John invited Nicholas into the house. Adam was seated comfortably with a teacup in his hand, talking to Mrs. Thornton.
John didn’t say anything and went straight to the sideboard and poured two glasses of scotch and a whiskey. Handing them around, he sat down in his chair.
“John, Mr. Bell is bringing a guest this year,” Hannah broke the silence.
“Are you?” John asked looking at Adam.
“Would you care to know or be surprised?” Adam asked.
“Is it someone I know?”
“Then let me be surprised.” John turned to Nicholas. “What took you two so long? The loom inspectors don’t take that long.”
“She’s quite fascinating, John. She was more impressive than when she gave that lesson.”
“Oh, you’re talking about Margaret,” Adam chimed in. “Coming to know her is a delight. Would I be 30 years younger, I would ask for her hand.”
“Really?” John surprisingly asked.
“I won’t bother singing her praises, but I have known her all her life. If you ever get the chance to be much acquainted, I think she will amaze you.”
John looked at Nicholas.
Nicholas nodded with a smile.
“What was that all about?” Asked an exasperated Fred.
“Fred, what are you asking? Be specific.”
“You seemed a bit rude to the love of your life. Two days ago you were seducing him, and now you’re reducing him.”
“Oh, Fred. I’m tired of crying. I haven’t handled things well; this situation I find myself in. Fred, I never told anyone this, but when I went to school, where I would have learned more about men, mostly from the other girls, I was cast off by them. I could not fit in with their social or societal life. I was the poor one with few gowns and therefore never garnered much attention.”
“I am sorry to hear you had to endure that, but you need them, not. If I were so bold, I would reckon that you are better off not learning from them. You have little to unlearn. You have many qualities that don’t need teaching. I believe a lot of women cover their faults with actions. They laugh when you laugh. They tell you that you’re witty. They dress in very expensive clothing, so you don’t notice their weight. You are pure and innocent, charming and loveable. All you need is courage to go forward into these uncharted waters. It’s time for you to weigh anchor and give these Milton men a shot across their bows.”
Margaret started laughing. Fred felt relieved. He got himself into a little hot water earlier and now it looked like smooth sailing for a bit. “Could you try harder to ignore Mr. Thornton without looking as if you are ignoring him?”
“This may just be my opinion of men, in general, but seeming unattainable offers a challenge which intrigues a man who may have interest. My suggestion and I hope any man listening forgives me for this trade secret but keep in front of Mr. Thornton. What I mean is ensure he knows of your presence as often as you can but show only a casual interest. That will be enough to occupy his mind, and Thornton won’t think of you as just another woman chasing him. He’ll want the chase, himself. I would doubt that he has had little experience in the chase. That is an inalienable right of passage we are born with. We want to hunt our prey rather than it being served to us on a platter. I am sure women don’t understand that anything worth having is worth fighting for. We must, in all regards, show ourselves to be men of strength and determination. We must protect and provide for our capture. That is the nature of our beast, along with other more pronounced natures.”
“Are you sure Fred? That sounds like a lot for you to feel certain about.”
“That is nothing compared to it all. Most of the rest are faults we have.”
Margaret and Fred both laughed this time.
“You will see Mr. Thornton at the next class. That will be your last opportunity before the Master’s Ball, which will be your shot across the bow of the single men in Milton.”
“Fred, you are making it sound like a war?”
“Isn’t it? If you’re honest with yourself, you can see that it is. Finding a man interested in you will roll towards you like the tides, but attracting a specific man who may be on the verge of marrying another woman is war, don’t you realize that?”
Returning home, Margaret went straight to her lesson planning with the notes she had jotted down from her tour. Fred, feeling rather happy with himself, headed out to the would-be stable for some serious planning, himself. He forgot to tell Margaret and his father about his purchase.
Margaret started penning her lesson in points to speak about rather than reading from a piece of paper.
Monday found Margaret pulling her entire clothing apparel for the Master’s Ball out of the wardrobe. She was still thinking it over about who to attend with, but whoever the choice, she had to finalize her gown and accessories.
She began by laying out all of her gowns that she owned. Although, few in number, they did exceed what she had seen in Milton. Her gowns were made in London at the express wishes of her aunt. Anything she laid her hands on could give no embarrassment. She carried each gown to her mirror and held it before her. One seemed like the others. She should just close her eyes and pick. It was never learned what colors were more complimentary to her complexion and hair color combination. She finally settled on a gold linen dress with a silk overskirt made of yards of ruffled silk folds. Here and there ran sage green ribbons and bows for accents. The neckline, which might be too low for Milton, was adorned with pearl-like buttons on sage green velvet. She looked through her wardrobe and found the matching sage dance slippers.
Disappointing her were miles of crinoline petticoats. They had been smashed inside the closet for so long and had lost their shape. Margaret had always refused those bone and fabric hoop constructed cages. They seemed popular in the Americas where the weather was quite warm. Fred would have to fix a line of rope outside for her to hang them on. A day or two days in the sun and the wind and they should come back.
After selecting her gown and accessories, she headed for the dining table for her final construction of ideas.
By 10:00 a.m. the next morning, Margaret began feeling nervous. She thought it could be from one of two reasons, but most likely both. Walking to her lesson folio and glancing at the pages seemed to calm her. It was definitely seeing Mr. Thornton, she now knew. She decided to prepare for the inevitable.
Margaret packed her basket with a canning jar of water, a dish towel, and a biscuit. If she was to be sick again, she had what was needed. She told her father about her extra items, explaining about her nerves again.
A carriage pulled up at 6:30 p.m. with Bessie and her father. Fred, feeling a little embarrassed to see Bessie’s father again, aided Margaret inside and then sat after his father. He would wait outside for Branson when he arrived.
“Good evening everyone,” she announced as she sat.
“Good evening to you Miss Hale. I see you have your lesson plans. Were we of much help on Sunday?”
“In a way, you may not have thought of yet. Not a lot of profit, but value to you.”
“That should be interesting.”
“How is Mrs. Higgins feeling.?
“She’s gaining some strength back. The doctor is optimistic that she will recover completely within two weeks.”
“I would think she is saddened to not attend the Ball?”
“She won’t say the words, but I rarely dance which makes these affairs boring for her. Peggy, I believe is relieved to have an excuse this year.”
Nicholas caught sight of Fred starring at Bessie and smiled to himself. When Bessie turned in Fred’s direction, Fred looked elsewhere. Nicholas remembered those young, fragile beginnings when the man did not have much sense of how to govern his passion. Was it need or was it, love? For the first time, Nicholas felt the fatherly concerns of a grown daughter and the man she would step out with. It was all just a matter of time.
As the Hales and Higgins entered the lyceum, Fred announced he would wait outside for Branson.
Margaret prayed that Nicholas would not sit down in the front row, as she was sure that Mr. Thornton would sit with him. Her father carried her basket and placed it out of sight. Margaret began to organize her pages and graphs once again while Bessie looked on.
“Are you nervous, Margaret?”
“After the catastrophe last time, I must admit I am worried it will happen again. Perhaps, you can find father with my basket, and fetch my jar of water. I can place it under the podium.
Margaret found the rolling blackboard and began to draw some lines and words. Her hand wasn’t very steady with the chalk, and Bessie asked if she could help.
“Thank you, Bessie. Yes, I would appreciate you drawing and printing what I tell you. I guess I am more nervous than I thought.” Margaret felt this nervousness was due to the lesson she was to give. As she gave Bessie instructions, she watched Nicholas walk back outside. As the doors swung open, Margaret could see the crowd had started to gather in small groups, talking.
As they conversed on the steps out front, a coach stopped. Out stepped a well-groomed gentleman, after which he handed out, Miss Waverly. John walked towards the couple.
He tipped his hat to Miss Waverly. “I had not expected you.”
“John, this is my brother, Captain Christopher Waverly, retired, visiting with me. I just happened to mention where you were tonight and he asked if we could join the lecture.”
“Yes, there was an open invitation to family members who do not see or understand this part of our business that keeps us working late at night. The benefit was extended to them. However, I cannot see how either of you would find the least bit of interest in this, but you are welcome.” John extended his hand to shake. A pleasure to meet you, Captain.”
“Mine as well, Master Thornton. Please call me, Kit. Soon, I will be looking into ways to invest my money. Having heard of this machinery now doing labor, there could be interest there. Thank you for allowing our attendance.”
“You are welcome. It is asked that families sit on the opposite side of the room, away from the Masters. They will be discussing issues among themselves.”
“Perfectly understandable.” Wrapping Adeline’s arm around his, he stated, “Shall we go in, dear sister?”
John watched them enter the double doors and checked the look on Nicholas’ face. “Not something I expected. I don’t even think I mentioned it. But they are here now.”
“Maybe she is here to inspect the lovely teacher,” Nicholas laughed.
John knew that was most improbable and took up a step behind them. The other masters were breaking up their conversations, now. Fred was sitting on the coach bench with Branson.
As he entered, John noticed that the podium was still where he had placed it the last lesson. He and Nicholas took up second-row seating on the aisle edge, but no one had sat in the first row as yet. John stood and turned back to see that everyone was being seated, the guests were on the other side, and many masters were carrying rolled-up accounting sheets. Turning back, John walked to the podium and greeted Miss Hale, and asked if two masters could question her privately after the lesson.
“Are you nervous, Miss Hale?” John smiled.
“Yes. I hadn’t expected any ladies to have made an effort to come. I am surprised.”
“My mother, if she were well, would have been one to be here. There are a few wives quite dedicated to their husbands and take an interest in their work.”
“I see that. Very nice to know.”
“In case you hadn’t noticed, you have more students this time than last. Word has gotten around that just maybe you do know what you are talking about,” John smiled again.
Margaret held tightly onto the podium as her knees would not hold her much longer. She watched as Mr. Thornton brought a chair and sat it beside the lectern. “Please sit down if you have the need. I remember my first public speaking engagements.”
Margaret became weaker every time he smiled at her which was now three times in so many minutes. Her nerves were affecting her bladder now. All those things had been taken care before leaving the house, so she hoped it was just imaginary.
Preparing her papers, she saw that Bessie now had Adam Bell sitting next to her. How long would it be before the whole town was here? She had to put that out of her mind. Bessie gave her a little thumb up. She stood erect in front of the podium and waited for the crowd to quiet.
Margaret clasped her hands in front of herself because they were shaking. Her eyes were darting around the room, and things became to swim. She tottered a bit, and John knew she was in trouble.
Rushing to the stage, he pulled the chair to where she was standing and sat her down and returned to his seat. There was a smattering of laughter, and although humiliating, she found comfort in it. The room became quiet, and Margaret opened.
“I sincerely apologize for the interruption last week and my nervous beginning this time.” Margaret was surprised as everyone applauded her earnest confession. She didn’t care if it was from pity or amusement, she felt she could go on.
She stood. “Last week I said I would explain the 3% gain on bolt goods. There is no other way to count a bolt of cloth, but there is a way to account for it. Margaret walked back and rolled the chalkboard toward the front. One very important factor I see that everyone is missing is the number of line items you budget. I will get to that. If you see here,” she said pointing, “this mill sold 300 bolts of cotton in a month. The calculation out to the side is the net profit on that amount. The next line,” Margaret picked up the chalk, “should be 300 times 3% and the answer should be placed as a positive number in the ‘cost of goods’ sold column. When mills which work smart and fast only net 5% to 10%, this 3% of ‘cost of goods sold, now becomes a factor that was not budgeted because was not known. That extra savings could be used against additional expenses. It may be prudent to have someone manually count an individual bolt, so you have the check and balance that your people are working properly. Also, that gain of 3% could be low if you are counting thick cotton weaves. If you have figured out a way to spool 97% onto a bolt and sell it to your customer as 100%, which I cannot advise, one black mark discovered by a big customer could cost you the mill. Just budget in the 3% gross. Are there any question about that knowledge?”
There were no questions, but there was applause. Small conversations were echoing around the room and many heads were nodding affirmatively. Margaret saw that Fred and Branson had now slipped into the back rows.
Margaret cleared her throat. The room became quiet. “The one . . . I’ll call it a failure, that I see in everyone’s statements is that you have too few line items that you track. Could I ask how you budget your wages, which is your biggest controllable expense?”
Several hands went up, and Margaret pointed to someone mid room.
He stood and gave his name. “First Miss Hale, you called wages a “controllable” expense. I think I speak for most when I say it is a non-controllable expense. We look at what we spent in the past month, average in two more previous months before that and determine what the wage expense will be.”
“By the applause am I to take it that his way of managing wages is the same as everyone here?”
“Excuse me, Miss Hale, you asked for budgeted wages not managed wages.”
“That is a very good catch, sir. So what you are saying is that you budget and manage your wages? Which is it?”
“I think you’re trying to confuse us,” said the master.
Margaret clasped her hands behind her. “Anyone else?” Does the president have his wisdom to share?” Margaret looked directly at John Thornton, putting him on the spot. He stood.
“What my friend is trying to say is that we budget the wages, some his way, others do their own formulas, but towards the end of the month, we make them come into line with what we budgeted.”
“Are you saying come week four of the month, you are sending workers home so as not to go over your budget?”
“In most cases, there may be that small adjustment,” John said.
“And what happens to your budgeted sales for that month with a smaller workforce in the last week?”
“Our volume is a fraction lower.”
“A quarter percent?” Margaret asked. “If so I would bet you hadn’t budgeted that in either. Now it seems we have lost .25% that you weren’t completely aware of. I would guess that the few workers who could not make it to work a day here or there seem to make up for the wage budget, so you do nearly make your wage number. You leave it to chance, is that correct Mr. Thornton?”
“I’m afraid we don’t look at it that closely.”
“Exactly,” Margaret said. She left the pause hang in the air while she reached down for her water jar.
“If I may somewhat digress here, I would like to tell you a story. We had a speaker come to our class one day. He had three retail chain stores. I won’t go into retail math, which your business does not use, but that is not going to be my point. Because of the way his budget was set up, which included many line items, he hardly had to visit his stores. He could study their profit and loss statement, line by line, and know that sales were down in women’s accessories in store X. In looking at the budgeted wages for woman’s accessories, he noticed a shortfall. That indicated that the store had lost a worker and hadn’t replaced her. The store manager had failed on that and many other months to manage the wages throughout the various departments. Was it the manager, he wondered? Was there a hiring issue. Were they putting in lighting in front of his store and people could not easily access the entrance? Even though store X made near its budgeted profit, he could see that he had the wrong store manager. He was not managing the “controllable” wages as he should. Wages are a controllable expense if you really look at it in a more detailed way.
“I see that the masters of mills can benefit from finer honing of budgeted line items. As for percent versus the pound, the owner could tell that after week one, the wage percent was down, meaning more profit. But at what cost. Was it at the cost of the shrinking staff or the excitement of having a good week in sales? I’m afraid to ask questions.” She smiled. “I see a lot of head scratching.
“If you would permit me to take a ten-minute break, I would be grateful. Please smoke your cigars outside. Thank you.” Margaret walked towards her father who was bulging with smiles. Fred ran up and hugged her.
“Sis, I am so proud of you.”
Bessie hugged her, too.
“It’s not over, but thank you.”
John and Nicholas stood talking in place to each other. Miss Waverly appeared at his side with her brother.
“Quite an impressive and intelligent speaker you have there, Mr. Thornton,” said Kit.
“There’s a story of how this came about,” John began. Adeline noticed the quick fond look John made when referencing her name to his brother.”
“Is the woman spoken for?” asked Kit.
“No, she hasn’t even appeared “out” as they say. Schooling and then caring for elder parents have kept her from the horde of single men in Milton.” The last few words were said more slowly than the beginning of his sentence. There was a bit of unease in telling a stranger about her as it dawned on him that she was becoming available. The thought that she was always around lately, trying to get his attention, seemed important now. He didn’t know why.
“I hope I can be introduced to her this evening,” said Kit. “Could you do the honors, Mr. Thornton?”
“Yes, once this evening has drawn to an end,” John said reluctantly. John apologized and introduced his partner, Nicholas Higgins to Captain Waverly.
Margaret was looking over her remaining notes as the crowd filtered back in. She noticed the attractive woman with John, concluding that must be his intended. Her heart sank. Margaret felt she had nothing to offer a John Thornton-type over a woman like that. She would be like the ones that shunned her at school.
Margaret went to the front of the stage. No more nerves after witnessing the woman.
“I am ready to take questions as it pertains to wages or expense lines to be budgeted. Yes, sir.” Margaret selected a gentleman in the back.
John hadn’t recognized the voice and turned to see who it was. He’d never seen him before.
“Nicholas, who is that back there?”
Turning around, “I don’t know if I can’t see him in this light or I have never seen him. We don’t have any new masters, do we?”
“Miss Hale, can you give us some of your suggestions on breaking down the wage lines, something like you was mentioning about the speaker you heard?”
“Here’s where my ignorance of cotton mills will be verified as I know few of the working staff levels. First I would separate out the foreman wages, the various positions in the receiving and shipping of goods, there are most likely secondary foreman, and, of course, your rank and file worker. Budgeting each of those lines can tell you in an instant where a problem may be coming from. Where are you short or over-staffed. Always separate your controllables from your non-controllables. The non-controllables usually only have to be budgeted by the year. You know what your mortgages or loans are. Your shipping tariffs and taxes may fluctuate, but they are non-controllables. One thing I did not see on anyone’s statement was a maintenance account. You don’t need to spend a lot of time budgeting, but you need to keep close watch over it.” Margaret heard rumblings.
“I do not mean the daily type of maintenance fees. I mean taking one-quarter percent of profit and banking it for when the chimney comes down, when the roof blows off, or a fire happens, God forbid. You need to slowly start building your business’s nest egg for large emergencies. You need to build for growth, expanding the business and wage increases. Make notes on your statements. It is September, and you are checking your budget for October. You look back at last year and see a huge increase in purchasing and you wonder why. Didn’t you remember that last year the growers had an overstock that they were willing to sell for less? That’s an anomaly in your budget. You will have those throughout the year, but you don’t want to budget an anomaly. By breaking these big lines of expense into smaller ones, it is more easily seen where improvements can be made, where mistakes have happened.
Margaret continued for another thirty minutes on line-items needed for more detailed budgeting.
“I would like to leave the actual budget items and talk for a few minutes about adding value to your work. In speaking with this same gentleman, I want to mention his profit on merchandise was nearly 40%. Once a month he had a nightly meeting with anyone wishing to understand their profit and loss situation. Over time, the workers began to see and understand why they may be late on receiving raises or reasons to other issues. They never begrudged the owner for paying himself 15% of the profit because they knew he held tremendous responsibility in keeping them employed. He showed them and explained where every dollar was going. Here’s what he did.” Margaret went and fetched her basket. It took time, but she eventually placed 100 pence on the desk at the side of the stage.
“Show your workers this. The 100 pence equals all the money that came into the mill that month. 100% gross profit.” Margaret lifted 70 pence and set if off to the side. “This 70% is equal to the price of goods purchased. Your biggest expense. That is quite impressive when they can see it go away. Now with these 30 pence, you start taking away wages, loans, horse feed, doctor visits, maintenance, taxes, tariffs, shipping costs and little by little the pile drains away. Most of the time you will get down to 5 pence remaining on the table. You take your own wage out of that, and the little left over is for growing your business. Let them know your plight. Let them help you shoulder the responsibility. Show them that you trust them with your own and their livelihood. They will feel they have a stake in the business. The word gets passed around to those that can’t understand the economics of it, most of all the unrest calms. The riots cease. Your smart workers will rise to the top with ideas that perhaps you can use. Every quarter has a … if you will excuse me … a bitch session. If you can do what they want, do it. Let them help you make decisions on where to budget their ideas. Get them involved. Take your facilities out there and separate them by sex. Make sure they are clean. Pay one or two women to watch children so you will have very little absenteeism. Mary Higgins has told me about the lunch program that has been started at Marlborough mills. That is a fantastic idea. A worker came up with that, and there is no cost to the mill. Before I close this meeting, let me quote Aristotle if I may. “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” Isn’t that what all this is about? Delivering quality goods to your customers? That is most likely one of the few distinctions that separate you from competitors.
“I would be happy to help anyone who thinks they can benefit from what I have spoken about. All you need to do is ask. I thank everyone for coming and thank you for welcoming me with all my blunders and nerves. Good evening.”
The crowd stood and gave her an excellent show of gratitude with their applause. Several were headed her way, and some drifted out. As people gathered around her, her friends and family stood back. Bessie squeezed in with pencil and paper, writing names Margaret was calling out. It was half an hour later when the people had left. Margaret looked down and knew she had peed into her shoes at some point in the evening. She didn’t want to move from her spot so her family would see her wet spot on the wood floor, but there was no getting away from it. Fred burst out laughing but didn’t tell on her. In fact, he walked away last so it wouldn’t be noticed.
Exiting the building, Richard Hale, Fred, Margaret and Adam Bell were approached by the woman, John Thornton and another gentleman unknown to everyone but Fred. Fred thought he knew the Captain, but couldn’t place him.
John made introductions of the Hales and Adam Bell, to the Waverly family. John watched carefully as everyone shook hands and spoke a greeting. Margaret was particularly surprised when the retired captain took her hand and kissed the back of it. Her smile diminished when she touched hands with Adeline. John had a sense of her reactions. He would dwell on it later.
Kit Waverly engaged Margaret in conversation before John could remark on her excellent presentation. He supposed he would send her a note.
“Miss Hale, being new to Milton and its mills, by one day, I was quite impressed with your lesson. Budgets are done by all organizations and are therefore fairly much the same. However, as captaining a ship, I was disposed to budget the mission, which included everything from food supplies to hull damage. It had to be approved by the Admiral as we had no income to achieve, but I did find some of your ideas most enlightening. I wish I had known of that at the time. I suppose this more detailed accounting is new?”
“Yes. As of a year ago, the textbooks were updated with more science added to economics.”
“So you learned this in school? You? A woman?”
“It was a choice I made at the time.”
“I see I am keeping you too long. I hope we can continue this conversation at another time. At a tea perhaps?”
“I am assured that you are a gentleman and may find my acceptance in the future. Thank you for your compliments. Good evening.”
The Hales road home in Adams rented coach, the others took John’s.
“Mr. Thornton, I thought your speaker to be quite amusing for a while with her nervousness which she quickly overcame. However, her message that she imparted was very useful. I wish I had had that training myself. Do you find much of what she said to be useful for your mill budgeting?”
“I will admit there were useful budgeting ideas, but I was more struck with her values of the mill. The working with the people and helping them understand the profit picture. No one in these parts has tried such a venture. We are sure what we share travels to all mills within a day or two. All our workers live in the same poverty-ridden area as neighbors. There is one thing I’ve learned sadly, and that is, there is something worse than death, and that is to live the way they must. Bringing machines to the industry is a major expense, and there is little profit in cotton, but it has now become Britain’s major export, claiming 12% of all incoming money to this kingdom.”
“Adeline tells me you are the President of these Mills?”
“We have a committee that meets monthly. I happen to be its current elected President.”
“And he’s a magistrate, too, Kit.”
“Adeline, please. I am sure the captain here is not interested in me.”
“I disagree, Mr. Thornton. Whoever Adeline is stepping out with will have my full attention.” Kit smiled.
John felt uncomfortable. Not so much because she had an older brother watching over her, but more so for what the brother must assume is the depth of John’s interest. She, too, continued reading more and more into their relationship since his talk with her. John had to wonder if she was making this up and believing it herself or trying to impress her brother.
As they arrived at the Waverly home, John asked Adeline if she would take a meal with him on Thursday evening.
“Just the two of us, John,” she hinted.
“Yes, if you don’t mind.”
“Usual 7:00 p.m.?”
“Unless you prefer a different hour. We could have lunch if you wish.”
“Lunch seems inviting. I don’t believe we have ever been out at that time. May I ask how to dress?”
“It will be at that small café near the west end. Quite a nice little place or we could go to the dining room at the Milton Grand.”
“The café sounds appealing.”
“Very good. I shall pick you up at 1:00 p.m.”
“Captain Waverly, Kit, it was a pleasure to meet you. Until we meet again then,” John extended his hand.
The brother and sister left the coach.