Chapter Forty-Five – Startling News
Margaret woke to the grey dawn of April in a London drenched by rain. She had slept very badly as she always seemed to do lately, when John was not beside her in the bed. John … oh, how she missed him! His gentle reassurance after a day’s hard work, his sweet soothing of her, with kisses and caresses … John … the handsome face of her husband came into her mind and she felt a stab of sheer loss of not having him close to her! Only four days … four long, lonely days … without John.
With a sigh Margaret rose and readied herself for her second day in the Empire’s capital. As she did so, her baby violently kicked.
In Milton John woke after the most wretched night he ever had.
Damn! How was he supposed to sleep without his wife next to him? And then, this empty house, without even his mother! Damn! His world had been turned upside down!
He dragged himself out of bed and dressed. It was barely six am and still dark but he made a point of being there when the first shift arrived. Just so that the workers knew their master shared their working hours.
Tom was already in the office, busily jotting down numbers in one of the large ledgers.
“Good Lord, boy! And you here in this blistering cold? Why do you come here so early? Mr Williams does not light the stove before eight am!”
“I don’t feel the cold, Mr Thornton, sir!”, Tom beamed, “I awoke at five and couldn’t stay in bed! Not with all the work there’s to be done!”
“Be sure to go down to the house for breakfast, Tom. I notified Cook you would.”
Margaret entered the waiting room of Dr Mortimer Chelmsford, renowned gynaecologist in London’s Harley Street, which hosted the residences of a vast amount of famous (read: exclusive and expensive) members of the medical profession. A very dignified lady at the reception led her into it, indicating a chair.
“The doctor will see you soon, Ma’am,” she proclaimed in a rigid manner and retired.
Margaret waited, her nervousness mounting as time ticked away. Although she had a deep trust in Dr Donaldson and his abilities, she was anxious to hear the opinion of the London doctor on her pregnancy. Just to be on the safe side. She remembered all too well how precarious the situation had been in the first months of waiting anxiously for a miscarriage to happen.
Dr Chelmsford was not at all as Margaret had imagined he would. For instance, he was young; he could not be more than thirty-five. He was also very reassuring , cordially welcomed her into his office and held out a chair for her. His big brown eyes shone with warm interest and his large mouth smiled readily while he penned down her data on a page of the record book he kept for his patients. He did not interrupt Margaret before she told him the whole story about her pregnancy.
“Well, Mrs Thornton, if you would be so kind as to step behind that screen? I would like you to disrobe of your coat, shirt, skirt and corset, if you please? Then, pray, stretch out onto the couch.”
Feeling a trifle awkward, Margaret did as he asked. She stiffened when the doctor began to probe the swollen mound of her belly with gentle hands.
“Please, Mrs Thornton, I beg you to relax. This procedure is very necessary in order to establish the position and condition of your baby. I will endeavour not to prolong it beyond its necessity. Now, close your eyes, think of pleasant, soothing things.”
With an effort, Margaret directed her thoughts to the man she loved beyond everything. She forced herself to recall John’s face and brilliant blue eyes, his smile when he looked at her, his upright frame and long legs. John … only four days and she would be with him again.
“There, Mrs Thornton, that part is over. Now, I want you to be very brave. There is one examination I have to do and it is not a pleasant one. I must ascertain myself of the condition of the cervix.”
“But … doctor, how will you …”
Dr Chelmsford took one of her hands and squeezed it gently.
“I must ask you to put yourself into my hands, Mrs Thornton. If you prefer not to be alone with me during this examination, I will ask my assistant to be present. That way propriety will be satisfied. Would you like Mrs Dorcas, who is a respectfully married lady with two children, to be present?”
“Yes, please,” Margaret whispered.
After what was positively the most horrible ten minutes of her entire life, Margaret was allowed to dress again. She was a trifle wobbly in the legs when she returned to the chair in front of Dr Chelmsford’s desk. When Mrs Dorcas, face still placidly unperturbed, handed her a cup of fragrant, steaming tea, she gladly accepted. The tea was strong and sweet and after she drained the cup greedily, Margaret felt almost restored to her old self.
“Mrs Thornton,” the doctor said gravely, “I have some … disturbing news for you. I must inform you of the fact that you are carrying twins.”