"But Margaret you are ill!"
" And besides that it's snowing up a storm outside,"added Edith to Laura's point.
"And so I should forsake those who need me for my own selfishness?"
"Margaret! If you are dead then you will be no use to them at all will you?"
Margaret paused her preparations at her cousin's word. It had been snowing rather harshly in the last few days and many of London's elite had taken to staying inside their homes, but today it had lightened up a bit and Margaret decided to go deliver her baskets of food while the weather was in her favor. In addition to that set back she hadn't been feeling her best either.
Laura had tried her best to convince Margaret to stay, and when she couldn't she tattled on Margaret to Edith about it. Now with both those strong headed women trying to force her to stay home she was positive that she might just die listening to them.
"If I promise you both to simply go there and drop off the food and then come right back...will you PLEASE stop badgering me?"
Edith and Laura looked at one another as they contemplated their answer before nodding their heads in agreement.
"Thank you, now if you don't mind I'll be on my way."
Margaret was forced to manage three baskets instead of her usual two as both Daniel and Laura were indisposed that day. It usually wasn't that hard to manage, but the snow had risen well above her ankles. She decided to go through town to avoid going over the rough pathways the wood provided, and (though she refused to admit it) perhaps run into a certain gentleman. She was not disappointed at all because sure enough Mr. Thornton was there taking a sip of water (and notably clothed due to the weather).
"Miss Hale!" Mr. Thornton exclaimed before walking over to her, "what are you doing out here in this weather?"
"I am delivering my baskets as usual, but I could ask you the same thing!"
John looked at her hesitantly. How could he tell her that he couldn't stand living the life that the men closest to her lived, "I... well... the truth is I can't stand being idle for long, and I was afforded plently of that in London. So I decided one day to join these men here build."
Margaret looked at him strangely before laughing, "I'll admit it is rather droll compared to being the master of the mill isn't it?"
John nodded his head in agreement.
"It is awfully nice that you are helping these men, Mr. Thornton."
"Thank you, but they are helping me far more than I am helping them."
Suddenly the wind picked up, and Margaret shivered slightly.
"Well I guess we are both asking for a red nose, and a week stuck in our beds," John laughed. Margaret joined him in laughter before rubbing her head in pain.
"Is everything alright Miss Hale?"
"Oh it's nothing but a little head cold I've picked up."
"Aye Thornton," yelled Jones from the roof of the mercantile, "we're gonna call it quits for the day, the snow is starting to fall mighty fast, so you and the misses better head home now." John and Margaret both turned a mortifying shade of red, and were all too willing to blame it on the bitter cold. Still, neither attempted to correct the man.
Margaret went to pick up her baskets on the ground, when John beat her to it, and began walking away.
"Mr. Thornton, might I ask where you think you are going with those," exclaimed Margaret, desperately trying to keep up with his long strides.
John waited for her to catch up and preceded to take smaller steps, "Well, I know you won't go home without first delivering these baskets, and I won't go home until I know you've made it safely back home so it seems to me that we will both get back home faster if I accompany you on your journey."
"I thank you Mr. Thornton, but I am quite capable..."
"Yes you are quite capable of taking care of yourself Miss Hale, but let's face it if a blizzard should break out you would be completely covered in snow long before I am."
Margaret looked up at him in confusion, but it didn't take long for realization to dawn.
"Are you implying that I am short, Mr. Thornton?"
"Oh no, of course not," John denied with a disconcerted expression on his face, "I am simply pointing out that you are quite a deal shorter than I am." Margaret attempted giving him a stern look, but couldn't help but to burst out in laughter at John's feigned look of innocence.
"If I didn't already know you had been teasing me, Sir, I might actually have thought that face was sincere...you must accept my applause."
John gave a small laugh at her statement."You mustn't congratulate me, but my mother in fact, I had been on the receiving end of her stern looks many times before...and that visage I developed was necessary for survival."
"I am aghast, do mean to tell me John Thornton, the master of the mill was a troublemaker?"
John smiled down at her, "now I do believe you are teasing me Miss Hale."
Margaret simply gave a look of innocence and walked on.
When Margaret and Mr. Thornton arrived at the village they quickly did away with their baskets, so they could get home as soon as possible.
"The snow has really picked up,"examined Mr. Thornton worriedly and he noticed Margaret was having more and more difficulty keeping up with him. She had begun to stagger in her walk.
He walked back to her and noticed that she was actually sweating!
"Margaret are you alright!"
Margaret looked up at him in confusion. "Mr. Thornton what are you doing here,"she asked weakly.
The confusion, the sweating, the weakness, the headaches...John had seen it all before in his workers.
"Oh God," he whispered in disbelief. Why hadn't he noticed her symptoms before?
He picked her up in his arms and walked on, hoping God would protect her.
"John I...MISS HALE?"
"Wha's wron' wit' Margaret?
These were all the questions that John heard when he got through the door, but he was by no means in an answering mood.
"Mary...mother... please get the maids to tend to Margaret until a doctor arrives."
"Henry, would you alert a doctor, to come immediately, and let her family know where she is?"
Everyone quickly went to their assigned roles and John placed Margaret on the bed of one of the guest rooms.
Maids began filing in to take Margaret out of her wet things, and John thought it time for him to leave.
"John what happened to Miss Hale," his mother demanded,"and my goodness you are all wet you have to get out of those things immediately!"
"It appears Miss Hale has contracted a fever, I don't know the severity of it but it didn't look good."
Mary and Hannah both exchanged looks- they had both seen the fever at its worse.
"Lady Thornton," one of the servant girls interrupted,"we have changed the miss out of her things, what would you like us to do next?"
All three stared at the girl in confusion.
"What do you mean, "what would I like you to do next","hissed Mrs. Thornton,"tend to the girl for heaven's sake!"
The girl twisted her hands nervously, and kept firm eye contact with the ground.
"None of us know how to tend to her miss."
"Good God save us," Mrs. Thornton prayed she turned to Mary, "Mary I take it you know a bit about tending to an ailing person, follow me."
They walked into the small guest room to find Margaret covered with blankets and wearing several layers of clothes.
"She'll burn," cried Mary as she went over to undo the maids handiwork.
Hannah grabbed the glass thermometer and checked Margaret's temperature. She felt her stomach drop at the number...108. "You grab a cool basin of water,"Mrs. Thornton ordered a maid who looked about as lost as a new bairn.
The next few minutes were filled with chaos and confusion. All they could hope was that the doctor would hurry.
"Its been two hours...where is he," John hissed walking back and forth by the door. Like clockwork Henry burst into the house covered in snow.
"Where's the doctor Lennox?" Henry walked in the sitting room before looking at John hesitantly.
"None of them would come."
"What do you mean none of them would come?"
"There is a vicious blizzard outside, Thornton, and the safest way to travel is on foot, none of them wanted to risk that, and the ones that did were out tending to other patients in need."
"You obviously didn't look hard enough!"
"I have been out there searching for two hours, Thornton NO ONE will come!"
John grabbed his coat and began to walk out the door; they would come, he would make sure of it. Henry stopped him at the front of the door.
"Look I'm sure your mother and Pet are doing their best..."
"And if their best isn't enough?"
Henry was silent for a moment, he could only imagine how Thornton was feeling. Margaret had been his best friend at one time, and he was extremely worried for her wellbeing. Still, a man in love is quite another beast.
"John, what Margaret needs now is you if she's going to get better... I once heard that love can be the strongest power in the world." John stared up at him in surprise, but Henry was gone.
Mrs. Thornton came out hours later exhausted and disappointed the fever still hadn't broken despite her and Mary's constant efforts. She opened the door to find Henry and John still awake awaiting news of Margaret. How would she tell them? How would she tell John?
And Mary the poor girl refused to leave Margaret's side. Her reaction was completely understandable she had lost her mother, her sister, her younger siblings, and some of her closest friends all to the same illness.
"Mother,"exclaimed John as he approached her eagerly, "is all well now?"
Hannah wrung her hands nervously, "John the fever hasn't broken yet, but..."
"But what,"she thought to herself frantically,"was there any hope for the girl?"
"...But her temperature has been going down very nicely so there is plently of hope." Hannah hated how the lie felt on her lips. She had always prided herself on her bold and blunt personality, but she couldn't bring herself to break his heart...she remembered all too well what his father had done to hers.
"I have never known you to lie to me mother," John said with a sad smirk,"yet it is still easy to tell when you are."
"So I am to assume Margaret is still very ill," he inquired, Hannah merely nodded.
John nodded and embraced his mother sadly. At that moment Hannah prayed harder than she ever had before that God would save this girl, she was needed in all their lives, but most importantly John's.
Henry decided to go upstairs and give the mother and son their privacy; he also wanted to see where Pet had gotten off to. He searched in several rooms before he heard singing from Margaret's.
"Oh 'ow I wish to be a flow'r girl, if only for one day... I'd be the pret'iest flow'r girl the 'hole world ev' did see...Wit' my roses and tu'ips and bitty blue bells..., and my lilies and violets and cockel shells...Oh I 'ow I wish to be a flow'r girl, if only for one day..."
" You have quite a singing voice Pet, for a moment there I thought I heard an angel in Margaret's room." Mary blushed violently, but quickly turned back to tending to Margaret.
Henry sighed, "you know you will work yourself ill if you don't get some sleep, the maids can take care of it from here."
Mary looked at Henry with sad eyes, "I can't fail 'er Henry."
"Fail her? You stayed up all night with her! There is not anything more you can do."
"Oh Henry there 'as to be. I've failed ev'ryone else I can't fail 'er! They all relied on me to save 'em...the wee ones...Betsy...mother, and I couldn't! And if Margaret died...I wou...I could nev'r forgive myself. Why wasn't I put in her place instead? Then things wouldn't be so bad. "
Mary collapsed in Henry's arms as her body wretched with tears; Henry rubbed her hair softly to help calm her down, he hated to see the girl sad. Henry knew the pain of letting down those closest to you all too well.
"I understand how you feel Pet, believe me. My mother died giving birth to me, and because of that my father has been in a drunken stupor for twenty-six years...the doctors say that he hasn't got much time left and I can't help but to think it's my fault, or wish that God had spared her life and taken mine. So believe me I know how you feel...but one thing you must remember is you were chosen to live for a reason and never say "things" would be better off without you...I for one would be devastated if you were to die."
Mary looked up at him, and for the first time since he had known her he couldn't read her face. Still, for some reason that look on her face made his heart warm exceedingly.
Henry cleared his throat quickly and looked away. "Now let's talk of cheerier things...would you like to hear a story?"
Mary nodded her head in response.
"Aye I've got a good story to tell you! You see, when I was around 11 or 12 I had gotten caught getting into this wretched old woman's blueberry patch (and they were the best blueberries I have ever had mind you)," Mary slowly began to fall asleep at the sound of his voice, "anyway the old woman, who was truly wretched and smelled strongly of vinegar..."
Henry jumped at the sudden exclamation from the woman in his arms, " what's it Pet?"
"Oh Henry yer a genius! Ya saved Margaret!"
Hannah and John ran in suddenly, "what's wrong," they said unison.
"Henry saved Margaret," she repeated before running down the stairs and into the kitchen. Henry was the first to follow her, followed by Hannah and John...they were positive the girl had gone mad.
When they reached the kitchen Mary was frantically pulling out several ingredients, mostly blueberries and vinegar.
"Pet, would you mind explaining what you're doing."
Mary stopped for a moment realizing how crazy she must look," when I was wee and me grandma was still livin' she would always sing this song 'bout blueberries and vinegar and I jus' am now understandin' wha' she meant!"
Suddenly Mary began to sing:
"Pick up some blueberries an' gat'er 'em up
Then get yer vinegar bu' only a cup
Leave it for three days, na' a day more
Then through the sieve ya pour, pour, pour
Put it in a pot and boil it well
Gi'e it to someone it will na' fail
Then tell that fever to go to..."
"Hell...," Henry finished for her and Mary nodded.
" 's risky...," Mary started and all three nodded, waiting so long for a cure was very risky, " bu' I can 'ave it done by tomorrow e'en though it will be awfully foul for tasting."
"We really don't have a choice but to wait...it will take at least two days for the roads to be cleared," said Mrs. Thornton, "all we have to do now is to try to keep her temperature as low as possible until Mary can finish."
It was done no one had to speak to know that everyone would do everything in their power to help Margaret break the fever.