Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C29

Available at Amazon – Copyrighted

Chapter Twenty-Nine

 

There was quite a discussion going on in the sitting room when Margaret and Fred arrived downstairs. Adam stood and moved away from the couch to another chair. The change in Margaret’s face said more than her words could tell them. Fred settled her and then fetched another cup of tea for his sister.

“Margaret, the change in you is an extraordinary one,” said Adam.

“This neck brace is most helpful,” she said.”

Adam and Richard chuckled as if that was the only reason.

“Your life seems to have turned around since I saw you only an hour ago. It wouldn’t have to do with that strange man that dashed to your side, would it?” Adam smiled.

“Strange man?”

“He looked vaguely like someone I know, but his conduct was not like the gentleman I know him to be. So who was he?”

Margaret began to smile until she noticed a gun on the nearby table. She gasped when seeing it. “What is a pistol doing in this house?”

Returning to the room with her tea, Fred said, “That is my service weapon. I was just showing it to Adam.”

“When you were in the Navy, you never had anyone slap you in the face with a glove and tell you ‘pistols at dawn,’ did you?”

“Disputes are not settled with pistols while on the high seas, puppet, and no I was never challenged. And should I have been, it could only have been by men of equal rank. In the civilian world, it would have been different.”

Margaret looked at Adam. “Is he telling the truth?”

Adam nodded.

“And what weapon would have been used aboard ship?”

“Swords, my dear,” Fred said.

“It’s hard to believe you were skilled in all those weapons.”

“We learn it all so we can protect our sisters,” Fred laughed.

“Are there no limits?

“None. Except in pistols at dawn where there is only one shot allowed by each combatant.”

“Are you two drinking this early?” Margaret frowned.

“Yes, we had a bit of excitement down here while you slept.”

“Are you talking about, John?”

“No, I think it was some madman that came in here and stormed your room against the odds of three other men.”

Margaret blushed and smiled at the same time. “He didn’t?”

“Oh, it was quite a show. I think you would be very proud of him although he did scare the three of us.”

“I didn’t fear him,” insisted Fred.

“Yes, you did stand up to him very well before he outsmarted you.”

Margaret was almost popping up and down on the couch clapping her hands, hearing this tale.

“I don’t think anyone in this room could have foreseen a gentleman doing that.”

“I certainly believe you to be correct, Fred. Margaret, I think he would have stormed the battlements of Camelot to see you. Can you enlighten us on his mission?” Adam smiled.

“No.”

“Margaret, this is no time to go private with your life. You may be facing some very important issues soon,” Fred insisted. “Every man is this room understands that.”

“I think I want out of this room.”

Everyone laughed.

“Margaret, you are very fortunate to have such a loving, protective brother. Do not fault him for wanting the best for you. He is looking down the road of your life, not just the moment.”

“Does he think I will abandon my moral upbringing at the first sign of weakness.”

“Honestly, yes, Margaret.”

“Adam, I think you judge me unfairly. I think you judge John unfairly.”

“His recent actions indicate feelings deeper than I think even he realizes.”

“And what about my feelings?”

Adam looked at Fred.

“Sis, I think we need to say it like it is. There are emotional feelings and physical feelings.”

“I think I know that.” Margaret huffed. “What is your point?”

Fred threw both hands in the air. “Aaahhh!!!  Your virtue, Margaret,” he shouted.

It was like Margaret was slapped in the face. “My virtue!!”

She looked at her father, who was looking down, circling the fabric on his lap with one finger. Adam was busy filling his pipe. Fred was staring at her like she was an idiot. He was still standing in the middle of the room.

“My virtue,” she repeated. That seems to be more important to you than it does to me.”

“What!! That’s incredulous.”

“Fred, calm down. You’re going to have a stroke. Why do women have to live under a double standard? Tell me that.”

“How long have you had that attitude?”

“You didn’t answer my question.” Margaret could see her father was on the verge of leaving the room, but he couldn’t move. Adam was listening intently, waiting for his opportunity to share his views. Margaret couldn’t believe this discussion of her chastity was going on in the sitting room with three men.

“I want to come over there and shake some sense into you. I know mother never spoke of these things to you, so now you have me. I’m not sure if there is a law, but there are centuries of tradition. You said you understood about a man’s needs. He will always be on the hunt until married. As crass as that sounds, it’s the truth, and he can’t help it.”

“He can’t help it. He can’t help it. That’s all I hear from you.” Margaret said in her agitated tone. “You seem to think that is a given, by rites. It excuses you from your actions because you can’t help it.”

“It’s a biological fact of life, for Christ’s sake.”

“I know that, Fred. But you make it an excuse for everything. He can’t help it. We can’t help it. Will you come home one night with a black eye and maybe bullet hole somewhere because you took Bessie’s virtue. I’ll run to your aid and ask what happened, and you’ll say, I couldn’t help it. Really? You could do that?”

That actually got a laugh from Adam and Fred.

Adam was enjoying this debate, Richard was marveling at the knowledge his daughter had gained. Fred was exasperated.

“You know you could have helped it. I do think God made men that way to perpetuate the species. But it doesn’t excuse your behavior.”

“So you’re saying we need to be ashamed?”

“I am not saying that. I am saying you can help it. A lot of your control is in here.” Margaret rose up to Fred and knocked on his head.

Fred threw up his hands. “I concede. Now let’s get back to you and this century.”

“Margaret, I think we all know that you are correct about a double standard. It is unfair, but the man you marry doesn’t want a woman who is spoilt. It may not really matter at all to him if he is a forward thinking intelligent man, but he must appear to have preserved his rights to you.” Adam added.

“Let me see if I have your thinking correct. If, and I repeat if, John Thornton and I seem to form an attachment, words have been spoken, and marriage is forthcoming, that a very large part of our relationship will be left in doubt?”

“God, she drives a hard bargain, doesn’t she,” Fred said to the rest of the room.”

“Fred, we’ve always known that she was independent.”

“But not with this. Please, not with this, Margaret.”

“Fred, Father, Adam, you’re just going to have to trust me. I don’t want all of you looking after me until I am married and bedded. I don’t want you looking at the gentleman I am seeing and think, I know what he’s after. Give me some credit.” Margaret thought her father was going to have a heart attack. She found the challenge of the argument fun even if she wouldn’t behave as she was implying.

“Fred, she is by rights a woman, now. Free to make her own choices. She was brought up with moral values, educated, and it’s time to let them play out. If it were any other man aside from Thornton, I believe I would have more to say, but I believe him to be the most honorable man I know. He won’t let her weaken unless he knows, in his mind, that he will marry her. He will not allow his passion to lose control unless it is insisted upon him.”

“So if Margaret is … is deflowered, it will be at her own insistence. Is that what you are saying?”

“I am.”

“Aren’t we switching things around here? First, it was the man’s needs, now she’s talking about a woman’s needs. Where did that come from?”

“Hey, I am in the room, you know,” Margaret interjected.

Fred went and sat beside her. “Alright. Can you put our worries to rest?”

“What exactly are your worries – that I will weaken and lose my virtue before marriage, or that I will be insistent?”

“Bloody hell, Margaret. What’s the difference? The man is still in control of you.” Fred’s voice was rising.

“I will promise you this. Now listen. I may lose my virtue ahead of marriage, but it will happen with the man I will marry and no one else.”

“You are assured there will be marriage. I don’t think you can be guaranteed anything.”

“Fred, can you honestly say that you would not seek the knowledge of compatibility with the woman you intend to marry for life?” Margaret looked at him, waiting for an answer.

“Let me try an example,” Margaret added.

Fred sat across the room.

“You and Bessie have been having a relationship for several months. In your heart, you feel she is the one. Time goes on, and passion grows. Your desire becomes unbearable. You think you can’t help it much longer. You have kissed and hugged and petted and maybe a bit beyond that. Unbeknownst to most men, and I cannot emphasize this strongly enough, Bessie will have her own desires that are constantly being put down. She wants you to take her, but she can’t say that or even intimate that because of the double standard. Now the marriage talk comes. It is decided, although a date has not yet been set. On a particular perfect outing, you two are alone. You want the touch and feel of each other. You want her in your arms, she wants to be there. Desires builds, passion mounts, being a man you can no longer hold back. You slowly unbutton her frock and pull the top down, knowing what comes next. She’s beginning to swoon. She has waited a long time for this attention. You look into her face, asking permission. Her eyes are closed, but there is a soft cooing from her lips. You bend down to kiss and then stop. “I can’t do this to you, Bessie, you will be spoiled goods for the next man, should you not marry me.”

“Damn, Margaret, you’re making me sweat.” Fred was forced to leave the room.

“Margaret, that was spectacular. You must write. That is your forte in life. Women’s novels on love. Perhaps, write for men, so they have a guide,” Adam laughed. “You took me back to my younger days. Your father is mighty quiet over there.”

“I think he sees I have come of age.” Margaret smiled.

“In every way, I do think.”

 

It was after dinner, the table was cleared, and John sat with his mother having an evening brandy. The evenings were beginning to chill and on damp nights, a fire was light. Hannah stared at her son as he gazed into the flames for minutes on end.

“Is anything wrong with your brandy, John?”

“I’m sorry. What?”

“You have been far away in your thoughts. What troubles you tonight? Something happen at the mill?”

“I didn’t even get to the mill today. And nothing is wrong.”

“Then what is right, that takes you off this evening?”

“I’ve been thinking about Miss Hale,” John acknowledged.

“In any particular regard? I remember how upset you were at what Lenore may have told her.”

John watched the flames and infrequently looked at his mother. “That has been cleared up with a lot more understanding than a man deserves.”

“You know I liked the girl when I met her.”

“She is a woman, mother,” he exclaimed. “I’m sorry. I did not mean to snap at you.”

“Is she seeking your favor?”

“No. She isn’t.”

“No? I knew she was different. Is that what troubles you?”

“I told you, nothing was troubling me.”

“You’ve been sitting there, pondering, looking into the flames for a long time. Surely, there is something you can tell me about her that takes control of your deep thoughts.”

“I barged into her bedchamber today.” John was pinching the bridge of his nose while his gaze remained on the burning logs. “I had to speak with her and Fred, her brother, was denying me. I understood him not wanting to see me after last night. So, I took the stairs quickly, walked into her room and locked the door.”

“John, you could have been arrested. You’re a magistrate. What had you to say to her that was of such urgency?”

“I wanted to tell her I was sorry,” John said between clenched teeth.

“Wouldn’t a note have sufficed?”

“I spent all night going over in my head every detail that I have observed or heard from her since she was known to me. Every one. My only conclusion to my midnight meanderings is that she has purposely concealed herself from me. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but she did. You know I am one among many bachelor’s in Milton, and there are plenty of women. One cannot help but notice them. It didn’t mean I was interested, but notice I did. I first became aware of Margaret at the office when she came to speak about giving the lessons, which now in hindsight, I missed what I should have seen. There was a day when she stared at me. I found it a common female convention, but I was still amused by it. From then on, she insulted me and then ignored me. She never mentioned she was coming to the dinner and allowed me to tell her I was leaving early from work. Something happened last night that seemed to cause a burst in my chest. It took me all night to figure out what it was and that was seeing Adam Bell wipe a single tear from her cheek. I thought she may have been in pain since Adam said she was, but in bed last night, I knew that wasn’t it.”

“It was Lenore’s words?” Hannah asked.

“Not entirely. You are a smart woman, mother. Perhaps you became aware of a … what do I call this … an attempt to gain my attention by promoting oneself, which seemed to be going on between Lenore and Anne?”

“Yes, I did spot that but that isn’t new to you or me.”

“Exactly.”

“I don’t see where you’re going with this, John.”

“It’s as clear as day to me now.”

“What is?”

“The tear,” he said wistfully. “Miss Hale has been in front of me but never brought attention to herself. She never sought my favor. She didn’t bother me, in fact, she went out of her way at the ball to put me at ease with her indifference. That is a startling revelation. As I look behind all that, I see a very intriguing woman, who is not only independent but funny, intelligent and beautiful.”

“I see. But the tear?”

“Yes, the tear. Her final surrender to herself.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I spent the dark hours trying to interpret what I was unconsciously aware of at the table. Mother, perhaps you can understand and tell me what was going on inside of her. First, we must remember that she went through great pain just to be at your dinner. She was quiet and unobtrusive. I believe she attended, to be noticed by me by continuing to act indifferent. She was protracted, don’t you see; thus drawing my attention more prominently and favorably as it turned out.”

“Let me tell you the rest, John, as I believed happened.”

“Please, mother.”

“As you say, she made a very intelligent play for your scrutiny of her. She was masterful.”

“But?” John added.

“But . . . while sitting at the table, and I don’t know the order of things because I didn’t see the tear, she was forced to hear of Lenore’s boastings. She figured out that she was your companion for the evening.”

“That’s when the tear fell.”

“Finally witnessing the Latimer, Smithers tournament, she would never have engaged in, but it did show her that she was an unworthy opponent. Each woman dressed in their finery with their jewels, while she was a woman who educated herself so she could work. It’s not what they had that she didn’t, it was her giving up on you noticing her.”

“That was when she closed her eyes,” John remembered vividly.

“Yes . . . as I thought. All night I have reviewed this brave young woman at our table. This woman that was there unnoticed because I have become so full of pride, to be glad that she wasn’t a bother.”

“And you feel different towards her now?”

“I very much do. I feel there is new hope in my life and she may well be the one if she will have me. I need to know more of her and she of me.”

“You’ve gone as far as thinking of marriage?”

“I have, along with many other factors, including a brother that protects her as the crown jewels, which I would like the honor of doing some day. No feelings have ever felt so rooted as the ones that have developed overnight.”

“So what do you plan to do, John?”

“I’ve already started by barging into her bedchamber and locking us in.” John laughed. “I had to see her face. Was she really the same person I have been dwelling on for the past twelve hours. Placing her in my life through various situations.”

“And she was?”

“No, she was more than I hoped.”

 

Nicholas found John at work early the next morning. “I was sorry to miss you yesterday. How did the rest of the night unfold? I figured you were up late and had a few too many scotches.”

“You couldn’t be further from the truth. I didn’t sleep much at all that night, so I caught some of it yesterday afternoon.”

“It must have been something big because you appear somewhat changed.”

“I am changed.”

“It’s Miss Hale, isn’t it?”

“How do you know that? When did you know?”

“Before you, apparently,” Nicholas laughed. “I was sure of it the day she came for the mill walk. You came looking for her or us, and you walked her out of the mill. It would have made more sense if she walked with me and continued to ask questions, or she walked with her brother. That you came at all was a revelation. It meant you were waiting for her.”

All of his reflections last night, and there was that moment that he hadn’t remembered. The mill walk had come to mind but in her regard, not his. He didn’t know why he did it. It was an unconscious thought.

John watched the smiles come and go on Nicholas’ face as he recounted the rest of the dinner up until that very moment.

“You barged into her bedchamber? Against the repeated denials of three other men that have considerably more ownership of her than you do?”

“I know. It seemed rash at the time.”

“It doesn’t seem rash, it was rash.”

“I will never forget yesterday, no matter what comes from it. I would do it again.”

“John, I think you have just crossed over into dangerous territory where bachelors go and never return.”

They both laughed.

“Seriously, John, I have never seen you so taken with someone so easily and this quickly.”

“She was hiding, remember? My self-pride allowed her to remain indifferent and give me peace.”

“Do you think it was that well thought-out and planned. If so, you have been under siege for a fortnight.”

John had to laugh out loud at that. “It doesn’t really matter, how well it may have been planned, but her execution was flawless.”

“So what’s next?”

“The beginning.”

 

 

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C27

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Available at Amazon – Copyrighted

Fred and Bessie had a slow ride home. Their evening had been extraordinary in learning about each other. It had brought them closer, still. Fred pulled the buggy up the small drive and turned to Bessie.

“I hope we can see each other again, soon. Perhaps a picnic before the weather turns too cold. Do you think your parents would allow that?”

“You may have to come to dinner one evening. I feel fairly well about my father’s thoughts of you and he’s the boss. But I would like my stepmother to be on our side, too.”

“Whatever you want me to do.”

“Thank you for understanding.”

“May I kiss you, goodnight?”

Fred couldn’t tell in the light, but he felt she was blushing.

“I think I would like that very much.” Bessie smiled.

Fred turned to her and then faced her in front of him. He held her upper arms and pulled her towards him. She easily yielded to his lips that were waiting. Bessie felt his arms slide around her, pulling her further towards him. She reciprocated with her, now, free arms. It only lasted a moment, but both had their hearts hammering.

“You did very well, Bessie, for a beginner,” Fred laughed. Bessie laughed, too.

Fred hopped out of the buggy and walked Bessie to her front door where they said goodnight. He thought he really might be falling in love.

 

Dixon had gone to bed by the time Fred arrived home. He let Adam know he was home but went to check on his sister first. Seeing she was fast asleep, no doubt from the medication, he returned to the parlor.

“I hope you and Miss Higgins had a nice evening.”

“One of the nicest I’ve spent. What happened to my sister?”

Adam told Fred about the whole evening as he had seen it. When he talked about the tear, he admitted he wasn’t sure if it was from physical or emotional pain. His guess would be the latter.

“What a horrid woman!” Fred insisted. “No doubt, that ruined my sister. I know her feelings for Thornton, which is unknown to all except this family and maybe Bessie. She is obsessed with the man. Why are women so different than men?”

“Are we really so different Fred? Wouldn’t you do anything for the one you loved? What would you do if you fell in love with a woman that hardly knew you? She didn’t even notice you.”

“Well, that’s why I think they’re different. I’m not sure we do that. I don’t think we fall so deeply as Margaret has without some sign of interest. Our interest just lays on top like a physical desire until we get to know them. I know that’s not how my sister feels.”

“I’m not so sure you’re right about either statement, but let’s not quibble over that.”

“Wait. Hold on. Are you saying that Margaret may have desires for Thornton? I mean, physical desires?”

“I mean exactly that, although she doesn’t know it. She is well and truly old enough to be moved by a man, but she is proper enough to hold them at bay unconsciously, or she feels embarrassed about them.”

“Exactly what was your major in university?”

“Oh, I have a professorship in many subjects. Psychology, being one of them. Your Bessie is most likely as Margaret, but her feelings are being responded to. She has a sense of worth.  Far different with your sister.”

“Are you saying this as a fact or a perhaps?”

“At their ages, I would use the word ‘probable.’”

“Let’s get passed that for a moment.” Fred shook his head, hardly believing Adam’s words. “Margaret has fallen in love with a man much sought after. You think as of tonight, she felt defeated in her effort to win his attention and is giving up?”

“I do.”

“I am not sure how to guide her in this. I will have to think it over and put myself in John’s position if I can.”

“Being a man, you would face the issue and speak your words to your woman, so you knew exactly where you stood. A woman will rarely do that, especially if there has been no interest shown beforehand. Basically, Margaret has to suffer the loss. She may think it’s the end of her world, but it isn’t. However, it will erode her confidence as a woman. That will all be in her mind, mind you. Some don’t ever recover from the lack of self-worth. You know what pressure they are under from birth.”

“What if I talk to Thornton?”

“And say what? Do you want to lose your sister forever? She would never forgive you.”

“There has to be something that can be done. How about an anonymous letter to him?”

“Fred! She and he would know it came from you or me.”

Fred paced the floor. “I will think of something.”

“For now, at least for the next few days, keep an eye on her and don’t do anything to alienate her. We’ll both be giving this a lot of thought.”

“I know. I could say something to Bessie, who confides in her father, hoping he will talk with Thornton.”

“Fred, I think you’re thinking of a child’s game.” Adam laughed. “Besides, if Thornton turns his attentions to her, and she knows you meddled, she can never trust him. Don’t you see that? Any interest shown has to come from the other totally unhindered by words or rumors. It has to be real. And we can’t force Thornton to love her even if all your ideas were worth trying. He is his own man. No one talks Thornton into anything.”

“I guess you’re right. That would make a difference; it would matter to me. I don’t want anyone to love me out of pity.”

“Exactly.”

“She will be sedentary for the next few days. It will give us some time to work on her. Who knows, she may wake up with an attitude that she can rise above it.”

“She’ll be lying to herself. She’ll show cheerfulness as to put us off any sympathy or knowledge of her despondency. It’s like a death in her soul. Yes, one day she will recover but at what cost.” Fred insisted.

“We shall ponder this on the morrow. I am going back to the hotel. Goodnight, Fred.”

“Until then.”

Adam found his own way to the door.

 

“My God, John. What happened to you and Lenore? I have never seen you act so ungentlemanly, ever. I didn’t know you. Grabbing a woman by the arm and thrusting her in front of you; one might have thought you were making an arrest.”

“Mother, I am not sure I can talk about it now or ever. If she hadn’t been a woman, I would have beaten her.”

“John you can’t act like that for the first time in your life and tell me nothing. Do you know how I will worry forever that you could do this again?”

“Mother, I will tell you this and no more. She embarrassed me, beyond words, to Miss Hale.”

“Miss Hale?”

“Or to any woman who was sitting beside her. It just tears me apart that she said those things to Margaret. I would like to choke her. You and I felt something might happen and it did.”

“I think I can assume part of the rest. Remembering that you once had a fondness for her when you were a very young man, leaves little doubt about the subject.”

John didn’t respond. He walked to the window that overlooked the yard and stared out of it.

“I take it that the den conversation was a reprimand.”

Still nothing from John. “Mother you can think whatever you like, but I have said all I am going to say. And even that little stays with us.”

“Of course, John. But is it over?”

John walked to his bedchamber, not even saying goodnight. He slammed the door shut.

 

John paced his room for an hour still fuming. He didn’t know where to start with his anger. Where did it hurt the most? Was it embarrassment? Was it his private life being exposed? Did Miss Hale figure heavily into his anger or was she just the recipient? John wasn’t even sure he could or should do anything about it.

John began to undress. Margaret had been consistently on his mind through his imagining of the incident. He laid down on the bed, semi-dressed and began to identify his feelings for Margaret. Over and over his mother’s words came back to him.

That woman has a smart and independent spirit. How many young ladies have you met that became educated to support themselves, rather than be a ‘Lady of the Manor’?”

 

“She will need to find a man that will challenge her. And easy living does not seem to be her future, by choice. We had a nice conversation about how she turned away from the society life that she could have had because she did not care for those people.

 

Other brief memories drifted in the lessons and the mill walk with Higgins, the bravery she showed through that entire ordeal, the courage to commit to a job and promise results, her selflessness in not asking to leave early and, of course, the pain she endured to be here tonight. John laughed at remembering her staring at him, and the disappointment in her voice when he left her with his mother while her brother visited Branson. He remembered the ball and how he embarrassed her. Her ingenious effort to put him at ease by showing indifference to him. Who was she? She was beautiful, and she had been in front of him for several weeks, but he never really saw her until tonight. It struck him that if she did have any meaningful feelings for him, that she had to watch him through Adeline and Lenore. Going back to the dinner tonight, even with his disinterest in the game going on between Lenore and Anne, he remembered Margaret closing her eyes and Adam dabbing a tear from her face. At the time, he thought it might be the pain, but he didn’t believe that now.

“She must think she is losing favor with me,” John said quietly to himself. He felt the unconscious smile make itself known. He was confused. “How could I have the first serious stirrings of affections for her without knowing it?”

Tomorrow, John would begin to unravel this mystery, this ricochet of emotions. It was like nothing he knew or had heard of. He dwelt on those thoughts all night.

 

John woke early from his brief respite with renewed hope for his life. “Could Margaret Hale be the woman he had been waiting on?” She had been indefatigable until last night. He didn’t know the answer to that. He may have her thoughts of him absolutely wrong, but his own were becoming solid. Today, he would see her.

 

Dixon knocked quietly. Margaret had to clear her throat before inviting her in.

“Oh, Miss Margaret, you’ve been crying again. Is it the pain?”

Margaret had been awake for several hours, and although the pain was worse, she knew the tears were for a lost love.

“I will get Master Fred. He wanted to know when you woke.”

Dixon left the room. Any minute the Inquisitor would appear. She was wrong. Her father entered first.

“Margaret, my dear, how is the pain. I expect it to be worse, is it?”

“Yes, father a bit more. Even if I don’t try to turn my head, my neck is very stiff with a constant ache.”

“When was the last time you had medication?”

“I believe it was before the dinner last night.”

“Oh, me. I am sure Fred is taking care of that right now. I don’t think you should get out of bed today at all.”

“I know I shall be bored if I stay here all day. Perhaps later in the afternoon, I will try to sit in the parlor. I will not dress, beyond my housecoat for that.”

“Well, we shall see when the time comes. I hear your brother coming. Here is a small bell that can be heard downstairs. Ring if you need any one of us.”

“Thank you, father. I remember Mother using it.”

“Good morning, puppet,” Fred merrily said as he came through the door.

“Puppet?”

“Margaret I will be back later.”

“Thank you, father.”

“Puppet? Why do you call me that?”

“Because we have to hold your head up with a string.” He laughed.

“Don’t make me laugh. It hurts, Margaret smiled.

“I am going to hold you up while you take this powder in this water.” Fred walked around the bed to hold her. “Ready?”

“Yes.”

Margaret took her powdered water without too much fuss.

“I see you’ve been crying not so long ago. Your face is puffy, and your eyes are still red.”

“I think I’m catching a cold.”

“I think not, puppet. Adam filled me in on what he knew about your evening. Now, I want to hear it from you. Something has to be done.”

“Nothing has to be done. I mean that. Yes, what that woman said was hurtful, but I know it shouldn’t be. Doesn’t that sound like a young man’s behavior? I can’t see where he did anything wrong. What bothered me most was her boastful attitude and what embarrassment she could bring to John.”

“Margaret, what have I told you? Thornton will suffer no embarrassment in front of his peers because they are men. I don’t think he’s done anything wrong, either, unless he was unfaithful to another. I also know, or Adam and I feel that you may have given up on the man after seeing two women trying to impress him.”

“Fred, I cannot compete with those women. I have thrown myself in his path, like many other women and he doesn’t see me. I can live with that. There were others interested in me at the ball. I don’t feel entirely worthless. I have attributes to recommend me.”

“I hear you saying the words, but I don’t think you believe them. You’re trying to talk your way out of a broken heart. I think it’s a bit too early to surrender. You would never make a naval man,” Fred smiled.

“I think I can be grateful for that.”

“You have only temporarily lost confidence in yourself. If you can’t take a little more of his indifference, then you have given up too easily. What has it been – two, three weeks? I don’t believe your regard for him is as much as you pretend. Until he is forced to say something like, ‘Margaret, I don’t see you the way you wish,’ then there’s still a chance. You are expecting far too much too soon.”

“Fred, do you really think so?”

“Think what exactly? Think that you have a chance? I do. There are no known answers except that you have not been turned away.”

“I’m not sure I don’t want to get my hopes up again and then watch them destroyed in front of me.”

“You’re a whiney sniveling child. You know that? I expect you to stamp your foot as you once did when you didn’t get your way.”

“Fred, that’s mean talk.”

“Puppet, it’s straight talk.”

“It sounds like man talk. Women aren’t as hardy as men. You know we are emotional. We can’t take a lot of rejection.”

“But that’s my point; you haven’t been rejected. Men are rejected all the time. It seems you could hold out until you get your first one.”

“Well, I have all day to lie here. I will consider what you have said.”

“Good. Dixon is making you something to eat. I’ll be back later.”

“Thank you, brother.”

Margaret had to turn on her side. She had laid on her back all night. Finding the side of the bed, she pulled herself over to her side and pushed more pillow under her head.

She had hardly made it over, and Dixon came around and sat in front of her. “Alright, Miss Magaret here is some tea and creamed oats. I put a little maple syrup in it.”

“I see you have mother’s sick cup. I guess that has the tea in it.”

“Yes, miss. I’m glad you are on your side so you can’t choke.” Dixon placed a linen under her mouth and began feeding her.”

“That tastes good, Dixon. I didn’t eat much yesterday.”

“Yes, miss, I know.”

“Before you leave can you help me with the chamber pot?”

“I’ll certainly try. If I can’t, I’ll get Master Fred.”

“If you can’t, I will find a way through the pain. My brother’s attentions stop there.”

Dixon moved the food tray to the vanity. She pulled the chair close to the side of the bed, sitting the chamber pot on top of it.

“Here we go. I am going to cradle you in my arm until you are sitting up. I think you should be able to stand.”

“Yes, I believe I can do that.”

The process of getting Margaret up and emptied was accomplished. “I should be able to do that tomorrow. This neck ache should start going away today or by then.”

Dixon took the chamber pot away first and then returned for the tray.

Margaret felt comfortable and began to give thoughts to what her brother spoke about. He was right, she hadn’t been rejected. Not being seen wasn’t the same as a rejection.

It seemed only a few moments later when Adam knocked softly on her door.

“Come in, Adam.”

“How is the patient this morning?”

“I’m not sure I am ready for another ball, but I believe I am on schedule according to the doctor. This medication is helping nicely at the moment. Before you get comfortable, my brother has talked my ear off. I don’t believe I need any more instructions on my love life.”

“That means you haven’t given up?”

“I haven’t decided, yet.”

“Then you need more instructions, puppet. Actually, while Dixon was in here, we had another talk.”

“Another one?”

“I know you are suffering from an injury so I will not add to your misery at this time. However, I do have one question?”

“That will be your allowance for the day,” Margaret quipped.

“Why did you make such a difficult effort to be there last night?”

“To see Mrs. Thornton. I like her.”

“And that’s the only Thornton you were interested in seeing?”

“That’s another question.”

“I don’t believe you completely answered my first one.”

“You know why, Adam. I had to see him.”

“As I thought. Would you like me to read to you?”

“No, I think I want to close my eyes for a bit.”

“Then I shall leave you. I will stay here, though.”

“Thank you.”

 

A half hour later, there was a knock on the door.

Dixon answered it. “Good day, Mr. Thornton.”

 

 

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C16

Chapter Sixteen

 

 

John timidly knocked on the Hale’s door early that evening. Dixon answered the door.

“Is Miss Hale at home?”

“Please come in. Would you care to wait here or in the sitting room?”

“I shall wait here.”

Sitting down with her second cup of tea in her bedroom, Dixon announced to Margaret that she had a visitor.

“Who is it, Dixon?”

“It is Master Thornton, mum.”

“Sis, do you want to see him? I can speak on your behalf.”

“Certainly not. I can speak for myself.”

Margaret smoothed her dress and then proceeded to the staircase. There was a moment that hung in the air as she spotted him, holding his hat. He was looking up at her and walked forward near the bottom step. Margaret felt warm.

“Miss Hale, please forgive me for stopping by unannounced.”

“Please do not bother yourself. We had no plans. Are you sure you wouldn’t wish to be comfortable in the sitting room?”

“What I want is for this to be private so you can make a decision without a lot of advice. Let me speak first, and then you can change where you wish to speak.”

“Would you mind sitting out front or in your coach? My brother may listen in. He’s taking me in hand.”

“I don’t understand. Yes, by all means, let’s take a ride in my coach. Would that be suitable?”

“Yes, I shall enjoy your beautiful coach.”

John opened the door for Margaret and then handed her inside the coach. He spoke with Branson for a moment and then entered the coach himself.

The coach moved, and John began. “Miss Hale before I speak of my reason for being here, let me again applaud your work on behalf of the masters. You imparted good solid information. And that will lead to another discussion with you.”

They were seated face to face in John’s two-benched coach. Margaret didn’t know where to look. It was hard looking into his eyes without staring. It was hot in there.

“Miss Hale, I find myself in a position I don’t care to be in. I am here at the behest of Captain Waverly.”

“Who? Oh yes, your lady’s brother, I think.”

“Yes. That is right. I am not here to plead his case; it is more of an introduction. He will be at the ball and hopes to have a dance with you. He felt he would like to speak with you again before that evening.”

“And he sent you to ask me for another introduction before that night?”

“Miss Hale, please understand I do not like what I am doing. Because I am someone you know in a small way, I was asked to arrange this. It should not place any bearing on your answer. I am feeling quite foolish. It’s warm in here.”

“Do go on.”

“I told him that I was hoping to speak with you soon about employment and there is no change there. It was an idea that came to me where I decided that the four of us should have dinner tomorrow evening. God, I’m making a fool of myself. It was my opinion that you may not want to spend lunch alone with him, which was his suggestion. I do not know the man, so I am giving you no recommendation for him. I wouldn’t wish to speak with you about employment in that situation as it is, but I didn’t want to push you into a situation totally unfamiliar to you. Is any of this making sense?” John heaved a sigh.

“I will agree to that if only to save you from Miss Waverly should you return unsuccessful. I’m sorry. I should not have said that.”

“Miss Hale, above all, do not think that. I care not for any reaction from her regarding this dinner. As I said, I am embarrassed for both of us. However, he is recently retired from the Navy, and I would think he is well schooled as a gentleman. You would not be alone with him, and I would feel better about that.”

“You would?” Margaret asked tentatively.

John smiled at her. “Yes, of course.”

Margaret felt the heat that Bessie mentioned.

“Thank you for thinking of my safety.”

“What did you mean by your brother was taking you in hand?”

Margaret blushed which made John’s chest heave.

“You know he is recently home and knows that I have been caring for my parents, which has left me no time to meet gentlemen. He wants to help me understand the ways of men, and gentlemen and what to expect and other things.” Margaret’s face grew redder.”

“I see. He doesn’t think you can make up your own mind?”

“May I be candid with you.?”

“Yes. I wish all women were like that, but they are not. Please, go on.”

“When we were visiting your mill about the horse, my brother chastised me for seducing you with my eyes.”

“He did, did he?” John laughed inside at her explanation.

“I do candidly admit, and you should be used to this, found you quite handsome and could not pull away from looking at you. It was simply that. He thought I had some intention in my actions and he decided I had to learn what to do and not do around men. Apparently, that was childish. I am sorry.”

John broke out laughing. “Please don’t apologize. Your frankness has been well worth it.”

“I told him I’ve been schooled in such matters and he laughed, telling me I didn’t know the half of it.”

“So you will go through life expecting to experience all your brothers tells you?”

“No. I will always make my own decisions. He hasn’t realized as he grew into a man in the navy, I grew into a woman while he was gone. He thinks me an innocent child, I think. He may give me advice on someone like Captain Waverly, but he doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know women and their emotional feelings. As he said himself, the navy hardly allows time for relationships to begin and build.”

“Miss Hale, you are quite refreshing to listen to. I hate to bring this to an end, but I must relay your answer to the Captain. Would it suit you for us to come by for you at 7:15 p.m.?

“That would be grand.”

“Will this be your first date out?”

“Is this a date?”

John smiled again. Seeing him smile at her, her breath caught.

“Since you will be out without chaperones and in the company of men, I think it could pass as your first date.” John chuckled.

“It’s not exactly the way I had envisioned it would be,” Margaret frowned and then laughed.

“No, I don’t think it will count. We would be part of a foursome. I’ll wait for the twosome to call an evening a date.”

“I think that is best. You wouldn’t want to look back on tomorrow night as a truly memorable experience.”

“I wouldn’t go that far in dismissing it. There are collateral benefits.” Margaret wished she hadn’t said that.

John laughed heartily again but wondered what she meant exactly.

Arriving at the Hale home, John walked Margaret to her door. Her brother was there to greet her.

“Good evening, Fred. Until tomorrow evening Miss Hale. Good night.”

 

Fred followed her to her bedroom asking what that was all about.

“That is my business.”

“You two were alone in the coach.”

“And Branson was driving. Leave me. I must find a frock for tomorrow night. I was invited out for dinner tomorrow night.”

“With the man himself?”

“No.” Margaret liked keeping Fred in the dark.

“Mr. Thornton drove you around in his coach to ask you out for dinner tomorrow evening but not with him.”

“Correct.” Margaret was laying out frocks on her bed.”

“Do you, at least, know this man, who didn’t have the nerve to face you and ask himself.”

“Yes. He wants an introduction.”

“I see. Will you be alone with him?”

“No. Now go.”

“Will you tell me all if I send an apology to Bessie in a note?”

“I’ll see the note first. I will hold it for posting, too.”

“Deal.” Fred left the room.

Margaret looked over all the gowns on the bed. She picked out a few of her finest and put them back in the wardrobe. She pulled out her walking and daily frocks and put them aside, too. That left about six to choose from. Nothing left on the bed was slated for the ball or the dinner. She settled on a pretty but simple frock. She definitely did not want to compete with Miss Waverly. Even though Mr. Thornton would be in attendance with her, Margaret figured John seemed to be a man who did not like airs, either. Perhaps Margaret’s understated frock would find approval by him and less interest by the Captain.”

She went looking for Fred. She found him at the dining room table writing.

“Fred, do men take a big interest in women’s fashion?”

“Sis, that depends on the man. That is an individual taste. I would think, at least for me, if I had a real interest in a woman, I would not like to see her advertising herself to other men. She may think her gentleman likes showing her off, but he doesn’t. Not in that way, anyway. That reflects poorly on the man and his choice of women.”

“Thank you.” Fred taught her nothing new there, but it was nice to hear his thinking. He wasn’t totally fooled.

That night Margaret went to bed remembering some of the conversations by the girls at school. Such tricks women could play. They all weren’t like that, but she felt sorry for the men that stepped out with them.

 

“Dad, I need to confess something,” said a bashful Bessie at the breakfast table.

“This is a first.”

“Well, I know you said you would worry about me now that I will be seeing men.”

“And you have something to confess about that?” Nicholas gave her his whole attention.

“I don’t know what to do next.”

“About what?”

Bessie began the story of her visit to Margaret and Fred working on the roof of the stable. She told her father and Peggy the statement she made about how she felt, although she left out the warm feeling part. She said she ran when she realized he had overheard her and how she felt she couldn’t show her face there anymore. Bessie caught the smiles between her father and her stepmother.

“Nicholas, Bessie and I will have a chat later.”

“Let me give you my thoughts. What you felt is natural and healthy. What you said to another female, even the sister, in confidence is also normal. Being overheard is embarrassing for you. And I will leave the rest up to Peggy. Thank you for letting me know. I will always be here for any discussions about men and women.”

 

At the Hale house, Margaret was discussing her eventful day, yesterday, and her night dinner coming up.

“Margaret, how fast things turn around,” smiled her father. “Who is this dinner with?”

Margaret told her father the whole curious story. “You understand, father, that I don’t feel this is a date.”

“Yes, I can see that. Hmm… a Captain in the Navy. Does Fred know of him?”

“I never asked. I believe he saw him at the lesson, but I don’t know if he heard his name. Where is Fred?”

“He’s gotten an early start on what is shaping into a stable. I think the horse and buggy come tomorrow.”

“Really. How exciting. Sunday, after the ball, I shall have Fred start teaching me. I’m going to go see him now. Excuse me, father.”

Margaret was full of smiles as she walked up to Fred. “Father says the horse comes tomorrow?”

“Yes, he does.”

“Does he have a name or do you rename him?”

“I don’t know if they learn their names as a dog would, but I am not changing it.”

“So, what is it?”

“It’s Max.”

“I like that. Max! Will you teach me on Sunday? I will have busy days until the ball is over.”

“About yesterday and last night …” Fred was interrupted.

“Did you write the note?”

“I did.” Fred wiped his hands on his pants and pulled the note from his pocket.

“Fred, I was going to ask if I could read it, but I am not. That is your business, and no matter what you wrote in here, that’s between you and her. So, I am going to seal it.”

“Fine. Thank you.”

“I will see Mr. Thornton tonight, along with Miss Waverly and her brother the Captain. I will hand Mr. Thornton the note to give to Mr. Higgins tomorrow.”

“I’d rather it went post today.”

“I will set it on the post tray in the hall.”

“So, the Captain is it?”

“Yes. Father asked if you knew him from the Navy.”

“What’s his name?”

“They call him Kit, but Captain Waverly is all I know.”

“Waverly?  Waverly? The name sounds familiar, but I never saw him.”

“No matter. He just may not want to see me a second time when he finds out what my brother has done,” she laughed.

“That may be truer than you think. I hope not for your sake.”

 

Adeline Waverly was bringing out her jewels and asking Kit which would look better with what she was wearing. He said they were all nice. He didn’t want to be subjected to this fashion show any longer. The one nice thing about the Navy was that you have very little to choose from. His retirement wasn’t quite official yet, and he could have worn civilian clothing, but he hadn’t bought any.

There was a knock at the door, and John Thornton was shown into the room.

“Good evening Adeline, Captain.”

Kit stood and shook his hand. “Once again, I want to thank you. I wish I had more knowledge of how introductions work. They have been rare for me.”

“I must admit; I did feel a bit uncomfortable. To be honest, I do not know you and could not recommend you personally to Miss Hale. But your rank puts most unknowns at ease.”

“I understand. Thank you for being honest.”

“Adeline, you are most beautiful this evening.”

“Thank you, John. Anything for you. I do not want Miss Hale to catch your eye this evening. I know she has your attention.”

“Yes, she does. I have decided not to speak to her about employment this evening. I wish nothing to detract from your brother’s pursuit.”

“Pursuit?”

“I think a Navy man would understand that.”

“He would, indeed,” replied Kit. “However, her manifest must be examined.” Kit laughed.

John thought that was a very rude remark, even to another man. It sounded like he was only interested in her innocence. He would most likely ensure her chastity was listed. John began roiling inside.

“Were you not astonished at her lesson the other night? Apparently, she took her education in a new direction than most women.”

“Yes, yes, a charming woman.”

“Captain, you do understand that she is a young lady.”

“What are you trying to tell me, Thornton?”

“Oh, John. It’s worthless talking to him about women and ladies. He thinks we’re all alike.”

“As in the women that might be waiting on the docks at a port?”

“Oh, come, John. Let’s not get into that in front of my sister. I will treat Miss Hale with all due respect unless she shows me differently.”

“She is quite naïve and may mislead you, unknowing of her actions,” John remembered her story of the staring.

“John, why are you demeaning my brother and defending a woman, a lady. Is there something I should know?”

“No, Adeline. I spoke with her last night which I considered our first conversation. She asked if this would be called a date as she’s never been out with a gentleman. I would want the gentleman to understand that and handle her differently than the women he usually associates with.” John stared at Kit.

“I understand you, sir. I did not need that sermon.”

“My apologies, Captain. Shall we go?”

John felt better for having said that but it would be a while before he calmed down about his manifest statement.

 

 

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 – 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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