The next morning, as Margaret and Mrs. Hale chat, Mrs. Hale is displeased by the Milton “provincialisms”—“factory slang”—that pepper Margaret’s speech. Margaret defends the use of such speech, arguing that if using Milton expressions is “vulgar,” then she was very “vulgar” when they lived in Helstone.
Mr. Thornton enters as she says this, and Margaret feels embarrassed that she may have offended him. She is aware of Thornton’s careful avoidance of her as he talks with her parents, and she yearns to return to “their former position of antagonistic friendship.” Thornton, meanwhile, still feels bitter about Margaret’s rejection, and yet finds “a stinging pleasure” in being in her presence.
Margaret comes to the realization that she and Thornton were, in fact, friends, and that she cares about what he thinks. Here she longs nostalgically for their earlier friendship, “antagonistic” and combative as it was.