cotton now, lots of it. Are your cotton growers increasing their yield? Milton, the largest cotton weaving city on this globe, is going to be an entire growing year behind the needs of the world unless you are prepared.”

Margaret started coughing from her dry throat. It felt like dust. She couldn’t stop it, which was now turning into gagging with no air intake. There was no water at the lyceum.

“Anyone bring a flask?” John shouted.

Several men appeared quickly, handing their spirits to John. He held Margaret’s head back and poured something into her mouth. He did it a second time.

Now Margaret was starting to drown. Bessie was there by her side. Margaret saw her stricken face and starting laughing, thus gagging again. Finally, the situation passed.

John turned to the masters and told them all to take a break for a few minutes.

Margaret sat on the desk with her father, Bessie, Nicholas and John Thornton all hovering over her.

“Father, I’m sorry. I am a disaster. I have embarrassed you.”

“Miss Hale, all evidence to the contrary, I assure you. Can you continue?”

“I don’t think so. Not tonight anyway. I shall be inebriated any minute now.”

John, Nicholas, and Bessie laughed quite loudly.

“Please wait here.”

“I don’t think I’m going anywhere.”

John smiled. He walked out the door and asked the men of their continued interest because it didn’t look like it would continue tonight.

“You were marvelous, Margaret,” said an excited Bessie.

Nicholas followed on with his words of praise.

“Really? Margaret asked as she wiped her runny nose with her handkerchief. “I don’t even know what I was saying. Words were just tumbling out. It sounded alright?”

“You were very gallant, Miss Hale,” John said returning.

“We have agreed that we want you to continue at another time. Can I give you and your father a lift home?”

“Margaret looked at her father for the answer.”

“Mr. Thornton, thank you. We will accept both offers.”

“Both,” asked Margaret.

“Yes, you will continue where you left off.”

Nicholas and John helped her slide off of the desk to a standing position.

“Margaret, I will come to see you tomorrow,” commented Bessie. “We have a lot to talk about.

“That will be nice. I’m starting to feel strange.”

John took Margaret’s arm and wrapped it around his. Her father steadied her on the other side. They made their way to John’s coach.

On the way home, John watched Miss Hale lean over on her father’s shoulder, with closed eyes while they were talking. He thought it strange that she did not find their words of her knowledge and bravery interesting enough to stay awake. He didn’t know one woman who wouldn’t want to know what someone was saying about her.

“Did you know she threw up two or three times tonight at the lyceum?” mentioned Mr. Hale.

“I am sorry to hear that. Was one of the times when I raised my hand to ask the first question? She disappeared for a moment.”

“Yes,” Mr. Hale laughed.

“Do you think she is afraid of me?”

“I know she once was, after your first and only meeting, I believe.”

“I did apologize to her today for that incident. I wanted to give her a solid reason for why it happened, but she wouldn’t let me finish. She understood.”

“I am sure that is Mr. Bell’s intervention. He knows the danger everyone faces in these mills, and he knows you ….”

“Have a temper?”

“I’m not sure those were his words, but yes.”

“Someday she will let me tell her how that day changed me. I dwelled on her reaction. I didn’t know her. She didn’t know me. I first considered her a woman and that was a natural reaction. So I dismissed it. But when something similar would happen again, I would see myself as if she was standing there. It was quite a strange sensation. I slowly changed my ways. Oh, here we are. Would you like me to carry her to her room?”

“No. Thank you, John. It’s been a most interesting evening for everyone, I dare say. Margaret, wake up. Wake up Margaret.”

“Mr. Hale, I think she has passed out from the drink. I will carry her to your sofa.”

“Thank you, John.”

“My pleasure, sir.”

Richard Hale could hear John lightly chuckling as they walked to the house.

“Something amusing?”

“Yes. I think when she said we should all be knighted was the highpoint of the night.”

Mr. Hale smiled broadly while opening the door for John Thornton.

John laid Margaret down. He could have stood there a few more minutes just to see her, but he didn’t.

“Good night sir, John. We shall pick up the lessons at the next lecture session. Thank you for your understanding tonight.”

“Please, don’t thank me. Remember this is not my lecture.  This is yours, and I should be thanking you. I did see a lot of what she was saying will ring true in times to come. And I was quite entertained as well. Good night, sir.”

Mr. Hale walked John to the door and closed it behind him. Checking Margaret on the sofa, he found a quilt and covered her.

 

“Father, what did you think of Miss Hale? I was so nervous for her. I’ll be proud to be her friend.”

“Honestly Bessie, I was astounded. Not only with her knowledge, which she hasn’t even begun to touch, but her bravery to get up in front of all those masters. Even I have trouble with that, and I know them. Yes, you have my permission to allow her to teach you until the day comes when you want to learn more.”

“Learn more?”

“She did say she did not take lessons in becoming a hostess to a gentleman husband.”

“I see. You think I am interested in learning that?”

“I don’t know. I am not going to insist on learning the trappings of a societal lifestyle. If you want it, you can learn it, but it may not be from Miss Hale. She does come from a background of society. How she embraced that, I do not know.”

“I just couldn’t believe her, Father. She had such confidence after the initial start. Do you know what Mr. Thornton thought?”

“From his comments and lack of jesting, I would think he was equally impressed.”

“Is that all?”

“What do you mean, is that all?”

“Nothing.”

“Out with it, Bessie.”

“She’s a young lady, and he’s a youngish man of fine reputation.”

“Do not go meddling, especially in John’s private affairs. He is stepping out with a pretty young woman who may seek to be his wife. The signs are there. He hasn’t mentioned anything, but I’ve known his habits for many years. This one is different.”

“If you say so, father. It’s best left to him, anyway.”

“Not just to him, but everyone. Don’t go playing matchmaker with people’s lives. They have met, and anything beyond that is their own business.”

“I wish I could take her to the ball with us?”

“Us?”

“Oh dear, I don’t think I was supposed to tell you or is it that you know, but Mother won’t be going this year. The flu has her weakened.”

“Yes, you are right. I knew it was going to be that way. I was not planning on going.”

“Couldn’t you arrive with two young ladies on your arms? Would you mind taking Miss Hale and me?”

“You women might give me a reputation among my peers. I don’t know,” he smiled. “I’ll have to give that some thought.”

“Oh, thank you, Father.”

“Don’t go thanking me as if I have agreed.”

“I wonder if she has a nice frock?”

Bessie was lost in the thought that it may come to pass. Her first ball, even if it was with her father, and a friend to go with her. Her father would be off roaming the room and talking. Now he could do it without the guilt of leaving mother or her alone.

 

The following morning John and Nicholas began their work day talking about how foolish they both felt about the ability of Miss Hale. She’d never really touched on the actual budgeting, but she had shown areas to consider which many a master would not have thought of.

“She was spot on about the Exhibition and what it will show the world. We do need to plan for that,” suggested Nicholas.

“Yes. And that is something we should start considering now before the other masters buy up this season’s stock for next year.”

“How was Miss Hale on the ride home?”

“I spoke mostly with Mr. Hale about her while she slept. I had to carry her inside the house as she was unconscious, I think,” John laughed. “I’m not sure what was in those flasks, but it seemed to be better than choking to death. I can’t help but laugh at it now. What’s our agenda today? I need to get started. I am taking Miss Waverly out tonight.”

“You seem to have a keen interest in this woman.”

There was silence.

“Was there a question in there?” John asked, not looking up from the paperwork he had just begun.

“Ah… I don’t think so. I know better than you to ask you. It was merely a statement,” Nicholas chuckled as he opened his desk drawer to start his own work.

“Oh, that reminds me, Mr. President. Peggy is going to be unable to make it to the ball. She is recovering but will not be strong enough to attend. Bessie has asked to be my guest.”

“Again … is there a question there and how did your discussion of Miss Waverly remind you of that?

 

Housekeeper Dixon opened the front door to Bessie Higgins.

“I believe Miss Hale is expecting me.”

“Yes, she is. Please come in Miss Higgins. You may wait in the drawing room. She will be with you momentarily.”

“Thank you,” Bessie said, removing her gloves and walking about the room.

“Hello Bessie,” Margaret spoke as she came into the room. “I am so happy you could make it.”

“I would not miss this opportunity for anything. I can’t stop thinking about last night. I was so proud of you. Father said he is happy to have you teach me reading and writing if you still care to.”

“Oh yes. I would love to be of use to someone.”

“Well, get your bonnet, my driver is waiting.”

“Waiting?” Margaret was surprised.

“I am taking you out to find a ball gown.”

“A ball gown?” Margaret questioned.

“Yes, you and I are going to attend the Master’s Ball soon with my father. My mother cannot go. Rather than see my father disappointed, I asked him to take you and me.”

“Me? Surely, you don’t mean me. I have nothing to do with the Masters.”

“Well, you are going to and very soon. You  had a nice start last night. I think it’s time you started meeting some nice, eligible gentleman. I am ready, and I don’t want to go out there alone. I think we can have fun together. Sharing our feelings and emotions with one another should help us along our way.”

“Our way?”

“Margaret, you are starting to sound like a parrot. Do you want to be a single spinster lady? I don’t. It’s hard to meet nice men. This is an ideal situation. They will be gentlemen. They will ask us to dance. It will be a joyous night.”

“Bessie, I am not sure I am ready to meet eligible gentlemen. I don’t even know if I want to be a wife.”

“We will see how you feel after it’s over. Please go with me?”

“I guess father wouldn’t mind being home alone that night. How about coming to my room and look in my wardrobe. I have some evening frocks from school last year. There may be a few in there. Perhaps, there is one you would like yourself. I’m sure those fashions are just coming into Milton.”

“Let’s go see, shall we?”

Bessie said, “Good day,” to Mr. Hale as the two walked briskly through the hall to the stairs.

 

 

 

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C3

Chapter Three

 

The following evening, while dining out, Adeline felt John was at a distance. Her cajoling did not seem to impact him as it usually did.

“John you are far away tonight. Is there something wrong?”

“No. Why do you ask?”

“You see; you are not paying attention. I just asked now because you seemed at a distance.”

“I am sorry. Yes, I have something on my mind.”

“Has it something to do with your mills?

“No, it is a personal matter. It need not concern you.” But it did John thought. He had to be reading more into this than there was. It seemed quite foolish to think that Lenore would be in any way disrespectful of Adeline.

“Are we not confiding personal matters to each other,” Adeline asked.

“Right now, it is a matter that I doubt will ever come up. Should that happen, I will discuss it with you. How is your meal?”

“John you ask me that every time. You know I love this place. I order the same dish all the time,” Adeline continued to smile. “Someday, I would like to learn to cook a meal or two. I think every woman, even ladies, should learn to cook a little. What do you think?”

“I’m sorry. What?”

“I said, we can leave whenever you are ready.”

“Very well.” John caught the waiter’s attention and the bill was brought and signed.”

“Thank you, Mr. Thornton. I shall hail your driver.”

Adeline wasn’t able to pull John out of his thoughts, this evening. “Do we have plans tomorrow night?”

“Not tomorrow night. I have my lecture class to attend. Perhaps you will dine with Mother and me the night after.”

“I believe I can make it. Can I ask a personal question and you not get upset with me?”

“Adeline, you may ask me anything at any time.”

“I’ve noticed that your mother seems a bit protective of you. That doesn’t bother you?”

“If I am to be truthful, yes, it does. We have to live together, so I make an effort to endure it with a smile. That is not always the case, though. Just yesterday, she mentioned that she had been concerned about me for many years since I did not have a father to teach me the ways of a man,” John chuckled. “Then when I assured her I had matured well without a father, she asked if I was still a gentleman. What would you have told her? Am I a gentleman?”

“In every way.”

“Too much of a gentleman?” He asked in the way of jesting but wondered how she saw him.

“John, this is the 1850’s.”

He didn’t know where to go with that answer. It could mean anything, really. Was he too forward with her or could she be in want of more of him?

“I’m not quite sure I understand your answer. Can you be more specific about the realities of the time?”

“No, you’ve gotten the only answer you’re getting,” she laughed.

“From your laugh, I will have to deduce my own answer. I can at least hope, and I am a good gentleman.” John hoped she would respond to that and she didn’t. How uneasy that made him feel. He knew what men suffered if they started to question their ability to perform. Their few encounters had gone very well, he thought. He knew he wasn’t the first in her life, but he didn’t know how many men she had experienced. How did he compare to other men in that area of passion? This was going to frustrate him, he knew it. Pride in his work seemed to be his nemesis.

He escorted her home but did not enter through the door when she requested it. “I will bid you a good night,” John said. She looked a little winsome but then she smiled.

 

“Father, I am finished all the drawings,” said Margaret. “Can I look over your notes for tomorrow night? Perhaps you would like to practice on me.”

“Margaret, I know you are anxious that I know what I will be saying and I am proud that you know this material far better than I, but let me study. I am not done yet. Here are some notes that I believe I have finished with, but I do not have time to practice. That hardly does much good anyway. The men begin asking questions or making statements about their own experiences, and the lesson goes off into another direction. Everyone will think that their way is best, and it may be for them. I only want to open up some new thinking for them. I believe they can put their numbers under a microscope and learn the finer points of their business. They can hone their knowledge.”

“Father, that sounds exactly right. I am glad to say that I feel more comfortable now, knowing your direction. I didn’t think you would want to insist on your way, which you aren’t. You’re just giving them new ideas, correct?”

“You have it, my dear. Read those notes tonight and tomorrow and let me know what you think.”

“I shall.” Margaret picked up the notes he had made for the lecture and carried them into the sitting room. She poured herself a glass of wine and sat down on the sofa near the gas lamp on the wall.

As Margaret began the notes, she thought he needed a more powerful opening … one that would make them sit up and pay attention … one that left them with expectations. She continued to flip through the pages, front and back. It was hard where the ink had bled through the sheaf, but everything she was seeing was basic bookkeeping for a company. She hoped that what he was working on now, was much more substantial than this. This … was barely an opener. She kept going over the material and found it was a step up from a home budget. Yes, to father, it was a honed budget, but far from what the masters were already doing. Margaret knew that he would soon go to bed, giving her time to look over the last notes and to see the ages of these books he was studying. She feared he was about to lose face if he presented the lecture she held in her hand.

 

Somewhere in the North Atlantic, a ship, bound for England, was bringing home Margaret’s long lost brother, who had lost his commission in the Navy and released from duty.

 

It was late. The clock had struck 11:00. Margaret finally laid all the notes on the dining room table. Her stomach was unsettled, but she would have to tell her father that he could not present his hard work to these Masters of men. After years of honing their business skills, the lecture would be condescending to them. They were more circumspect and advanced in their thinking. How was she going to tell her father?

 

John sat in his chair by the window. He had finished his daily paper but couldn’t pick up the book he had recently started. It was lonely at nights. He liked the quiet time but didn’t like the loneliness that seemed to be necessary to achieve it. He had been sitting there trying to avoid giving much thought to Adeline’s comment. She had placed a seed of doubt, and after years of confidence in his performance as a man, he thought it likely she had been playing a game.

Hearing from Slickson about Lenore Smithers returning to Milton, John thought back to their break-up. Many months, there had been joy in his life and love. He did wonder now if it was real love. It certainly felt so at the time. But he was mature now. He had matured enough to know that the physicality of a relationship was only part of the love that a man has for a woman. Women loved differently, and there wasn’t much he could do about that except to find the woman that could be his other half. With Lenore, it had been a lustful relationship. With every effort of his being, he tried to remain at proper gentleman at all times, but Lenore was addicted to her carnal pleasures. Even then, John was attempting to find a solution that both could live with, but when he found her the second time with another man, it was over. The best physical time of his life had finished. She had taken his love and virginity, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t long before Lenore was making the rounds with other masters that her reputation plummeted. John took a lot of ridicule for letting such a wanton woman go. He knew that soon he would drown in his own animalistic ego that she seemed to drive him too. Looking back, he was a very young man with few goals in his life. After several years of sewing his seed, he thought there must be more to life. Something had to change, or he would be disgraced in an empire he was destined to lead.

Lenore had left within two months from seeing John for the last time. John avoided her, would not answer her letters and passed her on the streets with not so much as a hat tip. He spoke long and deep with Adam Bell on two occasions. Adam being older, his past experiences with the opposite sex were unknown by most. Those few who knew him as a young man were keeping to themselves.

To his knowledge, Adam was soon due back to Milton. John would be glad he would be here for Lenore’s arrival. John wondered why he worried. It had been nearly ten years. Surely she must have a family and husband by now. He prayed she didn’t arrive with anyone around nine years old. Those days of lust-filled nights without precautions were a thing of the past. John learned quickly to avoid any parental trap. He would look forward to the day when that was no longer a barrier between him and the woman he wanted to love and be with for life.

He heard the clock strike 2:00 a.m. and rolled over in his bed. John had brought a full glass of scotch with him to see the night through. It worked. He fell asleep.

 

Margaret arrived for breakfast an hour past her father. Greetings were spoken with him as she carried on into the kitchen for a cup of tea. Strolling slowly, so as, not to slosh her tea, she walked back to the dining room where her father was busy working. She watched as he feverishly was lifting papers looking for a particular semblance of presentation order.

“Margaret, you’ve looked over the notes, I believe. What have you found that I missed?”

Margaret looked down for an extended moment as she set her cup on the saucer and sat down. “Father, I wish this was  not the case, but it is incumbent upon me to help you save face. You’ve worked very hard, I know, but you simply did not go far enough to interest the masters. I know you have worked with the home budget and most likely the church’s budget and all these papers surpass that. You are scratching the surface of big business but still far behind in the knowledge these men are using. Remember, they have been honing business numbers for a decade. I am sorry to tell you this.”

“Have you seen it all?”

“Yes, I was up late last night and read all of your notes and charts.”

“And you, yourself, have learned more than this?”

“Quite a substantial bit more. I only left school less than a year ago. That was a fine Lady’s College. One of the many group studies I elected to take covered exactly what you are trying to do. I will never do needlework, but I can find a job if I have to keep myself and Dixon.”

Her father looked crushed. He stood silently and walked into the sitting room. Richard Hale moved towards the fireplace and rested his arm on the mantle. He looked down into the flames. “What am I going to do Margaret? Apologize for underestimating their knowledge and send them home? I can’t do that. They’ll never want to have other classes with me.”

“Father, I can teach them if you and they will permit me.”

“Margaret,” her father ruffled. “I doubt you will be very well received. Are you sure you can add to their knowledge?”

“Unless they’ve been to school in the last year, I feel everyone will get something from what I know. Some more, some less. If they were promised this particular lecture, I would doubt you have any other choice. Your introduction of me will set the tone of their acquiescence to listen to me. I expect them all to groan, and perhaps some will leave, but the ones that stay, I promise will learn.”

“Do you need any drawings done today?”

“No, I’ll use the slate board and chalk. They will take notes if they are interested.”

“Margaret, I trust that you know what you are doing. I trust that your knowledge can be useful to some. I will worry about your acceptance, but there is little we can do now.”

“What time will we leave this evening? I will have to put my points in order assuming I can think the way they do.”

“We have to be there by 8:00 p.m. What do you mean, think the way they do?”

Every business is unique to its product. What I learned, and I shall tell you if you wish me too, does not lend itself to taking a commodity such as raw cotton, reconstructing it, and then shipping it out. The accounting is nearly completely the same, but there are areas of difference.”

“For instance?”

“How much is their advertising budget? Do they even advertise or are their trading and buying partners under a contract?”

“I see what you mean about what I didn’t know.”

“I wish I could speak with Bessie’s father for a few minutes. Several quick questions would help enormously. Do you think there is any way possible?”

“We could rent a coach, and you could ride over to their mill. He or Mr. Thornton may be in their office. I would tell you that if you could impress either of them, you will reach the others. I’ll walk to the corner with you when you are ready to go.”

“Thank you, father. Let me get my questions formed first. I don’t want to sound foolish.”

“Are you sure you do not need any of these drawings or notes?”

“Yes, father. I am sure.”

“I will be ready when you are.”

 

John met his mother at the table. His paper was there next to him, and his mother still seemed to have dinner plans scattered on her side.

 

Bessie reminded her father that she would be attending the lecture tonight and asked if he would be home to take her or go straight to the Lyceum.

“I’ll be home. Today should be a light day. In fact, John told me to sleep in for another hour or two and come in later.”

“But you seem ready to go at your regular time.”

“Yes, I am, and I will go. I have no reason to stay home.”

 

John had gone to the office early due to the light sleep he received last night. It still bothered him that Adeline would not put his mind at ease. Don’t women understand the importance of a man’s performance to his partner? Men took lightly to flattery as they knew how they used it themselves. Oft times, it was sincere­ – other times, a means to an end. Yet, any remarks, insinuations, or doubts in pleasuring their partner and the man could suffer a drop in self-pride, leading to a physical and psychological ambush at the most delicate of times.

John heard Higgins coming up the steps, but the person stopped and knocked on the door. Assuming it to be a worker, he shouted for them to enter. He was surprised when Lenore Smithers stepped inside.

“Miss Smithers, what an unexpected surprise. Master Slickson thought you had returned to Milton. Please take this chair.” John pulled a wooden seat near his desk.

“I should have written first before barging in on a working day. I didn’t know if you knew I was here, so I decided to let you know.”

John could hear Higgin’s carriage. The rescue would soon arrive. “What brings you back to Milton?”

“Father is not well, and my sister is getting a bit old to handle his weight for his needs. I am going to see if I can help or find someone that can. How long has it been, John? Ten years?”

“About that.” Where was Higgins, John wondered. “Did you ever marry that man you threw me over for?” John didn’t think he had any feelings anymore and here he was getting angry all over again.

There was a new knock on the door. “Excuse me, Miss Smithers. I don’t know where this company is coming from this morning. This time, John walked to the door hoping to stave her answer. He opened the door to Miss Margaret Hale.

“I … I am sorry to bother you, Mr. Thornton. I have come to seek some answers from Mr. Higgins. He is not expecting me. I will understand if you send me away.”

“It’s been about a year since we last met,” John stated.

“Met? Is that what that was?” She said, curtly. “I’m sorry. I see you have someone here. I shall wait outside.”

“Let me introduce you. Miss Margaret Hale, this is Miss or is it, Mrs. Lenore Smithers.”

“How do you do?” Margaret greeted.

“I am very fine, Miss Hale. I only stopped by to let John know I am back in Milton and I have done that. You may have his attention now. I will go.”

“Oh, please don’t go on my account. My visit is to see Mr. Higgins.”

“Miss Hale, he should be here any time now if you care to wait.”

“Yes, I will wait, but I will wait outside. I insist.” Margaret didn’t stay for a reply. She turned and left the room.

“I hope I didn’t make your little friend angry, John.”

“She is not a friend. If I remember at our first and only meeting, I was disciplining a worker, and she wanted to interfere. I asked the foreman to remove her from the building. I don’t think we’ve ever spoken since. That was a year ago.”

“That’s good to hear. Are you seeing anyone?”

“I believe that is my business. Just as apparently yours was ten years ago.” John scolded himself for being such an angry child.

“I’ll take that as a yes. Here I was thinking, after all, these years, if you weren’t married yet, perhaps you would forgive me.”

“I don’t have any feeling towards forgiveness or any other thoughts of you, but I am sorry for my attitude. I apologize.”

“Thank you, John. Perhaps all is not lost. I will say goodbye. Maybe we shall talk in the future. Good morning to you.”

Lenore walked towards the door, and John opened it. Margaret was several steps down the stairs and moved to the side to let her pass. Higgins was pulling in.

“Miss Hale. Mr. Higgins is here. Please come back into the office.”

Margaret quietly walked back into the room and was offered the now empty chair. “Thank you.”

“Miss Hale, it is nice to see you. I’m not sure we were ever introduced a year ago, but I know I was rude. You saw me at a most difficult and distressing time.”

“Please, Mr. Thornton, do not go on. I was new to Milton and had little idea of the danger of these mills. It has been explained to me. Even though I still feel a sense of alarm over such disciplining, I can understand how you feared for everyone’s lives. Can we leave it at that? I have wanted to apologize but didn’t know you or how to go about it.”

“I would be lying if I didn’t say that your reaction that day has given me many pauses to think how it could have been handled differently. I must keep the fear utmost in their minds, at all times. If it’s the fear of me, so be it. At least I am doing all I can for them.”

Nicholas Higgins came through the door. He looked at John waiting to be introduced.

“You must be Mr. Higgins. I am Margaret Hale.”

“Oh, Miss Hale. Bessie has been talking about you for several days. She is most happy to think she has a potential friend.”

“I am quite pleased myself. I’ve been here a year without any friends. Perhaps it is providence.”

“I thought I was to meet you this evening. How can I help you?”

John was putting on his coat, ready to head to one of the mills when he heard Miss Hale’s next statement, which peaked his interest.

“I am not ashamed to admit this, but I am sorry to say that my father, Mr. Hale, has studied all week for his lecture this evening.”

Interrupting, “Is he unwell?” Asked Nicholas.

“No, but he was never able to grasp the detail of business accounting. He worked on budgets in the church and must have felt with a little more study, he could understand and perhaps teach the Masters about a new way of looking at their work. I have tried to help him, but he felt I knew less about it than he did. After being up most of the night, I had to tell him he could not deliver the lecture he had promised.”

John was back in his chair now. He had spread the word about the lecture to many other masters and now felt foolish for doing so. Well, it couldn’t be helped.

“I am sorry to hear that Miss Hale,” said Nicholas. “There seemed to be a gathering interest in the lesson tonight.”

“Well, that is why I am here. I can teach this lesson. I know it seems like a very boastful statement to make.”

“Miss Hale,” interjected John Thornton, “what gives you the credentials to assume you know the depth of our business?”

“Education, sir,” Margaret said with an air of expectancy.

John and Nicholas politely chuckled.

“I understand you to find humor in this. My father cannot believe it himself. Almost a year ago, I left a Woman’s College. In my final year, instead of learning the art of being a hosting wife, I took a class in business math thinking I may have to work one day.”

“And you believe you learned more than we know at this point.”

“I do. But I came here to ask Mr. Higgins several questions that are pertinent to the cotton industry so I can equate them with this new knowledge of budgets for business.”

Still smiling over the brash statements she was making, Higgins asked, “Are you sure this is not an attempt to rescue your father’s reputation? Excuse me for asking that.”

“I quite understand. I know women are not to be educated in such a fashion and it seems inconceivable to any male that we can be.”

“Miss Hale,” John said, gaining her attention once again, “Can I put a question or two to you for a sign that you have learned about business budgeting?”

“Not knowing the cotton industry, I will tell you what I can. I am only schooled in the math, not any of the nuances that go with the textile trade.”

“Fair enough. Please wait a moment while I confer with my partner.”

“May I ask one question before you confer?

John nodded.

“Are you the president of the Master’s association?”

“I am at present,” John replied.

“So, if I cannot impress you, then there will be no class tonight?”

“I’m not sure that is a fair statement. These lectures are not mandated by myself or anyone. They are on a volunteer personal interest basis. I have no right to pick and choose what they do in their spare time.”

“Thank you.” Margaret was quiet at that point. Seeing she had finished her question, John motioned Higgins to the other side of the office.

Margaret heard another chuckle or two. Becoming quite nervous, she felt she needed to use the facilities.

“Excuse me. Where are your facilities? I am feeling nervous.”

“Let me take you to my home. I would rather you didn’t use the worker’s area.”

“I don’t mind, Mr. Thornton.”

“I do. Follow me, please.”

John looked over her head to Nicholas as he escorted her out the door. They both grinned at the absurdity of her being able to teach them anything.

Margaret was quickly introduced to John’s mother and shown to the lavatory.

After shutting the door, Margaret felt sick to her stomach now. Which did she do? Sit or throw up first.

After several minutes, Margaret emerged from the door looking paler than when she entered.

“Miss Hale, are you feeling well? Asked Hannah Thornton.

“Much better, thank you. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Without a word, Margaret headed to the stairs leading outside. John was a moment behind her, talking with his mother.

Margaret wondered why she started all this. It was to help her father. Yes, that was it. For any other reason, she would have fled by now.

Walking across the mill yard, “Miss Hale, I must credit you for the bravery you are showing for your father. You are unselfish in letting the blame fall at your feet and not Mr. Hales.”

“I understand your doubts but thank you.”

John thought that if nothing else, the men would have a pretty young woman to look at this evening.

Arriving back at the office, Higgins pulled him aside to discuss a question or two.

Margaret returned to her chair, feeling sick again. The words of her father, “if you can impress him, you can impress anyone,” seemed to set the butterflies aloft in her stomach.

She watched as Mr. Higgins and Mr. Thornton returned to their desks.

John pulled out his last month’s profit and loss statement and handed it to her. They both were shocked when she smiled.

“You find something amusing, Miss Hale.”

“Yes.”

They both watched as she seemed to read line by line. A frown came over her face. Margaret suddenly felt emboldened.

“What would you like to know, Mr. Thornton?”

“What would you call that document?”

“It’s a Profit and Loss statement from last month.”

John looked over at Nicholas and smiled.

“What is a business’s largest expense category?”

“Other than goods purchased, it would be wages.”

“Very good. So, what do you see as an overall picture of that statement?”

“You are fooling yourself if you think this bottom number is your true profit. Subsequently, future budgeting will fall short.”

Higgins let out an, “Oh ho…”

John sat back in his swivel chair, tapping a pencil against his teeth as he stared at her.

Margaret had seen all she needed to see. She had no questions for Mr. Higgins.

“So what is the true profit?”

“I guess you’ll have to come to the lecture to find out.” She stood and headed towards the door.

“Wait! Didn’t you have questions for Mr. Higgins?”

“I have seen all I need, thank you.”

 

As Margaret made her way down the outside stairs, Nicholas asked John, “So, what do you think?”

“I think she bluffed us.” John smiled. “It’s quite funny when you think about it. She will never get away with it. I am sorry for her to be in front of these masters tonight.”

“You were not impressed with her answers?”

“Those could be found in any accounting book. I believe she has had a modest course in accounting. Nothing that could serve us.”

“And the overall profit picture?” Nicholas mentioned.

“That was the bluff. She didn’t have an answer. She may have something by tonight, though,” John laughed.

 

Margaret walked up to the coach driver and asked to be taken to the library. She didn’t need any books on accounting, but she wanted a quick look at working in the cotton and textiles industry. She assumed there should be many books on the subject waiting for her.

Arriving, she was not disappointed. Margaret quickly glanced down the aisles of books on the subject, selected several and carried them to the center reading tables. She was fortunate to find a new book that didn’t look like it had been opened many times. Apparently, masters either bought their own copy or felt they knew all there was. She started to thumb through the book.

An hour later, Margaret was headed home to prepare her lesson.

 

“Bessie, what will you wear to a master’s lecture tonight,” asked her stepmother, Peggy.

“I think a normal day frock will suffice. I know there is little I do know, but I can’t see there being any etiquette rules for lectures.”

“I am sure you are right. Your father will correct you if he thinks you are overdressed for the occasion.

 

“How are you coming along Margaret? There isn’t much time left,” inquired Richard Hale.

“I have my lecture ready. I am just looking for an opening to catch their attention.”

“Any ideas, Margaret?”

“Several, father. Would you know if any of the Masters will be bringing the profit statements with them?”

“I do not know, dear. It was not discussed. Are you still sure you have something to reach them?”

“I had a look at Marlborough Mills profit statement today. I smiled when I saw it. I am sure they think I don’t know what I will be talking about. If Marlborough Mills are the masters to impress, I can do that.”

“Margaret, you do understand that even with all your knowledge which exceeds theirs, there is still going to be issues with believing you.”

“Father, that will be up to them, but I am ready for any attitude they want to display. They can boo me off of the stage if they want. I will go rather than cause consternation amongst them, but they will not learn. I am quite prepared to be challenged or tossed out.”

“Margaret, you’re a better man than I., And you are doing this all for me. I hope it goes well.”

“I don’t believe it will, but we shall try.”

 

 

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C2

Brotherly Love - Kindle Edition 3.99
Brotherly Love – Kindle Edition 3.99

Chapter Two

 

Margaret walked into the kitchen to speak with Dixon, asking how long before dinner. She felt her father would want to spread these papers which will become charts, on the table.

“Miss Margaret. Your father has asked me to serve us here in the kitchen. I can’t believe that. Your mother would never have stood for that. But he seems to have work that will take up the entire dining room table.”

“Very well, Dixon. I will be helping father if you need me.”

“Yes, miss.”

As Margaret walked through the hall towards the dining room, she saw that a letter had arrived and it was still resting on the buffet. She went to retrieve it and saw that it was from Mr. Bell. She carried it to her father.

Richard Hale was busy shifting large and small pieces of parchment paper around. He would check his notes and move them again.

“Father is this to be a puzzle of some sort?” she asked, walking up beside him.

“I didn’t think so, but it’s looming to be a much larger project than I anticipated. We will be studying this over several sessions and these charts will constantly change.”

“I see.” Peeking at his notes, Margaret hoped he knew what he was doing.

“Father here is a letter from Mr. Bell.”

“Yes, I saw it out there. I shall read it later. I have been expecting him to visit Milton in the near future. I would assume that is news to that effect.”

“Do you wish me to open and read it to you?”

“No, dear. Not at this time. I am concentrating on this layout of papers.”

“But they’re all blank, still.”

Richard Hale laughed. “Yes, they are. But I want to line up the sizes. The smaller pieces will be magnified areas of a part of the larger ones.”

“Do you have them drawn out on small paper?”

“Not all. I haven’t completed the formulas yet. I am not clear as to how to present it. This was a subject they requested to learn, and I am learning it as I go.”

“Father, I did much of this in school.”

“I doubt what you learned is as advanced as they want to learn. Many of these men are educated, too. From the conversation at the next lecture, I will get a more precise sense of the scale of their interest.”

“I am quite good, father,” Margaret replied, trying to impress on her father that she could help.

“Thank you, Margaret. As I go along, I may have a question or two. But it will be an enormous help if you could just draw many lines, like a graph. You will have to find a straight edge of some sort.”

“I will father.” Margaret walked away to find a straight edge. She feared her father was in over his head. He was an intelligent man, but his education was based mostly on the Bible. Margaret decided to look over his books he’d acquired and be ready. Perhaps Mr. Bell would be here soon enough to guide him.

 

Nicholas Higgins had left for home over an hour ago. John Thornton felt he had seen to a few loose ends that remained from the day. John was a tall, slender, well-built male with dark hair and blue eyes. He had become a self-made man. He started working at an early age, and through diligence, perseverance, and some education had risen to the peak of a new age for mankind. Machines. Born with natural intelligence, he rose quickly in the admiration of his peers. He was a leader; and one who shied away from flattery and the adulation that he rightly deserved. Hard worker, good looks, and humility had made him into one of Milton’s most sought after bachelors. He was 28 years old.

 

John entered his home situated on the mill property which stood as a testament to his success.

“Good evening, mother. What has you so occupied over there?” John asked as he hung up his coat. “Never mind. It’s your yearly dinner, is it not?”

“Yes, John it is,” Hannah Thornton replied with a note of exhaustion in her voice. “It’s not that far away, and I have only had a few replies. Mr. Bell, of course, and he’s asking to bring a lady friend. Surely your Miss Adeline will be attending?”

“Yes, mother. Of course, she will. Has Latimer answered yet?”

“Yes, he and his daughter, again, will be here. I think he’s still hoping you will see his daughter the way he thinks you should see her. She is a quiet and polite woman.”

“Is that what you like about Anne Latimer … that she is quiet and polite?” John asked smiling.

“Well, she has been reared very well with graceful manners.”

“Mother that is more of the point of why I do not find interest in her.  We have been out several times, and I find her dull if you must know. She knows about Adeline and me. So, she may not attend, after all. I think she would feel foolish sitting there with her father.”

“It may well happen as you say. But Mr. Latimer coming on his own may tempt her to keep him company.”

“Do you have any more matchmaking efforts that you haven’t told me about?”

“No, John. Just you.”

“You really do like Adeline?”

“Yes, John. You have had many nice ladies that I found a befitting wife for you. She is in that group. I cannot ever know why you turn away from some and others are a bit more of interest to you – and yet, I can see no difference.”

“Mother, you should see no difference. Many do not act as you know them when there are more private circumstances. I am sure you do not want to delve into a conversation in that area.”

“But, John, you are still a gentleman?” Hannah asked with some trepidation.

“I cannot believe you would ask me that.”

“But you’re twenty-eight years old?”

“Meaning what, exactly?” By now, John had poured his evening scotch and was seated in his comfortable chair,  which overlooked the mill yard.

“Well … I … I don’t want to get into your personal affairs, but…”

“But … you need not butt into my personal affairs. If you have heard any bad rumors about me, I am sure I would have heard about it. So, being a big boy now, I think I am handling things rather maturely. The job of Mother can only go so far with her son.”

“I just want to make sure you are happy. You did not have a father to speak with while you grew into an adult man. I guess somewhere in the back of my mind, I wonder if you’ve been taught all you should know.”

John started laughing. “Mother, I shall bring you along next time. You can point out the error of my ways.” He gushed from laughing so hard. “Tonight I will sit on your lap, and you can tell all about the ways of a man.”

“John! Don’t say such disgusting things.”

“I find it quite far from disgusting. Shall we be done with my maturing phase?”

“Alright. We are done with you. But the women who …”

“On no account will you or anyone know about any woman I have been with.  And you can take that any way you like. I am done here.” John left to go to his bedchamber, just to ensure the conversation had ended. He was glad of their talk because he’d always wondered how his mother may have worried about not having a father around. He hoped he had settled all of her apprehensions. It didn’t matter. This subject was closed.

John removed his cravat and waistcoat before returning to the sitting room.

Hesitantly, Hannah started to speak. “John …”

“Mother!”

“I only want to know why you feel Adeline may be the one that you marry. Have you spoken the words?”

“There have been no words specifically. I believe there may be an expectation on her part. I am not even sure that she would accept me.”

“But what is it about her … that particular woman that separates her from the others. I would like to know. I would like to see and feel what you do. Perhaps, I would like her more than I do.”

John picked up his empty glass before sitting back down. “Brandy, mother?”

“No, not just yet. You go ahead.”

“Thank you. I think I will.” He smiled to himself. John poured his glass and returned to his chair. “Mother, I am not sure I can answer you. It’s not that I chose not to, but I cannot find the words to express the feelings that I have in her company. She is gay and light-hearted. She doesn’t begrudge me not spending every moment with her. Adeline has her own interests. She has her own money so that worry is not one which you usually dwell upon. I believe her words and emotions are true to herself and not a show for me. I think we could have a nice life together.”

“John! Is that what it’s come down to … someone you can have a nice life with? How about someone you love and loves you? Isn’t that the most important part of a marriage partner?”

“Mother that is a road, unknown to you, that I have traveled in my life. I lost a piece of myself. I cannot go through another difficult time like that ever again.”

“What happened?”

“Let’s just say, I spent a lot my emotional self on her and she was false. That’s about all I will tell you.”

“Does anyone else know about this woman?”

“Only Higgins. We discussed it once.”

“You are such a private man that I did not see that happening to you.”

“I was very young then, and I am more the better for it. God only knows what advice you would have given me. You would have been as miserable as I was. It’s over. The lady has left Milton with her family, many years ago. I do not think of her except in the fact that I could have made a terrible mistake.”

“Well, I shall pray for a woman to find you that loves you and you can love. Settling for someone is a desperate act.”

“Mother, I don’t feel I am settling, as you say. Adeline and I have been seeing each other for many months now. I believe we both feel what a married life to each other would be like.”

“Have you discussed any desires to raise a family?”

“I know that she likes children. We have not spoken of a family in regards to us.”

“You don’t feel because of your age that you are rushed to find a suitable mate, do you?”

“Mother, sometimes I wonder if you really raised me. Suitable mate, indeed. I do not feel old or rushed because of my age. I live my life as I wish it to be. Men have a much longer biological clock if that is what you are referring to. Now, what is for dinner? I beginning to lose my appetite.”

“Your sister will be here with Master Watson. Have you heard from any other masters?”

“No. But you know, Slickson will never let one of your meals go by.  Ah… dinner is being served. Shall we, Mother?”

 

Dinner was over. Margaret and her father were quietly busy at the dining room table. Richard Hale was thumbing pages back and forth … first one book and then the other. Margaret had found her ivory ruler, given to her for school by her wealthy aunt, Mrs. Shaw. Being her mother’s sister, Aunt Shaw was still active among London’s society set and had taken it upon herself to see that Margaret was educated. Margaret’s mother, now passed, had married a clergyman for love and not for position, title, or land holdings – which many had done in her youth. Visiting with her Aunt many summers, Margaret became well acquainted with that level of living, and although the amenities were welcomed, it wasn’t worth the smugness of the people who would be part of her life.

“Have you read your letter father?”

“Yes, I was correct. Adam shall be here in another week or sooner. He’ll stay at the Milton Grand Hotel, as usual. I don’t know what business brings him here this time, but he may be with us for a month or more.”

“I take it that your first lecture to the Masters will happen before he arrives?”

“Yes. That is correct. Something seems to be bothering you about my giving these series of lectures to the Masters.”

“I am only questioning teaching this particular subject. Your knowledge is limited to a subject that is their whole way of looking at their livelihood. I fear you may overlook something important. How old are those books you are studying from?”

“Margaret, please stop your worrying. Accounting is fairly basic.”

“If you say so, father. I was learning advanced skills in accounting when I went to school. Retail math. Have you heard the phrase?”

“These men are not retailers. They do not have shops that cater to the customer off of the street. Please, let me get on with my research. If you wish to continue to help me, just do as I ask and do not worry about me. One would think that you wish to teach the class.”

Margaret remembered a case study her class had dissected and why it failed. She thought how easy that was going to be, but it was like a garden that kept growing. Eventually, weeds sprang up, and before the owner could make adjustments, the weeds had snuffed out his profit. It wasn’t the basic accounting of which she was sure her father understood and the masters, too. It was the anticipation of growth and what to do to about it. If you are not prepared for the volume of work in the next season, how could you increase your business?

 

“Peggy, how are you feeling this evening? Still, have a fever?” Asked Bessie of her mother.

“Yes, I am afraid so. Little I can eat will stay down. Dr. Donaldson says it’s a virus, not a cold and I may be out of sorts for two weeks.”

“Oh dear, how hateful that will be. Well, you know Mary and I can handle the household while you rest.”

“Yes. Knowing that allows me to rest and not worry. Although, there is one thing,” Peggy lowered her voice. “It’s the Master’s Ball. Your father has been looking forward to that. I am sure I will be too weak to attend. Would you be his guest? It isn’t just for husband and wives. It’s for the masters and a guest.”

“Does father dance?”

“He may think he can, and I have told him no different. I doubt he will do much of that with you or even me if I could go. He likes talking to the others.”

“You don’t think he would mind me going in your place?”

“Of course not. He would be proud to have you there.”

“Would it be asking too much to bring a friend?”

“A friend? What friend? A young man?” Bessie’s stepmother brightened.

Bessie laughed. “That would be nice, but no. It’s a new friend I was telling father about. She’s a young lady I met today at the park. I think we’re going to get along very nicely.”

“Is she a working woman?”

“No. She’s from a proper gentleman’s family, but they are not prosperous now. Her mother passed away within the past year, and her father is teaching the masters at the lyceum. I think she said he is teaching willing workers to read and write. Margaret, that’s her name, said she would be willing to teach me if father approves. He shall meet her very soon.”

“Having a new friend all sounds so wonderful. I know how lonely you have been. As for the Master’s Ball, you will ask your father.”

“Does he have any idea that you may not be able to go?”

“We haven’t discussed it. He should know that I can’t and must be holding back any conversation so he will not have to disappointment me.”

“Disappoint you?”

“He knows I will feel bad that I cannot attend with him and he doesn’t want to bring it up while I’m not feeling like myself,” Peggy smiled.

“I’ll talk to him after dinner. Are you ready to have your soup brought up?”

“Yes. Please ask Cook for a cool glass of water.”

 

Dinner was over, and both housekeeper Jane and Cook had left for the evening. John heard a knock on the door and went to answer it.

“Slickson, come in. What brings you to my home at this time of the evening?”

“Thornton, I was passing your mill and decided to stop and extend my thank you and acceptance to Mrs. Thornton’s dinner party.”

“Very good. Can you stay and have a drink?”

“Yes. Not too long, though. Do you have bourbon?”

“I do. Please come up to the sitting room.”

Arriving in the sitting room, Master Slickson walked over and spoke with Mrs. Thornton, while John poured their drinks.

Slickson returned to a chair across from where John sat and took the glass that was offered.

“This will be a nice month for some of us. First the Ball and then your mother’s dinner party. Are you to attend with Miss Waverly?”

“Yes. She is looking forward to it. And you?”

“I know it’s getting close, but I have asked no one as yet. I did tell your mother that I will hope to bring someone to her dinner, and as for the ball, I hope not to go alone there, too.”

“I was quite sorry about the loss of your wife. It’s been two years. How are you coping with that if you don’t mind my asking? I feel it must be a very long time to recover.”

“John. You never recover. It becomes easier as the day’s pass, easier to go on alone, I should say, but you never recover. I can talk about it now. The mill has become my entire life.”

“I’ve heard about some of your improvements.”

“Many of those were wishes of my wife. I now have the wheel to filter the air, as you have probably heard.”

“I have,” John smiled. He saw Slickson pull on his glass and look off into a distant place as if remembering something.

“Oh, I just remembered something I wanted to ask you. Didn’t you take out a Miss Lenore Smithers?”

John felt stunned. That was a name out of his past. She was the woman who broke his heart and then moved away. “Yes, I took her out quite a long time ago. Why do you ask?”

“It seems she is coming back. Whether for a visit or to stay, I don’t know. Her sister is married to my foreman. He asked me if he could have a day off so he and his wife could bring her home from London. I thought you might be interested to know that. You look disturbed.”

John was very disturbed. Was Slickson making him uncomfortable on purpose for some reason or just alerting him to the fact of her pending arrival?

“I know you’ve been seeing Miss Waverly for a while. Figured you would want to know about an old flame coming back to Milton.”

“I appreciate knowing, but there is nothing there. Nothing to concern me with, but thank you, all the same.”

 

 

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C1

Chapter One

 

Mr. Richard Hale, formerly a clergyman from the southern part of England was beginning to settle into what would seem to be the rest of his life.

Giving up his vocation after a struggle with ecclesiastical doubts, he was persuaded by his friend, Adam Bell, to move to a new location and begin anew. Although, not in harmony with this wife and daughter, he took his friend’s advice and moved the family to a burgeoning industrial city in the north called Milton. He and Adam, a very close alumni and family friend, knew that his strength lay in teaching. Preaching the gospel wasn’t a far cry to teaching from a textbook.

It had been nearly ten months since his wife passed away, shortly after arriving in Milton, when he began to put his heart into his new profession. He was currently teaching poverty-stricken laborers to read and write, in two classes a week, but his income came from higher education sessions which the Cotton Mill Masters seemed to find of interest.

As he walked outside into the crisp night from the Lyceum where he taught, he took a deep breath being exhilarated from his past month’s interest and participation in his work. His lectures were finding great interest and his student body was growing. He offered private lessons and consultations to men who seemed dedicated or interested in one particular area.

Tonight had been a good night. There were twenty mill masters in attendance with lively participation by all. The comraderies of these men surprised him. Although, each a competitor to the other, there seemed to be an “us against the world” brotherhood amongst them. Richard Hale soon learned what both the masters and the laborers were up against in this new machine age and it was difficult times for all.

John Thornton, talking to another master, walked down the steps behind Richard. They both tipped their hats and continued on down engrossed in conversation about the current labor force. Richard Hale thought about the rumor he had heard recently that John Thornton was now betrothed. Being a handsome, successful master, gave pause to Richard in thinking – why has it taken him so long to marry. He might talk with Adam Bell about it someday. Adam was good friends with John even though he wasn’t in the business. However, Adam did have investment interests all through the cotton industry in Milton, even to the point of buying land years ahead of the anticipated expansion. Coming from a very high academic background, Adam Bell was no innocent in the world of shrewd finances.

As Richard Hale walked home, he thought how his daughter would be waiting. With only their housekeeper, Dixon, to talk with, Margaret was living a very dull life for such a young woman. Not growing up in this part of the country she had no friends and there was no one who could recommend her to eligible young men of good character. Richard decided to include some lectures in the future where he could ask her to accompany him and assist in some way. All the men that he had met in his class seemed amiable enough. He did not know who was married and who wasn’t, but she would start to be seen. Richard Hale knew that as pious as he had once been and as lonely as he would be, he had to think of her future now.

 

Margaret, a young woman of twenty-two, sat home waiting for her father. She had pulled out her needlework, which she never really enjoyed as a pastime, but that was all she seemed to have . . . time. No longer having to care for her mother and even her father during her mother’s illness, life was now spent listening to the clock on the mantel. Occasionally, she would go to the library and spend time there reading, as being home every minute suffocated her. Only a year away she had returned home from an extensive, although forward thinking, woman’s school. It was a college and part finishing school to truly round out the industrious and independent woman. Margaret was independent, if anything. Daily, her father, would correspond with friends, read the paper, and prepare lessons. Dixon, the housekeeper, puttered around, complaining under her breath about something or other. It seemed every day brought a new mumbled criticism about Milton or the north end of England . . . the sun never showed itself . . . no friends came or went from the house. Margaret was tired of hearing it all even though she, too, had her own gripes. She had to find something to do, and that be the end of it. Perhaps she could volunteer at the library or was there a bookstore owner who needed help. She heard her father come home when he closed the front door.

“How was your class, father? You seem cheerful.”

“Tonight was a good night. I quite enjoyed myself. It was with the masters, as you may know.”

“No, I don’t believe, I do, father. Are you speaking of the men who own those cotton mills on the other side of town?”

“Yes, those men who are managing wonders with new machines. They bring great fame to the city. Many are educated men, too. They have a head full of knowledge. Not thinking there would be much interest, I placed a small writing in the paper about lectures on various subjects which I thought might benefit or interest a working educated man.”

“And you received interest?”

“Yes, tonight there were twenty paying masters and one or two other businessmen from the railroad.”

“That is wonderful, father. I am happy when you enlighten the masses.”

“Margaret, it sounds like you are under-estimating the intelligence in this city. These are smart men that are steering a new generation, cutting in-roads in machinery that will lead the world forward. Nowhere on earth is there a town of this size doing what they do. Their products outsell every other type of export that Britain has, by a large percentage. Adam foresaw this. Even though he is not in the business, he had the sense to see what it was going to become and invested in land and business property. He is a wealthy man or soon will be.”

Richard removed his coat and kept talking. “Margaret, I know you have had very little knowledge of where we have moved. With your mother growing sick when we moved, you’ve been busy with both she and I. You had the sense to run the family issues as they came up when I could only think of her. I would imagine you haven’t met anyone who you would wish to be friends. Have you?”

“I met a woman about my age and her brother as they walked home from work in the mills. We eventually began to speak with each other rather easily as I followed them near their home. Her name is Wanda, and her younger brother is Samuel. She said they had once lived in the poor section of town, but that doesn’t preclude me from being friendly, does it? I haven’t seen any what I would call class barriers here.”

“And you won’t Margaret. Yes, there is poverty versus the masters, but they do not distance themselves from each other if passing on the street. The industry they are bringing to the world is low pay. The masters don’t make all that much either. They are not getting very rich. They would be considered a well-heeled merchant, but there is nothing like a society or nobility anywhere here. The whole town works for a living. These masters are in their mills every hour of the day. They do not sit home while others do their work. That’s what I find so amazing about these men I taught tonight. One of the masters was leaving to go visit an injured worker of his, just to be courteous but genuinely interested in the man’s wellbeing. Margaret, these people are like none we have ever known. The poor are very poor. And the others are not snobbish or boastful. Which reminds me . . .  I have a lesson coming up next week, and I wish to engage your help.”

“My help?” What can I do for you . . . erase your slate board?” Margaret laughed.”

“With teaching the masters, they absorb what I say, so fast, that even erasing the slate board would help me. But that’s not what I had in mind. I will be spending the week drawing some simple illustrations . . . charts, if you will, on financing for their future workloads and how to spot the trends. Adam has spoken about this often and left me with two textbooks, which I will use. While I am talking, it would help if you could pass the illustrations among the gentlemen there. Or perhaps, if I can make them large enough, you could hold them up in front of the class while I go over them.”

“If you wish me to help, I will, father. I barely have anything to do. Perhaps I could help you draw?”

“Perhaps you can, at that. I will get supplies tomorrow, and we can begin. If you draw, I will be able to put more time into studying. I will look forward to your help.”

“And I shall, too.”

 

The following day, while Margaret waited for her father and his supplies, she took her daily walk, carrying her book, to the closest park. There were a few mothers with their perambulators and one young woman, Margaret thought her to be about her own age. She was sitting on a bench under one of the shade trees, and it appeared to Margaret that she was doing needlework. Margaret decided to sit beside her.

“Miss? Would it be an imposition to sit on this bench while you are doing you handwork?”

“I would very much like the company. Quite honestly, I do not like this hand-sewing that seems all the women must learn to do. I wish I could read; I would love to carry a book here as you do.”

“You find me taken aback. You are a neat and finely dressed young lady. I can see that someone has done your hair this morning, so you must come from a well-established family. You never had the chance for an education? Before you answer that, let me apologize. It is really none of my business. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“I am not afraid to say that this fine lady learning is new to me.  My father, sister and I have recently come from the mill floors. My father, having a good head on shoulders, impressed a mill master. The master elevated my father to a position of authority and as of last year, made him a partner in one of the mills. Most of our life, we didn’t know where our next meal would come from, but now I am living in this fancy world. I can cook, clean and iron, but I cannot sew, pick out bonnets or fabrics for frocks. I’m sorry, but there it is. This is the person you have had the misfortune to sit next to.”

Margaret laughed heartily. “What a strange but welcoming situation this is for me. My name is Margaret Hale. Please call me Margaret, m’lady.” She giggled.

“It’s nice to be amusing to someone. My name is Bessie Higgins. I used to know many women, some were friends, but now with father’s new position, they’ve all deserted me. I am lonelier with money than without. Why is it that you laugh at me?”

“It’s not you, personally. It’s our situations. My father is a gentleman, my mother was a real society lady that married below her class, and I am educated. But now, we live in reduced circumstances. I have no friends either. We moved to Milton from Helstone, which is in the southern part of England. But since returning from school, I have been engaged in helping father to assist my mother in leaving this world. I am just now getting out of the house. Most of my neighborhood are tradesmen. It’s just nice to see someone my age with a nice frock on,” she laughed.

“This seems like a fortunate meeting for both of us. So is it just you and your father?”

“And a housekeeper. She has been with us all of my life and we could never let her go no matter our situation in life. Father was a clergyman, but he is teaching to workers and masters now. The classes are gauged to their interest and advancement. I could teach you to read.”

“Oh, could you? Really? You would not mind? My father is planning on sending me away, and I do not want to go.”

“I would be quite delighted to teach you. I need something to do. And I can help you with frocks. I do not particularly care for needlework myself. I want to broaden my knowledge of Milton, too.”

“Yes, I know what you mean. Needling is beautiful, but I feel it is just to keep us busy. I know of women that go to finishing schools to learn to be hostesses and to run a household, but how many of them are really educated. Men will stand back if an educated woman speaks her mind. They don’t know whether to admire her or lock her in the cellar,” Bessie smiled.

Margaret laughed along with her. Margaret could feel a friendship beginning to bond. It was like she had taken a deep breath of clean air in this sooty city. “Perhaps we can visit at each other’s homes?” Margaret asked.

“Oh, I do hope so.”

“I know I can find the time and I do not have to ask permission. However, we do not have a carriage. My father has just asked me to help him with his lectures at the Lyceum every once in a while. I know I’ll have to go sometime this week. He is going to teach the masters about financial forecasting. I will be holding charts,” she smiled.

“I know that class. My father and Mr. Thornton, his partner, are attending that. I do believe that’s true. Perhaps, I will attend with my father and introduce you to him.”

“I’ve never done this before. Now I will be nervous knowing someone knows me.”

Both girls laughed.

“Margaret, it has been a very great pleasure meeting you. I have been here for two hours and must be home soon, as I had promised to be. I will see you in a few days at the Lyceum. This has been such a delightful afternoon. Can we give you a lift anywhere?”

“Thank you, Bessie, but no. I love my walks, and I have only just come out today. I hope to see you at the lecture. Goodbye, Bessie.”

Bessie’s driver walked towards her to carry her basket, but Bessie took the time to turn back and wave. Margaret felt a tear wanting to form as she waved back. This was a joyous day. Maybe she would have a life beyond caring for her father and Dixon with a true friend as she aged.

 

Nicholas sat at the dining room table with his wife and children. Mary and Bessie were his own, his wife was Peggy, who he married years after his first wife died. The four other children he had taken in when both parents had committed suicide over their impoverished conditions. Although, Nicholas, once in poverty as they had been, was still in a position to see both sides of the unrest between the workers and the masters and their wages, which was now a benefit where he worked.

“Father, you attended a lecture a few nights ago, did you not?”

“Yes, did you wish to come with me?” Nicholas joked.

“Yes, I would actually. Today I met a young woman of my age, who I believe shall be a good friend to me. She is educated. She comes from a gentleman’s family, who are now living below the life she has always known. Her spirits are high, though. She has offered to teach me to read and help me select frocks and bonnets.”

“And I am to rejoice that someone is taking you under their wing and teaching you how to spend money?” He smiled.

“Oh, father. I think when you meet her, you will see that it not be needed for me to be sent away.”

“And what has that to do with the lecture?”

“Apparently, her father, who must be Mr. Hale, is your lecturer. He has asked her to assist him in his class this next time. I want to introduce her to you.”

“I will always want to meet a friend you are making, but wouldn’t you be bored once the introduction has taken place?”

“Hearing her today, I think she could use a friend in the room.”

“I guess that would be fine. I am sure Mr. Hale would welcome a friend of his daughter’s. You may want to sit away from us as the men will want to be speaking amongst each other. They may not feel comfortable speaking across a woman in their midst.”

“Yes, of course. Women seem relegated to the far ends of everything, but we are not destined to stay that way.” Bessie smiled.

“And just what does that mean?” Nicholas laughed.

“I have no idea, but today was so enjoyable … to actually find a true friend, at least, I hope she will be.”

“With her father being the lecturer, and you say she’s educated, I will make a final decision in regards to sending you away after I get to know her.”

“Agreed.”

 

“Ah…Margaret. I see that you are back. How was your walk?”

“Exceptionally fine today. I think I have met a friend. She is a woman about my age. Her name is Bessie Higgins. Her whole family once worked in the mills, but her father has been taken in as a partner in Marlborough Mills.”

“That’s one of John Thornton’s mills. You’ve met him. Do you remember?”

“I am afraid not. I have met so few people. I am taken surprised that I have forgotten someone.”

“Well, according to you, your unexpected meeting did not go well. When we first arrived and were looking for a place to stay, you questioned one of the flat managers about something. He sent you to Mr. Thornton at the mill.”

“Oh. That man?”

“Do you remember him now?”

“I remember the man. I’m not sure I bothered to remember the name after what I saw in his mill.”

“He’s been here a few times. I guess you were never here to greet him or you were hiding. He’s actually a very nice man. Well respected in this town. Smart, growing wealthy, popular with the ladies and he has quite a high level of intelligence. Don’t judge him too harshly just yet. Adam can tell you more. Enough of Mr. Thornton. You say your new friend’s father is a partner in Thornton’s mill?”

Margaret spoke to her father regarding the little she had learned of Bessie. She mentioned that Bessie may be permitted to come to the lecture with her father so they could meet.

“That will be fine, Margaret. She will be bored as you will be, but you will be busy. Does she know that?”

“Yes. Yes, she does. It was such a grand day. I am really hoping that she will be a friend to me.”

“Margaret, anyone that knows you would be your friend. You just haven’t had the opportunities to meet new people. I know very few myself which has been unfortunate that I cannot introduce you to nice eligible gentlemen. Perhaps this Bessie knows the way of the ladies in this town.”

“I am sure she does not. This wealth came upon them quickly. She went from the milling machine to the park bench in a relatively short time. However, her father should know just about everyone. Are you trying to marry me off, father?” Margaret smiled.

“Furthest thing from my mind, my dear. I would like to see you taken care of with love and protection before I meet your mother. Are you ready to draw?”

 

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