فصل 05

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فصل 05

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER FIVE

A Strike Begins

Four or five days after his visit to the Hales, Mr Thornton decided that his mother and sister should also visit them, but he had some difficulty persuading them to do so. Mrs Thornton did not often go out visiting and she did not understand why she should become friends with a teacher. Eventually she agreed, but it was then Fanny’s turn to protest.

‘I am not coming,’ she said. ‘I have a headache today.’

‘Fanny! I wish you to go,’ said her brother authoritatively. ‘Please go without me saying any more about it.’

Mrs Thornton sighed. Unlike her mother and her brother Fanny was not a strong character, and Mrs Thornton had an unconscious contempt for those who were weak. She behaved lovingly towards her daughter and a stranger might have thought that she loved her more than her son. The opposite was true. The honesty with which mother and son spoke to each other showed the great respect they had for each other’s strength. Mrs Thornton thanked God for her son every day of her life.

That afternoon, Mrs Thornton and Fanny set out in their carriage for Crampton. When she entered the Hales’ little sitting-room, Mrs Thornton, who was shy and hated meeting strangers, hid her shyness by looking even more severe than usual. She and Mrs Hale started a conversation about servants while Margaret, who was sewing, tried hard to talk to Fanny.

‘I see no piano, so I suppose you are not musical,’ said Fanny.

‘I am fond of good music but I cannot play well myself. We sold our old piano when we came here.’

‘How can you exist without one? A piano is a necessity!’

‘You have good concerts here, I believe,’ said Margaret coldly.

‘Oh yes! One is sure to hear the newest music here.’

‘Do you like new music, then?’

‘Oh, one knows it is the fashion in London. You have been to London, of course.’

‘Yes,’ said Margaret. ‘I lived there for several years. Have you never been there? It is an easy journey by train.’

‘I would love to go, but mother does not wish to. She is very proud of Milton, you see. To me it is a dirty, smoky place, but I believe she admires it for those qualities.’

‘If it has been Mrs Thornton’s home for some years, I can understand her loving it,’ said Margaret in her clear voice.

‘May I ask what you are saying about me, Miss Hale?’ asked Mrs Thornton.

Fanny replied, ‘Oh Mother, we are trying to understand why you are so fond of Milton.’

‘Thank you,’ said Mrs Thornton, I do not feel that my natural liking for the place where I was born requires an explanation.’

Margaret was cross that Fanny had made it seem that they had been criticising her mother; she also disliked the way Mrs Thornton had spoken to her.

After a pause, Mrs Thornton said, ‘Do you know anything about Milton, Miss Hale? Have you visited our splendid factories?’

‘No,’ said Margaret honestly. ‘I don’t think I would greatly enjoy visiting such places.’

‘No doubt,’ said Mrs Thornton, sounding displeased. ‘I thought that as newcomers to a manufacturing town, you might have been interested in finding out more about its business.’

Soon after this, the visit ended. ‘Fanny,’ said her mother as they drove away, ‘we will be polite to these Hales, but don’t become friendly with the daughter. She will do you no good. The mother looks very ill and seems a nice, quiet kind of person. Well, I suppose John will be satisfied now.’

The next day, Mr Hale and Margaret returned Mrs Thornton’s visit. To their surprise, they discovered that the Thorntons lived next to their mill in Marlborough Street. Behind a long wall there was a large yard, with offices on one side and the mill on the other. At the end of the yard was a tall, attractive house. They knocked at the door and were taken upstairs to a large sitting-room. Mrs Thornton entered a few minutes later.

‘How is Mr Thornton?’ asked Mr Hale. ‘He was unable to come for his lesson yesterday and I was afraid he was not well.’

‘My son is rarely ill. He told me he was too busy to visit you last night. But I know he values the hours he spends with you.’

‘I find them equally pleasant,’ said Mr Hale. ‘He has such an appreciation of Ancient Greek literature.’

‘I have no doubt that to know Ancient Greek is desirable for those who do not work. But I advised my son not to study it. His work requires all his attention. It ought to be enough for him to have one great desire and to aim only at that.’

‘And that is - ?’ asked Mr Hale.

Mrs Thornton blushed as she answered, ‘To have a high position among the manufacturers in this country. My son has earned this place for himself. All over Europe, the name of John Thornton of Milton is respected among businessmen.’

Both Mr Hale and Margaret felt uncomfortably aware that they had never heard of this great name until Mr Bell had told them about him. The expression on Margaret’s face revealed this to the sensitive Mrs Thornton.

‘You are thinking you have never heard of this wonderful son of mine, Miss Hale.’

‘Yes, it is true. But since I have been here I have heard enough to make me respect and admire him.’

Mrs Thornton smiled, but said, ‘Thank you, Miss Hale. Many young women would not have said that, fearing that it would seem that they had plans to win my son’s heart.’

On hearing this, Margaret laughed, but stopped when she saw Mrs Thornton’s annoyed look.

‘I’m sorry, madam. But I really am not interested in that way,’ she said.

‘Young ladies have been, before now,’ said Mrs Thornton stiffly.

‘I hope I will see Mr Thornton on Thursday,’ said Mr Hale, trying to change the subject.

‘I cannot say. There will almost certainly be a strike.’

‘A strike! Why?’ asked Margaret.

‘The workers want higher wages, I suppose,’ said Mr Hale.

‘That is what they say, but the truth is, they want to be more powerful than the mill owners. They strike every five or six years. But I believe that if the men do strike, the mill owners have some ideas that will teach them not do it again in a hurry.’

That evening Mr Thornton came to see Mr Hale. He was shown into the sitting-room, where Margaret was reading aloud to her father and mother.

‘I have come partly to bring a note from my mother and partly to apologise for not coming for my lesson yesterday. The note contains the address you asked for.’

‘Thank you,’ said Margaret quickly, holding out her hand to take the note. She did not want her mother to know that her father, who was becoming worried about his wife’s health, had asked Mr Thornton to give them the name of a good doctor. Mr Thornton seemed to understand immediately and gave her the note without another word of explanation.

Mr Hale began to talk about the strike. Mr Thornton, looking angry, said, ‘Yes, the fools are going to strike. They think the cotton trade is as good as it was last year. They want better pay, but because we won’t explain why we have refused their demand, and tell them we may have to lower wages, they think we are trying to cheat them.’

‘But why can’t you explain your reasons?’ asked Margaret.

‘Do you give your servants reasons for the way in which you spend your money? We manufacturers have a right to choose what we do with it.’

‘What about the rights of the workers?’ said Margaret quietly.

‘I’m sorry, I did not hear what you said.’

‘I would rather not repeat it,’ she said. ‘I don’t think you will understand.’

‘Please try and explain,’ said Mr Thornton, who really wanted to know what she had said.

‘I meant that the workers have rights too. Surely they deserve to know why you cannot pay them more.’

Mr Thornton paused for a moment and then said, ‘In my opinion, the workers are like children. I do not think we mill owners try to keep them like that - it is just the way they are. They need to be told what to do and, like children, they do not need to be given reasons why.’

Margaret replied, ‘I very much disagree with you. There should be friendship and cooperation between the manufacturers and their workers. We all depend on each other.’

The conversation continued with neither side willing to change their position. Mr Thornton got up to go. Margaret smiled at him but did not put out her hand, and again, as he left, he told himself that she was unpleasantly proud.

That night, as the Thorntons sat in their sitting-room, Mrs Thornton asked her son what he had done that day. On hearing that he had visited the Hales, Fanny said, ‘Are they really so different to most people one meets?’

Her words annoyed her brother, but he did not reply.

‘They do not seem unusual to me,’ said Mrs Thornton.

‘He appears a good kind of man - not clever enough to be in trade. The wife sees herself as a lady. The girl is the one who puzzles me. She seems to have great self-importance and I can’t understand why. They’re not rich and, from what I understand, they never have been.’

‘And she can’t even play the piano, Mother,’ said Fanny.

‘Go on, Fanny. What else does she need to bring her up to your standard?’ said Mr Thornton, who was walking up and down the sitting-room. Then he stopped and said bravely, ‘Mother, I want you to like Miss Hale.’

‘Why?’ she asked, surprised. ‘You’re not thinking of marrying her - a girl without any money?’

‘She would never have me,’ he answered with a short laugh.

‘From what she told me, I don’t think she would,’ said his mother. ‘Her opinion of herself is far too high to think of you!’

If these words hurt her son, the fading evening light hid the expression on his face, and in a minute he said cheerfully, ‘Well, I’m sure of that too, and have no intention of asking her to be my wife. But I see trouble for that girl - her mother is very ill - and I would like you to be a friend to her, in case she needs one.’

‘I cannot forgive her pride,’ said his mother, ‘but because you ask me, John, I will be her friend, if she needs it.’

‘I am so tired of this subject,’ said Fanny.

‘Well,’ said her brother rather bitterly, ‘shall we talk about the strike then? The men at Hamper’s mill are going to strike tomorrow. Mine will strike next week.’

‘You are going to have difficulty completing your business orders,’ said Mrs Thornton, looking worried. ‘Can you get workers from Ireland?’

‘Yes, I can, and I will if the strike goes on too long. But it will make our workers very angry.’

He continued walking up and down the room, not speaking but taking deep breaths from time to time. Fanny started chatting to her mother and at ten o’clock the family said good night. Mr Thornton remained in the room, anxiously considering his position. Because of the strike, all his business plans were in confusion; the workers seemed to him to be completely mad.

‘I can give them a fortnight - no more. If they haven’t understood the situation by then, I’ll be forced to get workers from Ireland,’ he thought.

In the second week of the strike, Margaret went to visit Bessy. When she arrived, Nicholas Higgins and his daughter were sitting by the fire. Nicholas, who was smoking a pipe, stood up, pushing his chair towards Margaret. She sat down and enquired about Bessy’s health.

‘She’s upset about the strike. She doesn’t like it.’

‘This is the third strike I’ve seen,’ said Bessy, sighing.

‘We’ll win this time, you can be sure of that,’ said Nicholas.

‘Why are you striking?’ asked Margaret.

‘There are five or six mill owners who want to pay us less than we get now,’ replied Nicholas. ‘And we won’t agree. We’ll die first. But don’t think I’m striking just for myself. There are only three in my family, but John Boucher next door has a sick wife and six children. He can’t manage with the wages he has now from the mill - how is he going to live on less?’

‘Perhaps you should ask the mill owners why they want to pay less. The reason may be that business is not good.’

‘I don’t believe that,’ said Nicholas angrily. ‘The mill owners will say anything. They use us so that they can get rich. But this time they’ll have to give in. They’ve got a lot of business orders and they need us to do the work.’

Bessy sighed heavily when she heard this and Margaret said, ‘You don’t like all this struggling and fighting, do you?’

‘No,’ said Bessy, ‘I’m tired of it all - all this shouting and talk of work and wages. Oh! The tobacco smoke makes me feel ill!’

‘Then I’ll never smoke in the house again,’ said her father gently. ‘But why didn’t you tell me before?’

Receiving no answer, he went outside to finish his pipe, and Bessy said in a low voice, ‘He needs his pipe. It’s one of the few comforts he has - his work is so hard and boring. And when a strike begins, everyone’s so hopeful at first. And then it goes on and on and people get angry and depressed.’

‘Maybe you’re exaggerating because you’re not well,’ said Margaret.

‘No, I’m not exaggerating. People have been coming to see us and they all say how much they hate the mill owners. I’ve seen women crying because they have no money to buy food and their children are so hungry they can’t sleep at night.’

‘You’re looking more and more feverish, Bessy. And your hand is so hot!’ Margaret found some water, wet her handkerchief and laid it on Bessy’s forehead. ‘I must go,’ she said, ‘but I’ll come back soon.’

‘You’re not like anyone I’ve ever known. I don’t know what to think of you.’

‘I don’t know what to think of myself. Goodbye.’

Bessy watched her as she walked out of the house. ‘I wonder if there are many people like her, down south. She’s so strong and bright! But will she stay like that, I wonder?’

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