Chapter 5 – We make cotton
The next few days would prove to be extremely busy.
While John was preparing the upstart of the Mill, with Nicholas Higgins as his assistant, Margaret and Hannah were working on the wedding preparations.
The guest list was not long because Margaret had only her aunt Shaw and the Lennoxes to invite. Hannah’s invitations would go out for the Watsons and the other mill owners and their solicitor and banker.
Margaret, who was seeing very little of John during the day, kept herself busy with other matters. She had plans for the improving of the Mill’s social aspects and turned to Mary Higgins to help her. Mary was already working in the Mill’s soup kitchen set up by John and her father and therefore she had a good notion of what was needed in the factory. So the two women drew up plans for a school and a dressing station for injured workers.
After three days an unexpected but very welcome guest turned up.
Margaret had, of course, sent a dispatch to her Aunt Shaw and Edith telling them about her betrothal to John and as a result, Dixon, the Hale’s former servant, had come up from London as soon as she heard about it.
“Now what would you do without me, Miss Margaret, and with all the wedding preparations and all that?” Dixon said with tears of joy in her eyes, as soon as she had embraced Margaret. As for the latter, she was all too happy that she had at least one person from her past with her when she would start her new life.
John and Nicholas, meanwhile, were working hard to get the Mill operational again by the following Monday.
“Master,” Higgins said, “do you remember the petition I’d set up when the Mill closed? Nearly all the people on it will come to work for you again if you’re prepared to give them the wages they had when you had to discharge them.”
“They’re very welcome, Nicholas, and I agree on taking them on and paying them their previous wages. Can I put you in charge of their hiring? Perhaps you should contact Williams, my former overseer, he’ll know how to get started on this.”
“Good idea, Master! I know where Williams lives, I’ll go and see him tonight.”
Three days later, on the formerly fixed Monday, Marlborough Mills was set in motion again. A proud John Thornton, in front of his new worker’s force, Nicholas, his mother and Margaret, was asked to switch on the machines. He stepped up the platform and cleared his throat.
“To all employees of Marlborough Mills, a most sincere welcome at this happy event. It is with great pride and happiness that I am about to restart the machines of this factory, which as you all know, had to be shut down in dismal circumstances a few weeks ago. I hope you will all contribute to a smooth and undisrupted functioning of this Mill.”’
John then turned towards his mother and Margaret.
“Now, dear Mother, would you do me the honour of turning the switch that will bring the machines back to life again?”
Hannah startled as she had not expected this. Nevertheless, she solemnly strode towards the large handle and hauled it upwards in one unwavering gesture. The big coal-fuelled generator sprang to life and seconds later the looms began to work in a loud clattering noise which was music to John’s ears. A loud cheer of joy rose from the assembled workers in return.
Margaret’s gaze wandered towards her beloved John, and they smiled knowingly at each other. They had agreed on giving Hannah the honour of the restart. Margaret knew how dearly her future mother-in-law loved the Mill.
John raised his hand to obtain silence again.
“At the end of their shift each worker is entitled to a tanker of ale at my expense in the outhouse at the back. And now, let’s make cotton!”
John let Williams switch places with him on the platform and joined his family and friends.
Nicholas took his place amongst the weavers as he’d demanded.
“I’m a weaver!” he’d said when John had offered him the job of accountant and employee manager. “I’ll do the other things too but you cannot forbid me to do what I know best, Master!”
“But, Nicholas, when are you going to do the other things? You have a full shift on at the looms!”
“Don’t you worry, Master! Leave it to me!”
When Hannah made for the house again, John took Margaret’s hand in his and whispered in her ear. “Come with me to the office, I’ve got something for you.”
They headed for John’s office, a small dusty room at the back of the factory hall. John closed the door behind him when they’d entered.
“Well?” Margaret asked as she had no idea of what he could have got for her.
“Come here,” John said huskily and drew her close. He kissed her in a way he’d never done before. Margaret’s heart leapt in sheer pleasure, when he gently eased open her lips. She answered him in full abandon. Immediately unknown and exciting emotions started running through her whole body. For the first time since they’d met again, she could foresee how it would be to be loved by John Thornton. She could feel John for the first time, she could taste him and her heart sang in utter joy and anticipation.
John reluctantly released her after a while. “My sweet love,” he whispered, “how I love and adore you. Soon we will be married and I cannot wait to make you mine!. How am I to endure the remaining days until our wedding?”
Margaret suddenly shivered in his arms and he cursed himself for frightening her with his ardour.
“I’m sorry, my love”, he soothed, “I didn’t mean to frighten you…”
“Hush, sweetheart”, Margaret interrupted . “I feel the same as you do. John, dearest John, I will never be afraid of you! Soon, my love, soon …”