Chapter Two – Margaret’s Struggle
Margaret was stunned!
This was the John from the time she had refused to explain her behaviour in the train station to him, stern, scowling, unforgiving. Was this how their marriage would be? John refusing her to be a part of his work as a manufacturer? John furious when she reclaimed that part as her rightful own? Margaret looked at him, a plea in her eyes not to reject her, to remember their feelings of love and companionship. She rose and extended both of her hands to him but he ignored her gesture.
“John, my love, what is this? Don’t you know I will always …”
“Choose the side of my workers against me? Yes, I do know that, Margaret! You’ve proved that most effectively just now!”, he snapped, blue eyes blazing with fury.
Margaret’s heart sank! “No, that’s not true, I was merely trying to get your attention on …”
“On the fact that it’s your money what saved my mill from bankruptcy? Yes, I do know that all too well, woman! And how do you think I feel when you throw that into my face with one of my workers present?”
He rushed past her causing her to stumble backwards against the desk. A moment later the door banged shut. Margaret gasped as a fierce stab of pain shot through her lower back. The baby! She needed to sit down and breathe! Dr. Donaldson had warned her for this kind of unnecessary strain. Forcing herself in taking deep, slow breaths, Margaret carefully let herself down in her chair again.
Outside in the snow, Hannah Thornton wrapped her woollen shawl closer to her body as she watched her son stalking away towards the factory hall. Oh God! How dreadful! They had been quarrelling, and she had been involuntarily eavesdropping on them. She knew why John had behaved this way and she needed to explain it to her daughter-in-law. So, she entered the office to find Margaret bent forward in her chair.
“What is it, child? Are you feeling unwell?”, she asked, taking Margaret’s cold hands in hers.
“Back pain, Mother, don’t worry. I’m sure it will soon pass.”
Hannah knew better, though, but she refrained from pushing into the matter.
“Come with me, Margaret, you need to rest and to keep warm.”
She helped her son’s wife up and supported her while returning to the parlour with its cheerful fire.
“Here,” she said, “settle down on the sofa and get your feet up. Jane?”
“Yes, Mistress?”, the maid answered.
“Go and prepare a mug of hot chocolate for young Mrs. Thornton.”
The maid curtsied, looked curiously at Margaret and left. Hannah waited for Margaret to catch her breath and for Jane to bring the drink. When Margaret had taken a few sips of her cup, she drew her chair nearer and said softly. “Margaret, there’s something I need you to know. Today it’s the anniversary of my husband’s death.”
Margaret stared at John’s mother in startled dismay but the latter went on.
“You know my husband committed suicide, don’t you? Yet, you don’t know all of it and I need you to be fully aware of the details in order to understand my son’s behaviour today.”
Hannah took a deep breath and continued. “Eighteen years ago, John was home for Christmas from his boarding school in York. We were waiting for my husband to come in from his office, the same room where John keeps his nowadays. As he was late, John went to look for him. His father had hanged himself in the office and John was the one who found him.”
Hannah’s voice wavered a little and Margaret, shocked and grieved, took her hands. “That must have been terrible for him,” she whispered, her heart full of sadness at the thought of what John must have endured.
“If it was, Margaret, he never breathed a word to me about it, although I kept questioning him. I know it must have given him a blow from which I do not think he has ever recovered. On this day, he always remembers but he never speaks about it. That is why he was so … so easily infuriated, earlier.”
“Poor, brave love of mine …”, Margaret said quietly, put down her cup and stood.
Once he entered the Mill’s great factory hall, John felt calmer like he always did when hearing the clattering of his looms. After finishing his round between the rows, he climbed onto the platform where Williams, his overseer, was standing.
“How is the mood amongst them?”, he asked.
“Unsettled, Mr. Thornton. They’re planning a meeting tonight.”
“I know. Higgins will see to it.”
“If you say so, sir,” Williams replied. The loyal employee still didn’t understand why his master had taken in that firebrand. It was not for him to judge, so he kept his peace.
John headed for the small office at the back of the hall, in desperate need of solitude. He had behaved like the rough jumped-up worker his wife thought him to be when they’d just met, two years ago. She was right, always had been. He was no gentleman. He had no manners and too much of a temper.
He threw open the door and stopped in his tracks. Margaret was sitting behind his desk, her fine porcelain hands joined on its top. Her bright, lovely, blue eyes smiled at him though her face was serious.
John rushed to her and kneeled by her side. “Oh, sweetheart, forgive me! I was such a bastard to you, I’m so sorry, Margaret.”
“John, my love,” she whispered, caressing his cheek with a slightly trembling hand, “there’s nothing to forgive. I wasn’t exactly tactful, was I? It is I who am sorry, darling.”
He took her face into his hands and gently kissed her mouth.
“Oh, Margaret. How can you even put up with me?”, John sighed and hugged her close. She gave a small gasp and he realised in sudden panic there must be something wrong.
“Love, what is it? Did I hurt you? I’m …”
“No, no, don’t panic. It’s nothing to worry about. Dr. Donaldson warned me about it, it will pass.”
But by now, John wasn’t prepared to take any more risks when Margaret’s wellbeing was at stake. He rose from his knees and scooped her into his arms. “I have to get you home,” he declared in a voice which was all resolution, “I won’t have you putting yourself to risk any longer!”
Margaret’s heart leapt with joy as it always did when John took over control like that. That was how she liked him best and yet, sometimes it did disturb her, too. He could be really overbearing at times and then, nothing could sway him into listening to other people’s point of view.
“Please, put me down, love,” she asked softly, “I’m fine and I can walk on my own two legs well enough.”
John did so but kept her close. She looked up into his face and saw his eyes, exquisitely blue and glowing with love, and her heart skipped several beats. The next second his mouth was on hers, claiming it with a passion that made her weak in the knees. Margaret returned his kiss willingly and full of ardour. These precious moments were what was worth living for.
Burning hatred seared the heart of the Spiteful One watching the two of them kissing. Hatred and outrage at this scandalous behaviour in the middle of the day! How dared they do such … such filthy deeds in broad daylight? They would have to be punished for that, it would be the rightful vengeance for what they had done! Oh, yes, the rightful vengeance …