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    Chapter 6

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    Chapter 7
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    CHAPTER VI - FAREWELL

    'Unwatch'd the garden bough shall sway,

    The tender blossom flutter down,

    Unloved that beech will gather brown,

    The maple burn itself away;

    Unloved, the sun-flower, shining fair,

    Ray round with flames her disk of seed,

    And many a rose-carnation feed

    With summer spice the humming air;

    * * * * * *

    Till from the garden and the wild

    A fresh association blow,

    And year by year the landscape grow

    Familiar to the stranger's child;

    As year by year the labourer tills

    His wonted glebe, or lops the glades;

    And year by year our memory fades

    From all the circle of the hills.'

    TENNYSON.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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