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    Chapter 10

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    Chapter 11
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    CHAPTER X - WROUGHT IRON AND GOLD

    'We are the trees whom shaking fastens more.'

    GEORGE HERBERT.

    Mr. Thornton left the house without coming into the dining-room
    again. He was rather late, and walked rapidly out to Crampton. He
    was anxious not to slight his new friend by any disrespectful
    unpunctuality. The church-clock struck half-past seven as he
    stood at the door awaiting Dixon's slow movements; always doubly
    tardy when she had to degrade herself by answering the door-bell.
    He was ushered into the little drawing-room, and kindly greeted
    by Mr. Hale, who led him up to his wife, whose pale face, and
    shawl-draped figure made a silent excuse for the cold languor of
    her greeting. Margaret was lighting the lamp when he entered, for
    the darkness was coming on. The lamp threw a pretty light into
    the centre of the dusky room, from which, with country habits,
    they did not exclude the night-skies, and the outer darkness of
    air. Somehow, that room contrasted itself with the one he had
    lately left; handsome, ponderous, with no sign of feminine
    habitation, except in the one spot where his mother sate, and no
    convenience for any other employment than eating and drinking. To
    be sure, it was a dining-room; his mother preferred to sit in it;
    and her will was a household law. But the drawing-room was not
    like this. It was twice--twenty times as fine; not one quarter as
    comfortable. Here were no mirrors, not even a scrap of glass to
    reflect the light, and answer the same purpose as water in a
    landscape; no gilding; a warm, sober breadth of colouring, well
    relieved by the dear old Helstone chintz-curtains and chair
    covers. An open davenport stood in the window opposite the door;
    in the other there was a stand, with a tall white china vase,
    from which drooped wreaths of English ivy, pale-green birch, and
    copper-coloured beech-leaves. Pretty baskets of work stood about
    in different places: and books, not cared for on account of their
    binding solely, lay on one table, as if recently put down. Behind
    the door was another table, decked out for tea, with a white
    tablecloth, on which flourished the cocoa-nut cakes, and a basket
    piled with oranges and ruddy American apples, heaped on leaves.

    It appeared to Mr. Thornton that all these graceful cares were
    habitual to the family; and especially of a piece with Margaret.
    She stood by the tea-table in a light-coloured muslin gown, which
    had a good deal of pink about it. She looked as if she was not
    attending to the conversation, but solely busy with the tea-cups,
    among which her round ivory hands moved with pretty, noiseless,
    daintiness. She had a bracelet on one taper arm, which would fall
    down over her round wrist. Mr. Thornton watched the replacing of
    this troublesome ornament with far more attention than he
    listened to her father. It seemed as if it fascinated him to see
    her push it up impatiently, until it tightened her soft flesh;
    and then to mark the loosening--the fall. He could almost have
    exclaimed--'There it goes, again!' There was so little left to be
    done after he arrived at the preparation for tea, that he was
    almost sorry the obligation of eating and drinking came so soon
    to prevent his watching Margaret. She handed him his cup of tea
    with the proud air of an unwilling slave; but her eye caught the
    moment when he was ready for another cup; and he almost longed to
    ask her to do for him what he saw her compelled to do for her
    father, who took her little finger and thumb in his masculine
    hand, and made them serve as sugar-tongs. Mr. Thornton saw her
    beautiful eyes lifted to her father, full of light, half-laughter
    and half-love, as this bit of pantomime went on between the two,
    unobserved, as they fancied, by any. Margaret's head still ached,
    as the paleness of her complexion, and her silence might have
    testified; but she was resolved to throw herself into the breach,
    if there was any long untoward pause, rather than that her
    father's friend, pupil, and guest should have cause to think
    himself in any way neglected. But the conversation went on; and
    Margaret drew into a corner, near her mother, with her work,
    after the tea-things were taken away; and felt that she might let
    her thoughts roam, without fear of being suddenly wanted to fill
    up a gap.

    Mr. Thornton and Mr. Hale were both absorbed in the continuation
    of some subject which had been started at their last meeting.
    Margaret was recalled to a sense of the present by some trivial,
    low-spoken remark of her mother's; and on suddenly looking up
    from her work, her eye was caught by the difference of outward
    appearance between her father and Mr. Thornton, as betokening
    such distinctly opposite natures. Her father was of slight
    figure, which made him appear taller than he really was, when not
    contrasted, as at this time, with the tall, massive frame of
    another. The lines in her father's face were soft and waving,
    with a frequent undulating kind of trembling movement passing
    over them, showing every fluctuating emotion; the eyelids were
    large and arched, giving to the eyes a peculiar languid beauty
    which was almost feminine. The brows were finely arched, but
    were, by the very size of the dreamy lids, raised to a
    considerable distance from the eyes. Now, in Mr. Thornton's face
    the straight brows fell low over the clear, deep-set earnest
    eyes, which, without being unpleasantly sharp, seemed intent
    enough to penetrate into the very heart and core of what he was
    looking at. The lines in the face were few but firm, as if they
    were carved in marble, and lay principally about the lips, which
    were slightly compressed over a set of teeth so faultless and
    beautiful as to give the effect of sudden sunlight when the rare
    bright smile, coming in an instant and shining out of the eyes,
    changed the whole look from the severe and resolved expression of
    a man ready to do and dare everything, to the keen honest
    enjoyment of the moment, which is seldom shown so fearlessly and
    instantaneously except by children. Margaret liked this smile; it
    was the first thing she had admired in this new friend of her
    father's; and the opposition of character, shown in all these
    details of appearance she had just been noticing, seemed to
    explain the attraction they evidently felt towards each other.

    She rearranged her mother's worsted-work, and fell back into her
    own thoughts--as completely forgotten by Mr. Thornton as if she
    had not been in the room, so thoroughly was he occupied in
    explaining to Mr. Hale the magnificent power, yet delicate
    adjustment of the might of the steam-hammer, which was recalling
    to Mr. Hale some of the wonderful stories of subservient genii in
    the Arabian Nights--one moment stretching from earth to sky and
    filling all the width of the horizon, at the next obediently
    compressed into a vase small enough to be borne in the hand of a
    child.

    'And this imagination of power, this practical realisation of a
    gigantic thought, came out of one man's brain in our good town.
    That very man has it within him to mount, step by step, on each
    wonder he achieves to higher marvels still. And I'll be bound to
    say, we have many among us who, if he were gone, could spring
    into the breach and carry on the war which compels, and shall
    compel, all material power to yield to science.'

    'Your boast reminds me of the old lines--"I've a hundred
    captains in England," he said, "As good as ever was he."'

    At her father's quotation Margaret looked suddenly up, with
    inquiring wonder in her eyes. How in the world had they got from
    cog-wheels to Chevy Chace?

    'It is no boast of mine,' replied Mr. Thornton; 'it is plain
    matter-of-fact. I won't deny that I am proud of belonging to a
    town--or perhaps I should rather say a district--the necessities
    of which give birth to such grandeur of conception. I would
    rather be a man toiling, suffering--nay, failing and
    successless--here, than lead a dull prosperous life in the old
    worn grooves of what you call more aristocratic society down in
    the South, with their slow days of careless ease. One may be
    clogged with honey and unable to rise and fly.'

    'You are mistaken,' said Margaret, roused by the aspersion on her
    beloved South to a fond vehemence of defence, that brought the
    colour into her cheeks and the angry tears into her eyes. 'You do
    not know anything about the South. If there is less adventure or
    less progress--I suppose I must not say less excitement--from the
    gambling spirit of trade, which seems requisite to force out
    these wonderful inventions, there is less suffering also. I see
    men h ere going about in the streets who look ground down by some
    pinching sorrow or care--who are not only sufferers but haters.
    Now, in the South we have our poor, but there is not that
    terrible expression in their countenances of a sullen sense of
    injustice which I see here. You do not know the South, Mr.
    Thornton,' she concluded, collapsing into a determined silence,
    and angry with herself for having said so much.

    'And may I say you do not know the North?' asked he, with an
    inexpressible gentleness in his tone, as he saw that he had
    really hurt her. She continued resolutely silent; yearning after
    the lovely haunts she had left far away in Hampshire, with a
    passionate longing that made her feel her voice would be unsteady
    and trembling if she spoke.

    'At any rate, Mr. Thornton,' said Mrs. Hale, 'you will allow that
    Milton is a much more smoky, dirty town than you will ever meet
    with in the South.'

    'I'm afraid I must give up its cleanliness,' said Mr. Thornton,
    with the quick gleaming smile. 'But we are bidden by parliament
    to burn our own smoke; so I suppose, like good little children,
    we shall do as we are bid--some time.'

    'But I think you told me you had altered your chimneys so as to
    consume the smoke, did you not?' asked Mr. Hale.

    'Mine were altered by my own will, before parliament meddled with
    the affair. It was an immediate outlay, but it repays me in the
    saving of coal. I'm not sure whether I should have done it, if I
    had waited until the act was passed. At any rate, I should have
    waited to be informed against and fined, and given all the
    trouble in yielding that I legally could. But all laws which
    depend for their enforcement upon informers and fines, become
    inert from the odiousness of the machinery. I doubt if there has
    been a chimney in Milton informed against for five years past,
    although some are constantly sending out one-third of their coal
    in what is called here unparliamentary smoke.'

    'I only know it is impossible to keep the muslin blinds clean
    here above a week together; and at Helstone we have had them up
    for a month or more, and they have not looked dirty at the end of
    that time. And as for hands--Margaret, how many times did you say
    you had washed your hands this morning before twelve o'clock?
    Three times, was it not?'

    'Yes, mamma.'

    'You seem to have a strong objection to acts of parliament and
    all legislation affecting your mode of management down here at
    Milton,' said Mr. Hale.

    'Yes, I have; and many others have as well. And with justice, I
    think. The whole machinery--I don't mean the wood and iron
    machinery now--of the cotton trade is so new that it is no wonder
    if it does not work well in every part all at once. Seventy years
    ago what was it? And now what is it not? Raw, crude materials
    came together; men of the same level, as regarded education and
    station, took suddenly the different positions of masters and
    men, owing to the motherwit, as regarded opportunities and
    probabilities, which distinguished some, and made them far-seeing
    as to what great future lay concealed in that rude model of Sir
    Richard Arkwright's. The rapid development of what might be
    called a new trade, gave those early masters enormous power of
    wealth and command. I don't mean merely over the workmen; I mean
    over purchasers--over the whole world's market. Why, I may give
    you, as an instance, an advertisement, inserted not fifty years
    ago in a Milton paper, that so-and-so (one of the half-dozen
    calico-printers of the time) would close his warehouse at noon
    each day; therefore, that all purchasers must come before that
    hour. Fancy a man dictating in this manner the time when he would
    sell and when he would not sell. Now, I believe, if a good
    customer chose to come at midnight, I should get up, and stand
    hat in hand to receive his orders.'

    Margaret's lip curled, but somehow she was compelled to listen;
    she could no longer abstract herself in her own thoughts.

    'I only name such things to show what almost unlimited power the
    manufacturers had about the beginning of this century. The men
    were rendered dizzy by it. Because a man was successful in his
    ventures, there was no reason that in all other things his mind
    should be well-balanced. On the Contrary, his sense of justice,
    and his simplicity, were often utterly smothered under the glut
    of wealth that came down upon him; and they tell strange tales of
    the wild extravagance of living indulged in on gala-days by those
    early cotton-lords. There can be no doubt, too, of the tyranny
    they exercised over their work-people. You know the proverb, Mr.
    Hale, "Set a beggar on horseback, and he'll ride to the
    devil,"--well, some of these early manufacturers did ride to the
    devil in a magnificent style--crushing human bone and flesh under
    their horses' hoofs without remorse. But by-and-by came a
    re-action, there were more factories, more masters; more men were
    wanted. The power of masters and men became more evenly balanced;
    and now the battle is pretty fairly waged between us. We will
    hardly submit to the decision of an umpire, much less to the
    interference of a meddler with only a smattering of the knowledge
    of the real facts of the case, even though that meddler be called
    the High Court of Parliament.

    'Is there necessity for calling it a battle between the two
    classes?' asked Mr. Hale. 'I know, from your using the term, it
    is one which gives a true idea of the real state of things to
    your mind.'

    'It is true; and I believe it to be as much a necessity as that
    prudent wisdom and good conduct are always opposed to, and doing
    battle with ignorance and improvidence. It is one of the great
    beauties of our system, that a working-man may raise himself into
    the power and position of a master by his own exertions and
    behaviour; that, in fact, every one who rules himself to decency
    and sobriety of conduct, and attention to his duties, comes over
    to our ranks; it may not be always as a master, but as an
    over-looker, a cashier, a book-keeper, a clerk, one on the side
    of authority and order.'

    'You consider all who are unsuccessful in raising themselves in
    the world, from whatever cause, as your enemies, then, if I
    under-stand you rightly,' said Margaret' in a clear, cold voice.

    'As their own enemies, certainly,' said he, quickly, not a little
    piqued by the haughty disapproval her form of expression and tone
    of speaking implied. But, in a moment, his straightforward
    honesty made him feel that his words were but a poor and
    quibbling answer to what she had said; and, be she as scornful as
    she liked, it was a duty he owed to himself to explain, as truly
    as he could, what he did mean. Yet it was very difficult to
    separate her interpretation, and keep it distinct from his
    meaning. He could best have illustrated what he wanted to say by
    telling them something of his own life; but was it not too
    personal a subject to speak about to strangers? Still, it was the
    simple straightforward way of explaining his meaning; so, putting
    aside the touch of shyness that brought a momentary flush of
    colour into his dark cheek, he said:

    'I am not speaking without book. Sixteen years ago, my father
    died under very miserable circumstances. I was taken from school,
    and had to become a man (as well as I could) in a few days. I had
    such a mother as few are blest with; a woman of strong power, and
    firm resolve. We went into a small country town, where living was
    cheaper than in Milton, and where I got employment in a draper's
    shop (a capital place, by the way, for obtaining a knowledge of
    goods). Week by week our income came to fifteen shillings, out of
    which three people had to be kept. My mother managed so that I
    put by three out of these fifteen shillings regularly. This made
    the beginning; this taught me self-denial. Now that I am able to
    afford my mother such comforts as her age, rather than her own
    wish, requires, I thank her silently on each occasion for the
    early training she gave me. Now when I feel that in my own case
    it is no good luck, nor merit, nor talent,--but simply the habits
    of life which taught me to despise indulgences not thoroughly
    earned,--indeed, never to think twice about them,--I believe that
    this suffering, which Miss Hale says is impressed on the
    countenances of the people of Milton, is but the natural
    punishment of dishonestly-enjoyed pleasure, at some former period
    of their lives. I do not look on self-indulgent, sensual people
    as worthy of my hatred; I simply look upon them with contempt for
    their poorness of character.'

    'But you have had the rudiments of a good education,' remarked
    Mr. Hale. 'The quick zest with which you are now reading Homer,
    shows me that you do not come to it as an unknown book; you have
    read it before, and are only recalling your old knowledge.'

    'That is true,--I had blundered along it at school; I dare say, I
    was even considered a pretty fair classic in those days, though
    my Latin and Greek have slipt away from me since. But I ask you,
    what preparation they were for such a life as I had to lead? None
    at all. Utterly none at all. On the point of education, any man
    who can read and write starts fair with me in the amount of
    really useful knowledge that I had at that time.'

    'Well! I don't agree with you. But there I am perhaps somewhat of
    a pedant. Did not the recollection of the heroic simplicity of
    the Homeric life nerve you up?'

    'Not one bit!' exclaimed Mr. Thornton, laughing. 'I was too busy
    to think about any dead people, with the living pressing
    alongside of me, neck to neck, in the struggle for bread. Now
    that I have my mother safe in the quiet peace that becomes her
    age, and duly rewards her former exertions, I can turn to all
    that old narration and thoroughly enjoy it.'

    'I dare say, my remark came from the professional feeling of
    there being nothing like leather,' replied Mr. Hale.

    When Mr. Thornton rose up to go away, after shaking hands with
    Mr. and Mrs. Hale, he made an advance to Margaret to wish her
    good-bye in a similar manner. It was the frank familiar custom of
    the place; but Margaret was not prepared for it. She simply bowed
    her farewell; although the instant she saw the hand, half put
    out, quickly drawn back, she was sorry she had not been aware of
    the intention. Mr. Thornton, however, knew nothing of her sorrow,
    and, drawing himself up to his full height, walked off, muttering
    as he left the house--

    'A more proud, disagreeable girl I never saw. Even her great
    beauty is blotted out of one's memory by her scornful ways.'
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