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

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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.”