Page 8 of The Husband Season

‘Did you succeed?’

 ‘Unfortunately, no. I am afraid nothing will really satisfy them but having a say in their own destiny. I fear some dreadful calamity if they are not listened to.’


 ‘Surely not your people? You have the reputation of being a benign employer.’

 ‘I do my best, but that will not stop some of the hotheads persuading the rest that to stand apart will bring down retribution on their heads.’

 ‘What can you do to prevent it?’

 ‘I don’t know. I pay them more than the usual wage for the work they do and provide them with a good dinner, but that has brought censure from my peers that I am setting a bad example and will ruin all our businesses. I am in a cleft stick, but hoping to avert trouble by other means.’

 ‘Militia?’

 ‘No, that is a last resort. Innocent people are apt to get hurt when soldiers are let loose. I intend to speak in the Lords in the hope that the government will listen to reason and grant at least some of their demands.’

 ‘Do you think they will?’

 ‘I doubt it, but I must try. If I can rally enough men of good sense on my side, I might achieve something. Times are changing, Mark, and we must change, too, or go under. Ever since I inherited the mill, I have tried to put myself in the shoes of my workers. I have cut the hours of work of the children by half and have set aside a room as a schoolroom and employed a teacher, so the other half of their day is gainfully employed getting an education. Even that does not always go down well—some parents accuse me of giving their children ideas above their station. I answered that by trying to educate the adults, too. It incensed the other mill owners who fear giving the workers an education will make them even more rebellious.’

 ‘I would have thought that a man who can read and write would be a better and more efficient worker because of it.’

 ‘My argument exactly. Everyone should be able to better themselves.’ He paused. ‘But I believe you have been doing something similar.’

 ‘Ours is a home for orphans, but we have a schoolroom, too, and good teachers. It is my wife’s project more than mine, but I help out when I can. We started with only a handful of children, but there are so many of them now and more in need, we have to expand. I am in town to hire an architect for the project and to try to drum up more funds. Everything has become so dear, it is hard work to keep it all afloat.’

 ‘You are not wanting in the necessary, surely? I understood Broadacres to be a thriving estate.’

 ‘So it is, but Jane is determined to make the Hadlea Home stand on its own, and I indulge her wishes and help out in a roundabout way. Besides, it is incumbent on me to keep the estate prosperous for my son’s sake and laying out blunt for the orphans, which seems never-ending, will not help to achieve that.’

 ‘You are a father now, I collect.’

 ‘Yes, Harry is ten months old and the darling of his mother’s eye.’

 ‘And yours, too, I’ve no doubt. I lost my child, you know.’

 ‘Yes, I did know and I am sorry for you, but you will marry again and there will be other children.’

 ‘I doubt it. There can only be one Anne.’

 ‘That is true. We are all unique in our own way, loving and loved for different reasons. It doesn’t preclude a second wife.’

 ‘When she died, so painfully and so cruelly, I swore not to let it happen again.’ He paused, unwilling to dwell on his loss, which no one who had not experienced it could possibly understand, and wondering how to change the subject. ‘Shall we have a hand or two of whist?’

 ‘Not tonight, cousin. I brought my wife’s sister to London to stay with her aunt in Mount Street and have not yet been home to Wyndham House. The servants will be expecting me. Where do you stay?’

 ‘At Grillon’s. I have never felt the need of a town house when I am so rarely in town.’

 ‘Then stay at Wyndham House. You may come and go as you please while there.’

 To have congenial company and a more-than-respectable address while doing what he had come to town to do would serve him very well, Adam decided. ‘Thank you. I shall be pleased to do so,’ he said.

 They left the club, Mark to go home and alert his servants that a guest was expected and Adam to go to Grillon’s, settle his account and arrange for his manservant, Alfred Farley, to take his luggage to Wyndham House.

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