Chapter Fifty-One – Taking Care of Margaret
“Concern? Margaret, sweetheart, are you alright? Is something amiss with the baby?”
Blue eyes full of alarm, John dropped onto his knees in front of Margaret. Since the beginning of her pregnancy, he had doubts and fears about it, although he had recently begun to relax because she seemed fine and healthy. Margaret hastened to reassure him.
“No, no, do not panic, John! I’m fine, really, I am. It’s just …”
She took his face into her hands and brushed the tumbled black locks back from his furrowed brow.
“I’m carrying twins, John. That is why I’m so heavy and so easily tired.”
Dumbfounded and aghast, John stared at his wife. He felt like he had just received a kick in the stomach and a feeling of absolute terror began rising in his chest.
“Oh, Margaret,” he whispered hoarsely, “I do not know what to say. This is … this cannot be true?”
He placed his hand on Margaret’s heavily swollen belly which immediately caused a reaction from his offspring. John startled, realising in overwhelming fear that there were now two of them inside his wife’s delicate body.
“John, my darling John, look at me. It is true and we must deal with it. I went to see Dr Chelmsford when I was in London. He told me the pregnancy would only grow more difficult but I have a fairly good chance of carrying the babies closer to full term if I were to take enough rest. I will probably go into premature labour so I must try and hold on as long as I can.” She smiled at him, a very wavering little smile which pierced John’s heart.
“But … but what about the delivery, sweetheart? Won’t it be … dangerous? Will the babies survive? Margaret … will you? Oh, Margaret!”
He couldn’t help himself but buried his face into her lap. Strong man though he was, he couldn’t suppress the huge wave of crushing fear raging through his heart and soul. It lasted only a few seconds and then John raised his head again and stood.
“Come, my love,” he said,” let’s get you to bed.”
When Margaret was safely settled against the pillows, John prepared himself for bed and joined her. Letting her body rest against his own, he gently stroked her hair.
“My brave, beautiful Margaret,” he said solemnly, “I promise you I will do everything that is in my power to assist and comfort you. We will weather this, my darling, together we will prevail.”
By the evening of the next day, all the rest of Milton and Marlborough Mills seemed to know that young Mrs Thornton was expecting twins and the Master himself was in a fit state of raging fear about it.
Everywhere he so much as showed his face, people were grinning knowingly at him or clapping him on the back with a well-meant word of congratulation. John stomped into the parlour of his house around eight pm to find his mother, Nicholas, Mary, Dixon and even Donaldson there but not his wife. They were all fixing him with a determined gaze.
Hannah rose swiftly to lay a soothing hand upon his arm.
“Before you ask, John, Margaret is resting and absolutely fine. Now, come and sit down. We have things to discuss.”
Nicholas pressed a whisky into his hands and pushed him gently on one of the settees.
“John,” he said in a efficient tone, “we need a plan, a strategy to bring this baby business to a good end. If I know your Margaret – and I think I do – she is not going to sit still and wait for the birth just like that. Besides, it will just make her unhappy and nervous and that cannot be good for the babies. It is therefore of vital importance that we keep her happy and relaxed.”
John took a large swig of his whisky and replied wearily, “And how the devil are you going to pull this off? She’ll want to do her work at the infirmary and she’ll be running around helping strays and … Oh, God, she’ll drive me over the edge!”
“John Thornton!”, his mother said sternly, “Stop this at once! This panicking will bring you nowhere and it is very bad for Margaret too. Listen to what Nicholas has to say.”
They were right, of course. It was just that whenever he thought of Margaret and the babies – oh, God, the babies! – his mind seemed to go haywire and he found himself unable to think clearly. He took a deep, steadying breath and concentrated upon Nicholas.
“From now on,” Higgins began, “we are all on a mission. It is called ‘Operation Twins’.”
He drew a paper out of the breast pocket of his rumpled suit. Nicholas still had not grown accustomed to fine and fancy clothes, John thought, inwardly smiling. On the paper was a list which contained the following items:
Operation Twins – Presumed Achievement Date: July 2, 1853
- Adjustment of Time: the children’s birth can occur in the weeks preceding this date.
Measurements To Be Taken: to keep a vigilant eye on Margaret from this day on.
- Handling the next months of pregnancy:
Most Important Issue: to force Margaret to rest.
Measurements To Be Taken: make sure all her points of interest are being taken care of.
- Margaret’s Points of Interest:
– The Housekeeping
– The Infirmary
– The Wedding of Hannah and Nicholas
– The Delivery of the Babies
– The Care of the Babies
- Division of Tasks and Responsibilities:
The Housekeeping – Miss Adelaide Dixon
From now on, Miss Dixon will take over the general management of the Thornton’s housekeeping and keep at this until Margaret is well again after the babies’ birth.
The Infirmary – Miss Mary Higgins
From now on, Miss Higgins will take over the total responsibility over the working of the Infirmary in close consultation with Dr Donaldson and his staff. The next primary goal here is to establish a proper hospital ward in the vicinity of Marlborough Mills. An additional planning meeting about this issue is to be held in the near future in the presence of Margaret.
The Wedding of Hannah and Nicholas – the two individuals concerned
Wedding date: June, 2d 1853.
No one else is allowed to have a say in this matter but the two people who are directly concerned.
The Delivery of the Babies – Dr Abraham Donaldson
Due to the special difficulties of twin sibling birth, Dr Donaldson will ask for the assistance of Dr Mortimer Chelmsford of Harley Street, London. In his capacity of experienced obstetrician this gentleman is best placed to bring the matter to success. Mr John Thornton will therefore officially request the London doctor to come and stay in Milton as soon as possible.
The Care of the Babies – General Supervision: Mrs Hannah (soon to be Higgins) Thornton
The former will urgently proceed in hiring a nurse, for the care of Margaret during and after the delivery, and a nanny, for the care of the babies. She will also assist Margaret in establishing a proper nursery.
She will also go in search of a wet nurse to help Margaret with the feeding of the babies once they are born.
John – himself
John did not know whether to burst into helpless laughter or into a righteous rage over this preposterous bit of paper. He turned to his friend with the most dark scowl he could muster and asked in a cold, accusing tone.
“And what, Mr Nicholas Higgins, is there on this list that you want ME to do?”