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North and South by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Part 6 out of 11

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stone wall; the gray and yellow lichens that marked it like a
map; the little crane's-bill that grew in the crevices? She had
been shaken by the events of the last two days; her whole life
just now was a strain upon her fortitude; and, somehow, these
careless words of her father's, touching on the remembrance of
the sunny times of old, made her start up, and, dropping her
sewing on the ground, she went hastily out of the room into her
own little chamber. She had hardly given way to the first choking
sob, when she became aware of Dixon standing at her drawers, and
evidently searching for something.

'Bless me, miss! How you startled me! Missus is not worse, is
she? Is anything the matter?'

'No, nothing. Only I'm silly, Dixon, and want a glass of water.
What are you looking for? I keep my muslins in that drawer.'

Dixon did not speak, but went on rummaging. The scent of lavender
came out and perfumed the room.

At last Dixon found what she wanted; what it was Margaret could
not see. Dixon faced round, and spoke to her:

'Now I don't like telling you what I wanted, because you've
fretting enough to go through, and I know you'll fret about this.
I meant to have kept it from you till night, may be, or such
times as that.'

'What is the matter? Pray, tell me, Dixon, at once.'

'That young woman you go to see--Higgins, I mean.'


'Well! she died this morning, and her sister is here--come to beg
a strange thing. It seems, the young woman who died had a fancy
for being buried in something of yours, and so the sister's come
to ask for it,--and I was looking for a night-cap that wasn't too
good to give away.'

'Oh! let me find one,' said Margaret, in the midst of her tears.
'Poor Bessy! I never thought I should not see her again.'

'Why, that's another thing. This girl down-stairs wanted me to
ask you, if you would like to see her.'

'But she's dead!' said Margaret, turning a little pale. 'I never
saw a dead person. No! I would rather not.'

'I should never have asked you, if you hadn't come in. I told her
you wouldn't.'

'I will go down and speak to her,' said Margaret, afraid lest
Dixon's harshness of manner might wound the poor girl. So, taking
the cap in her hand, she went to the kitchen. Mary's face was all
swollen with crying, and she burst out afresh when she saw

'Oh, ma'am, she loved yo', she loved yo', she did indeed!' And
for a long time, Margaret could not get her to say anything more
than this. At last, her sympathy, and Dixon's scolding, forced
out a few facts. Nicholas Higgins had gone out in the morning,
leaving Bessy as well as on the day before. But in an hour she
was taken worse; some neighbour ran to the room where Mary was
working; they did not know where to find her father; Mary had
only come in a few minutes before she died.

'It were a day or two ago she axed to be buried in somewhat o'
yourn. She were never tired o' talking o' yo'. She used to say
yo' were the prettiest thing she'd ever clapped eyes on. She
loved yo' dearly Her last words were, "Give her my affectionate
respects; and keep father fro' drink." Yo'll come and see her,
ma'am. She would ha' thought it a great compliment, I know.'

Margaret shrank a little from answering.

'Yes, perhaps I may. Yes, I will. I'll come before tea. But
where's your father, Mary?'

Mary shook her head, and stood up to be going.

'Miss Hale,' said Dixon, in a low voice, 'where's the use o' your
going to see the poor thing laid out? I'd never say a word
against it, if it could do the girl any good; and I wouldn't mind
a bit going myself, if that would satisfy her. They've just a
notion, these common folks, of its being a respect to the
departed. Here,' said she, turning sharply round, 'I'll come and
see your sister. Miss Hale is busy, and she can't come, or else
she would.'

The girl looked wistfully at Margaret. Dixon's coming might be a
compliment, but it was not the same thing to the poor sister, who
had had her little pangs of jealousy, during Bessy's lifetime, at
the intimacy between her and the young lady.

'No, Dixon!' said Margaret with decision. 'I will go. Mary, you
shall see me this afternoon.' And for fear of her own cowardice,
she went away, in order to take from herself any chance of
changing her determination.



'Through cross to crown!--And though thy spirit's life
Trials untold assail with giant strength,
Good cheer! good cheer! Soon ends the bitter strife,
And thou shalt reign in peace with Christ at length.'

'Ay sooth, we feel too strong in weal, to need Thee on that road;
But woe being come, the soul is dumb, that crieth not on "God."'

That afternoon she walked swiftly to the Higgins's house. Mary
was looking out for her, with a half-distrustful face. Margaret
smiled into her eyes to re-assure her. They passed quickly through
the house-place, upstairs, and into the quiet presence of the dead.
Then Margaret was glad that she had come. The face, often so weary
with pain, so restless with troublous thoughts, had now the faint
soft smile of eternal rest upon it. The slow tears gathered into
Margaret's eyes, but a deep calm entered into her soul. And that
was death! It looked more peaceful than life. All beautiful
scriptures came into her mind. 'They rest from their labours.'
'The weary are at rest.' 'He giveth His beloved sleep.'

Slowly, slowly Margaret turned away from the bed. Mary was humbly
sobbing in the back-ground. They went down stairs without a word.

Resting his hand upon the house-table, Nicholas Higgins stood in
the midst of the floor; his great eyes startled open by the news
he had heard, as he came along the court, from many busy tongues.
His eyes were dry and fierce; studying the reality of her death;
bringing himself to understand that her place should know her no
more. For she had been sickly, dying so long, that he had
persuaded himself she would not die; that she would 'pull

Margaret felt as if she had no business to be there, familiarly
acquainting herself with the surroundings of death which he, the
father, had only just learnt. There had been a pause of an
instant on the steep crooked stair, when she first saw him; but
now she tried to steal past his abstracted gaze, and to leave him
in the solemn circle of his household misery.

Mary sat down on the first chair she came to, and throwing her
apron over her head, began to cry.

The noise appeared to rouse him. He took sudden hold of
Margaret's arm, and held her till he could gather words to speak.
seemed dry; they came up thick, and choked, and hoarse:

'Were yo' with her? Did yo' see her die?'

'No!' replied Margaret, standing still with the utmost patience,
now she found herself perceived. It was some time before he spoke
again, but he kept his hold on her arm.

'All men must die,' said he at last, with a strange sort of
gravity, which first suggested to Margaret the idea that he had
been drinking--not enough to intoxicate himself, but enough to
make his thoughts bewildered. 'But she were younger than me.'
Still he pondered over the event, not looking at Margaret, though
he grasped her tight. Suddenly, he looked up at her with a wild
searching inquiry in his glance. 'Yo're sure and certain she's
dead--not in a dwam, a faint?--she's been so before, often.'

'She is dead,' replied Margaret. She felt no fear in speaking to
him, though he hurt her arm with his gripe, and wild gleams came
across the stupidity of his eyes.

'She is dead!' she said.

He looked at her still with that searching look, which seemed to
fade out of his eyes as he gazed. Then he suddenly let go his
hold of Margaret, and, throwing his body half across the table,
he shook it and every piece of furniture in the room, with his
violent sobs. Mary came trembling towards him.

'Get thee gone!--get thee gone!' he cried, striking wildly and
blindly at her. 'What do I care for thee?' Margaret took her
hand, and held it softly in hers. He tore his hair, he beat his
head against the hard wood, then he lay exhausted and stupid.
Still his daughter and Margaret did not move. Mary trembled from
head to foot.

At last--it might have been a quarter of an hour, it might have
been an hour--he lifted himself up. His eyes were swollen and
bloodshot, and he seemed to have forgotten that any one was by;
he scowled at the watchers when he saw them. He Shook himself
heavily, gave them one more sullen look, spoke never a word, but
made for the door.

'Oh, father, father!' said Mary, throwing herself upon his
arm,--'not to-night! Any night but to-night. Oh, help me! he's
going out to drink again! Father, I'll not leave yo'. Yo' may
strike, but I'll not leave yo'. She told me last of all to keep
yo' fro' drink!'

But Margaret stood in the doorway, silent yet commanding. He
looked up at her defyingly.

'It's my own house. Stand out o' the way, wench, or I'll make
yo'!' He had shaken off Mary with violence; he looked ready to
strike Margaret. But she never moved a feature--never took her
deep, serious eyes off him. He stared back on her with gloomy
fierceness. If she had stirred hand or foot, he would have thrust
her aside with even more violence than he had used to his own
daughter, whose face was bleeding from her fall against a chair.

'What are yo' looking at me in that way for?' asked he at last,
daunted and awed by her severe calm. 'If yo' think for to keep me
from going what gait I choose, because she loved yo'--and in my
own house, too, where I never asked yo' to come, yo're mista'en.
It's very hard upon a man that he can't go to the only comfort

Margaret felt that he acknowledged her power. What could she do
next? He had seated himself on a chair, close to the door;
half-conquered, half-resenting; intending to go out as soon as
she left her position, but unwilling to use the violence he had
threatened not five minutes before. Margaret laid her hand on his

'Come with me,' she said. 'Come and see her!'

The voice in which she spoke was very low and solemn; but there
was no fear or doubt expressed in it, either of him or of his
compliance. He sullenly rose up. He stood uncertain, with dogged
irresolution upon his face. She waited him there; quietly and
patiently waited for his time to move. He had a strange pleasure
in making her wait; but at last he moved towards the stairs.

She and he stood by the corpse.

'Her last words to Mary were, "Keep my father fro' drink."'

'It canna hurt her now,' muttered he. 'Nought can hurt her now.'
Then, raising his voice to a wailing cry, he went on: 'We may
quarrel and fall out--we may make peace and be friends--we may
clem to skin and bone--and nought o' all our griefs will ever
touch her more. Hoo's had her portion on 'em. What wi' hard work
first, and sickness at last, hoo's led the life of a dog. And to
die without knowing one good piece o' rejoicing in all her days!
Nay, wench, whatever hoo said, hoo can know nought about it now,
and I mun ha' a sup o' drink just to steady me again sorrow.'

'No,' said Margaret, softening with his softened manner. 'You
shall not. If her life has been what you say, at any rate she did
not fear death as some do. Oh, you should have heard her speak of
the life to come--the life hidden with God, that she is now gone

He shook his head, glancing sideways up at Margaret as he did so.
His pale, haggard face struck her painfully.

'You are sorely tired. Where have you been all day--not at work?'

'Not at work, sure enough,' said he, with a short, grim laugh.
'Not at what you call work. I were at the Committee, till I were
sickened out wi' trying to make fools hear reason. I were fetched
to Boucher's wife afore seven this morning. She's bed-fast, but
she were raving and raging to know where her dunder-headed brute
of a chap was, as if I'd to keep him--as if he were fit to be
ruled by me. The d--d fool, who has put his foot in all our
plans! And I've walked my feet sore wi' going about for to see
men who wouldn't be seen, now the law is raised again us. And I
were sore-hearted, too, which is worse than sore-footed; and if I
did see a friend who ossed to treat me, I never knew hoo lay
a-dying here. Bess, lass, thou'd believe me, thou
wouldst--wouldstn't thou?' turning to the poor dumb form with
wild appeal.

'I am sure,' said Margaret, 'I am sure you did not know: it was
quite sudden. But now, you see, it would be different; you do
know; you do see her lying there; you hear what she said with her
last breath. You will not go?'

No answer. In fact, where was he to look for comfort?

'Come home with me,' said she at last, with a bold venture, half
trembling at her own proposal as she made it. 'At least you shall
have some comfortable food, which I'm sure you need.'

'Yo'r father's a parson?' asked he, with a sudden turn in his

'He was,' said Margaret, shortly.

'I'll go and take a dish o' tea with him, since yo've asked me.
I've many a thing I often wished to say to a parson, and I'm not
particular as to whether he's preaching now, or not.'

Margaret was perplexed; his drinking tea with her father, who
would be totally unprepared for his visitor--her mother so
ill--seemed utterly out of the question; and yet if she drew back
now, it would be worse than ever--sure to drive him to the
gin-shop. She thought that if she could only get him to their own
house, it was so great a step gained that she would trust to the
chapter ofaccidents for the next.

'Goodbye, ou'd wench! We've parted company at last, we have! But
thou'st been a blessin' to thy father ever sin' thou wert born.
Bless thy white lips, lass,--they've a smile on 'em now! and I'm
glad to see it once again, though I'm lone and forlorn for

He stooped down and fondly kissed his daughter; covered up her
face, and turned to follow Margaret. She had hastily gone down
stairs to tell Mary of the arrangement; to say it was the only
way she could think of to keep him from the gin-palace; to urge
Mary to come too, for her heart smote her at the idea of leaving
the poor affectionate girl alone. But Mary had friends among the
neighbours, she said, who would come in and sit a bit with her,
it was all right; but father--

He was there by them as she would have spoken more. He had shaken
off his emotion, as if he was ashamed of having ever given way to
it; and had even o'erleaped himself so much that he assumed a
sort of bitter mirth, like the crackling of thorns under a pot.

'I'm going to take my tea wi' her father, I am!'

But he slouched his cap low down over his brow as he went out
into the street, and looked neither to the right nor to the left,
while he tramped along by Margaret's side; he feared being upset
by the words, still more the looks, of sympathising neighbours.
So he and Margaret walked in silence.

As he got near the street in which he knew she lived, he looked
down at his clothes, his hands, and shoes.

'I should m'appen ha' cleaned mysel', first?'

It certainly would have been desirable, but Margaret assured him
he should be allowed to go into the yard, and have soap and towel
provided; she could not let him slip out of her hands just then.

While he followed the house-servant along the passage, and
through the kitchen, stepping cautiously on every dark mark in
the pattern of the oil-cloth, in order to conceal his dirty
foot-prints, Margaret ran upstairs. She met Dixon on the landing.

'How is mamma?--where is papa?'

Missus was tired, and gone into her own room. She had wanted to
go to bed, but Dixon had persuaded her to lie down on the sofa,
and have her tea brought to her there; it would be better than
getting restless by being too long in bed.

So far, so good. But where was Mr. Hale? In the drawing-room.
Margaret went in half breathless with the hurried story she had
to tell. Of course, she told it incompletely; and her father was
rather 'taken aback' by the idea of the drunken weaver awaiting
him in his quiet study, with whom he was expected to drink tea,
and on whose behalf Margaret was anxiously pleading. The meek,
kind-hearted Mr. Hale would have readily tried to console him in
his grief, but, unluckily, the point Margaret dwelt upon most
forcibly was the fact of his having been drinking, and her having
brought him home with her as a last expedient to keep him from
the gin-shop. One little event had come out of another so
naturally that Margaret was hardly conscious of what she had
done, till she saw the slight look of repugnance on her father's

'Oh, papa! he really is a man you will not dislike--if you won't
be shocked to begin with.'

'But, Margaret, to bring a drunken man home--and your mother so

Margaret's countenance fell. 'I am sorry, papa. He is very
quiet--he is not tipsy at all. He was only rather strange at
first, but that might be the shock of poor Bessy's death.'
Margaret's eyes filled with tears. Mr. Hale took hold of her
sweet pleading face in both his hands, and kissed her forehead.

'It is all right, dear. I'll go and make him as comfortable as I
can, and do you attend to your mother. Only, if you can come in
and make a third in the study, I shall be glad.'

'Oh, yes--thank you.' But as Mr. Hale was leaving the room, she
ran after him:

'Papa--you must not wonder at what he says: he's an----I mean he
does not believe in much of what we do.'

'Oh dear! a drunken infidel weaver!' said Mr. Hale to himself, in
dismay. But to Margaret he only said, 'If your mother goes to
sleep, be sure you come directly.'

Margaret went into her mother's room. Mrs. Hale lifted herself up
from a doze.

'When did you write to Frederick, Margaret? Yesterday, or the day

'Yesterday, mamma.'

'Yesterday. And the letter went?'

'Yes. I took it myself'

'Oh, Margaret, I'm so afraid of his coming! If he should be
recognised! If he should be taken! If he should be executed,
after all these years that he has kept away and lived in safety!
I keep falling asleep and dreaming that he is caught and being

'Oh, mamma, don't be afraid. There will be some risk no doubt;
but we will lessen it as much as ever we can. And it is so
little! Now, if we were at Helstone, there would be twenty--a
hundred times as much. There, everybody would remember him and if
there was a stranger known to be in the house, they would be sure
to guess it was Frederick; while here, nobody knows or cares for
us enough to notice what we do. Dixon will keep the door like a
dragon--won't you, Dixon--while he is here?'

'They'll be clever if they come in past me!' said Dixon, showing
her teeth at the bare idea.

'And he need not go out, except in the dusk, poor fellow!'

'Poor fellow!' echoed Mrs. Hale. 'But I almost wish you had not
written. Would it be too late to stop him if you wrote again,

'I'm afraid it would, mamma,' said Margaret, remembering the
urgency with which she had entreated him to come directly, if he
wished to see his mother alive.

'I always dislike that doing things in such a hurry,' said Mrs.

Margaret was silent.

'Come now, ma am,' said Dixon, with a kind of cheerful authority,
'you know seeing Master Frederick is just the very thing of all
others you're longing for. And I'm glad Miss Margaret wrote off
straight, without shilly-shallying. I've had a great mind to do
it myself. And we'll keep him snug, depend upon it. There's only
Martha in the house that would not do a good deal to save him on
a pinch; and I've been thinking she might go and see her mother
just at that very time. She's been saying once or twice she
should like to go, for her mother has had a stroke since she came
here, only she didn't like to ask. But I'll see about her being
safe off, as soon as we know when he comes, God bless him! So
take your tea, ma'am, in comfort, and trust to me.'

Mrs. Hale did trust in Dixon more than in Margaret. Dixon's words
quieted her for the time. Margaret poured out the tea in silence,
trying to think of something agreeable to say; but her thoughts
made answer something like Daniel O'Rourke, when the
man-in-the-moon asked him to get off his reaping-hook. 'The more
you ax us, the more we won't stir.' The more she tried to think
of something anything besides the danger to which Frederick would
be exposed--the more closely her imagination clung to the
unfortunate idea presented to her. Her mother prattled with
Dixon, and seemed to have utterly forgotten the possibility of
Frederick being tried and executed--utterly forgotten that at her
wish, if by Margaret's deed, he was summoned into this danger.
Her mother was one of those who throw out terrible possibilities,
miserable probabilities, unfortunate chances of all kinds, as a
rocket throws out sparks; but if the sparks light on some
combustible matter, they smoulder first, and burst out into a
frightful flame at last. Margaret was glad when, her filial
duties gently and carefully performed, she could go down into the
study. She wondered how her father and Higgins had got on.

In the first place, the decorous, kind-hearted, simple,
old-fashioned gentleman, had unconsciously called out, by his own
refinement and courteousness of manner, all the latent courtesy
in the other.

Mr. Hale treated all his fellow-creatures alike: it never entered
into his head to make any difference because of their rank. He
placed a chair for Nicholas stood up till he, at Mr. Hale's
request, took a seat; and called him, invariably, 'Mr. Higgins,'
instead of the curt 'Nicholas' or 'Higgins,' to which the
'drunken infidel weaver' had been accustomed. But Nicholas was
neither an habitual drunkard nor a thorough infidel. He drank to
drown care, as he would have himself expressed it: and he was
infidel so far as he had never yet found any form of faith to
which he could attach himself, heart and soul.

Margaret was a little surprised, and very much pleased, when she
found her father and Higgins in earnest conversation--each
speaking with gentle politeness to the other, however their
opinions might clash. Nicholas--clean, tidied (if only at the
pump-trough), and quiet spoken--was a new creature to her, who
had only seen him in the rough independence of his own
hearthstone. He had 'slicked' his hair down with the fresh water;
he had adjusted his neck-handkerchief, and borrowed an odd
candle-end to polish his clogs with and there he sat, enforcing
some opinion on her father, with a strong Darkshire accent, it is
true, but with a lowered voice, and a good, earnest composure on
his face. Her father, too, was interested in what his companion
was saying. He looked round as she came in, smiled, and quietly
gave her his chair, and then sat down afresh as quickly as
possible, and with a little bow of apology to his guest for the
interruption. Higgins nodded to her as a sign of greeting; and
she softly adjusted her working materials on the table, and
prepared to listen.

'As I was a-sayin, sir, I reckon yo'd not ha' much belief in yo'
if yo' lived here,--if yo'd been bred here. I ax your pardon if I
use wrong words; but what I mean by belief just now, is
a-thinking on sayings and maxims and promises made by folk yo'
never saw, about the things and the life, yo' never saw, nor no
one else. Now, yo' say these are true things, and true sayings,
and a true life. I just say, where's the proof? There's many and
many a one wiser, and scores better learned than I am around
me,--folk who've had time to think on these things,--while my
time has had to be gi'en up to getting my bread. Well, I sees
these people. Their lives is pretty much open to me. They're real
folk. They don't believe i' the Bible,--not they. They may say
they do, for form's sake; but Lord, sir, d'ye think their first
cry i' th' morning is, "What shall I do to get hold on eternal
life?" or "What shall I do to fill my purse this blessed day?
Where shall I go? What bargains shall I strike?" The purse and
the gold and the notes is real things; things as can be felt and
touched; them's realities; and eternal life is all a talk, very
fit for--I ax your pardon, sir; yo'r a parson out o' work, I
believe. Well! I'll never speak disrespectful of a man in the
same fix as I'm in mysel'. But I'll just ax yo another question,
sir, and I dunnot want yo to answer it, only to put in yo'r pipe,
and smoke it, afore yo' go for to set down us, who only believe
in what we see, as fools and noddies. If salvation, and life to
come, and what not, was true--not in men's words, but in men's
hearts' core--dun yo' not think they'd din us wi' it as they do
wi' political 'conomy? They're mighty anxious to come round us
wi' that piece o' wisdom; but t'other would be a greater
convarsion, if it were true.'

'But the masters have nothing to do with your religion. All that
they are connected with you in is trade,--so they think,--and all
that it concerns them, therefore, to rectify your opinions in is
the science of trade.'

'I'm glad, sir,' said Higgins, with a curious wink of his eye,
'that yo' put in, "so they think." I'd ha' thought yo' a
hypocrite, I'm afeard, if yo' hadn't, for all yo'r a parson, or
rayther because yo'r a parson. Yo' see, if yo'd spoken o'
religion as a thing that, if it was true, it didn't concern all
men to press on all men's attention, above everything else in
this 'varsal earth, I should ha' thought yo' a knave for to be a
parson; and I'd rather think yo' a fool than a knave. No offence,
I hope, sir.'

'None at all. You consider me mistaken, and I consider you far
more fatally mistaken. I don't expect to convince you in a
day,--not in one conversation; but let us know each other, and
speak freely to each other about these things, and the truth will
prevail. I should not believe in God if I did not believe that.
Mr. Higgins, I trust, whatever else you have given up, you
believe'--(Mr. Hale's voice dropped low in reverence)--'you
believe in Him.'

Nicholas Higgins suddenly stood straight, stiff up. Margaret
started to her feet,--for she thought, by the working of his
face, he was going into convulsions. Mr. Hale looked at her
dismayed. At last Higgins found words:

'Man! I could fell yo' to the ground for tempting me. Whatten
business have yo' to try me wi' your doubts? Think o' her lying
theere, after the life hoo's led and think then how yo'd deny me
the one sole comfort left--that there is a God, and that He set
her her life. I dunnot believe she'll ever live again,' said he,
sitting down, and drearily going on, as if to the unsympathising
fire. 'I dunnot believe in any other life than this, in which she
dreed such trouble, and had such never-ending care; and I cannot
bear to think it were all a set o' chances, that might ha' been
altered wi' a breath o' wind. There's many a time when I've
thought I didna believe in God, but I've never put it fair out
before me in words, as many men do. I may ha' laughed at those
who did, to brave it out like--but I have looked round at after,
to see if He heard me, if so be there was a He; but to-day, when
I'm left desolate, I wunnot listen to yo' wi' yo'r questions, and
yo'r doubts. There's but one thing steady and quiet i' all this
reeling world, and, reason or no reason, I'll cling to that. It's
a' very well for happy folk'----

Margaret touched his arm very softly. She had not spoken before,
nor had he heard her rise.

'Nicholas, we do not want to reason; you misunderstand my father.
We do not reason--we believe; and so do you. It is the one sole
comfort in such times.'

He turned round and caught her hand. 'Ay! it is, it is--(brushing
away the tears with the back of his hand).--'But yo' know, she's
lying dead at home and I'm welly dazed wi' sorrow, and at times I
hardly know what I'm saying. It's as if speeches folk ha'
made--clever and smart things as I've thought at the time--come
up now my heart's welly brossen. Th' strike's failed as well; dun
yo' know that, miss? I were coming whoam to ask her, like a
beggar as I am, for a bit o' comfort i' that trouble; and I were
knocked down by one who telled me she were dead--just dead That
were all; but that were enough for me.

Mr. Hale blew his nose, and got up to snuff the candles in order
to conceal his emotion. 'He's not an infidel, Margaret; how could
you say so?' muttered he reproachfully 'I've a good mind to read
him the fourteenth chapter of Job.'

'Not yet, papa, I think. Perhaps not at all. Let us ask him about
the strike, and give him all the sympathy he needs, and hoped to
have from poor Bessy.'

So they questioned and listened. The workmen's calculations were
based (like too many of the masters') on false premises. They
reckoned on their fellow-men as if they possessed the calculable
powers of machines, no more, no less; no allowance for human
passions getting the better of reason, as in the case of Boucher
and the rioters; and believing that the representations of their
injuries would have the same effect on strangers far away, as the
injuries (fancied or real) had upon themselves. They were
consequently surprised and indignant at the poor Irish, who had
allowed themselves to be imported and brought over to take their
places. This indignation was tempered, in some degree, by
contempt for 'them Irishers,' and by pleasure at the idea of the
bungling way in which they would set to work, and perplex their
new masters with their ignorance and stupidity, strange
exaggerated stories of which were already spreading through the
town. But the most cruel cut of all was that of the Milton
workmen, who had defied and disobeyed the commands of the Union
to keep the peace, whatever came; who had originated discord in
the camp, and spread the panic of the law being arrayed against

'And so the strike is at an end,' said Margaret.

'Ay, miss. It's save as save can. Th' factory doors will need
open wide to-morrow to let in all who'll be axing for work; if
it's only just to show they'd nought to do wi' a measure, which
if we'd been made o' th' right stuff would ha' brought wages up
to a point they'n not been at this ten year.'

'You'll get work, shan't you?' asked Margaret. 'You're a famous
workman, are not you?'

'Hamper'll let me work at his mill, when he cuts off his right
hand--not before, and not after,' said Nicholas, quietly.
Margaret was silenced and sad.

'About the wages,' said Mr. Hale. 'You'll not be offended, but I
think you make some sad mistakes. I should like to read you some
remarks in a book I have.' He got up and went to his

'Yo' needn't trouble yoursel', sir,' said Nicholas. 'Their
book-stuff goes in at one ear and out at t'other. I can make
nought on't. Afore Hamper and me had this split, th' overlooker
telled him I were stirring up the men to ask for higher wages;
and Hamper met me one day in th' yard. He'd a thin book i' his
hand, and says he, "Higgins, I'm told you're one of those damned
fools that think you can get higher wages for asking for 'em; ay,
and keep 'em up too, when you've forced 'em up. Now, I'll give
yo' a chance and try if yo've any sense in yo'. Here's a book
written by a friend o' mine, and if yo'll read it yo'll see how
wages find their own level, without either masters or men having
aught to do with them; except the men cut their own throats wi'
striking, like the confounded noodles they are." Well, now, sir,
I put it to yo', being a parson, and having been in th' preaching
line, and having had to try and bring folk o'er to what yo'
thought was a right way o' thinking--did yo' begin by calling 'em
fools and such like, or didn't yo' rayther give 'em some kind
words at first, to make 'em ready for to listen and be convinced,
if they could; and in yo'r preaching, did yo' stop every now and
then, and say, half to them and half to yo'rsel', "But yo're such
a pack o' fools, that I've a strong notion it's no use my trying
to put sense into yo'?" I were not i' th' best state, I'll own,
for taking in what Hamper's friend had to say--I were so vexed at
the way it were put to me;--but I thought, "Come, I'll see what
these chaps has got to say, and try if it's them or me as is th'
noodle." So I took th' book and tugged at it; but, Lord bless
yo', it went on about capital and labour, and labour and capital,
till it fair sent me off to sleep. I ne'er could rightly fix i'
my mind which was which; and it spoke on 'em as if they was
vartues or vices; and what I wanted for to know were the rights
o' men, whether they were rich or poor--so be they only were

'But for all that,' said Mr. Hale, 'and granting to the full the
offensiveness, the folly, the unchristianness of Mr. Hamper's way
of speaking to you in recommending his friend's book, yet if it
told you what he said it did, that wages find their own level,
and that the most successful strike can only force them up for a
moment, to sink in far greater proportion afterwards, in
consequence of that very strike, the book would have told you the

'Well, sir,' said Higgins, rather doggedly; 'it might, or it
might not. There's two opinions go to settling that point. But
suppose it was truth double strong, it were no truth to me if I
couldna take it in. I daresay there's truth in yon Latin book on
your shelves; but it's gibberish and not truth to me, unless I
know the meaning o' the words. If yo', sir, or any other
knowledgable, patient man come to me, and says he'll larn me what
the words mean, and not blow me up if I'm a bit stupid, or forget
how one thing hangs on another--why, in time I may get to see the
truth of it; or I may not. I'll not be bound to say I shall end
in thinking the same as any man. And I'm not one who think truth
can be shaped out in words, all neat and clean, as th' men at th'
foundry cut out sheet-iron. Same bones won't go down wi' every
one. It'll stick here i' this man's throat, and there i'
t'other's. Let alone that, when down, it may be too strong for
this one, too weak for that. Folk who sets up to doctor th' world
wi' their truth, mun suit different for different minds; and be a
bit tender in th' way of giving it too, or th' poor sick fools
may spit it out i' their faces. Now Hamper first gi'es me a box
on my ear, and then he throws his big bolus at me, and says he
reckons it'll do me no good, I'm such a fool, but there it is.'

'I wish some of the kindest and wisest of the masters would meet
some of you men, and have a good talk on these things; it would,
surely, be the best way of getting over your difficulties, which,
I do believe, arise from your ignorance--excuse me, Mr.
Higgins--on subjects which it is for the mutual interest of both
masters and men should be well understood by both. I
wonder'--(half to his daughter), 'if Mr. Thornton might not be
induced to do such a thing?'

'Remember, papa,' said she in a very low voice, 'what he said one
day--about governments, you know.' She was unwilling to make any
clearer allusion to the conversation they had held on the mode of
governing work-people--by giving men intelligence enough to rule
themselves, or by a wise despotism on the part of the master--for
she saw that Higgins had caught Mr. Thornton s name, if not the
whole of the speech: indeed, he began to speak of him.

'Thornton! He's the chap as wrote off at once for these Irishers;
and led to th' riot that ruined th' strike. Even Hamper wi' all
his bullying, would ha' waited a while--but it's a word and a
blow wi' Thornton. And, now, when th' Union would ha' thanked him
for following up th' chase after Boucher, and them chaps as went
right again our commands, it's Thornton who steps forrard and
coolly says that, as th' strike's at an end, he, as party
injured, doesn't want to press the charge again the rioters. I
thought he'd had more pluck. I thought he'd ha' carried his
point, and had his revenge in an open way; but says he (one in
court telled me his very words) "they are well known; they will
find the natural punishment of their conduct, in the difficulty
they will meet wi' in getting employment. That will be severe
enough." I only wish they'd cotched Boucher, and had him up
before Hamper. I see th' oud tiger setting on him! would he ha'
let him off? Not he!'

'Mr. Thornton was right,' said Margaret. You are angry against
Boucher, Nicholas; or else you would be the first to see, that
where the natural punishment would be severe enough for the
offence, any farther punishment would be something like revenge.

'My daughter is no great friend of Mr. Thornton's,' said Mr.
Hale, smiling at Margaret; while she, as red as any carnation,
began to work with double diligence, 'but I believe what she says
is the truth. I like him for it.'

'Well, sir, this strike has been a weary piece o' business to me;
and yo'll not wonder if I'm a bit put out wi' seeing it fail,
just for a few men who would na suffer in silence, and hou'd out,
brave and firm.'

'You forget!' said Margaret. 'I don't know much of Boucher; but
the only time I saw him it was not his own sufferings he spoke
of, but those of his sick wife--his little children.'

'True! but he were not made of iron himsel'. He'd ha' cried out
for his own sorrows, next. He were not one to bear.'

'How came he into the Union?' asked Margaret innocently. 'You
don't seem to have much respect for him; nor gained much good
from having him in.'

Higgins's brow clouded. He was silent for a minute or two. Then he
said, shortly enough:

'It's not for me to speak o' th' Union. What they does, they
does. Them that is of a trade mun hang together; and if they're
not willing to take their chance along wi' th' rest, th' Union
has ways and means.'

Mr. Hale saw that Higgins was vexed at the turn the conversation
had taken, and was silent. Not so Margaret, though she saw
Higgins's feeling as clearly as he did. By instinct she felt,
that if he could but be brought to express himself in plain
words, something clear would be gained on which to argue for the
right and the just.

'And what are the Union's ways and means?'

He looked up at her, as if on' the point of dogged resistance to
her wish for information. But her calm face, fixed on his,
patient and trustful, compelled him to answer.

'Well! If a man doesn't belong to th' Union, them as works next
looms has orders not to speak to him--if he's sorry or ill it's
a' the same; he's out o' bounds; he's none o' us; he comes among
us, he works among us, but he's none o' us. I' some places them's
fined who speaks to him. Yo' try that, miss; try living a year or
two among them as looks away if yo' look at 'em; try working
within two yards o' crowds o' men, who, yo' know, have a grinding
grudge at yo' in their hearts--to whom if yo' say yo'r glad, not
an eye brightens, nor a lip moves,--to whom if your heart's
heavy, yo' can never say nought, because they'll ne'er take
notice on your sighs or sad looks (and a man 's no man who'll
groan out loud 'bout folk asking him what 's the matter?)--just
yo' try that, miss--ten hours for three hundred days, and yo'll
know a bit what th' Union is.'

'Why!' said Margaret, 'what tyranny this is! Nay, Higgins, I
don't care one straw for your anger. I know you can't be angry
with me if you would, and I must tell you the truth: that I never
read, in all the history I have read, of a more slow, lingering
torture than this. And you belong to the Union! And you talk of
the tyranny of the masters!'

'Nay,' said Higgins, 'yo' may say what yo' like! The dead stand
between yo and every angry word o' mine. D' ye think I forget
who's lying ~there~, and how hoo loved yo'? And it's th' masters
as has made us sin, if th' Union is a sin. Not this generation
maybe, but their fathers. Their fathers ground our fathers to the
very dust; ground us to powder! Parson! I reckon, I've heerd my
mother read out a text, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes and
th' children's teeth are set on edge." It's so wi' them. In those
days of sore oppression th' Unions began; it were a necessity.
It's a necessity now, according to me. It's a withstanding of
injustice, past, present, or to come. It may be like war; along
wi' it come crimes; but I think it were a greater crime to let it
alone. Our only chance is binding men together in one common
interest; and if some are cowards and some are fools, they mun
come along and join the great march, whose only strength is in

'Oh!' said Mr. Hale, sighing, 'your Union in itself would be
beautiful, glorious,--it would be Christianity itself--if it were
but for an end which affected the good of all, instead of that of
merely one class as opposed to another.'

'I reckon it's time for me to be going, sir,' said Higgins, as
the clock struck ten.

'Home?' said Margaret very softly. He understood her, and took
her offered hand. 'Home, miss. Yo' may trust me, tho' I am one o'
th' Union.'

'I do trust you most thoroughly, Nicholas.'

'Stay!' said Mr. Hale, hurrying to the book-shelves. 'Mr.
Higgins! I'm sure you'll join us in family prayer?'

Higgins looked at Margaret, doubtfully. Hey grave sweet eyes met
his; there was no compulsion, only deep interest in them. He did
not speak, but he kept his place.

Margaret the Churchwoman, her father the Dissenter, Higgins the
Infidel, knelt down together. It did them no harm.



'Some wishes crossed my mind and dimly cheered it,
And one or two poor melancholy pleasures,
Each in the pale unwarming light of hope,
Silvering its flimsy wing, flew silent by--
Moths in the moonbeam!'

The next morning brought Margaret a letter from Edith. It was
affectionate and inconsequent like the writer. But the affection
was charming to Margaret's own affectionate nature; and she had
grown up with the inconsequence, so she did not perceive it. It
was as follows:--

'Oh, Margaret, it is worth a journey from England to see my boy!
He is a superb little fellow, especially in his caps, and most
especially in the one you sent him, you good, dainty-fingered,
persevering little lady! Having made all the mothers here
envious, I want to show him to somebody new, and hear a fresh set
of admiring expressions; perhaps, that's all the reason; perhaps
it is not--nay, possibly, there is just a little cousinly love
mixed with it; but I do want you so much to come here, Margaret!
I'm sure it would be the very best thing for Aunt Hale's health;
everybody here is young and well, and our skies are always blue,
and our sun always shines, and the band plays deliciously from
morning till night; and, to come back to the burden of my ditty,
my baby always smiles. I am constantly wanting you to draw him
for me, Margaret. It does not signify what he is doing; that very
thing is prettiest, gracefulest, best. I think I love him a great
deal better than my husband, who is getting stout, and
grumpy,--what he calls "busy." No! he is not. He has just come in
with news of such a charming pic-nic, given by the officers of
the Hazard, at anchor in the bay below. Because he has brought in
such a pleasant piece of news, I retract all I said just now. Did
not somebody burn his hand for having said or done something he
was sorry for? Well, I can't burn mine, because it would hurt me,
and the scar would be ugly; but I'll retract all I said as fast
as I can. Cosmo is quite as great a darling as baby, and not a
bit stout, and as un-grumpy as ever husband was; only, sometimes
he is very, very busy. I may say that without love--wifely
duty--where was I?--I had something very particular to say, I
know, once. Oh, it is this--Dearest Margaret!--you must come and
see me; it would do Aunt Hale good, as I said before. Get the
doctor to order it for her. Tell him that it's the smoke of
Milton that does her harm. I have no doubt it is that, really.
Three months (you must not come for less) of this delicious
climate--all sunshine, and grapes as common as blackberries,
would quite cure her. I don't ask my uncle'--(Here the letter
became more constrained, and better written; Mr. Hale was in the
corner, like a naughty child, for having given up his
living.)--'because, I dare say, he disapproves of war, and
soldiers, and bands of music; at least, I know that many
Dissenters are members of the Peace Society, and I am afraid he
would not like to come; but, if he would, dear, pray say that
Cosmo and I will do our best to make him happy; and I'll hide up
Cosmo's red coat and sword, and make the band play all sorts of
grave, solemn things; or, if they do play pomps and vanities, it
shall be in double slow time. Dear Margaret, if he would like to
accompany you and Aunt Hale, we will try and make it pleasant,
though I'm rather afraid of any one who has done something for
conscience sake. You never did, I hope. Tell Aunt Hale not to
bring many warm clothes, though I'm afraid it will be late in the
year before you can come. But you have no idea of the heat here!
I tried to wear my great beauty Indian shawl at a pic-nic. I kept
myself up with proverbs as long as I could; "Pride must
abide,"--and such wholesome pieces of pith; but it was of no use.
I was like mamma's little dog Tiny with an elephant's trappings
on; smothered, hidden, killed with my finery; so I made it into a
capital carpet for us all to sit down upon. Here's this boy of
mine, Margaret,--if you don't pack up your things as soon as you
get this letter, a come straight off to see him, I shall think
you're descended from King Herod!'

Margaret did long for a day of Edith's life--her freedom from
care, her cheerful home, her sunny skies. If a wish could have
transported her, she would have gone off; just for one day. She
yearned for the strength which such a change would give,--even
for a few hours to be in the midst of that bright life, and to
feel young again. Not yet twenty! and she had had to bear up
against such hard pressure that she felt quite old. That was her
first feeling after reading Edith's letter. Then she read it
again, and, forgetting herself, was amused at its likeness to
Edith's self, and was laughing merrily over it when Mrs. Hale
came into the drawing-room, leaning on Dixon's arm. Margaret flew
to adjust the pillows. Her mother seemed more than usually

'What were you laughing at, Margaret?' asked she, as soon as she
had recovered from the exertion of settling herself on the sofa.

'A letter I have had this morning from Edith. Shall I read it
you, mamma?'

She read it aloud, and for a time it seemed to interest her
mother, who kept wondering what name Edith had given to her boy,
and suggesting all probable names, and all possible reasons why
each and all of these names should be given. Into the very midst
of these wonders Mr. Thornton came, bringing another offering of
fruit for Mrs. Hale. He could not--say rather, he would not--deny
himself the chance of the pleasure of seeing Margaret. He had no
end in this but the present gratification. It was the sturdy
wilfulness of a man usually most reasonable and self-controlled.
He entered the room, taking in at a glance the fact of Margaret's
presence; but after the first cold distant bow, he never seemed
to let his eyes fall on her again. He only stayed to present his
peaches--to speak some gentle kindly words--and then his cold
offended eyes met Margaret's with a grave farewell, as he left
the room. She sat down silent and pale.

'Do you know, Margaret, I really begin quite to like Mr.

No answer at first. Then Margaret forced out an icy 'Do you?'

'Yes! I think he is really getting quite polished in his

Margaret's voice was more in order now. She replied,

'He is very kind and attentive,--there is no doubt of that.'

'I wonder Mrs. Thornton never calls. She must know I am ill,
because of the water-bed.'

'I dare say, she hears how you are from her son.'

'Still, I should like to see her You have so few friends here,

Margaret felt what was in her mother's thoughts,--a tender
craving to bespeak the kindness of some woman towards the
daughter that might be so soon left motherless. But she could not

'Do you think,' said Mrs. Hale, after a pause, 'that you could go
and ask Mrs. Thornton to come and see me? Only once,--I don't
want to be troublesome.'

'I will do anything, if you wish it, mamma,--but if--but when
Frederick comes----'

'Ah, to be sure! we must keep our doors shut,--we must let no one
in. I hardly know whether I dare wish him to come or not.
Sometimes I think I would rather not. Sometimes I have such
frightful dreams about him.'

'Oh, mamma! we'll take good care. I will put my arm in the bolt
sooner than he should come to the slightest harm. Trust the care
of him to me, mamma. I will watch over him like a lioness over
her young.'

'When can we hear from him?'

'Not for a week yet, certainly,--perhaps more.'

'We must send Martha away in good time. It would never do to have
her here when he comes, and then send her off in a hurry.'

'Dixon is sure to remind us of that. I was thinking that, if we
wanted any help in the house while he is here, we could perhaps
get Mary Higgins. She is very slack of work, and is a good girl,
and would take pains to do her best, I am sure, and would sleep
at home, and need never come upstairs, so as to know who is in
the house.'

'As you please. As Dixon pleases. But, Margaret, don't get to use
these horrid Milton words. "Slack of work:" it is a
provincialism. What will your aunt Shaw say, if she hears you use
it on her return?'

'Oh, mamma! don't try and make a bugbear of aunt Shaw' said
Margaret, laughing. 'Edith picked up all sorts of military slang
from Captain Lennox, and aunt Shaw never took any notice of it.'

'But yours is factory slang.'

'And if I live in a factory town, I must speak factory language
when I want it. Why, mamma, I could astonish you with a great
many words you never heard in your life. I don't believe you know
what a knobstick is.'

'Not I, child. I only know it has a very vulgar sound and I don't
want to hear you using it.'

'Very well, dearest mother, I won't. Only I shall have to use a
whole explanatory sentence instead.'

'I don't like this Milton,' said Mrs. Hale. 'Edith is right
enough in saying it's the smoke that has made me so ill.'

Margaret started up as her mother said this. Her father had just
entered the room, and she was most anxious that the faint
impression she had seen on his mind that the Milton air had
injured her mother's health, should not be deepened,--should not
receive any confirmation. She could not tell whether he had heard
what Mrs. Hale had said or not; but she began speaking hurriedly
of other things, unaware that Mr. Thornton was following him.

'Mamma is accusing me of having picked up a great deal of
vulgarity since we came to Milton.'

The 'vulgarity' Margaret spoke of, referred purely to the use of
local words, and the expression arose out of the conversation
they had just been holding. But Mr. Thornton's brow darkened; and
Margaret suddenly felt how her speech might be misunderstood by
him; so, in the natural sweet desire to avoid giving unnecessary
pain, she forced herself to go forwards with a little greeting,
and continue what she was saying, addressing herself to him

'Now, Mr. Thornton, though "knobstick" has not a very pretty
sound, is it not expressive? Could I do without it, in speaking
of the thing it represents? If using local words is vulgar, I was
very vulgar in the Forest,--was I not, mamma?'

It was unusual with Margaret to obtrude her own subject of
conversation on others; but, in this case, she was so anxious to
prevent Mr. Thornton from feeling annoyance at the words he had
accidentally overheard, that it was not until she had done
speaking that she coloured all over with consciousness, more
especially as Mr. Thornton seemed hardly to understand the exact
gist or bearing of what she was saying, but passed her by, with a
cold reserve of ceremonious movement, to speak to Mrs. Hale.

The sight of him reminded her of the wish to see his mother, and
commend Margaret to her care. Margaret, sitting in burning
silence, vexed and ashamed of her difficulty in keeping her right
place, and her calm unconsciousness of heart, when Mr. Thornton
was by, heard her mother's slow entreaty that Mrs. Thornton would
come and see her; see her soon; to-morrow, if it were possible.
Mr. Thornton promised that she should--conversed a little, and
then took his leave; and Margaret's movements and voice seemed at
once released from some invisible chains. He never looked at her;
and yet, the careful avoidance of his eyes betokened that in some
way he knew exactly where, if they fell by chance, they would
rest on her. If she spoke, he gave no sign of attention, and yet
his next speech to any one else was modified by what she had
said; sometimes there was an express answer to what she had
remarked, but given to another person as though unsuggested by
her. It was not the bad manners of ignorance it was the wilful
bad manners arising from deep offence. It was wilful at the time,
repented of afterwards. But no deep plan, no careful cunning
could have stood him in such good stead. Margaret thought about
him more than she had ever done before; not with any tinge of
what is called love, but with regret that she had wounded him so
deeply,--and with a gentle, patient striving to return to their
former position of antagonistic friendship; for a friend's
position was what she found that he had held in her regard, as
well as in that of the rest of the family. There was a pretty
humility in her behaviour to him, as if mutely apologising for
the over-strong words which were the reaction from the deeds of
the day of the riot.

But he resented those words bitterly. They rung in his ears; and
he was proud of the sense of justice which made him go on in
every kindness he could offer to her parents. He exulted in the
power he showed in compelling himself to face her, whenever he
could think of any action which might give her father or mother
pleasure. He thought that he disliked seeing one who had
mortified him so keenly; but he was mistaken. It was a stinging
pleasure to be in the room with her, and feel her presence. But
he was no great analyser of his own motives, and was mistaken as
I have said.



'The saddest birds a season find to sing.'

'Never to fold the robe o'er secret pain,
Never, weighed down by memory's clouds again,
To bow thy head! Thou art gone home!'

Mrs. Thornton came to see Mrs. Hale the next morning. She was
much worse. One of those sudden changes--those great visible
strides towards death, had been taken in the night, and her own
family were startled by the gray sunken look her features had
assumed in that one twelve hours of suffering. Mrs. Thornton--who
had not seen her for weeks--was softened all at once. She had
come because her son asked it from her as a personal favour, but
with all the proud bitter feelings of her nature in arms against
that family of which Margaret formed one. She doubted the reality
of Mrs. Hale's illness; she doubted any want beyond a momentary
fancy on that lady's part, which should take her out of her
previously settled course of employment for the day. She told her
son that she wished they had never come near the place; that he
had never got acquainted with them; that there had been no such
useless languages as Latin and Greek ever invented. He bore all
this pretty silently; but when she had ended her invective
against the dead languages, he quietly returned to the short,
curt, decided expression of his wish that she should go and see
Mrs. Hale at the time appointed, as most likely to be convenient
to the invalid. Mrs. Thornton submitted with as bad a grace as
she could to her son's desire, all the time liking him the better
for having it; and exaggerating in her own mind the same notion
that he had of extraordinary goodness on his part in so
perseveringly keeping up with the Hales.

His goodness verging on weakness (as all the softer virtues did
in her mind), and her own contempt for Mr. and Mrs. Hale, and
positive dislike to Margaret, were the ideas which occupied Mrs.
Thornton, till she was struck into nothingness before the dark
shadow of the wings of the angel of death. There lay Mrs. Hale--a
mother like herself--a much younger woman than she was,--on the
bed from which there was no sign of hope that she might ever rise
again No more variety of light and shade for her in that darkened
room; no power of action, scarcely change of movement; faint
alternations of whispered sound and studious silence; and yet
that monotonous life seemed almost too much! When Mrs. Thornton,
strong and prosperous with life, came in, Mrs. Hale lay still,
although from the look on her face she was evidently conscious of
who it was. But she did not even open her eyes for a minute or
two. The heavy moisture of tears stood on the eye-lashes before
she looked up, then with her hand groping feebly over the
bed-clothes, for the touch of Mrs. Thornton's large firm fingers,
she said, scarcely above her breath--Mrs. Thornton had to stoop
from her erectness to listen,--

'Margaret--you have a daughter--my sister is in Italy. My child
will be without a mother;--in a strange place,--if I die--will

And her filmy wandering eyes fixed themselves with an intensity
of wistfulness on Mrs. Thornton's face For a minute, there was no
change in its rigidness; it was stern and unmoved;--nay, but that
the eyes of the sick woman were growing dim with the
slow-gathering tears, she might have seen a dark cloud cross the
cold features. And it was no thought of her son, or of her living
daughter Fanny, that stirred her heart at last; but a sudden
remembrance, suggested by something in the arrangement of the
room,--of a little daughter--dead in infancy--long years
ago--that, like a sudden sunbeam, melted the icy crust, behind
which there was a real tender woman.

'You wish me to be a friend to Miss Hale,' said Mrs. Thornton, in
her measured voice, that would not soften with her heart, but
came out distinct and clear.

Mrs. Hale, her eyes still fixed on Mrs. Thornton's face, pressed
the hand that lay below hers on the coverlet. She could not
speak. Mrs. Thornton sighed, 'I will. be a true friend, if
circumstances require it Not a tender friend. That I cannot
be,'--('to her,' she was on the point of adding, but she relented
at the sight of that poor, anxious face.)--'It is not my nature
to show affection even where I feel it, nor do I volunteer advice
in general. Still, at your request,--if it will be any comfort to
you, I will promise you.' Then came a pause. Mrs. Thornton was
too conscientious to promise what she did not mean to perform;
and to perform any-thing in the way of kindness on behalf of
Margaret, more disliked at this moment than ever, was difficult;
almost impossible.

'I promise,' said she, with grave severity; which, after all,
inspired the dying woman with faith as in something more stable
than life itself,--flickering, flitting, wavering life! 'I
promise that in any difficulty in which Miss Hale'----

'Call her Margaret!' gasped Mrs. Hale.

'In which she comes to me for help, I will help her with every
power I have, as if she were my own daughter. I also promise that
if ever I see her doing what I think is wrong'----

'But Margaret never does wrong--not wilfully wrong,' pleaded Mrs.
Hale. Mrs. Thornton went on as before; as if she had not heard:

'If ever I see her doing what I believe to be wrong--such wrong
not touching me or mine, in which case I might be supposed to
have an interested motive--I will tell her of it, faithfully and
plainly, as I should wish my own daughter to be told.'

There was a long pause. Mrs. Hale felt that this promise did not
include all; and yet it was much. It had reservations in it which
she did not understand; but then she was weak, dizzy, and tired.
Mrs. Thornton was reviewing all the probable cases in which she
had pledged herself to act. She had a fierce pleasure in the idea
of telling Margaret unwelcome truths, in the shape of performance
of duty. Mrs. Hale began to speak:

'I thank you. I pray God to bless you. I shall never see you
again in this world. But my last words are, I thank you for your
promise of kindness to my child.'

'Not kindness!' testified Mrs. Thornton, ungraciously truthful to
the last. But having eased her conscience by saying these words,
she was not sorry that they were not heard. She pressed Mrs.
Hale's soft languid hand; and rose up and went her way out of the
house without seeing a creature.

During the time that Mrs. Thornton was having this interview with
Mrs. Hale, Margaret and Dixon were laying their heads together,
and consulting how they should keep Frederick's coming a profound
secret to all out of the house. A letter from him might now be
expected any day; and he would assuredly follow quickly on its
heels. Martha must be sent away on her holiday; Dixon must keep
stern guard on the front door, only admitting the few visitors
that ever came to the house into Mr. Hale's room
down-stairs--Mrs. Hale's extreme illness giving her a good excuse
for this. If Mary Higgins was required as a help to Dixon in the
kitchen she was to hear and see as little of Frederick as
possible; and he was, if necessary to be spoken of to her under
the name of Mr. Dickinson. But. her sluggish and incurious nature
was the greatest safeguard of all.

They resolved that Martha should leave them that very afternoon
for this visit to her mother. Margaret wished that she had been
sent away on the previous day, as she fancied it might be thought
strange to give a servant a holiday when her mistress's state
required so much attendance.

Poor Margaret! All that afternoon she had to act the part of a
Roman daughter, and give strength out of her own scanty stock to
her father. Mr. hale would hope, would not despair, between the
attacks of his wife's malady; he buoyed himself up in every
respite from her pain, and believed that it was the beginning of
ultimate recovery. And so, when the paroxysms came on, each more
severe than the last, they were fresh agonies, and greater
disappointments to him. This afternoon, he sat in the
drawing-room, unable to bear the solitude of his study, or to
employ himself in any way. He buried his head in his arms, which
lay folded on the table. Margaret's heart ached to see him; yet,
as he did not speak, she did not like to volunteer any attempt at
comfort. Martha was gone. Dixon sat with Mrs. Hale while she
slept. The house was very still and quiet, and darkness came on,
without any movement to procure candles. Margaret sat at the
window, looking out at the lamps and the street, but seeing
nothing,--only alive to her father's heavy sighs. She did not
like to go down for lights, lest the tacit restraint of her
presence being withdrawn, he might give way to more violent
emotion, without her being at hand to comfort him. Yet she was
just thinking that she ought to go and see after the well-doing
of the kitchen fire, which there was nobody but herself to attend
to when she heard the muffled door-ring with so violent a pull,
that the wires jingled all through the house, though the positive
sound was not great. She started up, passed her father, who had
never moved at the veiled, dull sound,--returned, and kissed him
tenderly. And still he never moved, nor took any notice of her
fond embrace. Then she went down softly, through the dark, to the
door. Dixon would have put the chain on before she opened it, but
Margaret had not a thought of fear in her pre-occupied mind. A
man's tall figure stood between her and the luminous street. He
was looking away; but at the sound of the latch he turned quickly

'Is this Mr. Hale's?' said he, in a clear, full, delicate voice.

Margaret trembled all over; at first she did not answer. In a
moment she sighed out,

'Frederick!' and stretched out both her hands to Catch his, and
draw him in.

'Oh, Margaret!' said he, holding her off by her shoulders, after
they had kissed each other, as if even in that darkness he could
see her face, and read in its expression a quicker answer to his
question than words could give,--

'My mother! is she alive?'

'Yes, she is alive, dear, dear brother! She--as ill as she can be
she is; but alive! She is alive!'

'Thank God!' said he.

'Papa is utterly prostrate with this great grief.'

'You expect me, don't you?'

'No, we have had no letter.'

'Then I have come before it. But my mother knows I am coming?'

'Oh! we all knew you would come. But wait a little! Step in here.
Give me your hand. What is this? Oh! your carpet-bag. Dixon has
shut the shutters; but this is papa's study, and I can take you
to a chair to rest yourself for a few minutes; while I go and
tell him.'

She groped her way to the taper and the lucifer matches. She
suddenly felt shy, when the little feeble light made them
visible. All she could see was, that her brother's face was
unusually dark in complexion, and she caught the stealthy look of
a pair of remarkably long-cut blue eyes, that suddenly twinkled
up with a droll consciousness of their mutual purpose of
inspecting each other. But though the brother and sister had an
instant of sympathy in their reciprocal glances, they did not
exchange a word; only, Margaret felt sure that she should like
her brother as a companion as much as she already loved him as a
near relation. Her heart was wonderfully lighter as she went
up-stairs; the sorrow was no less in reality, but it became less
oppressive from having some one in precisely the same relation to
it as that in which she stood. Not her father's desponding
attitude had power to damp her now. He lay across the table,
helpless as ever; but she had the spell by which to rouse him.
She used it perhaps too violently in her own great relief.

'Papa,' said she, throwing her arms fondly round his neck;
pulling his weary head up in fact with her gentle violence, till
it rested in her arms, and she could look into his eyes, and let
them gain strength and assurance from hers.

'Papa! guess who is here!'

He looked at her; she saw the idea of the truth glimmer into
their filmy sadness, and be dismissed thence as a wild

He threw himself forward, and hid his face once more in his
stretched-out arms, resting upon the table as heretofore. She
heard him whisper; she bent tenderly down to listen. 'I don't
know. Don't tell me it is Frederick--not Frederick. I cannot bear
it,--I am too weak. And his mother is dying!'He began to cry and
wail like a child. It was so different to all which Margaret had
hoped and expected, that she turned sick with disappointment, and
was silent for an instant. Then she spoke again--very
differently--not so exultingly, far more tenderly and carefully.

'Papa, it is Frederick! Think of mamma, how glad she will be! And
oh, for her sake, how glad we ought to be! For his sake,
too,--our poor, poor boy!'

Her father did not change his attitude, but he seemed to be
trying to understand the fact.

'Where is he?' asked he at last, his face still hidden in his
prostrate arms.

'In your study, quite alone. I lighted the taper, and ran up to
tell you. He is quite alone, and will be wondering why--'

'I will go to him,' broke in her father; and he lifted himself up
and leant on her arm as on that of a guide.

Margaret led him to the study door, but her spirits were so
agitated that she felt she could not bear to see the meeting. She
turned away, and ran up-stairs, and cried most heartily. It was
the first time she had dared to allow herself this relief for
days. The strain had been terrible, as she now felt. But
Frederick was come! He, the one precious brother, was there,
safe, amongst them again! She could hardly believe it. She
stopped her crying, and opened her bedroom door. She heard no
sound of voices, and almost feared she might have dreamt. She
went down-stairs, and listened at the study door. She heard the
buzz of voices; and that was enough. She went into the kitchen,
and stirred up the fire, and lighted the house, and prepared for
the wanderer's refreshment. How fortunate it was that her mother
slept! She knew that she did, from the candle-lighter thrust
through the keyhole of her bedroom door. The traveller could be
refreshed and bright, and the first excitement of the meeting
with his father all be over, before her mother became aware of
anything unusual.

When all was ready, Margaret opened the study door, and went in
like a serving-maiden, with a heavy tray. held in her extended
arms. She was proud of serving Frederick. But he, when he saw
her, sprang up in a minute, and relieved her of her burden. It
was a type, a sign, of all the coming relief which his presence
would bring. The brother and sister arranged the table together,
saying little, but their hands touching, and their eyes speaking
the natural language of expression, so intelligible to those of
the same blood. The fire had gone out; and Margaret applied
herself to light it, for the evenings had begun to be chilly; and
yet it was desirable to make all noises as distant as possible
from Mrs. Hale's room.

'Dixon says it is a gift to light a fire; not an art to be

'Poeta nascitur, non fit,' murmured Mr. Hale; and Margaret was
glad to hear a quotation once more, however languidly given.

'Dear old Dixon! How we shall kiss each other!' said Frederick.
'She used to kiss me, and then look in my face to be sure I was
the right person, and then set to again! But, Margaret, what a
bungler you are! I never saw such a little awkward,
good-for-nothing pair of hands. Run away, and wash them, ready to
cut bread-and-butter for me, and leave the fire. I'll manage it.
Lighting fires is one of my natural accomplishments.'

So Margaret went away; and returned; and passed in and out of the
room, in a glad restlessness that could not be satisfied with
sitting still. The more wants Frederick had, the better she was
pleased; and he understood all this by instinct. It was a joy
snatched in the house of mourning, and the zest of it was all the
more pungent, because they knew in the depths of their hearts
what irremediable sorrow awaited them.

In the middle, they heard Dixon's foot on the stairs. Mr. Hale
started from his languid posture in his great armchair, from
which he had been watching his children in a dreamy way, as if
they were acting some drama of happiness, which it was pretty to
look at, but which was distinct from reality, and in which he had
no part. He stood up, and faced the door, showing such a strange,
sudden anxiety to conceal Frederick from the sight of any person
entering, even though it were the faithful Dixon, that a shiver
came over Margaret's heart: it reminded her of the new fear in
their lives. She caught at Frederick's arm, and clutched it
tight, while a stern thought compressed her brows, and caused her
to set her teeth. And yet they knew it was only Dixon's measured
tread. They heard her walk the length of the passage, into the
kitchen. Margaret rose up.

I will go to her, and tell her. And I shall hear how mamma is.'
Mrs. Hale was awake. She rambled at first; but after they had
given her some tea she was refreshed, though not disposed to
talk. It was better that the night should pass over before she
was told of her son's arrival. Dr. Donaldson's appointed visit
would bring nervous excitement enough for the evening; and he
might tell them how to prepare her for seeing Frederick. He was
there, in the house; could be summoned at any moment.

Margaret could not sit still. It was a relief to her to aid Dixon
in all her preparations for 'Master Frederick.' It seemed as
though she never could be tired again. Each glimpse into the room
where he sate by his father, conversing with him, about, she knew
not what, nor cared to know,--was increase of strength to her.
Her own time for talking and hearing would come at last, and she
was too certain of this to feel in a hurry to grasp it now. She
took in his appearance and liked it. He had delicate features,
redeemed from effeminacy by the swarthiness of his complexion,
and his quick intensity of expression. His eyes were generally
merry-looking, but at times they and his mouth so suddenly
changed, and gave her such an idea of latent passion, that it
almost made her afraid. But this look was only for an instant;
and had in it no doggedness, no vindictiveness; it was rather the
instantaneous ferocity of expression that comes over the
countenances of all natives of wild or southern countries--a
ferocity which enhances the charm of the childlike softness into
which such a look may melt away. Margaret might fear the violence
of the impulsive nature thus occasionally betrayed, but there was
nothing in it to make her distrust, or recoil in the least, from
the new-found brother. On the contrary, all their intercourse was
peculiarly charming to her from the very first. She knew then how
much responsibility she had had to bear, from the exquisite
sensation of relief which she felt in Frederick's presence. He
understood his father and mother--their characters and their
weaknesses, and went along with a careless freedom, which was yet
most delicately careful not to hurt or wound any of their
feelings. He seemed to know instinctively when a little of the
natural brilliancy of his manner and conversation would not jar
on the deep depression of his father, or might relieve his
mother's pain. Whenever it would have been out of tune, and out
of time, his patient devotion and watchfulness came into play,
and made him an admirable nurse. Then Margaret was almost touched
into tears by the allusions which he often made to their childish
days in the New Forest; he had never forgotten her--or Helstone
either--all the time he had been roaming among distant countries
and foreign people. She might talk to him of the old spot, and
never fear tiring him. She had been afraid of him before he came,
even while she had longed for his coming; seven or eight years
had, she felt, produced such great changes in herself that,
forgetting how much of the original Margaret was left, she had
reasoned that if her tastes and feelings had so materially
altered, even in her stay-at-home life, his wild career, with
which she was but imperfectly acquainted, must have almost
substituted another Frederick for the tall stripling in his
middy's uniform, whom she remembered looking up to with such
admiring awe. But in their absence they had grown nearer to each
other in age, as well as in many other things. And so it was that
the weight, this sorrowful time, was lightened to Margaret. Other
light than that of Frederick's presence she had none. For a few
hours, the mother rallied on seeing her son. She sate with his
hand in hers; she would not part with it even while she slept;
and Margaret had to feed him like a baby, rather than that he
should disturb her mother by removing a finger. Mrs. Hale wakened
while they were thus engaged; she slowly moved her head round on
the pillow, and smiled at her children, as she understood what
they were doing, and why it was done.

'I am very selfish,' said she; 'but it will not be for long.'
Frederick bent down and kissed the feeble hand that imprisoned

This state of tranquillity could not endure for many days, nor
perhaps for many hours; so Dr. Donaldson assured Margaret. After
the kind doctor had gone away, she stole down to Frederick, who,
during the visit, had been adjured to remain quietly concealed in
the back parlour, usually Dixon's bedroom, but now given up to

Margaret told him what Dr. Donaldson said.

'I don't believe it,' he exclaimed. 'She is very ill; she may be
dangerously ill, and in immediate danger, too; but I can't
imagine that she could be as she is, if she were on the point of
death. Margaret! she should have some other advice--some London
doctor. Have you never thought of that?'

'Yes,' said Margaret, 'more than once. But I don't believe it
would do any good. And, you know, we have not the money to bring
any great London surgeon down, and I am sure Dr. Donaldson is
only second in skill to the very best,--if, indeed, he is to

Frederick began to walk up and down the room impatiently.

'I have credit in Cadiz,' said he, 'but none here, owing to this
wretched change of name. Why did my father leave Helstone? That
was the blunder.'

'It was no blunder,' said Margaret gloomily. 'And above all
possible chances, avoid letting papa hear anything like what you
have just been saying. I can see that he is tormenting himself
already with the idea that mamma would never have been ill if we
had stayed at Helstone, and you don't know papa's agonising power
of self-reproach!'

Frederick walked away as if he were on the quarter-deck. At last
he stopped right opposite to Margaret, and looked at her drooping
and desponding attitude for an instant.

'My little Margaret!' said he, caressing her. 'Let us hope as
long as we can. Poor little woman! what! is this face all wet
with tears? I will hope. I will, in spite of a thousand doctors.
Bear up, Margaret, and be brave enough to hope!'

Margaret choked in trying to speak, and when she did it was very

'I must try to be meek enough to trust. Oh, Frederick! mamma was
getting to love me so! And I was getting to understand her. And
now comes death to snap us asunder!'

'Come, come, come! Let us go up-stairs, and do something, rather
than waste time that may be so precious. Thinking has, many a
time, made me sad, darling; but doing never did in all my life.
My theory is a sort of parody on the maxim of "Get money, my son,
honestly if you can; but get money." My precept is, "Do something,
my sister, do good if you can; but, at any rate, do something."'

'Not excluding mischief,' said Margaret, smiling faintly through
her tears.

'By no means. What I do exclude is the remorse afterwards. Blot
your misdeeds out (if you are particularly conscientious), by a
good deed, as soon as you can; just as we did a correct sum at
school on the slate, where an incorrect one was only half rubbed
out. It was better than wetting our sponge with our tears; both
less loss of time where tears had to be waited for, and a better
effect at last.'

If Margaret thought Frederick's theory rather a rough one at
first, she saw how he worked it out into continual production of
kindness in fact. After a bad night with his mother (for he
insisted on taking his turn as a sitter-up) he was busy next
morning before breakfast, contriving a leg-rest for Dixon, who
was beginning to feel the fatigues of watching. At
breakfast-time, he interested Mr. Hale with vivid, graphic,
rattling accounts of the wild life he had led in Mexico, South
America, and elsewhere. Margaret would have given up the effort
in despair to rouse Mr. Hale out of his dejection; it would even
have affected herself and rendered her incapable of talking at
all. But Fred, true to his theory, did something perpetually; and
talking was the only thing to be done, besides eating, at

Before the night of that day, Dr. Donaldson's opinion was proved
to be too well founded. Convulsions came on; and when they
ceased, Mrs. Hale was unconscious. Her husband might lie by her
shaking the bed with his sobs; her son's strong arms might lift
her tenderly up into a comfortable position; her daughter's hands
might bathe her face; but she knew them not. She would never
recognise them again, till they met in Heaven.

Before the morning came all was over.

Then Margaret rose from her trembling and despondency, and became
as a strong angel of comfort to her father and brother. For
Frederick had broken down now, and all his theories were of no
use to him. He cried so violently when shut up alone in his
little room at night, that Margaret and Dixon came down in
affright to warn him to be quiet: for the house partitions were
but thin, and the next-door neighbours might easily hear his
youthful passionate sobs, so different from the slower trembling
agony of after-life, when we become inured to grief, and dare not
be rebellious against the inexorable doom, knowing who it is that

Margaret sate with her father in the room with the dead. If he
had cried, she would have been thankful. But he sate by the bed
quite quietly; only, from time to time, he uncovered the face,
and stroked it gently, making a kind of soft inarticulate noise,
like that of some mother-animal caressing her young. He took no
notice of Margaret's presence. Once or twice she came up to kiss
him; and he submitted to it, giving her a little push away when
she had done, as if her affection disturbed him from his
absorption in the dead. He started when he heard Frederick's
cries, and shook his head:--'Poor boy! poor boy!' he said, and
took no more notice. Margaret's heart ached within her. She could
not think of her own loss in thinking of her father's case. The
night was wearing away, and the day was at hand, when, without a
word of preparation, Margaret's voice broke upon the stillness of
the room, with a clearness of sound that startled even herself:
'Let not your heart be troubled,' it said; and she went steadily
on through all that chapter of unspeakable consolation.



'Show not that manner, and these features all,
The serpent's cunning, and the sinner's fall?'

The chill, shivery October morning came; not the October morning
of the country, with soft, silvery mists, clearing off before the
sunbeams that bring out all the gorgeous beauty of colouring, but
the October morning of Milton, whose silver mists were heavy
fogs, and where the sun could only show long dusky streets when
he did break through and shine. Margaret went languidly about,
assisting Dixon in her task of arranging the house. Her eyes were
continually blinded by tears, but she had no time to give way to
regular crying. The father and brother depended upon her; while
they were giving way to grief, she must be working, planning,
considering. Even the necessary arrangements for the funeral
seemed to devolve upon her.

When the fire was bright and crackling--when everything was ready
for breakfast, and the tea-kettle was singing away, Margaret gave
a last look round the room before going to summon Mr. Hale and
Frederick. She wanted everything to look as cheerful as possible;
and yet, when it did so, the contrast between it and her own
thoughts forced her into sudden weeping. She was kneeling by the
sofa, hiding her face in the cushions that no one might hear her
cry, when she was touched on the shoulder by Dixon.

'Come, Miss Hale--come, my dear! You must not give way, or where
shall we all be? There is not another person in the house fit to
give a direction of any kind, and there is so much to be done.
There's who's to manage the funeral; and who's to come to it; and
where it's to be; and all to be settled: and Master Frederick's
like one crazed with crying, and master never was a good one for
settling; and, poor gentleman, he goes about now as if he was
lost. It's bad enough, my dear, I know; but death comes to us
all; and you're well off never to have lost any friend till
now.'Perhaps so. But this seemed a loss by itself; not to bear
comparison with any other event in the world. Margaret did not
take any comfort from what Dixon said, but the unusual tenderness
of the prim old servant's manner touched her to the heart; and,
more from a desire to show her gratitude for this than for any
other reason, she roused herself up, and smiled in answer to
Dixon's anxious look at her; and went to tell her father and
brother that breakfast was ready.

Mr. Hale came--as if in a dream, or rather with the unconscious
motion of a sleep-walker, whose eyes and mind perceive other
things than what are present. Frederick came briskly in, with a
forced cheerfulness, grasped her hand, looked into her eyes, and
burst into tears. She had to try and think of little nothings to
say all breakfast-time, in order to prevent the recurrence of her
companions' thoughts too strongly to the last meal they bad taken
together, when there had been a continual strained listening for
some sound or signal from the sick-room.

After breakfast, she resolved to speak to her father, about the
funeral. He shook his head, and assented to all she proposed,
though many of her propositions absolutely contradicted one
another. Margaret gained no real decision from him; and was
leaving the room languidly, to have a consultation with Dixon,
when Mr. Hale motioned her back to his side.

'Ask Mr. Bell,' said he in a hollow voice.

'Mr. Bell!' said she, a little surprised. 'Mr. Bell of Oxford?'

'Mr. Bell,' he repeated. 'Yes. He was my groom's-man.'

Margaret understood the association.

'I will write to-day,' said she. He sank again into listlessness.
All morning she toiled on, longing for rest, but in a continual
whirl of melancholy business.

Towards evening, Dixon said to her:

'I've done it, miss. I was really afraid for master, that he'd
have a stroke with grief. He's been all this day with poor
missus; and when I've listened at the door, I've heard him
talking to her, and talking to her, as if she was alive. When I
went in he would be quite quiet, but all in a maze like. So I
thought to myself, he ought to be roused; and if it gives him a
shock at first, it will, maybe, be the better afterwards. So I've
been and told him, that I don't think it's safe for Master
Frederick to be here. And I don't. It was only on Tuesday, when I
was out, that I met-a Southampton man--the first I've seen since
I came to Milton; they don't make their way much up here, I
think. Well, it was young Leonards, old Leonards the draper's
son, as great a scamp as ever lived--who plagued his father
almost to death, and then ran off to sea. I never could abide
him. He was in the Orion at the same time as Master Frederick, I
know; though I don't recollect if he was there at the mutiny.'

'Did he know you?' said Margaret, eagerly.

'Why, that's the worst of it. I don't believe he would have known
me but for my being such a fool as to call out his name. He were
a Southampton man, in a strange place, or else I should never
have been so ready to call cousins with him, a nasty,
good-for-nothing fellow. Says he, "Miss Dixon! who would ha'
thought of seeing you here? But perhaps I mistake, and you're
Miss Dixon no longer?" So I told him he might still address me as
an unmarried lady, though if I hadn't been so particular, I'd had
good chances of matrimony. He was polite enough: "He couldn't
look at me and doubt me." But I were not to be caught with such
chaff from such a fellow as him, and so I told him; and, by way
of being even, I asked him after his father (who I knew had
turned him out of doors), as if they was the best friends as ever
was. So then, to spite me--for you see we were getting savage,
for all we were so civil to each other--he began to inquire after
Master Frederick, and said, what a scrape he'd got into (as if
Master Frederick's scrapes would ever wash George Leonards'
white, or make 'em look otherwise than nasty, dirty black), and
how he'd be hung for mutiny if ever he were caught, and how a
hundred pound reward had been offered for catching him, and what
a disgrace he had been to his family--all to spite me, you see,
my dear, because before now I've helped old Mr. Leonards to give
George a good rating, down in Southampton. So I said, there were
other families be thankful if they could think they were earning
an honest living as I knew, who had far more cause to blush for
their sons, and to far away from home. To which he made answer,
like the impudent chap he is, that he were in a confidential
situation, and if I knew of any young man who had been so
unfortunate as to lead vicious courses, and wanted to turn
steady, he'd have no objection to lend him his patronage. He,
indeed! Why, he'd corrupt a sairt. I've not felt so bad myself
for years as when I were standing talking to him the other day. I
could have cried to think I couldn't spite him better, for he
kept smiling in my face, as if he took all my compliments for
earnest; and I couldn't see that he minded what I said in the
least, while I was mad with all his speeches.'

'But you did not tell him anything about us--about Frederick?'

'Not I,' said Dixon. 'He had never the grace to ask where I was
staying; and I shouldn't have told him if he had asked. Nor did I
ask him what his precious situation was. He was waiting for a
bus, and just then it drove up, and he hailed it. But, to plague
me to the last, he turned back before he got in, and said, "If
you can help me to trap Lieutenant Hale, Miss Dixon, we'll go
partners in the reward. I know you'd like to be my partner, now
wouldn't you? Don't be shy, but say yes." And he jumped on the
bus, and I saw his ugly face leering at me with a wicked smile to
think how he'd had the last word of plaguing.'

Margaret was made very uncomfortable by this account of Dixon's.

'Have you told Frederick?' asked she.

'No,' said Dixon. 'I were uneasy in my mind at knowing that bad
Leonards was in town; but there was so much else to think about
that I did not dwell on it at all. But when I saw master sitting
so stiff, and with his eyes so glazed and sad, I thought it might
rouse him to have to think of Master Frederick's safety a bit. So
I told him all, though I blushed to say how a young man had been
speaking to me. And it has done master good. And if we're to keep
Master Frederick in hiding, he would have to go, poor fellow,
before Mr. Bell came.'

'Oh, I'm not afraid of Mr. Bell; but I am afraid of this
Leonards. I must tell Frederick. What did Leonards look like?'

'A bad-looking fellow, I can assure you, miss. Whiskers such as I
should be ashamed to wear--they are so red. And for all he said
he'd got a confidential situation, he was dressed in fustian just
like a working-man.'

It was evident that Frederick must go. Go, too, when he had so
completely vaulted into his place in the family, and promised to
be such a stay and staff to his father and sister. Go, when his
cares for the living mother, and sorrow for the dead, seemed to
make him one of those peculiar people who are bound to us by a
fellow-love for them that are taken away. Just as Margaret was
thinking all this, sitting over the drawing-room fire--her father
restless and uneasy under the pressure of this newly-aroused
fear, of which he had not as yet spoken--Frederick came in, his
brightness dimmed, but the extreme violence of his grief passed
away. He came up to Margaret, and kissed her forehead.

'How wan you look, Margaret!' said he in a low voice. 'You have
been thinking of everybody, and no one has thought of you. Lie on
this sofa--there is nothing for you to do.'

'That is the worst,' said Margaret, in a sad whisper. But she
went and lay down, and her brother covered her feet with a shawl,
and then sate on the ground by her side; and the two began to
talk in a subdued tone.

Margaret told him all that Dixon had related of her interview
with young Leonards. Frederick's lips closed with a long whew of

'I should just like to have it out with that young fellow. A
worse sailor was never on board ship--nor a much worse man
either. I declare, Margaret--you know the circumstances of the
whole affair?'

'Yes, mamma told me.'

'Well, when all the sailors who were good for anything were
indignant with our captain, this fellow, to curry favour--pah!
And to think of his being here! Oh, if he'd a notion I was within
twenty miles of him, he'd ferret me out to pay off old grudges.
I'd rather anybody had the hundred pounds they think I am worth
than that rascal. What a pity poor old Dixon could not be
persuaded to give me up, and make a provision for her old age!'

'Oh, Frederick, hush! Don't talk so.'

Mr. Hale came towards them, eager and trembling. He had overheard
what they were saying. He took Frederick's hand in both of his:

'My boy, you must go. It is very bad--but I see you must. You
have done all you could--you have been a comfort to her.'

'Oh, papa, must he go?' said Margaret, pleading against her own
conviction of necessity.

'I declare, I've a good mind to face it out, and stand my trial.
If I could only pick up my evidence! I cannot endure the thought
of being in the power of such a blackguard as Leonards. I could
almost have enjoyed--in other circumstances--this stolen visit:
it has had all the charm which the French-woman attributed to
forbidden pleasures.'

'One of the earliest things I can remember,' said Margaret, 'was
your being in some great disgrace, Fred, for stealing apples. We
had plenty of our own--trees loaded with them; but some one had
told you that stolen fruit tasted sweetest, which you took au
pied de la lettre, and off you went a-robbing. You have not
changed your feelings much since then.'

'Yes--you must go,' repeated Mr. Hale, answering Margaret's
question, which she had asked some time ago. His thoughts were
fixed on one subject, and it was an effort to him to follow the
zig-zag remarks of his children--an effort which ho did not make.

Margaret and Frederick looked at each other. That quick momentary
sympathy would be theirs no longer if he went away. So much was
understood through eyes that could not be put into words. Both
coursed the same thought till it was lost in sadness. Frederick
shook it off first:

'Do you know, Margaret, I was very nearly giving both Dixon and
myself a good fright this afternoon. I was in my bedroom; I had
heard a ring at the front door, but I thought the ringer must
have done his business and gone away long ago; so I was on the
point of making my appearance in the passage, when, as I opened
my room door, I saw Dixon coming downstairs; and she frowned and
kicked me into hiding again. I kept the door open, and heard a
message given to some man that was in my father's study, and that
then went away. Who could it have been? Some of the shopmen?'

'Very likely,' said Margaret, indifferently. 'There was a little
quiet man who came up for orders about two o'clock.'

'But this was not a little man--a great powerful fellow; and it
was past four when he was here.'

'It was Mr. Thornton,' said Mr. Hale. They were glad to have
drawn him into the conversation.

'Mr. Thornton!' said Margaret, a little surprised. 'I

'Well, little one, what did you think?' asked Frederick, as she
did not finish her sentence.

'Oh, only,' said she, reddening and looking straight at him, 'I
fancied you meant some one of a different class, not a gentleman;
somebody come on an errand.'

'He looked like some one of that kind,' said Frederick,
carelessly. 'I took him for a shopman, and he turns out a

Margaret was silent. She remembered how at first, before she knew
his character, she had spoken and thought of him just as
Frederick was doing. It was but a natural impression that was
made upon him, and yet she was a little annoyed by it. She was
unwilling to speak; she wanted to make Frederick understand what
kind of person Mr. Thornton was--but she was tongue-tied.

Mr. Hale went on. 'He came to offer any assistance in his power,
I believe. But I could not see him. I told Dixon to ask him if he
would like to see you--I think I asked her to find you, and you
would go to him. I don't know what I said.'

'He has been a very agreeable acquaintance, has he not?' asked
Frederick, throwing the question like a ball for any one to catch
who chose.

'A very kind friend,' said Margaret, when her father did not

Frederick was silent for a time. At last he spoke:

'Margaret, it is painful to think I can never thank those who
have shown you kindness. Your acquaintances and mine must be
separate. Unless, indeed, I run the chances of a court-martial,
or unless you and my father would come to Spain.' He threw out
this last suggestion as a kind of feeler; and then suddenly made
the plunge. 'You don't know how I wish you would. I have a good
position--the chance of a better,' continued he, reddening like a
girl. 'That Dolores Barbour that I was telling you of,
Margaret--I only wish you knew her; I am sure you would like--no,
love is the right word, like is so poor--you would love her,
father, if you knew her. She is not eighteen; but if she is in
the same mind another year, she is to be my wife. Mr. Barbour
won't let us call it an engagement. But if you would come, you
would find friends everywhere, besides Dolores. Think of it,
father. Margaret, be on my side.'

'No--no more removals for me,' said Mr. Hale. 'One removal has
cost me my wife. No more removals in this life. She will be here;
and here will I stay out my appointed time.'

'Oh, Frederick,' said Margaret, 'tell us more about her. I never
thought of this; but I am so glad. You will have some one to love
and care for you out there. Tell us all about it.'

'In the first place, she is a Roman Catholic. That's the only
objection I anticipated. But my father's change of opinion--nay,
Margaret, don't sigh.'

Margaret had reason to sigh a little more before the conversation
ended. Frederick himself was Roman Catholic in fact, though not
in profession as yet. This was, then, the reason why his sympathy

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