The Mill: Crime and Punishment

Esther-themill-5-2Previously on The Mill: Esther realized she’s getting screwed and needs to prove her age, so she’s heading to Liverpool to track down her baptism certificate, accompanied by new girl Lucy, who wants to track down her sister who is, unfortunately, dead.

Bellringer guy gets to ringing and everyone hauls out of bed. Well, everyone except Esther and Lucy, who’ve absconded already.

Timperley rushes up to the big house and tells Hannah about the escape, and that he knows where they’re headed. He gets on his cart and off he goes.

The girls are on the road, and when they hear a horse and cart coming, they turn around, thinking they can get a lift. What idiots. Of course, it’s Mr T in the cart, and he starts to chase them down. They peel off into the nearby woods and he gets down to give chase. So, it’s two not so terribly strong girls against a middle-aged, paunchy guy. This could be anyone’s game, honestly. They give him the slip, double back, and steal the cart. Because I guess they figure they’re in for a penny, might as well be in for a pound.

Susannah goes to yell at Daniel for putting ideas in Esther’s head. He shrugs her off, and then she notices the pamphlet he’s looking at. She warns him he’ll be in trouble if Robert sees that.

In Liverpool, Lucy realizes that they’ve just stolen the horse and cart, which they could hang for, so they can’t go back now. They figure they’ll just find jobs somewhere else. Lucy thinks that Esther won’t need the baptism certificate now, but Esther insists she does, because it could help her find her family. The family that wanted nothing to do with you? You really want to find them? But first, they’ll find Lucy’s sister. Esther offers to go into the workhouse, since they won’t recognize her.

Back at the mill, Susannah reads the pamphlet aloud to some of the apprentices, which seems like a really dumb thing to do right on the mill floor like that. It’s Doherty’s work, calling out Hannah for being part of the abolition society while simultaneously keeping slaves. Tommy sticks up for Hannah, and then Robert shows up and asks what’s going on. Susannah lies that she found the pamphlet in the privy, and hands it over when he asks for it. He tells them all to get back to work.

The pamphlet is delivered to his parents and Robert warns Hannah that she needs to keep a lower profile until all this dust up over the factory bill is done. She sadly agrees to step down as chair for the time being. Robert thanks her and leaves. Her husband reassures her it won’t be for long, and she asks if the business is really in good hands with Robert. Ouch.

The man in charge of the workhouse spins through with Esther, telling her he doesn’t remember all the inmates. She spots one girl with a horrible looking iron contraption over her face and asks what the girl did. Talked back, apparently. I didn’t think I’d say this, but you don’t know how good you have it, Esther.

Outside, Mr T comes up behind Lucy, grabs her, and asks where Esther is. He guesses she’s in the workhouse, but Lucy lies that she isn’t. He threatens to snap her neck if she doesn’t say where she is and Lucy gasps that Esther went off to find the baptism certificate.

Inside, the man in charge tells Esther that Catherine never arrived back at the workhouse. Esther emerges and finds Lucy and the cart gone. She immediately begins to freak out.

Daniel is summoned to see Robert, who waves the pamphlet and tells him these never found their way to the mill before. He tells Daniel he won’t have it and wants him to sign a pledge of loyalty, promising never to join a trade union or anything similar. He wants all the men in his employ to sign it. Dan refuses, saying he’d rather go back to jail. I’m sure that can be arranged. Robert signs and backs off, guessing that Daniel can’t very well form a union on his own, and since all the others signed it, it should be fine. Yes, I’m sure that will never come back to bite him in the ass.

Daniel goes and rants to Susannah about how restrictive things are nowadays. She asks him why it really matters since there are no unions in the area, and he basically says it’s the principle of the thing. Besides, just because there aren’t any unions now doesn’t mean there might not be in the future. He asks her to take a walk with him on Sunday, so he can show her something. She tells him she can’t, because she’s not allowed.

Mr T brings Lucy back to Robert, who gives her a seven-day punishment that will entail lots and lots of overtime. Timperley’s rather happy to be shot of Esther, but Robert thinks letting her get away would set a terrible precedent, so Timperley’s back to Liverpool to find her.

Esther’s started going church by church, looking for information, leaving notices up, but she’s having no luck. She goes down to the docks and asks if there’s any work to be had. Not any she’s willing to do. She gets dragged aside by some prostitutes who think she’s horning in on their territory and tells them she’s definitely not.

Mrs T brings Lucy some dinner (apparently Lucy’s been locked up in some garret someplace for those seven days), and before she goes in, she takes a bite of the stew. What a nice lady. When she goes in, she bitches at Lucy for having to suffer for Lucy’s crime, what with having to climb some stairs and all. Boo hoo.

Dan’s finished Tommy’s new arm, which has working fingers and everything, which is pretty damn impressive. Mrs T comes in and asks what he’s doing in her kitchen. He asks for permission to take Susannah for a walk, which Mrs T doesn’t give because she’s just a bitch. But Hannah comes in and tells Mrs T to let Susannah go. Can’t really argue with that. And anyway, what’s the big deal? It’s not like he can give her a twin or anything.

Esther’s starting to look desperate. She finds the first guy she met down at the docks and asks him how much his job pays. He ushers her into a nearby warehouse and pulls down a couple of cotton bales to make a sort of bed. He invites her to sit and asks her if she’s considered the workhouse. She says they’d just send her back from whence she came, and she needs more time to find what she’s looking for. He asks what that is, and she shortly tells him to just get a move on already. He goes to undo his trousers and then asks if she’s ever done this before. Judging from her reaction in the subsequent scene, I’m guessing no.

The next day, she goes back to posting her notices and looking for her certificate. Someone from one of the churches notices her note and asks where she learned to write. She says she worked in a cotton mill. He says he’s had a few Price families in his parish and agrees to look into finding the certificate. He tells her to come back in a few days and she smiles delightedly.

Sunday. Susannah meets Dan for their walk, both of them looking cutely awkward. He takes her to a rally for the factory bill, which seems to be drawing people from near and far, including Doherty, naturally. He welcomes Daniel back into the rabble-rouser fold and asks if it’s true that Robert’s introducing ‘the document’. He takes it as a sign they’re getting the upper hand and tells Dan to keep in touch before continuing on his way.

He speaks at the rally, which is really, really well attended. Doherty whips up the crowd and slags off the masters of the factories. He calls out ‘The Document’ and urges everyone to refuse to sign it.

Later, Susannah rhapsodises about the amazing notion of only having to work a 10 hour day. She thinks Doherty was amazing, but Daniel says she shouldn’t put all her faith in just one man, or she’ll be disappointed. He says this whole thing is bigger than just Doherty and she says she can see that. She also says she saw the real Dan that day, and that he had a light in his eyes. He cutely says it was the company. Aww. They arrive back at the mill and wonder what they should do next. She says she knows what he wants to do. He asks what that is, and she says he wants to persuade the other men not to sign the document. Heh. They have a loaded moment, and then someone rings a bell and she has to go.

Bell rings, everyone up, Lucy’s released from her prison. Bet she never thought she’d be happy to get back to the mill. She dashes out, and Mrs T has a heart attack. Well, that’s a shame.

Esther arrives back at the church and hears that the man found something. He takes her back to his office to show her, but instead of the document she was hoping for she finds Mr T. Apparently the Gregs are well known in the city, and this man deduced she was on the run from them. He piously and very Victorian-ly scolds her that useful employment in an honest profession is the best thing for her. He insists he’s done her a favour, and I’m sure the little payoff from Mr T helps as well.

Susannah’s back at work at Dan’s experimental loom, while he looks on rather appreciatively and guides her hand on the shuttle. She gets it started and watches as it weaves away. He stares really intensely at her, and then leans in to kiss her. She’s into it, and in about five seconds flat they’re about to get it on on a nearby cotton bale. But then the loom stops itself, which is an amazing new development, because it is supposed to stop automatically if it notes a fault developing, and he’s so happy he cuts off their little tryst to celebrate (he does apologise to her, so there’s that). And then he spots Mr T returning with Esther and man is that a mood killer. He immediately goes out to intervene or something, while Susannah begs him to think clearly and sensibly, reminding him that, now the loom’s working, Robert won’t necessarily need to keep him on if Dan pisses him off too badly. Dan pays no attention to her and confronts Timperley, who has Esther shackled and chained. Dan shouts that this isn’t a slave plantation. Susannah gets in between the two men and tells Dan he can’t talk like this. Dan picks up Esther and tells her that he’ll take the chains off her.

Timperley goes into Robert’s office and asks if he heard all that. Robert did, and he promises to deal with Dan as soon as he’s dealt with Esther. He asks Timperley to have a seat and breaks the news that Mrs T is dead. He says it was a seizure brought on by climbing stairs.

Lucy is summoned to a meeting with Timperley, Robert, and Esther. Robert hands Lucy some scissors and tells her to chop off Esther’s hair. Really? That’s her punishment? Esther reacts like Lucy’s just been told to chop off her hand. Lucy weeps and tells Esther she’s sorry before getting started. Why was this considered to be a terrible thing? Was it just because you could get sick more easily? Because it was some passing mark of shame? The hair grows back, do they not know that?

Now shorn, Esther is taken to the room where they’ve put Mrs T, so Mr T can tell her that the missus was left to run a house with 60 ungrateful brats and no help because he had to be out in Liverpool hunting her down. He says that a shearing and 10 days in solitary isn’t enough punishment for her. And then he locks her in with the body. Ok, that’s a pretty bad punishment.

A doctor fetches Susannah and tells her she’s being sent off to start her confinement. Arrangements have already been made. She refuses to go without saying goodbye to her siblings and rushes into the mill to embrace them. She cries, panicking completely, and is dragged away by the doctor. Outside, Dan sees them leaving and asks what’s happening. The doctor says she’s starting her confinement. He stops the horse and insists she’s not going. The doctor says he has no say, so Dan gets right down on a knee and proposes to her.

Their next stop is Robert’s office, where Susannah accuses him of breaking his promise to keep her nearby when she had the baby. He says all bets were off when she went to that rally. Dan threatens to leave if Susannah goes and once again reiterates his plan to marry her. He insists he loves her and promises to bring up her baby as his own. Susannah takes his hand and promises not to cause any further trouble. She just wants to stay in the neighbourhood and Dan wants to finish the loom. Robert tells Dan to sign The Document and he’ll allow the marriage. Susannah guesses that Robert planned all this, but I think that’s giving him a bit more credit for underhanded cunning than Robert’s due. Dan picks up the pen and Susannah begs him not to do it. But he does it. Signed, sealed, delivered.

Esther’s screaming at the top of her lungs, like that’s really going to make any difference. Except it does. Hannah shows up and embraces the frightened girl and reassures her that everything will be all right. She takes her down to the kitchen, where Timperley’s hanging around, and promises to speak to Robert about this particular punishment. Mr T, aghast, asks if she’s actually going to get away with all this and Hannah says she’s sorry for T’s loss, but this girl has suffered enough. She sets about getting Esther something to eat and Esther sends a conspiratorial wink Tommy’s way. She was just playing Hannah, because Esther really can be the worst.

Later, she checks out her shorn head in the side of a polished copper cup. Outside, Hannah talks to Robert. Tommy reassures Esther that Hannah’s on their side, so everything will be fine. He asks Esther what it was like in the big wide world and she says it tasted of freedom.

Hannah scolds Robert for a rather inhuman punishment. He admits he might have overreacted, but he hasn’t broken any law. Oh, well, then. Finally, the undertaker shows up to collect Mrs T’s body, and he asks Hannah if they’ve had any runaways lately, because they found a little girl’s body not too far away. Mr T overhears the conversation from the kitchen and looks alarmed. He glances at Esther, to make sure she’s not listening, and then goes out to hurry the undertaker along.

That night, Lucy apologises to Esther again. Esther forgives her, because it’s not like Lucy had a choice there. Someone else tells Esther not to worry and shares the news that Susannah and Dan are getting married. Someone else hushes the girl, saying Esther doesn’t want to hear about that.

The undertaker takes Mrs T away. Mr T says he wants everything done with dignity, but that goes out the window fairly quickly when they realize Mrs T’s too fat to move easily. The girls below can hear the ruckus and get up to listen, giggling at the imagined show. Lucy asks Esther if she saw Catherine in the workhouse. Esther says she didn’t, and when Lucy asks where Catherine is, Esther clams up for a while, then admits that Catherine was found dead. It’s actually pretty harrowing, with all the girls cackling in the background. Lucy and Esther weep.



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