Part 5 out of 11
glass,--so that a gray grim light, reflected from the pavement
below, threw all the shadows wrong, and combined with the
green-tinged upper light to make even Margaret's own face, as she
caught it in the mirrors, look ghastly and wan. She sat and
waited; no one came. Every now and then, the wind seemed to bear
the distant multitudinous sound nearer; and yet there was no
wind! It died away into profound stillness between whiles.
Fanny came in at last.
'Mamma will come directly, Miss Hale. She desired me to apologise
to you as it is. Perhaps you know my brother has imported hands
from Ireland, and it has irritated the Milton people
excessively--as if he hadn't a right to get labour where he
could; and the stupid wretches here wouldn't work for him; and
now they've frightened these poor Irish starvelings so with their
threats, that we daren't let them out. You may see them huddled
in that top room in the mill,--and they're to sleep there, to
keep them safe from those brutes, who will neither work nor let
them work. And mamma is seeing about their food, and John is
speaking to them, for some of the women are crying to go back.
Ah! here's mamma!'
Mrs. Thornton came in with a look of black sternness on her face,
which made Margaret feel she had arrived at a bad time to trouble
her with her request. However, it was only in compliance with
Mrs. Thornton's expressed desire, that she would ask for whatever
they might want in the progress of her mother's illness. Mrs.
Thornton's brow contracted, and her mouth grew set, while
Margaret spoke with gentle modesty of her mother's restlessness,
and Dr. Donaldson's wish that she should have the relief of a
water-bed. She ceased. Mrs. Thornton did not reply immediately.
Then she started up and exclaimed--
'They're at the gates! Call John, Fanny,--call him in from the
mill! They're at the gates! They'll batter them in! Call John, I
And simultaneously, the gathering tramp--to which she had been
listening, instead of heeding Margaret's words--was heard just
right outside the wall, and an increasing din of angry voices
raged behind the wooden barrier, which shook as if the unseen
maddened crowd made battering-rams of their bodies, and retreated
a short space only to come with more united steady impetus
against it, till their great beats made the strong gates quiver,
like reeds before the wind. The women gathered round the windows,
fascinated to look on the scene which terrified them. Mrs.
Thornton, the women-servants, Margaret,--all were there. Fanny
had returned, screaming up-stairs as if pursued at every step,
and had thrown herself in hysterical sobbing on the sofa. Mrs.
Thornton watched for her son, who was still in the mill. He came
out, looked up at them--the pale cluster of faces--and smiled
good courage to them, before he locked the factory-door. Then he
called to one of the women to come down and undo his own door,
which Fanny had fastened behind her in her mad flight. Mrs.
Thornton herself went. And the sound of his well-known and
commanding voice, seemed to have been like the taste of blood to
the infuriated multitude outside. Hitherto they had been
voiceless, wordless, needing all their breath for their
hard-labouring efforts to break down the gates. But now, hearing
him speak inside, they set up such a fierce unearthly groan, that
even Mrs. Thornton was white with fear as she preceded him into
the room. He came in a little flushed, but his eyes gleaming, as
in answer to the trumpet-call of danger, and with a proud look of
defiance on his face, that made him a noble, if not a handsome
man. Margaret had always dreaded lest her courage should fail her
in any emergency, and she should be proved to be, what she
dreaded lest she was--a coward. But now, in this real great time
of reasonable fear and nearness of terror, she forgot herself,
and felt only an intense sympathy--intense to painfulness--in the
interests of the moment.
Mr. Thornton came frankly forwards:
'I'm sorry, Miss Hale, you have visited us at this unfortunate
moment, when, I fear, you may be involved in whatever risk we
have to bear. Mother! hadn't you better go into the back rooms?
I'm not sure whether they may not have made their way from
Pinner's Lane into the stable-yard; but if not, you will be safer
there than here. Go Jane!' continued he, addressing the
upper-servant. And she went, followed by the others.
'I stop here!' said his mother. 'Where you are, there I stay.'
And indeed, retreat into the back rooms was of no avail; the
crowd had surrounded the outbuildings at the rear, and were
sending forth their: awful threatening roar behind. The servants
retreated into the garrets, with many a cry and shriek. Mr.
Thornton smiled scornfully as he heard them. He glanced at
Margaret, standing all by herself at the window nearest the
factory. Her eyes glittered, her colour was deepened on cheek and
lip. As if she felt his look, she turned to him and asked a
question that had been for some time in her mind:
'Where are the poor imported work-people? In the factory there?'
'Yes! I left them cowered up in a small room, at the head of a
back flight of stairs; bidding them run all risks, and escape
down there, if they heard any attack made on the mill-doors. But
it is not them--it is me they want.'
'When can the soldiers be here?' asked his mother, in a low but
not unsteady voice.
He took out his watch with the same measured composure with which
he did everything. He made some little calculation:
'Supposing Williams got straight off when I told him, and hadn't
to dodge about amongst them--it must be twenty minutes yet.'
'Twenty minutes!' said his mother, for the first time showing her
terror in the tones of her voice.
'Shut down the windows instantly, mother,' exclaimed he: 'the
gates won't bear such another shock. Shut down that window, Miss
Margaret shut down her window, and then went to assist Mrs.
Thornton's trembling fingers.
From some cause or other, there was a pause of several minutes in
the unseen street. Mrs. Thornton looked with wild anxiety at her
son's countenance, as if to gain the interpretation of the sudden
stillness from him. His face was set into rigid lines of
contemptuous defiance; neither hope nor fear could be read there.
Fanny raised herself up:
'Are they gone?' asked she, in a whisper.
'Gone!' replied he. 'Listen!'
She did listen; they all could hear the one great straining
breath; the creak of wood slowly yielding; the wrench of iron;
the mighty fall of the ponderous gates. Fanny stood up
tottering--made a step or two towards her mother, and fell
forwards into her arms in a fainting fit. Mrs. Thornton lifted
her up with a strength that was as much that of the will as of
the body, and carried her away.
'Thank God!' said Mr. Thornton, as he watched her out. 'Had you
not better go upstairs, Miss Hale?'
Margaret's lips formed a 'No!'--but he could not hear her speak,
for the tramp of innumerable steps right under the very wall of
the house, and the fierce growl of low deep angry voices that had
a ferocious murmur of satisfaction in them, more dreadful than
their baffled cries not many minutes before.
'Never mind!' said he, thinking to encourage her. 'I am very
sorry you should have been entrapped into all this alarm; but it
cannot last long now; a few minutes more, and the soldiers will
'Oh, God!' cried Margaret, suddenly; 'there is Boucher. I know
his face, though he is livid with rage,--he is fighting to get to
the front--look! look!'
'Who is Boucher?' asked Mr. Thornton, coolly, and coming close to
the window to discover the man in whom Margaret took such an
interest. As soon as they saw Mr. Thornton, they set up a
yell,--to call it not human is nothing,--it was as the demoniac
desire of some terrible wild beast for the food that is withheld
from his ravening. Even he drew hack for a moment, dismayed at
the intensity of hatred he had provoked.
'Let them yell!' said he. 'In five minutes more--. I only hope my
poor Irishmen are not terrified out of their wits by such a
fiendlike noise. Keep up your courage for five minutes, Miss
'Don't be afraid for me,' she said hastily. 'But what in five
minutes? Can you do nothing to soothe these poor creatures? It is
awful to see them.'
'The soldiers will be here directly, and that will bring them to
'To reason!' said Margaret, quickly. 'What kind of reason?'
'The only reason that does with men that make themselves into
wild beasts. By heaven! they've turned to the mill-door!'
'Mr. Thornton,' said Margaret, shaking all over with her passion,
'go down this instant, if you are not a coward. Go down and face
them like a man. Save these poor strangers, whom you have decoyed
here. Speak to your workmen as if they were human beings. Speak
to them kindly. Don't let the soldiers come in and cut down
poor-creatures who are driven mad. I see one there who is. If you
have any courage or noble quality in you, go out and speak to
them, man to man.'
He turned and looked at her while she spoke. A dark cloud came
over his face while he listened. He set his teeth as he heard her
'I will go. Perhaps I may ask you to accompany me downstairs, and
bar the door behind me; my mother and sister will need that
'Oh! Mr. Thornton! I do not know--I may be wrong--only--'
But he was gone; he was downstairs in the hall; he had unbarred
the front door; all she could do, was to follow him quickly, and
fasten it behind him, and clamber up the stairs again with a sick
heart and a dizzy head. Again she took her place by the farthest
window. He was on the steps below; she saw that by the direction
of a thousand angry eyes; but she could neither see nor hear
any-thing save the savage satisfaction of the rolling angry
murmur. She threw the window wide open. Many in the crowd were
mere boys; cruel and thoughtless,--cruel because they were
thoughtless; some were men, gaunt as wolves, and mad for prey.
She knew how it was; they were like Boucher, with starving
children at home--relying on ultimate success in their efforts to
get higher wages, and enraged beyond measure at discovering that
Irishmen were to be brought in to rob their little ones of bread.
Margaret knew it all; she read it in Boucher's face, forlornly
desperate and livid with rage. If Mr. Thornton would but say
something to them--let them hear his voice only--it seemed as if
it would be better than this wild beating and raging against the
stony silence that vouchsafed them. no word, even of anger or
reproach. But perhaps he was speaking now; there was a momentary
hush of their noise, inarticulate as that of a troop of animals.
She tore her bonnet off; and bent forwards to hear. She could
only see; for if Mr. Thornton had indeed made the attempt to
speak, the momentary instinct to listen to him was past and gone,
and the people were raging worse than ever. He stood with his
arms folded; still as a statue; his face pale with repressed
excitement. They were trying to intimidate him--to make him
flinch; each was urging the other on to some immediate act of
personal violence. Margaret felt intuitively, that in an instant
all would be uproar; the first touch would cause an explosion, in
which, among such hundreds of infuriated men and reckless boys,
even Mr. Thornton's life would be unsafe,--that in another
instant the stormy passions would have passed their bounds, and
swept away all barriers of reason, or apprehension of
consequence. Even while she looked, she saw lads in the
back-ground stooping to take off their heavy wooden clogs--the
readiest missile they could find; she saw it was the spark to the
gunpowder, and, with a cry, which no one heard, she rushed out of
the room, down stairs,--she had lifted the great iron bar of the
door with an imperious force--had thrown the door open wide--and
was there, in face of that angry sea of men, her eyes smiting
them with flaming arrows of reproach. The clogs were arrested in
the hands that held them--the countenances, so fell not a moment
before, now looked irresolute, and as if asking what this meant.
For she stood between them and their enemy. She could not speak,
but held out her arms towards them till she could recover breath.
'Oh, do not use violence! He is one man, and you are many; but
her words died away, for there was no tone in her voice; it was
but a hoarse whisper. Mr. Thornton stood a little on one side; he
had moved away from behind her, as if jealous of anything that
should come between him and danger.
'Go!' said she, once more (and now her voice was like a cry).
'The soldiers are sent for--are coming. Go peaceably. Go away.
You shall have relief from your complaints, whatever they are.'
'Shall them Irish blackguards be packed back again?' asked one
from out the crowd, with fierce threatening in his voice.
'Never, for your bidding!' exclaimed Mr. Thornton. And instantly
the storm broke. The hootings rose and filled the air,--but
Margaret did not hear them. Her eye was on the group of lads who
had armed themselves with their clogs some time before. She saw
their gesture--she knew its meaning,--she read their aim. Another
moment, and Mr. Thornton might be smitten down,--he whom she had
urged and goaded to come to this perilous place. She only thought
how she could save him. She threw her arms around him; she made
her body into a shield from the fierce people beyond. Still, with
his arms folded, he shook her off.
'Go away,' said he, in his deep voice. 'This is no place for
'It is!' said she. 'You did not see what I saw.' If she thought
her sex would be a protection,--if, with shrinking eyes she had
turned away from the terrible anger of these men, in any hope
that ere she looked again they would have paused and reflected,
and slunk away, and vanished,--she was wrong. Their reckless
passion had carried them too far to stop--at least had carried
some of them too far; for it is always the savage lads, with
their love of cruel excitement, who head the riot--reckless to
what bloodshed it may lead. A clog whizzed through the air.
Margaret's fascinated eyes watched its progress; it missed its
aim, and she turned sick with affright, but changed not her
position, only hid her face on Mr. Thornton s arm. Then she
turned and spoke again:'
'For God's sake! do not damage your cause by this violence. You
do not know what you are doing.' She strove to make her words
A sharp pebble flew by her, grazing forehead and cheek, and
drawing a blinding sheet of light before her eyes. She lay like
one dead on Mr. Thornton's shoulder. Then he unfolded his arms,
and held her encircled in one for an instant:
'You do well!' said he. 'You come to oust the innocent stranger
You fall--you hundreds--on one man; and when a woman comes before
you, to ask you for your own sakes to be reasonable creatures,
your cowardly wrath falls upon her! You do well!' They were
silent while he spoke. They were watching, open-eyed and
open-mouthed, the thread of dark-red blood which wakened them up
from their trance of passion. Those nearest the gate stole out
ashamed; there was a movement through all the crowd--a retreating
movement. Only one voice cried out:
'Th' stone were meant for thee; but thou wert sheltered behind a
Mr. Thornton quivered with rage. The blood-flowing had made
Margaret conscious--dimly, vaguely conscious. He placed her
gently on the door-step, her head leaning against the frame.
'Can you rest there?' he asked. But without waiting for her
answer, he went slowly down the steps right into the middle of
the crowd. 'Now kill me, if it is your brutal will. There is no
woman to shield me here. You may beat me to death--you will never
move me from what I have determined upon--not you!' He stood
amongst them, with his arms folded, in precisely the same
attitude as he had been in on the steps.
But the retrograde movement towards the gate had begun--as
unreasoningly, perhaps as blindly, as the simultaneous anger. Or,
perhaps, the idea of the approach of the soldiers, and the sight
of that pale, upturned face, with closed eyes, still and sad as
marble, though the tears welled out of the long entanglement of
eyelashes and dropped down; and, heavier, slower plash than even
tears, came the drip of blood from her wound. Even the most
desperate--Boucher himself--drew back, faltered away, scowled,
and finally went off, muttering curses on the master, who stood
in his unchanging attitude, looking after their retreat with
defiant eyes. The moment that retreat had changed into a flight
(as it was sure from its very character to do), he darted up the
steps to Margaret. She tried to rise without his help.
'It is nothing,' she said, with a sickly smile. 'The skin is
grazed, and I was stunned at the moment. Oh, I am so thankful
they are gone!' And she cried without restraint.
He could not sympathise with her. His anger had not abated; it
was rather rising the more as his sense of immediate danger was
passing away. The distant clank of the soldiers was heard just
five minutes too late to make this vanished mob feel the power of
authority and order. He hoped they would see the troops, and be
quelled by the thought of their narrow escape. While these
thoughts crossed his mind, Margaret clung to the doorpost to
steady herself: but a film came over her eyes--he was only just
in time to catch her. 'Mother--mother!' cried he; 'Come
down--they are gone, and Miss Hale is hurt!' He bore her into the
dining-room, and laid her on the sofa there; laid her down
softly, and looking on her pure white face, the sense of what she
was to him came upon him so keenly that he spoke it out in his
'Oh, my Margaret--my Margaret! no one can tell what you are to
me! Dead--cold as you lie there, you are the only woman I ever
loved! Oh, Margaret--Margaret!' Inarticulately as he spoke,
kneeling by her, and rather moaning than saying the words, he
started up, ashamed of himself, as his mother came in. She saw
nothing, but her son a little paler, a little sterner than usual.
'Miss Hale is hurt, mother. A stone has grazed her temple. She
has lost a good deal of blood, I'm afraid.'
'She looks very seriously hurt,--I could almost fancy her dead,'
said Mrs. Thornton, a good deal alarmed.
'It is only a fainting-fit. She has spoken to me since.' But all
the blood in his body seemed to rush inwards to his heart as he
spoke, and he absolutely trembled.
'Go and call Jane,--she can find me the things I want; and do you
go to your Irish people, who are crying and shouting as if they
were mad with fright.' He went. He went away as if weights were
tied to every limb that bore him from her. He called Jane; he
called his sister. She should have all womanly care, all gentle
tendance. But every pulse beat in him as he remembered how she
had come down and placed herself in foremost danger,--could it be
to save him? At the time, he had pushed her aside, and spoken
gruffly; he had seen nothing but the unnecessary danger she had
placed herself in. He went to his Irish people, with every nerve
in his body thrilling at the thought of her, and found it
difficult to understand enough of what they were saying to soothe
and comfort away their fears. There, they declared, they would
not stop; they claimed to be sent back. And so he had to think,
and talk, and reason.
Mrs. Thornton bathed Margaret's temples with eau de Cologne. As
the spirit touched the wound, which till then neither Mrs.
Thornton nor Jane had perceived, Margaret opened her eyes; but it
was evident she did not know where she was, nor who they were.
The dark circles deepened, the lips quivered and contracted, and
she became insensible once more.
'She has had a terrible blow,' said Mrs. Thornton. 'Is there any
one who will go for a doctor?'
'Not me, ma'am, if you please,' said Jane, shrinking back. 'Them
rabble may be all about; I don't think the cut is so deep, ma'am,
as it looks.'
'I will not run the chance. She was hurt in our house. If you are
a coward, Jane, I am not. I will go.'
'Pray, ma'am, let me send one of the police. There's ever so many
come up, and soldiers too.'
'And yet you're afraid to go! I will not have their time taken up
with our errands. They'll have enough to do to catch some of the
mob. You will not be afraid to stop in this house,' she asked
contemptuously, 'and go on bathing Miss Hale's forehead, shall
you? I shall not be ten minutes away.'
'Couldn't Hannah go, ma'am?'
'Why Hannah? Why any but you? No, Jane, if you don't go, I do.'
Mrs. Thornton went first to the room in which she had left Fanny
stretched on the bed. She started up as her mother entered.
'Oh, mamma, how you terrified me! I thought you were a man that
had got into the house.'
'Nonsense! The men are all gone away. There are soldiers all
round the place, seeking for their work now it is too late. Miss
Hale is lying on the dining-room sofa badly hurt. I am going for
'Oh! don't, mamma! they'll murder you.' She clung to her mother's
gown. Mrs. Thornton wrenched it away with no gentle hand.
'Find me some one else to go but that girl must not bleed to
'Bleed! oh, how horrid! How has she got hurt?'
'I don't know,--I have no time to ask. Go down to her, Fanny, and
do try to make yourself of use. Jane is with her; and I trust it
looks worse than it is. Jane has refused to leave the house,
cowardly woman! And I won't put myself in the way of any more
refusals from my servants, so I am going myself.'
'Oh, dear, dear!' said Fanny, crying, and preparing to go down
rather than be left alone, with the thought of wounds and
bloodshed in the very house.
'Oh, Jane!' said she, creeping into the dining-room, 'what is the
matter? How white she looks! How did she get hurt? Did they throw
stones into the drawing-room?'
Margaret did indeed look white and wan, although her senses were
beginning to return to her. But the sickly daze of the swoon made
her still miserably faint. She was conscious of movement around
her, and of refreshment from the eau de Cologne, and a craving
for the bathing to go on without intermission; but when they
stopped to talk, she could no more have opened her eyes, or
spoken to ask for more bathing, than the people who lie in
death-like trance can move, or utter sound, to arrest the awful
preparations for their burial, while they are yet fully aware,
not merely of the actions of those around them, but of the idea
that is the motive for such actions.
Jane paused in her bathing, to reply to Miss Thornton's question.
'She'd have been safe enough, miss, if she'd stayed in the
drawing-room, or come up to us; we were in the front garret, and
could see it all, out of harm's way.'
'Where was she, then?' said Fanny, drawing nearer by slow
degrees, as she became accustomed to the sight of Margaret's pale
'Just before the front door--with master!' said Jane,
'With John! with my brother! How did she get there?'
'Nay, miss, that's not for me to say,' answered Jane, with a
slight toss of her head. 'Sarah did'----
'Sarah what?' said Fanny, with impatient curiosity.
Jane resumed her bathing, as if what Sarah did or said was not
exactly the thing she liked to repeat.
'Sarah what?' asked Fanny, sharply. 'Don't speak in these half
sentences, or I can't understand you.'
'Well, miss, since you will have it--Sarah, you see, was in the
best place for seeing, being at the right-hand window; and she
says, and said at the very time too, that she saw Miss Hale with
her arms about master's neck, hugging him before all the people.'
'I don't believe it,' said Fanny. 'I know she cares for my
brother; any one can see that; and I dare say, she'd give her
eyes if he'd marry her,--which he never will, I can tell her. But
I don't believe she'd be so bold and forward as to put her arms
round his neck.'
'Poor young lady! she's paid for it dearly if she did. It's my
belief, that the blow has given her such an ascendency of blood
to the head as she'll never get the better from. She looks like a
'Oh, I wish mamma would come!' said Fanny, wringing her hands. 'I
never was in the room with a dead person before.'
'Stay, miss! She's not dead: her eye-lids are quivering, and
here's wet tears a-coming down her cheeks. Speak to her, Miss
'Are you better now?' asked Fanny, in a quavering voice.
No answer; no sign of recognition; but a faint pink colour
returned to her lips, although the rest of her face was ashen
Mrs. Thornton came hurriedly in, with the nearest surgeon she
could find. 'How is she? Are you better, my dear?' as Margaret
opened her filmy eyes, and gazed dreamily at her. 'Here is Mr.
Lowe come to see you.'
Mrs. Thornton spoke loudly and distinctly, as to a deaf person.
Margaret tried to rise, and drew her ruffled, luxuriant hair
instinctly over the cut. 'I am better now,' said she, in a very
low, faint voice. I was a little sick.' She let him take her hand
and feel her pulse. The bright colour came for a moment into her
face, when he asked to examine the wound in her forehead; and she
glanced up at Jane, as if shrinking from her inspection more than
from the doctor's.
'It is not much, I think. I am better now. I must go home.'
'Not until I have applied some strips of plaster; and you have
rested a little.'
She sat down hastily, without another word, and allowed it to be
'Now, if you please,' said she, 'I must go. Mamma will not see
it, I think. It is under the hair, is it not?'
'Quite; no one could tell.'
'But you must not go,' said Mrs. Thornton, impatiently. 'You are
not fit to go.
'I must,' said Margaret, decidedly. 'Think of mamma. If they
should hear----Besides, I must go,' said she, vehemently. 'I
cannot stay here. May I ask for a cab?'
'You are quite flushed and feverish,' observed Mr. Lowe.
'It is only with being here, when I do so want to go. The
air--getting away, would do me more good than anything,' pleaded
'I really believe it is as she says,' Mr. Lowe replied. 'If her
mother is so ill as you told me on the way here, it may be very
serious if she hears of this riot, and does not see her daughter
back at the time she expects. The injury is not deep. I will
fetch a cab, if your servants are still afraid to go out.'
'Oh, thank you!' said Margaret. 'It will do me more good than
anything. It is the air of this room that makes me feel so
She leant back on the sofa, and closed her eyes. Fanny beckoned
her mother out of the room, and told her something that made her
equally anxious with Margaret for the departure of the latter.
Not that she fully believed Fanny's statement; but she credited
enough to make her manner to Margaret appear very much
constrained, at wishing her good-bye.
Mr. Lowe returned in the cab.
'If you will allow me, I will see you home, Miss Hale. The
streets are not very quiet yet.'
Margaret's thoughts were quite alive enough to the present to
make her desirous of getting rid of both Mr. Lowe and the cab
before she reached Crampton Crescent, for fear of alarming her
father and mother. Beyond that one aim she would not look. That
ugly dream of insolent words spoken about herself, could never be
forgotten--but could be put aside till she was stronger--for, oh!
she was very weak; and her mind sought for some present fact to
steady itself upon, and keep it from utterly losing consciousness
in another hideous, sickly swoon.
'Which when his mother saw, she in her mind
Was troubled sore, ne wist well what to ween.'
Margaret had not been gone five minutes when Mr. Thornton came
in, his face all a-glow.
'I could not come sooner: the superintendent would----Where is
she?' He looked round the dining-room, and then almost fiercely
at his mother, who was quietly re-arranging the disturbed
furniture, and did not instantly reply. 'Where is Miss Hale?'
asked he again.
'Gone home,' said she, rather shortly.
'Yes. She was a great deal better. Indeed, I don't believe it was
so very much of a hurt; only some people faint at the least
'I am sorry she is gone home,' said he, walking uneasily about.
'She could not have been fit for it.'
'She said she was; and Mr. Lowe said she was. I went for him
'Thank you, mother.' He stopped, and partly held out his hand to
give her a grateful shake. But she did not notice the movement.
'What have you done with your Irish people?'
'Sent to the Dragon for a good meal for them, poor wretches. And
then, luckily, I caught Father Grady, and I've asked him in to
speak to them, and dissuade them from going off in a body. How
did Miss Hale go home? I'm sure she could not walk.'
'She had a cab. Everything was done properly, even to the paying.
Let us talk of something else. She has caused disturbance
'I don't know where I should have been but for her.'
'Are you become so helpless as to have to be defended by a girl?'
asked Mrs. Thornton, scornfully.
He reddened. 'Not many girls would have taken the blows on
herself which were meant for me;--meant with right down
'A girl in love will do a good deal,' replied Mrs. Thornton,
'Mother!' He made a step forwards; stood still; heaved with
She was a little startled at the evident force he used to keep
himself calm. She was not sure of the nature of the emotions she
had provoked. It was only their violence that was clear. Was it
anger? His eyes glowed, his figure was dilated, his breath came
thick and fast. It was a mixture of joy, of anger, of pride, of
glad surprise, of panting doubt; but she could not read it. Still
it made her uneasy,--as the presence of all strong feeling, of
which the cause is not fully understood or sympathised in, always
has this effect. She went to the side-board, opened a drawer, and
took out a duster, which she kept there for any occasional
purpose. She had seen a drop of eau de Cologne on the polished
arm of the sofa, and instinctively sought to wipe it off. But she
kept her back turned to her son much longer than was necessary;
and when she spoke, her voice seemed unusual and constrained.
'You have taken some steps about the rioters, I suppose? You
don't apprehend any more violence, do you? Where were the police?
Never at hand when they're wanted!'
'On the contrary, I saw three or four of them, when the gates
gave way, struggling and beating about in fine fashion; and more
came running up just when the yard was clearing. I might have
given some of the fellows in charge then, if I had had my wits
about me. But there will be no difficulty, plenty of people can
'But won't they come back to-night?'
'I'm going to see about a sufficient guard for the premises. I
have appointed to meet Captain Hanbury in half an hour at the
'You must have some tea first.'
'Tea! Yes, I suppose I must. It's half-past six, and I may be out
for some time. Don't sit up for me, mother.'
'You expect me to go to bed before I have seen you safe, do you?'
'Well, perhaps not.' He hesitated for a moment. 'But if I've
time, I shall go round by Crampton, after I've arranged with the
police and seen Hamper and Clarkson.' Their eyes met; they looked
at each other intently for a minute. Then she asked:
'Why are you going round by Crampton?'
'To ask after Miss Hale.'
'I will send. Williams must take the water-bed she came to ask
for. He shall inquire how she is.'
'I must go myself.'
'Not merely to ask how Miss Hale is?'
'No, not merely for that. I want to thank her for the way in
which she stood between me and the mob.'
'What made you go down at all? It was putting your head into the
lion's mouth!' He glanced sharply at her; saw that she did not
know what had passed between him and Margaret in the
drawing-room; and replied by another question:
'Shall you be afraid to be left without me, until I can get some
of the police; or had we better send Williams for them now, and
they could be here by the time we have done tea? There's no time
to be lost. I must be off in a quarter of an hour.'
Mrs. Thornton left the room. Her servants wondered at her
directions, usually so sharply-cut and decided, now confused and
uncertain. Mr. Thornton remained in the dining-room, trying to
think of the business he had to do at the police-office, and in
reality thinking of Margaret. Everything seemed dim and vague
beyond--behind--besides the touch of her arms round his neck--the
soft clinging which made the dark colour come and go in his cheek
as he thought of it.
The tea would have been very silent, but for Fanny's perpetual
description of her own feelings; how she had been alarmed--and
then thought they were gone--and then felt sick and faint and
trembling in every limb.
'There, that's enough,' said her brother, rising from the table.
'The reality was enough for me.' He was going to leave the room,
when his mother stopped him with her hand upon his arm.
'You will come back here before you go to the Hales', said she,
in a low, anxious voice.
'I know what I know,' said Fanny to herself.
'Why? Will it be too late to disturb them?'
'John, come back to me for this one evening. It will be late for
Mrs. Hale. But that is not it. To-morrow, you will----Come back
to-night, John!' She had seldom pleaded with her son at all--she
was too proud for that: but she had never pleaded in vain.
'I will return straight here after I have done my business You
will be sure to inquire after them?--after her?'
Mrs. Thornton was by no means a talkative companion to Fanny, nor
yet a good listener while her son was absent. But on his return,
her eyes and ears were keen to see and to listen to all the
details which he could give, as to the steps he had taken to
secure himself, and those whom he chose to employ, from any
repetition of the day's outrages. He clearly saw his object.
Punishment and suffering, were the natural consequences to those
who had taken part in the riot. All that was necessary, in order
that property should be protected, and that the will of the
proprietor might cut to his end, clean and sharp as a sword.
'Mother! You know what I have got to say to Miss Hale,
to-morrow?' The question came upon her suddenly, during a pause
in which she, at least, had forgotten Margaret.
She looked up at him.
'Yes! I do. You can hardly do otherwise.'
'Do otherwise! I don't understand you.'
'I mean that, after allowing her feelings so to overcome her, I
consider you bound in honour--'
'Bound in honour,' said he, scornfully. 'I'm afraid honour has
nothing to do with it. "Her feelings overcome her!" What feelings
do you mean?'
'Nay, John, there is no need to be angry. Did she not rush down,
and cling to you to save you from danger?'
'She did!' said he. 'But, mother,' continued he, stopping short
in his walk right in front of her, 'I dare not hope. I never was
fainthearted before; but I cannot believe such a creature cares
'Don't be foolish, John. Such a creature! Why, she might be a
duke's daughter, to hear you speak. And what proof more would you
have, I wonder, of her caring for you? I can believe she has had
a struggle with her aristocratic way of viewing things; but I
like her the better for seeing clearly at last. It is a good deal
for me to say,' said Mrs. Thornton, smiling slowly, while the
tears stood in her eyes; 'for after to-night, I stand second. It
was to have you to myself, all to myself, a few hours longer,
that I begged you not to go till to-morrow!'
'Dearest mother!' (Still love is selfish, and in an instant he
reverted to his own hopes and fears in a way that drew the cold
creeping shadow over Mrs. Thornton's heart.) 'But I know she does
not care for me. I shall put myself at her feet--I must. If it
were but one chance in a thousand--or a million--I should do it.'
'Don't fear!' said his mother, crushing down her own personal
mortification at the little notice he had taken of the rare
ebullition of her maternal feelings--of the pang of jealousy that
betrayed the intensity of her disregarded love. 'Don't be
afraid,' she said, coldly. 'As far as love may go she may be
worthy of you. It must have taken a good deal to overcome her
pride. Don't be afraid, John,' said she, kissing him, as she
wished him good-night. And she went slowly and majestically out
of the room. But when she got into her own, she locked the door,
and sate down to cry unwonted tears.
Margaret entered the room (where her father and mother still sat,
holding low conversation together), looking very pale and white.
She came close up to them before she could trust herself to
'Mrs. Thornton will send the water-bed, mamma.'
'Dear, how tired you look! Is it very hot, Margaret?'
'Very hot, and the streets are rather rough with the strike.'
Margaret's colour came back vivid and bright as ever; but it
faded away instantly.
'Here has been a message from Bessy Higgins, asking you to go to
her,' said Mrs. Hale. 'But I'm sure you look too tired.'
'Yes!' said Margaret. 'I am tired, I cannot go.'
She was very silent and trembling while she made tea. She was
thankful to see her father so much occupied with her mother as
not to notice her looks. Even after her mother went to bed, he
was not content to be absent from her, but undertook to read her
to sleep. Margaret was alone.
'Now I will think of it--now I will remember it all. I could not
before--I dared not.' She sat still in her chair, her hands
clasped on her knees, her lips compressed, her eyes fixed as one
who sees a vision. She drew a deep breath.
'I, who hate scenes--I, who have despised people for showing
emotion--who have thought them wanting in self-control--I went
down and must needs throw myself into the melee, like a romantic
fool! Did I do any good? They would have gone away without me I
dare say.' But this was over-leaping the rational conclusion,--as
in an instant her well-poised judgment felt. 'No, perhaps they
would not. I did some good. But what possessed me to defend that
man as if he were a helpless child! Ah!' said she, clenching her
hands together, 'it is no wonder those people thought I was in
love with him, after disgracing myself in that way. I in
love--and with him too!' Her pale cheeks suddenly became one
flame of fire; and she covered her face with her hands. When she
took them away, her palms were wet with scalding tears.
'Oh how low I am fallen that they should say that of me! I could
not have been so brave for any one else, just because he was so
utterly indifferent to me--if, indeed, I do not positively
dislike him. It made me the more anxious that there should be
fair play on each side; and I could see what fair play was. It
was not fair, said she, vehemently, 'that he should stand
there--sheltered, awaiting the soldiers, who might catch those
poor maddened creatures as in a trap--without an effort on his
part, to bring them to reason. And it was worse than unfair for
them to set on him as they threatened. I would do it again, let
who will say what they like of me. If I saved one blow, one
cruel, angry action that might otherwise have been committed, I
did a woman's work. Let them insult my maiden pride as they
will--I walk pure before God!'
She looked up, and a noble peace seemed to descend and calm her
face, till it was 'stiller than chiselled marble.'
Dixon came in:
'If you please, Miss Margaret, here's the water-bed from Mrs.
Thornton's. It's too late for to-night, I'm afraid, for missus is
nearly asleep: but it will do nicely for to-morrow.'
'Very,' said Margaret. 'You must send our best thanks.'
Dixon left the room for a moment.
'If you please, Miss Margaret, he says he's to ask particular how
you are. I think he must mean missus; but he says his last words
were, to ask how Miss Hale was.'
'Me!' said Margaret, drawing herself up. 'I am quite well. Tell
him I am perfectly well.' But her complexion was as deadly white
as her handkerchief; and her head ached intensely.
Mr. Hale now came in. He had left his sleeping wife; and wanted,
as Margaret saw, to be amused and interested by something that
she was to tell him. With sweet patience did she bear her pain,
without a word of complaint; and rummaged up numberless small
subjects for conversation--all except the riot, and that she
never named once. It turned her sick to think of it.
'Good-night, Margaret. I have every chance of a good night
myself, and you are looking very pale with your watching. I shall
call Dixon if your mother needs anything. Do you go to bed and
sleep like a top; for I'm sure you need it, poor child!'
She let her colour go--the forced smile fade away--the eyes grow
dull with heavy pain. She released her strong will from its
laborious task. Till morning she might feel ill and weary.
She lay down and never stirred. To move hand or foot, or even so
much as one finger, would have been an exertion beyond the powers
of either volition or motion. She was so tired, so stunned, that
she thought she never slept at all; her feverish thoughts passed
and repassed the boundary between sleeping and waking, and kept
their own miserable identity. She could not be alone, prostrate,
powerless as she was,--a cloud of faces looked up at her, giving
her no idea of fierce vivid anger, or of personal danger, but a
deep sense of shame that she should thus be the object of
universal regard--a sense of shame so acute that it seemed as if
she would fain have burrowed into the earth to hide herself, and
yet she could not escape out of that unwinking glare of many
MISTAKES CLEARED UP
'Your beauty was the first that won the place,
And scal'd the walls of my undaunted heart,
Which, captive now, pines in a caitive case,
Unkindly met with rigour for desert;--
Yet not the less your servant shall abide,
In spite of rude repulse or silent pride.'
The next morning, Margaret dragged herself up, thankful that the
night was over,--unrefreshed, yet rested. All had gone well
through the house; her mother had only wakened once. A little
breeze was stirring in the hot air, and though there were no
trees to show the playful tossing movement caused by the wind
among the leaves, Margaret knew how, somewhere or another, by
way-side, in copses, or in thick green woods, there was a
pleasant, murmuring, dancing sound,--a rushing and falling noise,
the very thought of which was an echo of distant gladness in her
She sat at her work in Mrs. Hale's room. As soon as that forenoon
slumber was over, she would help her mother to dress after.
dinner, she would go and see Bessy Higgins. She would banish all
recollection of the Thornton family,--no need to think of them
till they absolutely stood before her in flesh and blood. But, of
course, the effort not to think of them brought them only the
more strongly before her; and from time to time, the hot flush
came over her pale face sweeping it into colour, as a sunbeam
from between watery clouds comes swiftly moving over the sea.
Dixon opened the door very softly, and stole on tiptoe up to
Margaret, sitting by the shaded window.
'Mr. Thornton, Miss Margaret. He is in the drawing-room.'
Margaret dropped her sewing.
'Did he ask for me? Isn't papa come in?'
'He asked for you, miss; and master is out.'
'Very well, I will come,' said Margaret, quietly. But she
lingered strangely. Mr. Thornton stood by one of the windows,
with his back to the door, apparently absorbed in watching
something in the street. But, in truth, he was afraid of himself.
His heart beat thick at the thought of her coming. He could not
forget the touch of her arms around his neck, impatiently felt as
it had been at the time; but now the recollection of her clinging
defence of him, seemed to thrill him through and through,--to
melt away every resolution, all power of self-control, as if it
were wax before a fire. He dreaded lest he should go forwards to
meet her, with his arms held out in mute entreaty that she would
come and nestle there, as she had done, all unheeded, the day
before, but never unheeded again. His heart throbbed loud and
quick Strong man as he was, he trembled at the anticipation of
what he had to say, and how it might be received. She might
droop, and flush, and flutter to his arms, as to her natural home
and resting-place. One moment, he glowed with impatience at the
thought that she might do this, the next, he feared a passionate
rejection, the very idea of which withered up his future with so
deadly a blight that he refused to think of it. He was startled
by the sense of the presence of some one else in the room. He
turned round. She had come in so gently, that he had never heard
her; the street noises had been more distinct to his inattentive
ear than her slow movements, in her soft muslin gown.
She stood by the table, not offering to sit down. Her eyelids
were dropped half over her eyes; her teeth were shut, not
compressed; her lips were just parted over them, allowing the
white line to be seen between their curve. Her slow deep
breathings dilated her thin and beautiful nostrils; it was the
only motion visible on her countenance. The fine-grained skin,
the oval cheek, the rich outline of her mouth, its corners deep
set in dimples,--were all wan and pale to-day; the loss of their
usual natural healthy colour being made more evident by the heavy
shadow of the dark hair, brought down upon the temples, to hide
all sign of the blow she had received. Her head, for all its
drooping eyes, was thrown a little back, in the old proud
attitude. Her long arms hung motion-less by her sides. Altogether
she looked like some prisoner, falsely accused of a crime that
she loathed and despised, and from which she was too indignant to
Mr. Thornton made a hasty step or two forwards; recovered
himself, and went with quiet firmness to the door (which she had
left open), and shut it. Then he came back, and stood opposite to
her for a moment, receiving the general impression of her
beautiful presence, before he dared to disturb it, perhaps to
repel it, by what he had to say.
'Miss Hale, I was very ungrateful yesterday--'
'You had nothing to be grateful for,' said she, raising her eyes,
and looking full and straight at him. 'You mean, I suppose, that
you believe you ought to thank me for what I did.' In spite of
herself--in defiance of her anger--the thick blushes came all
over her face, and burnt into her very eyes; which fell not
nevertheless from their grave and steady look. 'It was only a
natural instinct; any woman would have done just the same. We all
feel the sanctity of our sex as a high privilege when we see
danger. I ought rather,' said she, hastily, 'to apologise to you,
for having said thoughtless words which sent you down into the
'It was not your words; it was the truth they conveyed,
pun-gently as it was expressed. But you shall not drive me off
upon that, and so escape the expression of my deep gratitude,
my--' he was on the verge now; he would not speak in the haste of
his hot passion; he would weigh each word. He would; and his will
was triumphant. He stopped in mid career.
'I do not try to escape from anything,' said she. 'I simply say,
that you owe me no gratitude; and I may add, that any expression
of it will be painful to me, because I do not feel that I deserve
it. Still, if it will relieve you from even a fancied obligation,
'I do not want to be relieved from any obligation,' said he,
goaded by her calm manner. Fancied, or not fancied--I question
not myself to know which--I choose to believe that I owe my very
life to you--ay--smile, and think it an exaggeration if you will.
I believe it, because it adds a value to that life to think--oh,
Miss Hale!' continued he, lowering his voice to such a tender
intensity of passion that she shivered and trembled before him,
'to think circumstance so wrought, that whenever I exult in
existence henceforward, I may say to myself, "All this gladness
in life, all honest pride in doing my work in the world, all this
keen sense of being, I owe to her!" And it doubles the gladness,
it makes the pride glow, it sharpens the sense of existence till
I hardly know if it is pain or pleasure, to think that I owe it
to one--nay, you must, you shall hear'--said he, stepping
forwards with stern determination--'to one whom I love, as I do
not believe man ever loved woman before.' He held her hand tight
in his. He panted as he listened for what should come. He threw
the hand away with indignation, as he heard her icy tone; for icy
it was, though the words came faltering out, as if she knew not
where to find them.
'Your way of speaking shocks me. It is blasphemous. I cannot help
it, if that is my first feeling. It might not be so, I dare say,
if I understood the kind of feeling you describe. I do not want
to vex you; and besides, we must speak gently, for mamma is
asleep; but your whole manner offends me--'
'How!' exclaimed he. 'Offends you! I am indeed most unfortunate.'
'Yes!' said she, with recovered dignity. 'I do feel offended;
and, I think, justly. You seem to fancy that my conduct of
yesterday'--again the deep carnation blush, but this time with
eyes kindling with indignation rather than shame--'was a personal
act between you and me; and that you may come and thank me for
it, instead of perceiving, as a gentleman would--yes! a
gentleman,' she repeated, in allusion to their former
conversation about that word, 'that any woman, worthy of the name
of woman, would come forward to shield, with her reverenced
helplessness, a man in danger from the violence of numbers.'
'And the gentleman thus rescued is forbidden the relief of
thanks!' he broke in contemptuously. 'I am a man. I claim the
right of expressing my feelings.'
'And I yielded to the right; simply saying that you gave me pain
by insisting upon it,' she replied, proudly. 'But you seem to
have imagined, that I was not merely guided by womanly instinct,
but'--and here the passionate tears (kept down for
long--struggled with vehemently) came up into her eyes, and
choked her voice--'but that I was prompted by some particular
feeling for you--you! Why, there was not a man--not a poor
desperate man in all that crowd--for whom I had not more
sympathy--for whom I should not have done what little I could
'You may speak on, Miss Hale. I am aware of all these misplaced
sympathies of yours. I now believe that it was only your innate
sense of oppression--(yes; I, though a master, may be
oppressed)--that made you act so nobly as you did. I know you
despise me; allow me to say, it is because you do not understand
'I do not care to understand,' she replied, taking hold of the
table to steady herself; for she thought him cruel--as, indeed,
he was--and she was weak with her indignation.
'No, I see you do not. You are unfair and unjust.'
Margaret compressed her lips. She would not speak in answer to
such accusations. But, for all that--for all his savage words, he
could have thrown himself at her feet, and kissed the hem of her
wounded pride fell hot and fast. He waited awhile, longing for
garment. She did not speak; she did not move. The tears of her to
say something, even a taunt, to which he might reply. But she was
silent. He took up his hat.
'One word more. You look as if you thought it tainted you to be
loved by me. You cannot avoid it. Nay, I, if I would, cannot
cleanse you from it. But I would not, if I could. I have never
loved any woman before: my life has been too busy, my thoughts
too much absorbed with other things. Now I love, and will love.
But do not be afraid of too much expression on my part.'
'I am not afraid,' she replied, lifting herself straight up. 'No
one yet has ever dared to be impertinent to me, and no one ever
shall. But, Mr. Thornton, you have been very kind to my father,'
said she, changing her whole tone and bearing to a most womanly
softness. 'Don't let us go on making each other angry. Pray
don't!' He took no notice of her words: he occupied himself in
smoothing the nap of his hat with his coat-sleeve, for half a
minute or so; and then, rejecting her offered hand, and making as
if he did not see her grave look of regret, he turned abruptly
away, and left the room. Margaret caught one glance at his face
before he went.
When he was gone, she thought she had seen the gleam of washed
tears in his eyes; and that turned her proud dislike into
something different and kinder, if nearly as
painful--self-reproach for having caused such mortification to
'But how could I help it?' asked she of herself. 'I never liked
him. I was civil; but I took no trouble to conceal my
indifference. Indeed, I never thought about myself or him, so my
manners must have shown the truth. All that yesterday, he might
mistake. But that is his fault, not mine. I would do it again, if
need were, though it does lead me into all this shame and
'Revenge may have her own;
Roused discipline aloud proclaims their cause,
And injured navies urge their broken laws.'
Margaret began to wonder whether all offers were as unexpected
beforehand,--as distressing at the time of their occurrence, as
the two she had had. An involuntary comparison between Mr. Lennox
and Mr. Thornton arose in her mind. She had been sorry, that an
expression of any other feeling than friendship had been lured
out by circumstances from Henry Lennox. That regret was the
predominant feeling, on the first occasion of her receiving a
proposal. She had not felt so stunned--so impressed as she did
now, when echoes of Mr. Thornton's voice yet lingered about the
room. In Lennox's case, he seemed for a moment to have slid over
the boundary between friendship and love; and the instant
afterwards, to regret it nearly as much as she did, although for
different reasons. In Mr. Thornton's case, as far as Margaret
knew, there was no intervening stage of friendship. Their
intercourse had been one continued series of opposition. Their
opinions clashed; and indeed, she had never perceived that he had
cared for her opinions, as belonging to her, the individual. As
far as they defied his rock-like power of character, his
passion-strength, he seemed to throw them off from him with
contempt, until she felt the weariness of the exertion of making
useless protests; and now, he had come, in this strange wild
passionate way, to make known his love For, although at first it
had struck her, that his offer was forced and goaded out of him
by sharp compassion for the exposure she had made of
herself,--which he, like others, might misunderstand--yet, even
before he left the room,--and certainly, not five minutes after,
the clear conviction dawned upon her, shined bright upon her,
that he did love her; that he had loved her; that he would love
her. And she shrank and shuddered as under the fascination of
some great power, repugnant to her whole previous life. She crept
away, and hid from his idea. But it was of no use. To parody a
line oat of Fairfax's Tasso--
'His strong idea wandered through her thought.'
She disliked him the more for having mastered her inner will. How
dared he say that he would love her still, even though she shook
him off with contempt? She wished she had spoken more--stronger.
Sharp, decisive speeches came thronging into her mind, now that
it was too late to utter them. The deep impression made by the
interview, was like that of a horror in a dream; that will not
leave the room although we waken up, and rub our eyes, and force
a stiff rigid smile upon our lips. It is there--there, cowering
and gibbering, with fixed ghastly eyes, in some corner of the
chamber, listening to hear whether we dare to breathe of its
presence to any one. And we dare not; poor cowards that we are!
And so she shuddered away from the threat of his enduring love.
What did he mean? Had she not the power to daunt him? She would
see. It was more daring than became a man to threaten her so. Did
he ground it upon the miserable yesterday? If need were, she
would do the same to-morrow,--by a crippled beggar, willingly and
gladly,--but by him, she would do it, just as bravely, in spite
of his deductions, and the cold slime of women's impertinence.
She did it because it was right, and simple, and true to save
where she could save; even to try to save. 'Fais ce que dois,
advienne que pourra.'
Hitherto she had not stirred from where he had left her; no
outward circumstances had roused her out of the trance of thought
in which she had been plunged by his last words, and by the look
of his deep intent passionate eyes, as their flames had made her
own fall before them. She went to the window, and threw it open,
to dispel the oppression which hung around her. Then she went and
opened the door, with a sort of impetuous wish to shake off the
recollection of the past hour in the company of others, or in
active exertion. But all was profoundly hushed in the noonday
stillness of a house, where an invalid catches the unrefreshing
sleep that is denied to the night-hours. Margaret would not be
alone. What should she do? 'Go and see Bessy Higgins, of course,'
thought she, as the recollection of the message sent the night
before flashed into her mind.
And away she went.
When she got there, she found Bessy lying on the settle, moved
close to the fire, though the day was sultry and oppressive. She
was laid down quite flat, as if resting languidly after some
paroxysm of pain. Margaret felt sure she ought to have the
greater freedom of breathing which a more sitting posture would
procure; and, without a word, she raised her up, and so arranged
the pillows, that Bessy was more at ease, though very languid.
'I thought I should na' ha' seen yo' again,' said she, at last,
looking wistfully in Margaret's face.
'I'm afraid you're much worse. But I could not have come
yesterday, my mother was so ill--for many reasons,' said
'Yo'd m'appen think I went beyond my place in sending Mary for
yo'. But the wranglin' and the loud voices had just torn me to
pieces, and I thought when father left, oh! if I could just hear
her voice, reading me some words o' peace and promise, I could
die away into the silence and rest o' God, lust as a babby is
hushed up to sleep by its mother's lullaby.'
'Shall I read you a chapter, now?'
'Ay, do! M'appen I shan't listen to th' sense, at first; it will
seem far away--but when yo' come to words I like--to th'
comforting texts--it'll seem close in my ear, and going through
me as it were.'
Margaret began. Bessy tossed to and fro. If, by an effort, she
attended for one moment, it seemed as though she were convulsed
into double restlessness the next. At last, she burst out 'Don't
go on reading. It's no use. I'm blaspheming all the time in my
mind, wi' thinking angrily on what canna be helped.--Yo'd hear of
th' riot, m'appen, yesterday at Marlborough Mills? Thornton's
factory, yo' know.'
'Your father was not there, was he?' said Margaret, colouring
'Not he. He'd ha' given his right hand if it had never come to
pass. It's that that's fretting me. He's fairly knocked down in
his mind by it. It's no use telling him, fools will always break
out o bounds. Yo' never saw a man so down-hearted as he is.'
'But why?' asked Margaret. 'I don't understand.'
'Why yo' see, he's a committee-man on this special strike'. Th'
Union appointed him because, though I say it as shouldn't say it,
he's reckoned a deep chap, and true to th' back-bone. And he and
t other committee-men laid their plans. They were to hou'd
together through thick and thin; what the major part thought,
t'others were to think, whether they would or no. And above all
there was to be no going again the law of the land. Folk would go
with them if they saw them striving and starving wi' dumb
patience; but if there was once any noise o' fighting and
struggling--even wi' knobsticks--all was up, as they knew by th'
experience of many, and many a time before. They would try and
get speech o' th' knobsticks, and coax 'em, and reason wi' 'em,
and m'appen warn 'em off; but whatever came, the Committee
charged all members o' th' Union to lie down and die, if need
were, without striking a blow; and then they reckoned they were
sure o' carrying th' public with them. And beside all that,
Committee knew they were right in their demand, and they didn't
want to have right all mixed up wi' wrong, till folk can't
separate it, no more nor I can th' physic-powder from th' jelly
yo' gave me to mix it in; jelly is much the biggest, but powder
tastes it all through. Well, I've told yo' at length about
this'n, but I'm tired out. Yo' just think for yo'rsel, what it
mun be for father to have a' his work undone, and by such a fool
as Boucher, who must needs go right again the orders of
Committee, and ruin th' strike, just as bad as if he meant to be
a Judas. Eh! but father giv'd it him last night! He went so far
as to say, he'd go and tell police where they might find th'
ringleader o' th' riot; he'd give him up to th' mill-owners to do
what they would wi' him. He'd show the world that th' real
leaders o' the strike were not such as Boucher, but steady
thoughtful men; good hands, and good citizens, who were friendly
to law and judgment, and would uphold order; who only wanted
their right wage, and wouldn't work, even though they starved,
till they got 'em; but who would ne'er injure property or life:
For,' dropping her voice, 'they do say, that Boucher threw a
stone at Thornton's sister, that welly killed her.'
'That's not true,' said Margaret. 'It was not Boucher that threw
the stone'--she went first red, then white.
'Yo'd be there then, were yo'?' asked Bessy languidly for indeed,
she had spoken with many pauses, as if speech was unusually
difficult to her.
'Yes. Never mind. Go on. Only it was not Boucher that threw the
stone. But what did he answer to your father?'
'He did na' speak words. He were all in such a tremble wi' spent
passion, I could na' bear to look at him. I heard his breath
coming quick, and at one time I thought he were sobbing. But when
father said he'd give him up to police, he gave a great cry, and
struck father on th' face wi' his closed fist, and he off like
lightning. Father were stunned wi' the blow at first, for all
Boucher were weak wi' passion and wi' clemming. He sat down a
bit, and put his hand afore his eyes; and then made for th' door.
I dunno' where I got strength, but I threw mysel' off th' settle
and clung to him. "Father, father!" said I. "Thou'll never go
peach on that poor clemmed man. I'll never leave go on thee, till
thou sayst thou wunnot." "Dunnot be a fool," says he, "words come
readier than deeds to most men. I never thought o' telling th'
police on him; though by G--, he deserves it, and I should na'
ha' minded if some one else had done the dirty work, and got him
clapped up. But now he has strucken me, I could do it less nor
ever, for it would be getting other men to take up my quarrel.
But if ever he gets well o'er this clemming, and is in good
condition, he and I'll have an up and down fight, purring an' a',
and I'll see what I can do for him." And so father shook me
off,--for indeed, I was low and faint enough, and his face was
all clay white, where it weren't bloody, and turned me sick to
look at. And I know not if I slept or waked, or were in a dead
swoon, till Mary come in; and I telled her to fetch yo' to me.
And now dunnot talk to me, but just read out th' chapter. I'm
easier in my mind for having spit it out; but I want some
thoughts of the world that's far away to take the weary taste of
it out o' my mouth. Read me--not a sermon chapter, but a story
chapter; they've pictures in them, which I see when my eyes are
shut. Read about the New Heavens, and the New Earth; and m'appen
I'll forget this.'
Margaret read in her soft low voice. Though Bessy's eyes were
shut, she was listening for some time, for the moisture of tears
gathered heavy on her eyelashes. At last she slept; with many
starts, and muttered pleadings. Margaret covered her up, and left
her, for she had an uneasy consciousness that she might be wanted
at home, and yet, until now, it seemed cruel to leave the dying
girl. Mrs. Hale was in the drawing-room on her daughter's return.
It was one of her better days, and she was full of praises of the
water-bed. It had been more like the beds at Sir John Beresford's
than anything she had slept on since. She did not know how it
was, but people seemed to have lost the art of making the same
kind of beds as they used to do in her youth. One would think it
was easy enough; there was the same kind of feathers to be had,
and yet somehow, till this last night she did not know when she
had had a good sound resting sleep. Mr. Hale suggested, that
something of the merits of the featherbeds of former days might
be attributed to the activity of youth, which gave a relish to
rest; but this idea was not kindly received by his wife.
'No, indeed, Mr. Hale, it was those beds at Sir John's. Now,
Margaret, you're young enough, and go about in the day; are the
beds comfortable? I appeal to you. Do they give you a feeling of
perfect repose when you lie down upon them; or rather, don't you
toss about, and try in vain to find an easy position, and waken
in the morning as tired as when you went to bed?'
Margaret laughed. 'To tell the truth, mamma, I've never thought
about my bed at all, what kind it is. I'm so sleepy at night,
that if I only lie down anywhere, I nap off directly. So I don't
think I'm a competent witness. But then, you know, I never had
the opportunity of trying Sir John Beresford's beds. I never was
'Were not you? Oh, no! to be sure. It was poor darling Fred I
took with me, I remember. I only went to Oxenham once after I was
married,--to your Aunt Shaw's wedding; and poor little Fred was
the baby then. And I know Dixon did not like changing from lady's
maid to nurse, and I was afraid that if I took her near her old
home, and amongst her own people, she might want to leave me. But
poor baby was taken ill at Oxenham, with his teething; and, what
with my being a great deal with Anna just before her marriage,
and not being very strong myself, Dixon had more of the charge of
him than she ever had before; and it made her so fond of him, and
she was so proud when he would turn away from every one and cling
to her, that I don't believe she ever thought of leaving me
again; though it was very different from what she'd been
accustomed to. Poor Fred! Every body loved him. He was born with
the gift of winning hearts. It makes me think very badly of
Captain Reid when I know that he disliked my own dear boy. I
think it a certain proof he had a bad heart. Ah! Your poor
father, Margaret. He has left the room. He can't bear to hear
Fred spoken of.'
'I love to hear about him, mamma. Tell me all you like; you never
can tell me too much. Tell me what he was like as a baby.'
'Why, Margaret, you must not be hurt, but he was much prettier
than you were. I remember, when I first saw you in Dixon's arms,
I said, "Dear, what an ugly little thing!" And she said, "It's
not every child that's like Master Fred, bless him!" Dear! how
well I remember it. Then I could have had Fred in my arms every
minute of the day, and his cot was close by my bed; and now,
now--Margaret--I don't know where my boy is, and sometimes I
think I shall never see him again.'
Margaret sat down by her mother's sofa on a little stool, and
softly took hold of her hand, caressing it and kissing it, as if
to comfort. Mrs. Hale cried without restraint. At last, she sat
straight, stiff up on the sofa, and turning round to her
daughter, she said with tearful, almost solemn earnestness,
'Margaret, if I can get better,--if God lets me have a chance of
recovery, it must be through seeing my son Frederick once more.
It will waken up all the poor springs of health left in me.
She paused, and seemed to try and gather strength for something
more yet to be said. Her voice was choked as she went on--was
quavering as with the contemplation of some strange, yet
'And, Margaret, if I am to die--if I am one of those appointed to
die before many weeks are over--I must see my child first. I
cannot think how it must be managed; but I charge you, Margaret,
as you yourself hope for comfort in your last illness, bring him
to me that I may bless him. Only for five minutes, Margaret.
There could be no danger in five minutes. Oh, Margaret, let me
see him before I die!'
Margaret did not think of anything that might be utterly
unreasonable in this speech: we do not look for reason or logic
in the passionate entreaties of those who are sick unto death; we
are stung with the recollection of a thousand slighted
opportunities of fulfilling the wishes of those who will soon
pass away from among us: and do they ask us for the future
happiness of our lives, we lay it at their feet, and will it away
from us. But this wish of Mrs. Hale's was so natural, so just, so
right to both parties, that Margaret felt as if, on Frederick's
account as well as on her mother's, she ought to overlook all
intermediate chances of danger, and pledge herself to do
everything in her power for its realisation. The large, pleading,
dilated eyes were fixed upon her wistfully, steady in their gaze,
though the poor white lips quivered like those of a child.
Margaret gently rose up and stood opposite to her frail mother;
so that she might gather the secure fulfilment of her wish from
the calm steadiness of her daughter's face.
'Mamma, I will write to-night, and tell Frederick what you say. I
am as sure that he will come directly to us, as I am sure of my
life. Be easy, mamma, you shall see him as far as anything
earthly can be promised.'
'You will write to-night? Oh, Margaret! the post goes out at
five--you will write by it, won't you? I have so few hours
left--I feel, dear, as if I should not recover, though sometimes
your father over-persuades me into hoping; you will write
directly, won't you? Don't lose a single post; for just by that
very post I may miss him.'
'But, mamma, papa is out.'
'Papa is out! and what then? Do you mean that he would deny me
this last wish, Margaret? Why, I should not be ill--be dying--if
he had not taken me away from Helstone, to this unhealthy, smoky,
'Oh, mamma!' said Margaret.
'Yes; it is so, indeed. He knows it himself; he has said so many
a time. He would do anything for me; you don't mean he would
refuse me this last wish--prayer, if you will. And, indeed,
Margaret, the longing to see Frederick stands between me and God.
I cannot pray till I have this one thing; indeed, I cannot. Don't
lose time, dear, dear Margaret. Write by this very next post.
Then he may be here--here in twenty-two days! For he is sure to
come. No cords or chains can keep him. In twenty-two days I shall
see my boy.' She fell back, and for a short time she took no
notice of the fact that Margaret sat motionless, her hand shading
'You are not writing!' said her mother at last 'Bring me some
pens and paper; I will try and write myself.' She sat up,
trembling all over with feverish eagerness. Margaret took her
hand down and looked at her mother sadly.
'Only wait till papa comes in. Let us ask him how best to do it.'
'You promised, Margaret, not a quarter of an hour ago;--you said
he should come.'
'And so he shall, mamma; don't cry, my own dear mother. I'll
write here, now,--you shall see me write,--and it shall go by
this very post; and if papa thinks fit, he can write again when
he comes in,--it is only a day's delay. Oh, mamma, don't cry so
pitifully,--it cuts me to the heart.'
Mrs. Hale could not stop her tears; they came hysterically; and,
in truth, she made no effort to control them, but rather called
up all the pictures of the happy past, and the probable
future--painting the scene when she should lie a corpse, with the
son she had longed to see in life weeping over her, and she
unconscious of his presence--till she was melted by self-pity
into a state of sobbing and exhaustion that made Margaret's heart
ache. But at last she was calm, and greedily watched her
daughter, as she began her letter; wrote it with swift urgent
entreaty; sealed it up hurriedly, for fear her mother should ask
to see it: and then, to make security most sure, at Mrs. Hale's
own bidding, took it herself to the post-office. She was coming
home when her father overtook her.
'And where have you been, my pretty maid?' asked he.
'To the post-office,--with a letter; a letter to Frederick. Oh,
papa, perhaps I have done wrong: but mamma was seized with such a
passionate yearning to see him--she said it would make her well
again,--and then she said that she must see him before she
died,--I cannot tell you how urgent she was! Did I do wrong?' Mr.
Hale did not reply at first. Then he said:
'You should have waited till I came in, Margaret.'
'I tried to persuade her--' and then she was silent.
'I don't know,' said Mr. Hale, after a pause. 'She ought to see
him if she wishes it so much, for I believe it would do her much
more good than all the doctor's medicine,--and, perhaps, set her
up altogether; but the danger to him, I'm afraid, is very great.'
'All these years since the mutiny, papa?'
'Yes; it is necessary, of course, for government to take very
stringent measures for the repression of offences against
authority, more particularly in the navy, where a commanding
officer needs to be surrounded in his men's eyes with a vivid
consciousness of all the power there is at home to back him, and
take up his cause, and avenge any injuries offered to him, if
need be. Ah! it's no matter to them how far their authorities
have tyrannised,--galled hasty tempers to madness,--or, if that
can be any excuse afterwards, it is never allowed for in the
first instance; they spare no expense, they send out ships,--they
scour the seas to lay hold of the offenders,--the lapse of years
does not wash out the memory of the offence,--it is a fresh and
vivid crime on the Admiralty books till it is blotted out by
'Oh, papa, what have I done! And yet it seemed so right at the
time. I'm sure Frederick himself, would run the risk.'
'So he would; so he should! Nay, Margaret, I'm glad it is done,
though I durst not have done it myself. I'm thankful it is as it
is; I should have hesitated till, perhaps, it might have been too
late to do any good. Dear Margaret, you have done what is right
about it; and the end is beyond our control.'
It was all very well; but her father's account of the relentless
manner in which mutinies were punished made Margaret shiver and
creep. If she had decoyed her brother home to blot out the memory
of his error by his blood! She saw her father's anxiety lay
deeper than the source of his latter cheering words. She took his
arm and walked home pensively and wearily by his side.
MOTHER AND SON
'I have found that holy place of rest
When Mr. Thornton had left the house that morning he was almost
blinded by his baffled passion. He was as dizzy as if Margaret,
instead of looking, and speaking, and moving like a tender
graceful woman, had been a sturdy fish-wife, and given him a
sound blow with her fists. He had positive bodily pain,--a
violent headache, and a throbbing intermittent pulse. He could
not bear the noise, the garish light, the continued rumble and
movement of the street. He called himself a fool for suffering
so; and yet he could not, at the moment, recollect the cause of
his suffering, and whether it was adequate to the consequences it
had produced. It would have been a relief to him, if he could
have sat down and cried on a door-step by a little child, who was
raging and storming, through his passionate tears, at some injury
he had received. He said to himself, that he hated Margaret, but
a wild, sharp sensation of love cleft his dull, thunderous
feeling like lightning, even as he shaped the words expressive of
hatred. His greatest comfort was in hugging his torment; and in
feeling, as he had indeed said to her, that though she might
despise him, contemn him, treat him with her proud sovereign
indifference, he did not change one whit. She could not make him
change. He loved her, and would love her; and defy her, and this
miserable bodily pain.
He stood still for a moment, to make this resolution firm and
clear. There was an omnibus passing--going into the country; the
conductor thought he was wishing for a place, and stopped near
the pavement. It was too much trouble to apologise and explain;
so he mounted upon it, and was borne away,--past long rows of
houses--then past detached villas with trim gardens, till they
came to real country hedge-rows, and, by-and-by, to a small
country town. Then every body got down; and so did Mr. Thornton,
and because they walked away he did so too. He went into the
fields, walking briskly, because the sharp motion relieved his
mind. He could remember all about it now; the pitiful figure he
must have cut; the absurd way in which he had gone and done the
very thing he had so often agreed with himself in thinking would
be the most foolish thing in the world; and had met with exactly
the consequences which, in these wise moods, he had always
fore-told were certain to follow, if he ever did make such a fool
of himself. Was he bewitched by those beautiful eyes, that soft,
half-open, sighing mouth which lay so close upon his shoulder
only yesterday? He could not even shake off the recollection that
she had been there; that her arms had been round him, once--if
never again. He only caught glimpses of her; he did not
understand her altogether. At one time she was so brave, and at
another so timid; now so tender, and then so haughty and
regal-proud. And then he thought over every time he had ever seen
her once again, by way of finally forgetting her. He saw her in
every dress, in every mood, and did not know which became her
best. Even this morning, how magnificent she had looked,--her
eyes flashing out upon him at the idea that, because she had
shared his danger yesterday, she had cared for him the least!
If Mr. Thornton was a fool in the morning, as he assured himself
at least twenty times he was, he did not grow much wiser in the
afternoon. All that he gained in return for his sixpenny omnibus
ride, was a more vivid conviction that there never was, never
could be, any one like Margaret; that she did not love him and
never would; but that she--no! nor the whole world--should never
hinder him from loving her. And so he returned to the little
market-place, and remounted the omnibus to return to Milton.
It was late in the afternoon when he was set down, near his
warehouse. The accustomed places brought back the accustomed
habits and trains of thought. He knew how much he had to do--more
than his usual work, owing to the commotion of the day before. He
had to see his brother magistrates; he had to complete the
arrangements, only half made in the morning, for the comfortand
safety of his newly imported Irish hands; he had to secure them
from all chance of communication with the discontented
work-people of Milton. Last of all, he had to go home and
encounter his mother.
Mrs. Thornton had sat in the dining-room all day, every moment
expecting the news of her son's acceptance by Miss Hale. She had
braced herself up many and many a time, at some sudden noise in
the house; had caught up the half-dropped work, and begun to ply
her needle diligently, though through dimmed spectacles, and with
an unsteady hand! and many times had the door opened, and some
indifferent person entered on some insignificant errand. Then her
rigid face unstiffened from its gray frost-bound expression, and
the features dropped into the relaxed look of despondency, so
unusual to their sternness. She wrenched herself away from the
contemplation of all the dreary changes that would be brought
about to herself by her son's marriage; she forced her thoughts
into the accustomed household grooves. The newly-married
couple-to-be would need fresh household stocks of linen; and Mrs.
Thornton had clothes-basket upon clothes-basket, full of
table-cloths and napkins, brought in, and began to reckon up the
store. There was some confusion between what was hers, and
consequently marked G. H. T. (for George and Hannah Thornton),
and what was her son's--bought with his money, marked with his
initials. Some of those marked G. H. T. were Dutch damask of the
old kind, exquisitely fine; none were like them now. Mrs.
Thornton stood looking at them long,--they had been her pride
when she was first married. Then she knit her brows, and pinched
and compressed her lips tight, and carefully unpicked the G. H.
She went so far as to search for the Turkey-red marking-thread to
put in the new initials; but it was all used,--and she had no
heart to send for any more just yet. So she looked fixedly at
vacancy; a series of visions passing before her, in all of which
her son was the principal, the sole object,--her son, her pride,
her property. Still he did not come. Doubtless he was with Miss
Hale. The new love was displacing her already from her place as
first in his heart. A terrible pain--a pang of vain
jealousy--shot through her: she hardly knew whether it was more
physical or mental; but it forced her to sit down. In a moment,
she was up again as straight as ever,--a grim smile upon her face
for the first time that day, ready for the door opening, and the
rejoicing triumphant one, who should never know the sore regret
his mother felt at his marriage. In all this, there was little
thought enough of the future daughter-in-law as an individual.
She was to be John's wife. To take Mrs. Thornton's place as
mistress of the house, was only one of the rich consequences
which decked out the supreme glory; all household plenty and
comfort, all purple and fine linen, honour, love, obedience,
troops of friends, would all come as naturally as jewels on a
king's robe, and be as little thought of for their separate
value. To be chosen by John, would separate a kitchen-wench from
the rest of the world. And Miss Hale was not so bad. If she had
been a Milton lass, Mrs. Thornton would have positively liked
her. She was pungent, and had taste, and spirit, and flavour in
her. True, she was sadly prejudiced, and veryignorant; but that
was to be expected from her southern breeding. A strange sort of
mortified comparison of Fanny with her, went on in Mrs.
Thornton's mind; and for once she spoke harshly to her daughter;
abused her roundly; and then, as if by way of penance, she took
up Henry's Commentaries, and tried to fix her attention on it,
instead of pursuing the employment she took pride and pleasure
in, and continuing her inspection of the table-linen.
~His~ step at last! She heard him, even while she thought she was
finishing a sentence; while her eye did pass over it, and her
memory could mechanically have repeated it word for word, she
heard him come in at the hall-door. Her quickened sense could
interpret every sound of motion: now he was at the hat-stand--now
at the very room-door. Why did he pause? Let her know the worst.
Yet her head was down over the book; she did not look up. He came
close to the table, and stood still there, waiting till she
should have finished the paragraph which apparently absorbed her.
By an effort she looked up. Well, John?'
He knew what that little speech meant. But he had steeled
himself. He longed to reply with a jest; the bitterness of his
heart could have uttered one, but his mother deserved better of
him. He came round behind her, so that she could not see his
looks, and, bending back her gray, stony face, he kissed it,
'No one loves me,--no one cares for me, but you, mother.'
He turned away and stood leaning his head against the
mantel-piece, tears forcing themselves into his manly eyes. She
stood up,--she tottered. For the first time in her life, the
strong woman tottered. She put her hands on his shoulders; she
was a tall woman. She looked into his face; she made him look at
'Mother's love is given by God, John. It holds fast for ever and
ever. A girl's love is like a puff of smoke,--it changes with
every wind. And she would not have you, my own lad, would not
she?' She set her teeth; she showed them like a dog for the whole
length of her mouth. He shook his head.
'I am not fit for her, mother; I knew I was not.'
She ground out words between her closed teeth. He could not hear
what she said; but the look in her eyes interpreted it to be a
curse,--if not as coarsely worded, as fell in intent as ever was
uttered. And yet her heart leapt up light, to know he was her own
'Mother!' said he, hurriedly, 'I cannot hear a word against her.
Spare me,--spare me! I am very weak in my sore heart;--I love her
yet; I love her more than ever.'
'And I hate her,' said Mrs. Thornton, in a low fierce voice. 'I
tried not to hate her, when she stood between you and me,
because,--I said to myself,--she will make him happy; and I would
give my heart's blood to do that. But now, I hate her for your
misery's sake. Yes, John, it's no use hiding up your aching heart
from me. I am the mother that bore you, and your sorrow is my
agony; and if you don't hate her, I do.'
'Then, mother, you make me love her more. She is unjustly treated
by you, and I must make the balance even. But why do we talk of
love or hatred? She does not care for me, and that is
enough,--too much. Let us never name the subject again. It is the
only thing you can do for me in the matter. Let us never name
'With all my heart. I only wish that she, and all belonging to
her, were swept back to the place they came from.'
He stood still, gazing into the fire for a minute or two longer.
Her dry dim eyes filled with unwonted tears as she looked at him;
but she seemed just as grim and quiet as usual when he next
'Warrants are out against three men for conspiracy, mother. The
riot yesterday helped to knock up the strike.'
And Margaret's name was no more mentioned between Mrs. Thornton
and her son. They fell back into their usual mode of talk,--about
facts, not opinions, far less feelings. Their voices and tones
were calm and cold a stranger might have gone away and thought
that he had never seen such frigid indifference of demeanour
between such near relations.
'For never any thing can be amiss
When simpleness and duty tender it.'
MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.
Mr. Thornton went straight and clear into all the interests of
the following day. There was a slight demand for finished goods;
and as it affected his branch of the trade, he took advantage of
it, and drove hard bargains. He was sharp to the hour at the
meeting of his brother magistrates,--giving them the best
assistance of his strong sense, and his power of seeing
consequences at a glance, and so coming to a rapid decision.
Older men, men of long standing in the town, men of far greater
wealth--realised and turned into land, while his was all floating
capital, engaged in his trade--looked to him for prompt, ready
wisdom. He was the one deputed to see and arrange with the
police--to lead in all the requisite steps. And he cared for
their unconscious deference no more than for the soft west wind,
that scarcely made the smoke from the great tall chimneys swerve
in its straight upward course. He was not aware of the silent
respect paid to him. If it had been otherwise, he would have felt
it as an obstacle in his progress to the object he had in view.
As it was, he looked to the speedy accomplishment of that alone.
It was his mother's greedy ears that sucked in, from the
women-kind of these magistrates and wealthy men, how highly Mr.
This or Mr. That thought of Mr. Thornton; that if he had not been
there, things would have gone on very differently,--very badly,
indeed. He swept off his business right and left that day. It
seemed as though his deep mortification of yesterday, and the
stunned purposeless course of the hours afterwards, had cleared
away all the mists from his intellect. He felt his power and
revelled in it. He could almost defy his heart. If he had known
it, he could have sang the song of the miller who lived by the
'I care for nobody--Nobody cares for me.'
The evidence against Boucher, and other ringleaders of the riot,
was taken before him; that against the three others, for
conspiracy, failed. But he sternly charged the police to be on
the watch; for the swift right arm of the law should be in
readiness to strike, as soon as they could prove a fault. And
then he left the hot reeking room in the borough court, and went
out into the fresher, but still sultry street. It seemed as
though he gave way all at once; he was so languid that he could
not control his thoughts; they would wander to her; they would
bring back the scene,--not of his repulse and rejection the day
before but the looks, the actions of the day before that. He went
along the crowded streets mechanically, winding in and out among
the people, but never seeing them,--almost sick with longing for
that one half-hour--that one brief space of time when she clung
to him, and her heart beat against his--to come once again.
'Why, Mr. Thornton you're cutting me very coolly, I must say. And
how is Mrs. Thornton? Brave weather this! We doctors don't like
it, I can tell you!'
'I beg your pardon, Dr. Donaldson. I really didn't see you. My
mother's quite well, thank you. It is a fine day, and good for
the harvest, I hope. If the wheat is well got in, we shall have a
brisk trade next year, whatever you doctors have.'
'Ay, ay. Each man for himself Your bad weather, and your bad
times, are my good ones. When trade is bad, there's more
undermining of health, and preparation for death, going on among
you Milton men than you're aware of.'
'Not with me, Doctor. I'm made of iron. The news of the worst bad
debt I ever had, never made my pulse vary. This strike, which
affects me more than any one else in Milton,--more than
Hamper,--never comes near my appetite. You must go elsewhere for
a patient, Doctor.'
'By the way, you've recommended me a good patient, poor lady! Not
to go on talking in this heartless way, I seriously believe that
Mrs. Hale--that lady in Crampton, you know--hasn't many weeks to
live. I never had any hope of cure, as I think I told you; but
I've been seeing her to-day, and I think very badly of her.'
Mr. Thornton was silent. The vaunted steadiness of pulse failed
him for an instant.
'Can I do anything, Doctor?' he asked, in an altered voice. 'You
know--you would see, that money is not very plentiful; are there
any comforts or dainties she ought to have?'
'No,' replied the Doctor, shaking his head. 'She craves for
fruit,--she has a constant fever on her; but jargonelle pears
will do as well as anything, and there are quantities of them in
'You will tell me, if there is anything I can do, I'm sure,
replied Mr. Thornton. 'I rely upon you.'
'Oh! never fear! I'll not spare your purse,--I know it's deep
enough. I wish you'd give me carte-blanche for all my patients,
and all their wants.'
But Mr. Thornton had no general benevolence,--no universal
philanthropy; few even would have given him credit for strong
affections. But he went straight to the first fruit-shop in
Milton, and chose out the bunch of purple grapes with the most
delicate bloom upon them,--the richest-coloured peaches,--the
freshest vine-leaves. They were packed into a basket, and the
shopman awaited the answer to his inquiry, 'Where shall we send
them to, sir?'
There was no reply. 'To Marlborough Mills, I suppose, sir?'
'No!' Mr. Thornton said. 'Give the basket to me,--I'll take it.'
It took up both his hands to carry it; and he had to pass through
the busiest part of the town for feminine shopping. Many a young
lady of his acquaintance turned to look after him, and thought it
strange to see him occupied just like a porter or an errand-boy.
He was thinking, 'I will not be daunted from doing as I choose by
the thought of her. I like to take this fruit to the poor mother,
and it is simply right that I should. She shall never scorn me
out of doing what I please. A pretty joke, indeed, if, for fear
of a haughty girl, I failed in doing a kindness to a man I liked
I do it for Mr. Hale; I do it in defiance of her.'
He went at an unusual pace, and was soon at Crampton. He went
upstairs two steps at a time, and entered the drawing-room before
Dixon could announce him,--his face flushed, his eyes shining
with kindly earnestness. Mrs. Hale lay on the sofa, heated with
fever. Mr. Hale was reading aloud. Margaret was working on a low
stool by her mother's side. Her heart fluttered, if his did not,
at this interview. But he took no notice of her, hardly of Mr.
Hale himself; he went up straight with his basket to Mrs. Hale,
and said, in that subdued and gentle tone, which is so touching
when used by a robust man in full health, speaking to a feeble
'I met Dr. Donaldson, ma'am, and as he said fruit would be good
for you, I have taken the liberty--the great liberty of bringing
you some that seemed to me fine.' Mrs. Hale was excessively
surprised; excessively pleased; quite in a tremble of eagerness.
Mr. Hale with fewer words expressed a deeper gratitude.
'Fetch a plate, Margaret--a basket--anything.' Margaret stood up
by the table, half afraid of moving or making any noise to arouse
Mr. Thornton into a consciousness of her being in the room. She
thought it would be awkward for both to be brought into conscious
collision; and fancied that, from her being on a low seat at
first, and now standing behind her father, he had overlooked her
in his haste. As if he did not feel the consciousness of her
presence all over, though his eyes had never rested on her!
'I must go,' said he, 'I cannot stay. If you will forgive this
liberty,--my rough ways,--too abrupt, I fear--but I will be more
gentle next time. You will allow me the pleasure of bringing you
some fruit again, if I should see any that is tempting. Good
afternoon, Mr. Hale. Good-bye, ma'am.'
He was gone. Not one word: not one look to Margaret. She believed
that he had not seen her. She went for a plate in silence, and
lifted the fruit out tenderly, with the points of her delicate
taper fingers. It was good of him to bring it; and after
'Oh! it is so delicious!' said Mrs. Hale, in a feeble voice. 'How
kind of him to think of me! Margaret love, only taste these
grapes! Was it not good of him?'
'Yes!' said Margaret, quietly.
'Margaret!' said Mrs. Hale, rather querulously, 'you won't like
anything Mr. Thornton does. I never saw anybody so prejudiced.'
Mr. Hale had been peeling a peach for his wife; and, cutting off
a small piece for himself, he said:
'If I had any prejudices, the gift of such delicious fruit as
this would melt them all away. I have not tasted such fruit--no!
not even in Hampshire--since I was a boy; and to boys, I fancy,
all fruit is good. I remember eating sloes and crabs with a
relish. Do you remember the matted-up currant bushes, Margaret,
at the corner of the west-wall in the garden at home?'
Did she not? Did she not remember every weather-stain on the old