William Greg appoints Howlett as the mill's over-seer, aware that his gratitude will make him compliant, but his ignorance of the machinery brings him into conflict with Daniel, who accuses him of running it too fast. Daniel is proved right when Howlett's son Jack is almost crushed under a loom and Howlett is relieved of his duties. Esther is now eighteen and a paid worker and she leaves the apprentice house to live in a basement cellar, where she flirts with Will. She is given domestic help by Susannah and Daniel, the latter suggesting she joins the union to gain female support. Mill-girl Miriam is befriended by Peter who has returned from a tour talking about his time as a slave and who comes to work as Daniel's assistant though the friendship provokes gossip from the spiteful Patience.
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