Part 1 out of 11
This etext was produced by Charles Aldarondo.
NORTH AND SOUTH
On its appearance in 'Household Words,' this tale was obliged to
conform to the conditions imposed by the requirements of a weekly
publication, and likewise to confine itself within certain
advertised limits, in order that faith might be kept with the
public. Although these conditions were made as light as they well
could be, the author found it impossible to develope the story in
the manner originally intended, and, more especially, was
compelled to hurry on events with an improbable rapidity towards
the close. In some degree to remedy this obvious defect, various
short passages have been inserted, and several new chapters
added. With this brief explanation, the tale is commended to the
kindness of the reader;
'Beseking hym lowly, of mercy and pite, Of its rude makyng to
'HASTE TO THE WEDDING'
'Wooed and married and a'.'
'Edith!' said Margaret, gently, 'Edith!'
But, as Margaret half suspected, Edith had fallen asleep. She lay
curled up on the sofa in the back drawing-room in Harley Street,
looking very lovely in her white muslin and blue ribbons. If
Titania had ever been dressed in white muslin and blue ribbons,
and had fallen asleep on a crimson damask sofa in a back
drawing-room, Edith might have been taken for her. Margaret was
struck afresh by her cousin s beauty. They had grown up together
from childhood, and all along Edith had been remarked upon by
every one, except Margaret, for her prettiness; but Margaret had
never thought about it until the last few days, when the prospect
of soon losing her companion seemed to give force to every sweet
quality and charm which Edith possessed. They had been talking
about wedding dresses, and wedding ceremonies; and Captain
Lennox, and what he had told Edith about her future life at
Corfu, where his regiment was stationed; and the difficulty of
keeping a piano in good tune (a difficulty which Edith seemed to
consider as one of the most formidable that could befall her in
her married life), and what gowns she should want in the visits
to Scotland, which would immediately succeed her marriage; but
the whispered tone had latterly become more drowsy; and Margaret,
after a pause of a few minutes, found, as she fancied, that in
spite of the buzz in the next room, Edith had rolled herself up
into a soft ball of muslin and ribbon, and silken curls, and gone
off into a peaceful little after-dinner nap.
Margaret had been on the point of telling her cousin of some of
the plans and visions which she entertained as to her future life
in the country parsonage, where her father and mother lived; and
where her bright holidays had always been passed, though for the
last ten years her aunt Shaw's house had been considered as her
home. But in default of a listener, she had to brood over the
change in her life silently as heretofore. It was a happy
brooding, although tinged with regret at being separated for an
indefinite time from her gentle aunt and dear cousin. As she
thought of the delight of filling the important post of only
daughter in Helstone parsonage, pieces of the conversation out of
the next room came upon her ears. Her aunt Shaw was talking to
the five or six ladies who had been dining there, and whose
husbands were still in the dining-room. They were the familiar
acquaintances of the house; neighbours whom Mrs. Shaw called
friends, because she happened to dine with them more frequently
than with any other people, and because if she or Edith wanted
anything from them, or they from her, they did not scruple to
make a call at each other's houses before luncheon. These ladies
and their husbands were invited, in their capacity of friends, to
eat a farewell dinner in honour of Edith's approaching marriage.
Edith had rather objected to this arrangement, for Captain Lennox
was expected to arrive by a late train this very evening; but,
although she was a spoiled child, she was too careless and idle
to have a very strong will of her own, and gave way when she
found that her mother had absolutely ordered those extra
delicacies of the season which are always supposed to be
efficacious against immoderate grief at farewell dinners. She
contented herself by leaning back in her chair, merely playing
with the food on her plate, and looking grave and absent; while
all around her were enjoying the mots of Mr. Grey, the gentleman
who always took the bottom of the table at Mrs. Shaw's dinner
parties, and asked Edith to give them some music in the
drawing-room. Mr. Grey was particularly agreeable over this
farewell dinner, and the gentlemen staid down stairs longer than
usual. It was very well they did--to judge from the fragments of
conversation which Margaret overheard.
'I suffered too much myself; not that I was not extremely happy
with the poor dear General, but still disparity of age is a
drawback; one that I was resolved Edith should not have to
encounter. Of course, without any maternal partiality, I foresaw
that the dear child was likely to marry early; indeed, I had
often said that I was sure she would be married before she was
nineteen. I had quite a prophetic feeling when Captain
Lennox'--and here the voice dropped into a whisper, but Margaret
could easily supply the blank. The course of true love in Edith's
case had run remarkably smooth. Mrs. Shaw had given way to the
presentiment, as she expressed it; and had rather urged on the
marriage, although it was below the expectations which many of
Edith's acquaintances had formed for her, a young and pretty
heiress. But Mrs. Shaw said that her only child should marry for
love,--and sighed emphatically, as if love had not been her
motive for marrying the General. Mrs. Shaw enjoyed the romance of
the present engagement rather more than her daughter. Not but
that Edith was very thoroughly and properly in love; still she
would certainly have preferred a good house in Belgravia, to all
the picturesqueness of the life which Captain Lennox described at
Corfu. The very parts which made Margaret glow as she listened,
Edith pretended to shiver and shudder at; partly for the pleasure
she had in being coaxed out of her dislike by her fond lover, and
partly because anything of a gipsy or make-shift life was really
distasteful to her. Yet had any one come with a fine house, and a
fine estate, and a fine title to boot, Edith would still have
clung to Captain Lennox while the temptation lasted; when it was
over, it is possible she might have had little qualms of
ill-concealed regret that Captain Lennox could not have united in
his person everything that was desirable. In this she was but her
mother's child; who, after deliberately marrying General Shaw
with no warmer feeling than respect for his character and
establishment, was constantly, though quietly, bemoaning her hard
lot in being united to one whom she could not love.
'I have spared no expense in her trousseau,' were the next words
'She has all the beautiful Indian shawls and scarfs the General
gave to me, but which I shall never wear again.'
'She is a lucky girl,' replied another voice, which Margaret knew
to be that of Mrs. Gibson, a lady who was taking a double
interest in the conversation, from the fact of one of her
daughters having been married within the last few weeks.
'Helen had set her heart upon an Indian shawl, but really when I
found what an extravagant price was asked, I was obliged to
refuse her. She will be quite envious when she hears of Edith
having Indian shawls. What kind are they? Delhi? with the lovely
Margaret heard her aunt's voice again, but this time it was as if
she had raised herself up from her half-recumbent position, and
were looking into the more dimly lighted back drawing-room.
'Edith! Edith!' cried she; and then she sank as if wearied by the
exertion. Margaret stepped forward.
'Edith is asleep, Aunt Shaw. Is it anything I can do?'
All the ladies said 'Poor child!' on receiving this distressing
intelligence about Edith; and the minute lap-dog in Mrs. Shaw's
arms began to bark, as if excited by the burst of pity.
'Hush, Tiny! you naughty little girl! you will waken your
mistress. It was only to ask Edith if she would tell Newton to
bring down her shawls: perhaps you would go, Margaret dear?'
Margaret went up into the old nursery at the very top of the
house, where Newton was busy getting up some laces which were
required for the wedding. While Newton went (not without a
muttered grumbling) to undo the shawls, which had already been
exhibited four or five times that day, Margaret looked round upon
the nursery; the first room in that house with which she had
become familiar nine years ago, when she was brought, all untamed
from the forest, to share the home, the play, and the lessons of
her cousin Edith. She remembered the dark, dim look of the London
nursery, presided over by an austere and ceremonious nurse, who
was terribly particular about clean hands and torn frocks. She
recollected the first tea up there--separate from her father and
aunt, who were dining somewhere down below an infinite depth of
stairs; for unless she were up in the sky (the child thought),
they must be deep down in the bowels of the earth. At
home--before she came to live in Harley Street--her mother's
dressing-room had been her nursery; and, as they kept early hours
in the country parsonage, Margaret had always had her meals with
her father and mother. Oh! well did the tall stately girl of
eighteen remember the tears shed with such wild passion of grief
by the little girl of nine, as she hid her face under the
bed-clothes, in that first night; and how she was bidden not to
cry by the nurse, because it would disturb Miss Edith; and how
she had cried as bitterly, but more quietly, till her newly-seen,
grand, pretty aunt had come softly upstairs with Mr. Hale to show
him his little sleeping daughter. Then the little Margaret had
hushed her sobs, and tried to lie quiet as if asleep, for fear of
making her father unhappy by her grief, which she dared not
express before her aunt, and which she rather thought it was
wrong to feel at all after the long hoping, and planning, and
contriving they had gone through at home, before her wardrobe
could be arranged so as to suit her. grander circumstances, and
before papa could leave his parish to come up to London, even for
a few days.
Now she had got to love the old nursery, though it was but a
dismantled place; and she looked all round, with a kind of
cat-like regret, at the idea of leaving it for ever in three
'Ah Newton!' said she, 'I think we shall all be sorry to leave
this dear old room.'
'Indeed, miss, I shan't for one. My eyes are not so good as they
were, and the light here is so bad that I can't see to mend laces
except just at the window, where there's always a shocking
draught--enough to give one one's death of cold.'
Well, I dare say you will have both good light and plenty of
warmth at Naples. You must keep as much of your darning as you
can till then. Thank you, Newton, I can take them down--you're
So Margaret went down laden with shawls, and snuffing up their
spicy Eastern smell. Her aunt asked her to stand as a sort of lay
figure on which to display them, as Edith was still asleep. No
one thought about it; but Margaret's tall, finely made figure, in
the black silk dress which she was wearing as mourning for some
distant relative of her father's, set off the long beautiful
folds of the gorgeous shawls that would have half-smothered
Edith. Margaret stood right under the chandelier, quite silent
and passive, while her aunt adjusted the draperies. Occasionally,
as she was turned round, she caught a glimpse of herself in the
mirror over the chimney-piece, and smiled at her own appearance
there-the familiar features in the usual garb of a princess. She
touched the shawls gently as they hung around her, and took a
pleasure in their soft feel and their brilliant colours, and
rather liked to be dressed in such splendour--enjoying it much as
a child would do, with a quiet pleased smile on her lips. Just
then the door opened, and Mr. Henry Lennox was suddenly
announced. Some of the ladies started back, as if half-ashamed of
their feminine interest in dress. Mrs. Shaw held out her hand to
the new-comer; Margaret stood perfectly still, thinking she might
be yet wanted as a sort of block for the shawls; but looking at
Mr. Lennox with a bright, amused face, as if sure of his sympathy
in her sense of the ludicrousness at being thus surprised.
Her aunt was so much absorbed in asking Mr. Henry Lennox--who had
not been able to come to dinner--all sorts of questions about his
brother the bridegroom, his sister the bridesmaid (coming with
the Captain from Scotland for the occasion), and various other
members of the Lennox family, that Margaret saw she was no more
wanted as shawl-bearer, and devoted herself to the amusement of
the other visitors, whom her aunt had for the moment forgotten.
Almost immediately, Edith came in from the back drawing-room,
winking and blinking her eyes at the stronger light, shaking back
her slightly-ruffled curls, and altogether looking like the
Sleeping Beauty just startled from her dreams. Even in her
slumber she had instinctively felt that a Lennox was worth
rousing herself for; and she had a multitude of questions to ask
about dear Janet, the future, unseen sister-in-law, for whom she
professed so much affection, that if Margaret had not been very
proud she might have almost felt jealous of the mushroom rival.
As Margaret sank rather more into the background on her aunt's
joining the conversation, she saw Henry Lennox directing his look
towards a vacant seat near her; and she knew perfectly well that
as soon as Edith released him from her questioning, he would take
possession of that chair. She had not been quite sure, from her
aunt's rather confused account of his engagements, whether he
would come that night; it was almost a surprise to see him; and
now she was sure of a pleasant evening. He liked and disliked
pretty nearly the same things that she did. Margaret's face was
lightened up into an honest, open brightness. By-and-by he came.
She received him with a smile which had not a tinge of shyness or
self-consciousness in it.
'Well, I suppose you are all in the depths of business--ladies'
business, I mean. Very different to my business, which is the
real true law business. Playing with shawls is very different
work to drawing up settlements.
'Ah, I knew how you would be amused to find us all so occupied in
admiring finery. But really Indian shawls are very perfect things
of their kind.'
'I have no doubt they are. Their prices are very perfect, too.
Nothing wanting.' The gentlemen came dropping in one by one, and
the buzz and noise deepened in tone.
'This is your last dinner-party, is it not? There are no more
'No. I think after this evening we shall feel at rest, which I am
sure I have not done for many weeks; at least, that kind of rest
when the hands have nothing more to do, and all the arrangements
are complete for an event which must occupy one's head and heart.
I shall be glad to have time to think, and I am sure Edith will.'
'I am not so sure about her; but I can fancy that you will.
whenever I have seen you lately, you have been carried away by a
whirlwind of some other person's making.'
'Yes,' said Margaret, rather sadly, remembering the never-ending
commotion about trifles that had been going on for more than a
month past: 'I wonder if a marriage must always be preceded by
what you call a whirlwind, or whether in some cases there might
not rather be a calm and peaceful time just before it.'
'Cinderella's godmother ordering the trousseau, the
wedding-breakfast, writing the notes of invitation, for
instance,' said Mr. Lennox, laughing.
'But are all these quite necessary troubles?' asked Margaret,
looking up straight at him for an answer. A sense of
indescribable weariness of all the arrangements for a pretty
effect, in which Edith had been busied as supreme authority for
the last six weeks, oppressed her just now; and she really wanted
some one to help her to a few pleasant, quiet ideas connected
with a marriage.
'Oh, of course,' he replied with a change to gravity in his tone.
'There are forms and ceremonies to be gone through, not so much
to satisfy oneself, as to stop the world's mouth, without which
stoppage there would be very little satisfaction in life. But how
would you have a wedding arranged?'
'Oh, I have never thought much about it; only I should like it to
be a very fine summer morning; and I should like to walk to
church through the shade of trees; and not to have so many
bridesmaids, and to have no wedding-breakfast. I dare say I am
resolving against the very things that have given me the most
trouble just now.'
'No, I don't think you are. The idea of stately simplicity
accords well with your character.'
Margaret did not quite like this speech; she winced away from it
more, from remembering former occasions on which he had tried to
lead her into a discussion (in which he took the complimentary
part) about her own character and ways of going on. She cut his
speech rather short by saying:
'It is natural for me to think of Helstone church, and the walk
to it, rather than of driving up to a London church in the middle
of a paved street.'
'Tell me about Helstone. You have never described it to me. I
should like to have some idea of the place you will be living in,
when ninety-six Harley Street will be looking dingy and dirty,
and dull, and shut up. Is Helstone a village, or a town, in the
'Oh, only a hamlet; I don't think I could call it a village at
all. There is the church and a few houses near it on the
green--cottages, rather--with roses growing all over them.'
'And flowering all the year round, especially at Christmas--make
your picture complete,' said he.
'No,' replied Margaret, somewhat annoyed, 'I am not making a
picture. I am trying to describe Helstone as it really is. You
should not have said that.'
'I am penitent,' he answered. 'Only it really sounded like a
village in a tale rather than in real life.'
'And so it is,' replied Margaret, eagerly. 'All the other places
in England that I have seen seem so hard and prosaic-looking,
after the New Forest. Helstone is like a village in a poem--in
one of Tennyson's poems. But I won't try and describe it any
more. You would only laugh at me if I told you what I think of
it--what it really is.'
'Indeed, I would not. But I see you are going to be very
resolved. Well, then, tell me that which I should like still
better to know what the parsonage is like.'
'Oh, I can't describe my home. It is home, and I can't put its
charm into words.'
'I submit. You are rather severe to-night, Margaret.
'How?' said she, turning her large soft eyes round full upon him.
'I did not know I was.'
'Why, because I made an unlucky remark, you will neither tell me
what Helstone is like, nor will you say anything about your home,
though I have told you how much I want to hear about both, the
'But indeed I cannot tell you about my own home. I don't quite
think it is a thing to be talked about, unless you knew it.'
'Well, then'--pausing for a moment--'tell me what you do there.
Here you read, or have lessons, or otherwise improve your mind,
till the middle of the day; take a walk before lunch, go a drive
with your aunt after, and have some kind of engagement in the
evening. There, now fill up your day at Helstone. Shall you ride,
drive, or walk?'
'Walk, decidedly. We have no horse, not even for papa. He walks
to the very extremity of his parish. The walks are so beautiful,
it would be a shame to drive--almost a shame to ride.'
'Shall you garden much? That, I believe, is a proper employment
for young ladies in the country.'
'I don't know. I am afraid I shan't like such hard work.'
'Oh no!' said she, laughing. 'Papa's living is very small; and
even if we were near such things, I doubt if I should go to
'I see, you won't tell me anything. You will only tell me that
you are not going to do this and that. Before the vacation ends,
I think I shall pay you a call, and see what you really do employ
'I hope you will. Then you will see for yourself how beautiful
Helstone is. Now I must go. Edith is sitting down to play, and I
just know enough of music to turn over the leaves for her; and
besides, Aunt Shaw won't like us to talk.' Edith played
brilliantly. In the middle of the piece the door half-opened, and
Edith saw Captain Lennox hesitating whether to come in. She threw
down her music, and rushed out of the room, leaving Margaret
standing confused and blushing to explain to the astonished
guests what vision had shown itself to cause Edith's sudden
flight. Captain Lennox had come earlier than was expected; or was
it really so late? They looked at their watches, were duly
shocked, and took their leave.
Then Edith came back, glowing with pleasure, half-shyly,
half-proudly leading in her tall handsome Captain. His brother
shook hands with him, and Mrs. Shaw welcomed him in her gentle
kindly way, which had always something plaintive in it, arising
from the long habit of considering herself a victim to an
uncongenial marriage. Now that, the General being gone, she had
every good of life, with as few drawbacks as possible, she had
been rather perplexed to find an anxiety, if not a sorrow. She
had, however, of late settled upon her own health as a source of
apprehension; she had a nervous little cough whenever she thought
about it; and some complaisant doctor ordered her just what she
desired,--a winter in Italy. Mrs. Shaw had as strong wishes as
most people, but she never liked to do anything from the open and
acknowledged motive of her own good will and pleasure; she
preferred being compelled to gratify herself by some other
person's command or desire. She really did persuade herself that
she was submitting to some hard external necessity; and thus she
was able to moan and complain in her soft manner, all the time
she was in reality doing just what she liked.
It was in this way she began to speak of her own journey to
Captain Lennox, who assented, as in duty bound, to all his future
mother-in-law said, while his eyes sought Edith, who was busying
herself in rearranging the tea-table, and ordering up all sorts
of good things, in spite of his assurances that he had dined
within the last two hours.
Mr. Henry Lennox stood leaning against the chimney-piece, amused
with the family scene. He was close by his handsome brother; he
was the plain one in a singularly good-looking family; but his
face was intelligent, keen, and mobile; and now and then Margaret
wondered what it was that he could be thinking about, while he
kept silence, but was evidently observing, with an interest that
was slightly sarcastic, all that Edith and she were doing. The
sarcastic feeling was called out by Mrs. Shaw's conversation with
his brother; it was separate from the interest which was excited
by what he saw. He thought it a pretty sight to see the two
cousins so busy in their little arrangements about the table.
Edith chose to do most herself. She was in a humour to enjoy
showing her lover how well she could behave as a soldier's wife.
She found out that the water in the urn was cold, and ordered up
the great kitchen tea-kettle; the only consequence of which was
that when she met it at the door, and tried to carry it in, it
was too heavy for her, and she came in pouting, with a black mark
on her muslin gown, and a little round white hand indented by the
handle, which she took to show to Captain Lennox, just like a
hurt child, and, of course, the remedy was the same in both
cases. Margaret's quickly-adjusted spirit-lamp was the most
efficacious contrivance, though not so like the gypsy-encampment
which Edith, in some of her moods, chose to consider the nearest
resemblance to a barrack-life. After this evening all was bustle
till the wedding was over.
ROSES AND THORNS
'By the soft green light in the woody glade,
On the banks of moss where thy childhood played;
By the household tree, thro' which thine eye
First looked in love to the summer sky.'
Margaret was once more in her morning dress, travelling quietly
home with her father, who had come up to assist at the wedding.
Her mother had been detained at home by a multitude of
half-reasons, none of which anybody fully understood, except Mr.
Hale, who was perfectly aware that all his arguments in favour of
a grey satin gown, which was midway between oldness and newness,
had proved unavailing; and that, as he had not the money to equip
his wife afresh, from top to toe, she would not show herself at
her only sister's only child's wedding. If Mrs. Shaw had guessed
at the real reason why Mrs. Hale did not accompany her husband,
she would have showered down gowns upon her; but it was nearly
twenty years since Mrs. Shaw had been the poor, pretty Miss
Beresford, and she had really forgotten all grievances except
that of the unhappiness arising from disparity of age in married
life, on which she could descant by the half-hour. Dearest Maria
had married the man of her heart, only eight years older than
herself, with the sweetest temper, and that blue-black hair one
so seldom sees. Mr. Hale was one of the most delightful preachers
she had ever heard, and a perfect model of a parish priest.
Perhaps it was not quite a logical deduction from all these
premises, but it was still Mrs. Shaw's characteristic conclusion,
as she thought over her sister's lot: 'Married for love, what can
dearest Maria have to wish for in this world?' Mrs. Hale, if she
spoke truth, might have answered with a ready-made list, 'a
silver-grey glace silk, a white chip bonnet, oh! dozens of things
for the wedding, and hundreds of things for the house.' Margaret
only knew that her mother had not found it convenient to come,
and she was not sorry to think that their meeting and greeting
would take place at Helstone parsonage, rather than, during the
confusion of the last two or three days, in the house in Harley
Street, where she herself had had to play the part of Figaro, and
was wanted everywhere at one and the same time. Her mind and body
ached now with the recollection of all she had done and said
within the last forty-eight hours. The farewells so hurriedly
taken, amongst all the other good-byes, of those she had lived
with so long, oppressed her now with a sad regret for the times
that were no more; it did not signify what those times had been,
they were gone never to return. Margaret's heart felt more heavy
than she could ever have thought it possible in going to her own
dear home, the place and the life she had longed for for
years--at that time of all times for yearning and longing, just
before the sharp senses lose their outlines in sleep. She took
her mind away with a wrench from the recollection of the past to
the bright serene contemplation of the hopeful future. Her eyes
began to see, not visions of what had been, but the sight
actually before her; her dear father leaning back asleep in the
railway carriage. His blue-black hair was grey now, and lay
thinly over his brows. The bones of his face were plainly to be
seen--too plainly for beauty, if his features had been less
finely cut; as it was, they had a grace if not a comeliness of
their own. The face was in repose; but it was rather rest after
weariness, than the serene calm of the countenance of one who led
a placid, contented life. Margaret was painfully struck by the
worn, anxious expression; and she went back over the open and
avowed circumstances of her father's life, to find the cause for
the lines that spoke so plainly of habitual distress and
'Poor Frederick!' thought she, sighing. 'Oh! if Frederick had but
been a clergyman, instead of going into the navy, and being lost
to us all! I wish I knew all about it. I never understood it from
Aunt Shaw; I only knew he could not come back to England because
of that terrible affair. Poor dear papa! how sad he looks! I am
so glad I am going home, to be at hand to comfort him and mamma.
She was ready with a bright smile, in which there was not a trace
of fatigue, to greet her father when he awakened. He smiled back
again, but faintly, as if it were an unusual exertion. His face
returned into its lines of habitual anxiety. He had a trick of
half-opening his mouth as if to speak, which constantly unsettled
the form of the lips, and gave the face an undecided expression.
But he had the same large, soft eyes as his daughter,--eyes which
moved slowly and almost grandly round in their orbits, and were
well veiled by their transparent white eyelids. Margaret was more
like him than like her mother. Sometimes people wondered that
parents so handsome should have a daughter who was so far from
regularly beautiful; not beautiful at all, was occasionally said.
Her mouth was wide; no rosebud that could only open just' enough
to let out a 'yes' and 'no,' and 'an't please you, sir.' But the
wide mouth was one soft curve of rich red lips; and the skin, if
not white and fair, was of an ivory smoothness and delicacy. If
the look on her face was, in general, too dignified and reserved
for one so young, now, talking to her father, it was bright as
the morning,--full of dimples, and glances that spoke of childish
gladness, and boundless hope in the future.
It was the latter part of July when Margaret returned home. The
forest trees were all one dark, full, dusky green; the fern below
them caught all the slanting sunbeams; the weather was sultry and
broodingly still. Margaret used to tramp along by her father's
side, crushing down the fern with a cruel glee, as she felt it
yield under her light foot, and send up the fragrance peculiar to
it,--out on the broad commons into the warm scented light, seeing
multitudes of wild, free, living creatures, revelling in the
sunshine, and the herbs and flowers it called forth. This
life--at least these walks--realised all Margaret's
anticipations. She took a pride in her forest. Its people were
her people. She made hearty friends with them; learned and
delighted in using their peculiar words; took up her freedom
amongst them; nursed their babies; talked or read with slow
distinctness to their old people; carried dainty messes to their
sick; resolved before long to teach at the school, where her
father went every day as to an appointed task, but she was
continually tempted off to go and see some individual
friend--man, woman, or child--in some cottage in the green shade
of the forest. Her out-of-doors life was perfect. Her in-doors
life had its drawbacks. With the healthy shame of a child, she
blamed herself for her keenness of sight, in perceiving that all
was not as it should be there. Her mother--her mother always so
kind and tender towards her--seemed now and then so much
discontented with their situation; thought that the bishop
strangely neglected his episcopal duties, in not giving Mr. Hale
a better living; and almost reproached her husband because he
could not bring himself to say that he wished to leave the
parish, and undertake the charge of a larger. He would sigh aloud
as he answered, that if he could do what he ought in little
Helstone, he should be thankful; but every day he was more
overpowered; the world became more bewildering. At each repeated
urgency of his wife, that he would put himself in the way of
seeking some preferment, Margaret saw that her father shrank more
and more; and she strove at such times to reconcile her mother to
Helstone. Mrs. Hale said that the near neighbourhood of so many
trees affected her health; and Margaret would try to tempt her
forth on to the beautiful, broad, upland, sun-streaked,
cloud-shadowed common; for she was sure that her mother had
accustomed herself too much to an in-doors life, seldom extending
her walks beyond the church, the school, and the neighbouring
cottages. This did good for a time; but when the autumn drew on,
and the weather became more changeable, her mother's idea of the
unhealthiness of the place increased; and she repined even more
frequently that her husband, who was more learned than Mr. Hume,
a better parish priest than Mr. Houldsworth, should not have met
with the preferment that these two former neighbours of theirs
This marring of the peace of home, by long hours of discontent,
was what Margaret was unprepared for. She knew, and had rather
revelled in the idea, that she should have to give up many
luxuries, which had only been troubles and trammels to her
freedom in Harley Street. Her keen enjoyment of every sensuous
pleasure, was balanced finely, if not overbalanced, by her
conscious pride in being able to do without them all, if need
were. But the cloud never comes in that quarter of the horizon
from which we watch for it. There had been slight complaints and
passing regrets on her mother's part, over some trifle connected
with Helstone, and her father's position there, when Margaret had
been spending her holidays at home before; but in the general
happiness of the recollection of those times, she had forgotten
the small details which were not so pleasant. In the latter half
of September, the autumnal rains and storms came on, and Margaret
was obliged to remain more in the house than she had hitherto
done. Helstone was at some distance from any neighbours of their
own standard of cultivation.
'It is undoubtedly one of the most out-of-the-way places in
England,' said Mrs. Hale, in one of her plaintive moods. 'I can't
help regretting constantly that papa has really no one to
associate with here; he is so thrown away; seeing no one but
farmers and labourers from week's end to week's end. If we only
lived at the other side of the parish, it would be something;
there we should be almost within walking distance of the
Stansfields; certainly the Gormans would be within a walk.'
'Gormans,' said Margaret. 'Are those the Gormans who made their
fortunes in trade at Southampton? Oh! I'm glad we don't visit
them. I don't like shoppy people. I think we are far better off,
knowing only cottagers and labourers, and people without
'You must not be so fastidious, Margaret, dear!' said her mother,
secretly thinking of a young and handsome Mr. Gorman whom she had
once met at Mr. Hume's.
'No! I call mine a very comprehensive taste; I like all people
whose occupations have to do with land; I like soldiers and
sailors, and the three learned professions, as they call them.
I'm sure you don't want me to admire butchers and bakers, and
candlestick-makers, do you, mamma?'
'But the Gormans were neither butchers nor bakers, but very
'Very well. Coach-building is a trade all the same, and I think a
much more useless one than that of butchers or bakers. Oh! how
tired I used to be of the drives every day in Aunt Shaw's
carriage, and how I longed to walk!'
And walk Margaret did, in spite of the weather. She was so happy
out of doors, at her father's side, that she almost danced; and
with the soft violence of the west wind behind her, as she
crossed some heath, she seemed to be borne onwards, as lightly
and easily as the fallen leaf that was wafted along by the
autumnal breeze. But the evenings were rather difficult to fill
up agreeably. Immediately after tea her father withdrew into his
small library, and she and her mother were left alone. Mrs. Hale
had never cared much for books, and had discouraged her husband,
very early in their married life, in his desire of reading aloud
to her, while she worked. At one time they had tried backgammon
as a resource; but as Mr. Hale grew to take an increasing
interest in his school and his parishioners, he found that the
interruptions which arose out of these duties were regarded as
hardships by his wife, not to be accepted as the natural
conditions of his profession, but to be regretted and struggled
against by her as they severally arose. So he withdrew, while the
children were yet young, into his library, to spend his evenings
(if he were at home), in reading the speculative and metaphysical
books which were his delight.
When Margaret had been here before, she had brought down with her
a great box of books, recommended by masters or governess, and
had found the summer's day all too short to get through the
reading she had to do before her return to town. Now there were
only the well-bound little-read English Classics, which were
weeded out of her father's library to fill up the small
book-shelves in the drawing-room. Thomson's Seasons, Hayley's
Cowper, Middleton's Cicero, were by far the lightest, newest, and
most amusing. The book-shelves did not afford much resource.
Margaret told her mother every particular of her London life, to
all of which Mrs. Hale listened with interest, sometimes amused
and questioning, at others a little inclined to compare her
sister's circumstances of ease and comfort with the narrower
means at Helstone vicarage. On such evenings Margaret was apt to
stop talking rather abruptly, and listen to the drip-drip of the
rain upon the leads of the little bow-window. Once or twice
Margaret found herself mechanically counting the repetition of
the monotonous sound, while she wondered if she might venture to
put a question on a subject very near to her heart, and ask where
Frederick was now; what he was doing; how long it was since they
had heard from him. But a consciousness that her mother's
delicate health, and positive dislike to Helstone, all dated from
the time of the mutiny in which Frederick had been engaged,--the
full account of which Margaret had never heard, and which now
seemed doomed to be buried in sad oblivion,--made her pause and
turn away from the subject each time she approached it. When she
was with her mother, her father seemed the best person to apply
to for information; and when with him, she thought that she could
speak more easily to her mother. Probably there was nothing much
to be heard that was new. In one of the letters she had received
before leaving Harley Street, her father had told her that they
had heard from Frederick; he was still at Rio, and very well in
health, and sent his best love to her; which was dry bones, but
not the living intelligence she longed for. Frederick was always
spoken of, in the rare times when his name was mentioned, as
'Poor Frederick.' His room was kept exactly as he had left it;
and was regularly dusted, and put into order by Dixon, Mrs.
Hale's maid, who touched no other part of the household work, but
always remembered the day when she had been engaged by Lady
Beresford as ladies' maid to Sir John's wards, the pretty Miss
Beresfords, the belles of Rutlandshire. Dixon had always
considered Mr. Hale as the blight which had fallen upon her young
lady's prospects in life. If Miss Beresford had not been in such
a hurry to marry a poor country clergyman, there was no knowing
what she might not have become. But Dixon was too loyal to desert
her in her affliction and downfall (alias her married life). She
remained with her, and was devoted to her interests; always
considering herself as the good and protecting fairy, whose duty
it was to baffle the malignant giant, Mr. Hale. Master Frederick
had been her favorite and pride; and it was with a little
softening of her dignified look and manner, that she went in
weekly to arrange the chamber as carefully as if he might be
coming home that very evening. Margaret could not help believing
that there had been some late intelligence of Frederick, unknown
to her mother, which was making her father anxious and uneasy.
Mrs. Hale did not seem to perceive any alteration in her
husband's looks or ways. His spirits were always tender and
gentle, readily affected by any small piece of intelligence
concerning the welfare of others. He would be depressed for many
days after witnessing a death-bed, or hearing of any crime. But
now Margaret noticed an absence of mind, as if his thoughts were
pre-occupied by some subject, the oppression of which could not
be relieved by any daily action, such as comforting the
survivors, or teaching at the school in hope of lessening the
evils in the generation to come. Mr. Hale did not go out among
his parishioners as much as usual; he was more shut up in his
study; was anxious for the village postman, whose summons to the
house-hold was a rap on the back-kitchen window-shutter--a signal
which at one time had often to be repeated before any one was
sufficiently alive to the hour of the day to understand what it
was, and attend to him. Now Mr. Hale loitered about the garden if
the morning was fine, and if not, stood dreamily by the study
window until the postman had called, or gone down the lane,
giving a half-respectful, half-confidential shake of the head to
the parson, who watched him away beyond the sweet-briar hedge,
and past the great arbutus, before he turned into the room to
begin his day's work, with all the signs of a heavy heart and an
But Margaret was at an age when any apprehension, not absolutely
based on a knowledge of facts, is easily banished for a time by a
bright sunny day, or some happy outward circumstance. And when
the brilliant fourteen fine days of October came on, her cares
were all blown away as lightly as thistledown, and she thought of
nothing but the glories of the forest. The fern-harvest was over,
and now that the rain was gone, many a deep glade was accessible,
into which Margaret had only peeped in July and August weather.
She had learnt drawing with Edith; and she had sufficiently
regretted, during the gloom of the bad weather, her idle
revelling in the beauty of the woodlands while it had yet been
fine, to make her determined to sketch what she could before
winter fairly set in. Accordingly, she was busy preparing her
board one morning, when Sarah, the housemaid, threw wide open the
drawing-room door and announced, 'Mr. Henry Lennox.'
'THE MORE HASTE THE WORSE SPEED'
'Learn to win a lady's faith
Nobly, as the thing is high;
Bravely, as for life and death--
With a loyal gravity.
Lead her from the festive boards,
Point her to the starry skies,
Guard her, by your truthful words,
Pure from courtship's flatteries.'
'Mr. Henry Lennox.' Margaret had been thinking of him only a
moment before, and remembering his inquiry into her probable
occupations at home. It was 'parler du soleil et l'on en voit les
rayons;' and the brightness of the sun came over Margaret's face
as she put down her board, and went forward to shake hands with
him. 'Tell mamma, Sarah,' said she. 'Mamma and I want to ask you
so many questions about Edith; I am so much obliged to you for
'Did not I say that I should?' asked he, in a lower tone than
that in which she had spoken.
'But I heard of you so far away in the Highlands that I never
thought Hampshire could come in.
'Oh!' said he, more lightly, 'our young couple were playing such
foolish pranks, running all sorts of risks, climbing this
mountain, sailing on that lake, that I really thought they needed
a Mentor to take care of them. And indeed they did; they were
quite beyond my uncle's management, and kept the old gentleman in
a panic for sixteen hours out of the twenty-four. Indeed, when I
once saw how unfit they were to be trusted alone, I thought it my
duty not to leave them till I had seen them safely embarked at
'Have you been at Plymouth? Oh! Edith never named that. To be
sure, she has written in such a hurry lately. Did they really
sail on Tuesday?'
'Really sailed, and relieved me from many responsibilities. Edith
gave me all sorts of messages for you. I believe I have a little
diminutive note somewhere; yes, here it is.'
'Oh! thank you,' exclaimed Margaret; and then, half wishing to
read it alone and unwatched, she made the excuse of going to tell
her mother again (Sarah surely had made some mistake) that Mr.
Lennox was there.
When she had left the room, he began in his scrutinising way to
look about him. The little drawing-room was looking its best in
the streaming light of the morning sun. The middle window in the
bow was opened, and clustering roses and the scarlet honeysuckle
came peeping round the corner; the small lawn was gorgeous with
verbenas and geraniums of all bright colours. But the very
brightness outside made the colours within seem poor and faded.
The carpet was far from new; the chintz had been often washed;
the whole apartment was smaller and shabbier than he had
expected, as back-ground and frame-work for Margaret, herself so
queenly. He took up one of the books lying on the table; it was
the Paradiso of Dante, in the proper old Italian binding of white
vellum and gold; by it lay a dictionary, and some words copied
out in Margaret's hand-writing. They were a dull list of words,
but somehow he liked looking at them. He put them down with a
'The living is evidently as small as she said. It seems strange,
for the Beresfords belong to a good family.'
Margaret meanwhile had found her mother. It was one of Mrs.
Hale's fitful days, when everything was a difficulty and a
hardship; and Mr. Lennox's appearance took this shape, although
secretly she felt complimented by his thinking it worth while to
'It is most unfortunate! We are dining early to-day, and having
nothing but cold meat, in order that the servants may get on with
their ironing; and yet, of course, we must ask him to
dinner--Edith's brother-in-law and all. And your papa is in such
low spirits this morning about something--I don't know what. I
went into the study just now, and he had his face on the table,
covering it with his hands. I told him I was sure Helstone air
did not agree with him any more than with me, and he suddenly
lifted up his head, and begged me not to speak a word more
against Helstone, he could not bear it; if there was one place he
loved on earth it was Helstone. But I am sure, for all that, it
is the damp and relaxing air.'
Margaret felt as if a thin cold cloud had come between her and
the sun. She had listened patiently, in hopes that it might be
some relief to her mother to unburden herself; but now it was
time to draw her back to Mr. Lennox.
'Papa likes Mr. Lennox; they got on together famously at the
wedding breakfast. I dare say his coming will do papa good. And
never mind the dinner, dear mamma. Cold meat will do capitally
for a lunch, which is the light in which Mr. Lennox will most
likely look upon a two o'clock dinner.'
'But what are we to do with him till then? It is only half-past
'I'll ask him to go out sketching with me. I know he draws, and
that will take him out of your way, mamma. Only do come in now;
he will think it so strange if you don't.'
Mrs. Hale took off her black silk apron, and smoothed her face.
She looked a very pretty lady-like woman, as she greeted Mr.
Lennox with the cordiality due to one who was almost a relation.
He evidently expected to be asked to spend the day, and accepted
the invitation with a glad readiness that made Mrs. Hale wish she
could add something to the cold beef. He was pleased with
everything; delighted with Margaret's idea of going out sketching
together; would not have Mr. Hale disturbed for the world, with
the prospect of so soon meeting him at dinner. Margaret brought
out her drawing materials for him to choose from; and after the
paper and brushes had been duly selected, the two set out in the
merriest spirits in the world.
'Now, please, just stop here for a minute or two, said Margaret.
'These are the cottages that haunted me so during the rainy
fortnight, reproaching me for not having sketched them.'
'Before they tumbled down and were no more seen. Truly, if they
are to be sketched--and they are very picturesque--we had better
not put it off till next year. But where shall we sit?'
'Oh! You might have come straight from chambers in the Temple,'
instead of having been two months in the Highlands! Look at this
beautiful trunk of a tree, which the wood-cutters have left just
in the right place for the light. I will put my plaid over it,
and it will be a regular forest throne.'
'With your feet in that puddle for a regal footstool! Stay, I
will move, and then you can come nearer this way. Who lives in
'They were built by squatters fifty or sixty years ago. One is
uninhabited; the foresters are going to take it down, as soon as
the old man who lives in the other is dead, poor old fellow!
Look--there he is--I must go and speak to him. He is so deaf you
will hear all our secrets.'
The old man stood bareheaded in the sun, leaning on his stick at
the front of his cottage. His stiff features relaxed into a slow
smile as Margaret went up and spoke to him. Mr. Lennox hastily
introduced the two figures into his sketch, and finished up the
landscape with a subordinate reference to them--as Margaret
perceived, when the time came for getting up, putting away water,
and scraps of paper, and exhibiting to each other their sketches.
She laughed and blushed Mr. Lennox watched her countenance.
'Now, I call that treacherous,' said she. 'I little thought you
were making old Isaac and me into subjects, when you told me to
ask him the history of these cottages.'
'It was irresistible. You can't know how strong a temptation it
was. I hardly dare tell you how much I shall like this sketch.'
He was not quite sure whether she heard this latter sentence
before she went to the brook to wash her palette. She came back
rather flushed, but looking perfectly innocent and unconscious.
He was glad of it, for the speech had slipped from him
unawares--a rare thing in the case of a man who premeditated his
actions so much as Henry Lennox.
The aspect of home was all right and bright when they reached it.
The clouds on her mother's brow had cleared off under the
propitious influence of a brace of carp, most opportunely
presented by a neighbour. Mr. Hale had returned from his
morning's round, and was awaiting his visitor just outside the
wicket gate that led into the garden. He looked a complete
gentleman in his rather threadbare coat and well-worn hat.
Margaret was proud of her father; she had always a fresh and
tender pride in seeing how favourably he impressed every
stranger; still her quick eye sought over his face and found
there traces of some unusual disturbance, which was only put
aside, not cleared away.
Mr. Hale asked to look at their sketches.
'I think you have made the tints on the thatch too dark, have you
not?' as he returned Margaret's to her, and held out his hand for
Mr. Lennox's, which was withheld from him one moment, no more.
'No, papa! I don't think I have. The house-leek and stone-crop
have grown so much darker in the rain. Is it not like, papa?'
said she, peeping over his shoulder, as he looked at the figures
in Mr. Lennox's drawing.
'Yes, very like. Your figure and way of holding yourself is
capital. And it is just poor old Isaac's stiff way of stooping
his long rheumatic back. What is this hanging from the branch of
the tree? Not a bird's nest, surely.'
'Oh no! that is my bonnet. I never can draw with my bonnet on; it
makes my head so hot. I wonder if I could manage figures. There
are so many people about here whom I should like to sketch.'
'I should say that a likeness you very much wish to take you
would always succeed in,' said Mr. Lennox. 'I have great faith in
the power of will. I think myself I have succeeded pretty well in
yours.' Mr. Hale had preceded them into the house, while Margaret
was lingering to pluck some roses, with which to adorn her
morning gown for dinner.
'A regular London girl would understand the implied meaning of
that speech,' thought Mr. Lennox. 'She would be up to looking
through every speech that a young man made her for the
arriere-pensee of a compliment. But I don't believe Margaret,--Stay!'
exclaimed he, 'Let me help you;' and he gathered for her some velvety
cramoisy roses that were above her reach, and then dividing the
spoil he placed two in his button-hole, and sent her in, pleased
and happy, to arrange her flowers.
The conversation at dinner flowed on quietly and agreeably. There
were plenty of questions to be asked on both sides--the latest
intelligence which each could give of Mrs. Shaw's movements in
Italy to be exchanged; and in the interest of what was said, the
unpretending simplicity of the parsonage-ways--above all, in the
neighbourhood of Margaret, Mr. Lennox forgot the little feeling
of disappointment with which he had at first perceived that she
had spoken but the simple truth when she had described her
father's living as very small.
'Margaret, my child, you might have gathered us some pears for
our dessert,' said Mr. Hale, as the hospitable luxury of a
freshly-decanted bottle of wine was placed on the table.
Mrs. Hale was hurried. It seemed as if desserts were impromptu
and unusual things at the parsonage; whereas, if Mr. Hale would
only have looked behind him, he would have seen biscuits and
marmalade, and what not, all arranged in formal order on the
sideboard. But the idea of pears had taken possession of Mr.
Hale's mind, and was not to be got rid of.
'There are a few brown beurres against the south wall which are
worth all foreign fruits and preserves. Run, Margaret, and gather
'I propose that we adjourn into the garden, and eat them there'
said Mr. Lennox.
'Nothing is so delicious as to set one's teeth into the crisp,
juicy fruit, warm and scented by the sun. The worst is, the wasps
are impudent enough to dispute it with one, even at the very
crisis and summit of enjoyment.
He rose, as if to follow Margaret, who had disappeared through
the window he only awaited Mrs. Hale's permission. She would
rather have wound up the dinner in the proper way, and with all
the ceremonies which had gone on so smoothly hitherto, especially
as she and Dixon had got out the finger-glasses from the
store-room on purpose to be as correct as became General Shaw's
widow's sister, but as Mr. Hale got up directly, and prepared to
accompany his guest, she could only submit.
'I shall arm myself with a knife,' said Mr. Hale: 'the days of
eating fruit so primitively as you describe are over with me. I
must pare it and quarter it before I can enjoy it.'
Margaret made a plate for the pears out of a beetroot leaf, which
threw up their brown gold colour admirably. Mr. Lennox looked
more at her than at the pears; but her father, inclined to cull
fastidiously the very zest and perfection of the hour he had
stolen from his anxiety, chose daintily the ripest fruit, and sat
down on the garden bench to enjoy it at his leisure. Margaret and
Mr. Lennox strolled along the little terrace-walk under the south
wall, where the bees still hummed and worked busily in their
'What a perfect life you seem to live here! I have always felt
rather contemptuously towards the poets before, with their
wishes, "Mine be a cot beside a hill," and that sort of thing:
but now I am afraid that the truth is, I have been nothing better
than a cockney. Just now I feel as if twenty years' hard study of
law would be amply rewarded by one year of such an exquisite
serene life as this--such skies!' looking up--'such crimson and
amber foliage, so perfectly motionless as that!' pointing to some
of the great forest trees which shut in the garden as if it were
'You must please to remember that our skies are not always as
deep a blue as they are now. We have rain, and our leaves do
fall, and get sodden: though I think Helstone is about as perfect
a place as any in the world. Recollect how you rather scorned my
description of it one evening in Harley Street: "a village in a
'Scorned, Margaret That is rather a hard word.'
'Perhaps it is. Only I know I should have liked to have talked to
you of what I was very full at the time, and you--what must I
call it, then?--spoke disrespectfully of Helstone as a mere
village in a tale.'
'I will never do so again,' said he, warmly. They turned the
corner of the walk.
'I could almost wish, Margaret----' he stopped and hesitated. It
was so unusual for the fluent lawyer to hesitate that Margaret
looked up at him, in a little state of questioning wonder; but in
an instant--from what about him she could not tell--she wished
herself back with her mother--her father--anywhere away from him,
for she was sure he was going to say something to which she
should not know what to reply. In another moment the strong pride
that was in her came to conquer her sudden agitation, which she
hoped he had not perceived. Of course she could answer, and
answer the right thing; and it was poor and despicable of her to
shrink from hearing any speech, as if she had not power to put an
end to it with her high maidenly dignity.
'Margaret,' said he, taking her by surprise, and getting sudden
possession of her hand, so that she was forced to stand still and
listen, despising herself for the fluttering at her heart all the
time; 'Margaret, I wish you did not like Helstone so much--did
not seem so perfectly calm and happy here. I have been hoping for
these three months past to find you regretting London--and London
friends, a little--enough to make you listen more kindly' (for
she was quietly, but firmly, striving to extricate her hand from
his grasp) 'to one who has not much to offer, it is true--nothing
but prospects in the future--but who does love you, Margaret,
almost in spite of himself. Margaret, have I startled you too
much? Speak!' For he saw her lips quivering almost as if she were
going to cry. She made a strong effort to be calm; she would not
speak till she had succeeded in mastering her voice, and then she
'I was startled. I did not know that you cared for me in that
way. I have always thought of you as a friend; and, please, I
would rather go on thinking of you so. I don't like to be spoken
to as you have been doing. I cannot answer you as you want me to
do, and yet I should feel so sorry if I vexed you.'
'Margaret,' said he, looking into her eyes, which met his with
their open, straight look, expressive of the utmost good faith
and reluctance to give pain,
'Do you'--he was going to say--'love any one else?' But it seemed
as if this question would be an insult to the pure serenity of
those eyes. 'Forgive me I have been too abrupt. I am punished.
Only let me hope. Give me the poor comfort of telling me you have
never seen any one whom you could----' Again a pause. He could
not end his sentence. Margaret reproached herself acutely as the
cause of his distress.
'Ah! if you had but never got this fancy into your head! It was
such a pleasure to think of you as a friend.'
'But I may hope, may I not, Margaret, that some time you will
think of me as a lover? Not yet, I see--there is no hurry--but
some time----' She was silent for a minute or two, trying to
discover the truth as it was in her own heart, before replying;
then she said:
'I have never thought of--you, but as a friend. I like to think
of you so; but I am sure I could never think of you as anything
else. Pray, let us both forget that all this' ('disagreeable,'
she was going to say, but stopped short) 'conversation has taken
He paused before he replied. Then, in his habitual coldness of
tone, he answered:
'Of course, as your feelings are so decided, and as this
conversation has been so evidently unpleasant to you, it had
better not be remembered. That is all very fine in theory, that
plan of forgetting whatever is painful, but it will be somewhat
difficult for me, at least, to carry it into execution.'
'You are vexed,' said she, sadly; 'yet how can I help it?'
She looked so truly grieved as she said this, that he struggled
for a moment with his real disappointment, and then answered more
cheerfully, but still with a little hardness in his tone:
'You should make allowances for the mortification, not only of a
lover, Margaret, but of a man not given to romance in
general--prudent, worldly, as some people call me--who has been
carried out of his usual habits by the force of a passion--well,
we will say no more of that; but in the one outlet which he has
formed for the deeper and better feelings of his nature, he meets
with rejection and repulse. I shall have to console myself with
scorning my own folly. A struggling barrister to think of
Margaret could not answer this. The whole tone of it annoyed her.
It seemed to touch on and call out all the points of difference
which had often repelled her in him; while yet he was the
pleasantest man, the most sympathising friend, the person of all
others who understood her best in Harley Street. She felt a tinge
of contempt mingle itself with her pain at having refused him.
Her beautiful lip curled in a slight disdain. It was well that,
having made the round of the garden, they came suddenly upon Mr.
Hale, whose whereabouts had been quite forgotten by them. He had
not yet finished the pear, which he had delicately peeled in one
long strip of silver-paper thinness, and which he was enjoying in
a deliberate manner. It was like the story of the eastern king,
who dipped his head into a basin of water, at the magician's
command, and ere he instantly took it out went through the
experience of a lifetime. I Margaret felt stunned, and unable to
recover her self-possession enough to join in the trivial
conversation that ensued between her father and Mr. Lennox. She
was grave, and little disposed to speak; full of wonder when Mr.
Lennox would go, and allow her to relax into thought on the
events of the last quarter of an hour. He was almost as anxious
to take his departure as she was for him to leave; but a few
minutes light and careless talking, carried on at whatever
effort, was a sacrifice which he owed to his mortified vanity, or
his self-respect. He glanced from time to time at her sad and
'I am not so indifferent to her as she believes,' thought he to
himself. 'I do not give up hope.'
Before a quarter of an hour was over, he had fallen into a way of
conversing with quiet sarcasm; speaking of life in London and
life in the country, as if he were conscious of his second
mocking self, and afraid of his own satire. Mr. Hale was puzzled.
His visitor was a different man to what he had seen him before at
the wedding-breakfast, and at dinner to-day; a lighter, cleverer,
more worldly man, and, as such, dissonant to Mr. Hale. It was a
relief to all three when Mr. Lennox said that he must go directly
if he meant to catch the five o'clock train. They proceeded to
the house to find Mrs. Hale, and wish her good-bye. At the last
moment, Henry Lennox's real self broke through the crust.
'Margaret, don't despise me; I have a heart, notwithstanding all
this good-for-nothing way of talking. As a proof of it, I believe
I love you more than ever--if I do not hate you--for the disdain
with which you have listened to me during this last half-hour.
DOUBTS AND DIFFICULTIES
'Cast me upon some naked shore,
Where I may tracke
Only the print of some sad wracke,
If thou be there, though the seas roare,
I shall no gentler calm implore.'
He was gone. The house was shut up for the evening. No more deep
blue skies or crimson and amber tints. Margaret went up to dress
for the early tea, finding Dixon in a pretty temper from the
interruption which a visitor had naturally occasioned on a busy
day. She showed it by brushing away viciously at Margaret's hair,
under pretence of being in a great hurry to go to Mrs. Hale. Yet,
after all, Margaret had to wait a long time in the drawing-room
before her mother came down. She sat by herself at the fire, with
unlighted candles on the table behind her, thinking over the day,
the happy walk, happy sketching, cheerful pleasant dinner, and
the uncomfortable, miserable walk in the garden.
How different men were to women! Here was she disturbed and
unhappy, because her instinct had made anything but a refusal
impossible; while he, not many minutes after he had met with a
rejection of what ought to have been the deepest, holiest
proposal of his life, could speak as if briefs, success, and all
its superficial consequences of a good house, clever and
agreeable society, were the sole avowed objects of his desires.
Oh dear! how she could have loved him if he had but been
different, with a difference which she felt, on reflection, to be
one that went low--deep down. Then she took it into her head
that, after all, his lightness might be but assumed, to cover a
bitterness of disappointment which would have been stamped on her
own heart if she had loved and been rejected.
Her mother came into the room before this whirl of thoughts was
adjusted into anything like order. Margaret had to shake off the
recollections of what had been done and said through the day, and
turn a sympathising listener to the account of how Dixon had
complained that the ironing-blanket had been burnt again; and how
Susan Lightfoot had been seen with artificial flowers in her
bonnet, thereby giving evidence of a vain and giddy character.
Mr. Hale sipped his tea in abstracted silence; Margaret had the
responses all to herself. She wondered how her father and mother
could be so forgetful, so regardless of their companion through
the day, as never to mention his name. She forgot that he had not
made them an offer.
After tea Mr. Hale got up, and stood with his elbow on the
chimney-piece, leaning his head on his hand, musing over
something, and from time to time sighing deeply. Mrs. Hale went
out to consult with Dixon about some winter clothing for the
poor. Margaret was preparing her mother's worsted work, and
rather shrinking from the thought of the long evening, and
wishing bed-time were come that she might go over the events of
the day again.
'Margaret!' said Mr. Hale, at last, in a sort of sudden desperate
way, that made her start. 'Is that tapestry thing of immediate
consequence? I mean, can you leave it and come into my study? I
want to speak to you about something very serious to us all.'
'Very serious to us all.' Mr. Lennox had never had the
opportunity of having any private conversation with her father
after her refusal, or else that would indeed be a very serious
affair. In the first place, Margaret felt guilty and ashamed of
having grown so much into a woman as to be thought of in
marriage; and secondly, she did not know if her father might not
be displeased that she had taken upon herself to decline Mr.
Lennox's proposal. But she soon felt it was not about anything,
which having only lately and suddenly occurred, could have given
rise to any complicated thoughts, that her father wished to speak
to her. He made her take a chair by him; he stirred the fire,
snuffed the candles, and sighed once or twice before he could
make up his mind to say--and it came out with a jerk after
all--'Margaret! I am going to leave Helstone.'
'Leave Helstone, papa! But why?'
Mr. Hale did not answer for a minute or two. He played with some
papers on the table in a nervous and confused manner, opening his
lips to speak several times, but closing them again without
having the courage to utter a word. Margaret could not bear the
sight of the suspense, which was even more distressing to her
father than to herself.
'But why, dear papa? Do tell me!'
He looked up at her suddenly, and then said with a slow and
'Because I must no longer be a minister in the Church of
Margaret had imagined nothing less than that some of the
preferments which her mother so much desired had befallen her
father at last--something that would force him to leave
beautiful, beloved Helstone, and perhaps compel him to go and
live in some of the stately and silent Closes which Margaret had
seen from time to time in cathedral towns. They were grand and
imposing places, but if, to go there, it was necessary to leave
Helstone as a home for ever, that would have been a sad, long,
lingering pain. But nothing to the shock she received from Mr.
Hale's last speech. What could he mean? It was all the worse for
being so mysterious. The aspect of piteous distress on his face,
almost as imploring a merciful and kind judgment from his child,
gave her a sudden sickening. Could he have become implicated in
anything Frederick had done? Frederick was an outlaw. Had her
father, out of a natural love for his son, connived at any--
'Oh! what is it? do speak, papa! tell me all! Why can you no
longer be a clergyman? Surely, if the bishop were told all we
know about Frederick, and the hard, unjust--'
'It is nothing about Frederick; the bishop would have nothing to
do with that. It is all myself. Margaret, I will tell you about
it. I will answer any questions this once, but after to-night let
us never speak of it again. I can meet the consequences of my
painful, miserable doubts; but it is an effort beyond me to speak
of what has caused me so much suffering.'
'Doubts, papa! Doubts as to religion?' asked Margaret, more
shocked than ever.
'No! not doubts as to religion; not the slightest injury to
that.' He paused. Margaret sighed, as if standing on the verge of
some new horror. He began again, speaking rapidly, as if to get
over a set task:
'You could not understand it all, if I told you--my anxiety, for
years past, to know whether I had any right to hold my living--my
efforts to quench my smouldering doubts by the authority of the
Church. Oh! Margaret, how I love the holy Church from which I am
to be shut out!' He could not go on for a moment or two. Margaret
could not tell what to say; it seemed to her as terribly
mysterious as if her father were about to turn Mahometan.
'I have been reading to-day of the two thousand who were ejected
from their churches,'--continued Mr. Hale, smiling
faintly,--'trying to steal some of their bravery; but it is of no
use--no use--I cannot help feeling it acutely.'
'But, papa, have you well considered? Oh! it seems so terrible,
so shocking,' said Margaret, suddenly bursting into tears. The
one staid foundation of her home, of her idea of her beloved
father, seemed reeling and rocking. What could she say? What was
to be done? The sight of her distress made Mr. Hale nerve
himself, in order to try and comfort her. He swallowed down the
dry choking sobs which had been heaving up from his heart
hitherto, and going to his bookcase he took down a volume, which
he had often been reading lately, and from which he thought he
had derived strength to enter upon the course in which he was now
'Listen, dear Margaret,' said he, putting one arm round her
waist. She took his hand in hers and grasped it tight, but she
could not lift up her head; nor indeed could she attend to what
he read, so great was her internal agitation.
'This is the soliloquy of one who was once a clergyman in a
country parish, like me; it was written by a Mr. Oldfield,
minister of Carsington, in Derbyshire, a hundred and sixty years
ago, or more. His trials are over. He fought the good fight.'
These last two sentences he spoke low, as if to himself. Then he
'When thou canst no longer continue in thy work without dishonour
to God, discredit to religion, foregoing thy integrity, wounding
conscience, spoiling thy peace, and hazarding the loss of thy
salvation; in a word, when the conditions upon which thou must
continue (if thou wilt continue) in thy employments are sinful,
and unwarranted by the word of God, thou mayest, yea, thou must
believe that God will turn thy very silence, suspension,
deprivation, and laying aside, to His glory, and the advancement
of the Gospel's interest. When God will not use thee in one kind,
yet He will in another. A soul that desires to serve and honour
Him shall never want opportunity to do it; nor must thou so limit
the Holy One of Israel as to think He hath but one way in which
He can glorify Himself by thee. He can do it by thy silence as
well as by thy preaching; thy laying aside as well as thy
continuance in thy work. It is not pretence of doing God the
greatest service, or performing the weightiest duty, that will
excuse the least sin, though that sin capacitated or gave us the
opportunity for doing that duty. Thou wilt have little thanks, 0
my soul! if, when thou art charged with corrupting God's worship,
falsifying thy vows, thou pretendest a necessity for it in order
to a continuance in the ministry. As he read this, and glanced at
much more which he did not read, he gained resolution for
himself, and felt as if he too could be brave and firm in doing
what he believed to be right; but as he ceased he heard
Margaret's low convulsive sob; and his courage sank down under
the keen sense of suffering.
'Margaret, dear!' said he, drawing her closer, 'think of the
early martyrs; think of the thousands who have suffered.'
'But, father,' said she, suddenly lifting up her flushed,
tear-wet face, 'the early martyrs suffered for the truth, while
you--oh! dear, dear papa!'
'I suffer for conscience' sake, my child,' said he, with a
dignity that was only tremulous from the acute sensitiveness of
his character; 'I must do what my conscience bids. I have borne
long with self-reproach that would have roused any mind less
torpid and cowardly than mine.' He shook his head as he went on.
'Your poor mother's fond wish, gratified at last in the mocking
way in which over-fond wishes are too often fulfilled--Sodom
apples as they are--has brought on this crisis, for which I ought
to be, and I hope I am thankful. It is not a month since the
bishop offered me another living; if I had accepted it, I should
have had to make a fresh declaration of conformity to the Liturgy
at my institution. Margaret, I tried to do it; I tried to content
myself with simply refusing the additional preferment, and
stopping quietly here,--strangling my conscience now, as I had
strained it before. God forgive me!'
He rose and walked up and down the room, speaking low words of
self-reproach and humiliation, of which Margaret was thankful to
hear but few. At last he said,
'Margaret, I return to the old sad burden we must leave
'Yes! I see. But when?'
'I have written to the bishop--I dare say I have told you so, but
I forget things just now,' said Mr. Hale, collapsing into his
depressed manner as soon as he came to talk of hard
matter-of-fact details, 'informing him of my intention to resign
this vicarage. He has been most kind; he has used arguments and
expostulations, all in vain--in vain. They are but what I have
tried upon myself, without avail. I shall have to take my deed of
resignation, and wait upon the bishop myself, to bid him
farewell. That will be a trial, but worse, far worse, will be the
parting from my dear people. There is a curate appointed to read
prayers--a Mr. Brown. He will come to stay with us to-morrow.
Next Sunday I preach my farewell sermon.'
Was it to be so sudden then? thought Margaret; and yet perhaps it
was as well. Lingering would only add stings to the pain; it was
better to be stunned into numbness by hearing of all these
arrangements, which seemed to be nearly completed before she had
been told. 'What does mamma say?' asked she, with a deep sigh.
To her surprise, her father began to walk about again before he
answered. At length he stopped and replied:
'Margaret, I am a poor coward after all. I cannot bear to give
pain. I know so well your mother's married life has not been all
she hoped--all she had a right to expect--and this will be such a
blow to her, that I have never had the heart, the power to tell
her. She must be told though, now,' said he, looking wistfully at
his daughter. Margaret was almost overpowered with the idea that
her mother knew nothing of it all, and yet the affair was so far
'Yes, indeed she must,' said Margaret. 'Perhaps, after all, she
may not--Oh yes! she will, she must be shocked'--as the force of
the blow returned upon herself in trying to realise how another
would take it. 'Where are we to go to?' said she at last, struck
with a fresh wonder as to their future plans, if plans indeed her
'To Milton-Northern,' he answered, with a dull indifference, for
he had perceived that, although his daughter's love had made her
cling to him, and for a moment strive to soothe him with her
love, yet the keenness of the pain was as fresh as ever in her
'Milton-Northern! The manufacturing town in Darkshire?'
'Yes,' said he, in the same despondent, indifferent way.
'Why there, papa?' asked she.
'Because there I can earn bread for my family. Because I know no
one there, and no one knows Helstone, or can ever talk to me
'Bread for your family! I thought you and mamma had'--and then
she stopped, checking her natural interest regarding their future
life, as she saw the gathering gloom on her father's brow. But
he, with his quick intuitive sympathy, read in her face, as in a
mirror, the reflections of his own moody depression, and turned
it off with an effort.
'You shall be told all, Margaret. Only help me to tell your
mother. I think I could do anything but that: the idea of her
distress turns me sick with dread. If I tell you all, perhaps you
could break it to her to-morrow. I am going out for the day, to
bid Farmer Dobson and the poor people on Bracy Common good-bye.
Would you dislike breaking it to her very much, Margaret?'
Margaret did dislike it, did shrink from it more than from
anything she had ever had to do in her life before. She could not
speak, all at once. Her father said, 'You dislike it very much,
don't you, *Margaret?' Then she conquered herself, and said, with
a bright strong look on her face:
'It is a painful thing, but it must be done, and I will do it as
well as ever I can. You must have many painful things to do.'
Mr. Hale shook his head despondingly: he pressed her hand in
token of gratitude. Margaret was nearly upset again into a burst
of crying. To turn her thoughts, she said: 'Now tell me, papa,
what our plans are. You and mamma have some money, independent of
the income from the living, have not you? Aunt Shaw has, I know.'
'Yes. I suppose we have about a hundred and seventy pounds a year
of our own. Seventy of that has always gone to Frederick, since
he has been abroad. I don't know if he wants it all,' he
continued in a hesitating manner. 'He must have some pay for
serving with the Spanish army.'
'Frederick must not suffer,' said Margaret, decidedly; 'in a
foreign country; so unjustly treated by his own. A hundred is
left Could not you, and I, and mamma live on a hundred a year in
some very cheap--very quiet part of England? Oh! I think we
'No!' said Mr. Hale. 'That would not answer. I must do something.
I must make myself busy, to keep off morbid thoughts. Besides, in
a country parish I should be so painfully reminded of Helstone,
and my duties here. I could not bear it, Margaret. And a hundred
a year would go a very little way, after the necessary wants of
housekeeping are met, towards providing your mother with all the
comforts she has been accustomed to, and ought to have. No: we
must go to Milton. That is settled. I can always decide better by
myself, and not influenced by those whom I love,' said he, as a
half apology for having arranged so much before he had told any
one of his family of his intentions. 'I cannot stand objections.
They make me so undecided.'
Margaret resolved to keep silence. After all, what did it signify
where they went, compared to the one terrible change?
Mr. Hale continued: 'A few months ago, when my misery of doubt
became more than I could bear without speaking, I wrote to Mr.
Bell--you remember Mr. Bell, Margaret?'
'No; I never saw him, I think. But I know who he is. Frederick's
godfather--your old tutor at Oxford, don't you mean?'
'Yes. He is a Fellow of Plymouth College there. He is a native of
Milton-Northern, I believe. At any rate, he has property there,
which has very much increased in value since Milton has become
such a large manufacturing town. Well, I had reason to
suspect--to imagine--I had better say nothing about it, however.
But I felt sure of sympathy from Mr. Bell. I don't know that he
gave me much strength. He has lived an easy life in his college
all his days. But he has been as kind as can be. And it is owing
to him we are going to Milton.'
'How?' said Margaret.
'Why he has tenants, and houses, and mills there; so, though he
dislikes the place--too bustling for one of his habits--he is
obliged to keep up some sort of connection; and he tells me that
he hears there is a good opening for a private tutor there.'
'A private tutor!' said Margaret, looking scornful: 'What in the
world do manufacturers want with the classics, or literature, or
the accomplishments of a gentleman?'
'Oh,' said her father, 'some of them really seem to be fine
fellows, conscious of their own deficiencies, which is more than
many a man at Oxford is. Some want resolutely to learn, though
they have come to man's estate. Some want their children to be
better instructed than they themselves have been. At any rate,
there is an opening, as I have said, for a private tutor. Mr.
Bell has recommended me to a Mr. Thornton, a tenant of his, and a
very intelligent man, as far as I can judge from his letters. And
in Milton, Margaret, I shall find a busy life, if not a happy
one, and people and scenes so different that I shall never be
reminded of Helstone.'
There was the secret motive, as Margaret knew from her own
feelings. It would be different. Discordant as it was--with
almost a detestation for all she had ever heard of the North of
England, the manufacturers, the people, the wild and bleak
country--there was this one recommendation--it would be different
from Helstone, and could never remind them of that beloved place.
'When do we go?' asked Margaret, after a short silence.
'I do not know exactly. I wanted to talk it over with you. You
see, your mother knows nothing about it yet: but I think, in a
fortnight;--after my deed of resignation is sent in, I shall have
no right to remain.
Margaret was almost stunned.
'In a fortnight!'
'No--no, not exactly to a day. Nothing is fixed,' said her
father, with anxious hesitation, as he noticed the filmy sorrow
that came over her eyes, and the sudden change in her complexion.
But she recovered herself immediately.
'Yes, papa, it had better be fixed soon and decidedly, as you
say. Only mamma to know nothing about it! It is that that is the
'Poor Maria!' replied Mr. Hale, tenderly. 'Poor, poor Maria! Oh,
if I were not married--if I were but myself in the world, how
easy it would be! As it is--Margaret, I dare not tell her!'
'No,' said Margaret, sadly, 'I will do it. Give me till to-morrow
evening to choose my time Oh, papa,' cried she, with sudden
passionate entreaty, 'say--tell me it is a night-mare--a horrid
dream--not the real waking truth! You cannot mean that you are
really going to leave the Church--to give up Helstone--to be for
ever separate from me, from mamma--led away by some
delusion--some temptation! You do not really mean it!'
Mr. Hale sat in rigid stillness while she spoke.
Then he looked her in the face, and said in a slow, hoarse,
measured way--'I do mean it, Margaret. You must not deceive
yourself into doubting the reality of my words--my fixed
intention and resolve.' He looked at her in the same steady,
stony manner, for some moments after he had done speaking. She,
too, gazed back with pleading eyes before she would believe that
it was irrevocable. Then she arose and went, without another word
or look, towards the door. As her fingers were on the handle he
called her back. He was standing by the fireplace, shrunk and
stooping; but as she came near he drew himself up to his full
height, and, placing his hands on her head, he said, solemnly:
'The blessing of God be upon thee, my child!'
'And may He restore you to His Church,' responded she, out of the
fulness of her heart. The next moment she feared lest this answer
to his blessing might be irreverent, wrong--might hurt him as
coming from his daughter, and she threw her arms round his neck.
He held her to him for a minute or two. She heard him murmur to
himself, 'The martyrs and confessors had even more pain to
bear--I will not shrink.'
They were startled by hearing Mrs. Hale inquiring for her
daughter. They started asunder in the full consciousness of all
that was before them. Mr. Hale hurriedly said--'Go, Margaret, go.
I shall be out all to-morrow. Before night you will have told
'Yes,' she replied, and she returned to the drawing-room in a
stunned and dizzy state.
'I ask Thee for a thoughtful love,
Through constant watching wise,
To meet the glad with joyful smiles,
And to wipe the weeping eyes;
And a heart at leisure from itself
To soothe and sympathise.'
Margaret made a good listener to all her mother's little plans
for adding some small comforts to the lot of the poorer
parishioners. She could not help listening, though each new
project was a stab to her heart. By the time the frost had set
in, they should be far away from Helstone. Old Simon's rheumatism
might be bad and his eyesight worse; there would be no one to go
and read to him, and comfort him with little porringers of broth
and good red flannel: or if there was, it would be a stranger,
and the old man would watch in vain for her. Mary Domville's
little crippled boy would crawl in vain to the door and look for
her coming through the forest. These poor friends would never
understand why she had forsaken them; and there were many others
besides. 'Papa has always spent the income he derived from his
living in the parish. I am, perhaps, encroaching upon the next
dues, but the winter is likely to be severe, and our poor old
people must be helped.'
'Oh, mamma, let us do all we can,' said Margaret eagerly, not
seeing the prudential side of the question, only grasping at the
idea that they were rendering such help for the last time; 'we
may not be here long.'
'Do you feel ill, my darling?' asked Mrs. Hale, anxiously,
misunderstanding Margaret's hint of the uncertainty of their stay
at Helstone. 'You look pale and tired. It is this soft, damp,
'No--no, mamma, it is not that: it is delicious air. It smells of
the freshest, purest fragrance, after the smokiness of Harley
Street. But I am tired: it surely must be near bedtime.'
'Not far off--it is half-past nine. You had better go to bed at
dear. Ask Dixon for some gruel. I will come and see you as soon
as you are in bed. I am afraid you have taken cold; or the bad
air from some of the stagnant ponds--'
'Oh, mamma,' said Margaret, faintly smiling as she kissed her
mother, 'I am quite well--don't alarm yourself about me; I am
Margaret went upstairs. To soothe her mother's anxiety she
submitted to a basin of gruel. She was lying languidly in bed
when Mrs. Hale came up to make some last inquiries and kiss her
before going to her own room for the night. But the instant she
heard her mother's door locked, she sprang out of bed, and
throwing her dressing-gown on, she began to pace up and down the
room, until the creaking of one of the boards reminded her that
she must make no noise. She went and curled herself up on the
window-seat in the small, deeply-recessed window. That morning
when she had looked out, her heart had danced at seeing the
bright clear lights on the church tower, which foretold a fine
and sunny day. This evening--sixteen hours at most had past
by--she sat down, too full of sorrow to cry, but with a dull cold
pain, which seemed to have pressed the youth and buoyancy out of
her heart, never to return. Mr. Henry Lennox's visit--his
offer--was like a dream, a thing beside her actual life. The hard
reality was, that her father had so admitted tempting doubts into
his mind as to become a schismatic--an outcast; all the changes
consequent upon this grouped themselves around that one great
She looked out upon the dark-gray lines of the church tower,
square and straight in the centre of the view, cutting against
the deep blue transparent depths beyond, into which she gazed,
and felt that she might gaze for ever, seeing at every moment
some farther distance, and yet no sign of God! It seemed to her
at the moment, as if the earth was more utterly desolate than if
girt in by an iron dome, behind which there might be the
ineffaceable peace and glory of the Almighty: those never-ending
depths of space, in their still serenity, were more mocking to
her than any material bounds could be--shutting in the cries of
earth's sufferers, which now might ascend into that infinite
splendour of vastness and be lost--lost for ever, before they
reached His throne. In this mood her father came in unheard. The
moonlight was strong enough to let him see his daughter in her
unusual place and attitude. He came to her and touched her
shoulder before she was aware that he was there.
'Margaret, I heard you were up. I could not help coming in to ask
you to pray with me--to say the Lord's Prayer; that will do good
to both of us.'
Mr. Hale and Margaret knelt by the window-seat--he looking up,
she bowed down in humble shame. God was there, close around them,
hearing her father's whispered words. Her father might be a
heretic; but had not she, in her despairing doubts not five
minutes before, shown herself a far more utter sceptic? She spoke
not a word, but stole to bed after her father had left her, like
a child ashamed of its fault. If the world was full of perplexing
problems she would trust, and only ask to see the one step
needful for the hour. Mr. Lennox--his visit, his proposal--the
remembrance of which had been so rudely pushed aside by the
subsequent events of the day--haunted her dreams that night. He
was climbing up some tree of fabulous height to reach the branch
whereon was slung her bonnet: he was falling, and she was
struggling to save him, but held back by some invisible powerful
hand. He was dead. And yet, with a shifting of the scene, she was
once more in the Harley Street drawing-room, talking to him as of
old, and still with a consciousness all the time that she had
seen him killed by that terrible fall.
Miserable, unresting night! Ill preparation for the coming day!
She awoke with a start, unrefreshed, and conscious of some
reality worse even than her feverish dreams. It all came back
upon her; not merely the sorrow, but the terrible discord in the
sorrow. Where, to what distance apart, had her father wandered,
led by doubts which were to her temptations of the Evil One? She
longed to ask, and yet would not have heard for all the world.
The fine Crisp morning made her mother feel particularly well and
happy at breakfast-time. She talked on, planning village
kindnesses, unheeding the silence of her husband and the
monosyllabic answers of Margaret. Before the things were cleared
away, Mr. Hale got up; he leaned one hand on the table, as if to
'I shall not be at home till evening. I am going to Bracy Common,
and will ask Farmer Dobson to give me something for dinner. I
shall be back to tea at seven.' He did not look at either of
them, but Margaret knew what he meant. By seven the announcement
must be made to her mother. Mr. Hale would have delayed making it
till half-past six, but Margaret was of different stuff. She
could not bear the impending weight on her mind all the day long:
better get the worst over; the day would be too short to comfort
her mother. But while she stood by the window, thinking how to
begin, and waiting for the servant to have left the room, her
mother had gone up-stairs to put on her things to go to the
school. She came down ready equipped, in a brisker mood than
'Mother, come round the garden with me this morning; just one
turn,' said Margaret, putting her arm round Mrs. Hale's waist.
They passed through the open window. Mrs. Hale spoke--said
something--Margaret could not tell what. Her eye caught on a bee
entering a deep-belled flower: when that bee flew forth with his
spoil she would begin--that should be the sign. Out he came.
'Mamma! Papa is going to leave Helstone!' she blurted forth.
'He's going to leave the Church, and live in Milton-Northern.'
There were the three hard facts hardly spoken.
'What makes you say so?' asked Mrs. Hale, in a surprised
incredulous voice. 'Who has been telling you such nonsense?'
'Papa himself,' said Margaret, longing to say something gentle
and consoling, but literally not knowing how. They were close to
a garden-bench. Mrs. Hale sat down, and began to cry.
'I don't understand you,' she said. 'Either you have made some
great mistake, or I don't quite understand you.'
'No, mother, I have made no mistake. Papa has written to the
bishop, saying that he has such doubts that he cannot
conscientiously remain a priest of the Church of England, and
that he must give up Helstone. He has also consulted Mr.
Bell--Frederick's godfather, you know, mamma; and it is arranged
that we go to live in Milton-Northern.' Mrs. Hale looked up in
Margaret's face all the time she was speaking these words: the
shadow on her countenance told that she, at least, believed in
the truth of what she said.
'I don't think it can be true,' said Mrs. Hale, at length. 'He
would surely have told me before it came to this.'
It came strongly upon Margaret's mind that her mother ought to
have been told: that whatever her faults of discontent and
repining might have been, it was an error in her father to have
left her to learn his change of opinion, and his approaching
change of life, from her better-informed child. Margaret sat down
by her mother, and took her unresisting head on her breast,
bending her own soft cheeks down caressingly to touch her face.
'Dear, darling mamma! we were so afraid of giving you pain. Papa
felt so acutely--you know you are not strong, and there must have
been such terrible suspense to go through.'
'When did he tell you, Margaret?'
'Yesterday, only yesterday,' replied Margaret, detecting the
jealousy which prompted the inquiry. 'Poor papa!'--trying to
divert her mother's thoughts into compassionate sympathy for all
her father had gone through. Mrs. Hale raised her head.
'What does he mean by having doubts?' she asked. 'Surely, he does
not mean that he thinks differently--that he knows better than
the Church.' Margaret shook her head, and the tears came into her
eyes, as her mother touched the bare nerve of her own regret.
'Can't the bishop set him right?' asked Mrs. Hale, half
'I'm afraid not,' said Margaret. 'But I did not ask. I could not
bear to hear what he might answer. It is all settled at any rate.
He is going to leave Helstone in a fortnight. I am not sure if he
did not say he had sent in his deed of resignation.'
'In a fortnight!' exclaimed Mrs. Hale, 'I do think this is very
strange--not at all right. I call it very unfeeling,' said she,
beginning to take relief in tears. 'He has doubts, you say, and
gives up his living, and all without consulting me. I dare say,
if he had told me his doubts at the first I could have nipped
them in the bud.'
Mistaken as Margaret felt her father's conduct to have been, she
could not bear to hear it blamed by her mother. She knew that his
very reserve had originated in a tenderness for her, which might
be cowardly, but was not unfeeling.
'I almost hoped you might have been glad to leave Helstone,
mamma,' said she, after a pause. 'You have never been well in
this air, you know.'
'You can't think the smoky air of a manufacturing town, all
chimneys and dirt like Milton-Northern, would be better than this
air, which is pure and sweet, if it is too soft and relaxing.
Fancy living in the middle of factories, and factory people!
Though, of course, if your father leaves the Church, we shall not
be admitted into society anywhere. It will be such a disgrace to
us! Poor dear Sir John! It is well he is not alive to see what
your father has come to! Every day after dinner, when I was a
girl, living with your aunt Shaw, at Beresford Court, Sir John
used to give for the first toast--"Church and King, and down with
Margaret was glad that her mother's thoughts were turned away
from the fact of her husband's silence to her on the point which
must have been so near his heart. Next to the serious vital
anxiety as to the nature of her father's doubts, this was the one
circumstance of the case that gave Margaret the most pain.
'You know, we have very little society here, mamma. The Gormans,
who are our nearest neighbours (to call society--and we hardly
ever see them), have been in trade just as much as these
'Yes,' said Mrs. Hale, almost indignantly, 'but, at any rate, the
Gormans made carriages for half the gentry of the county, and
were brought into some kind of intercourse with them; but these
factory people, who on earth wears cotton that can afford linen?'
'Well, mamma, I give up the cotton-spinners; I am not standing up
for them, any more than for any other trades-people. Only we
shall have little enough to do with them.'
'Why on earth has your father fixed on Milton-Northern to live
'Partly,' said Margaret, sighing, 'because it is so very
different from Helstone--partly because Mr. Bell says there is an
opening there for a private tutor.'
'Private tutor in Milton! Why can't he go to Oxford, and be a
tutor to gentlemen?'
'You forget, mamma! He is leaving the Church on account of his
opinions--his doubts would do him no good at Oxford.'
Mrs. Hale was silent for some time, quietly crying. At last she
'And the furniture--How in the world are we to manage the
removal? I never removed in my life, and only a fortnight to
think about it!'
Margaret was inexpressibly relieved to find that her mother's
anxiety and distress was lowered to this point, so insignificant
to herself, and on which she could do so much to help. She
planned and promised, and led her mother on to arrange fully as
much as could be fixed before they knew somewhat more
definitively what Mr. Hale intended to do. Throughout the day
Margaret never left her mother; bending her whole soul to
sympathise in all the various turns her feelings took; towards
evening especially, as she became more and more anxious that her
father should find a soothing welcome home awaiting him, after
his return from his day of fatigue and distress. She dwelt upon
what he must have borne in secret for long; her mother only
replied coldly that he ought to have told her, and that then at
any rate he would have had an adviser to give him counsel; and
Margaret turned faint at heart when she heard her father's step
in the hall. She dared not go to meet him, and tell him what she
had done all day, for fear of her mother's jealous annoyance. She
heard him linger, as if awaiting her, or some sign of her; and
she dared not stir; she saw by her mother's twitching lips, and
changing colour, that she too was aware that her husband had
returned. Presently he opened the room-door, and stood there
uncertain whether to come in. His face was gray and pale; he had
a timid, fearful look in his eyes; something almost pitiful to
see in a man's face; but that look of despondent uncertainty, of
mental and bodily languor, touched his wife's heart. She went to