Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C24

Chapter Twenty-Four

By Tuesday evening, John was becoming unsettled. He didn’t feel his comfortable confidence. He still hadn’t collected his thoughts on his own apology to Miss Hale. She had explained her reasoning, and it was a sound excuse of someone so thoroughly innocent. He didn’t think that what he could say would stand up against any gentleman’s excuse. He never could see where she was coming from as Higgins seemed to think. If every line in her letter were true, and he couldn’t reason that it wasn’t, she had acted upon advice that seemed to want to put him at ease for the evening. Instead of worrying that another woman was wishing his attentions, she made it clear that she wasn’t. Nicholas was right; it was ingenious. Although, he felt there was little to salvage, he did have to wonder if she was interested in him or not. He only wanted that answer as it was a tactic that had never been used on him. He wanted to know how it was played out. What would have been her countenance toward him after that evening? There seemed to be too many variables for him to settle it in his mind. Who gave her that advice? How did it spiral downward to the point that they each needed to apologize? She said she had been nervous to which he should have concluded on his own. He hoped the words would come when they were needed.

The next evening after seeing Miss Hale at work was his mother’s dinner party. He had invited Lenore instantly. Perhaps too quickly. She seemed to arrive when she was needed most. John mulled over what Higgins had said about this time in his life. He didn’t need or want a steady life of lust which it was, almost ten years before. She was caught with another man by him, after which she began seeing any Master that asked her out. Then she disappeared. What does one say to the other with a history the two had shared? He had no idea of what she expected of him. Where had she been all these years? Was she in any trouble? Was she financially solvent? Was she alone in the world? Had she never recovered from their youthful passion?

He was facing two critical days and was uneasy about both. A sound sleep still eluded him.

 

Higgins had spent the better part of Monday and Tuesday directing carpenters to remodel the back room. A window was added to the outside wall. Glass partitioning separated her office from theirs. They could see each other, but a worker needing a private conversation would feel it was private with her door being closed. He took delivery of several filing cabinets with the surety that he could return or replace them for Margarets needs. The cleaning ladies had scrubbed the furniture and floors, through the entire office and most of the paperwork and ledgers were within easy grasp. Hopefully, that would get her started on her own so she needn’t bother John.

 

Nicholas arrived early Wednesday morning only to find John in the office, pacing.

“What if you and I need to talk privately?”

“And good morning to you, too. How long have you been here?”

“What time is it?”

“7:30.”

“About two hours, I guess. So what do you think?”

“About our privacy?”

“Yes.”

“The only thing private that we rarely talk about are your lady friends. I think we can work around Miss Hale. We can test that room for sound or we wait until she is out of the office or we are at lunch.”

“Nicholas, I must have some words with Miss Hale after our first meeting. Settle her in and then leave for half an hour. I need to apologize somehow.”

“But I thought she was the one to apologize.”

“Not her alone as I now remember. If we are to work together, the air must be cleared.”

“I half expected you to say that. I will take Mill2 today after I get her situated.”

There was a knock on the office door, surprising both of them.

“Enter,” shouted Nicholas. “Good morning, Miss Hale. Please come in. I believe you are a bit early.”

“Good morning to you both. I am sorry. Being our first run today, Fred wasn’t sure how long it would take us.”

Nicholas suggested a chair in front of his desk for her to take.

“May I be allowed to take notes?”

“Yes, of course.” Nicholas disappeared to get her paper and pen.

She pulled her chair closer to the desk edge for a stable writing surface. She peeped at John, and he looked away quickly. “So, that’s how it’s going to be,” she said to herself. She removed her bonnet and asked John where she could place her basket and bonnet.”

“Anywhere you wish, Miss Hale. You may want to keep them in your room.” John said, finding his own chair.

“Here we are.” Nicholas set the pen and paper on his desk edge while Margaret disposed of her things.

John spoke first. “Miss Hale we do not wish for you to delve into serious matters this week. Take these next three days to get accustomed to this office, the mill and set your room any way you wish. Nicholas has made some changes in there. Please tell us what more you may need to do your job and  if you have enough light. Once it is set to your ways of organization, please give us a tour. I am sure all of our paperwork will be rearranged. Nicholas?”

“As you are here at this time, I assume you want to be at our morning meeting. We usually discuss what didn’t get accomplished yesterday, and priorities for today. We also talk about scheduling, deliveries, shipments, etc. Are you comfortable?”

“I am.”

“Then we shall begin. Please speak when you want to understand something or wish to participate.”

“Very well. I’m ready.”

Nicholas and John began their meeting while Margaret took copious notes in shorthand. Neither men could imagine what she was writing down. There was no information that related to her. In essence, Margaret was writing the notes to a meeting which she would encapsulate and place in a daily journal which could be read by either man.

“Miss Hale, may I see what you are writing there?” Asked John.

Margaret handed the paper to John, who studied it and then handed it to Nicholas.

“Is this some sort of language?”

“Yes.”

“And you do this, why?”

“I have written everything the two of you have said, but that was only for practice. At some point, I will know what is important and what isn’t. You will have a record of your conversations written down if you wish me to continue. It is most handy when you are discussing terms with anyone. Salary negotiations, price strategies, any notes from any meeting anywhere.”

“You will show us how that works, in the future sometime, will you not?”

“I will, but I will need a journal or two to be purchased.”

Nicholas made a note.

“Are we done, John?”

“Yes, for now. Show Miss Hale what you wanted to.”

 

Nicholas spent about half an hour introducing her to their document room. He pointed out what had been added for her and ask that she list any further needs.

“Thank you, Nicholas. I have plenty to get me started.”

“John will be here on the property today, but not always in this office. Please use the facilities at his home. Are there any questions.”

“Not yet. Thank you.”

“I will return for our afternoon meeting at 5:00 p.m. Have a good day.”

John sat at his desk, tapping his pencil on his desktop, pondering what he should say. Margaret was already busy drawing out a room of document retention. She had concluded that the accountants only saw the ledgers and never the invoices.

The door between the offices was open. She heard John call to her.

“Miss Hale, may I see you?”

Margaret stood facing him. “Yes, sir?”

John stood and brought the extra chair over to the side of his desk. “Please sit.”

John began to pace the room behind her. She didn’t turn her head to find him. Before he could begin, Margaret started a conversation.

“Mr. Thornton, if what you are about to say has anything to do with the Ball, it will not be necessary. I believe my note was clear to the point of why and how it happened. I am grateful that you still considered a position here for me. I am fortunate. As for your final words about pride, I’ve considered them self-preserving. I was justly reprimanded. I hope that clears the air between us, which I know is a concern of yours. It will in no way impact my dedication to this mill or this position. Will that be all?”

John felt like a certified ass. He sat back at his desk, looking in her direction. “May we speak of this for a few moments?”

Margaret saw those piercing eyes staring at her. “As you wish.” She could see her hands shaking a bit as they were folded in her lap. She looked down at them and not at him.

“I believe the words in your note. I find it almost incongruous that such a plan found it’s mark with me. Never have I been so blind-sided by such a tactic. Was the original plan to put me at ease, so I had no worries that you found favor with me.”

“It was.”

“But you said it went …” John pulled out the note from his inside pocket, refreshing his memory . . . sadly astray.”

John sat there quietly, looking for an answer.

“I’m sorry sir. Was there a question?”

“Exaggerated indifference?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Would you say that had it not been suggested to you, that your attitude towards me would not have been indifferent?”

Margaret was taken aback by that question. What was he getting at? Did he know he was asking her directly as to her interest in him?

“I believe the letter speaks for itself.”

John smiled.

Margaret wanted to melt through the cracks in the wood floor. Certainly, he couldn’t have figured it out.

“May I ask who’s advice you took?”

“No sir, you may not.”

“I believe it quite apparent to me, but I will leave it at that.” John, again, stood and paced behind her.

“Miss Hale, I am sorry for the situations that you were put through on my account. I can see that the intentions were far more honorable than they first appeared. I, too, must apologize for my comments about lifting you on the turns and carrying you around the room. Being your first evening in the company of men craving your attention, I can see why you had other things occupying your mind. As to my comment about seeking you out should I become too prideful, I am ashamed of that? You had twisted me into a knot by that time. That was very ungentlemanly of me to speak to you like that, not matter the reason. If it is amiable to you, can we put that behind us and begin again. I want to know you, I want you to work for me, I want us to get along. Can you see any other way to move forward?”

“It would relieve my mind immensely.”

“Then so be it. Is there anything you wish to say or ask about that night?” From behind, John could see she was nervous again. But she was holding up well.

“I don’t believe so, Mr. Thornton.”

“I thought we went over this once, call me John. You may call me Mr. Thornton in the presence of our subordinates or the Queen,” he laughed loudly.

Margaret finally found a smile that had been lost for days.

 

Little was said between them for the rest of the day. Margaret busied herself all day, making the room her own, but organized for a man to find his way around. She was bent over placing papers in a lower drawer when there was a tapping on her shoulder. Thinking she was alone, she let out a small scream of shock.

“Fred! What are you doing here?”

“What do you mean? Have you planned on spending the night?”

“What time is it?”

“It’s after 5:00 p.m. You didn’t say when to pick you up.”

“After 5:00? I didn’t even have lunch. Let me tidy my desk and collect my things.”

“Sure looks nice in here.” Fred heard voices coming through the door. It was Higgins and Thornton.

“Good day, gentlemen. I have come to retrieve my wicked sister.”

“Fred!”

“She is not wicked, she is just innocent.” The words surprised everyone, even John, who had said them.

“Mr. Thornton, I am trying to break her of the habit, but it’s slow going. She certainly has had a lot of questions since I returned. Poor lass.”

“Fred! Let’s go before I can no longer hold my head up.”

All the men laughed, and Margaret pulled her brother through the office door. John walked to the window and watched them leave. He stood there for a few moments, in thought.

“Words went well I hope,” asked Nicholas.

“Yes, quite well, I think. I believe the air is cleared.”

 

“Alright, sis. Tell me all about it.”

“I don’t know about that. You’re liable to let out all the family secrets. That was a bit embarrassing back there. Let me rein.”

Fred handed the reins to Margaret. “They know I mean to educate you.”

“But still…I don’t want them thinking I need education in that regard.”

“Why not?”

“I’m going to have to get out the woman’s handbook and teach you a thing or two.”

“I would like that.”

“I just bet you would.”

“Fair is fair, isn’t it.”

“Listen, brother, you were the one that felt I needed to learn a few things about men. You jumped all over me as I was watching Mr. Thornton.”

“Staring.”

“Alright, I was staring; completely innocent in my mind. I didn’t come asking for the way to a man’s heart. You took on that mantle, yourself. I do admit I appreciate it, but I can’t tell you what women want when I haven’t experienced it as you have.”

“I sent Bessie a note today. I asked to see her tomorrow. Her parents will be out when you are, dining at Thorntons.”

“And she agreed?”

“I haven’t had a reply yet. She is of age, you know.”

“I do know. Just don’t go counting on that to suddenly begin. I would think she has to ease into that. She needs to give her parents some time to adjust and feel confident she makes the proper choices.”

 

John arrived home to find the house filled with maids, scurrying around the house.

“I’m sorry, John. I thought they would be done before you came home. Do you mind a sandwich in the kitchen?”

He could see the dining table was in the midst of preparation. Before he could answer there was a light knock on the front door, barely overheard above the din. He answered the door himself and found it was Lenore.

“Did you get your days confused, Lenore? Come in. The dinner party is tomorrow evening.”

“Yes, I know. I came to ask a question.”

John thought, now was a time to see what he had revived while no one else was watching. “Have you eaten?”

“No, but…”

“Come on. We’ll take your carriage. I am hungry, and the house is upside down.” John took her hand and pulled her to the coach.

“Milton Meals Café,” he told the driver.

“John, I may not be dressed properly.”

“It doesn’t matter in this place. What was the question you wanted to ask?”

“How formal is the dress?”

“Mother would call it formal. No long formal gowns, if you don’t have one. A nice frock is all you need.”

John tried to look at her in the street lighting. He was anxious to know what rath may lie ahead. He had remembered the problems he’d had ten years, ago, too. The buggy stopped, and John exited first. Lenore followed.

“John, I think you’ve grown taller, still. Have you?”

“I have no idea. As long as I was tall enough, I stopped worrying about it.” John opened the door to the café. A waitress showed them to a table and asked what they wished to drink. John looked at Lenore.

“White wine.”

“Bring the bottle, please,” John replied.

“Very good, sir. If you care to look at our menu on that slate board, I will take your orders soon.”

“This is some joint you brought me to.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said, this is some joint here.”

“Would you rather we go somewhere else?”

“No, I am sure the food is edible.”

“I can tell you it is home-cooked meals. I have found a liking for such simple tastes. What have you been doing? Did you ever marry?” John asked.

“The reason I was taken away was that my parents needed to marry me into a family fortune near Paris. No titles, of  course, but there is land. You remember how we were,” she smiled. “It seems my new husband of fifty-eight years didn’t have your stamina. I think my parents counted on that.”

“Are you saying . . .”

“Yes, I am. I was sold to him, so to speak, when the will was drawn up. The money was nice while he lived, but I hated the lying to him. He was a nice old man. I didn’t know exactly what was in the will, but I know his grown children didn’t approve of me. They kicked me out when he died. I took the money I had and the jewels I had been given and left. What my parents did about the will, I don’t know. But I only have a father, sister and a brother, now, and father has no money and less memory. Unfortunately, he only has a few lucid times, so I never heard the whole story.”

“Did you come home then?”

“No. I was still young and . . .”

The waitress appeared for their order.

“I had a little money and still some prestige, so I pushed my luck that it might happen again without my parents this time.”

John was finding it hard to believe. She had taken her passion and turned it into a way of life for gain. He listened about her next husband, too. He was upset with himself at how he reacted too quickly to his memories without giving them due thought. There was dinner tomorrow night and nothing would proceed from there although he did offer advice on living quarters. He couldn’t wait to go home. Finally, the bill was settled and the coach was headed home. He made his apologies that he had to help his mother tonight, paid the coachman for all the time they had used and to take her home, plus the tip. “I’ll see you tomorrow night, Lenore, 8:00 p.m.”

When he arrived at the dining room, the maids had gone. He looked at the table and in his mind saw, his mother, Fanny, Anne, Adam’s guest and Lenore, Slickson – each with their partners. He couldn’t remember if Slickson was bringing a guest or not.

“Mother?” He shouted.

“I’m down here with cook.”

John took the stairs to the kitchen.

“You know I’ve been thinking about that woman you invited. Now, I remember her. I don’t like it.”

“I’ve come ahead of time to apologize. I spoke too quickly in inviting her and do not have a good feeling about it. It will not reflect on you, I promise.”

“I don’t care about me. So, you feel you are in error?”

“I do.”

“That’s all I need to know. I’m just glad you have reconsidered taking to her again.”

“I have.”

“Good.”

 

It had been many days since Margaret had a restful night. Her position with John was not where her heart had wanted to be, but she was given a chance to explain, and it was accepted. In the end, she did nothing more than show her own ignorance.

At the breakfast table, Fred asked her if Thornton knew she was attending the dinner.

“I have no idea. He has not said a word about it to me. In fact, it seems as if they are sparing me the embarrassment of not being invited, by not mentioning it between them. It doesn’t  matter, Fred. I am done with silly girl games. I wouldn’t have thought I ever could allow myself such folly, but I didn’t know about the emotional investment that one can garner for another when it is not returned. Have you ever been in love, Fred with someone who doesn’t see you?”

“I don’t think men miss many women that look like you unless they have another woman on their arm. Looking is much different than pursuing. Women could never stand up to constant rejection that men receive all the time. It becomes a way of life, and we cheer each other on when we find success. And success does not mean a successful relationship.”

“You’re back to that need thing again?”

“Yes and no. When young men get together, that is all they talk about. It is so much on their minds, and they share success stories. That’s how we have had to learn about women. What is proper never enters into it. What works is mostly the topics of conversation, but men also brag to one another. You can tell if a man is a gentleman and has actually fallen in love, as he ceases to speak of his prowess. That is the one shining manner we all do seem to keep and that is any personal information about our lady of interest is kept to ourselves. You haven’t given up on Thornton have you?”

“I don’t know. I think I have because I have burnt that little bridge we talked about. My good first impression is lost forever with him. I just hope these feelings abate or I may not be able to continue to work there. It will hurt seeing another woman coming into the office looking for him. I will just need to see how much I can bear.”

“It’s time I take you to the bear’s den,” Fred smiled.

 

 

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C20

Chapter Twenty

 

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Adam Bell escorted Bessie from her door to his carriage. Upon entering, she sat next to Margaret and they began holding hands as if to bolster each other’s courage of their anticipated experience. As Adam looked on at the two lovely young ladies, he began to feel very old. They were giggling and whispering as young women often do.

“I hope to have the pleasure of at least one dance with each of you, this evening,” Adam said, bringing their child-like giddiness to a close.

“We shall put you on our dance card, Mr. Bell,” Margaret laughed.

“What’s a dance card?” Bessie asked.

Margaret explained the function of the dance card if one were well-known and popular enough to need one. “Mostly used by hostesses and debutants and wealthy ladies of means who were still single,” Margaret said.

“So what do men do? How do they remember who they asked for which dance?”

“Bessie, I don’t rightly know.” They both looked at Adam for some clarification.

“I will tell you the little I know because most men just remember and usually ask one dance after the next. But, there are, and we may see them this evening, dance cards for men. They are handed to people as they enter. If it’s a couple, the gentleman will fill out both cards, his and the woman he escorted, leaving her a few free entries to accept other offers. However, for men and women without a partner, they will fill out their own. The gentleman may fill him out ahead of time in hopes of being accepted. The lady does not fill hers out at all. If she accepts the offer to dance, she hands the gentleman her card, and he fills in his name. There, you have all I know.”

“I think we can get by with that. Bessie, on the dances that we don’t dance, we will fill in a name, any name, so a real offering doesn’t see an empty card.” Margaret and Bessie broke out in giggles. Adam had to smile. He had always been intrigued with the wiles of women.

As they entered the circular drive at the courthouse, many carriages were lined up waiting for their passengers to be exited from their coach. “Ladies, there will be valets to exit you from the carriage tonight. It saves time waiting for me to get out first. So, when the door opens, just take the hand extended to you.”

“We’re so glad to have you with us, Adam. You shall teach us much tonight.”

“Yes, I am sure of that,” Bessie added. “I imagine father will travel the tables as he has mentioned doing in the past. Same with Mr. Thornton. Oh, my heavens! In all this excitement, I forgot to tell you the news.”

“What Bessie? What news?

“I know little and not why, but Mr. Thornton and his lady friend have parted ways, permanently.”

Adam watched closely at Margaret’s face, hearing this. There was a slight change and then a quick recovery.

“Does that mean anything to you, Margaret?” he asked.

“It may have a week ago, but Fred’s made me realize the faults I have started out doing. Apparently, he says my innocence is there for all to see. He says any initiation by the lady is very improper. I still argue with him that I was not initiating anything. I did have little hope there, the first time I saw Mr. Thornton at the Lyceum, but that was childish and immature thinking on my part.”

“Margaret,” said Bessie, “don’t abandon all hope, especially now.”

“May I make a comment? Asked Adam.

“Yes, please do.”

“I’ve known Thornton a long time. I have been witness to many calculating females trying to find his favor. I gave up long ago wondering what he’s waiting for and I still don’t know. But what I do know and respect that man for, is that no one will shoe-horn him into a position he isn’t comfortable being in, whether it be business, meetings, or magistratical matters. It just may be the same with his emotions and women. As you see this man is handsome, becoming wealthy has gained great admiration that any woman would most likely use whatever she could think of to attract him. He is far too smart for that.”

“Are you listening to what the man says, Margaret?” Bessie laughed.

“I hear what he says but having no experience had little understanding of it all.”

“Mr. Bell, if you were Margaret and wanted to catch Mr. Thornton’s attention, what would you do?”

“Bessie! Please don’t ask such a question. It is no one’s business and certainly not mine. I have no interest in anyone. I am a blank slate starting tonight.”

“Bessie,” Adam said in answer to her question, “if I were a young woman, I would start by ignoring the man. Eventually, he will become conscious of the fact that a particularly young and pretty woman has not sought any attention from him, and just may find her a mystery. He could be grateful, or he could be intrigued. I cannot say. I just feel it has never been tried on him that I know of.”

“Bessie, you have my permission to try your best,” said a downcast but brave Margaret.

“I see we are here. Are we ready ladies. Tonight is the beginning of your adult lives.”

The coach door opened, and a hand was extended.

 

Adam and the ladies looked up the wide spiral staircase as it rose another two levels from the first. It was a bit daunting to Margaret and Bessie but seeing the sights and hearing the sounds echo throughout the marble walls was just short of intoxicating. Adam stood behind them and let the two young women chatter back and forth. There was much talk and pointing out of gowns and jewelry. There were many gentleman peacocks Margaret told Bessie and heard Adam laughing behind her.

“Look, Bessie, over there. No, over there,” Margaret turned Bessie in a different direction. She knew pointing was improper. That man has more frills on his cravat than any of my dresses.” They both giggled. “There is a nice assortment of dyed beaver top hats. I haven’t seen many hats of color here in Milton until tonight. The men and ladies are in their finery.”

“And are we not the same, Margaret?” Bessie smiled.

“The ladies still don’t hold a candle to London fashions. I believe I am pleased about that.”

Although it began to get tiring, the slow walk to the top, it was still an eye opener for both Bessie and Margaret. It was a real Ball, alright. Finally, making their way through the arched doorway into the banquet hall, Adam walked ahead of them to explain who they were. Nicholas Higgins appeared at the door about the same time and spoke with the admitting attendants.

“I’ve been watching for you folks. Follow me. I’ll show you where we are sitting. With John Thornton at our table, we are in a fairly prominent position.”

As they arrived, they were introduced to Fanny and Master Watson, along with banker John Latimer and his single daughter, Anne. Greetings were made, and all sat down. John Thornton came to the table to greet them but did not sit. He hadn’t thought to see Miss Latimer but was happy to see Bessie and Margaret.

Apologizing for being away from the table for a while, John Thornton left, taking Margaret’s breath with him. She was almost overcome with the majestic splendor of the tall man in his black tails. No frills or ruffled sleeves. He was immaculately understated in his fine linen eveningwear. He dressed as he lived, she thought. He was a quiet, unassuming man that threw a great shadow. She wondered how he ever thought he could hide in public. The cut of his clothes stood out and spoke volumes about his attitude towards life. Margaret wondered if anyone else saw what she was seeing. Watching him move among the tables and speak with various men, Margaret could see the admiration they had for him and his humility in the face of it. Margaret knew at  that instant that he was the man in her life forever. Nothing had struck her with such significance as those first few minutes at the Ball.

Bessie leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Come back, Margaret.”

Margaret snapped out of her dream and turned to look at Bessie.

“Margaret, I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re starring again.”

“I know. My God, I can’t help myself. He’s a vision. I should never have come.”

“I can certainly understand that tonight. But if you look around, there are many more like you.”

Adam, only hearing of Margaret’s side of the conversation asked, “Do you feel you need to go home, Margaret?”

“Oh, Adam. Did you hear what we were talking about?”

“Only a little and only you. You must get ahold of yourself.”

“I know. I know that all too well, right at this moment. Please take me home if I start to embarrass myself. I’ve come face to face with something very new and different in my life, and it just happened now. I have lost all fortitude. I am ashamed that you should see me this way. You or anyone.”

“Margaret, you may feel very different right now, but it is not showing very much on the outside, at least, not for what it seems to be.”

“Do you know what is happening to me?”

“I believe you are falling in love, real love.”

“Does it feel like this? This is awful. I’m shaking inside, my knees are jittery. I can’t catch my breath. If I stand, I shall faint as I have lost all strength. I think my slippers are somewhere under the table. I’m not sure I still have them.”

“Margaret, you do bring back wonderful memories of the woman I once loved. She remarked to me later as you just have and I hadn’t even noticed her yet. Someday this love may be reciprocated. I think you will dissolve then.” Adam laughed.

“No. No, that can’t happen. Oh, I can’t stand feeling this helpless. Can we sit somewhere else?”

“If you wish. There is no assigned seating.” Adam walked over and had a brief chat with Nicholas and Bessie. He returned, took Margaret politely by the arm and moved to the next table where she could still talk with Bessie but not have to look at John.

“What did they say, Adam?”

“Nothing really. I am sure Bessie knows what’s going on and she will most likely explain it to her father. She’s right behind you and to the side a bit. You two can still talk.”

“No. Never mind. I will go back to the table and find my courage and the mature woman that I am.”

“Are you sure?”

“No, but I am going anyway. You just get me out of here if I begin any strange behavior.”

Nicholas and Bessie smiled as Margaret returned to the table. She was sure the other two couples at the table thought her very odd.

“Margaret, the seat next to me is empty. I am sure John will sit there, and you will hardly be able to see him unless you lean forward and hunt for him. I think you will make it.”

Margaret heard a loud gavel sound and the room quieted. Not very far from their table, John was standing at a podium opening the festivities. Margaret took the time to look around the room at the people watching him. She didn’t listen to what he was saying. She only saw starry-eyed women gazing at him and men applauding. Before she knew it, Adam was pulling her to the dance floor.

“Why, Mr. Bell, is this your dance?” She asked jokingly. She lifted her dance card, and his name was listed at the top.

“When did you do that?”

“During John’s speech. He was brilliant as usual, although you did not hear a word he said.”

A minute of dancing elapsed when Margaret spoke, “You dance quite well, Mr. Bell.”

“The life of academe insinuates many Balls in its wake of the profession. I had to learn out of necessity.”

“Don’t most men learn out of necessity? It seems as beginner’s, men are quite averse to the spectacle of dancing. But finding a little confidence brings them great pleasure eventually.”

“And there’s the rub. No confidence in themselves. Take Mr. Thornton . . .” Adam felt Margaret’s knees fell her for a moment and he caught her. “As I was saying, that man over there, that Mr. X, has found the necessity in his own profession if you can believe that. He took lessons and is as graceful as a man can possibly be.”

“Why would a mill master learn to dance?”

“In Mr. X’s case, he attends many meetings in other counties. He teaches to the masses on trips. For them, it seems a big event, and usually, some banquet affair is always planned at the end.”

When the third dance came, Bessie saw a hand in front of her while someone asked, “May I have this dance?”

She turned to see who was asking her and it was Fredrick, dressed in his dress uniform. He was broadly smiling as Bessie looked up into his face.

“Fred, … I … ah … how did you get in?” She asked as she stood.

Fred led her to the dance floor and placed his arm around her. “I still had my naval officer dress uniform, and there were no questions at the door. In fact, I think whoever may have been there having left. It was no problem. Are you surprised?”

“Am I surprised? I don’t know what to say, but I am happy to see you here. I’ll have to have a talk with Margaret for not telling me.”

“She didn’t know either. Do you think she could keep that a secret? In fact, I didn’t know until a couple of hours ago myself. You look extremely beautiful tonight.”

“I don’t know what to say, but thank you.”

Adam, Margaret, and Nicholas looked on and watched the two dance and smile at each other.

“Isn’t that beautiful, Margaret?” Adam asked.

“They both look very happy. I feel like I am intruding on their privacy as I watch them. It is beautiful.”

Margaret saw a gentleman speak into Nicholas’s ear for a moment. Nicholas shrugged his shoulders but seem to agree.

“Margaret, my I introduce you to Mill Master Brentstone. He wished to ask for a dance with you, but he needed an introduction first. The choice is yours, but I can tell you he is an honorable man.”

Margaret quickly looked at Adam, who nodded consent. She looked back at the man who was holding out his hand for her dance card. Margaret began to put her hand in his when Adam placed her dance card in his palm. Brentstone wrote his name on her card and then took her hand to the dance floor. As the two walked off, Nicholas and Adam were grinning to each other. Margaret returned looking for her dance slippers.

 

Master Brentstone placed his hand in the middle of Margaret’s back and began the beautiful waltz.

“It’s Miss Hale, isn’t it?”

“Yes. You look a little familiar. Were you attending the budget lessons?”

“I was. I have been waiting to hear a word from you. I believe you offered help to those that asked for it. Is that still true?”

“Oh, yes. You should be receiving your note on Monday, I should think.”

“Very good. I have been waiting to meet you. I was surprised to see you here this evening. I believe that is Mr. Bell you are with, but I didn’t know him well enough to ask for an introduction. I hope you don’t mind how I circumvented the customary politeness of introductions.” He smiled.

“I believe that level of politeness lies within the society circles in London. Are you from that area, Master Brentstone?”

“Please call me, William. I was brought up under those customs but being the second son was entitled to little and have made my way through my education and business venture. Milton suits me rather well. Tell me about yourself.”

As the two danced, Margaret began to relax with this handsome blond man of average stature. He was dressed neatly, danced and spoke well. She couldn’t tell if his eyes were blue or green. Margaret spoke briefly about her life, thinking he was just offering a politeness to speak of herself. Before the dance was over, the conversation had progressed into an offer for another dance and a dinner in the future. Margaret started to feel a bit of her fortitude returning. Confidence, could it be far behind?

As they left the dance floor, William wondered who the officer was that had attended. Margaret was proud to say that was her brother who had come to dance with Nicholas Higgins’ daughter.

“Your brother?”

“Yes, but he has recently left the military, well almost. He is now living with my father and myself.”

“I should like to meet him in the future. He appears about my age.”

As Margaret was being seated by William Brentstone, he took her gloved hand and kissed the back of it. He picked up her dance card and wrote his name further down the list that Margaret noticed had grown long.

“Thank you, William. I shall be honored.”

“The honor is mine, dear lady,” he said turning and walking away.

With the arrival of Fred and wanting to sit next to Bessie, the seating had changed. Margaret now found herself next to the empty chair.

“I’m sorry, Margaret. I was out voted on the seating.”

“I understand. But what has happened to my dance card?”

“It seems once you were on the floor several men that Nicholas or we both new came to ask for a dance. We let them pencil themselves in. This is your night to shine, my dear. It’s like a coming-out party for you.”

Margaret looked down the list and noticed John Thornton in two different slots.

Adam noticed Margaret tapping her finger on his name as if she was wondering if she could do it.

“Margaret he put his name there. He didn’t ask. He seemed disturbed when you were on the floor when he came to ask you.”

“Really? Disturbed? Good! He needs to feel disturbed like I have been.”

“Did we have a nice time with Master Brentstone?” Adam chuckled.

“We will talk later. I see my next gentleman is approaching. Who will introduce me?”

Adam had to smile inside as her countenance had changed entirely. Men were noticing her allurement, she felt feminine and wanted. Adam could almost see the layers of self-doubts begin to peel away.

 

There were two dances left before the dinner was served. John was the last of the first half. When she returned to the table where she had an open slot, John Thornton was sitting there.

“Good evening, Miss Hale. It has taken all this evening to greet you. You are most popular on the floor tonight. You are also most beautiful tonight.”

“Thank you, Mr. Thornton.”

“Remember, my name is John.”

“Yes, yes. I’m sorry.”

“Are you still Margaret or have I done something to displease you?”

“Yes, I am Margaret.” She couldn’t help noticing that her brother, Bessie, and Adam were nonchalantly glancing her way. Her stomach was getting nervous. “Could you tell me where the … a…”

“Out through the arches and make a right.”

“Thank you. Bessie?”

Bessie knew it was coming and she was ready to accompany Margaret.

With the Watson’s dancing that only left Anne Latimer sitting amongst the men as her father was visiting the masters.

John asked her to dance. It was their second dance.

 

“Bessie, can you believe what is happening to us tonight?”

“I had dreamt of dancing with Fred at the Ball, and he shows up. Are you sure you didn’t know?”

“Of course not. I would have been too happy for you to keep it a secret. How does he dance? More yet, how does he treat you, speak to you? I want to know about my brother.”

“I think we will have to postpone most of it since we only have a few minutes in here, but it is all good. Your brother is the gentleman you’ve never seen. He’s very generous with his compliments. And you? They’re coming out of the woodwork for you. You don’t know how many we’ve had to turn away and John saw that, too. He looks lost. I almost feel sorry for him. I’ve spotted him on the dance floor and believe he’s been looking for you.”

“Stop it, Bessie. Don’t say anymore, please. I had a hard time at the beginning of the evening. I wanted to go home. I think I’ve gotten myself in hand. Don’t put any hope in my mind. I’m looking down a new path right now. Are you going to pee or talk?” Margaret laughed to lighten the moment.

They stayed and talked for another five minutes and upon exiting found Fred waiting outside the ladies.

“Fred, what are you doing here?”

“You are never permitted to be alone. That is in the gentleman handbook.”

“Well, why didn’t you come inside?” Margaret asked her brother as she laughed.

“Only if we hear scuffling or screams are we permitted through those doors.”

“You’re not my brother. What have you done with him?”

Smiling, “Bessie put her arm through Fred’s, and he extended his other arm for his sister, and they returned in time for the next dance.

 

 

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C18

Available at Amazon

Chapter Eighteen

 

John had been having a long talk with Nicholas when Fred Hale knocked on his office door and entered.

“Fred, I can guess why you are here. I believe I have everything under control. I am so sorry for what your sister had to endure from the Captain, but he knows where he stands now. I hope you can control your temper and not do anything that would get you into trouble legally.”

Branson had parked the carriage and followed behind Fred.

“Mr. Thornton, I have asked Branson to be here to witness what I am about to say. Sir, you are a gentleman and should another incident like last night happen, I wish a driver to spread the word about him, where you may wish to handle things privately. That man is a libertine and deserves no quarter. I thought the name Waverly was memorable to me, but I only knew of a Captain Christopher Waverly, not someone named Kit.”

“I think we should all sit-down,” John said. “You know more about this man?”

“Much more, sir,” Fred spoke for the next half hour on all the news he could impart on the Captain. He included the good with the bad and what was rumored to be true, and what was truly known – such as the court case.

“It is only by the grace of my sister, and her assurance that you became involved, that I am not at his door with my pistol. My sister was shaken only slightly when she returned last night, and she is fine this morning. Of course, that is all on the surface. However, she begs me not to seek revenge in her honor and I am being forced to concede to her wishes. I did tell her that I would let you know what I know. That is all I have to say.”

“Do you have further information about his family?”

“If you mean Miss Waverly, I do not. I’m sorry. Also, I should tell you that she told our father that she had a fine evening, so he knows nothing about what happened. As much as she was looking forward to it, she is home now reconsidering if she will go to the ball. She assumes the Captain would be at the same table.”

“I will see to it that his invitation is revoked. I promise her, he will not be there. I will take care of that this morning.”

“Thank you. She will be relieved to hear that. If I can be of any further help, please, please let me help. Branson and I shall leave you and go purchase our horse and buggy.”

“Fred if you could hold on for a bit, I want Branson to take me to see the Captain now. You may ride on the top with him, but I wish you not to enter the home. Let me handle it. I fear you may find yourself in jail.”

“Let’s go, sir.”

“Good luck, John,” Nicholas stated as they left.

 

Branson brought the carriage to a stop at the Waverly home. John fitted his top hat as he strode to the front door.

“Please come in, Mr. Thornton,” said the housemaid.

“I would prefer to see the Captain outside if he doesn’t mind.”

“Please wait here. I will ask him.”

Branson and Fred were eagerly waiting to see why John did not enter. The door opened, and Kit came out still slipping on his coat.

Fred started down the wheel, and Branson restrained him.

No one could hear what the two were saying, but John was doing most of the talking. It wasn’t long before Adeline opened the front door, hearing the commotion outside.

John tipped his hat to her and returned to the carriage, never speaking to her. John entered the coach and Branson pulled away.

“Branson, what was that all about being outside?”

“My master does that when a possible fight could break out, or he does not want his lady to overhear the conversation. I would think both were reasons this time. I am sure he was successful because he wouldn’t have left until he was.”

Coming to a halt, Fred jumped down to speak with Mr. Thornton.

“Fred, it is all settled. I believe he is packing his bags at this moment. When I began to mention a few of the vulgarities that you mentioned, he had no response. He said he would save himself further embarrassment and move on.”

“Thank you, Mr. Thornton. I sure wanted a piece of him.”

“I know. Gentlemen do try to resolve issues without fists, but sometimes it is necessary. And one more piece of advice. Unless you become a cabby that carries money and fine people, don’t tote the pistol around that I see in your trousers,” John smiled, then climbed the stairs to his office.

“Branson, can we ride by my home so I can put my sister’s mind at ease?”

 

The post came.

“Bessie, you have a letter,” Peggy called up the steps.

“I do?” Bessie replied as she scurried down the steps. “Who would send me a letter. I can talk to everyone I know.” She ripped the note open and saw it was from Fred. Her face reddened. Peggy asked her who it was from.

“Fred. It’s from Fred.” Bessie let the back door slam closed as she hurried to the iron bench in Peggy’s small garden. She turned her back to the house.

 

Miss Higgins, dear Bessie …

 

Had I known you were visiting, you would not have found me in the state that you did. I seemed to embarrass you. For that, I am sorry. However, I only heard a brief few words that you spoke to my sister, and I was quite complimented. I’ve heard that many times in my head since you ran off. My sister seems to believe you will not forgive me. I tease my sister often, but if I am honest, I made that statement for you. I wanted you to know that I had heard you. I hope you saw the smile and how pleased I was to hear that.

In this note, I want to impart my wishes to see you again and as often as you wish it. If I have burned my bridge, I have lost something dear I had hoped to cultivate. If you permit me, I will apologize in person, but privately. I am very poor at writing letters so you will forgive me for what I should be saying but haven’t. I wait with a great interest in your feelings on this.

                                          I live in hope,

Fredrick Hale

 

Bessie let the happy tears fall where they would. The embarrassment that she had felt that day was ebbing slowly, but this note would hasten that uncomfortable feeling. Bessie decided to go see Margaret since Fred was out getting his horse.

Dixon showed her in just as Fred returned to tell Margaret that the Captain would be leaving Milton.

Fred noticed Bessie’s carriage outside and immediately became nervous. He opened the door and saw Bessie waiting at the staircase. Her head was bent.

“Bessie! I had not expected you. I just returned home to speak with Margaret. I am sure she will tell you all about last night. I am here to assuage her worries. I take it you received my note?”

Hesitantly Bessie stuttered, “I felt it was more than just a note.” She couldn’t lift her head and look at him.

“I cannot tell from that answer where I stand with my apology. I was most pleased to overhear your comment, but I was an idiot teasing you two about it. Have I dissolved our beginning friendship?”

“No …” she was interrupted and all the gladder for it. It was still hanging out there.

“Bessie! So glad you’re here. Fred, did you retrieve the horse yet?”

“No. I came back to tell you that John went to the Captain’s sister’s home just a bit ago and had a talk with him outside. He believes the Captain is packing to leave Milton. He will not be there tomorrow night.”

“Oh, thank you, Fred. Bessie, you don’t know how close I came to not going tomorrow night.”

“I will leave you ladies to your gowns. I hope to speak with you soon, Bessie.” Fred looked at her expectant of an answer, but none came. He left the house.

“I see you two are talking or am I wrong?” asked Margaret.

Bessie handed her the note.

“Let’s go to my room.” Margaret read it twice. “My brother never ceases to amaze me. I would not have thought he had the capacity to write such a nice note. Do you think it’s nice?”

Bessie threw her arms around Margaret. “I think it is the nicest words I have ever heard.”

“Did you tell him?”

“No, not entirely. You came down the steps. I was fumbling for words, and I was glad to see you,” Bessie smiled. “So what happened last night with your dinner?”

Margaret told her the whole story as she knew, but John had done much that she was not aware of. “It sounds like John has kicked him out of Milton.”

“I wonder how Miss Waverly will take that? Which man will she sacrifice in her heart?”

“Oh, Bessie, you would bring that up. Well, it doesn’t matter. Tomorrow night our social lives begin anew. I just hope we get asked to dance. Your father and John can introduce us to nearly everyone who would come asking.”

“John? You’re calling him, John, now?” Bessie grinned.

“At the dinner, it was agreed that we all use first names. As for tomorrow night, I doubt I will do that in front of others unless he does.”

“I think that is quite a step forward.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know anyone besides my father, his mother and Miss Waverly that he allows to call him John.”

“I suppose all the ladies that he’s attended eventually called him by his name, don’t you think?”

“You are probably right.”

“Don’t get me excited like that,” Margaret said. “So you are ready with your apparel?”

“Yes. How about you?”

“I don’t have much in the way of jewelry. I believe Father put my mother’s pieces in a box at the bank. I don’t know if it comes to me or it’s there for our old ages. I have a pearl drop and earbobs to match. That will have to do.”

“I am the same. Not much for me either. We never had money before, and jewelry for me hasn’t been thought by anyone.”

“I guess our jewels will be our young innocent faces.” They both laughed.

Dixon knocked on the door. “Mr. Bell to see you, Miss Margaret.”

“Tell him, I’ll be right down. Bessie, do you know Mr. Bell?”

“Not well. I believe I saw him at the lesson. I’ve heard father speak of him. An older man, isn’t he?”

“Yes, but he will ask us to dance. So don’t worry about sitting there like a wallflower.”

“I guess I had better go meet him.”

 

Night had fallen, and Richard Hale had retired early, and Margaret found Fred outside brushing his new horse, Max.

“How are you getting along with Max?” Margaret asked.

“He’s perfect. Nice and gentle, strong, healthy, he seems. Branson did well. He showed me how to check his shoes and many other things this afternoon.”

“Can Max have an apple?” One appeared in Margaret’s opened palm.

“As long as it isn’t green.” Fred took it from her hand. “Here you go, fella. Margaret brought you a treat.”

The horse slowly gathered it out of Fred’s hand.

“Bessie showed me your note to her, this morning?”

“She did? Do women usually share those things?”

“Actually, never, I don’t think. Perhaps it was her gushing excitement that allowed her to do it this one time. I knew what you might mean to her one day, but your silly remark the other day gave her doubts about your maturity.”

“She said that, did she?” Fred squatted and starting brushing Max’s legs.

“Not in so many words, at least nothing about the maturity. I saw that and felt she saw the same thing. You should have just enjoyed that and went on. You wrote that you wanted her to know you said that? Teach me something. Why? Why did you want her to know you heard her?”

“I … I … I’m not sure a woman would understand. It’s very subtle. I was fairly far away, and we weren’t alone. If you can understand that, I felt the same way, too. I wanted to reflect her words back to her as if coming from me. I wasn’t belittling you for not hearing me. I only hope she saw the smile on my face when I said that. It’s almost something having to be read between the lines. Do you understand.”

“No.”

“That’s good. Men don’t like being that clear about things at the beginning of what may become an important part of their life. That won’t show any emotional investment. Understand now?”

“I don’t think so. You’re making my head hurt. Anyway, that was a beautiful note any woman would love to receive. I didn’t know you were capable of that.”

“It seems we both grew up while I was away.”

“Can I ask you something and you won’t get mad?”

Fred reached behind Margaret for the small saddle. He wanted to fit it to the horse. “Yes, you know you can ask me anything.”

“But how about not getting mad at me?”

“You don’t miss a thing, do you? Go on. I promise. Do sound effects count?” He laughed.

“The other day when I saw John Thornton, and he was feeling coerced into asking me to be introduced to the Captain, and although he knew I was not in favor of it, I did say it had collateral benefits.”

“Collateral benefits? What did you mean by that? It’s usually collateral damage.”

“Is that similar to what you did with Bessie?”

“Collateral benefits! Oh, I think I get it. You meant because Mr. Thornton was going to be there, too?”

“That’s what I meant. I don’t know why I said it. It was far too bold. Do you think he understood it that way? I’m almost too embarrassed to think he did.”

“There seems to be no stopping you, sister. Of course, he figured out what you meant. That was a dangerous thing to do, just as I did. You took that chance of driving a wedge into their new friendship. Most likely, he thought the vague words were cute, but he would ignore them and go on, thinking about your maturity.” Fred smirked.

“You have told me how worthless your quest is; you should give up, but still you go on. You can’t love him, you know. You don’t even know what that feels like.”

“How will I know if I love him?”

“Oh, you’ll know. There is no mistaking it.”

“Do I look for any signs of encouragement or rejection?”

“If he truly is in love with Miss Waverly, you’ll become a hovering pest, and he may frown a lot when you speak to him. He will not seek you. He will not open a conversation with you unless it is necessary. Actually, he’s such an example of a true gentleman, I believe he acts that same way to everyone; pest or lover.”

“Big help that was.”

“That’s what I mean when I say you don’t know love.”

“And you do?”

“I know more than you, and inside I have expectations that I’ve never had before. It’s growing all the time.”

“So what should I do about Mr. Thornton. Would you try to steal another man’s lady if you loved her?”

“You can’t steal another’s love. The only thing is to recognize when he finally understands your interest and what his subsequent mannerisms toward you become. But, Margaret, you’ve bumped your head against that wall several times now. The next time may result in damage.”

“I see. I guess I just have to wait and see.”

“If you really do love him, it won’t leave you, Go on with other requests for your company. The comparisons will do you good. He’ll find you if you’re the one or the next one.”

“That doesn’t sound nice.”

“We’re men. We can’t help it. We don’t like being alone.”

“I still have an outstanding meeting with him about employment. That should probably come early next week. I am sure some of the Masters that were interested in more than I had to say will be at the ball. They will probably bring it up. I’ll have to tell them it will be next week before I can visit with them.”

“And I will be your driver and protector,” Fred smiled. “I shall practice this weekend and be ready by Monday.”

 

Margaret had stood before her dressing mirror before she put on her night shift. John was tall, Adeline was taller than her. She couldn’t compete in clothes, jewelry, or finishing manners. If anything, her studies had been very unfeminine and may shame a suitable husband. She had no money, which John didn’t need, but Miss Waverly’s interest was not monetary, and he knew that. That was probably a consideration he likely gave pause to reflect upon. Staring into the looking glass, her figure was passable. She didn’t know what men really looked for in that regard. She’d have to ask Fred. “Tomorrow night and the dinner at Mrs. Thornton’s would put an end to wondering what to do.”

 

There was a knock on the door which Adeline’s housemaid answered.

John was admitted and asked to wait while Miss Waverly was called. He heard nor saw the Captain.

“John. This is a surprise.”

“I’m sorry for not letting you know ahead of time. It was a last minute decision to visit you. I feel I have some explaining to do. And I wanted to do it before the ball tomorrow night.”

Adeline suggested a chair to him. John sat. “Is your brother here?”

“No. He left for the train station a few hours ago.”

“May I ask what he told you or why he was leaving?”

“He wasn’t specific but said he had a reputation with the ladies, and it had followed him here. He felt it better to move on. Is that what you know?”

“Yes. There is more to it than that, but I will spare you the details. You seem to understand what’s important, though.”

“John, tell me more than that.”

“I would rather not. I came by to apologize that I had to react the way I did to the rumors and the legal actions that he has been involved with some women. It isn’t pretty.”

“I see. Is there a paternity suit out there?”

“Nothing is proven. Please, let’s put that behind us.”

“If you wish it.”

“The other issue I had last night was with the comment you whispered to me about Miss Hale.”

“You mean when I said ‘She’s never been out with a man?’ What’s so wrong with that?”

“It seemed to me a belittlement of her innocence. Something you found to scoff at.”

“Oh, John, you’re not serious about that, are you?” Adeline walked over to the bar. “Scotch?”

“No thank you. I guess I am wondering why you felt the need to say that to me?”

 

 

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C16

Chapter Sixteen

 

 

John timidly knocked on the Hale’s door early that evening. Dixon answered the door.

“Is Miss Hale at home?”

“Please come in. Would you care to wait here or in the sitting room?”

“I shall wait here.”

Sitting down with her second cup of tea in her bedroom, Dixon announced to Margaret that she had a visitor.

“Who is it, Dixon?”

“It is Master Thornton, mum.”

“Sis, do you want to see him? I can speak on your behalf.”

“Certainly not. I can speak for myself.”

Margaret smoothed her dress and then proceeded to the staircase. There was a moment that hung in the air as she spotted him, holding his hat. He was looking up at her and walked forward near the bottom step. Margaret felt warm.

“Miss Hale, please forgive me for stopping by unannounced.”

“Please do not bother yourself. We had no plans. Are you sure you wouldn’t wish to be comfortable in the sitting room?”

“What I want is for this to be private so you can make a decision without a lot of advice. Let me speak first, and then you can change where you wish to speak.”

“Would you mind sitting out front or in your coach? My brother may listen in. He’s taking me in hand.”

“I don’t understand. Yes, by all means, let’s take a ride in my coach. Would that be suitable?”

“Yes, I shall enjoy your beautiful coach.”

John opened the door for Margaret and then handed her inside the coach. He spoke with Branson for a moment and then entered the coach himself.

The coach moved, and John began. “Miss Hale before I speak of my reason for being here, let me again applaud your work on behalf of the masters. You imparted good solid information. And that will lead to another discussion with you.”

They were seated face to face in John’s two-benched coach. Margaret didn’t know where to look. It was hard looking into his eyes without staring. It was hot in there.

“Miss Hale, I find myself in a position I don’t care to be in. I am here at the behest of Captain Waverly.”

“Who? Oh yes, your lady’s brother, I think.”

“Yes. That is right. I am not here to plead his case; it is more of an introduction. He will be at the ball and hopes to have a dance with you. He felt he would like to speak with you again before that evening.”

“And he sent you to ask me for another introduction before that night?”

“Miss Hale, please understand I do not like what I am doing. Because I am someone you know in a small way, I was asked to arrange this. It should not place any bearing on your answer. I am feeling quite foolish. It’s warm in here.”

“Do go on.”

“I told him that I was hoping to speak with you soon about employment and there is no change there. It was an idea that came to me where I decided that the four of us should have dinner tomorrow evening. God, I’m making a fool of myself. It was my opinion that you may not want to spend lunch alone with him, which was his suggestion. I do not know the man, so I am giving you no recommendation for him. I wouldn’t wish to speak with you about employment in that situation as it is, but I didn’t want to push you into a situation totally unfamiliar to you. Is any of this making sense?” John heaved a sigh.

“I will agree to that if only to save you from Miss Waverly should you return unsuccessful. I’m sorry. I should not have said that.”

“Miss Hale, above all, do not think that. I care not for any reaction from her regarding this dinner. As I said, I am embarrassed for both of us. However, he is recently retired from the Navy, and I would think he is well schooled as a gentleman. You would not be alone with him, and I would feel better about that.”

“You would?” Margaret asked tentatively.

John smiled at her. “Yes, of course.”

Margaret felt the heat that Bessie mentioned.

“Thank you for thinking of my safety.”

“What did you mean by your brother was taking you in hand?”

Margaret blushed which made John’s chest heave.

“You know he is recently home and knows that I have been caring for my parents, which has left me no time to meet gentlemen. He wants to help me understand the ways of men, and gentlemen and what to expect and other things.” Margaret’s face grew redder.”

“I see. He doesn’t think you can make up your own mind?”

“May I be candid with you.?”

“Yes. I wish all women were like that, but they are not. Please, go on.”

“When we were visiting your mill about the horse, my brother chastised me for seducing you with my eyes.”

“He did, did he?” John laughed inside at her explanation.

“I do candidly admit, and you should be used to this, found you quite handsome and could not pull away from looking at you. It was simply that. He thought I had some intention in my actions and he decided I had to learn what to do and not do around men. Apparently, that was childish. I am sorry.”

John broke out laughing. “Please don’t apologize. Your frankness has been well worth it.”

“I told him I’ve been schooled in such matters and he laughed, telling me I didn’t know the half of it.”

“So you will go through life expecting to experience all your brothers tells you?”

“No. I will always make my own decisions. He hasn’t realized as he grew into a man in the navy, I grew into a woman while he was gone. He thinks me an innocent child, I think. He may give me advice on someone like Captain Waverly, but he doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know women and their emotional feelings. As he said himself, the navy hardly allows time for relationships to begin and build.”

“Miss Hale, you are quite refreshing to listen to. I hate to bring this to an end, but I must relay your answer to the Captain. Would it suit you for us to come by for you at 7:15 p.m.?

“That would be grand.”

“Will this be your first date out?”

“Is this a date?”

John smiled again. Seeing him smile at her, her breath caught.

“Since you will be out without chaperones and in the company of men, I think it could pass as your first date.” John chuckled.

“It’s not exactly the way I had envisioned it would be,” Margaret frowned and then laughed.

“No, I don’t think it will count. We would be part of a foursome. I’ll wait for the twosome to call an evening a date.”

“I think that is best. You wouldn’t want to look back on tomorrow night as a truly memorable experience.”

“I wouldn’t go that far in dismissing it. There are collateral benefits.” Margaret wished she hadn’t said that.

John laughed heartily again but wondered what she meant exactly.

Arriving at the Hale home, John walked Margaret to her door. Her brother was there to greet her.

“Good evening, Fred. Until tomorrow evening Miss Hale. Good night.”

 

Fred followed her to her bedroom asking what that was all about.

“That is my business.”

“You two were alone in the coach.”

“And Branson was driving. Leave me. I must find a frock for tomorrow night. I was invited out for dinner tomorrow night.”

“With the man himself?”

“No.” Margaret liked keeping Fred in the dark.

“Mr. Thornton drove you around in his coach to ask you out for dinner tomorrow evening but not with him.”

“Correct.” Margaret was laying out frocks on her bed.”

“Do you, at least, know this man, who didn’t have the nerve to face you and ask himself.”

“Yes. He wants an introduction.”

“I see. Will you be alone with him?”

“No. Now go.”

“Will you tell me all if I send an apology to Bessie in a note?”

“I’ll see the note first. I will hold it for posting, too.”

“Deal.” Fred left the room.

Margaret looked over all the gowns on the bed. She picked out a few of her finest and put them back in the wardrobe. She pulled out her walking and daily frocks and put them aside, too. That left about six to choose from. Nothing left on the bed was slated for the ball or the dinner. She settled on a pretty but simple frock. She definitely did not want to compete with Miss Waverly. Even though Mr. Thornton would be in attendance with her, Margaret figured John seemed to be a man who did not like airs, either. Perhaps Margaret’s understated frock would find approval by him and less interest by the Captain.”

She went looking for Fred. She found him at the dining room table writing.

“Fred, do men take a big interest in women’s fashion?”

“Sis, that depends on the man. That is an individual taste. I would think, at least for me, if I had a real interest in a woman, I would not like to see her advertising herself to other men. She may think her gentleman likes showing her off, but he doesn’t. Not in that way, anyway. That reflects poorly on the man and his choice of women.”

“Thank you.” Fred taught her nothing new there, but it was nice to hear his thinking. He wasn’t totally fooled.

That night Margaret went to bed remembering some of the conversations by the girls at school. Such tricks women could play. They all weren’t like that, but she felt sorry for the men that stepped out with them.

 

“Dad, I need to confess something,” said a bashful Bessie at the breakfast table.

“This is a first.”

“Well, I know you said you would worry about me now that I will be seeing men.”

“And you have something to confess about that?” Nicholas gave her his whole attention.

“I don’t know what to do next.”

“About what?”

Bessie began the story of her visit to Margaret and Fred working on the roof of the stable. She told her father and Peggy the statement she made about how she felt, although she left out the warm feeling part. She said she ran when she realized he had overheard her and how she felt she couldn’t show her face there anymore. Bessie caught the smiles between her father and her stepmother.

“Nicholas, Bessie and I will have a chat later.”

“Let me give you my thoughts. What you felt is natural and healthy. What you said to another female, even the sister, in confidence is also normal. Being overheard is embarrassing for you. And I will leave the rest up to Peggy. Thank you for letting me know. I will always be here for any discussions about men and women.”

 

At the Hale house, Margaret was discussing her eventful day, yesterday, and her night dinner coming up.

“Margaret, how fast things turn around,” smiled her father. “Who is this dinner with?”

Margaret told her father the whole curious story. “You understand, father, that I don’t feel this is a date.”

“Yes, I can see that. Hmm… a Captain in the Navy. Does Fred know of him?”

“I never asked. I believe he saw him at the lesson, but I don’t know if he heard his name. Where is Fred?”

“He’s gotten an early start on what is shaping into a stable. I think the horse and buggy come tomorrow.”

“Really. How exciting. Sunday, after the ball, I shall have Fred start teaching me. I’m going to go see him now. Excuse me, father.”

Margaret was full of smiles as she walked up to Fred. “Father says the horse comes tomorrow?”

“Yes, he does.”

“Does he have a name or do you rename him?”

“I don’t know if they learn their names as a dog would, but I am not changing it.”

“So, what is it?”

“It’s Max.”

“I like that. Max! Will you teach me on Sunday? I will have busy days until the ball is over.”

“About yesterday and last night …” Fred was interrupted.

“Did you write the note?”

“I did.” Fred wiped his hands on his pants and pulled the note from his pocket.

“Fred, I was going to ask if I could read it, but I am not. That is your business, and no matter what you wrote in here, that’s between you and her. So, I am going to seal it.”

“Fine. Thank you.”

“I will see Mr. Thornton tonight, along with Miss Waverly and her brother the Captain. I will hand Mr. Thornton the note to give to Mr. Higgins tomorrow.”

“I’d rather it went post today.”

“I will set it on the post tray in the hall.”

“So, the Captain is it?”

“Yes. Father asked if you knew him from the Navy.”

“What’s his name?”

“They call him Kit, but Captain Waverly is all I know.”

“Waverly?  Waverly? The name sounds familiar, but I never saw him.”

“No matter. He just may not want to see me a second time when he finds out what my brother has done,” she laughed.

“That may be truer than you think. I hope not for your sake.”

 

Adeline Waverly was bringing out her jewels and asking Kit which would look better with what she was wearing. He said they were all nice. He didn’t want to be subjected to this fashion show any longer. The one nice thing about the Navy was that you have very little to choose from. His retirement wasn’t quite official yet, and he could have worn civilian clothing, but he hadn’t bought any.

There was a knock at the door, and John Thornton was shown into the room.

“Good evening Adeline, Captain.”

Kit stood and shook his hand. “Once again, I want to thank you. I wish I had more knowledge of how introductions work. They have been rare for me.”

“I must admit; I did feel a bit uncomfortable. To be honest, I do not know you and could not recommend you personally to Miss Hale. But your rank puts most unknowns at ease.”

“I understand. Thank you for being honest.”

“Adeline, you are most beautiful this evening.”

“Thank you, John. Anything for you. I do not want Miss Hale to catch your eye this evening. I know she has your attention.”

“Yes, she does. I have decided not to speak to her about employment this evening. I wish nothing to detract from your brother’s pursuit.”

“Pursuit?”

“I think a Navy man would understand that.”

“He would, indeed,” replied Kit. “However, her manifest must be examined.” Kit laughed.

John thought that was a very rude remark, even to another man. It sounded like he was only interested in her innocence. He would most likely ensure her chastity was listed. John began roiling inside.

“Were you not astonished at her lesson the other night? Apparently, she took her education in a new direction than most women.”

“Yes, yes, a charming woman.”

“Captain, you do understand that she is a young lady.”

“What are you trying to tell me, Thornton?”

“Oh, John. It’s worthless talking to him about women and ladies. He thinks we’re all alike.”

“As in the women that might be waiting on the docks at a port?”

“Oh, come, John. Let’s not get into that in front of my sister. I will treat Miss Hale with all due respect unless she shows me differently.”

“She is quite naïve and may mislead you, unknowing of her actions,” John remembered her story of the staring.

“John, why are you demeaning my brother and defending a woman, a lady. Is there something I should know?”

“No, Adeline. I spoke with her last night which I considered our first conversation. She asked if this would be called a date as she’s never been out with a gentleman. I would want the gentleman to understand that and handle her differently than the women he usually associates with.” John stared at Kit.

“I understand you, sir. I did not need that sermon.”

“My apologies, Captain. Shall we go?”

John felt better for having said that but it would be a while before he calmed down about his manifest statement.

 

 

Brotherly Love – A North and South Novel with John Thornton – C11

Chapter Eleven

 

 

“Margaret, tell me that note was lesson-related.”

“Fred this is lesson-related. I think a walk through a mill will give me a better understanding. I can see all I should know from the current Profit and Loss statements, but being all men, there could be more.”

“That makes no sense at all, you understand,” stated Fred.

Margaret had a twinkle in her eye.

“I think I should go with you.”

“No Fred. Unless Branson sends you a note, then you will stay home.”

 

Higgins unfolded the note that had been left with the gateman. He smiled. “So, she wants to see the mill, does she?” He put the note aside and waited for John to read it. It was Nicholas’s turn for the half day Sunday shift, and he did not mind showing her around. Apparently, this was something to do with her lesson.

John arrived an hour later from mill 2 for their end of daily shift meeting. He hung up his coat and went to his desk where he found Miss Hale’s note.

“Why do you think Miss Hale wants a walk-through of the mill, Nicholas?”

“I think it’s for her next lesson.”

“What could she tell from looking around?”

“Oh, she may be looking for wasted man-hours. She’s probably hoping to find one-quarter of one percent to be saved.” Nicholas laughed. “It’s my shift tomorrow. I don’t mind if you don’t.”

“No, I don’t mind either. Who knows? Maybe she will see something. I’m not busy tomorrow. Branson has found a horse and trap that may be of interest to the Hales. I told him he could have the day off.”

“I’ll take my turn. You just relax for a day.”

“Write your reply. Branson is headed over to the Hales about tomorrow, himself. He can deliver it at the same time. John was handed Nicholas’s folded paper and walked to the back of his house. “Branson!” He shouted.

Branson opened the door to his rooms over the stable and clamored down the steps while buttoning his shirt. “Yes, Guv?”

“Would you see that Miss Hale gets this note when you talk to her brother?”

“Aye, sir.”

 

Branson left immediately, riding one saddled horse.

Fred answered the knock at the door. “Branson, come in.”

Branson stepped inside but no further. “I’ve come to deliver this note to your sister. Also, I think I have found just what you want. A mill master passed away. He had a second small buggy and horse that the family will want to leave behind. They will take the large coach and horses. I could take you there tomorrow.”

“That sounds grand. Wait here.”

Fred went looking for Margaret, who was sitting on the couch flipping through her books.

“Margaret, here’s a note for you. No doubt a reply to your request to seduce Mr. Thornton again.”

Margaret snapped it out of his hands. “Shush. Branson may hear you. He doesn’t know your humor. Wait, Fred, it needs an answer.” Margaret read it once again. Tell the driver that 11:00 a.m. will be fine.”

“Nice sis. And don’t be fooled that anything can get past Branson when it comes to his master.” Fred smirked.

Fred returned to Branson and told him Margaret’s response and asked if that time would be agreeable to him, as well?”

“Most agreeable, Fred. I will see you two then.”

Branson left as Dixon was calling everyone to the dinner table.

When Fred returned, he noticed his sister was off in dreamland. She was unaware that he had walked into the room. “Practicing a new seduction tactic, are we?” Still no reaction from her, not even a head node to placate him. She was either in Thornton land or working on her lesson plans. She did have the books open on her lap. Fred decided to sit down and study her for a moment. At least she blinked once in a while to moisten her eyes. She seemed to be sucking on her finger or chewing her fingernail. After half a minute, she removed her finger from her mouth and licked her lips. Fred had never seen a woman so deep in thought. He finally walked over to her and waved his hand in front of her face.

“Hello. Anyone home?” He called out.

“Oh, Fred. What is it?”

“Where were you just now?”

“Here, on the sofa. I haven’t moved. You know that.”

Fred scoffed. “Margaret, you were miles away in your mind.”

“So? Am I no longer allowed to think for myself?”

“It was like you fell down the rabbit hole. Gone, gone from this room. Tell me, what were you thinking?”

Margaret felt a book start to slide from her lap. “I was planning a lesson.”

“Oh, that was it? I see. I guess you didn’t hear us called for dinner.”

 

Cutting his piece of mutton, Richard Hale said, “Margaret, it was nice of you to accept Adam’s invitation to the Thornton dinner.”

“Thank you, father. Adam Bell is my friend as he is yours. I am glad I can help him be more comfortable at the dinner. I will be happy to talk with him.”

“Have you given any thought to the Master’s Ball,” asked Fred.

“I have. It would be very nice to attend with a gentleman and not a kindness to a wallflower. Adam being seen with a young woman twice may not be proper for him or me.”

“Margaret, I know you are not known here in Milton, but Adam is. I am sure people know of his close acquaintanceship with this family, by now. You still have a couple days to decide that, I suppose.”

“Yes, father. That is right. It’s difficult however I look at it.”

“Sis, perhaps another will invite you.”

“Yes, Margaret. After your next lesson, you may have one or two offers. If that happens, we can surely ask Mr. Thornton for an endorsement of the gentleman.”

“I can’t see a complete stranger, even if he is a gentleman, ask me to a ball.”

“Margaret, it seems I will have to be telling you this often in the days to come. You don’t know your own allure to the opposite sex. Any man would be proud to escort you out.”

“Fred, what is it that I offer? I can see nothing in myself. Other ladies will have gone to a school and finished as a lady. I never took all those courses.”

“Father, can you help with this.”

“Don’t put our father on the burner. He is totally biased, where you have experience with the women. I think your real observations will mean more . . . something more up-to-date. You certainly can see what I am doing wrong. What do I have that is right?”

“After dinner, we will talk.”

“I will be doing my lesson planning tonight.”

“Well then, I will start slow. No sense giving you airs where there could be; and I do know you wouldn’t do that. I am going to picture an average well-bred lady who has finished.”

“All right.”

“Do not make anything of the order in which I say them, because I will not do that. Ready?”

“Yes.”

“Just in the short time I have been home, I can tell that you are more intelligent than anyone I have ever walked out with. Some men may not like that. To hell with them.”

“Fred! Must you?” Mr. Hale said in a stern voice.

“Sorry, father.”

“Margaret, I do not believe you are the type to play games with a man’s feelings. I don’t mean your staring at Mr. Thornton. That is innocence, and it is an attribute that all men sincerely love to see, but it won’t last long. When I was talking about games, I wanted to say do not hide your intellect or your great sense of humor. From the beginning, a man should know the woman he is with. He finds it extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing to later extricate himself from the lady who is no longer the person that he met. Do you understand?”

“I would never pretend with feelings, I know that about myself, at least. I may not want to show an intellectual mind, though. And a sense of humor… Don’t men find that unattractive in their lady?”

“Again, some men might. We are not all the same. But the ones that are worth investing your time will want to know the real you.”

The room became quiet.

“Fred, how about my appearance?”

“That will be for another night.”

Fred saw Margaret’s eyes begin to tear up.

“Please excuse me,” Margaret squeaked out as she left the room.

“Son, it looks like you made a mistake there.”

“I believe I did. She thinks because I wasn’t ready to talk about it that she must not be the beauty that she is.”

“For a man of the navy, experienced in the ways of women, I can’t believe you didn’t think that is what is most important to them.”

“Well…I found that vain in a way and didn’t think of Margaret placing such emphasis on that.”

“You’re wrong, Fred. All young women are raised thinking they must find a husband or they’re lost. They know that their features…face and figure, play a heavy hand in that quest. You and I know that isn’t so. Men aren’t very good at compliments, but we’re not that shallow. She doesn’t know that. She’s upstairs, thinking she has nothing to recommend herself to a gentleman but intelligence and humor.”

Fred pushed away from the table and headed upstairs.

He knocked on Margaret’s door. “I’m sorry. I need to clarify something. Let me in.”

“Go away.”

“I hope you are dressed because I am about to open this door.”

“Don’t you dare, Fred.”

“Cover yourself if you are undressing because I am turning the doorknob now.”

Margaret was sitting on the bed with a pillow to her face. Although hiding her wet eyes, Fred could tell she was still crying.

 

Breakfast around the table the following morning was quiet.

“Margaret, I never finished what I wanted to talk to you about last night.”

“I know, Fred. You were going to convince me that I am pretty.”

“No, sis. You are a beauty.”

“Thank you, Fred,” she said sarcastically.

“Father?” Fred pleaded.

“Margaret, I know you don’t want to hear from me because I am biased. And you are correct there, but I do have the where-with-all to be able to be unbiased when it is important. Your brother is right. Your mother and I often spoke of the loveliness you carry both inside and out. Until moving to Milton, I never worried about the men that may approach you in your life. It was a small town, I knew everyone, but here! I have been put off guard this past year with you staying in. Now, I really feel I am a father to a graceful, handsome woman. I can fear that like any other father.”

Once again, Margaret left the table and ran to her room.

“Father, why do they do that? I think she’s going to be crying because she’s happy. Does that make any sense to you?”

“Fred, with age comes wisdom. It’s hard for younger men to understand. They have never realized the impact that society puts on young women. You went through puberty, more of a delight and an awakening. For women, it is far from that. Yes, they go through their pubertal years but with that comes their biggest stress of life. This has been ingrained in them since birth. Are they strong enough, pretty enough, smart enough to engage in marriage? Can they bear a child? Can they marry for love or will there be another reason? You see they have no rights unto themselves. They are totally dependent on the man that owns them. It’s quite barbaric, I think. Can you understand that at all?”

“I’m beginning to, I think. It may impact the way I treat women in the future.”

“When you find the ‘right’ woman for you, you will treat her as you should. That will come naturally. But how many men really find their soul mate? For years, their manly needs overshadow their heart.”

“I think Margaret has found hers, but it isn’t being reciprocated.”

“She is still young. She may not know what she wants, yet. This is the time when she learns and molds the image of a man she wants to be with. She is beginning to sketch her life.”

 

Branson pulled the coach into Marlborough Mills for Miss Hale to disembark.

Fred assisted her out.

It only took a minute for Nicholas Higgins to appear from one of the sheds. John Thornton looked on from his parlor room window.

As Nicholas pointed the way to lead Margaret, Fred climbed onto the jump seat with Branson, who turned the coach and the two of them were off.

“Mr. Higgins, I am grateful for your time in showing me the workings of a mill. I did a lot of studying last night, which I am sure nothing new was revealed to me that I won’t see here today.”

As Margaret was escorted to the first shed of looms, she removed pencil and paper from her handbag.

 

An hour and a half later, there was a knock on Thornton’s kitchen door. Cook opened the door to Fred.

“Hello. Do you know if my sister is ready to go home? He asked.

“She has not returned from her tour to my knowledge. I’ve been waiting for a call for tea, but no one is ringing for it.”

“If you could tell her when she appears, that her brother is waiting for her at the stable area?

“Yes, laddie I will.”

Fred turned to walk down the steps wondering how long it had been since he had been called a lad.

 

“John, you keep pacing over there by the window. Are you waiting for something to happen? You seem restless,” spoke Hannah.

“Not really. Nicholas is showing Miss Hale the mill structure to help with her next class, but I cannot imagine why it is taking this long.”

“She seems like an intelligent woman. She must be trying in earnest to find ways to work smarter.”

“That is probably impossible. With 200 mill masters having years to think of the same thing, there should be very little she can surprise us with.”

“Well, I for one, give her credit for trying. You know John, women don’t always see things the same way a man does.”

“Yes, that is a hard lesson for a man to learn. Learning it is one thing, understanding and agreeing is entirely another matter.”

Hannah laughed.

 

Finally, John thought. The shift crew whistle had blown. He went back to his window, this time from his study. He waited. He watched all the workers leave the yard and still no Nicholas or Margaret. He saw Margaret’s brother walk to the front of the house looking for her, assuming the same thing he had. This was too much. He donned his coat and went to look for them.

 

“Mr. Thornton. Mr. Thornton!”

“Yes, what is it, Fred?”

“Do you know where my sister is?”

“No, but I am about to find out.”

Fred followed as John entered the quiet, empty shed. No one. They walked on to the second shed, still no one. The third shed, checking all floors lead to no one again. Finally, John headed for the canteen and could hear voices. Nicholas, Miss Hale, and Mary Higgins were sitting at a table talking. Miss Hale seemed interested in what Mary was saying.

Nicholas caught Margaret’s attention. “Looks like we’ve been caught out,” he smiled.

Although tired, Margaret perked up as Mr. Thornton and her brother neared them. There was a greeting, but Fred noticed she never looked toward John after the greeting, not even when he was speaking.

“Women!” Fred whispered loudly under his breath.

“I’m sorry, Fred. I didn’t catch that,” remarked John.

“Sorry. Nothing of importance.”

“Miss Hale,” John called out. “You have been busy here today. I do hope you will not go about giving away our trade secrets.”

“Good day, Mr. Thornton. Mr. Higgins did not especially tell me which were your trade secrets and which were not.”

John caught a glimpse of Nicholas nodding his ‘no.’

“Mr. Thornton, do you expect your 600 employees to keep your secrets?”

Fred was astounded at her impetuous statement.

John was frankly taken aback by the question. “Miss Hale, I do tease you. Forgive me. We hide nothing here. It is for all to see.”

Margaret turned to Nicholas and Mary, thanking them for their time. “Mr. Thornton my thanks to you, as well. I shall leave now. I have been here much too long. I believe I know the way out.”

“I’ll walk out with you.”

John and Margaret walked ahead of Nicholas, Mary, and Fred.

“So, Miss Hale, have we been of any help in your lesson?”

“Yes, I am reminded that budgeting goes hand and hand with profiting.”

“That has always been my understanding,” John smiled.

Margaret said no more, walking quietly beside the tall man who made her legs weak.

As they all emerged into the mill yard, John was surprised seeing another coach pull in.

Adam Bell’s side of the coach was opened for his exit.

“My how fortunate to see all of you here. Margaret, I hadn’t thought to find you. Planning your lessons, no doubt.”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Bell. Yes, you are correct.”

“Miss Hale and her brother were just leaving. How can I help you?” John remarked.

“I am here to accept the dinner invitation. Should I seek Mrs. Thornton or yourself?”

“Please take the stairs into the house. I shall be with you in a moment.”

As Margaret walked to Branson’s coach in the stable area, John noticed she had gone pale. She hadn’t tried staring at him this time, to which he found a modicum of relief. But the paleness was a bit disconcerting.

“Miss Hale, are you feeling well?”

“I am quite fine, thank you. And again, thank you for your time for allowing me to see the operations of a great mill from all I hear.”

“You are quite right. Marlborough Mills, to which there are two, is held in high regard by the workers. I am fortunate in that.”

“Yes, there was little to learn here when talking with some of the workers.”

“That is good news. I will bid you a good day and see you on Tuesday evening.”

“Perhaps the wives or ladies of the masters would care to listen to the discussion. They may learn all that you are responsible for. They would, of course, sit away from the men, so as not to distract them.”

“I shall let that be known. Interesting thought. Some may find fascination in that. Thank you. Good day.”