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

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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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