Carol drew herself up.“That is not what I wish. I also have a few more ‘cost-effective’ years in me, thank you very much, and I’m not ready to be put out to pasture. Neither am I prepared to sell my soul to city life. Most of my girls will feel the same. We all have families here, histories, lives. You might as well offer us work down in London!”“I’m sorry to hear that.”“I bet you are. Ever operated a lace-attach machine, Mr Smythson?”“No.”“Thought not. They’re difficult. It takes a girl a year or more to perfect the technique. That’s a lot of expertise you’re going to lose.”“It’s a chance we’ll have to take. Maybe some of your girls will be more forward-thinking than you.”“Maybe.”Carol had no idea where to go from here. Was this it? Was this the end of the line for Cardill’s? The town wouldn’t be the same without it. She wouldn’t be the same without it. What would she do all day?Carol fought back such destructive thoughts. She glanced around the table and caught sight of Jonathan, tracing forlorn patterns in his custard.“What about him?” she demanded. “Poor lad’s only just got here!”“Jonathan is employed by Xion, not by Cardill’s,” Mr Fanshaw said. “We’ll find him somewhere new, right, Frank?”“Right,” Frank agreed. “I’ll sort it out, Carol.”“So one of us will be OK, then.”At this Jonathan looked up, his eyes strained.“You could move, too, Carol. Everyone knows you’re one of the best factory managers in the whole group. Tell her, Frank.”Frank looked guiltily to Mr Fanshaw and Carol laughed bitterly.“Wrong, Jonathan. I’m only the best here, where I know my stuff. They wouldn’t want me in one of their ‘modern units’.”“That’s not true, Mrs Jenkins,” Mr Fanshaw said quickly. “I’m sure, if you’re interested, we can . . .”“I’m not interested! I’m a Deveroe girl through and through, and I’m not jumping ship while everyone else drowns.”“Come now, Mrs Jenkins, you’re being melodramatic. Xion will be very fair to the workers.”“Good. Then you can start now by telling them all about it.”Mr Fanshaw looked a little panicked. “I’m not sure that would be constructive. Usual procedure is for the factory manager to . . .”“No, no,” Carol interrupted sharply. “I think ‘usual procedure’ just went out of the window. You’re not scuttling off to your first-class carriage whilst I face the music alone. I don’t want my girls to think this is anything to do with me, so you can tell them.”Mr Fanshaw seemed to have shrunk to half of Carol’s tiny size. He rubbed his stomach as if his beautiful lunch might be rebelling against him, but eventually he nodded.“Fair enough. Mr Smythson?”Mr Smythson stiffened his shoulders as if he was some sort of superhero. Carol’s own shoulders sagged. She had started this day with such pride in Cardill’s, and now she wanted to throw her arms around her dear factory and keep it safe from these hatchet-men. It was with a terrible sense of helplessness that she turned towards the stairs and her girls.