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North and South by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

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him, and threw herself on his breast, crying out--

'Oh! Richard, Richard, you should have told me sooner!'

And then, in tears, Margaret left her, as she rushed up-stairs to
throw herself on her bed, and hide her face in the pillows to
stifle the hysteric sobs that would force their way at last,
after the rigid self-control of the whole day. How long she lay
thus she could not tell. She heard no noise, though the housemaid
came in to arrange the room. The affrighted girl stole out again
on tip-toe, and went and told Mrs. Dixon that Miss Hale was
crying as if her heart would break: she was sure she would make
herself deadly ill if she went on at that rate. In consequence of
this, Margaret felt herself touched, and started up into a
sitting posture; she saw the accustomed room, the figure of Dixon
in shadow, as the latter stood holding the candle a little behind
her, for fear of the effect on Miss Hale's startled eyes, swollen
and blinded as they were.

'Oh, Dixon! I did not hear you come into the room!' said
Margaret, resuming her trembling self-restraint. 'Is it very
late?' continued she, lifting herself languidly off the bed, yet
letting her feet touch the ground without fairly standing down,
as she shaded her wet ruffled hair off her face, and tried to
look as though nothing were the matter; as if she had only been

'I hardly can tell what time it is,' replied Dixon, in an
aggrieved tone of voice. 'Since your mamma told me this terrible
news, when I dressed her for tea, I've lost all count of time.
I'm sure I don't know what is to become of us all. When Charlotte
told me just now you were sobbing, Miss Hale, I thought, no
wonder, poor thing! And master thinking of turning Dissenter at
his time of life, when, if it is not to be said he's done well in
the Church, he's not done badly after all. I had a cousin, miss,
who turned Methodist preacher after he was fifty years of age,
and a tailor all his life; but then he had never been able to
make a pair of trousers to fit, for as long as he had been in the
trade, so it was no wonder; but for master! as I said to missus,
"What would poor Sir John have said? he never liked your marrying
Mr. Hale, but if he could have known it would have come to this,
he would have sworn worse oaths than ever, if that was

Dixon had been so much accustomed to comment upon Mr. Hale's
proceedings to her mistress (who listened to her, or not, as she
was in the humour), that she never noticed Margaret's flashing
eye and dilating nostril. To hear her father talked of in this
way by a servant to her face!

'Dixon,' she said, in the low tone she always used when much
excited, which had a sound in it as of some distant turmoil, or
threatening storm breaking far away. 'Dixon! you forget to whom
you are speaking.' She stood upright and firm on her feet now,
confronting the waiting-maid, and fixing her with her steady
discerning eye. 'I am Mr. Hale's daughter. Go! You have made a
strange mistake, and one that I am sure your own good feeling
will make you sorry for when you think about it.'

Dixon hung irresolutely about the room for a minute or two.
Margaret repeated, 'You may leave me, Dixon. I wish you to go.'
Dixon did not know whether to resent these decided words or to
cry; either course would have done with her mistress: but, as she
said to herself, 'Miss Margaret has a touch of the old gentleman
about her, as well as poor Master Frederick; I wonder where they
get it from?' and she, who would have resented such words from
any one less haughty and determined in manner, was subdued enough
to say, in a half humble, half injured tone:

'Mayn't I unfasten your gown, miss, and do your hair?'

'No! not to-night, thank you.' And Margaret gravely lighted her
out of the room, and bolted the door. From henceforth Dixon
obeyed and admired Margaret. She said it was because she was so
like poor Master Frederick; but the truth was, that Dixon, as do
many others, liked to feel herself ruled by a powerful and
decided nature.

Margaret needed all Dixon's help in action, and silence in words;
for, for some time, the latter thought it her duty to show her
sense of affront by saying as little as possible to her young
lady; so the energy came out in doing rather than in speaking A
fortnight was a very short time to make arrangements for so
serious a removal; as Dixon said, 'Any one but a
gentleman--indeed almost any other gentleman--' but catching a
look at Margaret's straight, stern brow just here, she coughed
the remainder of the sentence away, and meekly took the horehound
drop that Margaret offered her, to stop the 'little tickling at
my chest, miss.' But almost any one but Mr. Hale would have had
practical knowledge enough to see, that in so short a time it
would be difficult to fix on any house in Milton-Northern, or
indeed elsewhere, to which they could remove the furniture that
had of necessity to be taken out of Helstone vicarage. Mrs. Hale,
overpowered by all the troubles and necessities for immediate
household decisions that seemed to come upon her at once, became
really ill, and Margaret almost felt it as a relief when her
mother fairly took to her bed, and left the management of affairs
to her. Dixon, true to her post of body-guard, attended most
faithfully to her mistress, and only emerged from Mrs. Hale's
bed-room to shake her head, and murmur to herself in a manner
which Margaret did not choose to hear. For, the one thing clear
and straight before her, was the necessity for leaving Helstone.
Mr. Hale's successor in the living was appointed; and, at any
rate, after her father's decision; there must be no lingering
now, for his sake, as well as from every other consideration. For
he came home every evening more and more depressed, after the
necessary leave-taking which he had resolved to have with every
individual parishioner. Margaret, inexperienced as she was in all
the necessary matter-of-fact business to be got through, did not
know to whom to apply for advice. The cook and Charlotte worked
away with willing arms and stout hearts at all the moving and
packing; and as far as that went, Margaret's admirable sense
enabled her to see what was best, and to direct how it should be
done. But where were they to go to? In a week they must be gone.
Straight to Milton, or where? So many arrangements depended on
this decision that Margaret resolved to ask her father one
evening, in spite of his evident fatigue and low spirits. He

'My dear! I have really had too much to think about to settle
this. What does your mother say? What does she wish? Poor Maria!'

He met with an echo even louder than his sigh. Dixon had just
come into the room for another cup of tea for Mrs. Hale, and
catching Mr. Hale's last words, and protected by his presence
from Margaret's upbraiding eyes, made bold to say, 'My poor

'You don't think her worse to-day,' said Mr. Hale, turning

'I'm sure I can't say, sir. It's not for me to judge. The illness
seems so much more on the mind than on the body.'

Mr. Hale looked infinitely distressed.

'You had better take mamma her tea while it is hot, Dixon,' said
Margaret, in a tone of quiet authority.

'Oh! I beg your pardon, miss! My thoughts was otherwise occupied
in thinking of my poor----of Mrs. Hale.'

'Papa!' said Margaret, 'it is this suspense that is bad for you
both. Of course, mamma must feel your change of opinions: we
can't help that,' she continued, softly; 'but now the course is
clear, at least to a certain point. And I think, papa, that I
could get mamma to help me in planning, if you could tell me what
to plan for. She has never expressed any wish in any way, and
only thinks of what can't be helped. Are we to go straight to
Milton? Have you taken a house there?'

'No,' he replied. 'I suppose we must go into lodgings, and look
about for a house.

'And pack up the furniture so that it can be left at the railway
station, till we have met with one?'

'I suppose so. Do what you think best. Only remember, we shall
have much less money to spend.'

They had never had much superfluity, as Margaret knew. She felt
that it was a great weight suddenly thrown upon her shoulders.
Four months ago, all the decisions she needed to make were what
dress she would wear for dinner, and to help Edith to draw out
the lists of who should take down whom in the dinner parties at
home. Nor was the household in which she lived one that called
for much decision. Except in the one grand case of Captain
Lennox's offer, everything went on with the regularity of
clockwork. Once a year, there was a long discussion between her
aunt and Edith as to whether they should go to the Isle of Wight,
abroad, or to Scotland; but at such times Margaret herself was
secure of drifting, without any exertion of her own, into the
quiet harbour of home. Now, since that day when Mr. Lennox came,
and startled her into a decision, every day brought some
question, momentous to her, and to those whom she loved, to be

Her father went up after tea to sit with his wife. Margaret
remained alone in the drawing-room. Suddenly she took a candle
and went into her father's study for a great atlas, and lugging
it back into the drawing-room, she began to pore over the map of
England. She was ready to look up brightly when her father came
down stairs.

'I have hit upon such a beautiful plan. Look here--in Darkshire,
hardly the breadth of my finger from Milton, is Heston, which I
have often heard of from people living in the north as such a
pleasant little bathing-place. Now, don't you think we could get
mamma there with Dixon, while you and I go and look at houses,
and get one all ready for her in Milton? She would get a breath
of sea air to set her up for the winter, and be spared all the
fatigue, and Dixon would enjoy taking care of her.'

'Is Dixon to go with us?' asked Mr. Hale, in a kind of helpless

'Oh, yes!' said Margaret. 'Dixon quite intends it, and I don't
know what mamma would do without her.'

'But we shall have to put up with a very different way of living,
I am afraid. Everything is so much dearer in a town. I doubt if
Dixon can make herself comfortable. To tell you the truth
Margaret, I sometimes feel as if that woman gave herself airs.'

'To be sure she does, papa,' replied Margaret; 'and if she has to
put up with a different style of living, we shall have to put up
with her airs, which will be worse. But she really loves us all,
and would be miserable to leave us, I am sure--especially in this
change; so, for mamma's sake, and for the sake of her
faithfulness, I do think she must go.'

'Very well, my dear. Go on. I am resigned. How far is Heston from
Milton? The breadth of one of your fingers does not give me a
very clear idea of distance.'

'Well, then, I suppose it is thirty miles; that is not much!'

'Not in distance, but in--. Never mind! If you really think it
will do your mother good, let it be fixed so.'

This was a great step. Now Margaret could work, and act, and plan
in good earnest. And now Mrs. Hale could rouse herself from her
languor, and forget her real suffering in thinking of the
pleasure and the delight of going to the sea-side. Her only
regret was that Mr. Hale could not be with her all the fortnight
she was to be there, as he had been for a whole fortnight once,
when they were engaged, and she was staying with Sir John and
Lady Beresford at Torquay.



'Unwatch'd the garden bough shall sway,
The tender blossom flutter down,
Unloved that beech will gather brown,
The maple burn itself away;

Unloved, the sun-flower, shining fair,
Ray round with flames her disk of seed,
And many a rose-carnation feed
With summer spice the humming air;

* * * * * *

Till from the garden and the wild
A fresh association blow,
And year by year the landscape grow
Familiar to the stranger's child;

As year by year the labourer tills
His wonted glebe, or lops the glades;
And year by year our memory fades
From all the circle of the hills.'

The last day came; the house was full of packing-cases, which
were being carted off at the front door, to the nearest railway
station. Even the pretty lawn at the side of the house was made
unsightly and untidy by the straw that had been wafted upon it
through the open door and windows. The rooms had a strange
echoing sound in them,--and the light came harshly and strongly
in through the uncurtained windows,--seeming already unfamiliar
and strange. Mrs. Hale's dressing-room was left untouched to the
last; and there she and Dixon were packing up clothes, and
interrupting each other every now and then to exclaim at, and
turn over with fond regard, some forgotten treasure, in the shape
of some relic of the children while they were yet little. They
did not make much progress with their work. Down-stairs, Margaret
stood calm and collected, ready to counsel or advise the men who
had been called in to help the cook and Charlotte. These two
last, crying between whiles, wondered how the young lady could
keep up so this last day, and settled it between them that she
was not likely to care much for Helstone, having been so long in
London. There she stood, very pale and quiet, with her large
grave eyes observing everything,--up to every present
circumstance, however small. They could not understand how her
heart was aching all the time, with a heavy pressure that no
sighs could lift off or relieve, and how constant exertion for
her perceptive faculties was the only way to keep herself from
crying out with pain. Moreover, if she gave way, who was to act?
Her father was examining papers, books, registers, what not, in
the vestry with the clerk; and when he came in, there were his
own books to pack up, which no one but himself could do to his
satisfaction. Besides, was Margaret one to give way before
strange men, or even household friends like the cook and
Charlotte! Not she. But at last the four packers went into the
kitchen to their tea; and Margaret moved stiffly and slowly away
from the place in the hall where she had been standing so long,
out through the bare echoing drawing-room, into the twilight of
an early November evening. There was a filmy veil of soft dull
mist obscuring, but not hiding, all objects, giving them a lilac
hue, for the sun had not yet fully set; a robin was
singing,--perhaps, Margaret thought, the very robin that her
father had so often talked of as his winter pet, and for which he
had made, with his own hands, a kind of robin-house by his
study-window. The leaves were more gorgeous than ever; the first
touch of frost would lay them all low on the ground. Already one
or two kept constantly floating down, amber and golden in the low
slanting sun-rays.

Margaret went along the walk under the pear-tree wall. She had
never been along it since she paced it at Henry Lennox's side.
Here, at this bed of thyme, he began to speak of what she must
not think of now. Her eyes were on that late-blowing rose as she
was trying to answer; and she had caught the idea of the vivid
beauty of the feathery leaves of the carrots in the very middle
of his last sentence. Only a fortnight ago And all so changed!
Where was he now? In London,--going through the old round; dining
with the old Harley Street set, or with gayer young friends of
his own. Even now, while she walked sadly through that damp and
drear garden in the dusk, with everything falling and fading, and
turning to decay around her, he might be gladly putting away his
law-books after a day of satisfactory toil, and freshening
himself up, as he had told her he often did, by a run in the
Temple Gardens, taking in the while the grand inarticulate mighty
roar of tens of thousands of busy men, nigh at hand, but not
seen, and catching ever, at his quick turns, glimpses of the
lights of the city coming up out of the depths of the river. He
had often spoken to Margaret of these hasty walks, snatched in
the intervals between study and dinner. At his best times and in
his best moods had he spoken of them; and the thought of them had
struck upon her fancy. Here there was no sound. The robin had
gone away into the vast stillness of night. Now and then, a
cottage door in the distance was opened and shut, as if to admit
the tired labourer to his home; but that sounded very far away. A
stealthy, creeping, cranching sound among the crisp fallen leaves
of the forest, beyond the garden, seemed almost close at hand.
Margaret knew it was some poacher. Sitting up in her bed-room
this past autumn, with the light of her candle extinguished, and
purely revelling in the solemn beauty of the heavens and the
earth, she had many a time seen the light noiseless leap of the
poachers over the garden-fence, their quick tramp across the dewy
moonlit lawn, their disappearance in the black still shadow
beyond. The wild adventurous freedom of their life had taken her
fancy; she felt inclined to wish them success; she had no fear of
them. But to-night she was afraid, she knew not why. She heard
Charlotte shutting the windows, and fastening up for the night,
unconscious that any one had gone out into the garden. A small
branch--it might be of rotten wood, or it might be broken by
force--came heavily down in the nearest part of the forest,
Margaret ran, swift as Camilla, down to the window, and rapped at
it with a hurried tremulousness which startled Charlotte within.

'Let me in! Let me in! It is only me, Charlotte!' Her heart did
not still its fluttering till she was safe in the drawing-room,
with the windows fastened and bolted, and the familiar walls
hemming her round, and shutting her in. She had sate down upon a
packing case; cheerless, Chill was the dreary and dismantled
room--no fire nor other light, but Charlotte's long unsnuffed
candle. Charlotte looked at Margaret with surprise; and Margaret,
feeling it rather than seeing it, rose up.

'I was afraid you were shutting me out altogether, Charlotte,'
said she, half-smiling. 'And then you would never have heard me
in the kitchen, and the doors into the lane and churchyard are
locked long ago.'

'Oh, miss, I should have been sure to have missed you soon. The
men would have wanted you to tell them how to go on. And I have
put tea in master's study, as being the most comfortable room, so
to speak.'

'Thank you, Charlotte. You are a kind girl. I shall be sorry to
leave you. You must try and write to me, if I can ever give you
any little help or good advice. I shall always be glad to get a
letter from Helstone, you know. I shall be sure and send you my
address when. I know it.'

The study was all ready for tea. There was a good blazing fire,
and unlighted candles on the table. Margaret sat down on the rug,
partly to warm herself, for the dampness of the evening hung
about her dress, and overfatigue had made her chilly. She kept
herself balanced by clasping her hands together round her knees;
her head dropped a little towards her chest; the attitude was one
of despondency, whatever her frame of mind might be. But when she
heard her father's step on the gravel outside, she started up,
and hastily shaking her heavy black hair back, and wiping a few
tears away that had come on her cheeks she knew not how, she went
out to open the door for him. He showed far more depression than
she did. She could hardly get him to talk, although she tried to
speak on subjects that would interest him, at the cost of an
effort every time which she thought would be her last.

'Have you been a very long walk to-day?' asked she, on seeing his
refusal to touch food of any kind.

'As far as Fordham Beeches. I went to see Widow Maltby; she is
sadly grieved at not having wished you good-bye. She says little
Susan has kept watch down the lane for days past.--Nay, Margaret,
what is the matter, dear?' The thought of the little child
watching for her, and continually disappointed--from no
forgetfulness on her part, but from sheer inability to leave
home--was the last drop in poor Margaret's cup, and she was
sobbing away as if her heart would break. Mr. Hale was
distressingly perplexed. He rose, and walked nervously up and
down the room. Margaret tried to check herself, but would not
speak until she could do so with firmness. She heard him talking,
as if to himself.

'I cannot bear it. I cannot bear to see the sufferings of others.
I think I could go through my own with patience. Oh, is there no
going back?'

'No, father,' said Margaret, looking straight at him, and
speaking low and steadily. 'It is bad to believe you in error. It
would he infinitely worse to have known you a hypocrite.' She
dropped her voice at the last few words, as if entertaining the
idea of hypocrisy for a moment in connection with her father
savoured of irreverence.

'Besides,' she went on, 'it is only that I am tired to-night;
don't think that I am suffering from what you have done, dear
papa. We can't either of us talk about it to-night, I believe,'
said she, finding that tears and sobs would come in spite of
herself. 'I had better go and take mamma up this cup of tea. She
had hers very early, when I was too busy to go to her, and I am
sure she will be glad of another now.'

Railroad time inexorably wrenched them away from lovely, beloved
Helstone, the next morning. They were gone; they had seen the
last of the long low parsonage home, half-covered with
China-roses and pyracanthus--more homelike than ever in the
morning sun that glittered on its windows, each belonging to some
well-loved room. Almost before they had settled themselves into
the car, sent from Southampton to fetch them to the station, they
were gone away to return no more. A sting at Margaret's heart
made her strive to look out to catch the last glimpse of the old
church tower at the turn where she knew it might be seen above a
wave of the forest trees; but her father remembered this too, and
she silently acknowledged his greater right to the one window
from which it could be seen. She leant back and shut her eyes,
and the tears welled forth, and hung glittering for an instant on
the shadowing eye-lashes before rolling slowly down her cheeks,
and dropping, unheeded, on her dress.

They were to stop in London all night at some quiet hotel. Poor
Mrs. Hale had cried in her way nearly all day long; and Dixon
showed her sorrow by extreme crossness, and a continual irritable
attempt to keep her petticoats from even touching the unconscious
Mr. Hale, whom she regarded as the origin of all this suffering.

They went through the well-known streets, past houses which they
had often visited, past shops in which she had lounged,
impatient, by her aunt's side, while that lady was making some
important and interminable decision-nay, absolutely past
acquaintances in the streets; for though the morning had been of
an incalculable length to them, and they felt as if it ought long
ago to have closed in for the repose of darkness, it was the very
busiest time of a London afternoon in November when they arrived
there. It was long since Mrs. Hale had been in London; and she
roused up, almost like a child, to look about her at the
different streets, and to gaze after and exclaim at the shops and

'Oh, there's Harrison's, where I bought so many of my wedding-things.
Dear! how altered! They've got immense plate-glass windows, larger
than Crawford's in Southampton. Oh, and there, I declare--no, it
is not--yes, it is--Margaret, we have just passed Mr. Henry Lennox.
Where can he be going, among all these shops?'

Margaret started forwards, and as quickly fell back, half-smiling
at herself for the sudden motion. They were a hundred yards away
by this time; but he seemed like a relic of Helstone--he was
associated with a bright morning, an eventful day, and she should
have liked to have seen him, without his seeing her,--without the
chance of their speaking.

The evening, without employment, passed in a room high up in an
hotel, was long and heavy. Mr. Hale went out to his bookseller's,
and to call on a friend or two. Every one they saw, either in the
house or out in the streets, appeared hurrying to some
appointment, expected by, or expecting somebody. They alone
seemed strange and friendless, and desolate. Yet within a mile,
Margaret knew of house after house, where she for her own sake,
and her mother for her aunt Shaw's, would be welcomed, if they
came in gladness, or even in peace of mind. If they came
sorrowing, and wanting sympathy in a complicated trouble like the
present, then they would be felt as a shadow in all these houses
of intimate acquaintances, not friends. London life is too
whirling and full to admit of even an hour of that deep silence
of feeling which the friends of Job showed, when 'they sat with
him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a
word unto him; for they saw that his grief was very great.'



'Mist clogs the sunshine,
Smoky dwarf houses
Have we round on every side.'

The next afternoon, about twenty miles from Milton-Northern, they
entered on the little branch railway that led to Heston. Heston
itself was one long straggling street, running parallel to the
seashore. It had a character of its own, as different from the
little bathing-places in the south of England as they again from
those of the continent. To use a Scotch word, every thing looked
more 'purposelike.' The country carts had more iron, and less
wood and leather about the horse-gear; the people in the streets,
although on pleasure bent, had yet a busy mind. The colours
looked grayer--more enduring, not so gay and pretty. There were
no smock-frocks, even among the country folk; they retarded
motion, and were apt to catch on machinery, and so the habit of
wearing them had died out. In such towns in the south of England,
Margaret had seen the shopmen, when not employed in their
business, lounging a little at their doors, enjoying the fresh
air, and the look up and down the street. Here, if they had any
leisure from customers, they made themselves business in the
shop--even, Margaret fancied, to the unnecessary unrolling and
rerolling of ribbons. All these differences struck upon her mind,
as she and her mother went out next morning to look for lodgings.

Their two nights at hotels had cost more than Mr. Hale had
anticipated, and they were glad to take the first clean, cheerful
for the first time for many days, did Margaret feel at rest.
There rooms they met with that were at liberty to receive them.
There, was a dreaminess in the rest, too, which made it still
more perfect and luxurious to repose in. The distant sea, lapping
the sandy shore with measured sound; the nearer cries of the
donkey-boys; the unusual scenes moving before her like pictures,
which she cared not in her laziness to have fully explained
before they passed away; the stroll down to the beach to breathe
the sea-air, soft and warm on that sandy shore even to the end of
November; the great long misty sea-line touching the
tender-coloured sky; the white sail of a distant boat turning
silver in some pale sunbeam:--it seemed as if she could dream her
life away in such luxury of pensiveness, in which she made her
present all in all, from not daring to think of the past, or
wishing to contemplate the future.

But the future must be met, however stern and iron it be. One
evening it was arranged that Margaret and her father should go
the next day to Milton-Northern, and look out for a house. Mr.
Hale had received several letters from Mr. Bell, and one or two
from Mr. Thornton, and he was anxious to ascertain at once a good
many particulars respecting his position and chances of success
there, which he could only do by an interview with the latter
gentleman. Margaret knew that they ought to be removing; but she
had a repugnance to the idea of a manufacturing town, and
believed that her mother was receiving benefit from Heston air,
so she would willingly have deferred the expedition to Milton.

For several miles before they reached Milton, they saw a deep
lead-coloured cloud hanging over the horizon in the direction in
which it lay. It was all the darker from contrast with the pale
gray-blue of the wintry sky; for in Heston there had been the
earliest signs of frost. Nearer to the town, the air had a faint
taste and smell of smoke; perhaps, after all, more a loss of the
fragrance of grass and herbage than any positive taste or smell.
Quick they were whirled over long, straight, hopeless streets of
regularly-built houses, all small and of brick. Here and there a
great oblong many-windowed factory stood up, like a hen among her
chickens, puffing out black 'unparliamentary' smoke, and
sufficiently accounting for the cloud which Margaret had taken to
foretell rain. As they drove through the larger and wider
streets, from the station to the hotel, they had to stop
constantly; great loaded lurries blocked up the not over-wide
thoroughfares. Margaret had now and then been into the city in
her drives with her aunt. But there the heavy lumbering vehicles
seemed various in their purposes and intent; here every van,
every waggon and truck, bore cotton, either in the raw shape in
bags, or the woven shape in bales of calico. People thronged the
footpaths, most of them well-dressed as regarded the material,
but with a slovenly looseness which struck Margaret as different
from the shabby, threadbare smartness of a similar class in

'New Street,' said Mr. Hale. 'This, I believe, is the principal
street in Milton. Bell has often spoken to me about it. It was
the opening of this street from a lane into a great thoroughfare,
thirty years ago, which has caused his property to rise so much
in value. Mr. Thornton's mill must be somewhere not very far off,
for he is Mr. Bell's tenant. But I fancy he dates from his

'Where is our hotel, papa?'

'Close to the end of this street, I believe. Shall we have lunch
before or after we have looked at the houses we marked in the
Milton Times?'

'Oh, let us get our work done first.'

'Very well. Then I will only see if there is any note or letter
for me from Mr. Thornton, who said he would let me know anything
he might hear about these houses, and then we will set off. We
will keep the cab; it will be safer than losing ourselves, and
being too late for the train this afternoon.'

There were no letters awaiting him. They set out on their
house-hunting. Thirty pounds a-year was all they could afford to
give, but in Hampshire they could have met with a roomy house and
pleasant garden for the money. Here, even the necessary
accommodation of two sitting-rooms and four bed-rooms seemed
unattainable. They went through their list, rejecting each as
they visited it. Then they looked at each other in dismay.

'We must go back to the second, I think. That one,--in Crampton,
don't they call the suburb? There were three sitting-rooms; don't
you remember how we laughed at the number compared with the three
bed-rooms? But I have planned it all. The front room down-stairs
is to be your study and our dining-room (poor papa!), for, you
know, we settled mamma is to have as cheerful a sitting-room as
we can get; and that front room up-stairs, with the atrocious
blue and pink paper and heavy cornice, had really a pretty view
over the plain, with a great bend of river, or canal, or whatever
it is, down below. Then I could have the little bed-room behind,
in that projection at the head of the first flight of
stairs--over the kitchen, you know--and you and mamma the room
behind the drawing-room, and that closet in the roof will make
you a splendid dressing-room.'

'But Dixon, and the girl we are to have to help?'

'Oh, wait a minute. I am overpowered by the discovery of my own
genius for management. Dixon is to have--let me see, I had it
once--the back sitting-room. I think she will like that. She
grumbles so much about the stairs at Heston; and the girl is to
have that sloping attic over your room and mamma's. Won't that

'I dare say it will. But the papers. What taste! And the
overloading such a house with colour and such heavy cornices!'

'Never mind, papa! Surely, you can charm the landlord into
re-papering one or two of the rooms--the drawing-room and your
bed-room--for mamma will come most in contact with them; and your
book-shelves will hide a great deal of that gaudy pattern in the

'Then you think it the best? If so, I had better go at once and
call on this Mr. Donkin, to whom the advertisement refers me. I
will take you back to the hotel, where you can order lunch, and
rest, and by the time it is ready, I shall be with you. I hope I
shall be able to get new papers.'

Margaret hoped so too, though she said nothing. She had never
come fairly in contact with the taste that loves ornament,
however bad, more than the plainness and simplicity which are of
themselves the framework of elegance. Her father took her through
the entrance of the hotel, and leaving her at the foot of the
staircase, went to the address of the landlord of the house they
had fixed upon. Just as Margaret had her hand on the door of
their sitting-room, she was followed by a quick-stepping waiter:

'I beg your pardon, ma'am. The gentleman was gone so quickly, I
had no time to tell him. Mr. Thornton called almost directly
after you left; and, as I understood from what the gentleman
said, you would be back in an hour, I told him so, and he came
again about five minutes ago, and said he would wait for Mr.
Hale. He is in your room now, ma'am.'

'Thank you. My father will return soon, and then you can tell
him.' Margaret opened the door and went in with the straight,
fearless, dignified presence habitual to her. She felt no
awkwardness; she had too much the habits of society for that.
Here was a person come on business to her father; and, as he was
one who had shown himself obliging, she was disposed to treat him
with a full measure of civility. Mr. Thornton was a good deal
more surprised and discomfited than she. Instead of a quiet,
middle-aged clergyman, a young lady came forward with frank
dignity,--a young lady of a different type to most of those he
was in the habit of seeing. Her dress was very plain: a close
straw bonnet of the best material and shape, trimmed with white
ribbon; a dark silk gown, without any trimming or flounce; a
large Indian shawl, which hung about her in long heavy folds, and
which she wore as an empress wears her drapery. He did not
understand who she was, as he caught the simple, straight,
unabashed look, which showed that his being there was of no
concern to the beautiful countenance, and called up no flush of
surprise to the pale ivory of the complexion. He had heard that
Mr. Hale had a daughter, but he had imagined that she was a
little girl.

'Mr. Thornton, I believe!' said Margaret, after a half-instant's
pause, during which his unready words would not come. 'Will you
sit down. My father brought me to the door, not a minute ago, but
unfortunately he was not told that you were here, and he has gone
away on some business. But he will come back almost directly. I
am sorry you have had the trouble of calling twice.'

Mr. Thornton was in habits of authority himself, but she seemed
to assume some kind of rule over him at once. He had been getting
impatient at the loss of his time on a market-day, the moment
before she appeared, yet now he calmly took a seat at her

'Do you know where it is that Mr. Hale has gone to? Perhaps I
might be able to find him.'

'He has gone to a Mr. Donkin's in Canute Street. He is the
land-lord of the house my father wishes to take in Crampton.'

Mr. Thornton knew the house. He had seen the advertisement, and
been to look at it, in compliance with a request of Mr. Bell's
that he would assist Mr. Hale to the best of his power: and also
instigated by his own interest in the case of a clergyman who had
given up his living under circumstances such as those of Mr.
Hale. Mr. Thornton had thought that the house in Crampton was
really just the thing; but now that he saw Margaret, with her
superb ways of moving and looking, he began to feel ashamed of
having imagined that it would do very well for the Hales, in
spite of a certain vulgarity in it which had struck him at the
time of his looking it over.

Margaret could not help her looks; but the short curled upper
lip, the round, massive up-turned chin, the manner of carrying
her head, her movements, full of a soft feminine defiance, always
gave strangers the impression of haughtiness. She was tired now,
and would rather have remained silent, and taken the rest her
father had planned for her; but, of course, she owed it to
herself to be a gentlewoman, and to speak courteously from time
to time to this stranger; not over-brushed, nor over-polished, it
must be confessed, after his rough encounter with Milton streets
and crowds. She wished that he would go, as he had once spoken of
doing, instead of sitting there, answering with curt sentences
all the remarks she made. She had taken off her shawl, and hung
it over the back of her chair. She sat facing him and facing the
light; her full beauty met his eye; her round white flexile
throat rising out of the full, yet lithe figure; her lips, moving
so slightly as she spoke, not breaking the cold serene look of
her face with any variation from the one lovely haughty curve;
her eyes, with their soft gloom, meeting his with quiet maiden
freedom. He almost said to himself that he did not like her,
before their conversation ended; he tried so to compensate
himself for the mortified feeling, that while he looked upon her
with an admiration he could not repress, she looked at him with
proud indifference, taking him, he thought, for what, in his
irritation, he told himself he was--a great rough fellow, with
not a grace or a refinement about him. Her quiet coldness of
demeanour he interpreted into contemptuousness, and resented it
in his heart to the pitch of almost inclining him to get up and
go away, and have nothing more to do with these Hales, and their

Just as Margaret had exhausted her last subject of
conversation--and yet conversation that could hardly be called
which consisted of so few and such short speeches--her father
came in, and with his pleasant gentlemanly courteousness of
apology, reinstated his name and family in Mr. Thornton's good

Mr. Hale and his visitor had a good deal to say respecting their
mutual friend, Mr. Bell; and Margaret, glad that her part of
entertaining the visitor was over, went to the window to try and
make herself more familiar with the strange aspect of the street.
She got so much absorbed in watching what was going on outside
that she hardly heard her father when he spoke to her, and he had
to repeat what he said:

'Margaret! the landlord will persist in admiring that hideous
paper, and I am afraid we must let it remain.'

'Oh dear! I am sorry!' she replied, and began to turn over in her
mind the possibility of hiding part of it, at least, by some of
her sketches, but gave up the idea at last, as likely only to
make bad worse. Her father, meanwhile, with his kindly country
hospitality, was pressing Mr. Thornton to stay to luncheon with
them. It would have been very inconvenient to him to do so, yet
he felt that he should have yielded, if Margaret by word or look
had seconded her father's invitation; he was glad she did not,
and yet he was irritated at her for not doing it. She gave him a
low, grave bow when he left, and he felt more awkward and
self-conscious in every limb than he had ever done in all his
life before.

'Well, Margaret, now to luncheon, as fast we can. Have you
ordered it?'

'No, papa; that man was here when I came home, and I have never
had an opportunity.'

'Then we must take anything we can get. He must have been waiting
a long time, I'm afraid.'

'It seemed exceedingly long to me. I was just at the last gasp
when you came in. He never went on with any subject, but gave
little, short, abrupt answers.'

'Very much to the point though, I should think. He is a
clearheaded fellow. He said (did you hear?) that Crampton is on
gravelly soil, and by far the most healthy suburb in the
neighbour hood of Milton.'

When they returned to Heston, there was the day's account to be
given to Mrs. Hale, who was full of questions which they answered
in the intervals of tea-drinking.

'And what is your correspondent, Mr. Thornton, like?'

'Ask Margaret,' said her husband. 'She and he had a long attempt
at conversation, while I was away speaking to the landlord.'

'Oh! I hardly know what he is like,' said Margaret, lazily; too
tired to tax her powers of description much. And then rousing
herself, she said, 'He is a tall, broad-shouldered man,
about--how old, papa?'

'I should guess about thirty.'

'About thirty--with a face that is neither exactly plain, nor yet
handsome, nothing remarkable--not quite a gentleman; but that was
hardly to be expected.'

'Not vulgar, or common though,' put in her father, rather jealous
of any disparagement of the sole friend he had in Milton.

'Oh no!' said Margaret. 'With such an expression of resolution
and power, no face, however plain in feature, could be either
vulgar or common. I should not like to have to bargain with him;
he looks very inflexible. Altogether a man who seems made for his
niche, mamma; sagacious, and strong, as becomes a great

'Don't call the Milton manufacturers tradesmen, Margaret,' said
her father.

'They are very different.'

'Are they? I apply the word to all who have something tangible to
sell; but if you think the term is not correct, papa, I won't use
it. But, oh mamma! speaking of vulgarity and commonness, you must
prepare yourself for our drawing-room paper. Pink and blue roses,
with yellow leaves! And such a heavy cornice round the room!'

But when they removed to their new house in Milton, the obnoxious
papers were gone. The landlord received their thanks very
composedly; and let them think, if they liked, that he had
relented from his expressed determination not to repaper. There
was no particular need to tell them, that what he did not care to
do for a Reverend Mr. Hale, unknown in Milton, he was only too
glad to do at the one short sharp remonstrance of Mr. Thornton,
the wealthy manufacturer.



'And it's hame, hame; hame,
Hame fain wad I be.'

It needed the pretty light papering of the rooms to reconcile
them to Milton. It needed more--more that could not be had. The
thick yellow November fogs had come on; and the view of the plain
in the valley, made by the sweeping bend of the river, was all
shut out when Mrs. Hale arrived at her new home.

Margaret and Dixon had been at work for two days, unpacking and
arranging, but everything inside the house still looked in
disorder; and outside a thick fog crept up to the very windows,
and was driven in to every open door in choking white wreaths of
unwholesome mist.

'Oh, Margaret! are we to live here?' asked Mrs. Hale in blank
dismay. Margaret's heart echoed the dreariness of the tone in
which this question was put. She could scarcely command herself
enough to say, 'Oh, the fogs in London are sometimes far worse!'

'But then you knew that London itself, and friends lay behind it.
Here--well! we are desolate. Oh Dixon, what a place this is!'

'Indeed, ma'am, I'm sure it will be your death before long, and
then I know who'll--stay! Miss Hale, that's far too heavy for you
to lift.'

'Not at all, thank you, Dixon,' replied Margaret, coldly. 'The
best thing we can do for mamma is to get her room quite ready for
her to go to bed, while I go and bring her a cup of coffee.'

Mr. Hale was equally out of spirits, and equally came upon
Margaret for sympathy.

'Margaret, I do believe this is an unhealthy place. Only suppose
that your mother's health or yours should suffer. I wish I had
gone into some country place in Wales; this is really terrible,'
said he, going up to the window. There was no comfort to be
given. They were settled in Milton, and must endure smoke and
fogs for a season; indeed, all other life seemed shut out from
them by as thick a fog of circumstance. Only the day before, Mr.
Hale had been reckoning up with dismay how much their removal and
fortnight at Heston had cost, and he found it had absorbed nearly
all his little stock of ready money. No! here they were, and here
they must remain.

At night when Margaret realised this, she felt inclined to sit
down in a stupor of despair. The heavy smoky air hung about her
bedroom, which occupied the long narrow projection at the back of
the house. The window, placed at the side of the oblong, looked
to the blank wall of a similar projection, not above ten feet
distant. It loomed through the fog like a great barrier to hope.
Inside the room everything was in confusion. All their efforts
had been directed to make her mother's room comfortable. Margaret
sat down on a box, the direction card upon which struck her as
having been written at Helstone--beautiful, beloved Helstone! She
lost herself in dismal thought: but at last she determined to
take her mind away from the present; and suddenly remembered that
she had a letter from Edith which she had only half read in the
bustle of the morning. It was to tell of their arrival at Corfu;
their voyage along the Mediterranean--their music, and dancing on
board ship; the gay new life opening upon her; her house with its
trellised balcony, and its views over white cliffs and deep blue
sea. Edith wrote fluently and well, if not graphically. She could
not only seize the salient and characteristic points of a scene,
but she could enumerate enough of indiscriminate particulars for
Margaret to make it out for herself Captain Lennox and another
lately married officer shared a villa, high up on the beautiful
precipitous rocks overhanging the sea. Their days, late as it was
in the year, seemed spent in boating or land pic-nics; all
out-of-doors, pleasure-seeking and glad, Edith's life seemed like
the deep vault of blue sky above her, free--utterly free from
fleck or cloud. Her husband had to attend drill, and she, the
most musical officer's wife there, had to copy the new and
popular tunes out of the most recent English music, for the
benefit of the bandmaster; those seemed their most severe and
arduous duties. She expressed an affectionate hope that, if the
regiment stopped another year at Corfu, Margaret might come out
and pay her a long visit. She asked Margaret if she remembered
the day twelve-month on which she, Edith, wrote--how it rained
all day long in Harley Street; and how she would not put on her
new gown to go to a stupid dinner, and get it all wet and
splashed in going to the carriage; and how at that very dinner
they had first met Captain Lennox.

Yes! Margaret remembered it well. Edith and Mrs. Shaw had gone to
dinner. Margaret had joined the party in the evening. The
recollection of the plentiful luxury of all the arrangements, the
stately handsomeness of the furniture, the size of the house, the
peaceful, untroubled ease of the visitors--all came vividly
before her, in strange contrast to the present time. The smooth
sea of that old life closed up, without a mark left to tell where
they had all been. The habitual dinners, the calls, the shopping,
the dancing evenings, were all going on, going on for ever,
though her Aunt Shaw and Edith were no longer there; and she, of
course, was even less missed. She doubted if any one of that old
set ever thought of her, except Henry Lennox. He too, she knew,
would strive to forget her, because of the pain she had caused
him. She had heard him often boast of his power of putting any
disagreeable thought far away from him. Then she penetrated
farther into what might have been. If she had cared for him as a
lover, and had accepted him, and this change in her father's
opinions and consequent station had taken place, she could not
doubt but that it would have been impatiently received by Mr.
Lennox. It was a bitter mortification to her in one sense; but
she could bear it patiently, because she knew her father's purity
of purpose, and that strengthened her to endure his errors, grave
and serious though in her estimation they were. But the fact of
the world esteeming her father degraded, in its rough wholesale
judgment, would have oppressed and irritated Mr. Lennox. As she
realised what might have been, she grew to be thankful for what
was. They were at the lowest now; they could not be worse.
Edith's astonishment and her aunt Shaw's dismay would have to be
met bravely, when their letters came. So Margaret rose up and
began slowly to undress herself, feeling the full luxury of
acting leisurely, late as it was, after all the past hurry of the
day. She fell asleep, hoping for some brightness, either internal
or external. But if she had known how long it would be before the
brightness came, her heart would have sunk low down. The time of
the year was most unpropitious to health as well as to spirits.
Her mother caught a severe cold, and Dixon herself was evidently
not well, although Margaret could not insult her more than by
trying to save her, or by taking any care of her. They could hear
of no girl to assist her; all were at work in the factories; at
least, those who applied were well scolded by Dixon, for thinking
that such as they could ever be trusted to work in a gentleman's
house. So they had to keep a charwoman in almost constant employ.
Margaret longed to send for Charlotte; but besides the objection
of her being a better servant than they could now afford to keep,
the distance was too great.

Mr. Hale met with several pupils, recommended to him by Mr. Bell,
or by the more immediate influence of Mr. Thornton. They were
mostly of the age when many boys would be still at school, but,
according to the prevalent, and apparently well-founded notions
of Milton, to make a lad into a good tradesman he must be caught
young, and acclimated to the life of the mill, or office, or
warehouse. If he were sent to even the Scotch Universities, he
came back unsettled for commercial pursuits; how much more so if
he went to Oxford or Cambridge, where he could not be entered
till he was eighteen? So most of the manufacturers placed their
sons in sucking situations' at fourteen or fifteen years of age,
unsparingly cutting away all off-shoots in the direction of
literature or high mental cultivation, in hopes of throwing the
whole strength and vigour of the plant into commerce. Still there
were some wiser parents; and some young men, who had sense enough
to perceive their own deficiencies, and strive to remedy them.
Nay, there were a few no longer youths, but men in the prime of
life, who had the stern wisdom to acknowledge their own
ignorance, and to learn late what they should have learnt early.
Mr. Thornton was perhaps the oldest of Mr. Hale's pupils. He was
certainly the favourite. Mr. Hale got into the habit of quoting
his opinions so frequently, and with such regard, that it became
a little domestic joke to wonder what time, during the hour
appointed for instruction, could be given to absolute learning,
so much of it appeared to have been spent in conversation.

Margaret rather encouraged this light, merry way of viewing her
father's acquaintance with Mr. Thornton, because she felt that
her mother was inclined to look upon this new friendship of her
husband's with jealous eyes. As long as his time had been solely
occupied with his books and his parishioners, as at Helstone, she
had appeared to care little whether she saw much of him or not;
but now that he looked eagerly forward to each renewal of his
intercourse with Mr. Thornton, she seemed hurt and annoyed, as if
he were slighting her companionship for the first time. Mr.
Hale's over-praise had the usual effect of over-praise upon his
auditors; they were a little inclined to rebel against Aristides
being always called the Just.

After a quiet life in a country parsonage for more than twenty
years, there was something dazzling to Mr. Hale in the energy
which conquered immense difficulties with ease; the power of the
machinery of Milton, the power of the men of Milton, impressed
him with a sense of grandeur, which he yielded to without caring
to inquire into the details of its exercise. But Margaret went
less abroad, among machinery and men; saw less of power in its
public effect, and, as it happened, she was thrown with one or
two of those who, in all measures affecting masses of people,
must be acute sufferers for the good of many. The question always
is, has everything been done to make the sufferings of these
exceptions as small as possible? Or, in the triumph of the
crowded procession, have the helpless been trampled on, instead
of being gently lifted aside out of the roadway of the conqueror,
whom they have no power to accompany on his march?

It fell to Margaret's share to have to look out for a servant to
assist Dixon, who had at first undertaken to find just the person
she wanted to do all the rough work of the house. But Dixon's
ideas of helpful girls were founded on the recollection of tidy
elder scholars at Helstone school, who were only too proud to be
allowed to come to the parsonage on a busy day, and treated Mrs.
Dixon with all the respect, and a good deal more of fright, which
they paid to Mr. and Mrs. Hale. Dixon was not unconscious of this
awed reverence which was given to her; nor did she dislike it; it
flattered her much as Louis the Fourteenth was flattered by his
courtiers shading their eyes from the dazzling light of his
presence.' But nothing short of her faithful love for Mrs. Hale
could have made her endure the rough independent way in which all
the Milton girls, who made application for the servant's place,
replied to her inquiries respecting their qualifications. They
even went the length of questioning her back again; having doubts
and fears of their own, as to the solvency of a family who lived
in a house of thirty pounds a-year, and yet gave themselves airs,
and kept two servants, one of them so very high and mighty. Mr.
Hale was no longer looked upon as Vicar of Helstone, but as a man
who only spent at a certain rate. Margaret was weary and
impatient of the accounts which Dixon perpetually brought to Mrs.
Hale of the behaviour of these would-be servants. Not but what
Margaret was repelled by the rough uncourteous manners of these
people; not but what she shrunk with fastidious pride from their
hail-fellow accost and severely resented their unconcealed
curiosity as to the means and position of any family who lived in
Milton, and yet were not engaged in trade of some kind. But the
more Margaret felt impertinence, the more likely she was to be
silent on the subject; and, at any rate, if she took upon herself
to make inquiry for a servant, she could spare her mother the
recital of all her disappointments and fancied or real insults.

Margaret accordingly went up and down to butchers and grocers,
seeking for a nonpareil of a girl; and lowering her hopes and
expectations every week, as she found the difficulty of meeting
with any one in a manufacturing town who did not prefer the
better wages and greater independence of working in a mill. It
was something of a trial to Margaret to go out by herself in this
busy bustling place. Mrs. Shaw's ideas of propriety and her own
helpless dependence on others, had always made her insist that a
footman should accompany Edith and Margaret, if they went beyond
Harley Street or the immediate neighbourhood. The limits by which
this rule of her aunt's had circumscribed Margaret's independence
had been silently rebelled against at the time: and she had
doubly enjoyed the free walks and rambles of her forest life,
from the contrast which they presented. She went along there with
a bounding fearless step, that occasionally broke out into a run,
if she were in a hurry, and occasionally was stilled into perfect
repose, as she stood listening to, or watching any of the wild
creatures who sang in the leafy courts, or glanced out with their
keen bright eyes from the low brushwood or tangled furze. It was
a trial to come down from such motion or such stillness, only
guided by her own sweet will, to the even and decorous pace
necessary in streets. But she could have laughed at herself for
minding this change, if it had not been accompanied by what was a
more serious annoyance. The side of the town on which Crampton
lay was especially a thoroughfare for the factory people. In the
back streets around them there were many mills, out of which
poured streams of men and women two or three times a day. Until
Margaret had learnt the times of their ingress and egress, she
was very unfortunate in constantly falling in with them. They
came rushing along, with bold, fearless faces, and loud laughs
and jests, particularly aimed at all those who appeared to be
above them in rank or station. The tones of their unrestrained
voices, and their carelessness of all common rules of street
politeness, frightened Margaret a little at first. The girls,
with their rough, but not unfriendly freedom, would comment on
her dress, even touch her shawl or gown to ascertain the exact
material; nay, once or twice she was asked questions relative to
some article which they particularly admired. There was such a
simple reliance on her womanly sympathy with their love of dress,
and on her kindliness, that she gladly replied to these
inquiries, as soon as she understood them; and half smiled back
at their remarks. She did not mind meeting any number of girls,
loud spoken and boisterous though they might be. But she
alternately dreaded and fired up against the workmen, who
commented not on her dress, but on her looks, in the same open
fearless manner. She, who had hitherto felt that even the most
refined remark on her personal appearance was an impertinence,
had to endure undisguised admiration from these outspoken men.
But the very out-spokenness marked their innocence of any
intention to hurt her delicacy, as she would have perceived if
she had been less frightened by the disorderly tumult. Out of her
fright came a flash of indignation which made her face scarlet,
and her dark eyes gather flame, as she heard some of their
speeches. Yet there were other sayings of theirs, which, when she
reached the quiet safety of home, amused her even while they
irritated her.

For instance, one day, after she had passed a number of men,
several of whom had paid her the not unusual compliment of
wishing she was their sweetheart, one of the lingerers added,
'Your bonny face, my lass, makes the day look brighter.' And
another day, as she was unconsciously smiling at some passing
thought, she was addressed by a poorly-dressed, middle-aged
workman, with 'You may well smile, my lass; many a one would
smile to have such a bonny face.' This man looked so careworn
that Margaret could not help giving him an answering smile, glad
to think that her looks, such as they were, should have had the
power to call up a pleasant thought. He seemed to understand her
acknowledging glance, and a silent recognition was established
between them whenever the chances of the day brought them across
each other s paths. They had never exchanged a word; nothing had
been said but that first compliment; yet somehow Margaret looked
upon this man with more interest than upon any one else in
Milton. Once or twice, on Sundays, she saw him walking with a
girl, evidently his daughter, and, if possible, still more
unhealthy than he was himself.

One day Margaret and her father had been as far as the fields
that lay around the town; it was early spring, and she had
gathered some of the hedge and ditch flowers, dog-violets, lesser
celandines, and the like, with an unspoken lament in her heart
for the sweet profusion of the South. Her father had left her to
go into Milton upon some business; and on the road home she met
her humble friends. The girl looked wistfully at the flowers,
and, acting on a sudden impulse, Margaret offered them to her.
Her pale blue eyes lightened up as she took them, and her father
spoke for her.

'Thank yo, Miss. Bessy'll think a deal o' them flowers; that hoo
will; and I shall think a deal o' yor kindness. Yo're not of this
country, I reckon?'

'No!' said Margaret, half sighing. 'I come from the South--from
Hampshire,' she continued, a little afraid of wounding his
consciousness of ignorance, if she used a name which he did not

'That's beyond London, I reckon? And I come fro' Burnley-ways,
and forty mile to th' North. And yet, yo see, North and South has
both met and made kind o' friends in this big smoky place.'

Margaret had slackened her pace to walk alongside of the man and
his daughter, whose steps were regulated by the feebleness of the
latter. She now spoke to the girl, and there was a sound of
tender pity in the tone of her voice as she did so that went
right to the heart of the father.

'I'm afraid you are not very strong.'

'No,' said the girl, 'nor never will be.'

'Spring is coming,' said Margaret, as if to suggest pleasant,
hopeful thoughts.

'Spring nor summer will do me good,' said the girl quietly.

Margaret looked up at the man, almost expecting some
contradiction from him, or at least some remark that would modify
his daughter's utter hopelessness. But, instead, he added--

'I'm afeared hoo speaks truth. I'm afeared hoo's too far gone in
a waste.'

'I shall have a spring where I'm boun to, and flowers, and
amaranths, and shining robes besides.'

'Poor lass, poor lass!' said her father in a low tone. 'I'm none
so sure o' that; but it's a comfort to thee, poor lass, poor
lass. Poor father! it'll be soon.'

Margaret was shocked by his words--shocked but not repelled;
rather attracted and interested.

'Where do you live? I think we must be neighbours, we meet so
often on this road.'

'We put up at nine Frances Street, second turn to th' left at
after yo've past th' Goulden Dragon.'

'And your name? I must not forget that.'

'I'm none ashamed o' my name. It's Nicholas Higgins. Hoo's called
Bessy Higgins. Whatten yo' asking for?'

Margaret was surprised at this last question, for at Helstone it
would have been an understood thing, after the inquiries she had
made, that she intended to come and call upon any poor neighbour
whose name and habitation she had asked for.

'I thought--I meant to come and see you.' She suddenly felt
rather shy of offering the visit, without having any reason to
give for her wish to make it' * beyond a kindly interest in a
stranger. It seemed all at once to take the shape of an
impertinence on her part; she read this meaning too in the man's

'I'm none so fond of having strange folk in my house.' But then
relenting, as he saw her heightened colour, he added, 'Yo're a
foreigner, as one may say, and maybe don't know many folk here,
and yo've given my wench here flowers out of yo'r own hand;--yo
may come if yo like.'

Margaret was half-amused, half-nettled at this answer. She was
not sure if she would go where permission was given so like a
favour conferred. But when they came to the town into Frances
Street, the girl stopped a minute, and said,

'Yo'll not forget yo're to come and see us.'

'Aye, aye,' said the father, impatiently, 'hoo'll come. Hoo's a
bit set up now, because hoo thinks I might ha' spoken more
civilly; but hoo'll think better on it, and come. I can read her
proud bonny face like a book. Come along, Bess; there's the mill
bell ringing.'

Margaret went home, wondering at her new friends, and smiling at
the man's insight into what had been passing in her mind. From
that day Milton became a brighter place to her. It was not the
long, bleak sunny days of spring, nor yet was it that time was
reconciling her to the town of her habitation. It was that in it
she had found a human interest.



'Let China's earth, enrich'd with colour'd stains,
Pencil'd with gold, and streak'd with azure veins,
The grateful flavour of the Indian leaf,
Or Mocho's sunburnt berry glad receive.'

The day after this meeting with Higgins and his daughter, Mr.
Hale came upstairs into the little drawing-room at an unusual
hour. He went up to different objects in the room, as if
examining them, but Margaret saw that it was merely a nervous
trick--a way of putting off something he wished, yet feared to
say. Out it came at last--

'My dear! I've asked Mr. Thornton to come to tea to-night.'

Mrs. Hale was leaning back in her easy chair, with her eyes shut,
and an expression of pain on her face which had become habitual
to her of late. But she roused up into querulousness at this
speech of her husband's.

'Mr. Thornton!--and to-night! What in the world does the man want
to come here for? And Dixon is washing my muslins and laces, and
there is no soft water with these horrid east winds, which I
suppose we shall have all the year round in Milton.'

'The wind is veering round, my dear,' said Mr. Hale, looking out
at the smoke, which drifted right from the east, only he did not
yet understand the points of the compass, and rather arranged
them ad libitum, according to circumstances.

'Don't tell me!' said Mrs. Hale, shuddering up, and wrapping her
shawl about her still more closely. 'But, east or west wind, I
suppose this man comes.'

'Oh, mamma, that shows you never saw Mr. Thornton. He looks like
a person who would enjoy battling with every adverse thing he
could meet with--enemies, winds, or circumstances. The more it
rains and blows, the more certain we are to have him. But I'll go
and help Dixon. I'm getting to be a famous clear-starcher. And he
won't want any amusement beyond talking to papa. Papa, I am
really longing to see the Pythias to your Damon. You know I never
saw him but once, and then we were so puzzled to know what to say
to each other that we did not get on particularly well.'

'I don't know that you would ever like him, or think him
agreeable, Margaret. He is not a lady's man.'

Margaret wreathed her throat in a scornful curve.

'I don't particularly admire ladies' men, papa. But Mr. Thornton
comes here as your friend--as one who has appreciated you'--

'The only person in Milton,' said Mrs. Hale.

'So we will give him a welcome, and some cocoa-nut cakes. Dixon
will be flattered if we ask her to make some; and I will
undertake to iron your caps, mamma.'

Many a time that morning did Margaret wish Mr. Thornton far
enough away. She had planned other employments for herself: a
letter to Edith, a good piece of Dante, a visit to the Higginses.
But, instead, she ironed away, listening to Dixon's complaints,
and only hoping that by an excess of sympathy she might prevent
her from carrying the recital of her sorrows to Mrs. Hale. Every
now and then, Margaret had to remind herself of her father's
regard for Mr. Thornton, to subdue the irritation of weariness
that was stealing over her, and bringing on one of the bad
headaches to which she had lately become liable. She could hardly
speak when she sat down at last, and told her mother that she was
no longer Peggy the laundry-maid, but Margaret Hale the lady. She
meant this speech for a little joke, and was vexed enough with
her busy tongue when she found her mother taking it seriously.

'Yes! if any one had told me, when I was Miss Beresford, and one
of the belles of the county, that a child of mine would have to
stand half a day, in a little poky kitchen, working away like any
servant, that we might prepare properly for the reception of a
tradesman, and that this tradesman should be the only'--'Oh,
mamma!' said Margaret, lifting herself up, 'don't punish me so
for a careless speech. I don't mind ironing, or any kind of work,
for you and papa. I am myself a born and bred lady through it
all, even though it comes to scouring a floor, or washing dishes.
I am tired now, just for a little while; but in half an hour I
shall be ready to do the same over again. And as to Mr.
Thornton's being in trade, why he can't help that now, poor
fellow. I don't suppose his education would fit him for much
else.' Margaret lifted herself slowly up, and went to her own
room; for just now she could not bear much more.

In Mr. Thornton's house, at this very same time, a similar, yet
different, scene was going on. A large-boned lady, long past
middle age, sat at work in a grim handsomely-furnished
dining-room. Her features, like her frame, were strong and
massive, rather than heavy. Her face moved slowly from one
decided expression to another equally decided. There was no great
variety in her countenance; but those who looked at it once,
generally looked at it again; even the passers-by in the street,
half-turned their heads to gaze an instant longer at the firm,
severe, dignified woman, who never gave way in street-courtesy,
or paused in her straight-onward course to the clearly-defined
end which she proposed to herself. She was handsomely dressed in
stout black silk, of which not a thread was worn or discoloured.
She was mending a large long table-cloth of the finest texture,
holding it up against the light occasionally to discover thin
places, which required her delicate care. There was not a book
about in the room, with the exception of Matthew Henry's Bible
Commentaries, six volumes of which lay in the centre of the
massive side-board, flanked by a tea-urn on one side, and a lamp
on the other. In some remote apartment, there was exercise upon
the piano going on. Some one was practising up a morceau de
salon, playing it very rapidly; every third note, on an average,
being either indistinct, or wholly missed out, and the loud
chords at the end being half of them false, but not the less
satisfactory to the performer. Mrs. Thornton heard a step, like
her own in its decisive character, pass the dining-room door.

'John! Is that you?'

Her son opened the door and showed himself.

'What has brought you home so early? I thought you were going to
tea with that friend of Mr. Bell's; that Mr. Hale.'

'So I am, mother; I am come home to dress!'

'Dress! humph! When I was a girl, young men were satisfied with
dressing once in a day. Why should you dress to go and take a cup
of tea with an old parson?'

'Mr. Hale is a gentleman, and his wife and daughter are ladies.'

'Wife and daughter! Do they teach too? What do they do? You have
never mentioned them.'

'No! mother, because I have never seen Mrs. Hale; I have only
seen Miss Hale for half an hour.'

'Take care you don't get caught by a penniless girl, John.'

'I am not easily caught, mother, as I think you know. But I must
not have Miss Hale spoken of in that way, which, you know, is
offensive to me. I never was aware of any young lady trying to
catch me yet, nor do I believe that any one has ever given
themselves that useless trouble.'

Mrs. Thornton did not choose to yield the point to her son; or
else she had, in general, pride enough for her sex.

'Well! I only say, take care. Perhaps our Milton girls have too
much spirit and good feeling to go angling after husbands; but
this Miss Hale comes out of the aristocratic counties, where, if
all tales be true, rich husbands are reckoned prizes.'

Mr. Thornton's brow contracted, and he came a step forward into
the room.

'Mother' (with a short scornful laugh), 'you will make me
confess. The only time I saw Miss Hale, she treated me with a
haughty civility which had a strong flavour of contempt in it.
She held herself aloof from me as if she had been a queen, and I
her humble, unwashed vassal. Be easy, mother.'

'No! I am not easy, nor content either. What business had she, a
renegade clergyman's daughter, to turn up her nose at you! I
would dress for none of them--a saucy set! if I were you.' As he
was leaving the room, he said:--

'Mr. Hale is good, and gentle, and learned. He is not saucy. As
for Mrs. Hale, I will tell you what she is like to-night, if you
care to hear.' He shut the door and was gone.

'Despise my son! treat him as her vassal, indeed! Humph! I should
like to know where she could find such another! Boy and man, he's
the noblest, stoutest heart I ever knew. I don't care if I am his
mother; I can see what's what, and not be blind. I know what
Fanny is; and I know what John is. Despise him! I hate her!'



'We are the trees whom shaking fastens more.'

Mr. Thornton left the house without coming into the dining-room
again. He was rather late, and walked rapidly out to Crampton. He
was anxious not to slight his new friend by any disrespectful
unpunctuality. The church-clock struck half-past seven as he
stood at the door awaiting Dixon's slow movements; always doubly
tardy when she had to degrade herself by answering the door-bell.
He was ushered into the little drawing-room, and kindly greeted
by Mr. Hale, who led him up to his wife, whose pale face, and
shawl-draped figure made a silent excuse for the cold languor of
her greeting. Margaret was lighting the lamp when he entered, for
the darkness was coming on. The lamp threw a pretty light into
the centre of the dusky room, from which, with country habits,
they did not exclude the night-skies, and the outer darkness of
air. Somehow, that room contrasted itself with the one he had
lately left; handsome, ponderous, with no sign of feminine
habitation, except in the one spot where his mother sate, and no
convenience for any other employment than eating and drinking. To
be sure, it was a dining-room; his mother preferred to sit in it;
and her will was a household law. But the drawing-room was not
like this. It was twice--twenty times as fine; not one quarter as
comfortable. Here were no mirrors, not even a scrap of glass to
reflect the light, and answer the same purpose as water in a
landscape; no gilding; a warm, sober breadth of colouring, well
relieved by the dear old Helstone chintz-curtains and chair
covers. An open davenport stood in the window opposite the door;
in the other there was a stand, with a tall white china vase,
from which drooped wreaths of English ivy, pale-green birch, and
copper-coloured beech-leaves. Pretty baskets of work stood about
in different places: and books, not cared for on account of their
binding solely, lay on one table, as if recently put down. Behind
the door was another table, decked out for tea, with a white
tablecloth, on which flourished the cocoa-nut cakes, and a basket
piled with oranges and ruddy American apples, heaped on leaves.

It appeared to Mr. Thornton that all these graceful cares were
habitual to the family; and especially of a piece with Margaret.
She stood by the tea-table in a light-coloured muslin gown, which
had a good deal of pink about it. She looked as if she was not
attending to the conversation, but solely busy with the tea-cups,
among which her round ivory hands moved with pretty, noiseless,
daintiness. She had a bracelet on one taper arm, which would fall
down over her round wrist. Mr. Thornton watched the replacing of
this troublesome ornament with far more attention than he
listened to her father. It seemed as if it fascinated him to see
her push it up impatiently, until it tightened her soft flesh;
and then to mark the loosening--the fall. He could almost have
exclaimed--'There it goes, again!' There was so little left to be
done after he arrived at the preparation for tea, that he was
almost sorry the obligation of eating and drinking came so soon
to prevent his watching Margaret. She handed him his cup of tea
with the proud air of an unwilling slave; but her eye caught the
moment when he was ready for another cup; and he almost longed to
ask her to do for him what he saw her compelled to do for her
father, who took her little finger and thumb in his masculine
hand, and made them serve as sugar-tongs. Mr. Thornton saw her
beautiful eyes lifted to her father, full of light, half-laughter
and half-love, as this bit of pantomime went on between the two,
unobserved, as they fancied, by any. Margaret's head still ached,
as the paleness of her complexion, and her silence might have
testified; but she was resolved to throw herself into the breach,
if there was any long untoward pause, rather than that her
father's friend, pupil, and guest should have cause to think
himself in any way neglected. But the conversation went on; and
Margaret drew into a corner, near her mother, with her work,
after the tea-things were taken away; and felt that she might let
her thoughts roam, without fear of being suddenly wanted to fill
up a gap.

Mr. Thornton and Mr. Hale were both absorbed in the continuation
of some subject which had been started at their last meeting.
Margaret was recalled to a sense of the present by some trivial,
low-spoken remark of her mother's; and on suddenly looking up
from her work, her eye was caught by the difference of outward
appearance between her father and Mr. Thornton, as betokening
such distinctly opposite natures. Her father was of slight
figure, which made him appear taller than he really was, when not
contrasted, as at this time, with the tall, massive frame of
another. The lines in her father's face were soft and waving,
with a frequent undulating kind of trembling movement passing
over them, showing every fluctuating emotion; the eyelids were
large and arched, giving to the eyes a peculiar languid beauty
which was almost feminine. The brows were finely arched, but
were, by the very size of the dreamy lids, raised to a
considerable distance from the eyes. Now, in Mr. Thornton's face
the straight brows fell low over the clear, deep-set earnest
eyes, which, without being unpleasantly sharp, seemed intent
enough to penetrate into the very heart and core of what he was
looking at. The lines in the face were few but firm, as if they
were carved in marble, and lay principally about the lips, which
were slightly compressed over a set of teeth so faultless and
beautiful as to give the effect of sudden sunlight when the rare
bright smile, coming in an instant and shining out of the eyes,
changed the whole look from the severe and resolved expression of
a man ready to do and dare everything, to the keen honest
enjoyment of the moment, which is seldom shown so fearlessly and
instantaneously except by children. Margaret liked this smile; it
was the first thing she had admired in this new friend of her
father's; and the opposition of character, shown in all these
details of appearance she had just been noticing, seemed to
explain the attraction they evidently felt towards each other.

She rearranged her mother's worsted-work, and fell back into her
own thoughts--as completely forgotten by Mr. Thornton as if she
had not been in the room, so thoroughly was he occupied in
explaining to Mr. Hale the magnificent power, yet delicate
adjustment of the might of the steam-hammer, which was recalling
to Mr. Hale some of the wonderful stories of subservient genii in
the Arabian Nights--one moment stretching from earth to sky and
filling all the width of the horizon, at the next obediently
compressed into a vase small enough to be borne in the hand of a

'And this imagination of power, this practical realisation of a
gigantic thought, came out of one man's brain in our good town.
That very man has it within him to mount, step by step, on each
wonder he achieves to higher marvels still. And I'll be bound to
say, we have many among us who, if he were gone, could spring
into the breach and carry on the war which compels, and shall
compel, all material power to yield to science.'

'Your boast reminds me of the old lines--"I've a hundred
captains in England," he said, "As good as ever was he."'

At her father's quotation Margaret looked suddenly up, with
inquiring wonder in her eyes. How in the world had they got from
cog-wheels to Chevy Chace?

'It is no boast of mine,' replied Mr. Thornton; 'it is plain
matter-of-fact. I won't deny that I am proud of belonging to a
town--or perhaps I should rather say a district--the necessities
of which give birth to such grandeur of conception. I would
rather be a man toiling, suffering--nay, failing and
successless--here, than lead a dull prosperous life in the old
worn grooves of what you call more aristocratic society down in
the South, with their slow days of careless ease. One may be
clogged with honey and unable to rise and fly.'

'You are mistaken,' said Margaret, roused by the aspersion on her
beloved South to a fond vehemence of defence, that brought the
colour into her cheeks and the angry tears into her eyes. 'You do
not know anything about the South. If there is less adventure or
less progress--I suppose I must not say less excitement--from the
gambling spirit of trade, which seems requisite to force out
these wonderful inventions, there is less suffering also. I see
men h ere going about in the streets who look ground down by some
pinching sorrow or care--who are not only sufferers but haters.
Now, in the South we have our poor, but there is not that
terrible expression in their countenances of a sullen sense of
injustice which I see here. You do not know the South, Mr.
Thornton,' she concluded, collapsing into a determined silence,
and angry with herself for having said so much.

'And may I say you do not know the North?' asked he, with an
inexpressible gentleness in his tone, as he saw that he had
really hurt her. She continued resolutely silent; yearning after
the lovely haunts she had left far away in Hampshire, with a
passionate longing that made her feel her voice would be unsteady
and trembling if she spoke.

'At any rate, Mr. Thornton,' said Mrs. Hale, 'you will allow that
Milton is a much more smoky, dirty town than you will ever meet
with in the South.'

'I'm afraid I must give up its cleanliness,' said Mr. Thornton,
with the quick gleaming smile. 'But we are bidden by parliament
to burn our own smoke; so I suppose, like good little children,
we shall do as we are bid--some time.'

'But I think you told me you had altered your chimneys so as to
consume the smoke, did you not?' asked Mr. Hale.

'Mine were altered by my own will, before parliament meddled with
the affair. It was an immediate outlay, but it repays me in the
saving of coal. I'm not sure whether I should have done it, if I
had waited until the act was passed. At any rate, I should have
waited to be informed against and fined, and given all the
trouble in yielding that I legally could. But all laws which
depend for their enforcement upon informers and fines, become
inert from the odiousness of the machinery. I doubt if there has
been a chimney in Milton informed against for five years past,
although some are constantly sending out one-third of their coal
in what is called here unparliamentary smoke.'

'I only know it is impossible to keep the muslin blinds clean
here above a week together; and at Helstone we have had them up
for a month or more, and they have not looked dirty at the end of
that time. And as for hands--Margaret, how many times did you say
you had washed your hands this morning before twelve o'clock?
Three times, was it not?'

'Yes, mamma.'

'You seem to have a strong objection to acts of parliament and
all legislation affecting your mode of management down here at
Milton,' said Mr. Hale.

'Yes, I have; and many others have as well. And with justice, I
think. The whole machinery--I don't mean the wood and iron
machinery now--of the cotton trade is so new that it is no wonder
if it does not work well in every part all at once. Seventy years
ago what was it? And now what is it not? Raw, crude materials
came together; men of the same level, as regarded education and
station, took suddenly the different positions of masters and
men, owing to the motherwit, as regarded opportunities and
probabilities, which distinguished some, and made them far-seeing
as to what great future lay concealed in that rude model of Sir
Richard Arkwright's. The rapid development of what might be
called a new trade, gave those early masters enormous power of
wealth and command. I don't mean merely over the workmen; I mean
over purchasers--over the whole world's market. Why, I may give
you, as an instance, an advertisement, inserted not fifty years
ago in a Milton paper, that so-and-so (one of the half-dozen
calico-printers of the time) would close his warehouse at noon
each day; therefore, that all purchasers must come before that
hour. Fancy a man dictating in this manner the time when he would
sell and when he would not sell. Now, I believe, if a good
customer chose to come at midnight, I should get up, and stand
hat in hand to receive his orders.'

Margaret's lip curled, but somehow she was compelled to listen;
she could no longer abstract herself in her own thoughts.

'I only name such things to show what almost unlimited power the
manufacturers had about the beginning of this century. The men
were rendered dizzy by it. Because a man was successful in his
ventures, there was no reason that in all other things his mind
should be well-balanced. On the Contrary, his sense of justice,
and his simplicity, were often utterly smothered under the glut
of wealth that came down upon him; and they tell strange tales of
the wild extravagance of living indulged in on gala-days by those
early cotton-lords. There can be no doubt, too, of the tyranny
they exercised over their work-people. You know the proverb, Mr.
Hale, "Set a beggar on horseback, and he'll ride to the
devil,"--well, some of these early manufacturers did ride to the
devil in a magnificent style--crushing human bone and flesh under
their horses' hoofs without remorse. But by-and-by came a
re-action, there were more factories, more masters; more men were
wanted. The power of masters and men became more evenly balanced;
and now the battle is pretty fairly waged between us. We will
hardly submit to the decision of an umpire, much less to the
interference of a meddler with only a smattering of the knowledge
of the real facts of the case, even though that meddler be called
the High Court of Parliament.

'Is there necessity for calling it a battle between the two
classes?' asked Mr. Hale. 'I know, from your using the term, it
is one which gives a true idea of the real state of things to
your mind.'

'It is true; and I believe it to be as much a necessity as that
prudent wisdom and good conduct are always opposed to, and doing
battle with ignorance and improvidence. It is one of the great
beauties of our system, that a working-man may raise himself into
the power and position of a master by his own exertions and
behaviour; that, in fact, every one who rules himself to decency
and sobriety of conduct, and attention to his duties, comes over
to our ranks; it may not be always as a master, but as an
over-looker, a cashier, a book-keeper, a clerk, one on the side
of authority and order.'

'You consider all who are unsuccessful in raising themselves in
the world, from whatever cause, as your enemies, then, if I
under-stand you rightly,' said Margaret' in a clear, cold voice.

'As their own enemies, certainly,' said he, quickly, not a little
piqued by the haughty disapproval her form of expression and tone
of speaking implied. But, in a moment, his straightforward
honesty made him feel that his words were but a poor and
quibbling answer to what she had said; and, be she as scornful as
she liked, it was a duty he owed to himself to explain, as truly
as he could, what he did mean. Yet it was very difficult to
separate her interpretation, and keep it distinct from his
meaning. He could best have illustrated what he wanted to say by
telling them something of his own life; but was it not too
personal a subject to speak about to strangers? Still, it was the
simple straightforward way of explaining his meaning; so, putting
aside the touch of shyness that brought a momentary flush of
colour into his dark cheek, he said:

'I am not speaking without book. Sixteen years ago, my father
died under very miserable circumstances. I was taken from school,
and had to become a man (as well as I could) in a few days. I had
such a mother as few are blest with; a woman of strong power, and
firm resolve. We went into a small country town, where living was
cheaper than in Milton, and where I got employment in a draper's
shop (a capital place, by the way, for obtaining a knowledge of
goods). Week by week our income came to fifteen shillings, out of
which three people had to be kept. My mother managed so that I
put by three out of these fifteen shillings regularly. This made
the beginning; this taught me self-denial. Now that I am able to
afford my mother such comforts as her age, rather than her own
wish, requires, I thank her silently on each occasion for the
early training she gave me. Now when I feel that in my own case
it is no good luck, nor merit, nor talent,--but simply the habits
of life which taught me to despise indulgences not thoroughly
earned,--indeed, never to think twice about them,--I believe that
this suffering, which Miss Hale says is impressed on the
countenances of the people of Milton, is but the natural
punishment of dishonestly-enjoyed pleasure, at some former period
of their lives. I do not look on self-indulgent, sensual people
as worthy of my hatred; I simply look upon them with contempt for
their poorness of character.'

'But you have had the rudiments of a good education,' remarked
Mr. Hale. 'The quick zest with which you are now reading Homer,
shows me that you do not come to it as an unknown book; you have
read it before, and are only recalling your old knowledge.'

'That is true,--I had blundered along it at school; I dare say, I
was even considered a pretty fair classic in those days, though
my Latin and Greek have slipt away from me since. But I ask you,
what preparation they were for such a life as I had to lead? None
at all. Utterly none at all. On the point of education, any man
who can read and write starts fair with me in the amount of
really useful knowledge that I had at that time.'

'Well! I don't agree with you. But there I am perhaps somewhat of
a pedant. Did not the recollection of the heroic simplicity of
the Homeric life nerve you up?'

'Not one bit!' exclaimed Mr. Thornton, laughing. 'I was too busy
to think about any dead people, with the living pressing
alongside of me, neck to neck, in the struggle for bread. Now
that I have my mother safe in the quiet peace that becomes her
age, and duly rewards her former exertions, I can turn to all
that old narration and thoroughly enjoy it.'

'I dare say, my remark came from the professional feeling of
there being nothing like leather,' replied Mr. Hale.

When Mr. Thornton rose up to go away, after shaking hands with
Mr. and Mrs. Hale, he made an advance to Margaret to wish her
good-bye in a similar manner. It was the frank familiar custom of
the place; but Margaret was not prepared for it. She simply bowed
her farewell; although the instant she saw the hand, half put
out, quickly drawn back, she was sorry she had not been aware of
the intention. Mr. Thornton, however, knew nothing of her sorrow,
and, drawing himself up to his full height, walked off, muttering
as he left the house--

'A more proud, disagreeable girl I never saw. Even her great
beauty is blotted out of one's memory by her scornful ways.'



'There's iron, they say, in all our blood,
And a grain or two perhaps is good;
But his, he makes me harshly feel,
Has got a little too much of steel.'

'Margaret!' said Mr. Hale, as he returned from showing his guest
downstairs; 'I could not help watching your face with some
anxiety, when Mr. Thornton made his confession of having been a
shop-boy. I knew it all along from Mr. Bell; so I was aware of
what was coming; but I half expected to see you get up and leave
the room.'

'Oh, papa! you don't mean that you thought me so silly? I really
liked that account of himself better than anything else he said.
Everything else revolted me, from its hardness; but he spoke
about himself so simply--with so little of the pretence that
makes the vulgarity of shop-people, and with such tender respect
for his mother, that I was less likely to leave the room then
than when he was boasting about Milton, as if there was not such
another place in the world; or quietly professing to despise
people for careless, wasteful improvidence, without ever seeming
to think it his duty to try to make them different,--to give them
anything of the training which his mother gave him, and to which
he evidently owes his position, whatever that may be. No! his
statement of having been a shop-boy was the thing I liked best of

'I am surprised at you, Margaret,' said her mother. 'You who were
always accusing people of being shoppy at Helstone! I don't I
think, Mr. Hale, you have done quite right in introducing such a
person to us without telling us what he had been. I really was
very much afraid of showing him how much shocked I was at some
parts of what he said. His father "dying in miserable
circumstances." Why it might have been in the workhouse.'

'I am not sure if it was not worse than being in the workhouse,'
replied her husband. 'I heard a good deal of his previous life
from Mr. Bell before we came here; and as he has told you a part,
I will fill up what he left out. His father speculated wildly,
failed, and then killed himself, because he could not bear the
disgrace. All his former friends shrunk from the disclosures that
had to be made of his dishonest gambling--wild, hopeless
struggles, made with other people's money, to regain his own
moderate portion of wealth. No one came forwards to help the
mother and this boy. There was another child, I believe, a girl;
too young to earn money, but of course she had to be kept. At
least, no friend came forwards immediately, and Mrs. Thornton is
not one, I fancy, to wait till tardy kindness comes to find her
out. So they left Milton. I knew he had gone into a shop, and
that his earnings, with some fragment of property secured to his
mother, had been made to keep them for a long time. Mr. Bell said
they absolutely lived upon water-porridge for years--how, he did
not know; but long after the creditors had given up hope of any
payment of old Mr. Thornton's debts (if, indeed, they ever had
hoped at all about it, after his suicide,) this young man
returned to Milton, and went quietly round to each creditor,
paying him the first instalment of the money owing to him. No
noise--no gathering together of creditors--it was done very
silently and quietly, but all was paid at last; helped on
materially by the circumstance of one of the creditors, a crabbed
old fellow (Mr. Bell says), taking in Mr. Thornton as a kind of

'That really is fine,' said Margaret. 'What a pity such a nature
should be tainted by his position as a Milton manufacturer.'

'How tainted?' asked her father.

'Oh, papa, by that testing everything by the standard of wealth.
When he spoke of the mechanical powers, he evidently looked upon
them only as new ways of extending trade and making money. And
the poor men around him--they were poor because they were
vicious--out of the pale of his sympathies because they had not
his iron nature, and the capabilities that it gives him for being

'Not vicious; he never said that. Improvident and self-indulgent
were his words.'

Margaret was collecting her mother's working materials, and
preparing to go to bed. Just as she was leaving the room, she
hesitated--she was inclined to make an acknowledgment which she
thought would please her father, but which to be full and true
must include a little annoyance. However, out it came.

'Papa, I do think Mr. Thornton a very remarkable man; but
personally I don't like him at all.'

'And I do!' said her father laughing. 'Personally, as you call
it, and all. I don't set him up for a hero, or anything of that
kind. But good night, child. Your mother looks sadly tired
to-night, Margaret.'

Margaret had noticed her mother's jaded appearance with anxiety
for some time past, and this remark of her father's sent her up
to bed with a dim fear lying like a weight on her heart. The life
in Milton was so different from what Mrs. Hale had been
accustomed to live in Helstone, in and out perpetually into the
fresh and open air; the air itself was so different, deprived of
all revivifying principle as it seemed to be here; the domestic
worries pressed so very closely, and in so new and sordid a form,
upon all the women in the family, that there was good reason to
fear that her mother's health might be becoming seriously
affected. There were several other signs of something wrong about
Mrs. Hale. She and Dixon held mysterious consultations in her
bedroom, from which Dixon would come out crying and cross, as was
her custom when any distress of her mistress called upon her
sympathy. Once Margaret had gone into the chamber soon after
Dixon left it, and found her mother on her knees, and as Margaret
stole out she caught a few words, which were evidently a prayer
for strength and patience to endure severe bodily suffering.
Margaret yearned to re-unite the bond of intimate confidence
which had been broken by her long residence at her aunt Shaw's,
and strove by gentle caresses and softened words to creep into
the warmest place in her mother's heart. But though she received
caresses and fond words back again, in such profusion as would
have gladdened her formerly, yet she felt that there was a secret
withheld from her, and she believed it bore serious reference to
her mother's health. She lay awake very long this night, planning
how to lessen the evil influence of their Milton life on her
mother. A servant to give Dixon permanent assistance should be
got, if she gave up her whole time to the search; and then, at
any rate, her mother might have all the personal attention she
required, and had been accustomed to her whole life. Visiting
register offices, seeing all manner of unlikely people, and very
few in the least likely, absorbed Margaret's time and thoughts
for several days. One afternoon she met Bessy Higgins in the
street, and stopped to speak to her.

'Well, Bessy, how are you? Better, I hope, now the wind has

'Better and not better, if yo' know what that means.'

'Not exactly,' replied Margaret, smiling.

'I'm better in not being torn to pieces by coughing o'nights, but
I'm weary and tired o' Milton, and longing to get away to the
land o' Beulah; and when I think I'm farther and farther off, my
heart sinks, and I'm no better; I'm worse.' Margaret turned round
to walk alongside of the girl in her feeble progress homeward.
But for a minute or two she did not speak. At last she said in a
low voice,

'Bessy, do you wish to die?' For she shrank from death herself,
with all the clinging to life so natural to the young and

Bessy was silent in her turn for a minute or two. Then she

'If yo'd led the life I have, and getten as weary of it as I
have, and thought at times, "maybe it'll last for fifty or sixty
years--it does wi' some,"--and got dizzy and dazed, and sick, as
each of them sixty years seemed to spin about me, and mock me
with its length of hours and minutes, and endless bits o'
time--oh, wench! I tell thee thou'd been glad enough when th'
doctor said he feared thou'd never see another winter.'

'Why, Bessy, what kind of a life has yours been?'

'Nought worse than many others, I reckon. Only I fretted again
it, and they didn't.'

'But what was it? You know, I'm a stranger here, so perhaps I'm
not so quick at understanding what you mean as if I'd lived all
my life at Milton.'

'If yo'd ha' come to our house when yo' said yo' would, I could
maybe ha' told you. But father says yo're just like th' rest on
'em; it's out o' sight out o' mind wi' you.'

'I don't know who the rest are; and I've been very busy; and, to
tell the truth, I had forgotten my promise--'

'Yo' offered it! we asked none of it.'

'I had forgotten what I said for the time,' continued Margaret
quietly. 'I should have thought of it again when I was less busy.
May I go with you now?' Bessy gave a quick glance at Margaret's
face, to see if the wish expressed was really felt. The sharpness
in her eye turned to a wistful longing as she met Margaret's soft
and friendly gaze.

'I ha' none so many to care for me; if yo' care yo' may come.

So they walked on together in silence. As they turned up into a
small court, opening out of a squalid street, Bessy said,

'Yo'll not be daunted if father's at home, and speaks a bit
gruffish at first. He took a mind to ye, yo' see, and he thought
a deal o' your coming to see us; and just because he liked yo' he
were vexed and put about.'

'Don't fear, Bessy.'

But Nicholas was not at home when they entered. A great
slatternly girl, not so old as Bessy, but taller and stronger,
was busy at the wash-tub, knocking about the furniture in a rough
capable way, but altogether making so much noise that Margaret
shrunk, out of sympathy with poor Bessy, who had sat down on the
first chair, as if completely tired out with her walk. Margaret
asked the sister for a cup of water, and while she ran to fetch
it (knocking down the fire-irons, and tumbling over a chair in

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