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?”

 

Kindle Edition  $3.99  US

Mr Thornton Takes a Wife

Once in a while, we are touched by something so deeply that it becomes a constant source of joy.

When we need to have our spirits lift, there it is; we just have to revisit our source, and the joy is back.

 

The 2004 BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South provides that kind a joy to me. The novel’s plot is brilliant, but Sandy Welsh’s script gives it a contemporary ring so that the characters become even more alive. Brian Percival’s direction is magnificent and gives the viewer a thorough understanding of the nineteenth century workers’ struggle. Martin Phipps’ lovely music touches our hearts.

 

Of course, the actors’ performances are outstanding. All British actors and actresses just have that je-ne-sais-quoi that makes them so lovable. Yet Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage show us a chemistry that shines through the whole film like a beacon of love and hope.

That is why I want to pay tribute to this wonderfull story by writing my own fan fiction. I hope you will bring you the same joy as it did me.

Thank you for reading me.

Luce Fleming

Summary

Margaret Hale, a parson’s daughter, is brought up as a middle-class and well-read young lady in Helstone, Hampshire in the rural South of England. Her father uproots the family and moves to Milton, Lancashire in the North. She is thrown in the middle of the industrial revolution. Everything shocks her; the dirt, the factory smoke, the noise and the gruffness of the people.

John Thornton, owner of Marlborough Mills, fills her with contempt because he is harsh and severe for his workers. Yet, there is also an attraction between the two of them.

Thornton falls in love and proposes marriage, but Margaret rejects him because of his harsh treatment of his workers. Instead she forms friendships amongst the workers and tries to improve their lives by supporting them as much as she can. Especially Betsy Higgins who suffers from a fatal disease, becomes her best friend.

Over time, Margaret will change her opinion of Thornton when his attitude towards the workers changes. But it’s only when he has lost his business to bankruptcy,  that Margaret allows herself to open her heart to him.

Hearts Adrift – Part One

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Chapter One

 

At Bearsham Manor, Hampshire, England, Sir Robert de Briers, baronet, lay dying. His ragged breathing was shallow and fast, indicating that the end was near. This last apoplexy had proved too much of a strain on Sir Robert’s heavyset, gout-infected body, even though his mind was as sharp as ever. With considerable effort, he opened his pale blue, bloodshot eyes and searched for the tall figure of his son and heir, Richard. Sir Robert had one last, yet most urgent request for him.

“Come, my son, come closer…”

Richard de Briers obeyed readily and bent down on one knee beside his father’s bed. Guessing that the old man wanted only him and no one else present to hear, he bowed his head toward his father.

“I am listening, sir,” he whispered in his father’s ear. “What is it that you want from me?”

Wheezing and fighting for air, Sir Robert explained.

“You must go to Paris and find Lily’s family,” he said, referring to Richard’s late half-sister. “Her husband has … an apothecary’s workshop … on the Rue Saint-Jacques. There have been many riots lately, with the revolutionaries taking power. Thibaut Favier, Lily’s husband … has not written to me on his usual date of the second Sunday of the month. I fear … something bad might have befallen him. If so, I want you … to bring the children … to the estate and … become their legal guardian. I have discussed this … with Mr Brownslow, my solicitor in Portsmouth. Go to him and ask him. Richard …”

The old man’s pudgy hand grabbed his son’s in urgent need.

“Do not say a word of this matter to your mother. She never approved of my concern for Lily.”

Sir Robert squeezed Richard’s hand rather hard.

“Swear to me, Richard … that you will do as I ask!”,

“I give you my word, Father that I will see that Lily’s children are safe.”

Richard had no inkling as to how he was to achieve such a difficult task, what with all the frightful news that seeped through from France and from Jake Davies, his poor, besieged business man in Paris. Now he had made a promise to his dying father, so he would do his utmost for his niece and nephew.

“Richard, my son …” Sir Robert’s fading voice once more claimed his attention.

“Yes, father?”

“You must be the best of guardians to them, care for them as if they were your own … Richard, you must learn to love them, promise me …”

“I promise, father.”

What was the meaning of all this, he wondered? Why was his father so adamant?

“Listen, come closer. There is a letter for you … you must read it and act upon its contents. It is hidden behind … behind …”

Sir Robert gasped for breath, but the grip on Richard’s fingers never slackened.

“Where, father?” Richard encouraged.

“Behind the veil …”

A faint, barely audible gust of breath escaped Sir Robert’s parched lips. It was his last one. Sir Robert de Briers was gone.

Richard laid the limp hand upon his father’s chest and closed his staring yet unseeing eyes. He rose from his knees and opened the door to the landing.

“Mrs Briskley,” Richard addressed Bearsham Manor’s housekeeper, “would you do me the kindness of seeing to it that my father is decently laid out?”

The plump, motherly woman bobbed. “Yes, sir, right away, sir,” she said as her tears quietly slipped from her eyes. She watched Sir Richard with distressed gaze as he left his father’s room.

 

 

“Thornton, will you notify Beacon & Sons that I will have need of their services for my father’s funeral, please?”

The elderly, thin butler bowed his head. “Of course, sir. Will you be needing anything else, sir?”

“I will say so when I think of it, Thornton, thank you. For now, I would like to be on my own for a while, in my father’s library.”

“Yes, sir. Sir … on behalf of the staff, I would like to convey our deepest sympathy on the passing of Sir Robert.”

“Thank you.”

Weary to the bone, Richard descended the long, winding staircase and turned to the library door  when his mother’s cold voice stopped him.

“How is he, Richard?”

Without turning to her, he replied in the same disinterested tone his mother, Mildred de Briers had used. “My father is dead, Madam. You can pay your respects after he has been laid out.”

Not wishing to speak to her for the moment, he entered the library and closed the door behind him with a definitive click.

Lady Mildred de Briers stared at the closed door for a few moments, then gathered her lavender silk skirts and slowly mounted the stairs. As she passed the large, gold-framed mirror on the landing, she stopped and studied her face and instantly wiped the grim expression from it. At forty-five, she was still beautiful, Mildred gloated. A pity, that her only son always managed to raise her hackles, but then there it was and it would never change. She hated her son, and had done so since Richard was born.

 

It was June 1793 and Paris was once again in turmoil.

The people were rioting against the Terror regime, the power that had crushed hopes of a good life and instead made them suffer even more cruelly than under the Ancient Régime. The execution of the royal family, presented to the people as the ultimate victory over the aristocracy, had obtained the opposite effect, as people began to pity the unfortunate King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie-Antoinette, both beheaded in January 1793, as well as their surviving daughter Marie-Thérèse, barely fifteen and still imprisoned at the Tour du Temple.

People were murdered, women violated, children left to die of starvation on the streets. Shops were ransacked, houses burned, churches destroyed. It was chaos, the end of a world and of an era.

 

For Manon Favier, fate had something particular in store.

Up until now, the Faviers had managed to keep their heads above water well enough. Thibaut Favier had taken over his father’s apothecary shop on the Rue Saint-Jacques, near the Sorbonne university after he fled England. He was well-known and loved in the neighbourhood. He provided the much-tried inhabitants with potions, pills, and ointments for their many ailments, often without asking for payment. So the people had protected their apothecary and his family. However, recently, Paris had been caught in a different kind of frenzy, where all the values of before were scattered and obliterated. Thibaut Favier’s shop was ransacked, and the owner killed. Manon and her little five-year-old brother Jéhan were left orphans without a penny to live on.

On the day her father was killed, Manon – unaware of what had befallen on their father – had gone out to meet her brother at the Couvent des Dames de Marie, where he attended school. She was on her usual rounds, seeing to the patients in her care, so she had been carrying her apothecary satchel, filled with the necessities of her trade, and a load of various items of food, given to her by her grateful patients. Manon had spotted the rioters, waited until they were gone, and inwardly sent up a prayer of thanks because they hadn’t set fire to the house.

She and Jéhan had gone inside, barred the door, and were planning to make up a bed for the night amidst the torn curtains and clothes the plunderers had discarded, when Manon noticed the rusting-iron odour of her father’s slaughtered corpse on the kitchen floor. Quickly, she had ushered Jéhan into the shop, preventing him from seeing the horror.

“Here, my darling; let us sit down and eat something, shall we?”

Jéhan obeyed but asked, “Where is Papa? It is filthy in here, Manon. I want to go eat in the kitchen.”

“We cannot, my darling.”

Manon debated what she should do while she handed a lump of bread and a piece of cheese to her brother. Jéhan had to be told about their father, but it was not necessary for him to see the bloodied corpse. Her stomach churning and her heart grieving, she applied herself to feeding her brother and putting him to sleep on a pile of rags in one corner of the shop. She waited until he was fast asleep before she ventured back into the kitchen again.

They had stabbed Papa multiple times, and he had bled copiously until one blade pierced his heart. His face, surprisingly, was intact and serene, as if he had not suffered a great deal. Maybe he had not, Manon mused, but she knew she was fooling herself. A large lump had formed in her throat, now threatening to burst. She closed her eyes, heaved a deep sigh and started to think.

She and Jéhan could not stay in Paris, that was obvious. The riots were becoming harsher by the day, and half the city was on the run for the countryside. The populace that would stay, was a rabble of miscreants and murderers, not to mention the Terror’s troops. Any time now, she and her brother could be arrested and put on trial, which would certainly lead to them being beheaded. The fact that Jéhan was only five years old would not stop the monsters. Her own fate would even be worse than death.

Manon shivered, swallowed, and made her decision. She would bury her father in the small back garden, where they grew their herbs, and would then wait until the rebellion against the Terror slowed down enough for her to leave Paris. Where she would be going, she did not know yet. But she was going, no doubt about that.

 

 

 

 

John Thornton Meets Fitzwilliam Darcy … or How Everything Is Possible in a Period Drama Christmas Story

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Milton, Lancashire – December 24th, 1850

Tomorrow was Christmas, and it should have been a merry time.

Another year was over, and Marlborough Mills had done reasonably well, despite the strike. Or should I say, it had been doing well before the strike? Ah …

Men would seek to better themselves, and strive to bring down mill masters who stood in their way.

I, John Thornton, was in their black book even more, because I brought in Irish workers to do their jobs while the strike lasted. Yet who could blame me for trying to save my business, no matter what it took?

On this icy-cold Christmas Eve, I was on my way to my banker. My workers were at home, celebrating the season as best they could, and God knew they hadn’t much to celebrate with.

I was not inclined to celebrate, either. I had my mill to keep safe and sound, so I was to learn of an investor Latimer had invited to come and meet me. As I walked the cold, deserted streets of Milton, snow crunched and ice crackled underfoot. It was one of the harshest winters I had ever known.

I hurried on, past the dark alley entrances of the Princeton district, eager to reach the larger, well-to-do streets further on. From one of these dismal openings came a keening, sobbing sound. I stopped to investigate, and froze; a woman was holding a bundle of rags close to her chest, weeping disparagingly. She seemed lost in her own, distant world of misery.

“Can I be of assistance, madam?” I asked, stunning myself in the process. What possessed me to even talk to the woman? But she looked up at me, and I was shocked to see that she was very young, and approximately the same age as Margaret. Something moved deep inside me.

“My little girl is dying, mister,” she sobbed. “She’s just three weeks old, and my milk has run dry. Oh, what am I to do? My dearest girl …”

From out of the dark, a young boy darted at me. “Leave me sister alone, you bastard!” His small fists pounded at me, but he was too short to reach higher than my thighs. I grabbed him by the shoulders and made him to look at me.

“Listen, boy,” I commanded, “here’s a tuppence coin for you if you do as I say. Go to Mr Latimer’s house and tell him Mr Thornton has been delayed. I’m taking your sister and her babe to my house at Marlborough Mills. Can you remember that?”

“Yes, sir, yes!”

“Then, go!” He disappeared into the night, while I scooped up woman and child and strode back home as quickly as I could.

 

“Mother!” I shouted, and kicked the front door close. I headed for the kitchen, Mother’s footsteps resounding behind me almost at once.

“John, what’s happened? Are you hurt? What …”

In a few words, I explained, putting the woman in a chair before the hearth, while Mrs Baxter, our cook, took the small bundle from her.

“Oh, Lord! What ‘ave we ‘ere? Oh, heavens, what a poor little mite!”

“The baby had no feedings for I know not how long,” I said, rubbing the hands of the woman, who had fainted when the warmth from the fire overwhelmed her. “Mrs Baxter, what can you use to restore her? I don’t know how long she’s been without food.”

“Leave it to me, sir. Jane? Jane, come and ‘elp me!” Our maid Jane was there in an instant, wide-eyed and aghast. Mrs Baxter laid the bundle in Jane’s arms.

“Put your little finger into the babe’s mouth and see if she suckles, while I prepare some hot milk with honey,” Mother advised.

Jane, a slender, not too bright girl, was standing there nonplussed, when Mother took over.

“Give her to me, Jane, and prepare a basin with tepid water. We need to warm her up first.”

By now, the mother had regained consciousness and was gaping at the room at large. I splashed a bit of brandy into a glass and handed it to her. “Here, sip this, but very carefully, mind! What’s your name?”

“Daisy, sir. Daisy Hardman. We live in Princess Street, next to Nicholas Higgins. Oh, Mr Thornton, what ‘ll happen to my little Margaret?”

It had to be a Margaret, for surely I would never ever be allowed to forget her. She who had so cruelly rejected me. She who I would love until my last breath. Margaret, my love …

A weak but distinctive cry came from the scullery, causing Daisy to jump up and run.

A few moments later, she returned with little Margaret clutched against her breast. Mrs Baxter and Jane, preceded by Mother, followed. Mother handed Daisy a small glass bottle which contained the milk. It was topped by what looked like a cow’s teat. I was greatly astonished; where on earth had she found such an object?

Daisy, however, took it from Mother, and after hesitating for a short time, inserted the teat into little Margaret’s mouth. The baby began to suckle, first cautiously, but then more vigorously.

“Careful!”  Mother warned, then said, “Don’t give her too much at a time. She can’t cope with too much food after she missed her nursing for a whole day.”

Mother turned to me and whispered, “Apparently she stopped having milk only since yesterday. It’s bad enough, but I don’t think it too late to save the child.” I nodded. Mother is good at these matters.

The knocker on the front door sent Jane away, and I wondered who would come calling at this hour. Jane returned soon, her face flushed.

“Master, there’s a gentleman to speak with you. I showed him into the parlour. He says he’s from Mr Latimer’s bank.”

I hastened upstairs, wondering who my visitor would be. The most extraordinary vision awaited me in the parlour.

The man was undoubtedly a gentleman, and one of the old school, to boot. He was not young, in his late sixties or early seventies, but it was obvious that he was in excellent condition. He was tall, slender and still muscular, with broad shoulders and a proud, upright posture. His clothing was of the finest broadcloth, his linen snowy white, and his overcoat was of thick, blue wool. He wore tall, shiny boots, that were of a fashion some forty years ago. I had seen my father wearing them, when I was a child. I believe they were called Hessians, and they would have been worn by gentlemen of some wealth.

This gentleman offered me his hand, saying, “Mr Thornton? My name is Darcy, and your late father was a friend of mine when we were at university. I was sorry to hear that he died, after that dreadful bankruptcy. I was one of his investors, at the time.”

“Mr Darcy of the Pemberley estate in Derbyshire? It’s an honour to meet you, sir, although I’m embarrassed that my father’s debacle caused you to lose money. If there are still some debts, I will do my utmost best to cover them.”

“Oh, no, you misunderstand me, sir. I have come to offer you my support for your business. I was most impressed by the way your lady mother paid back all that was lost in the bankruptcy.”

I was speechless. So flabbergasted was I, that I failed to hear the door open. Mother passed me and curtsied to Mr Darcy, in so an unusual but graceful manner, that I was stunned to see her do it.

“Mr Darcy, I am Mrs Thornton, and I am so very glad to finally make your acquaintance, sir. Still, I’m afraid you give me too much credit. It was not I who repaid you, but my son John, here. As a sixteen-year-old, he quit school and went to work at a draper’s shop to gather all the missing funds and pay them to everyone who had lost their money.”

Mr Darcy turned back to me, joy shining in his deep-brown eyes.

“Then, Mr Thornton, I can repay you in proposing a business deal. I want to become a partner in Marlborough Mills.”

 

Later, much later, Mr Darcy and I had agreed to the conditions of our partnership, and were enjoying a glass of brandy. I was very tired, not only because of the long day, with all its demanding events, but also because I fully realised for the first time that I would never share this with Margaret. She had cut all the ties that existed between us when she refused me.

“Forgive me, Mr Thornton, but I can see that there is something weighing on you. If I can help, I will gladly do so.”

I looked him in the eye and saw that, for some reason, that he understood me. I hesitated. Mr Darcy was a stranger, after all.

“Is it because of a woman, Mr Thornton? Oh, don’t give me that suspicious look. I know the signs all too well. I have been there myself.”

“You, sir?” I stammered.

“Oh, yes,” he replied, smiling ruefully. “My Lizzie gave me a hard time before she agreed to be mine. I deserved every ounce of it. I had treated her with disdain and misplaced pride, I’m afraid. But finally I was able to convince her of my deep and sincere feelings of love and affection.”

And so, Mr Darcy told me his story. It was incredible but beautiful. At the time he and Miss Elizabeth Bennet met, he considered her family inferior, and her siblings empty-headed geese. He especially hurt his wife by offending her mother in the most vicious way, although he had a point when thinking Mrs Bennet a bit vulgar in some ways. Small wonder that Miss Bennet had rejected him with words that even now rang bitter in his mind.

“With a few well-chosen words, she accused me of being anything but a gentleman,” Mr Darcy said. “And I, fool that I was, failed to see the hurtful tears in her fine eyes. Tears that had been caused by my foolish pride. Ah, Mr Thornton, love comes to us like a disease, unexpected and unwanted. We feel completely lost in an unknown world and are helpless to right the wrongs we might cause. Men fight love, when it overwhelms us, Mr Thornton, and are as miserable as can be, until we embrace it to the full.”

I stared at him, experiencing a feeling of unabashed comfort. This man knew what he was talking of. “But,” I said hesitantly, “all went well in the end for you and your lady?”

“It did,” Mr Darcy smiled. “I had the good fortune of being able to help my Lizzie with a most embarrassing family matter, which made her see me in a totally different light. She, of course, had come to love me, she must already have had feelings for me when I uttered my ill-mannered proposal. So after a long time, when all difficulties had been taken care of, she accepted my proposal when I asked her a second time. We have been married happily for nigh forty years. What I want to say to you, Mr Thornton, is this; do not give up. Do not lose sight of your lady, and watch over her. There might come a new opportunity to offer her your love.”

He smiled. “Ladies have their pride, too. They need to hear you declare your love in a most sincere manner. They can be offended when you do not use the right words.”

 

Long after Mr Darcy left me, his words kept turning over and over in my head. Could he be right? Was there still a possibility that Margaret might come to love me? Time would tell, but I was determined to watch and love her from afar until that moment came.

 

Dear Reader, a merry Christmas and a happy New Year from Luce. May all your wishes come true and may you and your family prosper in 2016.