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    Chapter 2

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    Chapter 3
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    CHAPTER II - ROSES AND THORNS

    'By the soft green light in the woody glade,

    On the banks of moss where thy childhood played;

    By the household tree, thro' which thine eye

    First looked in love to the summer sky.'

    MRS. HEMANS.

    Margaret was once more in her morning dress, travelling quietly
    home with her father, who had come up to assist at the wedding.
    Her mother had been detained at home by a multitude of
    half-reasons, none of which anybody fully understood, except Mr.
    Hale, who was perfectly aware that all his arguments in favour of
    a grey satin gown, which was midway between oldness and newness,
    had proved unavailing; and that, as he had not the money to equip
    his wife afresh, from top to toe, she would not show herself at
    her only sister's only child's wedding. If Mrs. Shaw had guessed
    at the real reason why Mrs. Hale did not accompany her husband,
    she would have showered down gowns upon her; but it was nearly
    twenty years since Mrs. Shaw had been the poor, pretty Miss
    Beresford, and she had really forgotten all grievances except
    that of the unhappiness arising from disparity of age in married
    life, on which she could descant by the half-hour. Dearest Maria
    had married the man of her heart, only eight years older than
    herself, with the sweetest temper, and that blue-black hair one
    so seldom sees. Mr. Hale was one of the most delightful preachers
    she had ever heard, and a perfect model of a parish priest.
    Perhaps it was not quite a logical deduction from all these
    premises, but it was still Mrs. Shaw's characteristic conclusion,
    as she thought over her sister's lot: 'Married for love, what can
    dearest Maria have to wish for in this world?' Mrs. Hale, if she
    spoke truth, might have answered with a ready-made list, 'a
    silver-grey glace silk, a white chip bonnet, oh! dozens of things
    for the wedding, and hundreds of things for the house.' Margaret
    only knew that her mother had not found it convenient to come,
    and she was not sorry to think that their meeting and greeting
    would take place at Helstone parsonage, rather than, during the
    confusion of the last two or three days, in the house in Harley
    Street, where she herself had had to play the part of Figaro, and
    was wanted everywhere at one and the same time. Her mind and body
    ached now with the recollection of all she had done and said
    within the last forty-eight hours. The farewells so hurriedly
    taken, amongst all the other good-byes, of those she had lived
    with so long, oppressed her now with a sad regret for the times
    that were no more; it did not signify what those times had been,
    they were gone never to return. Margaret's heart felt more heavy
    than she could ever have thought it possible in going to her own
    dear home, the place and the life she had longed for for
    years--at that time of all times for yearning and longing, just
    before the sharp senses lose their outlines in sleep. She took
    her mind away with a wrench from the recollection of the past to
    the bright serene contemplation of the hopeful future. Her eyes
    began to see, not visions of what had been, but the sight
    actually before her; her dear father leaning back asleep in the
    railway carriage. His blue-black hair was grey now, and lay
    thinly over his brows. The bones of his face were plainly to be
    seen--too plainly for beauty, if his features had been less
    finely cut; as it was, they had a grace if not a comeliness of
    their own. The face was in repose; but it was rather rest after
    weariness, than the serene calm of the countenance of one who led
    a placid, contented life. Margaret was painfully struck by the
    worn, anxious expression; and she went back over the open and
    avowed circumstances of her father's life, to find the cause for
    the lines that spoke so plainly of habitual distress and
    depression.

    'Poor Frederick!' thought she, sighing. 'Oh! if Frederick had but
    been a clergyman, instead of going into the navy, and being lost
    to us all! I wish I knew all about it. I never understood it from
    Aunt Shaw; I only knew he could not come back to England because
    of that terrible affair. Poor dear papa! how sad he looks! I am
    so glad I am going home, to be at hand to comfort him and mamma.

    She was ready with a bright smile, in which there was not a trace
    of fatigue, to greet her father when he awakened. He smiled back
    again, but faintly, as if it were an unusual exertion. His face
    returned into its lines of habitual anxiety. He had a trick of
    half-opening his mouth as if to speak, which constantly unsettled
    the form of the lips, and gave the face an undecided expression.
    But he had the same large, soft eyes as his daughter,--eyes which
    moved slowly and almost grandly round in their orbits, and were
    well veiled by their transparent white eyelids. Margaret was more
    like him than like her mother. Sometimes people wondered that
    parents so handsome should have a daughter who was so far from
    regularly beautiful; not beautiful at all, was occasionally said.
    Her mouth was wide; no rosebud that could only open just' enough
    to let out a 'yes' and 'no,' and 'an't please you, sir.' But the
    wide mouth was one soft curve of rich red lips; and the skin, if
    not white and fair, was of an ivory smoothness and delicacy. If
    the look on her face was, in general, too dignified and reserved
    for one so young, now, talking to her father, it was bright as
    the morning,--full of dimples, and glances that spoke of childish
    gladness, and boundless hope in the future.

    It was the latter part of July when Margaret returned home. The
    forest trees were all one dark, full, dusky green; the fern below
    them caught all the slanting sunbeams; the weather was sultry and
    broodingly still. Margaret used to tramp along by her father's
    side, crushing down the fern with a cruel glee, as she felt it
    yield under her light foot, and send up the fragrance peculiar to
    it,--out on the broad commons into the warm scented light, seeing
    multitudes of wild, free, living creatures, revelling in the
    sunshine, and the herbs and flowers it called forth. This
    life--at least these walks--realised all Margaret's
    anticipations. She took a pride in her forest. Its people were
    her people. She made hearty friends with them; learned and
    delighted in using their peculiar words; took up her freedom
    amongst them; nursed their babies; talked or read with slow
    distinctness to their old people; carried dainty messes to their
    sick; resolved before long to teach at the school, where her
    father went every day as to an appointed task, but she was
    continually tempted off to go and see some individual
    friend--man, woman, or child--in some cottage in the green shade
    of the forest. Her out-of-doors life was perfect. Her in-doors
    life had its drawbacks. With the healthy shame of a child, she
    blamed herself for her keenness of sight, in perceiving that all
    was not as it should be there. Her mother--her mother always so
    kind and tender towards her--seemed now and then so much
    discontented with their situation; thought that the bishop
    strangely neglected his episcopal duties, in not giving Mr. Hale
    a better living; and almost reproached her husband because he
    could not bring himself to say that he wished to leave the
    parish, and undertake the charge of a larger. He would sigh aloud
    as he answered, that if he could do what he ought in little
    Helstone, he should be thankful; but every day he was more
    overpowered; the world became more bewildering. At each repeated
    urgency of his wife, that he would put himself in the way of
    seeking some preferment, Margaret saw that her father shrank more
    and more; and she strove at such times to reconcile her mother to
    Helstone. Mrs. Hale said that the near neighbourhood of so many
    trees affected her health; and Margaret would try to tempt her
    forth on to the beautiful, broad, upland, sun-streaked,
    cloud-shadowed common; for she was sure that her mother had
    accustomed herself too much to an in-doors life, seldom extending
    her walks beyond the church, the school, and the neighbouring
    cottages. This did good for a time; but when the autumn drew on,
    and the weather became more changeable, her mother's idea of the
    unhealthiness of the place increased; and she repined even more
    frequently that her husband, who was more learned than Mr. Hume,
    a better parish priest than Mr. Houldsworth, should not have met
    with the preferment that these two former neighbours of theirs
    had done.

    This marring of the peace of home, by long hours of discontent,
    was what Margaret was unprepared for. She knew, and had rather
    revelled in the idea, that she should have to give up many
    luxuries, which had only been troubles and trammels to her
    freedom in Harley Street. Her keen enjoyment of every sensuous
    pleasure, was balanced finely, if not overbalanced, by her
    conscious pride in being able to do without them all, if need
    were. But the cloud never comes in that quarter of the horizon
    from which we watch for it. There had been slight complaints and
    passing regrets on her mother's part, over some trifle connected
    with Helstone, and her father's position there, when Margaret had
    been spending her holidays at home before; but in the general
    happiness of the recollection of those times, she had forgotten
    the small details which were not so pleasant. In the latter half
    of September, the autumnal rains and storms came on, and Margaret
    was obliged to remain more in the house than she had hitherto
    done. Helstone was at some distance from any neighbours of their
    own standard of cultivation.

    'It is undoubtedly one of the most out-of-the-way places in
    England,' said Mrs. Hale, in one of her plaintive moods. 'I can't
    help regretting constantly that papa has really no one to
    associate with here; he is so thrown away; seeing no one but
    farmers and labourers from week's end to week's end. If we only
    lived at the other side of the parish, it would be something;
    there we should be almost within walking distance of the
    Stansfields; certainly the Gormans would be within a walk.'

    'Gormans,' said Margaret. 'Are those the Gormans who made their
    fortunes in trade at Southampton? Oh! I'm glad we don't visit
    them. I don't like shoppy people. I think we are far better off,
    knowing only cottagers and labourers, and people without
    pretence.'

    'You must not be so fastidious, Margaret, dear!' said her mother,
    secretly thinking of a young and handsome Mr. Gorman whom she had
    once met at Mr. Hume's.

    'No! I call mine a very comprehensive taste; I like all people
    whose occupations have to do with land; I like soldiers and
    sailors, and the three learned professions, as they call them.
    I'm sure you don't want me to admire butchers and bakers, and
    candlestick-makers, do you, mamma?'

    'But the Gormans were neither butchers nor bakers, but very
    respectable coach-builders.'

    'Very well. Coach-building is a trade all the same, and I think a
    much more useless one than that of butchers or bakers. Oh! how
    tired I used to be of the drives every day in Aunt Shaw's
    carriage, and how I longed to walk!'

    And walk Margaret did, in spite of the weather. She was so happy
    out of doors, at her father's side, that she almost danced; and
    with the soft violence of the west wind behind her, as she
    crossed some heath, she seemed to be borne onwards, as lightly
    and easily as the fallen leaf that was wafted along by the
    autumnal breeze. But the evenings were rather difficult to fill
    up agreeably. Immediately after tea her father withdrew into his
    small library, and she and her mother were left alone. Mrs. Hale
    had never cared much for books, and had discouraged her husband,
    very early in their married life, in his desire of reading aloud
    to her, while she worked. At one time they had tried backgammon
    as a resource; but as Mr. Hale grew to take an increasing
    interest in his school and his parishioners, he found that the
    interruptions which arose out of these duties were regarded as
    hardships by his wife, not to be accepted as the natural
    conditions of his profession, but to be regretted and struggled
    against by her as they severally arose. So he withdrew, while the
    children were yet young, into his library, to spend his evenings
    (if he were at home), in reading the speculative and metaphysical
    books which were his delight.

    When Margaret had been here before, she had brought down with her
    a great box of books, recommended by masters or governess, and
    had found the summer's day all too short to get through the
    reading she had to do before her return to town. Now there were
    only the well-bound little-read English Classics, which were
    weeded out of her father's library to fill up the small
    book-shelves in the drawing-room. Thomson's Seasons, Hayley's
    Cowper, Middleton's Cicero, were by far the lightest, newest, and
    most amusing. The book-shelves did not afford much resource.
    Margaret told her mother every particular of her London life, to
    all of which Mrs. Hale listened with interest, sometimes amused
    and questioning, at others a little inclined to compare her
    sister's circumstances of ease and comfort with the narrower
    means at Helstone vicarage. On such evenings Margaret was apt to
    stop talking rather abruptly, and listen to the drip-drip of the
    rain upon the leads of the little bow-window. Once or twice
    Margaret found herself mechanically counting the repetition of
    the monotonous sound, while she wondered if she might venture to
    put a question on a subject very near to her heart, and ask where
    Frederick was now; what he was doing; how long it was since they
    had heard from him. But a consciousness that her mother's
    delicate health, and positive dislike to Helstone, all dated from
    the time of the mutiny in which Frederick had been engaged,--the
    full account of which Margaret had never heard, and which now
    seemed doomed to be buried in sad oblivion,--made her pause and
    turn away from the subject each time she approached it. When she
    was with her mother, her father seemed the best person to apply
    to for information; and when with him, she thought that she could
    speak more easily to her mother. Probably there was nothing much
    to be heard that was new. In one of the letters she had received
    before leaving Harley Street, her father had told her that they
    had heard from Frederick; he was still at Rio, and very well in
    health, and sent his best love to her; which was dry bones, but
    not the living intelligence she longed for. Frederick was always
    spoken of, in the rare times when his name was mentioned, as
    'Poor Frederick.' His room was kept exactly as he had left it;
    and was regularly dusted, and put into order by Dixon, Mrs.
    Hale's maid, who touched no other part of the household work, but
    always remembered the day when she had been engaged by Lady
    Beresford as ladies' maid to Sir John's wards, the pretty Miss
    Beresfords, the belles of Rutlandshire. Dixon had always
    considered Mr. Hale as the blight which had fallen upon her young
    lady's prospects in life. If Miss Beresford had not been in such
    a hurry to marry a poor country clergyman, there was no knowing
    what she might not have become. But Dixon was too loyal to desert
    her in her affliction and downfall (alias her married life). She
    remained with her, and was devoted to her interests; always
    considering herself as the good and protecting fairy, whose duty
    it was to baffle the malignant giant, Mr. Hale. Master Frederick
    had been her favorite and pride; and it was with a little
    softening of her dignified look and manner, that she went in
    weekly to arrange the chamber as carefully as if he might be
    coming home that very evening. Margaret could not help believing
    that there had been some late intelligence of Frederick, unknown
    to her mother, which was making her father anxious and uneasy.
    Mrs. Hale did not seem to perceive any alteration in her
    husband's looks or ways. His spirits were always tender and
    gentle, readily affected by any small piece of intelligence
    concerning the welfare of others. He would be depressed for many
    days after witnessing a death-bed, or hearing of any crime. But
    now Margaret noticed an absence of mind, as if his thoughts were
    pre-occupied by some subject, the oppression of which could not
    be relieved by any daily action, such as comforting the
    survivors, or teaching at the school in hope of lessening the
    evils in the generation to come. Mr. Hale did not go out among
    his parishioners as much as usual; he was more shut up in his
    study; was anxious for the village postman, whose summons to the
    house-hold was a rap on the back-kitchen window-shutter--a signal
    which at one time had often to be repeated before any one was
    sufficiently alive to the hour of the day to understand what it
    was, and attend to him. Now Mr. Hale loitered about the garden if
    the morning was fine, and if not, stood dreamily by the study
    window until the postman had called, or gone down the lane,
    giving a half-respectful, half-confidential shake of the head to
    the parson, who watched him away beyond the sweet-briar hedge,
    and past the great arbutus, before he turned into the room to
    begin his day's work, with all the signs of a heavy heart and an
    occupied mind.

    But Margaret was at an age when any apprehension, not absolutely
    based on a knowledge of facts, is easily banished for a time by a
    bright sunny day, or some happy outward circumstance. And when
    the brilliant fourteen fine days of October came on, her cares
    were all blown away as lightly as thistledown, and she thought of
    nothing but the glories of the forest. The fern-harvest was over,
    and now that the rain was gone, many a deep glade was accessible,
    into which Margaret had only peeped in July and August weather.
    She had learnt drawing with Edith; and she had sufficiently
    regretted, during the gloom of the bad weather, her idle
    revelling in the beauty of the woodlands while it had yet been
    fine, to make her determined to sketch what she could before
    winter fairly set in. Accordingly, she was busy preparing her
    board one morning, when Sarah, the housemaid, threw wide open the
    drawing-room door and announced, 'Mr. Henry Lennox.'
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