Part 3 out of 11
her way), she unloosed Bessy's bonnet strings, to relieve her
'Do you think such life as this is worth caring for?' gasped
Bessy, at last. Margaret did not speak, but held the water to her
lips. Bessy took a long and feverish draught, and then fell back
and shut her eyes. Margaret heard her murmur to herself: 'They
shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the
sun light on them, nor any heat.'
Margaret bent over and said, 'Bessy, don't be impatient with your
life, whatever it is--or may have been. Remember who gave it you,
and made it what it is!' She was startled by hearing Nicholas
speak behind her; he had come in without her noticing him.
'Now, I'll not have my wench preached to. She's bad enough as it
is, with her dreams and her methodee fancies, and her visions of
cities with goulden gates and precious stones. But if it amuses
her I let it abe, but I'm none going to have more stuff poured
'But surely,' said Margaret, facing round, 'you believe in what I
said, that God gave her life, and ordered what kind of life it
was to be?'
'I believe what I see, and no more. That's what I believe, young
woman. I don't believe all I hear--no! not by a big deal. I did
hear a young lass make an ado about knowing where we lived, and
coming to see us. And my wench here thought a deal about it, and
flushed up many a time, when hoo little knew as I was looking at
her, at the sound of a strange step. But hoo's come at last,--and
hoo's welcome, as long as hoo'll keep from preaching on what hoo
knows nought about.' Bessy had been watching Margaret's face; she
half sate up to speak now, laying her hand on Margaret's arm with
a gesture of entreaty. 'Don't be vexed wi' him--there's many a
one thinks like him; many and many a one here. If yo' could hear
them speak, yo'd not be shocked at him; he's a rare good man, is
father--but oh!' said she, falling back in despair, 'what he says
at times makes me long to die more than ever, for I want to know
so many things, and am so tossed about wi' wonder.'
'Poor wench--poor old wench,--I'm loth to vex thee, I am; but a
man mun speak out for the truth, and when I see the world going
all wrong at this time o' day, bothering itself wi' things it
knows nought about, and leaving undone all the things that lie in
disorder close at its hand--why, I say, leave a' this talk about
religion alone, and set to work on what yo' see and know. That's
my creed. It's simple, and not far to fetch, nor hard to work.'
But the girl only pleaded the more with Margaret.
'Don't think hardly on him--he's a good man, he is. I sometimes
think I shall be moped wi' sorrow even in the City of God, if
father is not there.' The feverish colour came into her cheek,
and the feverish flame into her eye. 'But you will be there,
father! you shall! Oh! my heart!' She put her hand to it, and
became ghastly pale.
Margaret held her in her arms, and put the weary head to rest
upon her bosom. She lifted the thin soft hair from off the
temples, and bathed them with water. Nicholas understood all her
signs for different articles with the quickness of love, and even
the round-eyed sister moved with laborious gentleness at
Margaret's 'hush!' Presently the spasm that foreshadowed death
had passed away, and Bessy roused herself and said,--
'I'll go to bed,--it's best place; but,' catching at Margaret's
gown, 'yo'll come again,--I know yo' will--but just say it!'
'I will come to-morrow, said Margaret.
Bessy leant back against her father, who prepared to carry her
upstairs; but as Margaret rose to go, he struggled to say
something: 'I could wish there were a God, if it were only to ask
Him to bless thee.'
Margaret went away very sad and thoughtful.
She was late for tea at home. At Helstone unpunctuality at
meal-times was a great fault in her mother's eyes; but now this,
as well as many other little irregularities, seemed to have lost
their power of irritation, and Margaret almost longed for the old
'Have you met with a servant, dear?'
'No, mamma; that Anne Buckley would never have done.'
'Suppose I try,' said Mr. Hale. 'Everybody else has had their
turn at this great difficulty. Now let me try. I may be the
Cinderella to put on the slipper after all.'
Margaret could hardly smile at this little joke, so oppressed was
she by her visit to the Higginses.
'What would you do, papa? How would you set about it?'
'Why, I would apply to some good house-mother to recommend me one
known to herself or her servants.'
'Very good. But we must first catch our house-mother.'
'You have caught her. Or rather she is coming into the snare, and
you will catch her to-morrow, if you're skilful.'
'What do you mean, Mr. Hale?' asked his wife, her curiosity
'Why, my paragon pupil (as Margaret calls him), has told me that
his mother intends to call on Mrs. and Miss Hale to-morrow.'
'Mrs. Thornton!' exclaimed Mrs. Hale.
'The mother of whom he spoke to us?' said Margaret.
'Mrs. Thornton; the only mother he has, I believe,' said Mr. Hale
'I shall like to see her. She must be an uncommon person, her
'Perhaps she may have a relation who might suit us, and be glad
of our place. She sounded to be such a careful economical person,
that I should like any one out of the same family.'
'My dear,' said Mr. Hale alarmed. 'Pray don't go off on that
idea. I fancy Mrs. Thornton is as haughty and proud in her way,
as our little Margaret here is in hers, and that she completely
ignores that old time of trial, and poverty, and economy, of
which he speaks so openly. I am sure, at any rate, she would not
like strangers to know anything about It.'
'Take notice that is not my kind of haughtiness, papa, if I have
any at all; which I don't agree to, though you're always accusing
me of it.'
'I don't know positively that it is hers either; but from little
things I have gathered from him, I fancy so.'
They cared too little to ask in what manner her son had spoken
about her. Margaret only wanted to know if she must stay in to
receive this call, as it would prevent her going to see how Bessy
was, until late in the day, since the early morning was always
occupied in household affairs; and then she recollected that her
mother must not be left to have the whole weight of entertaining
'Well--I suppose we must.'
FRIENDS IN COUNCIL.
Mr. Thornton had had some difficulty in working up his mother to
the desired point of civility. She did not often make calls; and
when she did, it was in heavy state that she went through her
duties. Her son had given her a carriage; but she refused to let
him keep horses for it; they were hired for the solemn occasions,
when she paid morning or evening visits. She had had horses for
three days, not a fortnight before, and had comfortably 'killed
off' all her acquaintances, who might now put themselves to
trouble and expense in their turn. Yet Crampton was too far off
for her to walk; and she had repeatedly questioned her son as to
whether his wish that she should call on the Hales was strong
enough to bear the expense of cab-hire. She would have been
thankful if it had not; for, as she said, 'she saw no use in
making up friendships and intimacies with all the teachers and
masters in Milton; why, he would be wanting her to call on
Fanny's dancing-master's wife, the next thing!'
'And so I would, mother, if Mr. Mason and his wife were friend
less in a strange place, like the Hales.'
'Oh! you need not speak so hastily. I am going to-morrow. I only
wanted you exactly to understand about it.'
'If you are going to-morrow, I shall order horses.'
'Nonsense, John. One would think you were made of money.'
'Not quite, yet. But about the horses I'm determined. The last
time you were out in a cab, you came home with a headache from
'I never complained of it, I'm sure.'
'No. My mother is not given to complaints,' said he, a little
proudly. 'But so much the more I have to watch over you. Now as
for Fanny there, a little hardship would do her good.'
'She is not made of the same stuff as you are, John. She could
not bear it.' Mrs. Thornton was silent after this; for her last
words bore relation to a subject which mortified her. She had an
unconscious contempt for a weak character; and Fanny was weak in
the very points in which her mother and brother were strong. Mrs.
Thornton was not a woman much given to reasoning; her quick
judgment and firm resolution served her in good stead of any long
arguments and discussions with herself; she felt instinctively
that nothing could strengthen Fanny to endure hardships
patiently, or face difficulties bravely; and though she winced as
she made this acknowledgment to herself about her daughter, it
only gave her a kind of pitying tenderness of manner towards her;
much of the same description of demeanour with which mothers are
wont to treat their weak and sickly children. A stranger, a
careless observer might have considered that Mrs. Thornton's
manner to her children betokened far more love to Fanny than to
John. But such a one would have been deeply mistaken. The very
daringness with which mother and son spoke out unpalatable
truths, the one to the other, showed a reliance on the firm
centre of each other's souls, which the uneasy tenderness of Mrs.
Thornton's manner to her daughter, the shame with which she
thought to hide the poverty of her child in all the grand
qualities which she herself possessed unconsciously, and which
she set so high a value upon in others--this shame, I say,
betrayed the want of a secure resting-place for her affection.
She never called her son by any name but John; 'love,' and
'dear,' and such like terms, were reserved for Fanny. But her
heart gave thanks for him day and night; and she walked proudly
among women for his sake.
'Fanny dear I shall have horses to the carriage to-day, to go and
call on these Hales. Should not you go and see nurse? It's in the
same direction, and she's always so glad to see you. You could go
on there while I am at Mrs. Hale's.'
'Oh! mamma, it's such a long way, and I am so tired.'
'With what?' asked Mrs. Thornton, her brow slightly contracting.
'I don't know--the weather, I think. It is so relaxing. Couldn't
you bring nurse here, mamma? The carriage could fetch her, and
she could spend the rest of the day here, which I know she would
Mrs. Thornton did not speak; but she laid her work on the table,
and seemed to think.
'It will be a long way for her to walk back at night!' she
remarked, at last.
'Oh, but I will send her home in a cab. I never thought of her
walking.' At this point, Mr. Thornton came in, just before going
to the mill.
'Mother! I need hardly say, that if there is any little thing
that could serve Mrs. Hale as an invalid, you will offer it, I'm
'If I can find it out, I will. But I have never been ill myself,
so I am not much up to invalids' fancies.'
'Well! here is Fanny then, who is seldom without an ailment. She
will be able to suggest something, perhaps--won't you, Fan?'
'I have not always an ailment,' said Fanny, pettishly; 'and I am
not going with mamma. I have a headache to-day, and I shan't go
Mr. Thornton looked annoyed. His mother's eyes were bent on her
work, at which she was now stitching away busily.
'Fanny! I wish you to go,' said he, authoritatively. 'It will do
you good, instead of harm. You will oblige me by going, without
my saying anything more about it.'
He went abruptly out of the room after saying this.
If he had staid a minute longer, Fanny would have cried at his
tone of command, even when he used the words, 'You will oblige
me.' As it was, she grumbled.
'John always speaks as if I fancied I was ill, and I am sure I
never do fancy any such thing. Who are these Hales that he makes
such a fuss about?'
'Fanny, don't speak so of your brother. He has good reasons of
some kind or other, or he would not wish us to go. Make haste and
put your things on.'
But the little altercation between her son and her daughter did
not incline Mrs. Thornton more favourably towards 'these Hales.'
Her jealous heart repeated her daughter's question, 'Who are
they, that he is so anxious we should pay them all this
attention?' It came up like a burden to a song, long after Fanny
had forgotten all about it in the pleasant excitement of seeing
the effect of a new bonnet in the looking-glass.
Mrs. Thornton was shy. It was only of late years that she had had
leisure enough in her life to go into society; and as society she
did not enjoy it. As dinner-giving, and as criticising other
people's dinners, she took satisfaction in it. But this going to
make acquaintance with strangers was a very different thing. She
was ill at ease, and looked more than usually stern and
forbidding as she entered the Hales' little drawing-room.
Margaret was busy embroidering a small piece of cambric for some
little article of dress for Edith's expected baby--'Flimsy,
useless work,' as Mrs. Thornton observed to herself. She liked
Mrs. Hale's double knitting far better; that was sensible of its
kind. The room altogether was full of knick-knacks, which must
take a long time to dust; and time to people of limited income
was money. She made all these reflections as she was talking in
her stately way to Mrs. Hale, and uttering all the stereotyped
commonplaces that most people can find to say with their senses
blindfolded. Mrs. Hale was making rather more exertion in her
answers, captivated by some real old lace which Mrs. Thornton
wore; 'lace,' as she afterwards observed to Dixon, 'of that old
English point which has not been made for this seventy years, and
which cannot be bought. It must have been an heir-loom, and shows
that she had ancestors.' So the owner of the ancestral lace
became worthy of something more than the languid exertion to be
agreeable to a visitor, by which Mrs. Hale's efforts at
conversation would have been otherwise bounded. And presently,
Margaret, racking her brain to talk to Fanny, heard her mother
and Mrs. Thornton plunge into the interminable subject of
'I suppose you are not musical,' said Fanny, 'as I see no piano.'
'I am fond of hearing good music; I cannot play well myself; and
papa and mamma don't care much about it; so we sold our old piano
when we came here.'
'I wonder how you can exist without one. It almost seems to me a
necessary of life.'
'Fifteen shillings a week, and three saved out of them!' thought
Margaret to herself 'But she must have been very young. She
probably has forgotten her own personal experience. But she must
know of those days.' Margaret's manner had an extra tinge of
coldness in it when she next spoke.
'You have good concerts here, I believe.'
'Oh, yes! Delicious! Too crowded, that is the worst. The
directors admit so indiscriminately. But one is sure to hear the
newest music there. I always have a large order to give to
Johnson's, the day after a concert.'
'Do you like new music simply for its newness, then?'
'Oh; one knows it is the fashion in London, or else the singers
would not bring it down here. You have been in London, of
'Yes,' said Margaret, 'I have lived there for several years.'
'Oh! London and the Alhambra are the two places I long to see!'
'London and the Alhambra!'
'Yes! ever since I read the Tales of the Alhambra. Don't you know
'I don't think I do. But surely, it is a very easy journey to
'Yes; but somehow,' said Fanny, lowering her voice, 'mamma has
never been to London herself, and can't understand my longing.
She is very proud of Milton; dirty, smoky place, as I feel it to
be. I believe she admires it the more for those very qualities.'
'If it has been Mrs. Thornton's home for some years, I can well
understand her loving it,' said Margaret, in her clear bell-like
'What are you saying about me, Miss Hale? May I inquire?'
Margaret had not the words ready for an answer to this question,
which took her a little by surprise, so Miss Thornton replied:
'Oh, mamma! we are only trying to account for your being so fond
'Thank you,' said Mrs. Thornton. 'I do not feel that my very
natural liking for the place where I was born and brought
up,--and which has since been my residence for some years,
requires any accounting for.'
Margaret was vexed. As Fanny had put it, it did seem as if they
had been impertinently discussing Mrs. Thornton's feelings; but
she also rose up against that lady's manner of showing that she
Mrs. Thornton went on after a moment's pause:
'Do you know anything of Milton, Miss Hale? Have you seen any of
our factories? our magnificent warehouses?'
'No!' said Margaret. 'I have not seen anything of that
description as yet. Then she felt that, by concealing her utter
indifference to all such places, she was hardly speaking with
truth; so she went on:
'I dare say, papa would have taken me before now if I had cared.
But I really do not find much pleasure in going over
'They are very curious places,' said Mrs. Hale, 'but there is so
much noise and dirt always. I remember once going in a lilac silk
to see candles made, and my gown was utterly ruined.'
'Very probably,' said Mrs. Thornton, in a short displeased
manner. 'I merely thought, that as strangers newly come to reside
in a town which has risen to eminence in the country, from the
character and progress of its peculiar business, you might have
cared to visit some of the places where it is carried on; places
unique in the kingdom, I am informed. If Miss Hale changes her
mind and condescends to be curious as to the manufactures of
Milton, I can only say I shall be glad to procure her admission
to print-works, or reed-making, or the more simple operations of
spinning carried on in my son's mill. Every improvement of
machinery is, I believe, to be seen there, in its highest
'I am so glad you don't like mills and manufactories, and all
those kind of things,' said Fanny, in a half-whisper, as she rose
to accompany her mother, who was taking leave of Mrs. Hale with
'I think I should like to know all about them, if I were you,'
replied Margaret quietly.
'Fanny!' said her mother, as they drove away, 'we will he civil
to these Hales: but don't form one of your hasty friendships with
the daughter. She will do you no good, I see. The mother looks
very ill, and seems a nice, quiet kind of person.'
'I don't want to form any friendship with Miss Hale, mamma,' said
Fanny, pouting. 'I thought I was doing my duty by talking to her,
and trying to amuse her.'
'Well! at any rate John must he satisfied now.'
A SOFT BREEZE IN A SULTRY PLACE
'That doubt and trouble, fear and pain,
And anguish, all, are shadows vain,
That death itself shall not remain;
That weary deserts we may tread,
A dreary labyrinth may thread,
Thro' dark ways underground be led;
Yet, if we will one Guide obey,
The dreariest path, the darkest way
Shall issue out in heavenly day;
And we, on divers shores now cast,
Shall meet, our perilous voyage past,
All in our Father's house at last!'
R. C. TRENCH.
Margaret flew up stairs as soon as their visitors were gone, and
put on her bonnet and shawl, to run and inquire how Bessy Higgins
was, and sit with her as long as she could before dinner. As she
went along the crowded narrow streets, she felt how much of
interest they had gained by the simple fact of her having learnt
to care for a dweller in them.
Mary Higgins, the slatternly younger sister, had endeavoured as
well as she could to tidy up the house for the expected visit.
There had been rough-stoning done in the middle of the floor,
while the flags under the chairs and table and round the walls
retained their dark unwashed appearance. Although the day was
hot, there burnt a large fire in the grate, making the whole
place feel like an oven. Margaret did not understand that the
lavishness of coals was a sign of hospitable welcome to her on
Mary's part, and thought that perhaps the oppressive heat was
necessary for Bessy. Bessy herself lay on a squab, or short sofa,
placed under the window. She was very much more feeble than on
the previous day, and tired with raising herself at every step to
look out and see if it was Margaret coming. And now that Margaret
was there, and had taken a chair by her, Bessy lay back silent,
and content to look at Margaret's face, and touch her articles of
dress, with a childish admiration of their fineness of texture.
'I never knew why folk in the Bible cared for soft raiment afore.
But it must be nice to go dressed as yo' do. It's different fro'
common. Most fine folk tire my eyes out wi' their colours; but
some how yours rest me. Where did ye get this frock?'
'In London,' said Margaret, much amused.
'London! Have yo' been in London?'
'Yes! I lived there for some years. But my home was in a forest;
in the country.
'Tell me about it,' said Bessy. 'I like to hear speak of the
country and trees, and such like things.' She leant back, and
shut her eye and crossed her hands over her breast, lying at
perfect rest, as if t receive all the ideas Margaret could
Margaret had never spoken of Helstone since she left it, except
just naming the place incidentally. She saw it in dreams more
vivid than life, and as she fell away to slumber at nights her
memory wandered in all its pleasant places. But her heart was
opened to this girl; 'Oh, Bessy, I loved the home we have left so
dearly! I wish you could see it. I cannot tell you half its
beauty. There are great trees standing all about it, with their
branches stretching long andlevel, and making a deep shade of
rest even at noonday. And yet, though every leaf may seem still,
there is a continual rushing sound of movement all around--not
close at hand. Then sometimes the turf is as soft and fine as
velvet; and sometimes quite lush with the perpetual moisture of a
little, hidden, tinkling brook near at hand. And then in other
parts there are billowy ferns--whole stretches of fern; some in
the green shadow; some with long streaks of golden sunlight lying
on them--just like the sea.'
'I have never seen the sea,' murmured Bessy. 'But go on.'
'Then, here and there, there are wide commons, high up as if
above the very tops of the trees--'
'I'm glad of that. I felt smothered like down below. When I have
gone for an out, I've always wanted to get high up and see far
away, and take a deep breath o' fulness in that air. I get
smothered enough in Milton, and I think the sound yo' speak of
among the trees, going on for ever and ever, would send me dazed;
it's that made my head ache so in the mill. Now on these commons
I reckon there is but little noise?'
'No,' said Margaret; 'nothing but here and there a lark high in
the air. Sometimes I used to hear a farmer speaking sharp and
loud to his servants; but it was so far away that it only
reminded me pleasantly that other people were hard at work in
some distant place, while I just sat on the heather and did
'I used to think once that if I could have a day of doing
nothing, to rest me--a day in some quiet place like that yo'
speak on--it would maybe set me up. But now I've had many days o'
idleness, and I'm just as weary o' them as I was o' my work.
Sometimes I'm so tired out I think I cannot enjoy heaven without
a piece of rest first. I'm rather afeard o' going straight there
without getting a good sleep in the grave to set me up.'
'Don't be afraid, Bessy,' said Margaret, laying her hand on the
girl's; 'God can give you more perfect rest than even idleness on
earth, or the dead sleep of the grave can do.'
Bessy moved uneasily; then she said:
'I wish father would not speak as he does. He means well, as I
telled yo' yesterday, and tell yo' again and again. But yo' see,
though I don't believe him a bit by day, yet by night--when I'm
in a fever, half-asleep and half-awake--it comes back upon
me--oh! so bad! And I think, if this should be th' end of all,
and if all I've been born for is just to work my heart and my
life away, and to sicken i' this dree place, wi' them mill-noises
in my ears for ever, until I could scream out for them to stop,
and let me have a little piece o' quiet--and wi' the fluff
filling my lungs, until I thirst to death for one long deep
breath o' the clear air yo' speak on--and my mother gone, and I
never able to tell her again how I loved her, and o' all my
troubles--I think if this life is th' end, and that there's no
God to wipe away all tears from all eyes--yo' wench, yo'!' said
she, sitting up, and clutching violently, almost fiercely, at
Margaret's hand, 'I could go mad, and kill yo', I could.' She
fell back completely worn out with her passion. Margaret knelt
down by her.
'Bessy--we have a Father in Heaven.'
'I know it! I know it,' moaned she, turning her head uneasily
from side to side.
'I'm very wicked. I've spoken very wickedly. Oh! don't be
frightened by me and never come again. I would not harm a hair of
your head. And,' opening her eyes, and looking earnestly at
Margaret, 'I believe, perhaps, more than yo' do o' what's to
come. I read the book o' Revelations until I know it off by
heart, and I never doubt when I'm waking, and in my senses, of
all the glory I'm to come to.'
'Don't let us talk of what fancies come into your head when you
are feverish. I would rather hear something about what you used
to do when you were well.'
'I think I was well when mother died, but I have never been
rightly strong sin' somewhere about that time. I began to work in
a carding-room soon after, and the fluff got into my lungs and
'Fluff?' said Margaret, inquiringly.
'Fluff,' repeated Bessy. 'Little bits, as fly off fro' the
cotton, when they're carding it, and fill the air till it looks
all fine white dust. They say it winds round the lungs, and
tightens them up. Anyhow, there's many a one as works in a
carding-room, that falls into a waste, coughing and spitting
blood, because they're just poisoned by the fluff.'
'But can't it be helped?' asked Margaret.
'I dunno. Some folk have a great wheel at one end o' their
carding-rooms to make a draught, and carry off th' dust; but that
wheel costs a deal o' money--five or six hundred pound, maybe,
and brings in no profit; so it's but a few of th' masters as will
put 'em up; and I've heard tell o' men who didn't like working
places where there was a wheel, because they said as how it mad
'em hungry, at after they'd been long used to swallowing fluff,
tone go without it, and that their wage ought to be raised if
they were to work in such places. So between masters and men th'
wheels fall through. I know I wish there'd been a wheel in our
'Did not your father know about it?' asked Margaret.
'Yes! And he were sorry. But our factory were a good one on the
whole; and a steady likely set o' people; and father was afeard
of letting me go to a strange place, for though yo' would na
think it now, many a one then used to call me a gradely lass
enough. And I did na like to be reckoned nesh and soft, and
Mary's schooling were to be kept up, mother said, and father he
were always liking to buy books, and go to lectures o' one kind
or another--all which took money--so I just worked on till I
shall ne'er get the whirr out o' my ears, or the fluff out o' my
throat i' this world. That's all.'
'How old are you?' asked Margaret.
'Nineteen, come July.'
'And I too am nineteen.' She thought, more sorrowfully than Bessy
did, of the contrast between them. She could not speak for a
moment or two for the emotion she was trying to keep down.
'About Mary,' said Bessy. 'I wanted to ask yo' to be a friend to
her. She's seventeen, but she's th' last on us. And I don't want
her to go to th' mill, and yet I dunno what she's fit for.'
'She could not do'--Margaret glanced unconsciously at the
uncleaned corners of the room--'She could hardly undertake a
servant's place, could she? We have an old faithful servant,
almost a friend, who wants help, but who is very particular; and
it would not be right to plague her with giving her any
assistance that would really be an annoyance and an irritation.'
'No, I see. I reckon yo're right. Our Mary's a good wench; but
who has she had to teach her what to do about a house? No mother,
and me at the mill till I were good for nothing but scolding her
for doing badly what I didn't know how to do a bit. But I wish
she could ha' lived wi' yo', for all that.'
'But even though she may not be exactly fitted to come and live
with us as a servant--and I don't know about that--I will always
try and be a friend to her for your sake, Bessy. And now I must
go. I will come again as soon as I can; but if it should not be
to-morrow, or the next day, or even a week or a fortnight hence,
don't think I've forgotten you. I may be busy.'
'I'll know yo' won't forget me again. I'll not mistrust yo' no
more. But remember, in a week or a fortnight I may be dead and
'I'll come as soon as I can, Bessy,' said Margaret, squeezing her
'But you'll let me know if you are worse.
'Ay, that will I,' said Bessy, returning the pressure.
From that day forwards Mrs. Hale became more and more of a
suffering invalid. It was now drawing near to the anniversary of
Edith's marriage, and looking back upon the year's accumulated
heap of troubles, Margaret wondered how they had been borne. If
she could have anticipated them, how she would have shrunk away
and hid herself from the coming time! And yet day by day had, of
itself, and by itself, been very endurable--small, keen, bright
little spots of positive enjoyment having come sparkling into the
very middle of sorrows. A year ago, or when she first went to
Helstone, and first became silently conscious of the
querulousness in her mother's temper, she would have groaned
bitterly over the idea of a long illness to be borne in a
strange, desolate, noisy, busy place, with diminished comforts on
every side of the home life. But with the increase of serious and
just ground of complaint, a new kind of patience had sprung up in
her mother's mind. She was gentle and quiet in intense bodily
suffering, almost in proportion as she had been restless and
depressed when there had been no real cause for grief. Mr. Hale
was in exactly that stage of apprehension which, in men of his
stamp, takes the shape of wilful blindness. He was more irritated
than Margaret had ever known him at his daughter's expressed
'Indeed, Margaret, you are growing fanciful! God knows I should
be the first to take the alarm if your mother were really ill; we
always saw when she had her headaches at Helstone, even without
her telling us. She looks quite pale and white when she is ill;
and now she has a bright healthy colour in her cheeks, just as
she used to have when I first knew her.'
'But, papa,' said Margaret, with hesitation, 'do you know, I
think that is the flush of pain.'
'Nonsense, Margaret. I tell you, you are too fanciful. You are
the person not well, I think. Send for the doctor to-morrow for
yourself; and then, if it will make your mind easier, he can see
'Thank you, dear papa. It will make me happier, indeed.' And she
went up to him to kiss him. But he pushed her away--gently
enough, but still as if she had suggested unpleasant ideas, which
he should be glad to get rid of as readily as he could of her
presence. He walked uneasily up and down the room.
'Poor Maria!' said he, half soliloquising, 'I wish one could do
right without sacrificing others. I shall hate this town, and
myself too, if she----Pray, Margaret, does your mother often talk
to you of the old places of Helstone, I mean?'
'No, papa,' said Margaret, sadly.
'Then, you see, she can't be fretting after them, eh? It has
always been a comfort to me to think that your mother was so
simple and open that I knew every little grievance she had. She
never would conceal anything seriously affecting her health from
me: would she, eh, Margaret? I am quite sure she would not. So
don't let me hear of these foolish morbid ideas. Come, give me a
kiss, and run off to bed.'
But she heard him pacing about (racooning, as she and Edith used
to call it) long after her slow and languid undressing was
finished--long after she began to listen as she lay in bed.
'I was used
To sleep at nights as sweetly as a child,--
Now if the wind blew rough, it made me start,
And think of my poor boy tossing about
Upon the roaring seas. And then I seemed
To feel that it was hard to take him from me
For such a little fault.'
It was a comfort to Margaret about this time, to find that her
mother drew more tenderly and intimately towards her than she had
ever done since the days of her childhood. She took her to her
heart as a confidential friend--the post Margaret had always
longed to fill, and had envied Dixon for being preferred to.
Margaret took pains to respond to every call made upon her for
sympathy--and they were many--even when they bore relation to
trifles, which she would no more have noticed or regarded herself
than the elephant would perceive the little pin at his feet,
which yet he lifts carefully up at the bidding of his keeper. All
unconsciously Margaret drew near to a reward.
One evening, Mr. Hale being absent, her mother began to talk to
her about her brother Frederick, the very subject on which
Margaret had longed to ask questions, and almost the only one on
which her timidity overcame her natural openness. The more she
wanted to hear about him, the less likely she was to speak.
'Oh, Margaret, it was so windy last night! It came howling down
the chimney in our room! I could not sleep. I never can when
there is such a terrible wind. I got into a wakeful habit when
poor Frederick was at sea; and now, even if I don't waken all at
once, I dream of him in some stormy sea, with great, clear,
glass-green walls of waves on either side his ship, but far
higher than her very masts, curling over her with that cruel,
terrible white foam, like some gigantic crested serpent. It is an
old dream, but it always comes back on windy nights, till I am
thankful to waken, sitting straight and stiff up in bed with my
terror. Poor Frederick! He is on land now, so wind can do him no
harm. Though I did think it might shake down some of those tall
'Where is Frederick now, mamma? Our letters are directed to the
care of Messrs. Barbour, at Cadiz, I know; but where is he
'I can't remember the name of the place, but he is not called
Hale; you must remember that, Margaret. Notice the F. D. in every
corner of the letters. He has taken the name of Dickenson. I
wanted him to have been called Beresford, to which he had a kind
of right, but your father thought he had better not. He might be
recognised, you know, if he were called by my name.'
'Mamma,' said Margaret, 'I was at Aunt Shaw's when it all
happened; and I suppose I was not old enough to be told plainly
about it. But I should like to know now, if I may--if it does not
give you too much pain to speak about it.'
'Pain! No,' replied Mrs. Hale, her cheek flushing. 'Yet it is
pain to think that perhaps I may never see my darling boy again.
Or else he did right, Margaret. They may say what they like, but
I have his own letters to show, and I'll believe him, though he
is my son, sooner than any court-martial on earth. Go to my
little japan cabinet, dear, and in the second left-hand drawer
you will find a packet of letters.'
Margaret went. There were the yellow, sea-stained letters, with
the peculiar fragrance which ocean letters have: Margaret carried
them back to her mother, who untied the silken string with
trembling fingers, and, examining their dates, she gave them to
Margaret to read, making her hurried, anxious remarks on their
contents, almost before her daughter could have understood what
'You see, Margaret, how from the very first he disliked Captain
Reid. He was second lieutenant in the ship--the Orion--in which
Frederick sailed the very first time. Poor little fellow, how
well he looked in his midshipman's dress, with his dirk in his
hand, cutting open all the newspapers with it as if it were a
paper-knife! But this Mr. Reid, as he was then, seemed to take a
dislike to Frederick from the very beginning. And then--stay!
these are the letters he wrote on board the Russell. When he was
appointed to her, and found his old enemy Captain Reid in
command, he did mean to bear all his tyranny patiently. Look!
this is the letter. Just read it, Margaret. Where is it he
says--Stop--'my father may rely upon me, that I will bear with
all proper patience everything that one officer and gentleman can
take from another. But from my former knowledge of my present
captain, I confess I look forward with apprehension to a long
course of tyranny on board the Russell.' You see, he promises to
bear patiently, and I am sure he did, for he was the
sweetest-tempered boy, when he was not vexed, that could possibly
be. Is that the letter in which he speaks of Captain Reid's
impatience with the men, for not going through the ship's
manoeuvres as quickly as the Avenger? You see, he says that they
had many new hands on board the Russell, while the Avenger had
been nearly three years on the station, with nothing to do but to
keep slavers off, and work her men, till they ran up and down the
rigging like rats or monkeys.'
Margaret slowly read the letter, half illegible through the
fading of the ink. It might be--it probably was--a statement of
Captain Reid's imperiousness in trifles, very much exaggerated by
the narrator, who had written it while fresh and warm from the
scene of altercation. Some sailors being aloft in the
main-topsail rigging, the captain had ordered them to race down,
threatening the hindmost with the cat-of-nine-tails. He who was
the farthest on the spar, feeling the impossibility of passing
his companions, and yet passionately dreading the disgrace of the
flogging, threw himself desperately down to catch a rope
considerably lower, failed, and fell senseless on deck. He only
survived for a few hours afterwards, and the indignation of the
ship's crew was at boiling point when young Hale wrote.
'But we did not receive this letter till long, long after we
heard of the mutiny. Poor Fred! I dare say it was a comfort to
him to write it even though he could not have known how to send
it, poor fellow! And then we saw a report in the papers--that's
to say, long before Fred's letter reached us--of an atrocious
mutiny having broken out on board the Russell, and that the
mutineers had remained in possession of the ship, which had gone
off, it was supposed, to be a pirate; and that Captain Reid was
sent adrift in a boat with some men--officers or something--whose
names were all given, for they were picked up by a West-Indian
steamer. Oh, Margaret! how your father and I turned sick over
that list, when there was no name of Frederick Hale. We thought
it must be some mistake; for poor Fred was such a fine fellow,
only perhaps rather too passionate; and we hoped that the name of
Carr, which was in the list, was a misprint for that of
Hale--newspapers are so careless. And towards post-time the next
day, papa set off to walk to Southampton to get the papers; and I
could not stop at home, so I went to meet him. He was very
late--much later than I thought he would have been; and I sat
down under the hedge to wait for him. He came at last, his arms
hanging loose down, his head sunk, and walking heavily along, as
if every step was a labour and a trouble. Margaret, I see him
'Don't go on, mamma. I can understand it all,' said Margaret,
leaning up caressingly against her mother's side, and kissing her
'No, you can't, Margaret. No one can who did not see him then. I
could hardly lift myself up to go and meet him--everything seemed
so to reel around me all at once. And when I got to him, he did
not speak, or seem surprised to see me there, more than three
miles from home, beside the Oldham beech-tree; but he put my arm
in his, and kept stroking my hand, as if he wanted to soothe me
to be very quiet under some great heavy blow; and when I trembled
so all over that I could not speak, he took me in his arms, and
stooped down his head on mine, and began to shake and to cry in a
strange muffled, groaning voice, till I, for very fright, stood
quite still, and only begged him to tell me what he had heard.
And then, with his hand jerking, as if some one else moved it
against his will, he gave me a wicked newspaper to read, calling
our Frederick a "traitor of the blackest dye," "a base,
ungrateful disgrace to his profession." Oh! I cannot tell what
bad words they did not use. I took the paper in my hands as soon
as I had read it--I tore it up to little bits--I tore it--oh! I
believe Margaret, I tore it with my teeth. I did not cry. I could
not. My cheeks were as hot as fire, and my very eyes burnt in my
head. I saw your father looking grave at me. I said it was a lie,
and so it was. Months after, this letter came, and you see what
provocation Frederick had. It was not for himself, or his own
injuries, he rebelled; but he would speak his mind to Captain
Reid, and so it went on from bad to worse; and you see, most of
the sailors stuck by Frederick.
'I think, Margaret,' she continued, after a pause, in a weak,
trembling, exhausted voice, 'I am glad of it--I am prouder of
Frederick standing up against injustice, than if he had been
simply a good officer.'
'I am sure I am,' said Margaret, in a firm, decided tone.
'Loyalty and obedience to wisdom and justice are fine; but it is
still finer to defy arbitrary power, unjustly and cruelly
used-not on behalf of ourselves, but on behalf of others more
'For all that, I wish I could see Frederick once more--just once.
He was my first baby, Margaret.' Mrs. Hale spoke wistfully, and
almost as if apologising for the yearning, craving wish, as
though it were a depreciation of her remaining child. But such an
idea never crossed Margaret's mind. She was thinking how her
mother's desire could be fulfilled.
'It is six or seven years ago--would they still prosecute him,
mother? If he came and stood his trial, what would be the
punishment? Surely, he might bring evidence of his great
'It would do no good,' replied Mrs. Hale. 'Some of the sailors
who accompanied Frederick were taken, and there was a
court-martial held on them on board the Amicia; I believed all
they said in their defence, poor fellows, because it just agreed
with Frederick's story--but it was of no use,--' and for the
first time during the conversation Mrs. Hale began to cry; yet
something possessed Margaret to force the information she
foresaw, yet dreaded, from her mother.
'What happened to them, mamma?' asked she.
'They were hung at the yard-arm,' said Mrs. Hale, solemnly. 'And
the worst was that the court, in condemning them to death, said
they had suffered themselves to be led astray from their duty by
their superior officers.'
They were silent for a long time.
'And Frederick was in South America for several years, was he
'Yes. And now he is in Spain. At Cadiz, or somewhere near it. If
he comes to England he will be hung. I shall never see his face
again--for if he comes to England he will be hung.'
There was no comfort to be given. Mrs. Hale turned her face to
the wall, and lay perfectly still in her mother's despair.
Nothing could be said to console her. She took her hand out of
Margaret's with a little impatient movement, as if she would fain
be left alone with the recollection of her son. When Mr. Hale
came in, Margaret went out, oppressed with gloom, and seeing no
promise of brightness on any side of the horizon.
MASTERS AND MEN
'Thought fights with thought;
out springs a spark of truth
From the collision of the sword and shield.'
W. S. LANDOR.
'Margaret,' said her father, the next day, 'we must return Mrs.
Thornton's call. Your mother is not very well, and thinks she
cannot walk so far; but you and I will go this afternoon.'
As they went, Mr. Hale began about his wife's health, with a kind
of veiled anxiety, which Margaret was glad to see awakened at
'Did you consult the doctor, Margaret? Did you send for him?'
'No, papa, you spoke of his corning to see me. Now I was well.
But if I only knew of some good doctor, I would go this
afternoon, and ask him to come, for I am sure mamma is seriously
She put the truth thus plainly and strongly because her father
had so completely shut his mind against the idea, when she had
last named her fears. But now the case was changed. He answered
in a despondent tone:
'Do you think she has any hidden complaint? Do you think she is
really very ill? Has Dixon said anything? Oh, Margaret! I am
haunted by the fear that our coming to Milton has killed her. My
'Oh, papa! don't imagine such things,' said Margaret, shocked.
'She is not well, that is all. Many a one is not well for a time;
and with good advice gets better and stronger than ever.'
'But has Dixon said anything about her?'
'No! You know Dixon enjoys making a mystery out of trifles; and
she has been a little mysterious about mamma's health, which has
alarmed me rather, that is all. Without any reason, I dare say.
You know, papa, you said the other day I was getting fanciful.'
'I hope and trust you are. But don't think of what I said then. I
like you to be fanciful about your mother's health. Don't be
afraid of telling me your fancies. I like to hear them, though, I
dare say, I spoke as if I was annoyed. But we will ask Mrs.
Thornton if she can tell us of a good doctor. We won't throw away
our money on any but some one first-rate. Stay, we turn up this
street.' The street did not look as if it could contain any house
large enough for Mrs. Thornton's habitation. Her son's presence
never gave any impression as to the kind of house he lived in;
but, unconsciously, Margaret had imagined that tall, massive,
handsomely dressed Mrs. Thornton must live in a house of the same
character as herself. Now Marlborough Street consisted of long
rows of small houses, with a blank wall here and there; at least
that was all they could see from the point at which they entered
'He told me he lived in Marlborough Street, I'm sure,' said Mr.
Hale, with a much perplexed air.
'Perhaps it is one of the economies he still practises, to live
in a very small house. But here are plenty of people about; let
She accordingly inquired of a passer-by, and was informed that
Mr. Thornton lived close to the mill, and had the factory
lodge-door pointed out to her, at the end of the long dead wall
they had noticed.
The lodge-door was like a common garden-door; on one side of it
were great closed gates for the ingress and egress of lurries and
wagons. The lodge-keeper admitted them into a great oblong yard,
on one side of which were offices for the transaction of
business; on the opposite, an immense many-windowed mill, whence
proceeded the continual clank of machinery and the long groaning
roar of the steam-engine, enough to deafen those who lived within
the enclosure. Opposite to the wall, along which the street ran,
on one of the narrow sides of the oblong, was a handsome
stone-coped house,--blackened, to be sure, by the smoke, but with
paint, windows, and steps kept scrupulously clean. It was
evidently a house which had been built some fifty or sixty years.
The stone facings--the long, narrow windows, and the number of
them--the flights of steps up to the front door, ascending from
either side, and guarded by railing--all witnessed to its age.
Margaret only wondered why people who could afford to live in so
good a house, and keep it in such perfect order, did not prefer a
much smaller dwelling in the country, or even some suburb; not in
the continual whirl and din of the factory. Her unaccustomed ears
could hardly catch her father's voice, as they stood on the steps
awaiting the opening of the door. The yard, too, with the great
doors in the dead wall as a boundary, was but a dismal look-out
for the sitting-rooms of the house--as Margaret found when they
had mounted the old-fashioned stairs, and been ushered into the
drawing-room, the three windows of which went over the front door
and the room on the right-hand side of the entrance. There was no
one in the drawing-room. It seemed as though no one had been in
it since the day when the furniture was bagged up with as much
care as if the house was to be overwhelmed with lava, and
discovered a thousand years hence. The walls were pink and gold;
the pattern on the carpet represented bunches of flowers on a
light ground, but it was carefully covered up in the centre by a
linen drugget, glazed and colourless. The window-curtains were
lace; each chair and sofa had its own particular veil of netting,
or knitting. Great alabaster groups occupied every flat surface,
safe from dust under their glass shades. In the middle of the
room, right under the bagged-up chandelier, was a large circular
table, with smartly-bound books arranged at regular intervals
round the circumference of its polished surface, like
gaily-coloured spokes of a wheel. Everything reflected light,
nothing absorbed it. The whole room had a painfully spotted,
spangled, speckled look about it, which impressed Margaret so
unpleasantly that she was hardly conscious of the peculiar
cleanliness required to keep everything so white and pure in such
an atmosphere, or of the trouble that must be willingly expended
to secure that effect of icy, snowy discomfort. Wherever she
looked there was evidence of care and labour, but not care and
labour to procure ease, to help on habits of tranquil home
employment; solely to ornament, and then to preserve ornament
from dirt or destruction.
They had leisure to observe, and to speak to each other in low
voices, before Mrs. Thornton appeared. They were talking of what
all the world might hear; but it is a common effect of such a
room as this to make people speak low, as if unwilling to awaken
the unused echoes.
At last Mrs. Thornton came in, rustling in handsome black silk,
as was her wont; her muslins and laces rivalling, not excelling,
the pure whiteness of the muslins and netting of the room.
Margaret explained how it was that her mother could not accompany
them to return Mrs. Thornton's call; but in her anxiety not to
bring back her father's fears too vividly, she gave but a
bungling account, and left the impression on Mrs. Thornton's mind
that Mrs. Hale's was some temporary or fanciful fine-ladyish
indisposition, which might have been put aside had there been a
strong enough motive; or that if it was too severe to allow her
to come out that day, the call might have been deferred.
Remembering, too, the horses to her carriage, hired for her own
visit to the Hales, and how Fanny had been ordered to go by Mr.
Thornton, in order to pay every respect to them, Mrs. Thornton
drew up slightly offended, and gave Margaret no sympathy--indeed,
hardly any credit for the statement of her mother's
'How is Mr. Thornton?' asked Mr. Hale. 'I was afraid he was not
well, from his hurried note yesterday.'
'My son is rarely ill; and when he is, he never speaks about it,
or makes it an excuse for not doing anything. He told me he could
not get leisure to read with you last night, sir. He regretted
it, I am sure; he values the hours spent with you.'
'I am sure they are equally agreeable to me,' said Mr. Hale. 'It
makes me feel young again to see his enjoyment and appreciation
of all that is fine in classical literature.'
'I have no doubt the classics are very desirable for people who
have leisure. But, I confess, it was against my judgment that my
son renewed his study of them. The time and place in which he
lives, seem to me to require all his energy and attention.
Classics may do very well for men who loiter away their lives in
the country or in colleges; but Milton men ought to have their
thoughts and powers absorbed in the work of to-day. At least,
that is my opinion.' This last clause she gave out with 'the
pride that apes humility.'
'But, surely, if the mind is too long directed to one object
only, it will get stiff and rigid, and unable to take in many
interests,' said Margaret.
'I do not quite understand what you mean by a mind getting stiff
and rigid. Nor do I admire those whirligig characters that are
full of this thing to-day, to be utterly forgetful of it in their
new interest to-morrow. Having many interests does not suit the
life of a Milton manufacturer. It is, or ought to be, enough for
him to have one great desire, and to bring all the purposes of
his life to bear on the fulfilment of that.'
'And that is--?' asked Mr. Hale.
Her sallow cheek flushed, and her eye lightened, as she answered:
'To hold and maintain a high, honourable place among the
merchants of his country--the men of his town. Such a place my
son has earned for himself. Go where you will--I don't say in
England only, but in Europe--the name of John Thornton of Milton
is known and respected amongst all men of business. Of course, it
is unknown in the fashionable circles,' she continued,
'Idle gentlemen and ladies are not likely to know much of a
Milton manufacturer, unless he gets into parliament, or marries a
lord's daughter.' Both Mr. Hale and Margaret had an uneasy,
ludicrous consciousness that they had never heard of this great
name, until Mr. Bell had written them word that Mr. Thornton
would be a good friend to have in Milton. The proud mother's
world was not their world of Harley Street gentilities on the one
hand, or country clergymen and Hampshire squires on the other.
Margaret's face, in spite of all her endeavours to keep it simply
listening in its expression told the sensitive Mrs. Thornton this
feeling of hers.
'You think you never heard of this wonderful son of mine, Miss
Hale. You think I'm an old woman whose ideas are bounded by
Milton, and whose own crow is the whitest ever seen.'
'No,' said Margaret, with some spirit. 'It may be true, that I
was thinking I had hardly heard Mr. Thornton's name before I came
to Milton. But since I have come here, I have heard enough to
make me respect and admire him, and to feel how much justice and
truth there is in what you have said of him.'
'Who spoke to you of him?' asked Mrs. Thornton, a little
mollified, yet jealous lest any one else's words should not have
done him full justice. Margaret hesitated before she replied. She
did not like this authoritative questioning. Mr. Hale came in, as
he thought, to the rescue.
'It was what Mr. Thornton said himself, that made us know the
kind of man he was. Was it not, Margaret?'
Mrs. Thornton drew herself up, and said--
'My son is not the one to tell of his own doings. May I again ask
you, Miss Hale, from whose account you formed your favourable
opinion of him? A mother is curious and greedy of commendation of
her children, you know.'
Margaret replied, 'It was as much from what Mr. Thornton withheld
of that which we had been told of his previous life by Mr.
Bell,--it was more that than what he said, that made us all feel
what reason you have to be proud of him.'
'Mr. Bell! What can he know of John? He, living a lazy life in a
drowsy college. But I'm obliged to you, Miss Hale. Many a missy
young lady would have shrunk from giving an old woman the
pleasure of hearing that her son was well spoken of.'
'Why?' asked Margaret, looking straight at Mrs. Thornton, in
'Why! because I suppose they might have consciences that told
them how surely they were making the old mother into an advocate
for them, in case they had any plans on the son's heart.'
She smiled a grim smile, for she had been pleased by Margaret's
frankness; and perhaps she felt that she had been asking
questions too much as if she had a right to catechise. Margaret
laughed outright at the notion presented to her; laughed so
merrily that it grated on Mrs. Thornton's ear, as if the words
that called forth that laugh, must have been utterly and entirely
ludicrous. Margaret stopped her merriment as soon as she saw Mrs.
Thornton's annoyed look.
'I beg your pardon, madam. But I really am very much obliged to
you for exonerating me from making any plans on Mr. Thornton's
'Young ladies have, before now,' said Mrs. Thornton, stiffly.
'I hope Miss Thornton is well,' put in Mr. Hale, desirous of
changing the current of the conversation.
'She is as well as she ever is. She is not strong,' replied Mrs.
'And Mr. Thornton? I suppose I may hope to see him on Thursday?'
'I cannot answer for my son's engagements. There is some
uncomfortable work going on in the town; a threatening of a
strike. If so, his experience and judgment will make him much
consulted by his friends. But I should think he could come on
Thursday. At any rate, I am sure he will let you know if he
'A strike!' asked Margaret. 'What for? What are they going to
'For the mastership and ownership of other people's property,'
said Mrs. Thornton, with a fierce snort. 'That is what they
always strike for. If my son's work-people strike, I will only
say they are a pack of ungrateful hounds. But I have no doubt
'They are wanting higher wages, I suppose?' asked Mr. Hale.
'That is the face of the thing. But the truth is, they want to be
masters, and make the masters into slaves on their own ground.
They are always trying at it; they always have it in their minds
and every five or six years, there comes a struggle between
masters and men. They'll find themselves mistaken this time, I
fancy,--a little out of their reckoning. If they turn out, they
mayn't find it so easy to go in again. I believe, the masters
have a thing or two in their heads which will teach the men not
to strike again in a hurry, if they try it this time.'
'Does it not make the town very rough?' asked Margaret.
'Of course it does. But surely you are not a coward, are you?
Milton is not the place for cowards. I have known the time when I
have had to thread my way through a crowd of white, angry men,
all swearing they would have Makinson's blood as soon as he
ventured to show his nose out of his factory; and he, knowing
nothing of it, some one had to go and tell him, or he was a dead
man, and it needed to be a woman,--so I went. And when I had got
in, I could not get out. It was as much as my life was worth. So
I went up to the roof, where there were stones piled ready to
drop on the heads of the crowd, if they tried to force the
factory doors. And I would have lifted those heavy stones, and
dropped them with as good an aim as the best man there, but that
I fainted with the heat I had gone through. If you live in
Milton, you must learn to have a brave heart, Miss Hale.'
'I would do my best,' said Margaret rather pale. 'I do not know
whether I am brave or not till I am tried; but I am afraid I
should be a coward.'
'South country people are often frightened by what our Darkshire
men and women only call living and struggling. But when you've
been ten years among a people who are always owing their betters
a grudge, and only waiting for an opportunity to pay it off,
you'll know whether you are a coward or not, take my word for
Mr. Thornton came that evening to Mr. Hale's. He was shown up
into the drawing-room, where Mr. Hale was reading aloud to his
wife and daughter.
'I am come partly to bring you a note from my mother, and partly
to apologise for not keeping to my time yesterday. The note
contains the address you asked for; Dr. Donaldson.'
'Thank you!' said Margaret, hastily, holding out her hand to take
the note, for she did not wish her mother to hear that they had
been making any inquiry about a doctor. She was pleased that Mr.
Thornton seemed immediately to understand her feeling; he gave
her the note without another word of explanation. Mr. Hale began
to talk about the strike. Mr. Thornton's face assumed a likeness
to his mother's worst expression, which immediately repelled the
'Yes; the fools will have a strike. Let them. It suits us well
enough. But we gave them a chance. They think trade is
flourishing as it was last year. We see the storm on the horizon
and draw in our sails. But because we don't explain our reasons,
they won't believe we're acting reasonably. We must give them
line and letter for the way we choose to spend or save our money.
Henderson tried a dodge with his men, out at Ashley, and failed.
He rather wanted a strike; it would have suited his book well
enough. So when the men came to ask for the five per cent. they
are claiming, he told 'em he'd think about it, and give them his
answer on the pay day; knowing all the while what his answer
would be, of course, but thinking he'd strengthen their conceit
of their own way. However, they were too deep for him, and heard
something about the bad prospects of trade. So in they came on
the Friday, and drew back their claim, and now he's obliged to go
on working. But we Milton masters have to-day sent in our
decision. We won't advance a penny. We tell them we may have to
lower wages; but can't afford to raise. So here we stand, waiting
for their next attack.'
'And what will that be?' asked Mr. Hale.
'I conjecture, a simultaneous strike. You will see Milton without
smoke in a few days, I imagine, Miss Hale.'
'But why,' asked she, 'could you not explain what good reason you
have for expecting a bad trade? I don't know whether I use the
right words, but you will understand what I mean.'
'Do you give your servants reasons for your expenditure, or your
economy in the use of your own money? We, the owners of capital,
have a right to choose what we will do with it.'
'A human right,' said Margaret, very low.
'I beg your pardon, I did not hear what you said.'
'I would rather not repeat it,' said she; 'it related to a
feeling which I do not think you would share.'
'Won't you try me?' pleaded he; his thoughts suddenly bent upon
learning what she had said. She was displeased with his
pertinacity, but did not choose to affix too much importance to
'I said you had a human right. I meant that there seemed no
reason but religious ones, why you should not do what you like
with your own.
'I know we differ in our religious opinions; but don't you give
me credit for having some, though not the same as yours?'
He was speaking in a subdued voice, as if to her alone. She did
not wish to be so exclusively addressed. She replied out in her
'I do not think that I have any occasion to consider your special
religious opinions in the affair. All I meant to say is, that
there is no human law to prevent the employers from utterly
wasting or throwing away all their money, if they choose; but
that there are passages in the Bible which would rather imply--to
me at least--that they neglected their duty as stewards if they
did so. However I know so little about strikes, and rate of
wages, and capital, and labour, that I had better not talk to a
political economist like you.'
'Nay, the more reason,' said he, eagerly. 'I shall only be too
glad to explain to you all that may seem anomalous or mysterious
to a stranger; especially at a time like this, when our doings
are sure to be canvassed by every scribbler who can hold a pen.'
'Thank you,' she answered, coldly. 'Of course, I shall apply to
my father in the first instance for any information he can give
me, if I get puzzled with living here amongst this strange
'You think it strange. Why?'
'I don't know--I suppose because, on the very face of it, I see
two classes dependent on each other in every possible way, yet
each evidently regarding the interests of the other as opposed to
their own; I never lived in a place before where there were two
sets of people always running each other down.'
'Who have you heard running the masters down? I don't ask who you
have heard abusing the men; for I see you persist in
misunderstanding what I said the other day. But who have you
heard abusing the masters?'
Margaret reddened; then smiled as she said,
'I am not fond of being catechised. I refuse to answer your
question. Besides, it has nothing to do with the fact. You must
take my word for it, that I have heard some people, or, it may
be, only someone of the workpeople, speak as though it were the
interest of the employers to keep them from acquiring money--that
it would make them too independent if they had a sum in the
'I dare say it was that man Higgins who told you all this,' said
Mrs Hale. Mr. Thornton did not appear to hear what Margaret
evidently did not wish him to know. But he caught it,
'I heard, moreover, that it was considered to the advantage of
the masters to have ignorant workmen--not hedge-lawyers, as
Captain Lennox used to call those men in his company who
questioned and would know the reason for every order.' This
latter part of her sentence she addressed rather to her father
than to Mr. Thornton. Who is Captain Lennox? asked Mr. Thornton
of himself, with a strange kind of displeasure, that prevented
him for the moment from replying to her! Her father took up the
'You never were fond of schools, Margaret, or you would have seen
and known before this, how much is being done for education in
'No!' said she, with sudden meekness. 'I know I do not care
enough about schools. But the knowledge and the ignorance of
which I was speaking, did not relate to reading and writing,--the
teaching or information one can give to a child. I am sure, that
what was meant was ignorance of the wisdom that shall guide men
and women. I hardly know what that is. But he--that is, my
informant--spoke as if the masters would like their hands to be
merely tall, large children--living in the present moment--with a
blind unreasoning kind of obedience.'
'In short, Miss Hale, it is very evident that your informant
found a pretty ready listener to all the slander he chose to
utter against the masters,' said Mr. Thornton, in an offended
Margaret did not reply. She was displeased at the personal
character Mr. Thornton affixed to what she had said.
Mr. Hale spoke next:
'I must confess that, although I have not become so intimately
acquainted with any workmen as Margaret has, I am very much
struck by the antagonism between the employer and the employed,
on the very surface of things. I even gather this impression from
what you yourself have from time to time said.'
Mr. Thornton paused awhile before he spoke. Margaret had just
left the room, and he was vexed at the state of feeling between
himself and her. However, the little annoyance, by making him
cooler and more thoughtful, gave a greater dignity to what he
'My theory is, that my interests are identical with those of my
workpeople and vice-versa. Miss Hale, I know, does not like to
hear men called 'hands,' so I won't use that word, though it
comes most readily to my lips as the technical term, whose
origin, whatever it was, dates before my time. On some future
day--in some millennium--in Utopia, this unity may be brought
into practice--just as I can fancy a republic the most perfect
form of government.'
'We will read Plato's Republic as soon as we have finished
'Well, in the Platonic year, it may fall out that we are all--men
women, and children--fit for a republic: but give me a
constitutional monarchy in our present state of morals and
intelligence. In our infancy we require a wise despotism to
govern us. Indeed, long past infancy, children and young people
are the happiest under the unfailing laws of a discreet, firm
authority. I agree with Miss Hale so far as to consider our
people in the condition of children, while I deny that we, the
masters, have anything to do with the making or keeping them so.
I maintain that despotism is the best kind of government for
them; so that in the hours in which I come in contact with them I
must necessarily be an autocrat. I will use my best
discretion--from no humbug or philanthropic feeling, of which we
have had rather too much in the North--to make wise laws and come
to just decisions in the conduct of my business--laws and
decisions which work for my own good in the first instance--for
theirs in the second; but I will neither be forced to give my
reasons, nor flinch from what I have once declared to be my
resolution. Let them turn out! I shall suffer as well as they:
but at the end they will find I have not bated nor altered one
Margaret had re-entered the room and was sitting at her work; but
she did not speak. Mr. Hale answered--
'I dare say I am talking in great ignorance; but from the little
I know, I should say that the masses were already passing rapidly
into the troublesome stage which intervenes between childhood and
manhood, in the life of the multitude as well as that of the
individual. Now, the error which many parents commit in the
treatment of the individual at this time is, insisting on the
same unreasoning obedience as when all he had to do in the way of
duty was, to obey the simple laws of "Come when you're called" and
"Do as you're bid!" But a wise parent humours the desire for
independent action, so as to become the friend and adviser when
his absolute rule shall cease. If I get wrong in my reasoning,
recollect, it is you who adopted the analogy.'
'Very lately,' said Margaret, 'I heard a story of what happened
in Nuremberg only three or four years ago. A rich man there lived
alone in one of the immense mansions which were formerly both
dwellings and warehouses. It was reported that he had a child,
but no one knew of it for certain. For forty years this rumour
kept rising and falling--never utterly dying away. After his
death it was found to be true. He had a son--an overgrown man
with the unexercised intellect of a child, whom he had kept up in
that strange way, in order to save him from temptation and error.
But, of course, when this great old child was turned loose into
the world, every bad counsellor had power over him. He did not
know good from evil. His father had made the blunder of bringing
him up in ignorance and taking it for innocence; and after
fourteen months of riotous living, the city authorities had to
take charge of him, in order to save him from starvation. He
could not even use words effectively enough to be a successful
'I used the comparison (suggested by Miss Hale) of the position
of the master to that of a parent; so I ought not to complain of
your turning the simile into a weapon against me. But, Mr. Hale,
when you were setting up a wise parent as a model for us, you
said he humoured his children in their desire for independent
action. Now certainly, the time is not come for the hands to have
any independent action during business hours; I hardly know what
you would mean by it then. And I say, that the masters would be
trenching on the independence of their hands, in a way that I,
for one, should not feel justified in doing, if we interfered too
much with the life they lead out of the mills. Because they
labour ten hours a-day for us, I do not see that we have any
right to impose leading-strings upon them for the rest of their
time. I value my own independence so highly that I can fancy no
degradation greater than that of having another man perpetually
directing and advising and lecturing me, or even planning too
closely in any way about my actions. He might be the wisest of
men, or the most powerful--I should equally rebel and resent his
interference I imagine this is a stronger feeling in the North of
England that in the South.'
'I beg your pardon, but is not that because there has been none
of the equality of friendship between the adviser and advised
classes? Because every man has had to stand in an unchristian and
isolated position, apart from and jealous of his brother-man:
constantly afraid of his rights being trenched upon?'
'I only state the fact. I am sorry to say, I have an appointment
at eight o'clock, and I must just take facts as I find them
to-night, without trying to account for them; which, indeed,
would make no difference in determining how to act as things
stand--the facts must be granted.'
'But,' said Margaret in a low voice, 'it seems to me that it
makes all the difference in the world--.' Her father made a sign
to her to be silent, and allow Mr. Thornton to finish what he had
to say. He was already standing up and preparing to go.
'You must grant me this one point. Given a strong feeling of
independence in every Darkshire man, have I any right to obtrude
my views, of the manner in which he shall act, upon another
(hating it as I should do most vehemently myself), merely because
he has labour to sell and I capital to buy?'
'Not in the least,' said Margaret, determined just to say this
one thing; 'not in the least because of your labour and capital
positions, whatever they are, but because you are a man, dealing
with a set of men over whom you have, whether you reject the use
of it or not, immense power, just because your lives and your
welfare are so constantly and intimately interwoven. God has made
us so that we must be mutually dependent. We may ignore our own
dependence, or refuse to acknowledge that others depend upon us
in more respects than the payment of weekly wages; but the thing
must be, nevertheless. Neither you nor any other master can help
yourselves. The most proudly independent man depends on those
around him for their insensible influence on his character--his
life. And the most isolated of all your Darkshire Egos has
dependants clinging to him on all sides; he cannot shake them
off, any more than the great rock he resembles can shake off--'
'Pray don't go into similes, Margaret; you have led us off once
already,' said her father, smiling, yet uneasy at the thought
that they were detaining Mr. Thornton against his will, which was
a mistake; for he rather liked it, as long as Margaret would
talk, although what she said only irritated him.
'Just tell me, Miss Hale, are you yourself ever influenced--no,
that is not a fair way of putting it;--but if you are ever
conscious of being influenced by others, and not by
circumstances, have those others been working directly or
indirectly? Have they been labouring to exhort, to enjoin, to act
rightly for the sake of example, or have they been simple, true
men, taking up their duty, and doing it unflinchingly, without a
thought of how their actions were to make this man industrious,
that man saving? Why, if I were a workman, I should be twenty
times more impressed by the knowledge that my master, was honest,
punctual, quick, resolute in all his doings (and hands are keener
spies even than valets), than by any amount of interference,
however kindly meant, with my ways of going on out of work-hours.
I do not choose to think too closely on what I am myself; but, I
believe, I rely on the straightforward honesty of my hands, and
the open nature of their opposition, in contra-distinction to the
way in which the turnout will be managed in some mills, just
because they know I scorn to take a single dishonourable
advantage, or do an underhand thing myself It goes farther than a
whole course of lectures on "Honesty is the Best Policy"--life
diluted into words. No, no! What the master is, that will the men
be, without over-much taking thought on his part.'
'That is a great admission,' said Margaret, laughing. 'When I see
men violent and obstinate in pursuit of their rights, I may
safely infer that the master is the same that he is a little
ignorant of that spirit which suffereth long, and is kind, and
seeketh not her own.'
'You are just like all strangers who don't understand the working
of our system, Miss Hale,' said he, hastily. 'You suppose that
our men are puppets of dough, ready to be moulded into any
amiable form we please. You forget we have only to do with them
for less than a third of their lives; and you seem not to
perceive that the duties of a manufacturer are far larger and
wider than those merely of an employer of labour: we have a wide
commercial character to maintain, which makes us into the great
pioneers of civilisation.'
'It strikes me,' said Mr. Hale, smiling, 'that you might pioneer
a little at home. They are a rough, heathenish set of fellows,
these Milton men of yours.'
'They are that,' replied Mr. Thornton. 'Rosewater surgery won't
do for them. Cromwell would have made a capital mill-owner, Miss
Hale. I wish we had him to put down this strike for us.'
'Cromwell is no hero of mine,' said she, coldly. 'But I am trying
to reconcile your admiration of despotism with your respect for
other men's independence of character.'
He reddened at her tone. 'I choose to be the unquestioned and
irresponsible master of my hands, during the hours that they
labour for me. But those hours past, our relation ceases; and
then comes in the same respect for their independence that I
He did not speak again for a minute, he was too much vexed. But
he shook it off, and bade Mr. and Mrs. Hale good night. Then,
drawing near to Margaret, he said in a lower voice--
'I spoke hastily to you once this evening, and I am afraid,
rather rudely. But you know I am but an uncouth Milton
manufacturer; will you forgive me?'
'Certainly,' said she, smiling up in his face, the expression of
which was somewhat anxious and oppressed, and hardly cleared away
as he met her sweet sunny countenance, out of which all the
north-wind effect of their discussion had entirely vanished. But
she did not put out her hand to him, and again he felt the
omission, and set it down to pride.
THE SHADOW OF DEATH
'Trust in that veiled hand, which leads
None by the path that he would go;
And always be for change prepared,
For the world's law is ebb and flow.'
FROM THE ARABIC.
The next afternoon Dr. Donaldson came to pay his first visit to
Mrs. Hale. The mystery that Margaret hoped their late habits of
intimacy had broken through, was resumed. She was excluded from
the room, while Dixon was admitted. Margaret was not a ready
lover, but where she loved she loved passionately, and with no
small degree of jealousy.
She went into her mother's bed-room, just behind the
drawing-room, and paced it up and down, while awaiting the
doctor's coming out. Every now and then she stopped to listen;
she fancied she heard a moan. She clenched her hands tight, and
held her breath. She was sure she heard a moan. Then all was
still for a few minutes more; and then there was the moving of
chairs, the raised voices, all the little disturbances of
When she heard the door open, she went quickly out of the
'My father is from home, Dr. Donaldson; he has to attend a pupil
at this hour. May I trouble you to come into his room down
She saw, and triumphed over all the obstacles which Dixon threw
in her way; assuming her rightful position as daughter of the
house in something of the spirit of the Elder Brother, which
quelled the old servant's officiousness very effectually.
Margaret's conscious assumption of this unusual dignity of
demeanour towards Dixon, gave her an instant's amusement in the
midst of her anxiety. She knew, from the surprised expression on
Dixon's face, how ridiculously grand she herself must be looking;
and the idea carried her down stairs into the room; it gave her
that length of oblivion from the keen sharpness of the
recollection of the actual business in hand. Now, that came back,
and seemed to take away her breath. It was a moment or two before
she could utter a word.
But she spoke with an air of command, as she asked:--'
'What is the matter with mamma? You will oblige me by telling the
simple truth.' Then, seeing a slight hesitation on the doctor's
part, she added--
'I am the only child she has--here, I mean. My father is not
sufficiently alarmed, I fear; and, therefore, if there is any
serious apprehension, it must be broken to him gently. I can do
this. I can nurse my mother. Pray, speak, sir; to see your face,
and not be able to read it, gives me a worse dread than I trust
any words of yours will justify.'
'My dear young lady, your mother seems to have a most attentive
and efficient servant, who is more like her friend--'
'I am her daughter, sir.'
'But when I tell you she expressly desired that you might not be
'I am not good or patient enough to submit to the prohibition.
Besides, I am sure you are too wise--too experienced to have
promised to keep the secret.'
'Well,' said he, half-smiling, though sadly enough, 'there you
are right. I did not promise. In fact, I fear, the secret will be
known soon enough without my revealing it.'
He paused. Margaret went very white, and compressed her lips a
little more. Otherwise not a feature moved. With the quick
insight into character, without which no medical man can rise to
the eminence of Dr. Donaldson, he saw that she would exact the
full truth; that she would know if one iota was withheld; and
that the withholding would be torture more acute than the
knowledge of it. He spoke two short sentences in a low voice,
watching her all the time; for the pupils of her eyes dilated
into a black horror and the whiteness of her complexion became
livid. He ceased speaking. He waited for that look to go
off,--for her gasping breath to come. Then she said:--
'I thank you most truly, sir, for your confidence. That dread has
haunted me for many weeks. It is a true, real agony. My poor,
poor mother!' her lips began to quiver, and he let her have the
relief of tears, sure of her power of self-control to check them.
A few tears--those were all she shed, before she recollected the
many questions she longed to ask.
'Will there be much suffering?'
He shook his head. 'That we cannot tell. It depends on
constitution; on a thousand things. But the late discoveries of
medical science have given us large power of alleviation.'
'My father!' said Margaret, trembling all over.
'I do not know Mr. Hale. I mean, it is difficult to give advice.
But I should say, bear on, with the knowledge you have forced me
to give you so abruptly, till the fact which I could not
with-hold has become in some degree familiar to you, so that you
may, without too great an effort, be able to give what comfort
you can to your father. Before then,--my visits, which, of
course, I shall repeat from time to time, although I fear I can
do nothing but alleviate,--a thousand little circumstances will
have occurred to awaken his alarm, to deepen it--so that he will
be all the better prepared.--Nay, my dear young lady--nay, my
dear--I saw Mr. Thornton, and I honour your father for the
sacrifice he has made, however mistaken I may believe him to
be.--Well, this once, if it will please you, my dear. Only
remember, when I come again, I come as a friend. And you must
learn to look upon me as such, because seeing each other--getting
to know each other at such times as these, is worth years of
morning calls.' Margaret could not speak for crying: but she
wrung his hand at parting.
'That's what I call a fine girl!' thought Dr. Donaldson, when he
was seated in his carriage, and had time to examine his ringed
hand, which had slightly suffered from her pressure. 'Who would
have thought that little hand could have given such a squeeze?
But the bones were well put together, and that gives immense
power. What a queen she is! With her head thrown back at first,
to force me into speaking the truth; and then bent so eagerly
forward to listen. Poor thing! I must see she does not overstrain
herself. Though it's astonishing how much those thorough-bred
creatures can do and suffer. That girl's game to the back-bone.
Another, who had gone that deadly colour, could never have come
round without either fainting or hysterics. But she wouldn't do
either--not she! And the very force of her will brought her
round. Such a girl as that would win my heart, if I were thirty
years younger. It's too late now. Ah! here we are at the
Archers'.' So out he jumped, with thought, wisdom, experience,
sympathy, and ready to attend to the calls made upon them by this
family, just as if there were none other in the world.
Meanwhile, Margaret had returned into her father's study for a
moment, to recover strength before going upstairs into her
'Oh, my God, my God! but this is terrible. How shall I bear it?
Such a deadly disease! no hope! Oh, mamma, mamma, I wish I had
never gone to aunt Shaw's, and been all those precious years away
from you! Poor mamma! how much she must have borne! Oh, I pray
thee, my God, that her sufferings may not be too acute, too
dreadful. How shall I bear to see them? How can I bear papa's
agony? He must not be told yet; not all at once. It would kill
him. But I won't lose another moment of my own dear, precious
She ran upstairs. Dixon was not in the room. Mrs. Hale lay back
in an easy chair, with a soft white shawl wrapped around her, and
a becoming cap put on, in expectation of the doctor's visit. Her
face had a little faint colour in it, and the very exhaustion
after the examination gave it a peaceful look. Margaret was
surprised to see her look so calm.
'Why, Margaret, how strange you look! What is the matter?' And
then, as the idea stole into her mind of what was indeed the real
state of the case, she added, as if a little displeased: 'you
have not been seeing Dr. Donaldson, and asking him any
questions--have you, child?' Margaret did not reply--only looked
wistfully towards her. Mrs. Hale became more displeased. 'He
would not, surely, break his word to me, and'--
'Oh yes, mamma, he did. I made him. It was I--blame me.'She knelt
down by her mother's side, and caught her hand--she would not let
it go, though Mrs. Hale tried to pull it away. She kept kissing
it, and the hot tears she shed bathed it.
'Margaret, it was very wrong of you. You knew I did not wish you
to know.' But, as if tired with the contest, she left her hand in
Margaret's clasp, and by-and-by she returned the pressure
faintly. That encouraged Margaret to speak.
'Oh, mamma! let me be your nurse. I will learn anything Dixon can
teach me. But you know I am your child, and I do think I have a
right to do everything for you.'
'You don't know what you are asking,' said Mrs. Hale, with a
'Yes, I do. I know a great deal more than you are aware of Let me
be your nurse. Let me try, at any rate. No one has ever shall
ever try so hard as I will do. It will be such a comfort, mamma.'
'My poor child! Well, you shall try. Do you know, Margaret, Dixon
and I thought you would quite shrink from me if you knew--'
'Dixon thought!' said Margaret, her lip curling. 'Dixon could not
give me credit for enough true love--for as much as herself! She
thought, I suppose, that I was one of those poor sickly women who
like to lie on rose leaves, and be fanned all day; Don't let
Dixon's fancies come any more between you and me, mamma. Don't,
please!' implored she.
'Don't be angry with Dixon,' said Mrs. Hale, anxiously. Margaret
'No! I won't. I will try and be humble, and learn her ways, if
you will only let me do all I can for you. Let me be in the first
place, mother--I am greedy of that. I used to fancy you would
forget me while I was away at aunt Shaw's, and cry myself to
sleep at nights with that notion in my head.'
'And I used to think, how will Margaret bear our makeshift
poverty after the thorough comfort and luxury in Harley Street,
till I have many a time been more ashamed of your seeing our
contrivances at Helstone than of any stranger finding them out.'
'Oh, mamma! and I did so enjoy them. They were so much more
amusing than all the jog-trot Harley Street ways. The wardrobe
shelf with handles, that served as a supper-tray on grand
occasions! And the old tea-chests stuffed and covered for
ottomans! I think what you call the makeshift contrivances at
dear Helstone were a charming part of the life there.'
'I shall never see Helstone again, Margaret,' said Mrs. Hale, the
tears welling up into her eyes. Margaret could not reply. Mrs.
Hale went on. 'While I was there, I was for ever wanting to leave
it. Every place seemed pleasanter. And now I shall die far away
from it. I am rightly punished.'
'You must not talk so,' said Margaret, impatiently. 'He said you
might live for years. Oh, mother! we will have you back at
'No never! That I must take as a just penance. But,
Margaret--Frederick!' At the mention of that one word, she
suddenly cried out loud, as in some sharp agony. It seemed as if
the thought of him upset all her composure, destroyed the calm,
overcame the exhaustion. Wild passionate cry succeeded to
cry--'Frederick! Frederick! Come to me. I am dying. Little
first-born child, come to me once again!'
She was in violent hysterics. Margaret went and called Dixon in
terror. Dixon came in a huff, and accused Margaret of having
over-excited her mother. Margaret bore all meekly, only trusting
that her father might not return. In spite of her alarm, which
was even greater than the occasion warranted, she obeyed all
Dixon's directions promptly and well, without a word of
self-justification. By so doing she mollified her accuser. They
put her mother to bed, and Margaret sate by her till she fell
asleep, and afterwards till Dixon beckoned her out of the room,
and, with a sour face, as if doing something against the grain,
she bade her drink a cup of coffee which she had prepared for her
in the drawing-room, and stood over her in a commanding attitude
as she did so.
'You shouldn't have been so curious, Miss, and then you wouldn't
have needed to fret before your time. It would have come soon
enough. And now, I suppose, you'll tell master, and a pretty
household I shall have of you!'
'No, Dixon,' said Margaret, sorrowfully, 'I will not tell papa.
He could not bear it as I can.' And by way of proving how well
she bore it, she burst into tears.
'Ay! I knew how it would be. Now you'll waken your mamma, just
after she's gone to sleep so quietly. Miss Margaret my dear, I've
had to keep it down this many a week; and though I don't pretend
I can love her as you do, yet I loved her better than any other
man, woman, or child--no one but Master Frederick ever came near
her in my mind. Ever since Lady Beresford's maid first took me in
to see her dressed out in white crape, and corn-ears, and scarlet
poppies, and I ran a needle down into my finger, and broke it in,
and she tore up her worked pocket-handkerchief, after they'd cut
it out, and came in to wet the bandages again with lotion when
she returned from the ball--where she'd been the prettiest young
lady of all--I've never loved any one like her. I little thought
then that I should live to see her brought so low. I don't mean
no reproach to nobody. Many a one calls you pretty and handsome,
and what not. Even in this smoky place, enough to blind one's
eyes, the owls can see that. But you'll never be like your mother
for beauty--never; not if you live to be a hundred.'
'Mamma is very pretty still. Poor mamma!'
'Now don't ye set off again, or I shall give way at last'
(whimpering). 'You'll never stand master's coming home, and
questioning, at this rate. Go out and take a walk, and come in
something like. Many's the time I've longed to walk it off--the
thought of what was the matter with her, and how it must all
'Oh, Dixon!' said Margaret, 'how often I've been cross with you,
not knowing what a terrible secret you had to bear!'
'Bless you, child! I like to see you showing a bit of a spirit.
It's the good old Beresford blood. Why, the last Sir John but two
shot his steward down, there where he stood, for just telling him
that he'd racked the tenants, and he'd racked the tenants till he
could get no more money off them than he could get skin off a
'Well, Dixon, I won't shoot you, and I'll try not to be cross
'You never have. If I've said it at times, it has always been to
myself, just in private, by way of making a little agreeable
conversation, for there's no one here fit to talk to. And when
you fire up, you're the very image of Master Frederick. I could
find in my heart to put you in a passion any day, just to see his
stormy look coming like a great cloud over your face. But now you
go out, Miss. I'll watch over missus; and as for master, his
books are company enough for him, if he should come in.'
'I will go,' said Margaret. She hung about Dixon for a minute or
so, as if afraid and irresolute; then suddenly kissing her, she
went quickly out of the room.
'Bless her!' said Dixon. 'She's as sweet as a nut. There are
three people I love: it's missus, Master Frederick, and her. Just
them three. That's all. The rest be hanged, for I don't know what
they're in the world for. Master was born, I suppose, for to
marry missus. If I thought he loved her properly, I might get to
love him in time. But he should ha' made a deal more on her, and
not been always reading, reading, thinking, thinking. See what it
has brought him to! Many a one who never reads nor thinks either,
gets to be Rector, and Dean, and what not; and I dare say master
might, if he'd just minded missus, and let the weary reading and