The Library 2 (Part 4)

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(This is the latest installment of the series that starts with The Old Mill.  The previous chapter was  The Library 2 (part 3).  The Table of Contents is here)

(Note 2 – This is Part four of a four part chapter)

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“After the ‘Thomas versus the world’ part,” Mike said, “we have the ‘sibling rivalry’ part. I have to say, the saga of George and Martha is my favorite chapter of the Goode story.”

“That sounds, well, a little sick,” I said

“‘A little sick?’  No, a lot sick.  You haven’t heard it yet.”

“You’re right, I haven’t heard much.  I know there was little love between them.”

“To back up a second, after Thomas died, his brother, Samuel came up and spent a lot of time helping to get the family settled.  He had recently married and his wife helped with George.  But as his responsibilities grew and his family grew, he spent less and less time in Amesbury.  You have to remember that it was quite the hike out here from Boston, a major journey.”

“I can imagine.  It’s a major hike driving today, particularly when the traffic is bad, which it always is in Massachusetts.”

“Right.  I think you need a time machine and live it for a while to understand what ‘a major journey’ means.  Actually, so do I.  I heard you hang out with the Wallaces.  They’re clever.  Can one of them build us a time machine?”

“I’ll ask.”

“On the plus side, there was Margret.  I told you she had a very big maternal side.  She became a second mother to George and did a damn fine job with him.”

“I’m sure.”

“But she got married and moved away.  Remember, she was 14 when her father died, almost a woman back then.  She was just shy of 23 when she married, almost an old maid.”

“Old maid at 24.  Yeah, let’s skip the time machine, I think I like the present better.”

“George was 15 when he found himself his own master.  Martha tried to work with him, but he already didn’t get along with his older sister.  He hung out with the sons of some of the mill owners, you know, his social peers, and spent a lot of time with their families.  By the time he was 17, that bit of not-getting-along became a lot of hatred.”

“Not nice from one so young.  You should at least be in your 20s before you start hating.  Insolent brat.”

“He pretty much only repeated what the mill owners told him.  Martha had murdered his father.  She had colluded with that demon, Alexander De’Trell.  They had tried to destroy the mill and killed a lot of people.  Even worse, they’d killed a lot of rich people.  Alexander was worse than the devil to these people, they hated him so.  I’m not sure why, but I guess because he helped the common folk so much.  And Martha followed his example.  They hated her for being a powerful woman.”

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.  I think every word you say is making me like Martha more and the other owners less.”

“I’m sure you can guess whose side I’m on.”  Mike laughed.

“I didn’t realize there were sides.”

“Open your eyes.  That friend of yours, my cousin Barbara Adams, is on George’s side, perhaps even on Thomas’ side.”

“How about Sean?”

“I’m not too sure about cousin Sean.  He takes the standard view of the Goode family history, unlike Barbara, but I know he has no love for Martha.  I can’t see him favoring Thomas.  I’m not sure about him.  You, on the other hand, I know about.  You are the type that would be on Martha’s side.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.  It was a huge complement.  Back to the story, the older George grew, the more he believed the stories.  He spent most of his days as a youth in the other mills.  Of course, the Goode mill was by far the most successful in town, and the one with the best cared for workers who made the most money.  Can you say huge resentments? I knew you could.”

“It doesn’t pay to be good, I guess.  I spelled that without the ‘e’, for your information, so stop smirking.”

“Good or Goode, no matter, George’s mind was poisoned against his oldest sister.  He started to demand that she give him all of the Goode fortune.  He was the male heir.  Thomas had told everyone that he was.  It wasn’t in writing, but did it have to be?”

“Oh, he thought he had the law on his side.  I can imagine.”

“He did, and took her to court shortly after he turned 18.  It was a very dirty, vicious fight that lasted years.  Finally, in 1841, when George was just 25, there was a settlement.”

“Why was George ‘only’ 25 when Margret was ancient at 23?”

“You think double standards between men and women are bad today?”

“They are.  Anyway, go on.”

“George got the mill and all of the property in town.  Martha kept the mansion and all of the holdings and out of town investments.  The court said that she had taken a bankrupt family and turned it into one of the richest in the state and she deserved something for it, but they sided with George on him being the heir.”

“A clean split, then.”

“In my opinion, Martha had the better deal, but yes, it was considered a good deal.  By people outside of it, at least.”

“Those resentful mill owners, on the other hand…”

“Exactly.  However, there are few things to remember.  Many of the original owners were beginning to retire, so George was losing allies.  And others thought the battle had been too long and harsh and didn’t want to be involved.  Although George had his sympathizers, he had far fewer willing to join him in his corner.  Most thought that since he had the mill, he should leave well enough alone.”

“It makes sense.  I would agree, I can defiantly see how that battle was awful.”

“Can you?  The battle was terrible and mean on so many levels.  It totally changed Martha.  When it started, she was a beautiful woman at 28, had some suitors, and people thought she would marry one of them, a rich man from Nashua, Charles Turner.  When it was over, she was almost 36, but looked 50.  She was a broken woman.  She had given a lot to the people in town, had donated most of the land that became the village center, and gave gifts of food to the poorer residents.  She singlehandedly saved the town in 1821.  And they turned on her.  If it were 1695 instead of 1835, she would have been burned as a witch.”

“Wow.  Not nice.  And when people talk of the middle-aged Martha, then it most likely is a 35-year-old?”

“I’m not sure what people you’re talking about, but maybe.  She was older than she should have been at that time, but seemed frozen like that for years.  After the battles, George moved out.  He built the brick house on what became School Street.  He took over the day-to-day running of the mill.  He made changes from the second he got it.  Slowly at first, but accelerating.  The mill lost a lot of people with experience and lost a lot of money.  It took him years to make a profit and he sold most of the property in town to stay solvent.”

“Let me guess, he went back to spare the rod and spoil the mill worker.”

“Exactly.  The Goode Mill went from the best place to work in the state to, well, not the worst, but also not so good, in about 5 years.  Eventually he did make a profit and felt vindicated.  And he expanded.  I mean, Martha did expand, so the mill in 1841 was larger than the original mill or even the revitalized mill of 1822, but he made it even bigger.”

“Kind of a mill-envy, size matters type of thing, I guess.”

“It was.  Of course he wasn’t satisfied.  He kept Martha in court almost continuously, just one thing after another.”

“I’ll sue you.  Sounds like a real American.”

“It came about in the late 1850s or early 1860s that he got some big-wig lawyers and said he was going to destroy her.  She told him that if he tried, she’d release the papers she’s been sitting on.  It would hurt her, and every Goode on the East Coast, but it would sink his business.”

“The lost book of the Goodes.  OK, I heard of that but had no clue how it fit in.”

“Some called it ‘the lost book’, but I think it was the lost legal documents about the fire and Thomas’ role.  You know, proof that he set it.  It was thought that he snatched them, but Martha must have taken them from him before he could destroy them.  Anyway, she finally convinced George to spend a few days with her.  I’m guessing she showed him what she had.  He went home, locked himself in his bedroom for two days, wouldn’t talk to anybody, and after those two days, blew his brains out.  This was in 1863.  He was 47.  He left a wife, Sally, three daughters and two sons.  The oldest, Thomas, who we call ‘the second Thomas’ today, was 18.  He took over the mill and the little remaining property.”

“Was he a good man?  Again, no ‘e’.”

“He wasn’t bad.  He improved conditions in the mill a bit.  Unfortunately, he continued to believe most of the darkest rumors about his Aunt Martha and never tried to get to know her, but he didn’t take an active stance against her.  And really, George wasn’t evil, like Thomas.  He didn’t hurt anyone except for Martha.  The conditions in his mill were pretty bad, but really no worse than any of the others and not quite the Dickens type ordeal some think about mill life in the 19th century.  If it wasn’t for the Martha thing, people would think him one of the town’s best citizens.”

“Doesn’t sound like it.”

“He wasn’t mean, didn’t whip people or anything like that.  He did help some of the poor people, like if someone died at his mill he took care of the family.  Not all mill owners did.  He lived in town, right next door to some of the common folk, and so got along with them better than those who lived segregated lives.  He didn’t have the awful habits of his father, so he didn’t go galivanting around or piss through money.  In fact, they say that he was a pretty decent father and husband.”

“It was just that he was obsessed about Martha, right?”

“Yes.  It was almost like the other mill owners used him as a tool to extract revenge from her for being a woman and still doing so much better than they could.  Well it worked, for in ways, they did destroy her.”

“She outlive the lot of them, didn’t she?  In fact, I thought she outlived the Hell out of them.”

“But what type of life?  She was a high spirited young lady, full of vigor, as they said back then.  She should have had a great life.  Her first boyfriend died in the fire.  And then, right when it looked like she would get married after all, the landed gentry of Amesbury pretty much ran her suitor out of town.”

“Pretty rotten.”

“She was just shy of 60 when George committed suicide.  Although she looked an old lady at 35, some said she didn’t really change much in the 20 odd years between the ruling that lost her the mill and George’s death.  Her hair turned grey, of course, but at 58 she looked typical of a rich woman her age, not like an old hag.”

“So the continuing battle didn’t have as much effect on her as the early war, then?”

“I wouldn’t say that.  Maybe it didn’t physically change her as much, but she grew stranger by the day.  When she turned 50, she started to wear her party dress, the one she wore to the ball, on every April 27.  Every year she did it on that special day.  It was an almost comically tight fit when she was in her 50s and 60s, but it hung off of her by the time she was in her 90s.”

“That was the night that changed her life, her big event in so many ways.  At least she didn’t wear it every day.”

“It was the big event.  She also started to keep to herself more and more.  She had been very generous, but grew stingy, not spending any money on herself or anyone else.  Well, a few female relatives who still paid attention to her received favors and her servants had higher incomes than even some of the richest mill owners.  She would say odd things to people who visited or when she came into town.  Just an odd duck all around.”

“Who could blame her?  I mean really.”

“I agree.  The sad thing is, the people she helped the most were long gone by then, so people didn’t remember the kind young lady who saved the town, just the weird old lady in the mansion on the hill.”

“Too bad.”

“Her servants slowly grew old and left or died.  The last handful of years of her life she only had a husband and wife team come up once a week to help out, him in the yard and her inside.  On April 27, 1900, she died alone.  She wasn’t discovered for almost a week.  It had been warm, and so she wasn’t in great shape when found.”

“How do they know when she died?”

“She was wearing the party dress, of course.”

“Ah, of course.”

The librarian stuck her head into the room.  “Hey guys,” she said, “did you know we closed a half an hour ago?  Are you going to stay any longer?”

“No, no,” I said, “I’ve been here far too long.  Anyway, Mike, thanks for the history lesson.  There’s a huge amount to digest here.  Like a serial-killer and a  30-year family feud.”

“It was completely my pleasure.  Stop by any time.  I can tell you about all of the horrid things the second Thomas and his decedents did.”  He winked.

“Right.  Later!”

I grabbed my jacket and followed the librarian down the stairs.  She showed me out and locked the door behind me.

“Been studying history at the library all night,” I texted to Lyndsey.

“I hope you learned a lot.”  She sent back.  Then she texted, “Been working all night : (“

“Miss you” I texted.

“Miss you more.  Nite.”

“Nite nite.  Pleasant dreams” I texted.

She finished with “: )”

I walked home. The house felt huge and empty.  I was lonelier than I ever remember feeling.

— —

The Old MillPrevious – – Table of Contents  – – Next

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3 thoughts on “The Library 2 (Part 4)

  1. Pingback: If We Were Having Coffee on the 13th of May! | Trent's World (the Blog)

  2. Pingback: The Mill at Night – The Old Mill | Trent's World (the Blog)

  3. Pingback: The Library 2 (Part 3) – The Old Mill | Trent's World (the Blog)

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