Chapter Fifty – Family Joys
A noise from below sounded all of a sudden, breaking the strange mood between the two women.
Nicholas’ deep voice was rumbling with laughter, along with Hannah’s unmitigated giggle.
“Nicholas Higgins, put me down this instant! This is not your house and it is not yet our honeymoon!”
“Ah, but I figured to have a try in carrying you over the threshold, my girl! You finally seem to have put on a bit of flesh on during these past weeks, so I’d thought finding out if I actually still could carry you in my arms!”
A look of absolute and horrible disgust showed on Fanny’s face as she exclaimed, “Oh, Good God! This cannot be true! This must be my worst nightmare!”
She jumped up when Nicholas burst in carrying her mother in his arms and let out a cry of disgust when she saw Hannah had her arms wrapped firmly around his neck.
Fanny drew herself up and fixed Hannah with a look worthy of her brother’s worst scowl.
“In Christ’s name, will you show some dignity? And you, you … horrible man, put her down at once! You scoundrel, you ruffian, you …”
She then rushed toward the couple with raised fists and would have pounded on Nicholas had not John come in and grabbed her with his good arm.
“Fanny, dear,” he mocked, “I’m sure Watson is a trifle worried about you, right now. I think it’s time you went home.”
His sister let out a wholehearted ‘Oof!’, gathered up her skirts and stalked out of the room.
“Nicholas, my friend,” John addressed him, “I think you can put Mother down safely now.”
Higgins did so and the two man shook hands vigorously.
“Ah, John! It’s good to be back! Come and embrace your mother!”
John smiled at Hannah, took her hand and kissed it. “Mother, how are you?”
“Oh, John!”, Hannah laughed and put her arms around him.
“What have you been doing? Is it true you threw yourself under a loom?”
Of course, the men wanted to go and see the mill so Margaret and Hannah were on their own. After Dixon brought in a fresh pot of tea, the two women could finally catch up.
“Margaret, is he going to be alright? You’re sure he has no other injuries than the dislocated shoulder?”
“Yes, mother, that is all. It has been a close call, however. Thank God it was for the good of the little boy. I am actually very proud of John, you know.”
“Yes, as am I. Now, what was all that about with our Fanny? What is she up to now?”
After Margaret told her, Hannah sighed deeply.
“I do not understand, Margaret. What have I done wrongly? I tried to give both of my children a proper education and a true understanding of good, solid human values but it seems only my son profited from that.”
“Mother, Fanny is still so very young and all she can think about, is her comfort. I tried to explain it to her, what is was that makes a woman proud of bearing her husband’s child but I fear I failed.”
Suddenly, a distressing thought struck her.
“Oh, heavens! I have told Fanny something even John does not know yet! Oh, God! She … she has not gone to the factory, has she?”
“No, you need not worry about that, dear. I do not think Fanny has ever set foot into the factory in her whole life. She hates it. Why did you say that?”
Margaret swallowed and coloured bright red.
“Because I have revealed something to her that I should have told John first. Mother, I am expecting twins. I do not want John to hear it from any other than me.”
Hannah stared at her in astonishment.
“Good Lord, child! This is … astonishing news! How do you know? Did you learn this in London?”
“Yes, I did. Oh, I don’t know how John is going to react to this!”
“Well, Margaret, you’d better tell him tonight. John is fairly down-to earth, I am sure he will take it like a man.”
Hannah smiled encouragingly and patted Margaret’s hands. The latter promised herself to tell her husband the good news the same night.
“So, Mother, is your health fully restored? When are you planning on marrying Nicholas?”
The older woman suddenly got a dreamy look in her eyes which made her look twenty years younger.
“Oh, Margaret, he has been so good to me! Yes, I’m pretty much like my old self again, thanks to Nicholas. He was with me every step of the way, supporting me during the obligatory daily walks and watching over me to eat properly and rest sufficiently.”
Hannah paused and Margaret saw her cheeks were flushed rosy.
“I don’t know what has come over me, Margaret, but I am so very happy! It has been a long time since I felt like this. My marriage to Charles, John’s father, was a happy one but the shadow of his death always tamped down the good memories of the past. I had grown bitter and cold over the years, Margaret, only leaving room to care for John and Fanny. I only now realise that I blamed myself for Charles’ suicide, thinking he didn’t trust me enough to confide in me in his hour of need. Nicholas has made me see that all this was unnecessary. He gave me some perspective again and a lot of joy.”
“That is good, Mother. You certainly deserve that and I know you and Nicholas will be very happy together. So when is it going to be?”
“In four weeks, June the second. Oh, Margaret, there is so much to be done! I don’t know how …”
“Shhh, Mother, do not worry. I will help you and so will John. Just give him a day or two to recuperate from his fall.”
That night, Margaret felt yet again exhausted.
Her back did not stop hurting whichever position she was in. Sitting or standing, walking or reclining, it was all alike. She had to suppress a groan when she rose from the settee to accompany her husband to their bedchamber. John was instantly at her side, his eyes large with concern.
“Darling, what is it? Are you unwell?”
He slung his good arm around her waist when he saw her stagger.
“Damn! This bloody shoulder keeps me from taking proper care of you! Here, lean on me, sweetheart, let us go to our room.”
To be sure, there was the omnipresent Dixon.
“Shall I give you some assistance, Master?”
“No, Dixon, thank you. I’ll manage.”
In their room, John lowered Margaret onto the bed. She grabbed his hand and looked up to him.
“John, darling, I have to tell you something which might cause you concern.”