Chapter 54 – Most Urgent List Item: the Wedding
Hannah’s and Nicholas’ wedding day was approaching rapidly and Margaret wanted it to be as lovely as could be for the pair of them. John, who first had been reluctant to see them wed, had changed his view under Margaret’s gentle guidance. He knew all too well that his mother had been lonely after his father’s death, although she never let it show, even to him.
John was still slightly astonished how an attachment between the two had possibly managed to grow but, when he saw them together and watched how they looked at each other, he had no more doubts about the depth of their mutual feeling. After all, Nicholas had become a capable and decent man with a suitable salary to keep his wife in a station that was due to her.
So, he helped Margaret to make the necessary arrangements.
There was a particularly tricky matter to settle, one that would require all of Margaret’s diplomatic talents. Hannah and Nicholas needed a house to live in after their marriage.
Hannah did not really wanted to leave her present house but she realised all too well that she couldn’t go on living there indefinitely, now that John and Margaret were to become parents. They would need all the space they could get, as soon as the children were born. So, she agreed upon inspecting Milton’s house market with Margaret and her two attendants, albeit reluctantly.
Nicholas, however, proved to be the hardest to convince. He was used to and fond of his small house on Princess Street, where he lived since he married Bessy’s and Mary’s mother. Apart from being rather dank and far too small, the dismal little house had as good as no amenities whatsoever and could not possibly be thought suitable for a lady like Hannah Thornton.
After a long time – and a good deal of convincing – it was Mary who brought her father to reason. She stated very simply that she had too much to do at the Infirmary to have some time to spare for looking after the Boucher children. After their parent’s death, two years before, Nicholas had taken in the three boys, Thomas, Christopher and Harold and the three girls, Jemima, Louisa and Tabitha.
Tom was now almost nine and working with John at Marlborough Mills. His sister Jemima, eight, who first worked as a ‘scavenger’, was now helping Mary at the Infirmary. The four younger siblings still needed a lot of looking after and also, a lot of space. A bigger house, Mary said to her father, was just a question of good common sense.
Thus, one beautiful day at the end of May, Hannah and Nicholas agreed on signing the contract of sale on a house in the suburbs of Milton, with five bedrooms and a large garden. Margaret and John were very pleased with the acquisition and promised to help with the move.
After that, there was only the ceremony to prepare and the date of the wedding to come.
“It feels awkward,” John whispered one evening. They were in bed, exhausted from a very long and tiring day.
“What, darling?”, Margaret asked.
“Mother leaving this house. I … I had it built, especially for her, you know. It was my first big expenditure after two years of substantial profit. I could scarcely afford it but I wanted mother and Fanny out of the bleak, shabby rooms we occupied at the time. Mother knew we had not yet enough money to spare on the mill’s expenses but she never said a word. She acknowledged my need to honour her for her troubles and hard work.”
Margaret laughed softly. “Mother always seems to know what you are thinking or feeling, sometimes even before you do yourself.”
“Yes, that is so. As I do with her. I could never have succeeded without her, Margaret.”
“I know. John …”
Her husband’s arms were around Margaret’s heavy body, cradling it soothingly in his warmth.
“John … I once made a vow that … that I would never come between you and Mother. I hope I succeeded in that?”
“Oh, my darling Margaret, of course you did! Yet, should I ever be forced to choose between the two of you, I would not know how to deal with it. That is why I love you so much, my sweetheart, you have made it very easy for me by loving my mother as if she were you own. I will never have to make this choice.”
Margaret nestled herself deeper in John’ arms. How good it felt to be held by him …
“Sweetheart …”, she breathed, her heart pinched all of a sudden.
“What is it, darling?”
“John, you must promise me this, please? If … if I do not … survive this …”
“If I do not survive this, then you must not grieve me forever, John.”