I find myself in agreement with Mr. Thornton in this discussion, rather than with Mr. Bell and I was particularly struck by this observation of Thornton's which could just as easily apply to society today as it did then: "People can speak of Utopia much more easily than of the next day's duty; and yet when that duty is all done by others, who so ready to cry, "Fie, for shame!"' Ain't that the truth.
Unfortunately, Thornton's visit ends on rather a sour note. Stressed due to the dire situation at the mill, on edge beacause of Margaret's presence, and irritated by Mr. Bell's making a joke out of a subject he's speaking seriously of, Mr. Thornton is goaded into saying something sharp which wounds Margaret's feelings. He immediately regrets his words but they cannot be unsaid and Margaret, drawing into herself to hide her pain, does not give him an opportunity to apologize. Thornton leaves, a mixture of remorse and resentment churning inside of him; he realizes that, though it is hopeless, he cannot stop loving Margaret.
In addition, the once rigid line between "Us" and "Them" - workers and owners- is becoming blurred for Higgins, as he has more interactions with Mr. Thornton. His sincerely held belief that the owners have no care for their employees is shaken by Thornton's obvious concern for Boucher's children, his determination that they receive an education so that they can better themselves. Of course, this doesn't mean that the two men don't butt heads: they are both spirited individuals with very different views on various issues. But now they regard each other as men worthy of debate and discussion, not as enemies to to be defeated. Their acquaintance makes both Higgins and Thornton better and more understanding men.
Being in Oxford does wonders for Mr. Hale's mental state, though physically he's still very tired, something he chalks up to the long journey and increased social activity. Being able to discuss his grief over his wife and his worries about the future with his friend in a way he never could with his daughter is a relief for Hale. As is Mr. Bell's cheerful and reassuring presence, which melts away any concerns Mr. Hale has about Margaret's wellbeing, should anything happen to him. If there is any consolation to be had when Mr. Hale dies in his sleep, it's that he went to bed that night freed from the guilt and anxiety which had been plaguing him.
For her part, being alone for the first time gives Margaret the space and time she needs to deal with her emotional turmoil and bottled up grief. When her father is there, she feels duty-bound to be strong and feign cheery good humour. The only time she has let that slip is when she collapsed after the visit from the police officer during the investigation of Leonard's death. Before and after this, she's maintained rigid control, and this in addition to everything which has occurred has left her mentally and physically exhausted. These days of respite, however, allow Margaret to recoup her strength and faith and to regard the future if not with enthusiasm, then with peace of mind and some hope. This is shattered when Mr. Bell arrives with news of her father's death.